By Pia Krishnankutty
WAITING PATIENTLY in a McDonald’s restaurant near Andheri Station is a tall, lean, clean-shaven 63-year-old. A part-retiree and avid trekker, marketing advisor Vijay Raut is part of a group called ‘Alive After 50’. The group has 50-year-olds and above has members who come together for hiking, trekking, picnics and cycling.
Over three years, 20 to 25 members of the group have visited Tungareshwar, Shilonda Trail and Kaas Plateau (Valley of Flowers).
“I used to travel all over India until I realised that treks and hikes are always better and safer with company,” says Raut. For him, the same age group helps bring together like-minded people with similar fitness levels.
As Raut puts it, the members — entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers and artists who have retired or started small enterprises — are mostly in their “second innings” of life. They come mostly from Thane, Navi Mumbai and Kalyan.
Hitesh Chandrakant Shukla (54), a private tution teacher from Dahisar, was one of the first to join the group that he found on the Internet. “Trekking with this group has made me feel secure. In our trip to Chinchoti Waterfalls, we swam and chatted about life experiences. In fact, one person had bad eyesight but still managed to complete the trek.”
Since the group includes senior citizens and those almost there, none feel embarrassed for trekking slowly or holding up the group’s pace. Neither a guide nor a medical kit accompanies the group on such trips.
Shanta Dasgupta (62) from Andheri, said: “I had a spinal fracture… I was worried about our trip to the Karnala Bird Sanctuary but everyone cooperated with my pace and helped me through steep parts.” As a single mother, Dasgupta said the group helped her socialise. “When I came down from Kolkata eight years ago, I didn’t know anybody. After joining the group, I met other single parents, made friends and gained an active lifestyle.”
On keeping fit, Raut said, “Nobody should go to the gym. A lot of young boys go to the gym to build bodies… but they gain fat once they stop going. When you exercise outdoors, your body weight acts as a natural resistance and keeps you lean.”
The group is now trying to expand by attending more film and cultural festivals. It plans to visit the Diveagar beach this year to see starfish that wash up on the shore. Meeting twice or thrice a month for an outdoor activity keeps them from greying on the inside, they said.