When I spoke to her I realized she is one of the script writers for "The Great Indian Tamasha". I said "wow". I spoke to another friend and she told me that Sehba Imam is also the reason behind Let's Walk Gurgaon (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lets-Walk-Gurgaon/136874882996467). Now I was definitely all impressed. Let's Walk Gurgaon or LWG in short is for walking enthusiasts in Gurgaon. They meet every Saturday and Wednesday, to explore our city and areas around it, on foot. They walk for fun, for health, for togetherness and to cover the distances that divide urban and rural Gurgaon.
- What was the motivation to start LWG?
I love early mornings and I like the promise of a new day that every sunrise holds. Even as a child I loved to go for early morning walks with my mother during the summer vacations. Growing us in Aligarh, I used to deliberately miss my college bus so I could walk back home. I came to Delhi for my masters in Mass Communication and as a student DTC was the only mode of transport I could afford. I hated the crowded buses and introduced my friends to the joy of walking. We have walked from Dilli Haat to ITO, Saket to Alaknanda – many hearbreaks and early career discussions unfolded during these long walks. But somehow the lifestyle that I was living now in Gurgaon had no place for a sunrise… Late nights – Yes, very late nights – Yes again… the only hope of encountering daybreak was when returning from a really really late night party. parties are fun, but they were getting predictable and with all the drinking and eating a little bit unhealthy for my liking. I like meeting people, I like having fun times but I was desperate to find something less taxing on the body and more in tune with nature. The stress was building us inside me and I was desperate for early morning walks. I feel there’s nothing that a walk cannot resolve or at least make lighter – a creative block, a relationship issue, a bulging love-handle. I wanted to walk, but the areas I wanted to explore were not safe to walk through alone… So I decided to get Gurgaon to walk with me!
- You are celebrating the first anniversary. Can you recount how the first walk was?
The first walk was my Dog Chiquita and me. In the second week of June. It happened after a deadline kept me awake till 4 in the morning and Chiquita started whining for a walk. I decided to walk her before going off to sleep. The predawn silence, the pleasant breeze, the no fumes air… all got to me and I walked with Chiquita into the protected area behind DLF Phase III. It is now called the Biodiversity Park and has proper walking trails, but just a year back it had none of that. Even in the stifling heat of June, this little slice of the day was kept fresh and rejuvenated my spirit.
I spoke to three of my friends, Anubhav Saxena, Shashi Sharma and Manas Arvind. They loved the idea and encouraged me big-time. We had our first walk in the back yard of Ghata Village. The area lies just beyond sector 56. A mere ten minute drive away from the crazy heights of Gurgaon. But what you see is rocks, green trees, a small pond. We felt transported in time and space. It was an unbelievable experience. We reached a small mandir under the shade of a big spreading Banyan tree. We climbed a little hill and named it Mt. Ghata. We felt like Dora the explorer and Christopher Columbuses rolled into one. And we knew we were hooked!
- Can you share with us your most memorable incidents during these walks?
The rain walk to Vasant Kunj stands out as the most amazing experience. It was during the Monsoon last year. 40 people showed up for the walk. It was the first time we were walking with such a huge group. We had to walk through Gurgaon Biodiversity Park and our destination was Vasant Kunj. Some walkers were worried about what’ll happen if it rains. There was no shelter on the way. We were not even half way through the 4 hour walk when it started to drizzle. Not many of us were carrying umbrellas or raincoats. Some one asked ‘what will we do if it rains?’ We soon got the answer when it started raining slowly to begin with and then the skies just opened up on us. So we had a Plan A and a Plan B. Plan A was to somehow trudge through this downpour to the end of the walk. Plan B was to enjoy this rare opportunity of ‘walking in the rain’. When we started the walk their were 20 grownups and just 10 kids, but by the time we ended the walk everyone had decided to let their inner child out and we had forty crazy, carefree children jumping in the puddles and singing in the rain. A lot of people who are LWG regulars were part of that walk. And it’s now an LWG tradition o pick Plan B whenever it rains or the terrain gets tougher – Enjoy whatever comes in our way.
