Never knew food is like smoke, drink, other bad habits. You get company only as long as you stick yourself to the fool’s end of those things.
Announce the decision to quit at your own peril.
1) Damn! You are not serious!
2) You are not a fatty! I was only joking last week.
3) Ha, ha…how many times have we heard this song! Manu, dont you remember what happened last time? You took porotta on the second day and broke your vow. You are a born loser.
4) Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we will all have heart attack.
5) There is only one life…
The world turns into your arch enemy.
As usual, the moment I made up my mind to kick calories, one of the biggest hurdles trundled in – my friend Sabin. “Manu!” He hollared through phone.
We friends, share a common passion for beef fry and porotta and beer. We share common memories of raiding little known shacks in the city. And once we get stuffed with food and lumbered back to our car, all sweat, all belch, we share a common grievance for the flab around our body.
Dont eat much, but see, this is a thankless, unjust, surreal world. One of us would say, the other would stroke his saggy melancholic belly as response.
“Manu, are you nuts! You are not seriously into diet, are you? How can you let go that steaming beef curry from Karamana…I think it is time for us to go again. Long time, isn’t it? ” He was all consternation, all ambulance with lights and alarm. He could be fumbling with that list of our favourite hotels in the city to read it out over the phone, I sensed danger holding the receiver.
“Anytime Sabin. You fix it, I will be there at Karamana chettan’s hotel.”
I said. I cool. I lying.
Knew, that would send him spiralling back to where he came from. My latest number: taking attacks off sideways, by cleverly sidestepping, never to face it headon again. Had I stuck on stubbornly, Sabin would have appeared instantly in my study flashing a smile to take me to the tastiest beef fry in the city. “It’s on me,” he would declare (I do the same with him, had it been him who announced it first, but I never got a chance yet).
He hung up all relieved.
I noticed, the number of beef curries, chicken fries, ice creams, porottas, that frequented my department suddenly rose to monumental level. As if some famine was in the offing.
Not that my colleagues wanted them sincerely, not that they’re genuinely hungry, not that any one among them hadn’t brought their full lunch from home, but they bought it from the canteen just because they could hardly stand me succeding alone in what I began, this dieting, leaving them behind rotting in cholesterol, calories and ageing.
A young Manu is a monumental threat to all the youth in my department combined!
Packets after packets fumbled into my room at noon inquiring if it was me who put the order. “Who? Me!!! Does it look like me!!! Out!” I leaped up, barking at an oil-dripping packet of beef fry that showed the chutzpah to peek in. “How dare you! Out! Out! You scumbag, you cholesterol-soaked, calorie-driven, kilogram-inducing block of flesh! You have abslolutely no business here. Can’t you see! I am on DIET!” To that, beef would apologize with a foxy smile, turn, sway its hip a bit, stop, turn again to take one last look at me and sigh, before it walked away leaving me simmering in a confused gravy of anger and gluttony (There were times I got so disapponted that I dallied with the idea of calling up Togadia or Baba Ramdev to offer my willingness to open a unit of cow protection council at my college. Then I baulked. I would sign off this diet programme on 21st. What would be life after that without beef fry and porotta!)
Good that I have now a room of my own; so moments before my colleagues detonated those packets in my department, I always got time to leap down into my private bunker, slam the door behind, secure the latch and cower in the darkness inside. I dont know whether it is true that a meal of two Marie biscuits and an apple at noon is beneficial to health as they say. But one thing I learned: it makes one supersensitive. Or how could I pick, from across a large classroom of clamorous students and two concrete walls, my colleagues dunking morsels of porotta in beef curry! The cacaphony at noon, as they nibbled, slurped, sucked those chicken bones dry, mutton bones clean, playing flute with them for a while, then crunching them to fine powder – collar bone now, tibia then, sternum after – flushing it all down with copious amount of water, and finally rounding the long ritual off with long belches.
Oh god, make them dumb or strike me deaf!
I barged many times into the department to tell them go easy on whatever they were doing.
Here’s what happened last week:
“What sir?” Appu would ask.
“!!!” Shruthi and Greeshma exclaimed.
I shook my head in panic.
“Is it anything related to the final year class?” Anu, Sangeetha, Sreeraj, Veena sprang up from their seats.
I shook my head again and swung around to make a hasty retreat.
“You dont look well, Are you ok? asked Julie, Lakshmi and Nayana behind me as I hurried out, not giving a chance to Jijo either who already had risen from his meal of prawn fry and kappa, and mussels thoran, threatening to walk up to me to check my pulse with his hand smelling of all those things I really really cared about.
Bloody hell! I cursed myself on my way back to my room. Not that I forgot what I wanted to tell them. But how could I when my mouth was full! The miasma of beef curry lingering inside the department had struck me dumb and blind and deaf the moment I barreled in. Another word, I would have spray-painted them all!
I rushed back to the water bottle in my room. And like a worm I burrowed deep into the core of yet another apple to douse the fire tearing into my stomach walls.
My wife was all support at the beginning. “It is good Manu chetta. Your digestion needs rest. And you’d look dashing without that tyre around your abdomen.”
But as days went by and I stuck fast to my diet plan that surprised even me, I saw the other side of my family rearing its ugly head.
“What is that? Your new hair bun?” I picked it up from my bed. “Oh, my god! isn’t this iddli!”
“Sorry, Ammu could have left it there.”
“Don’t you know I wont eat anything rice now! Haven’t I told you a hundred times not to tempt me with food I like! Can’t you keep these things away from my sight?”
More food crossed my way, innocuous ones, a fried chicken leg, with steam still wafting up on a plate in my study, a karimeen pollichathu on the dining table poised near my vegetable salad, a strand of noodles planted inside my juice in place of that usual hair. I stood my ground like a sanyasin.
“Ammu wants chicken fried rice.”
“Divya, please. I am on diet. I told you not to involve me with this. If she wants it, you can get it for her when you people go out.”
At night, I went to have my usual dinner.
“Where is my cut papaya?”
“I had it.”
“But you have plenty of other things to eat! You are not on diet.”
“But I like papaya.”
“What’s for me now to eat now! I am famished.”
“Ammu’s fried rice is in the fridge.”
“But Divya, I am on diet!!! Well, I left some apple in the kitchen. please bring it over.”
“Sorry, Ammu had it!”
She looked away.
“She had fried rice to eat. Why my apple!”
“She wanted it in the evening.”
“So what do I have now!!!”
“There’s fried rice in the fridge… Very tasty. In case you…”
A changed, young, dashing Manu is only my dream, I learned.