Eating for Good Health – An Ayurvedic Perspective : Part 1

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Reading Time: 11 minutes

I am often asked what Ayurveda prescribes as a healthy diet. I hesitate to write down a fixed diet plan for many reasons: there are many diet fads these days which have become accepted as healthy diets (for example the vegan diet, keto diet, millets diet, etc). Most of this is contrarian to the principles espoused in the texts.

1. universally healthy

The second is that Ayurveda is the ultimate customised medicine. The texts opine that health, regimen and medicine should all be customised to the individual, and what works for one individual is especially unique to him / her. Therefore, what works for you is a customised blend of your food culture, what you are used to your prakriti, and where you live.

2. customised approach
The third is a very interesting reason: Ayurveda recognises the importance of “patterns and habits” in the way we eat, behave and live. The Acharyas tell us that even a great diet. Or a set of behaviours considered universally healthy cannot be suddenly introduced to the system, as the system, which has reached a sense of balance with whatever it is doing, will rebel in shock. So for someone who has persisted on a diet of fried bacon, bread and no vegetables, cannot be suddenly asked to substitute fish for fried bacon and introduced to a whole lot of vegetables. The Acharyas tell us that for the system that has been used to food which we consider unhealthy will react to healthy food (if introduced suddenly) like it would react to poison!

3. gradual is better

Obviously our notion of what is healthy food ad not healthy food will have to vary by region, season and availability of food. So if you live in a dry, hot desert I cannot tell you to eat broccoli all the time, despite the fact that it is considered a nutritional superfood.

 

So rather than speak about specific foods to eat, we focus our posts on how to eat. We saw a post this week on eight Ayurvedic eating techniques, and how chewing food well, eating on time, eating when hungry, etc are timeless principles of healthy living. We saw how even the right foods eaten wrongly can cause distress to the body.

 

Speaking further on foods to eat, here is our 2 part series on Ayurvedic eating for good health. Again, these posts are in the form of eating principles, and cover aspects of eating like ethical diets (vegan / vegetarian), eating timings etc. These are atleast as important as what you eat, so do read on.

 

As with all new information, please read this with an open mind. The science of Ayurveda has evolved over thousands of years and is extremely sophisticated in its understanding of both food and its effect on human beings. Many of the things I have written down may seem contrarian to what we believe in now – but the system has survived and thrived for thousands of years

  1. Timing is everything (in health, food & life)

The time of eating is at least as important as what you eat and depending upon your body’s condition, it is sometimes more important than what you eat.

Every organ system is said to have a particular time to cleanse itself and do necessary repairs. For example, the liver, the seat of pitta in our body, cleanses itself around midnight. Cleansing of organ systems occurs ONLY after digestion is through, nutrients have been extracted and toxins have been removed from the body. So if you are eating dinner at 11 pm, your organ systems will NOT cleanse themselves, and will wait until the next available time slot to do so. Which means your body will feel dull and sluggish the next morning (especially if you are consistently eating late).

This does not mean you can get away with eating junk food like a burger everyday at 7 pm for dinner. Do read point 2.

This is corroborated by many systems of traditional medicine. TCM opines that the window to eat breakfast is between 7 am – 9 am. When you consistently eat breakfast after this window, your chi energy or stomach fire energy gets weak and dampened. This in TCM is said to lead to digestive disorders, high production of gas in the system and an inability to digest foods leading to a high accumulation of toxins.

4.damp agni

 

  1. Ideal food is local, freshly cooked, lightly spiced and eaten warm. No spoiled food should be eaten. And no food should be stored, re-heated and eaten.

Ayurveda frowns upon the wonders of modern food preservation. In fact, the Charaka Samhita specifically says that for good health one should not eat too much of pickles, traditional papads or even traditionally salted and preserved vegetables (like vadagam and vathal).These references are to HOME MADE preserved vegetables, lentils and fruits. So this definitely rules OUT eating preserved, commercially processed foods like biscuits, sauces, etc which have a shelf life of 1 year or more (so most of the time we are eating stuff that has been made at-least 6 months ago in a factory and would contain several harmful chemical preservatives).
5. processed food
Local in Ayurveda means something that not only grows naturally within 100 miles of where you live. It also means eating foods you and your digestive system are accustomed to. So if you have grown up eating rice, rice will suit your system the most. Not quinoa. And not even millets. Any new food must be slowly introduced to your digestive system. (This does not take away from your responsibility of sourcing high quality food. Most of us grew up eating untainted, pesticide-free food – so this naturally means you should source the same now. And not just buy the first available pesticide sprayed pack of rice you find in the supermarket).

6. local food
The point about spoiled food is an interesting nuance and goes to our food culture. For example cheese eating is not a practice that is universal to many parts of India. It is usually common only in cold and hilly regions. In hot and humid regions, fermenting a dairy based food will quickly lead to rot, mildew and fungus. However the same food is very well preserved in a cold, hilly region.

Cheese, especially aged cheese, tends to be very salty, sharp and concentrated. In Ayurveda, this has all the makings of a pitta food group. So it makes sense to eat this food, if it is eaten traditionally, in a cold, hilly region where the atmosphere is low in pitta dosha. The pitta in the food is welcome to stimulate digestion.

7.cheese

However in a hot, humid city like Chennai or Hyderabad, where the atmosphere is full of Pitta, the pitta dosha from the cheese would over stimulate pitta dosha. Which is probably why in practice, it does not form a part of traditional food.

If you live in the city of your childhood, it is probably best to stick to your traditional food practice. If you live in a foreign city, it is still better to stock to your traditional food unless the weather and climate is dramatically different from what you are used to. If you are living in an utterly foreign land, it makes sense to slowly acclimatise and add foods and eating practices local to where you live, while continuing to eat traditionally most of the time.

 

  1. An ideal food for you is something that is digested quickly by you and puts the least amount of stress on your digestive system. This can differ from person to person.

Ayurveda believes the more effort the body has to take in digesting your food, the more energy is diverted away from your organ systems. Also, depending upon your state of health, if your food is difficult to digest, there is a possibility that your body will not complete the job of digestion within the allotted time. The longer your food sits in your body without being processed, the more poisonous it becomes to your body.

8.putrefecation

 

Food that is undigested and sits around in your body becomes “Ama” or undigested waste + toxin. Ama prevents the healthy functioning of your organ systems and leads to faster aging and illness. Ama can accumulate across every organ system, but is linked primarily to an improperly functioning digestive system, brought on by eating improper food.

Now how your digestive system will respond to your food group is completely unique. Some of us can easily digest fried food, and can eat copious quantities of this without losing sleep or productivity. Others are extremely sensitive to certain food groups: a single Chinese meal can set us back by 2 – 3 days when we feel dull and sluggish.

9.digestive ability
These digestion patterns tend to change as we age, and by season. They also change when we are under a high amount of stress. So it is important to listen carefully to your body and develop a sense of what works for you. Limit food experimentation to a window where you can take the consequences, and always plan for “cheat” or “treat” days.

  1. Many foods we think are healthy and should be eaten in copious quantities are considered unhealthy in Ayurveda

Many foods that we now consider healthy and are eating a lot of are considered difficult to digest in Ayurveda or are considered unbalanced as they are very high in one particular dosha: these include raw vegetables (yes salads!), raw sprouts, millets, brown rice or cereals with a high amount of husk on them, fermented foods like idly and dosa, cheese, curd, milkshakes. These must be eaten with the proper preparation and caution and at times when the body is capable of digesting them.

Example 1: Fermented foods like idly and dosa are considered high in pitta as they are sour foods. Eating them every day for breakfast will mean your pitta will increase. It is important to balance them with something like a coconut based dish as coconut is both cooling (and high in kapha) and will balance the pitta in the idly / dosa. (Please note that this does not apply if you spike your coconut chutney with an impossibly high amount of green chillies). Eating a fermented food with another pitta heavy dish like a Sambhar high in tamarind or acidic tomato based chutney will not be balanced.

10.idly

 

In this there is obviously a gradation. Freshly fermented idlis are lower in pitta dosha than 3 day old batter. Batter made at home is obviously superior to something bought from outside, because we can guarantee that no other additives like baking soda have been added. Idlis eaten in cold winter season are better for the body compared to idlis eaten in summer.

 

This is because in winter, the heat of the Idlis through Pitta dosha is opposite to the cold produced by the winter – so the load on the body is less. But an idly eaten is summer is far more stimulating to Pitta dosha.

 

When you are suffering from an intense imbalance of Pitta dosha, eating an idly everyday for breakfast can throw you out of gear and is not advisable.  The key, as always is finding balance.

 

Example 2: Raw foods are considered “lekhaniya” (scraping quality), and depending upon what kind of raw foods we are describing, they may be “rooksha” (dry), rough, and “guru” or difficult to digest.

 

An example of a “guru” raw food is raw beetroot. An example of a “rooksha” and “guru” raw food are raw sprouts. From a western, raw food perspective, eating raw food is considered healthy as we get access to many nutrients, vitamins and minerals that are destroyed when cooking. So eating the raw food as a juice, smoothie or as a salad is considered health boosting.

11.raw
Ayurveda however says that the process of digesting this raw food dampens or weakens Agni, hence this food is not properly digested (especially when consumed in quantities that are much higher than what we are used to). So despite eating healthy foods, we could be increasing the ama in our body as the act of digesting this healthy food has weakened Agni.

 

Seasonal fruits and fruit juices are not necessarily a part of this list. But even here, temperance is advised – you cannot suddenly force the body to eat, digest properly and assimilate a very large quantity of fruit juice of fruit salad. Depending upon your constitution this can aggravate Agni, leading to diarrhoea, or leave you feeling sluggish and listless.

12.fruits
Example 3: Millets are now extremely popular across South India as a healthy replacement to rice. Ayurveda however considers many Millets as dry and difficult to digest, which makes sense as they are traditionally dry land crop. Substituting rice completely with Millets will mean that your vata dosha will increase. This is welcome if you have a health condition like diabetes where kapha dosha is high – so here the vata of the Millets will balance excess Kapha. In fact, millet is prescribed in diabetes for just this reason instead of rice. But if you have no such health conditions and have decided to substitute rice completely with Millets, you will be drying out your body, especially if you do this very suddenly.

13.millets
The benefits of Millets must of course be experienced by you. But this should form a part of your experimentative 10% and must be prepared using the correct format and in doses where your body does not rebel or where other symptoms like aggravated vata dosha develop.

 

Here are some of the ways you can experiment with Millets:

Changing the format of the cereal changes how your body digests it – In millets, flour is easier to digest as you have broken down the cereal physically and are not depending upon your digestive system to do this job. So if you would like to introduce Millets into your diet, perhaps Millet flour is a better first step instead of the millet grains.

13.millet flour
The timing of eating is everything, especially for a difficult to digest food. Noon time, when the sun is at its peak, is considered the time when your digestive system is the strongest. So this is the time your body can handle the rigors of digesting a difficult to digest food. Like millets. OR Quinoa. (After preparing it properly).

14.lunch
This list which I have compiled is by no means complete or a prescription in itself. This merely represents a starting point to think about your diet and your health. As with everything, your body and your health are unique and what works for you is something you will have to evolve with time and experimentation.

Part 2 of this post will tackle more of what Ayurveda says about food. In the meantime, do remember, there are no shortcuts to good health and good looking skin and hair. It is built meal by meal, and choice by choice.


Krya’s range of skin care products for pitta prone, normal to oily skin can be found here. Our skin range for vata prone, normal to dry skin can be found here. Our anti acne skin care products can be found here.   Apart from this, we have a range of products for Sensitive Skin (skin that is eczema, dermatitis & psoriasis prone) and for Sun Tanned skin . We also have a large range of Abhyanga-Snana products. 

9-ubtan

Our products are inspired by Ayurveda. completely natural, toxin free and extremely effective. If you would like help choosing the right Krya product for your skin, please call us (075500-89090) or write to us.


 

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Khadi Chronicles – at Krac-a-dawna farm

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Reading Time: 7 minutes

We work only with organic plant based materials to create our formulations at Krya. So we take the process of sourcing and building relationships with our farms very seriously. Every single raw material we source is traceable. And we have a name and a face to match this source.

Traceability is important for many reasons. For one, natural materials have glorious variations depending upon the rain, soil conditions etc. Traceability helps us understand how the final Krya formulation performs.

A direct relationship with the farmers helps us practise fair trade, as we bypass middlemen and traders, and pay the farmer directly.

Because of the perishable nature of the materials we use, a direct relationship with the farm enables us to process them in a precise and timely manner to ensure optimal performance. For example, Fruit peels, especially those sourced from organic farms are extremely rich in aromatic essential oils. But if they are not shade dried carefully under low temperatures, these essential oils can evaporate removing all the aroma. And if they are not dried carefully, the peels can catch mildew and fungus before they reach our factory in Chennai.

Of course, an important, unstated reason for our farm trips is the inspiration it gives us. The beautiful environs of an organic farm or a plantation inspires us and reminds us of the reason why we do our work at Krya. To help keep these beautiful patches of land clean, and green, and perhaps lead a similar change in our crowded, not so green urban spaces.

The icing on the cake is the wonderful, like minded people we get to meet. The organic farmers we meet are committed to their vision, and have stuck to poison free farming through the lows and highs of the agricultural cycle. None of the challenges they continue to face, dampen their spirit and they continue to inspire us with their enthusiasm, positivity and reverence for the land.

Our farm and plantation trail had us exploring sources of organic cotton fabric and medicinal herbs. And took us to Krac-a-dawna farm, started by its custodians, Juli and Vivek Cariappa.

