Air-Bath for Better

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Have you ever put on minimum of clothes and let cool breeze caress the skin? Those who have experienced it, must have felt an exhilarating and energising experience. In fact, human beings are the only ones who keep their skins covered all the time with clothes and deprive themselves of the contact with refreshing air.

For the health of the skin as well as for the general health, it is essential to occasionally expose one’s skin to direct air, especially when the season is not cold. This is called air bath and it not only helps in toning up the skin but it has also been observed that various serious diseases respond well to regular ‘air bath’, if taken daily.

It should be noted that one third of the nerves of the body end upon the skin and air bathing has a very beneficial effect on them. Air bath relaxes the nerves. By its relaxing effect, it improves practically every function of the body.

Along with the lungs, intestines and kidneys, skin is one of the most important secretory organ. Through perspiration, it eliminates liquid waste matter. In case the skin is sluggish and not working properly, other secretory organs, particularly kidneys, have to overwork in removing the liquid waste matter from the body, thereby affecting kidneys in the long run. Those who suffer from kidney disorders are greatly helped by taking air bath as this energises the skin and relieves the kidneys.

Further, the skin is also a respiratory organ and an apparatus for controlling our internal warmth. Not only our lungs but also all the pores of the skin inhale fresh air constantly and supply oxygen to our blood. Thus, a healthy skin does not force the lungs to over-exert themselves.

Air bath should be taken when air is comfortably cool and enjoyable. If the air is very cold and the person starts shivering, he will only be harming himself.

In summer, air bath can be taken early in the morning or in the evening or even at night, when the breeze is enjoyably cool. In winier, ii should be taken a little later In the day, when the air is not very cold.

Air bath should be taken when a soft breeze is blowing, so that one can feel the ‘embrace’ of the air. If the air happens to be still, to get the desired results the person should either walk vigorously or apply some slight friction over the skin by rubbing the body with his own hands.

During the air bath, one should have least clothes on the body, only that much which are barely needed so that air can play upon the skin and stimulate it. Whatever clothes are worn should be made of cotton, loosely woven and preferably white or light loured so that even the covered portion of the body is not deprived of fresh air and natural light.

Air bath may be taken for as long a time as may be convenient. FLftecn to thirty minutes at a time should be sufficient. It should be followed by a regular bath in water so that dust particles falling on the skin arc removed. If one cultivates the habit of living in the midst of plenty of fresh air, right from childhood, the body will become strong and the person will never suffer from cold and such ailments. Infants should be allowed to play in fresh air, naked.

Only in the beginning one may feel a little cold while air bathing but soon warmth returns as the rate of blood circulation increases. If possible, it is better to take air bath by the side of river, pond or a sea coast where the air is pure and cool. A water bath can be ely enjoyed also.

Air bathing has several other benefits. The mind becomes pure and calm. In a state of anger, it cools down the affected person and makes the blood pressure normal. Besides, it relieves the tension the nerves and makes them strong and healthy.

Published in PROUT on December 15, 1990.

Waste not, want not

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Social forestry is the latest buzzword In the ecological arena. And experts on ecological conservation could learn something from some of the nondescript Indian villages which have used novel ways to preserve their forest cover. A classic example is Khaksitola village In Ranchi district, Bihar.

The villagers have taken the initiative in protecting and renewing the area’s vast acreage of Government-owned forest land. Moat notably, this has been accomplished without any financial assistance from the Government.

Khaksitola, around 40 km from Ranchi is a small village with around 40 households. Close to the village are dense forests of mango, ber, custard apple, jackfruit, sugarcane and indigenous fruit trees which sprawl over 40 acres.

Soon after Independence, the forests were nationalised and this was the beginning of their exploitaion. in 1952-S3, the forests were given ‘reserve’ status which meant the tribals would no longer have any rights to them.

The Government began auctioning the forest land to contractors who felled trees on a large scale for timber. Alarmed at this, the villagers themselves began pillaging the forests.

But they soon realised that this was a counterproductive measure. If they did not rethink their strategy, their prime source of sustenance would soon be gone. In a bid to save the remaining forest land, the villagers removed all the timber felled by the contractor and stored it in a Government depot. Though many of them were beaten up and jailed, they remained undeterred in their resolve to protect their natural wealth.

In 1954, a village panchayat meeting attended by 10 vIllages threw up several methods to save the remaining forest resources from contractors.

No villager was permitted to fell trees. Instead, the panchayat of each village allocated forest resources according to the needs of each family.

Each village selected people to undertake a round- the-clock vigilance of the forests. On sighting a trespasser, the guards would sound the mander – a tribal musical instrument.

This move made it clear that though the Khaksitola forest was government-owned, exploitation would no longer go unchecked.

The first real test of this endeavour came In 1978. The new Forest Department official allotted a portion of forest land to his favourite contractor. On hearing of this, the villagers decided that they would protect the forest, even at the cost of their lives. They surrounded the area armed with their traditional bows and arrows.

The Forest Department retaliated by Issuing an arrest warrant for Simon Oraon who had been panchayat chief for the past 40 years. This did not deter the villagers. Eventually, their determination forced the Forest Department to allot a different area to the contractor.

In 1984, there was further trouble. A contractor took out a lease, ostensibly for manufacturing stone chips after obtaining a ‘no objection certificate’ from the Mining and Forest departments. The villagers soon discovered that the contractor was interested in boulders only where trees were situated. He was fined Rs. 500 and his equipment was seized.

Since then, the villagers have had very little trouble. At present, an agricultural-forestry ministry committee meets regularly to discuss plans for conservation and development.

Some measures include felling a tree only if three households require wood. And in the spirit of ecological conservation, a tree is never felled entirely. The trunk Is marked and the tree is sawed off at that point.

A special warning bell has been hung in Khaksitola. It Is rung if someone finds a tree being illegally felled. If the culprit is from the village, he is let off with a nominal fine. If he is from a neighbouring village, the panchayat executive members notify the culprit’s panchayat authorities in an attempt to prevent it happening again.

However, there is no restriction on fallen fruits which villagers are free to gather. Ripe fruit is plucked and distributed equally among the households on allotted days. Until recently, the land was uneven with no irrigation facilIties. The villagers have worked hard to make the land fit for cultivation. They took bank loans to construct canals and three check dams. These check dams collect rain water which the villagers use to raise crops the year through. It would seem that they are reaping the fruits of their labour, at last

Published in Business Line on September 21, 1998.