As a newspaper man, who is believed to be at the cutting edge of news flow (this is the trade euphemism for watching a lot of TV and browsing the internet), the reports that intrigue me are the ones relating to some serious scientific conclusions apparently based on every-day phenomena.
Usually, these findings are sourced to some obscure lab in, say, remote Germany (Thermostatic, Rheumatic and Electroplating Centre of Study and Sleep, Nordeg Gmbh,) or a heavy-sounding varsity with a long-winding name in interior America (The Montana Division for Excellence in Automated Organic Science and Applied Brakes).
The findings can be broadly classified into two categories:
‘Prevalence of TB linked to yawning before sleeping’. ‘Pornography watching leads to retinal damage’. ‘Fun gene at the core of party culture’. Anyway, I don’t know why we newspapers continue to publish them in all seriousness. The one possible reason could be that if we, journalists, are to fill the pages on our own, it would be worse.
Recently, while waiting at a barber’s shop, I chanced to read a report that said that obese persons are, in general, happier than their lean counterparts. But it does not tally with what we encounter daily.
There is a mad desperation for people to look thin that just stops short of actually disappearing. Being slim is such a status symbol that people are willing to part with their right hands to get that mean look. The rules of life are simple: If you look emaciated as if you are auditioning for the part of the Somalian refugee then you are deemed stylish and beautiful.
Take someone like Shilpa Shetty. In days of yore, the Shetty gal could have passed for a skeleton model in the biology class. She in fact has an uncannily striking resemblance to the rope that magicians use in the Great Indian rope trick. Yet, today she epitomises what stands for chic elegance. Kareena Kapoor is another dame who is into this slim-is-style set. It is only a matter of time before Kareena vaporizes and enters gaseous state without any tangible physical property.
But who decided that thin is healthy and beautiful? Not me, because when we were growing up the fad was to grow round and believe that was healthy. Those were the days of bell-bottoms and we needed plenty of flesh to fill those cavernous pants.
Patently, the word ‘obesity’ had not been invented then, and anyone with a sumo wrestler’s girth and a cheek chubbier than today’s thighs was a picture of pink health.
Any person, with a body structure of a reedy actress, would have been urgently wheeled into the ICU for emergency treatment. To put things in perspective, Sivaji Ganesan, who wore his pants well near the chest (if the fly was open, you could conduct a bypass surgery), was the totem of handsomeness. And Savithri, who looked like Michelin Man in drag, was seen to be oozing glamour and glitz.
Well, those were the days!
It was mandatory then to pack in as much fat as possible into one’s daily diet. This was managed by the simple strategy of adding milk solution to every liquid quaffed or providing an oil and ghee base to any solid ingested. So this meant drinking coffee —– recipe: 99.999 parts of milk to .001 parts of some other liquid.
The morning breakfast comprised idlis, watered with thick oil, and eaten with podis liberally smeared with ghee. If it were dosai, it better be the buttered variety. Poori, pongal…you name it everything was swimming in litres and gallons of oil and butter.
We consumed every morning roughly the life-time calorie intake of today’s youth. Today’s Gen would even dread to think about those delicacies for fear of putting on weight. But we couldn’t care less, we were chasing the ultimate in good health: Literally, a rounded personality.
And suddenly the bubble burst, and fat was literally on fire. Looking like a newly-spindled yarn became hip. Talking of hip, it itself had to be no thicker than yesteryear wrists.
Why this change? Who brought about it?
It must have been the researchers and lab scientists who had been bored to death just gathering fat and putting out occasional report that attracted the attention of none.
Then, out of the blue, they put out this: ‘Obese persons don’t have the marriage gene’. This finding may have been based on the ineluctable scientific understanding that to get married one has to be single, while being obese amounted to being double.
So thin is indeed in the thick of it, and everyone has chosen to chase the chimera of lissomness. It has now come to the stage where people have begun to look at the calorie count even if they are just buying, say, lottery tickets.
The natural flip side is anything and everything is peddled off as being fat-free or cholesterol-clear. The other day, I came across in a departmental store shelf fat-less coconut oil. By my understanding, both coconut and oil are basically products that abound in fat and cholesterol. Unless they are selling water in the name of coconut oil, there was no way it was going to be fat-free. But there were people queueing up to buy that.
The moral of the story is pretty simple: People are suckers.
So for all those fitness-fanatics and calorie-counters, here it goes: This column is made of organically-grown English, fat-free vowels and sugar-free consonants. No artificial colouring or preservative has been used.
Make it your staple diet.