I’m feeling fat. Bloated. My fingers are twice their size with water retention and my face too. I look terribly ‘healthy’, to quote a compliment often received from a well-meaning Indian aunt. I could curl up and hide under the dinner table forever. That way I’ll never have to eat. Ahh, wish losing weight was as simple – the cover your face and no one will see you trick.
There is a value though in this God-awful feeling when you can’t seem to put on anything other than a tent and the jeans stay well below the stack relegated to the day when I feel slim again.
I think I’m blessed with a good thermostat, for there’s only that much my mind allows my body to expand before it starts throwing tantrums and refuses to calm down until its message is heard – stop stuffing your face! It isn’t going to make you feel better. Just worse. And a lot worse if it’s a midnight binge. Wait you see until the morning after.
So, to be clear. I’m not fat. I’ve probably put on a pound or two. That too more from a lack of sleep than from indulgence in food.
But what I am is obsessed with my size. I simply cannot bear the thought of a few extra pounds neatly wrapped around my butt. Whew! Makes me dizzy just thinking about it. And to compound my woes I inherited my mother’s curvaceous perfectly round pug behind. Yes, tell me about it?!
What I also suffer from is a distorted sense of bodily image. Sounds pretty cool but trust me it isn’t.
Today is my father’s nineteenth death anniversary. It’s a strange thing for me find myself grumbling on about the size of my toes on a morning I should probably be lighting incense sticks in front of his photo or maintaining a moment of silent prayer. I guess I will get around to that too. Most likely buy a garland of marigold flowers and place it at my altar of statues of multiple Indian Gods. I’m only after realizing that the only image I have of my dad in this Goa home is on my phone. Hmm. So it is.
The thing I recall most about him was his physical beauty. Chilled features, fine almost translucent skin, long limbs and slim as a reed.
I envied his lithe frame all through my childhood. I was jealous of his disciplined eating habits. He was pedantic about what he ate and always wanted his meals prepared just so, but he ate so little that it didn’t really matter if he was slopping on pure Ghee onto every morsel.
Of course, my father never knew how I secretly wished I could be more like him and less like my mother who loved to raid the fridge and unearthly hours of the night. Or day. Cold food was her thing.
Equally she loved to feed me at any opportunity life presented. “Ohh you hurt yourself, poor thing. Open your mouth – gob smack and off to the races.” “Ohhh you’re first in class in mathematics – shove down a piece of cake.” And so, the story goes.
I discovered the bulimic trick only in my late twenties. A friend’s comment pierced right to my heart – “You’re too fat to flaunt the free-spirited gypsy look”. There were many things faulty with the logic, but I couldn’t see it then. All I heard was ‘I am fat’.
And so today some thirty years later, amongst the things that matter to me most is how I look. To myself. I’m not so concerned with other people’s opinions. You could say I’m self obsessed. Choiceless.
I wish things were different. But they aren’t. I’m sure we all wish we could pick the best of our parents and leave the rest out to dry. But we can’t. I shall not end with saying we can choose what we’d like to imbibe but that’s not what I believe. I am the way I am. Warts and all.
Though my childhood was difficult and complex, these challenges forced me to look for happiness in things beyond the conventional givens of material possessions, career and marriage. Decades of philosophical reading, exploring meditation techniques and alternative therapies, culminated in meeting my Guru, Ramesh Balsekar. It was during the six years I spent attending his daily discourses that my innate love for language developed into editing books and doing some writing of my own. Learning from hard-earned personal experience I was finally able to overcome my unresolved issues. Today, this journey has allowed for me to be an emotionally present mother, a caring partner and a dependable friend. Indeed, suffering can be a gateway into becoming a more complete human being.
This series of blogs has been reviewed by Drishya Warrier, Aditi Iyer, and Pratishtha Bagai, of Symbiosis Centre of media and Mass Communication, Pune. We are students that have completed our first year. Through this NGO Internship Project at MHAT, we explored the field of mental health while pursuing our interest in creative writing.