A Sweeper and a Gentleman

Okay so I forgot to ask his name. Sorry sorry.img_5721

He sweeps Mother Theresa Crescent.

As a woman running in Delhi, I frequently get these responses to a woman running in shorts: men try to obstruct you, get in your way, cat calls, try to run you off the road.

And then I would run past this man, who would give me his own brand of acknowledging a woman runner.

Everytime I’d run past, he would get four feet out of my way, which was considerate, respecting the effort of a runner. And this is what he would do that flabbergasted me: he would stand straight, hold his broom vertical in one hand, and give me a military salute with his other. He is not a runner, nor is he in the army.

Finally after a year of running,  I stopped in the middle of my run to shake himg_5723im by the hand and ask him why he gives me this completely extraordinary greeting. He had no clear answer for me, wasn’t able to answer why he honors a female runner like that.

He was very shy, and couldn’t understand why I was asking him. While he was foggy on that answer, one thing is amply clear to me:

You don’t have to be an officer to be a gentleman.




Are you NUTS? Why would you RUN in this biting cold?

Vasu Primlani RunningDelhi, Christmas Eve. 4.2o C, 39o F

The warmth of several layers of blankets in the absence of a central heating system beckons with a force stronger than the one pulling us Delhi-ites out of it. One thinks twice about changing clothes, thrice about taking them off entirely. Baths are taken in record time. Water conservationists are pleased.

The poor and the cab drivers start their day early, the former tucking their heads inside their scarves, wishing for all the world to be turtles. They stir out of bed only for emergencies – such as sending the children off to school. Earning a living can wait a few moments longer.

They are not a little surprised to see a runner breathing smoke, and shedding clothes with the miles. What the hell? Is life not hard enough in this winter, that this lunatic has to take off running in this bitter cold?

Au contraire, my non-runner friend, au contraire. Running in the morning, when the city is sleeping more soundly than usual, we enjoy the quiet of the city. In Delhi, that’s quite the find.

But laying aside the person-city interaction for a moment, pounding the pavement in the winter is like wearing a coat – on the inside. Running increases our core body temperature, improves blood circulation, in fact – the heat generated by out exercising muscles can increase by 15-20 times that of our resting state, leading to warm blood through our veins. We get warm enough to take most of our clothes off – that’s how much heat we generate.

Not just, running improves our mental faculties, and get our mood lighter and brighter. Far from being a mark of insanity, running in the winter is one of the most sane things you can do. Next only to cycling, swimming, or playing some other vigorous physical sport.

So, my fine shivering friend, shed that fear and that tremor – go run. You might just find yourself. Bouncing through the day.