Even God Helps Only Those Who Help Themselves

29th July 2015, S Radha Prathi

When one walks along the long journey of life, it becomes apparent that we cannot be in control of our lives all the time. We may come across unforeseen obstacles in the form of natural calamities, accidents, death et al which can completely change the course of our actions. Sometimes our best laid plans may end up in shambles. Our dream projects may be washed down the drain. There are times when we may have to simply change our pattern of life. These aberrations usually prompt us to question the need to lead an organised existence. After all, who has seen tomorrow? Besides, it is an accepted truth that no one can change destiny. Whenever we are caught wondering about the uncertainty of our lives, it will do us a world of good to ruminate over a story from the Panchatantra.

Once, a couple of fishermen came to a riverbank around sunset. When they scouted the waters they realised that it was rich with fish. They planned to cast a net for them the following day. Some of the fish happened to overhear the conversation. They decided to migrate to another water body overnight. They spread the word about their plans in the waters they lived. Some of their brethren were ready to follow course.  Some of them approached an elderly fish called Yadbhavishya who was also a philosopher of sorts for guidance. When Yadbhavishya heard about their plans, he said that everything that happens in life is predestined and individuals can do very little about it. Every living being who is born into existence will ultimately die at some point of time.  He added that death is most definitely the final point in everyone’s life and therefore there is really no point in safeguarding life. The followers of Yadbhavishya decided to stay back and accept their fate.  Many other fish migrated despite his counsel. The following day, the fishermen cast their net as planned. The believers in destiny contemplated on the irony of fate as they breathed their last as they were being drawn out of water. It is true that they would all have to die at some time or another as pointed out by their philosopher. Nevertheless, they could have extended their lives to some extent, if they had taken a practical recourse. There is really no point in becoming willing scapegoats and sitting ducks in the name of being submissive to our destinies. We must be proactive, for it is said that even god will help only those who help themselves.

Work Is Worship


S Radha Prathi, July 25, 2015, DHNS:

The journey began with a lot of enthusiasm. Travellers revved up their memories and exercised their musical abilities. A few also decided to do a jig whenever possible. Slowly, the bus moved out of the city limits and the highway. The rickety vehicle started weaving its way through the winding mountain paths.

Mother Nature had decked herself  up in breathtakingly beautiful shades of green and brown. Other colours speckled over her contours. I, for one, did not take my eyes off the picturesque scenery. Unfortunately, not all of them in the bus could enjoy the scenic beauty that enveloped us. Some of them were catching up on their sleep. Some others were reeling under motion sickness.

After a while, all of us got used to the sounds of fellow passengers throwing up into plastic bags. This would be invariably followed by a friend or a family member of the sick person spraying some deodorant to freshen up the bus. It was construed and accepted as their way of saying sorry.

While this was activity was taking pl-ace like clockwork, a ten-year-old threw up right on the aisle of the bus without warning. All of us clucked and twitched almost at the same time. The thought of another four hours in the bus reeking with the stench of vomit was too much to put up with. The adults who accompanied the child attended to her first. Only then, they thought it fit to throw some sheets of paper on the gooey mess and blissfully look the other way.

People who walked back and forth in the moving vehicle tried to carefully avoid the mess. Yet, most failed in this endeavour, because of the width of muddle. As a result, the aisle turned squalid. The commuters had a complaint on the lips and noses were up in the air.

Suddenly, Manoharji – our cook cum guide – bade the driver to stop the bus. He picked up two buckets, alighted from the bus and went to the public tap amid the mountains. He came back with the water and poured the water down the aisle, washing the muck away. People who lifted their feet to avoid getting drenched, heaved a sigh of relief. All of us were vocal and liberal in our praise for our hero of the day.

When I wondered what made him do hands-on what we travellers did not even think about, I realised that he was not merely working for a living. Working selflessly was his second nature. He seemed to be the essence of the motto, ‘work is worship.’

Humility And Faith


Radha Prathi, July 18, 2015

The Pandavas and Kauravas were aware that the war of Kurukshetra had become imminent. They started working towards it because they understood that the success of a project depends on various factors. Their actions stand testimony to this fact.

The Pandavas and Kauravas started scouting for military support in a methodical manner. Both the parties were aware of the power of the Vrishni race. Both sides wanted to garner the Yadavas as allies. Besides Lord Krishna the king of Dwaraka was a common cousin of the Kuru princes. Hence Duryodhana and Arjuna went to see him to seek support.

