Monday, October 31, 2016

The Indian Factor

Top Qatari chef Aisha Mohamad Al-Tamimi talks about the cuisine in her country and the influences of the Indian sub-continent 

Photos by Ratheesh Sundaram

By Shevlin Sebastian

At the Crowne Plaza, Kochi, top Qatari chef Aisha Mohamad Al-Tamimi saw something in her curry that she had not seen before. When she looked up, she saw that people were chewing on it. So she did the same. And that was when she encountered drumsticks in a curry for the first time.

I liked the taste a lot,” she says. “And I am planning to introduce it in one of our dishes.”

Aisha had come to Kochi recently to take part in the Spice Route Culinary Festival. She is a fan of all things Indian. On her long-running and popular 'Mawaed cooking show', on Qatar TV, she has always featured Indian food. They include all kinds of curries, chappatis, parathas, and biriyani from Delhi, Mumbai and Kerala, too.

Qatari food is very much influenced by the Indian menu,” says Aisha. “In fact, it is similar. We make biriyani in the way that you do. This happened because centuries ago, there was trade between South India and Qatar through the sea.”

So, in Qatari food, there are a lot of spices, mostly from Kerala, like cinnamon, cumin, coriander, cardamon, nutmeg, black and red pepper.

Among the most popular items in the Qatari cuisine is Marguga, a traditional curry. “Vegetables and mutton or chicken is cooked,” says Aisha. “Then we knead flour, and make a thin bread. We put the marguga paste, along with sauce, inside the folded bread, and cook it for 20 minutes, until it becomes soft. It is a full meal.”

Another item is machboos. This consists of rice, mutton, onions, and tomatoes mixed with spices. Since the people live next to the Persian Gulf, there are also several dishes which consists of tuna, crab, lobster, and shrimp. “We also use different kinds of dates, which are available locally,” says Aisha. 

However, the one difference from Indian food is that, in Qatari dishes, they add a dash of sugar. So, for the breakfast dish, Balaleet, the noodles or macaroni or pasta is cooked with sugar, cinnamon, saffron, and cardamom, along with an omelette placed on top.

For another breakfast dish, Habeesa, sugar is put on the semolina. “In fact, for many dishes, we add sugar,” says Aisha.

Unfortunately, as she ponders about the present eating habits of the native Qatari population, there is nothing sweet about it. “Nowadays, for breakfast, most people are having the Western menu of scrambled eggs, bread and cornflakes, because they are all so busy and don't have the time,” she says. “This is more so among the young people. I fear that one day they will lose touch with the traditional Qatari cuisine.”

So, on weekends, Aisha cooks Qatari dishes for her family. “My children love to eat, but they are reluctant to make it themselves,” she says. “They tell me that they tend to put on weight. Instead, they opt for European and international cuisine. It breaks my heart, at times.” 

(Sunday Magazine, The New Indian Express, South India and Delhi) 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Acting With The Superstars


Alencier Ley Lopez talks about his experiences in the films, 'Kasaba', 'Munthiri Vallikal Thalirkkumbol' and 'Monsoon Mangoes'

Photos: Alencier Ley Lopz by Albin Mathew; the poster of 'Kasaba', the late Jose Paramus 

By Shevlin Sebastian

One day, when Alencier Ley Lopez was acting in 'Kammatipaadam' (2016), production controller Alex called him up and said that there was a role for him in 'Kasaba', which starred superstar Mammooty. But Alencier felt nervous. He had never acted with Mammooty, or met him. “I had heard that he was a tough person,” says Alancier. “So I told Alex that I was hesitant to act with the star.”

That was when Alex gave him a surprise. “He told me that it was Mammooty who insisted that I should act in 'Kasaba',” says Alencier. “So I felt encouraged.”

When Alencier was leaving for Kolar, Karnataka, for the shoot, he told Dulquer, the superstar's son, who was also acting in 'Kammatipaadam', about his new role.

