I am obsessed with these video clips posted by "Village Food Factory" in the past couple of days, which I came to know from The New Yorker article.
The Indian Filmmaker Who Made His Dad’s Village Cooking a YouTube Sensation
When I watched their video titled "FISH BIRIYANI Prepared by My daddy in my Village" below, though, I realised I learned something beyond fun and excitement.
Once fish biryani was ready, the children who had helped "daddy" and other apparent neighbours brought their plates to feast the shares of the special steamy delicacy. Particularly, the daddy's wild way of eating a whole one fish looked irresistibly delicious!
After everyone on the site (which is outdoor) was fully satisfied, a certain quantity of food remained in the deep pot. Daddy and the son Arumugam, who is an amateur filmmaker behind their YouTube video series, further served the leftover into a couple of dozens of aluminium packages, each holds around 1-2 people volume. Then they loaded those packages on a car and brought them to a seemingly downtown area, where needy people, including children, waited eagerly for their daily meals.
Although I might be missing out due to the lack of understanding in the local language, I noticed that everyone looked in so hurry taking the packages that did not bother to say or even show the gesture of (i.e. joining palms together) "thank you" to them. However, the "daddy" and son seemed not to care about that and were also busy distributing the meals, without putting on an air of "we are doing something great." The scene looked quite symbolic to me.
Talking about myself, I had often felt the difference of culture when I did not receive the word "thank you" from my Indian family members whenever I brought some gifts or did some help. Because in Japan, we are taught to say "thank you" on every occasion when someone does something which could benefit you.
However, I have started realising; is the "thank you" we are expected to say in every possible occasion have a heart in it? Don't we think just by saying "thank you" would get over the thing in the way that we are allowed to forget about the kindness or care we have received afterwards? In fact, Japan is also the country where we are forced to express "gratitude" in the form of sending expensive gifts each other, called "Ochu-gen (summer gifts)" and "O-seibo (winter gifts)," even though we are habitual to say "thank you" all the time.
When I was thinking about such things, a tweet indicating the Japanese people's personality attracted my attention:
It says, while nobody was showing up when an eatery was serving free food for those who need, since the moment they have started charging 300 yen per meal, people are literally flooding into the dining. A meal for 300 yen still would not generate profit for the body; nevertheless, it is essential for letting people contribute whatever little sum (as per the Japan standard) to have them maintain their self-esteem.
The topic recalled the conversation with my Japanese friend, who visited us over the weekend, over the dinner. We were exactly discussing the massive food losses and poverty problems happening in all over the world, including Japan.
One of our ideas of countering the food loss was, "exchanging the food with light labour work." If you have an experience of working for convenience stores or supermarkets in Japan, you might be aware of the set expiry timing each day for every dairy product, including ready-to-eat (cooked) lunch boxes, sushi packs, packaged rice balls, and bread products. Those are simply discarded in a giant bucket every time, even though they are very much edible. I think we can distribute such good but "commercially not acceptable" foodstuffs to those who need, in exchange of 30 minutes to an hour light labour work, such as cleaning around the shop. This way, we can promote free food cycle without compromising the person's self-dignity, by establishing the system in a way where anyone can choose to pay either money or labour. In other words, in the food cycle, everyone is equal.
Am I a dreamer?
Well, let's know this fundamental fact; anyone can suffer inconvenience or restriction tomorrow, or in the next moment. The kind of flood sustained in Kerala or alike disaster can happen in your area also. Otherwise, you may face an accident or get involved in a crime that incurs you an injury or bedridden situation and due to which, you may not be able to stand on your own. It's not a shame to seek someone's support when necessary. Just saying "thank you" will work as we follow in Japan.
On the other hand, let's support others whenever we can, but entirely from their perspective and with a pure passion for genuinely contributing to them. In such situations, we should better not expect to hear "thank you" also. The conclusion here is, let's follow "daddy's" style; those who help and take help should be equal. I think this is what I learned in my 15 years of being in India.
The world will be much better to live if each of us can feel the society as a giant version of "family." We can take help anytime without hesitation, and at the same time, when you become strong enough or come to have more than others, you can return to the society always. Everyone has the right to live.
I think now is the time to revise the value of the community.