The great news is that people in power are walking to stay fit.
The bad news is that most of them seem to be taking a walk on the wild side which would have made Lou Reed and the coloured girls sing:
"Hey Babe, take a walk on the wild side,
Said hey honey, take a walk on the wild side.
And the coloured girls go, doo dodo..."
In a recent exclusive interview to Economic Times - which read more like a lobbying note for a candidature of his Presidency - Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said,"I love to walk in the morning...all by myself and my thoughts. I take 40 rounds of my lawn measuring 90 metres, which I am told, makes about three-and-a-half kilometres. The President's House, Rashtrapati Bhavan, has large lawns. One would not need 40 rounds."
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The Finance Minister made it clear that, despite his correct multiplication of 40 rounds x 90 metres = "makes about" 3.5 kilometres (the precise answer is 3.6 kilometres as most students from the 5th standard onwards would know), the possibility of him running (or gunning) for the post of President is "hypothetical".
But what is not hypothetical, is that many Indian leaders are busy walking.
Some alone and some with crowds.
Some for good causes that may not necessarily have good outcomes.
But, yes, everyone in India is walking.
A randomwalk along India's political fields
Rahul Gandhi walked a lot in UP in between his helicopter trips. His walking and eating habits helped the Congress Party to increase the number of seats from 22 to 28 in the recently held state elections. This "makes about" an increase of 27.27272727% and while such a number would be a respectable gain for the BSE-30 Index this calendar year, it is not the sort of gain that the "Indira Gandhi and Assorted Heirs" party hoped to achieve.
The revered Prime Minister of India walks a lot. With the typical stiff-arms puppet walk and a frozen smile on his waxen face, many commentators have asked to check his pulse. There are rumours that, along with the mythical Yeti, an Egyptian mummy with moving legs has been roaming the leaderless earth. In case you are wondering, that is why the pilots in Air India have gone on a strike. The Air-India pilots, frightened of flying a plane with a VIPM (Very Immobilised Prime Minister), have resorted to walking in protest. The psychologists, meanwhile, are looking for specimens of species ruled by a mother-complex with an ingrained habit of a perpetual need to check with Madam on what to do next.For all the controversy and inaction, the fact is that the VIPM has helped set the trend for Indians walking.
Anna Hazare walked - and talked. And while his movement stirred passions and many candles were lit, in the end, his advisors made it all sound like a lot of hot air. To make matters worse, the 1 million candles that were lit for 10 minutes each generated about 1,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide adding to the heat wave that is currently enveloping India. Poor Anna seems to have walked with a team that is not in step with what he pronounced. There is, if press reports are to be believed, disconnect, discord, and discontent. As the new age social media language would say, Anna seems to have been "dissed".
The other famous walkers are from the BJP. While some took rathyatras that helped destroy the social fabric of India and are thankfully retired, others want to take to the streets on May 31 to protest the recent hike in petrol prices. A few months ago, one of the BJP's multiple Potential Prime Ministers was on the screaming TV channels telling us how his (NDA) government took the hard decisions to raise petrol prices. This UPA-2 government, the BJP leader proclaimed, was "soft". So now that this soft UPA-2 government finally shows some signs of delayed manhood, the BJP has decided to protest. True to their description as "Opposition Party", they are ready to oppose.The UPA-2 government which has been on a 3-year random stroll along the banks of the lazy Ganga - when they are not busy attending useless G-20 meetings along the banks of the River Thames, the Siene, or the Potomac - must be wondering why they ever woke up from their Rip van Winkle sleep and actually tried to do something.
The other people who seem to be doing a lot of cross-country walking are the Naxalites. And wherever they walk, they find the urge to destroy whatever comes in their path. Some justify their recourse to violence as a reaction to the other walkers - sorry, stalkers. The forest department officials and local police, many say, have raped - figuratively and literally - the tribals and the poor for so long that this is the violent reaction. An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth does not - in the language of the Naxalites - make the whole world blind and nor does it reduce the demand for toothpaste. Revenge delivers justice in some warped equation - and money on the side.
The Indian army, if reports are to be believed, also had its own walk sometime in January. Tired of sleeping in tents and eating military supplies, some say they were keen to check out the nicer structures in New Delhi. The canteens in some of the government buildings in New Delhi, they have heard, offer food that is even cheaper than in the military canteens. And, hey, they know the exact size of the gardens in Rashtrapati Bhavan. Unlike some people who are only into approximations and submitting targeted budgets that don't even come close to the actuals, the men in uniform are very precise.
SRK seemed to have been on a hurried walk at the MCA grounds and bumped around quite a few people in the process. Well, for the next five years, he may have to walk somewhere else. And I don't suggest he should head to the USA for a walk along the beaches of the Atlantic Ocean. Not only is it crowded in the summers, but the US immigration seems to have some problem with his name. Maybe his next movie should be "My name is not that Khan".
On a personal note, I walk slowly, I like to stroll. A friend of mine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill once suggested that I should increase the pace of my walk and "walk with a purpose in life". But, I confess, I enjoy walking at an aimless pace.
Follow the Didi
The most inspiring walker of all, though, could well turn out to be Mamata Banerjee - lovingly called Didi by the few that still love her. She could, it seems, turn us into a nation a walkers - whether we like it or not. Management consultants will one day recognise her as a "game changer" and Harvard Business School will probably do a case study on her just as they did on Lalu Prasad Yadav.
Didi demanded that her own party colleague (or should I say "follower" since no one can ever be equal to her) roll back the proposed passenger fare hikes in the railway budget.
Now - as anyone who has studied economics can tell you - unless the Railways collect more revenues, they cannot run the trains. So, as the UPA-2 evolves into a UPA-3 (highly likely since the BJP is still trying to figure out who their leader is) we will have many more years of frozen railway fares. Eventually, the railways will go bust and we will all need to walk.
To ensure that we will not have any buses, cars or 2-wheelers, Didi took to the streets of Kolkatta, to protest the recent petrol price hike. What a beautiful photograph for a Sunday morning: Didi in the lead and everyone else a respectable 2 metres (which, I am told, is about 6 feet) behind her. If the petrol price rollback does happen and if the government cannot increase the prices of diesel, Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. (IOC), Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL) will close down and we will not have any petrol pumps from which to tank up our vehicles.
Well, with no buses and trains India needs to be prepared for a long national walkathon. The senior management of Reebok who allegedly stole shoes and kept them in undisclosed warehouses must have planned for this expected surge in demand. Rather than trying to arrest them, Adidas and Reebok need to honour them for selling more shoes as Indians feel the need to walk.
For walk we will. Some of us in the gardens of the Rashtrapati Bhavan and some of us on the pollution-free roads of a country with no petroleum products.
Oh, yes, and that leads me to the one bit of wonderful news on the economic front.
The recent concerns of a collapsing Indian Rupee will no longer haunt us. Since India will no longer use petroleum products, our oil import bill will collapse, our current account deficit will disappear, and we will have a stronger Indian Rupee.
Maybe there is a method in this madness no matter how mad the method itself may be! J
This, after all, is Bharat and we are mahaan!
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