Kishwar Desai | Will fasting help Sunak better his image? Greta got better of UK cops

From PM Modi's spiritual fasting to PM Rishi Sunak's disciplined 36-hour fast, leaders' unique practices make headlines

AND so, we know — in India — people were blown away when it was revealed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had fasted for close to eleven days before the inauguration of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya. All he had was coconut water — and showed immense fortitude as he continued running the country and travelling. This kind of self-control is something we are used to hearing about where he is concerned — and so could other world leaders be far behind on the “fast” track?

Thus, recently Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has impressed everyone by telling them that he regularly fasts for thirty-six hours starting on a Sunday evening and continuing till Tuesday morning. So, for those 36 hours he has only tea or coffee.

In the UK, it was a very pleasant diversion for all to discuss how this kind of fasting could have beneficial effects. There have been heated media discussions and advice from leading dieticians what it could do to your metabolism.

Of course, the 5:2 “fast diet” has become popular all over the world, for some years now, and “intermittent fasting” is a buzz word — but these are all meant as weight loss methods. What Mr Modi did was also for spiritual purposes — and we know he fasts every year during the Navratras as well.

We do not know the motivation for Mr Sunak’s fasting — but it was definitely a good strategy to reveal his habitual fasting, and change the narrative — as it has shown him as being disciplined and able to continue working and remaining fit. These are always impressive qualities in a leader and it certainly has helped his image at a time when the Tories are sinking steadily in the opinion polls.

It is rare to have a political party into its fifth Prime Minister in a decade to seek yet another successor. But that is the fate that Mr Sunak faces. There are plots and plans on the back benches with WhatsApp groups forming to conspire to remove the Prime Minister.

Let us hope he manages to hold “fast”.

JUST a few weeks ago we were all concerned about two royals undergoing surgery -- the future Queen, Kate Middleton, and the present monarch, King Charles III. Fortunately, everything appears to be going smoothly for both -- and there has been no crisis that a firm “stiff upper lip” has not sorted out. But recent news is that Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York — who had been married to Prince Andrew — has been diagnosed with melanoma, that is, skin cancer. Unlike Kate, whose mystery surgery we still don’t know about — Sarah has gone public with her own diagnosis, recovery, and treatment.

This has led to a remarkable surge in people going for checkups for their own suspected melanoma — and the NHS reports that hospital visits for melanoma is now eight times higher than what it was in previous weeks.

These kind of celebratory revelations of personal illnesses can lead to awareness for others -- and possibly save many lives, especially as she has encouraged others to constantly examine any change in the shape, size and colour of any moles they find on their skin.

Of course, it does not harm the profile and popularity of the celebratory sharing these personal facts as it draws more sympathy towards them. Suddenly, we were also hearing that Sarah Ferguson and Prince Andrew, who have shared a very cordial post-divorce relationship, may be getting together again… while the latter news may have no basis (like the “Poonam Pandey” stunt in India), at least the Duchess used her own illness to spread awareness of a cancer that often goes unnoticed.

GRETA Thunberg is now not only world famous for protesting against climate change but she is everywhere she can make trouble. She is also smart enough to know her rights and wrongs.

Thus, recently she was arrested for protesting outside a conference of oil companies in a five-star hotel in London.

But when presented before a court, she got away because the judge said the police neither gave clear instructions as to where she could protest if not at the hotel, nor where it was legal for her to protest from. So, it was the police who got a rap on the knuckles, not Greta.

They obviously ought to award her a special pass for improving the capabilities of the police while doing their job. And she keeps climate change in the news, at the same time!

BUT Greta’s getaway case is nothing compared to what is now going on across the English Channel in France.

The French farmers pay no heed to the police when they are out to protest, even dumping manure outside of government buildings. Scores of tractors are lined up on six-lane highways. It is more like a music festival rather than a protest, or rather a special Gallic version of protest a la mode.

Being a French protest, and that too by farmers, food is supplied along with drinks as vast areas are blocked off to accommodate farmers. By one count, there are 4,500 tractors spaced across 80 locations in France with nearly a million farmers being very angry over their inability to earn a decent living mainly due to pricing and cheap imports.

Of course, the anger is with Brussels, where the decision-makers of the European Union meet. President Emmanuel Macron shares Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s fate and is not very popular either.

However, now with Brexit keeping us somewhat immune from these protests, we can only hope it will not impact the prices of France’s best-known produce -- wine and cheese.

Kishwar Desai is an award-winning author, playwright, and heritage buff who helmed the setting up of the two Partition Museums in Amritsar and Delhi, and chairs the trust that runs them. She also helped set up the Mahatma Gandhi statue outside the UK Parliament.

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