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What is size zero?" asks my daughter, squinting at a caption beneath a glamorous photograph of a reed-thin female in the newspaper. "Roughly your size, the size of a ten year old", I say frowning. "It says here that the woman is a coveted size zero. What is coveted, amma?"
Amma is struck dumb. I could have explained a coveted degree, a coveted achievement, a coveted dream even, but I was stumped by a coveted "size". But an intelligent ten-year-old cannot be warded off so easily. "Er� it means something that one desires, wants," I mutter.
"So women want to have a child's size? Women desire a child's size?" she persists. I adopt the coward's way out of the labyrinth. I pretend to be deaf.
"Don't you have anything to read? What about that Enid Blyton Adventure of the Pantomime Cat, was it?" I enquire. "That? I already finished that one, last week", she sniffs and walks away.
Left to myself and that glamorous photograph, I carry on an imaginary conversation with myself. What if I had answered her truthfully? How would the conversation have run?
"Some women want to have a size zero".
"No fat, basically-zero fat".
"But the Science text says, to be healthy you need fat, minerals, vitamins etc, etc. So is the text wrong?"
"The text isn't wrong. Our expectations of what make us attractive sometimes go wrong. With zero fat, one's hormones can go for a toss!"
"What are hormones? And toss? As in toss a ball?"
"So do you want to be size zero too, amma?"
(I sit up alert. Time to be damn honest. Remember the agonising moments on the weighing scale, the envious looks at the flat tummies of those models in TV... the sighs and the memories of a former self un-afflicted with the "muffin top" syndrome).
"Ah, sometimes even the most prudent tend to be foolish too. I wouldn't mind being slimmer but I wouldn't want to look like you, sorry, I mean like a ten-year-old!"
I am grinning to myself, albeit like the Cheshire Cat, when daughter walks into the room again.
"Bulimia Nervosa. What is that? Can I check the net?"
"Where the hell -- sorry, heck -- do you get such doubts from? And, NO, do NOT check the net!"
"You asked me to read the newspaper every day. Says, someone famous is suffering from this stuff. What is it? Is it like cancer?"
To think that we call innocent toddlers "terrible twos"! My little one wasn't giving me half this trouble!
"Cough, cough... yeah, something like cancer... I mean... people eat and then puke and then eat... I mean to stay thin� Gosh� something like that. Are you sure you finished that Enid Blyton?"
My daughter gives me a condescending look. I wish for an uncomplicated world where ten year olds were happy reading Enchanted Wood and The Magic Faraway Trees. This generation, it seems, read too much news.
"So it is a puking cancer, huh? And coveted size zero sometimes makes you puke?"
Oh, Lordie, have mercy on my soul! I gave up the fight and admitted defeat.
"I don't know, dearie. Frankly, I don't know. Tell you what? Let us watch Prince Caspian on the laptop!"
A bright smile permeates the serious little scholar's face. Round one won!
Just as I am inserting the DVD she reflects, "Not all things are worth coveting, huh?"
Her hapless mother decides to type an article.
The author is an IAS officer working in the UP cadre. She is the proud mother of two daughters.
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