By Ar. Chitra Vishwanath
What makes me walk?
If given a chance I will always prefer walking to taking an automobile but of late this habit has become an obsession.
The obsession began with me trying to catch the sunrise on the campus of The University of Agriculture Sciences Bangalore. Around three years ago I started taking constitutional morning walks and soon got hooked into capturing the sunrise. I gave myself a spot from where I looked at the sun and then took its photo. Soon I started documenting how the sun and earth moved in 8 minutes. This became such an obsession that come rain or sun I had to be at that spot at 8:00 AM.
The tryst with the tree, sun, and clouds ended with the beginning of the pandemic. The morning walk had to be stopped since the campus became a covid facility. It closed the closest gate to us – a convenient ploy to avoid its use by the locals. We collectively rued the loss.
The Pandemic brought with it another necessity. The need to walk to get the daily necessities and to complete it all within the allowed time. It threw new surprises – the animals were out since the humans and automobiles were not. For example, a full-bellied viper on the road at 6:00 in the morning after a rainy night or the kites on the lamp post.
The animal life had its best of time during the pandemic. The garbage collection was at its lowest understandably so. And the available garbage was a feast for the crows and the kites. The unswept footpaths gave rise to increased insect activity. It will be a huge benefit to ecology if humans stop being industrious.
As the curfew was lifted and office resumed, I gave up on the morning constitutional walks. It turned out to be a good thing. Walking to the office and back made me get familiar with the people around me. What the walk did was that I made new friends. Living in the same locality for 25 years I did not know many people and many nooks of this place. I am now involved in the lives of many people I meet and make it a point to speak to at least two people in my 2.5 kilometres walk.
I now document how children use our city. One of my favourite subjects is Srinidhi who is a never-die agriculturist. He builds dams, homes, and cattle sheds besides planting on any soil available.
Besides these innocuous encounters, I find walking a rebellious activity. I don’t need to adhere to any rules. I can move and stop as I wish, and it is practically free. Walking immerses one in the larger environment – in its sound, smells, and sights- while remaining an unconscious act. Through this almost subversive act I feel the city, and its environs. It allows me to be slow. The slowness makes for indelible captures of nature and mankind.
Architect Chitra Vishwanath is the Principal Architect and Managing Director of Biome Environmental Solutions. She has designed and implemented hundreds of real estate developments – residences, institutions, and resorts – guided by ecological principles, integrating sound water, energy, and land-use thinking into design.