Rising up in Delhi, I had fond reminiscences of a summertime ritual. It was referred to as ‘tahalna’ or strolling, and principally, that’s all it was. Folks would emerge from their properties for a leisurely stroll after dinner and keep out until it was time to sleep. There was all the time such an air of bonhomie in these nocturnal conferences. Entire households could be exterior on the roads, within the parks, or simply sitting on the steps exterior their properties.
Most homes or flats had been deliberate both round or adjoining to a small neighbourhood park. Children would rush again to those parks to renew their night play after dinner. Youngsters would lurk within the shadows, catching up with one another – girls and boys individually at most instances, however the odd couple is also seen furtively whispering candy nothings to one another, and likewise looking for suspicious ‘uncles and aunties’. Dad and mom would lastly have the time to chill out and socialize after a tough day’s work.
These weren’t males speaking to women and men speaking to ladies, as is the unlucky case even now at formal get togethers, however husbands and wives speaking to one another – no doubt, a a lot more healthy method to join. The seniors would shuffle round slowly or sit on the park benches, or simply exterior their properties – previous males speaking politics to different previous males, and previous ladies speaking about their household issues to different previous ladies (I discover they nonetheless speak the identical method after I listen in on their conversations whereas taking a morning stroll in a park, though these have occurred in several instances and places).
A change of scene
I moved to Bangalore greater than twenty years in the past, and one of many first issues I seen was the climate. Bangalore appeared to exist in an ecosystem of its personal. When the remainder of the nation lay parched and dry beneath the blazing summer season solar, this metropolis would shiver delicately beneath a summer season deluge. The climate was persistently, maddeningly good. I lastly understood why guests from Bangalore hated our Delhi climate a lot.
In Delhi, the seasons of the yr and the climate had been all vital, and we ran our lives in accordance with their rhythms. Over time, the residents had developed easy mechanisms to beat the extremes of Delhi climate. Air conditioners had been unaffordable luxuries in these days. As an alternative, in summer season, individuals would shut out the daytime warmth by closeting themselves inside darkened rooms, rising outside solely at evening to benefit from the cool air with the ritual of ‘tahalna’. When the searing summer season warmth had abated, the Delhi resident appeared ahead to winters with longing. Folks would spend as a lot time as attainable exterior their properties, basking within the heat winter solar.
However the Bangaloreans? They appeared to have a poor appreciation of their beautiful climate. I used to be very shocked how little they favored to spend time exterior, preferring as an alternative to remain cosy inside their properties. I may think about individuals being busy by the day, however why keep inside within the evenings?
I questioned what they did. They watched a number of tv for positive. Within the early nineties, the fool field had properly and really established itself as an opiate of the lots. Most individuals I knew had a favourite serial to observe evening after evening, and nothing may have dislodged them from their thrones when that serial was enjoying on the field. Children too had been hooked to tv. Some individuals learn, I suppose. Others may need caught up with their chores. However actually, I questioned – the climate is so screamingly lovely – why weren’t they exterior??
Nostalgia…and a love for the open skies
I quizzed my husband repeatedly about this. Not solely was the everyday Bangalorean unwilling to step exterior their properties to stroll about and meet their neighbours, however typically, they appeared not too eager to be exterior.
The Delhiite would consider methods to be out on the streets or on their rooftops or gardens. Folks in Delhi may spend their complete winter beneath the nice and cozy solar. Each exercise would transfer outside. Summer season days had been terrible however summer season nights had been all the time spent exterior. And was there a higher pleasure than that of sleeping beneath the open skies on a string cot, with the desert breeze cooling us down?
Nothing exemplified the Delhiite’s embrace of his terrible climate greater than the ‘barsati’. This was a typical Delhi phenomenon – the rooftop residence that was a tinderbox in summers and an icebox in winters – that additionally supplied some unparalleled joys to the occupant. When it rained, you danced on the rooftops. The balmy winter solar was all yours to drowsily savour, and summer season nights may solely be loved to their fullest on a roof that had been cooled down with buckets of water.
So, the Bangalore resident who selected to disregard the present of an ideal climate befuddled me. For years I questioned about this curious phenomenon. I attempted repeatedly to steer my husband to take a post-prandial stroll with me, however after just a few reluctant sorties onto abandoned roads, each of us deserted the prospect.
Transporting a tradition
Final yr, I proposed the thought of a weekly evening stroll to buddies within the residents’ group that I used to be a part of. However first, I had to make sure that all bases had been coated.
I assumed if we selected a weekday, nobody may provide excuses (Oh, we now have plans for the weekend!). And if we met at 9 pm, workplace hours would most certainly not turn out to be an excuse both (I had not accounted for wily IT sorts who claimed to work always of day and evening). By 9 pm, dinner would have been over, and different chores could possibly be hastened for that one evening. Visitors too would have died down, and strolling by empty streets was a uncommon pleasure that one may stay up for.
What higher method to unwind than to satisfy with buddies and have a calming nighttime stroll, ending with a ‘lassi’ or an ice cream? Or maybe a cup of espresso, if there have been a nip within the air? Fortunately, they agreed to check out the thought, and the Tuesday evening stroll was a weekly ritual that all of us began trying ahead to.
For greater than 18 months now, we now have met on Tuesday nights week after week, nearly and not using a break. Within the earlier days there would typically be solely two of us. These had been the instances that we acquired to know the opposite individual very properly as a result of the evening has a method of creating one spill out deep, darkish secrets and techniques. There have been instances when it rained, and but we walked. There have been instances when final minute cancellations would make the group skinny out all of a sudden. And there have been instances when buddies would seem from each avenue and take part, swelling the ranks. However no matter attendance, we walked, ending the stroll at a favorite watering gap (of a vastly milder selection).
Lengthy dwell the stroll!
In the previous couple of months, there was a dip within the numbers and the keenness for strolling. First it was the inclement climate. Local weather change hit our Tuesday walks, as evening after evening of unseasonal rain compelled us to desert plans. Then it was the NRI season because the infants and ‘babas’ descended from overseas shores onto Malleswaram throughout their summer season trip. Then, in fact, laidback Bangaloreans want to lazily lounge inside their properties and it wants some convincing to drag them out. However I’m optimistic that it’ll maintain.
(Paradoxically, Delhi has turn out to be a metropolis at battle with itself. Large metal barricades and gates are seen all over the place. I ponder if there may be any extra ‘tehelna’ inside these fortresses.)
Effectively, whether or not it’s an evening stroll or a morning stroll, whether or not it’s on Tuesday or another day, I do hope that we are going to proceed strolling the streets – as a result of there may be extra to ‘Tuesday evening walks’ than simply the easy ritual of strolling round. One thing fantastic occurred when individuals met like this. They realized that they’d much more in frequent than simply the situation of their properties. They found that they’d frequent buddies, or possibly frequent experiences rising up, after which frequent pursuits in music or sports activities. That is how the material of the group will get knit ever nearer.
When individuals begin being out on the streets in a deliberate method, they begin noticing issues in regards to the place the place they dwell that they might have been utterly unaware of in any other case. They begin noticing damaged and uneven pavements, or poorly lit areas, or impromptu rubbish dumps that must be eradicated.
Streets the place individuals stroll are higher than these the place individuals solely drive by. Streets the place households are out at nights are protected, and the general safety of a neighbourhood improves. Streets are the lifeline of each metropolis, and when streets enhance, the town improves.
So, I hold my fingers crossed, and ship up a prayer for the Tuesday evening stroll. And in the meantime, let me get my strolling footwear on.