Artificially ‘natural’

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!

walking

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!

Image courtesy: www.popsugar.com

40 comments

  1. I like your post. But the point is, is walking down a dusty road full of construction work and cars and autos and bike honking down your back and almost threatening to maim us better and healthier than taking a auto or ur own car. I love walking in an open environment. That is why am really averse to the gym and the a.c. But I need an open space or park where I can walk in peace without men trying to goop at me and the pollution trying to choke me to death. It’s a tough world. It’s a changed world.

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    1. Welcome here Rituparna. It is a changed world indeed, but that’s exactly why we need to work our exercise into our routine to save time, save ourselves from all the things you have listed. I agree about not being able to walk even on the sidewalks due to the crowds and pawing hands 😦

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  2. nice one zephyr. I like your “nagging” thoughts. By the way, I also heard that cooking in “non stick” pans are not very healthy.

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    1. yeah, non-stick is supposed to be unhealthy too. The good old cast-iron tawa which were used by the older generation used to be so heavy that dosas used to slide off effortlessly with very little oil. But they have given way to the non-stick version for the sake of convenience with the results we all know 🙂

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  3. Too much dependence on technology is giving rise to lifestyle diseases…
    You have captured it so nicely. So relevant and apt…
    Fire the maid and your home becomes the gym.

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    1. It is not even technology, Alka. A maid or a battery of servants can hardly be called technology. It is just lifestyle that has changed. one of my older sisters would do just that — fire the maid, when she discovered that she was carrying some extra kilos, but slowly slide back to having the maid again!

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  4. Ammi-kozhavi….??? A vague memory of one of the then equipments! Hard to find one in the city houses these days. That was a nice point about laughter. I’ve wondered many a times, at which point in life, we begin to feel insane to laugh. How much laughter the kids enjoy? This post was a good reminder, we all need such reminders often 🙂

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    1. At least you remember that there is one such contraption! Many of your generation wouldn’t even know what it is. About children laughing, I have seen groups of kids all fired up and excited about some new computer game or other competitive sports but rarely laughing in an abandoned manner. We are passing the malaise to the tiny tots too!

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  5. Very aptly put across!
    I have seen people not doing any physical work and even not wanting to pay others who carry the heavy luggage for them eg porters, but spending thousands on a gym, effortlessly!

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    1. Welcome here Shazia.

      That’s exactly the point. Doing housework or doing one’s own work is considered beneath one’s dignity and stature in the society. But gym? That’s a status symbol and easy to fit into the schedule.

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  6. nice post. perhaps in context, i’m reminded of a shoe ad (i forget the brand) which basically said ‘take the road, its free’ encouraging people to go running.

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    1. That ad sounds really sensible. But how many of us willingly walk that one block to the bus stop or take the stairs? we’d rather wait for the lift to come down/up for several minutes if necessary than climb a few storeys.

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  7. howsoever unnatural our lives may be today,the fact is that most of us must be sentenced to the chair eight hpurs a day.That is the law of the Concrete Jungle.Hence women need to outsource housework and childrearing.The trick is in finding ways to balance all that sitting .Tough but,even aimless walks helps

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    1. Walking is the best medicine after apple that is 🙂 it is tough for working couples since there is no way they can be at two places at the same time. But one of the best things even for the overworked people is laughter — especially with the kids. it is most rejuvenating.

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  8. Wonderful post…loved it and i agree with every single word.
    I am being all natural these days ,have always been but now it is more than ever:)
    have fired the maid and i am testing myself:)

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  9. Very true!

    A friend of mine says she is putting on weight, eating take away food ( and of course outsourcing work as much as possible!) , so wants to hire a maid just for cooking (cleaning and washing done by another maid)….

    We are ruining our bodies by the physical comforts we are creating for ourselves.

    RESTLESS

    PS: btw, what commenting form is it?

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  10. Couldn’t agree more! we are going unnatural , complicating things wayyy beyond control! my grandmom and even my mom told me how they use to walk so many miles to reach their schools and it was not just fun but a great exercise and their skin was so fresh and juvenile…and today no matter what we do the skin has lost its beauty and charm 😦
    but then such is the way of life now..wht can v do ??!

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    1. Oh yes, we used to walk to school every day and to all other places too. Buses were too few and other modes of transport were expensive by the standards of those days. Walking to nearby places like the market and other places is the best way to get some exercise. We can always work some activity to make up for the sedentary lifestyle today.

