Talk the Walk and Walk the Talk

by Ar. Gita Balakrishnan

When you walk, you arrive with every step -Thich Nhat Hanh

A 1700 km journey on foot – why am I even contemplating this mammoth task? The very thought of it gets my adrenaline racing. But it is not the rush and the thrill that is attractive to me. Physical, intellectual and emotional challenges are the reason for change. They make me dig deep into my repositories and discover toughness I never believed I had. Whether it was the first ever quiz on architecture in the country, the first ever online learning portal for design and architecture, my taking to running, graduating to full marathons- all of them have made me and continue to be the reason for my “becoming”.

I was running regularly three days a week until the 13th of November when I switched to walking. A lot changed. I did not draw as many stares, smiles and nods of respect now that I was walking like so many others. The sight of a salt and pepper haired woman running intensely has brought in a fair share of admirers.

Walking is teaching me patience – I find myself on the road for twice as long to cover the same distance. Running is meditative for me while walking tends to be distracting. Walking makes me see things around me, gives me time to observe – makes me slow down. These distractions work the same magic to hook me to the present moment as the action of putting foot in front of foot when walking or running. 

The desire to do a long distance cross-country walk has been brewing for a few years now. It was spawned by an article on Priya Dutt walking from Mumbai to Amritsar with her father, Sunil Dutt. I could imagine the different moments and experiences that would have transformed both of them through this journey. 

More recently, I followed the heart-rending stories of the thousands of migrant workers who were forced to walk back from a life they had dreamed up for themselves. Images of a solitary slipper, spilt food or a doll on the road were grim reminders of a life they had left behind. Their long walk would have changed them too for sure as it turned their lives upside down. I often imagine their state of mind and their conversations to keep their spirits high as they undertook this torrid trip. Did they hum a tune? Did they notice the flowing river? How did they find the strength and resolve to comfort others and offer help when in deep distress themselves? 

© PTI Source: The Economic Times

This exodus was a lesson in empathy and responsibility for all mankind.

It is ironic that I speak of building endurance and am working on an elaborate plan for my walk which I treat as an adventure, while for them it was an ordeal. It is in fact this very irony that is spurring me on. I intend to use my journey to touch lives. Being an architect with a reasonably large network within the fraternity of designers – professionals, academics and students, I intend to leverage this network into a collaborative effort to improve quality of lives through design. 

I have a treasure cache of dreams which I reach into from time to time to hand out some dreams for others to realize. There is a secret pocket in this cache with dreams that are rather dear to me. I take them out often, to stroke them, to explore them, to nurture them and wait for them to come of age. #Walkforarcause, The Ethos Foundation and Arcause are from this secret pocket and all three of them are now ready to see the light of day.

Architect Gita Balakrishnan has spent the last 20 years of her life bringing together students, professionals and industries working in the built environment sector through her initiative, Ethos.


  • Kunal Rakshit

    This has touched a deeper chord with me since with this very simple act of running or walking we can have such a profound message. Kudos to gita ma’am for touching our lives in so many ways and raising awareness on design. Recently renowned artist Ai Weiwei has started a running campaign #RunForOurRights which tries to struck a note on press freedom and human rights. It transcends the traditional barrier of art and the spectator and prompts everyone to relate to it by active participation which is so fundamental.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *