The jogging track encircling the park is a misnomer: it’s more of a walking path for pot-bellied middle-aged men in scruffy pyjamas or salwar-kameez clad women with sneakers. Some older folk, of course, turn out in their kanjeevarams (I kid thee not) because the recently-relocated son has warned his parents against stepping out of the house in anything that will make him look “low” before his high-rise neigbours. Incidentally, have you noticed that the first to hit the park are also the oldest in the community? Of course there are the yoga regulars, the young man jogging furiously, the tiny but powerfully-built dynamo of a young lady who stretches her sinewy self even as she sways to a beat on her iPod (or is it a music-enabled phone tucked away in her tracks?)… these are regular sights that greet you every morning in the condo at Gurgaon.
Today’s going to different though.
The placid rhythm of the surprisingly cool morning is suddenly broken by a dark flash that streaks by and barely catches the eye: it is Pepper, the tabby cat so named by the kids in the building because of his grey striped coat, tiger-like gait and angry gaze. Pepper is chasing a squirrel (no rats thanks to pest control, I guess) who is running like the blazes and scurries up the nearest tree. Pepper jumps in an incredible leap that would make Jonty Rhodes proud and reaches halfway up the trunk, barely inches below Alvin (the squirrel who should no go unnamed). Alvin streaks up and Pepper hisses. A crow and two meandering mynahs have swooped down on the tree-tops, voyeuristic and vulture-like waiting to see if the cat will win and whether they can get any of the mangled entrails of little Alvin. But Alvin isn’t one to give up: nimbler and faster than Pepper, he rushes even higher and miraculously finds a branch that allows him to jump onto another tree. And then he’s gone!
Pepper, and his bird-mates, will have to wait for breakfast today.
The excitement’s over and the two other fellow-joggers smile at this five-second thriller and move on. But I can’t help thinking that the fear of death is the ultimate adrenalin and, were it not for the squirrel’s desperate need to survive, he would have succumbed to the cat. So is it too with the rest of the world; especially when competitors gun for each other’s market share. The hunted has to feel it’s threatened with oblivion to pull out every last reserve of fighting spirit even if investors and stockmarket speculators hover around. David proved it against Goliath and so did Alvin today. May he live happily ever after.