Air-Bath for Better


Have you ever put on minimum of clothes and let cool breeze caress the skin? Those who have experienced it, must have felt an exhilarating and energising experience. In fact, human beings are the only ones who keep their skins covered all the time with clothes and deprive themselves of the contact with refreshing air.

For the health of the skin as well as for the general health, it is essential to occasionally expose one’s skin to direct air, especially when the season is not cold. This is called air bath and it not only helps in toning up the skin but it has also been observed that various serious diseases respond well to regular ‘air bath’, if taken daily.

It should be noted that one third of the nerves of the body end upon the skin and air bathing has a very beneficial effect on them. Air bath relaxes the nerves. By its relaxing effect, it improves practically every function of the body.

Along with the lungs, intestines and kidneys, skin is one of the most important secretory organ. Through perspiration, it eliminates liquid waste matter. In case the skin is sluggish and not working properly, other secretory organs, particularly kidneys, have to overwork in removing the liquid waste matter from the body, thereby affecting kidneys in the long run. Those who suffer from kidney disorders are greatly helped by taking air bath as this energises the skin and relieves the kidneys.

Further, the skin is also a respiratory organ and an apparatus for controlling our internal warmth. Not only our lungs but also all the pores of the skin inhale fresh air constantly and supply oxygen to our blood. Thus, a healthy skin does not force the lungs to over-exert themselves.

Air bath should be taken when air is comfortably cool and enjoyable. If the air is very cold and the person starts shivering, he will only be harming himself.

In summer, air bath can be taken early in the morning or in the evening or even at night, when the breeze is enjoyably cool. In winier, ii should be taken a little later In the day, when the air is not very cold.

Air bath should be taken when a soft breeze is blowing, so that one can feel the ‘embrace’ of the air. If the air happens to be still, to get the desired results the person should either walk vigorously or apply some slight friction over the skin by rubbing the body with his own hands.

During the air bath, one should have least clothes on the body, only that much which are barely needed so that air can play upon the skin and stimulate it. Whatever clothes are worn should be made of cotton, loosely woven and preferably white or light loured so that even the covered portion of the body is not deprived of fresh air and natural light.

Air bath may be taken for as long a time as may be convenient. FLftecn to thirty minutes at a time should be sufficient. It should be followed by a regular bath in water so that dust particles falling on the skin arc removed. If one cultivates the habit of living in the midst of plenty of fresh air, right from childhood, the body will become strong and the person will never suffer from cold and such ailments. Infants should be allowed to play in fresh air, naked.

Only in the beginning one may feel a little cold while air bathing but soon warmth returns as the rate of blood circulation increases. If possible, it is better to take air bath by the side of river, pond or a sea coast where the air is pure and cool. A water bath can be ely enjoyed also.

Air bathing has several other benefits. The mind becomes pure and calm. In a state of anger, it cools down the affected person and makes the blood pressure normal. Besides, it relieves the tension the nerves and makes them strong and healthy.

Published in PROUT on December 15, 1990.

Waste not, want not


Social forestry is the latest buzzword In the ecological arena. And experts on ecological conservation could learn something from some of the nondescript Indian villages which have used novel ways to preserve their forest cover. A classic example is Khaksitola village In Ranchi district, Bihar.

The villagers have taken the initiative in protecting and renewing the area’s vast acreage of Government-owned forest land. Moat notably, this has been accomplished without any financial assistance from the Government.

Khaksitola, around 40 km from Ranchi is a small village with around 40 households. Close to the village are dense forests of mango, ber, custard apple, jackfruit, sugarcane and indigenous fruit trees which sprawl over 40 acres.

Soon after Independence, the forests were nationalised and this was the beginning of their exploitaion. in 1952-S3, the forests were given ‘reserve’ status which meant the tribals would no longer have any rights to them.

The Government began auctioning the forest land to contractors who felled trees on a large scale for timber. Alarmed at this, the villagers themselves began pillaging the forests.

