The nation (and especially the city) is peaking in its obsession about health or the lack of it. A hundred variations of ads are on for that cooking oil used until a few years ago to make pooris.
The Chief Minister is happy being photographed in an awkward khadi clad Sun salute (that’s Surya Namaskaar for the plebs) in the name of health. And every aunty and beti worth her weight in ragda pattice is gymming these days.
Gymming! How nouns have become verbs, I marvel, as I set out to discover the secret of hot bods in Mumbai. South Bombay kids learnt how to pronounce ‘Pilates’ much before the suburbanites did. It’s meant for those who don’t mind being touched (assisted exercise is the politically correct word)
And if I hear the word ‘Centering’ one more time I shall take the contraptions and hang the German inventor with them. It works for some, but thinking oneself thin is a long shot for most.
Throw a stone anywhere (easy, since the BMC is always fixing roads!) and you will see Gyms. Not for Mumbai the traditional Vyayamshalas where well-oiled men in little red chuddis compared muscles after working out with the good old Bullworkers and wooden clubs called Dands.
Not even the Mallkhamb, now only associated with cute little acrobat dancers. Naah, we need branded gyms and personal trainers.
Men don’t display rippling thighs anymore. Those days are gone with Dara Singh. I suppose. Today the men are outfitted for the gym in Nike and Reebok gear. Why anyone would choose to wear synthetics in this city, I fail to understand.
Thank goodness for deos! They wear headbands and bandanas and i- pods with the headphones and the same moronic expression which compels me to ask, “If you hate running on the treadmill so much.. and are only waiting for the juice bar babe to show up, why don’t you just wait in the lounge? Just pretend as if you’ve just finished your workout, dude.”
Oh did I forget to say all the gyms, from the very old ones to the fancy new ones have good equipment. This is Mumbai baba, we have only the best.
So let me go back to the men. They are buffed out, ripped, and gorgeous. I can hear my gym partner Paro shudder at the last descriptive (“only with a paper bag over their faces, dear, only with a paper bag!”) But of course they are so self absorbed, not even a bomb would distract them from their narcissistic involvement with their reflection in the giant mirrors.
Thank goodness they work out late at night…That reminds me, please, please don’t try to be helpful when you come across men who wear dark glasses at the gym. They are not visually challenged men with great bods. They are models or television stars or minor movie villains or husbands of film stars.
There are men who will grunt like McEnroe and those who drip like taps in art movies. And there are men who will sit on the stationary bicycles with the latest portable DVD player. The funniest ones are the ones who have paid for the two-for-one package and choose to bring their wives.
Movie hero types
It’s easy to spot them, actually. The couples wear identical shoes, and even match colours, as though they were part of some imaginary workout league. The men spend half their gym time fetching water bottles and adjusting machines for their little darlings.
If you choose to work out in the mornings, you are bound to bump into movie heroes who need to get back their romance-‘round-therose-bush tums, corporate types who need to manage their middles, and young enthu cutlets who work in the family ‘bizness’ who are sweating it out with the hope that they might bump into Mrs.Robinson.
Sigh! That brings me to the women. Lycra rules, by the way, when it comes to this gender. And don’t even bother to ask the thin ones what they do when they’re not working out. “I’m an actress!” is the most likely answer. I am happy to see women who are not embarrassed to discuss the new Sushi place happily take to the stair stepper.
I am glad to be part of the legion which reads instruction No.4 on the Thigh Extractor which says, “Part thighs for maximum effect.” and giggles until the instructor says, “Next we go to Lat-rail.”
There are women on treadmills who have had the time to curl their lashes. There are women who delicately walk up to the weights and surprise the hell out of unsuspecting gymmers,like yours truly, by happily lifting huge weights. Oh, and don’t miss the little swoosh of air they exhale. No grunts here.
Of course, the trainers are amazing. Celebs in their own right, they get written about in newspapers. Thankfully Paro and I discovered one who has a great sense of humour, someone who knows how to spell ‘pectoral’ and will not recommend a bran bar instead of lunch no matter how much we look like we need to diet.
But when outwardly bizarre sounding spin cycles, kickboxing, Saroj Khan-style aerobic dancing and other such concoctions start sounding like Martha Stewart’s advice, you know you need to get out and get a life outside the gym.
Meanwhile, if you hate jostling crowds at Joggers’ Parks springing up in every suburb, absolutely abhor the amblers of the ancient kind cribbing along the Bandra promenades, cannot abide the tourists eating bhajias on the beach, then take the advice of a confirmed gym rat – forget my cribbing, just get thee to a gym.