If we walk towards the horizon, what will be our journey? Can it be embodied in a tangible form? I keep circling back to these words written in my diary in 2015, ‘...how will I ever know if I have reached the horizon? There will always be a horizon waiting.’
Walking has always been an intriguing process for me and many of my artworks are actualised while/ through walking, within tangible and intangible formations. I compare walking with the stream of thoughts. It opens a repository of thoughts, one leading to another and with the movement in space, there’s a cohesion of thoughts, eloping from one to another, yet the remains of the beginning clinging onto my feet till the end. There is something deep and stirring in monotony, in being lost in its depths, while everything else seems disengaged from the real living.
Mike Collier says, ‘the volume and depth and intensity of the world is something that only those on foot will ever experience.’
Walking is a slowness of time in the present speeding life that makes us observe its details. Being in transition generally gives this sense of unsettled feelings, non-fulfillment and waiting-- waiting to reach, waiting for the place to come and be physically resolved and still. The compelling part of being in transition is its existence in-between. Walking is transition, change, and yet, due to the rhythms and the patterns of motion and its repetition, it is constant. For instance, if I keep repeating the same movement there won’t be a distinction between my sense of past-present-future, everything will exist at once, as present, now.
There are parallels between walking as a physical movement in space, and thinking as an internal movement in time, both happening simultaneously. The difference between them being that movement in space is successive, linear and coherent, while movement in time (and memory) is incoherent, non-linear/structural, existing in multiplicities and constantly colliding. More importantly, they always coexist, time and space, walking and thinking.
23 7 ‘19
As I come back to this unfinished text after almost a year, on 15th April ‘20, the world has drastically and dramatically changed, change would actually be an understatement-- it has turned inside out.
We’re in the middle of a pandemic, there’s complete lockdown in many countries, including India from where I write. With barely any physical movement, the understanding of 'walking' has accumulated layers of meanings. From an indefinite freedom to walk anywhere, brackets have confined it and turned it into a back and forth movement, from point A to B, repetitively. For many people, including me, a walk now means mapping my house, oscillating between rooms or the boundaries of my terrace, where my thoughts race faster than my feet and there is nothing to observe but domesticity.
As opposed to the linear walks outdoor, the indoor walks form a loop and the attention is occupied by the very act of walking and feeling my feet touch the smooth tiles of my room rather than the busy streets, parks, trees, people to look at and the irregular concrete paths and dust laden bumps in the ground to embrace.
15 4 ‘20
Another year has passed in no time, and as I circle back to this text, the pandemic is still around but we are more comfortable now. We’ve become used to its presence, so now I can walk on the streets but with a mask, and the streets are filled with people with their own customized masks (of various designs, colors). I’m getting used to it.
During the past one year, we’ve walked miles and wandered from the physical into the virtual space, we are walking inside our screens with our fingers, getting lost in thoughts as we take a stroll on the never ending path that keeps scrolling with our touch. The benefit of the digital walk is our rooted bodies- sitting, slouching, reclining, immobile, fixed in one position with tilted heads and glowing eyes; it doesn’t need shoes, no starting or ending point, this walk pulls you in and takes you to unknown territories. Sometimes you don’t want to go there but you can’t help, this is a dangerous walk, it captivates you. Again, there is nothing to observe here, even more flattened than the walks in my bedroom/ terrace, devoid of any smell, sound, textures, no smooth or concrete paths, just a gorilla glass screen made for unceasing brisk walks.. I can run here without the fear of falling.
The scroll is replacing the stroll. What is the future of walking with/in these new digital terrains, with an uncontrollable urge and when you've no place to reach/ return to?
7 3 ‘21
It is the end of 2021, I’ve started walking more oftenly and scrolling a little less (/not).. However, there is a rush of meeting people, of exchanging ideas, of walking together after an extended period of sitting on bed in front of the screen, taking classes, having virtual meetings and neither being physically present nor mentally. It feels good to be around bodies, their language, silences, warmth, smell, just the presence is more comforting than anything the screen could offer. But the realization that one needs to be around bodies makes one look at it from a new lens, it's not ‘going back’ to meeting people, it’s meeting of a different kind in a different world, more cautious, more calculated and more valued..
I’ve also been knitting for months now, the piece has grown into a scroll and resembles the process and path of a walk, with hands, very slowly, one step/loop at a time. It is as meditative or even more than walking, since it takes a long time and the gesture repeats in its most detailed and minute form. I’m enjoying it and not thinking about completing the piece, partially because I don’t know where and when to stop.. when do I reach the destination? Is there a destination? Or I might just keep walking (/wandering) while living in-between, and it doesn’t matter what comes next because the present is building in my hands, holding and releasing; looping time between the needles..
26 11 ‘21
We went on a collective walk last month in Sanjay Van, New Delhi, with a group of 10 people. It was part of these gatherings (first draft·ings) that we have been doing since September 2021, and this one was modeled around walking. The prompt was to get any signifier/ memory/ relationship to walking and share with the group, interspersing as conversational-breaks and weaving through the walk. It was a slow paced walk for about 1.5 hours, taking multiple halts/breathers and sensing the space together while also talking about our associations, experiences and memories around walking/wandering…
I had been on collective walks earlier but the intent was not to think about walking or actively experience it, it was to serve a purpose-- either towards a destination, to enjoy the journey, religious pilgrimages as a child and a political movement/ march, among others. The conversations and reflections during the recent walk opened up many personal, social and political aspects of the act, our relation to co-walkers, the space and the city’s rhythms at a particular time of the day, gender relations, privilege, class/caste hierarchies, self-care/health and environmental concerns. Since we were walking within a part of a forest open and dedicated for public walks and cycling, the walk was smooth and slow with stops whenever the group wished.
While sharing my own relationship to walking, I realized how it has evolved over the years, how I was more comfortable and open to taking long walks pre-pandemic and building a relation with the city on foot. Particularly new spaces have driven me to set out walking and explore them, even wandering in the unknown and secluded areas. The past 2 years with the pandemic have been physically slow, but the scrolling-swiping have taken precedence and become fast paced. The city has expanded virtually but contracted physically and emotionally, and its memories seem to be more distant and short-lived than ever. This unsettling distance has pulled me out to take short strolls in the recent months, hence the participation in first draft and Women walk at Midnight, forms of co-walking, as instigators to touch the city..
29 5 ‘22