Pulling a fast one

Pulling a fast one

True fasting to me was always associated with Mahatma Gandhi who resorted to it several times in his life as an infliction of self-punishment, so quarrelling people buried the hatchet  and came together. Potti Sreeramulu, the Telugu leader who went on fast to press for the birth of a separate state of Andhra Pradesh died. But all fasts  are not that serious. Some canny politicians fast virtually between sumptuous breakfast and evening high tea. Fasts some men undertake during auspicious days when they have to eat only once are ridiculous. An uncle of mine, a valiant trencherman who enjoys his square meal spread on a broad Thanjavur banana leaf, with side orders resorts to fasts which in his lexicon mean no rice preparation would enter his system after his brunch.

 This does not mean he would not eat anything at all. Around two in the afternoon a plate of groundnut heap with two lumps of jaggery would enter his system. Later, symmetrical cubes cut from a plump banganapalli mango will be in readiness followed by  four large ripe bananas  and as a nightcap, a tall glass of hot milk to compensate the absence of evening tiffin and chappati-curd rice dinner. Yet, his octogenarian mother would bemoan: Poor Subbu, fasted today and did not eat anything at all! 

Some fasts are resorted to in momentary anger. As a boy of eight, my younger brother, with a short fuse, would periodically declare that he will not take his lunch and sulk in a corner away from the kitchen. The reason could be as flimsy as being denied a chance  in  carom board. While the rest of the huge household would be squatting in the sprawling kitchen before their leaves, he would refuse to budge, disregarding the stentorian calls made by  sisters, aunts and my mother.

But my lawyer-father would whisper to us to talk loudly about the excellence of that day’s preparations. Consequently, there would be exclamations like, ‘Aha!  What tasty payasam today!  Potato-onion curry is fantastic! Avial classic!  Sambar is simply divine!  And  tomato rasam superb. What big appalams today. D’you have enough to go round?’

 The angry but hungry fasting rebel  would hesitatingly appear at the threshold,  mesmerised by the comments and wafting smell of divinely-cooked food. Looking every inch foolish, he would plonk himself before his leaf. And take a lick of the  payasam after dipping a finger, indicating he has officially broken his fast.                                                   

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