In an exclusive conversation, Meghalaya CM Conrad K Sangma talks about his lifestyle, fitness and his weekly walk from his residence to workplace every Wednesday
Shillong: It's not often that you get to see a chief minister of a state walking all his or her way to office. But then, this is Meghalaya, also known as the Scotland of the East, where being aware of fitness is very much a part of tradition and culture.
On Wednesday, EastMojo accompanied Meghalaya chief minister Conrad K Sangma, who has made a pledge to walk from his official residence to office every Wednesday and urges everyone to do the same.
EastMojo: How has the walking experience been so far? And how many kilos have you lost?
CM Conrad K Sangma: (Smiles and says) I won’t answer the second question but I think it’s really something I enjoy doing. So it’s not in any way trying to make an official programme out of this. I enjoy walking a lot, but when I mix that with a message to the people, and then it becomes a powerful message and a powerful way of communicating, which is, leading by example. And this is a programme that I’ve put it upon myself that I will walk every Wednesday to the office. And the purpose like I said is multiple, number one- health as it’s important to walk and be fit and with initiatives like PM’s Fit India Movement, number two is decongestion for the state, number three is ensuring that environmental aspects to look at so unnecessary emission will not be there. So these multiple factors come into being and that is the purpose behind doing this and my idea is to urge everybody to walk to office. So if you do away with car and every individual walks to office every Wednesday so imagine there won’t be any traffic jams in Shillong and we’ll have a healthier Shillong so that’s really the idea.
EM: What is your definition of fitness? And do you think initiatives like ‘Fit India Movement’ will have an impact on common people in this regard?
CM: Yes, I think this whole idea like for Fit India everybody has their own definition of fitness. So for me, fitness is about an individual lifestyle, I think it’s important to have a good lifestyle so that you can be healthy. It’s not about losing weight as you had mentioned earlier but that comes along with it but I think this is about being healthy. You’ll be having a healthy mind, body and healthy spirit also. So I think it’s all of that put together is what being fit means to me.
EM: Have you got any feedback or report that your exemplary act has had an impact on anybody in the state or region so far?
CM: I think many people. If you ask, a lot of people would also like to walk but sometimes it just feels strange to walk because they’ll say how I can just start walking in the middle of the road. So I think when I as CM start walking then others also feel that well if he can walk then so can I. So I think it really breaks that kind of consciousness that come up in peoples mind. It really allows them to feel comfortable. So last time I had seen some college teachers who clicked a selfie and they sent it to me telling me that they had walked to work on Wednesday. So like that, I have had many people who have congratulated me also but more importantly many also have decided to walk. In fact this is not that I’ve started this, many people have been doing this before me; it’s not that it has not been done. There are many officers in my office that I know always walks to office or at least go back walking. And if I’m not wrong if you were to ask the Speaker of Meghalaya Assembly, he also walks sometimes to office or back from office. So it’s not something that I’m starting new, it has been happening, others have been doing it, it’s just that I started it on social media and it was picked up. So like mentioned earlier it’s not something new, many people do it and maybe I started following them I should say.
EM: What are the other ways that a political leader or a senior official of a state can do to promote a healthy lifestyle? Not forgetting Ram Singh from Garo hills.
CM: Yes, I think these are examples that other officials are putting in, where we have Ram Singh who also walks a lot goes to different locations, walks to tourist destinations also. So yes these are messages that individuals can give but apart from that also, messages like on environment by showing that you stop the use of plastics in your office so these are the things you could do by setting an example in your office. So if you come to my office, for example, you’ll not find any plastic - no plastic bottles, no plastic files; we really avoid these kinds of things. Apart from that from a health perspective point of view also there are other things like the kind of food you eat, so I think it’s important to ensure that eating habits also are something that one can lead by showing that you eat healthy.
EM: We all know that the job profile of a chief minister is very hectic and demanding. So, apart from walking, how do you keep yourself physically and mentally fit?
CM: So like I was mentioning to you earlier, eating plays an important role, your diet is very important. So I ensure my diet is proper, we eat on time I think that’s very important and also the right quantity. Another important part is to remember time management. So for mental and spiritual health time management is very important. Why I say that is because we stay in the office for twelve or fifteen hours and we feel that we’ve been working a lot but you could be staying there for fifteen hours but doing nothing. I think it’s important that one should remember and realise even the seven hours or eight hours spent let it be very productive so that is very critical. If time management is critical, if you manage your time well I think all other aspects will fall into place.
EM: In recent times, Northeast India has been blessed with some of the fittest and most active political leaders, such as Kiren Rijiju, Pema Khandu, Himanta Biswa Sarma and now, you. So does this mean that we are going to see some 'active' politics in the region in the days and months to come?
CM: So yes it is a trend that is there, but I don’t think one should look at it from a political perspective. It’s really something that we do and enjoy doing it by linking it in something that will help society as a whole by using the political position that we have to spread the positive message around. So yes you are right, being active is good. The political leaders coming in the forefront and leading by example is a good message for the people.
EM: To curb pollution and work on climate change in the state do you think we can implement odd and even in the state?
CM: Well of course odd-even was done in Delhi, a lot of debate took place whether it was helpful or not helpful, whether the fact that you’re stopping half of the vehicles does it really make up for the inconvenience that the people have to go through so it’s an aspect that we can look at. But in terms of Shillong, we still have to examine how it will affect the normal day-to-day functioning of the state. So it’s not something I will be able to comment on right now but overall yes there are steps that need to be taken. We are trying to balance out keeping in mind the entire traffic issue and pollution issue in mind, balancing it out with the inconvenience that people might have. So at the moment we are trying to cause minimum inconvenience to the people, I know traffic in itself is an inconvenience but if you start doing odd and even it will really stop people from not being able to move freely. So what we are trying to do is motivate people that they themselves should realise and use the vehicle as less as possible like I’m doing today. So it’s an issue, it is a problem but I don’t know whether odd would be the answer right now.
EM: Finally, after you complete your meaningful walk today, what will be your first reaction?
CM: Well as I said that it has become part of my normal weekly routine. I enjoy it and if given a chance I would do it much more often but due to my busy schedule being so hectic so it’s not possible for me to do it all the time. But then I enjoy it it’s a relaxing time for me and I again encourage others also to do it, and I’m sure that when I reach office now it will make me more mentally and physically active and hopefully more productive in the office.