Wednesday, February 09, 2005


How many of you reading this have gym memberships? Let me rephrase that – how many of you reading this have gym memberships that they actually use? Today, anyone with a reasonable amount of money has one, but not all of them actually use it. (Trying to open a locked door with your membership card doesn’t count by the way.)

I’m on my second membership. My first was in Bombay. I paid – or rather my husband paid 10 big ones to Talwalkars so that I could sculpt and tone my body to perfection. All I really got out of it was the company of ageing Gujju Aunties and their expert analysis of saas-bahu dynamics. Add to that the raging Bombay monsoons and you can see why my enthusiasm waned.

My second tryst with the gym is currently in its second week. And I can confidently say that it’s going much better than the last one. I’ve been to the gym 7 days out of 10 – and have actually survived cardio, resistance training and a one hour session of legs, bums and tums (which should only be booked on the phone – otherwise the front desk person susses your ass out to see how bad you need the class).

On my first day I was taken around the gym by a rather good looking (actually very, very hot) Caribbean instructor by the name of Lemuel. He showed me how to use each machine - something I had to learn purely based on actions as his accent was harder to decipher than a World War II secret code. This was just as well, because when I was on the rowing machine I could make out he was asking me if I was in pain (I think the bulging eyes and swearing had something to do with it). When I replied with a nod, he said or rather hollered “GOOD – PAIN IS GOOD FOR YOU”. I searched his face for any 666 birthmarks and promptly stopped when I realised he thought I was checking him out.

Day two dawned bright and early – and as this is London I mean grey and slightly overcast. As I changed in to my gym clothes I started dreading the ordeal that lay ahead of me. This wasn’t Bombay. There would be no arthritic Auntyjis to feel superior over. The gym was probably populated by over buffed David Hasselhoff and Pam Anderson clones. And I would be the misshaped freak they all snickered at. Was it too late to get a refund?

My apprehensions began to fade away as I saw the number of middle aged men and women who alighted at the bus stop with me. As I stepped in to the locker room, I resisted the urge to cover my eyes and protect them from the sight that greeted them. The UK wing of the Nepean Sea Rd Gujju Aunty brigade stood before me in full glory. Wearing only their bathing suits.

Apparently the women hadn’t only left behind their homeland. Kamala Behan’s overdeveloped sense of modesty was probably languishing in some corner of Surat. As she and her posse made their way to the pool I glanced at the male lifeguard on duty and said a quick prayer for him. God help him if he needed to give CPR to any one of them.

After recovering from the dressing room ordeal I made my way to the gym, wondering what would be waiting for me there. And I have to admit it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.

While the requisite quota of fitness freaks was full, I was happy to see that the rest of the gym was an even split – people who needed to lose weight before their hearts gave out and people like me – who needed to start working out before they woke up one morning with enough fat on them to fry a pig. (I exaggerate – but then don’t we all?)

Hopefully this time around I’ll stick to my fitness regime. I’ve been feeling on top of the world for the last 2 weeks – which is pretty amazing considering the fact that I’m unemployed and live in a country where buying milk is a process that takes 15 minutes to get dressed for. (You trying wearing 4 layers of woollens in less time.)

While I know I’ll never be Heidi Klum, working out definitely leaves me happier and healthier. For those of you sitting on your ass and still making excuses, remember it’s never too late. You just need to look at Kamala Behan to know that that’s true.