Travails on a walking trail

Sure, walking is therapeutic, but not when there are too many distractions


Sushmita Bose

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Published: Fri 31 Mar 2023, 2:23 PM

I’ve been a walker on and off. Not like Johnnie Walker who says “Keep walking”; for me, it’s been more in fits and starts, on whims and fancies. But recently, when someone told me that walking has been therapeutic for her — other than being good for shedding some flab — I decided to do what Johnnie Walker said. Keep walking. Every day.

But there is a problem. Unless I am walking very late at night, when my failing eyesight takes a lot of time to get used to shadowy silhouettes and missing portions of asphalt or concrete tiles on walkways, it’s impossible to prance along the way I’d have liked to.

I’ve heard stories of people getting ‘triggered’ and having meltdowns when they hear a specific tune being played or when they see a particular sight (like, say, a mountain peak or a sandcastle on the beach); I used to think they were exaggerated storyboards for the benefit of the likes of Alfred Hitchcock or David Fincher — but not anymore. I feel the beginnings of a meltdown encompassing me when I hear the sound of cyclists or scooty drivers right behind me. And believe me, I hear them all the time while I am walking, it’s like that imaginary bell serial killers hear in their head in psychological thrillers before they take the knife out with an intent to kill.

The only difference is, in my case, it’s real. Just when I think I’ve hit upon a stride, there’s that sound, either the tinkle of the bell or the whoosh of something on wheels coming up behind, and I freeze, not knowing whether this object — and its rider — will collapse headlong into me. A few times I see, once the scooty has passed me by, that there was a couple (a man and woman looking suitably ditzy) on it… maybe they are lovers who can’t bear to be apart even for a single moment, which is all very good, but why do I have to miss my stride each time it happens?

Equally on par for the course is the sight of people strolling — not walking — arm in arm; at times, three of them traipse side by side. The in-theory freewheeling walkway is blocked, and I have to slow down hoping they get the hint, but then they don’t have eyes behind their heads, so I have to say “excuse me”, at which point they stop, turn their heads and stare at me for a few seconds before the Red Sea parts.

Since most of the walking trails are around parks and lakes, and because the weather is so great in the evening these days, I keep muttering to myself from time to time, “My God, how many people are there in Dubai?” There are the children of course, who I have to smile at indulgently when they kick a ball somewhere in the park and it lands right in front of me, and I have to help them pick it up, breaking my stride in the process again… or they simply fetch up playfully — with a remote-controlled operated toy car — in front of me making me stop in my tracks yet again. Why can’t they be at home, sitting quietly, doing their homework, I wonder as I pick up momentum.

The other day, I had so many interruptions, that I went off-track. I found a car parking area, doing one round of it was equal to about 300 steps, so I was doing these crazy loops, while the parking security guys looked at me suspiciously… maybe they thought I was trying to steal a car.

I got conscious and hit the footpath along the main road. There were cars zipping by relentlessly, and delivery boys really pressing the gas on their bikes. I tried to visualise what would happen if any of the vehicles lost control and came and hit me while I was walking.

But then I decided I’d rather take the chance — since I was determined to keep walking.


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