Sunday, July 17, 2016

Did You Hear? Turmeric Lattes are the New Thing Now : Filter Coffee Column in Kindle

Read it here, or see below.


It is a cold, cold summer night where I am typing this, in a centrally heated room in central London. I am neighbours with the Queen here, though I haven’t of course seen her waving by. My feet are cold. Summer here is still cold for us Indians, used to as we are to warm, warm climes. It rains sometimes in the mornings when I awake, a powdery drizzle. I haven’t been here yet for those grey skies to make me miserable.

The sun sets at 9:30 pm every evening. It is still disorienting, to walk through bright streets that look at teatime but be when I should think of getting dinner instead. But I am walking a lot here these days, walking to bookstores and across streets to stop and gape now and then at buildings and squares and corners I have read about in novels all my life. I exist in a bubble. Everyone I meet cannot stop talking about Brexit. Most are still trying to digest what happened. The Europeans I meet are sometimes sniggering, sometimes empathetically horrified with the locals. Everyone worries that running off to Spain to catch some sun might not be as easy or as affordable as before. Among a multitude of other things. I make friends with an Indian couple. We sit at a cafĂ© outdoors, sip coffee and talk of the academia and the arts, ignoring the Englishman’s problems. It sounds all very posh and like something I should write a detailed journal about.

Into this Arcadia there is an injection of a sore throat, a thick, nagging pain in the cusp of the neck and lower jaw that reminds me of what I would have made for myself back home, and what to write here this month about.

Turmeric latte. That is apparently the new thing that is all over health blogs and yoga studios in big cities in these Western countries. What is it, you ask? It is our good old haldi-doodh, turmeric sprinkled on hot milk that is boiled maybe with a piece of ginger, stirred with a bit of sugar or honey and poured down your throat by grandmothers all over my country for heaven knows how long. That is apparently the new big thing in hipsterville. Karma kanda. (A delightful expression in Kannada that means something like, ‘oh for heaven’s sake’, said with a thick accent of exasperation). As I grow older, I find myself using this expression of exasperation so very frequently.

While I honestly couldn’t care less what the next big money making strategy of the wellness world is, I do believe it is approaching a rather tiring stage. Maybe this is the puritan in me that automatically wants to reject vinyasa yoga and its many modern versions. Or the health fads, which are just a popularisation of what cultures all over the world have been practicing for generations. Or the many, many, many asanas that are invented. None of them are 5,000 years old. Yoga asana, in the way we understand it, is certainly not 5,000 years old. But what do the advertisers care. It is a something-billion dollar industry. Antiquity not only suits them, but it is also an absolute necessary myth to carry on.

And so are myths made. The modern mythologies. Some years ago, I began to get very interested in the way myths get created. It started in a small book I read ages ago where the author placed Krishna, the god, within a historic context. I cannot remember all the details now – dates have never been my strong point – but the book talked about how Krishna was probably a benevolent tribal leader who, over centuries, began to gain popularity and thanks to poets, began to be considered a god. In earlier texts there are no references to the famous mischief he was up to as a child, stories most Indians are all too familiar with. His exploits as a child, then as a young man with groups of women besotted with him, the rasa-leela with Radha, all these came in much later. It took centuries for a popular tribal leader to become a god.

I began to wonder if such myth creation could still be possible in an age where information, however controlled, is at some level beyond the absolute control of authorities. A leader, like the leader we have now in my unfortunate country, can rise himself up to the pedestal of a messiah of sorts, supported generously by those that benefit from this rhetoric. I began to wonder if some centuries down the line he might be elevated to the position of a god. Somehow it doesn’t seem so impossible. But then again, in the age of the Internet where nothing is ever really deleted—where does the deleted data hang around? Suspended in the air? I cannot fathom such abstraction—it would be impossible to maintain a complete one-sided image. Would it be possible? There will always be the alternative press. However small a voice, there will always be a voice that is saying, no he is not the messiah, nor can he ever redeem his sins and be called a god. As long as we keep listening for the voice, I am sure myths will not be made.

So many myths are perpetuated these days. There is the wonderful leader whose fantastic utopian developments are shoved down our throats. There is the organic, handmade, fair trade, ethically produced, cruelty free, homemade something that we pay a premium for—just because they use these newly sexy words. In a relationship, we place the partner on a pedestal, ignoring the alternative press, falling for the propaganda, the advertising. Myths are thus created because of personal stupidities and prejudices, because of myths we build around everything we know and see and feel and know to be true or untrue.

It is thus that turmeric latte becomes the drink of the gods. That a set of stretches and exercises become as ancient as a whole civilisation. That, we get talked into the idea of perfection. There isn’t. There never can be perfection. There ought not to be. Just read the alternative press.

No comments: