By Pushkal Shivam:
The impracticability of the task that I have chosen for myself is manifesting itself in a manner the difference between theory and practice does. Sure, last five days have made me conscious of an abyss of despair that underlies our society. And many keep their conscience intact by staying oblivious of this abyss. But this brutal spell of starvation is taking its toll on me.
Last time I had a meal which provided momentary relief from starvation was on Day 2, for which I had to shell out Rs. 30. The Rs. 32 strait-jacket has thrown my life off track. Starvation has atrociously subdued my thought process. The insatiable urge to use the idiom “that’s the way the cookie crumbles” while writing due to the presence of the word “cookie” is just one example.
Sleeping, with its own limitations, is one tactic which can be employed to evade hunger. The downside, though, is that hunger hits you harder when you wake up. To distract my senses from yearning for food, I have also tried reading. But starvation is a handicap. It impedes intellectual activities. As far movies, they have become a collection of scenes where the characters gather together to eat. Every moment reminds of the fact that those actually living on Rs. 32 a day are leading an accursed life.
At dawn, I cycled to a beach which is a few kilometers away from my college. The aim was to add mild physical activity to my experiment. The locality adjacent to the beach, comprising of bungalows and apartments, also has a settlement of fisherfolk on its fringes where I met Taniyharasi. Her family of four lives on Rs. 100 a day. She does not know about BPL/APL. However, she has a Ration Card which provides her rice for free. But she complains that the quality of rice is so poor that her family can’t eat it. They barely manage three meals every day. Her family’s daily spending is about Rs. 40. She has a voter ID card and has been voting for Jayalalitha’s AIADMK habitually. So much that discontent has now set in.
It is to be noted that food-grain entitlements need not necessarily provide nutrition. In fact, 45% of India’s children are malnourished. Also, the present definition of the poverty line does not involve nutritional standards.
With this thought at the back of my mind, I bought a packet of biscuit costing Rs. 15. Again, it was to be my ‘meal’ of the day. While returning to my hostel I lost my way, cycling around randomly until I finally discovered the route. I collapsed in my bed when my experiment had finally elicited adequate physical work minus food. Four hours later I woke up facing another onslaught of starvation. But the might of the remaining Rs. 17 was just not enough to brave it.