Round is a shape
I love workouts. I enjoy watching people sweating it out on treadmills, huffing and puffing on myriad contraptions, pumping iron, rowing on solid ground, and doing stomach crunches accompanied by grunts and groans and other painful sounding caterwauling.
I especially like it when the huffing and sweating bodies are in svelte female shape, dressed in form fitting leotards or other interesting gym wear, torturing themselves to get into dangerous shape, dangerous to the observer, that is.
I do not have to actually go through those tortures. Just watching them sends my heart racing, I get a cardio without breaking into sweat. Adrenaline levels are hiked, pulse quickens, and breathing gets deeper, all without punishing my muscles. I feel quite refreshed after this workout. And I stay in shape. Round is a shape.
There must be many like me, for most gyms have glass fronts, and you can enjoy the spectacle without having to become a member. Gymming is a spectator sport.
The exercise I enjoy is swimming. There is no sweat, no chance of getting hurt, does not require too much effort, is cooling for the body, and whenever tired you can float on your back and watch the sky.
Our friendly neighbourhood sports complex has the typical glass fronted gym with the treadmills facing the window and one can view the spot running damsels like fish in an aquarium. Immediately in front is the swimming pool.
I would happily walk down to the changing room getting warmed up by this vicarious exercise, then walk back to the pool in my trunks, quite oblivious of the fact that while you can look into the aquarium, the fish can look out too.
There was a full length mirror in the changing room, which I always managed to avoid looking at, as I am not enamoured by my own looks, nor did I relish seeing unclad or semi clad men hanging around . But one day I caught a glimpse of a weird image in the mirror and froze. It looked like a captive balloon with a coloured strip in the middle, topped by a familiar face; one that I saw every morning while shaving.
I realised that the comical stranger looking back at me was yours truly, and also that this was the spectacle that was displayed to the insanely fit damsels on the treadmills.
We, or at least I, rarely look at myself in the mirror. You see bits and pieces while shaving, combing the hair or tying the tie, but never the full picture and definitely never ever full monty. It was a ghastly spectacle.
I somehow dashed past the glass window and slipped into the water, convinced that once immersed, I am invisible. But that fig leaf did not last long either. On the way back to the showers, I kept my face firmly averted from the gym, as a result looking at the pool. To my dismay, in the clear water, not only were the swimmers clearly visible, but were magnified. Thus the captive balloon would have looked like a drowning blimp.
I have invested in a bath robe, and am contemplating doing more in the gym than mere watching.
Category Archives: memoir
Round is a shape
Being absentminded is the privilege of the genius. We hear stories of the ridiculous stupidity and feeble mindedness in everyday matters by such greats as Einstein and Newton and chuckle appreciatively.
However, if we of acknowledged mediocre intellect should occasionally let things slip our mind, we are subjected to severe ridicule and harsh name calling.
I unfortunately have suffered from this since childhood, and it shows no signs of improving when I am reaching the age where such senior moments can be attributed to early onset of senility or Alzheimer’s.
This has led to various problems ranging from mild inconvenience to brushes with the long arm of the law.
For instance, I can never remember my vehicle registration number, and in the days of manual security at public parking lots, I had often to peer inside all the cars to identify mine, raising suspicion, which became worse when on questioning I could not recollect the number. I was often subjected to rigorous questioning before being permitted to drive away my own car. Nowadays the remote lock has made the job of identifying my car easier.
It is worse when I am driving someone else’s car. I usually have no recollection of the make or model either. Once when driving a colleagues car while mine was at the workshop, I panicked on reaching a parking lot with a sea of vehicles. Finally I realised that as a recent arrival from another state, his plates will bear that states number. The rest was simple.
What is worse, in those days, most cars of the same make could be opened by the same key, if the vehicle was old. Once, when visiting my parents, I had borrowed my dad’s car and taken my kids to the market. Returning laden with packets and child in tow, I opened the door of what I thought was my dad’s Maruti and proceeded to load the shopping. A gentleman came over and asked if there is a problem. I thanked him and asked him to mind my child while I arranged the packets. This done I thanked him, sat my daughter in the back seat and got in myself. The stunned gentleman protested,
“But this is my car!”
Profuse apologies later, and the clinching argument
that I would hardly be committing grand theft auto with shopping and a child in tow, and finally on discovering the right car parked nearby, I convinced him that I was not a criminal. But he may have been harbouring a doubt that I was criminally insane.
The other issue is I always drive on autopilot. Once the route has been uploaded on what passes for my mind, I don’t have to consciously plan the drive. Thus, as I used to drop my wife off on my way to work, that’s how I went, irrespective of whether she was in the car or not. I usually realised that she’s not there after I had parked by her office and waited for her to get off. I may have been suspected of being a stalker by some of her colleagues.
