Food For Thought

11 May 2011 Food For Thought

sirsi_marketA radio drama/semi-romance built on sound gathered near Sirsi, India. Two American travelers, brought by chance to a tiny Indian farming village, see the deep connection local people have to their food. How will that connect the travelers to one another?

First aired: Spring Semester, 2011 ·





[Indian music]


[taxi door shutting]

So, sir, is this your first time in Mumbai? Are you from America? You look American. You’re definitely American, I think. And you said you were going to Hubli, right? Sir, that’s a long trip. I used to work there for a while. Actually, you two remind me of these Americans I met over there, it’s pretty cool story, actually, and I’ll tell it to you. Apparently, they met on a plane from Bangla to Hubli.

[plane flying overhead]

Flight attendant: Hello sir, what would you like for lunch? We have chicken or Indian vegetarian. 

Man: Uh, vegetarian, please. 

Flight attendant: And for you, miss?

Man (to woman): Hey, yo, what do you want?

Woman (to flight attendant): Oh, chicken, please. 

Woman (to man): Thanks.

Man: No problem. Oh, what was that you were listening to?

Woman: Oh, she’s this really amazing speaker. Buschana Karandi-Kar, who I recorded back in Bangalore for my radio piece. 

Man: Radio? I’ve never met someone who works in radio, that’s... that’s really cool.

Woman: Thanks! I absolutely love my job. I’m Julia Keasely.

Man: Nice to meet you. My job is actually kinda similar. I write for this travel blog, and I’m headed to Hubli right now to make a sequel for my India blog. You must’ve read it. I’m Mark Epstein.

Julia: Mmm, nope, sorry. 

Mark: Oh. Uh, well, so what brings you to India?

Julia: I’m making a piece on food security. Last week, I recorded in Maryland, and then I recorded in Bangalore, and now I get the chance to go to Kumta.

Mark: Wait, food security? What’s that?

Julia: Well, it’s basically a combination of all the factors that contribute to world hunger, like the affordability of food, the amount of food produced, and the ease of food distribution. It’s really important for countries to increase their food security because currently, about a billion people in the world don’t get enough to eat. That’s one in seven people!

Mark: Oh, I gotcha. So you’re going to India to interview starving children and tell the world how horrible that is.

Julia: No! I mean, sure, people are suffering and that’s why it’s important, but the issue is so much more complex than that, and if you’re going to be offensive about it, I don’t think I want to continue this conversation.

Mark: Oh, sorry. I really didn’t mean to offend you.

Julia: Hey, if you’re not convinced, I’ll play you a clip from the Buschana talk. It was really good. Here, take my headphones.


Buschana: You all are children of plenty. You don’t know what the famine is, what the drought is. I remember, as a child, as a six-year-old, we had a huge famine in ‘72. Our agriculture policy -- I’m talking about policy -- it’s pre-dominated by our embarrasement, by our anxieties on how to feed ourselves. All that affected. This is a real, real Indian dilemma, and I am very happy to see all of you together. I’m sure if we can put our heads and synthesize and energize this issue, I’m sure we will come with some kind of answer. Things...

Mark: Wow, she does sound really inspiring. You know, that got me thinking. I know a great place for you to do your radio piece. 

Julia: Really?

Mark: You know where Sirsi is, right? Well, the villages surrounding it grow and produce food. It’s pretty much their entire source of income. It’s so far off-the-road, I bet no media has ever been there. It’d be super unique.

Julia: Hmm, that could be interesting.

Mark: Yeah, yeah. I bet your audience has never seen...

Julia: Heard.

Mark: ...right, heard sound from a rural farming village in India.

Julia: But I think I’ll stick with my original plan. I’ve arranged for a car to take me from Hubli to Kumta on the coast to see their rica 

What, are rica nuts an important food source or something?

Well, no, but they’re a major cash crop in the area and are really important to the agriculture. People chew them as mouth fresheners after meals, kind of like a mint. The tradition is thousands of years old and has a ton of cultural significance.

Okay, I gotcha. Still, the village will probably be more unique. Like I said, I’m going there when we land. Won’t mind sharing a cab.

I think I’ll stick with Kumta.

Oh. Okay.

[plane flying overhead]

[dramatic violin music]

Julia: What? What do you mean, there are no more cars? I had one reserved.

Woman: I’m sorry, but there was a mistake. Don’t worry, though, I have arranged a solution for you. 


Woman: A gentleman reserved a car to take him to Sirsi and has kindly offered to share this car with you.

Oh boy.

The driver will take you both to Sirsi, drop him off, and you can go on to Kumta. He’s in that car. Over there.

