Together we can!
HOW MANY DIE OF HUNGER WHILE WE ARE ENGAGED IN GETTING OURSELF THE BEST OF FOOD, NARRATES S. AFFAN YESVI
Similar to the ‘Pizza’ service that delivers “the order” within 25 minutes at the address given, the ‘Easy Cab’ service has “a vehicle” waiting at the doorstep at the exact time requested by the caller. Therefore, my confidence was natural as I came down the steps to go to Forum, the famous Mall in Koramangala.
The chauffeur, upon seeing me, almost jumped out of the vehicle to open the door for me to sit at the back but, with a little shake of the head and a wave of the hand, as I opened the door in the front and settled in the navigator’s seat, I noticed the respect in his gesture as he helped to shut the door.
As he started the vehicle, he addressed some words to me in Kannad and although I was sure that he is trying to confirm the destination, I could not take the risk of an incorrect response, so I said, “Kannad Gottila” and his immediate amused look made me laugh as I realised that I had said “I do not know Kannad” in Kannad.
Well, these two words ‘Kannad Gottila’ had been a saving grace for me in this city, Bangalore, the Capital of the State of Karnataka, where everyone initially speaks in their mother tongue but do switch to English conveniently or to Hindi if compelled. In this instance, the driver continued in English and as I had guessed, he did want to confirm the destination – Forum, the Mall in Koramangala.
As we took the left turn, I noticed that the normally crowded Bus Stand was almost deserted and for a moment wondered if I could have taken the local bus instead of this cab for which I would be paying almost ten times more. Then the pang of a little guilt questioned me, “Are you ready to sacrifice your luxury?”
Well, over 500 million people are living in “absolute poverty” in the Asian, African and Latin American countries and cannot even think of a bus-ride, leave aside a cab-ride that I was taking all alone. Nearly one in four people live on less than US $1 per day (1.3 billion people) and 3 billion people in the world struggle to survive on US $2 per day –UNICEF.
The World Bank (WB), the World Health Organisation (WHO), the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and many other international agencies are also relating malnutrition, disease and mortality to these statistics of poverty. As a matter of fact, it is a vicious circle where poverty leads to malnutrition that causes loss of energy to work which leads to hunger and disease and ultimately there is a rise in the death toll.
My musings stopped as I alighted from the cab. My friends were already waiting for me and together we took the escalator to the floor where we planned to lunch. As we entered Transit, the Fast Food Plaza, the din of chatter made it obvious that it was a Sunday afternoon and all were out to enjoy and relax. We too looked for a table and finally found one at the upper edge of the large hall, overlooking the main road. Glad to be seated, I allowed my friends to decide upon the menu and sat back to look around.
My attention was drawn by the laughter and giggles of a group of girls sitting four tables away to my left. Clustered around two heavily laden tables that had been put together, they were totally lost in their chatter and were casually nibbling at the ‘Dosa’, ‘Pizza’, ‘Noodles’, ‘Pav Bhaji’, ‘Sev Puri’ etc. and were delicately sipping their cold drinks.
Paradoxically, at a table next to them sat a young couple, quietly looking into each other’s eyes. Then smiling nervously and looking down at the melting ice-cream in the cups before them, they repeated the sequence from looking at each other. Yes, they too were lost and, in love, they seemed to float above the crowds, in a paradise of their own.
I thought to myself, maybe if we all begin to love each other, we may look for less food, waste even lesser and smile more. Ha, ha, ha, I laughed at my thoughts, this was no solution to the great global problem that had been on my mind in the cab and I turned to my friends.
They were debating on either having ‘Combo Meals’ or ordering individual choices. I hopped onto the boat of discussion and suggested we order everything possible and then decide to eat whatever attracts the eye. They all looked at me suspiciously, wondering if I were pulling their leg, but, I comforted them by suggesting that, perhaps, two vegetarian and two non-vegetarian dishes could be bought and shared. They happily agreed to this and got busy with the tariff card again.
A shriek from the girls’ table made me look their way again. One of them had spilled her cold drink and all the others immediately tried helping with paper napkins to soak the liquid from her drenched skirt. They became the centre of attention for one and all, while mine was diverted to the smell of liquid soap that was being used to clean the table on my right that had just been vacated by three men. They had left behind only empty tea cups and a plate that had held sandwiches.
A bearded man stood by the table to occupy it as soon as the cleaning was over and as he sat on the chair, I noticed the limp in his step. This brought the image of the little boy who had limped-up to my cab at the cross-road while we waited for the signal to turn green.
