Thursday, September 1, 2016

Jottings : Slice of life : 37

Jottings : Slice of life : 36
Everybody's life is a biography worth telling. Each one has challenges, little successes and failures, emotional and physical demands, personal milestones which may or not be reached, but the effort continues unabated no matter what the circumstances are.. A Man's life is an ever unfolding story, never static, often fascinating; but always interesting and different.
It was on August 20th 2013 (some dates remain etched in memory) I took an important decision to join a fitness club, and commit myself to a regimen of physical exercise. The idea had long been germinating, but somehow, I never got around to doing it. Painful memories of previous years, when my body had almost collapsed to a point of no return kept returning almost daily, reminding me of the need to take care of it as much as I could from now on. But I tarried the decision.. The intention was there, but would not translate into action. It was during a chance remark in a car ride with a close and respected friend, my mind was finally made. I was talking to him about swimming, and he turned towards me and said “ Bala, you have been thinking about this for quite some time. I hope you realize that you have to personally take the decision of going to a swimming facility and enroll. The pool is not going to come to you..”. A pretty commonsensical remark from a well wisher; but, this time the import of his words pushed my indecision away for good. The time was ripe. A tipping point occurred. The very next day, I walked to the nearest facility and joined. And on the very same day bought myself a swimming costume and bravely jumped into the pool at around 4 PM, hoping to put the skills I had learnt thirty years ago to some use. I still remember the first sense of tingling coldness that penetrated my skin, my first desperate gasp of breath as I tried floating a few feet in water, first few unsuccessful strokes that only made lot of noise and splashed water all around, but never got me moving an inch , and above all the sheer physical exhaustion after 30 minutes of such effort. I was bone dead when I staggered out of the pool. My body felt like pulp.
Since that day, I have hardly missed a day of exercise. No matter, where I am, and whatever be the demands of the day, I have always found a little time to stretch my body and pay attention to it. Like my daily schedule of reading and writing, swimming and cardio exercises have become part of my being. Those odd days, when I do not get time enough to exercise, there is a strange dullness in my muscles; as if something essential is left undone. Again, I am not obsessed with fitness. I just enjoy my routine, thats all. If for some reason, I do not find a facility to swim, I dont feel miserable. I run , or walk, or simply stretch my arms and legs in the hotel room. The point is : I thoroughly enjoy those moments of physical attention.
I dont celebrate my birthdays or even remember it some years. Social media has taken over that responsibility, I guess. But last Saturday, 20th of August, I decided to commemorate my three years of swimming in my own little way. Instead of the the normal 30 lengths across the pool, I wanted to swim 75. I have never done it before. But there is nothing to lose. I am not going to be beat myself, if I dont, and I am not setting speed and time checks to do it. It was a weekend, and I have all the time in the world. I wanted to swim with ease enjoying every moment of it. And so, I slid into water at 6.30 PM and within few laps, my body had found its rhythm and the mind had detached itself from the act of swimming, leaving it free to think of other matters. There was a whispering internal clock which was silently and mechanically keeping number of lengths without being intrusive. Length after Length, I kept gliding slowly at my own pace without any pressure whatsoever. When the count reached 75, the alarm inside rang. The time on the wall clock was 8 P.M. I held my hand against the inner walls of the pool, and for the first time deeply felt raw tiredness and fatigue of this effort. A pent up sigh of breath escaped through me. There was a sense of pleasurable pain in my limbs, and the brain was light and easy. I was overjoyed. I did do it, after all. Little did I realize that there was an audience gently clapping their hands and saying “ You are in great shape..” They were pool buddies, watching with surprise my more than unusual effort that day. I had not told them about my intention to celebrate my third anniversary of swimming.
In terms of swimming as a sport, by no stretch of imagination is this effort worth talking about. Any competitive swimmer would laugh at it. I was neither pushing myself, nor completing laps in reasonable time.. I was just swimming to prove a point to myself. That was all there is to it. My philosophy of exercising is that I just feel good inside - which, in my opinion, is the only sane definition of Health possible. The body will eventually age, and the most carefully managed muscle building programs will give way. But none can take away the feeling of joy in the body which exercise can bring, at any age.. And for someone like me, who has seen what a damaged body can do your soul, it does mean something really deep. As I said, earlier in this post, to each man his life story is a biography worth mentioning. When I walked out of the pool last Saturday, i couldn't help thinking of one particular day in 2011 at San Francisco Airport, when my health had deteriorated to such an extent I could not walk hundred feet without feeling breathless, legs wobbling and extraordinary tiredness of mind and body. That today, i could pull of nearly mile and quarter of swimming without any undue effort is a vindication of one of the most powerful statements in the Gita
“Uddharedatmanatmanam natmanamavasadayet;
Atmaiva hyatmano bandhuratmaiva ripuratmanah.
Bandhuratma'tmanastasya yenatmaivatmana jitah;
Anatmanastu satrutve vartetatmaiva satruvat”
Roughly translated , it means
“You can raise yourself only by yourself. In the process of growing, maturing and individualizing, there cannot be greater friend or foe than yourself. You are your own boon, and your curse as well. Choose Arjuna!!, which did you wish to follow!!”
God bless…
yours in mortality,

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