Sunday, February 2, 2014
We Are All Equal
Today, I was reminded of an incident. This happened during my middle school years. We had a servant maid who would work in our house and she had a daughter who would accompany her. They both used to come together. The mother would do all the household chores, like washing the vessels, washing the clothes, sweeping the floor, etc. Her daughter used to be with her, and was of the same age as Bhanu, my sister. I would often ask, ‘Why is my sister going to school while she is not?’ I felt so helpless then because there was nothing I could do to convince her mother, or my parents that she too should go to school.
In those days it was not very easy. I am speaking of some 45 to 50 years ago. Her daughter would walk around with her and do everything that her mother was doing; or sit near her. Her mother would not let her part from her sight for a moment.
Sending a girl to school was a taboo in those days. The mother would say, ‘She is meant to do housework, and that is all she should do’.
Whatever she learnt was what we taught her in our home. This was the attitude towards the girl child in those days. When my parents bought nice clothes for me and a nice silk lehenga (a long flowing skirt) for my sister, they would bring an ordinary cotton lehenga for the maid’s daughter. I would insist with them saying, ‘No, bring her a silk lehenga as well’.
I would insist that they buy something nice and shiny for that girl to wear as well, even if it was made of artificial silk. So my father gave in and bought one for her also. You know afterwards, Pitaji (a fond name with which everyone addressed Gurudev’s father) made this his mission and went to our village and helped hundreds of girls this way. He educated them, gave them that equal status, and made them self-reliant.
In this part of Karnataka, for the first time women were trained as auto-rickshaw drivers. They learnt to drive the auto-rickshaws and became economically self-sufficient.
Even today, our project is happening through Vista in central Karnataka, in areas like Sirsi, Siddhapur, etc. Women are being empowered to financially stand on their feet. Bhanu is also leading these programmes for the Girl Child. But the work that The Art of Living is doing in this direction is just a drop in the ocean. I want this cause to be taken up by every NGO (Non-Government Organization) in India.
We have hundreds and thousands of NGOs across the country and the world at large. They all should engage in education of the Girl Child.
Malnutrition is another big issue. As I told you in my story, we would always share the food we made in our home with the girl (referring to the maid’s daughter in the story). When we would get chocolates at home, we would give some to her also. We should have that sense of sharing, whatever be the class (of society) we come from.
During my tours, I have stayed in some big homes. In Delhi, I saw that they cook good food for the family members but separate food for the maids and the servants. Even if there was some good food left over, they would not share it with the servants and the maids, saying that by doing so, they would get used to it.So they would prefer not serving themBasmati rice (a high quality type of rice grown predominantly in North India), and instead would serve them some lower quality rice. This mentality is not good. It will keep the society divided. We should always share and care, and see ourselves in others. We should see to it that gender prejudice disappears from our society.
Malnutrition is a big issue today. It is not that we do not have food. The problem is that we do not have a sense of what to eat and what not to eat. In some places, children are fed chapatti (a flat Indian bread made of wheat), rice and potatoes. Yet they remain malnourished. We have to re-invest in nutrition and reinforce it in the right way in society.
The traditional food system was one of the best we have had in our country.
Once again I remember something from my childhood days. My grandmother was very particular about how food should be served, and what dishes should be prepared on what days. They would cook and serve food in the traditional way. They would serve food on a banana leaf, and would serve some greens, some salad, some dal (lentils or pulses), and some semi-cooked sabzi (a general term given to vegetable dishes in India). They would always have dal, rice and some ghee (clarified butter), all together in their meals. They would never have rice alone, or dal alone. Also, there would always be one item made from yoghurt, like Pachadi (a traditional south Indian dish made from different combinations of vegetables and yoghurt). Then they would ensure that one bitter tasting item would also be there in the meal, like bitter gourd.
They would also serve some green chutney (a paste made of some herbs and spices that aids digestion and adds to the taste of food). Greens would be a compulsory part of the meals. So if we go back to our traditional food system, I tell you there will be no malnutrition anymore.