Dulquer said, “My father and I had seen 'Maheshinte Prathikaaram' together, at our home. At that time, my father said, 'Alencier is good. We must take him for our films'.”

When Alencier arrived on the set, he saw that there was a large crowd present, all waiting to get a glimpse of the superstar. Alex offered to take Alencier inside the trailer. But he said he would meet Mammooty on the set.

When Mammooty entered the set, he immediately spotted Alencier. He came forward, shook his hand, and said, “My name is Mammooty.”

Alencier burst out laughing because Mammooty had introduced himself. “As a result, I became relaxed immediately,” says Alencier. “He made me feel comfortable. And I had a very nice time on the sets.”

But Alencier could not resist talking to the media about how the superstar felt the need to introduce himself. Soon, everybody in the industry came to know about this incident.

Meanwhile, Alencier got a chance to act with another superstar Mohanlal in an upcoming film, 'Munthiri vallikal thalirkkumbol'. On the sets, at Kozhikode, two months ago, he was taken by scriptwriter Sindhu Raj to a house where Mohanlal was resting.

As soon as Alencier was introduced, the superstar could not resist saying, “My name is Mohanlal.”

Alencier again burst into laughter, and said, “I think there is no need to tell my name. You must be knowing it.” The superstar grinned and nodded.

Alencier had a chance to laugh again when, in late, 2014, he got a call. A man said, “I am Fahadh Faasil. Do you have a passport?”

Alencier replied in the affirmative. “Good,” the man said. “We will be going to America for a couple of months. You have a role in 'Monsoon Mangoes'.” But when the conversation ended, Alencier began to have doubts. 'Was it really Fahadh or an imposter who called me?' he thought. So he called back on the same number and said, “Who is this? Don't play the fool with me.”

Fahaad said, “Chetta, it is really me.”

In Louisiana, in March, 2015, several Indian-Americans, from other states, would come and stay at an apartment, where Alencier also lived. They would play their small parts and go away. One evening, a man by the name of Jose Paramus arrived. “He immediately began reading the Bible,” says Alencier. “He did not speak much.”

The next morning, Jose left at 5 a.m. for the set. Following his shot, he immediately left for the airport. Later, when Alencier went to the location, he was told that Jose had died of a heart attack inside the plane. He was only 61 years old.

“A man came to act in a film for the first time, stayed with strangers, acted with strangers, went into the cinema world briefly, before he died,” says Alencier. “What was the meaning of this? Strange are the ways of God.” 

(The New Indian Express, Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode)

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Doing Magic On Paper

Artist Subash Kumar's exhibition was a unique one: he did pen drawings against the backdrop of newspapers

Photos by Ratheesh Sundaram

By Shevlin Sebastian

In February, 2012, Subash Kumar had gone to Gangtok, Sikkim, to attend a 10-day teacher's camp, organised by the National Council of Educational Research and Training. “There were teachers from all over India,” says Subash, a teacher fromMundakkottukurussi, near Shorannur, who is also an artist. “That was when I understood the diversity of India. We could not understand each other’s language or speech. On a whim, at different places, I would buy newspapers of the language of that place. It became a hobby.”

Thereafter, whenever friends informed him about their upcoming trips to different parts of India, he would ask them to bring back the local newspapers. Soon, he had a large collection. And it was then that he got an idea. He would do drawings on the newspapers, but with reference to the place where the newspaper was published. So, for the Malayalam newspaper, he drew a tree which has jutting-out axes at the bottom. “This is to suggest the deforestation that is taking place in Kerala,” says Subash.

On the Bengali newspaper, Subash drew a figure of a Baul singer as well as an image of Swami Vivekananda. On a Gujarat page he did an image of Mahatma Gandhi, since he was born in Porbandar. “I also added some Gujarati art forms,” he says. Meanwhile, in the Telugu version, he drew an image of the Charminar monument at Hyderabad. As for Tamil Nadu, he focused on the Jallikattu or the bullock cart race, while, in Urdu, he drew a person riding on a camel, with an Arabic lamp at the bottom.

