(Originally published in the Huffington Post)
The best part of my day usually is in the morning when I get into the car, turn on the music player and play a song by the Beatles on full volume while driving to work. It’s a good feeling when someone tells you that the sky is full of diamonds and the world is getting better. This, is also the time when I daydream and am the most hopeful.
One day, in the groove to do something different, I decided to tweak my routine a little. I decided I would not take the car and walk to work instead. The reasons why I took this decision are completely different from the reasons I realize why I will continue this practice. I thought walking to work will be a valid reason to skip the gym in the evening and getting a little morning sun can only be a good thing.
I woke up a little earlier than usual and set out early in the morning with the audio book of ‘Freakonomics’ playing on my phone. On covering a little distance, I started noticing the usual brouhaha on the roads. At the same time, I started noticing the unusual stares from my co-walkers, who were mainly laborers and domestic helpers who didn’t seem to own transport.
Before this life-changing activity, I thought it didn’t make sense for people who owned means of transport to wake up earlier and take the pain of walking to work, adding to the tiredness of the day. But on reaching office, I realize that it actually did. And in order to find reasons to continue, I ended up with many.
As a species, we are really into the habit of undermining the power of an idea, good or bad. While it has become second nature to follow the herd, and doing only socially acceptable things, doing something different for a change can be extremely self-gratifying, I realize.
This walk of mine was me doing something different and while at it, I came up with a hundred ideas with all the new information I was being fed on the way by the means of the mere activity of observing the already existing.
For the people who can afford to, it has become a trend to ‘hit the gym’ every day, where socializing comes for free with the exorbitant fee that we pay for exercising, which actually is a second priority. Going to place with no air-conditioning filters and blockage of sunlight to improve one’s health is a scam that we participate in. As a personal observation, most people go to this godforsaken place to provide a proof for a good social standing and to suppress the guilt of gluttony. Adding to the comicality of the situation, people drive to the gym and use the elevator to get to the final destination.
To avoid this entire wastage of time and money, the solution is to walk to wherever you want to go! To refute the argument of living in a country where pollution is ubiquitous, wearing a mask is a good solution. Escaping the fuss and letting your body out in the open will also increase its resistance to unwanted particles, making you immune to diseases. And eventually, the pollution will also reduce because there will be a significant drop in the number of vehicles being used.
In addition to this, getting enough vitamin D from the Sun can prevent the possibility of getting 78 per cent of the known forms of cancer, apart from yielding in other benefits to health.
As I walked ahead, I encountered people who I could talk to and I did. I spoke to a traffic police officer who stood out there for eight hours in the sun, giving instructions to people who didn’t give a damn to those. I spoke to a child on the road who discontinued going to school because he couldn’t afford it, despite the government schemes of free primary education. I interacted with a laborer who didn’t have enough covering for the night to shield him from the cold.
These interactions made me think of how innately insensitive we have become. This might have planted a seed in my head to be of help to others and all of this couldn’t have been possible if I drove in the car, with music playing on full volume, turning a deaf ear and a blind eye to other happenings.
Apart from the philanthropic aspect of it, interactions with strangers, I believe, can teach one a great deal and this can be made possible if many of us hit the road to go to work or any other place. It can also be a ground for empathizing with others and providing solutions.
While driving, most of us take to honking and wanting to get past the traffic signal first. In doing this, seldom do we realize how these little actions have a lasting effect on the people who walk. After I started walking, every time I drive somewhere, I have become conscious of the number of times I honk and I also let the walkers cross the road without wanting to be the first one to cross the signal.
With the sudden outcry of keeping our country clean and movements synonymous with this cause, walking on the road would be you making your participation felt. How? When you walk, you are likely to start noticing the filth around and as a result, you wouldn’t have the heart to litter the next time.
Exploring the financial aspect, it is most feasible to take to walking. Imagine saving a couple of thousand that one usually spends on fuel every month. This money could possibly be of use to satisfy the philanthropist in you or, anywhere else for that matter.
So, if the distance that you’re covering is reasonable and if you aspire for a better India, think about this idea, and don’t let it go away. Rest assured, this is a real and literal example of ‘Ek idea jo badal de aapki duniya’.