Friday, Dec 19, 2014

FIFA World Cup: The fat of the land

Obese people will find chairs that cater to their size at the Arena Corinthians. (Source: AP) Obese people will find chairs that cater to their size at the Arena Corinthians stadium. (Source: AP)
Written by Aditya Iyer | Posted: June 12, 2014 2:03 am | Updated: June 12, 2014 1:30 pm

The Paulista loves his red meat — calabresa, churrasco and salsacha. With it, he digs into a decent helping of steaming arroz (rice) and feijao (beans). And no meal in Sao Pualo worth its excess salt is complete without a bottle or two of cerveja (beer) on the side. It’s a rich diet for a city devoid of beaches (Sao Paulo, for those who didn’t know, is landlocked) to burn excess calories. So — and there’s no kind way of saying this — the fat-rate is sky high.

According to a research conducted by the CIA (yes the same one — Central Intelligence Agency) in 2008, obesity is prevalent in 18.80 per cent of this country’s population. By comparison, India’s obesity rate is miniscule, barely setting off the scales (sorry for the pun) at 1.9 per cent. And Sao Paulo, it goes without saying, lends plenty of weight to its country’s stat.

“In Rio, after a long day at work, the Carioca likes to go to either Copacabana or Ipanema for a swim or a run or a kickabout,” says Leonardo Da Silva, a fellow passenger on a bus. “But we Paulistas, we end a long day at work in a bar. Or by staying at home and buttering our paos.” Then Leonardo points at a sign on the bus window and says: “Which is why we have this.”

The sign is as all-revealing as it is startling. It’s a pictograph that announces the order of seating preference for the bus’ special seats. First comes the depiction of an obese man; then, and only then, a pregnant woman. The pregnant woman is followed by a mother carrying an infant, which in turn is higher up on the hierarchy than an old man. And finally, the wheelchair.

“If you think of it, this order makes sense,” says Leonardo. How on earth, I ask? “These are narrow and crowded buses. You’d want the big fellow seated first.”

Arena Corinthians is not narrow. Not at all. Yet, it contains reserved seats — about one-and-a-half times the size of a normal seat — for the big-boned. The seat is devoid of cushioning, but that too (if you look at the world through Leonardo’s lens) makes sense.These reservations instantly bring to my mind two disconnected thoughts.

The first, Prodigy’s sensational 90s album, ‘Fat of the Land.’ And second, my retirement plans.

I can see it all so clearly now. Sao Paulo, the perfect post-retirement city. Get here, get fat, watch football on seats reserved for me. And then usurp every old man, woman and child on the bus back home.

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