G C Lichtenberg: “It is as if our languages were confounded: when we want a thought, they bring us a word; when we ask for a word, they give us a dash; and when we expect a dash, there comes a piece of bawdy.”

W H Auden: "But in my arms till break of day / Let the living creature lie. / Mortal, guilty, but to me/ The entirely beautiful."

Will Self: “To attempt to write seriously is always, I feel, to fail – the disjunction between my beautifully sonorous, accurate and painfully affecting mental content, and the leaden, halting sentences on the page always seems a dreadful falling short. It is this failure – a ceaseless threnody keening through the writing mind – that dominates my working life, just as an overweening sense of not having loved with enough depth or recklessness or tenderness dominates my personal one.”

John Gray: "Unlike Schopenhauer, who lamented the human lot, Leopardi believed that the best response to life is laughter. What fascinated Schopenhauer, along with many later writers, was Leopardi’s insistence that illusion is necessary to human happiness."

Art Spiegelman: "You know words in a way are hitting you on the left side of your brain, music and visual arts hit on the right side of the brain, so the idea is to pummel you, to send you from left brain to right brain and back until you're as unbalanced as I am."

विलास सारंग: "संदर्भ कुठलेही असोत, संस्कृत, इंग्रजी, बुद्धिवादी, तांत्रिक, इतिहासाचे, खगोलशास्त्राचे, आधुनिक पदार्थविज्ञानाचे, शिवकालीन व पेशवाईतील बखरीचे, अगणित ज्ञानक्षेत्रांचे, अशा वैविध्यपूर्ण ज्ञानावर लेखन- विशेषत: कवितालेखन- उभं राहत."

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Like Brahmins in the past, Wheat has Enslaved us

Girish Karnad says: “No one understood the sense of humiliation as Vijay Tendulkar विजय तेंडुलकर did.” (Frontline June 20 2008)

If so, I wonder if Tendulkar ever wrote anything about eating millet (मिलो in Marathi) because for most people of Maharashtra eating red coloured rotis of millet- if they did it- was one of the most humiliating experiences of their life. The year 1972-73 saw Maharashtra in the grip of a severe drought. For those who were alive then, even finding 'lowly' millet was not guaranteed.

Why don't Maharashtrians just say they did not like the taste of millet? Why feeling of humiliation? Do Maharashtrians discriminate based on what one eats the way they did (or do) based on what profession one’s ancestors held? For example, during my childhood at Miraj, eating rice was considered “feminine”.

Business Line reported on June 8, 2008:

Millet Network of India (MINI) has demanded that the Union Government include millets in the public distribution system, while announcing an ecological bonus to farmers growing millets. This will help the country address the food security and agrarian crisis…

… the two major advantages of growing millets were saving valuable water and ensuring the nutritional needs of the people…millet farming didn’t consume much water and has zero dependence on chemical fertilizers…Millets have 30 to 300 per cent more nutritional elements such as calcium, minerals, iron and fibre.

… millet acreage had fallen over a period of time due to undue focus on rice and wheat. From 45.9 million hectares in 1990, the acreage decreased to 31.5 million hectares, a drop of 35 per cent…”

In Japan, Tsubu Tsubu cafes across the country have millet dishes on their menu, recipes that suit modern tastes.

Millet and other `miscellaneous' grains were the staple food for Japanese across the country from ancient times until as recently as 30 or 40 years ago.

Yumiko Otani says: “Millet grains can expand and stabilise food supply; these grains can grow in poorer soil and colder areas compared to rice and wheat, and are resistant to aridity and climate change. They require less irrigation and fertilisers. Considering that Japan's self-sufficiency rate of food supply is 40 per cent (calorie-base) and that it imports more than half of its food from overseas, the country, in a way, could help tackle the world's food problem by changing from white rice to miscellaneous grains. By learning to supply foods to its own people, using its own land more efficiently, Japan can reduce pressure on farmlands abroad.

These grains are rich in dietary fibre, minerals and vitamins; contain both protein and vegetable fat, and are nutritionally well-balanced. Diets based on polished rice and processed wheat, on the other hand, can cause "hidden starvation" because they lose many of their nutrients such as vitamins and minerals.

The grains are more resistant than rice or wheat to diseases and pests, and are easily grown without pesticides. Post-harvest, they can be stored for a longer period of time.

These wholesome grains require a lot of chewing, and are rich in flavour and taste; it is easy to switch to a millet-based, no-meat diet.”

Urban Indian children prefer to eat only wheat and rice. My wife and I love to eat jowar but our son doesn’t even try.

Like Brahmins in the past, wheat and rice have enslaved us. Read an earlier related post here.

Picture Courtesy: The New Yorker 2008

Following caption is mine.

“We get it, Wheat - We urban Marathi speaking people owe our survival to you.”