Monday, April 17, 2017

Indeed, More Indian Than You Think!

India is many things. And amongst those, it is a land of rich spices and condiments. Different parts of India experience diametrically different climatic conditions, providing the perfect environment for the production of many native species of spices along with many cultivars throughout the year. A beautiful consequence of that is one can find varied kinds of cuisines in different corners of the country. Indian food is matchless in taste, colour and aroma. If it is made in the right way, it is also very, very healthy. Which is why, perhaps, one can clearly see world wide recognition and global impact of our food tradition in the latest Lufthansa TV ad on Youtube.

Lufthansa’s TVC rightly gives a hint that one of the most incredibly Indian things about India is the Indian food. Apart from the technique, I believe, much of it is because of the unique Indian spices used during the gravy preparation. The states such as Andhra Pradesh, Gujrat, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, etc. are major spice producing states in India. But the fact that the Indian soil can grow a vast amount of amazing spices is not the only reason India is special.

The Indian tradition of knowing the distinctive properties, taste, benefits and medicinal value of herbs and spices dates back to thousands of years. Much of scientific research in economical botany across the globe takes heavily from the tribal knowledge of aboriginal plant species in many parts of India. People in villages and remote parts of India deeply understand the value of plants. In fact, plant species like Tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum), Peepal or Sacred fig (Ficus religiosa), etc. are treated with reverence and are considered holy by some Indian communities, which is, perhaps, their way of understanding their importance.

Unknowingly and beautifully, this tremendous ancient cultural knowledge about the benefits of various plant species is being passed on from one generation to another, many a times, orally, and at other times, in the form of informal texts. I often feel, the West is probably unaware of or too skeptical of this knowledge. But this has helped Indians time and again in the most unexpected ways.

To share one such incident, last to last year, I, along with my colleagues, went to Dharchula district, a remote hilly area located on the India-Nepal border, to collect linguistic data on an endangered language. We were sitting by the bank of the river Kali when I realized there were 4-5 leeches on my feet sucking my blood. To anyone who has had this experience, if you try to manually remove them, their mouth organs stay inside the skin, causing serious infection later on. There was no medical facility nearby. The solution was simple. I went to a small dhaba next to us and got some salt from there. Putting salt on leeches makes them leave your body instantaneously and painlessly. After that, I applied turmeric on the area to prevent bleeding and to disinfect it. I can imagine anyone else would have had several mini attacks during such an occasion. But, as Indians, it comes so naturally to us to use spices and herbs to our benefit anytime, anywhere.

While there are post-colonialists out there crying on the issues of westernization of India and Anglicization of Indian food and languages, I feel, everything about India is still #MoreIndianThanYouThink and Indians have #MoreIndian-nessThanWeCanImagine.

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