More From The Book: The Wrestler’s Body

By Joseph Alter

I was told that it is evident from the look on a person’s face, the light in his eyes, and the glow of his skin whether he is celibate. On one occasion I went to a wedding of a sister of one of the wrestlers from Akhara Ram Singh. The guru of the akhara was also invited. After the meal had been served, the guests were invited to an “audience” where the bride and groom were seated on thrones in order to receive the blessing of various family members and guests. After watching for some time, the guru of the akhara turned to me, shaking his head in dismay. The groom, he said, was clearly not a brahmachari, and he proceeded to run through an index of telltale signs: a dark, sallow complexion; a drawn face; sunken eyes; a thin, “dried-out” physique and stooped shoulders.

While cinematic images impact the young man’s mind, wrestlers feel that erotic thoughts manifest themselves in certain somatic ways. An erotic mood is said to be most visible in the eyes and the face. The initial passionate flush is followed by a prolonged condition in which the eyes lose their brightness and become hollow. Skin becomes dull and lackluster while cheeks become sunken. The image, appropriately, is of someone who is drained of life.

From the critical, conservative wrestler’s perspective, the debauched everyman is a fairly two-dimensional figure whose thin physique and narcissistic fashion complement his immoral character. In addition to the primary points outlined above, such men are criticized for numerous other things as well—riding around on fast motorcycles, smoking cigarettes, drinking liquor, chewing tobacco, idly sitting around, or, alternatively, promenading in public with no other purpose than to show off their clothes. Wrestlers, as well as other less dogmatic critics, use the English term “loafer” to label anyone who affects this fashion.

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