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The recipe to falling out of the wrong kind of love

A teenage girl goes to great lengths to lose weight to impress her crush. But is it even love if someone makes you feel bad about yourself and lowers your self-esteem?

If someone makes you feel self-conscious, is he or she worth your emotions? Photo: iSTOCKPHOTO
If someone makes you feel self-conscious, is he or she worth your emotions? Photo: iSTOCKPHOTO

Granny and Grandpa’s love story was simple and delightful, like those of most people in the 1950s. Pre-Tinder, pre-Bumble, pre-Instagram. They lived across the road from each other. Grandpa stared into her window, she stared back, and they fell in love and got married.

There were stories about Grandpa. He was a gallant man, a true gentleman. He would put Grandma in a cab and run after it from Bandra to Colaba just to see that she was home safe. He was the first person in his neighbourhood to have a phone at home and women came from everywhere to use it, but he had eyes only for Silu Granny and her short skirts. She didn’t know this side of Grandpa. She had only seen him in a wheelchair, with Parkinson’s. It made her sad. He was gone now. But she saw pictures of him, when he was young and stood tall, always a gentleman, always soft-spoken. He loved Granny and she loved him. But Granny had some guilt. Maybe it was about not letting him eat ice cream just a few days before he passed away, maybe it was something else. Granny insisted he was back in the form of a very enraged crow, sitting on her head every time she went outside. Granny (running inside) would say, ‘He sat on my head again. He is angry.’ Granny loved cutlets (Parsi cutlets). She would get them from Britannia, the oldest Parsi restaurant in Mumbai, and save them in the fridge with a note attached to a toothpick that said, ‘DO NOT EAT, THIS IS GRANNY’S.’

But she was sixteen and she was hungry. She would sometimes eat all her grandmother’s cutlets. Granny would be very disappointed in her but later would forgive her after giving her a good scolding. She wouldn’t forgive her sister though. See, the girl was Granny’s favourite. For some reason, she and Granny had a special kinship. She admired Granny. To her, Granny was like a pirate grandmom with an eyepatch, sexy legs and a killer attitude. When she was sick, her granny would sit at the edge of her bed on a stool and pet her head until she fell asleep. When her parents went out of town, she locked Granny in her room and had parties in the big house. But Granny always escaped. She’d wander into the room with her pirate eyepatch and above-the-knee dresses (very edgy for a woman her age) and her friends would gasp in shock. ‘Who is that??’ She would then escort her granny to her room and lock her up again. But Granny never ratted her out to her parents. Her sister would, but Granny would not even speak of it. Maybe she forgot, maybe it was their little secret.

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By the time she turned sixteen, she was in love with a boy. He would ride by Vina Villa on his bike. He was a tall Anglo-Indian with a prominent jaw, jet black hair and sexy stubble. To Granny, he looked like Ridge Forester from The Bold and the Beautiful. But to her, he looked like Johnny from Dirty Dancing. Granny would catch her watching him and give her an approving nod. Could Granny see him with one eye? Dirty Dancing Dude was her senior at Xavier’s. Every time he would enter the college canteen, a hush would come over. Dirty Dancing Dude is here! The entire college, boys and girls in unison, would turn around to look at him. Dirty Dancing Dude would walk in slo-mo with a sexy, confident swagger. He’d take out a cigarette and effortlessly flick it into his mouth (like Travolta in Grease). Dirty Dancing Dude had an aura and charisma that would make it appear as though the world around him was frozen in time. At first a few boys and girls, then the entire canteen started to follow Dirty DancingDude as if he were the Pied Piper. She was one of many who trailed him, caught under his magical spell. Ameesha Sippy (yes, she followed her to Xavier’s) pushed her aside, causing her to stumble and fall. But the crowd just stepped over and past her, continuing to blindly follow him.

She didn’t care; she just looked up at him strutting away in the distance, tears of love welling up in her eyes. She didn’t stand a chance. Then, one day, he was sitting under a tree in the centre of a group of swooning girls. He was playing the guitar and singing softly, almost to himself. She peered into the circle. They made eye contact. She shivered. ‘Hey, check this out. My cousin Ryan just got back from America and brought me this,’ he said to all the girls as he reached into his backpack and pulled out a CD. It was the soundtrack to Dirty Dancing with Patrick Swayze manhandling Jennifer Grey on the cover. ‘This is what everyone in America is listening to right now.’ All the girls ooh-ed and ahhh-ed! He then reached into his backpack and slowly pulled out a fat, blocky contraption. ‘It’s called a Discman.’ All the girls went ‘Oh my God . . . imported!’ The girls moved in to have a closer look. Ameesha Sippy stepped on her toe. ‘Move fatty!’ she yelled loudly at her. Embarrassed, she scurried away. But then, one fine day, she decided it was time to make her move. She spotted him talking to a small group of self-consciously cool guys. She walked boldly up to them.

