I watch myself naked.
Gravity is working on me. When I look into the mirror I see lines on my body that didn’t exist before. My skin is not as taut as it was ten years ago, when I was 24; when I could go for days and weeks without drinking sufficient water and my skin would still gleam in the sun. That may never happen again or may take a lot of work now.
Freckles on my chest, skin tags on my neck; a legacy passed down.
I’ve never taken ‘good care’ of my body; I’m not proud of this fact but I’m not ashamed of it either. I am fortunate to have a good metabolism, so I’ve rarely had to watch what I eat. And from the outside no one can tell that I haven’t exercised in almost a year. But my paunch gives away the years of neglect.
I have always wanted washboard abs, without doing a thing about it. I don’t think I actually want them. I like the idea of having them. Too many ads in my face that tell me I need them, in order to be happy. “What do you mean I can’t pick them up from Talwalkars, after tonight’s session at Toto’s bar?”
I get into phases of running. I’ve run a couple of 10Ks; one completely hungover, one sandwiched between a couple of cigarettes. I was stupid enough to smoke heavily for over a decade. I love running but I’m not serious about it. I’ve never maintained a regular running routine. I exercise in phases. I’ve been to a gym twice in my life (I mean for two seasons, not literally twice). I went for the first time when I was 21 and the second time when I was undergoing a break-up. Both stints lasted no more than a few weeks; my laziness was higher than my self-esteem being lower.
This doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate someone’s fit body. Taking good care of oneself is an art. I have great respect for that. I aspire for it myself. I have zero appreciation for vanity though. None. Nada. It’s a turn off. But my wires got mixed-up when I was young and I thought all self-care was vain. I am learning how ridiculous that is. Spending hours in front of the mirror is not the same as going for a run every morning so you can live longer. It can be difficult to separate the two.
I’ve been mildly annoyed about my paunch since its inception in my early twenties. It is the one thing that I want to change about my body, not because it is unhealthy, but because it looks bad. So I am vain after all, I suppose. But I don’t act on it. I don’t see it is a matter of great urgency.
My tummy bears a huge scar from three surgeries I had before I turned eight. Intussusception. A remnant from the troubled time in my childhood. Troubled time for my parents, my grandmother and my extended family. It affected everyone around me a lot more than it affected me. I was only a kid. It was difficult for all of them. My mother more than anyone. So the scar is sacred to me—a testament to my mother bringing me to life and then bringing me back from near death; my father carrying my frail seven-year-old self, trying to hail a rickshaw in the Mumbai rain and yelling to the driver “aath nahi assi rupaya le, par chal.” (forget 8, charge me 80, but just take me to the hospital).
I’ve never been able to tolerate anyone talking about the scar lightly. Some friends would try to, you know how boys can get. It always made me conscious. Also the fact that it divides my rotund paunch into two horizontal halves makes it all the more difficult for me to be topless. But I’ve eased up about it a lot over time.
I got into a pool naked for the first time this week. There were people walking around. This place is ‘clothing optional’, so nobody cares. I too joined the club and chose to not care; I’m reuniting with my partner after so long. I want to be free. Being naked is free, isn’t it?
But I can be so shy at times that I can’t even hold a coherent conversation. Like when this kind stranger tried to include me in a chat she was having with my girlfriend and asked me “what do you do you said?” And I went “Er.. ya.. um.. films.. music.. erm actually I’m writ—blogging… errrr.. hehehe.” She was confused. I looked away quickly before she could probe me any further. Fortunately I was fully clothed.
Despite my shyness, I was not too surprised that I entered a pool in my birthday suit. I asked my girlfriend if she was surprised that I disrobed as easily. She thought for a bit and said no.
Either all the work I've been doing on the inside is making me free or I am becoming shameless. Either way, I’m liking it.