Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Alternative History of India: Gandhi And His Bench Press

If there is a man in the history of mankind to have used his capacity to bench-press 140 kilos of raw salt laden sandbags to the advantage of an entire civilization, it was this man. Unwritten but passed down from generations vocally. Tales of the Mahatma hitting the gym after a quick calorie filled bite and protein shake just after harvesting salt, the climax of the marathon Dandi march, the same morning, are now the stuff of Legend. Much to the surprise of the BBC journalist who telegraphed London, what Gandhi said to him just before he started work on his cardio: “DO U EVEN LIFT BRO?”

Historians, Academic writers and their students have often ignored this vital phase of the Mahatma’s life. When hitting the gym was as important to him as India’s independence. In his own words, Gandhi claimed he only lied once in his life, when his trainer asked him if he knew how to operate the Treadmill. In-fact, Gandhi’s love for the physical exercise at the gym had often spilled into his public life. During the Quit India movement, observing that the crowd gathered to burn Imperial goods as a mark of protest against His Majesty’s Government, hauled in a custom built set of weights that were made for the Maharaja of Mysore, he intervened. Not only did he return the weights, he also autographed them. Today, pictures of the weights with his autograph, adorn the walls of most gyms- right next to that of Megan Fox bending over what appears to be a car’s hood and Arnold Schwarengger (??) Schwaniziger (??!!?) Schwarzenegger (!!) lifting an offshore oil drilling platform with his middle finger, clad in underwear.

Where and how did it begin, tho? How did the man tasked by the gods with leading a people to Freedom and Self-Rule come to love exercise so much? If one delves into the Historical archives and anecdotal accounts of the people who lived and worked with him, it seems that it all began in South Africa. The Mahatma was travelling in First class when an officer of the law, tasked himself to remove Gandhi from the compartment and boot him to Third class, where coloured men like him belonged. When the thin, 30-something man, refused to budge, he was kicked out and onto the platform with what appeared to be his luggage. But in the confusion and chaos of the pushing and shoving, the officer mistook someone else’s luggage for Gandhi’s and left him with it. When Gandhi first opened what outwardly appeared to be his luggage, his eyes fixated on its content. A set of 3 dumb-bells. Although photographic evidence of the same is not available since selfie sticks were still in their development stage and Gandhi’s dual SIM Nokia had no camera, all anecdotal and written records point to this incident as the turning point in his life. It was then, at that moment, that Gandhi decided he would, to paraphrase 21st century lingo, “hit the gym” and also tackle the small but still important matter of relieving a country of 600 million people from their colonial masters. 

That's enough completely accurate and not made up at all history for today. You learned something new.