Have you seen the fitness challenge video the Prime Minister tweeted last week? There are so many wonderful things about it but there’s a tiny detail which could completely derail its purpose — which was to showcase the PM’s collection of handloom gamchhas. Of course, I’m joking — it was to promote fitness. So, the first and the best bit — the absolutely fabulous garden landscaping. To be fair, it was also wonderfully highlighted by the PM’s statesman-like use of its features. Breathing exercises near the Buddha statue, walking around the tree (which was roughly the size of Jharkhand) wagging a stick, and cunning multiple uses of the large lounger-like rock — using it to both sit in meditation pose as also lying on it, waiting to be beamed up to the mothership. It was all genius.
I was also awed by how the PM totally crushed the traditional boundaries between those who can and those who can’t “do” fitness. Anyone with the athletic ability of a geranium can do what he demonstrated — walking and breathing and walking and breathing at the same time. In fact, it is clear that some athletic geraniums could pretty much do this too (though they may have a slight problem with the stick-wagging part).
However, the one tiny flaw, which could render this video ineffective in raising awareness about fitness, in my view, is the clothes the PM was wearing. Everyone knows the first rule of fitness as adopted by the United Nations in its Declaration of the Rights of Climacool: what matters most in fitness is what you wear to work out!
Now, I think this is what probably happened. The PM was wearing what he probably generally wears to do some light dusting around the house, and then some pesky social media manager arrived, claiming he needed to shoot the video right then. So, the PM left his dusting clothes on, but swapped the bottoms for a pair of abruptly cropped athleisure pants and proceeded with his fitness routine. But, by wearing something that resembles workout apparel in the same approximate way as it resembles a tiramisu, the PM may inadvertently have taken the entire fitness movement back by decades — even centuries — to the primitive days when anyone could just get up and exercise in whatever they were in.
This would be a real tragedy. Through unprecedented advances in textile technology and competitive pretentiousness, we have now reached this point in our collective history where what we wear to achieve fitness, how much we spend on it, and how specialised it is for the sport we may take up matters way more than our level of fitness itself. Any exercise apparel has to cost the equivalent of a spleen because it is made from hi-tech material to ensure it wicks moisture and “breathes”. If you listen carefully, you can hear your Dri Fit T-shirt breathing and, if it is a fan of the PM, do some one-nostril breathing if you wave a Buddha statue in its direction. Also, since scientific research has proven that what an athlete needs for peak performance in every sport is different, exercise apparel has, over the centuries, evolved to reflect that. Just as a handy illustration, here is what apparel worn specifically for certain sports reflects:
– Cycling apparel is designed to help cyclists look ridiculous, while proudly displaying to the world their muscles, veins, etc. (As a wise man once remarked, especially their etceteras).
– Golf apparel helps golfers do what they do best — place bets with other golfers. But, most of all, it represents their inalienable right to break every fashion rule in the world.
– Karate clothes are designed to promote free movement and the desire to make movies about monks, who at first don’t know karate and then know karate.
– Yoga apparel is meant to align chakras, look good on Instagram, and showcase the yogi’s smugness and moral superiority to the rest of the non-yoga-doing world.
– Swimwear is designed to be aerodynamic in the water and outside reveal all the spare belly tissue that the swimmer has.
It is clear from all these examples that clothes maketh the exercising man. This has been true since the time of the ancient Greek Olympics, when no one wore anything to protest that elastane hadn’t been invented yet. By wearing items of clothing that are only suited to strenuous physical exercise such as ordering pizza online, the PM hasn’t done India’s fitness any favours.
In these times of crisis, it is always instructive to turn to the ancient wisdom of the Vedas and remember atithi devo bhava, which when loosely translated means T-shirt fit toh India fit. (There isn’t anything there about a gamchha, though. Just saying.)