the wellness meme

I never imagined I would ever write about ‘wellness.’ Ah, what a meme! Although the word ‘personalized’ appears in many definitions, I find its tropes in the media standardized, even stereotypical. I’m thinking of images of joggers looking flushed and pink-cheeked, slender young things striking yoga poses against the sunrise, or images of colourful, healthful food.So far from the struggle it can be!

My own tryst with wellness began fairly recently, but it all goes back more than a decade ago.Every few years I had to move out of home for various purposes – to other cities. First Bangalore, then it was Pune and Hyderabad. By ‘various purposes’ I mean studies, and work. Much as it was fun to travel, explore new places and make new friends, all that moving around began to take a toll on my health. At that time, it was easy enough to subsist on pizzas (easy to make) a couple of hastily made chapatis and lots of snack food. All this, coupled with the joys of exploring street-food – think vada pav, papdi chat, mysore bondas and samosas.

But soon, I began to get signs from my body that all was not well. Headaches and sore stomachs became more frequent when I ate processed foods like white bread, white rice and pizza. Not surprisingly, they also made me feel low and a bit crabby.Since I have made these discoveries, it has been an enjoyable process looking for alternatives that work for me. I’ve loved exploring the fuller, more nourishing, and yes, calming tastes of whole grains. it has been fun trying out whole grain breads and organic fruit. I make it a point to eschew exotica like Apples and Kiwi fruit from Australia, or blueberries from California. Instead I load up on indigenous fruit like Guavas, Sitaphal, Litchis; all beloved tastes from home anyway. Although perhaps I have been guilty of the odd eco-sin! Nobody likes a puritan.When I am at home in Madras, it’s been fun cooking with organic Veragu (foxtail millet) Ragi and red or brown rice.

The one item that has been a bit of a battle to cut back on is tea. Although a die-hard Chennai-ite for the most part, I have never been much of a filter-coffee drinker. It has always been tea. And that too, the Bertie Wooster hot-water-and-a-spot-of-milk variety. It has to be that way, else give me sweetened kulhad chai from Itarsi. Tea ostensibly calms the nerves, but with me it only sets up a pleasure-fatigue loop that has me craving for more. On the days I have not had tea I sleep better and function better. But so strong is its lure, it may be the one habit that endures – to the butt-end of my days and ways!

Writing about my explorations has made me aware of my underlying thoughts. I started off with hesitations about the term ‘wellness’. I think I prefer an approach of ‘wholeness’ as it relies on sensitivity to one’s responses of mind and body. In my search for wholeness, I have had to look deeper at my disatisfactions, and the ways of habit. And to say no, and mean it! This is why I love it when Neruda says “don’t sell yourself/ don’t be channeled/ don’t be entubed/don’t be boxed/ compressed/ don’t be stamped out in pills/don’t be bottled/ be careful!”

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