Author of The Land of the Wilted Rose, of the The White Mahatma Quartet, Anand Ranganathan studied Chemistry at St. Stephen’s College, Delhi, and went on to pursue a doctorate from Cambridge. A man of varied interests, he is researching dengue and tuberculosis at the International Center of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology at Delhi. We told you, varied interests!
Es-chewing The Fat
For months now, I’ve been on the lookout for a fat news anchor. Without luck.
I have come across fat anchors, admittedly (most of them anchor food shows – it almost seems like a prerequisite). But, in so far as reading a bulletin or anchoring a news debate goes, I might as well have trekked off to Tibet in search of the Abominable Snowman.
On the firangi news channels, mind you, there is success to be had. Both BBC and CNN flaunt flab like Members of Parliament flaunt SUVs at their son’s weddings. People with tree-trunk necks and pear-shaped body structures routinely inform viewers about the important goings-on in this little world of ours: Western involvement in Iraq, Western involvement in Pakistan, Western involvement in Afghanistan, Wes-…labouring the point, really. The CNN weathergirl is not a girl anymore; she’s become a chubby mama who can give an Air India stewardess a run for her money. Meanwhile, the BBC weathergirl is expecting – judging by my limited experience in these matters, eight months in. She shores up her enormous belly with one hand, while with the other she explains the weather patterns over sub-Saharan Africa. (Mausam Bhavan mandarins take note: don’t buy that overpriced American supercomputer – hire her child when it comes of age.
Sadly, as far as the desi media is concerned, the closest I have come to my Kasturi is the side profile of Arnab Goswami in Frankly Speaking, where his nebulous double-chin is trying very hard to display its authority. But that’s not the double-chin to make you proud; in fact, it’s a disgrace to the name and sanctity of double-chins, and the sooner it is shed, the better.
My failures have led me to an intense bout of introspection, and the weighing machine and the notebook have been extricated from the void they had been pushed into hitherto. The results from the weighing machine shall go with me to my grave; the jottings in my notebook, however, appear below for the sake of posterity.
Any golgappa aficionado would know this. There comes a moment when, compressed lips barely able to prevent saunth from seeping through, you look up from your pattal and dare to meet the eye of the man wearing seriously punctured surgical gloves. No, not the harried resident doctor waiting beside you trying to hail an auto, but the golgappawala hovering about his thela like a creaking automaton with six pairs of blurred hands working overtime.
He plunges his hairy and heavily calloused arm into the vat that holds the maturing pani, and after a few anxious moments blindly locates the tumbler with which he then carefully dispenses the precious ambrosia, that, although it bears resemblance to a car coolant, works the innards like hot battery acid.
He is the master of ceremonies here and unknown to you, the grandson of Shakuntala Devi, for he knows exactly how many golgappas have disappeared down the gullet of each one of those now standing in a semicircle gingerly pointing out their false counts. And because he knows your number is up you suck-in some CNG and slap your palate with your tongue and look away quickly, content with asking for a little more pani instead, but thinking: “Saala bastard, next time I’ll try the South-Ex one.”
Where on earth am I headed with all this, you may ask – and to be honest there aren’t many options left to head over to for someone who’s just munched on an orbful of infectious diseases. It’s helpful no doubt that the chaat stall is situated right next to AIIMS Trauma Centre bus stop…No, my enquiry is grounded on something more visceral, more elemental, more, shall we say, atavistic. (Heavy words usually follow a heavy lunch.)
I want to ask whether it is true what Aamir Khan said recently in his Monday Hindustan Times column (June 25, 2012), that you are what you eat, and if indeed it is, I next want to know what in heaven’s name do our journalists eat! Do they, for example, eat golgappas (beat reporter, camera man?), or four-cheese pizzas (desk editor?), or just plain balsamic ghaas-phoos (that’d be the image-conscious anchor?).
At once, a distinction needs to be made, between those who wield a pen as opposed to a sword, i.e. between the purveyors of the print and the electronic. Once this is accomplished, its advantages become as clear as a boastful Tamilian’s wonton soup.