‘All He Left Me Was A Recipe: Lessons from My Break-Ups' by Shenaz Treasury
‘All He Left Me Was A Recipe: Lessons from My Break-Ups' by Shenaz Treasury

On her approach, she noticed the Dirty Dancing CD sticking out from the elastic meshing on his backpack. She stopped just behind him and slowly reached out in an attempt to tap his shoulder. But she lacked the courage. Instead, she secretly snatched the CD from his backpack and quickly ran away. No one noticed. Their romance had begun. She put the phone receiver up against the speakers of an old model CD player and pressed play. ‘Hungry Eyes’ filled the room. ‘Hello? Are you the girl who stole my CD? Hello? Hello?’ He didn’t hang up. He seemed to find this amusing.

Also read: Easing the path to love and friendship for neurodivergent individuals

She called him every day after that and played songs from the CD to him. She’d imagine him shirtless, painting a large canvass with a brush tucked under his ear. When she told her friend Gunjeet about it, she couldn’t believe her ears. ‘You call and play music for him?’ she asked disbelievingly. ‘Yes, it’s part of my plan. I’ve broken it down into phases, see. Phase one is to soften him up with songs. Phase two, I’ll . . . ‘There’s a much simpler way,’ said Gunjeet cutting her short. She picked up the rotary phone receiver and dialled. No! NO! NO! she tried to stop her. She was hyperventilating. ‘You’re jumping to phase five!’

Gunjeet held up her hand and listened to his phone ringing on the other end. ‘Hi, it’s Gunjeet. Gunjeet Marwah from Chemistry. Thank you! Yes, I just had my hair cut . . .’ Gunjeet flipped her hair back flirtatiously. ‘What the hell!’ she whispered. ‘Stop flirting with him. He’s mine!’ She waved her hands wildly, about to combust. ‘So, anyway, the reason I called was I wanted to ask you something.’ She listened, blushing. ‘Oh, you’re too sweet . . . Thank you. I do have a personal trainer, yes . . .’ She turned red. ‘Gunjeet! Gunjeet!’ ‘So, um, what do you think of my friend?’ She yelped, covering her mouth and moved in to share the receiver with Gunjeet. ‘Who? Oh, oh oh you mean Buffalo Butt?’ he asked. Her face fell. Thunder sounded. Lightning struck! The ceiling crumbled and collapsed on top of her head. She sat in the middle of a cloud of dust and particles, completely covered in dirt and dried plaster. Behind the dust and dirt, her eyes slowly welled up with tears.

Gunjeet laughed. ‘Guess you need to lose weight, Buffalo Butt,’ she said. Then she left, flicking her hair. She was one of those friends who made you feel bad about yourself and then left. That night, she cried herself to sleep. Silu Granny knocked on the door. Granny offered her a CUTLET! She refused. And that was how her manic obsession with weight loss began.

Granny and she went on many diets together. The all-bread diet, which didn’t work out. The all-almond diet, after which she had to get her stomach pumped from protein poisoning. The all-papaya diet that kept her in the bathroom all day. She started taking classes. Aerobics class: She kicked her leg out of sync with the rest of the class. She came home and Silu Granny hugged her. Khar Gym Swimming Pool: She swam laps past screaming kids. Under water she saw a yellow liquid surrounding the kids. She made a face, held her breath and swam through it. She came home and Silu Granny had hot water in a bucket waiting for her in the bathroom. Boxing Ring: She trained, kicking feverishly at a pad held up by a kick-boxing coach. Then she slipped, missed the pad and nailed the coach between the legs. He fell to the floor in pain. She came home with a headache and Granny patted her to sleep.

Three months later, she checked out her butt in front of the mirror, pleased with herself. But she could never stop the binging, which became worse every time she thought of Dirty DancingDude. His voice kept echoing in her head. Buffalo Butt . . . Buffalo Butt . . . Buffalo Butt . . . She reached for Granny’s cutlet, shoving the whole thing into her mouth. Granny frowned at her. THAT’S MINE!

Excerpted with permission from Shenaz Treasury’s ‘All He Left Me Was A Recipe: Lessons from My Break-Ups’, published by Ebury Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House

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