Krack-a-dawna Farm

Vivek and Juli met as students at the Delhi University. Juli tells me that she always wanted to be a farmer, and so in 1986 the two of them at ages 20, and 21, decided to live off the land in their own piece of land just off Mysore.

3. juli cariappa krac a dawna

A loan helped them purchase a barren piece of land with four trees, a cow, a dilapidated hut and a stream. Today this humble beginning has grown into a beautiful, verdant, 30 acre farm which produces 30 kinds of crops including organic cotton and the farm produce includes value added products like organic cotton garments which have been designed by the family, and dyed in house using natural plant based dyes, organic food products like jams jellies, butters, marmalades and pickles and personal care products like soap and bathing aids.

1. dyeing shed at krac a dawna

Vivek is a Krishi Pandit awardee, and Juli has played a central role in the initial years in drafting the Organic standards document to help certify farms for the OFAI.

Sathya Khadi

Krac-a-dawna’s organic cotton is especially relevant to our continuing series on sustainable fabric. Juli and Vivek grow their own cotton which is a hybrid of Indian and Caribbean cotton which is grown because it is long stapled, soft cotton.

2. Non Gmo Organic cotton at Krac a dawna

The feel of this fabric is outstanding, and Juli and Vivek get this cotton woven into many finishes including honeycomb waffle for towels and airy, light voile that gets made into flowing skirts.

 

The mechanised handloom & the master weaver

A conversation with Vivek and Juli leaves us feeling edgy and unsettled when we discuss the state of textiles and organic food produce in India. Krac-a-dawna’s organic cotton is sent to weavers to be woven in a powered handloom, which is a modified, “slightly mechanised” version of a handloom. This is easier on the weaver compared to a pure handloom, and allows each weaver to run 2 – 3 looms at a time, improving their wage earning capacity and productivity. Most importantly for the Cariappas, this frees the weaver from the master weaver, who is the first middleman we encounter in the textile world. Typically, a master weaver controls the output of several weaver families and often pays them a fixed wage and controls their output.

In many villages, master weavers are moneylenders, into whose debt weavers are trapped in exchange for funds to procure raw material or improve their looms. As a result, their output is forever tied to the moneylender who in this case acts as the master weaver, sourcing fabric at low rates from the indebted craftsmen.

We have spoken about the problems around powerloom and availability of hank yarn at length in India. Our conversation with Juli reveals another unknown fact about powerloom weaving.

Beef tallow and yarn sizing

Handloom weavers strengthen the yarn by dipping it into a mixture of starch derived from plant material like arrowroot and tapioca. This process, called sizing, helps give a protective coating to the yarn as it is woven, and helps keep in place during the weaving process.

The speed of powerloom weaving is so high that sizing the fabric is not enough. Instead, mutton fat or beef tallow is used to grease the machine and sizing is done using imported starch, typically from GM corn.

Powerloom sizing of fabric is not an organic process, as it is in handloom weaving. In handloom weaving, sizing is done from left over starch which comes from the rice or tubers that the weavers eat. In contrast, powerloom sizing uses nearly 1.6 Kg of firewood to heat and prepare the starch for every kilo of cotton.

Juli and Vivek call this whole value chain of conventional textile fabric, “violent”. It is harmful to our environment and eco system, and robs us of our seed sovereignty.

5.satyakhadi

Say NO to GMO

The war against GMOs is active and all over Krac-a-dawna. The labels which I help Juli stick onto the jam bottles reminds us to “say no to GMOs”. Vivek and Juli’s bookshelves and work apart from stewarding their farm include monitoring and being a part of several action committees to recommend next steps in suicide belts like Vidharba.

This activism is not restricted to GMOs alone. Juli is a licensed homeopath, and has eschewed vaccinations for her children. The farm animals are treated by Juli and her second son Azad using only gentle homeopathic medicines. Her bookshelves are filled with treatises on nutrition, making bread ,tofu and soaps, and have helped the residents of Krac a dawna stay completely self sufficient.

As we sit down to eat a fresh nutritious lunch made from scratch from the produce grown on the farm, Vivek proudly tells us that everything except the salt in our meal was grown and prepared on their farm.

The quest for self sufficiency

In a strange way, our series on sustainable fabric mirrors our quest for self sufficiency as well. Our nation once clothed the world, and was responsible for providing fabric for the entire world, exquisitely made, tailored and dyed. Our weavers were master craftsmen who occupied an important place in society. The sophistication of our textile produce was vast. The germplasm of our cotton was vast and varied and different parts of India produced different types of cotton. The linkages in our textile world were strong and every part of the textile producing chain was linked to both upstream and downstream. We used every single resource available to us from the dung produced by our cattle to the leaves, fruits and seeds to colour, strengthen and polish our fabric.

2. natural dye colour palette

And yet here we are today. 93% of India’s cotton is now genetically modified BT cotton. Vivek and Juli Cariappa maintain that the cotton germplasm across our country has been contaminated by BT, so much of the balance 7% cotton is also suspect. They tell us that UAS –Dharwad is the only source for uncontaminated cotton germplasm today. The path of Bt Cotton is violent and unsustainable. The cotton belt in India is marked in red by waves of farmer suicides. The handloom industry which would weave this cotton into fine fabric is languishing, underpaid and under supported. The dyeing industry has morphed into a chemically derived industry polluting our water, soil and air.

Krac-a-dawna’s model is a beacon of hope for us as we walk along the cotton trail. It tells us that it is possible to wear sustainable fabric. And that there is passion, joy and science in its production, as much there is in its wearing.

——————————————————————————————————————————————————

End notes:

Krac-a-dawna’s sustainable cotton garments & farm produce can be bought from Elements, Cochin and Casablanca, Pondicherry. Vivek and Juli also sell directly to groups of families who can guarantee a bulk order of atleast Rs.10,000 and above – in this case, you could also buy their organic rice, pulses, jaggery and fresh produce. Juli Cariappa also makes a great range of jams, jellies, marmalades, pickles and soaps.

The minimum bulk purchase quoted above depends upon where you stay in relation to their farm. The farm is in a remote location off Mysore, with little connectivity, so sending small parcels is not an option for Krac-a-dawna.

Vivek and Juli Cariappa may be contacted at krac_a_dawna@yahoo.com .

