Fasting isn’t my cup of tea. I can’t starve for long stretches: the highly acidic gastric juice demands food from time-to-time. I used to refrain from eating on several occasions: during the pujas at home, as the news of the death of someone dear to me arrived, when the guy from the nearby diagnostic center came to collect my blood sample. I didn’t take food on the morning of my wedding day—my mother made sure I couldn’t enter the kitchen. She had a reason to do so. Mom maintained, “If the bride can’t eat before performing the rituals, why would the groom be allowed to gorge on a delicious meal?” It wasn’t my choice that I was born in a Bengali Hindu family. However, I followed her words. I’m telling you this not because I am against patriarchy: when you work against a set norm naming it, you are only upholding the observable fact.
Today, birthday messages are pouring in: I am 45! Everybody at home and the office wants me to enjoy good food. I’ll have luchi and alur dom for breakfast. As working lunch, Bitan has proposed polao and dim-kosha. Had it been a typical day (it’s lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic), he would have offered kosha mangsho for sure. The sudden drop in business makes him settle for a not-so-lavish feast. Bhaswati has plans for dinner. I’m sorry for Aishikk, my son. He won’t get a chance to enjoy soft and creamy cakes, as the vicinal bakery isn’t producing chocolate gateaux for the time being. Tonight, I’ll make up for his loss with cookies and fried cashews. I have nothing against them—no reservations about this celebration in whatever form they would occur. But, I won’t let anybody click a photo of mine, certainly not with any food on my table. Isn’t it essential to keep a clean image, especially as a wannabe intellectual who writes for the people who have no bread to chew?
I belong to a privileged sect. I can survive the challenges even if I lose my day job. I’ve got a family to fall back on. Be it my wife, my business partner, or my parents—they will help me at all events. How many Indians can claim to be blessed the same way?
“Boris Johnson in Isolation,” a poem I’ve written lately, ends with: “Doesn’t inanition evade all control?” I’m sure it does. I’ve seen people brawling for food but never experienced their struggle. I wish my wife could warn me not to eat at all for a day to achieve a better understanding of famine. But, I’ve been celebrating occasions, eating in-and-out to my heart’s content with or without a camera, posting updates for the wretched fellas on my social handles, and what not! During this venture, all I’ve ensured is my public image keeps shining.