MORNING MARVELS by Maya Chandrasekaran

The alarm bell rang with piercing insistence (incidentally, I must tell you that no sound fills me with more dread and horror, than that of my alarm. Even during the day, just the sound of that fearful buzz can make the blood drain from my face!) and I gave a groan and rolled over. 6:00 in the morning. I was in the middle of my summer holidays and I could sleep all morning if I wished, but, instead, I had set the alarm for 6:00. Why was I putting myself through this torture?

Because, like almost everyone else in the world, I’ve decided to shape up, or ship out, so to speak, and what better way to exercise, than by taking an early morning walk. And when I say walk, I mean brisk strides, not the sort of half hearted stroll that many people affect. They just saunter around for fifteen minutes, and then wonder why they don’t have Naomi Campbell’s figure.

Of course, I must admit, that for the first five minutes of my walk I’m still on automatic pilot -- wandering around zombie style, eyes half closed, and thinking longingly of that bed I just left -- but after that I tend to perk up and start looking around. And there are so many interesting things to see, like the multitudes of eager, tracksuit - clad children rushing to the swimming pool, basketball courts and cricket fields (where do they get all that enthusiasm and energy?); or the amiable cow that slowly makes a mo(o)ve towards you, only to be sternly led off by its milkman (thank goodness! I’ve always been terrified of cows. Yes, I know they’re gentle, placid creatures, but they’re also related to bulls, and that in itself prejudices me against them); and then of course, there are the dogs and their owners. I’ve often wondered if the owners are taking the dogs for a walk, or it’s the other way around. In the case of a fully grown golden retriever and a thin twelve year old boy, I think you can guess who does the leading, and who scampers after.

On of the best parts of an early morning walk is the quiet. No trucks thundering away, or buses honking symphonies at each other, or fruit vendors loudly and incessantly advertising their wares Just quiet and calm - the best sort of atmosphere for wool-gathering and dreaming, and thinking. You can get your thoughts in order, put things in perspective and plan out the day, all in that short time. Hey, don’t get me wrong - I happen to be a centre - city girl, and I love the noises; I can’t live without the lorries and shouts and sirens, and any extended period of silence makes me uneasy, but half an hour of calm every morning does wonders for jangled nerves.

The city, early in the morning, is not only quiet, but also refreshingly unpopulated. Bangalore is not an early morning city (unlike Madras, which is up and raring to go even at 5:00am) and the streets are wonderfully empty, except of course, for dog walkers, exercisers and milkmen. The sight of so many empty streets can be nothing but a balm for anyone living in one of the fastest growing and most populated cities in Asia.

You also get to see and appreciate all the small cogs that make this urban machine work : the vegetable vendor on his way to the wholesale market; the milkman; and the newspaper boy (how would you know who the Prime - Minister - for - the - day is, unless you got your morning paper?) and all the others.

And there is the list of benefits of an early morning walk, so stop moaning about your ‘thunder thighs’ and do something. Set your alarm for 5:30am (stop groaning like

that), put on some decent walking shoes and take a deep breath (don’t you just dig that smog - free air?). This walk will not only prepare you for the day ahead, but it’s also great for the leg muscles. After all, you do want look like Naomi Campbell, don’t you?