(Published in The Friday Times, on September 26, 2014, retrieved from http://www.thefridaytimes.com/tft/morning-people/)
It is often said that the night belongs to poets and prostitutes. This pronouncement is usually made by poets. Though I cannot say with certainty that I have a legitimate claim to either title, I do like the night. Recently, there has been a spate of articles, likely based on random and possibly unscientific research, which suggest that most geniuses work late into the night.
Nothing makes me happier than reading such articles. Part of the reason is, perhaps, that I like those relatives who harangue me about my nocturnal wakefulness to feel that they are more incompetent than I am. But, the most important reason is that I have always disliked people who look after their own health, and it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy to have seemingly definitive proof that they are intellectually inferior to the rest of humanity.
There’s something repulsive about people who avoid certain foods, try to protect their livers from lubrication by alcohol, and exercise for any reason other than short-term gains, such as fitting into a new designer dress or playing havoc on the hormones of a crush.
And these people are out in numbers before the night has given way to the morning, and the poets have gone home to write about the prostitutes.
Motivated by the honourable intention of wanting to look ravishing enough in a Size 6 dress to seduce a prospective boyfriend, I joined a running club and a cycling club. I believed I would meet people who are as shallow as I am.
Now, the first thing that is wrong with these clubs is that they meet early in the morning – around 5:00 am, which is often earlier than my bedtime.
The second thing wrong with these clubs is that they are teeming with people whose motivation is the idea of fitness and good health.
There is nothing more depressing than staggering sleepily out of one’s car to see a bright-eyed runner doing push-ups. Well, except staggering sleepily out of one’s car to see a bright-eyed CEO getting ready to cycle, three hours after he landed in the country.
“I got picked up by my driver from the airport. I had some khana-vaana there itself. You know, at the Business Class lounge. I went home. I told my wife I am going to the shower, and then I changed into these things, picked up by sneakers, and took out my cycle. She calls me ‘maniac’,” he laughs boisterously to the admiring engineer who is hoping to be hired by him someday.
From the tone of his voice, you would think ‘maniac’ was his wife’s codeword for ‘George Clooney’.
There is always that woman who realised after putting herself through childbirth that her true calling was running. She hopes that women’s magazines and newspaper supplements across the country will send rookie reporters in search of stories to her, so that she can start a trend. She also hopes that sycophantic 20-year-olds will gasp when she casually mentions her children, and yelp, “Oh my GOD! You have a child?! I would never have thought! I thought you were younger than me! I thought you were in school or something!”
There is also that guy who is something of an evangelist for the morning masochism. He will corner you as you yawn and stretch and try to recall the face of the man or woman for whom you want to shed the extra pounds.
“You know, I used to weigh 90 kilos. Now, my weight is 62,” he will say, and then beam.
Chances are that you will miss your cue to trill, “You?! You were 90 kilos? Okay, wait...you, you mean actually you? NINETY?! Tell me your secret!”
If you don’t say that, in those exact words, he will look at you, nod, raise his eyebrows and contort his lips. “Ninety. Imagine. Me.”
You finally mumble, “Really?”
“Yes. Nobody believes me. You can’t imagine, no? Me, ninety?” he laughs. “I used to find it difficult to climb one flight of stairs. Now, I run up all six floors to my office. My secretary – she’s this chit of a girl, just out of college, and I’m 45, you won’t believe – she looks at me and says, ‘How do you do it, sir?’ I tell her it is all willpower. I feel so much healthier now, so much happier, so much more...”
“Loquacious?” you want to ask.
For my part, I gave both the running and the cycling clubs a fair try. I showed up once for the running, and managed to hurl myself through roads whose pores exhaled the odours of sewage. I even set my alarm on another occasion. I borrowed my brother’s cycle, pedalled from the start point, went home, had coffee, and returned to the start point after an hour. When everyone thought I had completed the 15-kilometre trail, I knew the researchers were right.