Woman walking alone
Picture used for illustrative purposes only. Image Credit: Supplied

There comes a point in life when we realise that the number of years behind us will definitely outnumber the years ahead of us and we do start reminiscing more about the past as much as we plan for the future. I seem to be at that juncture where my mind races to the past with any or even no impetus.

As me and my better half approach the 28th year of our married life I am reminded of the day I walked down the aisle. It was a slow walk, my hand held by the eldest member of the family and my mind a potpourri of mixed feelings. Anticipation and excitement of being part of another family, heaviness of moving out of my comfort zone filled with familiar, loving faces…….the conflicting emotions must have definitely reflected in the way I walked.

This memory got me thinking of the many different walks we undertake throughout our lives from the first step as a toddler to the last one ending in the grave, each significant in its time and premise.

I love to see a toddler wobbling over to a parent with joy writ large on the face and the parent picking up the child just as we think the child is about to topple over! What an adorable walk that is! As the child gains confidence the walk becomes more confident and purposeful.

The joyful walk

The joyful walk to fetch a favourite thing, the stomping /marching walk when angry, the pussy-foot walk while indulging in something secretive, the slow, sad walk when reprimanded, the half walk, half run into the arms of the parent when frightened; all add to the joys and travails of growing up.

Then comes the walk that’s as traumatic for the parent as for the child, first time to school! I remember waiting in the corridor with a heavy heart as my firstborn pranced happily into his classroom along with many other little ones in different stages of the walking process!

There were the stubborn ones with feet dug firmly to the ground being cajoled to walk, some clinging to parents, with feet in the air not ready to let go and some like my son eager for new experiences! The second day the plates turned and my son too joined the league of the nonconformists! It was a long and slow walk for me from the classroom to the school gate that day!

There are many times when we walk with a spring in our steps and our gait reflects the inner happiness and pride we feel. I love to witness these happy walks and in my profession as an educator I get many opportunities to see this. Appreciation for a good deed, accolades for big or small achievements, an encouraging pat on the back or a kind word to the children bring in a magical transformation in their demeanour and gait.

I love to see the ‘smart’ walk as in march past too during investiture ceremonies and special days. The students’ heads held high, shoulders straight and eyes focused ahead marching rhythmically to the beat and music never fails to give me the feels. My heart swells with pride and joy as I witness future leaders in the making.

Shuffled feet and hands in pockets

We have the ‘new gen’ boys’ walk as well with shuffled feet and hands in the pockets of pants hanging on to the waist for dear life! The same goes for girls too albeit with a different kind of ‘floating’ walk. The older generation does get annoyed with this but we need to remember that we had our own idiosyncrasies in our times too, huge collars, bell-bottoms for example!

Walking for leisure or for exercise is an enjoyable experience, all the more if you have company. The benefits of such walks for the body and the mind are now well known. I love to walk on the beach with the sounds and smells of the sea filling my senses. I pause often to admire the different life forms, the patterns on the wet sand, the rocks which have been there from time immemorial, the azure sky so much in commune with the sea…..the sights heal and rejuvenate me.

Equally, there are times when the weight of sorrow bears down on us and we walk with slouched shoulders and plod on. The feet seem leaden and we are unsure of the next step- both literally and figuratively. That was me, decades ago walking to the crematorium to bid the final goodbye to my father.

Guess I would need reams and reams of pages to ramble on about the different kinds of walks people walk in their lifetimes and I still wouldn’t be able to do justice.

There are both kind people and tyrants who walked the earth before us and left their everlasting marks on humanity, so whatever be our call or walk let’s ‘tread softly’ because, to quote W B Yeats, ’we might be treading on dreams spread under our feet’.

Annie Mathew is an educator and writer based in Dubai