I just got a personal trainer and I have to say, it’s one of the best things I’ve done. He’s not really mine; I share him with about a dozen other ladies in my housing cooperative. We got him after much wrangling about time and agenda and fees. His name is Sam and he is—and I have my husband’s permission to say this—not un-cute. Oh come on, don’t look so shocked. I am sure part of the reason we all go to the gym is to look at cute half-naked young men and women. For proof, look no further than Jerry Seinfeld, who met his future wife at a gym.
Sam entered our lives ostensibly to show us how to use the gym equipment in our clubhouse. One afternoon, he stood ramrod straight with a slightly bemused look as some 15 of us ladies, clad in saris and churidars, engaged in our usual verbal diarrhoea. We peppered him with questions and doubts. Mrs Dixit wanted to know if she would put on weight if she stopped exercising. Mrs Narayan wanted to know if there was the slightest chance, however remote, that she would ever have a body like Halle Berry. Mrs Motwani wanted to know if he charged by the hour or month.
In good hands: A personal trainer can double up as a great listener
We couldn’t agree on a time for our gym class. Most ladies could not come before 11am because their maids would be at home. Some of us couldn’t do it after 5pm because we were shepherding our kids to various mind-improvement classes. Then there was the delicate matter of fees. Mrs Chatterjee thought the Rs2,000 a month that Sam was charging us was reasonable; Mrs Menon and Mrs Mukherjee didn’t agree. We finally agreed to do our training in batches of four. One-on-one training was simply out of the question, we agreed righteously. After all, we were a middle-class housing co-op. It wasn’t as if money was raining from the skies, said Mrs Hegde, and laughed. It wasn’t really funny; anything Mrs Hegde says seldom is. But we all laughed uproariously, mostly because Mrs Hegde laughs loudest of all and looks at us so expectantly that we can’t disappoint. Sam didn’t laugh.
The four ladies in my morning batch agreed to exercise between 1pm and 2pm right when I eat lunch. But I had little choice in the matter. When it comes to maids and their timings, most ladies become surprisingly inflexible. Their husbands can wait for dinner; the other ladies can starve without lunch; but when the bai enters their home, they have to be present—to wrangle and extract.
Much sympathetic tittering later, Mrs Patel had another slightly delicate question: Was it okay to exercise during “those days, you know”? Sam didn’t know what she was talking about. We let it slide.
So nowadays, if you need to reach me between 1pm and 2pm, well, you can’t. I am in my clubhouse, exercising with Sam. You know, when all my well-heeled Delhi friends went on and on about personal trainers, frankly, I couldn’t see what the fuss was all about. Now I do. I have seen the light.
It is the attention, you see. And I say this as a person with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. I think that some of us can’t have too much attention. We seek therapy, go to beauty parlours and take on personal trainers mostly to get someone, anyone, to actually listen to us. It is a huge high. I get on the treadmill and tell Sam what I ate, when I ate, when I farted…no, just kidding.
My juvenile scatological humour, by the way, never fails to elicit laughs from all the six-year-olds in the building. What is it about young kids and body parts, especially humour involving gas?
So I tell Sam about my day and he is all ears. If I am tired, he wants to know why. If I have a headache, he is grave and attentive. He encourages me to drink large quantities of water and like Chef Ananda Solomon, projects an air of quiet confidence. He is like a doctor. You feel you are in good hands.
With Sam, I become like one of those helpless Victorian women. Part of it is the way he controls the class. He tells us when to get off the treadmill; he counts to 10; he lays down the mat on the floor; he even adjusts the equipment as if we are invalids who can’t unscrew a plug. He takes charge and for once in the day, we women can simply let go. I think that is the reason why Mrs Chatterjee and Mrs Agarwal and Mrs Menon and Mrs Hegde and I are all crazy about our Sam. Not crazy in a crass, lustful way although I am not discounting that possibility either.
Getting a personal trainer is a fantasy come true, really. It is one time of the day when the guy unfolds your exercise mat, opens the door, and counts to 10. Plus, you get to lose pounds in the process. What’s not to love?
Shoba Narayan is no sexist but she doubts she could train under a woman, however good-looking…ahem, good. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org