The gym is a coliseum of life

The ‘gym’ is not only an air-conditioned room for pumping iron—it is all those spaces in life where one can exercise their minds and bodies. And it is only after we sculpt ourselves into better human beings that we can see our planet change.

Stand naked in front of the mirror. The reflection is not of your body. It is of Mother Earth. What are you, but her clay, fire, breath and water? Do you like what you see? If not, it’s time to change. You owe it to her, and the sunrises and sunsets bestowed upon you.

The novel coronavirus is her message. It is reading loud and clear: Money and medicine will not secure your future. Dependence on either is living an illusion. Contemplate, introspect. Invest in real food and exercise, for these are your oblations of gratitude and symbols of spiritual wakefulness.

Modern medicine mitigates the symptoms of modern living effectively. Have high blood pressure? Pop a pill. Have high cholesterol? Pop another pill. So on and so forth. Over the years, these pills have improved, claiming notable success with lesser side effects. But that leaves the question: How had you achieved these disorders? Did you ever ask it of yourself or your doctor? Did you care?

Suddenly, an ailment sweeps our world for which medicine has no answer. Is the virus our enemy? Does it hate humans? Is God punishing us for our transgressions? We think not. In fact, this disease has been very kind. It is nowhere near deadly, like the Marburg or the various strains of the Ebola virus. A healthy person need not worry too much if he’s infected. However, those harbouring comorbidities are seriously at risk of losing their lives.

 The virus has offered us an opportunity to evolve. We’re seeing a different work environment. Our preferences for pleasure and outings have changed. Long-distance relationships are becoming relevant and isolation is no longer disreputable. Acts of profligacy could be reconsidered and a glance inward to see how we’ve treated our planet might argue with the next item on our shopping list. The lockdown has benefited many families; they seem to have regained the aspect lost to hours spent tapping the steering wheel in a traffic jam or the stack called the office. It has also driven people to depression and domestic violence. Still, the innate instinct for survival has prompted a relook into our lifestyle.

So, is going to a gym and exercising the answer? How can it protect us from the coronavirus? Let us understand the gym and whether we even need one in life.

The first picture of a gym shows a place packed with iron and machines — a closed airconditioned environment claiming to make you slimmer, fitter and muscular, a subculture of people in love with their bodies or for those who have too much time to indulge in ‘such things’. If you believe that, you’re not wrong. But it’s like describing a home from the colour of underwear drying on its clothesline.

What is a gym?

 The gym is a coliseum of life. It exists everywhere.

The first place to look is inside your body. Let’s start with the heart. At an average of 70 beats per minute, your heart squeezes blood more than 1,00,000 times in a twenty-four-hour period. Your kidneys and liver work continuously. Your immune system is a thriller story in itself. Just Google human immune system and you’ll be initiated to a method of warfare more exotic than any crazy video game you’ve played. Oh, and just the actions of the pea-sized pituitary gland in your brain can fill a book tougher to navigate than a staircase to a temple on a mountaintop.

 The second gym is your mind. It flits, settles, imagines, exerts, emotes, questions, relies, believes, discovers, learns, adapts, loves, envies and goes through cycles of each again and again, inexhaustibly.

The third gym is your family. The fourth is your work, the fifth your bank, the sixth is your newspaper, the seventh is your government, the eight, your relationships. There are perhaps a thousand other gyms in your life that you might care to reveal. Some play on your phone, especially for you in the bathroom. So, the gym is everything working in the background, making your life.

 But we speak of the gym where you strive to become a better version of yourself. It’s where you put effort and where flashing cash is useless. It’s where you achieve a personal goal.

So, if your carriage has begun scaring your sofa, it’s time to attend a health gym. Yes, you may want to gulp your pride and pay for an air-conditioned enclosure occupied by vain aristocrats or go for a walk, preferably in a park with the rest of the proletariat. The problem with walking is it soon outruns motivation. Five days later, you are bored of doing the same thing. Progress, which you imagined would arrive at your doorsill rapidly, stays away like profits from your favourite stock. Impatience leads to misery, and finally to the demise of your noble intent. Then you realise it’s easier to pop pills and buy bigger clothes.

The ‘other’ gym, meanwhile, presents the reality facing you. Its mirrored bosom acquaints you with the abject outcome of your self-love, indiscretion and ignorance. There’s nowhere to hide. Every corner harbours an instrument of effort. Now, if you’re one of those who take responsibility instead of making excuses or justifying mediocrity any which way, you’ll accept the challenge and find entertainment in its proposals. You can start your workout with mild cardio, followed by gentle weight training, rounded with easy yoga. You’ll see others as various aspects of inspiration and soon your ego and competitive spirit will urge you to do better. And better you will become. Steadily, the genteel nature of your limber self will attain vigour. Your body will respond in unexpected ways. You will gain confidence and spirit. You will also acquaint yourself with others. When they tell you their tales of transformation, the erstwhile ballroom of the idle rich achieves the assignment of your important habitat.

But you will not see progress unless your kitchen becomes a gym. You must have the wisdom to run away when coming face to face with a pizza or a samosa, or you will doom your efforts. Exercise has many benefits, but these benefits are served by your kitchen gym. Food has the biggest and the most profound effect on your existence. Created by nature to nourish and sustain life it’s often confused with entertainment. Ingestion of processed, refined, artificially created food to quell hunger results in an unappetising outcome. Your body adhering to the law of cause and effect becomes ill (and misshapen), needing a buttress of pills to survive.

We have lived history. Never has the whole of mankind ceased its whirring at any time. Who has not seen its effect on the air, sky, water and other creatures? Climate change is not the most pressing issue confronting us, it is attitudinal change. Building a relationship with your body and the food gym is the first step in that direction. Once you become a better version of yourself, its effect will form ripples of positive change in all your gyms and will undoubtedly improve the Earth Mother gym.

See the connection? Everything and every act in life are related. Physicists call it quantum potential. So take your clothes off…

 Sudipta and Prateek are the authors of the book, ‘The Good Life Gym’. It’s a collection of interconnected short stories written like a script where the dialogues are in Hindi and descriptions in English. The book is available on Amazon.