If you’re lacking anything, try running. It sharpens. It toughens. When I stop running enough I become squishy, more malleable and further away from my motivations.
I’d encourage everyone to continue, or start doing, what gives them back their edge. Why deny ourselves the formulas we know work? To re connect with a place, the advice is often, go somewhere new. Be a tourist again. Or even just look at a place with fresh eyes. I suggest picking up your running shoes, taking some strong male friends along for company and getting the miles back in your legs.
There are three places to run in nearby Jasola:
1- Netaji Subhash sports ground
For two hundred rupees a visit foreigners can run on the track open from 5.30am until 9pm. The route weaves alongside a children’s playground, round the back of the cricket pitch, tennis courts, by the multi gym complex, around the car park, a broken water refrigerator unit, dodging chipmunks who glide up tree barks with liquorice and chalk coloured jackets.
I go on an evening, run laps in the dark, waiting for the lamplights to guide me, encountering other runners who slip past in the happy coolness of evening.
I am reminded of the words: ‘be kind, smile, you never know what battle others are fighting.’
Probably we’re all looking for stars when we stop and crane our heads north.
Once, I ran just after a dust storm and the track lights were out, trees scattered and pulled from their roots across the path. I saw female runners start out, hardly finish their quarter line of the rectangle route before thinking better of it and abandoning the run.
2- The Apollo hospital gardens.
The edge of the gardens hugs one side of the track, but its bigger and more open than the sports grounds, and far more beautiful, in a ferrel unkempt way.
The gardens are grooved and manicured, little lawns have been designed in sections separated by hedgerows, bins are plastic penguins with wide-open hungry mouths, reaching for our empties.
To the left are tents. Gypsy families light lanterns and hang their rouge slips and sari’s, shirts and scarves, draped across the tree lines on slack rope. As we dash past we can see soft shadows falling in the tents, multiple family members crowded in, quiet chattering, hear the fizz of a small fire and watch the glazed blackness of a simmering pot.
Reflected behind their living quarters, and everything they own is the dome of the Apollo Hospital. In the calm of their lanterns, you might forget the busy main Mathura Road highway is just a few hundred meters away.
Further along to the barrier line past the settlements, you lose footing. I always go faster here, as momentum propels me around the field brackets.
After you stagger out of the hospital gardens, there is a shortcut to the right, through an archway, and across dis-used shrub land, where sleepy dogs congregate.
There is another settlement, and after making the namaste sign at the gate, a friend and I entered. Down six steps is a tiny echoing temple adorned with pictures of deities and cloth rags in saffron and cream. We watched lizards crawl across the white washed temple walls, cracked paint flaking in the night lights, plated offerings slowly wilting.
Nearby a man washed himself at a water tap and smiled, naked but for his orange waist robe.
3- Sarita Vihar village and across Okhla, Jasola and the Yamuna River
Starting out near Jasola metro station, cross the flyover bridge ducking past chai wallahs, fresh fruit stacked high on wagons, litchi fruits flicked with water and displayed on splayed grass trays.
Wave at everybody in the village road, they will be curious.
We listed everything that passed us, in some blazing scenery epoch…
posters of swami’s
ladder minus the middle rung…
man asleep on the shop floor
mobile phone stores,
cages of hens,
fish market swarming with flies,
spilling out word play as our muscles gathered heat.
As we started to list, we lapsed into the run like dream state, hunched by the Yamuna river we stopped, pressing our noses into the caged exit ways, one way to Jaitpura village, then Okhla, and we didn’t know where we were, but kept on, following a minaret peak in the distance.
We passed paddling pools for sale, beaming blue dolphins, translucent frogs and pink bears waiting to be filled. We did the same route the next day when the roads were rivers, and small boys were celebrating monsoon’s arrival by swimming. The clusters of teenagers saluted us before plunging from the riverbanks into the murky water below. We saw giant white foam piles drifting down river, India’s very own flotsam and jetsam. We thought this was ice chunks, then soap bubbles, and later learnt this is the colour of pollution as it settles on water.
Pocked with mud, shoes seeped with water and grime, waving excitedly at families gathered at the mud banks, cars jammed with passengers, who leaned out of the windows staring at our whiteness. We ran to keep pace with bicycles holding cardboard, and trailers making deliveries. We ran with an army Platypus full of water, with salt crusted faces, stronger than before.