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Going back to basics: Helping Hands Foundation

DECCAN CHRONICLE. | ANISHA DHIMAN
Published Mar 17, 2016, 12:02 am IST
Updated Mar 17, 2016, 12:02 am IST
A family of 20 left their home in the heart of the city to live 25 km from Hyderabad. Mujtaba Hasan Askari explains the drastic move.
(From left) Fatima, Sadia Begum, Anam, Amara, Mansoor, Master Zubair, Bilqis Begum, Khadeeja, Sumaiya, Sadiq Askari, Ali, Khurram Askari, Hamza and Mujtaba Askari
 (From left) Fatima, Sadia Begum, Anam, Amara, Mansoor, Master Zubair, Bilqis Begum, Khadeeja, Sumaiya, Sadiq Askari, Ali, Khurram Askari, Hamza and Mujtaba Askari

Having quit his lucrative career at an IT company to start an NGO, Helping Hands Foundation, in 2014, Mujtaba Hasan Askari was overcome with an idea that he knew would be of tremendous help, especially since money was a concern.

“Our family owned a piece of land in Moinabad, about 25 km from Hyderabad. And though my family had been living in Begumpet and then Jubilee Hills ever since I was a baby, I came to a conclusion that moving out of the city would be a great idea,” says the 48-year-old.

 

However, his family —  mother and two younger brothers — didn’t think so. Living in the heart of the city, Mujtaba faced resistance from his joint family who opposed the idea to move to a far-away location where even going to a supermarket would be a novelty.

Initial struggles

“It took a while to convince my wife, but we moved out  towards the end of 2014,” says Mujtaba, who admits the rest of the family was still not ready to move in.

Even though the move was initially based on his monetary condition, Mujtaba soon realised how beneficial it was. “Hyderabad is seeing a growing trend of health conscious citizens adapting to a healthy lifestyle. People today are concerned about the food they eat and with so many stories about adulteration, there is hardly any food that is wholesome and organic, the way nature has intended it to be,” he says.

Given this scenario, it wasn’t long before the rest of the family came to live at the farm. “But then there were still a lot of challenges,” he says, adding, “For children, going out for a movie or to a mall has become a weekend activity.

Travel is more planned and we carpool. Even when it came to the food, children had a little difficulty adjusting to the taste — they hated the smell of cow’s milk — but they have started appreciating how healthy and wholesome the food tastes now,” he says.

Health insurance

“Needless to say the result has been very heartening for the entire family,” he says, adding, “Earlier the kids would be cooped up in their rooms, but now they are indulging in activities that the entire family participates in. And the food mantra is to consume a decent mix of all types of ‘traditional foods’ with focus on brown rice, millets, free range milk, organic vegetables and fruits, curds, artisan spices and of course, not to forget, desi ghee,” he says.

Now the family, comprising members in the age group of 70 years to a three-month-old baby, is more than happy with this lifestyle change. “I personally believe that adapting to this ancestral model has proved to be a boon for the family — I call it the ‘health insurance’ that we have invested in for the family,” he says.

Aromatherapy: Turmeric is a wonder spice that the Askari family has been growing in the farm for the past two years. Known for its anti-inflammatory, anti-septic and anti-cancer properties, turmeric is also a wonder spice when it comes to aromatherapy. “It’s an age-old practice, wherein the family is made to sit around the vessel in which turmeric is boiled and the steam is inhaled. Such traditional aromatherapy is the  perfect detox,” he says.

Natural healing: Walking barefoot is an activity that Mujtaba admits the family rarely got to practice when they used to stay in Jubilee Hills. “But research proves that walking barefoot is good for the heart and immune system,” says Mujtaba, adding, “In the city, we get out of our homes, hop in the car and spend the entire day inside the office with no exposure to sunlight that is rich in Vitamin D. But ever since we have been living on the outskirts, everybody is more of an outdoor person.”

Organic consumption: With four cows and village chickens, the family doesn’t have to depend on packaged or processed meat. They also purchase oil-producing seeds directly from farmers. “Safflower and groundnut seeds are taken to an oil mill in Kotapally, Adilabad, for cold pressing and oil is extracted in an old British mill. This is pure organic and virgin oil, the waste of which is given to cows as supplement,” he says. Breads, buns, dinner rolls, biscuits and cakes are baked at home.

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