This post is a part of our continuing series on Sustainable fabric and India’s textile traditions. The rest of our series can be read here: 

  1. Our introductory post on the sustainable fabric series
  2. On the One Person Satyagraha and why you should start one
  3. On the environmental and human health hazards of chemical dyes
  4. The primer to sustainable Indian fabric is here
  5. The first part of the textile traditions of India that suit Spring and Summer is here
  6. The second part of the textile traditions of India that suit Monsoons and Winter is here.
  7. Our post interviewing Lata Ganapathy-Ravikiran on Handloom love and why she chooses to support this industry is here.
  8. Our post on the warped state of Handlooms in India and what ails the sector is here.
  9. Our post on the dangers and all pervasiveness of Bt Cotton is here .
  10. Our post on Onam, the Mundum neriyathum and wearing your culture is here.
  11. Our post on the Sustainable Fabric Workshop conducted at the Green Bazaar exploring natural dyes is here.
  12. Our post with notes on Kalakshetra’s Natural dyeing workshop and a guest post by Kavita Rayirath of Indian by design on inspiring Handloom appreciation is here.
  13. Rashmi Vittal of Little Green Kid’s guest post on why organic cotton is so essential for everyone can be found here.
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The One Person Satyagraha

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Reading Time: 5 minutes

2001

In 2001, in the first month of my first job, after wading through knee-deep rain water and slush, I boarded a rather random, crowded bus to Motihari, in the Champaran district of Bihar and famously, the birthplace of George Orwell. As weird as that was, I found it even more surreal that the purpose of this trip was to learn the art of selling a wide variety of consumer goods for an American company. It was not that I found my situation particularly repellant or devoid of glamour compared to say my friends working in a bank in Wall Street. What bothered me was the fact that in a million years I could not have imagined myself doing this at the culmination of 21 years of formal education.

Motihari is a very small town and in my very first visit I learnt that George Orwell was born here in 1903 , courtesy of a bust and plaque in a prominent part of the local geography.

George_Orwell_press_photo

 

 

George Orwell’s Press photo above

In fact there is rather proprietary air in which the local people refer to Orwell & you could be forgiven for thinking that he wrote 1984 sitting in a tea shop in Meena Bazaar. In actual fact Orwell left Motihari as a one year old baby in 1904 and that was about it.

 

It was only in my third or fourth visit to Motihari that the very real and very important connection to Mahatma Gandhi dawned on me. While I could vaguely sense the spirit of Gandhi in street names and the memorial pillar in the town center, it was only when a distributor reminded me of the Indigo movement that I realized that this was the the Karmabhoomi of Gandhiji. In a sense after South Africa, the indigo movement and the related Satyagraha was a seminal event in Gandhi’s life helping him on the way to becoming the Mahatma. I was happy to be making monthly trips to that sacred land.

 

The First Indian Satyagraha

In 1916, Gandhi inspired the very first Indian Satyagraha, in Champaran. The local farmers were forced to grow the Indigo plant, a natural blue dye, for the British textile industry instead of food crops of their choice.

The development of a cheaper chemical substitute, lead to a crash in the prices of the natural Indigo dye. The production of natural Indigo worldwide fell from 19,000 tons in 1897 to 1,000 tons by 1914. The British planters started paying ridiculously low prices for the Indigo leading to a very desperate situation for the farmers. They also tried to recoup their losses in many ways through farmers who had leased their land from them. They increased the lease rents, seized their cattle, looted their homes and imposed several new illegal “taxes” on various aspects of life. The planters beat the peasants and put those who resisted in prison.

One of the Indigo cultivators called Rajkumar Shukla, persuaded Gandhi to travel to Motihari, to study the situation first hand and to provide a solution. On his arrival at Motihari, the local district magistrate ordered Gandhi to leave immediately. Gandhi politely refused this order and proceeded to make Champaran his home for the Satyagraha. Since the farmers had no legal recourse, Gandhi assembled a team of lawyers including Jawaharlal Nehru & Rajendra Prasad, who worked with him to build the case.

3. Champaran satyagraha

The team under Gandhi surveyed 2841 villages and recorded the statements of 8000 indigo farmers to understand the problem in depth. They also realized that apart from the economic struggles due to forced indigo cultivation, there was a deeper problem of education and health. They helped set up Schools and improved local sanitation. Gandhi and team published a detailed report to government which favored the farmers unanimously. The government was forced to accept this report and lead to the formation of the Champaran Agrarian Bill which provided the relief to the Indigo farmers.

The Champaran Satyagraha was the very first of its kind and was the first major milestone in what eventually became the grand Indian Independence movement.

Remains of the day

Natural indigo cultivation is on the decline today and is replaced in large part by synthetic Indigo. It is continues to be used in small amounts in natural textile and tie and dye art like Shibori. However , the largest use of Indigo dye is now synthetic Indigo dye, as is used in your favorite pair of mass market jeans.

5. indigo dyed shibori

Perhaps there is not much Indigo cultivation happening in Champaran despite the major historic associations. However to me what remains from that period , the philosophy of Satyagraha, is of vital importance.

Gandhi coined this term from Satya (Truth ) & Agraha ( holding firmly to) and over his life perfected the philosophy of Satyagraha as a powerful , non-violent opposition by the oppressed in any situation.

I believe that anyone finding themselves in an uncomfortable life situation can start a Satyagraha. Even if it is a one person Satyagraha.

 

So, If you are bored by globalization of fashion and find yourself and every third person wearing cookie –cutter clothes , find yourself a local handloom to suit your needs.

India is one of the largest producers of cotton worldwide. The rampant spread of genetically (GM) modified cotton, which now accounts for 93% of cotton in India, is a cause for concern. The correlation between the growth of GM cotton and farmer suicides is a debate which cannot be ignored any longer. We will write in depth about this later this month. However you can start your one person satyagraha today by choosing organic cotton.

If you are constantly bothered by reports of the Ganga turning black due to the effluents from chemical dyes meant for textile mills polluting it, you can look for textile which is naturally dyed like Malkha , or Tula or other designers like Bindu of Chakra Design.

2. effluent discharge

If you are hot and sweaty in a size 40, blue colour ,button down office shirt, go a to nearby Khadi Bhavan outlet and experience the joys of breathable fabric , that keeps cool even in an Indian summer.

Looking back at my monthly trips to Motihari in 2001, I wish I had taken the train instead of the Bus. The railway station is appropriately named “Bapudham Motihari” and rightly reminds all visitors about the man and his very important Satyagraha. George Orwell does merit a footnote in the history of the town but should not be the first thing that hits you.

So if you find yourself worrying about a 1984 like situation, don’t wait, Start your One person Satyagraha today.

 

 

 

 

 

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From Arikamedu to Abercrombie – the sustainable fabric series

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Reading Time: 4 minutes

I’m not sure if my fascination with fabric is more or less than my fascination for washing fabric. But I have always loved Indian fabric and traditional textile crafts.

In school, I learned about the spice trade of India and how it helped many regions within India grow rich as they traded flavourful and hard to find nutmeg, pepper and cardamom which then found their way to kitchens across the world. Romila Thapar’s book on Early India, details this fascinating trade. Muziri located near Kodanganallur Village near Kochi was linked to the pepper, spices and beryl trade. A second century Ad Greek papyrus documents a contract between an Alexandrian merchant importer and a cargo financier of pepper and spices from Muziri, giving us an idea of the large volume of this trade.

