Food For Thought

I had intended to write a very short post in the Subhaashit section of this blog, but it kept getting longer, like Hanuman’s tail. So I am posting it here. I’m afraid it has turned into a rambling piece of writing.


Imagine a world where each and every person has good food to eat every day, clothes made from the richest fabric to wear, fine jewellery-very expensive, and a nice house with the most modern amenities- to live in.  Everyone would work for five days in a week and rest for two. If anyone fell ill, they would get free medical attention. Sounds like Utopia, doesn’t it?

But there’s a catch– there would be no music in this perfect world to move you, no art to make you wonder. No poetry to transport you to the heights of joy or to bring a tear to your eye. No literature to make you ponder and introspect.

Such a world would not be so perfect, would it?


Our thinkers of earlier times had the right idea when they wrote-

पृथिव्यां त्रीणि रत्नानि जलमन्नं सुभाषितम् l
मूढैः पाषाणखण्डेषु रत्नसंज्ञा विधीयते ll

There are three (त्रीणि) jewels (रत्नानि) on this earth (पृथिव्यां)- water (जलं ), food (अन्नं ), and Subhaashits (wise sayings in verse form).
It is (only) the ignorant (मूढैः) who designate as jewels (रत्नसंज्ञा विधीयते) (mere) pieces of rock(पाषाणखण्डेषु).

What the Subhaashit-kars meant is, that once the basic needs of a person like water, food and shelter are satisfied, after that, the things that nourish his mind are more important than other physical luxuries.

What is a diamond after all? Merely a lump of coal! Ignorant are they who covet diamonds and other similar luxuries which have no real value. Intelligent persons know that literature such as Subhaashits (wise sayings in Sanskrit) are far more valuable.

Expanding the well-known Biblical saying, Dr B. R. Ambedkar said- “Man Cannot live by bread alone, He has a mind which needs food for thought.”

And perhaps that is the difference between humans and animals? A human being needs intellectual/ emotional nourishment as well as physical. And if wholesome nourishment is not received, then a person will accept whatever he can get.


A person’s mind cannot remain a vacuum. If he does not have something positive to occupy his mind, he will find something else, however negative it may be.

काव्यशास्त्रविनोदेन कालो गच्छति धीमताम् l
व्यसनेन च मूर्खाणां निद्रया कलहेन वा ll

Wise persons spend their time in literary discussions, but ignorant people waste their time in cultivating bad habits, in sleep or in unnecessary arguments.

This is something that we would do well to remember. And try to ensure that some positive intellectual nourishment is always readily available!


 As children we dream of becoming famous musicians, accomplished actors or talented singers. We aspire to climb Everest, sail around the world, or find that elusive remedy for a hitherto incurable disease.

 As we grow up we become more practical. And that is necessary, too, no doubt. 

 But we should not forget that we are humans, after all. And our human-ness manifests itself in a myriad different ways. In a person’s ability to dream. In someone’s love of literature, or the arts.In a musician’s readiness to spend hours practicing the violin. In a thinker’s pondering of philosophical questions. In the capacity to question, to debate and to convince.

And that is why we consider- or should consider- literature, arts and science to be valuable- more valuable than all the diamonds in the world.

What do you think?  



  1. Nice post…

    Crux point to me, one should spend the time meaningfully….

    why are you restricting is it to literature, art and science? cant there be any other activity? say sports?


    1. Certainly sports, too, Sunder.

      The lack of facilities for children to play sports is a real problem in cities like Mumbai. Not many children do have access to playgrounds and parks. So they are more likely to channel their energy into less socially desirable activities, I think.


  2. Your header is beautiful…White tree in the middle and brown ones on both sides. The branches look nice even without leaves!

    Yes, just food, clothes and luxurious living is not enough for a human being to be happy, Manju.

