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The thick and thin of it

Why gaining weight or losing it are not always matters within our control

Do you know that the toughest task in the world is not climbing Mount Everest, but facing unfavourable comments about one’s weight? You can cross-check this fact from any person who weighs at least one kilogram more than what he or she ideally should. Being an obese person I get exposed to such comments so frequently. And my son hardly calls me “Amma”; instead he calls me “Dinamma”, for “Dinosaur Amma”.

The problem gets aggravated when your spouse is as thin as a bamboo pole. I used to feel uneasy with comments such as, “look at that elephant and her mahout!” during the initial days of our marriage. But my happy-go-lucky hubby used to pacify me saying: “See, when an elephant goes with the mahout, who do we look at? The elephant indeed… The mahout remains unnoticed.”

I was slow to catch the sarcasm. By that time he would be “out of coverage area”, escaping a possible thrashing and winking playfully.

However, this taught me always to stay at a safe distance from my husband, at least a few yards behind him, whenever we went out together. This served two purposes. One was that nobody knew we were partners. The other one was that my mother-in-law was immensely happy to see a daughter-in-law who always walked behind her son, never trying to overpower him.

But it really hurt whenever I went to purchase clothes. The sales staff would invariably comment,

“Ma’m, it will be very difficult to find a ready-wear that suits you. It’s better that you purchase some clothing and get it stitched to your size.”

I used to fume upon hearing such rude comments – what kind of a business development model was these people up to? Would they be able to get customers if they annoy them? But the big crowd in all the textile shops always mocked me.

I, who was a fan of glossy women’s magazines, started hating them! How can one tolerate pictures of models with pencil-thin figures who will match any colour, any dress, any hairstyle? And above all, how can one tolerate one’s husband ogling at them?

I used to wonder how I was gaining so much weight, even after twice-a-week fasting and a strict vegetarian diet. (I can hear my son saying: “Amma, elephant is also a vegetarian.”)

It might be the steroid that I have to gulp regularly to ease my breathing; yes, it might be the reason. But the doctors never believed me. They went on advising me, “You must reduce your intake.” I didn’t know how to reduce it any further.

Anyway I started once again to subscribe to the glossy magazines, but took special care that all the pages featuring the snazzy pictures of hour-glass figures disappeared on the pretext of some packing or kitchen-shelf covering… I made sure no male member of the household noticed those pictures. The only pages that remained were the ones with articles such as: “How to lose 10 kilograms overnight”; “How to lose calories without burning them”; “How to look slim even when you are as fat as a hippo”!

Both my husband and my son found this out quickly but maintained a dignified silence, just giggling at each other…

At last I found a place where I could stay and reduce. They offered to slim me down in 10 days, but the cost seemed too high. Seeing my desperate urge to get thin, my husband offered sponsorship. But he was apprehensive about my absence from home for 10 days. But my son was as sarcastic as ever:

“Mom, you are going to lose weight! Oh, God! It will be easier to find a white crow flying upside down in the backward direction.”

I stared at him, my eyes bulging. I took it as a challenge: if at all I would return home, it would be with a pencil-thin figure.

So I ventured out for my slimming regime. The day before my going there was hectic, in instructing my son and husband about what to do and what not to. They were so confused that my son started saying he will hand over the vessel to the dhobi and the used clothes to the milkman.

“Mom! Do you really want to go, putting papa and me in such trouble?”

I raised my neck like a proud swan and announced: “You people hardly acknowledge my hard work. Now find out yourself what a mom means.” My conscience was pricking me but I deliberately turned a blind eye to it.

And the D-day dawned. I was off with my bags and could hear my son yelling behind: “Mom, did you pack the needle and thread? You will have to downsize your dresses in 10 days!”

As I entered the centre I was greeted warmly by the staff and was led to the room of the doctor-cum-dietician. She gave me the strangest grin I had ever faced in my life. Then started a lecture on the necessity of eating less to keep the figure thin! I tried to drag her attention to the doses of steroids I was taking, but failed miserably.

Then she handed me over to a helper who appeared to be a pleasant lady with a warm smile. She gave me the food chart. As per the chart I could take in twice as much as I was normally having. This made me immensely happy. My smile broadened as I read my son’s message on my mobile: “Mom, come back soon after 10 days!” The feeling of being wanted gives one immense pleasure.

The next day they started thinning me! But whenever I wanted to reveal my steroid intake nobody gave me an ear. Slowly I too forgot to talk about it.

The doctors and helpers were puzzled to see me as chirpy as ever before with the ‘meagre’ food I was having. They were in a puzzled state on seeing that my weight did not come down by even a single gram.

My son called me at least twice a day, including to find out how to differentiate between salt and sugar and why the curd was so awfully sour. They never knew that the curd should be preserved in the refrigerator!

It was the last day. The doctor desperately weighed me. She was keeping her mouth shut for the first time. So I could tell her about my medicine. She got excited: “Ah, you didn’t tell me about this! Then we should follow a different diet for another 10 days!”

I was really annoyed by her accusation of ‘not telling the truth’. That made me threaten her that unless she gave me back my money, I would approach her rival firm and be a model myself against her centre. The rivals would start reaping the benefit by featuring me in their advertisements. That worked, and I got my money back. My family was waiting outside to take me home. They both had reduced considerably.

Suddenly I saw that my long-lost very thin college-mate was marching in. She was thrilled to meet me there: “Oh, you look so nice…. I am also here on a fattening programme!”

I fainted on getting the first ever compliment in my life….

radhikarb@gmail.com

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Printable version | Mar 29, 2020 4:18:45 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/The-thick-and-thin-of-it/article14508056.ece

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