God: What happened at the pool? Why did you quit swimming? I put all that water across your way to help you with shedding weight.
Me: At the the expense of what, eh? They told me that the chlorine in the pool could leach away whatever remnants of fairness left in me. Want to see that!!! The pool, I smelled it out, was a divine plot to darken me further. Moreover you never let me swim straight. You jumped onto my back every time I lifted my feet. I could’ve killed two of my instructors by pulling them down as I emerged. At the girl’s corner it was sheer riot ever since my wife joined. The moment the instructor wriggled out from under my wife, she got off the pool and left the job. We were virtually banned from the pool.
God: Stop gruelling. You are a quitter and understand, I am almost fed up with you. You always gorge on whatever comes across you, beef or mutton, biriyani or fried rice, and then runs from pillar to post, I mean, through various exercises to shed the calories you never stop to amass. And you never stick to a programme I put up for you. You are a quitter, loser!
Me: Gosh! This is preposterous, man! Sorry, God! You call me a quitter! What did I quit!
God: Remember General Motors diet you followed for a couple of days with your wife?
Me: Damn the fucking vegetables! Sorry, pardon that French! But how can the cursed name of a machine or company resist the temptation of hot chilly chicken from Open House restaurant! Not for me! Not for my wife either. Probably not for you too! This is your old trick. You tell man not to eat the damned fruit at one moment, you steal up behind him at the next to plant the poisonous tree near his compound. That is treachery!
God: But then you both went for yoga. You could’ve done something there.
Me: What do you really want! Watch me strangling myself with my own limbs in one of those convoluted postures! Never me, never again!
God: And then you began walking, didn’t you, first at the Museum Compound and then at the Police stadium. But sadly you quit before I could do anything. Too fast even for me.
Me: What did you do then! You were always seen at the top of the Palayam church standing idly but with your hands curiously thrown up. As if it was a bank hold-up. That posture itself is defeatist, you should know, it hardly inspires a person looking up to you pleading you for a little help as he walks. And what could walking do! It hardly touched my abs, I foolishly carried it around in my walk rocking it like a baby. It only pampered it grow.
God: But man, you aren’t obese!
Me: What an uncaring, insensitive God, we’ve got! What a damned world this is! See, from my back, I look normal, from my front too. But now look, the moment I turn to a side, see what happens. No, no, no, don’t run, it is not a belt bomb, it is my tummy popping out. That is my problem down here, and you never care.
God: I see! Don’t worry my child. Tomorrow I will bring the best in town. Nobody in the world, you heard that, nobody in the world has ever failed in this exercise. This is a sure-shot method of losing fat. Come to me after burning this (he punches my tummy playfully with a smile).
*** *** ***
At the canteen
Mr. V and I were in the college canteen when our common friend and colleague came to us the following morning. “Have you tried Zumba?” she asked. What is Zumba? V asked innocently. Could it be a new item added to the glass cabin at the corner the canteen? Oh, not that V, don’t you want to lose your weight? Yes, he said, scooping up the last vada from the table quickly. He knew from his long experience that the first thing a weight reducing programme wants is to take away whatever food left on the table. You can even eat to your heart’s content V, if you do Zumba, she continued. V beamed putting the vada back. Zumba is now a rage in the city, she said. Nothing hard, you can easily pick it up in a week. You shake your body for 45 minutes to some music, you bring home a toned body. V turned to me. With embers of hope blazing in his eyes. He needed my opinion, for I was the expert – ex-walker, ex-dieter, ex-swimmer, ex-yogite – past everything that mattered in this department. Which one is the best in the city, I asked in a disinterested tone, not losing that air of a scholar, even as I recalled the offer that God made in my dream. This could be what he had hinted.
Join Power Health Club, I go there, she said. Her toned body spoke volumes about the use of Zumba. And of Power gym.
Well, as my readers know, I live as part of a package. My wife never lets me go alone to these leaning programmes. Perhaps she has this mortal fear that a lean husband would suddenly put her fat into perspective. “Let us go Manu chetta!” She said excitedly.
*** *** ***
At the dietician’s Desk in Power Health Club
Dietician: I must know the food you take every day to begin with. Let me take them down in separate files. If it is dosa for breakfast, how many dosas do you take in the morning?
Both the dietician and I turn around towards V.
V: But I take three cups of tea only.
Dietician and me: Only.
Dietician: Okay. After that, do you have anything before lunch?
Me: Yes, a glass of tea.
V: One Marie biscuit.
Dietician: Marie? That is ok. You can even take two if you want.
V: Two packets? May I?
Dietician and I turn around again.
