As some of you may know, I am a recent convert to the joys of running.
Indeed I became such a running bore here in this blog, I was informed by some of my nearest and dearest, that I actually started a new blog, dedicated entirely to running, so as not to lose my non-running readers.
But bear with me for one moment while I explain something, will you?
Never mind the health benefits, running, in the few years I have been doing it, has opened my eyes to a different way of visiting and seeing a city.
And especially the city where I live, Delhi.
When you drive past a place that looks interesting, it’s rare that you can just stop, park & explore. Traffic is ludicrous in Delhi, finding parking is like finding gold dust, so by and large, you drive on, promising yourself that you’ll go back to x, y or z place one day & explore. Which invariably never happens.
But when you’re running – especially on solo runs – ah, then it’s a different ball game entirely.
As I trot slowly up and down the streets of Delhi, if I see something that interests me, I just stop. And explore. Right there & then.
(I have absolutely terrible times for my runs, dear reader, but there’s a price to pay for everything in life, right?)
Which is how, 2 days ago, I came to visit the tiny Dargah Fatima Bi, squashed on the roadside near the Oberoi Hotel, with the traffic thundering past and the hotel construction on the other.
She couldn’t read Urdu, and neither can I, and the 2 English inscriptions I read out to her meant nothing to her, but we chatted happily nonetheless. Her husband is a construction worker on the Oberoi Hotel site, she told me.
When she said, rather hesitantly, “I’m a Muslim, you know,” it was almost as though she expected some form of disapproval. I was re-tie-ing my shoe laces when she said this, so I looked up at her and said – in Hindi, obviously – “I’m a Christian. Does it make a difference? ”
She smiled and said “No”, so I persisted.
“You believe in God in your way. I believe in God in my way. And I think it’s wrong what’s happening in India these days.” (I was taking a bit of a flyer here, wondering how current-affairs-savvy she was)
She knew exactly what I meant.
Yes, she agreed, it’s very wrong, pitting Hindus against Muslims and Christians against Hindus. Everyone should be allowed to pray as they like.
It was partly the young lady’s curiosity about the fact I was running that led to our talking. She wanted to know why I was running, where I was running, and that chit-chat led to my going inside the pretty little gem.
So now you know.