6. Arikamedu

Excavations at Arikamedu tell us about a large settlement that used to be in trade contact with ships and merchants from the eastern Mediterranean. Apart from shipping locally available goods, Arikamedu has also been a place where certain kinds of textiles were manufactured locally to roman specifications and then shipped there.

5. Shakuntala

The Roman historian Pliny complained that trade with the East caused a serious drain on Roman income of which atleast 110 million sesterces went to India’s luxury goods. Roman records indicate that the Roman Senate actually banned the import of Indian Muslin for some time to stop the roman gold drain.

Apart from Rome, Indian textiles found their way to Egypt – scraps of Indigo dyed cotton Ikat textiles were found in a Pharaoh’s tomb. Excavations at Mohenjo-Daro unearthed scraps of Rose madder cloth along with spindles.Herodotus, the ancient greek historian, described India’s cotton as “a wool exceeding in beauty and goodness that of sheep”

Nothing symbolises the freedom and Swadeshi movement as much as the charkha does, and as does Khadi, the quintessentially Indian fabric.Khadi is not just a piece of fabric – it represents an ideology and the beginning of a movement that was founded on self reliance. This said that India could spin her own fabric and clothe herself, thus helping her own economy grow forward.

2. Gandhi spinning the Charkha

Khadi was promoted by Mahatma Gandhi as a fabric that would help promote rural self employment and self reliance, and made it an integral part of the freedom movement. But the Swadeshi movement then did not come cheap. Khadi was much more expensive compared to British made fabric. So when people started to complain to Gandhi about the cost of Khadi, he stopped wearing an upper garment and started wearing only a Khadi dhoti as a subtle, or perhaps not so subtle message: that it was better to wear as much or as little Khadi as possible instead of clothing yourself with something that was not made in India by an Indian.

 

Our choices today are multifold. We are a much more global economy, and we have free movement of products, and fabrics from different parts of the world into our country. Globalisation comes with its own unique sets of opportunities. And perhaps we have come back full circle to our days of yore, when enterprising merchants and financiers helped ensure the spread of Indian textiles.

 

With one key difference. The merchants of Arikamedu in ancient times, continued to grow, spin and wear their own cloth, and continued to hold onto their cultural and craft traditions. In fact they grew better and better at it until they had so much to offer, that they could not just make products for themselves but for everyone else as well. The textile crafts and traditions of India are fast disappearing today. They have morphed fast, have taken on several unwholesome aspects and are no longer bountiful or available in plenty.

3.sambalpuri ikat weaving loom
There are many reasons for this. And many hidden reasons when you start examining this. There are also several unhealthy consequences to this.

 

In this month when we celebrate the 67th year of our Independence, won by an extremely unique civil disobedience and non violent movement, we will focus on the equally unique Fabrics of India. This month, on the Krya blog, We will examine in great depth the history of Indian textiles while focussing on certain textile crafts. We will examine their environmental sustainability, explore how well they work for us in our tropical weather & speak to practitioners of the craft and designers who work with traditional fabrics.

1. Girl in pochampally

We will also explore Khadi in depth and study in detail the current issues we grapple with in textiles namely the spread of Bt cotton, the cotton farmer suicides, the environmental issues presented by the textile dyeing industry and the nascent but growing organic cotton industry. All along we will interview and present to you the works of young entrepreneurs and designers who have firmly waded into the fabric tradition of India and are working hard to provide us access again to our famed textile past rooted in the principle of being indigenous, local and environmentally sustainable.

 

Our previous series on reusable menstrual products was an eye opener to us and provided us with a lot of perspective and inspiration. We have no doubt this series on the fabrics of India will be even better. We look forward to bringing you lots of depth, fresh perspective and inspiring reasons to choose a more sustainable and earth friendly wardrobe. Keep reading this blog.

 

 

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Encounters with Endosulfan

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Reading Time: 6 minutes

The endosulfan pesticide debate is trending in India and globally. All eyes are on India, which is one of the few big countries, that still allows use of endosulfan.

Nationally, V.S Achyuthanandan, Kerala Chief Minister and the Left MPs have been protesting India’s stand in the Conference of Parties to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP) which began in Geneva on Tuesday.

V.S Achyutanandan and the Left M.Ps want India to support the increasingly popular global ban that is being proposed on Endosulfan by nearly 80 countries.

The mood at the Stockholm Convention has been described as tense, as a lot of battles are expected over the Endosulfan issue. Many countries in Europe, Latin America, the Caribbean, and Africa are supporting the ban, and the U.S, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, and others have already expressed support for the ban in the plenary session.

India is a prime dissenter in the ban, and accounts for 70% of the world production of Endosulfan (Rs4500 crores annually). India cites lack of scientific evidence as one of the key reasons to opposing the ban along with the fact that the proposed alternatives to Endosulfan are not currently affordable.

Where would I encounter endosulfan?

In many un-expected encounters.

  • Endosulfan is commonly sprayed on over 70 crops like vegetables, fruits, paddy, cotton, coffee, tea, cashew & timber. Studies have shown that in India, 20% of all fresh produce have pesticide residues above the maximum residue limit (MRL).
  • Many water bodies have endosulfan run-off & some studies have shown high endosulfan levels in fish
  • Potentially absorbed through the skin , as cotton crops are the significant users of endosulfan
  • Smokers through tobacco

A brief history of Endosulfan

Endosulfan was first registered for use as a pesticide in the U.S by Hoechst (now Bayer CropScience) to control agricultural insects and mites on a wide variety of field, fruit and vegetable crops.

By 2000, after consistent reports of water contamination due to the run off from agricultural use, the EPA cancelled Bayer’s License to sell Endosulfan for use in Homes and Gardens. In 2002, after further studies by the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service, the EPA determined that Endosulfan residues in food and water posed high health hazards, and imposed further restrictions on agricultural use of Endosulfan.

In 2007, Endosulfan was recommended for inclusion in the Rotterdam Convention on Informed consent. This is a multilateral treaty to promote shared responsibility on the import and use of hazardous chemicals. Specifically, this convention requires informing purchasers of these hazardous chemicals on all known restrictions and bans, so that purchasers can make an informed decision on whether or not to buy these chemicals

How toxic is Endosulfan?

The EPA (United States Environmental Protection Agency) classifies Endosulfan as “Ib” – Highly hazardous, as does the E.U. The Industrial Toxicological Research Centre (ITRC) in India also classifies Endosulfan as extremely hazardous.

Endosulfan is also widely considered to be a Persistent Organic Pollutant (POP). POPs are organic compounds that are resistant to environmental degradation and have been observed to persist in the environment, to be easily transported across long distances, to accumulate in human and animal tissue, increase in virulence in food chains, and have significant impact on human health and the environment.

Due to their chemical properties, POPs are semi volatile and insoluble. They attach themselves to particulate matter like soil, water and food, and travel long distances around the world, including places that do not even use them, like Antarctica.

