India’s next chance at an Olympics Gold Medal – Gawking

I have always believed that walking is great for me and my heart. Plus a great activity that gives me plenty of “Me” time. With my thoughts rambling over work, home, kids, friends, it is a pleasant experience that has become a daily ritual for me.

But that was only until I decided to move from the “gentle” sport of walking into the unknown realm of running. Fired up by seeing my friend Bob casually doing 5 kms in 20 minutes, and the marathon run by our techies at Suyati, I decided upon my new year resolution for 2014 – run the 7 Km Fun Run that happens during the Kochi Marathon every December. How hard can that be, right?

Frankly, the running part went extremely well. In 2 months, I was doing 4 kms in 45 minutes, though at a pace that even a snail can overtake. Not bad considering that the first time I ran 60 metres on January 3, I collapsed on my gate, and mentally willed my entire Agatha Christie collection to my daughters.

So what am I complaining about? The gawkers! Indians love gawking. They love watching any sport, especially if it is by a woman. In fact, I do my run really early (5:30 AM) and in the confines of my villa complex (300 metres around the complex is 1 round). You would think that would be a safe and gawker-free place to run, wouldn’t you?

NOPE. And it is not like I am doing something crazy like somersaulting over hot coals. Here I am, just dragging myself, as slowly as possible, over the stoned pavement. Among the usual spectators I encounter in my morning run, you can spot the following:

  • Security personnnel
  • Gardeners
  • Newspaper boys/men
  • Drivers – in cars, autos, taxis, scooters
  • The elderly lady across the villa gate who just stares at me as I approach the gate. (I know, but by now I am not creeped out any more)
  • The lady who brings the flowers for the puja
  • The senior citizen who delivers hot, piping idlis to the housewives

And lest you think that this “gawking” is confined only to my home state of Kerala, let me put you in the right immediately. Gawking is a national sport – among the spectators, I count citizens from Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Orissa, Punjab, and potentially other states that I am not aware off. I could hardly plod over to them and ask them where they come from, could I?

So why should I be bothered about gawking? After all, must be nice to get some attention, even if it is unwanted? Hmm, no. Even my husband complains that he gets stared at when he does his run – usually an hour later, when the complex is fuller with more drivers, gardeners and newspaper boys.

What I really object to is not straight-forward interest –  as in “Great. You are running, and I would like to get motivated into doing the same”. It is also not to the quick shifting of the eyes as come closer. What really gets my goat is the “dropping everything they are doing” full-frontal, unblinking stare. Well, something that is a cross between these stares –

You know what I mean?

But instead of abandoning my run and hopping on to the expensive treadmill my loving husband got me, I prefer to brave it out. Plus I actually think there is an art to gawking that I seem to have missed completely. The ability to stand still, freeze into position, bring the face around and to stare, with not an emotion on the face, is unique. And I think Indians do it best.

So as I run, I now envision my nation in its finest hour of glory – an Olympics gold Medal for Gawking. And I brave all the gawking – after all, I am training my nation – one gawker at a time. In fact, it is my patriotic duty. Vande Matharam!

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