For someone whose blog is called “We Need To Stop Running” I’ve been doing a lot of running lately. I always have, at work or at play, running from one end of the city or the world to the other, from one self - invented crisis or activity to the other. Off late though it’s been the actual physical kind of running that’s got me leaving the house at an early hour.
Apparently the “We Need To Stop Running” doesn’t apply to the “I”.
Running in Bombay is by and large a pastime for the well heeled, our feet cushioned by our Airs. We run up Marine Drive, past Chowpatty Beach, right onto Babulnath Temple Road and then left onto Hughes Road. The BMC’s city sweepers clear the debris of the night before, the last of the party goers heading home at 5.30 as the first runners hit the streets. As a city Bombay never sleeps.
The homeless poor lie covered under thin sheets and blankets, sleeping on the dividers that separate Marine Drive from the sea. They’re in no rush to wake up, if anything keen to keep the day’s light out for as long as they can.
On the turn back from Kemp’s Corner I pass an elderly chowkidar, a security guard, doing his surya namaskars in the 6m2 courtyard of his Master’s home. No fancy branded yoga mat or pants for him, just the hard tiles, his working pants and trousers and a basic human desire to be fit or to take care of himself.
A wannabe prophet or Messiah crosses the road towards Chowpatty, dressed in a long white flowing gown, long black beard and a tall round cap on his head, a maniacal look trying to pass for a beatific smile on his face. He shouts out something, to no one in particular. The onlookers give him a tired “not now, not even in Bombay” look, it’s 7 am on a Sunday morning and Heaven and salvation will have to wait.
As Marine Drive approaches again the sun is out and the crowds are thicker. Mothers and daughters walking and talking together, husbands and wives walking in silence and groups of men in their sixties ambling along, gossiping and back slapping each other, school boys at heart. A homeless youngster finally gets up, throws off his sheet, buttons his shirt and goes in search of a place to wash.
I approach home and stop running. My parents, visiting from Bangalore, are up ahead, walking towards me, my father shuffling more than walking. He ran around this city once, in what he calls ‘his city’, as a young doctor. Those days of running are over now.
Btw, the banner photo was taken from our holiday home outside of San Gimignano at 6.20 am. What light! It lasted all of five minutes.