Have you ever been coerced to go on a diet,
When your heart screams no, and your brain shushes it to be quiet ?
A host of ploys that you’re forced to say hello,
Atkins, vegan, detox, South Beach and keto.
A morning rinse with lemon water and honey,
A rude early awakening for your raucous tummy,
As you are alarmed by the soury fluid inbound,
When it could have been a warm sugary coffee that you downed.
And for a hearty breakfast as you start getting eager,
Frugality is served with a helping of oats meagre,
Or a strange nutty mixture called muesli,
Taken with milk and raved about profusely.
But consider yourself lucky, if you will,
Coz some days may be harder and uphill,
For you may be served a bowl of sprouts,
Whilst you’re looking for food hereabouts and thereabouts.
Those tentacled alien spherules that you are cajoled to swallow,
Invading your food pipe and swarming in your stomach hollow,
And though they may tempt you with their colors weaving,
Look out, because the looks may be deceiving,
Coz for all the health and taste they appear to fake,
They are sure to torment your belly into a writhing ache.
As the day gets warmer and you think you’d be cut some slack,
Oh, if you could only hope, to sneak in a little snack !
“ Snack all you want !” your diet yoda would say,
“ But only chew on an apple or sip on a green tea, okay ?”
Carbs are your enemies and veggies are your friends,
So you better throw out the junk, and begin to cleanse.
When you assume there is nothing worse left to fear,
“ Don’t be so sure of yourself, ” a voice whispers in your ear,
Loud and clear the instructions boom – “ No rice, no roti, no bread !”
Striking you with a thunderous lightning, as you pray furiously you were dead.
Your innards squirm with anger and unrest,
At this breaking news, as you fervently protest,
“ But what pray, will I eat ?” you cry out loud,
“ Why, proteins my dear !” says your diet, head bowed,
“ And what of sweet cravings and dessert?”
“ Fruits will come to the rescue !” comes a reply curt.
How, do you hope to survive this ordeal,
When all you can think about, is meal after meal ?
How would a fruit stand by for a cake ,
And green tea cure that office headache ?
Can oats fill you up like a buttered toast ?
Or the measly sprouts confidently boast,
Of filling the tummy and greed both,
And not sprouting on your insides into a mouldy growth ?
What do you do, when you can’t eat rice or bread ?
A terrifying thought unthinkable, filling you with dread,
How do you satiate yourself with salad ?
With gluttony and craving playing a rock ballad,
Do you drink air when you are parched with thirst ?
Then how can an appetite, with such proxies be nursed ?
So please show some heart to our belly and bowel,
And let us enjoy our beloved rajma chaawal,
For no amount of those healthy foods can substitute,
The relish of curry and carbs, and their power absolute.
I have been a Delhi Metro regular for three months now and the ladies compartment never ceases to amaze me. There are some very distinct types of women in this battle zone which any discerning eye is unlikely to miss. I have, bravely if I may add, attempted to categorize a few as under. Any resemblance to actual persons is coincidentally intentional.
Relentless Raiders : These women will attack the vacant compartment seats with full force and at breakneck speed the second the doors open, pushing and flattening the disembarking junta aside. It is not even important whether they really need a seat or not. The Padma Ati Vibhushan is at stake. And if they miss out, they will just instruct the sitting ducks to move apart with a wave of hand, and without uttering a monosyllable, wedge their butts at any acute or obtuse angle just for the thrill of managing to get a seat.
Cacophonies : The ladies in this category are brimming with superhuman zeal to let the Metro masses know who is having an affair with who, what happened in yesterday’s episode of ‘Tu Sooraj Main Saanjh Piyaji’, and why suddenly Mrs Vermaji from the neighbourhood has started wearing knee length skirts. And lest anyone miss a word they are saying whilst talking casually with their besties, they make sure they are audible even to those with sub-subnormal auditory range at the opposite end of the coach.
Sidelong glancers : These are the weaker cousins of Relentless Raiders. Having not managed a seat and being too cowardly to attempt a butt hold, they will keep staring at you accusingly for sitting on the trip while they are forced to travel standing, till the guilt makes you hang your head down in shame. Nothing escapes the corner of their eyes – no even the slightest hint of a movement. Adjust your bag this way or that or shuffle in your seat ever so slightly, and they come pouncing in your direction assuming you are signaling the relinquishment of your throne.
Mouth chatterers : Mouth chatterers are the womaniyas who the instant they walk inside the Metro compartment, open their pitaaras and potlis and take out a shop’s worth of gajjak / mathries / namkeens / moohfallies, paying no heed to the detail that eating food is not allowed therein. And chatter, chatter chatter their mouths go… while they open hotstar on their smartphones and tune into the perplexing ordeal of ‘Jeet Gayi Toh Piya Morey’. The crumbs of the said food items are philanthropically left behind for the chirping birds to feast upon.
