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Posts Tagged ‘Being a couch potato’

Yet another New Year has dawned. It is time for me to exercise my tiny grey cells and fulfill my obligations to societyExercise 1 by making a resolution. Ideally speaking, I should make one which does not get consigned to the dustbins of my pious intentions before the first week of January gets over.

I happen to be a self-proclaimed couch potato. When it comes to being a lazy bum, I am a leader amongst men. The resolution which has appealed to me since the past several years goes something like this:

‘I hereby resolve, like in all the previous years, to start doing some kind of exercise.’

Had one of the Master Wordsmiths of our times, P G Wodehouse, been around, he might have permitted me to express myself in the following manner.

A couple of decades back, I was content to crawl out of bed and undergo the daily ritual of performing the morning ablutions. I would then proceed to the breakfast table, all geared up to attack the deep-fried stuff on offer, accompanied by liberal helpings of milk, with dates, dry fruits and corn flakes thrown in for good measure. A glorious start to the proceedings of the day!

These days, life presents different challenges. A health-conscious spouse ensures that the breakfast table merely offers a slice of apple, a boiled egg sans yolk, and some oats, which, on my luckier days, come with a dash of soya milk. My digestive juices register a strong protest at the lack of attention being paid to them. My stomach grumbles, but to no avail. The day starts on a somber note.

The epidemic of strict dieting and supreme physical fitness pervades the collective conscience of the denizens of our country. If I am not a member of a gym, I am looked down upon. If I am not following exciting tips on achieving a life eternal on internet and social media, I am considered backward. Friends bandy about health-monitoring apps on their smart-phones, making me feel inadequate, unsuccessful and depressed.

I am continuously exhorted to follow a wide array of exercise regimen, ranging from complicated yogic postures to Larsen exercises popularized by Ashe Marson of ‘Something Fresh’ fame. Physicians of all kinds keep threatening me that if I fail to do so, I shall meet a fate worse than death. To help me achieve a healthier life, a mind-boggling variety of methods are on offer. Each of these is vying for my attention, promising salvation in the form of perfect physique and robust health.

Movies are full of the virtues of having six-pack abs. Heroes, oozing testosterone, routinely thrash villains by the dozen. After surviving all odds, they eventually end up in a tight embrace with a perfectly formed specimen of the delicately nurtured amongst us. Opening a magazine, I run into semi-nude demigods with stiff upper lips and finely chiseled bodies, eyeing me rather condescendingly. Their bulging muscles make me turn green with envy. Switching on a TV channel, I am apt to run into a Bollywood diva imparting lessons on all kinds of aerobic exercises. All this depresses me somewhat. Realization dawns that I have failed to live up to the exacting standards of physique in vogue these days.

The younger ones in the family keep prodding me in the ribs, exhorting me to join a gym of some kind or the other. AExercise 2 neighbor who fancies himself to be a friend keeps inviting me to join him in his daily morning 5-km walks. He is of the firm opinion that unless one bends, stretches and undergoes a rigorous regimen of gravity-defying yogic poses, one has no hope of being able to survive.

Exercising is not easy. There are insurmountable odds to be overcome. One, the weather often plays spoil sport. If it is too cold, I find it pretty demanding to get out of the warmth of my bedroom. If it is too hot, I shudder at the prospect of sweating profusely after having done the prescribed quota of jogging, push-ups or whatever. If it is raining, I have a perfect excuse to continue to laze around in bed, quietly sipping my morning dose of a tissue restorative. On some mornings, I am just not feeling energetic enough to start the day by troubling my body in any way. On others, the rush to work makes it feel like such a waste of time. Then there are several assignments to be completed even before one heads to office, making it well-nigh impossible to indulge in the luxury of an exercise of some sort or the other.

Then there is the handicap of living in cities. Cocooned in a concrete match-box, one’s endeavors to throw about one’s limbs end up upsetting a lot of stuff. This promptly starts a verbal World War III between me and my better half. If attempted in the small balcony, I am apt to be looked at with derision and amusement by all those enjoying their morning cup of tea in the balconies opposite. If some of them happen to belong to the tribe of the delicately nurtured, my fate is sealed.

Moreover, by their very nature, cities take a jaundiced view of any kind of physical exercise, unless undertaken with some practical object in view. I may run to catch a bus or a metro but no eyebrows would get raised. I may even chase a just-dislodged cap on a busy thoroughfare – without causing adverse comment. I may skip and jump so as to avoid either an auto rickshaw or a speeding car. But, if I run simply because I wish to strengthen my heart or jump because it improves my calf muscles, I merely invite sarcasm and ridicule.

The privacy of my own home is also illusory in nature. Before beginning an exercise routine, I have to ensure the maid is not around, lest my efforts are either greeted with some sly giggles or misconstrued as advances of an amorous kind. If the milk vendor comes in just when I am getting warmed up, an irritating break comes about.

Even if I am able to snatch some precious moments to take care of my body in the privacy of my own home, pretty soon it becomes highly monotonous. Anything done routinely becomes so very boring. If I were to invest in a stationary bicycle, the prospect of having to peddle it while watching a favorite movie on my TV/laptop is so very appalling. The bicycle would merely end up evolving into a frightfully expensive towel stand.

