My mother is always on a diet. (Now you know why I am such a fitness freak)
I have grown up watching my mother practice everything from crash diets to disciplined healthy diets. I have watched her make mistakes and put the weight back on and I have also witnessed her triumphs. There was one time in our lives when she was skinnier than me (yeah it was only ONCE so get over it!!) and she used to wear my clothes. But (thankfully) it did not last long as I gathered the courage to start working out myself. We both have been watching our weights for ages together.
In recent times however she experiences a rather slow BMR and has cultivated the supernatural powers of turning even grass into fat. So every now and then she goes on these detoxifying diets. They are supposed to detoxify your body but somehow they end up toxifying your mind to such a great extent that everyone around you is compelled to run for a cover.
On the first day, she has to observe a strict “liquid diet” schedule; tea and coffee even though consumed in decidedly liquid forms are not included in this zone because milk is a colloidal solution and coffee and tea as so-called toxins (welcome to the world of staunch masochists). So my mom survives on strained tomato and carrot juices. The morning is fine. All average people are very optimistic in the morning. When you have had a bad day and you are not able to get something done in the eerie silence of the night, somehow your wicked mind convinces you that it will be miraculously possible in the morning. So following this rule, my mom wakes up and has some weird potion of lemon grass, ginger, lemon and cloves boiled in water.
At about eight, when the morning sun has begun to gently filter into the kitchen and after she is done with her day’s work out she starts toying with the idea of one fourth slice of bread and half a cup of tea, but since she has signed up publicly for this sadistic diet she cannot accept openly that she is craving tea. She glares at me as I sprawl on the easy chair with a newspaper and have three consecutive cups of tea with toast and raspberry jam. Since she cannot blame herself for her current fate, she goes on to lecture me about the ill effects of tea on every functioning part of human body and even the appendix. During such times, the otherwise innocent raspberry jam turns into a high calorie accomplice of persistent weight gain and the brown bread that I so carefully toast, turns into an “unwanted source of energy unfit for a sedentary worker like me” (Duh!!)
As we get ready for office (yeah we work together and for all official purposes she remains my boss) I come back to the dining table for breakfast and find her rolling her eyes in great fury. “Ohh so what was that toast and pint of tea? Wasn’t that breakfast??”. I usually ignore hungry and angry women. So I sit back and have a glass of milk and orange and bowl full of corn flakes as she sits there in front of me looking at me with her eyes afire. She tries to calm herself with a glass of cold spinach juice.
In the office, every phone call that she is forced to attend is like a million needles inside her brain. Every other second a small fluffy cloud pops up over her head. Sometimes it contains an inviting piece of date and walnut cake and hot cup of coffee or a succulent cheesecake, sometimes just plain rice with a lot of daal or a freshly baked apple muffin. She thinks about chicken biryani, gajar ka halwa with vanilla ice cream, or hot piping cup of chocolate.
We have an attendant in the office who, during such times of extreme emergency is instructed to extract juice from anything that could be put in a blender and present it to my mom every hour. So she goes in every hour and comes back looking like an overcooked egg. Every hour my mom gets angrier at the world. Sometimes she is thrown into the grips of self-pity and keeps asking herself, “ I am such a kind woman. I have never harmed even a weed in my life. Then why does God make me go through this?”
At lunch, she asks me not to eat with her with an obviously fake polite expression; for she does not want to witness my love affair with my lunch box. So I gather my lunch and eat in my own cabin with a blessedness that will put even the greatest of the Saints to shame. As if a full share of lunch isn’t enough, I later take a stroll down the street and buy myself a snicker bar. I avoid going into her cabin past 1.30 PM on such days as she turns into this really volatile mass of fury that has a seriously low vapor pressure. Even a mild hint of anything edible makes her go raging mad at the world. Her hourly juice breaks are our source of her mood swings. People queue outside the pantry to get the attendant to describe her mood so that they can make plans to ask for her signatures on the advance forms or go in to tell her about some mess that they have accidentally created. People, who have the heart and the misfortune to go in and talk to her at such times, come out having lost all the faith that they ever had in Life. The whole office is engulfed in a bizarre silence filled with terror and anticipation.
At tea time, as we all gather outside and indulge ourselves in the harmless small talk that goes so well with every decent work place, she hovers around us like an enemy aircraft waiting to bomb an area full of innocent civilians.
We hush up our tea break and get back to work to avoid accusations of getting paid in return of wasteful gossip that is responsible for the decline of booming Empires. We walk gingerly around the water cooler and keep our voices painfully low. We make sure that our cell phones are silent for even a tiny beep can turn into a mind-numbing explosion on such days.
The dusk brings out a rather drawn and tired tigress from the cabin, but a tigress she still is! Ever ready to snarl, growl and injure. We go back home, harboring a pregnant silence in the car. As we reach, she declares that it is not her responsibility to feed an already overfed, inconsiderate, uncouth, insensitive daughter who is able enough to stand on her own. I take the hint and call up a friend and happily go out for dinner at my favorite Chinese restaurant. I come back late, so that I would save myself the residual whiplash of a starving body and a pining tongue. As I tip toe inside I am startled by the sound of the Television. I peep in through the door, left slightly ajar and find myself looking directly into the eyes of my mom; except now she is surrounded with a loaf of bread, hot tomato soup, a silver knife gently resting on a cube of freshly opened butter. She beams at me, as I giggle and join her in her warm bed fragrant with the smell of (MY-brand-new-not-to-be-used-by-her) perfume. We finish off the bread and make ourselves the most amazing masala chai!