Play in dirt: It’s not DIRTY

As I have been discussing a lot on social causes lately, I thought it would be fun to learn some science now, you know, after all I am an aspiring scientist and all. 😀 😉

Evolution, as most of us know is a process of change in heritable traits over successive generations, which is the key reason for diversity. Ever since the migration of humans from Africa, there have been several changes over the years, from as small as physical appearance to several other inherent genetic changes. For ex., although all of us started from Chimpanzees (dark skinned), after the evolution, people from different parts of the world are identified based on different skin type and other physical traits. The skin color is because of the production of melanin, the pigment that gives color to hair, skin etc. Dark skinned people have more melanin than light skinned people and this is because, in most of the hot countries, our skin develops a defense mechanism by producing melanin to protect itself from harmful sun rays. However, people from colder regions, who aren’t exposed to sun on a regular basis, do not have the need to produce melanin and are more susceptible to damage from sun, as compared to others.

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This said, evolution is not limited to the gap of generations, it happens even during the life-time of a person, based on the environmental factors his body is exposed to. Thanks to the modern hygiene and sanitation conditions, we have reduced risk of a lot of diseases. Unfortunately, as we know, too much good is not really good. This is what “Hygiene Hypothesis” is about. It says that “a lack of early childhood exposure to infectious agents, symbiotic microorganisms (such as the gut flora), and parasites increases susceptibility to allergic diseases by suppressing the natural development of the immune system”. Yes, you heard it right. Being exposed to micro-organisms from young age primes your body’s immune system, which is the fighter against pathogens and others diseases, to successfully fight against a lot of common infections. 

A fun fact: “Our cells are outnumbered 100 to one by the much smaller bacteria”.

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Human body consists of trillions of microbes. These microbes not only live in more or less peaceful coexistence with the human body but beneficial in several ways. They help in digesting our food, adjust our immune system, protect our skin from infections, play a role in obesity and severe digestive woes. The major microbiome is in the large intestine, where microbes aid digestion, create vitamins and deter harmful microbes. Skin and noses are other hotspots.

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We’d be dead meat without our beneficial bacteria, if only because they crowd out harmful bacteria. However, the microbiota varies from individual to individual, based on environmental factors and life-style. For ex., research has shown that children who grow up on farms have lower allergy and asthma rates, due to regular exposure to microorganisms present in farm soil, which recreates the microbiome. Nevertheless, timing and the intensity of exposure also matters. However, all the antibacterial soaps, antibacterial sprays, antibacterial cleaning wipes, antibiotics and a myriad of disinfecting cleaning products prevents formation of healthy bacteria although it is providing sterile environment. Therefore, it is important to improve these beneficial bacteria, how do we do that? Probiotic rich foods and supplements are a great start, but they are missing an important factor: Soil-Based Organisms (SBOs). These soil based organisms have stronger strains of beneficial bacteria that can survive through the digestive system and provide the most benefit. While fermented foods and probiotic supplements can also be very beneficial, some of these strains do not survive through the digestive system. 

So what does it mean? It means that all of our cleaning, disinfecting and sterilizing could be doing more harm than good at times. 

“What a child is doing when he puts things in his mouth is allowing his immune response to explore his environment,” Mary Ruebush, a microbiology and immunology instructor, wrote in her  book, Why Dirt Is Good: “Not only does this allow for ‘practice’ of immune responses, which will be necessary for protection, but it also plays a critical role in teaching the immature immune response what is best ignored.”

Various cultures have known the health benefits of dirt for centuries and there is an old saying that “You have to eat a peck of dirt before you die”. It seems there is wisdom in this old saying.  😛 😉

What should we do now? 1. Go outside 2.Eat dirt.  (I’m only kidding 😛 Haha!)

Just let your kids play in the gardens or in the organic mud with bare foot, make sure there are no harmful chemicals sprayed in that mud though. Do-not be a cleanliness freak. 😛 May be just maintain a good balance.

