By Kripa Krishnan Nov. 15, 2017
Health is a performance and an expensive one. So what is a broke girl, who has no coin for quinoa, New Balance sneakers, and a bottle of green juice to do?
hey step out once the sun sets, some solitary, others in intimidating packs. They are young, they are hot and they know it. They walk hastily in expensive shoes, faces set in an expression of intense concentration, arms moving in an elegant dance of athleticism, ignoring the masses scrumming around them. This, dear readers, is the wellness tribe.
If you live in urban, yuppie ’hoods like Bandra, there are a couple of things you can’t shield yourself from. One, you can’t escape the wellness hottie, and two, you can’t escape the social pressure of being one of them. I, too, wanted to defy Mother Nature and join this army of regulation hotties.
It is the same gnawing need to belong that Cady Heron must have felt as she saw Regina George and her clique strut through the halls of high school in Mean Girls, a film that is an apt metaphor for every shade of millennial life. And in the leafy bylanes of Bandra, the wellness hottie reigns supreme. I wanted to be one of them, not because I wanted to become healthy and live a few extra years, but because I wanted that self-satisfied aura that comes from colour-blocking your expensive sports bra and your leggings.
The obvious iterations of status are usually opaque: shiny hardware, recognisable logos, accessories which scream that you belong. The wellness hotties have a codified approach to belonging too. If you are a serious yogini, you will need to have a Manduka mat (a leaping toad perched on its inner corner), on your person all the time, even if you’ve stopped for a bhalla papdi chaat at Punjab Sweet House. If you are a runner, New Balance sneakers are the jam (extra points if you’re a dude and you wear them in pink.) This lot is pals with the green juice gang, that last ate daal-roti in 2009, and currently live off of juiced kale and quinoa upma.
When they are not at their classes, where they perform what I can only imagine are impossible feats of calisthenics, I see them huddled together at salad bars, juiceries, and sneaker stores.
"It was Instagram which informed me that good old haldi had joined the must-ingest list these days."
Despite a burning desire to be a part of this very public performance of health, I was aware of the fact that these props are expensive. You need to drop some serious coin if you want the world to believe that you are one of those people who drinks organic wheatgrass shots for breakfast. What is a wannabe girl to do, who has no money for this costume of health. Could I bootleg the whole persona, one knock-off at a time?
There was a lesson I had to quickly pick up. The food that I grew up eating simply did not make the cut in this “clean eating” movement. Bread was a dirty word and esoteric replacements like hemp milk and chia flour, could only be bought in the air-conditioned aisles of specialty stores.
I could eat ramdaana, an equally nutritious desi counterpart of quinoa, which is available at local grocery stores. But that experiment fell flat the day I took my brown slush to work. The unappetising mess was no match for the quinoa brigade that gave me the side eye, while digging into their expensive carb-free lunch. Those witches. If a white YouTuber picked up raamdana and claimed that it had changed her life, they’d all change their minds too.
My struggles with clean food might have been a bit hopeless, but I had better luck picking up wellness in hashtags, an Instagrammable version of health.
It was Instagram which informed me that good old haldi had joined the must-ingest list these days. Instagram superstars, both desi and Caucasian, were toting bottles filled with yellow liquid and turmeric was the superfood du jour. Now, here was a superfood I could afford, even though the Instagram version was a “shot”, organic and fair trade. Mine, however, came from a cardboard box with the picture of a turbaned old man on it.
To complete the charade, I also had to look the part. So I went online to find fakes of the popular signifiers of health. Most e-commerce sites sell marathon merch: wristbands, headbands, running shorts, socks, water bottles, the whole cornucopia of fitness accessories. And for a couple hundred bucks, you could bag a bright wrist band which would scream to the world that you indeed ran 20 kilometres for a good cause. As for the rest of the gear, thank goodness for Mumbai’s alley boutiques, where you can get your hands on Lululemon leggings for the price of a Starbucks latte.
With my impostor arsenal in place, I was ready to pound the pavements of Bandra, matching steps with the wellness hotties. But it quickly became apparent to me that you cannot fake cardiovascular strength. They trotted ahead, gazelle-like, ponytails swinging in tandem with their toned butts. I, on the other hand, was red in the face, muttering cuss words with every step on the very first steep incline of the posh heights of Pali Hill. Turns out, health hotties are not all veneer and posturing.
After a few embarrassing attempts at exercise, I am ready to retire my knock-off uniform. I now plan to spend my days watching YouTube tutorials on How To Look Good While Running… and the wellness brigade passing by, from the safe confines of my first-floor window.
Kripa Krishnan is a Delhi girl living in Mumbai, she is a hunter-gatherer of information and has spent the past decade justifying her love of both Germaine Greer and misogynistic rap.