Tue, 13 Apr, 2021

Walking!

By Sristi Bhattarai

Walking has always been one of my favorite activities. To me it is the beginning of travel. The movement, the rhythm, the undulation of the senses and of the body that it initiates— I enjoy the very physical sensation of walking. When I was younger I used to love proving how quickly and untiringly I could walk for long distances. I especially loved walking on roads that were unpaved and uneven, like the paths around my mamaghar.  But back then, it was easy enough to find paths like that even in Kathmandu. Some of my most vivid memories involve running down the slopes behind my house. You would begin by taking the smallest steps to balance oneself, then without even realizing it you would have broken into a run until you slowly lost control over your body. You reached the bottom in such a state of thrill. I’m sure it can never be replicated, even by a beautiful and sophisticated roller-coaster ride. As I grew older my adventures took on different shades and nuances. Walking became a more social activity. In my teens, I began walking home from school with my friends. Sometimes it would be necessitated by a chakkajam, but often our walk served as a minor rebellion. We would mostly walk, when we had stayed back for some after school activity and the buses had left, which in itself made us feel grown-up. But our decision to take the long route home felt like a protest against our regimented routine—we were free-willed masters of our time. We wanted to find our own way—so we’d take a shortcut. We’d cut from Jhamsikhel to Patan Durbar Square or Bangalamukhi. Each time we’d discover a newer, or more interesting, or shorter path. There must be at least five different routes we’d take on our way home at different times. The walk gave us a sense of independence, like we could travel on our own, find our own way, at least between the two places that marked the boundaries of our world—home and school. Lucky for us, the path we walked, along the narrow alleys in Patan, winding around dabalis and chowks, was populated by beautiful and ancient shrines, and a rhythm of life that seems to have been preserved from another time. At that time Patan was not as commercial as it is now (though it’s beautiful even today and I doubt I’ll ever lose the feeling of affection and awe I feel towards that part of this city)and I believe those forays into the different and unusual cultivated in me a love for diversity in all aspects of life—the scene changes each moment when you’re walking—and of course the love of walking. Since those days, I have walked in many places: up hills, along ridges that looked into deep ravines, and highways with nowhere for pedestrians to walk, on beautiful avenues lined with big old trees , around lakes, on the banks of rivers and beside the ocean, and these days, I walk down another ancient street everyday on my way to this college. Walking has helped me to maintain my peace of mind when there was turmoil around me and big changes took place, and to relish the different kinds of beauty to be found in each place where I have lived or travelled. It may sound ironic but walking has always kept me close to my roots and has given me a sense of grounding, because no matter which part of the world we happen to be in, when we are walking, we are our intrinsic selves: Beings in a constant state of flux, living in a world that never stops changing.