Duryodhana took the initiative of going early. He found Krishna enjoying his siesta. The Kuru prince decided to wait and seated himself on a seat at the head of the bed to register the fact that he was the first to seek interview with the Yadava king. Arjuna came in after a little while. He saw Krishna in slumber and his cousin at the head side of the royal bedstead. Hence he also decided to wait for Madhava to wake up. So he hovered around the foot of the bed silently.

Eventually Krishna awoke. He saw Partha and greeted him. Duryodhana was miffed. He was aware that the early bird gets the worm, little did he realise that the latecomer would get preference over him. He clarified that he was present much earlier than the Pandava. Krishna smiled and exchanged pleasantries before asking them what brought them there. The Kuru princes spelt out their requirements. Krishna said that one of them could avail his powerful Narayana Sena and the other could avail his personal support albeit unarmed. Even as Duryodahana hastened to speak, Krishna preferred to consider Arjuna’s request not only because he saw him first but also because Arjuna was younger.

Duryodhana seethed with impatience. Soon he chuckled with relief, when Partha opted for Krishna without arms. The contented Kaurava made a graceful exit after being assured of the massive Yadava military support. Then Krishna looked benevolently at Arjuna and queried him about his choice. Arjuna humbly submitted that he valued the presence Krishna in his side. The fact that Krishna would be unarmed did not bother him because he was sure that victory would follow the heels of his lord, for Krishna supported the right.

Planning and taking initiative the cornerstones of success should not be sidelined at any cost.  Yet the choice of Arjuna speaks of a more important factor, one of humility towards his well-wisher and friend and irrevocable faith that Truth will establish itself when pursued with earnestness even without weapons

Celebrating Its Diversity – Food Fix- Appam


Radha Prathi, July 11, 2015:

Image for representation

The appam is perhaps one of the oldest dishes of South India, where it is prepared in various forms, especially in Kerala and Tamil Nadu. When prepared in the sweet form, it is considered to be an ideal offering to the gods. It has a long shelf life and when cooked in pure ghee, it can last for months together without any refrigeration. Ideal for your travel sojourns as it doesn’t cause spill-overs and needs no elaborate packing, appam is also easy to make in its special mould. These moulds can be found in any kitchenware shop and nowadays, leading companies have also introduced non-stick appam moulds for the health-conscious people. Though appams can be cooked with oil, ghee is a better option for it not only enhances the taste, but also acts as a preservative, besides providing healthy nourishment.

Check out some appam recipes:

Sweet something
Ingredients: 250 gm rice, 50 gm chana dal (split bengal gram), 100 gm grated coconut, 2 ripe bananas, 250 gm jaggery, 10 gm powdered cardamom, 1 tsp ghee, cooking oil

Method: Soak the rice and the dals for two hours and grind them to a fine paste along with the grated coconut and the peeled bananas. Add the jaggery to the batter along with powdered cardamom and mix it well. Heat the appam mould and grease the mould generously with ghee. Ladle out the batter in the mould and cook till it turns golden brown. Serve hot or cold.

If you want to prepare instant appam with a different taste, you could supplement the rice and dal with an equivalent amount of maida flour. You could grind the grated coconut and bananas separately and cook the appams in a similar way. Baked sweet potato can also be used to substitute the banana.

Potato punch
Ingredients: 2 cups maida, 2 big potatoes, 2 sprigs curry leaves, 1 tsp jeera, 5 green chillies, 1 tsp grated ginger, 2 tsp salt, cooking oil

Method: Grind the jeera, grated coconut, boiled potatoes, green chillies, grated ginger, curry leaves and salt into a fine paste and mix it with the maida flour. Heat the
appam mould and grease the mould generously with oil. Ladle out the batter in the appam mould and cook till it turns a golden brown. Serve hot with chutney or sauce of your choice.

Salt ‘n’ spice
Ingredients: 250 gm rice, 50 gm chana dal, 50 gm urad dal, 100 gm grated coconut, 2 sprigs curry leaves, 1 tsp jeera, 5 green chillies, 1 tsp grated ginger, 2 tsp salt, cooking oil

Method: Soak the rice, dals, and jeera for two hours and grind them to a fine paste along with the grated coconut, green chillies, grated ginger, curry leaves and salt. Heat the mould and grease it generously with oil. Ladle out the batter in the mould and cook till it turns a golden brown. Serve hot with chutney or sauce of your choice.