All the drawings were done with a coloured ink pen,” says Subash. “It was difficult because ink tends to spread on paper.”

After he did the drawings, on 16 newspapers, he placed it in glass frames, and held an exhibition called 'Papiro' at the Durbar Hall art gallery recently.

Many visitors expressed their appreciation of the works. And one of them, CA Vijayachandra, a retired superintendent of the Kerala Water Authority, felt compelled enough to buy one, a Radha-Krishna drawing on a newspaper from Rajasthan. “I thought the idea was unique,” he says. “So I decided to buy it.”

Chandra, a frequent visitor to art shows, says that most works – acrylic on canvas, as well as watercolours – are beyond the buying power of the middle classes. “So I was thankful that Subash quoted a price I could afford to pay,” says Chandra.

Because Chandra is a stroke victim, Subash also accompanied the former with the art work to his house in Maradu. Subash is a simple person and I appreciated his kindness,” says Chandra.

Among the other visitors was celebrity novelist KR Meera. “She complimented me on the uniqueness of the idea,” says Subash. “She also enquired about how I managed to use ink on a newspaper.”

Asked whether there is a rising awareness of art in Kochi, Subash says, “I believe there are more upper-class people in the city. And they are not very interested in art. When I do exhibitions in Kozhikode and other parts of north Kerala, there is a stronger emotional reaction. I am sure the Kochi Bienalle has raised awareness of art, but my belief is that most of the visitors to the festival were from outside Kochi.”

Meanwhile, Subash, who has a Bachelor of Fine arts degree from the Karnataka Open University, at Mysore, is planning to hold exhibitions on his paper drawings in Kozhikode, Thiruvananthapuram and Bangalore. 

(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram)

Monday, October 24, 2016

The Magic Of Numbers

Vivek Raj is the record holder of the fastest multiplication and addition of double-digit numbers to itself in the Limca Book Of Records

Photos by Ratheesh Sundaram

By Shevlin Sebastian

At the Sree Narayana Gurukulam College of Engineering at Kolenchery, Kerala, recently, Vivek Raj, 26, steps on stage and asks for a two-digit number from the audience. One of them says, “24.” In breathtaking speed, Vivek adds up 24 iteratively 20 times (24 + 24 = 48 + 48 = 96 + 96 = 192) till he reaches the figure of 12,582,912 in just 10 seconds.

Vivek is a mathematics whiz kid. You can give him a single or double-digit number and he can multiply or add it at high speed, to itself and reach 11 and seven digits respectively. And this fascination with numbers happened when his father gifted him a Casio calculator when he was a Class 7 student at Alleppey.   

But his turning point occurred when, one day, his Class 12 English teacher Fr. Titus Chullickal, asked the students about what they could think of regarding the number 7. While some spoke about the seven colours of the rainbow, and the seven continents, Vivek multiplied 7 by itself 7 times (7 x 7 = 49 x 7 = 343). And reached a 11 digit number. “Fr. Titus told me that I had an extraordinary talent,” he says. “That was a big boost to me.”

Today, as soon as Vivek awakens, he sees digits. “You look at the clock, or the calendar, mobile phone or cars,” he says. “We see numbers all the time, but we don't pay attention to it.”

But Vivek does. As a result, he hit the spotlight, in April, when he received the certificates of the Limca Book Of Records from Chief Minister Oommen Chandy for setting two records. The first was for the fastest continuous multiplication. Vivek was given the number 67 by the examiners, and he multiplied it five times (67 x 67 = 4489 x 67 = 300763....), in a space of fifteen seconds and got a 11 digit answer. The second award was for the fastest continuous addition. He added the number 23 nineteen times in 10 seconds.

