Monday, February 27, 2017

Health is wealth

And health is wealth. Repetition is key.

(Published on February 18, 2017 in Business Standard)

My eldest niece, who just last week was sixteen inches long and did nothing but poop and sleep, this week turned 12 years old, and has kind of a cool haircut. If that’s not weird enough, a couple of days ago I heard an aunt tell my mother, “It was a nice day, and we didn’t have anything to do, so we said, chalo, let’s go get a bone density test.”

In other words, gentle reader, time passeth. I have not been paying attention, so now it leapeth up and biteth me in the butt. I haven’t yet begun to think of bone density tests as a leisure activity, but I am now open to saying never say never.

I last had a top-to-toe health check about fifteen years ago, back when excess was only an occasional thing. Since I thought of myself as ageing at the time, my clean bill of health made me pretty smug. Today it is obvious to me that I had nothing whatsoever to do with the test results—I was just young and hale. Fifteen years on, occasional delinquency has slipped into hardened habit, and physical discipline has pulled its blankie over its eyes and gone back to sleep. What used to be an invigorating run in the park is now a sedate walk that feels like hard work. In other words I have grown bibulous, portly, lazy, and mutinous about it all.

In my twenties, I would observe all the weird old people walking around the world with their paunches and double chins and their cottony lack of muscle tone, and I would say to myself, Not me. That will never be me. Since I know it can get there, I simply won’t let it. Forewarned is forearmed. Why are they smirking? I will always exercise. I will never overeat. I will never drink too m—okay, I didn’t say that last thing, but you get the picture.

Dear weird old people, please accept my sincerest apologies. I kneel before you, eating crow and also humble pie, since I always have one portion too many of everything. Smirk all you want. I deserve it.

To the judgy young people I used to be: I could just smirk quietly to myself, but I am instead going to do you a solid, and pass on some valuable wisdom that nobody told me. Here it comes:

It’s going to happen to you too, suckers. Mwahahaha.

What will happen to you is that you haven’t the faintest idea of the power of one simple thing: repetition. You know those mind-numbing canyons of sculpted stone, created by wind and water? They aren’t made by typhoons and tsunamis. They’re made by perfectly ordinary breezes and little lapping waves that simply keep gently breezing and waving, over a period of time. Repetition can erode, and it can build. Mine, needless to say, have built—around all the areas I was going to keep forewarned and forearmed.

Since my emotions cannot keep up with what I’ve done to myself, I have decided that actually this is all happening because of a dreadful medical condition which will be revealed by a full medical check. Except that I’m too frightened to go by myself, so I’ve made a date with a friend who is also too frightened to go by himself. (I can just hear my niece: “And then my aunt and her friend said, it’s a nice day, let’s go see the doctor.”)

So, judgy young people, you are now forewarned and forearmed. You either need to understand the power of repetition, or start practicing your best smirk. You’re welcome.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Boots on the ground

Resist now! Or, you know, in a bit.

(Published on February 4, 2017 in Business Standard)

You know how, when you’re feeling a little bit superior, and it’s a strange new feeling that you’re enjoying and haven’t had your fill of yet, and then suddenly something happens to make you feel inadequate all over again? It’s so annoying.

When the US elected Donald Trump in a shock election that left the world shaking its head to try to get rid of the roaring sound in its ears, a large number of Indians said to themselves, ‘Hah! We thought we had it bad in India. At least our Prime Minister comes from a known political position, from a structured, if disagreeable, cultural supremacist organisation. At least he’s predictable. At least he’s making the right noises, even if his creatures are nasty violent chauvinists whom he doesn’t chastise publicly, and whom he follows online, meets, and felicitates. At least our Prime Minister isn’t some loose orange cannon.’ Trump is so much worse.

Boy, did that feel good. 

And then ordinary Americans went and screwed up our smugness by being all inspirational. 

Look at them, vowing hyper-vigilant media scrutiny. Look at them, marching in droves, calling their senators relentlessly, and using social media to organise rather than whine. Look at them, setting up rogue twitter accounts from inside the White House and governmental organisations, to make sure that their fellow citizens keep getting information that isn’t Trumped up. Look at them, losing their jobs for refusing to defend his executive order barring entry to Muslims from seven countries. Watch them savaging Trump on comedy shows.

Look at the CEOs issuing calls to hire more immigrants, and the consumers boycotting businesses that support Trump. Look at the lawyers, suing the government on behalf of people stranded by the Muslim ban—on the weekend! for free! lawyers, dude! Check them out, standing at airports across the country with banners saying ‘No ban’ and ‘Let them in’. Look at them standing by rows of Muslims praying in public at an airport, and cheering them on. As The Daily Show host, Trevor Noah, pointed out: Muslims praying in public at an American airport, and hundreds of people cheering them on—just think about that for a minute.

In other words, Americans who identify a threat to their core values have painted or printed up signs, put on their boots and coats, closed the social media tab on their laptops (because what are mobile phones for?), emerged from their houses, and taken their bodies out onto the streets in solidarity, yelling at the top of their lungs. They are resisting the hell out of the daily horror show put on by their new government—making us, who specialise in keeling over like ninepins before authority, look really lazy and weak. Turns out Americans are so much better at citizenship.

Boy, does that feel bad. 

Speaking for myself, while I’ve walked the streets now and again, I have also skipped marches because I was really busy having lunch. I’ve protested by tapping a button on social media. I’ve possibly slept through some urgent things. Look, the weather in Delhi sucks—it’s always either boiling or freezing. Sometimes you just have to know what’s happening next on a TV show. Marching is hard on the back and feet. Life gets in the way, and so does your expanding waistline.

Blah blah, excuses, excuses. Watching American protesters get their act together so quickly and so forcefully only reminds me of all the resisting that Indians should have been doing for the last three years. Thanks for nothing, ordinary Americans!

Now if I’m to hold on to my dignity, all I can do is hope that, somehow, writing counts.