Moving to a new country where everything was non-familiar, I realised could always count on finding the nearest gym and a body pump class. And what would be unchanged would be the music tracks, the choreographed moves, the 5 stages of the class aimed at working out a different set of muscles over the course of an hour. Even the instructors never varies. Supremely confident, fairly muscled, normally australian.... and we the participants could always be classified into three categories
a) The large desperates: the ones with the muffin tops, and misshapen figures, and were the most faithful, never missing a class. They lifted the heaviest weights and you just knew that they could keep at it year after year and it wasn't going to make a difference at all.
B) The sveltes: Yep, looked good, well groomed hair, make up, glitter of gold at around their neck (man or woman.) Why did they even have to work out? Born with long waists and sleek thighs, they were there just to make the rest of us look ugly by comparison.
C) The in-betweeners: People like me. Not too ugly, nor beautiful. Probably upper body well shaped. The lower had a ways to go. Made it to some classes with a hangover too, but manfully pulled on. And actually enoyed the music even more than the weights sometimes... life in a flashdance movie.
"Darich and I
I had large feet, broad in the front, flat at the bottom and tapering at the back in a V. It made it virtually impossible for me to wear the tapered at the toe in an A, fashioned boots which were in vogue. The tiny doll like oriental women around me who wore size3 shoes obviously had no such compunctions.
As they teetered around without bunions, calluses, or any such issues, which came from wearing too high, too narrow, fake snakeskin boots picked up from the night market at Mongkong. Their hair strands glinted in the darkness a result of long hours of chemical e bonding, the latest Japanese technology in hairdo’s with the free of charge thrown in pedicure.
For the first few months - well nearly a year now last September - when I had had moved to Hong Kong, the land of Kwan Yin, I had been incredibly conscious of my hair. Lush, long characteristically Indian hair, which like the fibres of the coconut tree tended to be frizzy. Lots of hair, which developed split ends and spilt everywhere.
“Why do Asian women shed more hair than the non Asians?” Darich had asked me once in that straight seeing ahead slightly blinded gaze that he used sometimes. “I suppose that’s because the black hairballs are just more visible to the naked eye than blonde hair balls?” I had volunteered.
Darich himself was about 6 feet 2, classic blonde hair, blue eyed, Nordic good looks, his Scandinavian bloodlines shining through the tan. Yet very Australian, unexpectedly freckled, outdoorsy, flush with health, bursting with vitamins, the antioxidants sparking out of every pore. He was proud of his body, worked out everyday and occasionally played the guest health instructor, taking the body-pump classes at Las Fitness in Central.
It was the shared passion for pumping iron and rock music, lifting the free weights to Metallica and cooling down to Shakira at the aerobic studio at the gym, which had sown the seeds of our friendship.
Not often did I stop to think about the unlikely friends we seemed to be.
I didn’t want to think about us, as the odd Couple for that would have been a cliché, too obvious. Nothing like the black and white series I had seen on the state run Doordarshan growing up in Bombay. Saturday nights at 9 pm it came on I remember those days.
The days when there was yet no VCRs, else I would have taped the series on the days before my exams when in my self-exile I had opted to pretend to study, hoping the sacrifice of not watching the series would lead to the Gods being pleased and granting me some extra marks on my report. The notion of sacrifice ingrained in me at the convent school I had been sent to – sacrifice, had been a big word those days. Constantly drilled into us at morning prayers by Mother Superior. Sacrifice – which constantly plagued me – and prayers which I never lost faith in till the Transformation, when I realised that objects which I thought as being that far away were indeed closer than they seemed.
So Darich and I – our eyes had met, collided, over the iron bars lifted by the group in a joint expression of euphoric pain. That Sunday morning Darich had been filling in for the instructress who normally took the course. I warmed to him immediately as he walked in smiling around, joking with the regulars and getting the class all energized, his crackling vitality reaching out to us like invisible as he put us through the paces. A third of the way through the class the bicep track came on, a remixed version of the Vanilla Ice track – Ice Ice Baby. "