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10/12/2013

Why in India some people don't cut their hair and wear a turban?

 Sites dedicated to Sikhism explain that hair is a gift from God and therefore you don’t alter it (1). Moreover hair is beautiful (as any gift from God) then the longer the more beautiful. 

That said, I am more and more convinced that any tradition or belief has a practical origin. As a matter of fact, if the Sikh religion appeared in 1469, emerging from the dominant religions (Hinduism and Islam), it is only in 1699 that cutting hair was forbidden (2). Now it so happens that at that time Sikhs were cornered: they had to give up non-violence (a founding principle of this religion) and take up arms against the Muslims who persecuted them (just as they were forcing Hindus to convert). As the Muslims wore beards – also certainly for practical reasons: “Act against the polytheists,” said Muhammad. “Carefully size your moustache and let yourself grow a beard.”(3) – and Hindus were moustachioed. To differentiate themselves (on the battle ground and otherwise) they had only two options left: leave it all or cut it all (but then it’s a lot of maintenance)... 

 

And why the turban?  

 

Long hair may be beautiful but it is not practical. Especially you are fighting and everything. Therefore, “the turban is in all respects a very convenient headgear; it is even more advantageous during war that our hats, because what they fall less easily, and can more easily prepare a blow of cutting edge”. (4) In addition it protects hair from the dust. And women can manage however they want (without a turban)... 

 

But you must know that all turbaned men in India are not necessarily Sikh.

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For example, the Rajasthani (top right) people, originally farmers and shepherds living in a mostly desert region, protect their head with a turban. Which varies in shape, size (even if it is usually 8-9 meter long (5)), material, colour and designs according to the wealth, caste and region of the wearer or the occasion. 

Men wear turbans during weddings (top left).

And many janitors in big hotels or restaurants servers wear a turban (bottom left). In my opinion this practice dates from the colonial time when the Britishers must have found it classy to dress up their servants like that...  

Morality, the turban does not (only) make the Sikh! 

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Subsidiary questions: How do Sikhs manage at the swimming pool with their turbans? How can Sikhs wear a helmet when on a bike? How do Sikhs pass airport security with their kirpan (dagger (2))? 

 

At the pool, they take off their turbans but keep the piece of cloth thindia,hair,religion,sikh,turban,long hair,beard,moustache,turbaned,sikhism,islam,hinduism,guru,gobind singh,five kakas,kakas,rajasthani,name,singh kaur,warriors,kirpan,airport,motorcycle,helmet,sportat covers their hair and makes them look like Smurfs and they avoid putting their head under water. Same thing when they play any sport. 

The regulation regarding helmet-wearing in India is a bit complicated, since it varies from one State to another. In Delhi for example, it is not compulsory for women to wear a helmet! And in Punjab and Haryana where there is a majority of Sikhs, wearing a helmet is simply optional. As a rule, Sikhs are not forced to wear helmets (which are too small to accommodate the turban!). 

The Constitution of 1971 permits Sikhs to carry the kirpan in India. As for air-traveling, the kirpan is only allowed in a check-in luggage!  

 

And why do all Sikhs bear the name Singh (men) and Kaur (women)? 

 

Sikhism is an egalitarian religion, condemning discrimination based on gender or caste. Since in India, family names refer to caste, religion, region of origin, profession (yes all this! and it's hyper-complicated!), Sikhs use their ‘middle name’ as a surname. ‘Lion’ for men (Singh) and ‘Princess’ for women (Kaur).  

 

But beware, the name Singh does not (only) make the Sikh. 

There are people by the name Singh that are not Sikh. How to make things simple when they can be complicated? J 

 

(1)   http://www.realsikhism.com/index.php?subaction=showfull&id=1248365083&ucat=7 

(2) Guru Gobind Singh (last of the 10 gurus who have developed the Sikh doctrine) has imposed the 5 kakas (5 K): hair and beard never cut (kesh) and retained by a comb (Adriana) symbolizing neatness, a metal bracelet (kara), military breeches (kachha) and a dagger (kirpan). Source:   http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/articles/fr/sikhisme;  http://www.lemondedesreligions.fr/archives/2006/03/01/XVe-siecle-gourou-Nanak, 7928403.php  

(3)   http://www.slate.fr/lien/67915/barbe-moustache-monde-arabe 

(4)   http://alembert.fr/index.php?option=com_content & id = 640409723 

(5)   http://www.indianetzone.com/42/turbans.htm 

Other sources: http://forums.Bharat-rakshak.com/viewtopic.php?p=600509 ;  http://www.fashion.arts.AC.UK/media/research/documents/toolika-Gupta-effect-of-British-Raj-on-Indian-costume.PDF   

10/10/2013

Why in India people eat with their fingers?

