I was in Hyderabad, India, from May through December, 2009. I returned to the US for January through March, and by April 2nd was again back here in Hyderabad.
I spent the last ten years studying - getting a degree in journalism and following that up with an MA in Integrative Studies. I wrote many articles and essays, wrote two books, and organized a national conference. I came to Hyderabad to organize the second conference.
But, something happened along the way. One Sunday morning in September 2009, my son and I decided to cook imli rice (rice made with tamarind pulp and other good things like sesame seeds, peanuts, green chilies, coconut) and take it to a nearby slum and distribute. We cooked for about six hours on one small stove on the floor of our kitchen here in Hyderabad. We never did get a "gas connection" which would have allowed us to get the regular two-burner gas stove used here in India.
We made about 120 rice packets, put them into a bucket and went with the bucket by auto rickshaw to the slum. Getting out of the rickshaw, my son set the bucket on the ground and began to distribute the packets of rice. Within seconds, scores of women's hands were stretched out in front of him. Within another minute, two women had been knocked to the ground in the pushing and shoving to get close to the rice packets. Another minute after that the women grabbed the bucket from my son and helped themselves to the packets, sometimes breaking the packet and sending rice flying in the air.
I cannot put into words what I felt. It was all over in five minutes. I simply could not tolerate witnessing such hunger. It was just right in my face. Within one week I created my new NGO, Hearts Healing Hunger. Feeding 120 people just was woefully inadequate for me. It had to be more. I began dreaming that I must feed one thousand people every single day. This remains my plan.
See, we can write all we want about the politicians, the national leaders, the state leaders, decrying their lack of empathy for the poor and deprived segments of humanity. But in the end, where are we, and more important, what is the status of those poor and deprived except the same? They remain hungry as ever, poor as ever, cold as ever in winter with not even a blanket, wet as ever when monsoon rains come, hot as ever in their tents or mud and tin huts when temperatures reach 40 degrees celsius and beyond. Is it not inhuman to allow any human being to live in these conditions in the 21st century? Something must be done, and waiting for politicians to do something concrete is not the answer.
Despite huge obstacles, and above all no funds to even begin this project, I am simply determined to move ahead. I lie awake at nights wondering how I can find the funds, whether I could also bring some water and soap to wash the person I am feeding, whether I could bring scissors to cut their hair, as these most neglected human beings certainly have no money for a visit to the barber. I lie awake at night wondering if the food I cook will be tasty enough for them, and wonder over and over how only one meal a day will suffice them. I want to find the people who are silently starving and bring them back to the brink of life, and move from there to three meals a day and giving them a life of meaning, of love, of mental peace, and even of some joy. Is it too much to do? Perhaps. Some tell me yes. But.... just let me try. My dearest friend in the world once told me, if you want to do something bad, think many times before doing. But... if you want to do something good, don't hesitate even a second.
I want to start this project in Darjeeling District, Siliguri Subdivision, West Bengal. Actually it is North Bengal near the top of what is called the "chicken neck," a thin stretch of land stretching up from the southern body of land that comprises most of West Bengal. On the east is Bangladesh and Bhutan, to the north is Sikkim and above Sikkim is Tibet, and then on the west is Nepal. Refugees never stop coming into Darjeeling District from these neighbouring states. Most come looking for a way out of acute poverty in their country of origin. Or they come as political refugees from Tibet. Then, already living in Darjeeling District are the original inhabitants of the land, the adivasis. A friend in Siliguri told me that "the adivasis are starving." How can it be? How to accept it? So then, is the work not cut out for us, or at least for me?
The four major problems in Darjeeling District are (1) malaria, (2) tuberculosis, (3) HIV/AIDS and (4) human trafficking. Well, we can work on these problems. But first, it is about simply feeding the people. Isn' this the first call of duty for us all?
I want to start feeding five people on May 27th, 2010. It is just about four weeks from today. It is all I can personally afford right now. The day is Ananda Purnima, the night of the full moon. Perhaps I feel that it is an auspicious day to start. We will have a website up soon. http://www.heartshealinghunger.org. On the website will be a link to this blog. Why? Because I have a need to tell you, to write somewhere, to the world, about this project of feeding the people. I want the world to know what it is like to feed the poorest of the poor, the most neglected, downtrodden, half-naked, starving humanity. Our world is already facing water crisis in many regions. Food shortages will follow close on the heels of water shortages. To face the reality, it means that millions may starve, may perish, due to lack of food and water. Instead of waiting for that day to come, let me, let us together, start to feed the people. It may be only a few, it may be only a hundred, or only a thousand. It doesn't matter. We are not to worry about short or long term costs and benefits. Our job is only to serve the suffering humanity in whichever way we can.
So please, do not mind if I take the liberty to write here on a regular basis about my experiences in feeding the hungry people, just a handful of them, in a remote part of the world called Darjeeling District, North Bengal. I am hoping and believing that more and more of you will join me in this work, this glorious work, of feeding the hungry human beings.
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