In our traditional food system, they would always insist on having the leaves of a particular tree after every 12 days of the moon, as they found that it cleansed the system from inside.
The same is the case with drumsticks. They are so good for our intestines.
You do not need to invest huge amounts of money to chase malnutrition away. What you need is the proper education and the sense of food, that’s all. Just stuffing yourself with tomatoes, potatoes or brinjals (eggplant) won’t help.
Nowadays, making sabzi means having onions, tomatoes and some potatoes in it, that’s all, and we feel we have eaten well, or we have fed people well by serving such dishes. On top of it, we use white sugar in our preparations.
White sugar is called ‘White Poison’ in America. It is so bad for our system. In India, we have always been using jaggery for adding sweetness to our dishes. Jaggery has zinc, iron, calcium and other minerals. But instead of using jaggery which is so healthy, we switched over to white sugar. This change has happened in the last 200 years, or less. Before the British came to India, no one here even knew about white sugar at all.
Cane juice (from which jaggery is prepared) is so nutritious and it can cure so many illnesses. If we start adopting cane juice and jaggery in our food instead of white sugar, the problem of malnutrition will be done with.
Even in our religious rituals earlier, we would always use jaggery and not white sugar. In those days there was no malnutrition at all. It is because jaggery has so much iron content.
Our women were healthy. At the age of 95, my grandmother was so healthy, but my mother was not. You can see this even today in our villages. The elderly ladies in the villages are so healthy because they follow the traditional food system. The leaves from the trees on which drumsticks grow are so good. Whenever they cooked butter to turn it intoghee, they would add a leaf of the drumstick tree at the end. The leaves seem to contain all the nutrients needed by the human body. It is said to be equivalent to the blood
. Our Oorja tablets are made of those drumstick leaves because you cannot carry the leaves everywhere. These drumstick leaves can eliminate malnutrition in both the mother and child.
So we need to get back to these traditional principles and have a balanced diet.
If you have observed carefully, all the fried snacks and foods in India are accompanied with the Curry Leaf. The curry leaves are not used only for their fragrance. They also have anti-cholesterol properties. So when you eat fried stuff, it raises the cholesterol content in the body. But along with that if you eat curry leaves, it reverses the cholesterol and prevents bad cholesterol from coming in the system and accumulating in the body.
Similarly, Idli (steamed cakes or dumplings of rice and lentil flour) is a most nutritious food item. But what do we do instead? We take white bread, put a lot of butter on it and stuff it in our system. What does it do for us? Absolutely nothing! It just increases the fat in the body. But if you take Idli, it has proteins, carbohydrates and also enzymes, because it is made from batter fermented a day before.
The Indian Institute of Nutritional Sciences have certified Idli as the most nutritious food. It can be consumed at any time and by people of all ages. It is a complete food and provides for all the nutritional needs of our system. We also putchutney on top of it, which is rich in fibre. So there is fibre, little bit of oil which gives the fats, and there are proteins and the carbohydrates from the Idli. So it is a complete food available to you.
But instead of eating such healthy food, what do we do? We eat deep fried food, like French fries, fried potatoes likeBonda (a savoury snack item in India prepared by deep frying a mixture of mashed potatoes in batter), etc. We simply spoil our stomach by eating such kind of food.
What is the fashion these days? Eating foods like Pizza, or items cooked in Maida (white flour). The white flour sticks to your intestines and does not get cleansed easily. So white sugar and white flour is not good at all for consumption from a nutritional point of view.
There is malnutrition in this country because of a widespread lack of knowledge of food and healthy eating habits.There is plenty of food in our country, but we need to educate the people regarding the food habits.
Dr Manikantan and Mrs. Manikantan both are here and they have done a lot of good work on what good food is, and how to cook and consume food.
Our Ayurveda system gives elaborate details about what food to consume in which season to maintain good health and vitality. This whole body of knowledge is there, yet we have not paid attention to it at all.
