The Silence of Starvation

I looked around me, there was food, so much food, and there was happiness, smiles, laughter and much more. But still, while the whole world feasts on their abundance, miles away Somalia bleeds and it’s bleeding till its blood burns dry. I just clutched my eyes tight with tears with helplessness.

I was back in Dubai, just in time for the holy month of Ramadan. It is always pleasant time to be in such a vibrant city. The whole city and all its businesses were gearing up for the holy month.

During Ramadan, the most amazing process is how the local people celebrate their Iftar’s which is the feast they open across to all their families and friend when they are about to break their fast. These Iftar’s are lavish feasts set for many people mostly from 20 to even 2000. The biggest attractions of the feast are the number of dishes which are carefully crafted and prepared for the feast.

While I was busy in the office setting up the brand communication catalogues, I got a phone call from one of my bosses who head’s the communications for the local region. I picked up and said hello… “Hey Vasanth, how are you Mr. Communications?” I smiled and replied for his concern and asked him what the news is about. He replied saying he is hosting a Iftar party for 20 of his very close friends and wanted to invite me for the feast. I happily agreed to the invite and said I will be happy to join him at the feast.

That evening, I reached the flourishing areas of Jumairah where there was a big villa lit up with all the cute LED lamps for the hold month. It looked amazing from far. I reached into the villa, and saw people walking all across the house, some workers carrying big baskets of roti, and some other wear carrying 3 baskets of meat and other things needed to serve the big feast. It was a lot of movement all the way. I slowly moved across the lawn to the big tent which was put up for the feast celebration.

I entered the tent and there was a big hello from the guests and I embraced them with a big hello and sat on one of the sides of the tent and looked around at the lavish arrangements which have been made for the feast.

There was a lovely welcome from the host of the feast and then we all began to eat on all the lovely dishes which were prepared for us. It took a lot of time to start understanding the dishes, because there were 90 dishes made ranging from 10 different types of roti, briyani, full Arabic dishes, to sweets and cakes and loads of different variety of desserts. I didn’t know where to start or where to end. But somehow I managed to begin and in a matter of 20 minutes I was full and couldn't move on any more with the rest of the dishes.

With a heavy bulge, I got up from my seat, and went ahead to wash my hands and call it quits to the eating caprice. While I was trying to walk a little in the green lawns of the villa, from a far distance, I saw the amount of food piled inside the tent. It looked like a mountain of food from here. I saw around the corner of the tent, where people threw their empty place. When I looked closely, none of the plates were actually empty. All the plates had enough food to feed two more people heart full.

I then walked across closer to see the place closely and in that 5 minutes I stood there, I saw plates arriving one by one, with full of food, pieces of mutton and chicken untouched and rice filled plates full. While food just got piled in front of me, my heart sank looking at what was happening in front of me. I remembered my dad say “Every seed of rice, is somebody’s labor and blood, never waste even a seedI saw what lied in front of me, and couldn’t take it anymore. I walked fast into the tent, and called on the host and asked him if he can do anything about the wastage which I was seeing all this long. He replied “Oh come on Vasanth, this happens all the time, we are all rich, nobody’s poor here, everybody’s rich and who’s going to take all this food, it’s an insult if I ask them to take this food”

I looked at him in repugnance with what I heard back from him. I couldn’t understand how people took food so easily. That’s right, when they have never been hungry, how will they know the pain and agony of the hungry? How much does this city waste on generous servings and abundant choices on feasts, even before the official 'Eid' Feast to celebrate the end of the fasting month? And how much food is really wasted at this time of theoretical returning to basics or religious asceticism and less, not more; and this while far away from here the Somalis are forsaken and denied the opportunity to break a relentless fast that they did not opt to keep this Ramadan.This is the worst draught the Somalis have suffered in 60 years, significantly at a time when the world is accused of wasting more food and resources than ever before. It wrenches my heart to see what all people there are going through at this time.
Back in Somalia tens of thousands have died in the last three months. In cities like Dubai, many people go most of their lives without knowing hunger.They don't know the hard labor which goes through in making this food available for them. Life and food are so easy for them. Little do they know that 'One person in the world dies every three seconds because of hunger’?

