Let’s face it, Malaysians and especially Malaysians of Indian descent have a hate affair with a healthy lifestyle and exercise. We, Malaysians are number 1 in obesity and obesity related illnesses like diabetes, hypertension and heart disease and stroke in the South East Asian region.
Here’s our Minister of Youth and Sports, Khairy Jamaludin trying to get Malaysians to exercise. I have to admit, he practices what he preaches. Just look at him. He’s the first Malaysian minister of Youth and Sports who fits the bill:
Where we got into the missing link of exercise
Ancient Indians were pioneers in leading a healthy lifestyle. Indians gave the world Yoga and Ayurveda and then forgot about them. Ippove velle kaaren basmathi, manjal, murungga kirei lam avan kandu pudicha maari scene poduran.. Innum konje naal pona yoga ve kandupudichethe avan nu solluvan paarungge.
Malaysians of Chinese descent are undeniably the most health conscious of all Malaysians. I remember leaving home to walk to where the school bus picked me up in the wee hours of morning and see my neighbour, an elderly lady of Malaysian of Chinese descent doing tai chi.
I used to live in a predominantly Malaysians of Chinese descent residential area and it was and still is, common sight to see both young and old Malaysians of Chinese descent be in sports attire and sneakers, jogging at the break of dawn on the roads within the residential area. They can be seen dotting the playground, warming up, stretching and doing tai chi in groups. Occasionally, an odd Malaysian of Indian descent uncle can be seen doing exercise along with the aforementioned fellow compatriots.
As a result of both exercise and healthy diet and overall healthy lifestyle, Malaysians of Chinese descent enjoy good health, something, we Malaysians of Indian descent should emulate.
What estranged Malaysians of Indian descent from exercise
Foremost, Malaysians of Indian descent are ashamed to exercise, especially in the outdoors. Most of us exercised last during our school and university days. As job and age catch up with us, we get shy to exercise and cease from getting jiggy with our booty.
This abashed attribute is best explained in the Tamil movie Jeans where after feasting, Lakshmi (actress) says if she’s gonna digest all the food she ate, she’ll have to dance. In response, Nassar would tell her to let her hair down and dance to which Lakshmi says, “Oru pechikku sonnen,” and then breaks into a song instead.
Indian ladies are ashamed to wear proper sports attire and shoes and get into active exercise; they put the concerns of what others might think before their health, living up to the evergreen Indian paranoia. Housewives think doing household chores is enough exercise. NOPE. One should do at least basic exercise for 20 minutes, 3 times weekly.
Wearing tracksuit and sport shoes are Indian women dress code breaching. Most Indian women, especially the elderly and housewives won’t give up their nighties for the world. Some Indian men frown upon their wives or mothers wearing tracksuit and going out to exercise. And some aunties fret on what the neighbours or all of a sudden visiting relatives would think should they spot an odd drying tracksuit on the clothes line.
I never knew that my mother was secretly dabbling in tai chi after seeing our neighbouring lady doing it each morning until one day when I happened to catch my mom in the act when I was sick and didn’t go to school. I happened to go to the backyard and caught my mom in the midst of a dragon lady move. She got so embarrassed when I saw her trying to exercise, she stopped short. I encouraged her to continue to exercise and also managed to coax her into wearing pants. Today, my mother does early morning walks and she doesn’t look her age.
The problem with Malaysians of Indian descent is, we associate exercise to youth only, letting go of our bodies after marriage since we are now already settled and became mothers and fathers. As a result of that, we have very few older health and fitness gurus. And, instead of associating health with exercise, we tend to associate looks with exercise and healthy dietary habits. So, exercise and keeping fit and trim after marriage is sometimes looked upon as vain and narcissistic or worse, flirty. And, advertisements on THR Raaga for instance, only focuses on women having a to die for body in ads while they suggest it’s okay if Indian males have pot bellies, giving this issue a sexist slant as well as a distorted lexicon whereby being slim and toned are directly proportional to having a body to drool at rather than prolonging lifespan and preserving health.
Many unmarried Indian ladies and lads maintain their figure just to attract a partner to marry. They hit the gym religiously, attend yoga classes and watch what they eat. Once married, all of the effort get discontinued, the pounds, packed on. Women naturally age faster than men (that’s why Meena, who once acted as Rajinikanth’s daughter later acted as a pair with him and she is now out of the cinema business while Rajini still acts as a hero) But, look at Sridevi and Madhuri Dixit – they are examples that Indian women can look younger than their actual age. So babes, exercise and eat sparingly not only to look beautiful but also to be healthy.
My dad and all my uncles who passed away to date, share two things in common – all of them passed away due to cardiac arrest and all of them never exercised in their lifetime. One of them was almost affected by morbid obesity – he would not be able to get through the doorways of bathrooms built in houses these days. If only they took part in regular exercise, they might be alive today.
Another thing that impedes activity as in exercise in many Malaysians of Indian descent is Astro, namely Tamil mega serials and currently, Sun TV airs Tamil serials from 11 am to 10.30 pm on weekdays with a movie aired at 2.30 pm. The movie is the only interlude and Sun TV even airs serials on Saturdays now. Vijay TV has serial, even Makkal TV jumped on the bandwagon. This serial preoccupation is putting paid to any active lifestyle and health ensuring exercise in Indian adults. Once home from work, recline on couch and watch serials back to back from Mundanai Mudichi to Rani Vaani. This is the routine in many Indian households – the most common and convenient excuse given for not doing exercise is ‘no time’. But, you have time to watch serials. It’s a matter of priority – where there is a will, there is a way.
Tune in to Sun Music and just dance like anything to the peppy music, trying to copy the moves of Darling Dambakku for instance. Dance daily for 10 minutes. No high end exercise equipment is needed. Sacrifice shyness for the sake of health.
Malaysians of Indian descent are willing to spend thousands of dollars for medical card and health insurance but think twice to spend even a fraction of it for gym or yoga classes. Prevention is always better than cure.
Since this is a health related article focusing on exercise, I might as well touch a little on Indian dietary habit.
Malaysians of Chinese descent have a plethora of herbal soups and Malaysians of Malay descent have ulam and jamu. What do Malaysians of Indian descent have? At a blank?
Let me tell you what we have – we have kirei (greens) and pachadi/thuvayal (condiment). Have you ever heard of siru kirei, venthiya kirei, ponnanggani kirei, kuppaimeni kirei, karisalangani kirei, kuppei kirei, agathi kirei, manathakkali kirei and the more common one, murunggai kirei?
Eat those kirei listed above and reduce the risk of diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and even cancer greatly. Teach kids to eat kirei. And, exercise by growing kirei, other vegetables like brinjal and ladies finger and Indian herbs like neem, mint, pirandai (adamant creeper), curry leaves, holy basil, karpooravalli, etc. Learn to like eating kirei and past the habit down to your kids by example if you want to stick around to watch your children get married.
Instead of just being potato couches, eyes glued on mega serial, do gardening at the soil patch or pots in your house compound and reap benefits which are two pronged – exercise and home grown veggies. Growing kirei is not exactly the hardest thing to do. My mother grows all of the above and doing the greens (separating leaves from the stalk) is labourious. Do the greens while watching the telly. My mom does it – multitask. Throw in some kirei when making cucur, thosai and idli.If you see Malaysians of Chinese descent, they grow chives, chilies, mustard leaves, scallions, silantro and even cauliflower within their house compound.
Also, eat raw veggies and fruits. We Indians always overcook vegetables until they lose most of their nutrients and we also don’t eat much fruits and drink adequate water. Most of us give the excuse that fruits are expensive. If you don’t eat fruits now because they are pricey, you’ll have to pay a lot more in medical bills in future.
Presently, at every Hindu Indian wedding, ladoos are given to the guests. We, Indians, love sweets – kesari, halwa, soan papdi, pal kova, jelebi + no exercise and healthy diet = diabetes.
Nowadays, eating at fast food joints has become a status symbol as well as convenience because every neighbourhood has McDonalds and KFC open 24/7. We have forgotten medicinal and beneficial Indian food. Well, eat fast food + don’t exercise = die fast.
One can only bring the horse to the river but not make it drink.