Thursday, July 08, 2010

A Big Fat-(free) Lie

At some point of my life, roughly 83 hours and 52 minutes ago, I got tired of hogging on all the Rasgulla, Gulab Jamuns, Rabri, and all those deep fried masses of sugars and calories. Nothing triggered it, it just happened. I guess it’s like giving up on smoking (or getting rid of that loser of a boyfriend you should have left 5 years ago). You have been thinking of doing it for a while, and every time you try, you just fail. Then one fine morning, you wake up and just do it. I think the same happened to me. I have been unhappy with the way I have put on weight for the last few years. From being a person who jumped at the center of the screen whenever I spotted a camera, now I started shying away from the camera, finding a comfort spot behind somebody so that my paunch was hiding. Paunch I could still hide wearing appropriate clothes, but where would I hide my face, a big round blob of fat now with chubby cheeks? It’s been years since I’ve seen my face oval, the original way God designed it. Anyway I will rant about my body and looks some other time (I promise I will). I will not spare you, I will even rant about my huge biceps, till you are bored to death. Anyway.

So one fine day I just decided to give up on the empty calories. This was the least I could do, since I wasn’t committed to gymming and working out big time. The mangoes looked at me from the fridge expectantly and I looked back at the mangoes with pain. The neighbor who makes awesome “Patisaptas” (sweet crepes stuffed with coconut and jaggery and sometimes condensed milk filling) was promptly asked not to make those for my goodbye dinner in 5 days. Convincing mother wasn’t a problem since she has always been after me to lose weight, but convincing neighbors and relatives who believe in increasing their good karma by stuffing another Rasgulla into your mouth became a big problem. I turned down two dinner invitations feigning a stomach ache because it is futile to argue and explain to these people why I will not hog on the coconut cream based prawns, the deep fried potato tikkis, and the four courses of dessert following a five course dinner. Not that I have slimmed down overnight, but I still intended to stick to my decision of not eating rubbish.

So I went to visit my ex-student’s place. I taught her Math for 4 years and though she sucked at Math, we became great friends. Ironically I was the one who told her that Math isn’t everything in life, but as long as she studies it, she should do it well. I go visit my student after 4 years, and aunty (her mom) gets me a huge brown chocolate pastry and a tall glass of chilled iced tea. Poor aunty is familiar with my eating habits four years ago when I used to religiously devour every sweet she put on my plate (I don’t just have A sweet tooth, my entire dentition is sweet !!). Today I had already reached the stage when I was having sugar withdrawal symptoms, a little dizziness in my head and a very irritable temper caused by it. Not that I was starving or dieting, I just decided not to hog on high-calorie, low-nutrient stuff.

My plea of neither touching the chocolate pastry nor the iced tea fell on deaf ears. I promised I was more than happy sipping on a glass of cold water, but she wouldn’t understand. I tried reasoning with her, feigning a stomach ache, but nothing worked. Poor aunty must have been worried what she would offer me instead; maybe she didn’t have too many options. When nothing worked out, I had the most innovative idea. The only problem with that was, well, I can plan a lie beforehand and deliver it well, but when I make up an instant lie, I usually get caught.

“Aunty, please don’t insist. I have been diagnosed with high cholesterol”.

I don’t know why I said it, but it was one of those things you say first and think later. It sounded odd to my ears, high cholesterol at 28?

“Oh dear, sorry about it”. Aunty promptly put back the goodies away.

So we sat in an uncomfortable silence the next few minutes, aunty too shocked to ask me to eat anything and me too scared to speak lest I am caught.

“So how did it happen?”, she asked. “Family history?”

Now something in me refused to malign my impeccable family history. I was already feeling guilty for making up illnesses I do not have.

“Uh, not really. Just a bad American lifestyle. Not eating well and all”.

So the conversation drifted to normal soon. We spoke about this and that.

“Where did you get your tests done?”

I must admit I was totally unprepared for the question that caught me off guard. I was about to say our family doctor’s name in Kolkata, but something in my head was screaming our family doctor is aunty’s brother-in-law too.

“Aa- aa- bbb- bbb….”

Aunty stared at me stammer.

“Bbb—bbb--- Bellevue clinic”

“Which one? In Kolkata?”, she asked.

“No no, the one in Seattle? Bellevue clinic in Seattle”

“Oh.. okay”

“My memory getting bad aunty. These days I forget names so often”, I explained lamely.

The chocolate pastry stared at me from the corner of the room for the next 30 minutes, untouched. I came back later that night and had healthy roti and subzee for dinner. I wonder if aunty ever realized I gave her some instantly concocted lie. Even if she did, I’m sure she would know it was an innocuous, fat fat-free lie.


Wednesday, July 07, 2010

A season of changes

The sad part of visiting home once every few years is that while you are away, some people you thought you would meet when you are back are no more. Yesterday when I said my final goodbyes to my grandparents, I wondered if I will ever meet them again. Not that they are sick or ailing, but they are old. When I came back to Kolkata, one thing I couldn’t help noticing is how grown up the kids looked, and how old or aged the adults looked. I was seeing people after 4 years, and my mind could not keep pace with the changes time had carved out for everyone of us. Mother has more strands of grey hair than I could remember. Father has a couple of wrinkle lines that wasn’t there before. Grandfather is almost white and bent with age. Grandmother has slimmed down a lot (and ironically looks younger) after her gall bladder removal. My maternal uncle in his mid-40s died of a heart attack a few months ago. My grandfather’s elder brother died of cancer.

