Tag Archives: Health

Keep Calm And Do Yoga For Non-Political Reasons

(Note: This is my HT column dated 21st June 2015.)

Today is International Yoga Day, so I assume you’re reading this while standing on your head and inhaling deeply through your toes. As you know, yoga is an ancient discipline that we’ve loved and respected ever since we learnt that Madonna was doing it. It seems to work great for her too – she doesn’t look a day over dead.

But yoga just got bigger thanks to Narendra Modi, whose 2014 address at the UN general assembly led to June 21 being declared as International Soft Power Day. The main event involves 37500 people performing yoga at Rajpath, which, on Republic Day, is used to showcase our deadliest weapons like nukes and BMWs piloted by Delhi boys. In addition to this, Indian missions are conducting yoga sessions in 192 countries, in a bid to create a world record on Most Number Of People Cramping Because Of Too Much Pizza In Life Day.

At this point, I’d like to add that I’m a yoga expert, having gone through an intensive training period of four sessions. No, seriously. I just took up yoga, and while I’d love to credit Mr. Modi for this, the truth is that much like Pepsi or Chandrachur Singh, it was never a first choice. A little injury I suffered last year prohibits me from taking up the fitness regime that I really like, which is to run and lift and look in the mirror every six seconds to see if my biceps have grown.

I needed something that didn’t look like it would kill me, and yoga was it. The fact that the instructor comes home, thus requiring minimal effort on my part, has nothing to do with my choice. (And now, if the government’s reading this, here’s a timely reminder that I’m really enjoying Ayush Spam Day.)

I have to admit that before I started yoga, I was wary of the pseudo-spiritual hook that’s sometimes used to peddle it. If someone tells me to breathe and stretch a certain way in order to build strength, it makes sense. But if someone tells me that they can see a glowing aura around my head, then I’ve probably been in a radioactive accident and will be turning into a superhero real soon. (This would be a good time to mention that I’m really enjoying the amazing rhetoric around Religious People Missing The Point Day.)

I was also hesitant because from the outside, yoga looks – and how do I say this politely – deathly boring. I mean where is the glamour in sitting in one place and pretending to be a human rubber band? I’m used to moving and grunting to the beat of ‘Aunty Pullss Bula Legi’ in a room that smells of socks and farts. That was real exercise, or so I thought, until I found myself on my back, trying to hold a leg raise and realised that I have the core strength of a grape. And this is just the easy bit – I can’t wait to turn into a hardcore yoga evangelist, at which point people will stop inviting me to parties.

The problem is that yoga doesn’t really have cool brand ambassadors that young people can look up to. There’s Baba Ramdev, who is cool if you are my grandmother, and Shilpa Shetty, who’s cool if you are Shamita Shetty. But other fitness regimes are always drawing new recruits. For example, you can’t walk ten steps without running into some CrossFit guy. You know he does CrossFit because this is how the conversation goes:

Me: Hello.

Guy: I’m great. Life is great when you CrossFit!

Me: Okay…

Guy: You wanna see a burpee? *does 200 burpees in two seconds*

Me: Dude, we’re at your grandfather’s funeral.

Guy: YAARGGHHH I CAN BENCH PRESS DADAJI!!

I’ve already started seeing the benefits of yoga. For example, I now have rock-hard abs and have been cured of my tendency to exaggerate. The asana I most enjoy is the shavasana, which is where you lie down, shut your eyes and zone out, pretty much like the BMC. And on that note, I’d like to say that I’m absolutely thrilled to have witnessed yet another The Government Tells You What To Do Day.

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Tobacco May Kill Common Sense

WARNING: The following column contains references to smoking, which is injurious to health and also makes you smell like an ashtray. Developing embryos are advised to stop reading right now.

Cigarettes have always been the most stylish way of getting lung cancer. You know this, I know this and the dumbest dungbeetle on the planet knows this. But recently, a few BJP MPs stunned the scientific establishment by saying that we maybe kinda need more studies to establish a clear link between tobacco and cancer, in the same way that we need more evidence to find a link between gravity and falling off a building.

The gentlemen in question were Dilip Gandhi and Shyama Charan Gupta, members of a parliamentary panel whose job, among other things, was to decide whether or not to increase the size of pictorial warnings on tobacco products from 40% to 85%. Another logical argument that came up during this process was, “I can show you so many chain smokers who do not have cancer”, which is like saying “I saw that one dude on TV who eats tubelights and he seems fine, so maybe swallowing crushed glass is okay for you.”

Fun Fact: Mr. Gupta owns Shyam Bidi Works, one of the largest bidi manufacturers in the country, but I’m sure that’s a total coincidence. Sanjay Jha, aka the Congress’s version of Suhel Seth, weighed in on this coincidence, saying that one did not have to be Sherlock Holmes to see the vested interests at play. At this point, a lesser man would have retired to the mountains, filled with loathing about the fact that he made Sanjay Jha appear sensible.

Thankfully, the government rebutted all of Gupta and Gandhi’s arguments with an official statement saying “Bhai, tu rehn de”, and said that they would go ahead with the plan to increase the size of pictorial warnings. This is great news for all those who believe that smokers actually care about such things. You could sell the damn things with a warning that says ‘THIS IS POISON. IT WILL ROT YOU FROM THE INSIDE AND TURN YOU INTO A HUMAN TUMOUR WITH A VOICE THAT SOUNDS LIKE RANI MUKHERJEE AND FARHAN AKHTAR GARGLING TOGETHER’ and it wouldn’t matter.

