Thank you Aubrey—my Master Yoda.

Aubrey worked with me through a difficult time in my life. I suffered from a condition called PCOS—Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome. I know, it sounds complicated and it is.

It’s a hormonal disorder that fucked my mood, gave me a beard, and made me gain weight despite hours of exercise. I felt awkward and unpretty for many years in my life. When I moved to the States, the condition and my confidence got worse.

You see, I never saw women with my color and body shape on billboards or on the streets. Yet, I was surrounded by fit bodies wherever I went. Unfortunately, I started doing to my body what no woman should ever do—compare!

Despite hours spent kickboxing, gyming, and running—the weight held me down. I took medication to balance the hormones everyday, but that couldn’t fix the problem, my doctor told me. Only exercise could cure it—if and only if I tried hard enough.

I tried hard—or may be I thought I did. But, the cysts were adamant. They stuck to my ovaries like a nasty disease. They grew larger and numerous every passing day. When things got real bad, I had painfully heavy periods for 15 days and sometimes a month. The hair on my skalp started thinning down and the skin on my face grew blotchy. If I didn’t arrest the problem soon enough, I could even lose fertility.

After some time it wasn’t about the weight alone—it was about feeling defeated. That’s when I met Aubrey.

 

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Even though he’s my trainer I think of him as Master Yoda. He knows when to push me and when to hold back. He trains my body but talks to my mind, telling it to never to give up. He’s one of the few trainers I’ve met who lets me feel confident in my own skin. He reminds me of my first trainer in Brooklyn, a badass woman who could overturn truck tires with her hands. America has given me one thing for sure—a healthy relationship with exercise.

What I love about Aubrey is that despite being a guy, he’s in so many ways a bigger feminist than I. One day, when I sent him vidoes of a fitness model doing a challenging routine, he told me I had done better.

“Don’t go by the way she looks. Go by what’s on the inside,” Aubrey scolded me. “Think about the classes we do together. Or record them for yourself and see.”
“I know what you mean, but I would love to look like her.” I protested.
“I like training people with real bodies, real lives, and real schedules. People like you. I don’t train people who have 5 hours in a day, only to exercise. If I think you can do it, trust me you can.”

Master Yoda had spoken and this time I didn’t have any excuses.

Aubrey and I worked together for 6 months before my routine ultrasound appointment with my gynaecologist. When I got my scans I was as shocked as she. The doctor couldn’t see a single cyst on the images. I had not only dropped weight but my body fat percentage was down by 2.

“Are you sure you have this condition?” My doctor teased.
“I’ve had it for 7 years now! You sure you didn’t get my scans mixed up?” I replied, happy with disbelief.
“Been doing this for more than 7 years. These are your ovaries alright and they look beautiful.”
“You mean I don’t have PCOS—for real?”
“Looks like you did it,” she congratulated me.

And yes—we had done it together. Aubrey had worked by my side, patiently, telling me that he believed that I was a warrior. That he had never seen a girl as motivated as I. That when he recorded our sessions for his Instagram page, his followers were inspired by my example.

Two years ago, my mother told me to make a vision board for my future. To use it as a tool to imagine my future self. And if I truly believed in the change—mind, body, and soul—the change would happen. I had trashed the idea right away, not believing in the rituals of magical thinking.

But, all along, without my realizing—Aubrey had secretly become my vision board. He had become that voice inside my head, cancelling the noise and telling me to never quit. He made me believe that thin or fat—I was beautiful the way I was because I was strong. And together we had kicked PCOS in the butt. I was finally a real woman with a real body.

I had got my power back!

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Should’ve, Would’ve, Could’ve…

When I was a little girl, I lived on a university campus where my parents were professors. The campus was cut off from the city by gates and guards. If on one side of the university wall there was traffic, pollution, congestion—on the other were lush green fields, tall trees, libraries and schools—where students and teachers could coexist in a safe space.

Naturally, my parents were okay with me taking walks  by myself by the time I was 13. So, I would get up at 7 in the morning, put on my jogging shoes, and run all the way to the campus gate with my best friend. The road that took me to the end of my daily circuit was one of the most picturesque in the entire university. It was dotted with Eucalyptus trees on one side and Bougainvillea flowers that cascaded like waterfalls, on the other.

One day, when my friend was down with flu, I decided to go running by myself. The biggest hurdles I could possibly encounter were untimely rain (since it was the rainy season) or street dogs that sometimes chased us home. But, I had faced these scenarios earlier, without much trouble. So, I strapped on my jogging shoes and happily ventured out.

When I reached the half-way mark, I slowed down to catch my breath. A small group of students, who were out on a jog like me, overtook me just then. They were a bunch of guys from another country. I could tell by the sound of their accents that seemed peculiar to my ears and the fashion of their clothes that I had never seen before.

Each year, our university took in a sizable chunk of students from all over the world. Our  chancellor believed that it added to the diversity on campus. In exchange, it allowed foreign nationals to learn our local language and customs.

As these students crossed my path, they muttered something amongst themselves and I thought I heard them laugh. I suddenly grew wary of their presence. Were they laughing at me? Could it have been my overactive imagination? For all you know, they were simply sharing a joke amongst themselves. So, I resumed jogging, without giving heed to my paranoia. This time I overtook them as I gained pace on my way back home.

Ten minutes into my run, I started to feel the burn in my muscles. I had pushed myself little too hard in the last mile. I needed to slow down and stretch my body. I approached a bench on the sidewalk and bent over to relieve the pain in my legs. In the meanwhile, I saw the same group of guys, catching up.

As I watched them jog toward me from a distance, I tried to guess their age. It seemed like they were 25-year-olds. They were all much taller than men from my country. They had broader shoulders, athletic bodies, and different colored hair. I curiously studied their appearance and wondered if I found them attractive.

As they approached, I self-consciously pulled my gaze away. That’s when I felt it land right next to my feet. I could’ve been wrong about it once, but it happened twice, then thrice—white, foamy spit collected from their mouths hurled in my direction.

My teenage mind could not comprehend what had just transpired. May be, I reasoned they were just spitting on the ground to clear their throats. Sometimes when people are exhausted with exercise, spit gathers up and you need to throw it out to clear up the passage. I had seen my brother do that on the football field. May be, it was simply that?

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But, why did the three of them do it at that same exact spot, by my feet? Was it something they had talked about? Was this the joke they were in on? I stood there soaked in my sweat drenched clothes, paralyzed by something I could not understand.

I am still not sure what really happened? Over the years, I have allowed memory and time to smudge the details of that November morning.

But, for several months in my dreams after, I remember trying to find my own resolution. In one dream, I could see myself running faster so that the boys never caught up. In another, my best friend never had flu, so we were together when the incident happened. We teamed up against my assailants and took them to task. In another, I caught up with the boys, blocked their way, looked straight into their eyes, and demanded an apology.

In another, as we wake up to this new world, I wonder, could there be a #metoo for this too?

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