And then some people are married, some have divorced, and some have remarried. The so called kids have started going to college. Newly born babies have started going to school. The guy in the neighborhood whose leg was amputated after the train accident got an artificial leg.

Some people are missing black hair, while some have gone bald. Wrinkles. Missing gall bladders and kidneys. Depressing, moribund, and strangely funny conversations, ranging from who died under what circumstances, and what was the menu during the death rituals. I think we Bengalis are a strange lot, deriving stimulation from recounting gory details of someone’s last days of life, the menu of the death ceremony, and even who was wearing what.

In the broader scheme of things, there are more changes. Anu Malik has copied more songs. I've thankfully stopped listening to Himesh Reshammiya. There are more flyovers. More crowded trains and metros. Longer queues. Steeper prices. More KFC and Subway joints. Something in the city is dying. The innocence of the city is dying.

Next time I visit, there will be more changes. More people I grew up with gone. More wrinkles. More white hair. More baldness. When you see people once in a few years, the change is stark. It depresses me. It depresses me more to think that I am growing old too. I’m progressing and retrogressing at the same time, in the same time scale, with the same people.

And in this depressing scale of things, I have some comfort. I feel happy looking at old picture albums. Pictures where I was a baby. Parents looked so young. Grandmother took me to school and picked me up. We had more fun filled family trips. Roads looked less crowded. Amusement parks looked more exciting. School friends who vouched to always be with each other.

Things are changing. And for good or for bad, I have to accept it.


Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Free mein Gyaan

Some random gyaan on spreading news, free of cost for you :)

Information dissemination is a skill worth learning, what to say, how much to say, and more importantly, what not to say. Is it okay to confide to a best friend, where everyone is someone else's best friend? "But I had to tell my best friend about it, and she promised she won't tell anyone".

Don't confide anything to anyone you are not prepared to publish in a newspaper otherwise. Just my 2 cents :)


Saturday, July 03, 2010

Babies with personality

I just spent 2 hours in a pediatrics clinic while getting my immunization reports updated. Our family doctor also happens to be a famous pediatrician, and since I had barged in without prior appointment, I was asked to wait or come back in 2 hours. I should have gone home and come back, but I decided to wait and observe the babies for a while. I did not have anything pressing to take care of at home anyway.
Babies are not little adults. They have a mind of their own. They communicate and negotiate even with their little and almost non-decipherable vocabulary.
The baby personality
There were real babies. Those who are a month or two old. Some looked so tiny that it seemed they hadn’t even hatched properly. Eyes closed, toothless smiles, little fists, they are a delight to watch. I observed one had a little finger even tinier than my nail. One had an entire hand the length of my palm. And to think I was of that size too someday.
The adult-baby personality
Some babies had accompanied their little siblings who were getting shots. These are the caring and curious kinds who touch their sleeping brothers a little on the cheek to see how the baby responds. A little fellow, a heavy chocolate addict as obvious from his missing dentition, derived great pleasure tickling the feet of the little one when the mother wasn’t looking. They were like adult-babies, still babies because of their age, but very adult-like in behavior.

The throwing-the-tantrum or the negotiator kind

These babies had negotiated with their parents, that a visit to the doctor is going to cost them perhaps the doctor’s fees and 2 chocolate bars, a coloring book, or a toy extra. The shopkeeper had strategically placed all the toys and chocolates and other goodies that attract attention near the counter where you paid, so that one could not avoid that particular place by choice. I actually saw a baby promptly wiping her tears after the visit to the doctor and negotiating with the parents, “Okay, now buy me toys and chocolates".

The drama-kind

These kids freaked out at the sight of the clinic even without being so much as touched by the doctor. They perhaps feared an injection, the smell of the clinic, or the way the doctor looked, for even before they were touched or examined, they started to howl out of fear. Of course taking them to the area where these chocolates and coloring goodies were located calmed them down temporarily and helped the clinic get back its sanity.

The friendly/gregarious kind

These babies are great friends to make. They smile, run around, make friends with other babies, talk to random strangers as if they are family, refer to other babies as “little brother” and “little sister”, and ask questions instead of sulking in a corner and crying out of fear. One such cute little fatso, wearing a sleeveless shirt, went up to all the babies and touched them with fondness. This fellow came back to me, looked at me, and said, “Doctor will give you an injection”. Not knowing why a friendly chap would smile and try to tell me scary things, I replied, “But the doctor is already behind you with an injection”. The boy panicked for a bit, turning back, only to realize he was made a fool of. Regaining his composure and refusing to be verbally defeated by someone 4 times his size, he looks back at me with a very unperturbed and a suspense-filled expression, telling me, “Wait till the fishes in the oceans attack you and bite off your cheek”. As I feign fear, the boy chuckles at his verbal victory, bids all the other kids a goodbye and leaves the clinic, animatedly chatting with his mother.

After watching 20 babies or so, the doctor finally signed my immunization papers. In the meantime, I spent a fun-filled 2 hours watching these little ones, each having a completely different personality than the other.