If there is a health hazard that is plaguing the Malaysian Indian community, it’s obesity and its thambi and thanggachi, heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure toe the party.
Obesity is directly linked to our modern and sedentary lifestyle compounded by our diet and eating timings. Like how the prison population here is 60% Indians, we stand number one in obesity in Malaysia as opposed to the population. We seem to emerge number one in all the unwanted categories.
During the days of our great grandparents and grandparents, rice was liberally consumed because they needed the energy – they were doing hard labour so they needed to eat rich in carbohydrates foodstuff to burn out in accordance with their metabolism and nature of work. Today, many of us are eating the same amount of rice our grandparents ate and don’t do quarter of the work they did. Aprom epdi obesity varame irukkum? Vettele paaku vechi obesity eh va, va nu soldrom.
I have seen some Indians, how they eat rice. They’d put a mound of rice on their plates/banana leaf, dig a well in the middle of the rice mountain and pour curry into the soru keneru aprom kolechi adikevendithu.
Obesity is contained in the neo Malaysian Indian food culture
Typically, we Indians, especially Indian mothers and wives associate health with eating a lot. Their logic is that if one eats a lot, they will be immune to all diseases. The typical Indian mothers’ dialogue when their child comes home from university semester break or return home after some time due to work is, “Yennapa, thurumba yelechite.. Elumbu yellam teriyuthu.. Sariya sapdamatiya nee?” After the dialogue delivery, the mother will proceed to cook a feast for her child – parakeruthu, oduruthu, neentheruthu, oderuthu poderuthu ellam satti leh veghum. After 30 years of such motherly mollycoddling, after obesity set in, satti suttathada, kai vittathada nu paatu paade vendithu. For the Indian wives, the axiom, ‘the way to a man’s heart is through his tummy’ is religiously followed. Indeed, they make it to his heart as plaque, clogging his heart’s arteries, leading to coronary artery disease. Some unused, excess carbohydrates get converted into fat and stored in the fat layer of the tummy, omentum, causing pot belly. The fat is also stored in other parts of body – love handles and spare tires. Because calling fat as fat is too mainstream.
We don’t eat much vegetables but when we do, we cook the vegetables so much until they get unrecognizable. We slice cabbage thinly, put so much oil and fry it so much until it goes brown – same with bean sprouts. And, the vegetables would lose most of their nutrients if cooked that way. The amount of oil and coconut milk we use when cooking also contribute to obesity. If we get kirei in our hands, most of us would make kirei curry. We don’t stir fry kirei and eat it as it is. How many of us eat or let alone know ponnanggani kirei, kuppa meni kirei, karisalanggani kirei, murunggai kirei, agathi kirei, kuppei kirei and siru kirei? Children cringe at the sight of kirei. Eating at fast food joints has become a status symbol and eating all those extremely nutritious kirei aforementioned is considered low class. I have news for you – white people have started eating those vegetables which was of Indian monopoly. Velle kaaren ku teriyuthu namma kirei odeh arumai, nammaku McD leh sapta tha high class ah ma. The Malays have ulam and the Chinese have vegetable soups. The closest we get to ulam is sambal belacan and as for soup, rasam. Ippo yenemo soup song and soup boys nu soldrangge..
Now, there are eateries that operate 24/7. One can discern that many Indians lepak at mamak restaurants at unearthly hours whacking nasi lemak and roti canai while watching football. Food portions are also huge but we don’t think twice before stuffing that half of a chicken into our mouths. Many people don’t eat for pasi;they eat for rusi. While rightfully we should eat to be alive, some Indians here live to eat. Any wonder why obesity loves Indians so much?
I don’t even have to touch about the Indian fetish for sweets.. Ladoo, jelebi, pal kova, Mysore pak, coconut candy, kesari, gulab jamun and my personal favourite, soan papdi. We all know why obesity loves us so much again.
Ladies, before marriage keep their bodies slim and trim. After marriage and after two kids, they let themselves go and let obesity reside in their physique. Keataka, “Athan kalyanam aayiduche le,, Rendu pullinggeh kude aayiruchu.. Ippo naa slim ah aayi padathuleh heroine ah va nadikke poren?” Many ladies fail to think that the main concern to maintain the right weight is to have health, not beauty. Even yesteryear Tamil movies heroines like Radha, Ambiga, Lata, Nalini etc are now round.
Housewives claim that doing household chores is workout in itself. It is not because right after completing the chores, ladies sit in front of the idiot box and watch Ponoonjal, Elavarasi, Deiva Magal and other Tamil mega serials while munching on kacang puteh after eating lunch or dinner. They blissfully think mopping and sweeping the house is equivalent to gym exercise, then be snacking couch potatoes then wonder why they gain weight. The same mothers who serve their kids with more than what they can eat would eat up the food their children left uneaten in order not to waste food and then their waistline would get out of proportion and they succumb to obesity. Also, we should eat dinner at least 2 hours before we sleep in order to avoid obesity but most of us don’t follow this golden rule. Although nothing beats eating with hand, it indirectly makes us eat more than we should and facilitates obesity – using spoon, fork and chopsticks reduce what you put in your mouth remarkably. Sacrifice a bit – health comes first..
Some Indians love mutton and that too leads to obesity. Some people who have Muniswarar, Kaliamma and siru deivanggal temples at home slaughter goats and cook the meat then feast on it. It is our version of Hari Raya Korban. My uncle who was obese dropped on the ground just after feasting on mutton in a festival like that; he had a cardiac arrest and passed away on the way to the hospital. See how Vijay advocates against this practice. To all sacrificial mutton loving Vijay fans, listen up:
Indians here don’t have exercising culture and the most common excuse given on why they don’t combat obesity via exercise is,”Yengge da ithukkelam neram irukku?” Sure, you have time to go for Tamil movies on big screen and watch serials whole day and night but no time to exercise. It is all about priority. We can learn a thing or two from the Chinese – they can be seen out in the wee hours of morning, dressed in sports attire, walking briskly and do tai chi in a large groups on the roads of residential areas and playgrounds. Some elderly Indian ladies on the heavy side say that they are embarrassed to go out and walk around in the name of exercise. Yethuleh vekka padanum nu oru sense illame pochi. If that is the case, join a gym or get a treadmill.. But, no, those are too costly. There are also some Indians who don’t buy or eat fruits and vegetables because they are expensive. Getting exercise equipment, joining a gym (provided you use the apparatus and go and workout at the gym) and eating lots of fruits and vegetables aren’t wasteful – they are an investment, your built in life insurance. Skimp on them and you will be forced to spend thousands of money for allopathy healthcare in later years, manifold than what you spend on eating healthy and exercise.
Food is medicine if eaten in the right quantity and quality. Overeat and the same food becomes poison. Obesity can be prevented if only you are willing to make small changes in your diet and lifestyle which could make huge differences. Prevention is better than cure.