The Hunger Project 3 – Poison

Poison-2Poison-1 As some of you may know, I went to Benares and Allahabad. These are the last two pictures that I took during that journey.

To some extent, these pictures were inspired by a photograph that I saw in the newspaper in Calcutta many years ago. Oh yes, the city was called Calcutta those days. Anyway, it showed a poor man in the foreground rummaging in the garbage for food to eat, while a rich fella walked into a restaurant.

The photograph was called “One Man’s Food Is Another Man’s Poison”.

I was at the train station at Allahabad, waiting to take the train back, and had gone to the Railway Canteen at the platform to have some of their rather anaemic tea before returning home. While I was sipping my tea, I watched this young chap rummaging amongst the rubbish for food, while the young chaps in the background bought some cakes and other goodies for their journey onwards. There is nothing wrong with that, and there is no need for any of the better-heeled to have money to travel and eat well.

The young chap pulled out bits of food, examined it, smelled it before adding it to his little pile. I put a ten rupee note into his shirt pocket. He was a bit bemused by the note. He looked at it, smelled it, and then peered up at the price list on the board in front of him before shuffling off.

Some of  you may remember the photograph of an old lady sitting by the road as people ate and chucked stuff into a dustbin.

Again, there is no need to feel guilty about eating well.

India’s health statistics are awful and alarming. They have improved no doubt, and so has India’s performance in reducing hunger. However, reducing hunger from 25% of the population to 17%, while commendable at one level, is not enough.

So, what should we feel guilty about? Wasting food, eating way too much for one. Ordering way beyond what we need to eat, while at a restaurant, just to impress our fellow guests.

We need to feel guilty about this.

Let’s now talk about technology. This morning, I read about how the US Agency DARPA, is envisaging the development of aerial aircraft carriers and advanced espionage technology. We spend a lot of money on creating weapons of mass destruction and espionage.

Our Prime Minister has been spending a lot of time outside India, marketing India as a marketing and business destination. This is good, but I think that my crazy brain has an idea.

I plan to write to him, to suggest that he institute research programmes, or seek collaboration, to see if we can extract nutrients from food and organic matter that is thrown away. This could be packaged in a form that is appealing to our cultural sensitivity (and to ensure that it is free from harmful hormones etc), and distributed to those who need food. In my view, this should be a government programme, and not a corporate one. Corporations, bless their souls, are motivated by profit and by the desire to push the products that they market.

In the meanwhile, maybe we should not waste food.







  1. We should not throw food, I wholeheartedly agree Rajiv, very good take on the issue. About your idea, perhaps it is better to use those funds to extract in just funding decent kitchens around to feed people and also pick up restaurants excess to redistribute,

      1. Let’s hope that third world leader spend more time solving their real problems rather than start thinking about their global legacy from day one.

  2. I read a statistic that the average American throws out 40% of the food they buy. I don’t recall where I read it or any details about the study, but even if it’s exaggerated, that’s a lot of food. It stuck in my mind and it’s made me more aware of how much food I throw out. I find that I’m cooking smaller meals now and if anyone is still hungry they can make a sandwich or munch on some nuts or raisins.

    1. In India, we are going the same way. I remember when I was in China, we had to over order during all official banquets to show “face”, that we could afford to buy so much.
      With a population of 7 billion and counting, we need a radical new way of thinking things

  3. Food excess and wastage is a major problem for Western countries. People have become so disconnected from food – there is not much respect or mindfulness about what they are eating, and how it has been produced.
    Restaurants also play a big part in food wastage.
    I like your idea and I agree that it should be govt-based vs corporate. Trying is better than nothing!

    1. True. We need to try. The point you raise about not being mindful about food is telling. I remember reading about how, in the old days, when our ancestors would kill for food, they would first thank the prey for giving them sustenance. And then they would eat

      1. Yes, there’s not much respect nowadays. Partly because our food is second hand (that is someone else produces/kills/packages etc.).,,all we have to do is pick it off the shelf and go. Not much mindfulness at play in that equation.

  4. Wasting food / ordering more than required is very high up in my list of irritations! I completely agree Rajiv and yes, the first thing that I thought of on seeing this picture was of the old lady near a dustbin.. Nice post.

  5. The idea of restaurants and countless food chains making a concentrated effort to channelise food might just help…I fear the winter is not far away

  6. There is a practice here in Gujarat, when after dinner (many people here have dinner by 8 pm) a certain group of people call for “bhaadu” (I am not entirely sure of the term). I do not know the occupation…but i guess they are manual scavengers…or sweepers. They are given the leftovers and sometimes, even fresh food. There is no compulsion or coercion. They will just call for it, wait, and take away whatever we have to offer. I have seen people give them away fresh hot rotis and sabji. Rice and wheat are also donated amply. Some people make extra food just to give it to them. I wish this practice should be adopted far and wide. I mean, it is better than feeding the stale food to roadside animals (that mostly become one with the road by our vehicles…).

    1. This is a good practice.. It should be implemented in other places.

      By the way, I did eat that stuffed mirchi in Rajasthan, and thought I would die

      1. Hahahhaha…I also had it in Jaipur many years ago. I know…I have high tolerance for spices and maybe, the chef was extra kind to me!!! I was in fifth grade you see 😀

      2. I had it on the roadside in Jodhpur in the middle of summer. Believe me, the internal heat of the chilli killed all thought of the blazing heat of the sun!

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