Because of their eerie ability to travel, even countries that have banned POPs like Endosulfan, continue to find their residues in their food and environment as they travel from places where they are used.

How does Endosulfan affect human beings?

Acute effects:

Endosulfan is highly toxic and can be fatal if inhaled, swallowed, or absorbed through the skin. Consuming it orally is found to be more toxic than absorbing it through the skin, and this toxicity increases in the presence of solvents like alcohol.

Endosulfan directly affects the Central Nervous System, and high levels of Endosulfan in the body lead to convulsions, epileptic seizure or death. It also comprehensively damages the internal organs like the liver, lungs and the brain.

Chronic Effects:

Endosulfan is a proven endocrine disrupter, and exhibits estrogen like properties similar to DDT. Experimental evidence shows that this property leads to delay in sexual maturation in males or damage of the reproductive system. It also increases the risk of breast cancer among women, and has the ability to alter the chromosomes in mammals, leading to a risk of birth defects.

Tests on laboratory animals show high carcinogenic properties and internal organ damage.

What happens to Endosulfan in the environment?

Endosulfan is fairly immobile in soil, and highly persistent. It breaks down into further toxic compounds, some of which increase in production in tropical areas.  It does not easily dissolve in water, and can bio accumulate in the bodies of fishes and other aquatic organisms.

How widespread is the Endosulfan contamination in the environment?

Endosulfan residues have been detected in air, water and soil samples in India, river water in China, lagoons in Spain, vegetation in Madagascar, Zambia and Ghana, water from the Alps, and river sediments in Malaysia.

How widespread is Endosulfan contamination in the food that we eat?

Endosulfan has been detected in food samples from across the world: Australia (beef), U.S.A and Canada (food samples), Brazil (tomatoes), Cyprus & Croatia (vegetables), India (vegetables, vegetable oil, and seeds).

A high level of Endosulfan has been detected in human breast milk in India, cord blood in Spain, and blood and urine in Croatia.

Has Endosulfan actually killed or harmed people?

In India

Kerala was the first state in India to ban Endosulfan after a court order in 2003. This happened after the Endosulfan tragedy in Kasargode, which is widely considered one of the worst pesticide disasters to happen to a region.

Aerial spraying of cashew plantations began in 1978, and was done 3 times a year covering 15 gram panchayats in Kasargode. There were many warning signals which the decision makers ignored like the mass death of bees, fishes, foxes, birds, and congenital deformities in cows.

Endosulfan is a stomachic and quick contact poison, which destroys quickly but is non-specific, so kills everything it comes into contact with (not just the insect pests it is meant to destroy).

In 1994, independent health observations by a local health doctor, revealed a rising incidence of mental illness and congenital anomalies in Kasargode. Initially radioactive toxicity or heavy metal poisoning of the water bodies was thought to be the reason behind this. After several more complaints in areas where Endosulfan was being sprayed and the work of many national and international groups, Endosulfan spraying was linked back to the abnormal health problems at Kasargode.

The commonly noted diseases were neurobehavioral disorders, congenital malformations in girls, and reproductive tract abnormalities in males. Another report showed increased rate of cancer and gynaecological abnormalities.

A further study by the Kerala Health department reaffirmed the link between Endosulfan and this region’s health issues.

Following these reports, the Kerala State High Court banned the use and sale of Endosulfan in 2002; the State government followed suit in 2003.

Karnataka followed Kerala’s lead in February this year, with a blanket ban on Endosulfan. This followed after reports of physical deformities in areas using aerial spraying of Endosulfan, again for cashew crop in Belthangady, Puttur and Bantwal.

In Cuba

Endosulfan was responsible for the death of 15 people in the Western province of Matanzas, Cuba in February 1999. 63 people became ill after consuming food contaminated with Endosulfan.

In Benin

In Borgou province in Benin, official records state atleast 37 deaths occurred in the 1999 – 2000 cotton season, and 36 people were seriously taken ill.

Next Steps:

Endosulfan is just one of the many toxic compounds that are routinely sprayed on food. Several organisations and concerned political parties are battling with the Indian government to reverse its stand on Endosulfan. The good news is that under all this pressure, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has decided to have a scientific enquiry on the effects of Endosulfan and has promised to take a more considered view on the subject.

There are no debates on this – It is time to embrace organic food. Most major cities have 3 – 4 organic outlets, so supply is no longer an issue. Even if it is not possible to consume only organic produce ALL the time, every little bit helps.

The Good News

Studies show that just as POPs bio-accumulate into the body, they can also get reversed when more and more organically grown food is consumed. Also, personally speaking, organic vegetables taste delicious and burst with flavour so it is no hardship to switch.

In Chennai alone, Srini and I have visited 3 great stores: Restore , NStores and Dhanyam , and several more exist. More than 90% of everything we consume at home is organically grown, and we have seen a significant increase in our health and well being as a result of switching to organic food.

NGOs like Thanal have been at the forefront of the Endosulfan debate in India and have worked very hard to lobby the government and build awareness on these issues with folks like us. Even if it is not possible to work actively with them, they always welcome appreciation, so drop them a mail if you can.

Acknowledgements:

I have been thinking of writing this post for some time now, and many kind people have helped me on my personal quest to understand more about my food, and appreciate the value of organic food.

My thanks go to these people in no particular order:

  1. Ananthoo , Radhika & Restore team at http://restore.org.in/
  2. Kavita Mukhi of Conscious foods & Mumbai farmers market http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=345442782802
  3. Vandana Shiva of Navdanya – http://www.navdanya.org/
  4. Ramesh of NStores – http://www.nstores.in/
  5. Madhu of Dhanyam – http://dhanyam.in/

A special shout goes out to Thanal, who has fantastic resources on Endosulfan, which I’ve liberally used in this post. Thank you Thanal! (http://www.thanal.co.in/)

 

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Misty Mountain Hop from Peak Oil to Urban Gardens

peak oil hubbert curve
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Reading Time: 3 minutes

Last night, our friends screened for us the 2006 documentary, The Power of Community. This film tracks Cuba’s path to self reliance from the brink of complete macroeconomic disaster. This disaster was precipitated by the fall of USSR in 1991 and in the span of a week Cuba was cut off from soviet oil supplies and food imports. Virtually overnight, the soviet collapse created food shortages, electricity blackouts, loss of jobs and a general shutdown of the economy. The Cubans refer to this period in their history as “the special period”.

This 53 minute documentary is time well spent at two levels. Firstly, the remarkable recovery of the Cuban people is a story that needs to be told and heard, perhaps in many more ways. When the crisis hit Cuba, the problem was unlike any ever faced, ready-made solutions were not available from history, and the US, the one nearby country that could have helped, further tightened sanctions on Cuba.

Then there is the cinematic merit. Director Faith Morgan’s single pointed attention to the task set out for herself, to wit the precise solutions evolved by the Cubans in the areas of food & agriculture, transport, housing ,medicine etc is admirable. There are other angles to explore like the political will, Cuban cultural quirks and Individual heroes of the special period but have been excluded, which makes the film compelling viewing.

