Palm Leaf Paper


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Long long ago in India, when children of your age went to schools known as the Guru Kula they had lots to study just like you but they certainly did not have to write as much as you do! They committed whatever they learned to memory and sometimes noted down some very important definitions or formulas on palm leaves for later reference. You see they did not have note books then as you have them these days! If you are wondering whether they were lucky, unfortunately they are not around here to answer your question but they were certainly an eco-friendly lot as they were not using reams of paper made from trees!!! In such a case you could always argue that the palm leaves they used were also sourced from trees! Very true, indeed! In those days there was really no dearth of palm fronds, besides the rudiments of language like grammar and core subjects like science and mathematics were reduced to verses running into two or four lines. These couplets and quartets captured the essence of the subject in as few words as possible. The student had to understand these formulas which were popularly known as “Sutras” and he needed to memorise them to help him remember of all the aspects of the theory at a later date.

They were tested on the subject from time to time orally just like you are tested, but then all of you also take up a written test to show that you have writing skills too ! Perhaps they were spared of the exercise because processing palm fronds into writing material was a long drawn process.

Centuries before paper was invented our ancestors hit upon the idea of using hardy dried leaves as paper.  They were known as “Patra” which means both letter and leaf in most Indian languages used till date. Students processed palm leaves not only for their use, but also for their teachers and scribes who were engaged in making copies of important manuscripts.

Processing palm leaves was no mean task, but it was certainly fun –filled too! Palm fronds cut freshly from the tree were allowed dry partially for a couple of days in  sunlight and then they were then buried in swamps for a week so that they become sturdy and later on the leaves were washed and dried completely in the shade.

Then they were cut along the borders so that they formed rectangular pages which measured eight to twelve inches in breadth and about an inch or two in height. Some times when longer sheets of palm paper were required they were sewn together using plant fiber.

Once the palm paper was ready for use a fine tipped iron stylus (pencil) was used to etch the words or diagrams on the leaf so that it made a depression without actually damaging the leaf. Then powdered vegetable dyes usually green or charcoal powder made from burnt coconut shells were mixed with sesame oil and rubbed over the leaves in such a way that the colours settle down in the depressions. Then the palm leaves were coated with turmeric powder mixed with sesame oil to add sheen and strength to the leaves. Then they were bundled together and wrapped in silk or cotton cloth for safe keeping. Our ancient texts like the Vedas, Puranas, the epics, scripts of plays and treatises have been passed on to us on palm paper.

Possibly this is the reason why we are able to see manuscripts preserved in this manner for over a millennium in a fairly good condition in spite of the gross neglect they are subjected to.

Over a period of time when paper was invented and mechanization made it possible for it to be easily available paper made from palm leaves made an exit. Today these processed leaves are used as canvass on which creative artists showcase their talent.

If you happen to be traveling in Orissa make sure you visit a small village called Raghuraipur in the district of Puri. There are several craftsmen and artists who make a living there by etching wonderful designs on processed palm leaves. Even little children in the village know how to make the longer lasting palm paper. Now that you have an insight into the method, why don’t you try making your own name plate on processed palm leaf?

Wishful Thinking


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Those of you who have read the short story “The Monkey’s Paw” by W W Jacobs will be aware of the fatalistic nature of wishful thinking.

The Whites are apprised of the ability of the Indian talisman to grant them three wishes by their friend major Morris. They are also told about the sinister danger awaiting those who wish upon it. Despite the warning, the Whites wish for a sum of two hundred pounds to pay off for their home.

They get the amount the following day, by way of compensation from the factory where their son died in an accident. The devastated and bereaved couple is aghast. Long after the funeral Mrs White entreats her husband to wish on the magical paw to restore their son back to life.

The second wish brings the apparition of Herbert White knocking at their door. When the terrorised couple are at a loss about how to deal with the ghostly situation, Mr White wishes death on his son. The haunting story with an ambiguous ending makes the reader reflect on the power of our deep-seated desires to manifest itself in hitherto unknown ways.

In our country, we are often told that we must be very conscious and careful about what we wish for, because the Ashwini Kumaras who may be hovering around us may pronounce “Thathaastu” – meaning so be it.

So, sooner or later our cravings are likely to be fulfilled by the celestial twins and there is simply no scope to retract, because the wish has been granted. Therefore we are often told to think before we express our wishes explicitly, for there is simply no knowing as to when, where, why and how the desire is going to materialise.

Besides if the wish happens to be negative when we are in the clutches of self-righteous anger, we might speak in haste and regret in leisure if and when our craving comes true. I really do not have an idea how many of us who are familiar with the belief continue to have faith in the idea. Yet the fact remains that we must be careful about what we wish for and learn to go with the flow of life.

