When I was a little kid and all stocked up on Enid Blytons, whenever I’d get mad at my parents I’d sit in my room and brood about ways to make them sorry for whatever crime it was they’d committed against me. A lot of it was painful stuff – like crying till my eyes fell out or refusing to come out of the room until they were begging and pleading for a glimpse of my beloved face or just going on a hunger strike so they’d watch me turn into an emaciated corpse in front of their eyes.
None of these plans ever came to fruition, however, because I love myself too much. Plus, I can’t cry for all that long, I get cabin fever quite quickly and I love to eat – especially when my mother is cooking.
So then I’d plan on running away. I wasn’t really sure where I’d go (the neighbor’s house? they had good chocolate there. My best friend’s? it could be the world’s longest sleepover) because the kids in Blyton’s novels were all planning to join the circus and while I like animals, I had a strong suspicion that all opening jobs in the circus involved shoveling poop and there was no way I was gonna do that.
I was all ready, set, go to be an Inquilab Zindabad-i as long as I didn’t have to strain my voice or get all sweaty about it, you know?
Nevertheless, one day my parents finally went too far – I don’t remember now what they did but they probably refused to let me eat pastries for dinner or something equally heinous coz that’s what passes for mean and nasty around the Rajan household – and I decided I’d show them! I’d show them all!
So I grabbed my favorite survival guide (The Princess of the Chalet School) and set off. Missing the key survivalist ingredient of that particular book – an affectionate, wise St. Bernard Jo Bettany had personally saved from an untimely end at the hands of starving Tyrolese goatherds while he was still a puppy – I decided to make do with second best. I took with me: a torch for when it got dark, my mother’s skirt to make me look older (in case the po-po got suspicious, see?), painstakingly saved pocket money (Rs. 20) and two giant wedges of apple strudel from Wenger’s to fight off the hunger pangs. I left one piece behind for my brother who hadn’t done anything to piss me off and thus deserved some comfort in the dark days to follow my dramatic disappearance.
I’m a very generous person, really.
Thus burdened, I made it all the way across the complex, within sight of the main gates, when I realized the great big flaw of these escape plans: the walking.
I mean! How long are you supposed to keep that shit up?
Kevin Smith is making a funny in the video above when he says the Lord of the Rings movies are basically a trilogy about a bunch of people walking to a mountain before some of them get on a boat (so sorry if I spoiled it for the three lazy bastards out there who still haven’t seen them) but you know what? I can’t talk with any great authority about English novels today but the quintessential English novel of yesteryear inevitably included extended scenes of walking. It’s a very English thing.
It doesn’t matter when the book was written or whether there were alternate modes of transport available – the Englishman and the Englishwoman will eventually arrive at a point in the story when nothing will do for them but to take a walk. Think about it:
Almost every pivotal scene featuring Elizabeth and Darcy in Pride and Prejudice involves walking in some way – she finds out about his perfidy while walking in the woods and returns home to tell him off, they meet again while she’s walking around his house and estate, and they finally confess their feelings for each other… when they’re on a walk. Together.
In Jane Eyre, Jane first bumps into Mr. Rochester when she’s walking the countryside at twilight, and when she leaves him she initially gets on a stage but then gets off it and walks until she drops unconscious! And when she finally returns to him? She walks, walks, and then runs to his house.
And those are just examples from the bulwarks of romance – think of anybody else you like, from Tolkein to Shakespeare to Alistair McLean to C.S.Lewis to E.Nesbit to, heck, J.K.Rowling – as big a variety as you like. More often than not, they walk around an awful lot.
As for little Indian me, I made my way over to my favorite Aztec pyramid (our complex was one of those late 70s / early 80s experiments in modern architecture) in one of the inner blocks, settled myself comfortably with my book, ate my strudel and went back home an hour past curfew to be greeted with cries of relief and good-natured scolding.