Adnan Sami Curated
CURATED BY :
You remarkably lost weight a couple of years ago. Did that give you a confidence boost to appear on screen for a movie?
I was extremely unapologetic about the way I looked. I just used to enjoy life. I had no intentions of losing my weight until my Doctor told me that I had to as it was tremendously critical. I was never conscious of it. There are still a lot of singers who don’t like to appear in their music videos for whatever reason. I was never conscious about my appearance. I was unapologetically romancing anyone in my own music videos. I just didn’t really want to get into those special appearances in movies. I was already doing so many of my own music videos. I felt it would have been an overkill and there was no real need for it. The reasoning behind this decision was purely emotional and just for Salman.
What would be your advice to our readers who are struggling to overcome a health challenge?
Two things: one, regardless of what your ailment is, always consult a professional, before you take any step. Go to the expert. Don’t think that because Adnan Sami did this, it will work for me. Your body is different and may react differently. You need to find out from the expert what the issue is. Consult the relevant expert. Two, if I can do it, anybody can. Because, I never thought I can do it. I am a living, breathing example of mind over matter. Everybody, including me, had written me off. I proved to everyone, including me, wrong. If I can overcome it, anybody can.
What was your state of mind just before you determined to get rid of obesity?
At the time when I was given the ultimatum [May 2006], it took me a lot between then and the first week of July to mentally condition myself to do this. My initial reaction was, “Okay, well if this is it, I cannot control it. If I have to go, everybody has to go someday.” I didn’t have the courage. I believed that I couldn’t do it. I had tried it so many times earlier and I had become so addicted to it. You will not believe, I was given the ultimatum and I went straight after that consultation and hogged at a buffet. That was the reaction. Initially, I didn’t want to even face the truth. My reaction was, “Ha, what a melodramatic doctor! I am not going to die because of eating, what does he know!” But, deep inside my heart, I knew whatever he said was so right because I knew how I was living. I knew I couldn’t sleep, or even lie down on the bed. I was sleeping on the sofa, sitting posture. As a result, I developed lymphodoema [swelling of the legs], water retention, my body was swollen, and my legs were “blown” because the blood was not pumping up properly. I was in a bad state. You know, there are two types of fat, one which is just beneath the skin and one underneath the muscle. The fat that I had developed beneath the muscle was dangerous; it had started to push into my diaphragm and ultimately ended up pushing into my lungs. So, breathing became very difficult for me, which is why I couldn’t lie down. As I would lie down, it would automatically push up and get into my lungs causing difficulty in breathing. As a result, I had to get up and allow gravity to pull it down. I also became an asthmatic, and this was really a nightmare. I remember speaking to my dad that this is it. “Dad, listen, I just wanted you to know that I have lived my life and enjoyed everything. So, if I go there should be no regrets, because I have lived life a king and enjoyed every indulgence in the world.” Imagine my father listening to this nonsense from his son. He didn’t pay attention to what I said. He just shook me up, and said, “Damn you, I am not going to take this. I am not listening to this nonsense; you are going to get out of this. You have been through all kinds of trials and tribulations and have come out of it, and you have been a fighter all through. I am not going to let you go down like this. You are going to give me six months of your life. Today, I am exercising my right as a father to order you to give me six months. You are not doing anything else; otherwise, I am walking out of your life.” So, he gave me an ultimatum of a different kind. Then, we started negotiating. I said I can’t give six months, I have work to do. He said, “Work can go to hell. How will you work without your health?” He was right. Ultimately, we negotiated it down to three months. He put a condition: “For these three months, there’s no work or anything else. You are going to forget the world and solely be there for me.” I went to Houston and shut myself from the world. The night before I was to hand over my diet to the nutritionist, she turned to me and said, “All right, tonight you will have your last indulgent meal and after that you will follow whatever I am saying.” So, she said go out there and eat whatever you want for the last time. I remember I had a huge feast that day. I call that my “last supper”. The next day, I started. And, the rest is history.
Where did you derive your emotional and mental strength from, especially during the period when you were consciously losing weight?
When you have a sword hanging over your head—the doctors had given me the ultimatum that, “We give you six months, that’s it”—it’s inspiration enough. I had tremendous support from my family: my father, brother, mother. They held my hand through it all, and it couldn’t have happened without them. They were there for me 24×7. I remember when I lost my first 5-10 kilos, all of them were like, “Wow, you look so different,” and I looked in the mirror saying “From where? What are they talking about?” They’d say, “I tell you, those trousers, they look a little bit loose from here,” and I used to wonder, “May be, I can’t see it.” But, that really worked for me. When I would have a craving they used to say, “Hey, listen you are here, it has already begin to show; now you can’t stop it,” and that used to keep me from giving it up. So, my family encouraged me tremendously. They were also with me in tangible ways. Like in the beginning, I was not in a position to exercise. I was too big for that. The initial exercise we used to do was to arrive at a shopping mall and I used to walk five steps, then stop and continue. During those five walking steps, my father and brother would be right next to me, to support me in case I lost balance. My legs had become so weak, that suddenly I would have a spasm and my legs would suddenly say, “No!” They were standing next to me to take care, in case I plummet. For me, even standing was an exercise.
Did obesity affect your professional life? If yes, how?
