India is known for its rich culture and tradition. Understanding the ancient Indian practices can give us the solution for many of the problems that we are facing in this modern world. As and when we started moving from rural to urban areas we also started moving away from nature. This separation has costed us heavily in terms of health, adulterated food, pollution in addition to heaps of waste generated which is difficult to handle. The cost of living in cities has also increased phenomenally. These situations have led us into a vicious cycle.

In order to live in a city, especially like Bangalore, it requires one to work hard, manage the traffic to reach the office from outskirts as the rent in central business areas is skyrocketing. Thus, time is consumed in non-productive activities resulting in lack of time  for essential activities. This has made the urbanites depend on packed food and thus the amount of waste generated is huge. The circle of problems continues to get complicated. The stress increases and finally people depend on medicines more than food.

Time has come to look back and take the clue from the ancient Indian practices to resolve the present-day problem with some alterations. The old society was a close-knit one with people living in joint families and Agraharam, where people used to share their work and celebrate together. Thus, one person’s crisis was managed by the other and vice-versa. But, the big question is, can we use this concept in a present day situation? Yes, we can incorporate this with some alterations. Agraharam can be equated to today’s apartments.

The covid-19 pandemic has taught us a very big lesson i.e. although we have to maintain physical distance socially, at the same time, not to forget to help each other. I have been very lucky to be a part of the apartment living, where people have stood together like a family during difficult times. All the covid patients in the apartment who were quarantined, were served with food, medicines and all assistance required until they felt comfortable and healthy to take care of themselves. This practice can be extended during normal life also. Some can cook for many of those who cannot find time to cook but long for home food. This can find employment for those who are forced to be at home to manage their respective homes. It not only facilitates people with home food but also reduces a lot of packing material which ends up in the dustbin and choke the landfills. The environment would also say “Thank you” as a lot of fuel that is burnt to deliver just a pan cake or gulab jamoon is reduced.

Does the issue of waste generation end there? What can we do to resolve this? It is a usual practice in the villages that every house has a portion of the back yard dedicated for composting, where all the waste is buried in a pit and once the waste is converted to compost, it is applied to the plants in the farm. The biggest challenge to have a composting facility in cities is the space. But an apartment or a corner of the local layout park can afford to fit in a community composter. Even at independent houses, a small balcony space would be enough to fit two large earthen pots to convert the wet waste into compost.

Another method of converting waste into useful material is conversion of coconut fibre into cocopeat. All it requires is to collect coconut fibre separately and to be chopped finely and processed  into cocopeat. This could be an exciting weekend activity for children.

It’s a practise from the ancient times to plant a tulsi in front of the house and a vegetable garden in the backyard. Can we grow our vegetables organically at home even with space constraints? The answer is yes, we can definitely grow microgreens, a few common vegetables like tomato, brinjal, bitter gourd, chilly in a small balcony and can also grow herbs using vertical stands and hanging pots. Even the windowsill of the kitchen would be enough to grow mint, coriander etc. The empty PET bottles can easily be used to hang and grow plants. When cocopeat is used to grow these plants, the water requirement is also less. It has been a wonderful experience growing these vegetables and herbs in my balcony. My compact garden consists of medicinal plants like ajwain, mint, tulsi, betel leaf, ginger, turmeric, hibiscus and rose. They are not there to just beautify the space but also used regularly. Any sort of surface allergy, the ajwain leaf is crushed and applied and it has always worked. For throat pain, there is no need to search for any medicine outside. The herbal tea made out of turmeric, betel leaf, ginger, mint and tulsi soothes the throat. Hibiscus and rose petal solution in water has helped well to control the acidity, as these herbs are very good acid regulators.

In conclusion, the city dwellers, instead of ruing about the hassles of busy life, can get some satisfaction by adopting the above age-old practices. This will also help to live in harmony with nature.

Dr. Soumya Mahesh

Assistant Professor

Department of Environmental Science

Mount Carmel College

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Dr. Soumya Mahesh:
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