If God had wanted me to touch my toes, he would have put them on my knees.
I recently strayed into a local gym after a friend convinced me that I needed to die healthier. Of course I have no immediate plans of dying, even if dying will take me to heaven.
For many years I have always avoided the gym, and whenever I felt like exercising, I always lie down until the bad feeling passes. But here I was, ready to be put through a series of strenuous exercises, the type that help convert fats, sugars, and starches into aches, pains, and cramps. The room was packed, mostly by women, very beautiful ones — this is where you find them nowadays. Men were few, a handful, probably because the only exercise they like is irrigating their throats, dodging the Breathalyzer along Mombasa road, side-stepping responsibility and pushing their luck, with women!
Interestingly, the handful men, very unhealthy dudes — telling by the size of their stomachs — were busy ‘supervising’ our good sisters. So I joined the supervision role, as lead supervisor — that’s everyone else was doing. But how does a city woman know that she is out of shape? I guess it’s when they can’t pull supermarket shopping carts apart. I am certain, if it weren’t for the fact that the TV set and the refrigerator are so far apart, some of them wouldn’t get any exercise at all.
I say it’s a waste of time and money for a city woman, who does not breastfeed for fear of deforming her breasts, and spends half of her lifetime crushing chips, sausages and chocolate to go to the gym. And what do city women need muscles for? I mean they don’t have to walk for half a kilometer to fetch water, or ride a squeaky bicycle to the market to buy soap and salt. Neither do they carry their babies on their backs because it is, err, backward. Instead they transport their children in that small mkokoteni ‘sweetly’ called a pram. Our mothers did not shy away from carrying the two of us — one on her back and the other on her flat chest. That was real parenting, and they needed no gym to do this.
I say the best gym for our women is the village. One week in Kanyamkago will work miracles. First, you will have to carry water on your head, which means your Chinese hair will lose shape, and form. Meanwhile, you will have to tactfully dodge thorns, pointed sticks and an army of red ants as you wiggle your way down to the stream.
Then there is that mad cow, the one nicknamed Osama, but which has to be milked at dawn. In my village, milking is left for women, which means you will have to convince Osama that you are a good Christian, and that you must take tea with milk each morning or risk heart attack.
Come lunch time, you will have to take part in a marathon — that of chasing an adult jogoo so she can feed you and your extended family. And since you are not Olympic champion Jemima Sumgong, you will traverse the whole village, sweating and panting — You will then have to crown the marathon by committing murder in the name of slaughtering the innocent bird.
Meanwhile, a whole village will be waiting at the table, cracking stupid jokes about chicken meat. My villagers love chicken; good women only eat the legs, and the heart, that’s the tradition. You will also realise that electric or pressure cookers are a rumour in Kanyamkago, which means you will be required to light the traditional fire using firewood. And you don’t waste the match sticks because the shop is a kilometre away.
You will run out of breath every so often in that grass thatched house called kitchen. The smoke is bad, but it will not kill you, remember our mothers survived it.
It’s a whole teary experience. And no make-up, your face can catch fire. If you thought this is torture, wait until you are asked to prepare ugali. Forget those little mountains you prepare in the city, a real ugali cooking session lasts thirty minutes. And you will need two hands to mix the damn mountain. You will be seating on some wooden thing, both your feet supporting the Sufuria which will be resting on three sooty stones. And you have to be careful lest you burn very important parts of your body.
You will be sneezing, your nose running uncontrollably because of the smoke. This exercise I am told is meant to clear your stupid head. If you do that successfully for two days, you will be as fit as a fiddle. You will not need the gym.