It was a case of one fat man taking care of another. When the Congress’s Vishwajit Prithvijit Singh was elected to Parliament in 1982, he weighed nearly 160 kg. The first thing then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi did was summon Singh’s overweight colleague Arun Nehru. “Pack him off for treatment. Send him abroad and see that he returns slim and trim,” she said. Instead, Nehru sent Singh to Mumbai for a “complete check up”.
So, instead of an overseas tour where Singh had planned to raid every restaurant in town, he landed up in a Mumbai hospital. The doctors’ verdict: “Overweight due to overeating.”
Not that this has deterred him. He still gorges on food. And he speaks about his gastronomic indulgences with passion. “Don’t expect me to eat one parantha or a dry toast for breakfast,” he says. Singh can eat half a dozen paranthas at one go, four to five portions of smoked salmon, and a few giant-sized rasagollas thrown in.
Singh has, however, grown up on diets — from a high protein diet to low carbohydrates to Fit for Life and Dr Dean’s. As a child, he weighed 41 kg, which his family had sleepless nights over. His mother, Surjit Kaur, put him on what was then called the American formula. “Very expensive and the only one in this part of the world.” While on it, he starved (by his standards), but remained obese. He dismisses diets on the ground that they have failed him. “They work sometimes but are difficult to sustain. An uncle of mine has been on one for years, a huge man who lives on two chappatis a day. With a calorie intake almost negligible, anyone can lose weight. Where is the science in this?” asks Singh. His best diet formula: no fruits, no milk products.
On two occasions, Singh actually lost weight — he came down to 118 kg and 108 kg respectively. The first when he got married and next when, following a heart attack, he was laid up in hospital. “I wanted to look good as a bridegroom, so I shed 18 kg.” In hospital, his weight dipped to 108 kg. Now it is back to where it belongs. If games were prohibitive because of his bulk, reading was another problem. He had a ‘lazy eye’. Medical intervention failed and by the time he was five, his family had reconciled to the fact that he would have to live with one eye.
He is perhaps the only one who writes poetry with the help of a dictionary. “Writing in English just didn’t work. So I switched to Hindi and realised that what I churned out was quite good.” Nonetheless, he needs a dictionary for Hindi equivalents of English words that come to his mind.