Walkmates Pachalam, a group of morning walkers, marathon runners, cyclists and singers, was formed when a few neighbours from the locality planned morning walks.

Members of the Walkmates Pachalam club in Kochi dressed in red uniforms sitting around outdoors engaged in a game
Features Hobby Tuesday, January 19, 2021 - 12:39

Visit the Pachalam locality in Kochi early morning on any day from Wednesday to Saturday and you’re likely to be greeted by the sight of a big group of walkers dressed in what seems to be a uniform. Belonging to various ages, the men and women are from Walkmates Pachalam, a group of morning walkers, marathon runners, cyclists and singers. Theirs is an evolving story of friendship and camaraderie.

The club had its humble origins 10 years ago when a few neighbours from the locality got together and went on morning walks. The initial members consisted of six men – Antony Chalone, Shaji Xavier, Clement Lopez, Aidren D’Couth, Justin and Jolly – and two women – Vasanthi, who is now 64, and Lalitha.

Fitness and health were what encouraged them to go on morning walks. Gradually the club attracted more members and the group’s activities thereby diversified. The strength of the club stands at 42 presently. On December 9, 2020, Walkmates Pachalam celebrated its 10th anniversary.

The group usually starts from their homes at 5.30 am. They walk till 7 am and then gather at a chosen place on the path near the scenic backwaters (now called Goshree Walkway) for a chat.

Speaking to TNM, 57-year-old Antony recalls, “The walkway was not developed at the time. There were no handrails or other facilities.”

It was severe backache that made him decide to go on the morning walks with his neighbours, 46-year-old Aidren tells TNM.

“I had acute back pain at that time. I consulted several doctors, but medication didn’t help ease the pain. It was then that a relative of mine, a government hospital doctor, told me that the backache would subside if I went for regular morning walks,” Aidren says. The regular walks gave him relief from the backache, he says happily.

The members of the club practise different occupations, from running a printing press to freelance designing, shares Shaji Xavier, who runs a consumer food business.

Three years after the launch of the club, the members decided to have a uniform for themselves. “It was when our members started participating in marathons that we hit upon the idea of a uniform for the club,” Antony notes.

According to Justin, presently each member has four sets of uniform of varied colours for each day from Wednesday to Saturday. No uniforms for Monday and Tuesday.

Justin participates in almost all the marathons held in the country. There are other members as well who participate in marathons.

Singing became part of the club’s morning routine on Saturdays after septuagenarian Paramu, who is a good singer, joined the club about four years ago. Subsequently, the club decided to set aside Saturdays for a music session, including karaoke.

Vasanthi says she’s not comfortable with karaoke, so she renders the songs without music.

“We usually sing Malayalam and Hindi songs. Sometimes Tamil songs too,” Lalitha adds.

The club has a 9-member team of cyclists who cycle nearly 100 km every Sunday. “We start from our homes at 4 am. Recently we cycled up to Alappuzha, Kodungallur and Malayattoor,” Aidren says.

The club also gets involved in social service activities whenever possible.

“Our club is like a well-knit family. We hold an annual family get-together, during which we conduct cultural programmes for children and other family members,” Vasanthi says.

Vasanthi and Paramu, who suffered a stroke, have been unable to join their friends daily since the outbreak of COVID-19.

“We feel 20 years younger in the company of our friends every morning. We’re close to each other. There’s no room for jealousy or any other negative emotions in the club,” says Vasanthi, who is looking forward for COVID-19 to subside to resume her morning walks with her fellow Walkmates Pachalam members.

Gladwin Emmanuel is a freelance journalist based in Kerala.

Show us some love! Support our journalism by becoming a TNM Member - Click here.