By all means, double the size of the images of the mouth sores and lesions and tumours, because that’s just more real-estate for smokers to ignore. Heck, you could sell cigarettes encased inside an actual diseased lung – have them fish out a pack from inside a blackened, slimy slab of cancerous tissue – and their only reaction would be, “Bro you have a light or what?”

This is the part where I get to be smug and say that I don’t smoke, because I have amazing willpower and I should get a medal for it. But the truth is that I can’t handle it, which is the only good thing about having a rubbish respiratory system. My lungs are so sensitive, they perform slam poetry on weekends.

I know this because like every stupid college kid out there, I tried. For a couple of weeks, I checked out a bunch of options to see what the fuss was about. The reviews ranged from coughing and puking (gold flakey nonsense) to nausea and puking (milds) to expensive nausea and puking (“David Hoff”, as a friend put it) to a double shot of impotence (“girly menthol crap”) and of course, the garams, that were lit ten years ago and are probably still burning.

I didn’t try beedis because you’re only allowed to smoke those if you’re squatting outside a building gate with a muffler wrapped around your head. All in all, it was a daft thing to do, especially because I live in Mumbai and I can get free cancer home-delivered to my body just by breathing.

Whenever this issue comes up, there are always people who wonder why you can’t just ban tobacco outright. It’s a complex issue involving agriculture, finance, trade and science but I’m going to try and break it down for you:

Money good. People like money. People no like if you mess with their money. Mmmmm. Money. *frolics naked in a pool of dollar bills*

What works though, are all the restrictions on advertising, public smoking and of course, not selling to minors, which is really the big one. So if you’re a young person reading this, do not even bother trying to smoke. Those things are super addictive, like heroin or popping bubble wrap, and quitting is going to be a pain. Seriously, you’re better off eating tubelights.

(Note: This is my HT column dated 26th Apr 2015.)

I Like Fit Backs And I Cannot Lie

Some of you may have noticed that this column was missing for the last few weeks. And by some, I mean three people not including my editors, who, like all newspaper editors, were busy figuring out how to compete with listicles online. (“Let’s make clickable paper” is what I heard last, before they returned to their monocles and quills.)

The reason for the absence is that I’ve been resting and recuperating from a lower back injury, which happened because I went skydiving and crash-landed on a remote island, where I was nursed to health by beautiful local maidens whose culture had no place for upper body garments.

Or, y’know, years of bad posture finally caught up with me, resulting in a slipped disc.

As you know, a slipped disc is a painful condition wherein everyone who has ever possessed a spinal cord will feel the need to give you advice. I’m sure they mean well, but this is what all your conversations sound like: Sit down, don’t sit down, lie down, don’t lie down, use ice-packs, use heat, gently simmer back on low flame and add namak swad anusaar and so on.

Most people have trouble believing me because this usually affects people in the age group of Farida Jalal to Alok Nath. But the way I see it, maturity is maturity, whether it exists in the mind, or in your spinal structure. Also, I’m used to falling sick in ways that make no sense. A few years ago, I was diagnosed with tennis elbow, despite the fact that I’ve only picked up racquets to kill mosquitos while pretending to be a Jedi. At this rate, I’m sure I’ll be diagnosed with something weird soon enough, like pregnancy.

I’ve also realized that men and women react to news of illness in very different ways. In this case, my women friends said something along the lines of, “Oh so sorry, that sounds horrible, please take care” whereas the guys’ exact words were – and this is true — “LOL tere ko spinal AIDS ho gaya.”

(This was inevitably followed by the question, “So… does it hurt when you do that thing that you do to yourself on cold, lonely nights and on other nights as well?” to which the correct answer is, “Some goals are so noble, it is glorious even to fail and call for an ambulance.”)

Having a slipped disc feels like being in a game of Mortal Kombat, especially the part where Sub Zero pulls his Fatality move that involves ripping out his opponent’s spinal column, skull attached and all. There are days when you can almost feel a fist clench around your vertebrae as if to say, “Screw you for sitting awkwardly on non-ergonomic furniture for years.” If that sounds too dramatic, then it’s probably the painkillers talking. Seriously, those things are amazing. They can make Stephen Hawking sound like Rahul Gandhi. This is what I sound like on a normal day:

Greetings, ladies and gentlemen. Come, let us discuss scholarly matters and say things like, “The bourgeoisie nature of the Fermi paradox suggests a Kafkaesque influence to the neo-classical interpretations of Hegelian thermodynamics.”

And this is what I sound like on painkillers:

WHY IS FLOOR SPINNING HOW IS BABBY FORMED WHEEEE! *throws up*

Painkillers also help me appreciate the little things in life, like the fact that my physiotherapist’s surname is Girey. It was nice of him to name himself after the incident that leads people to his clinic. It’s like going to a lung cancer specialist called Dr. Classic Milds.

Part of the physiotherapy involves electrical stimulation of the affected areas, which, in my case, includes the gluteus maximus aka the tashreef region. So yes, I get to enjoy the kind of vibratory massage that some of you weirdos would pay top dollar for in a dungeon in Amsterdam. It’s not too bad though. I just refer to it as Fifty Shades of Girey.

(Yes, I’m going to blame that joke on the painkillers too.)

(Note: This is my HT column dated 26th Oct 2014.)