Dietician: Were you talking about packets! Oh. Sorry. Forget it. And for lunch?
Me: Two chapathis with veg curry.
V: Six chapatis, with fish fry inside each one of them. And Veg curry. For dieting’s sake I eat two bananas before my lunch. That fills me. One doubt, madam. I have heard that oats is also good for reducing weight. Should I add it to my lunch? Will it bring down my tummy?
Me: Carrots are also good.
V: Carrots! Are they?
Me: Cucumbers too.
V: Oh Manu, you know a lot!
Me: Brinjal and drumstick too!
I was enraged, jealous, seeing how fast I was losing my charm over the woman at the desk. Only he had the salacious details of food to serve the dietician, I sounded drab even to myself with all that tea (Can’t blame her for ignoring me. It’s almost like a college girl getting an opportunity to interview both Dulqar Salman and PP Thankachan at the same time. He is the DQ in food intake. Thankachan would have to sit cooling his heels waiting for those occasional crumbs of attention falling his way).
Dietician: Let us talk about evening.
V: The problem is that I feel a lot thirsty in the evening. I drink three or four packets of that milma-something…what is that?
“I take one cup of tea in the evening”, I said and soon found my tea-stuff unclaimed, no-one in the room seemed to want that. I sat back injured.
Dietician: You mean cardamom milk?
V: Yes, that milk. Cardamom milk.
Dietician: But why should you drink cardamom milk!
V: See, I am helpless. One is forced to, after taking three bars of Dairy Milk.
Dietician: Gosh! You take three bars of Daily Milk every day? Why the hell is that for!
V: Spicy food should be followed up with something sweet. My daughter asks for fried rice and chilly chicken in the evening. I too have it to give her company. And then I feel this crave for chocolates. Chocolates make me thirsty.
Me: I take one cup of tea (I said again).
Dietician: So every day your daughter asks for fried rice?
V: No, sometimes I have to compel her a bit to ask me.
Me: I take one cup of tea.
Dietician: And for dinner?
Me: Doctor, you haven’t noted down. I take one cup of tea in the evening.
Dietician: Okay, okay (scribbling it down irritatedly), and tell me about what you take at night.
Me: I take puttu and…
Dietician: Tell me frankly. You have to tell the advocate and the dietician everything, haven’t you heard that?
She giggled to V. Realising that she was all engrossed with my friend, I pulled that part of the embarrassing puttu that had thrusted out in my talk back into its quiver and looked away fighting back my tears.
At the end of the session, she asked our weight.
Dietician: And you?
Me: Oh, nothing to tell much about (I hung my wretched head with shame and guilt as if this were an exam for scoring a maximum of 150). Seventy-two only.
At the Zumba floor
“Don’t worry, guys, this is zumba mixed with aerobics. You will pick up the basic steps of this dance in a week. What you have to do is to observe those guys perform, try to imitate them, the gestures as well as the steps. Easy, you will say I am sure.”
With those inspiring words our instructor, a very energetic young man turns up the volume. Come on everybody, he screams.
1,2,3,4…1,2,3,4, Others dance. I,2,3,4…my wife dances.
I,2, 1,2, 1,2, I dance.
You may wonder where the 3rd and 4th steps in my Zumba are. Well, this is it. It is at 3 and 4, I meet my friend V, 120 kg, on the dance floor, rooted right at my back. “Kollamalle?” he asks as I turn to him after my first and second steps. V would not budge, not even an inch, even when I plead with tearful eyes mid-dance, to cooperate, move back, give his dear friend some room, so that I could take my 3 and 4. He only grins instead of taking his steps as if he is welcoming back a long lost brother home, standing on threshold of my 3 and 4. “Kollamalle?” He asks the moment he catches his friend coming. Visibly delirious, enjoying all those sudden movements in his life, he probably believes he is fast shedding weight with such frenzied flailing of arms around though rooted to one spot in that large hall, where my 3 and 4 lie. Sometimes seeing the roadblock I make a frantic return to catch up with my 1 and 2, only to meet a wife and the rest of the dancers head on, glaring at me from their 3 and 4. I turn back more frantically to pick up my 3 and 4 only to be greeted again: “Kollaamalle?” Between the deep sea and the…er…another deep sea I dance.
If 3 and 4 are the points where the Exercise God keeps his abs-shedding elements I am done. I quit.
Disclaimer: V. is not my best friend in the college Vinod sir of Economics department though I admit only he has the name that begins with that letter and the size that fits the story and the innocence I mentioned. It is but sheer coincidence. Yeah, all that. Don’t compel me, I should not reveal the name. It is ethics, you know