Motilal - Grandmother, Grandmother! I have good news. Yesterday the government announced this week ending the lockdown, 15 days been completed this week. Now I will go and purchase cauliflower and chicken.
( Announcement- "lockdown has been imposed again, stay home stay safe." )
Motilal- Oh no! All families are eating maad - Bhat and alu bhujia. We are bored with this food.
Dakago:- Today let's eat Sing Aara, let's go and collect.
Motilal- Where to get it?
Dakago - Kulhi muchet ( end of the road in the village) one tree is there, whose leaf opens in two sides, It's called sing aara.
Motilal - Oo goats feed on this leaf. We have not seen anyone eating, This is a non-food item and you are saying to eat it, If another food item is there then tell me.
Dakago:- We ate sing ara and survived our life… that time we were not knowing about chawle and guhum!
Motilal - You say chawle came yesterday only?
Dakago - Before we ate adi, arba, gundli, matkom tiki and many more.
Motilal - I didn't see anyone eating these things these days. What happened now?
After doing research at the Aatu village, Dakaba (an old man ) told me about food found 50- 60 years back. There was no information about potatoes, rice and cabbage and many more food items. Dakaba says jackfruit, mango, mahua, lowa (dumer), and tiril were the common food items of consumption during those times. These trees, fruits, flowers, and leaves keep dry for some days to survive. Old people used to cultivate edi, arbaa, and gundli only. The fruits available according to the season helped us to overcome hunger. Grandmother says- “In my childhood we ate dry mahua and satu.”
Some people say that before the food was grown by using fertilizer, organically cultivated food was available in more quantity. Old men says that 50 years ago eating fruits and leaves used to keep their bodies healthy and energetic. My grandfather is healthy and strong compared to the new generation. Very few items are bought from the market. Even oil was produced at home. Now, the population is increasing and forest food is declining. At the same time rice production is increasing. Government’s policy of the PDS system provides only rice and wheat at low prices to all families.
When we are sick, then our community and doctor have not told us to take nutrition food like sahjan, sing aarah, siti, and many more available in villages and forests. There is huge unawareness around nutritious indigenous food. These foods have more nutrition yet are left out. One reason for this neglect is also that experts and our community people are not taught about indigenous food knowledge. The people of the villages are also less educated and less knowledgeable about indigenous food nutrition. This is just self-knowledge and not published or recorded anywhere.
According to me, some people have good education and research about indigenous food. These people should take responsibility and raise awareness among local villagers. For some time, belief in indigenous food has been going down. It is true that local food items get very difficult and are difficult to cultivate. Indigenous food and forest food come from local areas. We can include it in our daily diet.
Some good work is also happening in many places, those who are aware are converting local food items to new modern items. For example, women farmers of PRADAN NGO are making madua biscuits and laddu. I also share with people about the food we find around our home. So that everyone knows and becomes aware about natural food. If we try to increase the awareness then people will change.
Note:- This article was written as part of Project Kurumutu, a skill development space organized by Sinchan Education and Rural Entrepreneurship Foundation
About the Author:- Motilal Hansda is an undergraduate student from Ranadamga village of Jamui district, Bihar. He works as a volunteer in Lahanti club and teaches children in his free time.