Thursday, August 13, 2020

Utta's Journal - Morning walks with thatha

Out of all the things I enjoy here, a memory to cherish would be the morning walks with my thatha. Ever since I have been coming here as a child thatha has been going for these walks, but I have often been too lazy to join him. I made a resolution this year to go for the exercise yes, but that was merely a bonus. It was my time to spend bonding with thatha, especially because I don't know if I'm coming back next year or not. In the beginning, waking up was easy because of jet lag. I would be awake by 5:45. However, as the days have passed, and I stayed up later to watch CSI or some movie it became more and more difficult. (Just as I write paati has arrived with a bowl of cut vegetables and a banana, as is the routine at about this time, minus the banana). She does so much. Back on track. There are always those five to 10 minutes thatha gives me to wake up. After that, for 5 minutes, I seriously contemplate skipping the walk for the day. But I have always ended up going to give thatha company. We go to the Besant Nagar beach and walk up and down the boardwalk. Twice thatha showed me different walking routes, but he has since realized that the beach is what I like best. The sun's rays peaking through the water, deep blue mini waves crashing through, people playing volleyball horribly (I could play better), people stretching, thinking that they are working out when they are not, people doing yoga and the senior citizens of Besant Nagar, simply sitting on the ledge, chatting. There are locals staring at you, and many walkers wearing large t-shirts, which say USC, University of Michigan Mom/Dad, and talking about going to America. It's wonderful. There is nothing like it. Our walks are one hour, no less no more. Thatha is very particular about that. If we are three minutes early at the end of the walk, thatha would insist we go up and down a nearby street till we make up the time. Today we were three minutes over and the other day we went to the auditors before starting our walk. Thatha insisted on 1 hour of continuous walking saying the time before we took our detour did not count! It’s actually very funny walking with him. Also, he always reminds me to stay clear of the road and traffic and always walks against the traffic. He says, "in this place, you never know where these two wheelers will come from. They come from all directions. So you have to take care". He tells me this daily. He also grabs my arm, when a car approaches, whether it's traveling at 30 km/hour or 3 km/hour. He insists on walking along the sandy part of the boardwalk and not the paved part, because there is less traffic. He walks perfectly well, but has a cane. I ask him why and he says it's for comfort and to shoo stray dogs that come near. Before setting out, he counts 7 items in Tamil ...onru, rendu...ezhu. This so he remembers to take everything. Glasses, keys, kerchief, cane, watch, purse and so on. And every time when we come back, he reminds me not to ring the doorbell because he has the keys. I anticipate that today and say, "I will not ring the doorbell". And he laughs saying, "I was just thinking yesterday that you must think, what is this guy telling me the same thing over and over". Haha. I love our walks. If a stranger followed us, he/she would find it interesting. It is funny walking with thatha because he can only hear well from one ear. Whenever we make a turn, I have to keep switching sides so I speak into his good ear. Or else he will make me do so. I'm usually quiet during our walks partly because I'm half asleep until we hit the beach and partly because I have nothing of importance to say, and saying anything is difficult, because it must be said in words that thatha understands. These people are different. You see, just today thatha told me he didn't know what ASAP was until very recently. However, the silence is an easy one. It is a very pleasant one - calming, making it easy for me to speak at any time. Thatha usually has a story of his own, in the beginning. He always first checks with me if it will bore me or not. It never does. I love listening. On the first walk he went through our family tree mapping out his brothers and sisters, their families and kids, and what they are all up to. Now occasionally he asks me questions about them, almost as if it were a quiz, to keep me engaged. Our talks then evolved. We have now been talking about the letters he has been writing to the Hindu on issues that have affected him dearly, such as the high water bill for companies, no matter what their size, the fact that our representative in Parliament for Tamil Nadu doesn't necessarily have to be there because he does nothing. He's very thorough, opinionated and interesting. My favorite topic is tennis and how there are no more star players and how over the past 10 years, it has lost it flare. I will always remember these walks and I'm glad I went on them with thatha.

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