Women and the Weight Loss Tamasha is yet another self-help book on the weight issue. In an age where ‘help’ means looking inwards and ‘helping’ oneself literally, this one also adopts the same line. But clichéd or redundant it is not; to shelve it would be to miss what it offers, that is, an insightful commentary on women in India, which can easily be applied and related to South Asian women in general.
On the topic of weight loss, Tamasha churns out the predictable: the usual fare of advice on nutrition and health, mental and physical well-being, eating right and the right time. But author and nutritionist Rujuta Diwekar can be credited for devoting chapters exclusively to relevant but not oft-highlighted medical conditions such polycystic ovarian syndrome and hypothyroidism, which are not taken into the weight loss equation by women in South Asia.
Diwekar does not, and this where she is most different from other writers on weight loss, start preaching instantly into a chapter. Each topic begins with a real life incident or anecdote, giving a human aspect to the issue under discussion. These are not sob stories, rather stories that can be easily related to, ranging from putting the family first, societal pressures to be the perfect mother and even lack of sexual activity. She hence dismisses “maternal instincts”; delves upon family and child-rearing responsibility in a smack-in-your-face manner; talks of in-laws and food and how to take time out for oneself. For her weight is not an issue, it’s a manifestation of problems in life.
While regular weight loss advice tends to be in sombre prose, Diwekar dips her keyboard in satire and sarcasm. She quotes the Kamal Hassan song “Kitney bhi kar lay sitam, hans hans kay sahay gain hum, sanam teri kasam” as she talks about our bodies bearing our bad habits without protest. She advises women to take care of their bodies as if they were “a single hand-driven Parsi car,” and when queried why the bosom reduces along with the weight from the “jiggly-wiggly” tough places, she offers, “The human body is very democratic.” Her medicine and explanations may not be up to the mark of a professional doctor, but they are certainly easy to comprehend by the layperson.
Boiled down to its essentials, Tamasha is a flowy, witty, bohemian and sensible thesis on women in South Asia and their idiosyncrasies — and most of all, on loving yourself. I would highly recommend the first half of the book for anyone between teens and 30 years of age in which Diwekar discusses the life cycle. A personal favourite is the chapter in which she writes about the “I don’t want anyone to know I’m on a diet phenomenon,” having run into many women who will shy away from admitting that they are on a diet or even consume twice their regular portions to dispel the idea.
In the end, though, the book is not a life changer. Mine certainly did not change even though I chuckled through most of it. In fact, if her book was that life changing, Diwekar would not have a thriving clientele of India’s richest, from Anil Ambani to Preity Zinta and Kareena Kapoor, who wait for weeks and months for an appointment and cough up exorbitant amounts for personal consultations. Pick this up only if you want to have an interesting perspective on weight, rather than weight loss, and if you enjoy desi humour.
The reviewer is desk editor at the monthly Herald
Women and the Weight Loss Tamasha
By Rujuta Diwekar
This book is available at Liberty Books