Only Twenty Years Too Soon

February 9, 2011

I’ve always had a sweet tooth – Amit likes to say all 32 of my teeth are sweet, but he’s wrong; I only have 30 teeth, because I haven’t got my wisdom teeth yet.

I’ve always pandered to my sweet tooth too. After all, why not? It’s not bad for health unless you’re diabetic. In fact, I’ve always enjoyed all manner of unhealthy food. I’ve never been the type to exercise self-restraint just for the sake of it. True, one doesn’t want to end up looking like the backside of a bus, but apart from that little consideration, I don’t see any reason not to enjoy all the good food that one reasonably can. I’ve always been reprimanded by my father for adding too much salt to my food. Again, my point of view was, if I like it, why not? I don’t have high blood pressure, and apart from that, it does no harm.

For almost my entire life thus far, I’ve been the epicurean type: if it tastes good, eat it.

I always maintained (mainly to Amit, the only one who was interested) that when the doctors told me it was time to stop feasting, I’d stop. But the thing is, I didn’t seriously expect this to happen till I was well into my 50s. When all is said and done, I wasn’t wolfing down vast quantities of cholesterol-rich stuff; I wasn’t drinking like a fish or smoking like a chimney (I don’t smoke). An occasional overdose of red meat, a weekly (or more often fortnightly) mug of beer, a bit of chocolate (or some other sweet) every day doesn’t do too much harm. I didn’t believe in overdoing the good stuff unless there was an occasion to celebrate. On the whole, I was moderate in my excesses, if you know what I mean. If there were such a thing as a moderate epicurean, that would be me.

So when I claimed airily that I could “stop any time,” I spoke with the confidence of one who knows that “any time” would not happen for probably another twenty years. I guess you just shouldn’t tempt fate that way.

Along comes this bloating that takes away all the simple pleasure of good food for well over a year. And then, when I’m thinking I’ll do just about anything to get rid of this bloating, along comes the solution in the shape of a gluten-free diet. Hang on, I mean a lactose-free, gluten-free diet.

The other day, I was walking along Brigade Road and Church Street, being assailed by sights and smells from every direction. On any other day (I mean, in my pre-gluten-free days) I wouldn’t have noticed a thing. Now, all I could see was things I couldn’t eat. My stream of consciousness went something like this. “Pani puri. Drool. Oh, can’t eat it. Chicken roll. Yumm. Oh, can’t eat it. Bakery. Sigh. Full of stuff I can’t eat. Chinese! Nope. Can’t eat it.” As if all of that wasn’t bad enough, it was slowly sinking in (again) that I not only “can’t eat it,” but actually, “can’t ever eat it. Never again.” At last I noticed a peanut seller. Oh, great! Something I can still eat, at last!


My stern resolve, my iron will, my steely determination was all put aside for my birthday last week. Chocolate cake in generous quantity and a most welcome mug of beer went down the hatch in short order, followed by a couple of meals out since, which were largely but not entirely gluten and lactose free. And I’m still paying the price for those indiscretions. Which is fine, because it reconfirms the evidence in support of gluten intolerance as the root cause of my problem. But not so fine, because it also reconfirms the “never again” aspect of all the things I can’t eat.

This is almost as profound a change in my life as getting married or having kids. For me to turn into a strictly dal-rice kind of person, unwilling to try new things, scared to eat out, fussy, picky and full of questions about “what’s in it, what’s it made of, is it besan or maida, is it cornflour or maida, are you sure it doesn’t contain any maida whatsoever?”… it’s going to take some getting used to. Even worse, to be the kind of guest that people worry about… “What can I make that she can eat????”  I so don’t want to be that kind of guest.

And of course I’m not the slightest bit happy that I having to rule out virtually every unhealthy item from my diet now, instead of 20 years later like it should be.

But at least I can say this much: while I could, I enjoyed food to the hilt. There are no regrets on that account. All the same, it feels like it was too little and it went by too fast. Now the question is, will the sweet memories of all those delicious, melting, magic moments be enough to sustain me through a lifetime of dal-rice?

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