Peak Oil

This is a U.S. film with its genesis in the debate on Peak Oil. The peak oil theory suggests that global oil production follows a logistic distribution curve which reaches peak production at a point in time. After this peak, the production of oil declines rapidly till all the oil reserves are exhausted. Simply put, there is a very finite limit to the oil supply of the world.

peak oil hubbert curve

The first peak oil curve plotted by King Hubbert in 1956 accurately predicted the 1973 oil crisis. As per the current Hubbert curve, the world has already hit the peak in 2010 and oil production is now in the rapid decline phase

Inspiration from Cuba

This debate around peak oil intensified in the early part of this century and primary concern of the experts was that the world was walking blind into an energy crisis, with no plan B. Then of course it was pointed out that Cuba had an artificial peak oil crisis in 1991 and was a great simulation for the rest of the world to learn from.

Is a crisis always necessary to do the right thing?

The Cubans had no idea what hit them and were pushed to the limits of their creativity in the special period. The first dramatic measure was the import of a million cycles to replace public transport. The extra physical activity combined with food shortage, resulted in a national average weight loss of 20 pounds in the first three years.

The next response was urban organic farming. With no oil to manufacture fertilizers and pesticides, organic farming was the only way out, and a wonderful unexpected side effect of the crisis. With the economy in a tailspin and no jobs or food, highly educated professionals of all stripes became urban farmers. Today in Cuba, the farmers are among the top earners, very unlike farmers in the rest of the world.

All these outcomes came from an organic response to a crisis and not from a careful long term government plan.

It is tempting to conclude that we need a full blown crisis to get the country together to do the right things, a dim fatalistic view that I do not care for.

For now I think a great way for all of us to start is to get exposed to different ideas on sustainability. I have a quick list of some of the well known films and books to get inspired.

The environmentalist must watch/read list

  1. One Straw Revolution, Masanobu Fukuoka (book)
  2. An Inconvenient Truth,Davis Guggenheim (documentary)
  3. The power of community, Faith Morgan (documentary)
  4. The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan (book)
  5. Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser (book)
  6. Food Inc, Robert Kenner (documentary, excellent companion to the books by Pollan & Schlosser)
  7. Silent Spring, Rachel Carson (book)

End notes

As luck would have it the screening happened in a house with a spectacular rooftop urban garden. All around, nearby rooftops had rubble, cables and clothes but I was in a lush green farm producing at least 50% of a family’s vegetable consumption. And it helps cool the house below. For a fresh produce newbie, seeing actual okra, colacasia, tomato plants was a delight. And I could picture a misty mountain hop from Hubbert’s peak to rooftop urban gardens.

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Ruminations on Rice

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Reading Time: 5 minutes

Srini and I went to an organic fair this Saturday, organised by the Safe Food alliance. There was a stall in the mela by the Sirgazhi traditional farmers co-operative on the bio diversity of rice.

The information available at the stall was extremely thought provoking.

For instance, did you know that 4, 00,000 varieties of rice existed in India during the Vedic period?

Even today nearly half this number is found in India, which is staggering.

Unfortunately, despite having so many varieties of rice, ( even if you ate a new variety a day, it would take you 500 years to exhaust the whole list), our consumption of rice in India is limited to 10 varieties on the outside.

How did we end up consuming such a small variety of rice?

When the Green revolution started in India, a small number of paddy varieties were selected for their capacity to give high yields in response to high doses of fertilizer. As a result, the genetic base of the rice we eat today has narrowed down considerably.

Also, industrial agriculture, promotes plantation style monoculture cropping, which we had written about here.  Monoculture cropping produces high yields in the short term, but severely degrades the quality of the soil and the resultant strains of rice over time. Genetic uniformity of the crop also makes it susceptible to pest or virus attacks wiping out several years of crops in difficult times.

Why is it important to increase our base of rice consumption and support indigenous varieties of rice?

1. Indigenous rice is naturally hardy and pest resistant reducing the dependence on pesticides

  • A case in point: In the 1970s, a virus called the Grassy Stunt virus decimated rice cultivation from Indonesia to India. The rice cultivation at that time in Asia, had been sparked off by the Green revolution, supported by the efforts of the International Rice research Institute. The IRRI bred and developed the paddy varieties used across Asia during the Green revolution to give high yields.These paddy varieties were then called ‘miracle rice’.
  • None of these miracle rices could withstand the attack of the virus. After a 4 year search, researchers found one indigenous variety of Oryza nivara, growing near Gonda, in Uttar Pradesh that could resist the virus’ attack.  Today rice hybrids have been bred that contain this wild Indian gene; these hybrids are grown across Asia. Bred rice is vulnerable to pests; indigenous rice is not.

2. Indigenous rice is not needy; different varieties have adapted themselves to different land conditions from alkaline soil to saline soils, and in drought prone areas and water logged areas.

3. Growing Indigenous rice adds to our food security as a nation. If we used only commercial High yield Hybrids, we are vulnerable to a single pest wiping out our entire rice production.

  • A case in point: The Irish potato famine was a period of mass starvation and immigration from 1842 – 1845. This was caused by a potato disease called the potato blight.
  • Potato blight is caused by Phytopthora infestans which probably arrived in Ireland from the Andes through guano carried in ships. Guano was in demand as a fertilizer in Europe.
  • Nearly 1 million people died as a result of the famine, wiping out 25% of Ireland’s population, changing the course of Ireland for ever.

4. As indigenous rice has already adapted itself to grow in different local conditions, rice can be grown in non-traditional rice areas, reducing the pressure on ‘rice bowl areas’.

5. Indigenous varieties of rice are naturally suited for organic farming, as they need fewer inputs in the form of fertilizers or support in the form of pesticides and herbicides.

6. They are valuable in the agriculture eco system, as they yield straw that is valuable to farmers as cattle feed as well as roofing material.

7. They are inexpensive to cultivate and promote self sufficiency in the farming community

8.There is no need to buy seeds or inputs (fertilizers, pesticides) from anyone.  The farmer saves seeds from every year’s crop and uses it in the next season. Seeds are also swapped between farmers, giving everyone access to a larger gene pool.

Interesting varieties of indigenous rice found in Tamilnadu and their health benefits

1. Thanga Samba (Golden Samba)

  • The golden colour of the matured grains, gives this variety its name. This rice is extremely fine and long, and it is believed that long term consumption of this rice keeps you young and healthy.

2.Neelan Samba

  • A variety of rice suitable to areas that experience water logging as it can be cultivated in the vicinity of lakes. It is resistant to pests like the brown yield hopper and ear head bug and is recommended for lactating mothers to increase their milk yield. Also, as its straw is very long, it is well suited to use as roofing material.

