Respect food in good and bad times
Dr Dhananjay (Jay) Datar
Once I was invited to discuss a business alliance. The client was a wealthy businessman. Our meeting was set in a luxurious hotel. The person preferred to meet me over lunch. He greeted me and ordered a variety of expensive dishes, drinks and desserts including various delicacies of eggs, chicken, mutton and seafood accompanied by ice-creams. I thought it unnecessary to order so much food for only two people.
But I couldn’t express my disapproval as I was a guest and, moreover, a small trader. What really hurt me was that my host tasted only a few bites from the dishes and the leftovers were thrown out. When the waiters were carrying away the unconsumed food for throwing into the trash, I felt sad. The discarded food itself was sufficient to feed at least three families. But no one really seemed to bother. The hotel had nothing to do with the leftover food as they had received the full payment of the food. My host also was totally unbothered as he was only interested in business talks. It was pathetic to witness the waste of food and also money.
The incident reminded me of a touching memory. My father had been working for a Dubai-based foreign company. When the project was finished he was discharged. He searched for a new job and another company employed him. Before joining the new assignment he came to Mumbai to visit us. Unexpectedly, his company didn’t grant him a visa in time and he had to spend the next six months in unemployment. The situation in our home soon became grim. All his savings were spent on daily expenditures. Finally, the moment came when there was no grain in our cellar and no money in our pocket. But my parents remained resilient. They had encountered such challenges in the past.
My mother had the habit of storing some grains and pulses for any adversity. That day she managed to draw a fistful of rice from her grain bank and cooked simple but delicious dal-rice for us. She made us pray before taking the first bite and said, “Boys, life teaches us in many ways. Only a hungry person understands the value of bread. We should always thank the Almighty and respect our food whether in adversity or prosperity. Remember — never waste a single grain as it is enough to feed an ant.” I have never forgotten her words. Even today, our family and company follow the strict rule of never wasting food.
Friends, according to a report by the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations, one-third of the food produced globally for human consumption annually (approximately 1.3 billion tonnes or valued roughly at $990 billion) gets lost or wasted.
I think everyone should remind themselves of an apt quote of Mahatma Gandhi — “There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.”
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