Traversing with Technology


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Published in the school edition of Deccan Herald

By S. RADHA PRATHI

Mankind is zooming forth on the technological path paving new possibilities and discovering unseen horizons. So how can the field of education be left behind?

The digital era has dawned in the classrooms of urban India in a very subtle way. The black board has been displaced by an interactive monitor. The daily attendance is marked on an electronic pad; information about the absentees is communicated in real time to the parents and guardians. Circulars regarding timetables, holidays etc curriculum updates, mark sheets, fee receipts and even homework or project instructions are sent via Whatsapp messages. Teachers use power point presentations and show relevant videos found on You Tube to elucidate a point. Students are also encouraged to surf the internet and research on topics suggested by teachers and make power point presentations. Studying the theoretical and practical aspects about the world of computers has become a mandatory feature of Indian academics right from the Primary school.

Ever since the ministry of education has made it imperative to fix cameras in all the feasible areas of the schools with the exception of the toilets, it has become easier to monitor any kind of defaulting behaviour or heinous activity.

High end schools and colleges have already introduced customised notepads in which text books, summaries, notes, worksheets, sample question papers and reference material have been uploaded. Unit Tests and surprise tests are conducted in the multiple choice question pattern and results are declared immediately to apprise students of their performance levels. Digital libraries and prolific use of Kindle in educational institutions have emerged like silver linings in a time when we are desperately trying to conserve trees. Some schools even record class room teaching hours and relay them in real time or leave them as library records so that absentees and other students can have access to them as and when necessary. School and college day functions, farewell parties, ethnic and sports day celebrations are being recorded and saved on clouds for posterity. More recently a news buzz about several rural schools in India going digital is a clear indicator that we are stabilizing on the digital track.

A bird’s view of the digital scene can fill one with a sense of fulfillment.  We have reached a state where we can rub shoulders with the developed countries of the world. A lot of clerical work has been circumvented. Records are being maintained and are easy to reckon with as and when necessary. Teachers do not have to do repetitive work. They can save diagrams, charts, graphs, maps and such other teaching aids as soft copies and use them several times over and conserve their effort and time. Students and teachers find it convenient to compare past performances with the current scores. Interaction among the three arms of the golden triangle namely the student, teacher and student has become smoother and transparent.

No less than a hundred schools in India have introduced subjects like animation, robotics, gaming and three dimensional recording in their syllabus.

We have reached a point where the members of the arms of the golden triangle are under the impression that equipping oneself in the latest technology can be a protective shield for a sparkling career and a tinkling bank account.

For all eyes to see, it would appear that we are on velvet and the only way from this is forward.New aspects of learning are always welcome. All the same one has to take the age, aptitude and the requirement of the same to be imbibed in young minds at an impressionable age. Besides one must remember that learning is an art and it can be best inculcated orally, visually and by writing or working it out. Perhaps further studies or revision can happen digitally.

If we chose to overlook this dimension of education, it is quite possible that we might end up raising future generations of students who will shirk any work which cannot be done without technology. The path of progress cannot and need not be reversed but we must traverse it mindfully!

Misuse of Power


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S RADHA PRATHI

When power gets to the head of those on top of the ladder, they can no longer prove to be ideal leader material. The followers of these megalomaniacs will become disillusioned sooner or later. Eventually, they will not hesitate to decimate the egotist to a non entity.

Perhaps the earliest documentation of this time-tested truth is found in the Vishnu Purana. Vena was crowned the king post the death of his father Anga. The young king was carried away by his newfound authority. Soon he started throwing his weight around. He expected every subordinate of his to worship him. He even expected the Rishis of his kingdom to cease conducting Yajnas and concentrate on eulogizing him. The citizens did their best to pander his bloated ego, but apparently their efforts did not please him enough. Sometime later, the sages of the dominion rallied around and tried to sensitise him to the omnipotence of the almighty.

However, Vena was not the one to be convinced. He wanted the Rishis to perceive him as a living God. He harassed those who acted at cross purposes to his dictum. The entire kingdom which was engaged in compulsory sycophancy soon stagnated in every possible way.
The sages headed by Bhrigu, discussed the unfortunate state of affairs threadbare. They had implemented the traditional formula of Sama friendly approach, Dana– compromise, Bheda- debate and Danda- punishment, on King Vena with no avail. They realised that the situation was out of hand. They unilaterally decided to kill the king and redeem the people of the tyrant’s monopoly, in order to redeem the people of his autocracy.

The noteworthy aspect of this incident happens to be that the most timid, well-meaning and wise people were compelled by their discretion to take such an extreme step. History has stood testimony to the fact that anybody who has thought no end of himself or herself has always, invariably been subjected to the same end. Leaders must remember that the unconditional power and position bestowed on them are acts of faith. They have no right to breach the trust of the people who put them up on the pedestal.

