Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Famine and Plenty

Last week, we decided to spend the day at a Resort on Hosur Road. It was a sort of advance father’s day celebration for my Dad. The place is a sylvan paradise, away from the city. As we walked past the reception we saw a huge buffet spread of Breakfast almost a mile across in the air conditioned patio. There were about 8 diners and the breakfast was enough to feed 50! Soon brunch was laid. There were five diners and the food was enough for another 50. This too was cleared and Lunch was laid out soon after. Lunch had a better crowd of about 50 people thought there was enough to feed 100. Made me sick in the stomach and for once I thanked God that I am such a salad buff. I never progress beyond the Salad counter at any buffet.

We were the last to troop in for lunch after a beer and a swim. There were used plates piled up in a container in a corner. The amount of food wasted was an eye popping amount. I wondered if these diners would waste food at home with the same impunity that they do at buffets and parties. Now...I understand that this is the hospitality business and food is just another commodity being sold. So I am not going to rant about wastage here. But I have seen people eating leftovers in the dustbins outside wedding halls….and I still cannot get that sight out of my mind.

Outside, tending to the vast gardens of the Resort were scores of workers. As I watched them from the air conditioned comfort of the dining hall I couldn’t but feel sick at the situation here. These people needed the kind of nutrition that we get because of the tough physical work they do while we need to eat simply as we are mostly in front of the comp doing mental work.

Of course we all know that such things don’t happen...people are poor and there are people who are not poor and all that blah. What defies logic is that we build satellites, send people into space, break the speed of sound and what not...but we are yet to eradicate poverty and hunger. If we can achieve all those scientific breakthroughs then what prevents us from solving the simple problem of poverty and hunger? Why do we have people living hand to mouth side by side with people who gorge themself to obesity and cardiac arrest!!

Most IT cos. including mine have something called a Corporate Social Initiative, where we adopt an old age home, or orphanage or donate our services like teaching in village schools etc. Such small initiatives are bringing about a lot of changes in the less fortunate people's lives. Ironic isn’t it that it takes a foreign company to instill a sense of community spirit and participation in us Indians? And we talk of our culture and family values?

I think herein lies a possible solution. We Indians have to stop living like islands and get involved in the community. We need to support and participate in community initiatives if we have to move the behemoth of poverty out of our land. But that takes sacrifice, like a Sunday spent in some community work and how many of us are willing to do that?

I hope I don’t sound snobbish here, but I was made to eat everything I had served on my plate. We learnt very early in life that it was better to take small servings or end up gagging because wastage was not allowed. The three of us siblings would trade left overs for odd jobs. You-finish-what’s-on-my-plate-and-I-will-polish-your-shoes-tomorrow kind of arrangement was the norm :)

I know it is easy to blog and sound all proper and do nothing...but I needed to vent some steam today after seeing the colossal wastage in the cafeteria.


Mind Curry said...

you know its nice to read your take on these things. only wish everyone was so sensitive and caring like you. but obviously not. and that's why these things remain complicated and not simple.

you are right about indians though. we hide behind thin veils of supposed virtues of family values, culture and all that bull. the fact is that we are truly cultureless because we fail to display basic class and refinement in our behaviour. we just like to project ourselves exteriorly as something great, but deep inside we are the worst.

excellent thoughts because it was ,as usual, straight from the think-pad :)

silverine said...

Mind Curry: Food should not be a luxury, atleast not a basic balanced meal. I once read an article in the Times of India about beggar kids on MG Road who snatch Ice Creams and aother eatables from people. I could not help but feel bad for the kids because like other kids they too want to have an Ice Cream or a sweet. It is so unfair!!

venus said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
venus said...

you have identified the 'island' mentality very correctly! we indians need to look at a larger perspective rather than just me, myself and irene. Our family values are too strong, I would not mind it's continuation, but we should not forget to lend our helping hand more often.

I'd like tomention one interesting fact here, which I thought is quite relevant. In USA, one serving is of phenomenal quantity, of the size where two decent people can eat if they don't over eat. But in the Europe, they serve you just enough! you might still be little hungry after having your serving portion. It's an interesting contrast.. and also explains why obesity is the number one "disease" in US and why french women are not fat!