Ditto when dropping my daughter off to school. I think the authorities had a lookout for the potential paedophile that stops his car outside the school, sheepishly looks around and drives off.
On the pervert front my reputation takes a beating by another nasty betrayal of my mind. Being an incurable multi tasker, I am usually on my computer when I have called someone on the phone and waiting for them to pick up. So that by the time the response comes, I have completely forgotten whom I have called or why. As I desperately try to identify the voice and remember what it was I needed, the person at the other end shouts
“Hello hello!”whilst listening to my heavy breathing.
When I call my secretary for some work, I may be involved with something else by the time she arrives, and I stare at her asking why I called her. I think till she knew me better she may have been convinced I was the stereotyped evil boss looking her over. I am glad I didn’t face harassment charges.
But what almost brought about a crisis in our marriage was when I was giving a lift back from work to a colleague and the LOH was in the backseat. When I stopped to drop the colleague, she had got off to come over to the front. Blissfully unaware, I drove off home, leaving her stranded midway, without money as her purse was in the backseat. I realised this only when she came home in a cab, and she icily asked me for money to pay off the taxi.
Fortunately, my marriage survives to this day, no doubt as I forget the many hints dropped about reconsideration of options from my long suffering LOH.
#humour #KitchenFisasco #BachelorsLife #WhyPigsHaveWings #DifferentTruths
Here’s an interesting account by Soumya, a humourist, on cooking. We are introducing his humour column, beginning this week, on Tuesdays, exclusively on Different Truths. I am a foodie. My girth hints at it. I take a keen interest in the creative process of cooking too, but all strictly theoretical. I also enjoy cooking as a spectator sport. The glamorous cooks on television make it look so sexy. [ 933 more words ]
He was an eager young rookie, in his early twenties, barely out of college, finding his way around the maze of the public sector corporate world.
He was attending his debut budget meeting, where performances are analysed, targets set, and strategy debated, postings decided; at least that is what he thought.
A new branch office had been recently opened in the heart of the capital, and our young hero was sent to man it till a suitable head is decided upon.
Full of enthusiasm, our greenhorn had bustled about and won a number of new accounts; the crowning glory of which came when he reached an agreement with an equally young and enthusiastic IAS officer and acquired a new business of what was a princely sum in those days. It was a big breakthrough for the region. He therefore was brimming with confidence and excited over his virgin evaluation by the exalted regional head, a veteran Sikh gentleman.
The meeting seemed to be carried out entirely in Punjabi, which was the language most of his colleagues spoke. The other Branch heads were all battle scarred veteran salespeople, more than twice our hero’s age. The venue was the company guesthouse, a spacious bungalow in a posh neighbourhood. No business was discussed, but whiskey and jokes flowed unchecked, and a good time was being had by all, including our rookie. Undaunted by the occasion, he too imbibed merrily, and shared witticisms in his pidgin Punjabi.
Finally, the big boss summoned him. But to his puzzlement, he was led out into the backyard with a friendly arm around his shoulder, glass in hand.
There, the venerable regional chief proceeded to give the young hero the best advice he could get, much like Lord Krishna’s discourse to the nervous Partha.
Although this Geeta saar was delivered in Punjabiised Hindi, I shall translate it into English for the uninitiated reader. Those savvy can retranslate in their mind for the full flavour.
“Listen son, I want to tell you something important. I am speaking with a whisky glass in hand, so I am speaking the truth.
We made you a Branch in charge, but you did not show any gratitude. We therefore had decided to remove you after this meeting. You however, managed to pull this coup, and even the corporate office is impressed. Thus, you are safe. If you continue to perform like this, we can’t touch a hair of your head, despite your arrogance and lack of proper deference and gratitude.
Remember this, to survive in the company; you can do one of two things. Be of service to your superiors, do Seva, or you can perform. If you do both, no one can match you, you too even become a General Manager, or even Chairman. But you have to do at least one. Out of the two, serving your superiors, or seva, is the best. Then, multitudes of faults are overlooked and mistakes excused. In performance, you may survive with your impudence as long as you keep up a super track record, but we will be watching you. The first mistake and you are toast.”
The young man ruminated over these gems of wisdom. It has stood the test of time. He has seen many colleagues practice the first and prosper. He has seen a few try the second and be ruined. He has seen even fewer try the golden combo and blossom. He himself, thanks to his contrary nature, stuck to the second, at a great cost, suffered some serious setbacks, but undaunted, continued to strive bull headedly, continued to reach new milestones, and marked out a niche for himself. He was fortunate later in his career to encounter professional bosses who appreciated his work ethic and style, He ultimately did almost reach the dizzying ranks promised by his first boss as a reward for achieving the golden double, but did so on his own terms.
