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Saturday, June 30, 2001

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In a land of plenty

HANIFA GHOSH

Once upon a time, in a remote part of the Indian subcontinent, there lived a tribe of people called the Tonas. The Tonas were farmers and worked hard in the fields. Their hard work yielded them rich rewards in the form of abundant grain and they were soon prosperous. But with prosperity came misfortune.

The Tonas became arrogant, extravagant and wasteful. They forgot what it was to be hungry and most of them had never heard of starvation. There was enough and more and they could not understand that extravagance and wastage was wrong. They could have shared their good fortune with their not-so-prosperous neighbours but they did not think of it. The Tonas cooked more than was needed and the waste bins were overflowing with rotting, discarded food.

God was incensed at the wasteful ways of the Tonas and sent a curse upon their land. Bahubal, the spirit of strength hiding in every sheaf of grain, every plate of rice and every glass of milk, was asked to leave the land. Thereafter, the Tonas began to lose their strength. Their muscles became soft and flabby and they grew weaker. However much they ate they gained no strength or nourishment from their food. It was as if they were living on bran and chaff.

Their neighbours sensed that something was wrong with the Tonas and made preparations for war. The Tonas were too weak to even defend their land. In their weakened state all that they could do was to pray. They prayed and finally God spoke to them. He told them that they were being punished for their wasteful ways. The Tonas promised never again to waste either food or water. God relented and sent Bahubal back to their land but with a warning. Bahubal would hide in the last morsel of food and the last sip of drink and if even a wee bit of food was wasted, they would have to face the consequences.

Bahubal played hide and seek in the food of the Tonas. He would hide himself in the last sip of drink. People learnt to take just what they needed; just what they could eat. They did not waste a crumb of bread or a grain of rice. Children too learnt not to waste. The Tonas began to share their food. God was pleased and prosperity returned to the land of the Tonas and there was happiness all around.

The descendents of the Tonas do not waste food even today. One of the earliest things children are taught is that food is a blessing as there are many who go to bed hungry every day. The Tonas had learnt a lesson they would not easily forget.

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