The 36 Momo challenge
One of the places volunteers prefer to go out to eat at in Kerala is a Tibetan restaurant. This is a dramatic narration of the events that took place there.
No one truly believed that it was possible. You have to be a monster to finish such a heavy, glutinous dish in one sitting. The fabled 36 soup momo is a meal meant to feed four, and to think one of us alone could finish it was something we would not dare take seriously. And yet a challenge was set in place for anyone willing to try it.
After the challenge was issued we visited the Tibetan restaurant several times, yet no one gave it any thought. That was why, when a challenger finally appeared he was met with only disbelief and words of discouragement.
“You can’t do it.”
“Jack, don’t be stupid.”
“If you finish it, I will pay for your meal.”
Somehow, the challenger only managed to hear the last phrase and he had made up his mind. The momentary temptation had instantaneously become a goal, and he was prepared to eat his heart out until he achieved it.
The table went wild as the challenger placed his order; there is no going back now, they all knew. The waiter’s smile would have suggested he believed the boy was out of his mind, yet he could not seem more certain of himself at that very moment.
Waiting for the dish would have broken anyone else’s resolve. Even as the challenger grew hungrier with every minute he waited, no one was convinced he was capable of accomplishing such a feat. Yet the challenger did not waver. As the insults and the bets against him were thrown out, he sat patiently, strategizing on how to tackle the task ahead of him. In the end decided that he had to eat quickly and finish before his body realized he had to stop eating.
The wait eventually came to end and his meal was placed was before him. The bowl seemed deceptively small, yet as he began removing the first dough like momos from inside the soup and onto a separate bowl, he realized what the boy had gotten himself into.
“You are going to finish that?”
If, in his mind, he had any doubt, he did not show it. He grabbed his spoon and reached in to eat the first one. However, he was met with another dilemma that stopped him in his tracks. The momo was too hot to even contemplate eating 36 in such rapid succession. How was he supposed to finish so many if he could not even eat one? He did not let that stop him, as he reached for the water bottle and began pouring it into the bowl with momos. He explained that he was using the water to cool down the momos before he started out eating again. This would slow him down he knew, but he had no choice. He had no other option.
The first six were finished quickly and he continued eating at an unbelievably rapid pace. It almost seemed like having to cool the momos down did not slow him down at all, and all the onlookers lost count of the number had eaten.
“12” “18” “24”
Unrelenting, he pushed on. No one of course believed he was capable yet. And even as no one was still willing to bet in his favor and as the one who had agreed to pay urged him to take a break, he continued eating. It was at that moment that it happened.
The challenger suddenly realized the enormity of the task ahead of him. He felt as though he could not take another bite without having to throw it all up again. He had finished most of his meal, yet the amount that still remained was as intimidating as a bowl with soup momos could be. The observers had noticed this and knew that he had reached his limit. It was time for him to crash and burn. No one expected him to be able to recover anymore.
And yet he did.
He let out a loud burp and continued eating as though he had never felt sick to begin with. The table was shocked to say the least as he continued to eat.
“There is no way this is actually happening.”
The challenger triumphantly looked up. Celebrations had started early for him as he returned every taunt and insult back to those who had not believed in him (so basically everyone). He ate the last two momos as if he could eat a hundred more. The boy with that had become a man.
Leaving the restaurant seemed like a victory lap, as he strode home eager to add his name on the wall of champions for his victory that day. The wall of champions now awaits for the next challenger to face one of the challenges and add their name for future volunteers to admire.
There is no denying that this was no simple feat. However, I as a mere spectator and recorder of the events that took place that day have one question that remains unanswered.
Does it really count if he left the soup?
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