There is no denying the fact that the ongoing pandemic has impacted human life in a massive way. Apart from becoming more health and cleanliness aware, people are moving closer to a traditional and more natural lifestyle. That is what a lot of Indian Millennials are doing. This started during the first lockdown in 2020 and the trend is still continuing. They are seeking solace in places where natural serenity is abundant and they don’t mind giving up on a few urban amenities. So do not be surprised if you come across young people farming and returning to traditional ways of living.
A change of lifestyle for Indian Millennials
Kailash Bhatt and Shilpi Sharma, a couple who work as wedding photographers, shifted to Rishikesh in the foothills of Uttarakhand. Earlier, they stayed in a rented flat in Delhi. They opted for a place where fresh air and organic food were available aplenty.
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Kailash said he missed the north Indian food that he remembered fondly from his childhood. He added: “Every time we cook kafuli here, which is a leafy green dish, I travel back in time to when my mom used to make it on a clay stove and serve it hot. All those dishes such as madua roti, jhangora kheer, and even the locally grown red rice just make me nostalgic each time.” (Atlas Obscura).
Like Kaiash and his wife, many young urbanite Indian Millennials changed their lifestyles and food habits after 2020. Many of the urban professionals returned to their hometowns and even rural towns, both for safety and a better lifestyle away from the hustle and bustle.
Nostalgic food traditions
Agriculture expert and former state planning commissioner Sudhir Panwar says: “A lot of food that we like comes from our early life experiences. Our psychology is such that our brain registers the food that we had as a child or we ate when hungry as comfort food and we always turn to it. And since native varieties are mostly only being grown for self-consumption and not commercially, people are increasingly growing indigenous varieties in their home gardens or plots of land outside cities.” (Atlas Obscura).
Even before the pandemic had hit the country, a section of Indian Millennials started switching to a health-conscious diet and lifestyle. The pandemic has added fuel to the trend, say the experts. So they are choosing grains like quinoa, fruits like goji berries, and avocados. The change in dietary habits has impacted the ecology and also the cultural rituals in a big way. This is nowhere more evident than in Diwali celebrations.
A Delhi-based homemade sweet maker, Kirti Jha says: “A few years before the pandemic started, people were switching from traditional sweets to chocolate hampers more, just like the Christmas offerings in Western countries. But since the pandemic started, the demand for traditional/seasonal sweets is again going up. The only change is the request to add more healthy ingredients such as adding flaxseeds or pumpkin seeds to the traditional laddoos.” (Atlas Obscura).
Connecting the old and the new
Panwar thinks the newfound awareness will give the Indian agricultural sector a much-required boost. The pandemic boosted rural and urban interactions in a big way. Indian Millennials who nearly lost touch with their native places reconnected in an unprecedented manner. Many of them came to know the food they eat actually comes from the rural farmland and not from the shopping malls and markets in cities! The fact is they are relishing the change in lifestyles.
Some of the urban Indian Millennials decided to return to their hometowns to aid their struggling families. Kartik Bhatt, a 26-year-old civil service aspirant and engineer, returned to Kausani, Uttarakhand, to aid his father in selling organic produce. Kartik now sells produce harvested by his father using social media channels. His brand Pahadwala has become quite popular. It now has products like organic honey, apricot oil, and turmeric in its range. Kartik also has plans to tie up with shepherds and sell wool produced by them.