By Roozbeh Gazdar November 2004 Dr vijaya venkat advocates a health care system based on faith rather than fear—though her views may sound extreme to some Forget animal products such as meat, eggs and milk, even cereals, being acid-forming, are best avoided. Wheat, especially, should be totally given up For 15 years now, Dr Vijaya Venkat, founder of the Health Awareness Centre in Mumbai, has been urging people to take health in their own hands. And in the process contribute to the welfare of Planet Earth. Her radical views on nutrition, backed by four decades of research on the subject, embody a deeper philosophy that ensures food a pivotal role in ensuring sound health for the individual, the community and the earth. Through her workshops and awareness programmes, she seeks to inspire people to embrace the simple fundamentals that govern health and well-being. While outspoken in her criticism of the food and medical industries that brazenly promote vested interests with scant regard to any altruistic objectives, she whole-heartedly advocates business enterprises rooted in principles that support and protect the community. Her Health Awareness Centre also supplies organic food lunches for individual health requirements and runs an organic farm on earth care principles at Vangni, near Mumbai. Excerpts from an interview with her: What is the Health Awareness Centre all about?The Health Awareness Centre was started to bridge the gap between facts, as they stand, and realities prevailing today. People may think of me as a dabbawali, but mine is not just a ‘food’ awareness centre, though food is an important part of it. We encourage people to adapt to a living pattern of sound health based on principles explained in crystal clear terms. So what is this awareness you are creating?What I basically do is to encourage people to understand health in terms of care and not cure. It has become a trend to run to doctors for every small thing. But it is this reliance on medical systems, which is keeping us from good health. Here I include not just allopathy, but even the so-called alternatives, such as homoeopathy and ayurveda. In fact, I question the 6000-year-old perception of human health only in terms of interventional therapy to cure diseases. We have to wake up from this attitude of neglecting the body’s existence with the belief that someone else will take care of it. This way we undermine the body’s tremendous capacity to take care of itself. Our approach has to change from one arising out of fear to one based on faith. Health is not the absence of disease; rather absence of health is disease. Also, understand that death and disease are not connected. In fact, I say, celebrate disease because it is the living body’s way of correcting imbalance. On a macro level, the basics of health care also translate into community care and earth care. We have to see all of life as a whole, because we are all integrated and connected and there is absolutely no scientific legitimacy to look at things in fragmentation. So where does food fit into this?Health and life are synonymous and nutrition is the process by which these are maintained. But besides food, nutrition includes certain other fundamentals such as fresh air, nature, sleep, rest, mental poise and involvement in socially productive and protective activities. As they say, it all depends on aahar (diet), vihar (environment) and vichaar (thinking). Thus nutrition is our capacity to integrate energy through food, the environment and our thoughts. But food is also a good example for me to drive home the point of self-care as being synonymous with earth care. Could you elaborate?An area of land used for growing fruit trees will be far more productive in terms of output, than the same area used for any other food crops, tea, coffee, sugar, etc. Moreover, growing fruit is a sustainable venture for the farmer, as once the trees grow they are less susceptible to the vagaries of nature. It is an example of a socially productive and protective enterprise. Fruits also cause the least drain on the soil, and thus are an ecologically sound proposition. Other foods draw energy from the earth and similarly deplete our body’s energy when we consume them. Thus fruits are the only crop that releases good energy at the macro and micro level. Instead, wrong choices and priorities in food production, as well as harmful processing techniques are draining our resources. Immunisation, iodisation and irradiation are wreaking havoc on us, depleting the vital energy of the body and earth. If peace is what we want to gift our children, how can it happen when we are sowing violence in our own bodies and in the earth? Then, what kind of food is healthy?Food is a genetically designed pattern in nature. It is always species specific, meaning that each organism has its own food. Physically and anatomically, humans are fruitarians, ideally meant to live on a diet of fruits. Besides fruits, vegetables, nuts and sprouts fulfill our dietary needs. Forget animal products such as meat, eggs and milk, even cereals, being acid-forming, are as far as possible, avoided. Wheat, especially, should be completely given up. An unnatural diet comprising these also induces us to drink more water. Medical opinion recommending unrestrained drinking water is highly misguided, and by doing so we end up diluting the natural metabolism of the body and overloading the kidneys. A right diet, rich in fruits and vegetables, fulfills the body’s need for fluids so that, to counter thirst, we just need to sip a little water. Even generally, one should always have cooked meals with plenty of salads and lemon. Have fruit separately, keeping a gap of half an hour before and three hours after eating anything else. And finish your meals before sunset. The right kind of food, by preserving the energy of the body, pushes the body towards right actions. Is it possible to maintain good health while caught up in today’s hectic life?Of course it is. I myself live by the precepts I propagate and there are many others who are beginning to accept them. But you have to see life as a composite whole. You can’t meditate for 20 minutes twice a day and live in the ‘now’ any more than you can bring up a child or manage your business by investing only that much time to it. Life is flowing and interconnected and it has to be a continuous endeavour. The best meditation is watching the sea, the trees and enjoying the gifts of nature, and the best yoga is healing Mother Earth. How did you get into health awareness? With a background in research, it was always my temperament to try to establish facts. But it was only when I became a mother that trusting in a medical system that prescribed practices such as immunisation and advised against breast feeding, became hard. I was shocked to see my child, born as a beautiful healthy baby, suffer ill health because of it. I wondered how treatment which could make healthy children unwell, could ever purport to improve the lives of those already unwell. What helped me were the traditional ways of my mother-in-law. Traditions and customs that I had easily overlooked made much more sense now, in contrast to the educated world, which continues to evade the most basic questions. For instance, a doctor who diagnoses a condition as potentially fatal still cannot explain how the tumour or malignancy got there in the first place. Realising that neither my education, nor prevailing medical knowledge was going to be of any use in bringing up my children in the best possible way, I started inquiring into health and related issues. I learnt some bitter truths about how interventional health programmes are vigorously promoted by an industry with self-serving interests. How the educational system is also to blame as institutional knowledge only helps the industry to flourish. When I saw the formula devised by me work on my children, I started the Health Awareness Centre to share my insights and highlight the dangers inherent in existing notions and schools of thought. What has your work given you?My work is my whole life. It gives me complete security and the power of being in the ‘now’. It has given me an insight into life, the ability to respond to it rather then be obsessed with death. And to protect, uplift, nurture, share and care in this one life that we all share, understanding its miracles, humanity and simplicity. Any message for readers of Life Positive?Live an attitude of gratitude and count your blessings in every moment of your life. Live intelligently and without fear and collectively work to protect Mother Earth.
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