But they soon realised that this was a counterproductive measure. If they did not rethink their strategy, their prime source of sustenance would soon be gone. In a bid to save the remaining forest land, the villagers removed all the timber felled by the contractor and stored it in a Government depot. Though many of them were beaten up and jailed, they remained undeterred in their resolve to protect their natural wealth.

In 1954, a village panchayat meeting attended by 10 vIllages threw up several methods to save the remaining forest resources from contractors.

No villager was permitted to fell trees. Instead, the panchayat of each village allocated forest resources according to the needs of each family.

Each village selected people to undertake a round- the-clock vigilance of the forests. On sighting a trespasser, the guards would sound the mander – a tribal musical instrument.

This move made it clear that though the Khaksitola forest was government-owned, exploitation would no longer go unchecked.

The first real test of this endeavour came In 1978. The new Forest Department official allotted a portion of forest land to his favourite contractor. On hearing of this, the villagers decided that they would protect the forest, even at the cost of their lives. They surrounded the area armed with their traditional bows and arrows.

The Forest Department retaliated by Issuing an arrest warrant for Simon Oraon who had been panchayat chief for the past 40 years. This did not deter the villagers. Eventually, their determination forced the Forest Department to allot a different area to the contractor.

In 1984, there was further trouble. A contractor took out a lease, ostensibly for manufacturing stone chips after obtaining a ‘no objection certificate’ from the Mining and Forest departments. The villagers soon discovered that the contractor was interested in boulders only where trees were situated. He was fined Rs. 500 and his equipment was seized.

Since then, the villagers have had very little trouble. At present, an agricultural-forestry ministry committee meets regularly to discuss plans for conservation and development.

Some measures include felling a tree only if three households require wood. And in the spirit of ecological conservation, a tree is never felled entirely. The trunk Is marked and the tree is sawed off at that point.

A special warning bell has been hung in Khaksitola. It Is rung if someone finds a tree being illegally felled. If the culprit is from the village, he is let off with a nominal fine. If he is from a neighbouring village, the panchayat executive members notify the culprit’s panchayat authorities in an attempt to prevent it happening again.

However, there is no restriction on fallen fruits which villagers are free to gather. Ripe fruit is plucked and distributed equally among the households on allotted days. Until recently, the land was uneven with no irrigation facilIties. The villagers have worked hard to make the land fit for cultivation. They took bank loans to construct canals and three check dams. These check dams collect rain water which the villagers use to raise crops the year through. It would seem that they are reaping the fruits of their labour, at last

Published in Business Line on September 21, 1998.

Balancing the food in your diet to keep acidity in check


Most diseases, especially those of the digestive, urinary and circulatory systems, originate from an unbalance between alkaline and acidic matter in our body.

Human blood is predominantly alkaline; 80 per cent of it is made up of alkalies while the remaining 20 per cent is acidic. Therefore, to maintain this balance, our diet should consist of foods which are mostly alkaline in nature. Just like our blood, no food is completely alkaline or acidic.

All kinds of fruits, vegetables, sprouted cereals and some of the dry fruits are alkaline in nature, while all kinds of unsprouted grains, proteinous foods and some of the dry fruits are mostly acidic; hence the latter should not form more than 20-25 per cent of our diet.

Here, it is important to note that contrary to popular belief, sour fruits like oranges, mausambis, pineapples and green guavas are not acidic but alkaline in their action upon the digestive system. In fact, the alkalinity and acidity of any food item is determined by its final action upon the digestive system or the kind of residue it leaves in the stomach after the process of digestion is complete.

Many food items may appear to be acidic in nature but may be alkaline in their final action while other types of food may appear to be alkaline but may produce acidic residues upon digestion. Therefore the classification of food into acidic and alkaline groups should be done according to the kind of residues they leave behind.

