We have a step competition at work. For those who are unfamiliar with the concept of step competitions, they are essentially little contests, usually staged by workplaces, to see who can walk (or run) the highest number of steps in a set period of time. Ours started in mid-January and will end in February, lasting about six weeks. We have been put into teams of about eight for this purpose. The winning team will receive a prize of eternal adulation, and perhaps also a gift card.

There is a saying that all is fair in love and war. In my experience, step competitions decisively fall into the latter category. I have seen people use some truly innovative methods to increase their step count. They will fasten their smart watch or phone to their hyperactive toddlers, and rack up steps that way. They will shake their phones at angles carefully calculated to simulate walking, while they are in fact lying motionless on the couch watching Bridgerton. Legend has it that the most dedicated steps-cheaters actually purchase their own personal cheetahs for the maximum possible step count.

I myself do not engage in any of these methods. I prefer to get steps the old-fashioned way: by channelling my inner berserker, and sprinting around the house while listening to angry Old Norse music & pretending that I have swords in both hands. Running is a fantastic way to channel all your inner frustration into something productive, and as a 24-year-old who’s been living in my parents’ house for a year, I have a lot of frustration to channel. I also have a fierce competitive streak which has generally lain dormant since graduation, but kicks in during situations like this. Genghis Khan would probably be proud – he had his steppe to conquer, and I’ve got mine.

Recently I stole my father’s mini elliptical from the living room and put it in my study. That way, I can use my free time between meetings to furiously run. The whole setup makes me feel vaguely like a deranged hedgehog on an exercise wheel, but at the same time it is exhilarating. I can feel my legs getting stronger, and my endurance increasing day by day. This is for the greater good. I am conquering. I will thunder into the top 10, victorious, carried only by my own determination and stamina.

At least, this is what I tell myself whenever my knees are sore, or I almost fall off my elliptical, or…

…on second thought, perhaps I should get a cheetah after all.

––Aditi Ramaswamy

Software engineer; emerging author; almost certainly not a changeling. I write about the uncomfortable parts of Indian & American history & culture.