Siddharth Agarwal has been walking the length and breadth of India from close to a decade now. His most ambitious walk has been the Ganga walk where he along with a few others during different legs walked 2500km from where the ganges meets the ocean to its source in Gangotri… Following is a rumination around food from this experience…
As a nice little thought experiment, think of ‘food’ and try to trace the first accompanying thought or memory that pops up in your brain (or taste buds). Walking thousands of kilometres across India without a tangible support mechanism invites various questions & concerns. Well wishers often worry about food (or the lack of it). What if one dies of hunger? Isn’t it possible to carry more food and fuel? (As if the 20kg bag was not enough already).
What is the need to even undertake such a journey?
All journeys are not linear, neither do all journeys involve physical displacement. But every journey needs fuel, and we have the ability to decide the kind of fuel that we’re going to rely upon. When the walk along the Ganga started, my choice of fuel was curiosity for stories and a passion for the environment, and for food, i put my trust in the compassion of people.
There were no food supplements or back ups, no routine and no diet, yet i went hungry only for a few days in a 6 month period and fell sick a couple of times. Food is often measured in quantity and hygiene. Compassion takes a back seat, in daily life and in adventure. Money comes into the picture, purchasing power decides and creates hierarchy (often unjust).
What started as an exercise and belief in goodness of people, turned into an experiment with asking, as a practice. Food ceased to be a physical mode of nutrition, but bonds created over food became a spiritual fuel that somehow satisfied the needs of the body.
What meets the need best? An offering of thick – dung fire – hand made – chapatis from the fishermen in the middle of a forest. A freshly harvested and roasted maize by farmers who stopped me because they thought it was too hot to walk. A mix of yoghurt + sugar & red ants + chapatis by a family that insisted i eat from what they had. Denial of food on asking at a religious town, where you could only buy.
Did you get an answer to the little thought experiment yet?