Looking Through The Glass


Bengaluru, July 10, 2015, DHNS:

You can fill the glass receptacles with colourful gel balls, which soak up water and gain attractive shapes.

Glass items, when embellished with artefacts, can make for beautiful home decor items. Radha Prathi offers some creative suggestions on recycling and reusing those odd pieces of glassware at home

Many a time we lose a lot of beautiful glassware when we shift homes or become a wee bit careless. The loss is usually not in total – which means we are often left with an incomplete set of breakable kitchenware.

If you scout the market, it is quite possible to replenish your stock. However, that will amount to stocking up on more than you may need, because most shopkeepers will not sell the items you need in loose. Such being the case, you can carefully buy another set in a design and size, which can be used in a mix-and-match fashion with the one that you already possess.

If you still have some favourite pieces remaining, which fill you with nostalgia, you do not have to discard them. The possibilities of recycling and reusing glassware, close to your heart, are endless, once you give it a thought. Here are some ideas to use them creatively.

Fit ‘em in

Transparent glass tumblers and bowls can be used as mini glass cases to showcase your fragile art work, dolls or figurines. First, bring out all your treasured delicate and small-sized artefacts which need to be highlighted. Place your glassware over them in an inverted fashion and see to it that your artefact sits snugly inside the inverted glass. Once you find a matching glass case for all your petite collection, you can place them on your mantelpiece or on a corner stand.

Those of you who have an aquarium can display the extra plastic greenery under these glasses when they are not in use. You can also place tiny dolls or colourful balls on the top to highlight your tiny showcases. This arrangement can be altered from time to time to suit your needs and tastes. This elegant showcase will not only protect your objet d’art from dust but will also invariably attract the eye of your guests and earn you some compliments.

Odd glass bowls, cups and plates can be filled with gaily coloured marbles and tiny pebbles or shells and left on tea tables or dining tables. It can serve as a place to leave notes. You can also leave keys beneath the filling and place the bowl amidst your pots on the window sill. On special occasions, you can fill the glass receptacles with colourful gel balls, which soak up water and gain attractive shapes. Those of you who want to avoid moisture in your premises for various reasons can try out this idea.

Bring out your spices or food grains and arrange them in a colourful combination of your choice. Then fill them in layers, keeping colour contrast in mind in your tall clear glass tumblers and cover them with a lid which fits snugly. These tumblers can double up as objet d’art on counter tops in your kitchen, dining area or pantry.

Hue and try

If you have the time and patience, you can colour table salt or rock salt using powder food colours. This way, you can give an innovative rainbow touch to the places in your home which need colour. Later on, you can discard the salt in your plants.

If you have one too many odd glass items around your home bring them all out. Wear your creative hat and assemble them into a corner table or a sculpture after your imagination. Once you are satisfied with the arrangement, you can glue them on with a good adhesive. Do not be surprised if this utility table or sculpture turns into a conversation piece.

Large shallow plates or bowls can be filled with water and you can strew rose petals and tulsi leaves and this can be left in a corner of the foyer, balcony or porch. You can make the piece more attractive by colouring the water with a drop of food colour and essence of your choice. Those of you who do not care for food flavours can use a drop of Eau de cologne or essential oil instead. If you have a large odd bowl, you can repeat the idea and light some floating candles or diyas and set them afloat.

You can design rangolis on large plates on festive occasions or very simply paint them on and use it as and when the occasion arises. Those of you who can wield a paint brush with dexterity and discipline can deem the odd glass item as a canvas of sorts and unleash your creativity.

Once you start working on these ideas, you are likely to come up with some of your own, which will leave you scouting for more such items around your home and those of your loved ones. Happy recycling.1 (18)

Ethics Of Knowledge Sharing


S Radha Prathi, July 07, 2015, DHNS:

A glimpse at world history and its contributions to mankind will reveal that man has also been constantly evolving mentally in search of a better way of life. While one section of explorers worked hard to step up the “standard of living” by using science and technology, there were others who tried hard to understand the “truth of life.”

Yet, none of these personalities who broke new ground for mankind felt the need to consolidate the information on a universal platform so that mankind can progress further from the point of what they already knew about.

As a result, we have been constantly engaged in the oft repeated activity of “re-inventing the wheel”. A glance through all the recorded material on various subjects which is available at the click of a button is proof enough to show that many subjects have been discussed and analysed threadbare and have reached refined heights long long ago, even as we are fumbling with the hems of the subject only now.

