Of Men & Manners – The Compulsive Walker

A compulsive walker, my father is addicted to long hours of walk daily. In fact during the tiring times of demonetization and lack of cash at home, he walked all of 10 kilometers to withdraw some money from a far away ATM!

There are times when I used to join him during his morning walks, once in Calicut he took me straight to a hill near Govindapuram from where we could watch the morning sun still waking up!

Among our relatives, it is a common talk that they saw’ Appuettan’ by the beach, on the hill, near the ground and so on! Once though, ‘Achan’, dad in malayalam was so tired walking that he had to catch an auto to reach back home!

So it was but natural that when he came over to stay last time for a few days, to break his routine and also give us some company here in Bangalore, that I asked him about his walks, ‘how did you start this habit?’, ‘did someone tell you the benefits?’, and achan slipped into the comforts of nostalgia and raked some old memories of him and his younger brother, Ravindran Kuzhipat attending classes in ‘Kalari Payattu’  at calicut.

Apparently, his long walks were triggered off by his interest in listening to great talks! Yes, indeed, he, my father, the walker has had the fortune of listening to an array of national luminaries!

Some of this interest my father credits to his advocate, poet and speaker dad, Late Shri I. G. Menoki, who was quite famous for his fiery speeches, poetry and rather empty pockets!

It seems grandfather used to share his opinion of the speakers and their credentials and this would trigger dad to walk kilometers to listen to the speeches of leaders of national stature. I was wondering at the importance the town of Kozhikode, as Calicut was called then, received in those times to have such people drop in to address the public.

Well though father can’t clearly recall the year in which he actually listened to these speeches. Here are some anecdotes!

It seems when the news of Lal Bahadur Shastri’s impending visit spread, grandfather warned him that Shastri was not a great speaker still dad recalls walking to West hill to listen to his speech, some time in the 1960s.

As a student of Scouts & Guides ‘Achan’ was part of the team that received India’s first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru at Mananchira Maidan and recalls that the speech was a good one.

Among others whose speech, ‘Achan’ had the good fortune to listen to the first President of the country, Dr. R. Radhakrishnan and Dr. C. Rajagopalachari, the last Governor General of India. Remembering Rajaji’s speech with fondness, Achan recalls that Rajaji had a clear vision of the future of education in the country. Interestingly, Rajaji’s version of Ramayana for children is still a popular read.

Then of course is Achan’s reverence for Late Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee, the poet-politician whose sense of humour and poetry laced speeches are still quite the rage.’Achan’ has the picture of Vajpayee in his wedding album! Imagine that!

As a keen supporter of the erst while Jan Sangh, Achan loved listening to the speeches of Shri Madhavarao Scindia, Rajamata Vijayaraje Scindia, Balraj Madhok, the quietly fierce intellectual Shri Parameshwarji and the second education minister of the State of kerala, Shri P.P. Ummar Koya whose speeches ‘achan’ says was laced with literary insights.

Did these speeches trigger his interest in current affairs, reading and politics? Did it make him worldly wise with a certain detachment that helped him deal with loss of his son to a painful medical condition? Did this classical ‘shrugging off the shoulders’  help him deal with indifference, taunts of having to repeat classes and taking it all with a gentle smile that continues to surprise those who know him? Did it help him help his wife by fiercely washing utensils at the kitchen sink much to ‘her’ irritation! Does it help him lend his hand of help every time I realize I am heading for trouble? Well! I wouldn’t know….

So, here is the first account of my efforts to understand what triggers those peculiar loves and passions in men and women around me! Stay tuned!

The walk to him is a meditation

a sombre moment of conversation with the self

as the feet fiercely covers long distances

as faces fade and reappear around and again

a truthful living

a steaming off, of what is not

or simply walking into an emptiness

or running into old acquaintances

while sometimes his wife

paces the path to the entry of the house

in anxious steps at late coming

yet, it is his friend, the morning walk

sometimes the afternoon walk in the bright hot sun

and then in the twilight as the sun begins to search his home

and later in the night, those short quick escapes from the common place of living.

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