Sunday, July 21, 2024

Decorated ex-Indian Army officer, UN diplomat Siddharth Chatterjee makes waves in China with his fitness regime

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Siddharth Chatterjee, the head of the UN in China, is making waves on Chinese social media where he showcased his tough yoga and fitness exploits, including breathing exercises in sub-zero temperatures, which he says helped him to maintain physical and mental equilibrium. Chatterjee, the UN Resident Coordinator for China, recently released a documentary on the efficacy of deep breathing exercises, which he said will provide immunity from viruses like COVID-19.

Chatterjee’s four-and-a-half-minute documentary titled “Breathing for Good Health” starts with the recitation of the ancient Sanskrit symbol of “Om”, sitting shirtless on a frozen lake bed in Beijing, practising deep breathing workout followed by stomach churning and Sheersh Asan, the headstand exercise has gone viral in social media in China.

“Breathing is the first thing we do when we come to the world and the last thing we do when we leave it,” he says as he sets to begin the exercise in the sub-zero temperature.

Chatterjee, 60, said when he was appointed as the lead UN diplomat in China in 2020, he was close to obesity with high cholesterol, hypertension, and pre-diabetic with a high heart rate.

With high-intensity breathing, fasting and cold exposure, he lost 25 kgs while managing to attain normal blood pressure and other standard health parameters that helped him to achieve physical and mental equilibrium.

Chatterjee’s appointment to head 26 UN offices in China made headlines as it came amid the India-China tensions over the eastern Ladakh standoff which is still unresolved. Chatterjee, whose family migrated to Kolkata during the freedom struggle from Bangladesh, went through a torrid childhood following the attack of polio and rose to be a decorated Indian military officer serving in the elite para regiment with postings in the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) in Sri Lanka and counter-insurgency operations in India’s North East. He was decorated for gallantry in 1995.

“At three years I had polio, I still recall the electric shock treatment in the hospitals for the leg to reactivate it.”

He said he was among the fortunate ones who recovered completely from polio.

“I got into the National Defence Academy (NDA) on the second attempt in 1981. It was a transformative moment for me and brought about a dramatic change as I became a polo player, and a boxer winning the best boxing title and many things changed. Graduated from NDA, I joined the elite para regiment,” he said.

Later, he got a postgraduate degree from the Ivy League Princeton University in the US.

His family too has an India-China connection.

While he heads the UN mission in China his wife Ban Hyun-Hee from South Korea is the chief of UNICEF social policy in India.

In his 25-year UN diplomatic career, Chatterjee served in Kenya, Switzerland, Denmark, Iraq, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan (Darfur), Indonesia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Iraqi Kurdistan besides China.

He also served in UN Peacekeeping, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UNICEF, the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the Red Cross movement, UNOPS and UN Security.

Besides his diplomatic work, his current focus is to spread the goodness of breathing to fight ill-health.

He also released a tutorial video to learn and practice deep breathing exercises in all environments to de-stress and invigorate oneself.

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