And this is no surprise because Vivek is constantly practicing his skills. He says that students should also learn to do this, because it will be of benefit during competitive exams. “In an exam, the maximum time to answer a math problem is 56 seconds,” says this mechanical engineering graduate. “In that period, we have to read the question, find the solution and write it. But if your calculation is fast, you can reduce the time needed, and devote more time to the other questions.”

Meanwhile, Vivek is trying to spread the love of the subject through his ‘Mathemagics’ show. “I have performed in many schools and colleges in Kerala,” he says. “And the most amusing moment is when I ask students for a two-digit number, they will invariably say 99, because they think it is a very difficult number to multiply. But, for me, it is child’s play.” 

(Sunday Magazine, The New Indian Express, South India and Delhi)  

Friday, October 21, 2016

Back To The 'Spotlight'

The Boston Globe investigative reporter Michael Rezendes talks about 'Spotlight', the Oscar award-winning film, about child sex abuse by Catholic priests, which is being premiered on Sony TV this Sunday

Photos: Mark Ruffalo and Michael Rezendes; the poster of the film

By Shevlin Sebastian
I was surprised that the film [Spotlight] became a worldwide hit,” says Boston Globe investigative reporter Michael Rezendes, by phone from his newspaper office. “Think about it: this is a movie that has no car chases, no explosions, no guns, no sex and, yet, it became incredibly successful.”

The film focused on the five-month investigation, by the 'Spotlight' team of the Boston Globe, into the child sex abuse by Catholic priests in Massachusetts, over several years. The team included Michael, Walter Robinson (editor of the 'Spotlight' team), Sacha Pfeiffer, Ben Bradlee Jr. and Matt Carroll. It won the group the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. “We are grateful that our editor Marty Barron pushed us to find out the truth,” says Michael. “Without Marty, none of this would have happened.”

Asked the reasons behind the film's success, Michael says, “The movie is structured like a thriller. And you get caught up, as a viewer, in the investigation. It was an incredible cast. People like Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel MacAdams, Stanley Tucci, Brian D’Arcy James and John Slattery are incredibly talented actors. For them, this was a film that mattered. They were also excited about playing characters who are alive, and whom they could meet personally and observe closely.”

As to whether Mark Ruffalo portrayed him correctly, Michael says, “Yeah, my friends told me that he had nailed me neatly.”

Director Tom McCarthy and screenwriter John Singer also wrote an excellent script. “It was no accident that they won the Academy award for best screenplay,” says Michael. “But I did not think it would be so successful.”

The film, made on a budget of $20 million, grossed $88 million worldwide. It won the Oscar for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay in 2016. Now, television viewers in India will be able to see it on Sony Le Plex HD on Sunday, October 23, at 1 p.m. and 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, for Michael, the response continues to be overwhelming. “I was contacted by thousands of people who told me how much they loved the movie,” he says. “It was a beautiful experience. I also heard from survivors of sex abuse who told me that the film allowed them to come to terms with what happened to them. They could move on with their lives. 'Spotlight' has been a movie that has changed people.”

But Michael is not sure whether abuse has stopped within the church. “They have taken a few steps, but they need to do far more, to stamp it out,” he says.

Today, Michael carries on his good work, as a member of the 'Spotlight' team. The group is busy doing an investigation into the inadequacy of the mental health care system in Massachusetts.

But he does sound gloomy about the future of the print media. “Newspapers in the US are having a hard time making money,” he says. “I don’t have an idea of how the media is going to evolve, in future, but there is a lot of experimentation going on. For a long time we had looked at advertising earnings, but now it could be subscription revenue.”

Finally, asked to give tips for aspiring investigative reporters, Michael says, “You have to be dogged, persistent and a person who never gives up. And you have to really want to get to the truth.” 