Zen Masters : Cool dudenis who are unaffected by the raiders and the cacophonies and by the chaos and the conundrum. They can be seen standing remotely in a sweet corner looking bemusedly at the world across with disdain, listening to music on their headphones, oblivious to the strife of lesser mortals.
Chandni Chowkers : The commuters who board the Metro from Chandni Chowk station in the evening after having spent the entire day rummaging through every miniscule item being sold at cheap rates at every nondescript shop of the labyrinthine bazaar. They enter the compartment with boxes and sacks tucked under each arm and over the head, and then spread them all over the coach for everyone to see – spellbound and awestruck, while they dazzle with aplomb in the sweet bargain glory.
Yoginis : These damsels can balance and twist themselves into any shape and form in any free crevice of the compartment. They don’t need a bar or a pole to hold onto… they can support themselves on one foot if need be, and read Chetan Bhagat’s latest bestseller with one hand and take selfies with the other, if the situation calls for it.
Note Copiers : These are the busybees headed towards Vishwavidyalaya on a Monday morning with their heads anchored in each other’s notes / project reports, furiously copying them down. Because amidst the parties and the social and family obligations on the weekend, time defies all written laws of Physics and inexplicably runs out.
Floor Ranies: Patriotic women who are fans of everything Indian (including sitting cross legged on the floor) as well as The Swach Bharat Abhiyaan. So when duty calls and they chance upon the dusty floors in the Metro, they rush in to do their bidding and clean them up with their bottoms, immune to the irritating microphone banter “ Kripya metro ke farsh par na baithein…”
Curious peekers : Curiousity killed the cat. But not these oh-so-casual voyeurs who are sitting or standing next to you and nonchalantly peeking into your phone, wondering aloud who you are holding hands with on facebook and why, how tacky your selfie /dp looks, what were you thinking wearing that hideous dress…etc etc. And when you catch them staring, they smugly look away in a flash of a second, assuming reassuringly that they were not caught in the act.
Teletaskers : Ever the multitaskers, these stris are seen and heard passing loud and clear instructions on their phones on the Metro. “ Hello !! .. Haanji ! .. Sun rahe ho ? .. Main bol rahi hun .. Kyaa ?!!! ” which continues into “ Kaam waali se kehna 7 roti banayegi aaj. Aur sabji mein namak kaam daalegi. Aur haan, dahi jamane ko keh dena usko … Aur, Aur – are poori baat to suno – use kehna bartan saaf karke jayegi…” The khichhdi continues simmering.
Touch-me-nots and squealers : These women are the ones who want at least a meter long human-free perimeter around them. Even your bags should not enter these red zones. Their eyes will start rolling in their sockets if you dare to hold the bar close to their designated space. And if you’d somehow shove them accidentally or step on them by mistake in a crowded compartment, all hell would break lose as they’d turn into squealers crying a shrill “Ouch!!” even if your erring hand or foot had barely managed to touch them.
Refuse-to-budgers : Ladies who’d position themselves right at the door entrance whispering sweet nothings into the speakers of their mobiles ( “ Main aaj kaisi lag rahi thi ?”… “ Tumne to mujhe compliment bhi nahi diya.” …and some such nauseating nonsense), refusing to move inside the compartment. No dirty looks, no polite taps on the shoulders, and no nudges from the angry passengers getting in and out can unfaze them. They stand resolute and strong, very ‘pehredaar’ like.
The author of this piece, meanwhile, is trying ever so earnestly to transform herself from a dumbstruck and occasionally irritable commuter into a zen master. Her headphones, incidentally, broke on the Metro today, while she was attempting to get off at her destination station in one piece.
As Diwali approaches, and we go frantic cleaning and sprucing up our houses, what would you think of a little detour, a shot at sweeping away a few of these societal offenses …
Honking on roads as if arses were catching fire, changing lanes as if worms were swimming up the innards higher and higher, and the ever so popular, “Abe ch***ye, jaanta ni main kaun hun ?” crossroad choir.
The mad bull charge for the coveted throne – the elusive Metro seat in the combat zone. Praan jaye, par seat na jaye.
Bargaining with street vendors in a Zara outfit – “ Bees rupiye to bohat zyaada bol rahe ho bhaiyya. Theek lagao. Aur dhaniya free chhaiye mujhe.”
The “Ai hello…!” calls to beckon people for help (Well Ai hello to you too, shitface!).