He wore a torn shirt, was barefoot with unruly hair and large water-filled eyes. The window pane was rolled up as the A.C. in the cab was switched on. I could not hear him but saw his right hand go up to his mouth while the left hand rubbed the stomach – He was asking for food at his little age.
Globally, almost 1.02 billion people do not have enough to eat (more than the population of USA, Canada and the European Union together). Speaking in millions, 642 live in Asia and the Pacific, 265 in Sub-Saharan Africa, 53 in Latin America and the Caribbean, 42 in Near East and North Africa, and 15 in the Developed countries. This little one belonged to that group of the Hungry ones!
At that moment, I had thought of Kashmir and all the food that goes waste at the number of ‘wazwans’ served for any and every occasion. If I may take the liberty, births, deaths, birthdays, engagements, marriages, getting admissions in educational institutions and passing in each class thereafter and even when getting a Government job. There is just no end to it!
The wastage of food in Kashmir, the overloaded tables around me in Transit – the food plaza - and the thought of that little boy and so many others worse than him in other parts of the world. Those ghastly, heart breaking photographs from Africa that are part of Coffee Table books placed daintily by that particular class of society which has never felt the pangs of hunger nor borne the burden of poverty. For them, these expensive books, only an ornamental piece, a small-talk item.
Self service being the culture of fast food centres, as two of my friends got up to bring food from the respective counters, I realised I had lost my appetite. Why were no more people there like the famous Prime Minister of India who, on each Monday, gave up eating dinner. Further, he requested that all people try to conserve food so that there is no shortage in supplies and all the restaurants in India remained closed on Monday evenings during those crucial times. Now there is so much thoughtless wastage.
I shared these discomforting thoughts with the other friend left at the table. He, too, was aware of our insensitivity towards hunger and poverty. And pointed out that the picture was not as bleak as I had imagined – it was bleaker! He laughed at my expression and reminded me that the United Nations had kept “End Poverty and Hunger” as the first one of its eight Millennium Development Goals and was sure that this issue would be seriously taken up globally.
Every six seconds, a child dies because of hunger and related causes. More than 60 percent of the chronically hungry people are women. 65 percent of the world’s hungry live in only seven countries: India, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan and Ethiopia.
The most recent estimate released on October 14, 2009 by F.A.O. says that the increase in recent years of the undernourished is due to (a) neglect of agriculture, relevant to very poor people, by governments and international agencies, (b) the current world wide economic crises and (c) the significant increase of food prices that is devastating to those who struggle to exist within just a few dollars a day.
As we discussed these matters, I looked down at the main road and saw vehicles of various colours, makes and models moving. But there was no chaos. The traffic police, the signalling system and the drivers were each performing their roles capably. It was clear that a joint action by all walks of society and by all powers of the world would have to be taken to eradicate the social evil of poverty and hunger.
Primarily, an end to wars and conflicts is required so that the people can take to farming and agriculture in peace. Society, too, must play its role and support their brethren by paying taxes and being more sympathetic towards the down trodden. International agencies must work together, crossing all lines of control to lift the load.
Our friends returned with our lunch and joined the conversation. I forced myself to eat for the sake of formality and also knowing that if I felt any hunger sensations later, I would have access only to popcorn for the two hours in the cinema hall, watching how the world would end in 2012. And by not eating the food before me, I would be only adding to wastage and not helping in providing nutrition for someone.
Soon we walked out of the fragrance of freshly prepared food mingled with the various perfumes worn by people on this Sunday afternoon and entered the crowded lounge of the cinema hall on the floor above. As we lined up and awaited our turn to enter the hall, I looked at the posters. A tall foreigner came across with a lady who was wearing a T-shirt that read “Ten Million Girls – One Voice”. When they joined the queue, the lady turned around to talk to the man, and on the back of the T-shirt were the words “together, we can end hunger and poverty”.
What an afternoon! Was the day being celebrated as a ‘Hunger and Poverty’ day? My own cynicism scared me and I looked at the lady again. Her friendly countenance seemed to spread her confidence in the ‘Statement’ she was wearing and I thought, “yes, together, we can achieve anything”. If we are blessed with food, clothes and money – we could share a part of it.
By the way, even if you took just five minutes to glance through this piece, let me remind you that during this time, 50 children have died of hunger alone.
Lastupdate on : Wed, 2 Jun 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 2 Jun 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 3 Jun 2010 00:00:00 IST
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