You see, the print media is kind, much more accommodating. It lets you hide your considerable bulk behind that broadsheet supplement. Those on the wrong side of the thick adipose line can feast on as many golgappas or chola bhaturas or double-ka-meethas as they’d like, and the reader would only ever get to know their name and what they’ve attempted to communicate through 1000 words of gobbledygook. In fact, the reader may even carry a false impression of them, lasting decades, courtesy the sepia mug that sits atop their columns like a pensive gargoyle, last clicked when this bald and bellicose granddad was in college, with a thicket of well-oiled hair and without the beer belly that he now likes to slap as and when he finds a paragraph of his article witty and hard-to-get. They may be paid a pittance in comparison to their electronic cousins but pittance it is that allows them to chomp on Happy meals and bread pakoras without fear of being shown the pink napkin by their boss.
Not so the case with the Greek gods and goddesses who inhabit our idiot boxes, uh-uh.
Honestly, when was the last time you saw a triple-chinned news anchor, or for that matter a Michelin-man holding a sponsored microphone with an ongoing riot as a backdrop? Never, is the answer. They do not exist, these plump men and women, and if they do, they are promptly shown the studio door. You only see them next at walk-in interviews for newspaper journos in dingy two-star hotels. There they are, all four of them, struggling on a sofa meant for two, thinking how in heaven’s name will they be able to pass through that interview room door front-on.
Meanwhile, in an interview room somewhere deep inside a dingy two-star hotel:
“Do you smoke?”
“Yes, sir, chain.”
“Yes, sir, heavy.”
“Do you have three meals a day?”
“Sir, I have four meals a day.”
“Hmm…what is your favourite dish?”
“That’s a tough question, sir.”
“We are a reputed daily.”
“I would say a toss-up between golgappas and double-ka-meetha, sir.”
“So far so good. Last question: what is Hrithik’s pet name?”
“Great. When can you join?”
“Thank you, sir! It has always been my dre–”
“Yes yes. By the way, did you also attend the walk-in of our competitor?”
“Which–, the one in the two-star hotel across the road, sir?”
“Yes. What did they ask you, can you tell us?”
“Very strange, sir. One very old south Indian looking gentleman suddenly woke up from his sleep and asked me: “What is the weight of the moon?””
There is something to be said for a profession that allows an editor to write his editorials with an ashtray, a patiala, and a plateful of pakoras in easy reach. A drag here, a sip or munch there, and words begin to assemble magically on blank sheets of paper, ideas come and go, thoughts materialise. All that matters in the end is not what shit you have smoked or sipped or eaten, but what shit you have written. Nadia!
Compare now the life of a news channel editor. Reflect if you will for a moment what all this weight-watching has done to the health of this poor man who once loved to eat and do little else, but now is forced to only do little else. Zero size, zero calories, zero loss…that’s all they seem to discuss come nine o’clock every night.
Worse, even those who arrive daily to take their patented spots on the panel seem to be affected by this Kareena-esque madness. One illustrious and erudite lawyer is now half the man he used to be. Literally. His voice has altered; his, er, salvos now not as sharp as they were when he was a tub of lard. One day he may even decide to let go of his Size 70 jacket.
And what of that spokeswoman who always took refuge in giant kaftans? There she sits now, in an LBD, a good chunk of her gone, melted.
It was but inevitable that the politicians would take note of these strange goings-on. And they have, with the result that only the leaner and fitter members of their parties are now given permission to appear on television. Fat ministers who can’t be bothered shove their sons up the studio stairs instead; fat sons their wives, fat wives their maids. Gastric – not heart – bypass is the new route to success and rating points. The day is not far when you’d be hard-pressed to find a corrupt leader who is also fat. Golgappa eaters will disappear from our sights altogether; we wouldn’t hear them, we wouldn’t watch them, we wouldn’t even elect them. We would only read them.
Image Source [http://www.flickr.com/photos/alancleaver/4222532649/sizes/l/in/photostream/]