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A visceral mistake

The blame for the LTTE’s great debacle lies squarely on the well-padded shoulders of Prabhakaran himself. The simple but awful truth is that he has committed the most heinous sin a guerrilla can ever commit — he has become fat, writes Manas Chakravarty.

india Updated: May 02, 2009 22:00 IST
Manas Chakravarty
Manas Chakravarty
Hindustan Times

The LTTE is in a shambles. Their glorious army has been shattered. They have lost all their territory and are running for their lives. How on earth did this happen to such a ruthless fighting force, led by a master-strategist like Velupillai Prabhakaran? Surely it can’t be anything the Sri Lankans have done — they’ve been fighting without success against the guerrilla group for decades. Why, even the Indian Army couldn’t do much against these suicidal guys.

No, the blame for the LTTE’s great debacle lies squarely on the well-padded shoulders of Prabhakaran himself. The simple but awful truth is that he has committed the most heinous sin a guerrilla can ever commit — he has become fat.

Leading a sedentary life in the jungles of northern Sri Lanka, the LTTE leader often found time hanging heavily on his hands. Like so many of us, Prabhakaran succumbed to the temptation of eating the hours away. Starting with jackfruit and pumpkin idlis, he moved on to jaggery dosas and sweet pongal rice, though he soon abandoned these patriotic recipes for more sinful savouries. Cakes and ice-cream followed and some say he even dumped rasam for sweet French sauces. But it was when he started on chocolates and Black Forest cakes that the bulge really began to grow and soon he was the proud possessor of the largest revolutionary paunch in history.

Since anybody who made personal remarks about Prabhakaran was summarily executed, nobody advised him to cut out the calories, or to jog. Once, after watching an ad for a body shaker on TV — the one where all you have to do is sit and read a newspaper while the contraption shakes your body — I called up the toll-free number and asked them to send the thing to Prabhakaran: address somewhere in the Vavuniya jungles, cash on delivery. Looking at his photographs, I don’t think he got it.

This isn’t the first time, though, that a revolution has failed because its leader became too fat. The Shining Path band of Maoist guerrillas used to terrorise Peru in the nineties, before their leader, Abimael Guzman, was captured. Imagine the surprise of the Peruvian army when they saw that the terrorist they had nabbed was not a lean, mean killing machine, but instead a baby-faced, pudgy professor. Those stuffed tortillas topped with cream had taken their toll. They promptly dressed him in clothes with horizontal stripes, so that he would look even wider than he was, and paraded him on TV. That soon killed the movement, because nobody, not even a Peruvian peasant, would want to fight for such a ridiculously fat man.

That goes for all revolutionaries. Would Che Guevara have become such a romantic rebel if he had chubby cheeks and a double chin? Would the Russian Revolution have happened with an over-fed Lenin? And is Osama bin Laden in hiding because he’s scared the Americans will get him, or is it because he has become so fat that he can no longer conceal his tummy under his robes? Perhaps the reason he hasn’t attacked the United States recently is because he has a recurring nightmare of becoming so plump he can no longer squeeze out of the narrow opening of his cave. As a result, he is too busy watching his weight to be bothered about anything else.

Studies by researchers at Rush University Medical Centre have shown that the accumulation of visceral fat, the kind of fat packed between internal organs at the waistline, is often linked with depression. Could it be that Prabhakaran had become so fat that he became depressed, which, in turn, led to his defeat?

Be that as it may, Prabhakaran’s soldiers need not worry. Their leader may have let down both his waistline and his followers, but AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa has recently promised she will take up their cause and continue to fight for a Tamil Eelam. The problem, though, is that she is even fatter than Prabhakaran.

Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint

First Published: May 02, 2009 21:54 IST