The importance of a pot belly 3


A Panchayat president I interviewed recently told me sweetly that people listen to her because she’s plump.  Two years and twenty additional kilos earlier, I would have missed the import of the statement, but now I don’t.  Let me give you a quick background before I start.

I was very thin and was often called a skeleton, stick of a coconut leaf and other colourful adjectives. I left to the US in 2005 and after two years of Americanisation I got on the weighing machine. I pushed the scales to a familiar position and it remained upright.  I nudged it gently to no avail.  After considerable amount pushing around the scale tilted indicating I was somewhere there – and I had grown a full 45 pounds.  I had put my deposits just where men in a hurry to grow always do – a pot belly.

Back in India, one of my early stops in India was a women’s college that’s quite popular.  I met the head of a particular department and she immediately called me “sir”.  I was unused to this, that too by a senior person in a hierarchical institution like a college in India.  I begged her to call me Vivek.  “Oh OK Professor Vivek”, she said very sincerely.  Twenty KGs ago, this had never happened to me and I started realising that I am getting a new status.  Earlier when I moved from place to place even a (low cost) rickshaw wala would not solicit me unless I asked for one.  This time around taxi drivers (the high cost end) rush to me to know where sar wants to go.  I have also had an easy time in getting things done in government offices.  The gaze is visibly changed in my onlookers.

A colloquial term for a plump person in many parts of India is “healthy”.  The alarming news though is that “healthy” people are growing rapidly in India.  Many of my friends are very “healthy” and the trend is growing with sedentary jobs and fat pay checks.  There is unfortunately a health crisis with so many people becoming so “healthy” so fast.

The two together put me in a dilemma.  Do I cherish my new found status and continue growing or do I recognise the health crisis and pay attention to my weight?  As has often been the case, I have got my guidance from the leader of the world, President Bush.  It is said that a rather thin Irish author once met a plump English counterpart.  The Englishman said, ‘looking at you one would think there’s famine in the country’ and the Irishman retorted, ‘looking at you, one would think you are the cause of it’.  Borrowing from the wisdom of this conversation, President Bush has declared that the world food crisis is because Indians are eating a lot these days.  That is food for thought Mr. President.  I now know that watching my diet is the way to solve the world food crisis – you have given a noble twist to my vain questions…and I shall follow your lead, as always.


About Vivek Srinivasan

I work with the Program on Liberation Technology at Stanford University. Before this, I worked with the Right to Food Campaign and other rights based campaigns in India. To learn more, click here.


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