‘Stay hungry, stay foolish’ said Steve Jobs and the world applauded. Yes, this is the desirable side of hunger… so we know there is some good in hunger. It makes the world’s imaginative folk with a lot of vision do what must be done in a perpetual state of yearning. The bad and the ugly sides turn and face us when imagination and vision wither and shrink because their owner is unable to think beyond food.
Food. Yes, when I say food, I mean the sort of food that doesn’t make a credit card tap its chin and murmur, ‘Hmmm… this was exotic at a price that makes the world turn its head!’ So I am not talking of a less known Greek salad served with the best French red wine in a restaurant with a décor that was visualised by some master designer whose thought process never forgot to include a Walter Knoll piece! I am talking of a basic form of food that has the power to make a child sit up in class and learn the three R’s without dropping into a food-deprived coma.
Classroom hunger isn’t a mere wish to excel in academics but a state that prevents a small child from focusing on the lesson for the day because all that his mind can think of is some food on a plate. I had visited a small hamlet in Western UP and found that this village of barely two dozen houses had the neatest possible lane leading to a small primary school. I went there and saw the teachers sunning themselves in the open veranda. ‘Where are the kids?’ I asked.
One of the teachers opened her eyes and said, ‘They will be coming in an hour for their midday meal.’
‘What then?’ I asked.
‘Then we will all study for a couple of hours.’
And just as that teacher had predicted, the small kids did come in, had a hearty meal, and then sat down for whatever they were to be taught that day. The headmistress told me that the pre-lunch time used to be full of inattentive spells where the children just kept looking towards the kitchen. So they had taken a policy decision to prepone the midday meal by a couple of hours and call in the children to start their day with a full stomach. Now this isn’t done anywhere else in the nation… but is surely a good idea to think about.
Yes, food matters. Because hunger matters.
A hungry mind needs to be fed the best chunks of information and viewpoints, but it opens its doors only once a full stomach orders it to. So hunger for knowledge becomes meaningful only once the hunger for food is satisfied.
The WFP website throws at you some really alarming statistical bits: ‘Some 805 million people in the world do not have enough food to lead a healthy active life. That’s about one in nine people on earth… 66 million primary school-age children attend classes hungry across the developing world, with 23 million in Africa alone.’ There is no dearth of statistics and figures to make the bravest person whimper and sit down in a state of shock… but then sitting down in shock isn’t going to be helpful to anyone.
I think it is a good idea to hunger for statistics because a stats-fed prosperous individual or company or organisation or even a nation is then primed to move out and make sure that the children of the world are food-fed before they are expected to shuffle into a world of basic literacy.
Obviously then, the first solution that the world needs to pay heed to is a preponing of the midday meal in schools so that kids are not expected to eat large chunks of knowledge and information on an empty stomach. The second idea that I would favour is to saturate the stats-hungry populace to catalyse them into action.
12 November 2014