HT Brunch Cover Story: Malaika Arora on fitness, finding love in her forties and her soon-to-be-husband Arjun Kapoor
The best thing about the 40s is the 40s! I am 43 and I have never felt better. I am at my fittest, my healthiest, my happiest and my craziest best right now. Many people rue the passing of their teens, but trust me, I would not want to trade my now for my past. My 40s are my teens. Of course I don’t look the same way I did as a teenager, but life is all about growing and evolving and changing with time.
You can’t stop your body from ageing; the idea is to embrace age gracefully and make the most of it. I am waiting to meet my wrinkled old self. This whole idea of wrinkles and stretch marks as signs of ugliness is so passé. The other day I posted a picture in which a few of my stretch marks showed and people started commenting on how gross they are. What is gross about stretch marks? Whenever I see those on my body, I smile… they remind me of my beautiful baby boy. Childbirth changes the body. Why should I have to hide my stretch marks or feel ashamed or apologetic? They are my medals of motherhood!
But it is not just stretch marks. I am often told on social media that I should dress according to my age. What does that mean? You wear what you feel comfortable in and it is your personal choice! You have a problem if I wear something that doesn’t suit your taste, you have a problem that I am divorced, you have a problem that I have found love again, you have a problem that my partner happens to be younger than me. It might not have crossed your mind, but I don’t really care about your problems. I am not here to please anybody, let alone nameless and faceless people on social media.
Ready to take off
I think the real problem is not age. Society finds ways to shame women throughout their lives. If you are a strong and independent woman, you become a soft target. People are still intimidated by an opinionated, thinking working woman and the best weapon they have is slander. I have been working since I was 17 and people have always had something or the other to say about my personal choices. I was often told that I am a mother and should dress like one. Why can’t a mother look hot and sexy? Why is being sexy bad? Women of all ages are sexual beings. They are not just somebody’s mother or wife! I grew up in a very matriarchal family, which has made me the woman I am. If someone calls me sexy or hot, I wear it on my sleeve with dignity.
With age, I have become immune to what people are thinking or saying about me. Today, I really don’t give a damn about people’s perceptions. Are you paying my bills? Why should I owe you an explanation? Kuchh toh log kahenge logon ka kaam hai kehna.
Ideally, when you are young you are ready to take on the world and as you get older you get more rigid. But for me it worked in reverse. I reached a point when I told myself, f*** it, I will not care about what people think of me. That does not mean that I have built a bubble around me, but I’ve decided to blank out the noise.
Also with age, I think I have become far more receptive to ideas. I was always accepting of new things, but when I was young, maybe I would think 10 times before experimenting with something new.
I am 43 today, and women my age have a better shelf life. The opportunities are a dime a dozen. Bollywood is still markedly ageist, but then it is also sexist, misogynist, etc., etc. But avenues are surely opening up for women my age. So it is important to be fit to deliver your best.
The inside story
Fitness is important at any age. But it is not something you do to stop the ageing process. Workouts release endorphins, those feel-good hormones, and they make you happy. That reflects in the way you look, your emotional state and your approach to life in general. Your mind and body has to work in tandem for you to reach a happy space. I have always followed the age-old ritual of eating right, working out, having a healthy lifestyle. It reflects internally as well as externally. But what people see is only the external manifestations.
I always say that if you start taking care of your body when you are young, you will reap the benefits as you grow older. As youngsters, we take our bodies and our lifestyles for granted because it is so easy to bounce back. Post 40, everything declines. Your body can’t defy gravity anymore, everything starts to sag, ailments creep in, recovery slows, so you need to take extra care of yourself and I don’t say this in a narcissistic way. But it helps if you start the process early on; you need to start prepping your body for old age when you are still in your teens. I was a dancer so I always had to follow a certain regimen. That has definitely helped.
But I must admit in the last five years, my approach to fitness and life in general has changed a lot and for the better. In fact, I think I have become a whole new person. There is a lot more awareness about things. Certain changes in your life also call for certain changes in yourself. When I found myself going through an emotional upheaval, I told myself that I need to focus on myself and my health. Now I wake up early, live by certain rules, eat home-cooked food and eat on time, finish dinner by 7pm and sleep early. I don’t smoke at all; I might have an occasional glass of wine.
The romantic movement
My approach to love has also changed. From being divorced to getting into a relationship, it wasn’t easy. You want to protect yourself from getting hurt. But I am so glad that I got myself out there. That has a lot to do with this new me.
Relationships need love, affection, and nurture. They are hard work. But I am so glad that love happened to me. Being in this relationship truly feels amazing.
There are a lot of women who want to remain single and that is fine. I know so many women who have embraced singlehood and are very happy. But for people who want to find love again, I would want to say, don’t be scared. Go out there and look for love. Love is a beautiful feeling. Don’t let love die. Don’t let romance die. Give it a second chance. And maybe even a third or fourth or fifth! Until it really works out! Love doesn’t come with an age limit. Trust me on this one.
(As told to Ananya Ghosh)
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From HT Brunch, June 30, 2019
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