Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Starving Indian Kids...

My friends here in Bangladesh refer to me being in the "clean plate club".  At every meal, no matter how big, I make sure that I eat every single grain of rice that is on my plate.   And if I'm physically unable to finish my meal, I make sure to put it away to eat for later.  This has been a practice of mine from ever since I can remember.  I was quite a slow eater in my early years (those who know me well are familiar with the tale of my daycare teacher yelling at me every single day at lunch), but no matter what, my mother would not let me get up from the table until everything was eaten.  Sometimes, dinner would literally take hours...but I had no other choice.  Thus, from a young age, my brain has been wired to eat everything that has been placed in front of me.

As I grew a little older and we took trips to see relatives in India, I became more aware of all the children who had no stable source of food.  One memory that I recall was eating in the New Delhi McDonald's and noticing that two young children, not more than 10 years old, was staring at us through the window from outside.  A great wave of guilt came over me, and I wrapped up what was left of my Fillet-O-Fish and french fries, went outside and handed it to the two boys.  As I saw how grateful they were with the little I gave them, I suddenly understood why wasting food is such an awful thing.

When I went to college (where tons of food are thrown away each day), I came across my first real opposers to this moral of mine.  "What are we supposed to do with this food?  I don't want it.  Do you want me to ship it over to the starving Indian kids? " they would say.  It was hard for me to fully explain what I had experienced in South Asia.  I would encourage people to not take as much as they couldn't eat OR just take it home if you went out to eat!  People thought I was a bit strange for being so uptight about this one thing.

So fine.  Waste your food when you are in America because it's true, the starving children aren't there to be a constant reminder of the millions of people who are dying from malnutrition.  However, in Bangladesh (wherever you are in the country) all you see is starving people the second you step outside.  So my question is, why do people waste food here in Bangladesh?  You can't finish your food?  Put it in a plastic bag or box and give it to the 6-year-old girl who is making an income working all day in the sun and hasn't had a good meal...well, probably in her whole life.  It would take anyone about 30 seconds at most to find that little girl or boy.

I know most of my readers are not in Bangladesh with me right now.  But wherever you are, the next time you can't finish your food, think about the millions of children in developing countries who would do absolutely anything just to have what you are about to throw away in the trash. 


37 comments:

ecomarci said...

hey supriya,

I feel ya. My parents never forced me to finish meals but as I grew older I hated seeing wasted food. Now that I'm back from Bangladesh it's almost compulsive how, like you, I will eat that very last grain of rice. It's a small reminder of how fortunate I am to not worry about food.

Donny said...

Hi Supriya,

Just finished catching up on all your posts. I was a Fulbright in 2007-2008, and recently was at the Fulbright Orientation in Washington DC. Got to meet Geoffrey Hiller there, and together we ran the Bangladesh country info session. I'm friends with one of your fellow Fulbrights, Samantha, and she and I talked a lot when I was on my Fulbright and she was getting ready to leave.

Hope you post some more before you leave. You've definitely had a tougher go of things there then I did. From changing your project entirely from Chittagong to Dhaka, to finding a place several times, and getting more intense sicknesses than I ever had. I'd like to read what your ending thoughts are as you wrap up. Hope things have gone well at ICDDR,B recently. I hope your spirits continued to improve over time, and that a lack of recent posts is because you're having less bummer days now.

Best of luck. I'll be thinking of you.

Donny

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