Sunday, February 22, 2009

Pumpin' Iron

So, I'm back in Tiruvenamali living with some friends that I met here. One of the guys goes to the gym every other day or so. I asked if I could join him on his iron pumping visits. He said sure.

We jumped on his motorcycle and drove into the heart of Tiruvenamali. It's loud and very Indian. We parked in front of a dingy looking front of stores and walked inside. Once inside it opened up into a hallway of sorts. On either side there were shuttered shops (it was about 8:30 pm). We took a sharp right and climbed up a steep set of stairs. The walls were painted green, but the dirt on the walls made it more of a greyish green.

The stairs ended at a door. The door was open and on the other side you heard the sounds of music, grunting, talking and the banging of iron.

Yup, that is a gym.

My friend (his name is Volker) then took off his shoes. Wait. In the west you aren't even allowed in sight of a gym if you don't have shoes on. I had put on socks (the first time in 2.5 months) and put on my lace up shoes specifically for this visit. I followed his lead, regretfully untying the beautiful bow knots I had made.

And then we walked inside. It smelled terrible. Generally gyms do. But in America (at least in my experience) the smell is somewhat masked by some cheap air freshener. Not here. This was pure unadulterated man sweat. I smelled like my underwear after a long run in the sun.

The floor was green carpet. Like the walls in the stair well this green carpet was a long way from clean.

Volker signed in at the front desk. I signed up for a month long membership. This involved giving the dude behind the counter rs 150 (almost 3 dollars). He then had me write my name, age and address on a sheet of paper (it seems like everyone always wants to know your home country address, I have no idea what they are going to do with it, perhaps they will send me Christmas cards).

Then it was over. It's a far cry from signing up for a gym membership in America. Gyms in America are serious places. You have to have at least two forms of identification and they take your picture and put it on a card. Plus you have to wait seven days while they do background checks to make sure you don't do Yoga or anything sissy like that.

The gym itself was small. It was one room. The first day I went there it was packed full of Indian men. Volker and I were the only white guys there.

The machines were probably 20 years old. Or they were made out of scrap metal. They were dirty and dangerous. Using them I got grease on my hands and in my hair. At one point a fairly large metal bar almost hit me on the head (no fault of mine). Luckily for me about eight Indian guys warned me about the impending danger.

That is another thing. Everyone there wants to give you pointers. They all have a certain way of doing things and believe that you should do it the same way. Plus they all think you must be brain dead or something. They kept pointing out obvious things. I mean sure I almost drop a large metal bar on my head but hey everyone makes mistakes.

In terms of physical fitness most of the guys there were about my size or even a bit smaller. That was nice. In America when I walk into a gym I feel like a fifth grader. Massively beefy men populate American gyms. They grunt and yell and even scream sometimes. They get so pumped up on adrenaline or testosterone or whatever that sometimes I'm afraid a mass brawl is going to break out (I believe firmly in non-violence, so if a mass brawl did break out I would regrettably not be able to show these beefy men what a great fighter I am. Instead, simply to uphold my ideals, I would have to run away or hide in a locker or something).

In India it's different. Although there are some big guys they are quite a bit calmer than their American counterparts. They are also nicer and easier going. They introduce themselves and ask where you are from. They give you lots of advice and even sometimes save you from large falling bars.

Overall it was a great experience. I got to work out (something that I haven't done in 2.5 months). And I got to meet some Indian guys about my age. Although it's dirty, dingy and dangerous, I prefer it to my limited gym experiences in America.


hipychiky said...

yeah, this post had me cracking up!! I was definitely not expecting a pumpin iron blog post from your India Saga. How cool!! You are very funny Eli!!

Chris Francovich said...

HI Eli,
I love reading you blog Eli. I miss you. I am curious about how 'bodies' are realized in India as compared to America. What matters there? Are the same standards at work there as here? Do they come from here?

Pat S said...

Extremely dirty green carpet in an Indian "gym". Consider the picture painted.

Heidi said...

I miss you so much, man! I look forward to the next post and more photos. I have been missing newspaper a lot lately and am so glad I have you as a friend. Carpe diem!