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Wednesday, 9 November 2011






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Hand to mouth can be meaningful and fun

Last week media in India and the Philippines were falling over each other to take credit for gifting the seven billionth baby to Mother Earth. Major global media discussed the impact rapid growth of population had on the earth, her nation economies and the future of humankind. "The consolation is that, it is not only a mouth that is added that needs feeding, but also a pair of hands and a brain that can make a contribution to making the food", added an expert featured on a talk show on the subject.

Beyond means

The same media station that discussed the population question and its impact on the earth's scarce resource-base went on to present another 'lead' story on the success of the first ever 'Formula One' fast car racing event held in India that week. Several business magnates and Bolywood celebrities were seen and heard wowing that it was a great victory for India to have held such an event. In Cannes in France, global leaders were discussing the European financial woes, who must bail out whom. The discussions featured the debts they had got into by living beyond their means.

There were demonstrations in Greece and in Italy, against cuts in welfare and the loss of jobs and opportunities for making a living. In Oakland, California a man was killed hit by a smoke bomb canister shell fired at the 99 percent protesters of 'Occupy Oakland'.

'Occupy Wall Street' is still on with protesters in many US cities still holding on to their 'camp-out' stance weathering the initial impact of the approaching winter season. In this midst another global media network, purportedly belonging to the 1 percent, had re-launched its campaign against 'global slavery'.

Many featured programmes on the use of child labour in manufacturing, forced prostitution and of substandard working conditions were featured. It was left for the 'Occupy' protesters to talk about social injustice and inequalities of a 1 percent running the affairs of 99 percent of humanity, on this planet.

While Iraq, Egypt, Libya and several other 'democratised' nations are struggling to hold themselves together seeking new levels of equilibrium, Syria is fighting its own battle to stay out of NATO's trajectory of seeking another war zone in the mid-east.

Most powerful

The Forbes Magazine released its feature of the 70 most powerful people in the world in a special edition. US President Obama was leading the pack from the front. He bumped last year's most powerful person, China's President Hu Jintao, to number three in a somewhat of a surprise ranking order, considering the mounting debt burden US carries with China. According to a website analysing the ranking, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is the youngest individual on the list at number nine.

He jumped up 31 spots from number 40 in 2010, making him this year's biggest gainer. Interestingly, two criminals made this year's list as well; Joaquin Guzman Loera, the billionaire head of the Sinaloa drug cartel in Mexico, came in at number 55; and Dawood Ibrahim Kaskar, the head of an organized crime syndicate in Mumbai and a suspected terrorist supporter, was ranked number 57.

Bailing out

When we were young, we learnt that a 'hand to mouth existence' meant that you were poor. It was to describe those who could not afford to buy their food and meet their needs. The impression created was that it is the result of a Karmic process and they had to be satisfied with what little they had. Such subsistence existence was a sure qualification for receiving welfare in the form of the 'dole' or 'Samurdhi' as we know it today.

Yet the signs held by 'Wall Street protesters' point us to a different scenario. "Banks got bailed out - we got sold out", they say. It certainly is not those who had a 'hand to mouth existence' that get the dole or welfare perks today in the global financial and business arena.

Lovely and fresh

A family of friends who visited my abode in Kiula in the Deep South of Sri Lanka recently were treated to lunch. We in a lighter vein called it a 'hand to mouth' meal. It consisted of vegetables picked fresh from the garden. They were all organically grown. The nearby grasslands adjoining the bird sanctuary provided pickings of cow-dung and giliciriya leaves added the rest of the nutrients. The rains which came down the week before after three months had added a refreshing freshness and the green canopy had now become even greener. Kids in the party had fun picking the wambotu, bandakka, malu-miris and the takkali for their lunch. They even brought in rabu grown in pots, for the soil here does not support its healthy growth on ground-beds.

The gotukola sambole was made with the kids making a game of counting the leaves each of them picked. They wanted to see who picked the most and a winner was declared. The fish was brought from the 'Madal' drawn at the nearby Kalametiya beach, with the usual vendor on his bicycle bringing it to the doorstep. Once again, there was excitement, for the kids were busy identifying the different small fish in his basket. It was education for them and a poison-free meal for all.

Potent force

I am sure this is a scenario most of us Sri Lankans living in rural areas experience. Many of the city folk I know are also beginning to grow their own patches of organic greens at their homes and summation of such can become a potent force and movement by itself, for we live in an era when with mounting population 'food safety' defined as availability with nutritional value is more than a fashionable statement. It is fast becoming an integral part of 'our kit for future survival', apart from any possibility for future 'growth'.

Here we do not need waste much time counting out 'food miles' or the 'carbon foot print' of what we consume. We do not need to seek 'bail-outs' or the 'dole'. It's a simple but meaningful hard work ethic where 'share market' type fall-out gains do not matter at all. It's indeed a 'hand to mouth existence' but one which brings out new values, new meaning and most of all, it can be real fun and educational too.



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