Oh, yes, it did, absolutely. Take travel, for instance. In my profession, airports figure very prominently as we have to travel a lot. There was a time when I used to love travelling a lot, because I have grown up in that kind of atmosphere, where we have lived in different parts of the world. We have travelled extensively, exploring new cities. But, a point came when travelling became my biggest mental block—my biggest fear and nightmare—because of the big airports where there is a lot of walking involved and I used to hate it. Not being able to travel was affecting my profession. I couldn’t fit into the chair of the aircraft. My biggest fear used to be: will I be able to fit into that aircraft chair? It was so frightening for me. Then I began to choose airlines where I would still feel a little bit comfortable as they had bigger seats. Then a point came when even in those I was starting to barely fit. I had to make an effort, and hold my breath to sink in. There was even an occasion where I didn’t fit into a seat in the first class and so I had to shift to Economy and pull up the middle armrest and use two seats together. It was very upsetting and embarrassing. Then I used to weep within myself and wonder what I have got myself into. Even then, I wouldn’t be able solve it. I had to [then] use a wheel chair at the airport and a time came when I used to not fit in airport wheel chairs because they were too small for me. So, I had to get a wheel chair custom-made, which used to travel with me wherever I went. If I had to walk [I am talking about the last stage before I went on diet] I had to use a walking stick. A lot of people thought I was making it up. But, the fact of the matter is that I actually had a walking stick. My legs had become so weak that they couldn’t carry my weight. It was really terrible, terrible.
What has been people’s reaction to your weight loss?
A lot of times people say to me, “Oh my gosh, you have lost 130 kilos. Why didn’t you do it before?” But, they don’t understand that if I could have, I would have. The point is, first of all, it took me Herculean strength to build up the courage and the mental strength to go through such a task. Frankly, in the beginning, I didn’t think I was up to the job. I saw this huge mountain in front of me and said: “How the hell am I going to climb it?” At that time, I had tried [to diet] and failed so many times. I would break my resolve within a week’s time! The kind of profession I am in, there is always something or the other happening. There are parties, functions to attend, we travel a lot, and it was difficult to stick to the diet.
Where do you get such a diplomatic attitude from?
Well, I inherited it genetically, you see! My Baba (Arshad Sami Khan) served 14 countries as a diplomat. How could I not have a diplomatic nature.
What are the lessons you want to give to Medina?
I want my daughter to grow up with a sense of independence, with a strong emotionally secure mind and a tremendous amount of self-worth. All these come from education. So, that will be the foundation of her upbringing. I would want her to be well-versed with the world around us, have an opinion on everything and be pro-active about anything that is wrong. It is easy to criticize a situation, but the visionary always finds a solution. I want her to contribute to the solution
You are the poster boy for people who wish to lose weight by shedding 160kg. How did you manage that?
It was a lot of determination and hard work, including no bread, no rice, no sugar and no oil. But the point was I worked hard for it, I prayed to him for it and I got it.
Were you prepared for the kind of backlash that you got in Pakistan after you decided to take up Indian citizenship? Were you prepared for that because you were called a 'gaddar'? You were trolled as well.
Yeah, you know it's strange because many years earlier, even before I got my citizenship, there was a very popular rumour in Pakistan already that I have already become an Indian citizen. And to the point that a very interesting thing happened. My father was alive, he passed away in 2009. President Musharraf - when he was in power - at that time, he met my father and he mentioned that he is a big fan of mine. So my father, you know, being a very very doting and proud father, compiled a set of CDs of mine and sent it to him as a gift. Since he knew that he was a fan of his son. So, Musharraf responded with a thank you letter, which was very shocking. Actually, considering that it was coming from the President of Pakistan, and it was coming on the letter head from the President of Pakistan. He said, 'Of course, thank you very much, Sami Sahab for the CDs and it's fantastic that you know Adnan has done so well, but it is a shame that he had to give up his country for the sake of achieving his fame'. My father was shocked because he said to himself, he said, 'how is he concluding that he is already in India?’ I mean you are talking about the President of Pakistan who should be privy to every possible information available. And, so my father was very 'diler', he was a very brave man and he wrote back to him. He said: 'Excuse me, I want to make it clear that he has not acquired Indian citizenship. He is very much a Pakistani at this point. But at that point in time, it had already become evidently clear to them that I had already become an Indian
How has the transition been from Pakistan to India and a brief period of being stateless?
Well, you know, it has been a journey. I came in 1999 and I had no clue where this journey was going to take me. I took it as it came, and within a couple of years, I was in rapture with this overwhelming love I got from India. India fell in love with me, I fell in love with her even more. And, I just said to myself that this is that missing link I was waiting for, looking for all my life.
What was the process of your becoming an Indian citizen like?
This has been going on for a long time, the file goes through so many tables as per the process. Finally it came to a point where everything, every procedure has been followed and then it is just the final signatures on the main form. So I went in the morning, to North Block (Delhi), and there were a few signatures that had to be done on various forms, they had to be stamped by various officers, and then you have to pay a particular fee, and then after those formalities were done, the certificate was issued. In a small ceremony, the Minister Of State for Home Affairs, Kiren Rijiju, officially gave me the certificate of citizenship. The entire procedure was about an hour-and-a-half long.