First, let’s define what I term here as foodie. At UNC, a foodie is a student who not only is interested in food politics, the economy of food and questions related to food and health but is also actively involved in raising awareness about the highly corrupt field of American agricultural economics. Foodies lead a healthy lifestyle, buy local, organic if possible, and will never set foot in (or at least they shouldn’t) Wal Mart or Target. Foodies are anti-corporation, alternative, subculture, liberal, open-minded, angry and idealists all at the same time. Foodies want to change the way meat, milk and vegetables are grown and sold in the US. Foodies are the West’s new rebels and reformers.
OK, maybe I’m exaggerating. But you get the picture, right? Trust me, foodies, including me, have at least some of these characteristics.
Foodies are attracted to nature, to the traditional and simple way of producing food, to the traditional, ancestral cultures who did things right. And that’s when we get to talk about India and the Sambhavna Trust clinic in Bhopal more specifically.
I have discovered that people in India have a different relationship with food than back home. Maybe because I am a woman who watches her weight, I see this difference more clearly? Back home, women count calories, punish themselves if they have sweets and chocolates, starve themselves, lose weight but then often gain it all over again. They enter the dark web of self-consciousness and shame of their body, a web that’s really hard to disentangle from. Men stuff themselves to build muscle, work out to build muscle, exercise to build muscle… You got it, they’ll do anything to build muscle. I never thought this lifestyle was healthy but I didn’t know of any other food paradigm I could possibly live in. Coming to India, accompanied with my keen interest in an alternative lifestyle and a different way to understand my body opened a completely new door to me.
People here view food differently. Food is neither a punishment nor a crime. It’s a blessing. And food is not just nourishment for the body; it’s also a source of fuel for the mind. And it heals. People don’t eat for their body to survive; they eat so that their body and soul could thrive. Although their meals are high in carbs, and it is in good form to eat A LOT, a traditional Indian meal is conceived so as to have an adequate amount of protein, fat, minerals, spice…etc, all that your body needs to function properly. Traditional cultures have this ancestral knowledge of the body, its needs and what food would suit it best. They have conceived cuisines that combine spices, herbs, carbs, vegetables, and proteins (all local of course) in order to fuel the body in the optimal way. So you see, food is both an art and a carefully studied science and that’s because people here love their body, respect it, listen to it and understand it. People here don’t self-deprecate, hate their bodies, and starve themselves (we’re talking about most Indians, not the rich westernized Mumbai elite.) There is no yo-yo phenomenon where people lose weight, look like sticks, but then gain it all back again.
The Sambhavna Trust Clinic has taken food science one step further by researching the medicinal virtues of fruits, plants and herbs. To what extent can herbal decoctions, tinctures, infusions, poultices help reestablish your body’s balance? It’s all about using local, homemade, traditional sources to remain healthy and cure yourself. After all, that is what your body deserves. Why stuff it with medicine and chemicals that induce side-effects? Don’t you think that side-effects are a good enough indication that this is not the proper way to treat your body? Sambhavna has a huge herbal garden in which are grown over a 100 plants that are known to have medicinal value in Ayurveda, India’s thousand-year-old traditional medicinal system. Eg: you’re constipated? Then instead of taking a laxative pill, why not have some tamarind or prunes? You have bronchitis? Then a decoction of Atibala leaves will help decrease the symptoms.
Are you still surprised when I tell you that the yoga doctor, Dr.Shruti is the one who knows the most about nutrition and what your body needs? OK, so does the ayurvedic doctor, Dr. Rupa, but that’s her job. Food and the mind’s welfare go hand in hand and that’s why the yoga prof knows so much about what to eat, when, and how to make the most of your food.
So, I call this place a foodie’s paradise because everyone here is passionate about health. But not the western way, by stuffing yourself with messed up chemicals. They’re passionate about health by ensuring that their bodies and minds are healthy, by eating healthy food and reestablishing their balance if anything goes wrong through herbal, earthy, local medicine. Going back to the source. That’s what what we need in the West.