Sunday, July 27, 2008

4-Shower Day

I bathed four times today. I woke up and took my normal bath at Ba's house. But overnight it had rained tremendously and the streets were flooded. Since I was in Naranpura, I was in some sense stranded from my office, which was on the other side of the city. The roads were not drivable. So I waited, hoping the rain would stop and the water would recede from the streets. At the first sign of letting up, I took off for the office. My goal was to catch a rickshaw, but the streets were chaos with vehicles trying to trudge through rivers/streets.

Shower #2: Trudging through a street in knee-deep water, which would better be described as wet filth. All the garbage, shit, and dirt from the surroundings combine into one cold and frothy soup. And I'm walking through it trying to find a street that a rickshaw could actually drive on. At one point a car comes speeding through and throws water all over me. Disgusting.

I was eventually able to grab a rickshaw and made it to my office. But I felt that it was necessary to clean myself, so I went back to my bungalow and had shower #3 for the day.

Shower #4: I've found a gym in Ahmedabad! If you've talked to me about my travels to India, you probably know that one of my biggest difficulties is finding a place to exercise, particularly to do weight training. Last summer I brought some resistance cables and tried to do a jailcell workout with the cables and pushups and pullups, but it was pretty unsatisfactory. So imagine my excitement when I became a card-carrying member of "Be Fit - The Gym", an establishment right next to my home and office (no, there isn't an actual card)!

Going to the gym in India is a totally different experience. First, there are set hours of operation. There is a time slot of 4 hours in the morning, 4 hours in the evening, with the middle of the day reserved for ladies-only session. This is a big change from my 24-hour Fitness at home, but should be manageable.

My fellow gym-goers are hilarious. Many come in dressed in jeans and regular shirts like they would be wearing on the street. Also, close-toed shoes are completely optional. I would say half the people wear chapals, with another 15-20% going barefoot altogether. Nuts.

The gym itself is on the third floor of a fading building. The first day I visited the gym I noticed a chalk board in the stairway that randomly had the message "prepare for the worst, hope for the best." I laughed because that's exactly how I felt at that moment. The weight area is impossibly small. In true Indian fashion, your personal space is totally restricted while exercising. I'm doing pullups and my feet are in the face of the guy doing bench-press. Benches are right next to each other, curling bars and weights are scattered everywhere. The equipment itself is worn down to say the least. I can't read the weight amounts of most of the barbell weights because all the writing has faded. Combined with the fact that everything is in kgs, I have no idea how much I'm lifting in most cases. All of this made me feel like I was in Rocky 4 training with inferior equipment in Russia. Another interesting thing about working out in India is the culture of spotting, which I will just describe as "over-zealous". As I've explored earlier, Indian men are quite touch-feely. In the gym, this is reflected in how people give "support" (that's what they call spotting here). It seems to me that every opportunity to get extra close, cop a feel, etc., are taken. When you are being supported on the bench press, instead of having the spotter at your head next to the weight rest, they straddle the lifter and spot from the front, with crotch right in the lifter's face. When I've gotten support, I also get loud and enthusiastic yelps of encouragement. "Come onnnnnnnn!!! Andddd... THREE!... yeaaaaaaaa !!! come onnnn UPPP!!!". Desi-style meathead.

The worst part of the gym is that there is horrendous ventilation. There are a few fans blowing here and there, but after about 15 minutes of working out I was drenched in sweat. That was shower #4.

The best part of the gym are the steroids-era 80s bodybuilder posters everywhere on the walls, which are a comical contrast to the skinny brown people actually walking around the place. Also, I have inspired one of my co-workers to take on regular exercise, so he signed up with me and is joining me on my every-other-day schedule.

Finally, I went to RelianceMart to buy gym clothes, since I didn't expect that I'd need them when I was packing for my trip. I made a point to buy the ugliest shoes available and the longest shorts, and this is what I ended up with:


  1. neilie, you kill me with your observations. however, I do get the sense that you enjoy the sweat drenched proximity you have with your brown brothers. just keep this in mind, I'm never working out with you again!

  2. Ok the outfit - not that bad. I think you should just wear chappals and stonewashed jeans.