The Sikh farted.
I was stretching on the blue mat next to the leg press being used by the flatulent elderly man with a long silver beard down to his flabby nipples. I heard another noise come from the general direction of the short turquoise shorts he wore.
I crinkled my nose and stole a glance at the Sikh in the mirror. He didn't look the least bit embarrassed, and continued his gastrointestinal symphony by belching loudly.
I got up and walked to the other end of the gym. There, I found four young Indian men lounged comfortably on three blue benches. One was laying down with his square head resting on his fat, interlocked fingers. Another had his legs crossed as he clumsily worked his thumbs over the small buttons on his cell phone. The other two were sharing a bench and talking, the shorter (and fatter) one shaking his head to the rhythm of a Shakira song blasting from the speakers. Coach, smiling, stood over them and watched it all.
None of them were lifting weights, nor had they for the last ten minutes.
I approached tentatively. "Excuse me," I said to the prostrate man. "Can I use that bench?"
The man, a bulky twenty-something with a small belly and George McFly hair, looked at me with utter confusion, which was strange, because I knew he spoke English. I asked again. Lazily, McFly swung his legs over the side of the bench and, very reluctantly, stood.
Most of the young, affluent Indian men who go to our gym barely exercise. I'm pretty sure they assume that just being at the gym will balloon their muscles. It certainly seems to have that effect on their egos.
As for us, it's before 7 a.m. most mornings that we arrive at Stamina, the ritzy (for India) gym on our corner. It's in the basement of a residential building, behind a frosted glass door that's dotted with muscled silhouettes. The gym is modest in size, perhaps 60 feet long by 15 feet wide. The ceiling is bright yellow with a wavy blue line running down the middle. Three evenly-spaced pillars in the center of the gym are painted a fiery, almost flagrant, orange. Which is to say that the decor is tasteful compared to the laughable nouveau-cool standards of many South Delhi locales.
Coach, who we think is our gym's owner (or at least its pushy-but-pro-bono personal trainer) wears the same thing everyday: a red, white and black Adidas windbreaker and matching black pants. Does he have six matching outfits or does he wear the same one everyday? I can't stop thinking about it. How one becomes fixated on such things while lifting weights and listening to Les Miserables on an iPod.
But the outfit. It's tight enough to make Coach's shoulders and chest look huge, but baggy enough to allow me to wonder if the get-up isn't simply a way to hide a telltale belly lurking underneath. The outfit is made out of the same sort of glossy, synthetic material that I suspect Coach sprays on his head each morning to supplement his thinning hair. His scalp looks like it's been airbrushed, then applied with a Photoshop blur filter.
There are two more regular employees. First, there's the boy. He looks about 15. Coach calls him "Guy," or sometimes "The Guy." The Guy's job is to make sure no gym members have to rack or re-rack their weights. The Guy wears the same blue, pink and white striped Polo shirt every day. He has a faint mustache. The Guy looks like he doesn't get enough to eat.
There's also a paunchy older man with a thick mustache. He wears the sort of pants-and-tucked-in-shirt combo that would be more appropriate to an accounting firm than a gymnasium. He seems to really like loading the bar I'm lifting with more weight than I can handle. His name sounds something like Bareezbadoo or Beezbabadoo or Beezeebeezeebabaloo. Aliyah and I refer to him as Beelzebub. Neither Beelzebub nor The Guy speak a word of English.
Besides the see-and-be-seen members of the Boys Club, the oddball employees, and the digestively-challenged Sikh, some of the regulars at the gym include:
-A middle-aged woman who wears either a conservative sari or a Hard Rock Cafe: Kuala Lumpur t-shirt.
-A well-fed man with the mustache of a government bureaucrat who I've caught more than once looking in the mirror, grabbing his belly with both hands, shaking it violently, suddenly realizing he's not in private, letting go of his belly, shifting his eyes back and forth, and then nodding and smiling in the mirror like everything is cool.
-At least two really fat guys who do nothing but sit around breaking equipment and trying ever-so-hard to be accepted by Coach.
Have I mentioned I'm hungry?