she’s ten and a half pounds, my grandmum approvingly told my mother when she regained consciousness about a week after i almost ripped her in two on my way out into this world. it’s the first thing she heard about me and the first thing about me that made her proud. thereafter, my family heaved a collective sigh of relief and moved on from praying for my mother's life to congratulating her on my impressive rolls of fat.
everybody in my family was utterly enamored by them. legends abound about the number of fingers, hands and limbs that could disappear into the mythical tyres of flab on my classically thunderous south indian thighs.
legend also has it that i was a problem eater and often fell ill when i was young. this is the one thing my mother held against me as a child, since it seriously threatened her grand ambitions for me. all i did was feed you for the first 11 years of your life, my mother is fond of saying to me still, by the time you ate breakfast, it was time to feed you lunch…and then time for tiffin…and then dinner…i had no time to do anything except make you eat while you were growing up!
well, that’s her story anyway.
our family albums will bear witness to the fact that contrary to my mother’s complaint, eating was all i did for the first 11 years of my life.
other than me, the villain who always gets a dishonorable mention in my mother’s stories is the doctor who had the temerity to thwart her when i was three.
she is grossly overweight... - the doctor observed in the middle of my mother's tirade about my lack of appetite.
but, but...she doesn’t eat anything! - my mother wailed.
missing a few meals is not going to do your daughter any harm, madam, she is obese! - the unfortunate doctor said.
at which point, my mother recoiled like a queen cobra, told him exactly what she thought of him as a doctor and a human being, walked out and never went back.
so while i was growing up, all my friends called me saand. i remember, they’d slip in through the grille that surrounded the park downstairs and i’d be left standing outside. always too fat to fit.
then my folks and i moved to japan when i was 14…and i added a liter of haagen daaz, 3 cokes and a few candy bars (per day) to my mother’s daily fare. then i grew and i grew and i GREW until my skin stretched tight as a drum over me and my layers of fat.
by the time i saw my collar bone for the very first time i was 21. i was away at hostel and had been on a steady diet of cigarettes, yogurt, nimbu paani and salad for about 3 months by then. my collar bone looked so strange and beautiful on my body that i couldn’t stop squinting at it for days in the cruddy bathroom mirror.
but when i went back home for the holidays, my mum took one look at me and the tears welled up in her eyes. i saw her vision of me shatter, painfully, on the sharp edges of my new found bones. by the time i said ‘no’ to her second helping at dinner, she knew and i knew...it was the end of her era.
and as she has informed me again at the dinner table this evening - she does not plan to get over it any time soon!
image source: www.vintagekitchen.com