I hear that walking is good for you. It strengthens your muscles and exercises your heart. It can do way more than that.

I was just over 3 hours into my walk, quite tired and heading back to the hotel. My small point-and-shoot camera had snapped images that stood out to me, touches of India that I wanted to keep for later. My pace had quickened, heading the warning from my feet that I should bring the walk to a close. Chennai traffic demands that pedestrians be alert, but I will admit my attention was waning a bit. Perhaps that is why I was surprised by my encounter.

A cart blocked my way, forcing me to walk further into the street than I might otherwise prefer. Traffic was lighter than usual, though, so I was not concerned. As I made my way around the cart I encountered a petite, elderly man. He wore a light colored shirt and a blue plaid lunghi. His shirt bore the stains of a few days wear. His lunghi was neatly tied, worn in the short style common for mid-day heat. His gray hair was barely a few centimeters long, but shone in the light against his dark brown head. I’m not sure of his age, but the lines on his face spoke of many years experience. His eyes widened as he saw me.

As our eyes met I lowered my head and brought my hands together as if to say, “Namaste.” He responded by extending his hand for a handshake. I had barely extended my hand when took it with both of his. He then took my hand, clenched in both of his, and brought it to his chest. For a moment this is how we stood, his head bowed toward our hands.

I’m not sure if he was blessing me or expecting a blessing from me. Perhaps, he was just drunk. Either way it was special, a silent moment of friendship – two humans, separated by language and culture, sharing a mutual respect and affection. Did I mention that walking can be good for your heart?

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