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150 idlis and 100 chapatis take toll - Champ of big bites dies at 67

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By JOHN MARY IN THIRUVANANTHAPURAM
  • Published 10.12.06
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Kerala’s eating sensation K.P. Rappai, who had turned a disease into a talent capable of legendary feats with bucketfuls of rice or idlis, died of obesity-related ailments on Saturday at 67.

A victim of hypothalamus dysfunction that triggers an insatiable urge for food, the 140-kg Rappai won a glut of prizes for the huge quantity of food he could cram down at one go.

The ability earned him hometown Thrissur’s admiration, where he became a sort of a mobile landmark as he ambled down the streets with a sachet of errand items, dressed in white dhoti and slack khaki shirt.

But small-time hoteliers lived in mortal fear of the champion eater. His public debut was at a hotel in Thrissur some 40 years ago when he took a “full-meal” coupon and downed three basins of rice, three buckets of meat and one bucket of fish curry.

As he refused to stop, the hotel owner called in the police.

But if the hoteliers suffered from “Rappai phobia”, there were others ready to sponsor all-you-can-eat buffet contests just for the thrill of watching the master in action.

Rappai’s record of 700 idlis, set at a contest in Kasargod in 1997, is still unbeaten. As he became a star, he was paid to perform at food business launches.

He opened a bakery in Kochi bolting down five kilos of halwa and 50 idlis besides drinking an enormous quantity of water. It earned him Rs 10,000 in cash. At the inauguration of a restaurant at Chalakudy in Thrissur in December 2001, the menu included a bunch of bananas and 35 glasses of Horlicks and the prize was Rs 15,000.

These small sums helped him marry off his three sisters and repay his debts.

Rappai had his friends in the police, too, who gifted him the used khaki shirts that became his trademark.

Kizhakkumpattukara Painadanveettil Rappai, a bachelor, lived with mother Thandamma in a small house. He was admitted to hospital about a week ago and was shifted to the ICU after his diabetes worsened and blood pressure shot up.

Doctors had advised Rappai in July, when he was hospitalised for the first time this year, to cut down on food. In hospital, his intake fell from 100 idlis to just a dozen, and from two bucketfuls of rice to a plateful.

For the past five months, he had stuck to a normal diet, which would have been paltry by his standards.

In his prime, Rappai ate breakfasts of 150 idlis and 100 chapatis with chutneys, pickles and curries, with pots of tea to wash it all down.

Lunch, taken rather early, would consist of a huge mound of rice with a generous helping of curries and fries. He would sometimes take a third meal late in the afternoon.

Just before sunset, he would have a snack of 20 chapatis and a dozen masala dosas before capping his day with a dinner of 25 parathas, a dozen bananas and tumblers of milk.

Rappai was hardly six when his family noticed his never-say-no attitude to food. Unaware that it was a disorder, elders used to beat him when he demanded more.

When the end came today at a private hospital, Archbishop Mar Jacob Thoonkuzhy offered funeral prayers at Rappai’s home before a large procession of mourners accompanied the body to the local Lourde’s Church for burial.