This philosophy – of body over mind – makes me pause and think if all this emphasis on physical improvement does not have an adverse effect on the soul.

If I were to become a very strong person physically, I would cease to be a peace-loving feather-weight crusader of sorts. Given my super size ego, I am sure to become a guy who could impart coaching on the subject of ‘How to Lose Friends and Win Enemies.’ I would give all my colleagues an inferiority complex. I would simply dominate all conversations I become a part of. To me, silence would cease to be golden. I shall go about with my chest expanded, a nuisance to all whom I encounter. All this would drive me further away from my own true self. Given my soft and delicate nature, my soul shall forever be in torment.

It would also affect my moral fiber. Rather than being modest, as at present, I would end up being proud of myself. When I run into a highly intelligent person not being able to touch his toes forty times without bending his knees, I would simply feel superior and look down upon him. The old reverence and the deferential attitude would simply evaporate. This would be morally corrupting.

After having brooded for some time over this predicament of Homo sapiens, I have realized that what humanityExercise 3 really needs is a system of spiritual exercises which shall develop the soul in a systematic manner. This way, the soul can keep pace with the muscles and the self-esteem.

By joining an organization which conducts group meditations, I have managed to be assured of at least two hours of sitting in a hard-backed chair in an upright posture every single day. During this time, spread over four sessions, I nudge my mind towards creative visualization. I imagine that I am doing all the yogic postures and pranayamas prescribed by the yogis of yore. In between, much like a commercial break on a TV channel, I allow my mind to hover over some pleasurable experience – a chat with the kids, an uproariously funny scene from a Bollywood flick, or a delicious meal enjoyed at a friend’s place recently. All this is done while sitting in my bedroom, or even while sipping my early morning restorative on the balcony.

An approach of this kind, when tried for a week recently, has worked wonders. It has helped me to overcome the deep feeling of guilt for not taking adequate care of my body. My moral fiber is intact. My soul is contented, having been given an opportunity to grow in tandem with my physical self.

To sum it up, my entire being feels happy and joyful. I am still my sober and delicate self. I continue with my humble frame of mind, admirably calculated to nullify the sinful pride generated by rigorous physical exercises.

My friends have already started asking me the secret of my youthfulness. I have no hesitation in spreading some cheer around by sharing with them the special exercise regimen I have developed for myself.

I do believe that I now have a New Year resolution which will not fade away into unsung glory, to be rediscovered only at the end of the year. Hope most of you have also been able to come up with ones which really get fulfilled.

Happy New Year!

(Dedicated to P G Wodehouse. Illustrations done by Tanya are gratefully acknowledged.)

[Related Post: https://ashokbhatia.wordpress.com/2012/02/29/a-potato-protests%5D

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We appear to be headed for two new challenges to our mental equipoise in this century – Nomophobia and Noconnphobia! The fear of being out of mobile contact, that is, NoMobile-Phobia, is already well-recognized. The significance of the other, NoConnectivity-Phobia, is perhaps yet to dawn on most of us!

Our addiction to mobile phones and internet knows no bounds. Six years back, I was working with a company in a very senior position. A night before I was to be wheeled into an operation theatre for a cardiac surgery, I was furiously making calls to my team members to ensure that things were handled right when I was away from work for some time. My distressed daughter ended up confiscating the mobile phone, leading me to a feeling of utter loneliness and helplessness. It was as if my world had collapsed!

While recovering over the next four weeks, the ring tone of the mobile phone kept ringing in my ears, even though the equipment was nowhere around. My family ensured I could not lay my hands on it; otherwise, they felt, and rightly so, that I shall again get hooked on to it!

Surrounded by Gizmos!

Mobile phones are now everywhere. We go to a restaurant, and find that the friends who have met only to have a decent time together are instead glued to their individual mobile phones, chatting away merrily with those who are not physically present. On the roads, we find young and old alike walking absent-mindedly, talking on their mobile phone, quite oblivious to the traffic whizzing past and around them. Two-wheeler riders continue driving with an eye on the road while talking to someone far away, with a mobile phone wedged between their hunched up shoulder and an ear. With the arrival of blue tooth, the hunched shoulder has disappeared, but not the ingrained habit of using this all-pervasive gadget while driving.

Travel in a train and chances are that all the passengers are calling up their near and dear ones at the same time, prompting us to avoid the cacophony by taking a stroll down the crowded aisle. Visit a family and just as we start relishing a cup of tea with them, a shrill ring tone distracts one of the host’s party and we start wondering when the conversation in the drawing-room shall resume. Attend a management talk by an eminent expert, only to be interrupted by someone’s mobile ringing loud and clear, leaving the hapless expert clueless and the audience twiddling its thumbs. Even group meditation sessions are not free from this scourge.

When we call up a person on his mobile, we seldom bother if it is an appropriate time for him to have a conversation. If he does not pick up the phone in four or five rings, we conclude that he is being rude and arrogant; the poor guy might just be having a quiet candle-light Valentine Day dinner with his fiancée!

