Parsley and Thyme

Archive for May 2009

Is health on your agenda?

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Multigrain biscuits for those between-meals hunger pangs. Fat-free butter substitutes that a lean-and-mean master chef swears by. Sugar-free pastries that aid in sinless indulgence. Vibration based “walkers” that can help you lose weight even while you are snoring. Mouth sprays that bring in a “healthy” aversion in you to even the most tempting of delicacies. A thousand (probably a million) more ways to force your body to entice the mythical fountain of youth and pristine health.

It drives me crazy – the hugeness of this universal “stay healthy” revolution. Sadly, it sucks in even the most sceptical into its vortex sooner or later. Ofcourse, when we are on this topic, how can I exclude the mass hysteria called “walking” that has so many supporters. So, allow me to digress a bit, and share my woes.

Of late, it pains me to notice that even the social circles people choose to be a part of, is, for the most part, driven by their “healthstyles”. That statement comes from my observations on those days of injudiciousness that I decide to pay an early visit to a park near my parents’ home. Only for some fresh air. And ending up with a whole lot of frustration instead.

Now, once I enter this park with little Chikoo and my parents, it takes me little time to guess that most friendships in the area have happened during the morning health routines initiated by these disciplined health addicts. And to me, these walkers at the park represent the state of humanity in all its wholeness. They are a microcosm of the bigger world that I have witnessed outside.

To start off with, they have got every square inch of the park covered. Like commandos in a Z-level security team. As I don’t conform to this aggressive treatment of what could have been a lovely morning walk, I decide to explore the natural beauty that spring has so lovingly showered upon this confined area approved of by humans. I want to saunter around slowly, to let Chikoo take a closer look at the flowers that have caused the lovely riot of colors and the varieties of butterflies fluttering within reach. But the health worshippers have other plans. I am guided by a force that is unstoppable, though not unseen. It happens to be these groups of 2,3 or so (the maximum size of the group is dependent on the radius of the stoned pathways) walking enthusiasts that completely determine the speed and direction of my exploration. They flay their sweaty arms like not-so-colorful British soldiers and move in a military centrifuge, leaving no room for deviations by people with different ideas. Like storms, they take in everything that’s in their path. Even small children, who by nature, are rebellious and give the toughest challenge to this unspoken rule that I call walk-like-a-martian. My mom calls out from afar and asks me not to let go of Chikoo’s hand. “Be careful, they will walk over him”, she says. I stifle the urge to ask her if she might be unwittingly supporting the cause by giving into their rule. But she’s already taken.

By this time, I am already regretting my first decision of the day. After a few more feeble, unsuccessful attempts, I decide that being an onlooker in this Roman Colosseum would be safest and perhaps more entertaining. I try to herd Chikoo to an available seating. Voila, there’s none. They are all taken by those who are in the finishing stages of the military exercise. Nevertheless, the military seems to have some compassion towards those who are looking for a seat. The retirees are treated less combatively and I am allowed to make little stops each time I spot a seat. Whew!

The retirees at the park amuse Chikoo to no end. Well, me too to be honest. The only difference between us being that he looks on with absolute bewilderment at their current occupations on the seats while I am trying hard to hide my guffaws. Some are lying down flat, heaving their sack-like, renegade tummies to obedience. A few others are playing safe and trying out breathing exercises that makes Chikoo exclaim, “Amma, uncle sneezing!”. I sush him and wonder whether the subject of his scrutiny was more embarassed than I am. Another bench has two elderly ladies discussing their daughters-in-law. One says, “Swalpa bittu kodabeku avalu” (“She should be more adjusting”). To which the other replies, “Naanu nanna sose ge adanne helthini, elli keltare eegina kalada hudugiru?” (“I am always telling that to my d-i-l, but do these modern girls listen?”). I realize why these ladies were so eager to find a place to sit down, and had disappeared from my view right after they entered the park. Well, the mouth needs exercise too and who should know that better than women, huh? 

