I stared at the weighing machine scale. Willing it, with every fiber of my being to shift left, focusing all my brain waves into shifting it left, praying to all the gods I had once fed, to shift it left, making yet another deal with the universe, if only it shifted left. But it didn’t.
Now obviously, I knew the trick, I just had to slide my left foot, left-er and it would shift left. After all, this weighing machine was past it’s prime. It had stood its ground to hordes of mind gamers like me and it had aged. Its sensors weren’t what they used to be.
But I won’t cheat. No sir. No maám. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should, no?. And after all, what would cheating even accomplish tonight? The cute, sexy, Hrithik Roshan rip-off gym instructor had already left for the evening. The only people interested in the scale were me and the scrawny bespectacled, bored, ironed shirted and creaseless trousered clerk whose sole purpose in life was to not lose more members. Kgs were of no interest to his accounting.
“83 madam?” he chirped, stretching his already snake like neck further to read the scale.
“88” I snapped, quickly stepping down and snatching away his pleasure of throwing a judgmental look from the scale to my waist.
His neck clicked back into position and his eyes, magnified behind the soda-batli glasses travelled from my basket ball sized hips to my chubby cheeks.
“Don’t worry madam. It takes time. Last year in our Sadashivanagar branch we had this madam who, you know madam, looked exactly like you madam and weighed 110 kg….”
I gave him my “I can kill you, you know, no one else is here and there’s all these dumbbells and barbel and discs and rope, but I’m sparing you tonight you weasel of a man” look, turned my back with as much attitude as I could muster and started walking out of his excuse for an office, mid-sentence. Courtesy be damned. No one was calling me a 110kg look-alike. No sir. No maám. Not today.
I glanced at the empty treadmills, glanced at the time on my phone, glanced at the pizza rekdi that was parked conveniently outside the huge glass walls beyond the treadmill and cursed.
Cursed in a way that would shame the judges on Roadies. Cursed with a vocabulary that was so creative, I could patent it. Cursed, but on mute. Not that it would have mattered. The gym was empty, as it should be on a Saturday night.
And it was only January 15th. Only! Just 15 days into a 12000 Rs membership. 350 days to go. 350! Just 0.04% of the fees was consumed. 99.96% was remaining. Ugh!
I sighed and sat down on the bench, that creaked, a bench that had probably very recently borne a perfectly shaped ass that did not make it creak.
I cursed again.
The story begins, like most gym stories begin, on Dec 29th 2021. Of all the businesses (pizza parlors, spas, libraries, book stores, mini theatres, gift shops, coffee shops) the building across from my apartment could lease its 2nd floor (yes, the floor that looked me straight in the eye every morning from my bedroom window) to, it had leased it to a local bouncer who had recently acquired a taste for entrepreneurship and decided to start a gym. And so, since late November, I saw it getting together, the big, pane-less, glass windows made sure I could see it all. Every single thing.
Mind games. Meticulous brain washing. Yes, that’s what it was.
First came the flooring, then the treadmills and cycles and cross trainers. Brand new. Sparkling. Then the benches and weight racks. Then all the fancy heavy machinery that is designed to peel off layer after layer of fat that is deposited by the other businesses around the gym.
I didn’t budge. I glazed my windows. I changed my curtains.
Yoga. That is what I was going to do. This gym and all was western propaganda. It was designed to make you unhealthy and drain you from the inside. Yoga was the true savior. And who needs to lose weight anyways. This was the generation of anti-body shaming. Fat was good. Bulky was cute. Bulging was confidence. They even had entire aisles of shopping malls dedicated to us. My fatness was generating income, was even probably or most probably, no, actually, single handedly saving the jobs of hundreds of people in the textile and food industries. My fatness was a patriot and a visionary.
I didn’t budge. All the way till Christmas. On Christmas, they decorated the hell out of the place. Red and golden and white. Balloons and flowers and ribbons. They put up posters. You know, those motivational posters with Fat to Fit stories of perfect, inhumanly perfect looking people. I didn’t budge. No sir. No maám. I was strong.
Then they put up quotes. First, models to lure the superficial, then quotes to lure the intellectuals. Some marketing strategist that bouncer had got ha. That too in CAPITAL and BOLD.
“Take care of your body. It’s the only place you have to live” – Jim Rohn
(No sir. No maam. I paid rent. I have a pretty decent apartment)
“To enjoy the glow of good health, you must exercise” – Gene Tunney
(No sir, maam. To enjoy the glow of good health, you must just breathe)
“The human body is the best picture of the human soul” – Ludwig Wittgenstein
(No sir. Definitely not. Body is just superficial. Body and soul are totally non-correlated. It’s like amazon boxes. No idea you can get of what must be inside.)