He continues to appreciate the truth in the valuable lesson learnt from this initial guru.
Real life is weirder than clichés
This is a story I heard from a colleague in Goa, and is his own life story. It sounds as clichéd as a teleserial, but knowing this person and having visited his village home, where I stayed with him, I could totally believe it. He is a shy person, and speaks very little. Our mutual love for the Himalayas and trekking made him open out to me. I coaxed the story out of him over the period of a few days when I stayed with him. I will narrate the story in first person. Here is the story.
I was born in a small village, near the mouth of a river, and a beach which you know as a breeding ground for turtles. Nowadays, it is a protected place, where tourists like you come in large numbers but the turtles no longer do. A few do, usually when you tourists are fast asleep.
We did steal turtle eggs I confess, but rarely visited the beach except on religious festivals for the ritual bath, and the turtles owned the beach.
My father was cobbler, which was our profession through generations, as we belonged to the leather workers caste. In our village people mostly went barefoot, and rarely bought new shoes, preferring to repair the only pair of sandals they owned if at all they did, and shoes were worn by the few well to do families. Therefore there was very little work.
My father bought leather from the tanners, who lived outside the village, and handcrafted sandals, which were sold in the city. It took several days to complete one pair, so money was scarce. My mother worked as a housemaid at the better off homes, and somehow we survived.
Our house was a shack, with tiled roof, and on the way back from school I would eagerly look out for any smoke rising, for that would mean that mother was cooking, and a hot meal of rice and some kind of fish, shellfish or shrimps is there for lunch. Unfortunately, quite often there was no smoke, which meant that we would make do with stale pao, our local bread, if we were lucky. Shellfish and other small fish and shrimps were in plenty, and we did not need to buy them, so we never really starved, but warm full feeling of a hot rice meal was often a luxury.
My father passed away when I was quite young and my mother became the main provider, taking on more domestic work. My brother in law, married to a much older sister by my father’s earlier marriage, who was a carpenter and a little better off, helped out so that I did not have to quit school. But it was a struggle.
My mother got castoff clothes from the houses where she worked, but as the most generous and well to do house had only daughters, she got mostly girls clothes. Not to be thwarted, she fashioned shorts for me from their discarded housecoats. I was mortified going to school in flimsy pink flowered shorts and faced a lot of ridicule and bullying. It taught me self-defense and dirty fighting though and soon the others let me alone.
I sought solace in schoolwork, reading and even started writing secretly. My step brother in law saw my passion and funded my higher education. I applied for and won a scholarship meant for unprivileged sections, graduated high school and went to college on this national scholarship. I had also started working part time as a waiter in one of the numerous shacks that dot our beaches, and helped supplement the family income. Being a polite good looking boy who spoke English and a smattering of other European languages, I earned good tips.
In college I had as my classmates the children of my mother’s employers. I had played with these kids as a child, but my status was that of the servant’s son, wearing their discarded clothes. They were students of a posh school while I went to the village one. Now we were as equals, and I wore smart clothes bought with the money I earned from tips from my part time job of waiting at a restaurant. Moreover I was academically among the toppers and had the additional glamour quotient of being a budding poet and writer.
But no, the masters daughter did not fall in love with me, my story is not as clichéd as that. Another girl did, but I, stupidly enough, did not respond as she was from a higher caste. I programmed myself to fall in love with a girl from my own caste, but from a very rich household, perhaps looking for security in my life, which was a mistake.
Her family reluctantly accepted me as our castes matched and I was educated, but hated my economic background.
I worked at keeping the books at the café where I was also the waiter, and took on some more jobs on hourly basis doing clerical or accounting jobs. I moved to a major hotel chain as storekeeper, and finally took on a sales job, where hard work would translate to higher income.
But it was all to no avail, and constantly goaded by my in-laws about my poor prospects, my wife, who by now was a college lecturer, left me.
I killed my loneliness by frequent treks in the Himalayas, and even sought a transfer there. But it was difficult to find replacements in Goa, and I continued here. In time I was promoted and became a Branch Head in a nearby town. I bought a flat near my village, and was the proud possessor of a company car.
My mother continued to live in the village, but in a pukka house I built for her. She was very upset at my lonely life, and by the fact that I had to cook for myself.
This is when the weird proposal came to me.
“Son, I know you suffer so much being alone” my mother started off ignoring my protests that I was perfectly fine “And I feel so bad not being there to take care of you. But I can’t leave my village home that your father built, and where your ancestors lived, and I am used to the neighbours however mean they are” she continued her long preamble.
