Gandhiji and the gym

Like most Indians growing up in the 60s, I was taken to see and cry buckets over ‘Satyameva Jayate’, a movie which ended with the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. I grew up with stories about Gandhiji, almost as much as the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. One of them was how he told off some Englishman: Washing your own clothes is better exercise, and more useful, than playing tennis, he was supposed to have said. I have been looking for that story for a long time, but I cannot find any mention of it anywhere, though the motif of washing clothes does pop up a lot.

I keep remembering this possibly apocryphal story because I am surrounded by people who go to the gym and work out; people, even one cousin in her 70s, who are shocked that I think walking and a certain amount of manual labour like gardening and housework is enough exercise, and I really don’t care if it doesn’t use all my muscles – these are all the muscles I want or need. At the very least, they believe, one must do some yogasanas every day.

There is also a perception that physical work is boring. Among the younger generation, it appears that the ideal life is to do brain work for a living and gym for physical fitness.

Against all such, I hold that housework is less boring than hundreds of repetitions of the same action. And there is the great satisfaction of something looking bright and clean at the end. (Ok, I admit one may get great satisfaction from a honed body; though I am unlikely to experience it myself, being what one may kindly call a little overweight.)

Sport is different. At its best, it’s a form of play, an outlet for high spirits, which is delightful in any animal. Dancing, too.

The one advantage I see of working out at a gym is the company. Housework and gardening tend to be solitary pursuits in the age of the nuclear family. Though of late our farm is becoming a sort of hub, with friends and new neighbours dropping in frequently to compare notes. So housework and farn work are turning almost into social events; at least, I have an audience, if not coworkers. (Love that word, must have been invented by someone with a sense of humour and/or cows )

I guess I know what Gandhiji would have thought of gyms. But, readers, what do you favour? Work, or working out?

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11 responses to “Gandhiji and the gym

  1. I prefer work to working out, largely, I suppose, because I prefer to be home. Like you, I like “housework,” and seeing the fruits of my labor. Nor is housework for low intellects. I have a B.A., an MPH (Master of Public Health), and a JD (law degree), and I like clean bathrooms and kitchens and vacuumed floors and dusted surfaces.

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  2. I am happy with whatever makes a happier world! I enjoy physical work (cooking, cleaning, a bit of balcony gardening) and also like working out on my cross trainer at home. I think what we call mind is a bit of both brain and body and I am grateful that I am able to nurture them both.

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    • Thanks, Kajoli, for those wise words. I know I tend to take an extreme position on things, but I do actually believe in tolerance and ‘to each his/her own’. 😉

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  3. Any form of exercise that is not part of your daily routine is not okay, so I think. But I am the wrong person to ask since I hate any form of exercise, and would sit on a couch all day long only walking to restore my circulation, if I could. 😊

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