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Statistics are boring. The journey is fun.

The year 2020 has been nothing short of a Bollywood movie for me. For the longest time in recent years, I was on the wrong side of every health metric one can think of — the weighing scale, BMI, glucose levels, lipid levels, etc. This affected not only my physical health, but also took a toll on my personal relationships. Everyone around me started worrying about my health and I was not serious about it. How many times have we all promised ourselves a desired goal but later came up with an excuse for not giving it our best to achieve it? I was no different in that aspect.

One afternoon in June’19, while taking my nap, I woke up to a sudden intense pain. The pain was so bad that I thought my end was near. My wife and my 3yo drove me to the ER where I was diagnosed with kidney stones. Until then, I had never imagined my health could deteriorate, or my body functions could have any issue. This was an awakening. The pain lasted a few days, and the aftermath of the pain lingered for a few weeks.

During that time, I made a resolve to do whatever it takes to take charge of my health. The first half of my movie started exactly today (Sept 8th) in 2019. The first month was all about sticking to a plan. It turned out to be the foundation of my journey. On the very first day, my commitment was tested when I said my first “no” to a favorite dish for lunch. It felt like a small victory. Over the rest of the month, although the needle was slowly moving in my favor, there was no difference at large — I was still a “metrics topper,” but, something inside me had fundamentally changed. I was no longer making excuses! In fact, whenever I felt that there was a slight chance that I was losing my resolve, I would push harder. Earlier, I couldn’t say no to a delicacy, even if it meant having 2 dinners. But now, there was a 42-day period when I was living on just water. During this time, I endured pain in my legs for 2 months with ice packs on both of my legs most of the day. But when it was time to exercise, I would tell myself that “the pain was temporary”. Around the last week of Jan’20, we had planned a holiday in Hawaii. The flight was departing SJC at 7am. The previous night, I slept at 11:30pm and set an alarm for 1:30am to make sure that I didn’t skip my morning run. After I finished my run by 4am, we got ready and left the house by 5:30am. Over the course of 5 1/2 months, I clocked 1011 miles (with 356 miles in just the 28 days of Feb’20) and had lost 110lbs in the process.

The second half of the movie started on March 1 2020 when I landed in India. At the time, there was not much going on in India or in the US about Covid-19. I thought that the virus was only in parts of Asia. So we came to India for my mother-in-law’s first death anniversary rituals. After performing all her rituals, we were waiting to fly back to the US on 31st March. But India had Janata Curfew on 22nd March. After a lot of drama, my family and I had made our way back to Mumbai in the early morning of 23rd March, from Meerut. On 25th March, India went into complete lockdown.

Never in the last 15 years, since I left for the US in 2005, did I get a chance to stay at home for so long. So, I was going to make the most of this opportunity. We had a lot of fun at home. Being fond of cooking, I made lots of delicious food. Among other things, I baked the best chocolate cake ever and made some fabulous rasmalai with 4 gallons of milk! I myself did not have any of it for fear of gaining back all the lost inches. This went on till the end of April.

During that time, I was following the news about all that was going on in the world and I realized the privileges that we all have. There were scores of migrant families who were suffering right outside my house in Mumbai. Initially, I did not know what to do. I figured out that these were the people who had built the city and were now walking thousands of kilometers to get back home. With the monetary help of a few of my friends back in the US, we decided to help these migrants with basic necessities. To my surprise, many more friends and colleagues joined hands in this journey. We quickly put together a team of 20 volunteers (primarily friends and family) in India and started distributing essentials to support the migrant families. I was worried that one of our team members might unfortunately catch the virus themselves. With donors constantly joining our campaign, we gained momentum and took extreme precaution to not contract the virus ourselves. So far, we have distributed 2400 liters of water, 2140 packets of biscuits and 1100 female hygiene products. Apart from that, the food supplies we have donated so far total 110,000lbs — enough to create a meal for 540,000 people — and thereby have helped 2000 families.

Behind all these statistics, lies a human story: of my family and friends coming together during my weight-loss journey and helping me maintain focus for the entire 5 1/2 months, of our community of 600+ donors that has trusted our team with their hopes and donations, and of the innumerable families who have humbly accepted the support we could extend during this time of crisis.

It took me 37 years to find myself and learn what truly gives me happiness. I hope that this journal could be of help to someone who is working on an ambitious personal goal — in taking your first step, or better yet, finding that elusive breakthrough. I am afraid I was a very good “bad example”. Today marks the first anniversary of my first step towards making a change. It has been an unimaginable journey of 365 days. Today, I sincerely believe that everyone can positively impact the world. They can be a beacon of hope to anyone out there who feels that 2020 has been a terrible year. For me, the last 12 months have had many highs and lows, but the highs have been so impactful and gratifying, that it has been the best year of my life.

My movie, however, isn’t over just yet. Going forward, I am going to celebrate this day, 8th September, as my other birthday. Because this is when I embarked on my new way of life.

Happy 1st birthday to me! :)

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