Earn This Home, Say Owners


Radha Prathi, Aug 28, 2015:

Image for representation.

Incredible as it may sound, homeowners in the US are now conducting essay contests to find the right buyers. Radha Prathi finds out more about this popular practice.

When it comes to buying, selling or inheriting homes, bungalows, ranches or palaces, there are only two ways in which the process goes. One, the owner of the property sells or bequeaths it to his/her children or near and dear ones. Two, if the owner does not have any inheritor and does not want any single individual or family to get his legacy, s/he sells or donates the property for a public cause.

While this is the general trend of property owners, the stand of the inheritors within or outside of the family has been not very different over the ages. The inheritor usually repairs or renovates the property and enjoys it or s/he simply razes down the old building and constructs a home, in case s/he does not sell it right away.

If you have been wondering why such a well-known norm is being parroted, well there is a reason. We are living in strange times. The winds of change have set in, at least in the United States of America. These days, property owners are coming up with innovative methods to ensure that their property is passed on or sold to the right person.

Of late, there have been a couple of instances where the proprietor has called in for essays on a given subject. The hopeful entrants are invited to showcase their creativity and writing skills and submit their essays to the owner along with an entry fee of $100 or $200. The owners will peruse and evaluate the entries and then give away or sell their property to the winner. However, conditions apply.

Statement of purpose

For instance, Matthew Brownfield, a software programmer who was in financial dire straits, announced an essay contest for which the prize would be a three-bedroom home in the historic district of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. With nine-foot ceilings, window seats, a white picket fence and beautiful natural woodwork throughout. The topic of the essay happened to be, “How has the economic downturn affected you and your family? Why would receiving this house help your situation more than others?”

Matthew’s family actually tried to achieve two birds with one stone. They hoped to sell their home to someone who may give a practical and economic solution to their problem. Besides, the Brownfields expected at least 1,000 entries with an entry fee of $100 each.

They anticipated the entry fee to take care of their immediate financial needs. They also had a sub-clause which made it clear that if the contest did not attract the expected number of essays, then the winner will get half of the money that is raised and the Brownfields would use the other half toward their mortgage.

It is another story that he did not get a single entry for a while. All the same, Matthew was optimistic when he said, “There are at least a thousand people in America who have been so affected by the economy that they would not mind taking a shot at paying $100 entry fee where the potential is there that they could win a home.”

In another case, Randy Silvers and Carolyn Berry are giving away their 18th century horse farm in Virginia to the winner of an essay contest on similar lines. The Rock Spring Farm is “three-storey high with four-bedroom home, besides a two-bedroom cottage, a five-stall barn and an air-conditioned woodworking shop. That is in addition to more than two miles of horse trails, acres upon acres of loamy soil and an endless patchwork of mature hardwood trees bordered by natural streams.”

Unlike Brownfields, a health issue made Randy, 64, realise that he would no longer be able to take care of his farm the way he did in the past. Randy and Carolyn wanted to find someone who would cherish the farm the way they did. They announced an essay contest with an entry fee of $200 where each entrant had to come up with practical and innovative suggestions to take care of the farm efficiently.

Carolyn said she was inspired by an essay contest for the Center Lovell Inn in Maine, a bed and breakfast facility that was won for $100 in 1993 by a woman named Janice Sage. Janice wrote a 250-word essay that demonstrated her culinary and hospitality skills, and her ability to care for the inn. She recently decided to retire and give the inn away by holding another essay contest rather successfully.

People have raised questions about the legality of giving away homes through an unrelated contest — especially when the owners get a significant amount of money by way of entrance fees. Yet the law of the land has done nothing to deter them as they can see the owner’s ploy to find a solution to their problems.

If the general public is ready to take the risk and spend the amount then they really see no point in throwing a wet towel at the novel endeavour.

Apparently, these landowners are people who care deeply for their possession and love it dearly  for the fond memories that is associated with the premises. They want someone who appreciates the sentiments, the finer points of the facility instead of merely evaluating the property on the basis of its real estate value.

The owners are particular that the heir or buyer should understand the history of the property and the associated difficulties and anecdotes related to their former nest. In other words, the proprietor wants the successor to cherish the possession as s/he himself did. In the process of doing so, s/he charges a nominal entrance fee to encourage earnest contestants and also to make the effort to screen them all worthwhile.

One has to yet wait and watch whether this trend will take wings in the US and elsewhere. But the fact of the matter is that it’s a novel way of dealing with an old problem.

