On a sunny but pleasant Saturday morning, I catch up with Amuleek Singh Bijral, Co-founder and CEO of Chai Point, at the Agara Lake in Bengaluru. The lake - flanked by benches, exercise machines and walkways - is one of the places that Amuleek loves to visit over the weekends, either for a walk or a run. “I love the outdoors, being amid nature and taking long walks,” he says.
Amuleek doesn't follow a strict regimen when it comes to fitness but he needs his weekly dose of exercise to feel good. “I try and take that opportunity over the weekends by going for a long walk, either in the greener sections of the area where I live or to Agara Lake. I feel fantastic after walking a few times around the lake.”
It is one of the reasons he loves Bengaluru. “Compared to other large cities I love Bengaluru because it is so green,” he says.
Amuleek’s approach to fitness and exercise is about making a conscious effort to keep fit and enjoy the process. “Workouts can be done in multiple ways and you don’t need a gym membership or a coach to make you exercise. That is my approach,” he says.
He tries to spend his weekends in Bengaluru and sometimes over the weekends, he drives to the outskirts of the city where he can find green stretches to walk. He walks for anywhere between seven to 10 hours. “It’s almost become my second nature,” he explains.
Even when he is travelling to Mumbai or Delhi he tries to make sure he doesn’t compromise on his exercise regimen. “In Mumbai if my work is around Lower Parel, BKC, or Andheri, then I try and stay in a hotel with easy access to Marine Drive. In Delhi, I try to find a hotel with a green stretch,” he reveals.
As we sit on a bench looking at the lake and watching some rare birds flying around, we feel enveloped by serenity and a state of Zen. I ask him about stress and if being outdoors and walking are stress-busters for him. What does he really do when he is walking?
Speaking candidly he says, “I don’t really look at it as stress. It gets tough at times but remember you signed up for that and everybody lives in a very uncertain world. Your approach should be -- how do I get ready for it. I subscribe to the stoic approach. You live in an unpredictable world, and everything you do is going to vary and change. When you sign up for something inherently uncertain then uncertain things are to be expected. To deal with all this, you need to plan, be disciplined, and get a good night’s sleep. When you have slept well, you can take up anything.”
So then the long walks aren’t about de-stressing or taking a break? “While walking, my thoughts are not about tasks that need to be done, but more about ideas and new things we may be working on,” he replies. “For me work can be very stressful but the reason we have been at it for a while is because it is our passion and we are far from being jaded or bored.”
Amuleek also uses his walks as an opportunity to have long work-related chats with colleagues and friends.
“Music and audio books are the two other things that give me company during my walks,” Amuleek reveals. Based on his search on iTunes, Amuleek enjoys listening to the recommended lists and most days is pleasantly surprised by the music he gets. “I keep discovering new music whether it is Pakistani Sufi singers, pop singers like Nazia Hassan, The Doors, or select Punjabi singers,” he says. Recently he was listening to Glen Campbell’s album Wichita Lineman.
He also listens to audiobooks when on long walks. “Though I prefer reading books, listening to an audiobook while I am walking is like having a great conversation. Sometimes, after a chapter or so, I switch to music, run for a bit, and then start walking.”
With the 100th Chai Point store recently opening in Bengaluru, no conversation can be complete without a discussion on chai. “I have nothing against coffee, but I do drink more chai. And come to think of it, it’s fascinating how we are engaging with something almost 2,000 years old,” he says. His recent favourite is the South India whole leaf black (known as Orthodox).
As we bid adieu, Amuleek leaves with a word of advice. “As long as your mind is sorted and calm, you are in a position to handle stuff. So just aim to be calm. If you are in that space, you can handle whatever comes your way,” he says.