This post is dedicated to one of my French bosses who asked me recently, after a trip in India, if in my opinion “they” would continue to eat with their hands for a long time. “These savages” he might as well have added. 

Before I praise the practice of using fingers, a small memo on how the “sophisticated” countries actually stopped it... 

 

“The use of fork dates back to ancient times. The Egyptians already used some kinds of metal hooks for cooking and grabbing food in the pots.

The forks we use today are believed to have appeared in the Byzantine Empire. They were introduced in North Italy in the middle of the eleventh century where they were originally reserved for pasta. India, eating with hands, eating with fingers, hands, fingers, eat, good manners, chapati, roti, rice, fork,history of the fork,food

The fork was presented in France by Catherine de Medici but its use first remained very restricted (to cooked pears). Her son, Henri III, during a trip to Italy in 1574 got seduced by this funny tool which enabled people to eat without staining the huge collars or “strawberries”, that were so fashionable. Thus he returned in France with forks and showed it off at his favourite restaurant: Hostellerie de Tour D'Argent (current Tour D'Argent in Paris).

The use of this tool emerged very gradually in France. At the table of Louis XIV, each guest had a fork on the left of their plate, but it was not used because the King himself preferred to eat with his fingers...

It is only at the end of the seventeenth century that the fork was finally used to bring food from the plate to the mouth. It is at the same time that the shape changed, from two to four prongs.”* 

 

So it has been only 400 small years that we stopped eating with our fingers in France!

And I find kind of sad! I think eating with fingers has only advantages. First the food tastes better – it must be the combination of four senses instead of three.

 

It is more eco-friendly (so much we won’t wash!).

 

You don’t burn your tongue – but your fingers.

 

India, eating with hands, eating with fingers, hands, fingers, eat, good manners, chapati, roti, rice, fork,history of the fork,foodAnd you don’t get snapped at because you don’t use your fork or knife properly. Well, you may get a comment if you get food up to the palm: according to ‘good manners’** in northern India, where commonly people use bread (chapati) to gather the food, food should not cross the second phalange.  In such situation, just reply that you learned to eat in South India where a rules are less strict (instead of chapatis they eat a lot of rice which is not so easy to grab! (But don’t overdo it or youey’ll give the impression to be a pig!) 

The only important thing is to avoid using the left hand. That would be gross! When you think it is the hand dedicated to ass-wiping...

 

What is funny is that the majority of tourists in India (my mother ahead of the pack) are really disturbed when they have to eat with their hands... And yet don’t we eat French fries and chicken legs with fingers in France? 

 

* Source: http://www.gralon.NET/articles/materiel-et-consommables/equipement-Cafe--Hotel-et-Restaurant/article-La-fourchette---Histoire-d-une-invention-3123.htm  

* Source: http://www.indax.com/eating.htm

10/08/2013

Why in India fat guys have the paunch of a pregnant woman?

india,big paunch,big tummy,big belly,fat,pregnant women,overweight,obesity,sport,gym,food,ganesh,genetics,hair in the ears,abdominal fat,apple shape,pear shape,yoga,diabetes,dwayne leverock,cricket,weightI've always wondered whether it was only in my head or the belly of paunchy Indians had a special shape. To put it simply, they look like pregnant women. It also happens to quite a few Indian women past their fifties (which makes me wonder every time I meet one “isn’t she too old to be pregnant?”). 

With a little research I found out that it is not only in India that overweight men are more apple-shaped than pear-shaped (a female prerogative)! 