(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram)

Thursday, October 20, 2016

A Narrow Escape


Director Vysakh talks about his experiences in the films, 'Pullimurugan', 'Mallu Singh' and 'Seniors'

Photos: Vysakh by Melton Antony; Mohanlal in 'Pulimurugan'
By Shevlin Sebastian
One day, in November, 2015, director Vysakh was watching fight choreographer Peter Hein driving a blue Maruti Esteem at high speed outside a godown near Kothamangalam. Peter braked at high speed and the car turned 360 degrees. “He was checking the efficiency of the vehicle,” says Vysakh. Thereafter, he reversed at high speed in a semi-circle.
And that was when the shock happened. Vysakh was directly in the path of the speeding vehicle. Unfortunately, Peter did not know he was standing there. At the last moment, Vysakh jumped away. “I could feel the wheels touch my shoes,” says Vysakh. “That was how close I was to a major accident, which could have even led to my death.”
Thankfully, when Vysakh was shooting 'Mallu Singh' at Naba, 54 kms from Patiala, in January, 2012, he did not get a shock, but a pleasant surprise.
One day, there was an all-India film strike. So, there was no shoot. Vysakh, along with cameraman Shaji Kumar, art director Joseph Nellikkal, and a couple of associate directors decided to go for a car ride. After travelling for a while, they reached a railway track. And there was no road after that. So they stepped out and decided to go for a walk.
Shaji was a bit ahead. He climbed up an incline, and looked ahead. Then, with bulging eyes, he beckoned the rest of the team. “It was a paradise,” says Vysakh. “Right across a vast expanse, there were flowers of numerous colours and shapes. In fact, it was a river of flowers. We had heard that this can be seen in places like Switzerland, so it was a shock to see it here. I felt an intense joy, but wanted to cry at the same time. That's because we had reached the end of the shoot and discovered the place far too late.”
When Vysakh inquired, he was told that the seeds of the flowers were being exported to Switzerland. In the end, the director extended the shooting schedule and picturised a couple of songs at that location. “So, sometimes, when we are blocked, like because of a strike, God gives us amazing moments,” he says.
Vysakh had a similar experience in 'Seniors' (2011), which stars Jayaram, Biju Menon, Manoj K Jayan and Kunchako Boban. For several scenes that had to be shot, in the beginning, middle and the climax, Vysakh was looking for a very specific location. “It had to be an open area, with a tree at one side,” he says. “Right next to it there should be some broken-down construction material, as well as some cars.”
After several futile searches, it was decided that art director Joseph would re-create it, in an open area, at the back of the Government Polytechnic College at Kalamaserry.
One night, Vysakh, as well as the producer, Vysakh Rajan, came to observe the progress of the work. After a while, they went for a walk. “It was a full moon night,” said Vysakh. “Suddenly, we spotted an area and stopped at once. It was exactly the place I was looking for.”
The producer immediately looked at Vysakh, and said, “I think we should stop the construction work.”
Vysakh nodded. “Most of the shooting was to take place at night, so, maybe, my crew could not spot this area because they had not seen it at night. Soon, we began shooting there. Once again, it was a magical gift from God. And this magic has happened many times in my career.” 

(The New Indian Express, Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode) 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Saying It Through Images

On a recent visit to Kochi, German graphic artist, Line Hoven, talks about her novel, 'Love Looks Away'

Photos of Line Hoven by Ratheesh Sundaram

By Shevlin Sebastian

As the morning sun rays hit her face, at a hotel-bungalow at Fort Kochi, German graphic artist Line Hoven's mind has gone decades into the past.

“One day, in the 1930s, my grandfather heard the Overture No. 7 by the Jewish composer Felix Mendelssohn. And he was so overwhelmed by the beauty of the song that for the first time he went into a mental conflict,” says Line, as she points at a black and white drawing of her German grandfather Erich Hoven. “He was brought up to think that the Jews were not good people. Then he realised that someone who has made such a beautiful piece of music cannot be a bad person. When he recounted to me this memory, he started crying.”

