Illustration By Hasan Zaidi
Didi makes Golgappas
Everyone knows West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is adept at winning elections, painting and at singing Rabindra Sangeet. But only a few know that she is a culinary expert. Otherwise also, it is always fair to say that the Bengalis are known for preparing luscious fare and, like the French, they only discuss food at the dinner table. They then refer to their experiences about the food at someone’s wedding party or a friend’s birthday bash. They generally discuss how tasty the food was, and how many pieces of Rasgulla and those of fried fish one had gulped down at that party. Maybe, such stories are decade-old. Yet the Bengalis are not tired of referring to such yarns, though with a spin. The West Bengal Chief Minister, like any other Bengali woman, is very fond of cooking as well as of feeding others. She recently took everyone by surprise during her visit to Darjeeling. She suddenly halted at a roadside motel and began to prepare ‘Fuchka’ or ‘Golgappa’. No sooner had some locals learnt that Didi was at the food outlet and was making ‘fuchkas’ than they rushed to the spot. She also gave a lecture on how to fill in those ‘Golgappas’ with smashed boiled potato mixed with spices. She distributed those ‘Golgappas’ among some children who were outside the shop. Remember one has to appreciate her culinary expertise. Else, Didi may get angry.
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The mass protest in Sri Lanka must have woken up many rulers who feed their people with nationalism. That is exactly what the Rajapaksas who have ruled the island nation for nearly 15 years have done. The protesters laid siege to the Presidential house and forced President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to flee the country. The story starts with Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s brother, Mahinda, who won power in 2005 by projecting himself as a simple man with a rural background standing against metropolitan, westernised political elite in Colombo, capital of Sri Lanka. He assured that he would free the country from Tamil terrorism. Once he delivered that, he became a hero of the masses, especially of the Sinhalese, who are in majority. There was a surge of chauvinism, ensuring a second win for Mahinda in 2010. His brother Gotabaya won in 2019. Surrounded by charlatans, Gotabaya gradually became autocratic and his decisions put Sri Lanka in full economic meltdown. A teacher of political science in New Delhi has said, “What happened in Sri Lanka cannot be called a revolution. Yet, years of majoritarian rhetoric has had an effect. Gotabaya exploited resurgent Sinhalese nationalism. Given that the covid-19 ruined the economy of the country, the President failed to take decisions that could improve the situation.” Sri Lankan crisis may turn out to be a nightmare for authoritarian nationalist rulers across the world. In The Autumn of the Patriarch, Gabriel Garcia Marquez writes: “It is important that the law is not limited to the rules of the world, and that it is in the hands of the people of the world and the people who come to it.”
Feed the hungry
Millions of people across the world go to bed hungry. But India generates 500 million tonnes of farm waste and each Indian household wastes almost 50kg of food every year. Such loss amounts to Rs 92, 651crore annually. This has come to light in a survey done by the government of India. Besides financial loss, such waste damages the environment. According to studies, the loss of grain during harvesting, threshing, transportation and storage is quite significant. Earlier, it was 9.3%, but now, Indian Grain Storage Management and Research Institute (IGSMRI) has put it at 10%. A huge quantity of wheat and paddy kept on the floor of warehouses get damaged. The grain storage facilities available in the country are not as scientific as they should be. There is an interesting story about wastage of food in the Bible. When they had eaten their fill, John told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” So, they gathered them up in 12 baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten. Nonetheless, globally, 931 million tonnes of food (17% of total available food for consumption) are wasted. That can feed the hungry across the world.
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Two friends were roaming about Kaliasot dam in Bhopal, the capital of Madhya Pradesh. When one of them was about to fall into the water, another saved him. After being saved by his friend, the man said, “Where the hell you were when I was getting married?”