Even in the normal and the seemingly mundane routines of everyday life, there are victories and defeats. These matter the most, at the end of the day.
August 26, 2014 Sowmiya Ashok
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When running a 10km stretch was easy. Photo: Sowmiya Ashok
When running a 10km stretch was easy. Photo: Sowmiya Ashok

I am deceptively healthy. The kind of deception that prompts people to say, "but you are so thin!" when I reach out for that second cookie and lament that I really shouldn't be stuffing my face. The people who I have successfully deceived, however, never seem to be around when I pant violently while climbing stairs, wheeze after a little jog to catch up with the Metro or collapse on the floor after I have attempted to sit on my haunches for all of ten seconds.

I wasn't always like this. I used to be a ridiculously active kid during my school-going years which sometimes prompted my parents to have "the talk" with me on how to focus more on chemistry experiments. I have played everything from rubber ring (which a complete blackout on Google suggests could be unique to my school) to Kho Kho to Kabaadi to Table Tennis to competitive Throw Ball to boy-crush-motivated Volleyball. In short, everything...even running around in large circles while adjusting my speed by looking over my shoulder to see how faraway my opponent was in a 400 metre race.

I passed in Tamil in Class V thanks to athletics. My language teacher who happened to be the physical education teacher struck a deal with me in the back rows of the classroom and we shook hands over 50 marks and a commitment to run 100 metres really fast in the next inter-school sports meet. Few years later, PT sir promised to hand over a volleyball after school hours everyday if I competed in the long jump event at Chennai's Rajarathinam Stadium. And, such deals continued to be made.

Sports, thus, became a huge bone of contention between me and my family. My older sister, who was enrolled in the same school, was put in-charge of keeping a close-eye on me. My mother lectured me on how "we just don't do these things" (though I never understand the "we" and the "things" in that sentence) and my father, depending on his mood, could be convinced to let me take a whole day off school to throw a ball around. Eventually, Tamil Nadu's obsession with academics caught up with me and I reluctantly waved goodbye to the district volleyball tryouts and a consistent healthy spree my love for sports had allowed me to enjoy.

A couple of years later, I was on a conducted tour of Melbourne as a first-year undergraduate student and saw people running everywhere I looked: along roads, around parks, and in gyms. I had never ever seen so many people working out and I knew then that my love for sports will resurface fairly soon. Having said that, the surroundings took some getting used to before I could dive head on into the cauldron of physical activity. For one, I could wear shorts to play tennis and there won't be my grandmother asking me to cover up or I could run out of my house and there won't be ten stray dogs chasing after me!

Then in the winter months, I went to aerobics classes, in the summer, I swam slowly and badly along the slow lane at the University pool, in the months in between I rose above my seat and peddled away to loud music in spinning class and across all seasons I fell madly in love with running longish distances. My parents never complained as (a) I was very far away from home and (b) I was technically enrolled in what seemed like a lucrative degree. Meanwhile, I ran around parks, the MCG, several domes, water bodies, concrete roads and the zoo. And before I retired hurt owing to severe shin splints at the end of the last year I was overseas, I ran alongside a super fit 75-year-old woman in the finishing stretch of a 10 km run. I was non-deceptively healthy and never felt like helping myself to an extra cookie.

With a moratorium on running upon my return to the motherland, I took refuge in an ashram that stretched my limits in all directions. Embarrassingly, I was the scapegoat "demo kid" for wives of Ambassadors and High Commissioners who took the 9.30am all-women's yoga class in my neighbourhood. I was more vegetarian than a "100 % strictly vegetarian" restaurant. My connect with mother earth was at an all-time high and I had abs like Salman Khan.

Then everything went downhill and pear-shaped including the abs when I took a notebook and pen and ran around calling myself a journalist. Too much sleep, too little sleep, deadlines, no deadlines, too many words, too little words, weekdays, weekends, bosses, colleagues, summer, winter, spring, autumn, death of politicians and famous people, national holidays, chow mein and stress were all cited as reasons not to move a muscle. More recently, I attempted to join a gym but the inflated fees and the overenthusiastic gym-bodies I encountered there got me to drop the idea rather quickly.

It really isn't my fault I tell myself daily. I am deceptively healthy to the world and apparently, also to myself. Now, where is that cookie jar?

August 24, 2014 Pheroze L. Vincent
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