there’s nothing left to talk about, unless it’s horizontally

So Day 1 of gymming came and went without as much fanfare as one would have expected, considering it took me many years to get to this day.

I chose to sign up a gym that fulfilled my many criteria — it’s close enough to home to make the auto ride there and back bearable, and it doesn’t have hordes of people fighting you for the treadmill. I did a little bit of Facebook stalking before joining, and despite the fact that a man called Daniel Handsome has made it is his hangout to get built, I thought it would pass muster. The fact that they had a woman manning the phone when I called only added to the allure.

So I dragged myself out of bed and hurried myself there at the ungodly (to some) hour of 10.30 a.m. It wasn’t as shady as I had feared, though I did have some bad moments when I descended the stairs into the basement that housed the gym, to find myself shrouded in darkness. Even as my mother’s words of wisdoms (“Don’t choose a gym where you think you’ll get raped”) resounded in my head, I then remembered to take off my sunglasses to be greeted by the warm glow of the interior. A sour-faced woman sat in the reception area, fresh from her work-out, so I decided it would do and I signed up then and there.

The first work-out left a lot to be desired, but mostly owing to my own incompetence at doing anything physical. I shone while doing my stretches; the trainer remarked that I must have gymmed before, and I ducked my head in a modest fashion and said yes, but it had been several years. I then did a good twenty minutes on the treadmill which was a pleasure. I read NDTV and Guardian updates on my phone, feeling like one of those 20th Century Women who multitask at the gym — reading updates on the stock market while working out before dashing off to their banking jobs in tight suits. Fiction is always more fun than reality, since what awaited me at the end of this workout was cauliflower curry, a comfortable bed, and many episodes of Frasier.

Cycling, which followed, was several levels worse. Two minutes in, my calves were weeping, my eyes were stinging, and I was forcing myself to play Angry Birds by way of distraction. I craftily turned the cycle off, so resistance went to zero and all I had to do was pedal. Even so, it was one of the worse fifteen-minute segments of my life. I had joined the gym worrying that the handful of men working out might make it uncomfortable for me with their stares. Clearly I don’t look my best when I’m wearing a kurta and tights, drenched in sweat, and trying not to weep while cycling at the lowest speed possible. The men did not look, my ego cracked in two, and by the time I was done, everything was blurring.

I cleverly decided at that point that I was done; when one resumes physical activity after a six-year hiatus, one must not overdo it. While I staggered to find an auto in the blazing sunlight, I was rather sad that I didn’t feel stretched and limber, or even achy and tired. I felt quite the same, albeit sweaty and irritated, but I took the first step, and that was something. Perhaps tomorrow will be a better day.

title source: physical by olivia newton-john


when i was a little bitty baby, my mama would rock me in the cradle

Ever since I can remember, I have had a love-hate relationship with my body.

That is a lie.

I was a cheerfully overweight and precocious prepubescent, who revelled in eating three helpings of rice per meal + assorted curries and savouries, followed by snacks that included one-and-a-half packets of instant noodles drizzled with salt and four packets of potato chips. Once I moved back to India, I shed the weight fairly quickly but I was always a ‘large’ teenager, owing to my height, especially in relation to that of my diminutive classmates. It is only now that I remember cries of “water buffalo” every time it was my turn to serve during throw ball, the Indian version of diluted volleyball for girls.

I grew up into a gangly, heavy-browed college student. Photos immortalised on Facebook now tell me that I didn’t do my eyebrows, I didn’t wear adequate kajal, and I dressed in varying states of shabbiness, but I was still very pleased, very confident, and doing extremely well in my social spheres, notwithstanding how bad I think I used to look. Food was still a joy at that stage; I could out-eat most people I know (except boys battling munchies), and my memories revolve around meals – ice tea and chocolate-covered biscuits from the Loyola College canteen; plates of sev puri (without curd) from the Stella Maris chaat shop before the chaatwallah eloped (allegedly) with one of the students; vast quantities of pasta, cheese, and dal makhani followed by mammoth slices of cheesecake dripping with blueberry jam. I was a picky eater with respect to the kinds of food I liked and disliked, but I still ate, whole-heartedly.

My weight was like a mood swing. I’ve been told that I’m never fat owing to my height, but the pendulum definitely struck ‘heavy’ more than once, but that was okay. Physical activity has never been part of my charm, though I did gym briefly while in my second year of college, mostly because my mother had signed up and the gym was down the road. It is testament to my own laziness and tendency to exaggerate that I still talk about ‘how I worked out in college’.

It was only after I got my first job and moved out for the first time that my battles began. I lost ten kilos in  the first few months there, probably due to the almost absolute elimination of rice from my diet, bad habits, and an overindulgence in junk food that somehow didn’t kill me. The weight loss only registered after about twenty people exclaimed at it when I used to go home every few months to visit my parents. My parents themselves were shocked; visions of their baby wasting away in a faraway city made my weight loss a national crisis.

It was sometime after that that the obsession began. I became fussier about food, and not only about the quality and cuisine. I would overeat, and then, in a fit of depression, purge. It worked for a while, and it worked well, and common sense has never been one of my fortes, at least when it comes to taking my own advice. I started worrying about everything I ate, and everything I didn’t eat. I still loved food and I loved to eat, while cheerfully spurning all forms of exercise. Naturally, my abnormal weight loss couldn’t sustain and by the time I moved back home, nearly two years later, most of the weight was back.

I have to say here that my obsessions are fairly unfounded. If I worry, it should be about my lack of exercise, my poor diet, my bad habits. I’ve put off going to a gym for a year, while talking incessantly about how I need to, if only to get back into shape and to tone up a little.

Now, I’ve claimed that I’ll go tomorrow. Laziness and procrastination will be my downfall, but maybe writing these words down will help. I am composing this blog post while leisurely lathering my hair in the shower, so I don’t know if this post will even see the light of day. It’s an odd way to recommence blogging after ending my seven years on the Internet at a different address, but we all start somewhere. Maybe this will be my beginning.

title source: cotton fields by creedence clearwater revival