Life in Mumbai can be hard on your vertebrae. Two weeks ago, I was the victim of a rather unfortunate incident involving what’s called an “annular tear”. Nope, it’s not my tax return that I shred once every year. It’s an excruciatingly painful back injury involving bones, nerves, tissues and jelly. Really, jelly.
It seems the most courageous, the most valiant, the most Spartan of us have jelly for a backbone. The jelly, of course, is held in place by tissues that are held in place by muscles that are, in turn, held in place by other strange-sounding medical terms.
Trouble begins when said tissue, unable to put up with any more jolts served to it by Tulsi Pipe Road, the most choked, bumpiest artery that connects South Mumbai to the suburbs, decides that life is simply not worth living. As far as I’m concerned, it’s the Mumbai tear, and you can’t avoid it.
So off to the Orthopaedic Trauma Cell at Bandra’s Lilavati Hospital, then to Mr. Roentgen’s most useful invention, back to the doctor for some painkillers, sage advice on the benefits of regular exercise and some gentle tut-tutting as you describe yourself as an “occasional smoker and casual drinker”.
Next comes the hardest part of any medical procedure: lifestyle modification. So, you need to sit better, eat better, smoke less, drink less, sleep earlier and, worst of all, exercise.
Let’s be honest, exercise is undoubtedly the single most boring activity ever thought up by a human being. And the undisputed leader of the Kingdom of Bore is the Gym. Take any gym in the city. First, the ridiculously pumped up instructors. Then the muscle-pumping Bollywood wannabe fitness freaks whose sole raison d’etre seems to be staring at their vastly superior deltoids. But the absolute worst of it all, the nadir of the gym life, are the Page 3 types who say in a manner most irritatingly cheerful: “I luuuurve working out... it gives me such a high!”
Aargh! And don’t even get me started on going for a walk at Bandra’s Joggers’ Park. Surely the city that would be Shanghai can afford a park that’s just a wee bit more majestic than that teeny-weeny excuse for a park.
So, it’s yoga at home for me. Thrice a week, at 6am, one hour of stretching, bending, breathing and passing out. Really, part of the yoga routine involves you lying on your back and gently passing out while the instructor continues to do ridiculously bendy things on your behalf. The downside is getting up at 6am, which means I have to go to sleep by 11pm, which means my social life on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays is toast. Mumbai has no dearth of yoga instructors, and they’re only too happy to come home for the few extra bucks on the side.
My back is getting better by leaps and bones, so that’s a good thing. But the best thing of all is telling your friends that you’re getting up at 6am to practise the most noble art of them all. That you are carrying on a tradition that’s 2,000 years in the making. That you are morally superior to all those lazy cows who’re out at Hard Rock Café every night, having what they think is the time of their lives.
(Suresh Venkat is an executive producer at CNBC-TV18.)
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