During our recent visit to a food court in a nearby mall, we observed the parents seated at the next table trying to persuade their children, who insisted on having biryani. I was reminded of the following incident, as I watched the children walk away leaving more than half the food untouched an hour later.
When I was in fourth grade, we moved to a small town on the foothills of the western ghats. For the first time, I had the opportunity to relate with children belonging to different religions, social classes and communities. Among others, weavers constituted a sizable number of the town's population. Most weaver homes had one or two hand looms (கைத்தறி) installed in the front portion of the house. They used to starch the dyed yarn on the streets and multicolored yarn stretching across the streets made a delightful spectacle.
Ganesan, a boy in my class hailed from a weaving family. As I went past his house on my way to school, I could see his parents working on the loom. I found the rhythmic sound emanating from the loom to be captivating. To my young mind, Ganesan's life appeared to be very interesting.
Time rolled by, and on my birthday I proudly carried a box full of cake pieces to be distributed to my classmates. Ganesan wished me well as he took a cake piece, but chose to keep it in his tiffin box. I presumed he wished to share it with a sister or brother.
The next morning, as I went past his house, he came running out to me and exclaimed "Its true... butter melts".
As I could not comprehend, he explained "See.. I have heard that butter melts in heat... But, I have never seen it... The cake you gave had butter on top... (he was referring to the icing) so I brought it home and put it on dosa tava... it melted completely..." He was so thrilled with this revelation.
On reaching home, I narrated the incident to my grandma and asked her "How come Ganesan has not had butter all these days?" Butter and ghee were after all part of daily food!
My grandma explained patiently, "There are children in this world who do not have all that you are fortunate to have...So you should learn to be happy with what God has given you and not complain about what you don't have.. There are people who do not even get three meal a day... As I have always been teaching you - don't spill food while eating... don't waste food..."
When we waste food, we are only exhibiting our insensitivity towards our less fortunate brethren. According to the United Nations, one third food produced globally is wasted. Another estimate indicates that 40% of food is wasted in India.
With globalization, Indian society has moved into a consumerist mode. There was a time when people bought things because they needed it. Today we buy a cloth or a gadget because it is available in the market or because our peers have it or it is just fashionable. Whether this attitude is healthy or not is debatable. But an alarm bell rings, when consumerism reaches such proportions that one resorts to any means to satisfy his/her need. Recently I read a media account about two young men, who killed a woman and stole her jewellery, just because they wanted to visit Goa! Unbelievable!
This consumerist culture has made materialistic fulfillment our top most priority, which inevitably makes us to persistently focus on what we don't have. The reality of life is that, "we cannot have all that we desire all the time". Unless we develop a satiety for materialism, we will not be able to move on to higher spiritual needs. The first step towards this goal is to count our blessings. Do we count our blessings?
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