You might find the title ‘Dassera Fasting Fun’ little awkward in this health related blog post ‘Natural Way of Living’. As mentioned in my previous blog post, we (me and my wife) have been fasting once a week for a few months now. We initially began our fasting on Saturdays and after 7 weeks we have decided to fast on Sundays. This was our fifth Sunday on fasting. We might move on to Monday fasting after finishing another 2 Sundays. In this way we have planned our fasting cycle, though we are not sure how many weeks, months or years we go. As of now we are having fun and enjoying the benefits of fasting. Every Indian understands the prominence of fasting as it is deeply embedded in our culture. Fasting is usually associated with religious customs in Hindu tradition of India. We have been following a practice of fasting on certain auspicious days from ages. Indians believe, fasting on certain festivals and auspicious days of the month gives them the ‘punya – the fruits of good deeds’.
There are many misconceptions regarding the fasting in certain community of people especially the educated community. People feel that fasting means a foolish effort to make one weak. It is a superstition that fasting gives you ‘Punya’. Many people write-off the benefits of the age old custom of fasting as a mere superstition of our illiterate ancestors without any knowledge.
Dr. Mantena Satyanarayana Raju has done a great job over the years in promoting the benefits of fasting and equally raising the curtains over misconceptions of fasting.
According to Dr. Raju, our ancestors who embedded the custom of fasting in our culture were not the fools. They were in fact, the power houses of knowledge and wisdom. Millions of years ago, there were no comforts of science and technology that we are enjoying today. Every individual has to work real hard, dawn to desk to earn his bread for the day. In such a situation, if anybody asks a person to follow a weekly fasting for the betterment of his health, would he suppose to fast? Definitely not! They hadn’t suggested weekly fasting for such people. They were asked to fast until they recover, only when they feel sick which is popularly known as Lankanam. For all those, whose work involves less or no physical effort, are asked to keep on fast every weekend or every ‘eka dasi - every 11th day of the month’. Making a few people follow this practice was not a big deal but to make every individual in the country to follow this practice of good health is a daunting task. If you ask anybody to follow any practice for a good health; he is definitely not going to follow you. With a great vision and wisdom of knowledge they embedded this practice of fasting in our culture adding sanctity towards God. It is because of their foresight we are still following those healthy practices in the name of Punya. Millions of years had gone and another million might go, but let me tell you these practices of good health are going to stay. That is the power of their wisdom and foresight. It is not sure whether this practice of fasting is going to guarantee any Punya but it surely guarantees a good health.
For those who think fasting makes one weak. Here is the answer of Dr. Raju. According to Dr. Raju fasting means giving a complete break to the inner organs of the body especially the digestive organs like stomach, small intestine, large intestine, pancreas, gall bladder and the Liver. “How do you feel the next morning when you go to the office after enjoying a holiday on Sunday? Do you feel energetic or you feel weak?” You definitely feel energetic because you had a rest yesterday. The similar thing happens with your body when you give rest for the day. Fast one day on honey-lemon water as per the instructions of natural living and experience the difference or find the experiences of a person fasting regularly. You are going to have the feeling of rebirth the next morning after fast. Such will be the level of energy during the next day of your fasting, even though you hadn’t consumed any food for the last 24 hours. All your cells are charged up enjoying a rest during your fast. Such is the effect of fasting. Fasting doesn’t make you weak. It instead makes you strong by saving the energy that would have used for digesting all the junk food you consumed. Our body uses energy for digesting all kinds of junk we put in throughout the day. It also uses the energy to excrete the unwanted junk deposited through food. Fasting is a boon to our liver because it is the most functioning organ of our body. It has tons of other functions without our intervention. When we fast, it works on its self repair and maintenance program. Repair and maintenance of the liver means; increase in the span of our life and overall health condition. For more on fasting, please refer my earlier blog post “Fasting – A Super Medicine”.
One must always remember that every tasty food is a burden to your body. Nothing in this creation is going to last long if loaded with more capacity than required. This is the very reason that the life span of modern man is declining at a rapid pace. The average life span of a man has reduced from 100 years to 70 years. There is no surprise if it further goes down by 50 years in the generations to come. Our forefathers used to eat all those tasty food occasionally on festivals and marriage ceremonies. Today the lifestyle especially in the metro cities has totally changed. Every day is a festival here, thanks to the increasing number of eatery chains in the city. This lifestyle in major cities is resulting in the increasing number of lifestyle disorders at an early age. This is where Dr. Raju has declared his battle against the odd eating habits of city people. Of late, he has been seen promoting a fasting practice on Sundays and other festive holidays, as people tend to eat more junk during these days.
