Boat Club Road is one of the posh neighbourhoods in Chennai, if not the most posh; and such is its snob value that many people who don’t live there drive all the way to Boat Club Road for their morning walks — either in the hope of rubbing shoulders with the who’s-who of the city (when they are alone and without the trappings of their exalted status) or just for the kicks. Morning walk on Boat Club Road: it can’t get any more fashionable.
I don’t know if the story, about people driving all the way to Boat Club Road just to walk, is entirely true, but I would like to believe there is some substance to it. I have a friend who once upon a time went there for morning walks and who, at the drop of a hat, still likes to quote her “Boat Club Road friends.”
Sadly, even though I will soon complete 12 years in Chennai, I’ve been to that road only twice, perhaps thrice, that too in the evenings. I have no idea how it looks early in the morning, though I would like to know.
I walk in a much humbler location called Jeeva Park, a stone’s throw from my flat in T. Nagar. I’ve known Jeeva Park longer than any other place in Chennai: in its lap I find sweet memories of younger days (I’ve been walking there since I was 30) and also the assurance of good health even as I touch middle-age. The park, like most parks in the city, is well-maintained and extremely user-friendly.
One has to hand it to them: Chennai’s administrators, even though they often lack planning and imagination when it comes to basic infrastructure, they understand the importance of parks in a city dweller’s life. If only more people flocked these pretty neighbourhood parks: that way there would be less people flocking hospitals. But many of us don’t consider exercise beneficial unless we shell out a lot of money. In fact, people often sign up with expensive gyms or fancy yoga classes only so they stick to their regimen, the rationale being: “Since I’ve paid through my nose, I might as well be regular.”
What they don’t realise is that the best gyms, where birds sing for you from the trees and where you see greenery instead of mirrors, come free. And recently, I discovered a gym where they have the sea! A few years ago, I heard about the Marina being beautified and even noticed some cosmetic changes on the beach from a distance, but considering it was a government initiative, one didn’t expect a fantastic transformation. After all, you tend to take all government promises with a sack of salt.
But one lovely evening a few weeks ago, I happened to be at the Marina and I was amazed by what I saw: a broad jogging track, flanked by places to sit and skate, running for a length of 2 km northwards from Gandhi statue. Which means, to and fro, you cover 4 km — more than sufficient for your heart to be happy. All you will need is a pair of decent shoes and an iPod.
Needless to say, I have been hitting the Marina at least thrice a week ever since. On one side, you have the sea running with you, and on the other, the rich heritage of Madras. And the fresh breeze. It’s a luxury money can’t buy.