“A muscle is like a car. If you want it to run well early in the morning, you have to warm it up.” – Florence Griffith Joyner
(What nonsense sir. Absolute rubbish. Who warms up a car with petrol at 110 rs/litre. No ambanis here maam)
“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” – Joseph Addison
This last one, I had a good mind to go and rip it out at night. I was even looking for that Bathla aluminium ladders on amazon, to climb and do this pious task at night. Who in this big wide world would compare reading to exercise? Yuk. Reading was divine. Books were a source of pleasure. Exercise is a punishment. Exercise equipment must be made in the same factories as torture equipment. Huh! Ridiculous.
So that didn’t work. My windows remained tightly shut and the curtains, adamantly drawn. I was not converting. Yoga it was going to be. Satvic and soulful.
And then they brought in the men. And women. But well, I looked at the men. Tight red t-shirts, no, not red. More like maroon. Darker red. Beige? Well, whatever. Tight. Like you know when you wrap food in that stretchable plastic and you can see all? Like that. Showing every muscle, the silhouette of every artery and vein. The logo of the gym emblazoned at the back. Biceps and triceps tearing through the short sleeves. Quadriceps and calves and abs and all. Like the biology text book human body all there. Just with beautifully chiseled faces and big eyes and a head full of hair. God only knows where these men were made. Like if I put every man I know, from family, extended family, school, colleges, work, neighbors, friends, family of friends, friends of family, everyone, I still didn’t see one sample from this population.
Anyways. So on 29th, there was this party. Loud, dance music. Throbbing music. All the decorations and all the men, smiling and talking and luring in people.
I saw them at 6pm, on my way back from work. I saw everything. The posters, the quotes, the decorations, the women, the men. And I kept walking. Yoga. I kept telling myself. Yoga. Someone thrusted a pamphlet in my hand. The same posters and quotes scaled into A4. “HealthyYou” gym. Opening day discounts. 12k for a year. Full membership. Personal training. Diet plan. Lifestyle advice. Blah blah blah. I crumpled the paper, not missing a step. Not looking at the see-through windows. Steadfastly heading towards my apartment. Head down. Yoga, yoga not gym. Yoga is health. Gym is hell. Fat is economy. Fat is not bad. I kept walking. My brain kept talking.
And then I saw him. From the corner of my eye. I have no clue why the corner of my eye was not listening to my brain. But it wasn’t. After all, with all that beauty around. All that jazz. The corner was doomed to wander. And then the corner pulled the entire eye there and the eye pulled the other eye and the eyes then pulled the mundane consciousness. Idiot, materialistic, lust-driven consciousness.
The heart skipped a beat. It was Hrithik Roshan. He was standing, in the food wrapping plastic like red-tshirt and skin conforming black tights. With the gym logo. Yes, the grey eyes. The wavy hair. Everything. He was at the gym entrance, just 50 meters and 60 degrees away. Smiling. Swaying with the music. Shoving pamphlets in hands of mesmerized mortals walking by.
And exactly like the mice that followed the pied piper, my feet started walking towards him. Sweaty, tired, bedraggled after a full day of office. I was there. In front of him. Taking the pamphlet from him. Thanking him. Asking him the process to join. Following him into the office. Signing up for the yearly package. Swiping my debit card. Getting my BMI and weight printed in front of this Greek-god-like looking man. Being escorted out with a schedule in my hand.
The spell broke when my feet hit the road again and the traffic noise broke the swaying music. I stared at the schedule in my hand, the message of 12000 Rs debited, on my phone, my abysmal weight and BMI numbers printed on a paper and turned back. Hrithik Roshan rip-off was still there. Luring more innocents inside. I kept walking, dazed. I crossed the road. I entered my building. I climbed up to my apartment. I opened the curtains. I stared at him. I slept staring at him, the schedule crumpled in my hand.
That was Dec 29th. I had, under that spell, pledged to lose 20 kgs. I had caved to western propaganda. I had betrayed my culture. I had signed up to ruin the fat economy. All for a Hrithik Roshan rip-off.
Who, even with my most adamant and persuasive and sweet and sour arguments, was not available as a personal trainer for mere mortals like me. His kinds were reserved for the modelling crowd. The VIPs of gyms.
The best I got was a stare and smile every now and then as my very strict and menacing trainer trained and the scrawny clerk judged and fellow members shredded kgs.
The throbbing music stopped and the AC stopped whirring. The lights started going out. It was closing time. I sat there on the bench. Saturday night. Every tiny muscle in the body screaming. Sweating and swearing and not 1kg less. Not 1kg.
** Written as part of an exercise at Write Club Bangalore.
**Initial idea “inspired” from Arjun’s piece around a similar new year resolution and gyms.