Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Dance Your Blues Away

It's now been almost two years since I started with Zumba. It's funny how seemingly random events can have a profound impact on you. I had no idea what Zumba was when I first did a Google Search on it, and amongst the instructors in Gurgaon was given the cell number of a certain Sameer Sachdeva. When I finally attended his class, I was completely taken in by how much fun and how challenging it was, and became a regular.

Suddenly, the eight extra kilos of post-pregnancy weight after the twins birth melted away - I had been struggling with the fat for over a year and a half, and then with 3 days of Zumba a week, and no other change in routine or diet - I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight and have stayed there ever since.

Sameer and I became friends and he was the one who encouraged me to take Zumba up as an instructor. I dilly-dallied about it for a while, but eventually went ahead and got my license as a B1 (Basic Training One) instructor last November. I take classes only in my own colony mostly, and on weekends.

There are about seventy songs or more that I have prepared choreography for, and try to add about one a week; but in one class we only do about 14 songs and the class likes plenty of repetition, so I don't actually get to do all the songs I'd like. These classes however, I remind myself, are about the students - one problem that I have is that I get a sneaking suspicion that the students don't attempt to get any vigorous activity during the week because of 'lack of time', and concentrate all their physical fitness efforts only on the weekend. I don't think that works. I run weekend classes only, and I still say openly that taking only two classes on a Saturday and Sunday will only be for maintenance of fitness and won't be too helpful for weight loss, beyond a point. I used to do classes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and that worked brilliantly for me. So I encourage my students to get in at least one more class, maybe an evening batch, or do some running. Swimming, I'm not that big a fan of, because I remember reading that it makes you hungry enough to put that weight back. I'm living proof of it anyway.

Zumba works at so many different levels for me, and for a lot of people I've spoken to. First of all, it's really vigorous, involving movements that are intense and varied. We use the concept of interval training and slow it down and speed it up between songs and within songs. It's challenging enough to require your attention or you won't be coordinated enough to keep up with the class or the instructor. The group energy adds a great deal to the whole concept. Finally, it's so much damn fun that unlike most other forms of fitness, you won't get bored with it. I know because if something hasn't bored me with my fleeting attention span for two years, it's unlikely to bore anyone else!

I'm a part of the team called Zumba@DelhiSalsaClub, led by Sameer. Sameer himself is an outstanding instructor, and his background in dance - he runs the Delhi Salsa Club, after all - helps a great deal, although it is his energy that it is unparalleled. He's my age ( okay, just a few months younger) and I don't know where he gets that energy from, but the good thing is that it is highly infectious. The other instructors are great too - Aparna Deshmukh, one of the earliest instructors in India, who for me is a fellow mom and a fellow ex-Unilever-ite too; Nancy Rustagi who's got some serious Bollywood moves; Anuj, whose energy and smile are about as big as each other; and the newly certified but bursting with energy and some awesome Bhangra moves, Sahil Kapoor. We don't get to meet as often as we'd like to because each and every one of us does various other things too; but we're bound, at least for the time being, by the love for dance and fitness. And ultimately, it is this world-wide phenomenon called Zumba that is responsible for bringing the lot of us together!

If you're in Delhi NCR, join up with us. If you're anywhere else, join up anywhere else. You may really really like it; it makes you fit...and happy!

Here's a clip of Sameer and Nancy taking the Zumba at Raahigiri. This is in the sweltering heat of Delhi which would make most people melt, but Zumba enthusiasts are made of sterner stuff.

And please don't judge us by the Honey Singh, we love this choreography and it's a great favourite amongst all our students. I'm not exactly sure which of the team members developed this choreo, but I suspect it's between Anuj, Sameer, Nancy - will update once I find out!

For classes in Delhi NCR - call Anuj at 9899771415

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Mahabharata Pop Quiz

I love the Mahabharata, and have read several versions over the years. I've yet to find a version that fully satisfies my curiosity, although the interpretation I've loved most is the Palace of Illusions by Chitra Devakaruni.

My curiosity is nothing compared to that of my daughter though, who's already read two kiddie versions at lightning speed. And my knowledge about the story is far more limited than I had thought, as I discovered today in the car on the way to the Music school where we're both enrolled.

'So Mama, can I ask you a question?'

I refrain from the wisecrack 'Well, you've already asked it, haven't you', and instead say 'Sure. What is it?'

Peanut asks 'So are you serious that Chhota Bheem grew up to become the Bheem in Mahabharata?'

Me: 'Erm...no...actually...Chhota Bheem is just a cartoon and...'

Peanut: And the other Bheem was real?

Me: Well, no. I mean, yes, more real than Chota Bheem.

Peanut: But you told me that it was the same Bheem.

Me: No, what I meant was that the big Bheem came first in the Mahabharata story and then some guy thought 'Hey let me make a cartoon of this guy and fool a bunch of kids into becoming his fans!' ( I say this in my Kalia-impression-voice)

Peanut (makes a face): Very funny Mama. But tell me, na, why did Bheem Shah not get killed by the arrows?

Me: Bheem Shah? (Realization) Oh, you mean Bhishma.

Peanut: Ya, Bhimsha. Why did he not killed?

Me: (struggling to keep up) So...he lay on the bed of arrows...until he chose to die. He was a great man of many powers and so he could choose when to die.

Peanut (shocked): But why didn't he just choose to live longer?

Me: (realizing this is an opportunity for some education about a topic that oft bothers us) Because not everyone wants to live together, Peanut. Bhimsha, I mean Bhishma wasn't the type to come crying into his Mom's room every night saying 'But I don't wanna DIE'. He was tired of living, maybe and just wanted to rest.

Peanut (still can't believe it): But why would he want to die?

Me: Maybe he believed in heaven? You know anything about heaven?

