Over the past 6 years, the sanctity of the regular evening walk is rarely broken. The dogs show off their uncanny sense of timing ( changing with the seasons), I stop everything else to put on my walking shoes, and we set off.
Walks with Biskit and Pepper had a fixed route. I knew exactly which bend will have Biskit break into a trot, which shrub will make Pepper sit down and refuse to walk further, exactly which slope of the hill had to peered at….and our walks kept happening.
With Biskit’s departure, the evening trek to the golf course ceased. I would take Pepper in the car sometimes, for old times sake. Pepper had chalked out her walking route till the last pebble and no one could make her walk further, or take a different path. For the last year of her life, it was the hill slope and the firing range, with one large stone to chase, and then the return romp through the playing field. Every step was the same, and I had pulled out all the bramble weeds which had erupted on the route, so that Pepper would not get covered by those prickly seeds. Last week, I went for a walk on her route and I could see it clearly, thanks to the total absence of those tiresome weeds. It felt as if Pepper had just run ahead of me, to catch her pebble.
Its 6 weeks since Pepper passed away, and Mili has changed the equation now. She is young and sprightly, and there are no exhausted bones in her entire body. She runs, skips and bolts down hill slopes, with never a tired breath. There is just one issue—no bike or scooter can go past her without her leaping and snarling at the passing offender. Embarrassing and exhausting moments galore!
So now, we do not walk on the road anymore. Mili, with Bruni and Sher Singh, follow me into the forest and we trek over meadows and forest slopes, and have seen a lot more of the surrounding area.
I have been walking through thick, silent pine forests, which give me the eerie feeling of being watched by dozens of eyes. There are quiet slopes carpeted with wild flowers, narrow lanes with creepers pushing us away, thick bushes of the local “Hisaalu” and Ghinghaari fruit, and rock walls covered with moss and ferns. I sing loud songs, to keep my fears away, and to give the wary dogs a feeling of “all is well”.
The other long walk is the path leading down to village Manchoda. Its a good 45 minutes trek down to the village, reputed for its vegetable farming. Tales of the long climb back to the road, the frequent sighting of the big cat, the special temples on the way—I have been hearing them all. I still have to walk the entire route, but every time I come panting up that path, I am full of admiration and respect for those amazing villagers. They trek up with huge loads of vegetables for the market, bricks and mortar for repairing their homes, gifts and rations for the family and so much more.
Just today, I was plodding up the path to reach home, heart thumping madly, sweating aplenty and stopping every tenth step to catch my breath, when this young bride came walking up the path and overtook me. She had dressed up in her festival finery to visit the market. In her arms, she was carrying a 10 kg pack of atta, and there was this BIG bundle balanced on her head. Smiling widely, she stopped to greet me, asked me if I needed help, and then continued climbing up the path till I could only get a whiff of her perfume.
Will I ever be able to do that? Even after decades of walking the dogs every evening and morning?
I doubt it, but I will keep on walking….