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Life lessons from Mandira Bedi

By Geetanjali Krishna
March 05, 2020 12:39 IST
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'Whether it's a morning walk, an evening swim or an afternoon workout in the gym, just get moving,' Mandira Bedi tells Geetanjali Krishna.

IMAGE: 'Knocking Wednesday outa the park! day 184, 365-day exercise challenge'. All photographs: Kind courtesy mandirabedi/Instagram
 

She's a free-spirited fitness icon.

A powerful social media influencer known to play Instagram, Twitter and other social media like a harp (she has 1.3 million followers on Twitter, 1.1 million on Instagram), her much-awaited maiden book co-written with Satyadev Barman, a memoir entitled Happy for no Reason, has just come out on the stands.

As I wait for Mandira Bedi at the Spice Route at The Imperial Hotel in Delhi, I glance at some of her stunning photographs on her Instagram page and note that she is currently on Day 162 of a very public 365-day exercise challenge.

I reckon I'm going to return hungry from today's lunch: After all, one who rocks sports bras and tights the way Bedi does wouldn't eat more than a couple of leaves at a time, right?

Wrong! She laughs when I talk about my misgivings as soon as we meet.

"I love food," she declares.

"And happiness is definitely eating a slice of cake as long as one is able to stop at a single slice."

IMAGE: 'My video today at the gym was really poor.. given that I shoot them myself and rarely check how they are . Wasn't particularly happy with it. so I pulled out a picture today that I was happy with and an endeavour of mine that makes me happier! My book day 170, 365-day exercise challenge'.

This is going to be her first meal of the day, she declares, so we quickly order our food before settling down to chat.

Spice Route has a fair vegetarian selection and we decide on a green curry with rice and a Kerala-style pariappu curry with appams to share.

I congratulate her on the launch of her memoir and she laughs: "If somebody had told me even two years ago that I'd write a memoir called Happy for no Reason, I'd never have believed it."

For as she writes candidly in her book, Bedi has seen more than her fair share of life's curveballs --anxiety, untreated depression, anger management issues and more.

Two wellness mantras have helped her to turn her life around in the last couple of years -- physical exercise and gratitude meditation.

The memoir looks at her journey towards wellbeing, calm and acceptance and is peppered with helpful hints on how to get there.

IMAGE: 'Tried the crow pose today. Apne aap! Can someone please teach me yoga already!!, day 166, 365-day exercise challenge'.

"Every morning, I enumerate all the things in my life, big and small, that I'm grateful for," she tells me.

"I read somewhere that no negative emotions can coexist with gratitude, and today, I can vouch for that."

So much so that she's tattooed Thank You below her wrist and refers to it as her "tattitude".

Bedi also exercises like a demon every day, undertaking fitness challenges off- and online.

"I think of exercise as therapy," she says, exclaiming with delight as crackers and dips are brought to the table.

"And sharing my workouts as well as the fitness challenges I lay out for myself on social media, somehow makes me accountable to the world; they keep me on course."

Her social media posts have certainly given her plenty to be grateful for; they've transformed the TV and movie actress who never quite made it as a leading lady into a powerful fitness influencer today.

"My Instagram account has helped me get three movies, a couple of TV shows and a book deal," she declares proudly.

Her latest Web series, Thinkistan and Shaadi Fit (in which she coaches couples through their fitness/wellness journeys before D Day) are on MX Player.

IMAGE: 'I knew it when I was thinking this saree, that it would be a delicious riot of color!'

As the fragrant green curry arrives on the table emitting little puffs of steam, our conversation moves, inevitably, to cricket.

For who can forget the glamour that Bedi introduced for the first time to the gentleman's game?

I recall the fits of manly apoplexy she evoked on Sony Max's Extraa Innings during the 2003 World Cup.

She grimaces: "Initially, men found it so hard to come to terms with my presence, they would even ignore my questions on live TV."

How did she overcome the biases, I ask.

"I kind of fought back with my saris," she says impishly.

"They made me that much harder to ignore..."

Indeed, Bedi's saris, more specifically, her barely there 'noodle strap' blouses, transformed the image of Indian cricket, even as she paved the way for other women presenters.

The fishbowl-like life of a public figure is hard, she tells me, soaking a morsel of feather lightappam in the spicy Kerala curry.

Indeed, Bedi has been judged harshly for trivialising cricket on the one hand and for taking her own career "too" seriously on the other; for not losing her post-pregnancy weight quickly enough as well as for exercising "too much".

In her thirties, Bedi decided to postpone pregnancy to focus on work.

"People started looking at me differently," she recalls.

"It's apparently not a good thing for an Indian woman to be career-minded."

It's something most working women in India would relate to, I tell her, and that's what makes her memoir timely.

But given these circumstances, how on earth can one be happy for no reason, as the title of her memoir suggests?

The trick, Bedi says, is to ignore the haters.

"I don't react to such criticism anymore," she says.

"I have learnt that the only way to be at peace is to let it be..."

IMAGE: 'It's with Wall Support. But the more I do (hopefully) the better it will feel. day 176, 365-day exercise challenge.'

We decide to share a dua kem caramen, a Vietnamese style crème caramel with coconut milk, while she talks about the key steps towards mental wellness.

First, one must recognise, acknowledge and seek help when confronted with a mental health issue.

Bedi has been very candid about battling what she now believes was undiagnosed and untreated depression in her thirties.

"I hope that by talking about my own problems and how I've dealt with them, I can break some of the resounding silence around mental health issues in our society," she says.

The next step is to reflect on one's existence and identify things in one's life to be thankful for (Bedi has listed 108 things that give her joy, including her sneaker collection and Game of Thrones!).

The third, she says, is to accord health top priority.

"Whether it's a morning walk, an evening swim or an afternoon workout in the gym, just get moving," she advises.

"In my experience, it is therapeutic for the body as well as mind."

IMAGE: 'Invigorating morning in Gurugram for max life insurance familyrun. Flagged it off, Ran, Squatted and took a pledge too.. day 188, 365-day exercise challenge'.

The dessert is lovely and as we wind down with a pot of jasmine tea, Bedi reiterates the importance of challenging herself on the social media.

"In fact, since we're talking about it, I'll make three promises today," she declares.

"I'm going to train to perform a split and an unsupported handstand. And then by yearend, I'll run another half marathon."

It's time for her to go.

She leaves me with a heartfelt parting shot: "If my book inspires even one reader to seek therapy or take action to be in a better place, I'll feel I've done my job."

She's certainly inspired me to go to the gym after lunch, I muse as I guiltily polish off the last morsel of the dessert...

 

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