"To expect the unexpected shows a thoroughly modern intellect." - Oscar Wilde

Monday, 24 June 2019

Just an evening walk


It is past mid-June and monsoon still hasn't hit Mumbai in earnest, I ponder as I watch the overcast skies and laboriously stroll on my usual walking track. It's a 2.5 km circular paved walkway surrounding a water body. One that has currently almost dried up in parts and left a choking stench. The stench motivates even the laziest walkers to turn into eager runners in an attempt to get past the overwhelming nasal assault in a hurry.
Ugh, I wince as the enthusiastic jogger passes by me, dripping sweat all over. Everyday I am awed by his perseverance at giving strenuous exercise a shot in such unbearable weather. 
Discussing the idiosyncrasies of the weather all the time, we Mumbai folks are rather going the British way, I say. While fair-weather folks write happy poems on nature, lesser mortals are left thrashing one another on social media, or like me transform to Dame Crib-A-Lot.
I smile at the young couple (overweight of course), enthusiastically pushing the stroller, their sweet baby asleep now. It is a lifestyle challenge to not put on weight with the abundantly available junk food, comfortable, effort-free living and screen addiction. It's a wonder a couple this young even has a baby, what with fertility issues being a common feature nowadays. 
Today out of the blue, my son decided to do something inexplicable. He asked to join me on my evening walk! What made him want to do this...when he could be at the mall chilling out with his friends or playing games on his tablet? I have no clue! Right now, my pride and joy know no bounds as I see him parking his cycle to join me.
I've decided to show off the merits of my beautiful walking track, the glorious sunset views, and if his attention still persists, discuss my observations of the people I see everyday on the track. It's a Sherlock thingy you see - the new one in the series 'Elementary' that my family is currently hooked to.
We pass this heavy-set young person (boy-going by his close-cropped hair, girl-going by the chest straining tee-shirt) walking briskly as he/she huffs by. A lady in dainty pink track-wear and a glossy, high ponytail jogs past. My son remarks that people who are really keen and serious about exercise always have a frowny or sour face while they are at it. Hmm, that is quite true, I muse. Maybe it is the strain of the focus or the harsh weather or maybe it's just what I've suspected all along - exercise is no fun!
My son reminds me of how we all loved walking on our holidays abroad. Oh, yes I remember how enviously I used to watch the locals who exercised so enthusiastically. Especially the office-goers who changed into sweats, jogged a cool 7-8 km, showered, grabbed a quick lunch and went back to work, all rejuvenated. Sure, you can think and do all that when the weather outside isn't like this!! 👇😠😰😓 Out here, a stunt like that would be suicidal! 
The group of three middle-aged women (err, like me? No, older!) is approaching. Always dressed to the nines in the best branded jogging suits, shoes, armed with fitness trackers and head phones, they are all also heavily made up! God knows how they miss seeing each other or themselves in the mirrors post the workout - with smudgy kohl-eyes and washed out patchy foundation, scary!
Further along the path, we see the bench with the old couples, neatly dressed, sitting on "their bench" enjoying the mild breeze. The men are inevitably discussing politics and the women as usual, speaking in hushed whispers. They must be exchanging notes about their husbands, daughter-in-laws or maids, I am about to tell my son. Tut, tut, I reprimand myself and tell him instead, "They are probably discussing a new recipe."
Several lovey-dovey couples pass by, new ones every day. What is common however is, the look of total absorption on their faces when they are talking to each other and their utter determination to snag the perfect selfie. To be young and in love! Examining it further, I think love was simpler in times of landline phones, no internet, letters and photo albums!
Image by <a href="https://pixabay.com/users/fotoblend-87167/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=4233677">Willfried Wende</a> from <a href="https://pixabay.com/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=4233677">Pixabay</a>
We are heading towards a spot on my walking track that will bring us to a bench which is always occupied by the same man, irrespective of the time of the day. I am eager to hear what my son has to say about this strange character - the man on the bench.

Earlier, I'd thought it to be a mere coincidence that this man chose to be on the same bench every evening. When I changed my walking time to mornings, he was still there, at the same spot! The stranger thing was, he was always writing something into his notebook and never looked up. Maybe he was working on something complex like accounting/book-keeping and he was tallying end of the day records? I started observing him more keenly. A diminutive, nondescript personality probably in his late thirties, he was always dressed in a modest white shirt and grey pants. The bench he sat on had old newspapers spread across. There was small bag beside him with more books, a lunch-box and a water bottle. One day I even managed to have a closer peek into his notebook that he was so intently writing into. He was making intricate squiggles and doodles, scores and scores of them! 
Weird! Maybe he is a homeless, harmless, quirky guy who is trying to create a Guinness record on crazy scribbling, living on a park bench. What will he do when the rains come? I wonder. Without fail, I see him on his spot, at his book, every single day that I walk. 
We are approaching the bench...but what is this I see? Arghh! The man on the bench is missing, absconding from his fixed address - bench next to light pillar no 56 is empty! 
The son looks at me expectantly. But what can I say? The man has disappeared! I check to see if I am at the right spot. I am. Theories on the missing person race past my head, while my son calmly pats my shoulder and says, "You know ma, you could just have been imagining this? You have been watching quite a bit of Sherlock." 
Humph, just my luck! I recollect (possibly a past-life regression) a chapter from math on probability. "What is the probability of an event that has been consistently taking place  for the last six months not happening when you really want it to?"
Feeling deflated and embarrassed, I move ahead, casting furtive backward glances to check if the blasted man is back on his seat. 
We are almost at the end of the track and I am still unable to come to terms with the guy's disappearance. I momentarily freeze on my tracks as I see him approaching. It takes me a bit to realize it's him for I've never seen him upright, or walking or doing anything besides poring over his notebook. Hallelujah! I excitedly nudge the offspring and whisper, "It's him, this is him!"
He does look pretty normal, doing something equally normal...walking alongside a woman, talking in muted tones. I pretend to take a break to tie my laces. Oh, so the man decides to walk and talk. The couple passes us by and I turn to look back. He has his arm around her shoulder. Nice. Normal. Pah! 
"Come on ma, it's too hot, I can't take it anymore!"wails the son. I agree, I can't take this let-down anymore! We head back home. 
There is loud crash of thunder and it starts drizzling. Tomorrow, I am definitely going for my evening walk, come rain or shine. Will he be back on his bench doing his routine doodling or will he be gallivanting around like today evening...I wonder.
And you never know, if the rain really sets in and the sweat on my back actually dries up, I might dole out happier musings!




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