Thursday, June 16, 2011

Alberuni's India, alive-alive-o'

A few years ago, there were newsreports I blogged about the refusal of research visas to foreigners. Pratap Mehta pulls the threads of various issues together--research funding, FCRA, civil society, freedom--to illustrate how Alberuni's India lives... always afraid of the outside world, and I will add, always desperately anxious for its approval.

Pratap B. Mehta, That seventies feeling, Indian Express, June 16, 2011.

Rabindranath Tagore clearly did not belong to this India... where the mind is fearful and the head hangs anxiously; where knowledge is shackled by numbers, fettered by convention and measured by mediocrity; where the world of ideas lives in a cellular prison; where words come out from the depth of truth to be choked by outrage; where tireless striving is quite tired, by now; where the next sentence of the poem is probably too poetic and hopeful to make sense in our time (and not well-dressed enough in designer clothes); where our minds move in shrinking circles through labyrinths of convention and by-laws....

I want to move to Tagore's 'heaven of freedom.' Today.

Related posts from the past:
Back in Alberuni's India (but did we ever leave?)
Celebrating xenophobia (the second round)

Oh, and let's not miss this: Utkarsh Anand, Govt sets bizarre rules for foreign trips by judges, HC calls it mindless, Indian Express, June 16, 2011.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Annadata (innum) sukhi bhava

Annadata (innum) sukhi bhava
(May the person who is feeding me be even happier)

Why wouldn't India be Diabetes Capital of the world? We equate food with happiness, hospitality, prosperity and celebration. We also emotional-eat like other humans. And then many of us are vegetarians meaning that rice and other foodgrains, dairy products and other food that Ayurveda would term 'sweet' or kapha-boosting are a large part of our diet.

At the same time, we live with hunger. Not just people who fast (for social and personal causes), but people who don't have enough to eat.

Feeding others is part of both our social and spiritual/charitable lives.

But with growing affluence, has come competitive hospitality, and it appears that every meal must resemble a banquet. Hotels will not serve working lunches; to book a conference room, you must use the menu used for weddings--much rice, fried food and many desserts, even if no one can stay awake after that! And a wedding breakfast serves the entire Udupi restaurant menu, followed within three hours by a lunch that is like an exhibition of South Indian/other cuisine.

Guests carry their diabetes and hypertension meds along, pouring themselves into silk and satin, melting like an illustration of global warming... and waste most of the food. Or eat it and come home to complain of indigestion. Or eat it, as I do, guiltily--knowing it's excessive for me and for society.

What a waste! Of money, time, food, everything.

I think it's time we fixed this. My suggestions today:
1. An old favourite for Chennai weddings: Let people take home packed curd-rice with their thambulams. They can change into cotton and eat the lunch under a fan, calmly. Nutritious, cooling and cheap. The saved money can either go to the couple starting life together, or towards the child's education (for other ceremonies), or to charity (you can see for information on how to donate).
2. Serve fewer dishes to the very close relatives who travel for the wedding, and spend time with them while they eat. They will remember that with more love. The 30-dish feast served efficiently by strangers while the family is busy is less memorable.
3. Feed the poor, as Indians do on special occasions, but better still enable an institution to feed or take care of people on an ongoing basis.

Do you have suggestions? Leave a comment to share them. Let's do something about this wasteful excess.