Friday, May 30, 2008

From the morning walker who is temporarily out of commission

Since I've been ill and am convalescing and am supposed to rest, of course I wake up at 4a.m. and long to go for a walk. Which is not allowed for a couple of months at least. So I'm consoling myself by posting something I wrote a few years ago.

Random Mornings

Memories of morning walks

over decades,

climates, cities, faces

the familiar rhythms

as the body finds its stride

after each hiatus

caused by life-

childbirth, illness,

transfers,

traumas,

rainy days-

each can disrupt, for days and months,

the rhythm of the dawn.

What joy to be out again

In the cool of the morning

The sky, benevolent.

A gentle sun.

Biting cold Delhi December-

Fog, low visibility.

The crowds near the lakes in Kolkota-

Unnerving, at first, to one used to solitude.

Mist, drizzle, koels in Kochi-

A school-going child to be hurried home for,

To be woken, fed, dispatched…..

tea, morning papers, significant others….

The rhythms of routine will prevail

How precious this time alone

Thoughts to be thought through,

Walking as worship,

A prayer running through the mind

Sincere, though perhaps unorthodox.

But since when is one’s Maker orthodox?

Since when are the rituals conducted in His name

All that please Him?

Remembering Him,

And thanking Him, with profound gratitude,

for each new morning, each new day……..

The elderly lady murmuring her ‘paath’

Black-haired “Speedy” with his Walkman,

The lady with the squeaky sneakers

( had she paid for them, I wonder- one shoe squeaked the entire year)

Apsos and alsatians,

Labradors, leashes, the pug near the lake,

(much before Hutch made pugs a household dream )

Mr Muscles, so many others

The amazing interactions,

and their absences

At each new location

The paranoia of this day and age

Underlined vividly in many ways….

The dawn of the new millennium

On the waterfront at Kochi

Three cheerful young men wishing all and sundry

A Happy New Year,

And offering toffees from a bag

It would be churlish to refuse.

But- sweets from a stranger?

Never- one of the earliest taboos….

Not me, not my child, not my maid, nor her child….

No child whom I know or do not know…..

Poor, innocuous little sweet

I slip it discreetly into the water,

Hoping that the fish forgive me…….

How do I perceive myself?

Middle-aged, plump, cheerful, female,

Most definitely non-threatening…….

But after months of traversing the same roads,

At times I wonder……..

Once established as a regular, familiar, solitary walker,

Albeit a stranger,

Strangeness wears off, interaction begins

Usually just a smile, a nod,

An acknowledgement

Of a fellow human being,

part of the community of walkers-

what more does one need?

There was the woman who refused to smile

Perhaps it was part of her socialization-

Smiling at strangers leads to Trouble.

Her persistent non-smiling and my persistent smiling

became a part of our routine.

Surely the joy of the morning had to be shared….

Illogically, stupidly,

it became a mission to make the wretched woman smile.

The entire year I lived in that town, walking,

Watching the purple sunbirds,

The jacaranda and the Pride of India

Purple resplendent everywhere

Crossing her path every morning

She refused to smile.

Until the day after I had my hair cut short

She beamed at me

Why, I cannot say………

The older walkers lack such threat perception

They cheerfully acknowledge the new human being

Who has, for however long, entered their orbit.

With them, it doesn’t matter whether you are male or female,

Young or old, whatever shape or size….

They also crave acknowledgement of their humanity,

Glad that courtesy can exist beyond convention,

Never mind that you haven’t been introduced……..

XXXXXXXXX

Courage flowers in many fields-

The early morning roads bear witness

to extraordinary valour ,everyday,everywhere.

The elderly lady in Lucknow,

her rolling gait, her snail-like pace,

bore witness to the pain she bore,

but she walked every day,

each step an achievement.

The couple in Kochi-

Elderly, he with crutches,

Devoted wife alongside,

Adding a few yards every few days,

Progressing from crutch to stick,

The lane outside their house a witness

To their courage and determination.

The neighbour who had undergone

by-pass surgery-

In this new phase of his life

the erstwhile desk-bound workaholic

learns to walk each dawn

as though his life depends upon it.

The octet of elderly gentlemen

Laughing aloud each morning

Their anecdotes slowing their pace to a stroll

Now only three remain,

But they keep on………

Slower, older, shorter, no longer upright

Sticks and canes for support

But their conversation continues, unabated,

as do their walks…….

The very old lady

Bone thin, bent over-

Skeletal hands

Clutch skeletal thighs-

Propelling herself, independent of all

No stick, no cane, no walker, no helping hand…..

Perhaps just the mercy of the Lord

Whose temple she circumambulates, smiling,

at dusk and every dawn.

XXXXXXXX

A luxury, an indulgence

That’s what these walks are,

Leaving the comfort of bed

the only difficulty,

soon transcended.

