It’s all an excuse. Yet another excuse. I am nothing but an excuse of a person, always procrastinating, always putting off what ought to be done. Although right thoughts are in place, like what my friend Prateek said the other day: “The day you feel the laziest is the day you should never give it a miss”. Like the fact that just yesterday I prioritised fitness at the top of my list – followed by reading, writing, playing the guitar and learning the flute, in that order. Like knowledge of the fact that only yesterday I covered a total of 7.10 km, around 4 km of which was covered while running. Oh yes, the right thoughts are in place. Something clicks. I walk up to my wardrobe, change into my running shorts, wear my arm band which will cocoon my iPod, and get ready. The guitar looks on, forlorn, in the corner. The tapering water bottle at my foot beckons me. Bending down to take a sip, I juggle the question whether I should turn my mobile phone on silent, lest someone calls and the ringing disturbs my flatmate. And then dismissing the question as ridiculous, I put on the songs on my “And Now Run” playlist, switch on the pedometer, and walk out. The realization that it has been drizzling hits me with full force. The biggest dampener this rain is. My biggest excuse this past month for not being regular with jogging! For about 20 seconds I stand at my place, staring at the shimmer on the glowing ball of the street light signifying a drizzle. A sharp cry by a small boy of about 7, excited on seeing his elder sister hiding behind the pillar of the gate, snaps me out of my reverie. It’s all an excuse. I descend the stairs, through the gate, and into the drizzle of Hyderabad.
Vasavi Colony, the place where I stay, is like a grid of tic-tac-toe, only a lot bigger and much more intricate with the roads cutting each other at every 30 metres or so. Not being the main road, the traffic is forgivingly sparse, but the cars in action jump at you at every other crossing, waiting in the dark stealthily under the tree for you to come running. Being a lazy, religious neighbourhood, it has habituated me to stares from children, who often pause their revelry in between and stop and consider this new thing; from aunties draped in pretty sarees who give a scared look, turn away, walk a little, then turn around and give another terrified look, just to check if I’m not running them over; from groups of youthful boys in their prime, whose expression is torn between incredulity, disgust, admiration and curiosity, distorting their visage to a jumble of crests and troughs, unreadable at best. I also get a few comments here and there, whose import I am the least interested to understand. But the dogs are the ones I fear the most, it being the most difficult to fathom their expression and anticipate their actions – either jumping away to save their lives with tails making a C-shape between their legs, or snarling like a dire-wolf from Game of Thrones and making me clock many more metres per second.
The drizzle has cooled the air, but I can feel the thick wetness of humidity on my face. Thankfully I encounter no dogs today, but a few pouncing cars is normal. I had put in some effort to look for a park, any park, nearby and was delighted to find one less than a kilometre from where I stay. On this dank but alive evening, that is where I head to. As I approach the park, a boy cycles along with me, possibly saying something which I am immune to owing to the band ‘Fun’ crooning in my ear. Trying not to encourage him by looking towards him, I jog on and after a few hundred metres, he falls back. Now a harmless pinkish, now a sinister blood-red, the flooring of red tiles assumes different shades, depending on whether a street light lightens up that part of the track or not. I keep a count of the number of laps I take of the less-than-200 metre track which works as a yardstick for me, and I aim for 25 laps today.
Initially I feel a strain on the upper part of my legs pulling me down. It is not as bad as the pain in the side of my stomach symptomatic of poor stamina, a pain that I encountered only yesterday which I slowed down my running speed to overcome. But this is an ache which signifies a scarcity in the coffers of my energy. But I don’t stop, the thought does not even enter my mind and I keep running. There’s a person who I cross at the far end of the park, sitting at the inner side of the concrete track and talking away happily on his mobile. There are a few people sitting under the shed whose faces I cannot see, their backs being towards the light source. The tiled track looks a bit slippery on account of the drizzle which has now become very mild. I gain a second wind almost after 10 laps and I feel no pain from here on. I feel myself being enveloped by a feeling of consciousness being slowed down by an irrepressible hand of nothingness. I’m into the lap 16 and I don’t feel my legs anymore - just an awareness of the number 15 which dances in huge letters in front of my eyes. This is a trick I use to remember the lap I am on, having forgotten to keep up the count many a times.
I can feel a dissonance at the rightmost corner of the ground. A strange continuous sound abuts on the rhythm of my song, and from the corner of my eye, I can see someone dancing, both hands in the air, gesturing almost like Billy Bowden. In my next lap I realize it’s a procession of people, and the sound of crackers piercing the air announces it as a baraat for some wedding. The crackers keep up for a couple of more laps till the caravan passes the expanse of the park. It is lap number 25 and rather than making a right turn at the end of the lap, I go straight out of the gate of the park, making a U-turn on the left towards my abode. By this time I feel rather tired, but I know stopping is not an option. On reaching the building which houses my apartment, I see three kids running towards me, gesturing excitedly with their hands. I try not to take heed and enter the gate of the building as I finally stop running. As I reach the first landing of the stairs and make a turn, I can see the three kids at the foot of the stairs saying something to me with their grinning faces. Not wanting to stop to entertain, being drained of all energy by now, I keep my ear-plugs on and keep ascending the stairs. How could I stop with the knowledge that a refreshing cold shower and a self-cooked khichdi awaited me?
I covered 7.61 km today in 45 minutes and I’m satisfied, though certainly looking forward for more. Running is not easy, especially when you are not a natural athlete. I believe it’s an activity that requires tremendous amount of self-discipline and sincerity. It demands a routine which is very difficult to maintain when you get home all fatigued from office at 6:30 pm, putting up in a place like Vasavi Colony where I’ve never seen anyone else running, ever! It’s a challenge through which your lazy-self screams out at you, showing you the fun you could be having with friends this weekend, and the easy life of sleep and food and movies and more sleep. I can feel the pain in my calf muscles, and I know it’s going to pull me down when I try to stand up tomorrow morning. But I know one thing that this pain is just the beginning of the everlasting pleasure of being proud of yourself.