I have spent the last two years living in Delhi, a city with a population over 18 million. Most of my friends from Slovenia and my home village, were asking me how I could survive in this polluted, crowded, dirty city where trash is just lying everywhere. That’s the image of the city that they got through media and movies.
Honesty speaking, it wasn’t always easy. Yes, sometimes I felt like that there is no privacy to which we are so used, that there is no proper clean pedestrian paths and that even my lungs sometimes do not get enough of fresh air. But a city is a city, with all good and bad sides. I don’t think you can find a perfect city anywhere.
However, I have figured out that there is much more to learn than to criticise. Protection of Mother Nature as well connection and coexisting with her is originally in Indian culture very important. I am living in India differently and in some ways more sustainable.
I have learned that anything can be reused. I love the fact that the street food is usually packed in paper bags, made of old newspapers. I think lunch boxes are also very Indian and itself a brilliant concept. Most of the people will bring their lunch to work in the reusable lunch boxes every single day. That means that they avoid millions of disposable plates, spoons and cups every day!
Food is delicious and homemade, usually cooked early in the morning before it gets too hot and on top of that all the meals are actually cooked. Frozen food actually came to India in last few years, however Indians by the end of the day still prefer a home cooked meal. Indians are also very aware what should be eaten when you are for example sick. On top of that people eat local and seasonable food. Imported food is usually more expensive and not so easy available. Honestly, in terms of how much variability is in Indian cuisine, they don’t even need it. I found it super important to count our “food miles” and know the origin of the food. For sustainable lifestyle you just cannot eat strawberries in the middle of the winter, right? Scientifically is proven that the most suitable food for our body is seasonable food and in the same time you support local farmers as well. In relation to climate change it is also important to mention that the consumption of meat, in comparison to west; is very low.
With the way how I bathe in India I conserve so much water! I remember how I was having long showers back home and used plenty of water. Here I am using a system of buckets and I really believe it is just so much better. And of course the famous way of cleaning with water in the toilet and not using a toilet paper. Seriously, toilet paper is not only a huge waste of paper which clogs the drains but it’s also unhygienic. Once my friend said: “If the bird poop on your hand, will you clean it only with napkins or first with water? The same is with your own poop.” No more explanation needed.
The increased number of cars in India is alarming, but there has to be a bigger look in the whole system of the Indian transport. There are many improvements in public transport, metro is spreading, auto rickshaws and buses are obligated to use CNG (compressed natural gas) and the system of taxi-sharing and pooling is also increasing.
Women and men are always nicely dressed and it is important to look good. I would say that they understand the importance of natural cosmetic more than we do. Ayurveda, homemade recipes with neem, turmeric and other ingredients are typically used every day. Yoga also brings people closer to nature. You will see full parks at 5 AM in the morning.
In my college time, I was so use to take a coffee –to go. Here, you can always stop at Tea-point and have a cup of chai with locals. Originally, the tea is served in glass cup, but it does sometimes happen that it is served also in paper cup. However, it is different in terms of communication with locals. I never grab the cup and just go. A simple stop at the chai stall is not just a small talk. If you listen carefully, you can hear real stories of the locals and their lives.
I have learned that in India anything can be recycled. I think Indians are the masters in recycling different materials and they are very innovative as well. The waste management system is maybe not the best, but the different materials have a value.
There is much more positive to write about the way Indian people live. It’s time to stop stereotyping and give a country a deeper understanding. Maybe some Indians lost a touch who they really are and they got manipulated by different plastic lobbies and consumerism as a whole. Remember that it came from the West. I’m looking positively how people are finding their ways in this big urban jungle to live closer to the nature again. And meanwhile, West can learn something that Indians are already practising for centuries.
India, thank you for all the learnings!
Katja Polc, Member of Vatavaran team