Of Bananas and Hunger Pangs
In today’s polarized world, we are split in dozens of affinities and kinships. However, I have always thought that the simplest distinction lies between two elementary categories. They are: Those who have to worry where their next meal is going to come from and the other lot who have no such worries.
Working on a weapons research project, I found that the world annually spends close to 1.98 Trillion USD on defence or offence, whichever perspective we may view this expenditure from. Countries spend so much on arms and ammunition not for fighting wars but to tide over their insecurities much akin to insurance policies of various kinds. Obviously, the basic survival insecurity that remains at the national level is that citizens should not be anxious about their next meal.
Fifteen years back, I read an interesting story about the lifecycle of a banana. How a farmer named John in Costa Rica drove down to the local agro market to buy banana seeds. He thereafter moved around to purchase the farming tools and manure to support his yield. Took fifteen months to grow his bananas after regularly watering his banana plot, occasional insecticide spray and keeping the monkeys away to prevent harm.
Finally, the harvest was ready for sale. John cut the bunches neatly, packed them nicely and drove down to the local market for making a small tidy sum. The wholesale dealer bought the entire lot as he did from a dozen more farmers and earmarked them for export to the UK. The banana shipment changed multiple hands before it arrived at the airport where a Lufthansa flight was waiting to speedily transport the lot close to 9000 km across the world, so that the shelf life on an ASDA store is not impacted.
Speedy Logistics Ltd ensured that there was no delay at Customs at Heathrow and after wafting its way through three logistics hubs, the banana bunch found its pride of place on the top right fruit counter of ASDA Hull, exactly six days after John had sliced off the stem.
Mary having finished her evening shift at the BAE factory in Hull rushes across in her Mini Morris to grab a few groceries from ASDA. Noticing the healthy looking bananas, she decides to buy half a dozen. Her son Jamy’s school lunch box can definitely be a shade healthier with a nutritious banana or two, she mused.
Early morning rush as usual for Mary. “Get up, you sleepy head. You will be late for school, and so will I be for work”. She finally gets sleepy Jamy dressed up, packs his lunch and not forgetting a banana from the bunch she picked up last evening. She manages to drop him at the Sounth Hunsley school gate just in time. Phew!
Cometh the lunch hour, Jamy opens his lunch-box and exclaims, “ Yuck! Mom knows I hate bananas and yet she forces me to eat them.” Walking across to the vending machine in the cafeteria to buy a pack of chips, he stops by momentarily by the entrance and dumps the banana in the bin by the door. Good riddance!
Thereafter, a reverse recycling journey starts for the poor banana who has apparently fallen from grace and now somehow must finds it way back to mother earth. God knows how many more logistical hubs once again. At the end of the day, an uneaten banana contributed its ten-pence bit to a petroleum-fueled economy.
And then we have a well-known Western stand-up comedian who makes a big joke out of his mother asking him to finish the last morsel of food in his plate just because small kids in Sudan are dying of starvation due to famine. He wonders how his attempt to clear the plate by over-eating is going to help the impoverished kids in a sub-Saharan country. Obviously, the anecdotal jest evoked tremendous laughter from a crowd which had probably never experienced hunger in its true and extreme sense.
I remember my own attempt at willful fasting or ‘My Experiments with Hunger,’ as I termed it. I lasted precisely eight hours before the resistance broke down. Hunger pangs won as I starvingly dug into my little son’s bowl of Maggi noodles. Abstinence could wait for another day.
Well, only last week we happened to attend a marriage function in the family. Needless to say, a huge amount of expenditure and effort had gone in to lay the massive spread which boasted of every conceivable cuisine. The caterer had also deployed quite a few waiters to serve the guests. However, one look at the demeanor of the catering staff clearly indicated that they themselves had probably not eaten a full meal for a long, long time.
My thoughts immediately went back to a suggestion made by my son many years back. His contention was that whenever we have a get-together at home, we should properly feed the entire catering and serving staff sometime before the guests arrive. The simple logic being that only a person whose belly is full will be able to cook and serve with love and care. Point take son. We have since then followed the practice diligently with amazing results every time.
While reflecting on the subject, I came across a very vitriolic Whattsapp video in which preachers from a particular religion were spewing venom and very emphatically persuading their followers not to accept any food from those with a different faith. In spite of internal firewalls that we are seemingly confident of, such ill-motivated videos always do leave some impact on our psyche.
And so after the Puja this time, as is customary, my better-half asked our domestic help if she would sit down and accept food in the form of prasad? There was an element of uncertainty in the query as political missives very often dominate the responses and behaviour of the masses. She was thus not sure whether she would encounter a refusal or otherwise.
“Thanks very much madam, I surely will”, replied Shoma smilingly and nodded her wilful acceptance.
Gladdened and relieved that hunger had no religion, the matriarch scurried to the kitchen for some more.
Grateful and humbly chastened,
Postscript 1: As per GlobalGiving, close to one fourth of a total of 7.9 billion people in the world do not have regular access to safe, nutritious, and sufficient food. Wishful thinking that how a small percentage of the world’s defence budget, if spent on global food security can possibly reduce worldwide conflicts.
Posrscript 2: Sometimes, we don’t realize the worth of the Govt’s exemplary mid-day meal scheme for school children.
First published at seekmediation.com on 22/11/21
Pl contact us at email@example.com