On being lean

It’s a bit of a paradox. While the health-conscious are striving to shed flab, I’m being urged to add some to my chronically puny frame. I’ve been conspicuously lean right from infancy and, despite being plied with nutrition, I never ‘ballooned out’ as expected by my anxious parents.

Now my stout friends eye my flat midriff with undisguised envy. Some even consider me underfed, mistakenly assuming that I stick to a monastic diet. The truth is I eat sensibly but what I consume somehow doesn’t show up on my body, perhaps due to my daily stint of brisk walking, come rain or shine.

Being congenitally thin has been no cakewalk, however. Quite literally, one gets pushed around all too easily. While trying to board a bus I’m often rudely shouldered aside or, if I manage to squeeze into a seat, I find myself uncomfortably jammed between two heavyweights. Who likes to be the stuffing in a sandwich?

One of my ebullient British bosses in the 1970s, was a strapping 6-foot-6-inch giant with a crunching handshake. One New Year day he pumped my hand so effusively that I winced as my scrawny fingers went numb. Another time he gave me an appreciative but rather hearty pat on the back that caught me unprepared and sent me lurching forward.

At boarding school in Tiruchi, being none too well ‘cushioned’ anatomically, I was at a distinct disadvantage (compared to some of my ‘well padded’ pals) when the short-tempered warden wielded his cane on my fundament, or rather what passed for it. Sitting thereafter was pure agony.

As a youngster — put off by my rickety frame — tug-of-war, wrestling and kabaddi teams spurned me outright in favour of beefier guys. And though I did evince some interest in boxing, I usually ended up being a punching-bag rather than a pugilist. In fact, the coach once icily observed that the only category I’d easily fit into was ‘underweight’!

Yet I’m proud that at 74, my tummy is as flat as a pancake — quite unlike some of my portly pals’. Of course, we do pull each other’s legs. Once, a corpulent companion joked that with my spindly limbs and doleful look, I’d make a prize-winning scarecrow in a fancy dress competition. And I, in turn, quipped that he looked like a pukka drummer with a ‘bass drum’ preceding him! Tickled, we both laughed.

Perhaps my best riposte came during a recent medical check-up. The physician eyed my trim torso wistfully, all the while acutely aware of his own prominent paunch. “Where does all the food you eat go?” he wondered, perplexed. “Down the drain!” I wisecracked with a celebratory twinkle in my eye.

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On being lean

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