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Ayurveda Journey - Farewell

Festival founders Ram and Sonali Banerjee conclude their Ayurvedic retreat diary.

I cannot believe that it has been a full three weeks since our arrival. But, as we are told constantly, everything that has a beginning must have an end. I shall miss SDJ Ayurvedalaya, the greenery, the bird song, the daily blood pressure checks, the doctors with their permanent smiles, the staff, fellow patients, the oil massages, the colonic irrigation (!)

So what am I to take away from this learning opportunity? Firstly that food, like music, is grossly simplified in the west into just nutrition. The consumer, processing, time of day and so on is not considered at all. The fact that the same food may be beneficial to some people and harmful to others is a concept too far for western dieticians with their calorie charts. Key takeaway: Eat when hungry, drink when thirsty and only fill your stomach ¾ full, never more or else you hinder the digestive process. The entire concept of balancing the body so that it may deal with whatever ailments it may have is such old wisdom. Cure the source and the symptoms will disappear. When did we stray from this truth to our pill popping culture where 40% of the nation is on anti-depressants and official ‘safe’ blood pressure figures are lowered regularly to entangle more people into the long-term pharmaceutical net? After the birth of ‘modern’ medicine we still only have the three basic remedies of burn, poison or cut away to cure most diseases. This is not progress. Key takeaway: When you need a tablet every day to keep you alive, it is no longer medicine, it is food, and VERY EXPENSIVE food. I have loved the ‘old’ school methods where the doctor comes and talks to you about your life and not your diseases. From that they derive a path of wellness that will cure your ailments – some of which have yet to manifest. I like the word cure. It is finite and has an end but as we were told, the cure for any of our ailments will come later in the post treatment period at home. It is how gently and sympathetically you can return to normal life that will determine progress. This puts health back onto an individual’s plate. Our bodies can only truly be our responsibility.

So with everything packed we arranged for a taxi the following morning. Our flight was from Kochi at 9.50 am. That was a four-hour drive away, and my brilliant mathematical mind had calculated that a 3am start would be more than sufficient but I had not taken into account the elephant constant – a well-known variable in Indian mathematics that says if you find an elephant on the road it may well add an hour to your journey. Bleary eyed, the taxi driver turned up at 2am and packed our belongings into a small car. The fact that most our luggage was inside the car rather than in the ‘boot’ mattered little as Sonali and I slipped into the back seat and held our cameras ready for elephants. Needless to say we did not even see elephant dung let alone an elephant and arrived at the airport ridiculously early only to have to wait for check-in to open. With a nod from the immigration officer and a cheery smile at his elephant encrusted carved wooden box camera, we were on our way back to London. Bye bye India - as always we have been captivated by your elegant simplicity and have managed, once more, to substitute a little ignorance with a great deal of useful knowledge. Thank you Ayurveda. You have changed our lives … forever – well at least until we die!

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