There is one reason why the human species as a whole, and South Asia in particular, is slowly losing its mooring and hold on reality. We no longer squat.
That’s right, sitting on one’s haunches, with the buttocks near the ground and the legs completely folded. The world’s well-to-do have stopped doing this, even though humans evolved with the squatting posture as part and parcel of anthropoid evolution and means of sit-down relaxation.
My hypothesis: Squatting provides blood to the brain, presumably for two reasons. The constriction of blood in the legs provides more juice for the brain. Likewise, with the body all bunched up, there is more blood pumped into the cranium, which is good for the grey cells. There are other advantages to squatting: when resting one does not need a chair; when going to the loo, one does not need a commode; when standing in line, one can simply get down on one’s haunches and watch the world go by. You topple over less easily if your centre of gravity is lower to the ground. A significant amount of time is spent closer to the earth when 5 one squats, which can only be good. While sitting, chatting, thinking, or visiting the loo, § hours a day would be spent with more blood flowing in the brains if one is squatting rather than sitting. The quality of thought is better when you squat.
Squatting surely makes people more true to the soil. If presidents and prime ministers squatted more than they stood or sat, it stands to reason that they would take decisions that are more sensitive to the masses. As it is, sitting is seen as the first step out of the quagmire of poverty. The first thing that a household brings in once it has some disposable income is the chair. A chair requires a table. Schools bring in benches. The nai discards the sit-down shave, brings in the chair and mirror, and becomes ‘barber’.
Not that one had only to squat. You could also sit cross-legged. Can you imagine Siddhartha Gautam meditating on a chair? While difficult, you can certainly imagine him squatting, talking to his disciples. The Egyptian pharaoes sat, as is clear from all the statuary they left behind, which is why their civilisation disappeared. But all our ancestors squatted, which is why there is still a South Asian civilisation. Try and imagine South Asian personalities both mythical and historical sitting on chairs, and you will understand how remote it is from our heritage and evolution— Krishna, Shivaji, Akbar, Rani of Jhansi or the Sirdi Saibaba sitting on chairs!
In essence, therefore, the suggestion runs thus: Sitting on chairs robs us South Asians of our genius, which is more easily accessed when we squat. This makes our muscles more elastic, our back muscles more supple, and with a low centre of gravity makes us topple less. Sitting closer to the ground, we see less of the surrounding landscape and are able to concentrate more on people and issues close at hand. Just remember one thing – the atomic bomb was discovered by American and German scientists who used the commode. What does that tell you?
The answer is clear. Offices have to get rid of tables and chairs and pull all down to ground level. What to do with the computers, you ask? Well, who said computers needed chairs? Students who sit on the ground rather than shifting their bottoms on hardwood benches would probably learn better. A minister who sits at ground level would probably be more honest. Parliaments where the MPs squatted or sat cross-legged would probably throw up better governance and more qualitative debates. The UP State Assembly would not see the kind of uproar it does on a regular basis, if the legislators squatted.
So, South Asia, let us go back to our haunches. If nothing else will bring peace, maybe this will.