The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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High hopes of tallest laid low
- Lonely at the top, seven-plus-footer chases job promise

Hyderabad, Jan. 29: The tall promises politicians make returned to haunt them today, literally.

When he was chief minister, . Chandrababu Naidu had offered K. Gattayya a job in the tourism department. The 7-foot 6-inch young man was still unemployed when Naidu lost his job. Gattayya then knocked on the doors of Naidu's successor Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy, who told him the government would keep its commitment.

That was two months ago.

Gattayya, one of the three tallest men in India, was back at the secretariat this afternoon where he reminded Andhra Pradesh tourism officials of the promise the state had made just before last year's elections in May.

They empathised but said they had no 'slot' for him right now. 'We have plans to open a theme park. Then we can use you,' said an official and asked him to keep in touch.

Gattayya is also lonely at the top. The 29-year-old, who comes from Putnuru, a village in Karimnagar, is yet to find a woman tall enough.

Vertical difference, however, has not come in the way of marriage for at least one of Gattayya's long-legged comrades ' Ramlal Yadav. The 35-year-old from Ballia, Uttar Pradesh ' who is as tall as Gattayya and the 1953-born Mangal Singh of Bhopal ' has found a bride who is barely 5 feet tall.

But then, not every seven-footer, like Pune's Sharad Kulkarni, can find a six-foot-tall bride to claim the record of being India's tallest couple. The six-foot-three-inch-tall Sanjot is 11 inches shorter than her husband, but the gap is still much less than the two-and-a-half feet that separate Ramlal and his wife.

Gattayya's loneliness finds an echo in the words of seven-foot-seven-inch-tall Sandy Allen, the world's tallest living woman. In a letter to the Guinness Book of World Records in 1974, she wrote: 'I would like to get to know someone who is approximately my height. It is needless to say my social life is practically nil and perhaps the publicity from your book may brighten my life.'

The accolade did help the Indiana secretary. A year later, Allen, then 20, got an offer for a role in the film Casanova. Then came her first date with a seven-foot Illinois man.

The world's tallest living man is Tunisia's Radhouane Charbib. He is 7 feet 8.9 inches tall.

For Gattayya, though, it is survival that is at stake. His farm labourer parents and his elder four brothers and sister ' all of average height ' are finding it increasingly difficult to support him. 'When we cannot support ourselves, how can we help him,' said his brother Gollayya.

His sister Bhudevi cleaned his clothes and took him in for a while, but is tired of being his wet nurse.

A teacher who came with Gattayya to the secretariat said he 'eats the food of three persons'.

Gattayya's abnormal growth began after a bout of fever at the age of 11. By the time he was 19, he was already 7'6'.

Doctors at a government hospital in the capital advised surgery to stop his growth. 'The first thing you might lose is your sight and next would be your control over your kidneys and limbs,' the doctors had told him.

'After the operation in 1996, I have remained at seven feet and six inches,' Gattayya said.

'My height has already given me side-effects of joint pains and diabetic feet. I even suffer from after-effects of polio,' Gattayya, in a brown shirt and trousers donated by a cloth store, said as he waited for the elevator in the secretariat.

For a while, Gattayya found odd jobs like fixing streetlights and washing exteriors of buildings. 'Since I did not have any skills, they exploited me for strenuous tasks,' he said.

Gattayya now wants some rights organisations to support him.

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