There are very few options available for walkers in the city

Resolutions are made only to be broken. They are made in the first place on the strength of this belief. And right up there on practically everyone’s list of New Year resolutions is the resolve to lose weight. Understandable, considering how much people binge in the name of celebration. Flab is in, whether you like it or not, especially around your middle, and trying to be rid of it, ideally without compromising on the diet, is everybody’s dream.

The other day I watched, fascinated, as a friend tucked into the spread at a wedding reception as if there was no tomorrow. But obviously there was, for when she was finally able to speak, she asked, ‘Guess what my New Year resolution is?’ She had noticed how keenly I had been watching her shovel food down her throat and I could see how her mind was working. I didn't have to be a rocket scientist to reply, ‘Go on a diet?’

‘Right! Full marks,’ she said as she caught expertly with the tip of her tongue the ice cream that dribbled down the corner of her mouth. She obviously relished her food and I realised that here was a resolution waiting to be broken. So I suggested, ‘Why not try some exercise instead? Brisk walking would be perfect.’

‘Maybe, but where on earth do you walk?’ she countered. There she had me stumped. She was right; there isn’t much available space on this part of the earth for the simple pleasure of walking. How do you go about this seemingly easy way to stay fit when the expanding city has eaten up its great open spaces?

The city offers about three or four options. The most popular place, and by far the most populous, is the Museum grounds. Long ago, this was a place where families came to spend the occasional quiet, leisurely evening. But ever since some health freaks discovered its potential as an excellent place for taking walks, it has transformed itself into the hub of ambulatory activity, attracting people from all over the city. But do they walk to the museum? No way. They arrive in droves in their vehicles and join the multitude already going round in circles there.

You can find people of all sizes and shapes, male, female, children, adults, jostling for space and walking at their own pace. Most walkers show a keen sense of urgency. You notice grim determination on some faces as they march briskly with a soldier like gait – left right, left right – arms swinging up and down, intent on completing the exact number of rounds as recommended by their cardiologists. Then there are the young hyper-energetic joggers, the sporty types who have no qualms about knocking you down if you come in their frenetic way. Of like mind are the human steam rollers who huff and puff their way forward, so focussed on getting the exercise advised them that they brook no impediment.

Elderly men take sedate solitary walks, but elderly ladies prefer company and crawl along with friends, more keen on exchanging news and gossip than on the serious business of getting their prescribed exercise. Obese children can be found dragging their reluctant feet behind impatient mothers; while a horde of health conscious people nonchalantly overtake the slow ones again and again. You might on occasion rub shoulders with the who’s who of the city, but the encounter is usually too brief and too quick for exact identification.

This kind of walking is no fun at all. But what are the other options? Walking on the road, at great risk to life and limb, is one. Thankfully most of our roads have pavements, but they have been taken over by stray dogs that guard their territories with proprietorial zeal and ferocity. Walking on the beach is a good option, provided of course, that there is a beach. Finally the safest and least adventurous option is taking your walk at home. My husband does that, walking so swiftly from room to room that he almost meets himself on the return.

My friend listened patiently, her jaws going chomp chomp all the time, and then shook her head. ‘No, I think I’d rather go on a diet. But not in the coming year. Maybe the year after. ’ And she stretched her arm for the gulab jamuns. That was the quickest I saw a New Year resolution being made and broken.


(A fortnightly column by the city-based writer, academician and author of the Butterfingers series)