3. Mapillai Samba (The Bridegroom’s Samba)

  • Many indigenous varieties are rice are known to increase the energy of the eater. In folklore, a bridegroom once had to display his strength by lifting a heavy stone called the Mapillai Kallu (The Bridegroom’s Stone). Eating the Mapillai Samba rice gave him enough energy to lift the stone and presumably win the fair maiden.

4. Kurangu Samba (Monkey samba)

  • The ear heads of the grain are very long, with 267 grains per ear head. It is a versatile variety that grows both in dry areas and areas prone to water logging. It is highly resistant to pests and diseases.

5. Kalarpalai

  • The 2004 Tsunami caused a lot of damage to the agricultural lands of the Nagapattinam coast. The land became unfit for cultivation because of the inflow of sea water. The Kalarpalai rice came to the rescue of the farmers as it was tolerant to salinity and could be grown in saline soil, unlike most modern varieties.

6. Seeraga samba (Jeera samba)

  • This rice resembles the shape of the Jeera or cumin seed. The rice is extremely fine and aromatic, and though it has a lower yield compared to modern varieties, it is prized in Tamilnadu to make aromatic rice dishes like biryani. This rice fetches a high price because of its aromatic quality.

7. Kullakar Rice

  • This rice is suitable to make idly, dosas and porridge. Its growing duration is short, and can therefore be grown throughout the year in all 3 seasons. Kullakar is also highly resistant to pests and disease.

8. Samba Mosanam rice

  • This rice is good for preparing dosa and poha (aval), and idly. As it is suitable for growing near the vicinity of lakes, it has been used successfully by farmers whose land gets waterlogged in the monsoon. The stalks of Samba Mosanam remain unaffected despite having nearly 4 ½ feet of water stagnation in the land. But stalks of high yield varieties like Ponni rice, germinate in this water, resulting in crop loss.

9. Thooyamalee rice (Pure Jasmine rice)

  • As the rice is white in colour, and as the ear heads of this rice look like flowers in the flowering stage, this rice is called the ‘Pure Jasmine’ in Tamil. It is a fine rice that is highly resistant to pests and disease.

10. Kalanamak (Black Basmati)

  • Kalanamak rice, is one of the most important scented rices of India, and gets its name from the black colour of its husk and its tolerance to saline soils. It is said to be better than Basmati in all aspects except grain length, and is considered the finest quality of rice in international trade.

11. Kouni Nel (For the baby in the womb)

  • Kouni Nel is used in ceremonies like the Seemantham, performed when a woman is pregnant. It is believed that consumption of this variety of rice provides specific nutrients required for during pregnancy.

Srini and I are committed to organic food, and have been eating organic for a year now. Visiting the Rice bio-diversity stall added another element to our food choices – look for local, indigenous crop wherever possible.

After some investigation, we have found that local grocers in Chennai stock indigenous varieties of rice like Jeeraga Samba, and Kitchli samba, which are available on request.

Consuming locally produced food has always been a carbon friendly habit because of the savings in transportation and storage of the food. It is great to explore it from another aspect and see how well it fits in with sustainability, self sufficiency and good health.

Sources:

  1. Seerkazhi Organic farmers association stall at Semmozhi Poonga, Chennai
  2. Material on Rice Bio-diversity – Centre for Indigenous Knowledge and Systems: www.ciks.org

 

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Krya’s first sustainable goodie

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Reading Time: 1 minute

Today is the first day, of a super exciting year. A brilliant day to talk about the first sustainable goodie from Krya.

So we’ve made a detergent.By powdering a fruit.

It washes really really well. In our washing machine. And in a bucket when we feel like it.

We’ve washed everything known to us with the fruit that’s a detergent.  It Works.

We save tons of water per cycle – because it is a non-fussy fruit, you need to rinse just once.

And we direct all the wash water into the garden and not down the drain – it is safe because, hey, we are washing with a fruit.  And our plants grow really well.

So we’ve established it is a goodie.

Now for the part that makes it a sustainable goodie:

  1. It is a fruit.
  2. It is a certified organic fruit.
  3. It is a certified organic fruit from a polyculture farm.
  4. It is a certified organic fruit from a polyculture farm following fair-trade.
  5. It is a certified organic fruit from a polyculture farm following fair-trade that is powdered to make a pure, natural, organic detergent.

We’ve been using this fruit, which is a detergent, exclusively for 1 year to this date.

Happy new year! And Happy washing to you too!

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Going Beyond Organic: Monoculture vs Polyculture

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Reading Time: 3 minutes

All the products we create at Krya, are made from plants and their parts: fruits, leaves, shoots, roots.

An important part of being a sustainable company is to make informed choices that are sustainable to the system as a whole.

In the set of organic farms that we had shortlisted for sourcing our plant based raw materials, we had two options:

  1. A plantation /monoculture farm
  2. A Polyculture farm

A monoculture farm is what I would call a ‘factory farm’. It typically has large tracts of land where just one species of plant is cultivated.  A monoculture farm is very efficient to run, as the plant cycle is the same. For example if there was a mango monoculture farm, devoted to the Banganapalli mango, the life cycle of each tree would follow the same timings. So if the fruits were ready to be picked in April, the farm could get in people to do the harvesting all at once. Monoculture farms use less labour to do the same job, harvesting for example.

A monoculture farm works really well in the short term. A monoculture farm brings in higher yields because planting, maintenance and harvesting can be standardised. Monoculture farms also give higher plant yields, as there is no competition for resources from rival species of plants.

However, in the long term, a monoculture farm ends up draining the soil of specific nutrients. Each plant species takes in certain nutrients into the soil, and gives back some other nutrients. If the farm had only one plant species grown in it continuously, over time, the soil in that farm loses nutrients specific to the plant grown there.

Also monoculture farms are under greater risk from diseases. A single pathogen can wipe out the entire cultivation, taking it years to get back to the same levels.

A polyculture farm plants multiple crops in the same space avoiding large belts of single crops. In the short term, polyculture farms seem to be more expensive because of needing more labour. In the long term, polyculture farms grow stronger crops , encouraging lesser use of pesticides, as there is higher resistance to disease. The variety of crops increases local biodiversity, improving pollination, and soil nutrients.

The soil gets richer as there is a symbiotic relationship between the different species that are planted on the crop, and the system works as a whole.

Krya’s experience on a polyculture farm

We source one of our key fruits from a beautiful, organic polyculture farm in Andhra Pradesh.

krya polyculture farm

The farm used to be an arid wasteland, which with a lot of hard work spread over 20 years, is now a verdant cool oasis spread over 1000 acres with 3 main complementary crops and several other plants and herbs. It is home to deer, rabbits, snakes, boars, mongoose, parrots and many other birds which helps complete the local ecosystem.

We’ve found after extensive testing that plants sourced from such sustainable & balanced polyculture farms work better, because they grow stronger in rich, nourished soil.

the fruit that is a ...

This approach helps us create products that work and leaves the land happier than before.

Which make Us Happy.

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