There is a saying, ‘Jaisa ann waisa mann’ (Meaning: As is your food, so will be the nature and conditions of your mind).
Whatever kind of food you eat, your mind takes on the same qualities and nature. If you eat spicy food immediately after waking up in the morning, you will soon become irritable in two hours.
Many people consume tea and Parantha (stuffed and fried Indian bread) immediately after getting up in the morning. The mind starts becoming dull in just two hours after that. I am not saying that you should not eat Parantha, but it is not something you should eat the very first thing in the morning. Instead, you should have fresh fruits. If not fruits, have a simple cucumber in the morning. You will feel so fresh. Then after a little time gap, you can eat whatever you want to eat. So we must consume raw fruits and vegetables from time to time. Otherwise we miss out on the nutrients present in them.
There is a saying in Kannada, ‘If you know what to eat, you will not suffer from diseases, and if you know how to talk, you will not get into fights’. If one knows how to speak, he will not get into conflicts.
All conflicts happen only because of the way we talk and convey things to others. It may be the right thing that we are saying, but the way we convey it is important. Your intention may be good, but if only bullets come out the moment you open your mouth, then it is no good. You may say, ‘I am telling the truth, I am very good at heart, I am very well intended’, but if what comes out is nothing but bullets, then no one will take that from you. They will even give it back to you. This is not how it should be. So pay attention to your food. In the Upanishads it is said, ‘Annam Brahma’ (Food is a form of the Brahman, the one Divinity). So you need to give a high importance to your food also, revering it as God Himself.
Then it is said, ‘Pranam Brahma’ (The Life-force is a form of Brahman, the one Divinity). So you must give attention to the Prana.
You must also pay attention to your mind. It is said, ‘Mano-brahmeti vyajanaat’. It means that when we pay attention to the mind, then negative thoughts do not come.
Many crimes that have happened against women are because of alcohol. It is not that all the men in this country are immoral, violent, or cruel by nature. Violence is increasing day by day because no one is raising their voice against it. If we raise our voices, then all the liquor shops will shut down soon. As long as liquor shops remain open for business, the crimes against women will continue to happen. When even the most noble and good-natured man gets drunk with alcohol, he comes home and beats his wife. In the morning when all the intoxication of the alcohol subsides, then he feels guilty and apologizes for his behaviour. Since a woman is kind-hearted and accommodating, she easily forgives him.
I have seen bruises on the faces of some of the women who work here. When I ask them what happened, they say, ‘Gurudev, my husband hit me. He is not a bad man. In the night after he drinks he hits me, but in the morning he also apologizes for his misbehaviour’.
So the man is good and sober until he gets drunk. Once he gets drunk, he is not careful of what is in his hands and just throws it at his wife and beats her up. The man is disturbed, and so is the wife.
You will not believe this, but in just two years, the sale of alcohol has more than tripled in the country. And ever since then, the extent of violence and crimes has increased by the same degree.
You must have heard about the Nirbhaya rape case that happened in New Delhi. All the five accused in the crime were totally drunk. I myself went there and met both the victim and her family, and also the accused. Whenever I have met people who have been accused of committing crimes against women, they have all said the same thing, ‘I was drunk and out of my senses’.
99% of those accused of violence against women had done so under the influence of alcohol or other intoxicants. When a person has no awareness of what he is doing to others, then you cannot even blame or consider such a person as a culprit. Who is to blame really? It is the substance that has stolen or dimmed a person’s awareness that is to be blamed for crimes like this.
I would appeal to UNICEF, to all devotees, all the spiritual seekers and men and women everywhere to unite and rise up against this evil (alcohol). We must all raise our voice in support of getting liquor shops closed down. Whether it be a small village, a city or even a marriage function, you must all take this pledge to stop the sale and consumption of alcohol. Then you will see, that women everywhere will be safe and secure. We will also save our children from malnutrition. This is the Sankalpa (firm resolve or pledge) we must all take today.
Just as we open an umbrella when it is raining, we need to stand up and rise against this terrible climate that has come over our country.