Headset, pedometer, iPod and Bluetooth jog along with morning walkers

Hark, one espies two shrouded bipeds shuffling through the grey of a cloudy morning on one of the verdant pathways in the Boat Club area. A closer scrutiny reveals two joggers fully equipped with all the accoutrements now available to the practitioners of this morning activity.

Apart from the latest in track suits sporting Reebok and Adidas labels, the vast array of branded shoes brings into its fold a headband with a “Just Do It” monogram housing a wireless headset, a pedometer strapped to the waist and an iPod or one of those recording devices buried deep in the pockets with a thin pair of wires reaching out to the earlobes!

Vying for a place in the sun (or the anatomy, if you please), the Bluetooth rears its ubiquitous head and makes the robot-like user look like an insane person to the outside world as he pierces the quiet of the morning with his mundane chatter and oohs and aahs that make even dogs cock their ears to see if their master is addressing them.

The rush of the morning “pilgrims” to this unique lung of Chennai with its sylvan surroundings, chirping birds and large out-of-the world stately bungalows (are they occupied?) brings to the fore their yearning for a serene world — far from the humdrum of a claustrophobic city thirsting for water and sweating it out in crowded pigeonholes!

In the Boat Club area, there is no stratum of society or the display of “filthy lucre.” The people are in either track suits or simple shorts and T-shirts that offer comfort with repeated use. The uniform colour-code adopted by the groups of walkers indicates the day of the week — blue for Friday, black for Saturday, screaming red for Tuesday.

Whether they have imbibed it from Lancet in the U.K. or from any of those research studies from the U.S., the single most acknowledged therapy that is faithfully adhered to is laughter. Most exchanges generate laughter but many a serious word is spoken in jest. If laughter should split their sides, wide gesticulations broadcast the political gossip of the day. The media are questioned, the diplomats given a dressing down and cricket is discussed ball-by-ball.

Chairmen of companies, retired MDs, top government officials and politicians of the bygone era hold the floor (rather, the streetcorner) demanding what steps be taken to put the world back on its feet!

Interestingly, leaders in society, film producers and litterateurs hold a conference seated on the thinnai outside some of the bungalows provided conveniently for their benefit. It is not uncommon, nor are eyebrows raised, when a former Minister squats on the pavement and holds a powwow with his friend while others pass by unconcerned!

Visa-seeking, wide-eyed youngsters, gathered near the gate of the German Consulate, watch with awe and interest this charade of a strange bunch of creatures, to which they have not been exposed till now.

While the ladies punctuate their long and rapid strides with the achievements of their wards in Harvard and Stanford, sinewy lads and girls from the Boat Club do a warm-up after their rowing exercises even as the beer-bellied, the middle-aged and oldsters who have lost the battle of the bulge eye them with envy.

Heedless of the world of the calm and the leisurely around them, commandos from the nearby Police Academy sweat it out under the stern eye of their team leader as they tread heavily past the joggers. Zeroing in on what promises to be a potential market, producers of mineral water, pharma companies, car financiers and even the circulation staff of leading newspapers endeavour to establish contact for future development.

Wow, the yellow streak of a Lamborghini violently protests the invasion of its private preserve by the denizens of a less-endowed world.

It is nearing 8 a.m. and time to wind up and get back to the city of woes until the next morning.

(The writer’s email: vkalidas@gmail.com)

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