Metamorphosis

Guest Post

This is a guest post by my sister, who wanted this out there to keep herself in check, and to send a message to all other girls struggling with a healthy body image.


 

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had issues with my body.

I still recall vividly the summer of the 3rd grade when I first felt bad about not being thin. And that’s how early it starts. That’s how much the society tries to push the thin-is-pretty ideology on everyone. Thanks to sports, i managed to remain healthy most of my life. Except for class 8, where an obsession with losing weight, becoming paper thin overcame me. A skewed self perception went a long way to make me drown myself in exercise and a measly amount of food. The initial months were good, I was eating healthy and running so much. But then I lost track of it all. I looked at myself in the mirror and all I saw was fat, ugly omnipresent adipose tissue. I started looking like I’d been sick. The 13 year old me couldn’t possibly comprehend that , thin was bad, fat was bad, what to do and be then? There was no self love, no identity. There was just a messed up want for acceptance. And I’d been deluded into believing that acceptance would come as fat disappeared. Boy was I wrong.

And here I am 4 years older (and hopefully wiser), in the same place again. But this time, I know what went wrong, and what I did wrong. And I know now, that it’s not about your face or body. I’ve beaten myself over body image issues and hated my body for so long. I’m going to give loving myself a go.

Not being thin, hot, pretty is by no means the end of the world and you can be a very happy individual if you focus on the better things in life – friends, family, love, education, ambition and being happy. Acceptance is faceted because people are faceted and as long as you know that feeling comfortable in your skin is of prime importance, it’s going to be fine. And I’m not, and I’m going to try to do something to change that. Let’s see if I get it right this time.

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My Squishy

I love my dog. He’s my absolute favourite in the whole wide world. Don’t give me those looks. Yes, I love my dog more than any person I’ve had the pleasure (or not) to meet. My amazing parents brought him home on my 15th birthday. It was a surprise out of nowhere. After 15 years of begging and pleading for a dog, I had made peace with the show pieces and stuffed toys I received instead. And now suddenly, there he was at 6 weeks, sleeping in a tiny basket they took from my doll, at my door.

My first reaction was to not believe what I saw. I just stood there with a  poker face – Is this what I have been reduced to now? Hallucinating about puppies? But my sister’s excited screams soon brought me back to my senses. It was no dream!

My second reaction was heartache. They brought him here for me to play with and they’ll take him back tomorrow. How can they be so cruel? I refused to believe that my parents, who had shrugged off my pleas for 15 years had finally brought home a dog. Permanently. And even after they reassured me that he’s mine, I refused to accept it till I saw him sniffing around the house the next morning. He’s still here! I have a dog!

My joy that day was immeasurable. I would have put Pharrell Williams to shame.  I had a dog now. I had a dog to love, and to spoil. After the tiring think-of-an-adorable-name day, we decided to call him Trusty. After that, when I wasn’t at school, I was with him. I couldn’t get enough of his adorable puppy-scent. I just wanted to keep smelling him all day. But that didn’t go down too well with people around me who thought I was slowly sliding into canine obsession. Of course I wasn’t. Sliding into? I was born with it.

Trusty slowly started going from sleeping all day to chewing everything in sight. Bedsheets, socks, toys, slippers, towels, tables; everything he could fit his tiny mouth round were fair game. I still remember him, learning how walk on tiles without slipping (he never really mastered that. He still slips and slides on tiles in our home and it’s absolutely adorable), learning not to pee on people’s laps, his first tug-of-war, and his first bark. I’m sure people who’ve seen their dogs grow up will understand. Hearing your pup bark for the first time in that cute, puppy voice is more pleasing than a baby’s first words. I was in love and I knew I never wanted to spend a day apart from my darling dog.

After months of loss to our precious bed covers and the legs of my friends being treated as scrumptious chew toys, Trusty grew up to become the dog we adore. His snout grew much longer, his back grew long, making us doubt if our little monster could keep his balance for long. But he did. He supported his awkwardly long body on his terribly tiny feet and somehow managed to do it with grace. My little baby grew up to be a handsome attention-seeking hunk.

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The first time we left him alone at home, I came back to see my books sprawled on the floor. One book was at a little distance from the others. When I walked up to it, I saw its gleaming wet pages. That was my dog’s revenge. How that little dog was capable of such monstrosity was beyond me. I could almost hear him think Let’s see you leave me alone next time, shall we? But we did, and he learned to cope with that by jumping onto our beds and rolling all around them while we were away.

True to his not-afraid-of-anything Dachshund nature, he became friends with a Great Dane. He didn’t think twice about his size before jumping up and chewing the Dane’s ears and stealing his squeaky toy. But I’ll be forever grateful to the gentle giant for not snapping the neck of his new, over-zealous friend who tried to take over his bed. Image066It has been 6 years since I first saw him on my birthday, comfortable in that tiny basket which would not even hold his head now. In these 6 years, college has taught me to be away from him. And he has accepted the fact that I’ll always come back to spoil him.