In ancient times, human beings were close to nature in that they were dependent upon the fruits of nature for their food. Their food consisted of fruits, roots, vegetables, and herbs.

No organised cultivation was carried out and whatever grew in the wild was their food. Essentially, people ate what nature had really “intended” them to eat; these kinds of food were predominantly alkaline as per the need of the human body.

But as civilisation advanced, mankind’s food habits changed drastically and acidic foods like cereals, non-vegetarian items like meat, chicken, fish and eggs became its main food while fruits, vegetables and herbs were relegated to a secondary role.

All non-vegetarian food items produce the most acidic residue in the stomach and therefore are not an ideal diet for human beings. While cooking non-vegetarian items, lot of spices and oil are used which further increases their acidity. One should cut down the consumption of such items drastically, or better, eschew them completely.

Among vegetarian items, most grains are acidic. Among the grains also, the dicot family of grains, which includes all kinds of pulses, grams, peas and peanuts, are more acidic than the monocot family of grains which includes rice, wheat, millet, corn, maize and barley. Again, among monocot family of grains, coarse grains like millet, corn, barley, etc. are less acidic than wheat and rice.

The alkaline elements of the grains lie on their outer coverings or the skin just below it. It is, therefore, advisable that one should consume cereals and pulses without discarding this useful cover. Because of this reason, unpolished parboiled rice, wheat flour made from whole grain wheat and whole pulses and grains should be preferred.

In maida, polished rice, branless flour, white sugar and washed pulses, the alkaline elements get lost in the processing. When grains are soaked in the water and allowed to sprout, the alkaline elements in them are enhanced. Such sprouts can be used both in the raw form as well as in the cooked form.

Refined, tinned, bottled and preserved foods contain artificial flavouring and colouring agents as well as preservatives which are nothing but inorganic chemicals. Even if the food items are alkaline in nature, during processing and when they come into contact with these inorganic chemicals, they become acidic.

Further, the alkaline elements in the food are highly sensitive to high temperatures and because of this reason overcooked food looses all its alkaline properties and becomes acidic. In order to get the maximum alkaline elements, one should include large proportions of fruits and vegetables in one’s diet. Vegetables which can be eaten raw should be eaten as salads.

Among dry fruits, nuts like almond, cashew, walnut and pistachios are acidic in nature, while coconut, raisins, figs and dates are alkaline in nature. If they are used, their quantity should not be very large and one should mix items of both groups and take.

Milk and non-concentrated milk products like curd, butter milk, and whey may be acidic or alkaline depending upon the kind of gastric juice present in one’s stomach. If someone is suffering from acidity, milk and its products will produce acidic residues, otherwise not. Again, the alkaline elements deteriorate if boiled too often and used after a long time.

Concentrated milk products like khoya, sweets, ice-creams, butter, cheese and ghee produce acidic residues. In sweets and ice-creams, white sugar is also used and in others including ice-creams, preservatives and colouring agents are used which make them still more acidic.

It may not be possible to change our food habits over night. Nevertheless, the knowledge of alkaline and acidic food is imperative for even a slow switch over.


Published in The Pioneer (newspaper) on May 28, 1994.

The joys of rail travel


Thanks to the disruption of airline services due to inimical weather and strikes by pilots, I am once again able to enjoy a train journey. Ever since I became “eligible” for “travel by air” in my organisation, the only time I got to travel by train was while going to my hometown on personal visits.

With the advent of computerised reservation which facilitates even return reservation bookings well in advance, I began wondering why I gave in to the temptation of travelling by air. True, the air fare is borne by my organisation and therefore does not make a hole in my purse. But, should this be the only reason for travelling by air?

While travel by air may cut down on the actual time spent travelling, with most airports being a good distance away from the city areas, the whole thing works out to be an exercise in futility. Imagine cruising a distance of 35 km from my residence to reach Palam in a three-wheeler at some unearthly hour like 4 am and then travelling about the same distance upon reaching my destination for checking into a hotel or attending a meeting. Then, there is a long wait for checking the tickets, luggage, etc., coupled with last-minute announcements of delays in departure.

