The Hunger Project 1

Food to Ashes
Food to Ashes

I am a metallurgical engineer, and I specialised in corrosion. I started my career in steel ( I actually wanted to do my PhD in corrosion ), did my MBA, and wound up doing work in food, consumer health, and later in nutrition. Now, I generally bum around the world in glorious freedom! I also lived 20% of my life outside India. Why did I write this? I wonder.

Anyway, in the 1990’s most multi-national companies would give India the miss. India was very much in the backwaters of the investment climate. Things have come full circle – it still is. In the middle, I left India again. I lived in China and in Singapore, and during this almost a decade away, I read a lot about how the Indian economy is growing by leaps and bounds, and how wonderful and exciting things are happening there. The Orientals confessed to being ignorant of India, but I had Frenchmen, Dutchmen, Germans, Spaniards etc telling me how things now happen in my country.

One day, I returned, carrying my bags and baggage, to rediscover my homeland.

Sure, things had changed. Lots of  good things have been happening. The infrastructure still sucks, but it has improved. A whole new middle class has been created. And, a whole new oligarchy of businessmen, film stars and cricketers have been created.

There were advertisements floating across TV channels in 2007 (I think), to mark India’s 60th year as a free nation. They spoke of the divide.

“There is India”, they said, “yearning to escape, grow, fly.” Blah, blah, blah.

“There is Bharath”, they said, “the old India, stuck in the past”. Ad infinitum, ad nauseum

For those who don’t know, we call our country India when we speak in English. We call our country “Bharath” or “Hindustan”, when we speak in India, in our native tongue. Amazing how we assume that our native name for India is regressive. Way to go.

And, even though I was President of the last corporate that I worked for (President of the India operations), I walked the streets in an un-Presidential fashion with my camera, and I saw that, at one level, nothing had changed. No.

  • We still allow 33% of our grain to rot every year.
  • The World Bank estimates that India is one of the highest ranking countries in the world for child malnutrition
  • The prevalence of underweight children is amongst the highest in the world
  • 33% of the world’s undernourished children are in India. Amongst these, half of them under the age of 3 are underweight, and 33% of the wealthiest children are over fed

The Division – the Nutritional Division – where I worked did some really good work, and the chaps I worked with in Switzerland ( I owe them an everlasting debt of gratitude) did a lot to sensitise me to the whole topic of nutrition in ways that I had never experienced before. Great chaps.

Last year, I sat in a restaurant in Gurgaon. A nice, Chinese one called Nooba, reading a book on hunger in India. The book is called “Ash In The Belly”, and it is a superb book. I ate too much, as the photo above testifies. Chongqing Spicy Chicken and a Hun Tun Noodle Bowl Soup. Clearly too much food, and I wolfed it down with glee. That was actually the last time that I went to Nooba

That is also when I thought of writing about hunger, and I did mention sometime back, on this blog that I would start writing on what I call – The Hunger Project.

I may not update this very frequently. Let’s see. But, I will. Human hunger and human greed are two topics, amongst others, that do bother me. They should bother all of us

 

11 Comments

  1. I smirked at the observation that using “Hindustan” is considered regressive. It figures! Hunger, when it’s you, is an issue with which you can’t deal. I think it’s immediate – and you may not survive. When it’s those who are well fed, it may be much harder to understand — other than in an intellectually removed way. To me, hunger and greed came as soon as people appeared on the earth. So much of it is geographically situational. Doesn’t lessen the “bother” at all.

  2. I was always hungry when I was 7-22 years old (it was in the USSR 1941-1956). Then I became an engineer and had barely enough money to feed my grandparents and myself. So I know about hunger.
    However, there are many questions that need answers. Here are two of them”
    -should number of children in a family be limited as in China?
    -should a government pay for each new child monthly as in Norway?

    1. I have been hungry for a few days, but never like you have experiences
      We have too many people in India. Birth control is a controversial subject here. It was twisted in the early 1970’s, allowing goons to enter Indian politics

  3. It’s a worry that so many children are malnourished when so much food is left to waste. School feeding schemes in areas where there is a need should be mandatory. Seems that civil society must step in when governments fail. You write with passion, i look forward to seeing further updates on the topic.

    1. Yes, I absolutely agree with you. School feeding programmes focus on supplying carbohydrate rich food. This is good, when the children come in starving. Once they get enough calories, then what happens?
      Always a challenge!

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