THE VIDEOS OF PAKISTANIS BRAWLING amongst themselves over a 10 kg bag of Atta continues to linger in my mind. And it should ideally linger in our civilisational memory and in our active consciousness as an eternal caution. Of what exactly will happen in a society where Dharma is deliberately slaughtered. Although it was quite pathetic to watch people of the same country fighting with each other worse than street dogs over a bone, the inescapable outcome was inevitable. It just took about seven decades to get there.
The mess that Pakistan has created for itself was birthed in a womb that contained two toxic seeds:
1. An alleged fear of the majority Hindus
2. A separate country for a Qaum in which all are brothers
The respective consequences:
1. The “fear” translated into decadal genocides and forced, mass conversions of Hindus.
2. The Qaum’s brothers have been busy killing off each other during the same period.
But there is another way of looking at the shamble that Pakistan embodies. Pakistan is what happens when barbarism sanctioned by a book gets a piece of geography for itself and destroys the existing order of Dharma there. The three-part series in The Dharma Dispatch on the forgotten Hindu history of Pakistan contains a fairly detailed exploration of this destruction.
All the ancient, physical reminders of Hindu Dharma in Pakistan have been thoroughly annihilated and replaced by an endless cycle of violence, fanaticism and sectarian bloodletting, often aided and abetted by its political class. Let it be said without fear or favour: if you destroy Dharma, you won’t be able to replace it with anything better. Indian History is the surest proof of this truth.
Pakistan’s current food crisis, bankruptcy and nationwide chaos is simply a forerunner of its impending implosion. But what is really amazing is how a handful of families have led it to this hellhole and how they continue to not only remain scot free but lead a privileged existence. The food crisis they have created obviously doesn’t impact them — it’s the same old story of the tyranny that led to the French Revolution. But Pakistan is not medieval France, and when a “revolution” happens, the country won’t exist in one piece.
BY CONTRAST, INDIA TOO, suffered misrule under Nehruvian tyranny for at least half a century. However, even at the peak of socialist shortages, we rarely witnessed such scenes — people fighting over bags of grain. The opposite is actually true. A profound marker of this fact is Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Sastri’s heartfelt appeal to the nation to forgo just one meal a day so that the starving millions could eat. But the profounder fact is that Indians heeded the appeal. In just a few moving words, Sastri had touched a deep chord. Impulse begets impulse. This is Dharma in action. And it is exactly why such things have never occurred in Pakistan.
At its core, Lal Bahadur Sastri’s appeal tapped into a timeless Dharmic tradition of food, best elucidated in an aphoristic form in the Bhriguvalli:
annam brahmheti vyajānāt… annam na niṃdyāt tadvrataṃ
Food is Brahman… do not asperse food…
In the ascending order of importance in the Bhriguvalli, food comes first, finally peaking in Ananda (Unqualified Bliss). However, the primacy and sanctity attached to food was not merely a theoretical concept. Food abundance and food sharing is central to our lived civilisational experience, it is an ongoing cultural and social continuum. We raised a profound civilisation by first solving the most elemental problems on the plane of Darshana. Thus, in this case, food which lies in the realm of adhibhūta (the physical plane) was elevated to adhyātma (the philosophical plane), and it is this foundation of adhyātma which gives the justification for regarding food as God (as annapūrṇa, befittingly) in the realm of adhidaiva (the celestial plane).
India’s national litterateur, Dr. S.L. Bhyrappa offers a profound meditation on the Sanatana conception food in his highly underrated Jalapata (waterfall).
Nobody can give Anna or food as a bribe. Food multiplies in the home of the person who shares food with everyone including strangers. The one who eats the food will feel contented. He will bless the giver. The consumer of bribes will be destroyed. The giver of bribes will eventually fall into poverty. The value of food cannot be calculated. Bribe is essentially a vile calculation… Because a mentality of measuring rice (or food grain) with a monetary price has become pervasive, today’s world has been degraded… in a wedding, the peace that the guests who eat and feel contented is the only real blessing that will protect the couple.
No other civilisation or society has contemplated so extensively and at such depth on food as Hindus have done. In fact, none have grasped food as a realisation. The classic tome — in fact, the best work that portrays the Hindu tradition of food abundance and food sharing is Annam Bahukurvita.
Contrast this with treating food as merely a consumable or as an ingredient of Bhoga (sensual enjoyment). This immediately robs food of its most profound essence. As a consumable, the status of food remains at the bestial level. As an ingredient of Bhoga, it descends even lower — it becomes a deliberate and cold-blooded exploitation solely aimed at satisfying those fleeting moments that delight the palate. We can once again turn to Dr. S.L. Bhyrappa who tangentially illustrates this contrast. His blockbuster, Aavarana has a scene in which the protagonist, Lakshmi or Razia counters her son Nazir’s bigotry. Unable to answer her logically, he fumes at her and issues a borderline threat. Later, she prepares a hearty meal and feeds him with her own hands. This is what happens next:
Now, his tone was remarkably polite. Lakshmi looked at him and sensed a certain softness that was missing earlier when he had argued with her. He wasn’t the fanaticism-fuelled Nazir anymore. She knew that he didn’t understand the fact that the reason for this sudden transformation was the food that he had just eaten, mixed and served with love by his mother.
Even about sixty or seventy years ago, farmers in villages across south India would set aside a portion of their harvest and give it to temples, Mathas, etc. Only after this would they actually measure the remainder. In earlier centuries, merchant guilds and artisans would deposit a fixed quantity of their produce into what can be called an emergency granary. This would be used only during emergencies such as droughts and famines. Yet another system existed where food grain was stored for use during various festivals for performing annadānams — none of these profound institutions were run through the brute force of royal decree. The whole community considered it as their sacred duty. Happily, some of these institutions still exist in an endangered form despite and thanks to an alleged democracy.
In an era of asuric regime changes and mindless globalisation and faceless cash, it is essential to understand the deep linkages that built and sustained this culture and tradition of food sharing. Its erosion or absence in our active national consciousness will cause the kind of atta wars that we are witnessing in Pakistan.
|| annam brahmheti vyajānāt | annam bahukurvīta ||
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