- You have all been walking for quite sometime now? How do you accommodate people who are not used to walking long distances? Tips for beginners
We are often told that we make newcomers feel part of the group. In fact one of the walkers, who’s a regular now, wrote on the wall encouraging new walkers and said ‘these people go out of their way to make you feel at home’. I feel flattered by these compliments and know that we must be doing something really right. But I really don’t know what it is. It’s just that all of us love walking so much that we try to make it fun for whoever joins us. We have people of all ages walking with us and we adjust our pace accordingly. When the terrain is tough, veteran walkers immediately offer support to new walkers. Tips for beginners – simple – When you lace up your walking shoes, make sure that you are lacing up your enthusiasm to. All it needs is for you to believe that you can. Some of us have troubling knees, one walker has a back problem… but the walks have been good for all of us.
- Do you let kids walk with you too?
Yes, kids, teenagers – and some of them are pretty regular. My daughter, Seher, who wasn’t a big fan of waking up early is now a regular walker and is joined by a lot of her friends. Our youngest walker is Dan – all of 2 and a half. He came for a night walk with his mother Vimala Kumari and brother Rayan -6. He walked part of the way and there were many fellow walkers willing to carry him when he got tired. Rayan (6years), is a very regular walker. His mother says that he wakes up at 3 to ensure that he does not miss the walk. He created a little booklet about his explorations with LWG for his summer homework. Tanisi Bhatt and Nanao Rajkumari, about 10 years old are regular walkers too and are great friends with all the grownups. Rehan another 7 year old from The Sri Ram School is responsible for making his father John Chako a regular walker with us.
- Would love to hear something about the most popular LWG member Chiquita
Chiquita is the real founder of these walks! She loves these walks and there’s no way I can leave her behind. Once when she wasn’t well I went without her and she was so heart broken when I came back that she wouldn’t get off her chair to greet me. Sulked on me for almost the whole day. She’s really high energy and it was a little tough to manage her energy before the walks, but the walks have really transformed her. She freaks out in the open areas, runs like crazy. Jumps into every pond, puddle, lake we come across. Races up and down the rocks like a mountain goat and manages to give her surplus energy a good outlet. She’s become a calmer and more obedient dog after the walks. Thanks to all the love and attention showered on her by fellow walkers, she must be one of the most photographed dogs ever. She now has a FB page of her own!
- Your life as a media professional
I work from home – mostly as a writer unless something really interesting comes up, then I take up direction too. One of my regular assignments is writing for the shows The Great Indian Tamasha and Gustakhi Maaf on NDTV 24/7 and NDTV India. The toughest thing to do when you are working from home is to block the distractions. It’s easy to discipline yourself in an office. Because when you are distracted from work, you know you are dilly dallying. But at home you give it the exalted name of ‘multi tasking’. Can’t crack an idea – ‘aah there’s that new maid to train.’ Mind not at work… ‘damn my wardrobe is so unorganized!’ procrastination — naaah I wanted to give my daughter a surprise and make her favourite dish!’
Moreover, friends, family everyone has a tough time understanding you’re at work when you’re sitting on your favourite couch looking into nothing. Sure there are many advantages of working from home… but drawing boundaries between work, home, friends, hobby time is a little tough and I’m constantly struggling with it.
Thankfully there are deadlines, the best disciplinarians available to human beings.
- Your message for other moms
On a serious note, with all the balls that one has to juggle and keep up in the air as a woman/mother/professional, the one that drops out very often is ‘Me Time’. Initially it seems like you can use that time better for something else. But soon stress catches up. It shows in your health, it shows in your interactions and it just keeps eating into the family’s happiness – the very thing we keep working so hard for. ‘Me Time’ is not just a fancy term, but an essential ingredient for your and your families health. So go do that one thing that you loved doing the most and don’t find excuses to not follow your hobbies – however exalted or self-sacrificing they sound, they’re still excuses and will do no one any good in the end. A hobby keeps you happy and that happiness rubs off on your children and family.
- LWG in media?
Express, TOI and HT have all covered us. Femina too is going to come up with an article on how LWG was started. Suburb, the magazine for Gurgaon has come up with articles on us twice. It brings in new walkers so we love this attention we are getting J
- Please feel free to add any extra information that you think maybe relevant or interesting to moms in Gurgaon
One thing that LWG has brought back to my life is the basic value that my parents had given me as a child. Chasing materialistic needs is not the only way to find happiness. Walking is such a basic hobby – it needs no training, no equipment, no expensive gadgets – all you need is an alarm clock to wake you up at 4! With a generation growing up believing that happiness comes with a prize tag, the walks open up a whole new playground. I really feel happy that my daughter has taken to these walks it gives me an opportunity to bond with her outside the malls.