Walking in circles and ending up somewhere else | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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Walking in circles and ending up somewhere else

ByJerry Pinto
Feb 19, 2023 01:40 AM IST

There is linear walking and there is walking in circles

There is linear walking and there is walking in circles. I suppose it could be argued that we are all walking in circles since we live on an oblate spheroid even if we think we are walking in straight lines, but let that larger picture be for a moment. At this point in time, I am thinking about walking in circles.

Mumbai, India - February 17, 2023: Indian English poet, novelist and story writer Jerry Pinto walks in and around Shivaji Park Ground, Dadar, in Mumbai, India, on Friday, February 17, 2023. (Photo by Bhushan Koyande/HT Photo) (HT PHOTO)
Mumbai, India - February 17, 2023: Indian English poet, novelist and story writer Jerry Pinto walks in and around Shivaji Park Ground, Dadar, in Mumbai, India, on Friday, February 17, 2023. (Photo by Bhushan Koyande/HT Photo) (HT PHOTO)

If every other health video that I see seems to be a list of five things you could do to avoid (health issue of the day) one of these will always be: Walk. Some suggest a number: 10,000 steps was popular for a while and people went about with flat objects which they checked regularly and frowned at deeply: Are you sure that was only 732 steps? It felt like 3,489. Something must be wrong.

A friend reported talking to his sister as she marched around her kitchen, in circles, walking her way to the magic number. Other videos pooh-pooh the idea of a number and suggest that you walk and run in alternative bursts because that targets X kind of fat instead of the more benign kind of fat. The videos which have an abhaya mudra suggest that you should not run at all because your joints don’t like it and you want your joints to last. Then there are those who say that… you get the point.

But all of them say you should walk and so the band grows. Shivaji Park, Dadar, is where I go when I am beginning to feel sluggish. For a long time, I walked and cleaned the park as well, picking up bottle caps and slippers. This made me feel like an old man on two counts. The first was the way my back responded to all the bending. The second was the question: what kind of person abandons a perfectly good pair of slippers because a strap broke? Why are they not taking these perfectly good sports shoes to the mochi when all they need is a slap of glue and some pressure to make them good as new?

Sharada Dwivedi, one of the archivists of the city, once told me that there were only two street vendors who could not be moved; they were there with the blessings of the BMC: the sugarcane juice vendor and the repairer of boots, shoes and sandals. So why abandon your footwear, folks? These things cost money. Are we really entering the age of use-and-throw? And who are the people who hobble away on one sandal, leaving just one for me to clear away.

I stopped cleaning the park when COVID hit because everyone abandoned the park and the grass returned and egrets blossomed all over it like sardonic lilies. I thought to buy sunflower seeds and throw them hither and yon to see if I could create a floral moment but there were no seed shops open and I suspect the pigeons would have eaten them before they could take root.

It was always difficult to get to the walk; one had to drag oneself out of bed betimes, get into something resembling people-facing clothes and head out. Sometimes one would be encumbered by a bag because it makes sense to buy something from the farmer’s market on Saturdays or simply because the house had run out of kothmir or some other essential culinary ingredient.

Over time, you begin to know your tribe, you begin to feel you have to dip your head once, twice, mumble ‘Hello’ and ‘How are you?’ without waiting for an answer. This is to the people who walk counter-clockwise to your clockwise. I wonder how people decide which side they will head; Lee Child’s Jack Reacher informs us, with not much evidence to back this contention up, that people head right by instinct. Does this hold true for left-handed persons? But it is good that we have some who turn left—in every sense—for otherwise we should form some strange procession and soon we would lock step and march.

This kind of walking is good for your health, no doubt, but it is almost a blind walking. The peltophorums may be blazing and the next Tendulkar hitting sixes all over the park, but one walks with a grim performance of a duty.

At the end of a walk, I always feel good, a personal victory won against inertia and indolence.

The architect and poet H Masud Taj and I were once walking on the Bandstand together and talking about the nature of time in the East and the West, time’s cycle and time’s arrow. ‘It seems that if you think about time as circular, you feel that things might be pointless, that you have ended up where you begun.’

Eliot came to mind but I personfully resisted the impulse to quote him. ‘I prefer the thought of a spiral,’ he said. ‘We move in a circular pattern but we move through space so that we end up somewhere else altogether.’

(Keep those letters coming to jerrywalksmumbai@gmail.com. I will get around to them as soon as I can. Meanwhile keep walking. Who knows you might someone interesting for as the song goes: Chalte chalte, yoonhi koi mil gaya tha…)

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