My Life System #25: Walking – 1

There are two types of walks. One is the daily walk for exercise and me-time. Another is about changing one’s environment and doing something different. For me, the first is a must-do. Mondays through Fridays, 35 minutes daily. What I want to discuss is the second type. Done right, it can be a great source of me-time, ideas and enhancing relationships.

I had recently gone to Four Seasons for a lunch meeting with a friend. Post-lunch, I decided to walk back to the office. The weather was cool and pleasant, very unlike the hot and humid Mumbai weather experiences much of the year. It was an 18-minute walk. While I liked the change from just getting into a car, as I was walking, I realised how little attention we have paid in Mumbai to creating walkable footpaths. For most of the time, I was actually walking on the road because the footpath was either encroached on or non-existent.

As I walked, I realised how much of a contrast this was to New York. When I am in NY whether on work or for a vacation, I walk to as many destinations as possible. Anything in a 2-3 kilometre radius is a walk rather than a subway or cab. The vibrancy of a city cannot be experienced from behind glass in a car. I wish there is an effort to get walkable footpaths in Mumbai.

In recent months, Abhishek (my son) and I have been going out for long walks on weekends. Our routine begins with a visit to Kitab Khana, the bookstore at Fountain. And then we walk around for about 60-90 minutes. There is no specific destination. “Where our feet take us” is our approach. I let Abhishek decide which roads and neighbourhoods he wants to explore. The other day, we ended up in Kalbadevi – still as crowded as ever. It brought back memories from childhood when my mother used to take me there to visit relatives. Many places have associated “blasts from the past” which serve as take-off points for our conversations. Fort and Ballard Estate, for example, make me relive the IndiaWorld days of 25 years ago, when we were doing websites for many companies who had (and perhaps still do) their offices there. The walk is one of the “intersection points” between a questioning son and an answering father.

When I go to new places, my preferred approach is to walk around the neighbourhood or wherever possible. Early mornings are the best. The inner mind has put the ups and downs of yesterday behind, and has a clean slate. The day’s distractions of incoming messages armed with To-Do requests haven’t yet been unleashed. There is a freshness and welcoming pleasantness in the air. The world around me is much more silent. I was reminded of this when I was in Goa recently to give a talk at a conference. When I woke up the next morning, instead of sitting in the hotel room, I got ready and ventured outside. The big hotel property offered many paths for walking around. It was just me and the wonders of nature around.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.