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?