    This post reminded me of a woman who was working in our place, a few years back. She had a drunkard for a husband and she was the second wife too, had three children of her own. Still, while she was working, she used to sing film songs, all the time…sometimes in a loud voice too, if my husband was not around! She had a beautiful voice and if it didn’t disturb me, I was not complaining, because her songs were more of melodious music than loud ones! I used to wonder how she was so happy all the time, with all her problems. Maybe the music helped her forget all her problems. She never complained about not having jewels or good sarees, which was secondary for her, I think!

    Yes, we need something to feed our mind too, like the subhaashit says here, Manju.


  3. Yes.. definitely! wasting time in unnecessary arguments and comparing each others life are really characteristics of a fool !
    Before starting to think or argue on a trivial matter, one should think of what work to do next.. and start doing!
    I wish to implement these sad-gunas in my life…..


  4. If you are rich, by all means do enjoy the diamonds. But realise there are far more important things in life that money cannot buy. What may not adorn you physically, but does a lot to the inner self. And pass down those values to those who look up to you. If you are the kind you cannot afford the diamonds, do not crave for such luxuries for the same reasons.


  5. Sandhya– Glad you like my header!

    Yes, perhaps the music helped your maid to forget about her problems for awhile. Maybe another person would not find music comforting as she did. It’s different for everyone, I think.

    Peppy– It’s interesting to see that people were the same as they are now, even so long ago- wasting time in arguments and comparisons. The Subhaashits that thinkers from so many centuries ago wrote are relevant even today !

    Radha– Oh yes. There is no harm in enjoying luxuries to a certain extent- but, as you say, we should not forget what is really important.


  6. Food for thought indeed. After the food for the belly has been had and there is no worry about the next meal, mind-food is what is needed most to prevent individuals and societies from decaying over the long run.

    It is a pity that only a few of us know about these pearls of wisdom that our ancestors had found for us.


    1. Yes, mind-food is required for a healthy individual as well as for a healthy society. I think we, as a society, need to remember this, if our next generation is to grow up healthy in mind as well as in body.


  7. these days our basic needs are a luxury .
    Water – most of all. where is it ?
    Shelter in bombay, more expensive than New York.
    Food – With all the GMO coming in – organic food costs a bombshell.
    For free air – we have to travel at least 3 hours outside the city.
    Education and good teachers is like winning a lottery.
    and Handloom, Cottton/linen clothes is Extremly hard to find.

    I don’t know if it is right to use Tilak’s words here to say – water, food and shelter is a right to every person who is born, but that is the thought that crosses my mind..
    What once was easily available , is rarely available.

    For me clean water, air, food and shelter are the only jewels i want and need. Everything else is only a bonus.


    1. True- even our basic needs have become very expensive nowadays. But the Subhaashit-kars are not really addressing those people who find it difficult to fulfill their needs of Roti-kapada-makan.

      They are pointing out that after a person’s basic needs are satisfied whatever remains- whether in terms of money, time, or efforts- should be spent on something worthwhile. On something that has real value. In their opinion, the arts or science or literature are more valuable than material things like diamonds.


  8. Beautifully written Manju. This reminds me of that post of yours. The one titled ‘The Age of Sycophancy. ‘ You conveyed your thoughts beautifully then as well.

    I have grown up hearing that oft repeated line. Khaali dimaag shaitan ka ghar.

    One’s parents would always ensure that one was always engaged in some productive work or the otehr. Or any work that taxed our brain to an extent and in a good way.

    If one’s basic requirement have been met. Food, shelter, clothing.
    (and again I suppose basic differs from person to person …my sarky selfg says that for some gucci and prada constitute basic )

    But anyway if one’s basic requirements have been met, then all the things that you write of are but a must.

    And ideally what else is education but this? Or atleast thats what it should be.


  9. A great post as always..

    Ideally when basic needs are met, one should embark on gaining more knowledge, but in this materialistic world one tends to add more material than knowledge and hence even Gandhiji seems to be a myth to many…

    today’s world cant think of living a simple life and moreover if one is not made to spend more how will the economy survive!


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