Let's talk: How to feel good about food again
Natti koli or country chicken cooked with chui jhaal, a form of pepper popular in Bangladesh.

Let's talk: How to feel good about food again

Food was the only form of pleasure I allowed myself without guilt. I am afraid I am losing it, and I don't want to.

Sanity by Tanmoy

This is a bonus piece for the week. Regular business on Thursday will continue as usual.


The words joy and pleasure feel strange in my mouth. The taste of the words forming in my throat, on my tongue and on my lips, makes me flinch, like I'm being fed something forbidden. It makes me want to throw up.

Guilt and shame, now those words sit on my tongue like cotton candy. They mix with my saliva and bloodstream without a fuss. Sure, they always end up congealing as pain in my shoulders and in my neck, in my arms and my legs. But pain makes me feel at home.

My parents were working class people who were first forced to, and then made peace with, pain as life's default mode. Pain welds families like ours together. In our mythology, pleasure is the demon that waylays family members and turns them into individuals. Even when my father organised family outings to Hazarduari, Mukutmanipur, or Shushunia Pahaar, he did it as a matter of familial duty. Pleasure had nothing to do with it.

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Talking to my parents about pleasure felt wrong. When you could still watch movies in theatres, I'd habitually lie to them about where I was between 6pm and 9pm and why I didn't take their call. I had a bad headache, I'd say. Or my angry boss had ordered me to redo an assignment. I'd make sure they knew I was occupied with pain, not pleasure.

Pleasure is rupture. Owning your pleasure is the ultimate sign that you are moving on from history. For years, I kept exorcising movies, plays, concerts from our conversation, replacing them with the flu, sudden weekend deadlines, a bad mobile network.

The only exception we allowed in our austere conversations was food. It was the one pleasure I granted myself without judgment and guilt.