For instance, the heliocentric theory or the presence of atomic energy was known to ancient Indians thousands of years ago but the world consolidated the same as scientific knowledge only about 400 years ago. This is but just one example among thousands of such discoveries that were made by ancient civilisations across the globe.

Today, the scenario has changed. We live in a technologically advanced world, and all the information we need on just about any subject under the sun is available in both “hard” and “soft” forms for a price. But apparently, there are very few genuine takers who utilise this information for the benefit of mankind or self improvement.

A survey among the student community shows that while the younger children prefer to be spoon-fed by their teachers and their guardians, older students use the internet specifically for playing games, chatting with online friends and occasionally looking up for information about their role models in the sports and cine field in that order. Students pursuing higher education use information relevant to their subject only when they are pressurised to look up for some information on their own.

Many a project work, seminar and thesis submitted by students happen to be plagiarised from a source which they do not even bother to mention or acknowledge much to the consternation of the authors, who sometimes accidentally stumble upon their work verbatim in another person’s name.

Plagiarised research
According to them, “If you steal from one author, it is plagiarism; if you steal from many, then it is research.” It is indeed a sorry state of affairs. Experienced faculty from reputed institutions can vouch for the fact about how many times the earnest research work of an entirely unique nature has been snitched in the most unethical manner by people in authority.

While some original works do get compensated monetarily, many a creative work like a poem or a script or a formula are changed minimally and used unscrupulously. It is shameful and disheartening to note that even the teaching community cannot be spared of this accusation.

Novices in the field sometimes help themselves to the notes and the ideas of their seniors without acknowledgement or even a pang of conscience. Perhaps it was because of this reason artists, artistes, scholars and experts in different subjects held on to the keys of their knowledge to their bosoms in the past, are doing so in the present and will do so in future.

The scenario will not change as long as people reject their moral scruples and refuse to follow code of ethics. Till such time the portals of knowledge at the experimental and research level will close their doors for the fear of being robbed of their ideas which cannot be compensated with anything that is tangible. This will result in waste of time as scholars will feel queasy about sharing their opinions and findings for the fear of losing them and end up going in circles for a longer time.

The time has come when information has to be processed into knowledge through experience so that the end product can be used for the betterment of mankind.
To do so, we have no choice but to stick to the old fashioned way of holding on to our integrity and honour and acknowledging the hard work and the earnest efforts of people who may have arrived at some results in their respective fields.

Teaching and learning, which are nothing but the two faces of sharing, will become
meaningful and joyful exercises when the originator (devil?) is given its due.

First Times Are A Must To Savour Life


July 06, 2015, DHNS

Our first cry, our first step, our first smile, our first word, our first blooper have invariably become family stories.

Our first day at school, our first meeting with the child who grew up to be the best friend in our lives, our first picnic, our first prize, our first love have become a invaluable part of our memories.

Even unpleasant and tragic events like our first failure, our first accident, and our first encounter with the dead body of a loved one can leave indelible impressions on our minds.

Yet, people shy away from trying out anything new for they like to lead a risk-free life.

They refuse to take the untrodden path for the sheer fear of failure. Even if they are for some reason forced to initiate action in a hitherto unknown field, they make sure that they are suitably prepared for the coming adventure.

They do their homework on the subject. They make it a point to get in touch with those who have been there and done that in hope of getting a glimpse of what lays in store for them.

The spade work definitely makes them feel at ease when they come across the pre-mentioned situations.

However the flipside of the process is that people always go on expecting a certain course of events and their preoccupation in comparing notes makes them fail to relish the ongoing process.

William Shakespeare has captured the essence of the thrill and the romance of doing things for the first time in his play The Merchant of Venice.

He cites examples of a person who has had a sumptuous feast may not feel the same appetite or desire to eat another meal again, however much he may have enjoyed it.

A horse that practises for a race may not feel the same energy towards the end of the session like he felt during his initial canter.

A traveller may not be impressed by the sights and sounds of his return journey like he was when he was on his way to his destination.

A ship which is shined and decorated when it sets sailing may return with damaged sides and sagging sails.

These instances are but pointers to the fact there can be a world of difference between maiden ventures and repeating a process.

The anxiety and curiosity factor can never ever be experienced again when redoing an activity, because we can ace the activity with practice.

Every person must consciously try out something new every now and then. Just to renew the spirit of adventure for  the first times are a must to spice up
our lives and make it meaningful.