I finally find an unoccupied seat and run over to secure it. While Chikoo’s attention is consumed by the countless tamarind pods that have fallen down on the grass, mine is firmly held on the people who pass me by as I plonk down on the bench. Again, the characters are colorful. Some are loners who saunter along with drooped shoulders and bent heads, dragging their improperly shod feet on the stoned pathways, totally unaware and utterly dispassionate of the world around them. Then there are some who are set to catch all the attention. These men (mostly) walk with huge strides, clapping their hands in unabashed loudness that makes me squirm. If clapping your hands is an exercise, then shouldn’t one do it more often at home instead, say while appreciating our loved ones? Which will also aid the social cause of creating a more peaceful atmosphere that a park is usually associated with?

A couple of elderly men pass by, discussing the day’s news. The tussle of importance is between politics and cricket, depending on which one is the stronger flavor of the moment. “Dravid nodidra saar henge kai kotbitta nenne match alli?”(“See how Dravid failed us during yesterday’s match?”), asks the gentleman who walks like he is treading on hot coals.My mother has now joined me on the bench and she explains “That gentleman has a knee problem since years”. I ask her if she is acquainted with him. “Yes, he is a doctor and gives us health tips from time to time”, she replies. Now I am left wondering why these so-called “health tips” have failed to work on the gentleman himself, but I decide to postpone further questioning for the time being. “Aiyyo, nodade doctre. Hidee match alli one exciting moment iralilla!” (“Yes I did doctor. There wasn’t one exciting moment in the entire match!”). Then they give out some cricketing tips which, they predict, will ensure consistent success to the Indian cricket team. Too bad they weren’t in the fray when the team was desperately looking for a coach, I tell myself. One distinguishingly balding gentleman pauses his walk for a few minutes to talk to my father, after which my father too decides to join us on the bench. “What were you talking to him about so intently?”, I ask my dad. He says, “That man knows atleast a dozen alternative therapies and he was just telling me about an accupressure therapist that he has discovered”. Interestingly, I observe that this gentleman diligently walks over to a vendor stationed outside the park selling cups of green-colored liquid in various hues, and downs a couple of them before he goes back home. The liquid vendor, my dad informs, is able to sell out all of the twenty or more bottles of green juice that he brings over to the park every morning. And no, my parents themselves have never mustered the daring to try it out.

It is time to go back home and I am left with quite a few impressions. For one, I would love to think that these so-called health fads were non-existent while I was a little girl. Though I am accessing from a 20-year old memory to try and find traces of these “health” trends as I was growing up, I find none. The parks that I used to visit as a young girl only had families who would go there for some relaxation amidst nature. So peacefully absent was this “race” to get healthy then. And I think that was because being healthy was then an unquestioned way of life. Walking was natural – you would walk to your friend’s house, your aunt’s house, anywhere. Even if they were kilometres away. There were more cyclists then than there are now. They never considered it a big deal to cycle to office, or to drop their precariously perched children to school, or to accomplish a multitude of errands on their cycles. For many, the cycles weren’t even their own – there were small garage-like cycle renting shops in every locality which would let you rent out a cycle at the rate of 1 rupee an hour. Based purely on trust.

Falling sick was also accepted with the same openess as being healthy. It was considered natural. I remember going through my childhood almost without any allopathic medication. Colds and coughs, the occasional family visitors, would be coaxed away with a locally brewn concoction called “kashaya” – a boiled mixture of milk, wild turmeric and pepper, sweetened with honey. Even the more serious illnesses were treated with some amazingly effective home remedies. Most of all, relaxation was not something that you chose to “acquire” from outside – people were somehow, just happy, just contented.

Oh well, all this thinking has made me hungry. Time to munch on some high-fibre, zero trans fat, diet biscuits. See ya soon.

Written by Kanchana

May 28, 2009 at 11:05 am

Posted in Humor

Tagged with , , , ,

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