Thoughts : Poverty : Overabundance and Deprivation

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I went to Johor Bahru in Malaysia with a friend this afternoon. When we passed the checkpoint between Singapore and Malysia, we walked on an overhead bridge towards a shopping centre. My friend pointed out some flats which we could see from our elevated position. They were really worn down flats. I told myself I wanted to check them out on my way back. I haven’t seen such sights of poverty and deprivation for a long time and inside my heart cried to see such a place.

Later we sat on a Malaysian bus to another shopping centre. On the bus, I listened to Malay music, carefully observed the people around and also looked at the houses outside. The whole environment was different from Singapore’s clean and well-to-do image. My heart cried yet again.

At night on my way back, I didn’t manage to check out those flats I saw. I will do so during my next visit to Johor Bahru.

While I was catching the 170 bus back to my home, I thought of getting a lift from my parents – i.e. meeting them at the busstop near my area to prevent myself from taking a 10-15 minutes walk to reach my house. I knew they were attending a wedding dinner at night. I also felt hungry. I thought to myself how good it would be if they could take away some leftover food back for me to eat! There are always leftovers at wedding dinners. But of course I knew that “taking away” food is not something that happens at the end of a wedding dinner! The food probably goes to waste. And such a glorious waste it will all be.

On the bus, I was thinking about all the great wastage of food there will be as a result of that great celebration and constrasting it with the poverty and deprivation I had just seen in Johor Bahru.

I thought, “How can I attend such grandiose functions or even perhaps have my own wedding dinner someday? How can I in good consscience be involved in organizing or attending such ostentatious displays of wealth and food knowing well that so many people in the world are literally starving to death every minute? How can I bear to see the eventual wastage of so much food in all these dinners and events? Who cares if it’s a big occasion we’re talking about? Others don’t even have food to eat…”

Yes I did mention “my own wedding dinner.” I did think quite a while about whether I would eventually have a big wedding dinner. Yes, it’s a tradition to have one. The event is about celebrating a very important event. I don’t want to play down the importance of the marriage ceremony. I think very highly of marriage. But that’s the wedding, the vows, the ceremony itself. One can still celebrate marriage without having a big wedding dinner.

I grew up being constantly reminded that I should finish up eating all the food on my plate at every meal. I remember being told about Ethiopia, the poverty and starvation there and how fortunate I am. But it seems that during big events, it’s ok to waste food. We’re after all celebrating! It’s ok to indulge in abundance once in a while – eventhough we know that so many are starving. What hypocrisy!

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