Thursday, October 15, 2009

FW: Why Indians are Stressed and Unhealthy!!!! - Health point

Subject: Why Indians are Stressed and Unhealthy!!!! -
Health point


Eye opening to say the least...Pass around

Manmohan Singh had his arteries bypassed on Saturday, a procedure that
increasing numbers of Indians are having. Last year, medical journal
Lancet reported a study of 20,000 Indian patients and found that 60 per cent of the world's
heart disease patients are in India, which has 15 per cent of the world's population.

This number is surprising because reports of obesity and heart disease focus on fat Americans and their food. What could account for Indians being so susceptible -- more even than
burger-and-fries-eating Americans?

Four things: diet, culture, stress and lack of fitness.

There is no doctrinal prescription for vegetarianism in Hindu diet, and some texts
explicitly sanction the eating of meat. But vegetarianism has become dogma.

Indian food is assumed to be strongly vegetarian, but it
is actually lacking in vegetables. Our diet is centred around wheat, in the north, and rice, in
the south. The second most important element is daal in its various forms. By weight, vegetables are not consumed much. You could have an entire South Indian
vegetarian meal without encountering a vegetable. The most
important vegetable is the starchy aloo. Greens are not cooked
flash-fried in the healthy manner of the Chinese, but boiled or
fried till much of the nutrient value is killed.

Gujaratis and Punjabis are the two Indian communities most susceptible to heart disease. Their vulnerability is recent. Both have a large peasant population -- Patels and Jats -- who in the last few decades have moved from an agrarian life to an urban one. They have retained their diet and if anything made it richer, but their bodies do not work as much. This transition from a physical life to a sedentary one has made them vulnerable..

Gujaratis lead the toll for diabetes as well, and the dietary aspect of this
is really the fallout of the state's economic success. Unlike most Indian
states, Gujarat has a rich and developed urban culture because of the mercantile nature of its society. Gujaratis have been living in cities for centuries.

His prosperity has given the Gujarati surplus money and, importantly, surplus
time. These in turn have led to snacky foods, some deep fried, some
steamed and some, uniquely in India, baked with yeast. Most Indians
are familiar with the Gujarati family on holiday, pulling out vast quantities of snacks the moment the train pushes off.

Gujarati peasant food -- bajra (millet) roti, a lightly cooked green, garlic and
red chilli chutney, and buttermilk -- is actually supremely healthy. But
the peasant Patel has succumbed to the food of the 'higher' trader
and now prefers the oily and the sweet. Marathi peasant food
is similar, but not as wholesome with a thick and pasty porridge called
zunka replacing the green.

Bombay's junk food was invented in the 19th century to service
Gujarati traders leaving Fort's business district late in the
evening after a long day. Pao bhaji, mashed leftover
vegetables in a tomato gravy served with shallow-fried buns of bread,
was one such invention.

The most popular snack in Bombay is vada pao, which has a batter-fried potato ball
stuck in a bun. The bun -- yeast bread -- is not native to India and gets
its name pao from the Portuguese who brought it in the 16th century. Bal
Thackeray encouraged Bombay's unemployed Marathi boys to
set up vada pao stalls in the 60s, which they did and still do.

The travelling chef and TV star Anthony Bourdain called vada pao the best
Indian thing he had ever eaten, but it is heart attack food..

Though Jains are a very small part (one per cent or thereabouts) of the
Gujarati population, such is their cultural dominance through trade that many
South Bombay restaurants have a 'Jain' option on the menu. This is food without
garlic and ginger. Since they are both tubers (as also are potatoes),
Jains do not eat them, because in uprooting them from the soil, living
organisms may be killed (no religious restriction on butter and cheese, however!).

Even in Bombay, this intolerance prevails. Domino's, the famous pizza
chain, has a vegetarian-only pizza outlet on Malabar Hill (Jinnah's
neighbourhood). Foreigners like Indian food, and it is very
popular in England, but they find our sweets too sweet.
This taste for excess sugar extends also to beverage: Maulana Azad
called Indian tea 'liquid halwa'. Only in the last decade have cafes
begun offering sugar on the side, as diabetes has spread..