Early rising becomes a habit-

The body wakens you-

It’s time to get up, time to go

Out into the glorious morning.

Sheer pleasure…….

Lazy days,

lie-abed days soon diminish

of their own accord…..

Walking

as a mode of transport,

as it still is for so many-

walking over all kinds of terrain

when there’s no alternative….

That’s hardship.

But we morning walkers,

Self-indulgent creatures,

Walking for the joy of it

Reserving the best part of the day

For ourselves.

We also bask in the admiration

Of those unfortunates

Who can’t make it in the mornings….

Strange, what moral stature

Early morning walks can grant you.

There are so many more who walk

At dusk, in the evenings,

Sun-setters, not sun-risers

But……..

City skies are smoggy by then

There’s the traffic of returning commuters

Dinners to be prepared,

Homework to be supervised

Sudden demands for a notebook

Or pencils, or maps (physical and political)

To be fulfilled.

Guests who drop in for evening tea.

Many more potential interruptions-

You can’t call your soul your own,

Most evenings.

August 2004

Gummidipoondi

44 comments:

eve's lungs said...

I love early early mornings and have been fairly passionate about them in my blog. I love winter dawns more than any other time of the year,though . And yes, strangers often become familiar .

kbpm said...

very nice!! these are familiar sights to me too! hope you are back at your morning walks soon enough.

Usha said...

I am sure that is a lovely poem. I will come back to read it another time. But I could not concentrate as I kept worrying about what is keeping our bubbly effervescent Dipali in bed.
Please get well soon. Hugs.
will come back for the poem again. :)

Lekhni said...

Lovely imagery. You must live in a really safe neighborhood, if you can take a walk at 4 am :)

DotThoughts said...

simply stunning and vivid
a born poet you are!
what's keeping you in bed? Please get well soon and don't make us worry about you. Hugs and shooing those bugs away!

dipali said...

@eve's lungs: Yes, I've enjoyed those posts. And you walk in such a lovely
area!
@kbpm: not for three months- am supposed to rest as much as possible.
I'm planning to sit out in the balcony and at least enjoy the fresh morning air.
@usha:Typhoid. Please don't ask me how/where I acquired it: that seems to be a popular question I'm asked these days:) Hugs to you too, and thanks for your concern. And do read this rambling piece when you have the time. Don't worry, shall bounce right back!
@lekhni: Thanks. The area is safe enough, though I wouldn't usually step out before five a.m. It's just that since I'm resting a lot these days I almost inevitably wake up around four. That's when the magpie-robins are singing their hearts out. When I was walking I definitely needed my alarm clock!
@dottie: Thanks- see all details above!

mayG said...

beautiful dipali..its like watching the scenes unfold before the eyes- you almost took me there :)

nothing like "me-time" to connect with the soul away from the mad rush of life!

hope you get well soon and back to the lovely morning walks :D

Sandeepa said...

Thanks for dropping by my blog. Get well soon and enjoy the rest :)

Sundar Narayanan said...

get well soon!

:)

as for morning walks, your walks are a little tooooo early morning for me!

Preethi said...

loved this.. gummidipondi brought back some memories.. I used to keep saying thats where I will end up.. thinking it was a god forsaken place.. turns out there are some IT companies there too :) This is my first time here and I already cant seem to stop reading... :)

Preethi said...

and get well soon :)

Indian Home Maker said...

Get well soon! Enjoyed the poem, I have just started walking in the morning again after a long time...love that part of the day. Agree about morning being way fresher than evenings. My fav line: 'But since when is one’s Maker orthodox?'

dipali said...

@MayG: Thank you. And early morning me-time really energises one for the day.
@sandeepa: Thank you. I'm so glad you're back to blogging.
@sundar: Thanks for the get well wishes. In winter 6 a.m is a pleasant time to start out,in summer one needs to get back by then, Kolkata's so hot and humid.
@preethi: I still think that despite everything Gummidipoondi is pretty godforsaken. But the paddy fields were amazingly lovely to look at. Hope to see you here often, and thanks for the wishes!
@indian home maker: Thank you so much! Yes, mornings are so special:)

SUR NOTES said...

typhoid??? oh how terrible. and please do take all the rest you can, you dont want to be up and about before you have got your strength back- relapses are the silliest things ever!

the warmest and best of wishes that the two of us- sanah and her ma- can muster and send to far off cal.

dipali said...

@sur : Can you believe it- while I was scrolling down to see if there were any new comments I was thinking of you! I guess telepathy does exist. Thank you, Sanah and Sanah ki Ma for the good wishes. I'm very seriously trying to follow doctor's orders and resting as much as possible:)

eve's lungs said...

Tagged you

chandni said...

I hope u know u'rea total rockstar!!!

Such lovrly lines! Of course I am ignoring the fact that its the mornings u love :D

karmickids said...

I loveeeeed it....I am a passionate walker, havent been able to do much walking over the past couple of months and I could so identify with so many things....
last but not the least, "your soul is not your own"

churningthewordmill said...

that was a lovely post...and get well soon...:)
mandira

kochab said...

Beautiful!! I hope you get well soon!

Thinking Cramps said...

Awww, Dipali. Typhoid!! Take care, am sure you'll be back on your feet sooner than the doctor is ready to let you!

Loved the poem. Made me vaguely nostalgic!

You're tagged :) And this one requires no walking.

Mystic Margarita said...

Oh Dipali! Hope you're feeling better - do rest a lot and follow doc's orders. Do get all better soon.

Though I'm not a morning person, loved the beautiful pictures you created through your words. Hugs :)

dipali said...

@eve's lungs: will do, soon.
@chandni: First time ever I've been called a rockstar! WOW- made my day:)
@karmic kids: We miss so much when the walking routine is disrupted. Hope you can start again soon:)
@churning the word mill:Thank you so much
@kochab:Many thanks.
@thinking cramps: Glad you liked it. I'm doing my best to get well asap! Will do the tag soon:)
@mystic margarita: Hugs to you too, and many thanks.

Anand said...

loved this. loved it loved it loved it. in fact, i've been doing regular morning walk/runs in new york for the past couple of months. not for any reasons of health, but because it was the only way i could get anytime to myself which was not either frantically busy doing something or being with other people... i run along the hudson now, in rierside park, which is quite fun.

Usha said...

Read it calmly this time. Lovely. Now I see how you must be missing it!
Tagged you.

The Weekend Blogger said...

What beautiful lines...I love going on morning walks...that is when I manage to wake up early. Hugs to you and get well soon.

Anonymous said...

Get well soon, dipali. The more rest you get the quicker you will be up and about. Loved the poem - really captures what morning walkers everywhere like about their ritual.

-d

Rohini said...

Hope you feel better soon and get back to adding to that treasure trove of walk memories.

Who or what is gummidipondi?

Neera said...

Hey, get well soon Dipali. Take very good care of urself.

Such a lovely poem. Loved the exchange between u and the non-smiling lady :)

For quite a while I had been thinking of doing a post on similar lines - the morning scenes from childhood when I used to go to Mother Dairy to fetch milk :) or get up after sleeping outside on 'charpais', obviously not in such a beautiful way as u have. I'll surely link this one up when the 2 energy sapping imps that I have for kids allow me some time.

You take rest and pls get well soon.

2 B's mommy said...

Nice poem. I love the walks too and how the morning ones invigorates you, but getting out of the warm bed is a real difficult task for me. How I wish I could overcome that...

Get well soon Dipali. Hugs.

dipali said...

@anand: What a lovely place you have for your walks! Yes, that little bit of solitude is really needed:)
@usha: Thanks. How is your walking with Munni programme doing?
@the weekend blogger:Thanks. Hope you have recovered completely.
@d: Thanks. You have always been so encouraging, even before I started this blog!
@rohini: Thanks and welcome here. Gummidipoondi is a small town in Tamil Nadu, about fifty kilometres north of Chennai, which is being promoted as an industrial hub. Spent more than two years there in a colony that was mercifully not in the town.
@neera: Oh, those were the days- sleeping outdoors on charpais and fetching milk from the booth!Do write your post. I'm so glad you like this!
@2b's mom: Thanks for your good wishes. This would be winter for you now- I can see how tempting a warm bed can be:)

Banno said...

Uh-oh! Get well, get well soon, and back on your morning walks.

threedrinksahead said...

You were not well?? What happened? Hope you're all good now. :)

You're tagged, by the way.

Subhashree said...

Lovely. Get well soon.

Neera said...

Tagged!

dipali said...

@banno: Thanks. It's getting rather monotonous out here now- I am dying to eat salads and jamun, and to feel fit enough to walk!
@three drinks ahead: Typhoid. Convalescence will take its own time.
I've collected a whole bunch of tags- will do, soon!
@subhashree: Thankoo.
@neera: soon, soon!

Imp's Mom said...

Uh oh... get well soon...i hope you are feeling better already! This is a lovely poem, I love early morning walks too...missing them now...

dipali said...

@imp's mom: Thank you! I'm enjoying the early morning world from the balcony, the days I manage to get up early! Lots of greenery, some bird calls. Not too bad for now:)

Thinking Cramps said...

Haha.....so all it took was a hair-cut! I read this and realised I hd been here before, and even commented!

Monika said...

lovely :)

Maggie said...

Beautiful Dips! I'm glad I read this now, when I can relate to it so much more :-)

dipali said...

@maggie: I'm glad you liked it and even more glad that your are into it too now:)

the mad momma said...

sigh. its beautiful, doosi nani.

dipali said...

@the mad momma: Thank you!