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Blindly aping the West will make Indians go blind | by babulous | Indian Ink | Sep, 2021

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In an ironic twist, a probably unscientific Indian yogi explained to the famous Beatle that long-sight and short-sight occur because of the weakening of the eye muscles, and can be corrected with some simple eye exercises. The way I understand it, the human eye is designed to keep constantly switching between looking at close objects, distant objects, sideways, upwards, and downwards. If you instead focus on say a book or a screen for hours at a time, you strain and weaken your eye muscles. Doing simple eye exercises can help millions avoid being condemned to a life sentence of wearing prescription glasses.

Sir Paul McCartney is 78 but doesn’t need reading glasses.

I myself discovered this fact the hard way when I was a kid. I was a voracious reader and had glasses prescribed for me when I was around ten. However, at every annual checkup, the ophthalmologist would say my eyesight had deteriorated further. He ended up correcting my vision repeatedly till it had reached -5.5 by the time I was 14.

At this point I rebelled, and refused to have my glasses modified, but instead found workarounds like sitting on the front bench at school, asking people to read distant boards for me, and doing eye exercises. My vision stabilized after that and I learned my lesson. Years later, when my peers began wearing reading glasses, I refused to hop on the bandwagon. Unlike most of them, I can still read the fine print of newspapers without using ‘reading’ glasses.

My daughter also needed glasses when she was around 11. Though the next check-up revealed her vision had deteriorated slightly, we didn’t change her prescription, and her eyesight stabilized. It was one and done.

Unfortunately, this problem of blindly aping the West is rampant in India. It was bad enough with stuff like the ‘glasses for everyone’ disaster but it’s now gearing up to a new level. Where Indians once chose to copy the best of the West, I find many Indians copying its worst.

Architectural Anomalies

Looks cool, feels cool (Photo by James Wheeler from Pexels)

But then we Indians had to go copy the concrete box style of western architecture. Today, it’s the default architecture for most Indian houses. I’m writing this post sitting in one such house built by my parents some thirty-odd years ago. It’s made entirely of concrete, including a flat roof that serves as a terrace. Though a house is supposed to protect you from the elements, it’s cooler outside the house than inside because the concrete walls are extremely efficient conductors of heat and bring the heat of India’s hot tropical sun to the inside of the house. Those walls also store the heat, thus maintaining the interiors at a higher temperature, night and day. It takes two or three days of non-stop rain for the walls to cool down.

Concrete Ovens

Even having big windows for air circulation will only nominally reduce the effect of the heat being conducted through those walls. In any case, drawing the curtains open during the day is not an option as the neighboring concrete houses act like giant mirrors that radiate heat at you.

Drawn curtains prevent heat radiation from nearby houses but add heat by curtailing airflow. Hence the fans.

It’s impossible to live in such houses without electric fans or air conditioning, which is a huge environmental hit considering India’s massive population.

Dressing to Kill

I must confess that I am one of a generation of Indians who swore by their jeans, no matter how stiflingly hot and sweaty it got within a few minutes of putting it on. Most of us had been brainwashed by Western media to see Indian clothes as ‘uncool’ while those sweaty jeans were ‘cool.’

One weird fallout of this anti-Indian-attire attitude is the adoption of the ‘nighty ’as the dress of choice by Indian women in the south Indian state of Kerala where I live. There are no words to describe this fashion statement that’s neither East nor West.

The Great Indian Nighty (Foto von form PxHere)

Moving on, corporate India takes this slavish imitation of the West to ridiculous heights by insisting that senior employees wear the default corporate attire of the West, the suit and tie. In India’s humid weather conditions, that necktie is like a noose designed to choke you to death, assuming you somehow survived boiling to death inside that thick suit.

Anyway, it took the pandemic to open my eyes to the joys of living in loose, thin cotton clothes that don’t get soggy with sweat, and my jeans have been more or less permanently retired from action.

Imported Yoga

Things are looking up for Yoga though with internet-savvy gurus like Sadhguru opening the eyes of the world to the true meaning of yoga. These days, even the Indian government is promoting yoga. Better late, than never.

Eating Habits

Another worrying trend I see in urban India is the gravitation towards processed foods. The huge popularity of Western fast food joints and Maggi noodles is a good example. This is despite India’s food regulator banning Maggi in 2015, for excessive lead and for mislabelling its flavor enhancer, MSG. Maggi returned to Indian supermarket shelves after a court removed the ban. So while the West is beginning to recognize the dangers of processed foods and moving away from them, some Indians seem to be moving towards them. Fortunately, many Indians are also becoming health-conscious and this may cancel out the trend towards processed foods.

Ennui

However, if you look at today’s pre-teens, you will see an almost permanent expression of boredom on their faces. They have drunk deep from the well of information overflowing from the West and the world holds no more mysteries for them as they believe have seen it all on their tiny screens. With absolutely nothing to look forward to in life, they stay glued to their screens and sink deeper and deeper into their joyless existence, finding it hard to sleep, and even harder to get out of bed in the morning.

Me, myself, and mine

In a small victory for the old ways, I ran into a friend a while ago, who asked me to hand over any old phones I have at home. It seems a lot of the kids from poorer families are finding it hard to attend the pandemic-driven online classes because they don’t have a smartphone to connect to the community wifi. So my friend organized a drive to collect phones for these poor kids. I did have an old Android (Redmi 4) which I handed over to him. It isn’t 4G compatible, but the kids just need a Wi-Fi network device. My point is my friend was doing something for the community instead of for himself, and that’s something that’s not so common anymore.

Mental Health

Whereas these days, mental health is being used as an excuse to justify anything and everything. Like people are late for a meeting, and it’s not their fault as they suffer from ‘procrastination.’ People abuse you, and it’s because they have ‘anger management’ issues. People do something completely irrational and justify it as a ‘coping mechanism.’ People indulge in self-destructive behavior and attribute it to ‘depression.’ And you had better not question any of this as you run the risk of being seen as politically incorrect and criminally insensitive. What this means is you can no longer deal one-to-one with these folks. There is always a third invisible person in any interaction with them. Like if someone is late, it’s not his fault and you need to take up the matter with Mr Procrastinator. With this approach to life, no one is accountable for anything and life comes to a standstill.

Much ado about nothing


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