Here in India you take your pick: morning or evening? If you want to exercise at all, these are your two options. During the day, it's just too hot and too bright. Plus people look at you as if you are crazy. I am not a morning person, so that leaves evening. But my evenings are a little busy.
I get home from work at around six, hang out with Dad and Moy Moy for a while, and then get started on dinner. We eat at eight, I put Moy Moy to bed by 8:45 and it's usually nine before I can start thinking of putting on my sneakers and heading out the door.
I try and avoid the steely glares from Ravi and Masiji who think I am reckless and foolhardy going out alone so late at night. They don't understand. It's not just that I have to do my 10,000 steps each day. There is also something about being out in those streets alone that rounds my day to a perfect close, that allows me to sort and sift through everything that has happened - small and large, important and trivial - and put them in order.
It just doesn't happen during the day. There are too many other things that intrude - phone calls and visitors and emails and text messages, of course, but also the sights and sounds of everybody else's lives. Interesting, no doubt, but also distracting and even disorienting.
At night,the streets are almost silent (nothing is ever totally silent in India). There are occasionally other walkers (always men, and they glance at me curiously as I stride by), forgotten cows resigned to a night on their own, and dogs by the dozen - it is impossible for anyone brought up in the West to imagine how many dogs roam free on Indian streets. But at night, they are all just background. They are shadow figures who have their own agendas and who do not interfere with mine.
I do my writing in my head. I conduct arguments. I say my prayers. I find reasons and explanations and excuses and memories. Old jokes surface, lines to songs I had forgotten return. Every now and then, under a street light, I check my step counter.
At 9200, I turn towards home. The lights are usually all off when I get there - just the one over the door will be on - and I let myself into the dark, quiet house, glad to go on in the silence, grateful for another day, grateful for my feet, for my shoes, for these streets I get to walk while my family and my neighbors sleep.