‘Oye Sardar*! What did you get in your tiffin*?’
‘Chole Chawal*, I think. Not sure,’ replied Bittu,’ Why? What did you get?’
‘No idea,’ answered Bunty, ‘But, I swear, if it’s stinky hari-sabzi* again then I’m swapping tiffins with you.’
‘Again?! No, no… I too am sick of eating your hari-sabzi.’
‘C’mon, yaar*. Sardar, be a sport. I am your bestest friend. Don’t do this to me,’ pleaded Bunty.
Bittu relented. ‘Okay, fine. Stop begging.’
Bittu and Bunty had been best friends since kindergarten. Now in tenth grade, they were still inseparable.
Bittu’s mom was an exemplary cook. She used liberal spoonfuls of Ghee* to flavour her dishes. The resultant food was rich and fattening. The cherubic faced, rosy cheeked Sardar was already a tad too roly-poly. He was desperately trying to reduce his weight. High school beckoned and it was a known fact that beautiful girls did not date fat boys.
Bunty’s mom, on the other hand, was a health food freak. A tyrant, she believed in feeding her family healthful, non fattening dishes. That meant plenty of raw salads, green veggies and whole grain stuff. Bunty’s chatora* tastes, balked at such fare. His plump foodie body craved sweets and rich food. He thrived on that, unknown to his mom. No amount of prodding from Bittu, to lose weight, had any effect.
Both boys had learnt that in order to survive the cooking of their respective moms, they needed to collude. Hence, the tiffin swaps. The moms were none the wiser. It was a great arrangement.
Until one evening….
“Bunty?’ mom said at dinner.
‘Ya Mom,’ he mumbled, joyfully stuffing food in his mouth. For a change it was grilled chicken, low fat but tasty.
‘In spite of all the healthy food I make, you are still putting on weight,’ she began, ‘so I’ve enrolled you for weekend swimming classes. Also, starting tomorrow you will run five kilometres daily with me. Be ready at 5 am.’
Bunty’s joy deflated. Agape, almost in comical amazement he looked at his mom. The morsel he had been about to stuff in his mouth fell on the plate. Had he heard her right? Shaking his head, trying to clear away the ear wax that must surely have impeded hearing just now, he asked, ‘Whaaaat..? What did you say?’
Fixing a steely glare upon him, his mother repeated her statement. It sounded even more ominous, the second time around.
Poor Bunty! His face fell. The succulent taste of chicken turned to chalk in his mouth. ‘Oh God! There is no getting out of this. Mom is a Nazi when it comes to health. I’m done for,’ thought Bunty, mournfully. He lost his appetite. Mumbling an excuse, he fled.
And that is how it began……. Bunty’s exercise regimen. Sadly, this was not something he could swap with Bittu. Bit by bit, day by day, both buddies worked towards losing weight. Bittu ate healthier, Bunty exercised.
The end result ……….well, two more jocks in high school.
Oye Sardar – Hey, Sardar (sardar – colloquial term of reference for Sikhs)
Tiffin – lunch box
Chole chawal – a north Indian dish made of chick peas and rice
Hari-sabzi – leafy green vegetables
Yaar – slang term for a friend
Ghee – clarified butter used in much of Indian cooking
Chatora – someone who loves eating, a foodie.
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