Die – ting Or Die – eating??

“Ok. So when do get to eat FOOD?” I ask with what I think is a humourous tone. The dietician unfortunately does not see the humour, gives me one of her ‘O-lord-why-is-this-girl-such-a-mess’ looks and continues to fill me in with a long list of DON’TS – “ no potatoes, rice, egg yolk, yoghurts, ice – creams, soft-drinks, desserts, pasta, cheese, red meat……….and Chocolates”

Now did I just imagine it or did the frumpy dietician actually have a sinister look on her face while saying “Chocolate”? Is it because she can see the wrapper of Lindt peeping out of my pocket or because she enjoys my look of misery at being disallowed to eat the things I actually care about for the next three months? Or probably it may be her way of getting back at me for giggling constantly during the time she tried to measure my dimensions with her measuring tape. It is not my fault – I happen to be overtly ticklish.

As I walk back home, I try to come up with believable excuses to get out of this wretched diet plan. The first thought which strikes me is telling mother that the dietician had boldly announced that I was just fine and did not need a diet – a few miles’ walk every week would just be fine. Obviously mother will not believe this fabrication – she trusts the weighing machine more than she trusts her own daughter. Dejected as no more brilliant ideas come to me, I continue dragging myself home with slow and heavy steps [heavy, partly because of the apathy that had befallen me and partly because my slightly excessive weight would not allow me to trot any faster].

I take a longer route on purpose to avoid crossing my favourite ice-cream parlour which lies on the way. It has the best sundaes in the entire world! The mere thought of giving up the dreamy scoops of chocolate and vanilla ice-creams topped with freshly ground nuts, hot chocolate syrup, frothy cream and small chunks of nougat, forces me to fight back my tears. The bakery at the end of the lane however, is an unavoidable affair. The old lady at the counter gesticulates animatedly as I walk past her shop, to come and try a sample from her new batch of home-made coconut and raisin macaroons. I have been her friend and food-critic for the past five years and it is unfortunately time to let go. Throwing a feeble smile and giving some excuse about having an urgent chore to do, I try to get away as fast as I can from the delicious aroma emancipating from her kitchen.

“I told you it was time to lose weight” – this was definitely not the welcome I expected from my folks when I reached home, but my sister feels it is her obligation to open the dialogue by these words. I throw her the nastiest look I can muster and march into my room. Sticking the diet plan in an obscure and least visited corner of my room [i.e. above the study table] I squat on the bed thinking about all the food fantasies that I would have to give up. Butter muffins, mutton kebabs, walnut cookies, milkshakes, French fries….I convulse with the pain clawing at my heart [and more importantly my tummy!]

I look at my reflection in the mirror. I do not really see a reason for mother’s sudden emergency for me to lose weight. Yeah, I am a little on the wrong side of the ideal weight scale, but it is not that bad as to cause a mad furore. I have always had a wide-framed body structure which will never actually make me look skinny and I do have a questionable liking for loose, ill-fitted and comfortable clothes. But hey! That is a style statement in its own sense. People always see me as a friendly, harmless creature who is always available to get bear hugs from when they are sad. Every time I climb on the weighing machine on mother’s insistence and it unceremoniously announces that I have gained another few kilos, I console myself by thinking that there is “More of me to love now”. But my folks do not seem to understand that. And having a sister, who looks like a walking skeleton with a layer of skin added as an after-thought, does nothing to salve the situation. My tightest dress fits her like a flowing robe and she makes sure I am continuously reminded of that.

I am not averse to physical activity. I walk a lot and dancing is my second favourite thing in the world – after food obviously. I have always been a foodie. Going to different places, trying out new cuisines, making exciting dishes from mother’s old recipe book – handed to her by her mother is so much fun. Safe to say, I am considered a chef’s delight as well as a delighting chef. Whether it was a gourmet speciality at a classy restaurant, the inviting smell from a not-so-inviting roadside Chinese stall or the wafting smell of bacon rashers being cooked at home – it never fails to reinvigorate me.

How in the world would I, or anyone else for that matter, sign off from all this and eat food that is absolutely in opposition to what is defined as a meal? And chocolate – fittingly described as the ‘Food of Gods’ – is something I can go on waxing eloquent about. How would it be possible to give it all up? It is not the question of will power, it is the question of injustice inflicted on food lovers such as me.

And the diet plan sounds like food meant for patients. No oil, no ghee, no butter, no masala – where is the fun in all this. And no desserts! What about the perfectly round gulab jamuns that mother is making right now? I can smell them all the way through the closed door of my room as I imagine the golden-brown dumplings being soaked in clear rose-flavoured sweetened syrup and I almost choke at the thought of depriving myself of these rotund pleasures. It is not fair to judge people on the basis of what they eat while people like my anorexic sister are allowed to roam freely on the streets.

I do not think I will ever be able to go on a diet. Even if I starve myself for a month, I would probably never be able to achieve the much-favoured size zero. And even if I did, would it ensure that I was happy? Or would it mean a lifelong race in favour of starvation to maintain an hour-glass figure? I believe that a person is genuinely happy when his tummy is truly satiated. Insipid food is not exactly my idea of attaining nirvana. I would rather prefer to be round, happy and loved than stick-thin, unhappy and envied [like my sister].

The borborygmus going on in my tummy is a sign that neither of us [i.e. my tummy and me – yes I regard my tummy as a separate entity with a mind of its own] is ready for this kind of change. The diet plan proves to be my own personal nemesis – a battle that I willingly wish to lose. Probably there may dawn a day when I sit down, face reality and adapt to change. And I still do have some room to fill in my sweater!

But until then, I may not die-eating…but I am definitely not die-ting!!!

God Of Small Things

Ever walked on a deserted and barren road to suddenly look down and notice life in a small clump of bright flowers stare happily at you? Or felt the gratefulness of that one familiar face when lost in a throng of unknown entities? Ever experienced utter loneliness which is suddenly made redundant by the mere smile of a loved one?

These things may not seem important as we run through our busy schedule. It is at trying times when the presences of these tiny fortunes truly light our lives. Here we see- the God Of Small Things bless us with his magic!!

We are all caught in a rat race. But one never realizes that even if he comes first in the rat race, he still remains a rat.

Take time out to stop and smell the flowers blossoming in the garden, the wondrous patterns that the clouds make in the sky, the sweet chirping of the birds that sounds like music to the ears. (Of course most of the times it sounds like a cacophony or an orchestra gone wrong-especially when it’s the crows who are the musicians!)

They say that you should count your blessings daily. But then unfortunately most of us don’t recognize a blessing even when it stares straight into our faces. It need not be a physical item or commodity that you can touch and see. How about being thankful that you have lived to see yet another day which presents new opportunities and hopes? Or being grateful that all your loved ones are safe and sound and enjoy good health? But in this dog- eat- dog world, the first thing we think about in the morning is about the fight with parents, or how badly we performed in tests.

All the little packets of joy, happiness, beauty, satisfaction are laid out in the open for us to see, probably we don’t look in the right sort of places. As children, a visit to the park or a stick of candy was enough to satisfy us. But now, even when our parents try to satisfy our demands, we remain largely unsatisfied. Material possessions mark our position in the society and we swear by this rule of nature- latest cars, cell phones, gizmos, branded clothes- these remain our priority. But don’t you think that our mind would probably be a little more restful if at some point we achieved that level of satisfaction required for mental peace?

Even physical appearance is often a debatable topic- the nose is not at the right angle, the mouth slightly turns upwards, hair is too curly, hands are short, legs are long- the list is endless. Ask the worth of eyesight to a blind man, of hands and feet to a paraplegic, of ears to a deaf man- and you’ll see how lucky you are to be borne whole. We crib about homework and assignments.. think about the several thousand kids who’ve never even stepped onto the threshold of a school. We complain about how difficult parents are- think about those homeless, abandoned and orphaned kids who don’t even know the names of their parents.

We should learn to appreciate what is given to us; otherwise in the bid of continuously craving for more, we get past the stuff that might actually do us some good.

Most of us miss out on life’s big prizes. The Nobels. The Oscars. The Pulitzers – But we are all eligible for life’s small pleasures- A pat on the back. A full moon. A great meal . A glorious sunset. A lovely walk. A hot soup… Don’t fret about copping life’s grand awards, enjoy its tiny delights.

Rendezvous With The Railways ..

Travelling by train always seems to be an exciting adventure. Not so exciting for people who travel by this favoured mode of transport to places far and near everyday without missing a beat. But for infrequent travelers, trains never seem to lose their paan – stained, rusted, chug-chugging charm.

The first flirt with the Mumbai local train is always an affair to remember. Each person has a story to tell, the matter being more or less similar. In a city where many lives are wound around the railway timetable, I was confident I would find a corner seat of my own. So here I am, with my own story to tell about my first rendezvous with the railways.

On a bright sunny morning, I approach the ticket counter full of hope and dreams but am immediately dejected by the long queue snaking its way into oblivion. People jostle, yell and elbow or knee each other [whichever suits the situation] to move faster [as if that was going to be of any help]. I indulge myself in retrospection while standing at the railway ticket counter in what seems to be the slowest moving queue ever. When I finally manage to get to the finish line I involuntarily throw a rather patronizing smile at the poor soul standing last in the queue [who seems to be atleast a mile away] for being triumphant in my efforts to get to the favourable end of the queue before him. What follows is a not-so-friendly banter with the person across the ticket counter for not rendering the exact change for my fare of from Dadar to Churchgate. After audible grunts and not – so – audible swearing I am finally given my ticket and I skip in the general direction of platform number 2 on the western side of the station to catch the 8.46 am slow local.

Possessing a ticket leads to an entry into the area proudly reserved for ‘bonafide’ passengers only. But when I actually enter the platform and see the number of people who do not look as if they ever possessed a ticket in their life, I begin to question whether the ticket was worth the wait of over 25 minutes. But then there’s a flash of memory of the time my sister was unlucky enough to get caught for not having a ticket and ended coughing up two hundred rupees – and I continue heading towards the second class ladies compartment, swearing at all the nonchalant ticketless souls.

This gives me exactly four minutes to figure out where to position myself strategically in order to minimize the incidence of stampede and hop aboard without much ado. Three minutes later I am ready to board the train – feet firmly planted into the ground to enable the lunge into the compartment, handbag tightly clutched in one hand, laptop hung on the other shoulder and earphones tucked away in the bag to avoid entanglement of any sort. The train arrives with fanfare as the cursing, jostling, yelling begins again. People standing at the door are mercilessly thrown out. It is a situation of ‘Who Dares Wins’ as each one tries to get in. The train coming from Borivali, already over pregnant with people, yet again gracefully pushes its capacity of housing some more. Fifteen seconds later, I am thankfully in the train – without a lost sandal or a broken jaw.

Thus begins a seemingly long and really sweaty journey to south Mumbai. The train is so crowded that it gets difficult at times to figure out which limb belongs to which body. Everyone is extremely edgy and a slight mistake on your part may cost you a minute or two of your life where you face the brunt from a random woman in the train. So I stand as quiet as a mouse and allow the uncomfortable human proximity to torture me. I apologize to the fellow passengers for getting a laptop which occupies one human space in the train and thus annoy many. I pride myself with having a fairly decent sense of detachment from a given situation and wander off in my mind – thinking about open fields and sweet smelling lilies. However, this proves to be an extremely daunting task as it is almost impossible to ignore the varied smell of armpits, hair oils and feet.

