Wednesday, March 01, 2006

No summer love

Something about the weather these days brings back memories of my summer vacations in school. Where sunny mornings would be spent at the pool and sultry afternoons would find me on the basketball court. After an exhausting game (girls first, boys next and then mixed teams) and lying around on the court, we’d head towards the juice joint on the corner and make plans for a movie or lunch somewhere.
Having gotten used to that routine for a couple of years, college holidays created a strange vacuum of sorts. My clique had dispersed and there were few sports-oriented people in my class. (This is excluding those who watched cricket and F1in pubs.) My swimming was put off because of the coaching classes for kids, and I grew tired of swerving around little legs on every lap. I eventually did find a few people in my final year who played basketball and conceded to come to college during vacation (and who didn’t cringe at the thought of playing with girls).

I was reminiscing at the gym this morning when the instructor closed all the windows and switched on the air conditioner. I looked up and he shrugged, pointing at a group of gossiping aunties who were sitting on a row of cycles without even pretending to pedal. There were a number of others, stretching, jogging in place and waiting to actually use the machines.
'Committee members,' he said.
‘Oh fo,’ I said to my reflection in the mirror, ‘Tell them to sit in a coffee lounge or something.’

Later, an aunty (from the stationary cycle kitty party) came up to me at the water filter and asked me to sign a petition to get rid of one of our gym instructors.
‘Uh, sorry but I don’t think I can sign that, really,’ said the diplomatic me, ‘my dad’s the member. I’m still a dependent.’
‘But you’re the one using the facility. Just put down your name. We need to get professional around here.’
I was firmer the second time around and told her I was getting late. My polite smile had disappeared a while ago.
I was given the once over and another lady said ‘We should introduce a new rule about allowing people to use hair oil when they come in.’

Background note: As part of my It’s About Time I Start Taking Care Of Myself deal, I’ve taken to oiling my hair once a week. Since the thought of sitting with oily hair all day scares me, I take care of this obligation at night. And since Saturday nights usually find me sauntering into the house at too obscene an hour to be rubbing oil into my scalp, I do so mid-week. And I take my greasy head to the gym with me the next morning, to be washed just before leaving for work.

‘I didn’t know young girls still did that with all the products available these days,’ another said to me, her eyebrows in her hairline. ‘I mean, my teenage daughter doesn’t.’

Yes aunty, some of us don’t use a multitude of products for straightening, defrizzing, styling, colouring and crimping; and we end up using things like oil. And judging by your scanty, spilt-ended, heavily dyed ’do, I’d suggest your daughter start doing the same.

Another looked down at my worn sneakers and remarked, ‘And put down sports shoes for the gym only.’

Background note: My sneakers give me sole support when I’m running after a bus that’s threatening to take off and leave me in a wake of exhaust and dust. My sneakers kick up their own dust clouds and heave a sigh of relief when I’m stationary once more. Then they are stepped on when others are searching for enough room to place their own feet. They walk the long walks I take from one place to another. Occasionally, they are known to step into minor accidents created by the big and bovine.
Wearing them to work makes me feel like I’m ready for anything physically demanding.

Field trips? Sure thing.
Walking kilometres to find a potential spot for a new settlement? But of course.
Joining in a game of kho-kho with a group of girls when they ask you? Go ahead, madam, we’re doing a technical survey now anyway.
Skipping off to the market to get a kilo of lemons for shikanji? Not a problem, my lethargic colleagues.
Jumping out of your seat and breaking into a dance of joy at a proposal being sanctioned? Got it covered.
My sneakers are worn until they have no wear left in them. And that is the only way of doing justice to a pair of sports shoes.

So excuse me lady, but I have neither the time nor the inclination to colour coordinate my shoes with my exercise clothes for the day unlike you.

I used to like the no-nonsense crowd that came in to work out at the club in the mornings. Everyone with somewhere to be at a certain time - work, home, college. We were the ones who came to exercise (unlike our evening counterparts who’d visit the gym for a public preening session). We’d sign the register, tick off a list of the equipment we’d use, pass the newspaper around and wish each other a good day. I suppose in the two years I was away from home, things have changed.
So now, when I wake up in the morning and step out into the early morning sunshine, my senses are fooled into smiling. Even though the weather tells me it’s a great day for something sporty, things just aren’t the same.

Maybe swimming classes for the kids haven't started as yet...