 

Munch on the Jack of all Seeds


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Jackfruit seeds are potent with proteins and micro nutrients and can be an antidote to a host of conditions like anemia, skin problems, varicose veins and poor eyesight when ingested on a regular basis. One of the easiest ways to consume them would be to roast or boil them like peanuts and eat them as a snack.  Or you could add them to your Sambhar like other vegetables. The more elaborate way would be to turn them into some delectable dishes.

NOTE: When using jackfruit seeds for cooking ensure that you wash the seeds and dry them in the shade for a couple of days. The outer skin will start flaking making it easier to peel them and also to get rid of the fruity smell that has gone bad. Soak the peeled seeds in hot ater for ten to fifteen minutes before cooking it.

 

Jackfruit Seeds Baath

Ingredients

Jackfruit seeds 20

Washed and cut methi 2 cups,

Grated coconut 1 cup,

Tomato puree 1 cup

Soaked moong dhal 1 cup

Coriander seeds 3 teaspoons

Cumin seeds 2 teaspoons

Channa dhal 2 teaspoons

Lime juice 2 tablespoons

Turmeric powder 1 teaspoon

Red Chilli 6

Mustard 1 teaspoon

Hing 1/2 teaspoon

Cooking oil 2 teaspoons

Fresh coriander 2 sprays

Curry leaves

Salt 2 teaspoons

Method

  • Pressure cook the jackfruit seeds using very little water allow them to cool, skin them and dice them.
  • Roast the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, channa dhal and red chillies using very little oil and grind them into a fine powder.
  • Heat two tablespoons of oil in a pan and add the mustard and hing till they spatter.
  • Add the washed and cut coriander spray, curry leaves to the seasoning.
  • Add some more oil and then add the cooked and diced seeds, cut methi leaves, grated coconut, tomato puree, soaked moong dhal, turmeric and salt to the pan and cook well.
  • Remove the pan from the fire and add the lime juice to the same.
  • You can mix this mixture with pre-cooked rice. You could add a dollop of ghee to improve the flavour.
  • Jackfruit seeds baath can be served with pacchadi and pappad.

 

 

 Jackfruit seeds Podimas

Ingredients

Raw Jackfruit seeds 12

Turmeric powder 1 teaspoon

Salt 2 Teaspoons

Hing– ½ teaspoon

Red chillies  4

Curry Leaves 1 Spray

Channa Dal 1 teaspoon

Toor Dal 1teaspoon

Urad dal 1 Teaspoon

Cooking Oil 1 Tablespoon

 

Method

 

  • Pressure cook the Jackfruit seeds with minimal water, wait for it to cool and peel off the skin.
  • Heat the oil and roast the Hing channa dal, urad dal , toor dal and red chilies.
  • Grind the roasted ingredients very coarsely, toss in the cooked Jackfruit seeds and the rest of the ingredients and run it for a minute in the food processor.
  • Remove the contents and help it to disintegrate with a blunt ladle.
  • Serve Podimas with hot rice and a raitha of your choice.

 

Jackfruit seeds Curry

Ingredients

Raw Jackfruit seeds 12

Grated Coconut 1 cup

Tamarind extract 1 table spoon

Turmeric powder 1 teaspoon

Salt 2 Teaspoons

Hing– ½ teaspoon

Red chillies 4

Garlic 4 (optional)

Curry Leaves 1 Spray

Channa Dal 1 teaspoon

Urad dal 1 Teaspoon

Coriander seeds 1 tablespoon

Cumin seeds 1 teaspoon

Mustard 1 teaspoon

Cooking Oil 2 Tablespoons

Method

  • Skin the Jackfruit seeds pressure cook using very little water and slice them.
  • Marinate the cooked Jackfruit seeds in tamarind extract mixed with salt, turmeric powder and Hing for ten minutes.
  • Fry the channa dal, urad dal, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, red chillies, garlic and curry leaves with very little oil and grind the

ingredients finely.

  • Take a heavy weight pan, add a tablespoon of oil and heat the same and spatter the mustard in it.
  • Add the marinated Jackfruit seeds to the pan and sauté it for a while.
  • Add the ground ingredients and sauté the same with the rest of the oil.

 

  • When the curry appears golden brown, add the grated coconut and mix it well before turning off the fire.
  • This curry can be served as a side dish with rice or roti.

