I chose the worst possible playlist from Spotify before getting on the elliptical machine today. I generally listen to 90’s Bollywood hits or a mix of Bengali songs about social change but today I chose the Bollywood Workout Beats (or something like that). Big mistake! The first song was almost ten minutes long Sanskrit prayer to Lord Shiva. Now, I have nothing against Shiva. I always thought he is a pretty cool deity although I find his wife (Durga) much cooler, but I don’t need to listen to someone singing paean to him for 10 minutes when my thighs are burning. I need songs that will make me forget the thigh burn. I don’t keep the phone available near me to discourage my inclination to check messages while I exercise, so changing playlist was out of question without interrupting the work out. Anyway, the songs that followed after that interminably long prayer song were not up to snuff either. So instead of focusing on the music in my head, I looked around and surveyed my fellow gym users.
- First, I love to see diversity in race, age, body types doing something for themselves. Older men, in their seventies, walking slowly or running, on the treadmill. Older women, doing the same and also stretching, practicing their balance.
- Young men and women focused on their phones, grim expression on faces doing feats, either freehand or on the machines, that I can only dream of and never achieve. I saw a young woman pull herself up a pull up bar and hold it for, what it seemed like, eternity. I marveled at her ability and strength. You go girl!
- Another young man held a plank forever. The core strength was incredible. My muscles quiver like jelly after 30 seconds.
- After a weight round, young men surreptitiously checked themselves out in the mirror, gently touching their biceps and strutting a little. It made me smile.
- One woman, a regular, gets on a elliptical, and has so much inner joy as she goes hard on the pedals. She raises her hand sometimes, moves her head, her hair flips all around, smiles. It seems her whole body is in tune with the work out. I would like to know what music she is listening to. She seems so very joyful. She was flipping her hair around today, moving to a tune that she could only hear.
- A very friendly trainer went around high fiving regulars, primarily older men and women. It is lovely to watch the camaraderie. Some regulars, after work out, meet at the lobby and chat over cups of free coffee.
- I observe the forms of some serious gym rats and make a mental note to emulate their form when I use that particular machine.
After my hour on the elliptical ended, I got off the machine, drank some water and changed playlist. With Arijit Singh crooning in my ears, I stretched and continued observing humanity around me. After a good hour and a half at the gym, I went into the locker room and got the shock of my life as I happened to glance at the mirror. Pagla Dashu stared back at me. A female version of him, of course. The top of my hair was completely frizzy thanks to the head phones, my face drenched in sweat, eyes puffy from lack of sleep and basic age related wrinkles. Pagla Dashu, my beloved fictional character is young, crazy and charming, if a little insane, but his name popped up in my head as I looked at myself in the mirror. If you are not familiar with him, click on the link – I already wikied him for you. I am considerate like that.
Before heading out, I put an online order for chicken biriyani from a local Indian restaurant. I justified eating biriyani right after a good workout by thinking, I am exercising for mental health and today, biriyani is essential for my mental health. I went to the Indian grocery store, right next to the restaurant, and picked up boring things like cilantro and spices. I also picked up a big bar of Cadbury Fruit and Nut chocolate but I put it back on the shelf again. I did work hard to burn some calories, I was about to put all those back in my body in the form of biriyani. Chocolate bar had to wait for another day. I did pick up a bar of Mysore Sandal soap. I have been missing ma and baba terribly these past days. That soap was their favorite. I wanted the smell of that soap. It is incredible how deep associations that mere smell can bring up.
I see no change in my weight so far. However, random folks have not come up to me and asked me if I was pregnant. So there’s that. And I feel a change in my mental health. I am more peaceful for longer stretches of time than before.