I’ve never been the overly gymnastic kind, you know? I’ve been fat and lazy for almost all my life. Sure, there are some people who will say I’m not lazy, but they really don’t know me *<strong>all</strong>* that well. Except for my recently implemented passion for tennis (as opposed to a long-standing ‘armchair’ passion for tennis), I’ve not been the sort to exercise much. No stretching routine ever marred my early mornings, no gym ever made a serious impact on my leisure hours.
For all that, strangely enough, I have discovered in recent years that I have a super-flexible body, which years of laziness seem not to have done much harm to. I mean, I can make a full bridge by bending over backwards and putting my fingertips on the floor; I can do nearly perfect splits, sideways as well as forward and backward; I can bend over and put my palms on the ground with ease: and I can almost touch my nose to my knee when sitting on the ground with one leg folded and one stretched out. I know – phenomenal; abilities that I’ve done absolutely nothing to deserve and am therefore inordinately proud of. (Having said all of which, I still can’t do padmasan to save my life. Weird, right?)
So anyway, with all that to my credit, a simple somersault was nothing to write home about – somersaults were as routine as whistling or riding a cycle. Everybody can do those.
Or maybe not. Turns out Amit can’t do two of them – and the third, riding a cycle, is anyone’s guess.
Amazing as it is that someone should not be able to whistle – and a guy at that! – the fact someone, and <em>this particular</em> someone, can’t do somersaults was completely astonishing. I mean, here’s this absolute stud guy – tall, muscular, not an inch of flab anywhere, athletic all his life, an ace at tennis and fairly good at various other games, a dedicated gymmer for many years at a stretch… you get the picture. And yet, despite all the impressive things he can do, the one thing this macho he-man can’t do, is… the humble somersault!
Things really came to a head when Tara started doing somersaults. Mrini acquired the skill months and months ago, maybe more than a year ago. Tara, on the other hand, was completely adept at tumbling over and falling on her side. Then, all of a sudden, last week, Tara showed us just exactly how a somersault should be done. She put her hands on the floor and flipped herself over effortlessly. Her head never touched the ground (mattress, actually). So, in Tara’s expert version of the somersault, for an instant her entire body was in the air, only her hands were on the ground. Ok, cartwheels would be next!
This was not a version of somersaulting I’d ever tried – my head would be firmly grounded and my body just rolled over it. That was pretty much what Mrini did too. I hadn’t even thought there was any other way of doing a somersault. The kinds of things you can learn from three-and-a-half year olds!
After watching this star performance for several days, it began to worry Amit. Yesterday evening, he asked me to do a live demo. I did – without even removing my glasses. Big deal. Then I tried the Tara-style somersault, and though I didn’t manage it with quite the degree of elan as the pioneer herself did, I could see what was needed. A little practice and I’d be there.
Now Amit was really in a state. To have three women in his family somersaulting away with consummate ease was unacceptable. Clearly, this situation couldn’t be allowed to persist. He got on to his knees and put his hands on the mattress. Then he put his head down. “Now what?” he asked, looking at me upside down.
I told him to get his knees off the mattress and push off with his feet. But he just couldn’t do it.
“Baba’s scared,” observed Tara perspicaciously. How do kids get so sharp??? It was, in fact, just that – an instinctive fear of going head over heels; the distinct impression that this was an easy way to break one’s neck and wind up dead. Or, worse still, permanently paralyzed.
Yet, here were his three girls, specially the oldest one (me, I mean) necks and spines intact after numerous somersaults.
It took him more than half-an-hour, in which time all other activity in the house came to a standstill as his spellbound audience of three alternately got in his way (the kids), laughed (me), and egged him on (all of us). At last he managed it – and then, just to be sure, repeated it twice.
Ok, that’s done. Macho, he-man, stud status restored. Now, if only he could learn to whistle.