The four of us were always up to no good despite our differences. We were two girls and two boys with 10 years difference from the first to the last. Nothing alike in appearance and this in itself was the factor that enthralled everyone about us. Of all the things that we grew together with, this experience still has us cracking up.
At the age of six, my younger brother could cook a breakfast of eggs and toast for 6 people. Three eggs for him and one for each of us. If asked, “How come you got 3?!” his quick reply was “The cook needs to eat more!! Don’t touch my eggs!!”
As a food lover, he was always chomping on something or the other. He was heavy built and would not move his rear for anything other than eating and sleeping. My father was at his wit’s end on how to motivate him to exercise his body more than his mouth. The first brother on the other hand was no where close to what the younger brother was. He was tall ( 6 feet) , lean and always up to no good. One would always catching him teasing us girls or simply irritating the younger brother to tears. My sister was of an athletic build and I was plump.
My father was always experimenting on how to reduce one brother’s weight and to increase the other’s. He was health conscious and so he tried the food routine by giving my brothers the vegetable called Vallarika (white cucumber like thing) for breakfast. The vegetable was supposed to make the fat brother thin and the thin one fat. We, the sisters, sat wondering how the vegetable could decide on who is thin and who is fat! Every morning, my father would religiously cut it and present it like it was a watermelon to the boys. The boys would spend an hour trying to chew the veggie down while eyeing the tasty breakfast mum cooked for the rest of us. It added to our amusement and was always the reason for a fight.
After two days of trying the breakfast of just the veggie, my father decided that we were all to go through a round of Waterbury’s Compound (a tonic that claimed to increase the haemoglobin level and tasted like washing liquid or in chemical terms phenol!). Despite our loud protests, we girls were included in this round. The boys were happy. They now had something to tease us with. The compound was supposed to make us active. Apparently, holidays were not meant to sleep late and eat whatever while being lazy. By the end of the first week, we were united in our response to this health fad. Breakfast was a sorrow and gagging after this traumatic breakfast every morning was accepted as a norm. Nothing could be worse.
A week later while we were still reeling from the after effects of the healthy eating & tonic routine, Dad found a bottle of Dabur Chamanprash paste and decided to add it to the menu. The expressions on our faces were priceless. We looked utterly defeated and decided to sabotage this health routine “ All for One” we cried as the lean brother decided enough is enough. Off when the Waterbury tonic, down the drain, one evening and in its place a bottle of Thumbs Up stood firm. The next morning, my mother had pity of the boys and served them a good breakfast. With a stomach full of breakfast, my brothers were ready for the Thumbs Up… only to find that Dad broke the old Bottle by mistake and brought a brand new one just for three weeks! Yuckieeeeeeeeeee!!!
Not ready to give up, we dumped the content for the second time and this time kept challenging Dad to taste it for himself before forcing it on us. As the protests grew louder and the refusal to eat stronger, my Dad decided to set an example and one evening showed us how tasty the Waterbury compound was by drinking two spoons full of the liquid and downing a huge piece of the Vallarika. The Thumbs-Up inside was two weeks old and tasted weird at this point. After consumption, the expression of Dad’s face kept changing like a book of colours. It looked red first and then a bit yellow and finally green. In a few seconds, he rushed to the bathroom and a loud retching was heard.
We had succeeded in eliminating the drinking and the eating! HOME RUNNN!! We rejoiced for a few days at our brilliance… until Dad came back on the third day with a bottle of Cod Liver Oil and a spoon!!!
All we could say was YUCK! YUCK! YUCK! Time for a new plan….