My Experiments with Fasts

Read ‘The Story of My Life – My Experiments with Truth’ by MK Gandhi. When you read the autobiography of a person who is exactly 100 years your senior, it makes for interesting comparison. Gandhi was born in 1869, yours truly in 1969. As I type this out, Gandhi was starting on his experiments in South Africa. This is where he got his idea of fasting to protest. The theme of fasting kept on repeating throughout the book, which ends around circa 1920. After finishing the book, I got influenced and decided to undertake a fast.

Getting up on a Thu morning, I declared to the rest of the family, quite feebly I must say, of the intentions to observe a fast. Not sure of what I was protesting, I decided to take the advice of our maid, who said that if it is a Thursday, then I must be observing a fast for Dutta Jayanti!

I had been trying on and off to have a frutarian diet at night. But had not been consistent, as overcoming the temptation of that packet of biscuit had been difficult at times. I realized that what works best with me is a One-zero strategy. That had de-addicted me from television, alcohol and tea in the past. Not that I wanted a de-addiction from food, but if something could be done about the tyres around the waist, it was most welcome.

Gandhi bhai, as he was fondly called before he was anointed as Mahatma, had a strong recommendation in his book: while fasting one must drink tons of water. I took his advice seriously. The first few hours of any de-addiction are the most challenging. That is make-or-break time. When entering the kitchen, the hand almost involuntarily reaches out for stuff lying around – the soaked almonds, the banana etc. I decided that as a policy, I would only enter the kitchen with glass in hand. The ostensible purpose would be to have one more fully diluted peg of aqua pura.

A piece of advice that Gandhi bhai had not given, but which I adopted, was the put my energy mode to low. So I avoided going to office, avoided challenging mental work (not that I do too much of it, but then the brain accounts for 25% of blood flow) and generally went into hibernation mode. Shouldn’t have bothered about that though. Experts later on told me that the body can easily survive 2 weeks without food. Come to think of it, since our hunter-ancestors were not assured of a kill every day, there would be many days of involuntary fasting. Having digested information like this, decided to venture out to office to spend half a day there. Wasn’t too bad – may be man can fast and work too.

Around evening time, after returning from office, I was in a state of mind-over-matter. Could enter the kitchen bravely, watch other people eat – and philosophically turn away. At 8 pm however there was a moral dilemma. Had had my fruit dinner exactly 24 hours earlier. So how long should the fast be? Decided that unless you sleep on an empty stomach, it would not classify as a fast. The silver lining on the energy conservation front was that since one had not eaten anything during the day, why brush your teeth at night?

Had been warned by my colleagues at work, that sleeping on an empty stomach is a sure fire recipe to waking up early. They were quite sure that I would be wide up and awake at 3 am. Well, I proved them wrong, I woke up at 4 am, fresh from a night of fasting – and hopefully ready for an immediate breakfast. Strangely, there were neither sleep pangs, nor hunger pangs on waking up. The surprising pang was however the one to catch up on the loo. The body had drawn on some inexplicable reserve of food in the GI tract and managed to produce some output after all.

Caught up with some work from 5-6. Around 6 am, started getting ready for my round of cycling which is routine on Fridays when I am in Pune. The energy monitor instructed that the exercise should justify some breakfast. Proof of the one-zero strategy was found – 6 idlis, 2 bananas and 1 puranpoli later, I was celebrating the end of my 34 hour fast!