Mind Curry said...

yes..but consider "necessities" like this:

india's defence budget: close to Rs. 1,00,000 crores.

usa's budget for iraq war: USD 84 billion

for some its like pakistan and india wanting to snatch ice creams and other eatables from usa.

Alit said...

Quite deperssing all these...
I read Shashi Tharoor commenting once, India's famed family system need to be blamed for its insensitivity towards the community. All that we care is the well being of our own family and home and nothing beyond.
So we will continue to have stinking neighbour hood and starving kids around coz they, unfortunately, isnt quite part of our family system!

silverine said...

Venus: You are right..we have to have a community spirit. I learned that due to the CSI. Some Sundays back we restored a village school complete with a paint job and furniture. It was the most satisfying thing I have done.

Alit:Exactly. We are so insular.. :(

Mind Curry:First thing, thanks for the kind words in the first comment, I forgot to thank you in the depression of penning this post:)For the second comment...when we talk of defence budget and all that we again lose focus that there are starving people among our midst :(

Mind Curry said...

yeah i was wondering why my feelings were being you so much for the sweet afterthought.

about defence outlays, i put that up to tell you how much money india, or for that matter most countries have. its just that our priorities are wrong or are made to be wrong by vested interests. if we had additional Rs.1,00,000 crores every year there wouldnt be many poor people in india. and same for pakistan.

silverine said...

Mind Curry: lol how can I ignore my blogpals feelings :))

About vested interests, I blame the US arms industry for the vicious cycle of arming warring nations and making them spend on more arms.

kosh said...

I agree so bugs me when people waste food!
but I was made to eat everything I had served on my plate
Me too! Was not even allowed to push it off to my sister! As a kid, never realised that wasting food was even an option!!
Now, coming back to caring for the underpriviledged and giving them leftovers, let me tell you one incident that happened quite recently. My maid is a very frail poor woman who has two small kids. One day, since there was lots of food leftover from the previous night, I told her to take it for her family. But, she looked me in the eye and said she doesn't eat leftovers!!! It threw me off - I didnt expect that! I totally respect it though, but now I really really think twice before I hand over leftovers to anybody!!

silverine said...

Kosh: Thank you for dropping by :)I am not suggesting that we give them left overs. I am just appalled at the unequal distribution of food. Nowhere have I inferred that we give the left overs to the poor.
All I am trying to say is that if we were to get involved in the many social initiatives in place, then a lot can be achieved by the govt. and NGOs.

Pradeep said...

Leave corporates.... What bothers me is the poverty and squalor just in the neighbourhood of religious institutions, which are so cash rich. Worse, they squandor money of pomp and glitter. I guess Gods will be more happy if at least a small percentage of money is set used to improve the surroundings; and as you said, the nutrition such people need.

silverine said...

Pradeep: Well said Pradeep. Infant Jesus Church comes to mind. Ironical to see Jesus living in pomp while His followers live in poverty. Hope the good priests who run the institution get the irony of the situation.

Karthik Sivaramakrishnan said...

Poverty and hunger are more complex problems to solve than breaking the sound barrier :) Science is loveable in its repeatability, but the so called 'simple' problems you mentioned, are made complex because even the solution, whatever that be, is bound to be dependent in some way on humans, and we are a fickle lot. By the way, if you do want to sweat and toil for any of these causes, I'd suggest you hit at the root, and toil for education. Direct attempts at eradicating poverty and hunger are useless. Its like feeding bacteria. The more you feed them, the more they multiply :)

sunith said...

It infuriates me to see the acute lack of common sense in setting priorities. I had discussion on chandrayaan-1 India's first mission to the moon. The objectives of this mission include preparation of the three dimensional atlas of the regions on the moon and the chemical mapping of the entire lunar surface. Similarly, the abundant availability of helium, a clean source of energy, is yet another attraction to probe the moon. As ambitious as the objectives sounds, is that what we really need now? We struggle to feed the poor and we dream about reaching the moon. We live in a facade. Sigh.

You can check the discussion at the link given below: