Whether you’re in a lavish apartment in a big, sprawling city, or in a small hut in a tiny village, there’s one beaming question in your mind at the end of a long, tiring day – what’s there for dinner?
In the middle of the 70s, when an emergency had been imposed in India, I was still a little kid living in Amritsar, blissfully unaware of the gravity of the situation around me. But the implications of the emergency soon hit me when I saw our struggle to get daily supplies. On one lucky day, we somehow managed to get a sack of potatoes. And that led to our family eating potato curry for every meal. But soon enough, I got sick of it. After all, I was a kid who was living in a bubble away from the politics that was going on outside. I was content in the green fields and fresh air of Amritsar. So one afternoon, I refused to eat the same potato curry again. At that time, Biji, my grandmother, told me that what I was eating that day was ‘curry potato’ and not ‘potato curry’.
It was only then that I realized how important it is for us to value food. But over the years, I realized that it is equally essential to get nutritious food. I was fortunate to have had a family that took care of my nutrition when I was growing up. Even with all my tantrums of not wanting to eat healthy, my family ensured my nutrition needs were met.
But sadly, this is not the reality for millions of children in India. While they somehow manage to secure food by either begging, or eating leftovers, they are often undernourished or malnourished. Sadly, the rate at which children are suffering from stunting or malnourishment cannot be captured accurately in numbers. But the reality is brutal nevertheless.
Truly enough, with India recently ranking 100 out of 118 countries on the Global Hunger Index is testament to the crisis that we are currently facing.
This crisis is something that has pained me ever since I can remember.
When I joined hands with Smile Foundation in 2011, I wanted to do my bit for the land that gave me everything that I am today. I don’t live in India, but I wanted to fill the void that not living here leaves in my heart. We had only one vision – to help the millions of malnourished little ones in India get nutritious food and education, and a chance to be able to make their lives in the present and the future, better.
That is how the campaign ‘Nutrition for Education’ was born. I’m a bachelor, but now, thanks to Smile, I have 22000 kids. And together, we are trying to give these champs a fighting chance to make a constructive, tangible, and realistic change in their lives.
After hours and hours of brainstorming and through several collaborative efforts and initiatives, we have been able to bring several stakeholders together. On one hand, we have been able to bring in the section of the society which could help; together with my children who need help and have been taken under the wings of Smile Foundation. We knew that both these worlds are as different as they can be, and it was a challenge when we began, but we wanted these two stratas of the society to interact with each other, learn from each other, and in the process, help each other.
By the grace of God, and the nonstop work of the countless members of our team, we have been able to host events for the past few years and raise funds to bring smiles to innumerable faces. But more than that, we have been able to successfully raise awareness for the cause of nutrition. We have also been able to tap in the different layers of the society to sensitize people on how the right food enhances the quality of education; on how it’s time we move from adequate food to the ‘right’ food!
However, our journey towards a healthy India has only begun, and this Children’s today, which also happens to be my birthday, I am strengthening my efforts for this cause. Are you joining me and pledging your support?
(Through ‘Nutrition for Education’, Smile Foundation is working towards putting #EveryChildInSchool. To know more about this initiative, please visit smilefoundationindia.org/me)