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Why walking is bad for you

shovon chowdhury | Updated on March 10, 2018 Published on December 25, 2015

Rest in peace: Bengalis have always preferred exercise of the mind to exercise of body. That probably explains their reverence for Rabindranath Tagore, a man who was always seen in ankle-length kaftans. Photo: The Hindu

You could choke on the air. You could fall into a pothole. Salman Khan might be driving nearby. Plus you’ll be late for meetings

Our ancestors were not bipeds. Circumstances forced us to stand erect. We were quite cosy up in the trees. Some would argue that it’s been downhill ever since. But there’s not enough food in trees. Man cannot survive on fruit alone, although women often try when they’re dieting. Unfortunately, we were very low on the food chain at this time, and the surface was full of predators. Running made us harder to catch. Since then, the history of mankind has been dominated by the relentless need to move faster. In the beginning, we looked for large animals we could climb on, such as horses and camels. Other animals began avoiding us. Subsequently we invented the wheel, the chariot, the horse carriage, the bicycle, the railway engine, the automobile, roller skates, skateboards and the space shuttle. As our lives have improved in different ways, so has our ability to move from point A to point B. The conclusion is inescapable. In the context of modern life, walking is an obsolete practice.

As the capital of a nation with the world’s fastest growing economy, Delhi is setting the trend. In Delhi we have a simple philosophy. If God had meant us to walk, why would he have given us Mercedes? Our leaders show the way, never travelling in convoys of less than six vehicles. The only place we don’t drive is inside the house, because our cars cannot fit through the doors. We were briefly hopeful after the Tata Nano was announced, but it turned out to be neither as small nor as cheap as we had thought it would be. We have not forgiven Ratan Tata for this, and he retired soon after. Meanwhile, our leaders are now trying to ensure that the rest of us drive less often, in order to fight pollution. This is a plan that is doomed to fail, like trying to take guns away from Americans. Civil disobedience has already begun. Painters from across India are flocking to Delhi, anticipating a boom in fake number-plates. Others have bought red flashers, so that they can slip seamlessly into VIP convoys. Meanwhile, police constables have been given lists of odd and even numbers, to help them tell one from the other. Progress is slow, and they’re having trouble with zero, but their bosses remain optimistic.

In my own case, I am further prejudiced against walking because I’m Bengali. Since time immemorial, Bengalis have preferred exercise of the mind to exercise of the body. Consider our role models. Global poet Rabindranath had a long, flowing beard and was always wearing an ankle-length kaftan. This was not the outfit of a man who ran a lot, although it has caused generations of schoolboys to ponder what he was wearing under the kaftan. The 34-year rule of the CPM has also contributed. Most veteran communists wear dhotis, yet another item of clothing that discourages athleticism. Most of our film stars have been pleasantly plump. All this has influenced our thought process, and prejudiced us against vigorous movement. The only time we run is after buying fish, so that we can get home while it’s still fresh.

As an heir to this tradition, I must protest all this propaganda about walking. Do not be fooled. Walking is bad for you. You could choke on the air. You could fall into a pothole. Salman Khan might be driving nearby. Plus you’ll be late for meetings. A few simple experiments with Google Maps will show you that whatever your destination, walking takes much longer than driving. Frequently, while sitting in the car with my wife, I turn to her and say, “This would take us one hour and 43 minutes if we walked.” We both have a hearty laugh. It’s a way to pass the time in traffic jams.

All of this is my personal opinion. So if the propaganda has influenced you, please go out for a walk. Stretch your legs. Enjoy the fresh air. If you could send some over to Delhi, we would be most grateful. Meanwhile, I’ll just put on my kaftan and go see a man about some number plates.

( Shovon Chowdhury is the author of The Competent Authority, and more recently, Murder With Bengali Characteristics)

Published on December 25, 2015
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