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How Weight-Loss Surgery Is On The Rise In India, Where One Quarter Of People Go Hungry

In Goa, western India
In Goa, western India
Jasvinder Seghal

JAIPURIndia is emerging as one of the fastest-growing centers in the global market for weight loss surgery. Two-thirds of wealthy urban Indians are now overweight.

Like 56-year-old Chander Kataria and 65-year-old Mohan Gulati. Chander weighs 85 kilos (187 pounds) while Mohan is over 120 kilos (264 pounds). They are both trying desperately to lose weight, and one of their efforts is a morning walk around the Bhagat Singh Garden in Jaipur.

“I try to exercise, shake and vibrate every organ of my body, but it’s not working,” says Chander.

Mohan has tried many ways to lose weight, including diets and working out at a gym. “This is my eighth lap on the bike. I have done so much but nothing has helped. I think surgery is now the only option.”

Rana Kumar is his gym coach, and he says Mohan is typical of his clients. “The cause of growing obesity is people’s sedentary lifestyles,” Rana says. “People sitting around and not doing enough exercise and eating junk food. We advise them to do exercise and control their diet. If that doesn’t work, we suggest surgery.”

In fact, a quarter of wealthy urban Indians are now obese, and the problem of obesity is increasing rapidly among urban school children — so there is now a lot of money to be made in weight loss surgery.

Dr. Akhilesh Sharma, owner of Abhishek Cosmetic Surgery Center, says business is booming. “I do around one or two liposuctions every week, and the patients come from all walks of life. They may be literate, semi-literate, or from a very high class ... but their aim is to get slim.”

The operation costs about $1,000. And it’s estimated that some 10,000 similar surgeries will be performed across India each year. It seems counterintuitive, as India is regarded as the hunger capital of the world: One fourth of the population doesn’t have enough to eat.

Shyamvati Devi sends her children to school not so that they can get an education, but so they have at least one meal a day. “The children enjoy the free food,” she says. “I have four children but keep only these two daughters with me, as I am very poor. I have lost my husband and I don’t have a job. The other two live at my relatives’ place, as I am unable to feed them.”

In the same city, Chandra and the urban elite have become addicted to fast food. India’s growing economy has attracted many international food joints, and the diets of urban Indians have changed as a result.

Chander’s sister, 43-year-old Preeti Gupta, also says she is planning to have surgery. “I want to lose weight to be fit. I don’t want to have knee pain or heel pain at this early age. So I really want to lose weight for that.”

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For Seniors, Friendship May Be More Important Than Family

Even if the aging and elderly tend to wind up confined to family circles, Argentine academics Laura Belli and Danila Suárez explore the often untapped benefits of friendship in our later years.

Photograph of two elderly women and an elderly man walking arm in arm. Behind the, there are adverts for famous football players.

Two elderly women and a man walk arm in arm

Philippe Leone/Unsplash
Laura F. Belli and Danila Suárez Tomé

Updated Dec. 10, 2023 at 10:10 p.m.

BUENOS AIRES — What kind of friendship do people most talk about? Most often it is childhood or teenage friendships, while friendships between men and women are repeatedly analyzed. What about friendships among the elderly? How are they affected when friends disappear, at a stage when grieving is already more frequent?

Argentines Laura Belli and Danila Suárez Tomé, two friends with PhDs in philosophy, explore the challenges and benefits of friendship in their book Filosofía de la amistad (Friendship Philosophy).

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They consider how friendships can emerge later in life, in profoundly altered circumstances from those of our youth, with people living through events like retirement, widowhood, reduced autonomy or to a greater or lesser degree, personal deterioration. All these can affect older people's ability to form and keep friendships, even if changes happen at any stage in life.

Filosofía de la amistadexplores the place of friendships amid daunting changes. These are not just the result of ageing itself but also of how one is perceived, nor will they affect everyone exactly the same way. Aging has firstly become a far more diverse experience, with increasing lifespans and better healthcare everywhere, and despite an inevitable restriction in life opportunities, a good many seniors enjoy far greater freedom and life choices than before.

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