CLXXXII. A Belated Diwali Note: Letting Go -Disclaimer: It has been 6 days since I wrote this, and since then, I have felt that I let go more than I anticipated.
I’m letting go and I don’t know how to interpret this phenomenon. It has always been rather difficult for me to let go, or rather to unclasp the grip on myself. You see, I believe there is a difference between not letting go and preserving in memory. The latter is involuntary. While I may remember an awful experience, I won’t hold a grudge. It had taken me a while to foster that character trait - one in which I move on and do not dwell on one’s actions.
I am still far removed from that place of wholeheartedly accepting 30 or more pounds of weight gain. I still cannot fathom eating outside at unplanned times and unexpected places, places that can’t possibly alter their menu items, or forgoing my watermelon for a bar or a banana, notoriously high in sugar as it were. But with those foods I have deemed ok to gain weight from with limited activity, on a mission to retain a body type I can be comfortable with as extra pounds are added, it is getting easier to eat with uncalculated abandon. I am referring to all natural nut and seed butters, granola, and hummus, such that the initially measured out portions are for naught because I continue to dip into the containers again and again- first with shame, and slowly, without the shame. The serving sizes taunt me, haunt me, as the contents of the disposable wrappers decrease well before they technically should. Still, weight is not being put on at all or not nearly quick enough.
Perhaps it is because my newfound favorite season, fall, is finally having a presence in the weather, the plant life and death - leaves strewn across Long Island’s buckling sidewalks, reminiscent of a post-modern type of cobblestone, that make me less regretful for consuming untracked calories. Perhaps it is that I have again begun to walk outside while my parents are away at work, observing newness, basking underneath the sun, and gulping the tepid air. Maybe it is that I fell sick yesterday, suffering from one of my notoriously unpleasant and painful bouts of sore throat that I would incur every year since early childhood. Perhaps it is that today is Diwali- the first of many holidays I celebrate during this festive season.
On this day, I had it out with my father after he worked out for an hour in the basement-turned man-cave. He went down before 5 am, so I too woke up, walked a little and did some silent floor work for 10 minutes that made me pant excessively and beg for mercy. I suddenly realized that he had snuck downstairs yesterday morning as well. I usually don’t sleep through his workouts, not feeling well about the inhabitants of my small world being more productive than a sleeping Reshmi- barely sleeping - running in less than 5 hours of sleep daily.
But then I softened. I washed the coffee pot, brewed a new batch, made his coffee, heated and cut up his muffin, laid out two traditional Indian sweets of cashew fudge - Kaju Katli - lit a candle and my gift to him: a Ralph Lauren box with leather boat shoe loafers inside.
Growing up, Diwali was always my favorite holiday, primarily because I would dance every year, dressed to the yards - literally. The dancer’s skirt was voluminous with yard upon yard of fabric weighing my svelte but robust and healthy body down to the ground as I resisted gravity- a workout - while pirouetting. I would indulge in many sweets, pass along sweets unto others, eat a full meal at the local temple, an elighten earthen clay lamps. I would attempt to decorate the house in makeshift decor: garlands of flowers used for my hair during dance shows and colorful scarves doled out. I planned outings to the theater to see an epic Diwali-release.
When in college, I made a trip home every Diwali. During my senior year, I lived in a dorm that had a significant South Asian population. I purchased chocolate and wrote notes with well wishes that I compiled into a gift package alongside the quintessential earthen clay lamp. I dropped the items off outside of my peers’ closed dorm doors, like a half-Indian elf hellbent on preserving a tradition for fear that it was on the brink of extinction.
Today, after two years, I am going to light Diyas and go to buy all of two or three boxes of sweets for a close family friend, my treatment team, and a neighbor I don’t know. I want to reignite traditions, forever laying claim to hosting Diwali as an adult just as my mom would over Christmas.
With threadbare relationships on the Indian side of the family and my father not particularly remembering traditions we could continue, I managed to extract some valuable information. My mamaji, my late paternal grandmother who I remind everyone of, and who my dad has entrusted in me to continue on with her legacy, used to cook up a “sweet bread,” as my father called it. He described it as pieces of toast cut into triangles, fried and soaked in syrup used to make jalebis, another Indian confection. Upon researching a bit, I dug up the traditional dish my father was referring to: Shahi Tukra - a Mughalai-derived dish consisting of crustless bread cut diagonally, fried in ghee, dipped in a saffron and cardamom spiked simple syrup and garnished with either sweetened boiled milk and/or pistachios, almonds, and cashews. I still am looking forward to surprising him with this most unhealthy form of fuel that was probably metabolized by that demographic at the time and was nutrient dense in so far as their activity level. Clearly, I have not let go fully.
Nevertheless, I was also going to cook a meal but I still feel sick and the idea of caramelized ginger, garlic, onions, and masala infusing into my skin’s pores and sore throats leaves me nauseated. That and because I don’t actually eat what I cook leads my parents to believe that I am sabotaging their weight goals. I also plan on partaking in the Hindu-oriented tradition of rangoli - colorful geometric patterns that welcome Goddess Lakshmi home to provide good fortune - wealth and otherwise. I plan on picking up some sidewalk chalk for my first attempt rather than the traditional boiled and dried, naturally dyed rice grains, colored powder, or sand. I also asked my father to buy traditional Punjabi food from our go-to restaurant miles away for him and my mother. We would make a trip to temple as well.
Already, I have consumed breakfast: organic poached eggs with sprouted flaxseed toast and organic decaf coffee. But I have also dug into the almost finished raw cashew butter jar aside from the allotted 2 Tablespoons to have at lunch. I feel energized, full, but satisfied. And I am walking, unintentionally getting lost on the way, dipping into my scheduled walking time just as I dipped into the jar without conscious regard. I still have to go in the opposite direction to buy the chalk, hope my parents don’t magically appear or call, and venture home so I can perhaps go to pick up sweets and witness others actually celebrating a holiday that I am so desperately trying to celebrate as well.