During school vacations, sometimes my father would suddenly have the urge to go on morning walks with me and my brother. Ma (mother) would wake us all up at some unearthly hour, get us suitably attired (depending, of course, on the weather - it was sacrilege to step out in winter without being bundled up in sweaters and scarves), give us a Marie Biscuit each, and push us out of the house before, I suspect, going back to a blissfully peaceful snooze.
Half-reluctant, half-awake, rubbing sleep out of our eyes, we would stumble out, weaving through the nearly-empty roads in our neighbourhood, under the guidance of our enthusiastic leader, Baba (father).
As we left the crowd of houses behind, the gradually brightening sky showed us the way to greener fields and the banks of the Ganga. Baba always wanted to reach the riverbank - a good half-an-hour's walk from our house - to catch the sunrise over the placid Ganga's horizon. Our senses awakened to the chirruping Good Mornings of the birds and the fresh wetness of dew brushing against our legs. Masses of flowers bent over trees and hedges and tickled our noses with their scents - shiuli, rajanigandha, kamini, beli. It was, to understate, a nice way to way up all our senses.
And the high point was flopping down, all huffed-and-puffed, on the banks of the brown river, feeling the cool breeze wipe off the sweat from our faces, and lifting our eyes to watch the sun paint the eastern sky with an amazing palette of red-orange-gold-pink. The Ganga, a great imitator, would reflect whatever the sun drew on the sky, adding millions of tiny silver ripples for special effects. And a few early morning braveheart-bathers, sun-worshippers and Ganga-devotees, would step into this colour-play in the water to take their daily dip in the holy river.
While going back, we would stop at some riverside tea-stall for locally-made toast-biscuits and Baba would have a cup of tea - the first of his daily dozen-or-more.
No birdsong. No sunrise. Maybe they happen, but morning-walkers hardly notice. They hear the latest tracks on their earphones, and see only a focussed vision of six-packs or size-zero.
And if I thought that the self was made of the mind, body and soul, then of course, I was wrong. Only the body matters, at least while morning-walking.
WHAT WALKS WITH YOU IN THE MORNING? YOUR BODY, MIND OR SOUL?