I write so that I do not forget things. For me, it’s a simple yet effective way to recall events and thoughts. I do not do it often but I think about it rather frequently. Often on my long runs, or short runs I tend to think of a milieu of things. It is natural for a person to think of events happening currently in life while on a run and more often than not my mind is occupied while moving slowly, ambling my way on concrete or mountainous trails, thoughts primarily concerning situations, events, people, past, present, future, abstract, absurd and downright stupid. Rarely something utterly unrelated triggers a series of dominoes making an absolute khichdi of thoughts. More often than not by the end of a run I forget what I was thinking especially if the thoughts were of the variety that I just mentioned.
Today was not one such day.
I came back from a recent trip to the east coast and it was a sort of a vacation after almost 2 years. Natural to say I was refreshed and enjoyed my time very much. I returned to the west coast with a renewed self and went on a late night run. Just the way our memories tend to forget dreams quickly as we wake up, I’m forgetting what triggered the thought that I’m attempting to narrate now. But I clearly know what I felt during it. I felt easy. In the true sense of the word that is. Not to complicate with any event or effortless running, even though I went specially slow today but I like to believe my feeling of relaxation had little to do with it. It might have been the other way around though. By the end of it, I had an urge to write, and to write for myself, and be true to myself. You know, the way young idealism does things to a man’s perspective. If you’ve been young and lived long enough, you know what I mean.
My run cadence was on the higher side, about 170 steps per minute. I was acutely aware of that, specially since my head lamp died around mile 7 and I was careful not to get run into by an absent-minded cyclist. It was a pleasant evening. I wore black tight sleeves because my arms feel cold running in nights.
Something reminded me of my first driver. If I recall correctly, I was in 11th grade. And we had just bought our first car and dad got a driver to ferry my sister to and back from her distant school where she had just joined her new job. It was a long drive one way, I was on one of them. It was a lower-end car. There was no embedded radio, the radio was store bought and casually kept in car to make up for the road noise that would get boring after a while. Life is strange, I have forgotten birthdays but I know there was a silver-colored, oval-shaped sticker on the back of the radio, it had Rs 495/- written over it. I’ve seen this number a few times in my life, and oddly so, it has stuck with me more often than not. Some would find this a very weird characteristics but to a few people I was undoubtedly a strange man. And I’m okay with it.
I don’t recall my driver’s name. He was old, maybe 50 or 60. Hard to guess, poverty has an effect of quickening the ageing process. His skin was dark, almost leathery. I had no reason ever to touch his skin but I think it looked excessively tanned. A skin which was a byproduct of a man who was never acquainted with sunscreen or moisturizer. This isn’t meant in any sort of denigrating way, but just the way I feel about it right now. His hair were white, contrasting against his dark, well-done steak-like forehead. He smiled often and was definitely missing some teeth.
He was teaching me how to drive my car after I had tried a driving school and didn’t feel particularly skilled at it. Delhi roads can be intimidating. People complain about traffic in LA and San Francisco. Delhi is a completely different ballgame. Drivers here are particularly obsessed with informing people who their father was. I suppose it’s to impress others. Resumes carry a lot of weight in Indian society. I think they should just print out a few copies and keep them handy. Roll down the window and quietly slip a copy to the competitive party. It would make for a much more civil and prompt conflict resolution.
I drove on Rohtak road towards Bahadurgarh on a national highway. As we zipped past incompetent drivers and maniac drivers zoomed past us, we engaged in casual conversations. He had a funny way about himself. I don’t recall many details anymore though. What’s much more surprising to me now is that he was a full-time driver and he didn’t know how to read or write. The fact discombobulates me much more now than in 2003. How does the man get around driving, how does he read signs, exits, turns, speed limits, etc etc etc.. He guffawed that he just knew where to go as he felt proud of the fact that I just mentioned. I’d probably feel the same if I were that talented. He told me that his secret was that he knew the names by the pictures of their written form. Made a lot of sense. I feel that if money wasn’t a problem he would make for an excellent Chinese translator and would make bank working as a translator in either United Nations or teach Chinese in a university or something. I feel that it would be wonderful of that outcome were possible. I was having trouble slowing down on the highway because I didn’t want to seem like a pussy to him or the drivers around me who were probably judging me and would carry that memory of my slow driving on that non-decrepit highway for all their lives. He was quiet most of the time but like the old wise observant man, he gave me a kind toothless smile and blurted
“Jo maja gaadi dheere chalane mein hai, wo tez mein nahi”
“the pleasure of driving slower is unmatched by fast driving”
I dismissed it promptly. It sounded too much like one of those fake old Chinese proverbs or a fortune cookie one-liners.
What he said that day, I could relate to tonight. And I agree with his statement. The pleasure of running slow is unparalleled and unlike the joy of running fast it’s softer, gentler, nimbler, wiser. The way a mother cooks food for her beloved child is akin to running slow. It’s bursting with love.
And the principle isn’t limited to running, it equally applies to learning and love. I firmly believe that. Having fallen in and out of love more than a few times, I can attest to it. One must learn how to swim before throwing themselves in the deep end of the pool after all.
It’s just logical, no?
“Jo maja dhimi gati mein hai wo tej mein kahan?”
There is a reason my Nanaji used to call me “Dhimi gati ke samachar”
It roughly translates to “slowly-read news pieces”.