Not quite an everyday sight – a lone walker, trudging along by the roadside. A small cloth bundle expertly balanced on his head and swathed in black from head to toe, he was a strange sight to behold as I drove through Bandipur national park – A forest reserve know for its population of tigers. While his appearance makes his intent quite evident, the first question that popped into my mind was why someone would choose to undertake the journey on foot. He was not the first such pilgrim I’d encountered, but the fact remained that he had over 350 kilometers to walk, to get to his destination from where he was right now. (That’s over 80 hours of walking time from where he was, a fact Google will attest to).
The faithful typically undertake the pilgrimage to Sabarimala once a year (or as often as they see fit), a journey that commences with a 41 day period of abstinence, or the ‘vratham‘. It is a personal challenge of sorts for some, a divine experience for others, and often – a chance to lose weight while earning some spiritual brownie points on the side. Whatever be the process one goes through, there’s no changing the fact that it takes significant levels of determination, self-control and a certain level of fitness to be able to undertake a challenge of such proportions. Much like a marathon.
There’s no question that it will be a life changing experience. The mind travels as much as the body does, or more – making new discoveries about the self in the process. As the eyes take in new sights, the mind opens up to new truths hitherto unseen. There’s probably no way to explain this, until the feeling is experienced.
It’s not about what you’re doing – it’s more to do with which part of you is doing it. Any activity that you put a little bit of your soul into, is bound to take you places.
Everybody finds their marathon. Activities that they undertake, despite physical and mental hardships – to arrive at a sense of peace, achievement and satisfaction to whatever level possible. What works, is something each and every person has to determine for themselves. I know folks who go trekking in the Himalayas or go on long drives or rides, others who attend meditation programmes, there are some who read/ write or sketch with zen like regularity, and yet others who practice music or sport, or train at a gym with a furious sense of discipline.
Many of these are often pursuits that leave one exhausted – be it physically or mentally. Yet they enrich lives in ways more than one. Your marathon will make you go from a ‘lesser you’ to a ‘better you’ – resulting in smiles all around. You might not be a runner, but you’ll find your marathon.