Apr 242012

As a kid the mother used to have issues with me eating healthy stuff. (she claims she still does). For mom, healthy food included beetroot curry (ugh), carrot sambhar (double ugh), and some equally horrendous concoctions. Needless to say i used to protest. quite vocally at that. But the one thing I never did (and never do) is waste food. There were two reasons for that.

The first was, and this is where parents cause severe trauma to their kids :D, the story of Annapurna – the Goddess of food. Annapurna, loves, so the story my mother told me, feeding children. If children did not’ like the food she ‘created’ and provided, and waste it, she would be heart broken. She would then sit by the banks of the river and sob. And when that happens there will be no food for anyone. This image of the goddess crying was so overwhelming, I ate every terrible green that landed on my plate.

The second was, and used when i went past the stage of being impacted by Goddesses crying, the story of starving children. You can’t waste food, my mother would say,  think of all the starving children in India. That worked for a good two decades or more. One fine day I grew up. When my mother had cooked something obnoxious -boiled doodhi with basic tadka – i rebelled. Said No. I want tasty food. She said, think of all the starving kids in India (i was 33 or so) … and then the cookie crumbled, the tube light came on, conciousness dawned, and I asked he “if i ate the damn thing, how will they eat it”.

This morning, as news filtered in of the successful Agni V launch I had a sense of deja vu. The murmurs began.  I almost expect an issue long rant from Arundathi Roy – shouldn’t India be feeding her poor? Yes, of course. There are no questions about providing food security for the most disadvantaged. But, IMO physical security is equally important. The best periods of growth have been in an era of peace and stability.

But just because you won’t test launch the Agni or not launch satellites doesn’t mean you will feed more people. The two are linked the way everything is linked. But, is there a linkage between spending on science and tech and hunger? Are people going hungry because India is spending on moon missions and ballistic missiles?  Is hunger about lack of money or is it something else ? People aren’t going hungry because there is no food.

People are starving because the PDS system, storage facilities and the supply chain is wonky. NO matter how many curbs you put on expenditure on technology and defence, our people will still starve unless that is fixed. It is glamorous to bleed one’s heart over the cost of scientific R&D, but curtailing it will no more impact hunger, than me eating that terrible doodhi…

Bleeding hearts are needed, but leaky brains are quite something else…

Agni – courtesy NYT