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