A saleswoman wriggles [and at times forces] her way through the throng of women carrying a box full of colourful hair and wrist accessories. She gives many women the much needed chance to unleash their frustration as they launch into a rather loud discussion about how she is bothering everyone in the train. A potential customer in me is lost as I do not wish to go against the mob and invite the scorn of many by engaging in even browsing through the wares.

Attention is diverted from the saleswoman to a heated argument coming from our end of the compartment. A lady mistakenly [or purposely…..I would never know] stamps the fingers of a fellow passenger squatting on the floor of the compartment near the entrance. What follows is a volley of ill words thrown in opposite directions, remembering each others’ sisters, mothers and, from what I understand, even anatomical parts. It is certainly amusing to witness such an event, especially when you are only an innocent spectator and not a direct participant.

Bombay Central arrives with its own share of worries. Any traveler of Mumbai locals would vouch that it is a mini warzone itself. It is funny how it seems that double the number of people always enter the train than the number exiting. As the train pulls out of the station, two women are heard screaming about not being able to alight due to the squatters. A mini squabble ensues, but is soon lost to me as I try to concentrate on the musical genius of the Eagles crying out for attention through my earphones. In the midst of all this, I continuously try to dodge the drops of stinking water falling from the basket that the fisherwoman next to me holds over her head.

As Churchgate approaches, I ready myself for the much awaited freedom. A search for a hairbrush in my bag reveals that my ticket is missing. A frantic hunt for the ticket finally results in it being found in my pocket. Silly me! Combing the hair before alighting is as about effective as asking a death metal fan to listen to Mozart – absolutely ineffective! I carry out a quick check to ensure that my belongings still belong to me. I am glad that this ordeal is almost over.

Twenty minutes later I emerge from the train – nauseated, carrying sweat and germs which do not necessarily belong to me, aching all over..but still whole…and not looking forward to the return journey at all.

Life..

Life ain’t a bed of roses
Whatever the world may say
Everyone has their share of pain
Life is never meant to be plain

As my life takes yet another turn
I can feel my soul crash and burn
The flames engulf me so slow
I feel life torture me blow by blow

Wish I could return back to my childhood
But its useless now to sit and brood
Joyous days are but of lore
Just memories to soothe a heart so sore

Life has waged a war against me
I have no choice but to let it be
Beyond my power it is to control my life
The truth pierces like a double-edged knife

I’ve been tested against many challenges
But it is my fortune which always manages
To take an unexpected turn
And portray me a loser, as I am one

Little by little life slips away
Like grains of sand from a fisted hand
Can I somehow hold on to it tight
To remain with me forever…who knows, it just might!

Feelings and emotions lie bundled in a heap
It hurts as through experiences I leap
Being strong is the only way out
After all, its ME that this is all about.

Transition..


Times are changing
People are changing
We stray away from each other
No bonds to hold us together
We have become selfish and self-centered
Not caring about anything beyond ourselves

People come into our lives
But not many create a lasting memory
Nothing is left to remind us about them
Not many touch are lives
But we fail to see that every person is a new experience

We’ve become materialistic
Morals and values hold no place in our world
We aren’t any different from robots
…Just unemotional moronic blokes!

We believe money can buy everything
Spending most of our time chasing idyllic dreams
But why do we forget the fundamental truth
That you go to your grave with all but a penny

We ignore the simple joys of life
While chasing higher levels of gratification
Forgetting who we actually are
Somewhere along this chosen path of apparent happiness

Shadows of the past haunt us
We never think twice before acting
Not caring what the other person feels
Not treating another like a fellow human being

Life is all about profits and losses
Everything is measured and tested
What we don’t notice is the multitude of immeasurable moments
That we lose out on in our quest to seek more

We remain blissfully unaware of what goes on around us
Engulfed in our own world, not accepting the truth
People and things all mean the same
We only exist…cease to live
The essence of life lost in a messy haze