Circa – The mid 80’s
As part of the curious Indian audience, when it came to strong men that existed both on and off screen, I could not visualize beyond the quintessential Dara Singh and Dharmender. The silos to looking lean shattered when a film related to drug cartel backed by Indian fusion artist Remo’s playback was released at the box office. An actor who had already established himself well into mainstream cinema could be seen baring his back and flexing his triceps. The icing being his arms extended to his cabaret hottie holding a pair of dumbbells. The movie was called Jalwa. The year was 1987
And when it did first day first show, ample display of torso and cleavage had the crowd whistling away at the onscreen magic oozed by the magnetic couple. Such was the impact of the movie that many a male species even with just a sheet of skin over their bare bones could be seen with sleeves rolled up and at least two buttons up front left open on their shirts. Women continued to seek inspiration as they deemed suitable.
Television was still considered a luxury and besides a weekly feature film showing yesteryear star cast, desh ki janta were at the mercy of what national television channel – Doordarshan had to offer. Cable TV was just about coming up. Not many conversations witnessed a line or two about a Hollywood Flick or an English genre talk show. Over the years as VCR technology picked up some could get hold of a video tape and watched English movies.
For those who watched movies like Commando, Terminator, Rocky, Enter the Dragon, Armour of God realized what symmetry, physique, flexibility, agility and fitness actually meant. The cash registers at the Akhaadaas and Gymnasiums started ringing. People could be seen shaping their bodies. Sweat shining over chiseled muscles was considered desirable and the in thing.The fitness era was thus born. Today its a necessity, a craze, a rage, an obsession for many.
I had a chance to witness this in person. A colorful pamphlet that was slipped into the pages of the morning newspaper announced a newly opened state of the art fitness center. The draft looked impressive. I decided to pay a visit and was amazed at people’s views and beliefs.
One could make no mistake in guessing the place as a fitness temple given the branding done on the glass facade. Even from a distance. Ample space to park and an entrance that would let two elephants pass side by side. Well designed interiors, fitness quotes and portraits of champions gracing the walls, indoor plants and a water dispenser carefully placed at a corner. Grand decor and luxurious seating with a large center table considering the perennial rush for inquiries.
Everything seemed just right. It was time to have a chat with the decked up counselor who was engrossed with a new inquiry inundated with a volley of questions from this anxious upmarket couple who had walked in. There was a teenager, a fat lady and a senior citizen who had come in before me and awaited their turn. Given the size of the room it was not a challenge to eavesdrop. What left me bewildered were the kind of questions and answers.
Seems like everyone is in a hurry to get ripped and pumped. Most seek shortcuts and the questions were proof.
The upmarket couple had 60 days at their disposal before they took off on a European Group Tour. Wanted to downsize their waists by 4 inches, get off the lard around their under thighs and increase stamina.
The teenager was willing to devote his life to bodybuilding even it meant giving up on his 7th girlfriend. He was more than ready to go all out for protein powders and testosterone shots.
The fat lady was clear in her head. She did not like to bend, exert or stretch. Despite which she was looking around for a miracle to give her an hour glass figure.
The senior citizen, his demands were plain vanilla. He wanted to stay just about fit and keep his limbs moving for the final quarter of his life. That I believe is pretty normal.
Then it was my turn. I had only one desire. To see the place, return home and have Samosas.
Those were some expectations awaiting promising results and sensible solutions. The counselor had her table spread out with a huge notepad, a pen and a Samsung Tab. I must say she handled each question with aplomb but some of the responses she gave threw me off my chair.
For a businessman who owns the place, she was the right one for the job. Besides giving some superficial answers that any lame duck would know about, she started promoting the massage, personal trainer and express weight loss packages. Express weight loss, really?
When I was done listening to the offers and facilities, I requested a quick tour. She handed me over to one of the lead trainers. He was a tall brawny guy with a hard face that had not smiled for a decade. I followed him out of fear than inspiration. I decided to spend some time at the weight training and cardio area. The lead trainer obliged and left me on my own.
You see all sorts of people at premium health clubs. A novice doing complex exercises, an overweight lady spitting her lungs out with all dedication on every single cardio machine she could lay her hands on, an inspired youth loading plates on a barbell without realizing his flaws in form, a few who are only sipping water and catching a chat with every resting member, housewives running parallel on the tread mill and cursing the school bus. Hell! Then where are the instructors?
The irony in most cases is, the list of exercises given to most newcomers irrespective of their body types pretty much stays the same. The instructor is more of a helper or a spotter. In this age of smart phones, a bunch of them are busy glued to it. Horrifying myths like muscle turns into fat and vice versa, consuming b-complex tablets makes you fuller, cardio on an empty stomach gets you better results, vegetarian food will never get you there (gaspoos), including both basic and isolation movements for novices and the list is endless.
I was in awe thinking of all that I heard. I had enough for the day. I decided to leave.
Fitness is like marriage. You cannot cheat on it and expect it to work. No wonder why it’s called both an art and a science.
Stay inspired and be well informed.
Your body is a reflection of your lifestyle.