This morning, I woke up to the New York Times and this horrifying, heartrending picture on the front page: a malnourished Indian girl, so incredibly thin it is hard to believe, being fed what looks like watered-down milk by her mother. The story talks about how 60 million children in India are malnourished.
Also in the New York Times and just about everywhere else: more news about Bernie Madoff, such a vivid example of the greed that, unfortunately, permeates our world today.
I am not religious, and I really am too cynical to believe that this will ever be a world where the bad guys get their just desserts and everyone cares for the welfare of everyone else. But more and more in these troubled times, I think, we are beginning to tire of extreme and ruthless greed and indifference. The Earth’s resources are limited, and when a few of us grab at too many of them, many, many others get nothing at all.
India and China have been all over the news these past few years because of their rapidly growing economies. Yet, these two countries are also home to the kind of poverty that most people in the developed world cannot even begin to imagine. What makes the poverty worse, if you can imagine that, is the indifference of those who have grown a thick skin to it.
A man begging outside Calcutta’s Dakshineshwar temple.
When Desi and I moved out of Thane, a city just outside Bombay, to study in the United States, a huge slum had begun to sprout up on a barren piece of land next to our apartment building. It was filled, like most slums in Bombay are, with migrants who pour into the city because there’s no livelihood in the villages. Soon enough, they find out that they have no value in the teeming city of 20 million either.
When I visited India a few years later, some former neighbors and friends proudly told me that a newly elected municipal commissioner had eradicated that slum and put up a beautiful pond there instead. No one, of course, knew what had happened to all those people who had made those slums their home. All they cared about was that they didn’t have to put up with all those “filthy” slumdwellers sullying their view of the polluted highway.
There’s something terribly wrong with that picture.
So why write about hunger and poverty on a food blog? After all, we are the people who celebrate food. And yes, food’s one of the most basic pleasures of life.
But when we cook and eat and revel in our fortune, let’s take pause to think about those millions of children around the world– including in the United States– who go to bed hungry each night. Those little girls we shoo away like flies when they cling to our feet in the local trains of Bombay, begging for a few rupees. And let’s think also of that skeletal girl in the New York Times whose face must have surely shocked millions of readers here, in the United States, and who will probably never ever have a full meal in her life.
Gandhi, who I often quote on this blog, considered indifference to suffering an act of violence. It doesn’t take much effort to make sense of that. Let’s all start by becoming more conscious of the world around us and reducing the waste in our lives so we can give more to those that never had a chance.
There’s never been a better time to do it.