He has no worries, no anxiousness of the future. My dog taught me to wake up every morning with a stretch and face every day with anticipation of joy (unfortunately I don’t have a tail to depict my joy at waking up). He taught me it’s okay to express your love, and sometimes your anger. He taught me to wear my heart on my sleeve and never let anything hold me down for long. After all, life is too short to waste not chasing flies and eating every meal like you’ve been starving for 5 years. Yes, he’s all grown up now. But to me, he’ll always be my squishy.

The Son’s Return

It was dark and cold outside, the kind of cold that makes birds afraid of venturing out of their nests. Not a soul was to be seen for miles around, except for him. The man was in ratted old jeans that were torn up to his calf. His feet were blessed with gray shoes, if they may be called so, which were broken and torn from a hundred places. But at least they covered his toes. He wore a blue t-shirt to which years had given a white tint. He had covered his head and neck with a black muffler, his only possession which looked less than 2 years old. With these bare necessities he sat on the bench, shivering in the biting cold. His lips were turning blue. He pulled his feet up, hugged his knees, and continued shivering. Hours passed and he made no signs of moving. He sat there, looking into darkness, as if waiting for a life that wouldn’t come.


“Mohan!”, called out a voice.

A young man, maybe 19, rushed outside the kitchen.

“Yes sir.” , he said in a voice too mature for his child-like face.

“This lady has something to say to you.”

He stood to face the woman standing next to his boss. She seemed to be rich, with her fine saree and diamond earrings. Then of course, all customers who came to eat here were rich, the price of every dish soaring above the reach of a common man.

“Did you make the Chicken Malaya?” , she asked, surprised.

“Yes mam, I did.”, came the reply in a broken accent.

“Where did you learn it from?”

“Local restaurants near my village. I changed a few things though, which I thought made the dish better.”

“It was very good. I will definitely recommend it to my friends. Mohan, was it?”

“Yes mam.”

The woman thanked Mr. Bisla, returned to join her party for desserts, and Mohan went back to his work.

This wasn’t the first time his dish had been praised, not even since he joined Moti Mahal exactly a month ago, and definitely not since he started cooking, at the age of 8.

Mohan was raised by his father in Haridharpur, near Shimla. His mother had died when he was one. His father told him of her, how kind she was, and how Mohan refused to spend a minute without her. His father told him of how he cried when his mother did not come home to hold him in her arms, when she was found lying dead beside the road that night, hit by a car whose driver didn’t care to check if her could be saved. Her life held no importance in his, so he didn’t stop. Her life had no use for the people who walked by, so they didn’t stop. His father used to wonder how different their lives would have been if she hadn’t gone to buy medicines for his fever. But Mohan never wondered. To him, his mother was just a ghost created by his father’s words. His earliest memory was of his father singing him to sleep at night. It was his father who taught him to read, to write and to cook. Flavors came naturally to him. He would see a dish being made, and recreate it, somehow making it taste better. His father had recognized his talent and given it the much needed boost.

Whatever little his father earned in his shop, he spent on cookbooks and groceries, which Mohan loved experimenting it. Occasionally, he bought Mohan some new clothes, but rarely did a day see light, when his father spent a rupee on himself.

Mohan started working for free at street-side stalls when he was 10. When people started appreciating his food, he started getting paid. Of course the village didn’t bring a lot of money, but enough for his occasional surprise for his father. He still remembered the first gift he ever gave his father. A blue t-shirt for which he had been saving for months.

Mohan had held out the t-shirt for his father and said, “I’ll make you proud someday.”

His father, for some reason Mohan didn’t understand, had tears in his eyes.

“I’m proud of you now. You are your mother’s son.”

Mohan had come to the city to find a good job. He could no longer bear to work in sweaty stalls. So he left, promising his father he would come for him in 6 months, which would have been today. But his life was finally moving in the right direction. He had been picked up for this restaurant a month ago when Mr. Bisla had come to eat at a friend’s house, where Mohan worked as a cook. Luck was finally working in his favor. How could he take leave now? It had only been a month since he started here. Surely his father would understand.

And so a week passed. A month. Within a month, he had been promoted to Main Course In-charge.

Soon, I will be head chef, he told himself.

So he worked, till another month passed. Mohan was now earning very well. He had settled in his new life, but somehow, he felt empty.

“Sir, I want a two-day leave to go back to my village” , he said to Mr. Bisla one day. “I have enough to support my father. Will you grant me leave so I can bring him here?”

And so, he was granted leave.

He took the evening bus that day. Throughout his 5-hour journey, Mohan thought of his father. He reminisced about his childhood days, and how he could repay his father’s love after all these years.

When the bus stopped, Mohan got down, a feeling of joy overcame his heart. How happy father will be to see me. And that was when he saw him, the old man, lying down now, not shivering anymore. Mohan went towards the man, and his heart took a leap.

The old man smiled sadly.

“I knew you would come today, son.”
And those were the last words his father ever spoke.