Thursday, May 31, 2007


I perished in the heat all day at home today. To cap it all, the electricity went off for an hour. The keyboard stuck to my fingers as I worked. I stuck to the chair as I sat. My feet stuck to the floor as I walked. The curtains stuck to me as I tried getting some fresh air out the window. My face had this glow---not the healthy is-it-love, type but the let's-fry-some-parathas-here type.

Then, in the evening, slowly and steadily, it built up. There was a murmur of thunder. A flash of lightning. A whiff of that wet smell. A shy breeze. And then, without any notice, it began to rain. A million, billion , trillion hosepipes from the sky-blue tarpaulin we walk under let go. And when I say let go, they really let go. Stripes of rain zig-zagged down and hit the roads. One could almost hear the sizzling sound as H2O met baking tar. It rained, and rained, and rained. I leaned out of the window. But the grills that keep thieves out kept me in, and the water flowed on, tantalisingly out of reach. I could see it, hear it, smell it. But to touch, no no, that was a teaser.

There are puddles on the street. A bunch of excited, once-grimy kids are splashing in them. The cars that usually roar by are squelching past. The rusty, black window grills are shining at me. Lightning flashes insolently on the horizon, putting my 100 watt bulbs to shame. The stripes are still coming down. And this is just the beginning.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

And I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll...

...collapse on the treadmill.

That is why gyms are places I am happy to simply hear all about. Like the Bermuda Triangle. Like shark-infested waters. Like haunted houses. I hear about those lycra-covered types working out at the gym and superstitiously touch wood that I am not them. Gyms are such strange places. Lots of people. Lots of machines. And everyone in their own private world. With their earphones plugging out the rest of the planet. With the mirror in front demanding their attention so that they can look and say "A-ha! There's that spot of cellulite! Peek-a-boo!!!"

At least that's how the story went. Then boredom, and being at a hotel for 3 months and only 5 TV channels worth watching, and (I'll be honest), x chocolate muffins (ok, ok partially honest) in x hours prompted me to go looking for my track pants and sneakers and lace them up. And already I could see the flaws in this (as I bent down to tie my laces, slowly, uncertainly, and not entirely successfully). Because (ok, full honesty coming up) I have still not learnt to tie my shoelaces properly in this life (So I am gasping for breath at the prolonged bending and ooof, what's... this... knot... that... my finger... is... STUCK... in!!! Oh...I made that knot entirely from scratch! I kid you knot! Ha ha ha…)

Till I was nine I used to drive my mother nuts insisting that I bought only shoes that were Velcro-enabled. Because I sure as hell was laces-unabled. Then I changed schools and my uniform included lace-up black canvas shoes. There is no God.

God is dead, long live Velcro.

Anyhow (I straighten up, slowly, uncertainly, and not entirely successsfuly) (hold on while I catch my breath you fit people y'all), so I make it to the gym. To reach which I must pass by the pool, where lots of people with perfect bodies are showing off. (How can you show off too little of something? Isn't that the domain of the "healthier" bodies?) I shudder at the competition and head to the gym.

I like all the buttons you see on treadmills. There's even a little screen. You can choose exactly how many calories you want to burn and how. My finger hovers over that choice. But then I think...what if the machine refuses to stop till I have burnt all those calories. What if it chortles and gloats and whispers “Suffer, baby, suffer!” What about my weak will? What about my low stamina? What about dehydration? What about death-by-gymming?

I pick "quickstart", which is Treadmillese for timid gymmers. And soon enough (with a pause to - gasp, pant, aarghh - tie laces that have characteristically yet magically untied themselves) I'm galloping away on the treadmill. Oh I can run. Once, in the days of yore, I even ran seven-and-a-half rounds of the school field for—no, not punishment—a sports event. (What’s that? Yes, I finished third, not LAST, thank you very much!) Excuse me a minute while my eyes un-mist.

Glutted on stamina, I boldly increase the speed on the machine. Beep, beep, beep, it goes, telling the world that this woman means business. That she isn’t here to plod along. By Jove, she’s here to run! The machine makes space-shuttley noises and picks up speed, as do I. There’s loud music in my head and I can see my head bobbing over the treadmill controls as I run. And the machine and my feet pounding on it are oh-so-loud that I must really be running very, very fast.

Then suddenly the machine seems to slow down. But I’m still running. And I haven’t fallen off yet. So why the hush? Oh, the white marathon-runner on the next machine has switched it off and descended, sweat-bathed and pink and topless (male marathon runner, male, male), and I realise all the energetic pounding noises were from his machine. Mine is just humming along like a sweet old lady. Grrrrr…beep, beep, Beep, BEEP, B-E-E-P, I say…and run faster.

The seconds tick on despite the sweat dripping into my eyes. My pants start to worm their way downwards. Could I be losing weight already? Nah, just that their elastic has never been sorely tested before. So I tug my pants up, way up, comic nerd-like, and keep running.

I need to change radio channels. This one is playing slow songs and that’s bound to affect my work-out! As I fiddle with the controls, my shapely reflection suddenly seems to slide a little further away from me. Why is that, my perspiring mind asks and perspires some more with the effort of thinking and running simultaneously. Oh…because I’m slowing down, I’m going to fall off the treadmill.

I pick up speed again. I reach for the rails to support myself and a shock goes through my body. Oh great! Nice time to start conducting electricity. The treadmill screen flashes: “Holding sensors while running is not recommended.” In my delirium, I recall Mr Clippit giving me MS Word’s wisdom of the day “Running with scissors is not recommended.” My laces are loosening again. I’m going to die here, I think.

And just then on the screen, like the jackpot on Vegas machines, all the digits fall into their correct slots. My target time and target distance are done. And I am free. And down 400 calories. I press "stop" and the machine obeys. I step off, triumphant, giddy, perspiring, elated, and bend down to re-tie my shoelaces.