I love walking… or rather I should say I used to love walking. Wandering through unfamiliar streets and parks and stumbling upon something unusual used to be my way of getting to know the city I lived in and finding new corners that I could call my happy place. That was the routine when life was busy and active. And then covid struck the world and we were asked to stay at home, work at home and step out only if necessary. Even though stepping out for a bit of fresh air was allowed, at first, it was the fear of the disease that kept me off those long walks and then it was the built-up lethargy that kept me home. I can say it was a lost opportunity to explore the city bit more and keep my excitement in life alive at a time when travelling anywhere outside the city limits was unthinkable.
Recently, I started reading the book Stroll by Shawn Micallef. I bought this book three years back hoping to find new streets in the city for leisurely photo walks. But strangely enough, I am picking up the book only now. The reason partly is because I am finding myself guilty of my own lethargy and need a push to get back to my favourite physical activity. I am glad I decided to start reading the book, for not only is the book engrossing but the city itself looks like a new territory to explore. The author describes this book as a “Psychogeographic Walking Tours of Toronto”. Psychogeography refers to the effect of geography on the mind and the book indeed tries to bring about a tacit emotional connection to every walking tour in its chapters. The author grew up in the city so the connection is obvious from the writer's perspective, but the reader in me who has lived around just a little over four years also feels the psychogeographic effects.
“Stroll” was written in 2010. That said, many of the places described in the book are no longer around and some of the “future projects” the author laments about are already old quarters in the city. It’s the time travel of Toronto that this book provides that makes the reading so much more interesting. Shawn throws glimpses of Toronto while he was growing up in the city and writes about the Toronto of 2010 in the tone of disappointment with underlying curiosity on the changes that were engulfing the charming old city. A decade later I see the changes still continuing with disappointment with an underlying curiosity of what's to come.
I am halfway through the book now and with my slow yet steady reading speed, I should be able to complete the book soon. With spring in full bloom and no summer travel plans at hand, “Stroll” has given me some good ideas for making this summer a good one.