Some people are more prone to accumulate visceral fat that grows deep in the abdomen and around the organs which gives the belly the apple shape. And others retain subcutaneous fat (under the skin) which often settles in the lower part of the body, including the hips and legs. (1)  

And that would be genetic: it is not the same genes that are most active in abdominal fat and thigh fat, and the location of these genes depends on the solicitation of hormones during development. (2)   

 

From there, it is quite possible that Indian males have a particular genetic issue, as they already have a genetic predisposition to have hairs in the ears (cf post). A certain Dr. Patel also claims that “in the United States, the accumulation of fat occurs in the whole body but in India it is centered around the belly”. (3)  

 

But other factors can play in the advent of the appled Indian...  

 

india,big paunch,big tummy,big belly,fat,pregnant women,overweight,obesity,sport,gym,food,ganesh,genetics,hair in the ears,abdominal fat,apple shape,pear shape,yoga,diabetes,dwayne leverock,cricket,weightI thought for a moment about Zola and his Nana who was so beautiful because she was fat and fair skinned. Where a fat tummy would be a (ostentatious) sign of wealth of the man who got away from manual chores. But even poor guys often have a big paunch here (when they are not super skinny).  

 

In India, it's too hot to work out! Indians are not sportive – 9 gold medals in 21 participations at the Olympics (4), it gives the tone! And don’t get me started with cricket... First many players are far from having the bodies of soccer players (see the picture of Dwayne Leverock, who did not hesitate to throw his 120 kilos to catch the ball during the 2007 World Cup (one of the only games I've watched and an action I will never forget!)). (5) Secondly most of the (adult) cricket fans prefer to play cricket German-style: watching it on TV! 

I agree yoga was born in India. But on one hand yoga is more about feeling well in your body than getting an hourglass figure (you can just look at my yoga teacher if you need proof) and on the other hand yoga became popular in India only quite recently – after it became fashionable in the West actually! (6)   

 

That being said, people are more and more aware of problems related to overweight, such as diabetes that affects more than 40 million Indians – here again they seem to have a local genetic predisposition for this disease (7). Hence an explosion of the number of gyms in lately: from almost none when I arrived in 2006 to thousands today. But well, only 0.23 million Indians are believed to have a gym membership... (8) So we can safely say that Indians are culturally anti-sportive!india,big paunch,big tummy,big belly,fat,pregnant women,overweight,obesity,sport,gym,food,ganesh,genetics,hair in the ears,abdominal fat,apple shape,pear shape,yoga,diabetes,dwayne leverock,cricket,weight  

 

And there is food... Traditionally Indian food is rich in carbohydrates (rice, wheat) and fats (a curry is not a curry if it is not full of butter or ghee). And on top of this Indians are fond of snacking. 

 

And last but not least, I think that Indians do not find a big paunch unaesthetic. The dream of my ex-favourite Indian when he was a kid was to have a big tummy like his dad! 

 

Just have a look at Ganesh and his belly (human but elephantine size!)…  

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Or the regular comments I get on my weight (here).  

 

(1)  http://perdreduventre.net/deux-types-de-graisse-abdominale-quel-est-le-pire/ 

(2)  http://www.huffingtonpost.fr/2013/01/14/des-differences-importantes-entre-gras-du-ventre-et-gras-des-cuisses-graisse-ventre_n_2472707.html 

(3)  http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-09-08/ahmedabad/41872756_1_diabetes-centre-dr-mayur-patel-nirma-university;  http://www.Hindu.com/Seta/2006/05/04/stories/2006050400121500.html 

(4)  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/India_at_the_Olympics 

(5)  http://www.criticaltwenties.in/sport/xi-best-performances-in-the-cricket-world-cup-by-fat-cricketers 

(6)  http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/The+fitness+rage/1/85334.html 

(7)  http://healthcare.financialexpress.com/200808/diabetes02.shtml;

http://diabetes.diabetesjournals.org/content/62/5/1369;  http://www.ncbi.NLM.NIH.gov/PubMed/17496355; http://articles.timesofindia.Indiatimes.com/2013-09-08/Ah...

(8)  http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2009-08-14/news/27657062_1_vikram-aditya-bhatia-talwalkars-gold-s-gym 

Source picture: http://travel.CNN.com/Mumbai/life/potbelly-138381 

Other source: http://www.FAO.org/AG/AGN/nutrition/ind_en.stm