Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of United States-India Monitor
Americans have much to learn from other parts of of the world, and probably first and foremost is how not to mismanage the COVID-19 pandemic. But it’s too late for that. So instead here are some other gems of wisdom that I learned and mastered during my visits to India, which I believe would really behoove Americans to adopt in order to advance and prosper as a society during these difficult times. Allow me to present these life hacks for your benefit, dear Americans: The namaste, the bidet, eating with your hands, a superior plant-based diet, and meditation.
(1) Namaste, not the shake hand. In better times, I used to glad-hand, back-slap, or high-five my way through career and parties with the very best of them. Then came COVID-19, and directives by medical experts to avoid shaking hands, arm-wrestling, or making out with unknown strangers on the dance floor at wedding banquets. All of a sudden the rules had drastically changed after hundreds of years of intimacies with our favorite fast-friends, and it felt like the ground was falling out from under us.
Never fear, oh Americans who like to get handsy with strangers: use the NAMASTE as the standard operating procedure greeting instead. Although Hindu in origin it’s now non-denominational, involves no physical contact, and yet is the utmost sign of respect. It can denote a hello, a thank you, a goodbye, or just an “I love you too man” from a brave 6 feet away! Feel free to use it on your Zoom meetings or Skype too. Once you get used to giving and receiving a liberal amount of namastes, it feels so good there is no turning back. Even if we solve COVID-19 one day, hands will still exchange all kinds of other bacteria and viruses we can’t see. Why would we ever go back to those ignorant old days?
(2) Water, not toilet paper. When people were panic-buying toilet paper across America and around the Western world, I didn’t even break a sweat. Why? Well as most people in India know, you can’t properly “wash” your ass or ANYTHING ELSE with paper products, and so neither do I. Add to that the comfort, cost savings, and obvious health benefits of using water instead of toilet paper, and it was a no-brainer for me to begin using a bidet years ago following the lead of a number of my relatives. It only set me back $32 and is expected to last a very long time. How much T.P. will that money buy you? How many trees were killed just so you could wipe your ass all the time? How much clear-cutting of forest, paper mill pulp processing, plastic packaging, diesel fuel trucking, storage space was involved in… OK, you get the picture. If after reading this you don’t switch to a low-cost, or even a (God bless you) high-end, rear-end heating bidet you are not only a moron, you may just be EVIL. (No, NEO 180 isn’t paying me, just gently and unselfishly washing me every day where the sun don’t shine, in my en-suite water closet).
(3) REMINDER: Eat with your Hands Dammit.
How much metal and plastic (disposable utensils are pure junk, inadequate for their ONLY job in life, and causing landfills to overflow) do we have to mine from beneath the earth to make utensils? How many extra gallons of precious water and chemical soaps are required to wash these things after meals? How much time is wasted on these washes by ourselves or by workers on our behalf? Billions and billions served. The earth is clearly worse off for it.
(4) Toward a More Vegetarian or Vegan Diet. Indians have MORE vegetarians and vegans than the rest of the world put together. This highly populated and dense country is doing all of us a favor and setting an example Americans must follow if they are to lead the world out of the mess we are in.
If you think slaughterhouses and meat processing plants don’t have a LOT of bad karma associated with them, especially for the torture and killing of animals and clear-cutting of forestry, just think about how easily Mother Nature can disabuse us of that notion: zoonotic transmission of viruses such as the one causing COVID-19 currently running roughshod over humanity could be the norm from now on, not the exception, and animal husbandry will continue to be a global zoonotic transmission suspect whether in China, America, or elsewhere, as we have relentlessly encroached on what little wilderness exists in the world and cruel factory farms grow our steadily less healthy food. It’s time for a shift: for (a) personal health, for (b) environmental sustainability, and also for (c) moral reasons of preventing extreme cruelty to thinking, feeling life forms. If you are like me and would struggle to give up meat or seafood 100%, then do your best to reduce animal protein from your diet and replace with plant matter as much as possible. I’m down to about once per month, and I can live with myself. In India, vegetarian and vegan food is so flavorful and abundant in such variety, most of the 40% of the 1.3 billion people in India who don’t eat meat don’t miss it at all. We must follow their example.
(5) Meditation One thing that the Coronavirus has forced many of us to have more of is time. This is a great chance to pick up meditation, an art and practice perfected over thousands of years in India and now everywhere, and its cousin, the moving meditation of yoga. Meditation from my experience is great for mental health, focus, and success in life. It doesn’t have to be religious, and to the extent it is considered spiritual is also an individual journey with no hard and fast rules. With YouTube and apps, there are literally thousands of free resources to help you get started in case you haven’t gotten your feet wet in this area yet.
Take another look at the above, and if you see Americans adopting these 5 practices that I learned about mostly from Indian culture, we would probably witness about 1,000 years of peace and prosperity thoughout this world. It’s time for America to stop acting like a 16 year old and grow up into adulthood with lessons that can be learned from much more mature cultures.