On the night of last thanksgiving I woke up at three in the morning with palpitations. My heart was pounding. I was gasping for breath. I could feel the acidity in my mouth. My hands were clammy. There was a thin film of sweat on my forehead. My body was on fire.

That night, before I went to bed, I had tried on new jeans I bought a month before. It did not fit! Being an eternal optimist, I bought my regular size without trying it on.

I hopped into the bathroom and climbed on OhMy!, the overbearing weighing scale I fondly named in a weak [and lighter] moment. After spinning her head around a few times the needle settled on an insane number.

I went back to bed with a heavy heart and a rumbling stomach. In the morning, I still had that uneasy feeling, the feeling that something is not right. You too may have experienced it sometime.

Was it all a dream?

Then I looked down and saw the stubborn jeans sprawled on the floor. I tip toed into the bathroom. OhMy! was standing there in anticipation. I stepped on her. She ran the numbers and played the same scene from last night. Mad at letting me down, I jumped on her and tried to squash her like a fly. But this only tickled her and she squealed in delight.

Hearing the commotion my wife came rushing to the bathroom. And they began talking to each other. Discussing me. Gossiping about me. In front of me!

I grew up in a matriarchal society where woman wielded the ultimate power; in my house it was grandma. Over much of childhood, I realized that beneath that gentle exterior was an iceberg of mental strength. But when my wife grabbed me by the collar and dragged me to the doctor, I found out that the woman was physically strong as well.

The doctor looked at me from above her half-moon spectacles and gave her ruling. “You are obese. You have to exercise. I am going to put you on a diet.”

All these years, I had bottled up Conscience, the mistress of my soul, deep under multiple layers of fat accumulated over five decades. On doctor’s orders, I suspect, she deployed her five favorite minions to coerce me into following her diet/exercise plan. I later came to know that this was the process she unleashed within non-conformists to break them down.

The first minion: Denial

“No. I am not obese,” I protested to Conscience’s thunderbolts.

Conscience, seeing that she was systematically eroding my resistance, stepped in for the kill. She stood towering in front of me, her red cape billowing in my winds of discontent.

“Accept the verdict,” she thundered and released her second minion: Anger.

“No. no. no. Leave me alone to wallow in my gastric juices. Don’t you see? I am just enjoying life,” I was running out of straws.

The other minions soon followed.

Bargaining.

“Can I at least have a bar of chocolate after meals?” I was sinking here.

“Remember what the doctor said. I will be watching you.” Madam Conscience was relentless in her pursuit.

Depression.

Everywhere I looked, I could only see sad faces. Sad TV programs. Depressing ads.

And finally, acceptance.

It took me a few weeks to come up with the strength to make a few resolutions. I realized that life is short. I did not want to make it any shorter.

I signed up at the gym; last winter, I even bought a home gym; gave up sweets and sugar. More important, I banished OhMy! from my bathroom all the way to the basement!

Soon I will try on my new jeans and will show off my perfect shape to the mistress of my soul and her minions. Till then …

X