Another trip to the homeland and I’m reminded of the many, simple ways India keeps her people healthy and her carbon footprint low(ish) despite the dense population.
Here are a few observations:
I’m late for mango season. Gah. I’ll now have to wait another year because there are no canned, frozen mangos to be found anywhere, except maybe in some specialty stores. Most vegetable markets have local farmers bringing in fresh produce from the farm every morning. Seasonal and local eating, called Ritucharya is practiced to support the body to adapt to the stressors specific to a season. Watermelons, available only in the summer, cool the body. Turnips generate heat, designed for consumption in wintertime. India’s poverty works in her favor. Most people can only afford local and seasonal foods. Meanwhile the slow food, 100-mile type diets are neither mainstream nor affordable in the US. Going to reflect on the irony as I OD on my mama’s mango pickles.
All the flavors (six to be exact)
Ayurveda sees flavor as a tremendously powerful therapeutic tool that determines not only how we experience our food, but ultimately, the overall flavor of our existence. While most western diets comprise three primary flavors: sweet, salty and creamy, Indian (and some Asian and indigenous) cuisines are made up of six flavors: sweet, salty, sour, pungent, bitter and astringent. Bitter foods like fenugreek and turmeric detoxify and purify blood. Pungent foods like ginger, garlic, chillies stimulate digestion and metabolism. Astringent foods absorb water, tighten tissue and dry fat. Japanese food like sushi is another great example. Animal protein is sweet, rice is sour, seaweed is bitter, soy sauce is salty, gari (pickled ginger) and wasabi are pungent, sake is astringent. Good, flavorful, balanced food makes every cell of our body come alive and scream “Hell Yeah!”
Single-use plastic is practically non-existent
I’d forgotten how small my carbon footprint used to be in India. While every local store delivers (for free! ), the items usually arrive in cardboard/packing boxes (keep), or cloth bags or shopping baskets (return). Most stores don’t offer bags. They expect you to bring your own (we do). Or they have eco-friendly packaging – jute or paper bags. Street vendors serve the yummiest snacks in plates and bowls made out of leaves, sewn together by leaves. (Nope they don’t leak). Chai is served in clay pots. All biodegradable. Meanwhile, every single onion and tomato in my Whole Foods order is wrapped separately in plastic despite me repeatedly requesting otherwise.
The shade is real
My parent’s residential community is lined with….wait for it…mango trees! They’ve grown beautifully over the years – the shade is luscious and a welcome break from the heat and there are mangos for the community. This feels like such a simple win-win solution for all communities. Can we have enough shade or mangoes in our life? Of course not
There are still many systemic issues with all types of pollution and infrastructure. But given the limitations, I’m always impressed by how everyone copes and thrives.
Despite their hardships, people break into smiles and share a laugh easily. A lightness pervades most interactions.
The poorest people have a rare and incredible capacity for generosity that moves me to tears every time.
There’s a sense of community and an understanding to make things work for everyone that is ingrained in everyone’s heart.
Martin Luther King Jr said about India:
“To other countries, I may go as a tourist, but to India, I come as a pilgrim”
Everyone with an open mind and heart becomes a pilgrim on this land. Something expands in my heart and soul every time I’m here.
Mama India, thank you for being a gift that keeps on giving