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  11. Wee have become so over-conscious of our actions be it eating or laughing. I say, eat to your hearts content and laugh till your stomach hurts… and don’t mind it a wee bit if sometimes the joke is on you! Making others laugh is an art not many have 🙂

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    1. That’s the spirit Sunshine girl. Do things natural and you will never be in need of fitness regimes, right?

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  12. i know what you mean. and the sad part is that when i first heard abt laughter clubs way back when i was 18 i was like, ‘why do u need to go to the clubs to laugh? we laugh all the time!’ now im 32 and i do realise that there is a need for such clubs. we just dont laugh our guts out anymore!

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    1. Welcome here Sandy. Just came back from your blog. You have a very down-to-earth blog. Loved it.

      you are missing the point here. We should not be going to laughter clubs at all. Don’t you think they are pathetic? In fact, I would strongly advise one to go to one of the clubs with a pal and then laugh AT the desperately laughing people there. At least it will be natural laughter.

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  13. “Kids these days,care only about TV.Zero physical activity.Wait let me make a pizza home delivery order..”
    I hope I pick up walking as a hobby,like reading.Nice post Zephyr.

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    1. Talking pizza home delivery — have you noticed how the kids doing the delivery are fit and trim? Being active because you can’t afford to loll around is a wonderful way to keep fit. Unfortunately we equate money and being well off to being lazy.

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  14. Cooking in earthenware sounds good. Shall ask mom to do so and guess it’s high time I start going for evening walks again instead of complaining that there isn’t any gym nearby. By the way, nice post. Thanks for sharing it. 😀

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    1. Earthenware has become very expensive too, since entrepreneurs discovered the health benefits. We suckers can only see benefits when they are splashed across the media at designer prices! Gym becomes a habit and stopping it can play havoc with your fitness and girth 🙂

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  15. Totally agree. I guess, my grandparents in their old age were much more agile than I am today thanks to their being so active around the house in cooking, cleaning and doing everything the ‘natural’ way. Talk about conveniences being unhealthy!

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    1. I don’t remember having maids in the house till I came to the final year of college and had a spinal injury, which made it impossible for me to sweep and mop and wash clothes. We did every chore ourselves and our brothers pulled their weight too, not to speak of our father. And our grandparents and parents were leagues ahead of us in the health department.

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  16. Zephyr,
    Soooooooo true…and I do agree with Purba as well, yes people running after money and missing out on sooo many wonderful moments, moments so priceless . And ya the post also reminds me of the advice you gave me….”walking”…waiting for summers. lovely post again.
    Cheers!

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    1. Surabhi, working, holding a career, being ambitious — all are fine, but try to work natural exercises as part of all that, so that one need not run after artificial means to keep fit. Can’t a busy executive take the stairs or walk a few blocks every day? That surely will not put a strain on his or her time, will it? I am glad that you are going to begin walking. But a tip for you — don’t plug in the ipod and listen to canned music. Listen to the sights and sounds in the park and find the difference!

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  17. Even a wonderful thing like motherhood is outsourced to a maid. Do the Mums realize what they are missing on?

    A girl in my neighbourhood spends hours at the gym and at the yoga class and refuses to fix up even a cup of tea for herself! She watches TV all day and claims she gets bored.

    Wonderful post as ever Zephyr.

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    1. Hmm…that is a serious thing and I am glad that many girls and some men, (yes, there are many who actively participate in raising kids), are giving up full time jobs to work part-time or flexi-time to spend more time with their kids in their early years.

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  18. Another danger is news reports on some ‘research’ based news because they contradict each other on a common subject. For example, Chocolates- one paper says they are harmful for health if taken in large quantity while the other would say , they are good for heart!

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    1. These studies are based on such small sample sizes that they make no sense and if one were to take them seriously, one would be in danger! I have seen reports with such ridiculous sample sizes as 100!

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  19. How true! Theres a gym next to my house, its brimming with people all day! The junk food culture has also been a major contributor for the rise in these fitness camps which was never an option for the earlier generation. I loved this post, You have indeed hit the nail on the head, REALLY!!!

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    1. The earlier generations didn’t need the gym option at all because they were fit as fiddle living mostly in tune with nature — doing their work themselves, eating sensibly and generally not falling prey to artificial means in their lifestyle. But the compulsions of modern living and as you say, the junk food culture as you say has ruined natural living.

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  20. Mam I do agree with you but first we learn to cut down on our engagements and make room for some relaxing moments.

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    1. Sure thing Arpana. That’s why doing things naturally is important. When you laugh with loved ones, see how relaxed you feel, in comparison to laughing forcedly at a laughter club.

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  21. 🙂 naturally!

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