Sunday, October 23, 2016


”In this plate of food,
I see the entire universe supporting my existence.”

– Zen blessing from Thich Nhat Hanh

We had our one-day Tai Chi camp in Lonavala, yesterday. At lunch break, Anand, a co-student and a friend, was sitting across me. The lunch was simple but delicious. In the warm weather, most of us consumed 2-3 glasses of butter milk, adding a pinch of salt or chaat masala. Anand was having it plain. So, I asked him, “Anand, you don’t like to add salt or chaat masala?”
That was a simple and straight question, which, normally, would have ended with an equally simple and straight answer… like, “No Gerry, I prefer it plain.”
But, Anand’s answer led us through a lovely discussion…
“I was, once, very fussy about the food on table,” said Anand, “I wanted it, always, as per my taste… If it wasn’t there on table as per my taste, I would crib about it a lot… But, it is not so any longer.”
“What brought about the change?” I was curious to know.
“My school-going daughter,” replied Anand quickly. “When I saw her making fuss over the food on  table, when I saw the frustration on my wife’s face, I realized my own folly and said to myself, ‘Boss, if you don’t’ change, she won’t’… So, ever since then, my entire attitude towards food has been that of gratitude… I look at the food and thank God for it… I remember the ones who have taken pains to prepare it, serve it… I think of the ones who go t bed hungry every night… I eat it for my survival and not for taste… I eat gladly whatever is laid on table, and I eat it with a sense of fullness.”
There was a small prayer written in Gujarati… It hung there up right over the food counter. “Annapoorni or Annapoorna is the goddess of food and nourishment,” explained Anand pointing at the goddess' name evoked in that prayer, “All cultures and religions have this practice of saying a small prayer before the food is consumed… The Christians call it Grace before Meal.”
Honestly, the food tasted even better after what I heard from Anand!

Did I eat for taste or did I eat for survival?

Did I eat gladly with fullness or did I crib and eat with fuss?

Incidentally, our Tai Chi sir, Rakesh, had conducted the entire practice session at a hall that belonged to an orphanage for children. Before leaving for our lunch, we all had delightfully watched those little kids sitting here and there holding their plates in hand.
Aaj kya special hai, beta,?” I had playfully asked a vibrant little-one while he was eating.
“Biryani,” the little fellow beamed looking at me.
A few minutes later, on our lunch table, the face of this little orphan flashed before me.  I could feel the gladness… and, yes, I could feel the fullness, too!
Here is the parting prayer:

For food in a world where many walk in hunger;
For faith in a world where many walk in fear;
For friends in a world where many walk alone;
We give you thanks, O Lord. 

Pic.: Dr. Lohitaksha Suratkal

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