“Some things in life are worth the weight”, said a great woman.
Now, before I tell you who exactly this great woman was, let me share a story with you.
This goes 21 years back. It was the night of the first of July, 1992. In a nondescript room of a nondescript maternity ward of a nondescript clinic, a baby was born. All concerned rejoiced, a new life coming into this screwed up world that they were all a part of, one more soul about to join them.
Adding to their joys was that this baby was a healthy milky complexioned ball of meat that weighed ten pounds.
Now, now. Pardon me for the indiscretion of having glorified my own inconsequential arrival into the world, but at least that’s how my family tells me how it felt like when I was born. I was an exception to the norm of the typical Indian child, emaciated and undernourished-looking. Something that The Creator must have compensated, (or rather overcompensated) with my brother four years later.
Coming back to me, I had a very eventful childhood. Being the firstborn, and as an unfortunate corollary of our highly paternalistic society, being a boy made me the cynosure of all my family and their extended relatives. My chubby cheeks were tormented by the stresses and strains of being pulled and tugged at by overbearing aunties, their mouldy white faces glistening with the sweat while their hands smelt of Ponds’ powder which must have dissolved with their sweatiness.
“Ooooo, what a cute little man you are”, they cooed, their hands tugging at me like a metronome with every syllable. The price of this attention was not only exacted on my cheeks which would remain swollen for hours together, but also turned me into a highly conceited prick, who thought the world revolved around him (some would say it still does to him).
However, there would always be an occasional attractive young lady who would feel overwhelmed by my cuteness (at least that’s what I think) so it wasn’t that bad of an existence.
However, school is a leveler. Here, the ones who do not get as much of the limelight of their families rule. What seems like a gaggle of tiny tots playing together is actually a complicated miniaturized society with its own rules, its own rulers, and its own outcasts. Every activity would have its intrinsic politics attached.
While I began to display an aptitude for academics, what soon made itself apparent that I was a lame duck when it came to sports. Naturally in India, sports play a higher role in the early years of school life, while the nerds strike with vengeance with High School, which is where the great Indian IIT-JEE bandwagon starts to whir to life.
While that was to be several years later, for the time being I became an outcast on the school ground. It wasn’t hard to spot me, the tubby white kid who was conspicuous in his tantrum that he be included. As I was to find out later, spoilt crybabies never get their due outside of the family.
However, I reconciled myself to the small consolation of still having my cuteness ensnare the occasional elder.
That too, didn’t last for long. As I hit puberty, I began to look like a swollen sweet potato (That’s what the bullies called me). I had begun to have acne problems, and facial hair and other hair began to rear their ugly follicles in the most unpleasant manner. My girth was increasing by the month. I began to develop a cleavage that looked like it would develop into a rack that would put Pamela Anderson to shame. By then, my attractiveness had all but vanished and my metamorphosis from cherub to dork was complete. And with it, an insecure teenager obsessed with his body image was born.
Now, you must wonder, what the hell am I telling you all this for? Surely you don’t give a rats ass about my childhood woes, which some would say are rightly deserved. Coming back to the original quote, I feel that we, as a nation are sometimes way too obsessed about our weight, as was the teenaged version of me.
Some of us think are too fat. Many of us think we are too thin. None of us think that we are juuust right. (Sorry Goldilocks, sue me later for copying your catchphrase)
And here lies the tragedy. Why can’t we just be at peace with our body image? The answer would be that it is an inherent trait of human nature. That we are never, ever satisfied with ourselves.
Some of us go to the neighborhood park where we end up spending more time gossiping than in walking a few brisk laps.
Some more of us start dieting recklessly, fasting in such a manner that would put Anna Hazare to shame. However, the reservoirs of temptation burst, leading us to eat even more recklessly, which would embarrass the likes of Nitin Gadkari, the wholesome ex-BJP National president. (Google his images and you’ll get the reference)
But what happens generally and especially among youngsters, say around the ages of 20-30, is that we begin to idolize “Fit” people. This definition of “fit” doesn’t mean the average neighborhood uncle or aunty who doesn’t indulge in vices and follows a simple regimented diet with a compliment of some healthy stretching and yoga. Not even close.
This definition of fit refers to the norm of muscles. The axiom is simple. The more well defined you’re musculature is, the more fit you are.
As a result we begin to idolize the Greek Gods and Goddesses who form the pantheon of the temple of Buffism. Conduct a survey and I will give it to you in writing (wait, that’s what I’m doing now) that the overwhelming majority among guys would vote for Hrithik Roshan’s uber-sculpted physique, and the girls would vote for Katrina Kaif.
Of course, it’s understandable why a guy would want a body like Hrithik Roshan’s or a girl would like a body like Katrina Kaif’s. Hell, even I would like a body like Katrina Kaif’s but that line of thought would be irrelevant to this subject and certainly not suitable for this forum.
What they don’t realize is that these celebrities do it for a living. They get paid to maintain these ridiculous physiques; they are fuelled by the feedback cycle of blind youngsters idolizing them. They can afford the expensive dietary choices, the bodybuilding supplements and the highly beefy personal trainers who come for an equally hefty price.
And the result is that our country’s so-called fitness industry thrives. It is filled with men and women of all ages busting their asses over and over again. There is the usual nomenclature.
There are the uncles who refuse to accept their age and emanate groans that would be best suited to a seedy torture chamber. There are some ladies who would rather court the affections of a personal trainer more and focus less on the burning of calories. There are the douchebags, men and women both of them, pausing more than what’s needed at a mirror, lingering in their stretches more than what’s needed, tautening their muscles while lifting an disproportionately light weight.
The rest of us, the likes of me, are condemned to a nasty cycle of trying and failing with each failure resulting in a further loss of shape. I myself am in the surging part of this cycle, working out five times a day, not knowing when I’ll peak and start the down phase.
But what’s even more disturbing is a trend of people resorting to surgeries to alter their body. Be it bariatric surgery to lose the fat, or surgeries to enhance muscle contour, people rarely contemplate the health consequences, hoping that surgeries will succeed where there gymming and dieting failed.
So what I propose is simple. Exercise because you want to feel healthy, and not because you want to be the next Arnold Schwarzenegger (If you’re a guy who worships him, just google “Arnold Schwarznegger Old” and you’ll be thanking me later). Don’t set unrealistic and overambitious goals. There are better things in life than to wait in line at a tread mill, or to bust your ass on the same weight machines over and over again, or trying to force yourself to drink soya milk that makes you feel pukish. Eat moderately. Cut down on junk food. Try to quit your vices, and if you can’t, just reduce the frequency. Learn to smell the roses. Feel more comfortable in your skin. Don’t go for a surgery unless its absolutely necessary for health reasons.
Do not run mindlessly to the mountain top. Try to enjoy the climb, for the achievement feels hollow sooner than you’d like to think.
And yes, if you’re still wondering who this great woman was who came up with this great quote, it was none other than the proponent of this very ideology, my best friend, philosopher and guide, and more importantly, my dear girlfriend, Kirthi Shenoy.