Like I always say, once you enter the fourth decade of mortal existence, life takes on a whole new meaning.  You stop worrying about wearing the most unsuitable clothes and show off creaky venous old knees; you color hair not to hide the white showing through, but to get a brunette look.  And among some of the other weird things I have no wish to expose just yet; I also enrolled myself into a gym.

Yeah, so I did. I can’t fathom what on earth prompted me, after successfully giving it a miss for all of my forty and five years and suddenly here I was, struggling into tights and t-shirt and trying to get rid of my belly fat and other protruding anatomical juxtapositions which don’t look right (yeah, the fat would have looked better a few inches above). I guess too much time on my hands and a desire not to feel totally lethargic and waste yet. So, lo and behold, I was ready to take a swing at things I had not attempted before.

The gym is pretty close to where I stay, so walked over. Went inside to ear blasting music and a plethora of machines all around. I with my weary eyes had to look where I walked else I would be the first to fall flat on a dumbbell thrown carelessly around, or the jutting leg of a legpress. I was given a tour of all the contraptions and re-learnt all the muscle names forgotten in class VIII, triceps and biceps and hamstrings and which one is smaller and larger. I also got an overloaded with names of machines and exercises which I didn’t remember five minutes beyond. I could see several trainers repeating basic math- one, two, three, buck up, back straight and I fondly remembered my PT instructor.

Since I was not put off the place during my first visit, I decided to pay the fees and hoped that would prompt me to continue. Day 1. A baldy instructor confronted – why does everyone I encounter have to be bald?? Gods have something seriously against me. At least my gym instructor could have been a treat to the eyes. Sigh, he isn’t, doesn’t look a hunk from any direction (including upside down), looks more like a soft spoken teacher or a government servant. He started off rattling something in Marathi and I had to stop him mid way through his monologue, Hindi please, or English, I asked doubtfully. Yes madam. Then he started my routine. By the time he finished with me, I was almost dead, all limbs creaking and trembling, wondering whether I needed a stretcher to go home.

In my dotage, the way I exercise is my break time is almost equal to my exercise time. The fun during the breaks while I struggle to get my breath back is to look around and see the blatant display of chiseled torsos and muscular wealth. The day I joined, all the folks turned and glanced at the old woman gone crazy, took one look and disdainfully went back to their routines. So much so for my hotness! At least I can see a hot Dwayne smiling or a desi Hrithik looking at me sideways from the wall, and a surly looking uninspiring female body builder who gives a smirk.

Over a period of time, I learnt to use some of the machines, lift some weights, and perform some basic workout though it pains me to see guys lifting so much weight while I was struggling with the lightest dumbbell. Going overboard and trying extra would cause a “sweet and sour pain” in my glutes for the next two days as my instructor keeps repeating. He hurts my muscles more than my sentiments, and I walk out in a weird gait (resembling a three-legged-walk) since everything was sore, feeling distinctly old and in need for oiling.

Over a period of time, as I interestingly watched the steamy sweaty bodies and listened to Mika screaming “shake that booty” at the top of his voice, I realized there are basically five kinds of creatures infesting the gym.

  • The “hen-pecked-husband” whose wife doesn’t let him sit along with his pot belly in front of the idiot box, and packs him off to get a six pack. Poor harassed fellow, he finds it so tough to slide into most of the machines, which are really designed for human size. Huffing and puffing, his painstaking attempts at lifting weights and then taking half an hour of break with open mouth struggling to breathe in air right in front of the TV.
  • The “self-obsessed-and-proclaimed-hunk” wearing tight shorts who spends fifteen minutes lifting weights making alien guttural sounds and faces and then walks with a forced swagger and spends next fifteen in front of the wall length mirror looking at his jutting muscles from all possible angles and showing (off) to all the trainers around and measuring the micrometer change in his biceps. The mindless body and his gymfies on Instagram and Facebook lives. God save him!
  • The “I-have-time-and-clothes” girl who adorns yoga pants and sports bra (only thing everyone noticed) and something insignificant on top which is completely superfluous, with a ponytail and a mouth that can literally move mountains, and a magnetic personality, pulling all sweaty bodies towards it. With bobbing boobs and behind as she treads the mill, all trainers (including mine) fall all over themselves to train her and look at her with gaping mouths and rising heart rate.
  • The “exceptionally athletic Superman” who is actually focused on just building muscles and totally oblivious to the rest of the world around him. The guy who pushes every machine to its limits and cribs that they were not strong enough, and who spends daily 2-3 hours just exercising. And the walk, reeking of self confidence! But I wonder, he is already there, then why make the rest of us all look and feel nobodies.
  • The “aiming-to-impress-girlfriend” sweaty smelly thin fellow, the pea-brained nincompoop who wants to build brawns and not brains, with silky hair, big phone and glares and thin spidery legs, squatting away to glory, face straining hard to avoid the gaseous excretions towards his fellow folks.