I knew she was leading up to something
“I have a solution to your problems son. You know that Catholic family I worked for? Very nice people, they helped us so much. All your clothes they gave us. You remember their girl; you used to play with her all the time. What a sweet girl. But what bad luck, you know she dropped out of college and married that good for nothing sailor. It is such a tragedy; the scoundrel has left her and run off to Mumbai. She is back at home nowadays. Her family too is very poor these days you know. Their father drank and gambled away all the money and the brothers have left home. The poor mother is too old to work. They had sold off their coconut plantations to buy a barge, and it is idle now that mining has stopped. Its rusting away on the river; so sad to see. Anyway, that girl is looking for work, and you need help, would you please take her on as your housekeeper?”
I was stunned. The world turned a full circle. The master’s daughter now wants to be the servants’ maid. But I couldn’t accept this. It would be too uncomfortable.
“It would be a great help to them, and she’s a nice girl, you know her, and she will take good care of you. I can rest easy in the village knowing that you are in good hands “my mother continued to advocate her cause.
But I was helpless. I promised to help them out, but they were too proud to take charity but not too proud to work for me. My heart bled for her. I even thought, what might have been. But this is real life, not a story, so I left her to her fate to struggle on and continue my lonely existence, thinking, what might have been.
Until I came to Delhi my interaction with the Rashtrabhasha were limited to 3 types of encounters, as a third language in school between the classes of six and eight , interactions with Rickshaw pullers which was conducted any peculiar pidgin language, and Hindi films.
The third language was a test of memory and was limited to a very rudimentary level of ‘k’ for ‘kaua’ and my spoken Hindi consisted of adding ’hai’ at the end of Bengali sentences.
“Tum kidhar jata hai, kitna bhada leta hai” a language which only the poor labourers from our neighbouring state and fellow Bengalis would understand.
The only Hindi film I had seen before coming to Delhi were ‘ Hathi Mere Sathi ‘and ‘Sholay’. I am sure you remember the iconic dialogues of Sholay. “Kitne aadmi the?” “Kub hai Holi” “suar ke bachhe” . No doubt these would come in handy in certain circumstances but not very useful for day to day conversations.
Although our school had a large proportion of non-Bengali students there was a dictum that only English is to be spoken in school and whenever the rule was broken the vernacular used was street Bengali, which everyone living in Kolkata seems to know.
On my arrival to Delhi things did not improve much as the college I attended was highly Anglicized and students from all over the India attended, making English the only common language. I could practice my broken Hindi only when foraying into the city.
One of the things one needs to know in a new city is how to find public toilets. I learned that in Delhi these were facilities marked DI NA NI in Hindi. Much later I learned that these were the initials of Delhi Nagar Nigam. At that time having no clue I often asked passersby where the nearest DINANI was. Meeting with very puzzled looks I mimed desperate need for relieving myself, something very embarrassing to do in a crowded street, till directions were given.
We usually think in one language and translate in another. Much is lost in translation, and the meaning often changes. Post college, when I joined the productive workforce, it was in the government sector, and the lingua franca was our Rashtrabhasa. Written work was in archaic English, but spoken word remained primarily Hindi, as the staff spoke no other tongue.
I slowly started picking up the lingo, but with many a faux pas. One example strikes the mind. A colleague wanted to borrow my matchbox, those being the unenlightened days when you could smoke at the workplace. I wanted to say that it was lying in my desk drawer, and translated literally as, “ Machis ki dibba drawer ke andar laite hue hai.” I could not understand the uncontrolled amusement that this simple statement evoked, till it was explained that translating back in English it would appear that my matchbox was catching a nap.
I was a faculty member in a training institute in Delhi which catered to our industry, and had to often concede to strident demands that I teach in Hindi. Those classes grew immensely popular not for the content but the language, and caused so much merriment that the institute insisted I switch back to the language of our colonial past.
But the classic double entendre of twisted in translation was done by my roommate, a fellow bong with an even more tenuous hold on the language.
At that time a few of us friends were sharing a flat and had a lady do the cleaning for us, while the more skilled amongst us did the cooking. We wanted to ash the lady, let us call her Kantabai, whether she would cook for us. As most of us left for work early, the job of negotiating the deal fell on Tublu, who left last.
On the fateful day, our friend was in the shower when the lady arrived. So he came out in a towel and started off….
“Er, you know, I say, Kantabai….” And he was stumped as he couldn’t remember the word for cooking in Hindi.
So he improvised, intending to ask if she could take on additional duties. He however framed it as
“Eh… er… I mean…. Aap yo dusra kaam bhi karte hain?”
Legend has that Kantabai giggled and left.
For the Rastrabhasha challenged let me clarify, worded thus, it was an improper proposition. Clad as he was, we were lucky to get away without a harassment charge.