Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Sticks and Stones!

Coming down to Kerala on a break is always such a pleasure! It is where you have grown up, after all, and spent many years, interspersed with joyful and not-so-joyful moments. The climate is the same, the roads are as dingy, there are myriad flats in place of individual houses, and all’s well in God’s Heaven.
The only thing that remains unchanged, and will always do, is the attitude of the people here. We Malayalis have a style of our own, which grants us the leeway to be extra familiar, and one step forward would take us to the brink of rudeness. And from the brink to a topple-over is the easiest step forward ever. It doesn’t even need a shove, however much the other party is provoked!
I walk into a friend’s home, and after the customary hugs, the first statement is, “You've put on weight, you know!”  This after regular walks, a strict diet and numerous packs of Sugar Free sloshing around in your system! I smile weakly, and nod, hoping that there’s an end to the matter. But open lips do not zip themselves up so easily! “Your arms have grown muscles, you know!” The friend’s mother has to add her pennyworth. “I remember you when you were in college! Such a slip of a girl zipping about on your moped! Such a pretty sight!” There would be a pregnant pause where I would heave a sigh of relief and try and change the topic to the pretty flowers in the garden, the polished tiles on the floor or the darned weather outside! But obviously my weight is a more entertaining topic, and the tirade goes on. “Your cheeks have grown!”
How do I remind them that I was born with apple cheeks, and that cheeks do not magically appear and disappear, but like Tennyson’s Brook, go on forever? “Uhhh… have you ever seen me minus my cheeks?” I venture hesitantly, and the reply comes in like a boomerang. “No, but they have grown rounder!” And the parting shot, a back handed compliment, if ever there was one. “But the weight suits you, you know? You look like a mother now!” A statement which will slowly turn into, “You look like a grandmother now!” if my daughter deigns to turn me into one, that is!
I stroll on the road with my sister, Bhanu, who is not even size zero. At sixty plus, she weighs 35 kilos! By sheer dint of comparison, I would look like a truck beside her. But it does not help to be told so. As the stroll continues, I see two familiar faces looming in the horizon and I tell Bhanu, “Watch out! The salvos are on their way!” And not once am I disappointed.
The elder lady adjusts her glasses, and looks me up and down. “Put on weight, have we?” Not that she ever means herself, even if it were true. “Really?” I croak, and strive to ask about her children, not actually recalling if she has any. But the second lady, younger and robust, puts a meaty arm on my shoulder and says, “Don’t you exercise? Or go for a walk?” A rather vague question, coming from one who is easily the size of a barn! The retorts stay on the tip of my tongue, maybe because of my upbringing, but I wish desperately at such moments that I were not so well bred!
I go home and ruminate moodily. Friends back in Chennai and their mothers and friends’ mothers do not ever call me overweight? Do people in Kerala eat special diets that make them a trifle more acerbic! And then, Eureka, it strikes me like a flash of lightning! I assume that people who have seen me as a child and a teenager still see me in that avatar. And when oft, on their couch they lie “in vacant or in pensive mood”, I flash upon their “inward eye”.  The image remains the same, and it probably jars them to see me change with the years. However, it would be rather unrealistic to imagine me as what I was when I was eighteen, especially after a delivery, a hysterectomy, a daughter’s wedding and half a century of good living!  I mean, it would be humanly impossible, unless you were Peter Pan! Or Rekha!
So I brace up, with a pretended nonchalance, and let the comments roll off me. I look at the mirror and see in myself what the others do not – a human face that tends to smile more than frown, an attitude that prods me on to feel that I am the best, and above all, a sense of humour that has come down in my genes and allows me to laugh most things off! Then I sit down at my laptop and hunt for an apt quote on the subject, till I come across one that “shines like a good deed in a naughty world”.
"It's an uncommonly dangerous thing to be left without any padding against the shafts of disease." So said George Eliot in Middlemarch, very conveniently, as it seems.
My mood lightens, "And then my heart with pleasure fills/ And dances with the daffodils."




17th December 2014

11 comments:

  1. Hahaha! :D I love the way you manage to weave in humour into almost everything; not to forget sarcasm.
    It's been two years since I started following your blog after I read an article of yours in The Hindu. I have honestly enjoyed every post I've read since then. Great going, Deepti.

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  2. Roshni, thank you ever so much! There is nothing more delightful for a writer than a reader who enjoys reading her pieces. You have honestly made my day and my night! Thank you so much!

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  3. The pleasure (as cheesy as it may sound) is all mine. :)

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  4. The worst part of going to the "native place" was visiting relatives.

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    1. I can so relate to that! :) Thanks for reading my post!

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  5. You write so beautiful effortlessly. I'm impressed with your simplicity, generosity and wisdom.
    Pleasure to be here, Deepti ma'am :)

    Keep writing!
    Much love...

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    1. Simran, my dear, thank you so much for the generous comment! Bless you!

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  6. Straight from the heart, loved this! :)

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  7. Ah! I can relate to that. I've always been really slim till the age of 50 when I put on a wee bit of weight. And then it started. The first thing I heard when I visited a relative or two was "You've put on weight". If I could I'd just scream, "Hey guys! All these years you've been lamenting that I'm thin, now that I've put on a few kilos does that irk you too." But like you said the breeding keeps the tongue at bay. I just smile. But the best part is that it is generally those that easily put on weight who make these comments.

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  8. Such a perfect post yet again. I love your inimitable way with words, that delectable mix of wit and wisdom, humour and reflectiveness. :D

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  9. Why do you make me smile and at the same time think.. :D Do you know how much work is that.. :P
    “But the weight suits you, you know? You look like a mother now!”
    Hahaha.. first they say that and then they call us overweight. There is no pleasing this gen !

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