Mothers don't know best
Although I pride myself on being self-sufficient and independent, the simple but simultaneously intricate art of cooking I learnt rather late in life (and am still trying to perfect), because I was lucky to have a mother who is an excellent cook. She can single-handedly rustle up meals for our 11-member family, and accommodate half a dozen unexpected guests as well. With help she can turn out lavish dinners for 50 people at short notice.
Moreover her wonder meals are rustled up inexpensively, without waste, and making do with current stocks of raw materials. But though we were unaware until recently, a price was paid. Motherâ€™s needs at all levels were put aside. Her music and art never got time and attention, because our needs always came first, and every ache and pain was brushed aside. Some went away and some became part of her being. She never took time off because the family, her staff, her guests, all had to be fed, clothed and housed.
But in the everyday hurly-burly, anyone else in her kitchen was a hindrance to her flow of preparing menus and meals. Only when I had my own kitchen was I able to begin my culinary experiments. And recently I have begun cooking food that not just satisfies the palate and taste buds, it also satiates the hunger of body cells.
Now this femme formidable is laid up in bed with nerve pain. She keeps telling me to slow down though she never rested herself! But even when bed-ridden, she canâ€™t reconcile to eating out, because restaurant food is unhealthy and "an utter waste of money". She rightly criticises people who wonâ€™t pay the household help an extra Rs.500 per month, while spending ten times as much on dining out!
Iâ€™ve battled constantly with her over cooking basic simple food, not worrying about each family memberâ€™s preference and letting a cook take care of everyday chores. But she simply canâ€™t serve a minimal meal and needs her table to look full and inviting. Right now, however, she canâ€™t run the kitchen but still manages to direct it from her bedside.
The positive side of her predicament is that although in pain, sheâ€™s getting the much needed rest her body has been screaming for all these years. If she only had listened to her bodyâ€™s warning signals, she would have eased up before severe pain set in. The moral of the story is that if we donâ€™t pay attention to symptoms and begin to treat the cause (the real cause i.e beyond the germs and virus illusion), the body has no option but to refuse to cooperate and force you to rest. How and when we heed the signals determines our health condition.
Curiously, most people have difficulty in accepting the self-evident truth that thereâ€™s more to healthy living than popping pills that temporarily suppress pain and discomfort. Even with alternate medicine, if lifestyle changes are not made simultaneously, the problem will recur. A temporary shift from oneâ€™s routine, a two-week diet regimen, an occasional walk, wonâ€™t help if you wish to enjoy vibrant/superior health. But most people canâ€™t make lifestyle changes. They are content with watching the symptoms of ailments go away.
The body in its infinite wisdom always knows best. Just as a newborn baby knows that its motherâ€™s breast is the best source of nourishment, so too at each stage of life the body knows what it needs and signals its wants to us. After maturity the body is at its best, geared to earn a livelihood and take on family responsibilities, with loads of energy to expend. If natureâ€™s laws are followed, levels of health can be very positive and much can be achieved. As women approach menopause, the body needs to slow down, and hormonal changes signal the need to rest. I have been able to sail though this period without grief because my lifestyle already incorporates necessities that facilitate good health. When I over exert, I simply rest more. And although I never found time to do knitting hitherto, this art keeps me still for at least an hour at a time while exercising a calming effect. Reading, listening to music, writing, getting a massage, are all great ways of giving your body the needed break. Thatâ€™s where mother went wrong: she never took time out when her body was going through menopausal change.
I never fail to wonder how people donâ€™t make the connection between food, activity, rest, and health. As though our bloodstream were fed via some extraneous system unconnected with the lifestyles we choose. Unfortunately this is what we are made to believe by modern medicine. That germs and viruses are the cause of ill-health and ailments. In fact itâ€™s better to believe that you have control over your health through conscious adoption of a particular lifestyle. Itâ€™s important also to understand that not getting to the root of acute problems will lead to their intensification and chronic manifestation.
It took all my patience and loads of emotional blackmailing to get my mother to put her trust in ayurveda and the best doctors in this field. I am hoping she wonâ€™t stop the medication the minute she is marginally better. I want her to be able to experience good health as I know it. I know itâ€™s possible because she has good genetic inheritance and if she follows up her ayurvedic prescription with appropriate food and rest, sheâ€™ll be as good as new.
(Kavita Mukhi is a Mumbai-based eco-nutritionist and director of Conscious Food)