With highrise buildings all around carving a geometrically edged skyline and the earth deep down somewhere, weighed down with the roads and concrete slabs, it is a pleasure to step into the neighbourhood park just a hop away from yet another concrete block that we stay in. The dense amaltas and neem tree lined track around the green carpeted grass, beckons enticingly on summer mornings and winter afternoons. Most mornings I bring back 5 beautiful gifts from there that see me through the day.
1. Freedom - For me walking around a green expanse is any day better than slogging it out within the four walls of an air conditioned gym. Gyms do have their advantages in terms of the latest machineries, music to keep up the rhythm and a trainer to crack the whip. Excuse me, but I'ld like to keep fit at my own pace without anything or anyone breathing down my neck. Atleast I've my thoughts to myself and most importantly I've me to myself. Do you get the drift? This is my 'me time' to connect with the self. And I think better without that blasting music drowning out the bubbles in my head. Whatever and if ever any bubbles manage to surface, that is.
2. Inspiration - It is inspiring to see so many people respecting their body irrespective of the age they are in. A gentleman in his 60s power walks around the park at a pace that would leave many of us breathless after a round or two. Then there are the still older ones who walk around barefeet on the grass with the help of a walking stick. Young and not so young turks rushing through a few laps before they get ready to crawl through the traffic snarls. Skipping sideways from one end to the other end is yet another senior whose fitness regime is at par with any of the young athletes including the number of push ups. And when he leaves he picks the bits of papers and other waste and drops them into the bin. This old lady whom I see everyday, gets down on all her fours so as to climb up the foot high pavement and walk to the park with the aid of her stick. Then there is this young girl who tries out her dance moves oblivious to the surroundings. Not that anyone pays any attention apart from me perhaps.
3. Flexibility - If ever there is a confusion as to which physical rigour should I subject myself to, there is a plethora of option to emulate from. Pilates, yoga, aerobics, and what have you. In fact, I also saw a Tai chi session happening on a couple of occasions but it didn't seem to survive. For the iron hearted and feather limbed you could try the headstands that a couple of young lads indulge in, looking at the world from down side up. And on days when I want to take a break from the sweat pouring out from every pore, there is the laughter club to keep the mood upbeat. Ladies laughing their guts out with arms raised to the sky has never failed to turn heads even if it is a routine affair. Some poor husband must be uneasily hoping that the cackle was not generated by a joke at his expense.
4. Mentoring - With the wealth of collective wisdom walking, jogging and exercising around, one is bound to pick up a nugget or two waiting to be strewn around. Don't get me wrong, most times those pearls of wisdom do make sense. Here's an anecdote i'ld like to share.
On entering the park one day I was stopped by a dashing old gentleman with an equally dashing young German Shepherd. Between the many apologies for taking the liberty, he finally managed to ask me, " How many glasses of water do you take before walking out?"
" Er..none really, just a few sips here and there..."
I squirmed under his tut tutting gaze, hemming and hawing unasked for explanations.
" You see... there are tiffins to be packed... bottles to be filled...children to be fed...." my voice trailing off feebly with "...where is the time for..."
With a kind look he explained," Look, I've been observing you for a few days now. Forgive me, but that glow is missing from your face that a girl your age should have."
Girl? At my age! Glow? When did I last have a glow?
"Try and drink at least a litre of water before you walk out" he advised.
" A litre! That's way too much!" I gasped as though he was asking for a donation.
" Start small with a glass and then gradually increase" he said sagely, " And please store water in any glass bottle and not plastic ones."
He explained this, drawing reference from royal habits when the kings and queens drank water and had food only from silver or gold utensils. The goodness of these metals, which are naturally found, also entered the human body. And the human body said to be composed of the five elements, absorb the natural minerals to keep it fit. Even the poor man's earthen pots contributed to our health. The plastic, our most preferred material now, on the other hand leaches it's toxic chemicals into our food and water that enter our body. Over a period of time they play havoc with our systems and give rise to many complications.
He had my attention by now and his words made a lot of sense.
" Try it for a month and see the difference" and with that he went away with that magnificent canine swishing it's tail at his heels.
Now the old wine, whisky, vodka bottles and their ilks have found their way back into the house.
5. Connect - The familiar strangers I pass by everyday in our varying number of laps, warm up over the days and share a smile or a nod. A recent research reported in the Times Of India has revealed that talking to strangers can actually send positive vibes. This is something I can vouch for in my many such interactions on the Metro, supermarkets, the local market haggling over the price of potatoes and onions. It feels all is not bad with the world.
And then of course there is the final connect of the individual with the nature. Have you ever tried the sit-ups and the crunches lying back on the grass with the wide blue sky just above you? Just when you feel hot and sweaty, a gentle breeze and rustling in the trees leaves you soothed and relieved. On the days when not a single leaf moves, well just too bad. Not every day is a Sunday! The last few minutes of my time here, I just lie back and squint at the clouds floating by. A turn of the head brings me up close to the blades of grass with a hint of fresh fragrance. The sunbird hovers along the hibiscus flower in the bush. There are so many bird songs to be listened to.
These are my gifts from the park and the many reasons for the endorphins ( why does this word remind me of dolphins?) flooding the system. Everyday I carry back something extra with me. Today, it was that of an old couple in their 70s walking around in the grass hand in hand. The lady, after some time completed ten sit ups in her beige salwar kameez , lovingly encouraged by her husband. I sat there with my jaw dropping and all notions and preconceived ideas sneaking out.