I went to the gym after years and years and years. Found the physical movement to rhythm exhilarating, despite the soreness. Not so sore that I couldn't carry on with my life and routine, but just enough to remind me that I had a body I hadn't treated too kindly.
High octane stuff actually--the loud music, the pulsating rhythm that made you feel you just had to dance and get into the swing of it; the motivational tone of the instructor and the well-toned proficiency of the others...all a concerted effort only to effectively remind me what a slob I was and the time-distance travel I would have to make, to get even halfway there.
But the very fact that I stuck to it conscientiously at least for the first week, made me feel good about myself and improve my self-esteem, by just that little bit.
Can anyone get a high by just seeing a pair of weights one is to use? I assure you, I did. " Yeah ... keep going ... you're doing well - Can you feel them B-U-R-N? Sq-ue-eze; Up and then sq-uee-ze.." I can go back just to hear that. Reminds me of something ... I forget what!
Women and body shape is such a non-issue in India. Our relationship with our bodies is practically non-existent, other than as a tool for going about our daily life. It has its blessings, in that we don't have the problems of unnatural expectations of size and shape, fed to us by the media; the flip side is of course, that we are so divorced from our physical selves, that it has only led to health problems. Problems like osteoporosis, iron deficiency and those arising from obesity, like diabetes and
hypertension. Which are in turn, precursors to vascular diseases.
With rising affluence, has come an increase in kitchen-gadgets and other labor-saving devices. No arguments whether that's good or bad - allowing creativity in presentation, they also help increase leisure-time, which can only contribute to the betterment of herself and her family.
So, where is the problem? I think it has its beginnings, when the woman is entering her teen years. Girly-girls don't like to play. They don't like to look all hot and bothered and sweaty. They would rather look pretty and charming and sit around having a gossip with their friends. They look at their girlfriends who play, with amusing tolerance. "They are still so childish!"
These tomboys who aren't brought to line by peer pressure to be more 'feminine', are quickly brought to line by their mothers, or other adult women in their families. Soon they are expected to cut on playtime, with a two-fold purpose. One, to limit their interaction with boys and I remember in this context, a couple of incidents so clearly. In Mumbai, we used to play a game 'sakli', or 'chain-cook'. The 'it' person had to chase the others and whoever got 'tipped', had to form a chain with the first person and the game went on. Now, my grandmother used to watch from the balcony and would frown with disapproval, if at any time, on either side of me on the chain, was a boy. In the midst of the rough and tumble of the game, the boys would get irritated if I didn't pull the chain effectively and I would look up scared towards the balcony and my grandmother's disapproving stare. It didn't go for long...soon came the decree that I should only play with girls. And you know what that meant!
The other incident was, when she decided that I was 'well-developed' and so shouldn't go for swimming lessons with the male coach. The ruckus I created..! So, tennis was offered as a swap deal. There I was, a sedate thirteen year old in salwar-kameez, going with the extended siblings, but watching them from the poolside!
At least I got another sport which was deemed non contact and non explosive. Some girls in my circle, were not so lucky. They had to cut on playtime, to start helping around the house, so they could be trained to develop the skills of housekeeping. A commendable thing in itself, but which lead to as I said, a non-existent relationship with the physical self.
I see a small turnaround now - women of that generation, who fifteen-twenty years ago had to stop playing sport, are now trying to break out of that mould. Afternoon yoga-classes in Mumbai are quite full, with women trying to squeeze some exercise in their day. Also aerobics classes in salwar-kameez. A generation which had to give up frocks and jeans, in favor of salwar, has stuck to it, but with a twist - it has also taken up exercise in it. Loosely cut and in cotton, a perfect costume for exercise in my mind. One doesn't have to be a 'mem' now to get fit. Even the homely, next-door-girl can aspire to it, thank you very much.
Though it is a positive trend and is to be lauded, lot more women need to take it up--the twin consciousness of nutrition and exercise.
"Don't stop girls ... Keep going..2,3,4..You're doing well..!"