KV News

Return to nature

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By: K S S Pillai

With modern technologies turning the entire world into a ‘global village’, many changes have taken place in our lives, particularly in our food habits. Those called local foods have given place to Manchurian, Pizzas, Burgers and Noodles that were available only in some foreign countries till a few years ago.

People of all ages gulp down these items with relish in restaurants and roadside eateries at all hours. As a result, our hospitals are overcrowded with patients suffering from hitherto unknown diseases. Doctors are at the forefront of people laughing all their way to the banks.

There has been a complaint of excessive use of harmful chemicals in the food industry. Food items that used to become rotten in a few days are no longer the worries of traders as they, treated with chemicals, have a long shelf life. The market is also overflowing with artificial milk, sweets, eggs, and rice.

In the media, I see women, regarded as the kinder gender, cutting large chunks of bloody meat merrily and cooking them without sparing a thought that they belonged to animals that were alive a few hours ago.

While in Kerala recently, I was in for a surprise one morning when I ordered dosas and idlis from a restaurant. The supplier looked at me as if I had freshly landed from another planet and said only parathas and beef were available. Late at night, I saw several eateries where people waited for non-vegetarian food.

Years ago, people were nature-friendly in the absence of modern inventions. Even electricity was a new entrant in their lives. Idlis and dosas with coconut chutney and sambar, whose ingredients were made at home, were the usual items available for breakfast at home. The batter was prepared manually in a large grinding stone the previous evening and kept overnight for fermentation.

That was the case with the village teashops also. Men preferred to go to the nearest teashop and read the morning newspaper while waiting for their glasses of tea or coffee, mostly without milk, and eatables. While leaving, they carried food parcels for children and womenfolk.

Most villagers were farmers with paddy fields and large compounds for growing vegetables. Oil mills run with bullocks extracted cooking oil from dried coconuts or sesame. The same oil was used as the hair oil after adding parts of several medicinal plants from the compound and boiling it for a long time. The oil cake was fed to the livestock along with the hay stored in haystacks. Every house had cows whose dung and the ashes from hearths were used as fertilizers.

Even large houses did not have bathrooms. All would take baths in the nearby Pamba River or large village ponds. Instead of bath soaps, they used ‘incha’, the crushed bark of the tree Acacia Intsia, to scrub their bodies.

Fences of thorny bushes demarcated plots of land. The bushes would have flowers over which colourful butterflies hovered. They would also provide sweet fruits to hungry children returning from schools.

There was no water shortage in wells near the kitchens as the rainwater would seep into the soil, unlike today when the entire compound of a house is sealed with cement paver blocks that do not allow water to enter the earth. The well would be desilted every year with the participation of neighbours. Its water, drawn manually with the only mechanical help in the form of pulley, would be drunk directly.

There was an evening market that sold fish caught from the nearby sea and the river, vegetables, and other essential items in the village. Plastic carry bags were non-existent. People carried cloth bags or small bamboo baskets for shopping. Those who didn’t have them would pluck large leaves from nearby hedges to pack the goods they purchased.

Would man, suffering from various types of pollution-related diseases, ever think of changing his lifestyle instead of rushing to the nearest doctor?

(The author is a retired professor of English. A regular contributor to ‘The Kashmir Vision’, his articles and short stories have appeared in several national and international publications)

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