Wisdom Comes With Age And Experience


Scattered families find it difficult to take the onus of taking care of their elderly. Consequently, the senior members of the family are shunted into old age homes.

Though these centres take care of the basic needs and offer medical care, they do not measure up to fulfilling the emotional quotient of its members.

The elderly end up feeling used and abandoned while the young are either reckless or feel guilty about their decisions.

It is a little unsettling to notice that we as a society have started considering the elderly as a burden of sorts on society. It is true that the aged are shortchanged in physical strength and are probably dependent on their young family economically and otherwise. They can be a source of concern and solemn responsibility at times.

Yet, one cannot wish them away or discount their contributions while they were up to it. Their experiences can prove to be a torch bearer of sorts to many a problem that boggles the coming generations.

A story from Katha

Ratnakara reinforces this point ever so well. There once lived a old and wise king called Mahasena. When he died, his very young handsome and arrogant son called Narasena took over as the ruler.

The new king was very particular about doing away with the old order. For starters, he dismissed all the old and senior  ministers in his cabinet. The disappointed and disgusted men left Sundarapura for good.

He established a new and young order and tried to modernise every feasible aspect of his kingdom.

The neighbouring kings who became aware of the latest development in Sundarapura were all set to lay siege to the kingdom, when the king was busy renovating.

They even charted out a plan of attack. At that point of time, one old and wise
minister in their camp said that Sundarapura should be considered invincible, even if one of the ministers in the erstwhile cabinet had stayed back in the kingdom.

Accordingly, the enemy kings devised a puzzle which could be solved by only an evolved and experienced brain and sent it to Narasena. The king and his cabinet were befuddled.
At that time, the queen mother counselled Narasena to put his ego aside and approach one of the former ministers to salvage them from the conundrum. Narasena did as he was bid and the riddle was resolved.

The moment the enemy kings heard about it, they quietly withdrew their forces.
It was only then that Narasena understood the value of age and experience which distilled into wisdom.

Small Space Lush Garden


Radha Prathi, August 25, 2015, DHNS

Urban farming

many examples (Clockwise) Anusuya Sharma in her two-decade-old terrace garden in Bengaluru; a vertical  garden model developed by Vinay Magadi; container gardening in S Lakshminarayana's home; chillies.  PHOTOS BY S LAKSHMINARAYANA, Vinay Magadi & ANITHA PAILOOR

When Mhon Chumi Humtsoe shifted to Bengaluru 15 years ago, she dearly missed the greenery  back home in Nagaland. She hoped to create some space for herself and toiled to put up a terrace garden on her rented premises.

The owners of the house were apprehensive about her enterprise initially, but got their doubts cleared as she shared information about the new form of kitchen gardening. Since then, there has been no looking back; she has grown greens, beans, chillies, brinjals besides exotic varieties of orchids and geraniums season after season. The new mode of kitchen gardening is gaining momentum in Bengaluru and other cities, thanks to an increased awareness about safe food and the necessity of developing a healthy lifestyle.

New concept

“Grow what you eat and eat what you grow,” says B N Vishwanath, president of Garden City Farmers, a forum of terrace gardening enthusiasts in Bengaluru. He initiated efforts to spread the green word 10 years ago and inspired many people to tread the new path. To create better awareness and ensure the availability of necessary gardening tools and plants, the forum has been organising a quarterly event, ‘Oota from your Thota’, which has caught the imagination of many urbanites, specifically beginners. It has also played a crucial role in connecting like-minded people, providing them a platform to exchange experiences and inputs, taking the efforts to the next level. This event is being held across the City and is being popularised using social media.

Terrace gardening has enthused people from different walks of like. Take S Lakshminarayana, a City-based engineer, for instance. The recession in 2008 ushered in a green change in his life. It was then he came in contact with this initiative and gradually became a key member of the forum. What started as a stop-gap arrangement has hooked him for life. He is working towards taking the effort to a sustainable stage and is hoping to involve children in the process.

Vinay Magadi, a businessman, has come up with a simple solution to tackle the space problem. He has opted for vertical gardening and has used specially designed PVC pipes, from where plants branch out. Vinay states that he is in no hurry to be self-sufficient. He understands that gardening is a process which requires patience and perseverance and he cannot hope to have instantaneous results. Architect Vivek Halbe, who owns a thriving terrace garden, also supports those who are planning to have one. He owns a terrace garden supply store and offers consultation and maintenance services. Anusuya Sharma, one of the pioneering urban farmers, owns a two-decade-old terrace garden in Sanjay Nagar, Bengaluru. Many of these gardeners ensure that  kitchen and garden waste is recycled and optimally used through manuring.

