As newspapers are flooded with reports on the looming food crisis and the sky-rocketing food prices and how China and India are contributing to the phenomenon, my mind wandered towards the differences in the very act of serving food. In India, whenever people gather for dinner in the home of family people, inevitably you have your mothers, aunts, sisters enthusiastically serving food. Even when you are full till your mouth, “a little more” has to be served and lapped up by you. Almost all of us have heard “बेटा थोड़ा और लो ” at our family unions. As far as I understand, this is not so in Western culture. There people are supposed to eat as much as they can or like. There is hardly any motherly pressure to stuff yourself.
As I think, I feel that the act of “a little more” is symbolic of certain things. For most parts of the last few centuries and even now, India remains a poor country with extremely low per capita consumption of most food items. Offering “a little more” food, I believe, is a sub-conscious way of expressing prosperity. The act is symbolic of the fact that “we are well-to-do and there’s plenty in here.” At the same time, this act also symbolizes another deep-rooted value in Indian culture – that of generosity. The way our motherly figures literally force you to down a few more bites symbolizes that “There is enough and you can have more than you want. It’s all there for you.”
It is quite interesting how basic physical needs, over a period of time, form the fabric of a community’s culture. While in the West, the abundance of food, made it a hygiene need, in countries like India, the abundance of food could possibly signify prosperity.