If you put a gun to my head and gave me 10 seconds to name the best thing about having Tamil roots, you’d be crazy. But for the sake of survival, I’ll give you the obvious answer – mutton rolls.
Not the deceptive fraudulent so-called “mutton rolls” comprised of 90% potatoes. The pain of biting into these is synonymous with my first Dhanush-style "love failure".
I’m referring to authentic, mouthwatering Tamil mutton rolls. The ones that are deep fried to perfection with a masterful meat-to-potatoes ratio (shoutout to Babu’s).
When made just right, the chances I’m sharing are slim to none. I know my fellow carnivores feel me. If I do share, I either owe you my life or your powers of persuasion are impeccable. Nevertheless, you'd better slow your mutton roll (see what I did there) if you think you’re having either end of mine.
Truth be told, I love all Tamil food. Cassava chips, fish cutlets, patties, appam, kottu roti, payasam... Anything you name, I’ll eat.
And that’s the problem.
Despite my consistent protests growing up, relatives always served me seconds because Tamil hosts aren’t happy until they’ve stuffed you like a mutton roll. I behaved no differently at Tamil functions, stuffing myself with short eats and leaving no room for dinner.
Since my dad was extremely health conscious, I quickly learned that most Tamil food was unhealthy. Thus, my dad implemented certain protocols before I could eat. A few examples that don’t even begin to scratch the surface were:
● Fried food like vadai had to be repeatedly dabbed in paper towel to lessen the oil before consumption.
● Stay away from everything white (bread, idiyappam, puttu, rice, girls etc.)
● As much coconut (the athlete stamina killer according to my dad and his impressive collection of cricket trophies) as possible had to be scraped off of puttu before eating.
● A teaspoon of sambol (at most) while eating idiyappam/puttu.
● I was never allowed to see my rice as it was always covered in layers of vegetable curries (instead of eating rice and curry, I was eating curry and rice).
● I had to painfully scrape icing – the part I looked forward to most – off of my mom’s famous Christmas cake (or any cake for that matter) and shovel into the garbage first.
● There was no such thing as dessert, so the only sweet treats I knew were called fruits.
If I keep listing things, you may confuse this article for a Tamil movie script. So I’ll move on.
When it came to establishing the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle, my dad never hesitated to lay down the law. He didn’t care if I resented him as long as he conveyed his message.
Growing up, on multiple occasions I couldn’t hang out with my friends because I’d either forgotten my daily fruit intake or my allotted milk for the day. This was also when I found out kids could be cruel.
In high school, I slept in one winter morning and tried skipping breakfast to catch my bus. My dad made sure that I missed my bus, had breakfast and walked in -20°C weather. Eventually, he felt bad and picked me up halfway. But when I did the same thing a few weeks later, he didn’t have as much sympathy.
My dad’s extreme methods were the reason I was in such great shape for the first 20 years of my life. However, once I left home, I experienced a freedom I had never known before. So much so that before I knew it, it caught up to me – as Drake would say – real quick.
I spent the next three years indulging in whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I wouldn’t say that I became obese. But I did pack on more than a few pounds and lose a ton of athleticism.
Long story short, I’ve spent the last three years channeling my inner ’08 Obama, telling myself that it was time for change. Yet I’ve been inconsistent with my diet and commitment. So my New Year's resolution was to channel my ’16 Trump and make Penn E. fit again.
I quickly failed.
In February, I decided to give it another go. I hit the reset button and committed to regularly stocking the fridge with wholesome groceries. I began exercising consistently, eating clean and set my sights on the reward of delayed gratification.
In just over two weeks, I’ve lost 4.6 kilograms (10 pounds). Not only do I look better, but I feel better. However, it hasn’t been easy and I’ve even fallen off the wagon multiple times. One ladoo became one too many glasses of liquor, which became one cheat meal that escalated to one unnecessary serving of seconds and so forth.
So why am I writing this article? Is it to rip on Tamil food? Is it to bash my dad’s extreme methods? Is it to boast about my progress? No, it’s actually to do the complete opposite.
Becoming overweight was an eye-opening experience. By making my own mistakes, I was finally able to fully comprehend the expression“everything in moderation”. It helped me understand why my Dad would get enraged if I didn’t eat dinner before 6, and why he placed so much emphasis on fitness. Even though I resented him then, I’m thankful now.
I love food. But I also love feeling comfortable in my own skin. If you consistently eat healthy, it’s okay to occasionally indulge as long as you bounce back strong. Most importantly, I’ve realized that you don’t need January 1st to come to a resolution.
In essence, this is as much of a method to motivate myself as it is an attempt to inspire. As cliché as it sounds, you can accomplish anything (within reason) that you put your mind to. Occasionally, you’ll fail. What’s most important is that you get back on your feet.
So to get to where I want to be physically, I plan on continuing. Only then will I be able to enjoy a guilt-free experience of sinking my teeth into one or more mutton rolls - without having to worry about my stomach rolls.