'Your cholesterol levels have shot up," said the doc, adding suspiciously, "Eating too much red meat?" "Not at all," I said quickly, "it must be thestress caused by the falling rupee." "Too much pork," snapped my wife, "andabsolutely no exercise." "Why don't you go for a morning walk?" suggested the doc.
I refused to walk in the nearby joggers' park. "I don't want to go roundand round like those losers," I said grandly, "Because it's a painful reminder of my life - going around in circles in the same damn place." It didn't impress them.
I decided to go to the beach instead. What better place to rejuvenate body and soul than to walk barefoot on the sand, the sound of the surf in my ears, the cool morning breeze in my face, while I gazed dreamily at the horizon where the sky meets the sea. Who knows, I might even start writing poetry, I thought. Or, at the very least, paddle.
So a few days ago, I walked down to the beach near my house in Mumbai. At first sight, there seemed to be only a few people, mostly morning walkers like me. But I soon noticed in the distance, at one end of the beach, row upon row of people, all sitting on their haunches and staring out to sea. Ah, must be a prayer meeting, I thought. Perhaps I had discovered a strange sea-worshipping sect performing esoteric rituals in the morning? They didn't exactly sit on their haunches, but in a curious position with one knee higher than the other. Could it be a mass yoga class? As I neared them, it slowly dawned on me that a section of the beach, the one next to the slums, was a giant open-air loo and these gentlemen had all come to the beach for their morning poop.
There was, thankfully, a clear dividing line. On one side the beach-walkers, on the other the beach-poopers. Once in a while an absent-minded morning-walker almost stumbled upon a pooper and sometimes over-crowding at the other end would force a desperate defecator to invade our territory, but in general we kept a respectful distance from each other.
I had, of course, to hurriedly give up my plan of wading in the water. Anyway, it was impossible to go near the water's edge, because there was a sea of discarded polythene bags you had to cross before you could get to the real sea. The beach was also strewn with withered garlands, the remains of the puja offerings thrown into the sea every day by pious householders. So I had to walk in a narrow strip of beach between the rocks and the rubbish, where morning walkers jostled for space with yoga enthusiasts, kickboxers, dogs and a laughter club.
That's when I noticed the birds. Could they be, I thought excitedly, those migratory birds from Siberia? Or perhaps gulls and herons out for their morning catch of fish? Closer inspection, however, revealed them to be mostly crows, pecking among the trash, with an assortment of pigeons from the nearby buildings.
Well, at least there was the ozone, I thought. That was the cue for the wind to shift and the stench from the drying fish at the other end of the beach to waft over. As I ran from the place as fast as I could, a loud explosion of fake mirth from the laughter club pursued me. I now go around in circles in my neighbourhood park, just like all theother losers.
Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint
Views expressed by the author are personal