 

Jackfruit Seeds Gravy

Ingredients

Jackfruit seeds 12

Washed and cut green chillies 100 grams

Peeled and cut ginger 100 grams

Tamarind 50 grams

Channa dal 50 grams

Sesame seeds 25  grams

Methi seeds 25  grams

Black pepper 1 teaspoon

Mustard 1 teaspoon

Hing 1 teaspoon

Turmeric powder ½ teaspoon

Cooking oil 3 tablespoons

 

Salt 2 teaspoons

 

Method

  • Pressure cook the jackfruit seeds using very little water allow them to cool, skin them and dice them.
  • Soak the tamarind in warm water for an hour and extract a thick juice.
  • Roast the sesame seeds and the methi seeds separately till they become golden brown without adding any oil. Then grind them into a fine powder.
  • Heat oil in a large pan and add the mustard, channa dal, turmeric powder and Hing.
  • Add the cut chillies and ginger in the pan and fry them for a minute or so on slow fire.
  • Add some more oil and sauté the cooked and diced seeds
  • Pour the tamarind extract into the contents of the pan and add salt.
  • Allow the mixture to simmer and then pour the sesame powder and the methi powder into the gravy.
  • Attend to the ingredients in the pan from time to time, to prevent it from burning at the bottom.
  • Once the ingredients are cooked well, allow the gravy to cool and store it in an air-tight container.
  • This gravy can be served as a side dish like any other pickle.

 

 

 

 

Path of Endearment


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Oasis

Path of endearment

S RADHA PRATHI

The anxious people are not only the ones in trouble but also the ones who cause anxiety to others. So in other words the two groups of people though seemingly different from each other like chalk and cheese actually go through the same emotions albeit for different reasons. Apparently, falsehood, dishonesty, misplaced passion and rage, envy and forgetfulness of essential human values like compassion and brotherhood happen to be the main reasons for such a scenario.

The Bhagvad Gita records a criteria of a lovable person as told by Krishna to Arjuna. Krishna avers that a person who does not hate, envy, compare himself with others, holds others responsible for his fate and feels apprehensive about doing the right thing all the time is very dear to him.

Yudhishtira, the eldest Pandava prince in the Mahabharata, fits the definition of Krishna perfectly. His truthful and tranquil temperament fetched him many brownie points even among his rivals. The fact that he was called Ajatashatru – a person to whom the enemy is yet to be born – speaks in volumes about his character. Duryodhana, who resented Yudhishtira for being the first born and claimant to the throne, did not hate him as much as he detested Bhima or Arjuna. The eldest Pandava chose to overlook the attempts of murder made on him and his brothers when setting the house of lac on fire. Draupadi, the wronged wife of the Pandavas, had to constantly goad Yudhishtira to not forget the ignominy rendered unto her, because she knew that, left to himself, Yudhishtira would abstain from war.

On the day of the Great War, Yudhishtira was actually the first person who was ready to lay down his arms and call a truce. Krishna zeroed in on the straightforward royal to play his psychological mind game against Drona, because, he knew that the great Guru would validate and believe only the words of Yudhishtira when he would be appraised of his son Ashwaththama’s death.

Learning from the eldest Pandava who led a life with maturity and dignity can help us align ourselves towards path of endearment prescribed by Krishna.

Morning Magic


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“An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day” said Thoreau. I wondered whether the philosopher would make such statements if the time machine relocated him in Namma Bengaluru today. With the ongoing building boom and transport in progress, it is impossible to walk on our streets unless one is preparing for an obstacle race! One could always walk in a park, but there are so few and eventually it encourages more talking than walking.

So, I decided to walk on my terrace. The silver linings were multiple. I did not have to spruce up or look for company besides I did not have to hurry home quickly in case of a sudden shower or an emergency.

So, the following morning, well before the crack of dawn, I splashed some water on the face and passed a comb through my hair and climbed the stairs. The open space seemed to welcome me with dim lighting crisscrossing from the tall buildings and streets alongside. The almost moist fresh air stung my lungs.

Within no time I felt like the “Solitary Reaper” albeit in altered situation and sizes till the dark grey skies gave way to a deep blue as sunlight seemed to be seeping through unnoticed crevices in the skies. Flocks of birds flew across, as the hidden Koel cooed away relentlessly.  The silhouettes of the trees revealed their varied verdant hues as they gently allowed daylight pass through them. As the skies grew into a lighter shade, the street dogs shook themselves ready to face another day in their canine life.

Even as the skies brightened and the smells and the sounds of the street came alive, the curtains came down on the magic of morning. It was time to exit from the theatre of the universe and step into the reality of everyday life.

As I looked down upon the mounds of debris and building material stacked along the street, the paperboy zoomed round the corner and tossed the daily news up multiple bulls’ eyes without a single miss. The flower seller and the Soppu boy who could not bear to be left behind made an appearance by announcing their wares even as the milkman tinkled into the scenario. Soon fitness freaks flocked from different directions and hurried along to burn their calories as if in competition with the dog walkers who strained at the leashes.  The pious ones who helped themselves furtively to flowers from our garden were oblivious to the fact that they were being watched from above.

As I descended the stairs reluctantly, I looked up at the now azure firmament and made a silent promise to keep my date every single day to receive my daily dose of “blessing”.