The Fitness Switch
Of late I had become very conscious of my belly. It hadn’t amassed any fat cells but it did seem to protrude more than I was accustomed to. Exercise of some sort was constantly in the back of my mind. I told myself and others that I preferred working-out intensely for a few months at a time. And this was the period in between. So it was only a matter of time and ‘that time’ would come all of a sudden, it would switch-on, so to say. I had also begun panting after every little effort. Climbing up a staircase, of course, but also little acts like moving a washing machine or a big potted plant. Taking the steps to the fourth floor of a building felt like I was exercising and I looked down upon youngsters who took the elevator, though I’m quite certain they could move a washing machine without breaking into a sweat.
It had become a fad nowadays to run for long distances. Several companies and interest groups organised these runs for a variety of causes, especially the 10 k marathon. Enthusiasts argued that for a run to be called a marathon, you had to cover at least 41 kilometres. Otherwise your effort would be called a half-marathon, quarter-marathon or such. I wasn’t very concerned with what people would call my effort. I felt it was only a matter of a few outings in the morning and I could probably complete one of these marathons. Perhaps not what the purist would call a marathon, but perhaps a half-marathon. So I went on about in the bush doing my stuff, not being bothered and content with the thought that my fitness switch would soon turn ‘ON’. Then I’d become a work-out beast.
I awoke one morning to the sound of a chant on my radio and for some reason I didn’t feel so drowsy. I turned the radio off and began to stir in my bed. I was feeling slightly restless and I began thinking of some unfinished business at work. It had happened often enough, but after a few mental notes, I mostly resolved the business and went back to sleep. But today, I continued stirring and finally decided to take a walk around the lake across the street. Actually, it was a lake in the making with a nice jogging strip all around it. I even pictured myself breaking into a run.
So I got dressed in my tracks and didn’t bother changing my t-shirt. I didn’t think anyone would notice that I had slept in it. It was that sort of a locality where most peoples’ idea of walking clothes was a formal pant or salwar coupled with a sweater, depending on whether you were a man or woman. I peered through my window and noticed that quite a few people were up and about. Some were even cycling on the track. I decided I would do the whole round even if I had to walk for brief intervals. That way I could see the entire stretch and decide if I wanted to make that my regular running track. I wondered whether there were cobble stones or if it was just compressed mud. My gym shoes were spitting clean and I didn’t want to grind them on so much dirt, all of a sudden. I also wondered whether the lake, that had begun filling up after the recent monsoon, was stinking? At the same time, it occurred to me that I was soon in for a huge dose of fresh oxygen and somehow that already made me feel healthy! It was the same kind of feeling I get in restaurants when I choose lassi or buttermilk, while others around me order a soft drink.
As I peered at a stretch of the jogging track that was closest to my house, still a good 80 metres from my window, I noticed a lady walking briskly with a rather peculiar, even funny, gait. She seemed to give a slightly meerkat-ish bob with every step. It wasn’t very exaggerated but yet quite distinctly noticeable. My eyes followed her and as she crossed a line of men who might be discussing politics, I looked to see if their heads would turn. Would they snigger? Or remark on the gait? She passed them, and they didn’t notice. Maybe they were all regulars and had grown accustomed to the peculiarities of each other’s gaits. But I soon lost interest in the joggers and turned to a dog that I had earlier observed darting from the corner of my eye. It reminded me of my own dog and my morning sojourns with him. This fellow seemed to be playing alone but since the other street dogs were watching him from a distance, I knew his owner was around. It was seven now and I thought the time was right to run because it wouldn’t be too cold. So I stretched a bit and went outside my room. I sat at my computer and started to write this.