My 5-year stint in advertising left me with one unfortunate legacy – IBS.
For the uninitiated, IBS is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (although in my case it was Infuriated Bowel Syndrome). I won't get into stomach turning details but it was like having ones innards skewered and roasted over flaming coals. Stress, late nights and irregular mealtimes stoked the conflagration. Hell wasn't a myth. It was the hollow below my ribs.
Remedies were aplenty but they were as effective as dousing a forest fire with a pail of water. Still, I grasped at every straw. I drank water until it gurgled out of my ears. I ate high fibre and low carb foods. I took double helpings of boiled lady finger. I dabbled in Ayurveda. One week I tried remedies for pitha dosha, the next week, for kapha dosha… I drove waiters batty by dithering over a simple menu… I become a hypochondriac, a chronic worrier which only encouraged the IBS.
And then one day, I chanced upon the tiffin box.
At lunchtime, my colleague pulled out a grey metal tiffin box. It looked like any of the millions of tiffins that are supplied to offices all around Mumbai. But when she spread out the four steel boxes, I was captivated.
I've a bit of experience with tiffin providers. What is expansively called 'Salad' is one slice each of wilted tomato, cucumber and onion. Only potatoes and chickpeas qualify as 'Vegetable'. And the curries are so explosive, they leave burn marks on your ears.
"Have a bite," offered my colleague as I gazed goggle-eyed at her tiffin.
There were two salads – one with crunchy greens, the other with healthy sprouts. Wisps of aromatic steam curled lazily from the rice. And the gravy wasn't flaming red but mild ochre. My long-suffering stomach rumbled in delight. I helped myself to the proffered bite and demanded, 'Give me the number!'
I called up immediately after lunch.
Me: Hi, I'd like to order your tiffin.
Voice (starchly): We do not run a tiffin service. *click*
I turned to my colleague indignantly.
She smacked her head and said, 'Oh, I'm sorry, I should have told you. She doesn't usually send you the tiffin until you go for the interview.'
My stomach problems were affecting my hearing, I was certain. Did she just say interview?
"Yes, interview," continued my colleague, 'she's into this nutrition thing and takes it all very seriously.'
I was intrigued. Somebody actually had the gumption to call oh-so-busy office goers for an interview - for a tiffin box! Most tiffin providers threw in a free trial as an incentive. The person who ran this health outfit was either plain dotty or else, was supremely confident about her work. And that's exactly what I needed – someone who had answers. For once, hope rose instead of bile… I called once more and made an appointment for the ‘interview’.
Part II - The Interview