First of all, the funding info: #RationChallengeUK, @ConcernUK. Here is the link to the donations: Subhadeep’s Ration Challenge UK 2021
Here we are, the end of Ration Challenge 2021. I found the experience emotional and humbling, and an eye-opener how privileged and wasteful our society is whilst in other parts of the world people starve. When I go back to our ‘normal’ way of life, on the surface things will perhaps seem how it was before the challenge started, but I won’t be the same person coming out of this experience. Today is all about reflection on what we have achieved, what we’ve learned, what we will do with this insight and little bits of my last day.
To start with my day, I felt super tired from staying awake until late for two successive nights. Not that I was sleeping well anyway and on days I’ve not been watching Copa America, I was working. Saturday was the day I hit the rock bottom. My head was pounding, and being the weekend we decided to go to Stoke-on-Trent. I had a quick brunch of rice and last portion of kidney bean curry along with lentil fritters and sardine fish cakes. I carried a bottle of water to avoid buying soft drink. After coming back home, as I rummaged through leftovers, I ate one savoury crepe and some lentil fritters. And for dinner, I ate rice, lentil soup, lentil fritters and sardine fish cakes. I ate too much to have the last portion of rice pudding from day six. And this, quite unceremoniously ended the day seven of my challenge.
So, at the end of the challenge here is what I’ve ended with, as leftover of the ingredients I started the challenge with a week ago. I have 670g of rice left, 110g flour, all of 330ml oil as I reused previously used oil for the challenge, about 90g vegetable which I chose to be onion. I knew there will be rice but I’m pleased that other ingredients were left as well. This was my first year, so next year I will come prepared!
Like the last days of the challenge I felt sad that it is ending and that we will go back to ‘normal’ ways and lose the invisible bond we have formed with those millions of Syrian refugees sheltered in camps. I thought about my experience how we ate the food ate by a Syrian refugee and in doing so, we were offered a glimpse of their predicament and suffering. I thought that whilst we shared the food, the experience is by any means replicate the same for the refugees. I tried to list down why not and these are a few points I thought of –
- We cooked using modern appliances, making the cooking easy and faster than means used in a camp
- We used unlimited spice, which may not be possible for them
- We used as much energy as we pleased
- We did the challenge from the comfort of our home
- We had a comfy bed to retire to
- We enjoyed a nice shower / bath
- We didn’t have to deal with extreme heat
- If we couldn’t cope with the diet, we had the choice to stop / defer. The refugees can’t do that.
- We had access to unlimited clean water. Not sure if the refugees have that in camps.
- We did the challenge supported and surrounded by our friends and family. Many of the refugees may well have lost or separated their very nearest ones.
- Our life is in general not under constant start threat, so a massive difference in the levels of stress, fear, trauma
So it’s not the same experience, but what we’ve experienced is their hunger, their tiredness, their lack of a balanced diet and how this affects our daily life. For the reasons listed above, how we felt the effect is much less severe than how it’s affect the refugees. We now know how it affects the body, how you feel tired, how your body aches due to lack of nutrients, how it affects your thought process, how constantly being hungry meant you’re thinking of food all the time, how even the normal bodily functions like sleep, digestion, excretion are disturbed. What I’ve also learned through this experience is how hard it is if you are all in your own and how working together as a community helps your living condition. On day one, I ate everything without salt. On day seven I had five spices other than mine, plus milk, vegetables etc. I’m sure this is what happens in the refugee camps, where they barter, support each other, and improve even if by a minuscule degree, the miserable situation they are left to live in.
These realisations made me reflect on what we have in life and how less we appreciate it. If you ever recall a meme about if you have a job, have electricity etc lead to the fact that you’re probably among the 5% of the luckiest people in this world to enjoy all such facilities, you will know what I mean, but I’m not going to repeat the whole breakdown. Yet, the salient point out of this whole experience is the understanding of the abject living conditions of the Syrian refugees and how our living conditions are lightyears apart. Through Ration Challenge we could see how privileged our lives are compared to other countries in the world, let alone the refugees who lost everything as the fled their homes for a safe abode. This puts into perspective the futility of the debates that divide the UK as well as other first world countries — about the place of ‘foreigners’ in the society, about the refugees and asylum, about foreign aids. It also highlights the utter stupidity and crass decisions by the UK government to cut foreign aid by £85m where we needed to be working closely with the international community to alleviate the sufferings caused by centuries of exploitation by means of which we now boast our AAA ranking. It also points out our life choices where we consider things as necessity where they are not, and we waste things taking them for granted — food, water, energy. We blindly follow what the market tells us and don’t think about sustainability. The Ration Challenge was a wake up call that not only can we stop wasting all the resources we consider ubiquitous but are a rarity elsewhere, but also in doing so, we can improve the living conditions of millions who are deprived of the basic necessities of life.
It would have been ideal if the governments saw things this way and rather than cutting the spend, they had upped the budget. Yet, that’s a dream which will never be fulfilled, so it comes down to the individuals to make a difference. In my previous blogs, I mentioned about making a pledge, so here is my pledge to make a positive impact on life’s of less fortunate people, exploited across the world. It might be as small as a drop of water in the sand; yet, anything that is an improvement to the present situation is worth exploring.
- To actively seek generating more sponsorship until the window closes in December
- Apart from making contributions to other causes, try to save more money by not being frivolous or wasteful and contribute the saved money to Concern
- Continue reducing food waste
- Live in a diet that is necessary
- Live a more sustainable life – minimise use of car, energy waste, water waste
- Return to Ration Challenge next year and do a bigger campaign
- Try to find out more about the Syrian crisis and raise awareness
- Work with charities and pressure groups to reverse the government budget cut in foreign aid
When the ration box arrived there was a lot of anticipation, apprehension about the challenge. Now that I have finished the seven days, and as I go back to ‘normal’ diet tomorrow, the empty box of rations filled me to the brim — full with guilt that we let this inequality fester, full with compassion towards the Syrian refugees for their heartbreaking ordeal, full of hope for a better tomorrow, full of optimism that I’m not the only one who wants to make a difference and there are thousands like me. Above all, I’m full of gratitude — for the life I’ve had, for my family and friends who stand beside me, for friends and complete strangers who encouraged me through their support and sponsorship. And a big thanks towards the organisers of the ration challenge to bring together so many like minded people willing to make a difference to the world and providing them with information and materials to make the campaign a success. Next year, I will definitely be back, but hope I’ll be able to encourage more people to join.