A small beginning to change

Perhaps my biggest achievement during corona times has been developing the habit of walking regularly, something which I have always tried, with marginal success, to make a part of my life. And I must say, I enjoy it immensely. It has become a part of my daily routine and I hope to keep it this way… forever.

It all started as a chore, a chore born out of necessity: that of taking our golden retriever Richard for his morning walk. In a lockdown-no staff scenario, this chore landed on my list! And so, one early morning, Richard and I set off for the mandatory walk. To avoid stray dogs, we chose the tiny park about a 100 yards from our house. A park which no one visits, a park with the smallest track imaginable ~ 215 steps cover it in precisely 2 minutes! 10 rounds in 20 minutes – perfect! Quick and easy too! Both Richard and I would be back home soon!

Richard had different ideas though. Every pigeon, every squirrel, every butterfly he saw had him straining at the leash… finally, spying a cat in the distance, he took off across the grass… and since the park was empty, I let him be. While I walked, Richard amused himself exploring around, and at times, running at breakneck speed on the track.  The sight of him running towards me with unbridled joy, ears flying, tail swinging, hair glinting golden, filled me with deep joy… perhaps, these moments of gay abandon for Richard brought me back to the park the next day, and the next, and the next. And the 10 rounds became 15, then 20, and now, 50 days later, 25!

How many times in the past had I had to force myself to go for a walk?! I remember I would rationalize to myself: so what if I don’t go for a walk today? I will still be out of shape tomorrow… another time, I would begin on a burst of motivation, it would become a hassle soon and I would slide back into my on-off routine. Today, what began as a compulsion is a delightful, meaningful feature in my lockdown routine!

The joy of watching Richard enjoying himself, the spring in my step, the flush of achievement… these small satisfactions motivate me to rouse myself at 5:30 am and walk in the park for a straight 50 minutes, every day.

And this is how it is with habits. Small wins, most of the times unnoticed, multiply as we repeat them and accumulate into something much more over time… I realize that my earlier approach had been wrong: my entire focus had been on becoming leaner and fitter. The immediate small gains – energy boost, mood uplift – were ignored and the fact that even a 1 per cent gain is a gain in the right direction, unrecognized. I was in for the big win only!

And this is why I failed. I was focussed only on the result, forgetting the various processes, the various small steps, the various small improvements, that would lead to the result. Since the outside world only sees the powerful outcome, I had lost sight of the many actions that were required to precede the larger change. I forgot that it is the work done over a long period of time that becomes evident later, much later. All these years, I had been trying to change the wrong thing!

Today, I am a walker. Walking is an integral part of me, a part of my identity. It has become a habit for a lifetime (fingers crossed.)

Becoming a walker has renewed my belief in myself. Life is, after all, a series of commitments and accomplishments. I am now ready for the next habit: Making healthy food choices!

For me, from now on, it will always be: Lage Raho Munnabhai!

Life in corona times

I don’t think I will ever forget these times ~ these corona times.

Forty days of lockdown. The hustle-bustle of past routine is long gone and life is lived in an all-family-at-home-no-help scenario. Each one of us has found his/her work corner in the house; chores get done at their own pace and convenience. Lunch has become an important meal of the day; a coffee break brings us briefly together; a sudden thunder shower sends us rushing to the windows; and… the doorbell ring startles us all! A new normal is definitely emerging…

Family dynamics are changing. Minding your own and respecting the others’ space has become key to maintain a congenial milieu at home.  Flare-ups are common, yet easily contained with mutual respect. In the evenings, one looks forward to Zoom meetings with parents, siblings, friends, co-workers over coffee and drinks! Virtual Ludo, chess and tambola with friends and friends of friends have made the nights livelier. A new regime of social interactions is verily happening…

The small talk AND big talk I have made with my immediate neighbours is more than our conversations over the last ten years! Now, we exchange corona news, recipes, exercise routines, gardening tips and whatnot across the boundary wall, even complaints about how much or how little family members are helping with the chores! I have made friends with people I meet on my short walk to the park ~ all from the distance of 5 feet! A new camaraderie is surely springing…

Everyone – just about everyone – is thinking, talking, cooking food. A blitzkrieg of recipes has appeared everywhere; professional and amateur chefs are helping us decide what to cook, how to cook. Family members have finally found their way to the kitchen to satisfy their yearnings and have discovered that cooking is actually fun and something to look forward to! A radical equation with food is decidedly forming…

Being up-to-date with latest technology has become the mantra of life… the way we eat, study, work, play, shop, care for our health, exercise, laugh, enjoy, use money, entertain ourselves, interact with others and connect with the outside world is all tech-driven! Older family members have taken on the challenge of using Whatsapp and FB! The fact that being tech savvy is key to survival is certainly dawning…

Craving for information from the outside world is intense. The newspaper is read from end-to-end; news updates are painstakingly followed; latest developments are eagerly reviewed; one has even returned to watching news on TV faithfully every evening… this connect with the world outside is the only reminder that life IS moving on even as we remain suspended in time. A greater dependence on information is pronouncedly developing…

Every morning, the streets are eerily empty as I walk to the park… I can see the lone guard at the far end, standing by the gate which is now kept shut at all times. The park is absolutely empty; the walking track hedged with hibiscus bushes on both sides stretches out in front of me… it feels surreal. I become intensely aware of nature around me… the earthy smell from last night’s rain; the lone butterfly flitting alongside me; the koel calling out incessantly from a treetop; tiny sunbirds with their beaks buried deep into the hibiscus blooms, a flock of parrots flying overhead; a kite swooping down on the grass… I am with myself, and myself alone. I am at peace. The realization that it takes very little to be happy and content is slowly dawning…

MY new normal is unquestionably evolving.