No prizes for guessing what happens here

Published: December 6, 2010
Email

Girls come to the gym, put their heads down and sleep. Outside in the grounds the games teacher huffs and puffs and wonders why the school even bothered

As if we don’t already have Facebook, BBM, MSN chat and Math class to catch up on the latest rubbish, school handed us another unique outlet on a silver platter.

They constructed an indoor gym.

This was the most exciting thing to have happened in the history of our games class since the last softball practice, when the new girl whammed into the pitcher in an attempt to get to first base. (Imagine two massive lorries in a head-on collision, but I digress.)

The indoor gym! The culmination of years of effort to turn a “physical training” class into a class of students lolling around aimlessly, talking about everything but school, comparing boys, squinting at the sun… a place of freedom. And maybe occasionally they will pick up a ball and throw it about.

But that perspective depends on who you’re talking to. Just as there are gyms, then there are school gyms. (The latter being a cute misnomer for what is essentially a bunch of treadmills off the Science labs). And then there are school athletes.

One breed dons a baseball cap, ties its laces and takes part in all Pakistan National Women’s League for Whatever. They and the PT teachers are on a first-name basis. They even have the liberty to waltz into the head of the sports department’s office. That office is not for mere mortals. It is only for those gifted individuals who break records on sports day. That office is only for those who know the appropriate lyrics to whatever sporty anthem has been cooked up that year, and show exemplary sportsmanlike behavior on the field. If they lose, say, a basketball tournament, they will shake the hand of the winning team and then massacre them next year.

The others are losers, who sit on the sidelines during sports day, compare their shoes rather than actually run in them, cover their heads with a dupatta to avoid a tan rather than out of any religious obligation, and frequently get beaten up by the games teachers who run after them with softball bats. They hurt. I should know because I fall in this second category.

But the indoor gym changed all that. It broke down class divisions between the sporty kids and the weeds in ways that exams, parties and hair actually distinguish the nerds and the duffers, the brats and the nobodies, the burgers and the melas. In that sense the indoor gym is epic. Everybody goes there. No more forging parental signatures on notes of excuse during break, no more inventing 101 possible diseases to rush to the nurse (Miss, I have diarrhea and dengue and a migraine. If I die it’s your fault.) Just head to the gym, which operates on a first-come, first-served basis. There are mirrors there to fix your hair, while exercise mats serve as sleeping pillows.

It is here that the law of useless jabber prevails:

“My Jenny was stolen last night!”

I immediately offered my condolences for her dog, and asked if she had put up fliers at Paradise Store yet.

“Not my dog, you idiot. My generator.” My mistake.

We are so bored with Napoleon and formulae and enzymes. Or maybe it’s a condition peculiar to this gym: laziness. Girls come here, put their heads down and sleep. Outside in the grounds the games teacher huffs and puffs and wonders why the school even bothered. “Bas batein kartay jao, kartay jao. Khelo gay kab?” Good question. We’ll get back to you once we finish our nap.

Meiryum Ali

Meiryum Ali

A freshman at an ivy league school who writes a weekly national column in The Express Tribune called "Khayaban-e-Nowhere".

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.