Slow Down, India!

When was the last time you walked hand in hand with your spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend?

Before you go all “aww, we do it every other day”, I meant, when did you do it free of fitness trackers and bean counters tracking your steps, calories and distance. Like, walking for the sheer joy of it without being bothered about ‘target heart rate’, or matching speed with the ‘thundering Sharmas’ etc.

Ah, been a while isn’t it?

Looks like every activity these days has become either too technical or ‘aspirational’ – a management cliché. If I run around the block, people ask me if I am preparing for the Tata Mumbai Marathon. If I cycle, it must be a Triathlon. If I hum a few lines, people advice me to join a ‘Music Academy’ and try a stage show. Why, so & so has done it. Didn’t you see his update on social network? The bullying goes on. These days folks discuss ultra-marathons like it’s a weekend Zumba class.

To be sure, I have run more after the age of 40 than all the years before it – Naval Academy and military training included. Surely, there must be something wrong with that. What’s with this sudden resurgence after arcing down the middle-age hump? We are all pushing the envelope today more than we ever did before.

Things are also becoming far too technical. You can’t be seen running without a pair of shoes that cost an arm and a leg; ironically to protect your leg. Aw, come on! Forgot those green-soled Bata canvas shoes in which you measured the cross-country track at Goa? Or ran the Sinhagad in NDA?

Move over Hero & Hercules, it’s gotta be atleast a BTwin Triban or Rockrider. And wait, don’t you get on the saddle without a high visibility vest, bib shorts, gloves and an aerodynamic helmet with supercool ventilation ducts. Tch tch, what tedium! It’s enough to make anybody give up cycling and take up walking. Till you become the local joke because of your baton and oversize ‘fauji’-issue PT shorts that would do a RSS Pracharak proud (even they gave it up recently). C’mon Uncle, nobody told you about breathable hiking shorts and anti-shock hiking poles?

Earlier we used to invite a lot of people over, prime them up with CSD-issue booze, serve them Pulao and butter chicken and top it up with kheer or payasam. Today, you cannot escape researching dietary preferences, shopping for single-malts (even Chivas Regal and Glenlivet are passe) and planning sugar-free desserts. It’s not the after-party clean-up that gives you a headache. It’s the micromanagement of somebody’s low-carb, high protein diet or gluten-free obsessions that will wear you down. And hey, if Kokila from upscale Bandra tells you “no worries dear, my husband is cheating till Onam”, don’t conjure up vamps and damsels in distress. She only means that Parthasarathy is ‘cheating’ on his Ketogenic diet and is back to his ‘bad habits’ of rice, chappatis and dum aloo. Such a bother this party sharty has become.

Even a simple visit to the corner store has become a challenge. Earlier, bread was either ‘Modern’ or ‘Wibs’. Then came the ‘white bread’ or ‘brown bread’ conundrum. Then they launched ‘multigrain’ ‘atta bread’ and ‘whole wheat’ breads as if what we were eating before that was baked sawdust. These days, when Madhuri asks me to fetch bread, I rag her back with “Pita, Foccassia or Ciabatta?” Hell, let a man live!

I am not even getting started on snacks and accompaniments. For example, the types of sauces available on shelves are enough to get your creative juices flowing. If you need some inspiration these days, you need not go to the mountains. Just visit ‘Neelam Foodland’ in downtown Khar (West), Mumbai. Never mind the calories you will put on just ogling at the choices available.

To cock a snook at all these new age jargon shargon, this morning I went to neighbouring Geeta Bhavan in Chembur with my foodie brother-in-law Unni. We ate masala dosas and medu vadas swimming in sambar, sipped decoction kaapi and revelled in the company of gay (as in happy, not gay) senior citizens running away from their nagging spouses and overbearing diets.

Geeta Bhavan, Chembur

Their pockets jingled with change, not pieces of plastic that poke your bum. The early morning crowds there, especially on a holiday, will rewind you back to the sixties when life was simple. Before western society transmitted the dangerous ‘paranoia’ virus this side. Ram Bharose Hindu Hotels and Indian Coffee Houses, how I miss ya.

Maybe this is a cycle and we will sooner return to where we started. But, with a heavier price tag. Very soon, you may be taking a holiday just so that you can enjoy walking barefeet. Driving a hundred miles just to kick about in the rains and launch paper boats without worrying about leptospirosis.

What? We are already there?? C’mon, slow down India!

Mumbai playing Venice! 28 Aug 17

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©KP Sanjeev Kumar, 2017. All rights reserved.