In present times, when diabetes has virtually taken a virulent form, having entered almost every home, my well-wishers call me a cynic due to my unusual craving for sweets. They tell me that it is still not too late to say goodbye to it or at least reduce drastically its consumption.
I am aware of the serious health problems that my fad can cause me, but I could not have hurt them by dismissing their well-intentioned advice. Nevertheless, I sometimes wonder whether it will be possible at all for me to give up my life-long fondness for sweet food. Perhaps not. How can I let my taste buds starve!
I have found myself in a bind, sometimes asking myself whether it will be desirable to honestly tell them that right from my childhood days I have been a ferocious eater of sweets. I will go for anything that is sweet and that for some reason my preference has always been for items that are extra sweet, say, for example, petha. Less sweetened things have never satisfied my palate.
I have always needed some sweet thing to wind up my breakfast, lunch or dinner. If it is not available, I go for fruit jam or honey spread on glucose biscuits. During winters, a 50-60gm piece of jaggery is a must for me with at least one meal.
Somehow, it never occurred to me that I was having an unusual craving. I always thought most people must be consuming sugar the same way. But in the wake of friendly advice, in some corner of my heart, I felt that perhaps they were right and I may not be doing the right thing. Seemingly, my craving prevailed over the advice.
“Why should I reduce my intake as long as I don’t encounter any problem?” I would tell them and have another bite of some sweet thing. That made one of them apologetically say: “You surely have a sweet tooth.” I corrected him: “Not tooth. I have sweet teeth.”
Years ago, at a wedding reception, a friend, who knew about my fondness, forced me to consume some 18 gulab jamuns in one go to the delight of a small crowd around us. I could have taken more, but seeing curious faces, I stopped. How I wished I had an extra pouch in the stomach to hoard for the lean period.
Around the same time, I remember how unwittingly I created a peculiar but odd situation when, one sizzling afternoon in June, I visited a colleague’s house. I was perspiring from head to toe in the 46 degree Celsius temperature and was very thirsty. As I waited for my friend and others, his mother brought a jug full of sharbat (sweetened water) meant for some four-five persons and placed it on the table.
Without realising what I was doing, I just picked up the jug and emptied it straight into my parched throat. As my wide-eyed hosts watched in awe, I said “sorry” to them. My friend introduced me to them as one having a great weakness for sweets. “Not weakness, it’s my strength” I told them in zest, giving a twist to the saying.
For me, Eid Al Fitr has always been the most eagerly awaited occasion when I am able to devour sewain (sheer qorma) that are prepared mainly on that day. That is the one thing that I relish most at the place of our family friends when we go to greet them.
In my younger days, my rather heavy sugar intake never invited any reprimand from my father and grandmother. I realised later that this was because they were great lovers of sweets themselves! This meant that this trait was very much in the family.
My bigger finding was that this fondness was a common feature in the entire Gangetic basin and probably extended to contiguous regions. Most people ate plenty of sweets and never reported any adverse effects. There is something mystifying about it and there may be some scientific explanation for the phenomenon.
However, things may have changed today, taking a toll on people’s health due to increasing stress, adulterated food stuff, diminishing immunity and pollution of all kinds that we encounter in every-day life.
This time of the year heralds the onset of festivals in India which means all kinds of sweets everywhere.
Lalit Raizada is a journalist based in India.