I arrived back at RUHSA in the dead of night, without anyone much seeing me, because firstly it was dark and secondly, most people had gone home by the time I rocked up, so the next morning there was a big (or smaller) unveiling and I have to say, it has created quite a stir. I guess 12 months and 39 kilos is quite some time ago. Vartsala, the lovely secretary with a predilection for peach saris, was cross. Her first words, after screwing up her nose in disapproval were “I loved that round face, now it is soooo long. I miss that face”, but then I caught her sneakily peeking at my less-existent belly. At one point she pinched my arm to see what less fat felt like. Then she confessed that she wanted to reduce too, but was secretly glad to discover that although I don’t have a chicken neck, there was evidence elsewhere of imperfect re-elastication of skin.
Every conversation and greeting has started with, “Ooohh-hooo, so much reduced!” followed by furious head-wobbling and grinning.
Rita was trying to explain to some nearby interns whom I had not met and who, incidentally, could not have been less interested, unsurprisingly, in the whole conversation, what a transformation there had been. “Before, you couldn’t believe how fat she was. Sooooo broad” (Coupled with actions to recreate general girth & enormity of body). The interns looked a little shocked at that, I have to say.
I had been due to meet Mathew at 8 o’clock sharp - my own arrangement on which I reneged owing, I think, to ongoing jet lag and a missed alarm clock - so he came down to find me at the entrance where he heard I was hanging around about 50 minutes late. I hadn’t been able to get very far owing to everyone wanting to know my secret. He guffawed when he saw me. “Oh my God, when I knew you were coming, I specially opened both doors to my office because I thought it is more comfortable for you to get through!” It just goes to show that however hidden we think we are and however private we feel how we look, nowhere more so than India reminds you what public property we are.
Stalin, the media guru at RUHSA, came up and said to me, “you must give me tips for my wife” Small and petite himself and less like his more famous namesake would be hard to find, except for the presence of a beard, his wife is certainly no taller, but has expanded horizontally according to him. He looked a bit wistful when he told me she was “now 82kg” I am sure his wife would be delighted to know how he’s bandying her weight around so freely. He asked the question that everyone has asked. It is clear that they believe there is some magic answer accessible to reduced rich white English doctors. “Any English medicine?”
I asked him how his wife ended up being 82kg, he said she eats too much, I replied well there you go.
So many people have sidled up to me asking to know my secret, hoping against hope that there is a magic answer and all I did, for example, was put a half ripe mango under my pillow one night and woke up transformed, or that taking a diet pill every day caused the fat to slip away. The disappointment is palpable when I tell them no magic bullets, only hard work and dedication. I missed a trick there. I could have had such fun thinking up weird and wonderful ways in which it could have happened.
Going to the tailors, those of Innerwear fame, was the final hurdle. At the tailors are two girls who have been working there for the whole time I have been coming to Vellore and who inexplicably find me HILARIOUS without any effort on my behalf. I have never needed to do anything more amusing than order a pair of trouser made of underpant material or buy a rickshaw horn for my bicycle and now even the very sight of me makes them fall about with laughter, continuously. And loudly. Today, the laughter stopped briefly in amazement, so that was a good thing and then it redoubled and they called everyone who might have been interested and quite a few who clearly weren't, to come and see the new freak show - The Magical Disappearing Woman. Any new customer who came in whilst I was there was forced to listen to the tale whilst trying to mind their own business and buy saris or innerwear material. I could tell from the few interspersed English words like Doctor, UK, exercise, eating, accompanied by the universally understood Indian gesture for fat, which approximates to clenched fists facing each other at chest height with elbows out with a pumping in & out action, culminating in not-so-subtle pointing at the "new me". Of course, its really touching how much interest people have taken, I think, despite the sometimes clumsily made comments, it indicates a genuine fondness for me which I both reciprocate and appreciate