“Easily the best place to stare at well-chiselled bodies, peeking out from under tight clothing.” “Precisely why I am joining.” Prakhar winked at Sid, tucking his tummy in. “In a few weeks,” he ticked his fingers, “I will also be one of those people possessing a chiselled body.” “I am sure.” Sid nodded, sipping his high-calorie, extra sweet tea.
The housekeeping people at ICC – International Convention Centre and Pune’s multi-office complex in Senapati Bapat Road – always served extra sweet tea. In fact, you could sometimes see sugar particles line your lips after a cup was done. Made one wonder it did, if they had a secret pact with the management at Abs Gym. If all the employees in all the offices that ICC housed could be fed the sugar syrup every day, twice a day, a significant percentage would soon feel the need for exercising. And what could be more convenient than the little place on the top floor, standing in all its glory at terrace level, ICC?
“You are just being cynical.” Prakhar hushed all oohs and aahs about his gym resolution. “Abs is a great place. They have personal trainers, flexible schedules, you name it.”
That overcast evening, logged out from his system early and bright, Prakhar made his way to Abs. His jeans were too tight for comfort, his shirt falling coarsely around his shoulders. Something had been the matter in the past two months. He had put on volume like someone fitted with an air pump. Never mind, thought Prakhar, I now have the solution.
Sometimes, he blamed it all on Swati. Their dinners would usually comprise a buttery daal makhani, oily paranthas and huge gulab jamuns for dessert. And this, when they went Indian. More often than not, she would be on a whim to try new cuisines and he would find himself gulping down prawns cooked in cream and pastas in cheese sauce. “Haven’t we been eating too rich, sweetheart?” he would try. “But we are rich people aren’t we?” He would re-read salary messages he had got on his phone and nod in vigorous approval.
After all those lunches and dinners and weekends spent cooped up in love-holes, was it any surprise that he had put on weight? It was not. What, however, was surprising that Swati remained thin as a rake.
“I am just naturally slim.” she shrugged him away when he had asked. “I take after Mom and she was anaemic.”
Something it was, to have slim genes. Moms and grandmoms and great grandmoms who were thin even if they pigged it out at every meal. He wished he had such luck. But one thought about his Mom and her XXL sized kurtis he had spent the last weekend looking for, and he banished the longing entirely.
It wasn’t that Swati complained. It was more like a passive disinterest, perhaps only in his mind? In fact, matters were put at rest for a while when Prakhar took her to this restaurant in Koregaon Park. It served a five-course, ‘connoisseur’ meal. His initial doubt about the name was soon cleared. “Really?” said Swati, looking up from her third helping of blueberry cake. “Of course. You need to be a connoisseur to appreciate such a spread.” Swati agreed heartily. “Which we are!” Prakhar was not so sure. He liked his chicken cooked, for instance. And his rice white in colour. Anyhow, Swati had looked happy – even fed him an extra paneer pakora – and he had concluded that the night had been worth the loot it had cost him.
It was only later, when he was switching off the night lights, that a gurgling noise made itself heard. It rumbled and grumbled and even mumbled something indecipherable. After some frantic moments spent locating the spook, Prakhar realized it had taken up residence in his stomach. Not only was the tummy rounded, it was also gas-infested. That was the very moment he had decided to join Abs.
Though the evening was fairly young, Abs was already bursting with people. Even as clouds greyed up the sky outside, inside was a world of music, LCDs and fitness freaks placed in unusual body positions. “What is it that they are doing?” he asked the person supposed to be his trainer. “Oh, they are lifting weights. You will get to do that in a couple of days.”
Wow, so that meant he could finally lift Swati up in his arms, the way they showed in the movies. He could hold onto her as they danced in the rain outside. Perhaps he could buy a bicycle; Swati had been complaining the bike smoked too much.
Oh, just a few days and his stomach would be as flat as that LCD screen which displayed the temperature outside. He could feel the blood in his veins go berserk with joy. Jumping on the treadmill, he saw the meter galloping. Miles and miles would he cover and kilos and kilos would drop by here and there. He felt, and amazingly so, terrific.
After an hour, Prakhar picked up his first-day complimentary juice and smiled at his trainer. “See you tomorrow.” he called out, walking out of the door. He needed to ask Swati to get ready. To celebrate the new fitness regime, Prakhar had arranged for a Spanish meal. The flame, the red, the spice. And two cups of steaming coffee to set the mood before dinner. Ah, he could already see her beaming.
Her phone beeped. So loud he could actually hear it. Surprisingly, he could even hear the rushed click of the disconnect button.
Prakhar stood confused. Swati stood too, near the now open elevator door, in the arms of a man with a well-chiselled body that peeked out from under tight clothing. Though she had on a rather bulky raincoat, she still looked thin as a rake.