The other day I was walking — as in walking for exercise. We live in this place way out of the city, in what can be almost called a village. So, here I was walking briskly through this path adjoining the wheat fields when a group of kids called out, “Where are you going, aunty?” I felt like a fool as I replied, “Oh, just walking…” They looked at each other and giggled at this weird phenomenon who was ‘just walking’ with nowhere to go!
That brought me up short. It was as if someone had hit the nail bang on the head. You see, the kids were not used to someone walking aimlessly up and down the street. All those in their lives, walked with a purpose and a destination — to the fields, to the market, to the temple….
Today haven’t most of us lost the natural things of life? After going so far away from everything natural, we seek to be ‘natural’ in the most artificial ways. Like my walking for instance. We ride by two-wheelers or cars to wherever we need to go, that is, if we don’t take an autorickshaw or bus or rail. We don’t even walk to the neighbourhood grocery or sabziwala but pick up the phone and place an order. We go to the gym and exercise on the stepper after taking the lift to the third floor!
We walk on treadmills and chat with others walking on them in the gym. When we are too busy to go to the gym, we buy one for the home! And to create the ‘ambiance’ we plug in the music into out ears. Have you heard of the contraption which even walks for us? All you need to do is to recline comfortably with your feet stuck in it and, and hey presto! You are walking! What next?
In fact, so busy are we not doing physical work that we need to attend fitness camps and workshops run by various gurus, who chant, ‘let us sweep, sweep….’, ’let us grind, grind….’, exhorting us to go through the motions with imaginary brooms and grinding stones. We would not have to pay through our noses at these camps if we just picked up that broom and did some honest sweeping – for real and not just did pretend sweeping. By the way, all those who have actually seen a grinding stone, put your hands up!
Laughter likewise has become the casualty in today’s world. We form clubs for laughter and guffaw artificially to keep fit. We laugh with the canned laughter at inane and moronic jokes and antics on the tube if we are really desperate. Is it that we have nothing to laugh about, or we don’t have the time to be with those we love to laugh in shared moments of joy? I remember all those things that made us laugh as kids and youth, with our families and friends till tears ran down out cheeks and we ended up hiccupping.
In our quest for being ‘natural’ we even make up our faces with all kinds of cosmetics to ‘look natural,’ for heaven’s sake! With the latest look being the natural one (naturally), we spend several hours and thousands of rupees on creams and powders and colours to come out looking gloriously oily and mussed up.
Even a couple of generations ago people had a daily routine that included physical labour, well, at least a certain amount of walking, doing things with one’s own hands and such. I remember sweeping, mopping and washing clothes and utensils along with my brothers and sister – yes even my brothers did these things along with us as and when needed, though it was more beneficial to our female muscles than theirs. Maids were few and far between when we were growing up.
But modern lifestyle has ensured that unless one makes a deliberate effort to get some exercise, one effectively turns into a couch potato or worse, falls prey to everything from hypertension to heart attacks. We have a battery of maids to do our work and then rush to the gym in our cars for some weight training and treadmill walking!
I remember reading in a leading fortnightly some time ago, a report that quoted lower incidence of breast cancer in women who used the good old sil-batta (ammi-kozhavi in Tamil), as also those who churned butter in the conventional way. I’d better hide from all those women out there who are rushing to snatch my rolling pin and wallop me for suggesting that women do manual work, while their male counterparts don’t do the said chores. Unfortunately, only women have to suffer breast cancer, not the men. Now we can all denounce Nature for conspiring against the fairer sex! Don’t worry girls, there is not need to actually grind any masala. We can always go and do some pretend grinding in one of the health camps or pretend ‘row’ a boat in the gym, right?
Did you know that the use earthen pots to cook is replete with health benefits, the chief one being the magnetic properties of earth? Even my mother used to cook in them. Today studies have proved that the health benefits of earthenware cooking far outweigh those of cooking in the pressure cooker or microwave oven. I read about one woman who was advised by an unlettered woman to try these wonderful cooking pots to get rid of her various aches and pains. And lo and behold, within a couple of months her ooh, aah and ouchs had given way to a ‘wow’!
We will surely cook in earthenware if a multinational came up with the same in an artificially natural avatar and markets it at sky-high rates in designer malls, won’t we? Aren’t we great ones for giving up our simple lifestyles to go back to them when marketed back to us at fancy places at fancier rates usually by foreign manufacturers.
And now folks, I have to go and do some pretend ‘grinding’ and ‘sweeping’ to tone up my muscles. But before that I have to tell the maid to sweep behind the sofa and grind the masala on the grinding stone. It gives such an áuthentic’ taste to the dish, you know!
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