Tall, slim and lithe with a figure that could grace any billboard or magazine cover quite summarizes everything that I am not!
This painful realization hit me hard, like a cold slap on my face, when once, during those hormone-addled teenage years, my father’s colleague who was visiting remarked to my dad, “your daughter is so much like mine – stout, a little round and cute.” At that very instant, the ‘nice’ guest fell down to being my dreaded enemy as his words were like a jolt of lightning that threatened to shake and break my confidence and my expression had soon transformed from being polite to one that bordered between anger, confusion, disdain, despair, grief, disappointment, melancholy as my mother came to my (or his) rescue and quickly ushered me back into my room.
He very well intended it as a compliment but to a teenager, those words spelled doom and wreaked havoc. I sulked, refused food (except a light breakfast, some lunch and some dinner that was required to sustain me and my tantrums) and even cried hoping that at least one member of my family would convince me that they thought otherwise. Unfortunately, every one of them simply abolished my outbursts as teenage tantrums – gone bad.
From then on, our college canteen’s specialties like the golden deep fried noodles topped with sauce (which was more of a gooey hot liquid with some chopped carrot and beans), canteen auntie’s instant burgers (which was essentially an oily cold veggie cutlet sandwiched in the folds of a bun cut into two), cup noodles, marshmallows, candies, ice cream and corn puffs were just some of the ‘yummy’ delicacies that I refused or rather sacrificed as I held on to dear hope (against hope) that I could still grow taller and may be slimmer too.
The fact that my mother is an excellent cook, who believes that the sole purpose of her existence is to spend every waking moment cooking up gastronomical delights and using her ‘I-am-not-cooking’ free time to visit cookery sites so that she can whip up a storm and try another one of her ‘new’ recipes for dinner, does not help either.
Then came marriage.
My mother-in-law, who enjoys whipping up delicacies in record speed as much as she enjoys trying different varieties of food, associated ‘being on the healthier side’ with prosperity. I had every reason to rejoice, for I was sure to fall on the higher side of prosperity, so to speak.
Then there is my husband’s sister, my lovely sister-in-law, who is my partner in crime. And our offense – we can wipe clean an entire box of juicy Jalebies (an Indian sweet made by deep frying wheat flour batter in pretzel shapes soaked in sugar syrup) or gulab jamuns (sweet dumplings soaked in rose-flavored sugar syrup) or chocolates or…..or anything sweet or spicy or not sweet too, while we chat about everything under the sun.
One evening, my mother-in-law placed a bowl of hot spicy lentil cakes (an Indian would call it a Vada) for tea. As my sister-in-law and I sat chatting, sitting at our favorite spot- the dining table – I came up with a brilliant idea. How about alternating a bite of chocolate with a bite of spicy lentil cake? At school, my Home Science teacher had taught us that our taste buds crave a variety of flavors and tastes and in order to curb monotony always combine hot with cold or sweet with spicy and so on and so forth. Can I be blamed for applying what I was taught? Unfortunately, our tummies did not approve and thought otherwise. So, for the rest of the evening, we were just too busy, even to complain.
Did I mention that the husband enjoys trying and tasting cuisines from the different countries that he travels to? He makes sure that he sends bite-sized pictures of them that will leave me rummaging the refrigerator and sometimes having to settle on Sid’s blueberry muffin or eat a teeny-weeny bit of that brownie that I had saved up for Sid’s snack box (until I have pinched it out clean) for lack of choice.
Godiva Café’s Lava Chocolate Cake, Baskin Robin’s Brownie a la Mode, Papa John’s Mexican Ole, Puranmal’s Ladoos (Indian Sweet), even Spinney’s blueberry muffins top the list of some of the guilty pleasures that I try hopelessly not to succumb to.
Now, can I be blamed for being what I am –‘not slim’?
On a more serious note, I cannot be happy enough for my in-laws who have shown me that food can bring a family together as much as they have taught me to take life a little less seriously. I am thankful for my mother who has always insisted on serving healthy home-cooked meals, a tradition that I have inherited into my own home (not missing out on the fun of weekend treats of course!). As for the husband, he has opened doors into a new world where the taste buds rule.
With every passing year, our bond grew stronger, our family grew bigger, our circle of friends grew wider as my many experiences with every one of them has helped me see the light at the end of the tunnel as I have slowly but steadily stepped out of my little shell to accepting myself as I am.
Now, I can say with confidence that I am absolutely fine to be ‘not slim’ or ‘not flawless’ as that perfect ‘Barbie’ or those ‘insanely beautiful’ Princesses from the Fairy Tales. I deem it more important to embrace and drink precious life to the lees – all those love handles, stretch marks and roundness included; because it is with all those imperfections that life becomes worth living!