India's culture encourages swift consumption. There is no conversation at meal-time,
as there is in Europe. Because there are no courses, the eating is
relentless. You can be seated, served and be finished eating at a
Gujarati or Marathi or South Indian thali restaurant in 15 minutes. It
is eating in the manner of animals: for pure nourishment.

We eat with fingers, as opposed to knives and forks, or chopsticks,
resulting in the scooping up of bigger mouthfuls. Because the nature of
the food does not allow for leisurely eating, Indians do not have a drink
with their meals. We drink before and then stagger to the table.

As is the case in societies of scarcity, rich food is considered good -- and
ghee is a sacred word in all Indian languages. There is no escape from
fat. In India, advertising for healthy eating also shows food
deep fried, but in lower-cholesterol oil.

The insistence by family - 'thoda aur le lo ' -- at the table is part of our
culture of hospitality, as is the offering of tea and perhaps also a snack to
visiting guests and strangers. Middle class Indians, even families
that earn Rs10,000 a month, will have servants. Work that the European and
American does, the Indian does not want to do: cooking, cleaning, washing up.

Painting the house, changing tyres, tinkering in the garage, moving things
around, getting a cup of tea at the office, these are things the Indian
gets someone else to do for him.. There is no sense of private space
and the constant presence of the servant is accepted.

Gandhi's value to India was not on his political side, but through his religious
and cultural reforms. What Gandhi attempted to drill into Indians through
living a life of action was a change in our culture of lethargy and dependence. Gandhi
stressed physical self-sufficiency, and even cleaned his toilet out himself.

But he wasn't successful in making us change, and most Indians will not
associate Gandhi with physical self-sufficiency though that was his principal message. Indian
men do no work around the house. Middle class women do little, especially
after childbirth. Many cook, but the cutting and cleaning is done
by the servant. Slim in their teens, they turn thick-waisted in their 20s,
within a few years of marriage.

Since we are dependent on 20 other people, we have less control over events. The Indian is under stress and is anxious. This is bad for his health. He must be on constant guard against
the world, which takes advantage of him: the servant's perfidy, encroachment by his
neighbours, cars cutting in front of him in traffic, the vendor's rate that must be haggled down.
Almost nothing is orderly and everything must be worried about.

In the Indian office, the payroll is a secret, and nobody is told what the other makes. Knowledge
causes great stress, though the lack of information is also stressful, leading to spy games and office gossip.

Because there is no individualism in India, merit comes from seniority and
the talented but young executive is stressed by the knowledge that he's
not holding the position he deserves. Indians are peerless detectors of
social standing and the vertical hierarchy of the Indian office is sacrosanct.

Dennis Kux pointed out that Indian diplomats do not engage officially with
an American of lower rank, even if the American was authorised to decide
the matter. In the last decade, when Indians began owning companies
abroad, the Wall Street Journal reported on cultural problems that
arose. Their foreign employees learnt quickly that saying 'no' would
cause their Indian bosses great offence, so they learnt to communicate with
them as with children.

Indians shine in the west where their culture doesn't hold them back. In India honour is
high and the individual is alert to slights from those below him, which
discomfort him greatly. There is no culture of physical fitness, and
because of this Indians don't have an active old age.

Past 60, they crumble. Within society they must step back and play their
scripted role. Widows at that age, even younger, have no hope of remarriage
because sacrifice is expected of them. Widowers at 60 must also reconcile to singlehood,
and the family would be aghast if they showed interest in the opposite
sex at that age, even though this would be normal in another culture.

Elders are cared for within the family, but are defanged when they pass on their
wealth to their son in the joint family. They lose their self-esteem as they understand their
irrelevance, and wither.

The writer is a former newspaper editor who lives in Bombay.

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