A few months ago, I moved out to a writer’s pad, somewhere along the coast, with a window that looked out on to a coconut grove and another that faced the sea. I spent most of my time peering out of the two windows, swimming in the very nice pool in the apartment complex’s club house, and occasionally visiting its rudimentary gym.
When I was commissioned a play, and later cast in one of the roles, I had to move back to the city for rehearsals. There’s something about easily accessible coffee shops and hangouts – and also about food that appears magically on the family dining table – that makes one reconsider returning to one’s writerly haunt.
The downside of moving back into the bungalow with a 4000-square-foot terrace and no club house, with lots of food and no need to cook, is that one tends to pile on the pounds. And so, I decided to succumb to a trend I have resisted for years, and signed up for a six-month membership to a well-equipped gym.
The main outcome of this on social media was that people started forwarding me an article about how bored women in Bombay were leaving their rich, busy, industrialist husbands for their gym trainers. I’m not sure why they sent me the piece. For one, I am not married. For another, my South Asian classist tendencies have always taken precedence over my cosmopolitan privileged guilt.
My tryst with the gym started off with an ego massage. I ran into a couple who had watched my play, and had loved it. Even more wonderfully – for it is a rarer occurrence – I met someone who had read my book. There is nothing more flattering for a writer to hear than, “You’re…[first name]…[surname]?” Third, my assigned trainer – perhaps in the hope of my opting for a personal trainer package – asked whether I was a film actress.
[quote]Perhaps they joined the gym in the hope of meeting insecure women who will eventually become hot[/quote]
But then, I discovered several categories of people who made the experience less pleasant:
I am not sure what would motivate a man to make small talk with a woman when she is grunting and crouching, or panting on a treadmill.
Perhaps they joined the gym in the hope of meeting insecure women who will eventually become hot.
Perhaps they think sweat on a man is sexy, deluded by American dramas (though even those largely acknowledge that the sweating man must be Latin and hot to merit any charm).
Perhaps they think it would be romantic to get in shape together, until you can eventually squeeze comfortably into a love seat.
Whatever it is, someone forgot to tell them that a woman would not be wearing lycra and working out, with her hair plastered to her head, and cellulite jiggling, if she were seeking male attention.
[quote]Perhaps they think sweat on a man is sexy[/quote]
The unsolicited advisers
It’s only from their vocabulary that you can tell whether these guys are trainers or customers.
They’ve been regulars for years, have shed every micro-inch of flab, YouTubed every work out video ever made, and are waiting to share their pearls of wisdom with you.
You’re screwed if they catch you getting through hip abduction or lat pulldowns in the wrong position. They will make you move aside, show you how you work out – cue the titter – and then tell you what you should be doing instead.
They keep an eye out to make sure you don’t hold on as you run on the treadmill – and this is the deal breaker, because, I mean, there’s only so much one can do to get through 20 minutes on a moving surface while listening to Tum Hi Ho from Aashiqui 2 (which is always on loop in my gym.)
The conversation duds
These people roll around the gym, trying to make friends. Unfortunately, they don’t understand that conversation is an art; what they provide is imbecility.
These are the people who ask you questions such as, “So, you’ve joined to lose weight?”
No. I’m here to check out your legs, you want to say. Someone ought to send you to a geisha school.
The competitive uncle-aunties
They look at you with that odd mixture of jealousy, admiration and camaraderie of which only gym uncle-aunties are capable.
Then, they ask you which Level you’ve set your EFX or cycle at, and how many kilometres you run at what speed on the treadmill. When you tell them, they sigh and say, “That’s so difficult. You’re going to hurt yourself. I go at Level 3, max 4.”
But…I don’t have arthritic knees, you want to say.
The former crush
The worst thing that can happen to you is to discover that someone you had a crush on when you were in early adolescence is now an overweight, balding father of two, who pants on a treadmill next to you. Well, it’s the second worst thing. The worst thing is to discover that he works in the IT industry.
I suppose it’s like that moment when the kid comes out of a mall in New York to find Santa Claus munching on bagels at a pushcart.