Run for your life. Or why I am better than Aamir Khan.

Ideally once you decide to lose weight, learn a new skill and stop pronouncing Warner brothers without the quintessential Mallu accent with its emphasis on Waa instead of Whoa ( as my wife constantly reminds me whenever we go to see a movie ) the Universe should conspire to make it happen. However in my case the Universe has other plans. Namely, do the opposite of whatever shit the domesticated kid plans. I hadn’t learned any significant new skills for the past 3 years, despite whatever creative half-truths I jot down under ‘Personal Development’ section every year during my appraisals at work. When startled, I still refer to WB as ‘Waarner Bretherz’. I have documented my ongoing battle with weight elsewhere on this blog. On the BMI scale, I’m the outlier that always makes it hard for the doctors to clearly define the boundary between normal weight and overweight. For years bitter debates have raged in medical circles in Nagpur and Singapore on whether I’m slightly above normal or slightly below overweight. I’ve constantly lived on the edge.

And then came the news on the telly that Aamir Khan had piled on pounds of flesh to balloon upto 95 kg for the upcoming movie Dangal. He has difficulty breathing now, which I TOTALLY UNDERSTAND. But here comes the rub. The old wily actor fellow is going to lose it all for the same movie. Is he crazy or what? Doesn’t he realise that you can simultaneously act as an 80 year old paunched father and a 35 year old paunched superhero in the same movie? At the same time? Didn’t Mohanlal teach you anything? For shame.


Heavyweight actor
Bloody fellow 

Now, we need to call a spade a spade and a porotta a porotta. This is just Aamir Khan showing off he can gain and lose weight at will. The bastard. I, on the other hand, have the first part down pat. The second always trips me up. And not for lack of trying. Quite recently, some genius at my office decided it would be a great idea to issue us all with Fitbits, divide us into teams and pitch us against one another to see which team could burn the most calories, in a bizarre corporate version of biggest loser. A colleague from IIM Ahmedabad proposed my name for his group, quite possibly to derive sadistic pleasure from reading the next day’s Guardian by-line on page 3

“IIM Bangalore alumni collapses tragically on pavement during training run. Subsequently run over by 10 IIM Ahmedabad London Alumni runners”

The horror. 

[Domesticated Kid’s side note: Now listen to me very carefully. The first step in any fitness program is to consult an expert, to make sure you don’t hurt yourself. Go do it now.

Done? Are you now equipped with all the latest information on forecasted income statement, cash flow analysis and Price/Earnings ratio? Excellent. That’s because you consulted a chartered accountant by mistake. Do it again, correctly this time please] 

But I pulled together whatever reserves of courage I possessed and decided to go through with the ordeal. A masochistic streak runs through the Thayyil Nair family. My father had decided, after retirement, that he would grow vanilla for money. My mother recently decided she would switch her allegiance from Mammootty to Dulquer. 

I signed up.


I went to a total fitness program at a nearby gym where an impossibly fit lady told me I needed to buy customised jogging shoes, branded t shirts, protein powder, wrist GPS and a heart rate monitor watch. I asked her if all the new-fangled tech would help me win the competition. ‘No, she said’. ‘But I would get a commission on all your purchases.’ She seemed honestly convinced that I was what is commonly referred to in the fitness industry as an easy mark .But I burst her bubble and told her I was wise to all her wily ways. Upon which she broke down and admitted that she was in it purely for the money. Just like Aamir Khan. That’s when inspiration struck me. For half the price of the gear, she taught me how to hack the Fitbit so I could manipulate the count without having to pull a hamstring or curl up on the pavement.

I aced the contest at work and happily bought porottas with the prize money I earned. The only difference between me and Aamir Khan now is that while we both did it for the money, he had to eat broccoli and drink water instead of porottas and coke. To top it all, I learnt a new skill into the bargain – how to hack fitbit trackers. Now if only I can pronounce Warner Brothers correctly. 

Relative Discomfort

One of the perils of being a Malayali living and working abroad is that sooner or later, someone boards the nearest ‘Uru’ bound for California and swims ashore to wherever you happen to be staying. It’s inevitable. As far back in history as I can remember we Malayalis have been boarding ships, planes, autos and hiding in cargo holds to go to “foreign” lands.  The network is so widely established now that the average time elapsed before you reach Siberia and your aunt’s father in law’s neighbour’s son calls you up is roughly 24 hours. 
The tragedy is that the two relevant parties in this conversation – you and your aunt’s father in law’s neighbour’s son (henceforth to be referred to as Appunni) won’t have the slightest interest in talking to each other.  But goaded on by parental pressure, Appunni might call you up. In the absence of any mutual points of interest, the conversation might go something like this:
You: “Hello? “
Appunni: “Hello?”
You:” Hello?”
Appunni: “Errm…. Sandeep? I’m Appunni. Vineeta aunty gave me your number”
You: “Who?”
Appunni:” Vineeta aunty? From Kollam?”
You: “Ohh. Yes… Errm, nice. Are you here in Siberia? “
Appunni: “Yes, they asked me to call you “
You: “They would. So, how are you?”
Appunni:” I’m fine. How are you?”
You: “I’m fine too. Errm… so, you are from Kollam?”
………………………..
And so on it goes. Most of these conversations start from a vague feeling of discomfort and end in a distinct feeling of dislike. And it’s not Appunni’s fault. The poor guy most probably did not have any choice in the matter either.  Based on my personal experience of having fielded such calls in multiple cities across Asia, I’ve developed some tactics which may be of use to the average hapless Malayali.
1. Don’t pick up calls from unknown numbers. This has the added advantage of making sure that your boss cannot reach you on those days when you are out “sick”
2. If by a remote chance you pick up the call and it turns out to be Appunni, tell him it is that day of the year when your college alumni call you up to review the next year’s admission list. It doesn’t matter which college you are from so long as it’s not IIM Ahmedabad. Even Appunni might know that they don’t screen candidates for admission at IIM A.
3. If you don’t follow the above two steps and are forced to talk further, don’t fret. There’s still hope. Tell him you are talking from the All Siberia Malayali samajam annual convention and you are collecting for this year’s awards dinner.
4. If all else fails, there’s the tried and tested way to handle all Malayalis. Just use this script word for word
“ Ahh Appunni, sukhamalle ? Vineeta ammayi told me you would be calling. I’m a bit short on cash right now. She said she’d send some with you…”

There’s a reason why Dasan and Vijayan tried to reach Dubai without paying the full fare.