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.