Physical exercise and yoga was my father’s very favorite thing. I sometimes felt that probably he liked it more than the taste of a good food.
My mother told us that he had started doing exercise from very young age, while he was in school. Since he did not have any separate room of his own, he used to practice exercise in front of all the members of his family and was ridiculed by all because during his young days doing exercise was considered as ‘wastage of time’ and developing tummy especially the one which many men develop post marriage was considered to be a ‘sign of improving health’.
After his marriage he had so successfully convinced my mother about the benefits of physical exercise that she also started doing physical exercise. Of course after marriage they started living in their own house so nobody knew that my mother was doing physical exercise.
The flexibility that my mother had acquired while doing physical exercise became very useful when she raised her four sons. Probably she found it not too difficult to stop with one hand one of his sons who had climbed on a door and was about to jump on the cement floor while used her other hand to pull back another son who had approached dangerously close to the burning coal oven in her kitchen.
Of course while raising her four monkey-natured sons she had to stop practicing my father-recommended physical exercises.
The most interesting thing about my father’s physical exercise was that he created many new physical exercises by combining two to three physical exercises, commonly found in books or charts. For example he combined the exercise to strengthen his biceps and triceps with an exercise to strengthen his neck muscles. While practicing that ‘fusion exercise’ he appeared like a dancer performing South Indian temple dance.
Our eldest brother who always tried to act like a hero in front of his younger siblings even dared to ask him one day why he combined two exercises into one. My father gave him a smile, which probably meant, glad that you have asked, and explained that one can train one’s mind to strengthen two different muscles at the same time by maneuvering two different organs simultaneously in a rhythm resulting into obtaining the benefit of two exercises by spending time for one. Immediately after that he gave him a stern look and mentioned that if his eldest son had some common sense he could have figured it out by himself without asking and then my father finished his sermon by saying a Bengali proverb ‘jar hoyna noye, tar hoyna nobbuie’ (he who has not developed common sense at his young age will remain stupid for the rest of his life). Our eldest brother, after being terribly insulted and not finding any word to salvage at least part of the lost honor, looked behind to see if any of his younger siblings had witnessed his embarrassment. But seeing the smiling faces of all his younger siblings he realized that the episode was not only witnessed but also thoroughly enjoyed by all.
My father used to do some weight lifting exercises as well. But when from some reliable source he came to know that ‘lifting iron’ could have adverse effect on health in the long run, he stopped weight lifting but soon restarted weight lifting again but instead of iron dumbbell he started lifting ‘bricks’ because ‘brick is not iron’.
When we were growing up he also started showing interest in practicing yoga. Even while doing yoga we found him creating new things like combining a yogic posture with some suitable ‘free hand exercise’.
He also used to practice some difficult yoga like ‘sheersasana’, standing on the head.
But one day while he was practicing sheersasana a small boy from our neighbor’s family entered into the room where my father was standing on his head. The boy, who could be about three to four years old and had never seen anything like that before brought his face close to my father’s and asked,’dadu ki korcho tumi’ (grandpa what are you doing). But my father could not utter a single word as it is difficult to speak when someone’s entire body weight is rested upon the head. The little boy, getting no answer from my father inserted his index finger into my father’s nostril and started rotating first clockwise and then counter-clockwise. Since the little boy was just in front of my father, he could not drop his feet on the ground because that could hurt the boy, he could not drop any of his foot at either side, right or left, because that could injure his neck muscles. Finding no other alternative my father asked for help but the only sound he could produce was ‘uhu uhu uhu uhu uhu’. The little boy probably thought that it was some kind of game so he closed both the nostrils of my father with his tiny hand. Some member of our family who was in an adjacent room heard the sound and came running and helped my father to land safely on the ground without causing any injury to anyone.
Many years later, when all his children had grown up and he did not have any active role to play in the family my father started feeling lonely because my mother had died long back there was nobody at home with whom he could speak. He lost interest in life and almost stopped practicing yoga and exercise.