It was a bright spring morning when restauranteur Kumar Thamotharan woke to prepare his daily “breakfast of champions”: two slices of toast, bacon, four mini pork sausages and two scrambled eggs – with butter, of course. This had become the daily routine since he had immigrated to Canada 15 years ago and was his celebration of being “Canadian.”
“That’s gonna kill you!” shouted his wife Sindy (her real name is Sinthuja), who works as a financial analyst. She had returned from her 2 km morning jog and was holding a tray containing a hard-boiled egg and a cup of oatmeal mixed with walnuts, almonds, apricots and low-fat milk.
“The doctor stressed that you lay off these high-fat, high-sodium foods! Why not have what I’m having each morning?” said Sindy.
Kumar sat silently at the table.
“You have high cholesterol and high blood pressure, but you refuse to take your medications regularly,” fumed Sindy. “Being ‘Canadian’ doesn’t mean clogging up your arteries and being woefully constipated, you know,” joked Sindy, frustrated by Kumar’s silence.
“I eat foods that are filling, satisfying, and inexpensive,” said Kumar, beaming with confidence. “You, on the other hand, spend lavishly on organic foods!” he added.
“What’s expensive is a funeral if you don’t have healthy eating and exercise habits,” retorted Sindy. “I’ve asked you to join me on my jogs for the past few years and you’ve always refused. You don’t exercise or eat properly!” pleaded Sindy.
Kumar momentarily raised his eyes in disbelief, shoved the empty plate in the sink and left for his downtown Toronto restaurant.
“I’m baking salmon fillets for dinner tonight,” belched Sindy. “We can have it with spinach and quinoa salad,” she continued, her voice trailing.
“You may as well ask me to graze in the lawn,” said Kumar, grabbing a cigarette from his pocket and slamming the door behind him.
Kumar arrived at his Cauldon Street restaurant and walked straight into the kitchen, his heart racing with excitement at an upcoming catering gig for a Tamil puberty ceremony. A sudden thud came from the back of the kitchen. A large container of yogurt fell to the floor, spilling its contents onto the trousers of the sous chef Murugan.
“Murugan: it looks like we have to celebrate your coming of age,” laughed Kumar.
At the close of another successful day at the restaurant, Kumar and his chefs sat around a large table for the day’s weeknight meal: mutton curry, deep-fried shrimp and fish, pork chops, grilled pork ribs, beef gravy, heaps of mashed potatoes glistening with butter, white rice and plenty of liquor.
Bloated from the big meal, Kumar sluggishly entered his home and saw Sindy having her dinner, her head hanging in silence. Sindy was health-conscious and occasionally paired a salad (dressed in olive oil) with fish such as salmon, trout, sardines and anchovies, known to be rich in omega-3 fatty acids (the “good fat”) which reduces bad cholesterol.
“Kumar, you’ll have to make changes to your lifestyle,” said Sindy in a friendly tone.
“I’m stressed to the max. Spending most of my time at the restaurant and having to deal with your obsession with yoga and organic food is driving me nuts,” shouted Kumar. “Soon you’ll insist that we try neck-breaking yoga moves in bed,” he added.
“I am trying to make this marriage work and get you on track to a healthy lifestyle, but you keep brushing me aside,” said Sindy.
Kumar immediately felt nauseous and irritated. He could hear his heart throbbing in frustration and felt as though his entire world was crumbling beneath him. Breaking out into a sweat with heaviness in his chest, Kumar fell to the floor and blacked out.
“Good morning Mr. Kumar,” said a friendly voice. “I’m Dr. Gangatharan. Based on your blood tests from last night, you had a heart attack. We’re going to put you on a cardiovascular rehab regimen to manage your blood pressure and bad cholesterol. Your wife tells me you haven’t been routinely taking the medications prescribed for these conditions. Smoking places lots of stress on your heart, and decreases the size of your blood vessels, making you more prone to heart attacks. An exercise and diet regimen are also in order. Please talk to your family physician about quitting smoking and avoid excess salt and red meat, deep-fried foods, and bad fats such as saturated and trans fats.”
Kumar reached out to his wife and held her hand.
“How about I work on kicking my smoking habit and trying some of your salad and salmon from last night?” Kumar asked.
“Interested in jogging, and perhaps some yoga too?” asked Sindy, laughing while fighting back tears.
“You are my voice of reason,” said Kumar, as he affectionately held her hand to his chest.
– Mahinthan Thaya
Mayo Clinic – http://www.mayoclinic.org/heart-attack/
Health Canada – http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hc-ps/tobac-tabac/body-corps/disease-