Internet is Fast Catching Up

Same is the case with internet accessibility. It appears to have assumed the same significance in our lives as oxygen which is vital to our survival. Withdraw it and the person withers away like a plant which has not been watered for quite some time. Ask any bleary-eyed child why he is looking tired and sleepy and the reason could well be that the only book he was working on the previous night was Facebook!  The realization that there is a real world out there – which is not the same as the virtual world – is difficult to come by.

According to a 2008 study in the UK, 53% of cell users there suffer from Nomophobia. It is not too different when compared to the stress we feel when we visit a dentist, start a new job or get jitters on our wedding day!

The day is not far off when some of us would be so lost in our technical gizmos that we may end up having to ‘Google’ ourselves to find who and where we are! With the convergence of voice and data services, we may soon end up getting mini-sim-cards planted in our skulls, much like the character of Neo played by Keanu Reeves in the ‘Matrix’ series of movies a decade back.

Just like the advent of the internal combustion engine changed our lifestyles forever, easy availability of connectivity is contributing towards making our civilization even more sedentary. The onslaught of lifestyle related diseases like diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular complications is getting further speeded up with our addiction to internet. Our transition time – from being a couch potato at home to becoming a patient in a psychiatrist’s couch – is possibly getting shorter.

Enjoying Freedom with Responsibility

It is not my case that newer technologies are bad. Thanks to social networking, distances have shrunk – physically as well as mentally. A virtual democracy of information has led to grouping of like-minded individuals. Regimes world over are waking up to the potential as well as the power of internet, as we have seen in the case of the ‘Arab Spring’ and also in the recent case of a brutal gang rape case in Delhi.

We have enviable options today to remain connected with the world, but there is an overload of information. We need a higher level of maturity and wisdom to be able to moderate its usage in our day-to-day lives. We need a higher degree of inner strength to be able to sift between what is relevant and truly beneficial for us, and whom we associate and network with. It is up to us to enjoy this new-found freedom with responsibility.

We have to take a conscious call whether we wish to use the technology to our advantage, or to become slaves to it, 24 x 7! Yes, it is not easy to switch off our smart phones, I-pads, tablets and laptops. But there is no other way but to do so at select times during the day. Let us give our gadgets some well deserved rest.  Overcoming Nomophobia and Noconnphobia is not as hard as it sounds!

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A Potato Protests

I am a very humble potato. I write this to protest the treatment meted out to me by the homo-sapiens. Despite making sacrifices and doing good for humanity in general, I get derided for no valid reason. Mine is a kind and obliging soul, but I am not treated well by human beings.

Derogatory references are made to me while referring to lazy bums watching TV endlessly as being “couch potatoes”. I am not capable of commenting upon the value of what is shown on TVs these days (only humans can suffer the content, though, for some strange reason, they refer to it as entertainment). But I would like to point out that referring to an avid watcher of TV as someone being a potato of any kind is an outright insult to my species.

I have very noble and humble origins. I have been serving mankind for around 10,000 years. I originated from Peru and Bolivia. Thanks to ancient mariners, I have made my presence felt on all the continents of our planet Earth. I can justifiably boast of as many as 1,000 varieties the world over. I myself have lost track of the number of dishes of which I am an active ingredient. The dishes which can get made using me range from fish and chips in Minnesota and Copenhagen to aloo sabji  in Mathura and Varanasi.

Other than being eaten directly, very many industries use me as a raw material. They process me further (and how!), ending with products which are quite different in nature.  Vodka gets made only because I happen to be around. Potato wafers and quite a few snacks would not be there if I had not been there. Life would have been pretty dull in my absence, no?

Let me say with confidence that I it is no fun to be a tuber crop and to grow underground; think of all the worms and insects which surround me when I grow as a baby. It is like living in hell. Once I ripen and get picked up, my suffering only increases. So as to be able to make myself presentable and delicious, I often undergo a harsh treatment. I get boiled, baked, chopped, fried, roasted, mashed or cut up, so all humans would be able to enjoy what they eat.

If you ever visit a wafer manufacturing factory and imagine yourself to be a potato like I am, you would realize the kind of suffering which is in store – you get graded, bounded about on metallic conveyers, washed in steam, mashed, made into a paste, get extruded in the form of thin wafers and eventually get sprinkled with all kinds of spices, before being bundled off in a pouch packed with a dash of Nitrogen; yuck – I just hate it!

I provide good carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals to mankind, but still get blamed for obesity. This is patently unfair. If people consume me with relish and then lead sedentary life styles leading to health problems, how can I be blamed? I provide a good diet which makes one feel full at the least possible cost. People who eat me can do some physical work and benefit from the fiber content I provide to their digestive systems.

Before you call a friend of yours a “couch potato” next time, please consider this plea of mine. Think of using me more wisely. Mix me up with other vegetables – like spinach, beans or cauliflower – and relish the tasty dishes that your Mom comes up with. If you have me as your staple diet, I am happy. But then think of jogging, brisk walking or join a gym, so I may help you to become more active and develop six-pack-abs in a shorter duration. This way, your friends would wonder what magic potion you have found in me. And yes, girls may just drool over you also when you offer them an aaloo tikki burger next time round.

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