Lazy urban walks have become a new normal in the current climate.
I live in Vadodara, Gujarat, and I have never seen as many people walking on the road as I do now – with masks on, taking each step carefully amidst the anxiety, struggling to tie shoelaces properly and bringing their masks down to breathe every once in a while.
As I step out for my evening walk, I see new people: middle-aged men, in twos or threes, perhaps friends or colleagues; small families, a husband, wife and children. With music plugged into my ears, and trying to spot a familiar face hidden behind the masks, I struggle to smile now and then under my mask while trying to get a glimpse of the strangers.
I have now started paying more attention to my physical and mental well-being than I ever have before. Deserted by the physical fitness simple movement of everyday life brought with it, the need to cope with excessive mental stimulation made me put a spotlight on exercising in the morning and going for a walk or cycle ride in the evening.
I have now understood that it is easier to be at my university than to spend the entire day attending Zoom webinars. While the physical space is gone for now, I began to feel as if there was no excuse to not be more active at home.
As the country began to ‘unlock’, I began to venture out for evening walks, doing my very best to not allow the pandemic to end socially before it ended medically. Exchanging sighs with strangers and locating a sense of togetherness in the act, with our mask on, I began to walk in search of a familiar face.
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While walking, the directionless despair that had become a part of my life thanks to the endless webinars and excessive social media scrolling, my mood lifted a bit. I felt more calm and hopeful. The more I walked, the better I felt. I’m sure endorphins had a role to play, but I felt mental clarity and the partial lifting of a fog that had enveloped my mind.
Perhaps one possible response in these dire times is to walk: walk, for a purpose, a direction; for an enlivening of your spirit. Walk to renew your conviction and find brilliant, tender, avant garde ways to consider the hows and why of what we must fight for in life.
Street signs that pass like a blur when I am driving along the road come into sharper focus on foot. The trees planted along the roads were in bloom, and houses bathed orange with the glow of the setting sun.
Walking back home, I feel a continuous stream of momentary connection – and that has its own life, its own particular vividness.
I now have a different sense of things in a way – things I hadn’t seen before when life was at its fast-paced best. Walking more and more, my eyes have been opened to the space around me.
With levels of distress still on the rise, just putting one foot in front of the other a few thousand times can prove to be a great reminder to take things as they are unfolding right now, one day at a time.
While walking has been a solace in these times, I have now consciously stopped tracking news about the pandemic beyond reading the headlines of the day. But with the virus coming inching closer and closer – there are new cases nearby – I now walk further and further each day, with the hope that I’m fighting fit if it ever comes my way.
Kalrav Joshi is a final-year undergraduate student of Journalism and Mass Communication at The Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, Gujarat and would be appearing from his final exams soon.
Featured image credit: Adi Goldstein/Unsplash