At the time, Erich was a member of the Hitler Youth. And when he grew up he joined the dreaded Schutzstaffel or the SS. It was a paramilitary organisation under the command of Hitler.

Erich had been featured in Line's graphic novel, 'Love Looks Away'. In fact, the book is on her family. While Line has German grandparents, she also has American grandparents, Harold and Katherine. Once when her American mother went on a student exchange programme to Bonn, she met Line's father, Reinhard, fell in love and got married. After a brief stint in America, the family settled down in Bonn, Germany, where Reinhard is a doctor.

Because of her mixed upbringing, Line is not sure where she belongs. “During my childhood, there was an anti-American spirit in Germany,” she says. “Americans were regarded as superficial, stuck-up, and people who ruined the environment. But when, in high school, I stayed in Texas for a year, someone wrote 'Nazi' on my locker door. It was hard for me to decide to which side I belong.”

To resolve these contradictions, Line worked on this book, with beautiful black and white drawings, done in a particular style. “On a white scratch board, I take a knife and cut away,” says Line. “The black emerges from underneath. This was a style that was invented in 1880.”

As for the meaning of the title, 'Love Looks Away', Line says, “I knew my grandfather was part of the Hitler Youth amd the SS, but I still decided to love him. When you love somebody, and when they don't do good things, sometimes, you look away.”

Thanks to the Bangalore-based Goethe Institute of Art, Line had come on a tour of India, with stops at Delhi, Hyderbad, Chennai and Kochi, to talk about her book.

Asked the charms of a graphic novel as compared to a word novel, Line says, “It is a different way to tell a story. You don't have to explain in words what you can show in pictures. I want the reader to come to their own conclusions. In a sense you have to 'read' the pictures.”

And Line is happy that there is a growing demand for graphic novels. One reason is because the world is moving towards a visual culture. Secondly, it is a new experience for all. Line's novel is now in its third reprint. “There is also an innate love for paper drawings,” says Line. “Probably, it reminds people of their drawing classes during their childhood.”

Meanwhile, Line is getting ready to work on her next book. Unusually, it is about ghosts. And she might even return to India in the near future. Because a Chennai-based children's publisher has offered her a month's residency, so that they could collaborate with her on a book. “I am excited about it,” she says.  

(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram)

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Stepping Into Dad's Shoes

Rudraksh, the son of actor, Sudheesh, makes a mark in the well-received Mollywood film, 'Kochavva Paulo Ayyappa Coelho'

Photos: Rudraksh; the poster of the film 

By Shevlin Sebastian

On the sets of 'Kochavva Paulo Ayyappa Coelho', recently, child actor Rudraksh, aged 10, was running about, in the forest, at Perumbavur, along with his co-child actor Abeni Aadhi. But when they returned, Rudraksh's father, actor Sudheesh, saw that he was bleeding on his right foot. When the blood was washed away, two puncture marks of a snake sting could be seen clearly.

Panic gripped the sets. Rudraksh was taken to a nearby doctor who suggested that he be taken to the Little Flower Hospital in Angamaly, 16 kms away. The doctors there could not identify the injury. After numerous blood tests, it was concluded that no poison had entered the bloodstream.

This was the only hiccup in a smooth 58-day shoot. And Rudraksh's acting in the well-received film has been just as smooth. He plays Ayyappa Das whose dream of flying in a plane, is stymied, first, by him contracting chicken pox during the summer holidays, and, secondly, by the untimely death of his West-Asia-based father, in an accident.

But the one who inspires Rudrakash, to fulfill his dream, is the village swimming instructor Kochavva (played by actor Kunchako Boban), who is himself inspired by the best-selling book, 'The Alchemist', by Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho.

Young director Sidhartha Siva had one major condition for Rudraksh to play the part: he had to learn swimming. So the Kozhikode-based boy quickly learnt it at a nearby pool. “Thereafter I practised for three months,” says Rudraksh.

