The Olympics have inspired me to start exercising again.
(Published in Business Standard today)
In boarding school, a friend of mine sneered that the most active thing he’d ever seen me do was sneeze. It’s true that I spent most of our games periods hiding behind a curtain in my dorm, drinking tea and reading, but I bet he was just jealous of my washboard abs and .001% body fat, which I’d achieved from years of being a teenager.
But that was a long time ago. Since then, I have been a more or less regular exerciser, though I go through phases. At the moment I’m in what you could call my ‘resting bitch phase’. In it, I have gone from being in the best shape of my life eight months ago, to being in the worst. I have grown roots in the sofa, let my muscle run to fat, and lost the will to do anything more active than breathe between morsels of fried food. My blood pressure is suddenly a thing. The horizon of my health has shrunk to the ungentle curve of my belly.
Or it had, until the Olympics began. I have finally kicked myself into brisk walks in the park again, in solidarity with the Games, because, frankly, nothing inspires me to get off my butt as much as watching the incredible performance of our Indian officials in Rio.
I assume you saw that Scoopwhoop story about how Vijay Goel, Sports Minister, misspelled gymnast Dipa Karmakar’s name in a tweet, and almost got his accreditation revoked, and how officials flew business to Rio while athletes went economy, and how the team doctor isn’t a sports doctor but a radiologist, and how they first said it would be wasteful to fly Karmakar’s physiotherapist to Rio, and how officials hung out on beaches and went sightseeing during Olympic events? Did you see the Quartz story on how the sports ministry organised a grand reception for the athletes at the Olympian Reunion Centre on Independence Day, at which they pulled out all the stops and served…wait for it…peanuts?
Thinking about all that really gets my blood up, so I’ve been using the momentum to heave my thunder thighs around the park.
The other thing that creates enough adrenaline to propel me out the door is reading all the sanctimonious tweets referring to Sakshi Malik, the women’s wrestling bronze medallist, as ‘India’s daughter’. It’s always irritating that we can’t relate to a woman normally unless she’s part of the family—daughter, mother, sister, wife—and therefore officially has no lady parts. But in this case it’s particularly nauseating because we wouldn’t know sports culture if it ran up to us and did 500 pull-ups while spitting in our eye. We don’t encourage or nurture sports, and we treat our athletes like dirt, completely ignoring them before and after any medal-winning—so Sakshi Malik, like most Indian sportspeople, got to where she is despite official India. Our athletes have genuine fans across the country, but for the Indian state to suddenly try to clasp medal-winners to its miserly bosom and appropriate their success is a joke. Sakshi Malik’s medal is her individual and singular accomplishment. So is P.V. Sindhu’s badminton medal. So is Dipa Karmakar’s loss-by-a-whisker. So is the surprise that is 18-year-old golfer Aditi Ashok.
Have you noticed that the Indians who have made us proudest at Rio are all women? This is the first Olympics at which so many people have called out the revolting sexism of sports reporting, so #JustSaying.
Maybe I don’t have to walk today—I must have burned 300 calories just feeling my feelings.