I hate exercise – of any kind. Except if you play some great dance numbers, and we go for mindless jiving and jumping, doing which I would surely resemble something like a cross between a monkey on hot bricks and a drunken woman in a crazy trance.
But today, the post-Diwali fatigue not withstanding, I had resolved to get out of my work space (which had been my home for a straight 18 hours), and give my eyes a rest and my legs some extra work. After much cajoling to self, and more reprimands from Mother, I finally did dress up in my sporty best and stepped out into the open air; equipped with my phone and earplugs to give me a musical respite during my ardous evening walk.
There is a park close by, flanked by buildings on three sides – a block of apartments on two sides, and a commercial market on the third. Adjoining this park is a narrow asphalt lane, frequented by motorists, using it as a short-cut to avoid traffic on the main roads during the peak evening hours. A raised cemented path, lined with tall trees and short plants, runs all round the periphery of the park. The round expanse of the park is covered with thick, overgrown grass with some benches placed at strategic locations for the likes of me to sit and while away time, while pretending to catch my breath.
I decided to spend my time here, as the park was surprisingly empty and peaceful at this time of the day. As I stepped out on the cemented path, a light breeze welcomed me gently. The flaming red ball of fire, better known as the Sun, had just a few hours earlier been shooting bright yellow arrows all over, but was now a glorious mix of red and yellow hues. The grass looked greener, and the sky was bluer. As I walked farther, earplugs in place, music playing at a soft, soothing volume, I felt a strange sensation overcame me. Suddenly, the scene before me changed from just any other day to a magical evening. I felt as if I had stepped in to the Enchanted Park.
The swaying trees stretched out their leafy arms to shake hands with me. The smaller plants and shrubs on the edge of the path, though stationary, attempted to bend sideways and walk alongside me. I suddenly heard percussion instruments, as if heralding my arrival. I strained my neck to locate the source of the music and roughly placed it to one of the houses on a higher floor. I stopped to listen more; the music stopped too. I paused wanting to hear more, but could hear only the chirping of birds returning to their nests and the honking of the cars bringing their passengers home. As I resumed my walk, the music started again. I stopped again, and the music stopped again. It seemed as the player was a new learner, as the music started and stopped at intermittent intervals. I resumed my walk; the strains of music following me, and the drum beats thumping my heart. Even my phone seemed to sense the enormity of the moment, as it played only those songs that were peppy and helped keep the tempo up. The cars whizzed by on the road, their aerodynamic form mocking me for not being sleek enough and the tyres teasing me for not being round enough to roll over. I would have to walk, they said. The tall trees understood my predicament and reached out to pat me on the head, affectionately telling me to come more often. One step forward at a time, they encouraged. And I did take one step forward at a time. I walked on and on; with a quickened pace and a bounce in my step.
Soon, the glowing embers of the Sun transformed into muted sparkles of red and orange, and the flood lights of the park came on; illuminating everything in a golden hue, giving it an even more surreal feel. Lights came on inside the houses and outside too. Strings and strings of colored lights, strung up for the occasion of Diwali and not yet taken down, twinkled at me. Chinese lanterns glowed brightly, cheering me on. The few random people who had ventured in, smilingly greeted me from the distance. Or so, it seemed. Joggers passed by me, their encouraging glances as if cheering me on.
Why did the world suddenly seem more beautiful? Why did it look like everything was celebrating me like never before.
Was it that I had fallen in love? Maybe I had. Fallen in love with Nature, all over again.
The Sun having lost its battle for the day bid its final good-bye, and was overpowered by the onset of the night sky. The park took on a desolate look, the trees now standing motionless.
I too returned home quiet and content, just as the birds who had already settled in for the night.