There’s something about quiet. It’s strangely unnerving in the beginning. Coming off a chaotic and increasingly connected world, you tend to feel lost without any anchors when confronted by it. You want to run, find the nearest mooring that you are comfortable with. The nearest friend sharing something, the TV or radio blaring out inanity, sometimes a book you’ve been reading. Anything that can provide a defence against it. To be in quiet is mostly having to confront yourself, your own mind and your own thoughts. Not exactly an easy place for most people craving to be entertained, craving to have their time filled up. After all, what do you do when you have nothing to do? Can you sit silently in one place just watching the world go by, letting your mind drift, not contemplating anything? But it’s the first step that needs to be overcome. Once you are in, once you start getting comfortable with yourself, it’s strangely addictive. You just can’t get enough of it. And you realize it’s not easy finding it either.
It’s been close to 10 months since I started running. Initially it was at a park/ground which gave me a 300m perimeter to run around and while going and coming from there I noticed that the Mallathahalli lake seemed to have a path developed around it – wide enough for a car to pass through. After a few attempts I figured out where the entrances were – gaps in the fence at different points and there began my obsession with running.
I usually start at close to sunset. Sunrise runs don’t work so well for me. The birds are on their way home flying East. Have always wondered why the birds fly East in the evenings, away from the Sun. At Chamarajpet, there they were flying over from Srinagar side and at Srinagar, there they were flying in from Avalahalli in the evenings. A constant cavalcade of chirping birds heading home in formations.
The path is initially rough, the cement still there, but the cement blocks not lain for a good 300m. There are people at the entrance, as usual staring at anyone and everyone who turns up, their gaze steady and never dropping, at least until you stare back. Always wondered what they take in with such a long stare. As I run, the number of people thins, there are a few workers using the place as a shortcut as they head home, a few pet-owners letting their dogs off the leash, or taking them for a walk. With no human settlement nearby there are no stray dogs here. A bridge comes in with the water flowing down it towards Ullalu. A Blue Kingfisher used to be there. I look for it all the time, but it’s been absent for a while. The path becomes better after the bridge with concrete blocks laid in. I continue running till the entrance where there’s a pier/jetty with an eye on boating. The lake has been abandoned by the authorities now. So is that place.
You look around and there is more solitude now. A random shepherd tending his sheep, a couple of Northeastern runners. Some weaver birds have woven their nest, lapwings fly around screaming. I want to bring my camera sometime. I never do, not even my cell-phone. Maybe its a private world that I want to remain so, and probably I don’t want to destroy this time of disconnect. The sewage treatment plant is churning. Initially annoyed at a ‘factory’ spewing stuff into the lake, am now thankful for what it is. Another bridge over a canal from a smaller pond leading to the lake. In winter there are 100s of egrets here, nesting. They used to raise a racket on seeing me nearby. Hardly any human activity now. The path is a mud track, but only for a while before the cement tiles take over. Suddenly more humans, less silence, also a Brahminy kite that hovers above. This is the tourist area where people come, sit, sometimes smoke or turn on the music in their mobile phones. Less quiet. But the mind has gone deep in now. People and their noise hardly matter anymore.
I reach the start – 2.6 Km of it, 16 minutes usually. I continue till the bridge, passing it on to complete 3.2Km in 20 minutes. It’s getting dark. I walk back. This is the best part of the run, closer to sunset, walking back with the Sun behind me, the endorphins kicking in. The sky looking pristine in front and the lake reflecting off it. The people are leaving. I head back to the car and drive home.
There was a time when the lake was being developed. When there were these trucks that moved around and laid the concrete tiles. Now, it is abandoned. The BDA office nearby is closed more often. Tiny cabins at two ends to sell stuff. Closed. Grass grows between the tiles. The ubiquitous Parthenium is slowly making its presence felt and you can already see it lining the path on both sides as you run. I asked a worker once and from his Telugu laced Kannada I got that there is no more budget now for the lake.
In a way it’s good that there is no more ‘development’. There is going to be no boating, so the birds are safe. There are less facilities for people, which means less people, less loitering and littering. A coracle usually goes around and I’ve seen some fishing on weekends. But one fisherman will not mean over-fishing and depletion of fish there. In a way it remains a paradise for those who want to run or have a long walk around it. It provides what I look for mostly – solitude and quiet. The whole run and walk back lasts 30 minutes. But it’s 30 minutes of disconnect from the world. No phones, no TV blaring below, no music. Just me and some quiet.