The group that I run with is upto some crazy stuff. Just a shade short of ‘filmy stunts’, several runners have taken to, hold your breath, barefoot running. On the streets of Mumbai !
Life is not a bed of roses. Life in Mumbai is definitely not. Running barefoot will get you to deal with the fact that roads are not even a bed of tar. Forget roses! Yet, chanting the name of long term health of the knee, getting ‘closer to nature’ and better running posture, they are pounding the pavements of Powai with bare skin of their feet. Feet that are used to sophisticated shoes. Yes. Sophisticated is the word.
‘If they could do it, I could too’. I told myself in one of those half-assed-belligerent moments that’s usually devoid of reason. And I decided to venture out too. But no. Not the whole hog. A stepping stone to eventually running barefoot, they said, was to run in ‘Canvas shoes’ I was told. You remember these shoes, don’t you ?
The stuff that you wore for PT classes and something called ‘mass drill’! The mass drill that seemed such a extravagantly pointless exercise and fun filled day : ‘Sports Day’! Yes, the same ‘Mass Drill’ that came nowhere close to a ‘sport’ on ‘Sports day’! Of course, you had to be a sport in taking the effortless affront to ‘synchronous movement’ that was perpetuated in the name of ‘mass drill’, in your stride.
I, as regular readers are aware, am a perpetual sucker for nostalgia, diving into the past at the slightest whiff of an opportunity. Sitting in the shoe store and caressing the coarse canvas shoe was no slight whiff. It was a tornado of sorts! Before you could say four-five words like ‘The- Prime Minister-needs-to-speak’, (or any other four five words for that matter) full chronicles from the past years of starting off with the canvas shoe, were relived in my mind!
Many images from the past did many more sorties in the mind. Images of the ‘mass drills’ were just one genre. The ‘March Past’ was another wonderful display of how earnest kids supervised by strict ‘PT masters’ (as they were called), could swing their arms and legs in such a belligerent spectrum of directions, very rarely in synchrony!
Sports day itself was a delight of a day. Other than the mass drill and the march past, there were Olympic stature events like ‘lemon & spoon race’ where the ‘gold medal’ would go to the bloke who would balance a lemon on a spoon, with his teeth and run a distance of ten meters. Or thereabouts.
If that didn’t excite some, there were other ‘games’ like ‘Sack race’, ‘slow cycle race’, ‘ One leg hop’ and such else. (Now, these are not to be confused with similar games that go on in the present day corporate world). The ones at school were adorned with innocence and glorious charm.
(With such sport that gripped our imagination, India’s medals tally at the Olympics makes sense. A tally thats often eclipsed many times over by nations with population no more than population of Powai. Or even, an apartment complex here!)
Oh yes victory in these events meant that the ‘houses’ that you were allotted to would get points. The ‘houses’ were named after colours and a ribbon of the same arresting colours ( Fluorescent green, or blue, orange or whatever. The essence was in ‘Fluorescent’.) would be tied to your hand. Just in case you wanted to jump ship to a group that held more allure (err… due to a variety of reasons). Alas we couldn’t ! Those scheming teachers!
For several formative years the sport that occupied the mind was cricket. A sport that you could play with anything that resembled a bat, including a fallen branch of a coconut tree, with just a bit of appropriate chiseling! To play which, you couldnt care what you wore ! Anything was good!
In a few years, as innocence faded, newer sport held interest. Basketball, Volleyball, Tennis. I graduated to these new sport and took to new special shoes that pester power at home, brought me. The good old coarse canvas shoes, in my mind, were for the sissies doing the sack race!
So there ! So much for nostalgia !
Last week, I sat in this grand shoe store, in a brand new mall buying the good old canvas shoe. Running my hand over the coarseness of the canvas, i guess I was sitting there for a while! For it was the missus’s embarrassed nudging that brought me alive to the fact that the entire store staff had turned out to see the chap who was caressing the canvas shoe! Almost !
It was more than the attention that I had bargained for, and certainly more than the Rs.299/- I paid for these. I was surprised that Rs.299/- went the distance a long way! Especially, when it came to drawing the attention of an entire store!
Since then, I have run once for 40 minutes in these shoes. I was left with a mega blister that ballooned ‘boulder size’ by evening that bristled with irritant pain for a couple of days.
The blister will go. The blistering pace at which some memories returned, will linger for longer.
By the way, do you remember these shoes ?