Mon Dieu! What an almighty flab, er flap, over a picture that might have been doctored to hide French president Nicolas Sarkozy’s bulges around the waist. The dapper Sarkozy’s picture, rowing a canoe, which appeared in the news magazine L’Express, was first allegedly splashed in Paris Match in which telltale ‘love handles’ were in evidence. The former is now accused of having applied a little je ne sais quoi to streamline Mr Sarkozy who is no slouch when it comes to fitness. Now whether Mr Sarkozy is un peu podgy or not, fitness is quite an issue with many world leaders.
Old Dubya is a great one for rattling around his ranch clearing brush, chopping wood and burning up the racing tracks, and is said to be alarmingly healthy for a man of his age. Not so Slick Willy before him whose staff had a heck of a time keeping him off hamburgers and various other vices. As we saw yesterday, Russian supremo Vladimir Putin is not too coy about baring all. Tony Blair did much to erase the image of the port-guzzling, gout-affected stout English politico. With his lean, mean frame, he had the ladies swooning. In most western countries, appearances matter a great deal to the public for whom physical fitness is always food for thought.
However, we are refreshingly different. Our politicians could not give a batata vada what the public thinks of their appearance, leave alone fitness levels. Of course, there have been honourable exceptions, the Nehru-Gandhi clan being among the foremost. But, ever so often we see the unsightly sight of obese politicians letting it all hang out in front of the cameras. Few will shy away from posing before the camera, ladoo stuffed in one’s own mouth, or if it happens to be a happy occasion, into someone else’s.
While Monsieur Sarkozy and Mr Bush will rarely be seen in anything less than a formal suit, our worthies couldn’t give a tuppence if they turned in public forums attired in crumpled kurta and churidar. The younger breed are, however, sharp dressers and careful not to go beyond a ceasar salad or dhokla. The Indian public, god bless their souls, are far more bothered about bread and butter issues, than the way their leader looks. Their motto is don’t butter chicken out of giving us this day our daily dal and roti. As long as that happens, we are well adiposed towards them. None of that shape up or ship out for us. So for the moment, our politicians can rest assured that they can eat, drink — non-alcoholic beverages, of course — and be merry. And, have the stomach to bite the bullet when it comes to ballot time.