Friday, April 20, 2012

Nature's advocate

An intelligent home-maker, a caring therapist and a good human being—for those who know her, it is no surprise how Seetha Anand Vaidyam took up the cause of organic food for wholesome living and has marched on and on investigating, implementing and influencing such that lifestyles are readily being reversed to natural ways. “I want people especially parents to understand that food is of crucial importance and adequate efforts should be made to provide right food at the right time”, she says.

The basic question is what is healthy and what is not—we look for answers outside of us and further away, but sometimes it is only a matter of looking within. Seetha Anand Vaidyam always believed in holistic therapies,  and knew that apart from the exercises she gave to children who went to her with learning/behavior difficulties, there was a major need to modify their lifestyles—timings of meals and bedtime and content of their diet. “Certain types of foods make you excited while others have a calming effect. Therefore hyperactive or agitated children should avoid foods that excite them”, she explains. Attractively packaged foods which are processed, chemically ridden and artificially flavored pull the innocence of children and parents alike and we give in to such demands without realizing they can be extremely harmful in more than one way. With a family member suffering from Osteoporosis, her faith in nature discovered to her the incompleteness of diet advised by popular medicine which can sometimes be counter-productive too! “There is nothing wrong with our health but something majorly wrong with our lifestyles and attitudes”, she emphasizes.
Cooking in pressure cooker takes away food's nutrients

It took ongoing curiosity, strict refusal to take things at face value-a lesson learnt from experience, and months of calls after calls to experts, conferences and meetings, and careful perusal of books about health and learning difficulties that opened a whole new world of surprises—most of what we buy, rather most of what is available, is not good for us! It indeed was time to evolve back to the basics. “What I read reminded me of traditional age old practices carried by my grandmother & mother. So it led me to look into indigenous methods of cooking.”

Everyone claims they are genuine, how did she know the knowledge imparted to her was unequivocal—“I was fortunate that the conferences where I was called on to present papers earlier, were held in organic farms which I know were authentic.” Hence, first-hand contacts were established with organic experts. “One source led to another and now I know at least 6 farms scattered in the south.” 

This knowledge she knew had to be shared with as many, especially parents as she truly believes a healthy diet from childhood can divert occurrence of any illness—not only our physical being but our emotional make up and learning ability is heavily benefitted. So she began to conduct workshops with teachers and parents and is open to invitations from institutions in any corner of the country. Shuffling roles between student and teacher, she recalls “in one of the workshops for parents, a mother asked me what I would recommend—packet milk or unpasteurized milk! She was willing to change to whatever I recommended from the next day. I realized how I need to be perfectly sure of whatever I spoke, so I began to read with greater responsibility!”

Those who ‘give’ know the immense joy from it. Being given the opportunity to be listened by parents and teachers willing to refrain from the readymade to make efforts, there is no doubt every workshop must be memorable.  “Every workshop has been special for I have learnt something as I have shared what I know. My workshops are very lively and interactive. Apart from conveying information, I have managed to make many long-lasting relationships with people over time especially with teachers. Even after a contract is over, they keep in touch and it is very humbling when people remember your words and call or write to tell u how by implementing them they benefitted.”

Seethananda also hosts meetings every now and then at her home which also happens to be her therapy center. “Being a non- medical person or a nutritionist or dietician, I thought it better if parents listened about diet from experts. So I began organizing talks at my home.” It is open to one and all.

Empathetic as she is, considering the fact that organic products are available scantily and expensively, she decided to make them available at affordable prices. She brings a limited amount from farms in the state or sometimes calls for them. “I don't make a profit; the margin just about covers the cost of transport since I supply to a very small group. I am also trying to get school kitchens to switch over to organic food—that would be a dream come true!”

What are the chances of finding people ready to spare time even if to just 0 families, only to give the right information? To a small group for a big cause, support has been tremendous! “Lecturers have always responded positively. Most of the people that I have approached are passionate about their work.” “Fortunately many teachers come for my meets and if one teacher is equipped with right information I believe that others can benefit from her knowledge in the roundabout.”

The faster improvement in her students and feedback from people that food now is tastier strengthens her confidence that she is on the right path. A strong urge can be felt sitting across her when she says “things have to be natural, we must understand that. If we can think, feel and do, we will be whole individuals.”
She hopes to see the day when organic food will be easily accessible and affordable, and there will be no other food available. “Why should anyone have harmful pesticide ridden food at all?” Absolutely! Why should we? Practicing her preaching, she seems content. We can be too.

May be we should take a lead from her and go back to where we come from—a simple life!