I’m thinking of F who gave me my first lesson on my work at my interview. At an office lunch, shortly after, she skipped dessert. Diet, I assumed, till I saw the others pass on their plates to her for inspection before digging in. She liked looking at sweets and sometimes smelling them, she said. Having faced it since she was a child, diabetes was a part of her personality.
At the traditional cake-cutting ceremonies at the office, F was the designated knife-handler since she was the only one who could be trusted to not gobble up the cake before the others got to it. F and I worked together for a year. Then she got married, moved to an overseas office, came back and resumed work. She recently delivered a baby boy. I hope her little one will inherit her impish grin and her warmth.
I’m thinking of my old tuition teacher, an alternate mother. Aunty had a reputation for turning near-fail marks into top-of-class grades. She had been a regular housewife till her husband lost his job. And then she took her degree to use by starting to teach one kid. In ten years she had become the best tutor on this side of town. Aunty was stern and effective. Dedicated to her calling. A frail little lady who seemed to tower over all of us. Except on an occasional afternoon, when she’d apologize for failing health and proceed to take lessons lying flat on her back.
I’m thinking of my uncle, former bad boy, echoes of which still remain in the back pockets of his faded jeans. Mama was always a good cook. I’ve had exotic things like authentic Italian pizzas, Chinese-style noodles (not Maggi!) and vegetable Stroganoff. Mama doesn’t eat most of these delights anymore. And his late nights/late morning brunches have dropped off. The wild one has come home.
I’m thinking of my thatha. Upright, honest government servant to the world. Doting grandfather to me. Terribly stubborn spirit to the rest of the family. My earliest memories of thatha are of going hand-in-hand with him to buy an ice cream off one of the carts parked near India Gate. And badurshas at the sweet market. Rock sugar at home after the morning puja. Those were the early days. And once catching him scraping the remains from the ghee-making pan to eat with sugar. And wondering…when do you start policing those who’ve laid the law for you? Around the same time I learnt that his feet, eyes and kidneys were all susceptible to failure. All of them succumbed.
And finally, most of all I’m thinking of mum. Chef par excellence, wit beyond compare. I’m thinking of the puddings, Diwali sweets, chocolate cakes and numerous other delicacies that churn out from her kitchen. I think of her fading eyesight. I’m thinking of her still-lean frame. And how she never touches the delights she makes for us. I’m thinking of the weekly reading on the meter. And the syringes stacked neatly in our ice tray.
I’m thinking of all the people I know who are part of the statistic that calls India the world diabetes capital. And I’m thinking that among the many problems each of us faces, some wage a daily war against their bodies every day. And live among us, spreading their brand of sweetness, unaided by sugar.
Today is World Diabetes Day. It isn’t an occasion to wish anyone. It isn’t a day to start movements. All it seems to be is to think of some people. Do it anyway.