Peanut ( impatiently): yeah yeah, it's the sky. Okay, but Mama, can I ask you a question?

Me: Well actually...

Peanut (ignoring me): So Mama, Bhishma could also have just wanted to spend time with Pandavas, right?

Me: See, given that they were on opposite sides, it may not really have worked out.

Peanut: But he could have waited to see who won the war, and then spent time with them. Didn't he like the Pandavas?

Me: He loved them, but you don't do stuff like that...just wait to see who wins the war while lying on a bed of arrows so you can spring up and hang out with the winners...he wasn't that kind of guy...

Peanut (changing track again): But Mama, why did he fight against the Pandavas? I thought he liked them better than the Kauravas...

Me: Yeah, he did , but...( My memory fails me here and I'm thinking - yeah, why did he do that?)

Peanut (happily moved on anyway): But Mama, why did Karnaa become their brother?

Me: Karan, Karan...he was their brother because Kunti was his mother.

Peanut: So why did he go away from them?

Me: Well, because...( I don't know how to explain this but decide I can't just leave her hanging)...actually, he had a different father.

Peanut (Shocked): How can that be? How can brothers have a different father?

Me: (struggling) But...but...even the Pandavas had different mothers, right? It's okay, it happens! ( I really don't want to get into the details here)

Peanut: So then Karnaa wasn't the son of Panda?

Me: Panda? ( beginning to laugh, knowing fully well what she means)

Peanut: I mean that hugging guy, the guy who hugged his wife and died...Pandu...stop laughing!

Me: But Peanut, you're just so funny.

Peanut (accusingly): You don't know the Mahabharata!

Me ( with a sigh of relief, looking out the window): Look! We're at the music school....come on now, we're getting late...

Peanut: Okay, but Mama, can I ask you a question?

Me:  ( Dragging her out of the car and propelling her towards the building) La la la la la la, come on now, chop chop

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Dead End:Extract from Sorting Out Sid

This is a scene from the Chapter 'The Dead End' that comes about one third down the way into my book 'Sorting Out Sid'. It may not be a usual practice to give away something like this, but I think it's obvious even from the book blurb that Sid's marriage to Mandira is doomed. So here goes. This scene isn't as funny as the rest of the book but I like it somehow and it represents a big turning point for Sid, and there's so much more that follows. If you like this, you can go ahead and get your copy of the book from Flipkart here (They're running a huge discount and free delivery right now, so check it out!) 


The phone rang about ten times, but he waited patiently still tapping his fingers on the wheel. Finally Mandira picked up, sounding slightly breathless and more than a little annoyed. ‘Ya Sid? What is it?’
‘Nothing much,’ he said, ‘You enjoying your party?’
‘It’s fine,’ She answered curtly, ‘How are Mummy and Daddy?’
‘Oh, we’re all missing you very much. Hey, how come I don’t hear any music at the party?’
‘I’ve stepped out to talk to you in the hall.’ was her quick reply, ‘So why are you calling?’
‘Nothing, yaar … I just thought I’d tell you …  I was getting a little bored, so I’m going to see Vikas tonight. Sunny told me he’s working on a presentation at the Farm. Remember the Farm? I guess you wouldn’t, we went there together to a party only once … years ago. So, anyway, I thought I’d surprise him there, maybe have a beer with him.’
There was a moment of silence and Mandira’s voice rang out shriller than before, ‘You can’t do that … you can’t just land up and disturb him …’
‘What disturb him, yaar!’ retorted Sid, ‘He’s my friend. I just felt like seeing him, it’s no big deal.’
Her voice was panicky now, ‘Listen … don’t leave Mummy and Daddy alone. They come to spend time with us, and …’
‘And you go out to an office party? Come on, if you can do that, surely I can go and see my oldest and best friend? Don’t worry, I won’t be long. I’ve almost reached anyway. Chalo … bye.’
Mandira didn’t even bother to say bye. She quickly cut the call and Sid took a deep breath and stared at his phone. He wished that there wasn’t this perverse part of him which had started to enjoy itself, especially since most of him felt sick to the stomach.  He looked out of the window towards the gate, and waited.
It wasn’t a long wait. In about one and half minutes the gate opened and she emerged. She didn’t notice him, and he watched her now sprint across the road. Oh. That’s where she had parked, he could now make out the red of the Verna behind the  tall bushes. It had been hidden pretty well. .  It helped Sid to focus on the logistics of the situation. This took away some of the discomfort he felt from the  bile in his throat as well as the bitter feeling of disappointment that rose from his stomach. Of course, he  realized that somewhere in the back of his mind he had known this all along.
He watched Mandira scurry and hit the button on the remote keychain, from several meters away, to unlock the car. She scrambled into the driver’s seat and drove it out, heading  with reckless speed down the road, away from him.
He pressed the redial button and waited until he got another breathless ‘Hello?’. He watched her from his vantage point as she slowed down marginally, saying, ‘Sid, I’m driving. I’ll be home soon, okay? What is it?’
‘You’re going the wrong way.’ Sid said in a pleasant, conversational tone. She pulled to an abrupt stop and even from the distance he could see that she was sitting frozen rigidly in her seat, the phone glued to her ear.
When she didn’t respond,  he hastened to add, ‘The main road is the other way – that’s a dead end you’re heading for.’
Her stunned silence continued, and a feeling of weariness hit Sid all over again. Whatever little fleeting pleasure he had derived from his grand expose was already fading away. In fact, he was beginning to feel painfully sorry and embarrassed for her. He wished he didn’t have to put her through this  - but it was too late now.

He sighed and waited for her to respond. What could she possibly say though? He had hit the nail right on the head. They had both been heading for it for a while, and now they’d reached it – The Dead End.

Buy the book from Flipkart here
Get the e-book on Amazon here
And my first book Just Married, Please Excuse is here