By Suma Varughese February 2011 Could the rising food prices compel us to grow our own food? Everyone was seated around the dining table waiting hungrily for Mom and Abhijit (being a boy, Mom was determined to ensure that he learnt how to cook and help in the kitchen) to bring in the food. As they brought in the steaming dishes, Alka sniffed hungrily and stopped puzzled. The aroma was not as delicious as it usually was. The family looked on rather glumly as Mom unveiled the rotis, dal and mixed vegetable. “Abba,” protested Dad, “how come this plebian fare? You know that Sunday dinners are special. Mom looked apologetically at the row of accusing faces. “I am sorry, but my household budget has taken a severe beating and I don’t think I can come up with too many festive meals anymore. Does anyone know what the price of onions, tomatoes, cooking oil, dals and other items are? I am traumatised,” she exclaimed, throwing up her hands in the air rather dramatically. Dad quickly drew up a chair for her and patted her back mollifyingly. “Ok,ok, don’t worry. Dal and roti is wholesome fare and let us just be grateful we have it.” Mom nodded emphatically. “Exactly. At least we have food on the table and let’s face it, most of the time, we don’t stint at all. But what about the poor? How are they going to manage?’ Everyone looked concerned. There was a great deal of fellow feeling for the underprivileged in the Sathe family, all of who did some thing or other to support them. “Do you know,” continued Mom, “that Gauri, our maid, has not bought vegetables for her family for the last couple of months? And now she says the doctor has told her that her blood pressure is low because of her poor diet.” Oh, dear,” said Aji. “That is so tragic. We must do something.” “Mom,” said tender-hearted Nisha, “Cut Rs 100 from my pocket money and give it to Gauri as a vegetable allowance.” “Great idea,” said Abhijit. “Count me in too.” “Me too,” piped Alka which was really heroic of her since she did not get as much as her older siblings did. The elders beamed. “Children,” said Mom, “that is really so sweet of you. But are you sure? Remember, this can’t be a one-off thing. If you are giving it, you give it for keeps. We cannot take back what is once given; people feel very let down when you do that. Are you willing to take a pocket money cut for keeps?” The kids swallowed hard and looked at each other. Abhijit waved his hand. “Mom, so I’ll see one movie less or eat one pizza less. It can’t compare with veggies for a family. “Same here,” chorussed Nisha and Alka. Dad held up his hand. “No need for you children to make all the sacrifices. We will cut Rs 50 from each of your pocket money and the rest of the Rs 150 I will put in.” “I second the motion,” cried Mom. After the euphoria had settled, Mom once again looked pensive. “I know all this is part of the upheaval caused by the passage from kali yug to satyug, but it seems so unfair that the poor have to pay the price for the excesses of the consuming class.” Ajoba patted her comfortingly on her shoulder. “It’s hard to bear, but perhaps this is the breakdown we need to move into a breakthrough. Who knows, perhaps more of us will move into villages instead of suffering in slums, more of us will start rooftop and window sill gardens and so on. This could be the beginning of the transition from industrial chemical largescale farming to small scale organic farming.” Mom looked delighted and Dad applauded. “I think you have hit it, Baba,” he cried. “This is what happened to Cuba when it was hit by a US embargo. When they stopped getting produce from outside they starved. Then they began growing their own food. Today, this is one country which is totally organic.” “Hurray,” cried Nisha. “Mom, when are we starting our own garden?” ”Just now,” said Mom determinedly, getting up to wash her hands.
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