Tag Archives: wisdom

Book Review: Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual by Michael Pollan

Food Rules - An Eater's Manual by Michael Pollan Title: Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual
Author: Michael Pollan
Publisher: Penguin Books
ISBN: 9780143116387
Genre: Health/Nutrition
Pages: 140
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

I was always interested in reading Michael Pollan’s small book of food habits and what to eat and how called, “Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual”. I somehow never got around to it. Perhaps I was scared that it would all be clear – what I eat is unhealthy and maybe I would be forced to think about what I eat, how much I eat and how I eat. I was certain that life would not be the same after reading this book and I was right to a very large extent. At the end of the book, I wanted to change the way I eat and I hope I do.

“Food Rules” is a book that pretty much tells you what you already know. It deals with the basics or rather it gets to the basics of food and our dietary habits. The book is divided into three parts and each part tells the reader a little more towards healthy living. At the same time, Pollan does not discourage eating something sinful or pampering oneself, once in a while; however we need to understand that it is just once a while and not every single day. I guess that is where the major difference actually lies.

The basic premise of the book (according to me) is that eat what your grandmother or your ancestors would recognize as food. The idea is to rid oneself of processed foods or anything that comes in a can or a bottle. Eat fresh and eat plants and vegetables is at the core of the book and rightly so. There are sixty four rules in the book and one might even ask: Do we need rules to eat? Does someone need to teach us what to eat and how to eat? The answer to these questions in today’s time and age is probably a big, fat, YES! Pollan stresses on chewing food, eating smaller portions, eating together and simple food wisdom which he has observed from various cultures and applied over the years.

“Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual” is not a ground-breaking book. However, it does make you realize how you have been abusing your body and mind with what you eat. It makes you realize that supermarkets aren’t the answer to all your food needs and neither eating more means that you are well-fed. It looks at the basic aspects of eating – how much to eat, and when to eat. It breaks the myth of different foods and what the concept of healthy and fit really is. Pollan draws from traditions and simple food wisdom, which I said before, we are all aware of more or less but forget to apply it somewhere down the line. May be that is why we need a book like this to keep informing or rather reminding us from time to time, about what we should eat and how. A must read for people who want to know more about food and its implications and how it changes lives.

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Devdutt on “Jaya”

So I finished reading “Jaya” – The Illustrated retelling of the Mahabharata by Devdutt Pattanaik. The Mahabharata as an epic is as old as time. That’s my take on it. And here is Devdutt Pattanaik’s take on it in the form of an interview with me. It was an honour to interview him (though I have known him before he started work on Jaya). I personally for one prefer the Mahabharata over the Ramayana (look out for the review of “Jaya”), and loved to get his perspective on the questions in my head.  Hope you enjoy it…

From medicine to mythology. Any connection or beliefs that have crossed over in both mediums?

Medicine brought in a systematic approach to my study of mythology. I was better able to understand structure (anatomy), function of structures (physiology), aberrations in structures (pathology) and application of structure (pharmacology).

There is always this tug-of-war between the staunch followers of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. What side do you lean on more and why?

The tug-of-war comes from people’s personalities and not from tradition. Ramayana and Mahabharata are twin epics, complementing each other and cannot be seen separately. They stories of the same God, Vishnu, in two different contexts, the Treta Yuga in case of Ram and the Dvapara Yuga in case of Krishna, that makes the avatar focus on rule-keeping in case of former and rule-breaking in case of latter. So, the question is: which is right? One may lean this way or that way but the wise man will do the Indian Headshake.

 “Jaya” personally was an eye-opener for me in more than one way. Sometimes the book is also an eye-opener for the writer. Did that ever happen to you while penning this book?

The epic keeps surprising you as you keep discovering new patterns with each passing day. All this one realizes cannot be mere coincidence but patterns embedded consciously or unconsciously by generations of storytellers.  

There are so many intertwined stories, both in the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. How does a writer cope with the intricacies? Did research get the better of you at any point?

But clarifying the soul of the two epics. Both epics deal with one simple point: dharma. And dharma is all about the journey to discover humanity. Humans alone, not animals, can empathize and exploit. What do we choose to do under different contexts (the yugas) transforms us from the human to the divine. Once one truly understands this point, the intricacies become merely myriad expression of one simple but very potent thought.

Which character from the Mahabharata is the closest to your heart and why?

Yudhishtira, because he transforms.

Aren’t there too many similarities between the Mahabharata and the Greek Epics?

All similarities are superficial. It is like looking at Americans and saying they are so similar to Indians – they also eat, they shit, the work, they sleep. But that does not explain the differences. Greek epics assume one life and hence the heroes are in a hurry to achieve. They have six-packs and are rather intense. Mahabharata assumes many lives; Krishna lived before and will again as will all the other characters. Only Krishna knows this hence there is no sense of urgency. No six-packs, no angst – just a gentle smile. They others do not know this and so they are worried and anxious.

Here is a quick rapid fire:

a. Karna or Arjun?

Arjun

b. Mahabharata or Ramayana?

Ramayana

c. Kunti or Gandhari?

Gandhari

d. Draupadi or Sita?

Sita

e. Abhimanyu or Ghatotkach

Abhimanyu

There is always the struggle between femininity and masculinity in the Mahabharata? Where did it all start from, though somewhere there is the balance which is maintained?

All struggles emerge from animal nature. Animals have to compete to survive. Humans do not have to. Yet, we do. This indicates that we refuse to evolve. We want to remain rats in the rat race even when the option to break free is there. We blame the world for it, when in truth it is a choice. The battle of the sexes is simply an alpha male or female assumes they are heroes, or victims. This is maya, delusion.

 I loved the way you contained, “Jaya” so concisely and without losing the elements. How did you manage to do that? Wasn’t it one mean task?

Excel sheets and clarity of thought helps as does recognising where the story is going. I fear most storytellers do not realize this. They see Mahabharata as an epic that is complete in itself. For me it is but one part of a much-larger framework. I contextualize Mahabharata in the grand design of call Indian thought.

What role do the illustrations play in “Jaya”?

Diagrams in a science text book. They convey what the written word cannot. 

Jaya – An Illustrated Retelling of the Mahabharata; Devdutt Pattanaik; Published by Penguin; Rs. 499; Available at all Leading bookstores.

You can and must also visit: http://devdutt.com

Here is something else I found on You tube regarding the book. Please enjoy!