|   Sep 30, 2016

My friend, Meena’s daughter Priya has won first prize in an essay-cum-poster competition at inter-school level. Indeed it was a very good news. Meena wanted to celebrate the occasion. It was decided that they will have a celebratory lunch that Saturday. Priya’s school worked only half-a-day on Saturdays. Meena requested me to help her out with the lunch. I very readily agreed.

Come Saturday, I reached her place around noon. My friend, the proud mother has ordered for food from outside, as well as prepared a mountain of food, enough to feed an army. She has ordered the favorites of teenager’s food like pizzas, Burgers, Nachos, Pastries, Ice-creams, potato wafers, Aerated soft drinks, etc. She has cooked Fried Rice, Shahi Paneer, Kheer, etc.  Looking at the large spread I enquired about the number of guests. I was shocked when she replied that only five of her Priya’s friend are invited for the party. The decoration for the party was also very lavish. Her daughter’s prize winning essay-cum-poster was displayed on an Easel, which was decorated with colored crepe ribbons, balloons, etc. A life-size photograph of Priya along with the award was also displayed. I found it all a bit overboard, but who am I to opine. I took the opportunity to read the essay and was really happy that in the effort of preparing for the essay, Priya has learnt so many facts. It was a beautiful essay, full of facts, very interestingly presented, a very emotionally moving poster representation. Meena admitted that a lot of hard work has gone into the work. Both the parents had done a lot of research collecting facts and figures. Priya had also put her heart & soul into the work.

Priya and her friends arrived at lunch time. Oh! The squeals & chatters of teenaged girls. Six hungry girls attacked the array of food, happily chattering, munching, slurping and giggling. Soon, the satiated friends departed to their homes. Priya also went to her room to freshen up. She made me promise her that I will remain long enough to hear about her whole excitement at winning the prize. Soon she came and wanted to clear the leftover food. I asked Priya to bring out containers in which the leftovers can be segregated. She gave me a surprised look and both mother-daughter started laughing. Meena just waved her hand carelessly and said, “Put everything in a large garbage bag, to be thrown away later by the maid servant”. I was shocked. I suggested them to give away the untouched food to some poor people. Pat came Priya’s reply, “once you feed the poor, every day you find them begging outside our gates. Best is to dispose it off in the garbage”. Meena said that they never ate stale food, so they never store cooked food in the refrigerator. Eating fresh food is the only healthy way. Why eat stale food when we can afford fresh food every time.

I was so shocked to hear such words being spoken by so-called educated people. What was most shocking is that,  the topic of the prize winning essay-cum-poster competition was “WASTE NOT, WANT NOT”. Priya had chosen the Title, “Say No to Food Wastage”. The poster depicted four severely malnourished children with their thin arms raised to grab a piece of bread embedded in the sky. The essay is full of quotes like, “Hunger never saw bad bread”, “throwing away food is like stealing from the table of those who are poor and hungry”, “3000 children in India are dying daily due to starvation”.

I was so thoroughly disgusted with everything that I just said a curt bye and hurriedly left their place. In spite of having all the facts with her, still a teenager like Priya thinks nothing wrong with this huge sinful wastage. Her mother is so flippant. There is so much of difference between being literate versus being educated. People like Priya, her parents are amazingly literate but totally uneducated. The purpose of having so many co-curricular activities at school level is to make children aware of their surroundings, culture, traditions, etc. Apply these awareness to understand the problems existing in their society so as to arrive at some solutions for the same. Unfortunately, faulty parenting can do a lot more harm than the goodness taught by the whole world around you. I could have offered to take the leftovers to some orphanage, but would that help? The fault here is with the attitude, “I am rich enough to waste or I can afford to waste”.

On a lighter note, maybe I should request Priya’s school to conduct a competition where the whole family should starve for a whole 24 hours, while surrounded by food. Whichever family manages to do this, should be declared a winner. Then maybe they will understand the pangs of hunger or maybe not!  

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