Srinagar: A youth in his thirties is doing decline push-ups in a small room. He does some hundred odd push-ups in five sets. The exercise is part of the youth’s 30-day ‘Decline Push-up Challenge’ on his own YouTube channel. Sounds ordinary? It is not. The youth is not some ordinary fitness buff but a KAS officer from north Kashmir’s Baramulla district.
Aijaz Hussain Malik qualified for the civil services exam in 2013 in his very first attempt. He is currently posted as State Tax Officer in the Finance Department’s Enforcement Wing in his native north Kashmir area.
Unlike copybook civil servants, Malik believes in serving the people in as practical a way as possible. And what better way than keeping them fit physically, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic?
“With the cases surging every day all around us, it is normal to experience stress or feel irritated, bored, sad, or even frustrated. The question is how to get rid of these emotions and feel optimistic. Research suggests that healthy eating, adequate sleep and regular exercise are all associated with improved mental health and stronger immune system. That’s what we need in these times,” Malik tells viewers in a video pep talk on his YouTube channel, ‘Health is Wealth Aijaz’.
The channel has garnered 400 subscribers in a short span of time.
“Go get up and start working now because the purpose is to get busy in a constructive way,” Malik quips.
The young officer’s penchant for fitness developed at Jamia Millia Islamia, where Malik did a Master’s in History.
Malik recalls going for camps at Jamia through the varsity’s National Service Scheme (NSS) and doing a one-month course at the Atal Behari Vajpayee Mountaineering Institute in Himachal Pradesh.
“At the mountaineering institute, we were introduced to endurance training. It was there that I realised the importance of muscle building in climbing heights,” Malik recalls.
Malik went on to represent the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in Badminton in different contests including the inter-university level competition during his stint at the varsity.
But the fitness regime was interrupted soon after Malik’s appointment in 2015, he said.
Last year, the young officer met with an accident while he was on his way to his in-laws’ place in Chanapora in Srinagar. He fractured his right shoulder and suffered another dislocation and tear in a ligament, he said.
Malik underwent surgery with doctors forbidding him to not move his shoulder.
However, the accident turned out to be a blessing in disguise as Malik rediscovered the lost love for fitness, thanks to the encouragement from his wife.
“After the accident, my wife encouraged me into doing whatever little exercise possible. My passion towards fitness returned and the result was that I fully recuperated from the fracture in just three months, a process that normally takes a year,” Malik told Kashmir Reader.
Malik also rediscovered the counsellor in himself after the accident on his visits to Dr Mudassir, a renowned Srinagar-based physiotherapist working with the RKFC Football club.
“At Dr Mudassir’s clinic, I saw the patients losing hope and even crying. I noticed that parallel to the therapeutic treatment, I was also motivating them in fighting the pain. The clinicians also encouraged me to counsel the patients,” Malik recalls with a giggle.
Seeing the counselling skills of her husband, Malik’s wife suggested that he set up his own YouTube channel to reach out to a bigger audience.
“My wife said that if I could motivate such a number of patients at a single clinic, I could motivate a far greater number outside. That is how the idea of setting up a YouTube channel came about,” Malik says.
In the meantime, Malik started doing push-ups, starting with 2-3 push-ups a day on his doctor’s advice even as he bought equipment for a full-fledged gym from a friend from Budgam.
But setting up the YouTube channel for a KAS officer was not easy. Malik had to fight many stereotypes and prejudices.
“I myself had this ego about how a KAS officer can work as a fitness trainer and what will people think about it. Even my batchmates made fun of my decision and I had to bear taunts in WhatsApp groups,” Malik says.
“But a friend encouraged me. Although I ignored the negative feedback, it certainly affected my outlook. We are swayed by social taboos even when our health takes a back seat,” he says.
Malik kept pursuing his passion for fitness and as of Wednesday, he is already past Day 20 of the month-long ‘Decline Push-up Challenge’. Malik says that the motive behind the push-up challenge is to bring in consistency in a fitness schedule.
Although the first video posted by him on the YouTube channel was not that impressive, Malik says that his friends helped with the editing part in the recent ones. Malik also took tips from ‘Jeet Selal Aesthetics’ and ‘Guru Mann Fitness’, two prominent YouTube channels on fitness
The fitness regime has now become part and parcel in Malik’s life. It has also improved his mental powers of retention, and his office work, he says.
“My staffers tell me that my behaviour has changed, become more optimistic. They even ask when I don’t update the fitness stuff. If you improve one aspect of your personality, it affects all other aspects of your life,” he says from personal experience.