Wednesday, 14 April 2010

'Gai-eem' ... life on a treadmill

It's been a cruel summer. And the heat has made people do strange things. Like join a gym in my case.

I am no stranger to the word of gyms (note to self: the surprise element should come at the end of a post). From akhara like non air conditioned places to the college gym which I think had the same equipment which Netaji had used to strengthen his legs before he kicked the Brit prof down the Presidency stairs to suave gyms at Mumbai and fancy ones in luxury hotels. Then my back gave in during a holiday and I got an excuse to stay away. But I would look at gyms occasionally. Especially when I would see the disturbingly rotund figures of food show hosts on Indian TV channels. Very different from the Bourdains the Majumdars and the Chins.

Checked with my Ortho. My last hope. The cherubic and corpulent gent smiled and said "of course you can go".

So I did a round of local gyms a few idle Saturdays back. Was hounded with SMSs and calls from them since. Two months free. Eight months free. Partner free. If you don't have a partner we will get you one and split the costs. No man has been wooed the way I was.

A mid week holiday. Another idle day. Heat wave. And I landed at the gym closest to mine. "OK, what the hell." 

"Yes sir you can join from today. Right now please."

I have a feeling that I heard something pop in the background and the whoosh of streamers and ribbons.

Then fate rushed in for the rescue. The credit card didn't work.

"No problem sir. You can pay later.


"Please change your shoes. Our head trainer is here for you."

Fate kicked in again. An irate client call. Which ended after more than ten minutes. Sorry but the consumer is just not that into you. And I finally made my entry into the floor.

Twenty minutes of treadmill. And then the cross trainer. Very 'cross' it kept flashing 'stride faster' on the screen. Hey I am not eighteen any more. And you are a machine not Artoo Detoo.

I went downstairs. The original trainer had disappeared. I caught onto a podgy lady in uniform. We soon established that she didn't speak English. I switched to Hindi. And soon established that this was her first day ever in any sort of gyms. She walked with me from machine to machine. Looked at the diagrams and tried to get me to replicate what the stick figure was doing. And so her journey of discovery continued for more than an hour. With each machine she looked happier and happier. I think the stick figure in the illustrations won her heart.

It was well past lunch and I was getting hungry. The gym guys decided to throw in some motivation. Now its quite likely that you could bump into a celeb if you walk into a gym at Bandra. That happened and the gentleman in question was fairly close to being an A lister. Though guys, the size zero end of the pair he belonged to, would work better for me.

I finally trudged out. Met the front desk lady. Pointed out the disconnect between someone who is discovering gyms being a trainer for someone who needs special care for his back and walked out having a found out a reason not to go back.

No such luck. She ran behind me and said that the manager wanted to meet me. Apologies were offered. I was told that this was an exception and that 'real' trainers were in in a Wednesday meeting. Guidance of a phyiso was promised. And of real trainers. And expectations to see me the next day were evinced.

I checked the menu at the snack bar. And left for home. Must come back to try the chicken sandwich.

Note: 'Gai-eem' is how Homer Simpson read the three letters,  G-Y-M, which he had never come across before in his life.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Dada's Gang of Boys

"The best way to ignite Saurav is to write him off" Steve Waugh

The other day K was referring to a couple of friends of ours as 'Tendulkar Fanatics'.

I said that it is easy to be a Tendulkar fan. He scores oodles of runs. Acclaimed by all. Owns most personal cricket batting records.

In fact you actually have to be fanatical to be a Saurav Ganguly fan in my opinion. Consider the evidence. A man with patchy performances. Glorious at his best. Farcical at his worst. Often inconsistent. You always have your heart in your mouth when Dada bats. You have no idea what he will dish out. And over the last years its often not been much. While, as many point out, Tendulkar's still going on like a well oiled machine.

I had met a gaggle of fellow thirty plus Bengalis a few days back. The most consistent support group of Ganguly. In contrast to Ten whose supporters cut across clans and countries. We asked ourselves about why we Bengalis support Ganguly. Even when he is obviously a spent force. Why do we let the heart rule over the brain? And then, in a larger context, why do all our heroes belong to the past?

Well the fact is that most Bengali heroes belong to a time when we were in our diapers. Uttam Kumar? No more. Satyajit Ray? No more. Kishore Kumar? No More. Plus they all belong to the word of cinema. There has not been any national politician of note from Bengal post independence. Pranab Babu remains a Man Friday. 

The sporting cupboards of Bengal are equally bare. Dalhousie Institute boy, Leander Paes, did well for himself. But tennis doesn't work in Calcutta. And despite much trying one couldn't discover any Bengali gene in Pele or Maradona. The fact is that Saurav Ganguly remains probably the only Bengali player of significance to have played for India.

And Ganguly is not any ordinary player. Yes, he had his cricketing moments. But more importantly he has spunk. An in your face attitude. He wears his heart on his sleeves. There is a sense of bravado in his demeanour. A willingness to take the fight to the opposition. A fighter.