Campaigns in the Gulf regions such as Wipe Out Waste (WoW) look at how people can manage the buying and consumption of food in a more effective manner during Ramadan to ensure a clean plate and a clean conscience. This month (and for the last two months retrospectively) we are compelled to think about the suffering from hunger in Somalia especially while it undergoes its most devastating draught.

Every year more than 1.6 billion people around the world partake in the inspirational holy month of Ramadan, fasting from dawn to dusk, abstaining from food, drink and sexual contact. Only those deemed sick, elderly or travelling, or women who are pregnant, menstruating or nursing are exempted and can break the fast and either make up an equivalent number of days fasting later in the year, or if physically unable, they must feed a hungry person for every day missed. Muslims are aware that the month emphasizes not wasting food which is 'haram' (a wicked, shameful act) , and looking after, as well as feeling for the poor and hungry, is the virtue extolled by Islam now and indeed all year round. As stated in the holy Qur’an: “Eat and drink but waste not by excess, for God loves not the wasters”.

My hearty request to all the people on saving food:

  • Don't buy more than what you need.
  • Make sure your fridges are set at the right temperature - to stall food from rotting faster.
  • Eat leftover food; some dishes taste better the day after!
  • Buy food in smaller quantities and eat food before it expires.

Our Ramadan Thoughts are with the hungry, but what about its action?

Right now, the world is busy on spending for wars and feasts but struggles very hard to help the Somalis, including children, who are dying of a natural cause? Even the oil-rich Arab nations have not stepped forward in any coordinated decisive fashion to date. This delayed or slow-coming aid and relief effort is deplorable, and quite tragic, given that so many in the world are throwing away food and resources.

Arabs and Muslims around the world are not forgetting Somalia- as the juxtaposition is not 'wasted' on them that during the season of giving thanks for food and good health, and feeling the pain of others, Somalia is experiencing distress and devastation cause by a draught. They are malnutritioned to the point of starvation: their hunger goes beyond the daylight hours of the Ramadan fast, ironically something they would otherwise be partaking in as a Muslim nation.

People generally buy 30 per cent to 40 per cent more household products than they need at this time. Hotels and restaurants over-produce and supply more than the requirement. In Bahrain, ordinarily, food waste reached more than 300 tonnes per day, but this figure rocketed during Ramadan. Approximately 500 tonnes of food gets thrown away during the month of Ramadan in Abu Dhabi. The alarming issue, which also has serious environmental implications, has prompted the government to launch a drive to curb food wastage. According to official statistics, one third of the waste generated in the UAE is comprised of discarded food.

While Ramadan is Kareem (generous), the religion insists on no waste: Islamic preachers have called on Muslims to consider reducing personal food waste this Ramadan as part of their religious responsibility, as outlined in the Holy Qur'an.

I bid him a disturbed farewell and walked out with a heavy mind. I looked at the workers throwing baskets full of briyani into the garbage bins, gave a deep sigh and in a distance, I saw two little kids sharing a piece of roti with each other. “What comes easy in our hearts as kids, that essence of sharing, why does it diminish all that too soon Oh Lord?”

I looked at the huge lavish tents and looked around me, there was food, so much food, and there was happiness, smiles, laughter and much more. But still, while the whole world feasts on their abundance, miles away Somalia bleeds and is bleeding till its blood burns dry. I just clutched my eyes tight with tears with helplessness.

* I credited 10% of my salary to the Help Africa Foundation. I request you all to be a part of this movement. If not for the donation, at least help spread the awareness of wasting food to every other friend you might know.


IB7 said…
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SUB said…
that's really a sad story...that's the world of inequality we have created...

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