Skip to content

Leading Sugarcoated lives in a Bitter-Sweet World

June 20, 2010


Having spent a good many years out west (most of it in the US), I was constantly struck by an anomaly that only really made sense to me when I returned to India.

And that anomaly has everything to do with balance, or rather being out of it.

Like most folks, I was a regular at coffee shops in the US and was always frustrated at the lack of anything savoury to eat there. Here in India, tea always goes with something sweet (usually the tea itself) with something savoury. A nice balance.

No big deal, you say? Patience dear reader. It is actually a very big deal.

Another thing I delved in (a bit too much) during my time in the US was alcohol. And I can confidently say it was the same for most people around me, lots of sweet coffee, buns, doughnuts, cream this and sugar, beer, sugary snacks, alcohol, aerated drinks….  sugar piled upon sugar…day in and day out. Everything had sugar.

And on another level, was this political correctness. You could never really speak the truth about anything that really mattered. Most truthy topics were in “politically Charged” territory. Feminism, Masculinity, the running of a company, any giant fraud unfolding around you, parenting, how children were being brought up, what you thought about someone, what someone thoughts about you… you get the idea.

And truth, famously, has always been bitter, right?

And then there was the “How are you doing this morning” from the kid behind the counter, most of them hardly meaning a word of it. Very sweet, sweet, sweet.

And candy, everywhere, candy, candy candy. Halloween supplies lasted the year around.

America, from my eyes, was on a perpetual sugar high. And bitterness was banned. No public consumption of it, no public display of it.

Definitely a sugar-coated existence. No balance at all.

When my alcohol consumption (a tad excessive) left me feeling terrible, I went to a practitioner of Ayurveda in the US.  She gave me a bunch of powders, said to take them and I’d be fine.

Went home, woke up the next AM, took a spoonful of one and gagged. It was so bitter. The bitterest thing I’d ever tasted. Plus, remember, I was leading a sugar-coated life too. When you are drowning in a sea of sweetness, even slightly bitter is really bitter.

I went to her that afternoon and complained, bitterly of course, and she smiled and had the said offensively bitter powder put in veg-caps. I went away happy and did the course….. to absolutely no effect. I thought she was just a bad doc and never returned.

The significance of my experience came many years later, my alcohol days far behind me. I realized that it was the BITTERNESS of the powered that was it’s power.

Understanding that the problem was the sweetness in my system, Ayurveda lady prescribed BITTER as an antidote. I needed to taste deeply bitter things to bring my system back in balance.

And in a fractal world, it works the same way with our lives too. Sunk in false-truths, white lies and political correctness, truth, bitter truth, has receded into the background.

All of us sweet people, cannot deal with the tiniest bit of truth, much like my first dose of bitter powder. So we take any truth-speaker and shun them, lest they destroy the glazing on our Dough-nut, do-not (tell me a truth) existence.

Once I realized it, I went about finding a way to reset. I found a neem tree (see here), one of most useful trees, medicinally speaking,  known to us. Long history and every part is useful.

And it is bitter. Bitter leaves, bitter bark. Bitter!

And so I started bittering myself, eating a fresh leaf the very next morning. First thing on waking up. Start my day bitterly. Next day, two leaves…. onwards till 14 leaves at a time. ANd then I wound down, 13, 12, 11….28 days, I started my day with a bitter leaf (or three).

Believe it or not, by the 10th day, those bitter neem leaves were tasting sweet. What an amazing feeling.

And my life changed…. because not only did it balance my body, it also balanced my mind.

First off, since bitter was now sweet, most sweet things were too sweet. My sweet-bitter scale had been reset. I was not craving sugar at all.

And boy, could I ever speak the truth. Bitter truth in return was sweet music to my ears.

I’ve done this time and time again and just 15 days or so ago, as I was planning to do another round (I’ve moved since and had no neem tree around), guess what, from nowhere, a sapling peeked out in my garden.

Just like that. Healthy and growing by leaps and bounds every day.

My neem bitter therapy starts tomorrow and I can hardly wait.

What I figured out also is that life deals you it’s bitter moments. To all of us.

If we choose to em-bitter ourselves, nothing life throws at you can sway you. It all seems so sweet.

And that is the balance I’m speaking about in our lives. Too far in one direction only leads to im-balance and dis-ease.

So, go to your local health food store, or Ayurvedic practitioner, or find yourself a neem tree, or bitter gourd juice. And take a big bite, swig dose of bitter. None of it can harm you and your life will become truly sweeter for it.

I can guarantee it.

Go on then, take a bitter pill!

5 Comments leave one →
  1. June 29, 2010 2:02 pm

    I think your writing style is terrific, and this essay could really get through to some ( a select few percent of) Americans.
    I would like to submit this to, or better yet, you could submit yourself. This particular essay is most appealing (though I love most of your writing).

    • June 29, 2010 2:39 pm

      So awesome to find resonance. These trivial sounding things can change people’s lives. Please reddit for me. I tried digg, but didn’t quite dig digging my self.
      Feel free to join in the dialouge and welcome.

  2. Alan permalink
    October 29, 2010 7:03 pm

    Fine post.

    An old friend used to say: “Sweet things make you bitter, and bitter things make you sweet”.

    You’re right that Americans have an utter aversion to bitter taste — one of
    the fundamental tastes, and one which is considered in one of the traditional
    systems (Ayurveda?) to be an important one for tone and healing. And of course
    “bitters” were used in Western herbal medicine as well, as a stomach/digestive
    tonic and for other things.

    There is a note of hope in the recent popularity of the liquer Absinthe,
    which is very bitter.

    • October 30, 2010 2:18 am

      Thanks Alan and yes, Ayurveda pays a lot of importance to bitter. We are truly off balance on the bitter sweet scale. And bitter gourd (really bitter stuff) is a commonly eaten vegetable too.

      But absinthe???? 🙂 Bitter yes, but some minor side effects, eh? You might make a masterpiece and then go and cut your own ear off or some such, or so they say!


  1. Greece and the lesson of Austerity « VivekAnand's Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: