Remember the innumerable occasions your grandmother told you how, as teenagers, your grandfather and even your father, ate dollops of butter on paranthas every morning, or had two teaspoons of desi ghee every morning. And how you, by not eating all this and more, miss out on being a physically fit individual. Well, the fact remains that however much we love and respect our grandparents and parents, it is not easy to do what they did. Honestly speaking, it seems an impossible task today.
So, how and where did we, people in our 30s and 40s, miss out on these “becoming strong and healthy” formulae? “I think in the last decade or so, there has been a huge shift. Technology has leapfrogged because of which now we are constantly on our phones and tablets. Because of this, the focus has shifted from how we feel to (primarily) how we look. We embellish our images, add filters to our lives and nothing is what it seems. From a beauty perspective, we are looking at quick fixes. I’m often asked what can I apply when actually it all begins with what we eat,” shares Vasudha Rai, the author of recently released book, GLOW: Indian Foods, Recipes and Rituals for Beauty, Inside and Out (Penguin Paperback 272 pages Rs 299).
Rai, a certified 300-hour yoga teacher along with being a columnist in newspapers and magazines on makeup, wellness and skincare, goes on to add, “While it is true that healthy living has always been a necessity, people don’t understand that beauty and health falls under the same umbrella. If you want to look good over the long term then it isn’t about one skincare product or a crash diet, it’s about healthy habits and a sustainable way of eating that can be maintained over a lifetime.”
Hailing from Haryana, Rai says she grew up eating farmer food like ghee, bajra and greens. “As my dad was in the army, health was always a huge focus in our family,” says Rai who got into writing accidentally. “I’m a fine arts graduate from College of Art. It was when I wrote a copy during summer training that I got drawn towards writing. In fact, my first job was as a beauty writer was with Cosmopolitan in 2002 and since then I have been writing about beauty,” says she.
Does she agree with the fact that we Indians get back to our roots, say an Ayurveda or a Unani stream or try our hand at yoga, only after suffering from a medical condition? “That is human nature and not an Indian trait. Even for me, it was the same. I was diagnosed with grade IV endometriosis in 2006 after which my entire perspective on health and beauty changed. I started writing on beauty in 2002. But in the earlier years, it was about makeup and skincare. It was only when I was forced to focus on my health that I realised the potential of what we eat, exercise, and even how we think. Even our thoughts translate into how we look. GLOW is a culmination of my experiences with health and beauty – this only began because of a medical condition,” she informs.
Ask her when did she first conceptualise the book and how much time did it take to bring it to us and she says, “I always wanted to write this book. I’ve been writing on this subject for more than 15 years, I’ve tried every type of superfood and fad diet. In recent times because health has become ultimate currency of cool there is so much misplaced knowledge on the internet. Wellness has become an expensive proposition. I just wanted to show that there is really no need for it to be so out of reach. I wanted wellness to be within reach. I fleshed out the entire concept in 2016 after I quit my job as the beauty director of Bazaar. Eventually, it took me a year to research and write the book.:”
GLOW has been sub-divided into four sections: Vitality, Clarity, Radiance and Peace. “Breaking the book into these four sections is the aspect that took most time. GLOW was always going to be a well-researched book with a lot information but I wanted to put my stamp on it. As a seasoned beauty journalist, I wanted to also change the idea of beauty. I wanted to take it away from just the outer shell to inside, where most of beauty originates from. Therefore I came up with the four pillars of beauty namely – vitality, clarity, radiance and peace,” shares Rai. The book does not only have recipes, Rai has also listed ways to make oil, toothpaste, powder, face scrub and more…
Rai then goes onto explain in brief:
Vitality is the first pillar of beauty because this for me means strength and energy. If you lack physical strength and are running low on energy how will you begin to take of yourself. To be beautiful you have to be physically fit. And for that reason in section I included strengthening foods such as ghee, oils, grains, sugars, herbs and other elements the build up your body.
Clarity was all about herbs and vegetables that detoxify the body, purify the blood and clean out the liver. This will lead to a clear complexion.
Radiance is full of antioxidant rich foods such as Indian berries, Indian greens, Indian nuts and Indian flowers. These elements protect the body from environmental assaults and enhance the complexion.
But for me the most important tenet of beauty is peace within. It is now known that the mind controls your body – whatever the mind thinks, the body manifests. If you are inherently a peaceful person you will have beautiful skin and your body will be healthy. So in this last section I have included elements and herbs that help calm the mind.
Given the extreme weather conditions India faces, do same set of rules apply for someone staying in Jammu or Thiruvananthapuram or Jaisalmer? “My rules are fairly simple and they are only this – eat local, eat seasonal, and stay peaceful. I think these rules are fairly applicable to anyone living anywhere in the world,” says Rai who feels her mother has been the most inspirational person in her life as “she single-handedly brought us up. My father, being an infantry man, was always posted near the border. She is a shining example of strength and she has always taught me that I should believe in myself,” she avers.
And as Rai rightly mentions in one of the sections, “The need of the hour is to stop treating meals as a battlefield. We must eat with the aim of boosting health and longevity, instead of trying to create only the outward shell of a perfect body. After all, there can be outward beauty only when there’s inner health.”
TRY THESE OUT
Gut-Cleansing Neem Begun
4–5 neem leaves
1 small brinjal
Panchphoran (a pinch each of fenugreek, fennel, cumin, nigella and carom seeds)
1 tsp mustard oil
Salt to taste
Heat the mustard oil till it smokes. Then add the panchphoran and cook till golden brown. Add the neem leaves, brinjal and salt and cook till the brinjal becomes soft and mushy. Consume this with the first morsel of food. This is a great antimicrobial agent for your gut.
Super-Shine Aloe Hair Mask
2 fresh red hibiscus flowers
4 hibiscus leaves
¼ cup fresh aloe vera pulp
1 tablespoon liquorice (mulethi or yashti madhu)
1 tablespoon dried amla powder
2–3 tablespoons honey (optional)
Make a paste of the hibiscus flowers, leaves and aloe vera pulp. Add the liquorice and dried amla powders to it. You can add honey too if you have very dry hair. Just apply it on the hair and scalp. Do not massage. This will give nourishment to the scalp and to the keratin in the strands.
Exfoliating Moong Cleansing Powder
2 tablespoons moong dal flour
2 tablespoons barley flour
1 teaspoon orange peel powder
1 teaspoon almond meal
1 teaspoon neem powder
1 teaspoon sandalwood powder
A pinch of kasturi manjal or regular yellow turmeric
Enough oil, milk or rosewater to make a paste
Mix the moong dal flour with barley flour, orange peel powder, almond meal, neem powder and sandalwood powder. Add a pinch of kasturi manjal or regular yellow turmeric to this. Depending on the season you can blend it with oil, milk or rosewater. For children or those with sensitive skin, milk works the best. You can make a big batch and store it but turmeric should be added right at the end just before mixing the paste. This is an excellent replacement for packaged cleansers and will help brighten and clarify the complexion. Do not use a physical exfoliant such as this if you are using acid toners or peel pads.