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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Gym Dandy

"I've never seen the inside of a gym in my life", said the blogger whose fabulous figure belied her words, as she picked delicately at her gelato.

"Gym! HAHAHA! YOU! In the GYM!! What are you going to DO there?", guffawed the blogger whose fantastic physique proved he really didn't know.

"Sorry, I have to go to the gym", I said.
"Pfft! Rubbish! What is this obsession with the gym anyway?", asked the old buddy.

An interesting time. An old and very dear friend tied the knot. We all attended. How could we not? After all, he was the first of us to take this step. Twenty-one bachelors turned up in spiffy suits, and had their photograph taken alongside one married man and his wife.

A special dinner, for close friends only. Plenty of alcohol.

"Do you know how they met?", asked the man who did, pointing at the happy couple.
"No, but do tell", said another.
"At the local gym", he revealed with the air of a conjurer pulling one out of his hat.

They told their own story then. How he noticed her at the treadmill, and decided to bench a few big ones. How she was puzzled when she saw the chap in the ill-fitting T-shirt grunting on the bench. How mutual interest turned to friendship, then to love and finally, to marriage.

"Is that why you keep going to the gym?", asked the knowledgable man. Most inappropriately, everyone at the table decided to momentarily ignore the newlyweds.

Back in Chicago, the Red Eye headline screamed "PHYSICAL ATTRACTION: How young Chicagoans head to the gym to try and meet that special someone". A stack of free issues placed at the door to the Northwestern Gym.

Inside, it revealed that 35% of men and 26% of women who frequent the gym, do so with the aim of catching someone's eye, with the long-term goal of taking the workout elsewhere.

"Yeah, for most girls in my class, its the gym and then the local bars", said the American undergrad. "But personally, I prefer church - guys who go to church tend to stick around longer."

The present.

"In my time", said the father, still macho at 60 with a glass of vodka and lime resting casually in his hand, "if you were sufficiently intelligent, you didn't need to workout in order to impress girls. The only people who went to gyms were the stupid ones who needed to have good bodies if they wanted to be in the race."

"Never stopped the same intelligent men from demanding that their wives always look good", said the mother, one-time model for a major coffee brand.

As always, the discussion ended there.

A copy of Health magazine, looking most incongruous in my hand as I sit at the computer in the faculty room at the institute. I am reading at an article on an experiment performed at UCLA regarding people's political preferences. I'm hoping there's a paper there. My gym bag lies next to my chair.

The cover screams "Flat abs fast." Inside, right next to the article I am reading is a write-up on how to look your best while working out. Avoid fitted tees, they say.

My colleagues - all past 35 - have the look which says - "These young people and their obsession with their bodies."

"I don't think going to the gym is having any effect. You still don't have any muscles", says a very considerate friend. "You should try yoga or Art of Living instead".

"How will you build muscle unless you consume protein? If you want gymming to have an effect, you have to quit being vegetarian", advises another.

"YOU don't need to go to the gym", says the pleasantly plump aunty. "Its us fatties who need to go. I wish I could be thin like you. I must resume my morning walks", she says to no one in particular.

"If you go to the gym, you'll lose whatever little ass you have left", says the less pleasant and less plump young chap. "And anyway, how do you manage to go in such hot weather?"

"I usually spend half an hour in the pool after that".

"Aha! I knew it. You only go to check out the babes in leotards and swimsuits. All this gymming is just a big excuse."

Flashback to a time many years ago, when my brother and I would go swimming together.

"Hey check out that girl. WOW! She is so incredibly hot!"
"Where? Where?"
"Over there at the other end. Oh, and did you see the one who just walked into the changing rooms?"

Nobody appreciates the problems of the heavily myopic.

Return to the present.

I walk into the gym in the evening. Its small and quite empty. A few people around. A very old lady is on the treadmill. Her outfit clearly used to be a salwar kameez once. She is clearly not a regular reader of the Health magazine. Nor does she care.

I go through a routine in silence. People file in and file out. The young couple come in with their adorable little daughter who draws little pictures in her book, while her parents work out. Her mother changes from a sari to track pants, but keeps her large bindi intact. Her father occasionally makes approving noises at her when she shows him her drawings.

A young woman in a smart business suit comes in, changes, works out and leaves. A muscular young man in a cutoff T-shirt keeps pumping iron. Nobody notices anyone else. The only conversation is when someone politely asks someone else if they are done with the machine. Nobody at the gym reads the Red Eye either.

I used to go with a friend, until he moved to Bombay. With him around there was a little more conversation, but not much. Just a few words of approval back and forth.

The pool is invariably deserted. Not that it matters because I am usually getting late anyway, and wouldn't have stopped to talk to anyone. Half an hour and twenty laps later, I'm off.

Why do I go, then if not to lose weight, or build rippling muscles, or to pick up chicks, or to do any of the other very interesting things that people are supposed to do in gyms.

Because its the one thing that I can force myself to do by routine. Because it keeps my life in some sort of order. Because I feel better after it.

Because its good.