Eat Local: 6th Swadeshi Movement

On 7th August 1905, the Swadeshi Movement was officially proclaimed in Bengal. The key idea was to boycott foreign goods & use stuff made in India. With the current Government’s “Make In India” campaign, we are in the sixth tranche of the “Swadeshi Movement”.

Unfortunately, our history books in school had very little information on the Swadeshi Movement’s impact on food then. We are repeating history with the ongoing Swadeshi campaign, where the emphasis on Make In India food from the spices of ancient times to A2 milk today to maybe jaggery, rock salt, etc in the future is completely missing. Interestingly, when the East India company imposed salt tax on Odisha salt [1]  & imported cheap Liverpool (Cheshire) salt as a replacement in 1860, odiya people stayed away from the salt for 2 long years, fearing that the low priced British salt would be harmful for health. Back then, the concerns were unfounded and the “foreign” salt impacted only the economic and political health of the nation. Liverpool salt was boiled sea salt, the same as the local Panga salt.

Boycott “Foreign” Food

We are a generation of “Internet researchers” & that includes our health food. Unfortunately, there are very few authentic Indian health food websites on the Internet. For example, when we search for “Omega 3 rich foods”, the first result is from a popular Indian news website, NDTV [2]. The list of foods are:

Soybeans
Walnuts
Salmon
Canola Oil
Sardines
Chia Seeds
Mackerel
Flaxseeds

While the information is right, the list of food items are mostly “foreign” or the equivalent local names are not mentioned. Things get even worse when you search for “Indian foods rich in Omega 3”. The list starts with Tuna, Halibut & goes on to even obscure food items that have never been even imported into India. This website [3], among the first few results on Google India, lists Brussels sprouts as an Indian food rich in Omega 3 (Brussels sprouts, as the name suggests is an European food item, but just as French fries are from Belgium & Christopher Columbus is from Italy, the sprouts did not originate in Belgium, but in Italy). Ever heard of a superfood called Elephant’s foot yam? Well search for it & you’ll recognize it from the images. Not just rich in Omega 3, it is a good replacement for potato (a foreign food) for diabetics, helps reduce weight, helps in digestion, PMS & so on. Why dind’t you read about this before? It’s because the Internet is more phoren than you think.

Foreign Superfoods

One of the unshakable fundamental principles of Ayurveda is that food rots. It rots regardless of what modern science does to it, which includes chemical treatment, adding preservatives, refrigerating it or even genetically modifying it. It also rots naturally, right as it ripens on the plant, is cooked, eaten and digested. Although the world is a global village, it still takes a while for the food to be plucked, preserved, packed & transported to India. It lies on the shelves in malls, till you pick it up and store it in your refrigerator. Let’s look at Japanese Enoki mushrooms (I spotted them in a mall recently). Health wise, they are not very superior to Button Mushroom (Agaricus spp.), which is the most consumed mushroom in the world [4] [5]. Agreed, it cannot be a substitute to Enokitake in every possible recipe, but there’s no health benefit in the swap. In fact, the nutrient value of Enoki is dilapidated as it reaches it’s end of life (refrigerated mushrooms have a shelf life of 4 days)

Relocation

Best of luck to you if you are shifting your base if:

  • The new location is more than 100 km from where you have lived for a long time
  • You have a weak jathar agni (digestive fire)
  • You are more than 30 years old

Try to find if you can get your hands on what you are used to eat in the new place. Kids & teenagers, including students who relocate to study abroad rarely face any problem, because their body is not yet fully accustomed to the food of the mother land. For someone who is used to food cooked in mustard oil, uncooked salads with olive oil sprinkled judiciously is in no way a healthy option. Similarly, an Indian used to a high carb diet will find it difficult to adjust to a high protein diet elsewhere in the world.

Foreign Technology

Throughout ancient & medieval history, new tech had always originated in India. During Mughal & British rule, the world started sharing the burden of inventions, but in each case, India had been an early adopter, whether it’s telegram or the railways. Thankfully, independent India has always been a laggard when it comes to adoption of new technologies. Unfortunately, very few Indians share my enthusiasm of sticking to “old world” ways of working.

The Green Revolution of the ’60s saw the latest farming technology enter India. Tractors and drip irrigation accompanied insecticides, herbicides and synthetic fertilizes.  Food production increased many fold and India became self sufficient & even managed to store some buffer stock. Jersey cows were bought in during Operation Flood in the ’70s. Milk from a Jersey contains 20% more protein, 15% more calcium and 10% more phosphorus and more vitamin B12 than our holy desi cow.  Finally, Holsteins yield 2.5 times the amount of milk a desi cow manages. While A1 milk costs Rs.44 in Mumbai, desi cow milk costs Rs100 a litre. Without all this technology, your food & grocery bill would have been more than twice of what is now.

The PM Ujjwala Yojana [6] is an ongoing initiative that has supplied 4 crore gas cylinders to families who were cooking in earthen pots on stoves fueled by firewood, coal and dung cakes. Yes, that is how half of India still cooks, gather/buy firewood, fire it up with a blowpipe, cook & cough. WHO says it’s like smoking 400 cigarettes an hour!

Before you thank your stars for all the technology in your hands, read this. The pesticides from the ’60s affects 25mn agricultural workers each year[7]. The number of consumers dying from slow poisoning is not accurately known. A1 milk has been linked to Type 1 Diabetes, Heart Disease, Mental Disorders and even Cancer. The money saved in buying milk is being spent on healthcare. What about the womenfolk who cook & cough? Cooking gas is a lifesaver for them, right? Well, they lived long, healthy lives inhaling firewood smoke. They have tough times ahead. Their food will now have 1/10th the nutrient content and will go bad faster after cooking. Remove the earthenware and add Teflon coated non stick cookware to the mix and you are looking at poisoned food.

Eat Swadeshi, Live Swadeshi, Jai Hind!

[1] http://www.historyofodisha.in/salt-trade-in-odisha-during-british-period/
[2} https://food.ndtv.com/food-drinks/8-incredible-sources-of-omega-3-foods-more-than-just-fish-1628557
[3] https://www.boldsky.com/health/nutrition/2018/10-indian-foods-rich-in-omega-3-fatty-acids-120785.html
[4] https://www.livestrong.com/article/38700-enoki-mushroom-nutrition-information/
[5] https://www.livestrong.com/article/415319-the-health-benefits-of-button-mushrooms/
[6] http://www.pmujjwalayojana.com/
[7] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2238694

About aryap

Student of Ayurveda, Master of Raj Yoga, Reading Purnas & Upanishadas, Charaka Samhita & the History of Ancient & Medieval India to reconstruct the principles of Ayurveda. A big thanks to Dr. Manohar Gundeti for his guidance & support

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