Last week, I happen to meet one of my friends at a plush restaurant. Not because I am used to going to these kinds of restaurants but because she doesn’t believe in going to some normal restaurant. Her name is Gitanjali, and she has been quintessentially the attention grabber in our engineering days. She is smart, pretty and carries a fashion sense with finesse. But it was not the same when I met her this time. It was almost after 6 months we were meeting. Although it is not wise to call out a beautiful friend of yours and say, ‘Hey Git, not looking pretty as usual today!” but a puzzled look on my face prompted her to say what I had in my mind.
After having some small talk, in the beginning, I couldn’t help myself asking her, “What’s wrong with you? You look a bit pale, thin but not fit and most essentially the chirpiness in you has just vanished?”
Usually, she would have just blown the question into the air with a swing of the hand however she didn’t this time. I know something was bothering her. On coaxing her a bit, she opened up, “Rashi, I really don’t know what’s wrong with me? I don’t feel like working. I am sleeping almost 10 hours a day and yet I always feel like sleeping. I am sans energy and enthusiasm most of the time. Little things irritate me. I have bad stomach once every week and sometimes I even don’t feel the taste of food. Second, I want to do a course on Fashion Designing but it is worth 6 lacs and I am really falling short of money.”
Credits: Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash
I had got a hint of what was wrong with her. But, at the same time, I also knew that my words won’t make an impact until she hears from someone professional and senior to me. So, I cooked up a story and told her that I know a doctor who handled a similar case of my cousin and she is in pretty good shape now. I took her to the doctor. Doctor, as experienced and senior he was asked a blunt question, “ So my dear, tell me, how many times do you have outside food in a week?”. I was taken aback. Generally, the doctors ask, “Do you have outside food?” But here the question was right on target. She told she has hotel food mostly on weekends and once/twice on weekdays – which translates to 2-3 times a week besides the alcohol that she devours every time with a meal. She examined her and called for her attendant. Besides prescribing some regular medicines, she told this in loud words, “ Charge them 2500 for my visit. Though generally, I charge only 800/visit.” I was taken aback. Gitanjali looked at me as if I had committed a big crime by bringing her to this extravagant doctor. I looked at the doc with a broke look and then she said, “Why are you surprised, if you can go to fancy restaurants and spend thousands of rupees per meal to spoil your health, you can surely pay me a bit higher to regain your health. Can’t you?” and that’s when we understood her context. While her attendant prepared the medicines, she quietly took us to her cabin and made us understand what was wrong. While she asked us to do certain reports, she like an astrologer predicted, “Gitanjali, you have the following deficiencies for sure: Iron, Hemoglobin, Vitamin B, and Vitamin B12. My experience suggests that it is not hereditary but has a lot to do with the lifestyle. Your food is not giving you enough of these nutrients plus if I may assume, that you consume alcohol in large proportion and is weakening your intestine. Hence, it has stopped producing enzymes that can extract the essential nutrients in the food. I am giving you some medicines that can help you temporarily but the change in lifestyle is important or else the days ahead will be difficult for you.”
I know she was shocked and hurt. But she had got this advice from her parents and some of her best friends for quite a long time. She rarely paid a heed. I didn’t expect this time to be different. I dropped her home and then I got back into my routine. Although I should have asked her about her well being, my work routine took quite a toll on my social life. Until, one day, I saw her Instagram posts full of marathon pics and workout routines. I was surprised and happy. We decided to catch up. It was almost 5 months after that meeting.
So I asked her, “Tell me babe, which is the fancy restaurant on your bucket list now?” thinking that her treats for her marathon are pending and I wouldn’t have to even split. I was expecting a free ride. But quick was her reply, “Babe, Let’s plan something else this time. I will pick you up and then we will go to Marine drive in the morning. Some Fresh air for both of us.”
She arrived at 6 AM. With dusty rose jogging pants and a white tee, she was looking the Gitanjali of those engineering days. The enthusiasm in her voice had returned and with her presence at Marine Drive, I am sure a lot of boys were going to hit the lamppost. When we arrived at the Marine Drive, I quickly rushed to a roadside vendor for some quick grab. Git stopped me. “Are you insane? Do you want to have that kind of food? I have prepared fresh apple juice with homemade pancakes. I have also carried some sprouts.”
And I got it. That meeting with the doctor, those blunt words had done the magic. She was not the same Gitanjali. She had changed, changed for the better. I knew she wanted me to tell about the makeover story and before I could ask, she started narrating. After all, some things never change. Putting here verbatim,
“Rashi, I feel like my golden time has come. I feel like I want to work more, my mind is full of positive thoughts and I am full of energy. You know the last time we met, I had told you that I want to do a fashion course, which costs me 6 Lacs but I don’t have that kind of money. Well, chuck the course. I started my own fashion business and we got 22 customers in just 45 days. I have run 3 Half Marathons and prepping for a full marathon for next year. I exercise for 45 minutes daily and I take 7 meals a day, protein, iron and fiber-rich meals. You know I haven’t taken a single day off in last 5 months even after relentlessly working for 14 hours a day.”
I could see pride swelling on her face while counting each of her achievements. But I was more interested in How and why of all these achievements than the What. While yumming the juice and sprouts, I asked, “ Git, What made the difference. Was it the doctor’s words?”
She shrugged her shoulders, almost in denial and then uttered with a piece of apple on her fork, “Ya, maybe. But, I guess, it was my conversation with mom afterward that changed my mind. After you dropped me, I called up my mom. I narrated her the entire saga. She empathized and sympathized. I thought she will offer to come over and take care of me. But during our entire conversation, she once did not utter it. It was a bit of shock. She was the one who used to keep a tab on what I used to eat until the age of 15. Eventually, I told her that I needed her. She refused”
Realizing that I had completed the sprouts and juice, I extended my hands towards her box of apple pieces and exclaimed, “What happened then?” My interruption broke her flow and my effort of snatching her apple didn’t go as desired.
Photo by Kat Love on Unsplash
Gitanjali was like, “Am I really talking to my mom?! When I got miffed with her, this is what she told me, “ Git, I had always warned when you stepped out of the house about your lifestyle and diet. Yes beta, we are Punjabis. We love alcohol but you must understand that puking every weekend after devouring is not cool. Now I don’t want to dole out Gyan as I always do but you have eventually lost health and wealth. If I come over to take care of you, your dad will be alone here. You know he can’t survive without home food. Ultimately your dad will fall ill for no fault of his. And Mumbai weather doesn’t suit his health. It is better you come over here.”
I felt like someone just dropped me from the 21st floor. Will my mom leave me to fend for myself when I so need her? Gitanjali continued, “You know I cannot come over there. My career and my life – will go for a toss! She told me that she is fine with whatever choice I make and muttered few words that still reverberates in my ears, ‘ You made a choice when you preferred to go with your habits over the one I suggested. Today, I am making a choice. I know this is harsh but I also know that I have raised you brave and determined to overcome any problem in your life.” She hanged up. Probably, tears swelled her eyes as the last set of words had a different tone than all the other sentences.
Lying on the bed, pulling the on/off switch of the night lamp, I started gazing at the ceiling. Thoughts started crossing my mind like turbulent waves, “If my mom, who would do anything to see a smile on my face, could not support during my ill health, who else will after her. If I had cried once on the phone, she would have been on my doorstep the very next morning. But that is not why I wanted! If I have spoilt it, I have to fix it.I got up from my bed, took out my tracks and went for running. I could have decided to start from tomorrow morning, but I know that tomorrow shall never come. So I started immediately. The sweat flushed out all my worries. I decided to take charge of my health. That thought of even dearest ones can’t support you in your bad health just kept rising whenever I felt like giving up.”
Photo by Natalia Figueredo on Unsplash
By then, I was in awe of her and her mother. It was a bold decision and a necessary rebuke. Customizing what Friedrich Nietzche said, ‘Something that doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, in this case, healthier and wiser’
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