MIDWAY: Fat chance

April 1, 2008: THT announced — McDonald’s in Kathmandu, in the very near future. Before the young generation’s palate started watering, THT heralded: April fool! Kathmandu woke up to an echo: fat chance! It was hard to stomach the news item and well, it ended up turning the stomach.

At a bar in the Mediterranean Beach in France, a French connoisseur of fine food and wine once told me, “Bravo! You don’t have McDonalds in Nepal! The chain, however, has over 30,000 restaurants around the world. Bravo again!” “Why so?” I inquire. “So that you’ll have no obese people, junk food and obesity are a major problem in many countries now.”

Possibly, he said that because he had seen me smiling when I saw two obese waiters serving the customers. No ill intended, but I bet, in terms of weight, each of them would put a baby elephant to shame. It seemed Lord Ganesh and the Laughing Buddha were working together!

Lord Ganesh has a big, cast iron stomach and so for a good reason — the holy belly of the lord of luck is believed to be strong enough to digest everything. Symbolically, the ‘fodder’ that the elephant-headed god so indiscriminately digests consists not of plants, cereals or junk food but of all kinds of evils crippling the world. Interestingly, the Chinese describe the attributes relating to the fat and affable laughing Buddha in a similar way: his pot belly is all about tolerance and even if some one showers grudges and insults on him, he gamely digests them.

The ‘belly implications’ do not end with Ganesh, the laughing Buddha and the McDonald’s. For some, the big pot-belly is actually a ‘pot’ containing many a disease. Hence, they resort to all types of methods to lose weight. Conversely, for women in the African country of Chad, a fat belly implies richness and good health. Sadly, out of ignorance, they even take pills — often detrimental to health — to rapidly put on many kilos of weight.

Few will disagree, fat shortage in men, in a sense, is less serious than food shortage in the world. Each one his or her stomach, but currently, the world is in need of Ganesh-laughing-Buddha kinds of stomachs - for the sake of food. Bon appetit, anyway!