Remembering Rappai, the champion eater

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INSATIABLE: Rappai - Photo: K.K. Najeeb
INSATIABLE: Rappai - Photo: K.K. Najeeb

K. Santhosh

Thrissur: Doctors knew the reason for his insatiable appetite, but the people of Kerala never sought the help of science to define champion eater Rappai's feats. After all, in the realm of wonder, reason takes backstage. People stared in disbelief when he demolished 750 idlis or 25 kg halwa, or downed 25 litres `pal payasam' at one go. At the end of it, he would say with a burp, `Enikku Visakkunnu (still hungry).'

Rappai was a mascot for many restaurants in Thrissur. Some of them display his photograph along with their logos.

His death on December 9 at the age of 64 came as a shock to people of Thrissur, who affectionately called him Theetta Rappai. This modern-day Bhima was a household name, a celebrity here. Grandmas would tell kids, "Have your food fast. Or else, Rappai will steal it."

Rappai shot to fame after he challenged a Thrissur hotel that offered an all-you-can-eat buffet. He polished off three bucketfuls of rice, one bucket of fish curry and 10 kg cooked meat. At the end of it, he said `Enikku Visakkunnu.' Worried, the hotel staff called the police!

On a normal day, Rappai had 75 idlis for breakfast, several mounds of rice and vegetables for lunch and 60 chapatis for dinner. His exploits were celebrated by the international media.. "The next time Rappai's stomach starts rumbling, he would do well to consider a trip to Vegas, where for the all-you-can-eat buffets on the Strip are open round the clock," wrote The Scotsman. This reporter met him first 11 years ago when he was at the peak of his `eating' career. "If you get me dinner, I'll buy food for you and 10 friends of yours," he said. He pulled out a wad of notes from his pocket and showed. "His demand is deceptively simple," a friend warned. "It is a practical joke he is famous for. If you take the challenge, you have had it. He will plough through everything in the hotel kitchen and ask for more."

In his last days, Rappai suffered from diabetes. Doctors advised him to avoid overeating and he obeyed. When he retired from competitions and started eating like a normal man, the BBC wrote, "Restaurant owners in the town of Thrissur can breathe a huge sigh of relief."




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