All through my childhood, I remember that we were actively discouraged from eating junk food by our parents. Chips, soda, ice cream, chaat, and later burgers were pretty much banned. They were what we called “controlled substances” – my mother controlled what, when and how much we could eat.
Now, I suddenly find that Anna is relishing and actively seeking out junk food! The contrast is striking!
To give you a better idea, here are the Then and Now situations:
Ice Cream Then: Till we were teenagers, ice cream was bought only 6 times a year – on one of our birthdays. The big decision that had to be made by the birthday boy or girl was the flavour of ice cream. That too at a time when there were only three flavours available: Vanilla, Chocolate and Strawberry!
Ice Cream Now: It is ironical that now Anna recognises the street corner of his flat because of an ice cream cart that stands there. And even more ironical, is that when we pass the cart, I tell him, “Anna, you can’t have ice cream now. Not till it is much warmer.” And in summer I am rationing his ice cream consumption to a few days a week. (He gets fruit yoghurt as a substitute on non-ice-cream days.)
Chaat Then: “That dangerous food,” according to Anna. What did he not like about chaat? Well, just about everything. The papri/tikki was “definitely fried in kerosene oil” as were samosas, bread and vegetable pakodas. The imli chutney was affectionately referred to as “sulfuric acid”. If we said we wanted to eat chaat we were told by Anna, “OK. But there is jaundice/typhoid/cholera/diarrhoea going around. You can eat chaat if you want to.” The disease varied with the season or what was in the news.
Chaat Now: A few months ago, we made papri chaat at home and sent some for Anna. With all the chutneys. So imagine my surprise, when 15 minutes later, Anna’s cook came running to my flat saying that Anna wants “More”. Really!? Now Anna eats aloo tikki, asks for pakodas and wants samosas when we go out. Sadly all these things are too chilly hot for him, but he keeps wanting “More” (like Oliver Twist!).
Soda Then: “Drink water,” we were told when we said we wanted to drink a soda. Campa Cola, Double 7, Thumbs Up rarely graced our homes. “Cool drink,” as my mother called it, consisted of sweet lime juice.
Soda Now: Now Anna drinks Sprite every day. It started as a solution to Anna’s consistent nausea (something that I understand – it happens due to the strong medication he takes). I tried lemon water, Amritdhara, eating a dry wafer. But nothing worked till I tried Sprite. Now, nausea or not, Anna wants to have Sprite. Not Seven Up. Not Mirinda Lemon or Orange. Not Coke or Pepsi. Only Sprite. And that is what he gets. 200 - 250ml a day.
Burgers Then: What? Burgers? Growing up, there were no fast food places that sold burgers. And when they opened, we would have to save our pocket money to buy and eat a burger, for Anna and Amma wouldn’t buy us burgers.
Burgers Now: On one of our Weekend Expeditions, when Sanjiv asked Anna if he would eat a Wimpy’s veggie burger, Anna said “Yes” without a moment’s hesitation. He finished a veggie burger at 11:30 am in the morning and declared,
“This is the BEST burger in the world! They would make a fortune if they sold this in the US.”
Anna’s junk food journey hasn’t ended....
Now he wants to go to a restaurant to have waffles with maple syrup, cream and strawberries (I am still looking for a place to take him).
He wants to have pizza. Not homemade, but made at a restaurant. And washed down with ginger ale or Sprite.
For a man who is unwell, his taste buds seem to be doing very well.
This may seem like a lot of junk food for a super senior citizen to eat. Especially in addition to the muffins, jaangiri, ladoo, etc., that he has anyway. But surely at 87, with no heart disease or diabetes, Anna should be allowed to eat and drink junk food to his heart’s delight.
I am just the enabler!
(After working in corporate India for over 29 years, Sangeeta has taken time off to look after her father, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2008. Sangeeta hopes that these authentic stories will help patients and caregivers understand and appreciate the impact of Parkinson’s Disease. You can follow Sangeeta’s blog here.)
(This piece is being repubbed from FIT's archives to mark World Parkinson’s Day.)
Related Links in the Series
How my Father, the Parkinson’s Patient, Aced the Spoken Word
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Dealing with Dependence: A Daughter’s Tale of her Father
My Dad Hallucinates – and Even the Happy Ones are Painful
As if in Solidarity With Chennai, My Anna is Having Rain Delusions
My Anna Holds on to his Bata Sandals, Even as He Loses his Memory
Who Knew That Nutella Would Convince My Old Dad to Take his Pills?
How I Remember my Balcony: Charpoys, Coolers and Anti-Sikh Riots