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Of Delhi?s walkers

The latest chapter to the Delhi walking/running club has been that of the Hash House Harriers, writes Sushmita Bose.

india Updated: Oct 29, 2006 03:38 IST

Last week, I decided to live out the Johnnie Walker campaign — the ‘Keep walking’ one. “From tomorrow,” I told everyone who cared to tune in, “Watch me beat the early morning chill and put my two feet to some serious use.” At night, I put my cellphone alarm for six in the morning, dusted my weather-beaten sneakers, and hauled out a pair of track bottoms — to get ready to walk the talk.

Six o’clock, the morning after, saw my ever-faithful mobile cheerily play out the fox trot waltz. Wake-up call. I got up in a haze, pressed all the wrong buttons and finally managed to shut it up; then I hurled it on a pile of clothes lying on my chaise. How dare it wake me up out of turn? Then, it all came back to me: by then, it was too late. I was back to being fast asleep.

I’d probably be the worst brand ambassador good old Johnnie can ever have, but I am full of awe at the amount of walking that Delhiites indulge in — before sunrise and after sunset. Almost every colony has a park, with a joggers' track or at least a walking trail. In my colony, I see all kinds of people — genial old couples, middle-aged professionals, hip youngsters with iPods plugged into their ears — walk the line. I have my personal theory: if you are walking, or running, alone, you are bound to be a fitness freak intent on working yourself into better shape; if you are walking in company, then you are a social animal or trying to re-ignite the romance in your life. But either way, the walk is an experience.

I have, on occasion, been to Lodhi Gardens and Nehru Park — not on my own accord but forced into the experience by well-meaning relatives who are ardent walkers — where you are likely to bump into ministers and Page 3-types. I know someone who meets ‘contacts’ and ‘sources’ while morning walking. “It’s the best time to get out a story from them,” he maintains. “Our minds are as fresh as the morning dew.”

But the latest chapter to the Delhi walking/running club has been that of the Hash House Harriers. This is how Wikipedia elaborates on HHH or H3 or, simply, The Hash, that was started in Kuala Lumpur in 1938 by a bachelors’ group: “…one joins a pack of hounds (runners) to chase down the trail set by a hare or hares (other runners), then gather together for a bit of social activity known as the On In or Down Down with refreshment, humorous camaraderie, song and sometimes a feast… The organization of the HHH is completely decentralized, with chapters allowed to form and disband at any time and in any place. It has more than 1,700 groups in every major city in the world.”

In the Capital, of course, it’s more about walking than running, and the ‘hash kennel’ initiative has been flagged off by the considerable expat population — but anybody with requisite stamina is welcome to join. I hear there are four reasons for this kind of physical activity: To promote physical fitness among members; to get rid of weekend hangovers; to acquire a good thirst and to satisfy it in beer; and to persuade the older members that they are not as old as they feel.

Next week, I have to get up before sunrise.

Email Sushmita Bose: sushmitabose @hindustantimes.com