Throw out the sambar!

Bowl of sambar with three wadas alongside

Since my wife has gone to New York to see our daughter, I’m on my own, and quite often treat myself to ordering food from hotels nearby. This morning was spicy vadas which I’d got out of bed dreaming about! The hotel sends me a lot of sambar, which from previous occasions I’ve found reappear later on my table along with my dinner or lunch. The sambar, though tasting good with the hotel food, doesn’t go well with the food cooked at home, maybe because it’s a tad sweet, and my tooth, though in love with all things sweet, still prefers rice without tasting syrupy sweet!

“Throw the rest of the sambar away!” I told my cook, when she came later in the day, “I don’t want it!”

She looked at me strangely, then asked, “May I take it home and use it, sir?”

And she did.

And as she walked away, holding the sambar in a vessel she had borrowed, there was a deep sense of guilt within me as I seemed to hear the sambar whisper back at me, “You see, Bob, what you wanted to waste is somebody’s meal.”

“Yes,” I whispered back to my retreating sambar, “There’s a lesson I’ve learned today.”

It’s about how much we waste. Ever so often I go to the buffet at a wedding and fill my plate, thinking that it doesn’t matter. “Anyway my host is paying by the plate!” It’s just a matter of time before my eyes start looking around, not for more food, but trying to locate the bin where I can very quietly dispose of my plate still laden with leftovers. And very quietly, I tiptoe to the bin and in one swift motion, so others won’t notice how greedily I’d filled my plate, I throw the plate in! Behind me, I notice others coming with plates half full, and after I’ve gone, doing the same thing.

Have you ever sat at a bay window at a restaurant, and seen the waiter hurriedly shooing away urchins or their parents, before you notice them staring hungrily at your plate?

Maybe the next time I waste, I need to feel those hungry pair of eyes on me, and know that my wasted portions could well be his or her meal for the whole day.

I realize it’s not just about food as I look at the torn shirt of the one who collects my garbage and remember how some of my shirts and pants, out of fashion now, lie unused and unremembered in some closet.

“I’m meant to be eaten, Bob!” shouts my sambar joyfully in my imagination, from the plates of a happy family.

As I finish this piece, I remember Gandhiji; his thoughtfulness when his slipper came off while he was boarding a train. He quickly threw his other slipper out saying, “Let some poor person benefit by having a pair!”

Robert Clements
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Robert Clements

Robert Clements is a newspaper columnist with an estimated readership of 6 million. He also conducts a short-term writer’s course. Contact him on for more details.