Stay dirty, Stay healthy! 😉  

Learnt now? 😛 You’re welcome!! 😂

Sayonara! 😀

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Color of hate.

No one needs an introduction to how big a problem “Racism” is, and how India has been caught several times in disgust for being a “Racist country”. If you haven’t already seen it, here are the results from a survey conducted by Washington Post last year.

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Even if the evidence do-not stand strong during this survey, I would never deny the fact that India could be one of the top racist countries.

I recently came across the rally conducted in Bangalore opposing racism towards Africans. My first reaction towards it was “Well, one more. When will this stop?”. When I was in India, there was a huge campaign, “Dark is beautiful“. Dark is Beautiful is an awareness campaign to draw attention to the unjust effects of skin color bias. 

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This campaign doesn’t seem to have had the transformative impact in intra-Indian social relations.

Everyone across the globe is proud of our cultural diversity and it’s amazing united efforts when it comes to sports like cricket, pitching voices against attacks from other countries. History shows us as the nation of “Ahimsa”, non-violence. But, deep down the hearts, there are stems of caste based prejudice. This is how most of us were trained to distinguish between people based on their caste, gender, color, creed, status, etc. Every community believes that their culture, traditions and customs is the best, which is good, however, they fail to accept and understand the differences in people. There is a low esteem towards several other communities/states/religions. Like this wasn’t enough, the other factor that added to it, was skin color. For ex: Arranged marriages in India, technically happen among individuals from same caste, creed, status, religion, state. 

To detail, all the discrimination towards North-East Indians, Biharis, North Indians towards South Indians, S.Indians towards N.Indians, what’s the basis for all this? 

The common notion of beauty in India is attached to fair skin, which is evident in several incidents. Matrimonial ads boast of fair, very fair and very very fair skin alongside foreign visas and advanced university degrees.

(Although out of context, do watch this video made by few colleagues of mine from college, showing the Indian style matrimonial ads.
P.S: They took inspiration from actual matrimonial pages and a lot of these were actual real ads.)

The endorsement of a plethora of fairness products substantiate this. With most of the celebrities not only endorsing these products, but those who are dark skinned transforming themselves to fit into this big puzzle, only adds up to the craze. The insane ads show all kinds of crap and god knows what they are trying to teach.

  1. Fair and Lovely : A retired father with money problems laments that he didn’t have a son to bail him out. His dark-skinned daughter decides she’ll “be a son” and uses a Fair & Lovely to land a coveted job as a flight attendant.
  2. Fair & Handsome : Even India’s biggest superstar, actor Shahrukh Khan, is in on it. He recalls his (clearly fictional) past, when he was a regular guy who wanted to be a celebrity.
    (Source)

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The oppression of Africans and black skinned people from Uganda and Nigeria in the past can also be attributed to the deep seated contempt towards dark skin. Several movies portray jokes/racist comments towards other religion/caste/color. They might not totally mean it, but, they should also remember the impact they are going to create on general public.

Living in India was a childhood dream that deepened with my growing understanding of India and America’s unique, shared history of non-violent revolution. Yet, in most nations, the path of ending gender, race and class discrimination is unpaved. In India, this path is still rural and rocky as if this nation has not decided the road even worthy. It is a footpath that we are left to tread individually.said a foreign PhD student at the Delhi School of Economics, in his post in outlookindia. Read more about his experience here.

We blame foreigners for being racist to Indians living in their country. But are we any better? 

We are racist towards people from our own country!

While trying to become a developed nation like America, are we also trying to incorporate their skin color and victimize others? If we’re so desperate about changing the world’s perceptions about India, if we want to tell the world that we are modern, educated and developed, that we’re not a land of snake charmers anymore, the first thing we should do is to look into ourselves and understand that we need to change our own perceptions about ourselves, before changing others. Ofcourse this doesn’t represent everyone. There are several Indians who aren’t racists and are fed up of many because of whom the entire nation is being blamed. On behalf of all of them, I plead,

“Don’t be the racist you hate so much”