Ideally I should qualify myself into a sixth category, who last squat was only during the last Indian style loo visit, but then being a unique specimen, I am not sure there are many like me around. In the past year, I have started enjoying the one hour stint at the gym every day (well, almost). And my top three reasons of visiting the same place regularly happen to be

  • After working out, I don’t feel guilty about not working out and the cake tastes so much better, especially with the icing (and I wonder why I am still putting on weight?)
  • That hot dapper who always comes in at the same time and is a temptation of magnificent proportions.
  • Enjoying my favorite mind exercise of judging and categorizing people.

Cut to Size

When a female crosses 40, she gets into a denial mode. All the rejuvenating cream ads make her believe in the fountain of eternal youth. She starts imagining that clothes that would look awesome on a 20 year old, would fit her as well and stuffs her wardrobe with most unsuitable attire. She hates her grey and thinning hair, so experiments unsuccessfully with ways and means for it to look black and full. She only buys voluminizing shampoos and hair loss and colouring treatments from the supermarket. She runs to the parlor to colour the single grey hair as soon as the sighting is made. When the “medium” size makes breathing tough due to the ever expanding waistline, she gets into fads like checking out the latest celebrity health club and decides to starve herself to lose that 5 kilos and couple of inches. All the effort to turn the clock back by those 20 years when she had neither the self confidence, nor the means to do anything silly like that.

One bright Sunday morning, my husband dearest saw Anjali Mukerjee in the newspaper. “You know, she has worked with Miss India’s. At least go and talk to them”. My shrill response of- “I am not FAT” did nothing to help. Even reminding that it will cost a hefty amount- did not deter him from the noble desire to reduce his wife (to pieces).

These days buying clothes has had its own challenges. The ones I really like, I did not fit into and rest look auntie-types (Ooh, I forget my status update to auntie some 20 years ago). Keep in mind that when I was the right age, India’s fashion statement was silk sarees and over-sized frocks. I had some cherished clothes from phoren which I have not been able to fit into for the past 10 years, I thought might as well see if Anjali could help. And there was this young kid who draped my dupatta chastely over my belly and I realized that she assumed I was pregnant. Did nothing good for my self esteem to look forever 4 months. My resolve strengthened.

We’ll help you lose weight without any exercises or therapies, all you have to do is follow our prescribed diet plan and do some walking. Sounded simple enough and I enrolled. Then they gave me pills to eat- they call it herbs- almost 10 a day. And took away everything that is worth eating. No rice (my bong avatar is aghast) or anything remotely tasty. Think of anything that you like eating and it is banned. Who likes to drink skimmed milk and eat oats poha (ugh), and salads every day. The worst part is I can’t even  start the day with my normal ginger tea and need to drink aleovera juice and warm water. Trust me, it tastes worse than awful. My mouth and tummy keeps grumbling away.

Losing weight is like gambling. You pay to lose and Anjali wins. Think of our middle aged, well oiled and rounded bodies -we have hoarded the fat over decades. That double chin and protruding belly did not develop overnight. It took immense effort and significant amount of oil and butter and cakes that we devoured to get these extra inches and just when the convex curves are beginning to show, we want to get rid of it. Just to get into that pair of shorts and look hideous. Or wear a swimsuit and display the sagging thighs and creaking knees. And so we end up paying someone to tell us that we need to  exercise and avoid fattening foods. Anjali has never heard of  “Life’s best things are always immoral, illegal or fattening.” Ah, to look at the ice-cream and not eat it- what will power and what a waste!

3 weeks of the painful torture and 3 kilos down, at least I have the satisfaction of losing some. But I so miss my vada-paos and chaats and alu-posto, and even the poor man’s daal-chawal. My favorite TV shows are now Farah’s Dawat and Masterchef and food-food channels but my will power is being taxed to the limit looking at mouth watering food and having to stay away from it. To see my husband dearest coolly drinking away his aamras when I am struggling with my salads and veggies- I am aching to kick him where it hurts most. And when I ask him, am I looking thinner, he coolly replies- so long as you are feeling it. Now what does that mean? Can he see my cut down size or is he cutting me down to size ?