The ‘Aak thuus’ of the spits and the paans of the Thuuko Men and the unabashed display of the piss streams of the Susu Men.
Telling kids it’s okay… it’s okay to litter worldwide, it’s okay to potty roadside (and let the passersby watch the great divide), it’s okay to bully and behind Dad hide, and it’s okay to throw a tantrum for a toy Mom denied.
The cacophonic phone chatters about the really pressing case of ghar-ke-bagal-waali Sandhyaji in a quiet movie hall.
The roadside talents of men erupting into a mesmerizing rendition of ‘Chalti hai kya nauh se baara’, the moment a girl walks by.
Men in boxers and Women in nighties. Outside. In full public view.
Calling big women “ Hai kitni moti ho gayi hai tu!”, calling single women “ Hai bechaari!”and calling all women in general, “Hi Aunty!” (which, I petition, should be a punishable offence).
Have you often wondered how the Indian parents unfailingly and unflinchingly, never miss a chance to embellish and adorn your wardrobe in front of others ? It is a known fact that larger the audience to listen to their tribulations, taller are the claims. And the more you deny those claims, the more ridiculous those exaggerations get. So beware and tread carefully and watch out for these weapons in their armoury.
Clothes, clothes everywhere, not a single one to wear
This is the time when you have just dropped a hint of an inclination to buy a nice outfit, for an upcoming wedding or a party, and pat comes the whacking wail , “ Har baar kehte ho ki kuch pehnne ko nahi hai. Phir almaariyon mein kya pada hai ? Har das din mein kuch naya kapda to khareedte rehte ho. Wo sab kab kaam aayega ?”
Try leaving your clothes carelessly in the house. Go for it, give it a shot. Before the seconds hand strikes 12, you will hear a voice booming and echoing across the walls…“ Har kamre mein isi ke kapde hain. Sari almariyaan bhar rakhi hain. Hamare kapde to do khano mein aa jaate hain. Dukaan lagake rakhi hai, dukaan…Ek board laga dete hain ghar ke bahaar – ‘ Kapde hi Kapde : Verma ji and son’.”
The Bhramastra in the armamentarium. A design to make you realize your sins. “ Jitne paison mein tere saal bhar ke kapde aaye hain na, utne mein to hamaari chhoti car aa jaati.”
The exponential factor
No matter how many clothes or shoes you have – few or many, this number is aggrandized by a variable factor ranging from 10 to infinity, by the Indian parents in front of your relatives or family friends. For instance, “ 200 T shirts hain iss ke paas.. 200. Kali T shirts hi 30-40 hongi. Ek hi rang (blue!) ki kam-se-kam 20-25 jeans..” While you are left mouth agape with incredulity, overwhelmed by this calculation, trying to wonder where those 200 T shirts are tucked away, your parents have already moved on to how many shades of purple they counted in your wardrobe yesterday.
The space constraint and the alternatives
If you have dared to buy new clothes from the mall, make sure you quietly sneak them into the house. Lest you want to hear this – “ Phir kapde khareed layi. Kahan hai jagah iss ghar mein, bataa. Kahan rakhegi inko… mere sur pe ?”
Comparative and Superlative
Whether in school or college or work, be it marks or awards or salary, comparing their kids to others is inherent to Indian parenthood. So your wardrobe too, is unlikely to escape the sharp, mindful eye. “ Behenji, itne jute hain hamare ghar mein, main kya bataun. Utne jute to Jayalalithaa ke paas bhi nahi the.”
Do Jodi Jute
“ Hamare zamaane mein…” is the song of every parent. And it is sung at home at least once a day. So if you have too much footwear ‘for your own good,’ you would know these lyrics by heart…“ Chhatisson prakaar ke jute. Har colour ki sandal. Inhe to jute bhi matching chaiyyein. Hamne to poore college do jodi juton mein hi kaam chalaa liya tha.”
The Queen’s obsession
The British left our shores many years ago but this doesn’t stop us from obsessing over their monarchy every now and then. So if your cupboard abounds with apparel, you have a fair chance of being equated to a king or a queen. “ Ek Queen of England hai. Ek hamaari Queen hai. Kapde bhi baraabar ki takkar ke hone chaiyyein.”
This is borne out of gigantic amplifications matched by an astute knowledge of days and weeks and months. “ Itne kapde hai hamare suputra ke paas, ki har roz agar alag-alag kapde pehnega, to bhi 6 mahine mein koi repeat nahi hoga.”
