The Union Sports Ministry’s #humfittoindiafit campaign brought to my mind city stand-up comic Balakumaran’s piece on Central government PSAs poorly dubbed in regional languages as an afterthought, to image them as pan-Indian. He sends the audience to splits when he asks how a person in a remote non-Hindi speaking part of the country is expected to understand ‘Pradhaan Mantri Mukhiya Yojana’.
Given the sense of Tamil pride taking over the state, in no other circumstance would have people batted an eyelid for Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore’s Twitter plea to the Indian population to get fitter. It only caught my attention as it did the Tamil meme maker’s imagination only because Mr Prime Minister accepted cricketer Virat Kohli’s challenge to him while remaining silent about the state sponsored murders that were startling the state.
At this point I began to look up the challenge and those that were talking about it. I was hardly surprised. First, it was people in different stages of what seemed like their everyday workout, or those that claim to be ‘fitness freaks’. Then it struck me that for an Indian campaign, the fitness advocated by the campaign neither enthused people engaged in physical labour outside designated ‘fitness spaces’ nor included those who did not have the privilege of time to set aside some in the search for fitness. Most important observation of all, no one in this conversation was expanding the idea of fitness from it’s most money making ‘gym and trim’ form to other essentials for wellness.
A recent study has shown that 51 per cent of Indian women aged 15-49 are anemic, the most in the world. Does nutrition not warrant space in this faff about fitness? Or doesn’t mental health, considering 56 million Indians are suffering from depression and 38 million from anxiety disorders according to a WHO study? Poverty, lost livelihoods, migration, work load, domestic violence, sexual harassment are only some of the issues that contribute to the mental health of a person, and these are far too pressing matters that need to be attended to.
Having just passed Menstrual Hygiene Day, I must mention clean water. Again I stress, clean water, because you know, those who menstruate could really use some to wash up. As of now menstrual health and hygiene management has a poor track record in India. But even if not just to stay infection free, we need clean water no? Just generally for drinking and all — to quench thirst, to live etc. And clean air of course. Both of which are included in the fundamental right to a clean and healthy environment as per the constitution of the country and by the way, working out in an unhealthy environment is worse for a person than not at all.
When I’m saying nutrition, mental health and a clean environment must be part of a conversation on fitness I don’t mean to indulge in whataboutery. I’m all for fitness, I want a fit nation too but I believe fitness should be for everybody and about everybody. It is in the interest of the people I stress that fitness not be forced into a box removed from the real world where pollution makes a population unfit. It is in the interest of the government I ask that meditation not be mixed up with silence on matters of life and death.
The writer is a city-based activist, in-your-face feminist and a media glutton