And, though not frequently, there is also the possibility that your plane might not be able to land at your destination due to inimical weather.

Imagine taking a flight at 10 pm for Calcutta for which you will have to start from home at 7 pm and by the time you check into a suitable hotel, it will be well past 1 am. And what if the grub served on the flight happens to be insipid and bland. You cannot come out on any ‘station’ platform to munch your favourite food items.

Instead, take a Rajdhani in the evening and if you don’t like the food served by them, you have the option to snatch some bites at the next station. You can have a nice sleep in the cosy AC compartment and by the time you reach Calcutta you are fresh, vibrant and energetic. You can change your attire in the well-maintained waiting room and you are ready for your scheduled meeting. If you are through with your work on time, you can catch the same Rajdhani in the evening.

In the process, apart from your comfort, you also save a few bucks in the form of hotel charges for your organisation. Ditto for Bombay.

Or if you are going to Kanpur, Chandigarh or Gwalior, catch the Shatabdi which appears like any Boeing from the inside. You have good music to immerse yourself in, newspapers to catch up on the latest and tea, breakfast, lunch and dinner, whatever may be the case will come at regular intervals. No intruder is allowed and you can peacefully dose off if you want to or you can utilise the time to catch up on some new book.

Take the case of my flying from Jaipur to Delhi about two years ago. The flight was at 9 am but we had to wake up at five in the morning to get ready, have breakfast and reach the airport. The flight was bang on time but it happened to be a Sunday and for the first time I missed the popular serial Mahabharata. And, when we reached Delhi airport, some snag developed and the cargo door refused to open for four good hours. By the time we reached home, it was already evening and the entire day was absolutely spoiled.

In contrast, if we had travelled by the Pink City Express, we would have saved on hotel charges for a day and would have reached home well in time and enjoyed Mahabharata.



Published in The Pioneer (newspaper) on February 10, 1994.

Temples of The Triangle

Published in the Day After magazine for the March-April 1992 issue.


Bhubneswar alongwith Puri and Konark forms the golden triangle of Orissa but it is the least preferred among the tourists. Tourists first like to visit Puri and Konark and then only if time permits, go around the city of Bhubneswar. And it was no exception with me, either.

Bhubneswar capital of an ancient kingdom and modern state, quintessence of the land of the past and the present that is Orissa, still reverberates with the echoes of the past amidst bustling modernity.

At one time, more than 7000 temples around the Bindusagar tank in the city of which about 500 survive today. No wonder, Bhubneswar is referred to as the city of temples. Perhaps, no city of the world can boast of having such a great number of temples or ancient structures.

Most of the temples located in this city follow a similar architectural pattern. There are basically two structures–the Jagamohan or entrance porch, and the duel where the image of deity is kept and above which the tower arises.

However, the design is more complicated in larger temples by the addition of one or more entrance halls in front of the Jagamohan.

Inside the temple, there are Bhogamandap (hall of offering) and the Natya-mandap (hall of dancing). The whole structure is generally enclosed by an outer wall and shrines.

The most notable aspect of the temple design is the soaring tower and the intricate carvings that cover every surface of the temple. The carvings may be figures of gods, men and women, trees, plants, flowers, animals and aspects of everyday life.

Of the innumerable temples in the city, the magnificent temple of Lord Lingaraj, also known as Bhubneswar, literally meaning the Lord of Universe, soaring to a height of about 54 metre dominates the skyline for kilometres around.

Though the presiding deity is Lord Shiva, there are more than a hundred shrines of other deities. Garuda, the vehicle of Lord Vishnu and Nandi, the mount of Shiva co-exist on a pillar in the outer precinct of the temple. Don’t hurry up.

Silently sit for a while and watch the temples in the changing hue of the daylight and watch the carvings closely.

Bindusagar, literally meaning “ocean drop” is so named because the tank is said to contain drops of water from every holy river in the country. Located just north of Lingaraj temple the centre of the tank has a water pavillion where, once a year, the presiding deity of the temple, is brought to be ritually bathed.

Mukteshwar–a cluster of temples on the fringe of the city–is known as the gem of Oriyan architecture and is unique in many senses. It has a beautiful stone arch at the entrance and is full of sculptures on its outer walls, the more interesting of which are those depicting the story of a monkey and the crocodile culled from the famous folk tales of Panchtantra which was written by the famous Oriyan pundit, Vishnu Sharma.

Parsurameswar temple is close by and is an ideal example of how best an ancient monument should be preserved. A small but lavishly decorated Shiva temple of 7th century, it has freezes featuring amorous couples, lions, crouching elephants, birds, human figures and floral motifs by what strikes the visitor the most is the ornate lattice windows and busts of Shiva.

The Rajarani temple (so called because of the Rajaranea kind of sandstone was used) set amidst expansive gardens is famous for its sculptural embellishments as well as for its unusual tower and absence of a deity although originally it was dedicated to Lord Shiva, ‘Indreswar’ when constructed in the 11th century. Here, the feminine form is the subject of glorious celebration and incredibly seductive figures spring to life from every niche.

Vaital, Sisireswar, Kedar-Gauri, Ananta Vasudeva, Brahmeswar, Megheswar–an almost endless chain of rich architecture and esoteric practices–will enchant you with beauty and rhythmic vigours of carvings.

Side by side with the great Hindu temples, one comes across Buddhist and Jain shrines.

Far from maddening crowd in a peaceful and serene environment and yet barely eight kilometeres from the city lies the great Buddish shrine of Dhauli, famous for the rock edicts of Ashoka.

It was here, after the victory in the battle of Kallinga in the year 261 BC, Ashoka converted himself to non-violence and took to Buddha’s teachings. Recently constructed Shanti Stupa (Peace Pagoda), sublime in its untainted whiteness, in the golden sunshine, appears as a continuing message of peace.

On the other side of the town at about eight km from Bhubneswar lie the Jain Caves of Khandagiri and Udaygiri. The rock-cut caves, built for Jain monks, are a rare specimen of Indian cave carvings and arts. While King Kharevade’s rock edict in Pali can be seen in Hathi Gumpha (elephant cave), one can see the origins of the Odissi dance as traced on the walls of Rani Gumpha (queen’s cave). It is supposed to be the first depiction of the dance in our country dating as far back as 2nd century BC.

Just 20 km away is Nandan Kanan (Garden of Gods), a sprawling wildlife park and botanical garden, picturesquely carved out of Chandaka forest with a beautiful lake intervening. It is one of the premier centres of crocodile breeding and is the largest lion safari in the country.

Bhubneswar has two good museums. Orissa State Museum has a rich collection of sculpture, coins, rare palmleaf manuscripts, lithic and bronze tools, natural history, geological objects, paintings, traditional folk and musical instruments.

The other is the handicraft museum which has a a large collection of the rich variety of Oriyan handicrafts like stone sculpture, patta-painting, brass castings, horn toys and silver filigree among others.

The city has many good modern markets and roaming through their lanes is by itself a delight. And don’t forget to savour Oriya sweets even if you don’t have a sweet tooth. Brown spongy rosogollas are highly recommended, they have a taste quite unlike the ones found in the rest of the country. Another speciality of Orissa is the chhenopodopitha–cottage cheese (paneer) steamed over a slow fire in sugar syrup. Then there are a number of sweets prepared from coconuts having a delectable taste.

Next day the plane was bang in time. As it took off, I was struck by the magnificence of the three ancient monuments that dominated the skyline–the soaring spire of the Lingaraj Temple, the white dome of Peace Pagoda of Dhauli hill and the pink marble of Mahavir Jain temple in the Khandagiri hills. Further off and they seemed to go into oblivion but their images were to remain etched in my mind and heart forever.


Published in the Day After magazine for the March-April 1992 issue.

This man believes in letting nature work its own cures

Bhuwan Mohan meets Sri Swaminathanji who has nursed thousands to health with a little help from nature, and without charging a penny


He has no formal degree in any stream of medical science but, has still successfully been treating patients for the last 40 years. Not only those who are suffering from acute and chronic diseases but also those afflicted with dreaded and degenerative diseases.

He has never taken the Hippocrates Oath which binds a doctor to serve patients selflessly with full devotion, but has been following it in toto nevertheless. Nor does he charge any fee for his services. He could speak no Hindi till the age of 25 but now is a forceful speaker of Hindi, beside Tamil, Sanskrit and English and now edits a magazine published in Hindi and English.

He can give you much wisdom on mother and child care and about ways to run a family with harmony but is a bachelor himself and has never married.

He is a saint who, instead of Rishikesh or Tiruvannamalai has made a crowded place like Delhi his abode to serve humanity. Perhaps you have heard of Sri Swaminathanji, a 68-year-old bachelor, who looks much younger than his years and is commonly referred to as a naturopath.

However, that is now what he would like to be called “since it gives the impression that it is I who is curing the patient. Actually the cure comes from within and nobody, no outside agent, no drug or potion in any form can ever succeed in making one healthy. It is nature and nature alone which helps in regaining health and my duty is only to help people understand the simple laws of nature.”

“All diseases are due to one cause,” he says. “Wrong living in a manner which violates the laws of nature and therefore there is only one treatment” change your ways and swim along with the tides of nature.”

He continues: “In fact, the minor diseases are nature’s way of warning you that your eating and living habits are not correct and you should mend your ways before it is too late. Due to wrong living, foul matter accumulates in the body and the only way is to get rid of it in a sensible manner. But, instead of eradicating the cause of the disease, we fight with the symptoms and resort to drugs and such other methods without changing our ways. These outside agents may give relief for sometime, but the real causes persist.”

“The suppressed diseases cannot remain suppressed for long and erupt again in much more dangerous forms. Still, if we fail to understand nature’s warning and resort to various methods which go against the grains of nature, it reaches a bursting point and the disease turns into degenerative form.”

What Sri Swaminathanji teaches are simple laws of nature – how to eat, when to eat, what to eat, how much to eat, fasting methods, exercises with moderation, interpersonal relations for better living and so on.

What he teaches apply equally to healthy people so that they continue to enjoy the bounties of nature. And in cases of acute diseases, remove the real cause so that the diseases do not go into the seed form to germinate into much more dangerous forms later.

Sri Swaminathanji, a leading nature therapist, sees patients at 10-M, Lajpat Nagar III on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays between 1700 and 2000 hours. The rest of the days he is available at his Laxmibai Nagar residence. Contrary to any speculation that his “clinic” may be equipped with the most modern medical paraphernalia, all he has is clear understanding of the laws of health and disease and some very authentic books. While he has been treating different types of patients, he advises everybody to master the subject – it requires nothing but a few hours of study and reflection over what had been studied, he says.

He is ever ready to clear doubts, if any. In fact, he has been conducting study groups in Delhi and has been travelling from one end of the country to the other for over four decades now, spreading the message of natural hygiene. His patients come from far. Some come for consultations in Delhi and then take advice on the phone.

Swaminathanji is not a professional and does not charge anybody for consultations. “I don’t live on your disease,” he replies if someone tries to pay him. In fact, he warns against professional healers. “They develop a vested interest in the disease and not in its eradication.”

The source of Sri Swaminathanji’s income is the pension which he receives from him government job. He took premature retirement at the age of 52 to devote himself fully to the cause of natural hygiene.

He has written two books on nature cure in Hindi and edits the magazine The Life Natural.