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Invisible Injustice - 82

Invisible Injustice - 82

Gandhiji once said “To the hungry, God appears in the form of food”, and let me add “To the satisfied, food becomes worthless”. This is how people behave with regard to food. We all know how a human being behaves when he is hungry: down through the centuries millions of slaves worked in the most inhuman conditions only for food; millions of soldiers in both World Wars and many others took up arms for feeding their families; millions of women became sex workers for food and other essentials in life; the same is applicable to millions of mine workers and landless agriculture labourers. History is replete with incidences of hunger forcing people to sell their children or even to be cannibals. The situation of the vast majority being hungry still persists. Even a single hungry person is a national shame: Invisible Injustice.

But if a hungry human has options in food items he will go for the tastiest and most palatable ones and he will eat it to his full satisfaction; otherwise he eats whatever he gets. Once he is satisfied, even the tastiest food becomes worthless. That accounts for the huge amount of food wasted in the star hotels and public eating places.

Both extremes are undesirable and primitive in their manifestations. It shows that an ordinary man does not think beyond satisfying his hunger and taste. Satiating hunger is fulfilling the physical satisfaction of energy requirement for living and working, whereas choice of food is satisfying one’s taste and mental satisfaction. Till the last century humans ate and drank under these two principles: satisfying hunger and satisfying taste.

Vast of majority of people in India are still remaining in the first category and their hunger situation doubled up by their irrational attachment to rice and wheat as their staple food (rice and Wheat Based Hunger in India) and I have shown in my last write up (Substitutes for Rice and Wheat) how hunger can be eradicated by adopting a number of tuber crops as staple food, provided people get rid of the undue attachment to rice and wheat.

Hunger and taste satisfaction is related to mostly physical requirement. Humans also need brain and mental development for which about 20 proteins forming amino acids, 14 vitamins and about 30 minerals are required from the first moment of conception to his last breath. We have seen people with various levels of intellectual and mental deficiencies. The main reason for these deficiencies is the lack of sufficient amino acids, vitamins and minerals. That is the challenge we have to face in going beyond “Satiating Human hunger” or the challenge of making people to realize that they need to incorporate food items providing amino acids, vitamins and minerals. We need a combination of foods or daily diet which will contain average requirements of energy, amino acids, vitamins and minerals. Thank God a proto-type of the same was initiated by the government of India itself.

On 4th November 2017, the “World Food Day”, the Government of India declared that “ Khichdi” be the “Brand India Food Globally”. On that day over 800 kg khichdi was prepared as “World Food India Event” in a bid to create world record and to popularize it as a “Brand India Food Globally”. It was prepared by renowned chef Sanjeev Kapoor who was roped in as brand ambassador of the “Great India Food Street” for the three-day event organized by Food Processing Ministry (FPM) along with Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). Attached here are two clips of the same. Unfortunately hardly any publicity was given to this event at the national level as used to be done in many other national events in our country. As it happens in anything that concerns the Poor and Hungry who are the least and the last to be remembered: Invisible Injustices.

         Basically khichdi is similar to Chinese way of cooking. The people in ordinary families in China cook everything in one big vessel called wok or kadhai (Hindi) Chinachatti (Malayalam). Whatever they want to cook or should cook are put into the same vessel with enough spices and condiments including meat or fish of any kind. Basically Chinese are omnivores.

Khichdi at present, as we all know, is a cereal based semi-liquid preparation in which one can incorporate pulses, vegetables of all sorts (leafy, root & immature pods and fruits etc.) as shown in Fig 1. In Fig 2 the main chef Sanjeev Kapoor (with sunglass) with his assistants and other invited guests are seen. It was a National Event about which there was practically not much publicity: people take food too much for granted: Invisible Injustice.

The greatest advantage of khichdi is that it can be prepared ‘all-in-one-cooking’ instead of the traditional meal in which each item is cooked separately, taking much more time and wasting cooking fuels. In the khichdi everything is cooked in one vessel at the same time. Also, in the khichdi type of preparation, it is possible to add everything required to make a meal balanced in all nutrients. 

Fig 1 shows that it contains, different types of vegetables including leaves. After cooking we can also mix fresh and chopped onions, garlic, tomatoes, coriander leaves, radishes, cucumbers and such salad items along with fresh or dried grapes, dates and chopped fruits of any choice in fresh form. Chopped fruits are added after cooking in fresh form in order to take advantage of vitamin C which is lost in cooking.  Thus we can make the khichdi really and fully balanced meal. We can add any type of pulses single or in combination with others. Going beyond the conventional recipes we can also add any type of meat in minced or ground form, fried small prawns or shrimps to make it non-vegetarian. We can add into khichdi any type of spices or combination of them.

In the traditional khichdi we use mainly rice as the base food item. It is possible to replace rice with broken wheat or with other cereals or millets or a combination of different cereals and millets. The most common dish like upma can also be prepared in the form of Khichdi balancing it with all types of vegetables and fruits as mentioned above.

