'GREAT' the word inspires me to a 'Great' extent. GR stands for my initials. The rest of that word is what enthuses me. It sounds as if I am told GR-Eat, GR-Eat !
Moral of the story: Dieting has a lot to do with your name; or the initials in my case !
I have no dearth of admiration for Mahatma Gandhi. But I could not agree with one of his Philosophy, "Eat to Live, Don't Live to Eat". That is blasphemy ! Ever since I remember, I have lived to eat and I have done pretty well at that. With Mothers who love to pamper the kids with best of the delicacies, how can one just eat to live ? Mission Impossible !
Must be a hangover from my childhood or perhaps my ambition to fulfill my beloved Mother's fond wish. It all started after my cousin Srikanth was born ten months after me. In a joint family with over two dozen people, my Mom was endowed with a puny little son who ate so little, the sparrows in our neighborhood fared better in comparison. And there was my junior cousin, who used to out-eat, out-grow, out-smart and out-everything me.
Naturally my poor Mom had just one wish, "My son should eat well and grow up into a big handsome boy". Her God perhaps had foreseen a non-conformist growing up. Hence he granted only the first half of her wish soon. The second half of her wish is better not discussed; self-pity is not my nature.
India won the Cricket World Cup in 1983. This solved one problem for my family and created a new one. The little fellow wanted to play Cricket and become the Greatest All-rounder of all times. So began the eating spell, really well because he wanted to grow up big. But the new problem was that there was hardly anything else he managed to do after that.
Idli - Do and Idli - Done !
Eating became a sort of nature or instinct. Nobody complained because this was a novelty. Well, that was until one fine evening. I came home from school. Mother had prepared Idli, my most favorite dish ever. I swallowed down 16 of them and ran off to join my team for Cricket. It was quite natural for me. More often than not, I ate more Idlis than the runs I scored.
I came back after Cricket and shower at around 7 PM. Boy, was I hungry ? I went to kitchen. There it was waiting for me, a cooker full of Idlis. Reading a novel of my favorite Shivarama Karanth, I polished off whatever was there. When my Mom came back to kitchen, she was shell-shocked. Her still puny teenager son had cleaned up 24 of them excluding the 16 in the evening !
She came rushing to my room and shouted at me, "Have you forgotten what I had told you ? You have eaten all those idlis. You have to attend the dinner at a relative's house this night. What will you do now ? If you don't go, your Father will be furious". I calmed her down and said, "But the dinner is at 9:00 PM. It is only 7:30 now. Why are you getting worked up ? Whatever needs to be done, will be done".
It indeed was done and the 'Legend' was born that day ! The 'Legend' of GR-EAT Bottomless Wonder aka Bermuda Triangle !
Bermuda Triangle !
Other than eating and playing Cricket, I just got plain lucky and ended up in Medical College Bellary in 1988. A New chapter began from here. Weighing 46 kilos at 167 cm, I was written off as 'Good for Nothing' by most of the seniors. But it soon turned out to be 'Food for Nothing'.
Ten chapathis before lunch or dinner and four or five eggs to balance the protein content was a normal day in the kitchen. After the initial struggling days, I chose the nearest room to the mess for the easy accessibility. The people running the Prefect-Mess were kept in good humor. I even volunteered to run the mess ! But the amount of over-activity I used to indulge in, meant the size remained constant. Whoever said 'Size Does Matter' had not been to Bellary.
The Mess staff had an off day on a midsummer day. Ramdas, a pious junior from a nearby room came to my room and said, "Shenoy, don't go out for lunch. I shall prepare noodles for both of us". This is why I loved Bellary. The boys were so nice. At around 12:00 Noon, Ramdas came to my room and said, "Shenoy I have a special class. Please help yourself for lunch and don't wait for me".
I helped myself and cleaned the utensils and went back to my room to continue my reading. At around 2:00 PM, Ramdas barged into my room and he was almost weeping, "Shenoy, what happened ?" I replied, "Nothing, the noodles were simply great. I have washed the utensils to save you the trouble". Crestfallen Ramdas blabbered incoherently, "Do you know I had prepared 3 packets of Maggi noodles and that too with a lot of vegetables ? I haven't eaten anything".
Now that was a tragedy. I told him, "Hey I'm sorry I didn't know you'd not eaten. Come we'll go out to Disney and I will buy you a lunch". So we went to a restaurant about a kilometer from our hostel. He ordered for a Chicken Biriyani. The friendly me didn't want him to feel lonely. Hence I joined him and ordered a Biriyani for myself and we added a Ginger Chicken too.
Later I heard some people bitching that Ramdas was absolutely flabbergasted by my 'GReat exploits'. He allegedly likened me to 'Bermuda Triangle'. I never heard him say that and so never ventured to verify the veracity of these rumors.
Bottomless Wonder !
Our Surgery Professor was a generous man. He hosted his juniors to nice lunch or dinner on his Surgery days. On one such night, I helped myself to one full plate of Chicken Fried-rice, One Plate of Butter-Chicken, 3 butter-nans, One Fish Fry, One whole bird Tandoori Chicken, 3 bottles of Coca Cola and an ice cream at the end. To digest the food, I also ordered a large Lassy. That was all I could eat.
I thought a senior was quite mean when he said this, "Hey Shenoy, your bill alone was more than the bill of all of us put together. Boss was overwhelmed. He asked me 'Where does all that he eats go ? This is a real Bottomless Wonder'. He also suggested to schedule our next dinner when you are out of town".
That was slander. I never believed one word of this. The Boss was a generous soul and I couldn't believe what I ate was really that big. But somehow by the quirk of fate, I never got to attend another dinner hosted by him. But soon after, I celebrated big time when I managed to touch the 50 kilos on the scale for the first time in my life.
Pathiri-fied Night !
Moving to Kochi after I finished off Bellary, my tryst with food continued. Ramesh Menon a senior colleague once ordered 3 Pathiris [Rice-cakes] with some Chicken when we were on night-shift at the hospital. So I too ordered for 5 of them.
Ramesh very indulgently said, "Govind, 5 will not even line your oral epithelium. You order for 15 or even better 20". I felt belittled and said I will manage with 10. I had to send one of our staffers to a 24-Hour coffee shop at 2 AM that night.
My Cousin Rajesh, myself and another relative used to go out for dinner on weekends. Whenever Rajesh made huge orders, the other guy used to get alarmed. But Rajesh would smile and say, "Don't worry Govind is there". He would always remind me of those '3 Packets of Maggi noodles' !
My love for food has continued unabated and at forty, I still am in love with food. I still love to play, though a little different kind of games. So the story continues, "Eat, Play and Love" !