No one can escape their parents’ elaborate renditions of their foreign travels and the trips abroad. Those accounts can be applied everywhere in their lives, and used to tackle every situation by merely substituting a few words and phrases here and there. They only have to start off by interrupting any conversation saying, “ Jab main vilaayat gaya tha…” So in the notorious case of ‘your wardrobe situation,’ the blanks will be filled thus – “Jab main vilaayat gaya tha, to ek attaichee thi mere paas. Jitne kapde-jute leke gaya tha, unhi ko teen saal chalaya. Aaj ki generation ko dekho.”
Murphy’s law states that no matter what the size of your wardrobe, it will always be the subject of speculation, judgment, exclamation and comment amongst your parents and bagal waali auntyjis. Addition of any item before the stipulated ‘appropriate time’ would land you in the way of stormy questioning and saucy critique. And any attempt to convince the world of your dire need to buy a shirt for your office, or replace your shredded underwear, or purchase a pair of sneakers for the gym, will be pointless and unavailing. There is, lamentably, no escape button, mes amis.
My tryst with Mumbai began with a dislike for the city, admixed with frustration and confusion. The houses and the PGs were pigeonholes, on top of which, when I went around looking for a single room, the frequent question was, “ Share nahi karna hai ? Kyun ?” After much cajoling and convincing, that some human beings (read this Central Delhi brat) need their personal space and can’t always ‘ adjust ’, I got habituated to being shown tiniscule, windowless cubes that rented at 10K per month, until I found one I could fit into. The killer humidity could put Delhi’s 48 degrees of scorching heat to shame. I did not understand the city’s obsession with vada-paos (those sauceless, mayoless burgers) and naming every third park after ‘ Naana-Naani.’ There were no excuse-mees to ask for way, but a curt ‘ Baaju !’ And shockingly, people made kissing sounds in order to beckon someone. When the rains came, it was a four month long thunderous downpour, that clogged the drains while we took the ‘riks’ and swam in muck and sewage en route to work.
A year later, I found myself as an Mch resident at Tata Memorial Hospital (TMH), getting used to conquering the trials and tribulations. The green see-through scrubs with the pajamas inexplicably ripped at the bottom seams ( Was it our fatty posteriors ?… Or our gassy interiors ?) that we made a dash for in the morning, carrying a mental checklist – “ Check the naada, check for holes behind and below…” The Tuesday staple sabuddana khichhdi which the TMH cafeteria single handedly ruined for everybody. In all these years I always wondered who the 1% fasting staff was, for whom this evening naashta was intended. Not to mention, the upma and the poha, which everyone had more than a lifetime’s share of. Working for 16 hours as a first year and then getting calls in the dead of the night with a voice squeaking “ Doctor, Bed number 123 ka urine output only 800ml hai.” While some would reply politely and tell the sister not to worry, others would put in a tongue in cheek like “ Itna susu to maine bhi raat bhar nahi kiya.” Learning another language was always difficult but a few Marathi phrases got me through – “ Tikre zopa ”, “ Ghaabru naaka ”, “ Saieel soda ” ,“ Pot aatmade ghya ” and the requsite “ Thaamba!”, ” Laukar !” and ” Patkan !”
In all those five years, I never realized how Mumbai grew on me. Days were long and arduous at the hospital, but a hearty laugh expunged all the aches and pains. No matter what the patient load, no matter what the odds, things got done – biopsies, PCNs and CT scans, physician referrals, emergency explorations and OT lists. And even then, it was never too late for a sea side stroll or a movie in the city that never sleeps. When the TMH cafeteria botched up the dinner, Canara and Aditi fed the Tata inmates. Catching the sunrise at Marine Drive on a Sunday, or gorging on lunch at Pizza by the Bay, the joyride never stopped. And before you knew it, you were salivating at the sight of vada- paos and swaying to songs on your headphones, oblivious to the rain and the traffic. ‘ Chalega ’ had replaced ‘ Theek hai ’, ‘ Ek number !’ had kicked out ‘ Ye baat !’, ‘ Mast hai ’ had taken over ‘ Sahi hai ’, ‘ Baaju ’ had toppled ‘ Bagal mein ’ and ‘ Barabar ’ had usurped ‘ Bilkul.’ The years zipped by as we wrestled duties and night outs, busy weeks and Sunday breaks and exams and celebrations. But just like that, the time ran out too, jostling us out of the reverie, asking us to pack our bags and leave.
I never thought leaving Mumbai would be so hard and painful. I never thought I would end up romanticizing it to Delhiites. And missing it so. I left with a heavy heart but with memories to cherish for a lifetime. I have so many extraordinary people and so many remarkable things to thank for ! Here’s a big shout out and dhanyavaad to my family, friends, teachers and colleagues who helped and supported me, and made this a wonderful adventure.