My objective, of course, was and is to silence Sheela's insensitive barbs in re the size and shape of my abdomen. She says things like "duck - here comes a gynecologist" or "you don't have to hide that basketball under your t-shirt. carry it under your arm, like everyone else." As you know, I am very quick on the uptake - Einstein Narendra, they used to call me back in college - and I've quickly realized that unless I lose that extra inch or two around the belly button, I'm going to be the butt of many more jokes.
So the only solution for me was to join this gym. It was that or go on a diet which is kind of difficult for a guy like me. I mean, the last time I went on a starvation diet (known as 'portion control'), my t-shirt dissolved in drool on the very first day and I ended up looking more like an ill-dressed hyena than the suave young gentleman that I am.
Its been a month now that I've been doing time in this Bombay version of Sing Sing and the fact that I am still alive is a more a testimony to my raw survival skills than any gentleness on the part of my instructors. You know how it is - the instructors job is to push you to work out hard and as they love to put it, "get the most out of your body". Question: Would this make a great mission statement for a laxative?
The Survival skills
So you're lifting 15 pound dumbbells and you're supposed to do two sets of 15 repetitions each. If you do the first set without vociferating your anguish (squealing like an impaled pig, that is), you get handed 20 pounds for the next set. "Enjoy the sweet pain" they tell you. And while I'm groping for a suitable come-back to that, he says "come on - last 10 " AFTER the first 15. So the trick is - and I'm giving out zealously guarded secrets here - is to pretend you're losing your life around the tenth repetition of the first set. If you can fake it, you are through. Though it has to be a real professional acting job, or they'll catch you out and you'll never have any credibility again. A path, as you will readily understand, fraught with the utmost danger, but the only path, nevertheless.
So I remembered things like Shakespeare's "all the world's a stage and all the men and women are merely players" and tried my hand at acting. The exact circumstances elude my memory but my groans of agony failed to convince my instructor who goes by the name of Imran which must be Arabic for "wily old fox" because he would say " ok twenty reps" and after twenty repetitions were done, would say "ok last ten". I would make horrible grunting sounds the kind you hear in the labor room of a hospital after "Push, Madam, Push!" but to no avail. I later learnt that its not just the grunting. If your muscles are really tired, they sort of tremble.
So that's what you guys have to learn to do before joining a gym - learn to make your muscles tremble. But I digress. I was talking about my experiences in the gym.
One of the things that struck me was the silly things that people said to motivate me. "Roberto Carlos Legs!", instructor Swapnil told me. (For the uninitiated, the said Carlos is a short bald guy with an eight figure salary who has a certain rude talent in kicking a football) "Yeah, sure. More like Roberto Carlos hairdo, if I keep this pace up", I thought. Silently of course, because Swapnil makes Sylvester Stallone look like a 90 pound weakling. You argue with him at your own peril. "Don't worry about the pain. Pain is your friend" said another instructor the size of whose pectoral muscles deters snappy comebacks like "You got it wrong, bub. Its the other way around. Most of my friends are pains".So I keep the old gob shut, and wisely so, because he looks mean enough, and powerful enough, to break my nose with his little finger.
Why do I go there, you might think, after all this belly aching. Well, for one thing, Sheela's stronger than me. Secondly, the gym is full of people who have larger bellies than I do. Its fun to watch them sweat, then look in the mirror and despair. Since Sheela too works out in this gym, I can subtly hint, with imperceptible nods and eye gestures, that she got a great deal by marrying me, compared to SOME people.
I have no hope, of course, of losing my paunch. The credit side of that account keeps increasing in the form of great business lunches washed down with great business beers, faster than my gym exertions can deplete it. Still, one does what one has to, especially when one's wife knows kick boxing.