There are many positive values associated with Bengalis. Love for art. Ability to think. Creativity. Culinary skills. Mishti. Ability to write. Rabindra Sangeet. But, a Bengali would probably not be your companion of choice if you got into scrap with someone.

We are the thinking race. We plan. We debate. We ponder.

We don't get into fist fights.

Ganguly changed it all. Here was a Bengali who walked with a swagger, his collars up, taking on the world, in a Quixotic manner at times. The last time a Bengali did that was Mithunda in B Subhash movies. And those acts were scripted.

So suddenly there was a whole lot of us who began to root for Ganguly. Like Danny De Vito in Twins, we puffed up our chests and said, 'you mess with me you mess with my family"

Add to this the fact that there was noone else to revere. Contrast this with say a Delhi who has Sehwag and Gambhir. Or a Bangalore which had Kumble, Srinath, Dravid, Prasad. We had one hero and we hung onto him with our dear life.

So Dravid loses the Bangalore captaincy to Pieterson. No problem. Laxman shown the bird by the Deccan Chargers. No problem. Yuvraj and Punjab. Ditto.

But drop Ganguly from the Indian team and the whole of Eden jeers Dravid and team India. Take away the KKR captaincy from Ganguly and SRK was left without a single Bengali supporting his team in IPL II.

Sounds strange?

But then have you considered our options?

Photo credit: Caesar Ceasar

Talking of  Tendulkar Fans do check out this lovely Facebook Note by Harshad on Tendulkar.

Here's the text in case you can't access it.

"I was in school and hated chemistry and lost the tug of war game and took my bleeding hands home and you batted for me.

I felt the high and had my first crush and I was trying to make sense of what was happening to me and you batted for me.

I sprouted a moustache and spent vacations in Pune with my long departed grandpa and loved every match you played and you batted for me.

I went to art school and made new friends and learnt new tricks and mixed new colours and you batted for me.

I saw a big riot happen and cities burned and my city was bombed very badly and we were all scared and you batted for me.

I sat through two day exams and poster colours cost five bucks and Mafco lassi four and you batted for me.

I got cable TV and foreigners were on my screen and MTV happened and Baywatch happened and you batted for me.

I shaved off my moustache and saw Shahrukh Khan rise and Amitabh fall and Madhuri retire and Amitabh rise again and you batted for me.

I fell in love and out of love and graduated and looked ahead at my brand new dreams and held a bat for the last I remember and you batted for me.

I created my first ad and my chest swelled with pride and I felt grown up now as I earned my pay and you batted for me.

I voted for Vajpayee and he became prime minister and India went nuclear and Kargil blew up and you batted for me.

I sat along with the country and a storm hit a desert and then you hit the storm and you batted for me.

I did many ads and changed many jobs and won my awards and you lost your dad and yet you batted for me.

I saw heroes fall and your game was defamed and all else fell down and you batted for me.

I lost my dog and I cried and I cried and I gave up non veg and you batted for me.

I saw 9/11 happen as did the rest of the world and the world changed forever and you batted for me.

I went abroad for the first time to Sri Lanka and you were there and then to Australia and you were bigger there and you batted for me.

I was in office and we friends bonded over you and we screamed ourselves hoarse on the streets and fluttered the flag as you ripped through Shoaib and you batted for me.

I made newer friends and newer enemies and every now and then you walked out on the ground and then all of us together camped around the office TV and you batted for me.

I got better pay and I bought my first car and a new house and a new LCD to go and on it too you batted for me.

I saw my city and your city held under a siege and great heroes were born and you batted for me.

I saw people lose jobs and not lose their hopes and the world was now a far tougher place and you batted for me.

I came back home from some really tiring work and a child in my building called me uncle and I put on the TV and you were there and you batted like I was still in school and like the world had not moved and you batted for me."

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Golden years? Yeah right!

If you are in your mid thirties then you would possibly be at a stage where you see your family elders growing old. Parents. Grandparents. Ailments. Debilitating at the worst. Scary at the least. Heart wrenching in most cases. You would probably feel it more because this is the time when many of us move out of the more selfish and self obsessed twenties to the domesticated thirties.

There is nothing as painful as to see those who have brought you up, protected you, helped you stand, picked you up, nurtured you, beginning to tremble themselves. Nothing as deadly as to listen to the feeling of doubt in their voices. To detect the hidden fear and anxiety when they talk. To imagine their unsteady steps. To hear about their obstacle ridden lives.

Health ailments are so frustrating. You can't do anything against nature. There are things that even money can't fix. And we are not talking of common colds, the odd bloated feeling or a little pimple here and there. Failing vision, weakening hearts, knees that give away, lungs that refuse to breathe, minds that refuse to remember, hands that refuse to stay still, bodies which refuse to get up ... you just sit and watch. Helpless.

It's even worse if you live in another city. A reality in today's migratory world.

And the amazing thing is that when you call them up, they put their aches and pains behind and enquire about your well being and your life. You always come first to them.

We have some standards to live up to.

Here's to everyone who has a grandparent, parent, family elder suffering. Here's hoping that they get better. That they feel strong. That they sleep well.