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Cycling to a ‘Slower’ Life

A month ago, I decided to start cycling to office and back – my office is quite close to my home in Noida, a suburb of New Delhi, India. I announced my decision to my wife.
“Are you crazy? Who cycles in this traffic, that too in summer, at 43 degrees C! What if you have an accident? You could get kidnapped! ”
The words of our office security guard, while I was leaving office after work one day, summed up most reactions,
“Sahab yeh mat chalaya karo. Aap ko shobha nahin deta!” (Sir, you shouldn’t ride this. It doesn’t befit your status!”)
That said, from Day 1, the moment I started pedaling, I felt liberated from the incessant hurries of modern life, the impulse to check the time, the next meeting, the ringing mobile, the mailbox…
For those 15 minutes either way, life slowed down. There was no hurry to get to the office (you could not speed up beyond a point so you didn’t try). Life actually slowed down to the pace nature originally designed it for. In effect, whilst the world rushed by, I glided.
We never stop to notice it, but we are always hurrying to something or the other. What’s more, we try to hurry just that little more than the other guy, to pack in more in less. That is what conventional wisdom and almost all self-help says – the modern world is too fast. Hurry, or you shall be left behind.
The moment however that you stop hurrying, you notice that time actually slows down and stretches longer. You suddenly start finding time to notice things and think thoughts for which you never otherwise find time.
Perched on my bicycle seat, to office and back, my mind begins to wander. I notice my surroundings, the people passing by and other things that I never noticed earlier. The surprising thing however, though that was certainly not my aim, is that in those few minutes, I am able to pack in a lot more than when I consciously will myself to! Whilst wandering, my mind also seems to find time to plan the day ahead, to anticipate and be better prepared for it.
Another immediate benefit has been that since I started cycling, my daily 2 o clock energy trough has disappeared. It could be because of the exercise or my increased water intake, but what the heck – the end result matters.
Within a month, a number of other mild disorders – my digestion, back, etc. – have also started disappearing. Is it psychological? I don’t think so.
It is actually wonderful what those 30 minutes a day can do. The surprising thing is that none of this is actually a surprise. In my Army career of 27 years including as a trainee, my bicycle never left my side. Physical exercise of any sort was encouraged and the entire routine of life was created with a sense of fine balance – work and play, exercise and rest, extreme stress and periods to let go. On entering corporate life however, I somehow slipped into the conventional mould without a thought. I never noticed when that balance of life was lost.
It is time to now catch up on those lost years. Yet ‘catching up’ is perhaps not the right word. There is nothing to ‘catch-up’ with! So I sit on my bicycle and … glide…
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