While applying for admission to a place in a learning institution, it is normal that among other things details of parentage have also to be furnished. This has been a tradition in India since the earliest times, as recorded in the Chandogya Upanishad when Satyakam asks his mother Jabla the name of his father, as he wanted to seek admission in a gurukul.
Like the most modern entrance tests, admissions even then were based on aptitude, counselling and merit as assessed by the rishis. And based on this assessment, the student was assigned to a particular stream of learning?academics, statecraft, martial arts, commerce or agriculture. The three fraternities were called Brahmin, Kshatriya and Vaishya. Physical streams of household and manual labour jobs were mostly assigned to housewives or shudras. But this was always based on an individual'saptitude, preference and choice. One opted for one'slife vocation and that is how the vocation was called varna. The admission test was symbolised by performance of upanayanam ceremony, which gave the identity card of a yagyopavit to the new entrant. And admission to any particular fraternity was decided during the pre-upanayanam counselling. During that period the parentage and heredity lineage would not play any significant role in getting admission to a gurukul. As society got more prosperous, laziness, selfishness and narrow-mindedness also started showing in more people. As an aftermath of the Mahabharat, we ended up with a situation where merit had no role.
According to Vedanta, the food solids and liquids one eat nourish the body in different ways. The gross part, constituting roughage is rejected by the body as waste products. The less gross but finer part goes to build our physical body system constituting blood, bones, flesh etc. The finest part builds our mind and manifests in our faculties of speech and actions. It is also said the three constituents, making up this system, are represented by earth, water and fire. Earth represents the gross body, water the vital life force prana, and the fire constitutes our mental make-up that motivates our actions in life and ?fires? our speech. (Chandogya Upanishad; chapters 6.4 and 6.5.).
When certain sections of our society chose to confine all knowledge and access to that knowledge to their own families and clans only, a large part of our society was afflicted not only with social skills because of this segregation, but this deprivation of knowledge relating to nutritional aspects also directly had an impact on the intellectual vitality, physical health and disease resistance of the body.
This analysis is now being fully supported by modern scientific researches. The Mental Health Foundation in the UK has in its reports shown specific linkage of the following behavioral conditions as traceable to specific deficiency of fresh green vegetables, dairy products, nuts and oils in the diets. These are: Anxiety, poor concentration and lack of attention, poor memory, irritability, stress, confusion, insomnia, blank mind, loss of appetite and lack of motivation. All of these problems are faced by us, more predominantly by the poor and most of the school children. Even children from rich families suffer from malnutrition but of a different nature, which is caused by junk food.
With the loss of pursuit of merit and knowledge on account of ?reservation? policy, the society gradually started losing knowledge in every field. Lack of knowledge among other things also means lack of knowledge about our food. The resulting malnutrition affects the mental condition of the most-deprived people of the society, irrespective of their castes in which they are born. All measures like equal opportunity and quotas will also have to be considered simultaneously to improve the nutrition of mothers-to-be and children below 12 years, if we want to have an enterprising, resurgent India.
The traditional Indian food used to be comprised of lots of green leafy and raw vegetables, fresh dairy products and nuts and kernels from pumpkins, melons and almond seeds. In addition, there was the tradition of consuming a lot of fermented and preserved vegetables, cereals and dairy products. The modern science now gives them names like Probiotics and Microbial Nutrition. It was also an Indian tradition to avoid stale food as far as possible, which again is fully endorsed by the modern nutrition experts.