She was an old woman but she had some strong ideas. In a way she was right; she was saying that you should not become weaker, otherwise you will never be free. And rationally, Indians have been drinking milk and eating sweets made of milk or curd with a certain idea that the body needs strength, the mind needs strength. “Now, tea and coffee cannot give it to you, and these people are spreading these things just to divert your mind.”
And they succeeded in diverting it. People forgot all about milk and lassi and things that were really nourishing, and they became addicted to tea and coffee. So in my childhood even tea and coffee in the morning were not available. The breakfast was really lunch.
If you think of the word breakfast – and it was really a breakfast, because from five o’clock the day before till eleven o’clock…. Your breakfast is not much of a breakfast, because you go to bed eating, munching – if nothing else, then at least chewing gum, so that you can go on chewing even in your sleep. And you get up with tea in bed. First tea, then anything else.
In India it was inconceivable. First you have to take a bath, you have to clean your mouth, you have to do your worship. And then too you have to wait until eleven.
Now, even children…when I was a child it was difficult for me, and I think it must be difficult for all children to remain hungry so long. Fortunately I lived with my maternal grandmother who was a very softhearted woman, and she could understand. She said, “I know how much I have suffered in my childhood, so you don’t be worried. And if it is sin I am responsible for it because I am giving it to you.”
And she would bring sweets and everything and keep them by my bed, even in the night. She spoiled me for my whole life. If even in the night, at two o’clock, I might start feeling hungry, I would just have to find the table, and I would find everything on it that she had kept there.
It became such a habit that when I moved to the university all the students were puzzled, “What kind of habits do you have? Every day you bring sweets and keep them by the side of your bed, and in the middle of the night…. Can’t you eat before?”
I said, “That does not make any difference. In the middle of the night, when I wake up at two o’clock – I have been doing that for so many years that at two o’clock my stomach simply gives the alarm. Then if I don’t eat I cannot sleep. So it is better to eat and then go to sleep.”
But my other brothers and sisters were all learning starvation. I told my father, “It is your religion; if you have chosen not to eat in the night, that is your business. But these children have no idea of any contract with you. You have never even given them a choice that ‘if you are a child born to me then you will have to stay hungry so many hours every day.’ Now, don’t impose these things on them. Leave them alone. Then according to their nature, if they feel hungry they will eat.”