Until a few decades ago, the life in the village was really tough. Despite continuous hard labor in the fields, we didn’t even have enough to eat. The main staple food for people in my village used to be corn, wheat and millet. Not everybody could afford to cultivate paddy and hence, to have a rice-meal was a rare special treat. Moreover, wild potatoes and wild vegetables/fruits often used to be the alternative sources of food. Probably due to the scarcity of food supplies, we had learned to make best use of what we had. The vegetable oil was one of the most expensive items in the kitchen, yet people were able to sustain for a month or so with just over a few hundred milliliters of mustard oil. I still remember my late mother often borrowing vegetable oil from neighbors in a small flat bottle measuring two or three fingers up the bottle and that would be enough for the family for weeks. But although we were literarily poor with no enough food, I think we were healthier than what we are today. Our diet hardly contained unwanted calories and fats and even if they had, we had enough physical activities that helped us burn them. So the lifestyle diseases we see today were never a public health concern during those days.
Today, I think we have become comparatively rich, in the sense that we can now afford to buy whatever we like: eat in expensive restaurants or bring home any food stuff of our choice. Moreover, rice has become the only staple food today firstly because of its abundance in the market and secondly because of our greater purchasing power. So our diet today contains more calories than what we can burn. I have realized that due to rapid socio-economic developments and advanced technology, we are now becoming mentally active but physically lazy. We don’t have enough physical activities that can keep us physically fit. The quantity of oil and other fatty food items we used to take in the village during our childhood days have also now doubled due to their availability in the market at affordable prices. As a result, so many lifestyle diseases such as hypertension and diabetes are now becoming increasingly common not only among those living in urban centers but also in the villages. Heart-attacks, brain-strokes and obesity are becoming more common among the population. What makes the matter worse is that most of us do have our own cars and we don’t walk even a kilometer in a day.
Back in the villages during olden days, there were no roads and people had to physically walk for hours or days to get to the nearest town or to get to the neighboring villages and that kept them physically fit. Because of all the hardships people had to endure during those days, our parents and grandparents were all strong. For instance, my father-in-law is now over 73-years-old but he still looks very healthy. So sometimes I wonder if certain degree of poverty can also be beneficial, in the sense that people won’t be able to eat more than what is needed for their body. But during those days, the kind of food we used to eat was purely organic and that could also have contributed to a healthy lifestyle. Whatever the case may be, I have realized that the dream of the poor and the rich can never overlap. The poor would always want to eat and become fat like the rich whereas the rich would always want to diet and do physical exercises to become as thin as the poor. This is exactly what is happening to us today. If you go for a morning walk, you would find many people jogging or running along the highways trying to shed off the extra fats from their body and become slim and healthy, while on the other hand, some poor people are struggling to earn more money to be able to eat as much as the rich can afford. This is an irony of life.