As told earlier we have been fasting for quite some time now and having great fun. Though we are not intended to follow fasting on Sundays and holidays for ever, we firmly decided to stay on fast even on festivals if they fall in our schedule. We did that before on Vinayaka Chaviti, the festival of Lord Ganesha and also happened to be the festival of Ramadan for Muslim friends and brothers. But staying on fast on Dassera day was a kind of challenge. Dassera is one of the Grand festivals of India. It is celebrated over a period of 10 days and 10th day being Dassera is celebrated all over by sacrificing goats to the Goddess Durga. Dassera means joy and happiness. We usually visit every elder of our relatives on the Dassera day and seek their blessings. People from all works of life and places gather at the eldest member of the family for seeking his blessings. After a series of blessings, meetings and gup-shups, they end up with a feast of non-vegetarian dishes, alcohol, songs, dances and fun.
My wife was getting nervous a day before, to face them on fasting. She was worried because people never let an opportunity to insult you. We were already infamous as grass eaters in the circle. She was actually planning the ways to face them and explain their queries way before one week. She looked quite frustrated and was getting irritated over me for being so calm and negligent. I very well knew that future plans are not going to work when you are to engage with many people around. Therefore, I asked her to hold her nerves and be calm and take things as they come. The dawn of Dassera finally arrived. It was the Pranayama and Meditation time as we don’t practice asanas on the day of fasting. I asked my wife to focus on the moment and concentrate on the present practice of Pranayama and Meditation and leave the rest on time. We had a wonderful session of Pranayama and Meditation which lasted for 2 hours. The mind was still, calm and focused. Now it was time to visit my parents first for seeking their blessings.
We had our first glass of honey-lemon juice and began our journey to my parents. All our brothers and sister gathered and sought blessings from parents and elders. We then moved to my in-law’s house and sought their blessings. Surprisingly, none of our parents had offered to eat. I actually expected some sort of lecture from my father and father-in-law for fasting on a festival like Dassera. But none of them had their complaints. We were happy that they have now realized the importance of fasting which is a vital part of natural living. So far it all ended well. The real challenge was to come here on. We were to visit one of our Uncle who is the eldest member of our family and lot of people from different places are supposed to gather at him.
On reaching him, we realized his house is full of visitors as expected. People thronged in from different parts of the city to seek his blessings. Virtually the house was so crowded that we didn’t find a seat. Most of the faces in the crowd were known ones but believe me they couldn’t recognize me for some time. One of them even asked my wife, “Your husband hasn’t come?’, where as I was standing by her side. She pointed me with a big smile on her face. I was the center of attraction in the crowd out there. All those who knew me or had seen me last Dassera began to glare at me. I looked around and said to myself, “come on Ram! You are going to be flooded with questions. Get ready!”
A lady came close to me and asked, “Are you alright?, I mean, I know you are following natural way of living since you told me last Dassera and you have lost some kilos of weight by then. But you look too slim and weak this time. Seriously, is everything OK with your health? This is too much and it’s unbelievable that a man can reduce this much and be healthy. She had been repeatedly asking whether I am seriously healthy? For a moment, I was short of words for her doubts on my health. I know, I have to answer her convincingly and at the same time I need not try to prove that I am healthy. By the time I began my reply, a person in the group shouted, “these dieting and all sort of things are rubbish; which are meant to spoil the health. Look at him; how healthy was he last time and how weak he is now? Stop this nonsense thing immediately and eat healthy”. Another voice raised asking, “brother you were fine with big and healthy personality before, what was the need to do all this?” I can understand about dieting but you are doing too much. Don’t spoil your health. Start eating immediately.” This way everyone in the crowd began to give their opinions and suggestions. Everyone was talking as if I am not at all eating and fasting all the 365 days. During all the conversation, I remained a mere spectator listening to their program. Most of them were drunk and against my lifestyle. I realized, none of them are going to listen my version and any effort to explain them will fall in deaf ears.
After all the discussion, we took the blessings of our uncle and all other elders of the family. He then offered me a plate of snacks. I actually wanted to tell him that I was on fast but again I thought that might spark another debate, which I didn’t wanted at that time and therefore, I picked up the plate quietly. Looked here and there for a while and smartly passed on the snacks to a kid by my side. The kid was happy with my gesture and I was happy for his rescue act. We then got back to our home bidding adieu to a memorable Dassera Fun.
The good thing was that in spite of so many questions and people making fun of my lifestyle I hadn’t lost my cool. Moreover, it boosted my moral. We felt happy that we deserved to be true disciples of Dr. Raju at least for one day.
When we got back home, I got a doubt and asked my wife. Tulsi, How do you think Dr. Raju is going to arrange his son’s wedding ceremony? He is so health conscious that he designed a new form of cooking called healthy cooking without using oil, ghee, masala, salt, spices etc. for the benefit of society. What type of food u think is he going to offer his relatives and visitors? Will he provide the natural healthy food he is been teaching all the time? Or will he provide the usual food that is cooked in the community? Or will he provide both types of foods? My wife started scratching her head and said, ‘both’.
Great people always has to face such tough things in life as Mahatma Gandhi did with his son. Well… let us leave the question on time and Dr. Raju himself.This is it for now. Keep watching the space for more updates.