I do not know if it is just an Indian thing but, we as a country tend to respect the paunch. It signifies prosperity and influence in our culture. Prosperity because only someone with a belly can afford diabetes and blood pressure medications. And influence because only someone with influence can flaunt a potbelly without people mocking him.
Small town patriarchs usually indulge in this belly display competition of sorts when they come out of their monarchies, with their sando banyans folded up, rubbing their bellies and yawning. By doing so, they display to the world that they have attained that stage in life where they are not afraid of the fashion police. Not that the fashion police would dare even to think about detaining them anyway.
A shopkeeper with a loose shirt and a fragile frame has to try really hard here to please customers. Customers are unimpressed with the shopkeeper’s inability to overfeed himself. On the other hand, a shopkeeper with a potbelly can sit indifferently and yet, people would flock to his shop. They would offer him money as he looks the other way. He would notice eventually and turn his attention to them in slow motion while scratching his cheeks. People would patiently bear through the whole procedure just so that they have the privilege of him replying to their innocuous questions.
‘How much?’ The customer would ask.
The shopkeeper would look elsewhere philosophically. Slowly, as his senses allow, he would look at not the customer’s eyes but his soul. At that very moment, our potbellied shopkeeper can quote any price and you cannot so much as flinch.
You may resist but, you will pay up once he scoffs and smirks at your attempts. It is not that he can take you in a fight. It is the infinite wisdom that comes with the belly. You just bow to it and offer the money because it is a privilege to do so.
And it is not just men. Petite women can look powerful while wearing oversized sunglasses, expensive jewelry and of course the trademark classic look of wearing sindoor and bangles with tee and jeans. But, the real power is when the matriarch wears that pink or orange saree displaying the powerful paunch. She walks with difficulty across the neighbourhood and kids rush to touch her feet.
Of course, it is the paunch that matters.
~End of yet another rant~
PS- Thank YOU!