Wrestling is a subject that has to be approached very carefully, especially if wrestlers are present. The Great Gama once lifted a stone which weighed 1,200 kilos. You can go see it in a museum in Baroda. In his youth, ladies in Khali’s village used to ask him to pick up cows and buffaloes, which were refusing to move as instructed. Many men in India like to take liberties with women, but it’s unlikely that young Sakshi Malik is facing this problem.
I would never argue with a wrestler, and neither should you. But their connection to health and wellness needs to be explored, because there is scope for confusion. Take diet, for example. The search for the perfect diet is one of the cornerstones of wellness. It can take a lot of time because there are so many of them. There are high-carb diets and low-fat diets and all-meat diets and Kareena-Kapoor diets and my own personal favourite, the popcorn diet. So why not consider the wrestler’s diet? It seems to be working. They’re rich, famous, and look good in leotards. Why not eat like them?
Let us examine this, starting at the top. Most wrestlers will tell you that India’s greatest wrestler was The Great Gama, who was outwrestling men twice his size at the age of 10. In his prime, this was his daily diet: 20 litres of milk, half a kilogram of pure butter, 4 kilograms of fruits and lots of yakhni.
The Great Khali was a superstar in the US for a decade. Originally known as Giant Singh, he changed his name in honour of the great goddess Kali, making him one more person with whom you should not mess. His dinner consists of cheese, legumes, vegetables, 10 wheat breads, brown rice, chicken, 6 eggs, two litres of milk and ice after dinner. He also loves coffee, curd and candy.
This all sounds great, but before you rush out to buy candy, consider this. The Great Gama used to do 5,000 squats and 3,000 push-ups every day. Bruce Lee followed his methods. Or look at Gobar Guha, the pride of Bengal. In the 19th century, the Brits were very contemptuous of Bengalis. Macaulay called us effeminate, sedentary and languid. Journalist G W Stevens spent a lot of time examining our legs. “By his leg you shall know a Bengali,” he said. “The leg of a Bengali is either skin and bones… or else it is very fat and globular, also turning at the knee, with round thighs like a woman. The Bengali’s leg is the leg of a slave.”
Bengalis were mortally insulted, and took to wrestling with a vengeance, inspired by Swami Vivekananda, amongst others. The end result of this was Gobar Guha, who was 6 foot 1, had a 48-inch chest and became the first Asian to win a world title. He was known for his appetite, and his diet was full of goodies. But he also did 2,500 push-ups a day, and wore a collar around his neck that weighed 70 kilos. All of which tells us a fundamental truth about wellness and diets. You can eat what you like, and enjoy it, so long as you remember – some amount of movement is also required.
Shovon Chowdhury’s most recent novel, Murder With Bengali Characteristics, was written on a diet of fried foods. He has a 42” chest.