The Sunday Leader

The Dough Rises And The Baker Strikes Back

Cheers! Bakery owners say they won’t end up with crumbs.
They are setting up a committee to recommend measures to be taken if the present protests and proclamations from Big Mouths whip up the campaign now being waged by government against wheat flour consumption. One thing they will have in plenty is short eats to go with the tea they enjoy during the heated protest mustering. So soon, 2,000 bakeries have been forced to close down. You can imagine the number thrown out of employment from the baker to the paan karaya. Administrators of schools too have now been forced by the powers-that-be to serve kadala, manioc and such like. Suffer the little ones to come unto whom without a fish bun to satisfy pangs of hunger during school intervals or an éclair to give their taste buds a treat.
VIPs in the government (and there are too many) have counted the doughnuts devoured each day, each minute, from school canteens and they are appalled. They are concerned (so very sweet of them) for the health of the little ones. Menika is willing to bet her last thousand rupee note with the prez’s face on it that these loud mouthed VIPs must surely be eating some paan piti mixture with their drinks and indulging their little darlings with pastries and cake bought from Cinnamon Grand. No Perera & Sons for them. This latter business has to be nipped in the bud, they say. Hear this! In their wisdom they have proclaimed that Thai, Indian and Chinese food sold in big school canteens is also slowly poisoning kids.
The Prez of the All-Ceylon Bakery Owners’ Association has said, “If the government had gradually phased out wheat-flour consumption it would have been okay. This overnight decision to ban wheat flour has upset the entire bakery industry.” And Menika adds, mothers, children, patients in hospitals, prisoners, all food outlets whether five star or minus stars and Menika herself. Consider the wise words of B K Jayawardena, bakers’ leader, as Menika did reclining on her sofa with the TV off and no glass in her hand. She was in deep mourning. Yes, perfectly sensible what he said. The way to have gone about the banning was to go slow. Hemin, hemin as our usual policy is.
If wheat imports are to be stopped, phase the ban; have rice flour milled so well it could substitute for wheat flour. In the name of good health of our kids, if suddenly the powers that be discover that wheat products are poisonous and promoters of diabetes, wheat flour must be gradually reduced BUT NOT banned, never overnight. Consider the immediate negative effect, rather danger to already malnourished children if they see nothing worth eating during school intervals and refuse three meals of rice a day. You cannot and must not dictate to kids too strongly. They must be won over and that takes time. Making the bun and loaf of bread disappear overnight by the collective waving of the government wand is definitely an infringement of rights, particularly those of our children. And we the public just take it. Bovine givers in to dictats by government!
While Menika ruminated like a cow without the cud, without even spirituous sustenance, so great her sorrow at the demise of the bun and the joy of eating for our kids, she wondered why this sudden move to have rice flour devouring wheat flour out of the local market. The Great Wanse (in size if not common sense, leaving aside intellect) of course jumped ten yards ahead of the others to please those above him in power. He espied through his jaundiced eye an American flour mafia; an attempt by the West to destabilize wonderfully stable Sri Lanker; a kumanthranaya to undermine the sovereignty and unitary status of this Paradise on Earth.
Of course in this case he did not have to pack his bag with a saline drip, ginger nuts (made of A flour? No. He would have got some kurrakan roti); did not have to send a message to the highest in the land for thambili, and park himself on a comfortable mattress on the pavement of Galle Road in front of the American Embassy. No, much easier to support the banning hand than stage a public lie-in since his complexion may have gone sunburnt, expensive bleaching creams  notwithstanding.
And why this sudden hurry to ban wheat flour? Menika saw a clue in a newspaper item. Maha crop was very successful and there is a surplus of rice. So OK. The government is showing concern for the paddy cultivator, a neglected true son of the soil gradually thrown out of sight to stew in his plight with fertilizers priced sky high and a rice mafia in operation, run by we-know-who. DS, a true father to the nation, saw the plight of the rice farmer, helped him, encouraged agriculture but did not ban wheat flour. He believed in making his people as content as possible and never misused his power.
After the success of the present ban of ‘American flour’ imagine a rice crop failure. The weather is as inconsistent as political decisions now. The people, in such an event with no rice to buy or at exorbitant prices will starve, only one step further from their now situation.
Menika also sees ministers and deputies in the government falling over each other to get on this latest band wagon and shout against wheat flour and its fast selling products. Sycophantic s-s the entire lot! The West must be taught a lesson they’d say, especially America, so let’s ban one of its products. They show such concern for our children, enjoying bread and buns. Never mind at all that 40% of our children are malnourished; people so incapable of contending  with the cost of living that giving one proper meal to their children is fast becoming an unattainable luxury.
Are government ministers as quick to import the correct drug to inject kids suffering from thalassemia and dying due to a cheaper drug being injected in the Kurunegala hospital? Are they doing anything about the rising incidence of diabetes in the NCP? Menika keeps her mouth shut about dengue. Has the government thought of distributing Wellington boots (as we knew this kind of footwear, worn by us on raining days to walk to school) to farmers to prevent contact with rat urine?
Menika’s heart is breaking as she hears the wailing of that sweetheart of a kid in the front flat. She hears her anguished cry: “Ammi, I cannot eat mung-ata. I hate what you are giving me to eat now. The tuckshop in school is also wicked and the lady in charge won’t tell us why she sells rubbish instead of the sandwiches and fish buns she sold. I will die of hunger, wait and see.” Neighbours of VIP houses of course will not hear such wailing, rather much munching and crunching of croissants and such like flown over by SriLankan jet to these privileged kids of privileged sycophant parents. They will then be chauffeured to elite international schools.
Does every government move have to have a hidden agenda?  For once think of the people who come under bans, especially a ban that hits the stomach. Menika knows that rice flour is better than wheat flour, but for gawd’s sake and the sake of our deprived-of-so-much children restrain this banning madness and hemin hemin reduce the consumption of wheat flour products. The government is so efficient in putting its collective foot wrong.
Menika reached for her G&T to assuage her justified anger and drown her sorrow for our kids and the sudden demise of the paan kaelle, the maalu bunnis and the sugar on top kimbula by government decree.

1 Comment for “The Dough Rises And The Baker Strikes Back”

  1. hosanna

    Why can’t anyone see it for what it is? They want to pry out the monopoly of PRIMA and bring their own monopoly chaired by Mr 10%.

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