Big man, bigger heart

Earlier this week, I received the sweetest call. It was as unexpected as it was welcome. The caller introduced himself as a cop. For a minute, I shrugged and thought to myself, “Now what?” He got to the point instantly, and identified himself as the inspector from Madhya Pradesh who had lost 65kg within one year. Oh, him! My friend Daulatram Jogawat? I promptly congratulated him! That is quite a feat. For those who are not aware of the story, it was my tweet that had inadvertently led to the cop’s impressive and dramatic weight loss. A tweet which had stated precisely this: “Heavy duty bandobast in Mumbai today.” The image happened to be that of Jogawat in uniform, talking on the cell phone. It was a hazy image that had been floating on social media for a while. Nobody knew the policeman’s name. And, nobody was able to clearly read which state he belonged to. Okay. I had goofed on that one. I had mixed up his cadre. Fortunately or unfortunately, that ‘fat-shaming’ tweet of mine changed everything. I was massacred and trolled, and accused of mocking a person who was unwell. I felt terrible!

The press located Jogawat soon enough, and hounded him for a reaction. Perhaps bewildered by all the attention, the poor guy, who weighed 180kg at the time, revealed his various other ailments, which may have been overlooked in the past, but were connected to his excess weight. Reacting to his sorry plight, immediate medical intervention was generously offered by the Mumbai based bariatric surgeon, Dr Muffazal Lakdawala, who had earlier operated on Egyptian national Eman Ahmed Abd El Aty—insensitively identified in the press as ‘the world’s heaviest woman’.

Illustration: Bhaskaran

So, why did Jogawat phone me? The good man called to thank me for ‘saving’ his life. Dr Lakdawala had offered to treat him for free. This was an incredibly generous offer, and Jogawat promptly accepted it. Once the programme was announced, Jogawat was once again chased by the press to damn me. But, this large-hearted gentleman desisted, preferring to publicly thank me instead. Frankly, I had done nothing to earn his thanks. I was just happy his life was getting transformed. Last week, he was interviewed by Mumbai Mirror on his remarkable weight loss, and once again Jogawat singled me out to express his appreciation. Since he was in Mumbai, he informed a reporter from Mumbai Mirror that he wanted to meet me. I instantly agreed. Jogawat’s call came soon after. And, what he said was my reward. He told me he has yet to achieve his target. He wants to shed another 30kg before he meets me—he calls me his ‘elder sister’, and he wants my aashirwad. I was touched and stumped. I am nobody to bless this determined and kind man. We chatted for a while, and he promised to come back with his family. I have invited all of them to our home.

There is much to learn from this story. Jogawat could easily have been swayed and manipulated to condemn me. But, he chose to look at his peculiar predicament far more positively. He showed maturity and restraint, because he may have sensed a total absence of malice in my tweet. He preferred to focus on the upside, and vowed to get back into shape. The tweet motivated him to confront his problem. Meanwhile, that same tweet spawned an entire industry! All sorts of publicity seekers jumped into the picture and offered their services for free to the police force—dieticians, nutritionists, personal trainers, self-styled experts—everybody wanted a piece of Jogawat... and the publicity!

I am looking forward to our meeting in Mumbai soon. He sounds like a sensitive and sensible gentleman. Those idiotic trolls and media folks should learn from Jogawat. Not only has he triumphed over his condition, he has displayed more grace and generosity of spirit than most of those ignorant critics put together.