Wednesday, May 25, 2011


I'm in perhaps the best veggie buffet in North London, chapel market - the popular Indian Veg Bhelpoori House  - Chapel Market N1. I'm really hungry because  all day I had been working with no breakfast or lunch. Its 6.30ish, so i come here,  my regular north London oasis of healthy food.

Two girls walk in. They're tall, fashionable, young, fresh faced and skeletal. Now I don't mean skinny. I mean bones in Top Shop attire. It was almost like they weren't there. Only they were.  They were like whispers, like unanticipated breezes on your neck in a still place.
I'm just finishing eating paneer and green pea curry, mixed veg curry, parathas, a couple of bahji's and salad.  I went back for seconds. My plate is waxed.  I sip my spiced masala tea, fiddle about on facebook on my phone for about 10 minutes relishing the full bellied afterglow of all-u-can-eat.

Meanwhile, the wraith-like girls have been up to the buffet bar to get food and I try not to stare because I began to feel empathetic pangs of hunger, light headed, a little nauseous. This look could not be right. Bones strained through their skinny jeans and tight cropped tops. This look was manufactured.
The pre-domninant thought that came to mind is 'anorexia'. But they're in an all you can eat buffet?! They get seconds, chit chat and giggle quietly, like every other girl should  and I get over it.
Its when  I go to the ladies toilet that I see the remnant trails of vomit over the seat of one of the toilets....

"Its kinda hard to pee now." I thought. I did the math and anorexic bulimia flitted about in my head like a fat annoying slow flying blue bottle.
 I felt half inclined to tell the proprietor of this restaurant, who in good faith is feeding people for £4.50 all they can eat, and there are two people in here taking the piss. Harsh I know. I know anorexia and bulimia  are illnesses, but part of me can't help but be angry with those girls for their self-centredness. Addiction loves company and they were their validating each others affliction.
I was angry with their families for not paying enough attention to them, for letting this get out of hand. But addiction is sly, underhand, quick mouthed, brutally
obnoxious. I can imagine the fights in their family homes to get them to eat.

 I was angry that they should come to use food to abuse their bodies, because they couldn't make sense of the turmoil and mess going on in their heads. I am then even more irate that I knew exactly where that warped sense of body awareness came from and that my issues with food ran deeper than I wanted to remember.

Then, I felt sympathy because  I'd got over a my own problem of feeling too big. At 17 and 18 I had flicked through countless teenage magazines extolling the youthful beauty of slim white girls with little butts in tight jeans and leggings. But I was a broad shouldered, broad hipped black girl with a booty that rose round like a sun when I stood up.  I took dieting pills  that blew up in my stomach so I felt fuller quicker and drank teas  and smoked  cigarettes to suppress my appetite.  Thing is, I woke up and got another complex because in the African and Carribbean community 'thick' girls are more time  considered sexy. Maga (thin,slim) girls not so. Not such a bad thing for the chef in me that loved food. At that age,  my emotional mind hadn't been given the time it needed while I was going through pubescent hormonal changes. I was yet to discover my high metabolism so didn't have to worry about weight really. Now I have to worry about not eating enough from lack of time and try not to get run down for lack of fuel. I'm not comparing, but can empathize.
I had to breathe deeply before I came out of the toilets.

Back upstairs, I see them again, chatting, giggling like girls should do and I could see that  this was an event for them. A date in the diary.  Pre-planned and looked forward to.
On the way out, I kept my mouth shut by biting down on my lip for two reasons - I didn't want to be a kill-joy (weird) and I couldn't bring myself to say anything when I knew the sensitivity and complexity of the situation. Could anything I have said made them switch on a dietary light inside and make all their issues go away? I doubt it. Instead,  I put some extra change in the charity container on the cashiers till for hungry children in the ghettos of Mumbai. I was not comforted by this but I my psyche and my body called for some kind of action.

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