My proposal to overcome hunger due to grain shortage in India is to replace the cereals and millets with tuber crops either partly or fully. Chop the tubers of one or different types into very small pieces; chop also a mixture of vegetables (leafy, root and immature pod and fruit types) into small pieces, choose any type of pulses including soybean and cook them together with spices of one’s choice and taste. The dried pulses and tubers may have to be soaked in water over night before cooking. Thus the grains can be easily replaced by tuber crops partly or fully and along with different types of vegetables we can prepare excellent khichdi which will be balanced in nutrition. The water content of the khichdi can be adjusted according to one’s choice. That is the real meaning of going “Beyond Satiating Human Hunger” into fulfilling the requirement of nutrients other than energy.

It is very important that we eat food to satiate our hunger.

But it is equally important to eat correctly and a balance diet.

Advantages of khichdi to the poor

1. Khichdi preparation takes much less time: the women folk of the poor, being engaged in lot of tiring manual work the whole day, need some rest. It is poor-friendly in time requirement.

2.  The price of fuels of any type is sky-rocketing and the reduced use of fuel in khichdi preparation will reduce considerably expenses on fuel. Khichdi is poor-friendly in fuel need.

3.  Cooking requires only one vessel as against the traditional method of cooking different items in different vessels.

4.  Use of less vessels save water in the washing of cooking vessels.

5. Well prepared khichdi is a balanced food which is very crucial to the poor who are exposed to many physical and mental nutritional deficiency diseases. Better health and disease free life gives them greater opportunity to work more and better to earn more income.

6. Their children will have better development both physically and mentally and to perform better in their day-to-day activities.

7. The taste and palatability of khichdi can be adjusted according to the liking of family members by adding sugar, jaggery, garam masalas, minced and powdered forms of meats, mushrooms, small prawn and shrimps, shredded chicken or ducks etc., especially if they are available only in limited quantities and need to be shared among all equitably.

8.  Similarly the poor can add all limitedly available items like fresh milk or milk powder, beaten eggs or various kinds of nuts, dried grapes, ghee etc. if they are available especially in limited quantities.

9.  If oil is available we can fry all the spices and condiments first in the kadhai and then cook all the items together to make the khichdi tastier.

10. Satiation of hunger and fulfilment of nutritional requirements will not depend solely on rice or wheat or any other traditional food items or ON THE AMOUNT OF MONEY ONE HAS.

11. Khichdi will help people to overcome their hunger and poverty which are the greatest curse of our country.

12. With better nutrition children will be able to study better. At present vast majority of the children of the poor in India have various degrees of mental under-development due to several nutritional deficiencies? They are unable to study well and thereby remain under-educated, underemployed and are forced to live below-poverty-line perpetually.

Obstacles: The greatest obstacle in accepting tuber crops as staple food and khichdi form of food preparation and consumption will be the feeling of low status (human respect) among the poor themselves. People attribute great importance to the type of food they consume in their social status. They feel shy and inferior to eat anything other than rice and wheat which is supposed to be the food of the elite. They want to imitate the upper class people in their food habits also. They are ignorant that food items other than rice and wheat are better in nutrition. In fact the elites, who stick to the rice and wheat food items are fools and they too suffer from malnutrition and end up in the same hospitals just like the poor.

Feeling hungry and living in hunger are entirely two different things; probably me, the writer and you readers, have never experienced the life in hunger. Hence we live ever in a kind of apathy towards poor people living in hunger and poverty. Hence hunger the greatest evil in the society continues to reign in our country. It is not enough to speak for the hungry but find ways and means to eradicate hunger. Tuber based khichdi is one such practical suggestion.

  Suggestions to remove obstacles:

1. All those who are concerned with poor and hunger should promote and popularize khichdi as our “National Brand India Food”. All the members of social work organizations including the religious congregations should show examples to the poor in preparing and consuming khichdi at least once a day or at least on few days a week.

2. Prepare khichdi with a mixture of cereals and tuber crops and distribute to the people in gurudwaras, temples, churches or any other religious institutions instead of the traditional food items cooked and served separately in different eating plates.

3. Promote khichdi whenever and wherever food is distributed to people in public functions.

4. Give a lot of publicity to correct ways of preparation of khichdi and consumption through local and national media public or private.

5. Many church religious congregational personnel are specialized in media; they too can popularize khichdi through media apostolate.

6. Introduce khichdi star hotels and public eating places way side eating place at subsidized cost. The subsidy should come from the fuel, time and human effort saved in cooking and serving khichdi.

7. Promote tuber based or cereal plus tuber mixed khichdi as mid-day meal programme in all the schools. At present most schools are struggling to get enough rice to provide the children mid-day meals in schools.

“If anyone feels for the hungry and the poor,

let him first eradicate hunger among them

by promoting our National Food Khichdi”

(The writer is retired Professor, XIM Bhubaneswar.  Email:  )

(Published on 05th March 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 10)