On the sets, in order to avoid confusing the child, Sudheesh told his son to only follow Sidhartha's suggestions. “Sidhartha Uncle told me that at all times I should think about the character,” says Rudraksh. “He told me to understand my relationship with my parents, elder brother and grandparents.”

Rudrakash did so and has been lauded for his performance. In fact, after a few minutes of seeing the premiere show, Sudheesh forgot that it was his son who was acting. “He is a natural talent,” says Sudheesh.

A Class five student of the Silver Hills higher secondary school, Rudrakash received a lot of support from his principal, teachers and classmates. Because the shoot took so long, in different places in Kerala, he had to rely on his friends to share their notes with him. “Later when they saw the film, they liked my performance,” says Rudraksh. “Some of them have seen the film a few times.”

Asked about his future plans, Rudraksh says, “Once I finish my studies, I would like to become an actor.” 

(Sunday Magazine, The New Indian Express, South India and Delhi) 

Monday, October 17, 2016

Nothing Sweet About It!

American health expert Dr. Phil Maffetone talks about the need to have a sugar-free, as well as an unprocessed food diet, to avoid chronic diseases
By Shevlin Sebastian  
When American health expert Dr. Phil Maffetone mentions that it is all right to eat eggs, the immediate response, among the audience, at Kochi, is, ‘Sir, you mean just the white.”
Says Maffetone: “It's like a script. But the yolk is just as healthy, and there are many essential fats in it. The statement that yolk is bad began in the US in the 1960s. Last year, the federal government admitted that all parts of the egg are okay. How long will it take for the rest of the world to understand it? As for me, I often eat six eggs a day when I am at home [in Tucson, Arizona].”
Apart from propagating eating eggs, Maffetone has been running a campaign, for the past four decades, about the dangerous side-effects of sugar. “People are consuming a diet that has too much of sugar,” he says. “Besides the sugar that we see on the table and put in our tea or coffee, there are large quantities in packaged foods, sports drinks, refined wheat and flour that are used to make bread and cereals.”
The danger is that half of that sugar turns into fat and goes into storage. “The over-fat epidemic worldwide is due to sugar consumption,” says Maffetone.
He has no doubts that eating sugar is an addiction. “Scientists have shown through MRI scans of the brain that sugar addiction is very similar to cocaine addiction,” he says. “Unfortunately, hundreds of millions of people worldwide have a sugar dependence. I can see it when I talk to groups and tell them that they have to avoid sugar. Many people look shocked, anxious, nervous and uncomfortable.”

Asked why governments have failed to move against the sugar industry, Maffetone says, “Governments are influenced by powerful lobbyists from the sugar industry. It will take another 15 years before they will get up the will to do what they did to tobacco.”
In his own way, Maffetone is taking the fight against sugar by highlighting an ideal diet. “There are only two cuisines in the world,” he says. “There is a diet made of natural foods, which is healthy, and a menu of junk food.”
The problem with junk food is that it prevents the body from using fat for its energy needs. “That’s because sugar overproduces insulin,” he says. “And insulin reduces fat burn. However, the more fat we use, the healthier and fit we are. It prevents chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer and heart disease.”
Unfortunately, there is a tradition in India of avoiding fats. “A healthy diet includes some natural carbohydrates, an adequate amount of proteins and a good amount of natural fats like coconut oil and ghee,” says Maffetone.
Good food should also be balanced by regular exercise. “In fact, running is an ideal way to keep fit,” he says. “It is good for the body. But I would recommend running barefoot. The muscles will respond, by being more balanced, which will make the joints move better and running becomes economical.”
Not surprisingly, with all these new suggestions, the runners of the ‘Soles of Cochin’ enjoyed their interaction with the expert. Says President Ramesh Kanjilimadhom: “The words that Phil spoke both rattled and inspired the distance runners in our club.” 

(Sunday Magazine, The New Indian Express, South India and Delhi)