No! Absolutely not; I am not going to lecture about the different types of foods we have. But it is an insight that I developed when I lied in bed and had lot of greens while recovering from jaundice. During this time, for the first time of my life, I abstained myself from non-vegetarian and spicy food for a prolonged period of time. I survived on fruits, and it is about the very fruits and vegetables that I am going to write about.
Remember the time when your mother used to scold you for eating most of the fruits with their skins. ‘Skins contained vital vitamins’ she might have said. But after knowing how are fruits are treated while they are being transported you our neighborhood retailer and then finally to our home, I am sure no mom will ever ask to have the fruit, leave alone having it along with the skin. She will find it more comfortable to ask you to have a beer or supplements rather than having fruits or vegetables.
Before I start to write about the fruits, let me put across a simple question, what do we Indians deserve? The best or just anything that comes in the market. If the answer to the question is latter, then we are getting what we really deserve, the leftovers. Yes, the leftovers, not of other peoples but of chemical which are used to treat them. The same chemicals spread over the fruits to speed up their growth.
Let me illustrate this with an example. You would have noticed a white shiny powder layered over a mango. The powder is carbide, and it creates a layer of artificial heat over the unripe or semi-ripe mango, so that when they reach the cities they look fresh and yellow. Now this carbide has to be washed before the mango has to be consumed. It is an eight hour process where mango is kept under water overnight. But still some strains of the chemical remains. Carbide causes cancer and chess congestion. But still it is rampantly used all over the country, the reason, to serve the markets quickly, irrespective of public health and safety. Another reason is that the country still doesn’t have the best infrastructure and logistics to transport it mangoes, because the very ripen mango’s lifespan is 10 days. Something agriculture scientist must look on, but regrettably they haven’t. To void the gap fertilizer and chemical companies stepped in, the result we now have a potential poison in our food chain.
Mango is not the only fruit affected. While recovering, I had a hell lot of papayas. The big yellow fruit having bitter sweet taste. Once they had seeds inside them, and occasionally you would even stumble upon a small Ganesha idol; that was only few years back, the new crop don’t have any seeds. And when you cut the fruit, most of the time you’ll find the inner layer much softer than the outer layer and a thin coat of power on the poles of the fruit. Sometimes you can even taste the powder inside the fruit (I did get a different taste). I am still unable to figure out what they are putting up in that fruit thereby completely reversing its good qualities.
These are only two examples, and there are many more. In each food and vegetable we eat, there is some sort of adulteration. Cauliflowers have urea, parwal (Latin Trichosanthes diocia Roxb.) have green color (probably copper oxide) etc. Usually fruits and vegetable take at least a month to grow, but for the sake the profits it is only a matter of weeks now. The ugly truth is our very own food chain is laced with chemicals.
Now you may say that you have organic foods. Good! You can afford that and save yourself. But behold! I Indian groundwater is contaminated with arsenic, boron, magnesium and zinc. And these elements are not present there naturally. So every organic food is not safe as they are claimed to be. Better ask questions now about what you eat.
Now the pertinent question is ‘Who is responsible for this?’ The farmers as they want to earn more or the traders who want to sell more or the government who failed to execute the rules or us who kept demanding more.
Whatever might be your choice of answer, the onus remains on us.
© Tarun Mitra