The Daily Mile
In the hushed silence of the small hours of the night, under the streetlights of Chennai’s main streets – along the Marina Beach promenade, across Napier Bridge – a lean, bare-bodied, bare-footed man runs. He has a familiar daily route. He begins when it’s dark, and he is still running when dawn comes.
The city stretches awake. Early risers and shopkeepers wave at him. He raises a hand in acknowledgement, moving steadily past. The Madras air is muggy, sweat pours off him… ever so often, he raises his left hand to wipe his face. His muffled footsteps on the tarmac tap out an incessant metronomic rhythm, and one can tell: his gaze is inward, and his will is unyielding.
The Gandhian Way
As a Gandhian, Vishwanathan emulates his mentor in spirit as well as in lifestyle. Is it a wonder then that the iconic symbol of the charkha, the spinning wheel, is a looming presence? The great man had said: “Take to spinning… the music of the wheel will be as balm to your soul.” And so, Vishwanathan does. For two hours every day, in the dead of the night, there is just him and the whirr and clack of the wheel. A rare kind of aloneness to sit in mellow light, and work with one’s hands, easing out fibre from the spindle, stretching it as far as it can take, mounting it on the spinning wheel… creating thread that can then be woven into fabric that can cover and clothe – this is the immeasurable joy of the handmade. Vishwanathan sends his handspun yarn to be woven, which is then stitched into the khadi shorts he wears to run in.
It is a simple, frugal lifestyle. He runs nearly 32km every day, unshod, for four hours before the sun rises high in the sky. Eats nutritious vegetarian fare. Naps during judicious breaks. However, the Gandhian nature that he so reveres is to be found beyond these details, in the essence of the man. Spare, austere, determined – and unwilling to step to any beat but the one he hears in his deepest heart.
In the Long Run