Let’s go back to our roots

Over decades, India has witnessed a rapid societal behaviour change among people who have changed their food, spending, dress habits and lifestyles. Societal behaviour change has adversely affected health, happiness, enthusiasm, creativity and income levels and, above all, the diversity of economic activities.  

The British introduced tea into India in the early 19th century. Thousands of hectares of forest, hills and agriculture land with a variety of crops were converted into tea gardens in North East India. The British, in order to change people’s habit, distributed tea freely among people, with even a half-paise incentive. In time, tea had replaced hundreds of nutritious drinks and juices made from fruits, tree leaves, roots and stems.

The herbal Nannari Sherbet, Chaach, Panakam, Ragi Ganji, Vasantha Neer and Jigarthanda of South India, the Alte ki Raab and Makki ki Raab of Rajasthan, Bela Pana of Odisha, Solkadhi of the Konkan region, Buransh of Uttarakhand, Neera of Gujarat and Maharashtra were taken by people regularly.

Kashmiri people used to make kahwah from green tea leaves, cinnamon bark, cardamom pods, saffron strands, rose petals, almonds, walnuts and honey. Many of those syrups are no longer prepared in Indian households due to lack of awareness among people about their health benefits. The media, conscious citizens, celebrities and NGOs can popularise Indian drinks.

India was the mother of fashion design. Fashion designers take cues from sculptures on the ancient temple walls and reintroduce those designs in the world of fashion. Indian folk cultures, weaving traditions and tribal jewellery have a strong influence on the world of fashion.

In 1700 AD, the Indian fabric was so popular in England that King William III prohibited the entry of Indian clothes into England and imposed a fine of 200 pounds on those who wore Indian silk and calico. It is a pity that today Indians buy their own fabrics under international brand names.  

Keralites build nalukettus (traiditional houses) with tick wood, wood from jackfruit tree, clay tiles, coconut and palm leaves. The houses were built with ancient architectural skill, allowing free passage of air and light. The conical roof was believed to absorb solar energy.

Societal behaviour change towards nuclear families, migration of native Keralites, deforestation and lack of awareness have let disappear many of those houses. The dome shaped exotic ma patituhet (tribal hut) made with bamboo, wood, dry grass and paddy hay by the tribals of Andaman & Nicobar islands are not only weather-resistant but also earthquake-proof. Perfectly synchronised with nature, those houses are now the favourite haunts of international tourists.

Villagers of Telangana build environment-friendly houses with thick walls, roofs made up of neem wood, clay, neem leaf paste and clay tiles. Those houses were comfortable in summer and winter, easily repairable and created employment for local tile-makers, masons and carpenters. There are a wide range of beautiful bamboo houses made by people in North East India. Those climate-friendly traditional houses are giving way to ugly concrete structures. There is a need for authentic documentation of indigenous housing technologies.

Sustainable jobs

As per a survey, India can generate five million sustainable jobs if it meets 10% of the global demand for lifestyle products made by artisans. The estimated size of the global lifestyle products market is around $30 billion. Many of the artisanal products still survive in remote villages. The Gond tribe of Adilabad used to make dhokra craft from brass metal. Once they made utility-cum-decorative items with high value addition, Adilabad dhokra craft got the GI tag, but the number of artisans has fallen by 80% due to societal behaviour change towards cheaper plastic products.

Corrupt practices in the marketing chain has deprived artisans of their incomes. The tribals are no longer making the complex and delicate designs due to the low price they fetch them. Over decades, the majority of Indians have lost their aesthetic sense to recognise objects of art. The government can appoint senior artisans as teachers and rope in celebrities to popularise bio-degradable utility items.

Mass production of lifestyle products can protect skills and livelihoods, check migration and prevent cities from turning into slums. Slum pockets have grown rapidly in all Indian cities due to societal behaviour change – the desire among people to lead an urban life and give up physical work in the natural sector. Loan waivers, distribution of free food and wage for no work have all changed people’s behaviour towards becoming idle.

India is number one in having the world’s largest number of diabetes patients, people with organ failures, anaemic women and children suffering from malnutrition. Societal behaviour change towards a sedentary lifestyle and children’s loss of interest in sports due to study pressures add to the sufferings. The one bright spot is the change towards practising yoga. Bringing in changes in our lifestyle is difficult, but an effort to do so is a heroic act.

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