Mark: Hi, Julia!

Julia: Of course. Hey Mark!

Mark: We’ll be going to Sirsi, then on to Kumta.

Julia: [yawns] I’m so tired. I’m not quite on India time yet. 

Mark: Eh, I’m kinda tired, too. But it’s so worth it to stay awake. India is just such a gorgeous country with...

Julia: [begins to snore]

Mark: ...uh, okay, you’re asleep, never mind.

[Indian woodwind music]


Julia: Huh? What? What just happened?

Driver: Ah, sir, madam, so there appears to be some sort of problem with the car. But worry not, worry not. I should have it fixed in no time.

Julia: How long is this going to take? I have an interview in Kumta tomorrow! Where are we anyway?

Driver: We are actually in Hal???, madam. It’s a small village an hour from Kumta.

Julia: Oh! That’s not so bad. I might as well get some sound while we’re here.

[birds chirping]

[people chattering]

Julia: The road is unpaved, and the soils red and dusty, but I guess that’s because it’s the dry season and-- ooh, what’s that?

[car door opening]

Mark: Whoa, wait up! Why are you so fast?!

[children singing]

Mark: I think we’re in an elementary school. Not sure why they’re sitting in these two rows, though.

Julia: Shh! Mark! I’m trying to record!

[children continue singing]

Teacher: Excuse me, can I help you?

Julia: Hi, our car broke down over there, and we heard the children singing so beautifully, so we came running. 

Teacher: Oh! That was the Sanskrit prayer before the midday meal. Oh, and I’m terribly sorry about your car.

Mark: Wow, you speak English very well, if you don’t mind me saying.

Teacher: And I should! I’m the English teacher here ???. My name is 

Mark: Nice to meet you. I’m Mark, and this is Julia.

Julia: Hi, nice to meet you.

Teacher: Nice to meet you.

Mark: I’m here to write for my travel blog, and Julia’s here to work on a radio piece about food. 

Teacher: Perhaps you can talk to the villagers here and they will happily give you more information for your stories. Ooh, and if your car is still broken down, it would honor us if you would stay overnight in our village!

Julia: Oh, no, you’re too generous. And we’re not planning to...

Teacher: No, no, please! Where else would you go? Please, it would honor us very much.

Mark: You know, it’s hard to deny the hospitality here. I really think we should take her offer.

Julia: Mark, I have a meeting tomorrow. And besides, the driver said he’ll fix the car in no time. 


Driver: What is this nonsense? I was sure that that would fix it.

Julia: On second thought, we might have to take you up on that offer.

[Indian music]

Driver: You know what, sir? I’m glad that they found a place to stay. They ... all afternoon. You know, I can’t stand when people watch me work. They just keep asking and asking when the car will be fixed, you know?

[footsteps crunching through leaves]

Mark: Oh, look by that tree! What are they doing?

Julia: It looks like they’re chopping down coconuts. Reminds me, I got this really interesting interview on the bus in Bangalore from this guy who grew up in a rural village. Listen to him talking about the coconut trees. I’ll admit, the quality isn’t really that great. I’m not sure if I’ll end up using it.

It’s an Indian concept of something that’s useful to you should not be thrown away when it stops being useful. Coconut uses hemp for rope, the leaves for thatching the roof, use coconut milk, coconut oil, cococnut trees are ?? in these parts. It’s part of the culture. We do not throw ?? of ??.

Mark: [chuckles] Don’t throw away the parents. You really love collecting sound, huh?

Julia: Yeah. But isn’t it fascinating how much they can get from that one tree?...

Julia: They must be ?? nuts! Look at the piles surrounding them, though. I wonder what they do with them all. 

Mark: Yeah, sure is a lot of shells to get rid of. 

[tools hitting dirt]

Hey! Check it out! They’re digging in that field over there. See the way the earth is cut into those giant steps? I saw that in China, too. It’s called terrace farming. Those steps help retain water when it rains and they also help prevent soil erosion.

Julia: Whoa, imagine the man-hours that go into cutting those terraces. Oh hey, you see all those little brown bits scattered throughout the field? They must be ?? nut shells we just saw. They’re using them for mulching.

[straw rustling]

Mark: Hey, look over there! Looks like they’re using that stone cylinder for crushing straw. That thing is huge! No wonder they need an ox to pull it. 

It looks like so much work for a simple task! I mean, in the US, I bet there’d be a machine that you could feed straw into one end and after a few minues, you’d have crushed straw streaming out the other end. Everything is so mechanized these days. I mean, there are even tractors that drive themselves. 

Wait, what?

Yeah! Check out this clip from a farmer I interviewed in Maryland.