Many of us have confined walks and exercise routines, within apartment societies and gymnasiums nowadays and the happy scenes of vibrant group of fellow walkers, seem to be invisible
By Nazarul Islam
Planned cities have boasted of beautiful parks and playgrounds, for recreation of their residents. Modern day parks include our favorite walking strips (called walkways). And, these beautiful green, friendly parks in crowded locations have facilitated us with outlets and/or destinations, for nature lovers.
Health conscious people are aware today of the benefits of aerobics or regular ‘exercise’ or a willful participation in an early morning routine. Back in Aurora, Illinois, and in my 50s, I was undoubtedly not among the youngest of those regulars in the park, but by no means the most enthusiastic. Each one of those early ‘birds’ to the parks, enjoyed a distinct life style and characteristic, which I remember even today.
Our Yoga addicted ‘bondhus’ and ‘bhodrolok’ friends of the walkways, who religiously pursued early morning exercises, had brightened their mornings with vociferous breathing and elastic poses. Next to the walkers, the space was occupied by an attractive group of ladies led by a Sister ‘Guffaw’. Her loud laughter and clamorous clapping often led me and many others to wonder if we had ventured out, forgetting to wear track suits. Of course, their loud bursts occurred merely in pursuit of some happy therapy, and not focused on any particular individual.
Then we enjoyed the presence of Gossip ‘Chacha’, who was one of the most popular visitors to that park, never failing to update us with the spicy news his milkman had delivered that morning (and every morning in the past) along with the equally fresh dairy produce. Again a retired Army Colonel who had actively participated hated all the gossip and ensured he maintained social distancing from the hearsay while walking—often, at lightning speed.
I had also reciprocated with those who shared the park and early morning events, by keeping such distance from him, inculcating a personal fear of being run over by his pace, or accidentally being knocked off by those swagger sticks.
One could however not resist the herbal tea collection of the popular Pekoe Madam, who managed to reach the park everyday just as the walkers were finishing their exercise. She sold fourteen varieties of therapeutic teas, although I never figured out any difference between the flavors.
The park had a small area for a flag pole and every Independence and National day, an Army Colonel ensured that we all gathered exactly at 9 am in celebration of the country’s freedom. Gossip Chacha usually avoided chatter on those occasions but Guffaw Aunty and her troupe ensured that their session of merriment and cacophony finished up just minutes before the more sober patriotic activities commenced.
It has been almost eight months since I moved away to a different part of the city —and a few weeks back I wondered if any of the usual characters still inhabited the park in the mornings. I took a drive towards the park and discovered that a sprawling apartment complex was taking shape on the ‘park’ reserved for early morning walkers.
Many of us have confined walks and exercise routines, within apartment societies and gymnasiums nowadays, the happy scenes of that vibrant group of fellow walkers, seem to be invisible in this modern city. However, they are well respected, and fully confined in my memory.
I am sure my reader friends would be enjoying their own share of early bird exercises in their own cities, dealing with their local version of uncles, aunts and chai promoters and retired army veterans. They have shared a purpose in life….
All this fun is worth much more than imagination. And, a worthwhile recreation for the participants!
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