Mass movement

If one is under the impression that only civil society organisations and enterprising individuals are working towards the green goal, then one must stand corrected. The State Horticulture Department is also successfully promoting kitchen gardening in urban areas. Kavitha A S, senior assistant director at the Horticulture Department, Dharwad (ZP), has been actively initiating the urban population in her jurisdiction towards having a green space of their own. She explains that the government conducts demonstration on the subject in public places like parks, hostels and open grounds. Sometimes, they also arrange guest lectures by local people who have been successful in this venture. A complimentary exhibition at the venue often encourages the public to pick up the nominally-priced seed kits to commence their terrace garden. The Department not only gives a step-by-step guidance to freshers but also reimburses 50 per cent of the amount invested, in the hope of spawning a new batch of vegetable gardeners.

The project has also roped in public buildings to expand the reach of the initiative. Major Siddhalingaiah Hiremath, a district officer in Dharwad, has been able to create a rooftop green space at the Post Metric Girls Hostel, located in the Karnataka College campus in Dharwad in a few months. The inmates of the hostel, who work in the garden by taking turns, are happy as they see the fruits of their dedicated work emerging in the garden. Jayashree Hendegar, the warden of the hostel, who has taken the responsibility of watering the garden during vacations, proudly says that they got around 15 kg of brinjal and four kg of beans in their first harvest. They might not be able to fulfill their vegetable requirements for the hostel accommodates 200 residents, but the new activity has helped students understand the basics of nature.

More than one reason

According to the Department statistics, over 50,000 households have benefitted from the project in the last two years. This year it aims to reach about 20,000 households spread over 30 districts of the State. Despite all these efforts, less than 10 per cent of our terraces have gardens on them. Though many do understand the need for having a useful green space over their roofs, most of them are hesitant to go ahead for reasons like inhibitions about the quality and the strength of their buildings. People living in gated communities and apartments cannot always have the co-operation of their fellow residents. Then there are many more out there with corrugated tin or plastic sheets over their heads, while some of them do not have even that. Heavy subsidies on garden supplies do not seem to attract people in the middle and lower income groups because there are other priorities to deal with. Today, more than ever before, there is a need to look beyond the general misgivings and seek plausible solutions.

Gardening has come a long way from the days when people grew fruit trees, shrubs, flowers, ornamental plants besides vegetables. There was a time when the products of HOPCOMS used to be on the sidelines of the annual flower show. Over the years, preferences changed to flowers and ornamental plants. Though people enjoyed the beauty of the colourful blooms, when it came to the take-home factor, they searched for fruits, vegetables and honey. The scene has changed again, albeit in a slow pace.

The plant nurseries that dot the City see an increased demand for seeds and saplings of vegetables as compared to that of rose and hibiscus, which were very popular a decade ago. The government, civil society organisations and innovative individuals have taken up green cudgels to fight nutrition problem, ill health, inflation, and pollution. Terrace gardens and kitchen gardens that punctuate the cities of the State are but the results of their sincere efforts. What started as a trend has become a way of life today. If you are interested to try your hand at home-grown food, there could be no better occasion to take the green pledge and plant a seedling, than the Kitchen Garden Day that falls on August 30.  Happy gardening!

Tending crops on rooftop

Get your terrace evaluated for garden feasibility and step up its viability, if necessary.
Buy a nominally-priced kit and work on it. Take help from practitioners, whenever there is a need.
Start with one or two pots and easy-to-grow vegetables and gradually increase the number and variety.
Prepare a proper schedule for garden work and follow it.
Spend time in the garden on a regular
basis — watering and observing the plants.
Gardening helps you practice three ‘R’s —
Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.
Biodegradable waste can be converted into fertile manure by following simple steps.

Faulty Economics of Education


S Radha Prathi, August 19, 2015, DHNS

The educational system in India has come a long way from veda patashalas, madarsas and missionary schools to its present day version. Though the government has set up schools all over the country, they are certainly not enough to cater to the ever growing needs of our nations’ expanding population.

Educational entrepreneurs rose to meet these continual demands. The rich and the philanthropic formed trusts which catered to and patronised the field of education by opening numerous schools and colleges for the benefit of the public. The public does not mind chipping in their bit for the betterment of the institution as they want to partake in  good deeds for the general benefit of the society.

When this system worked on well-oiled wheels, some institutions grew leaps and bounds and flourished with an aplomb, building a reputation all the way. But on the contrary, some institutions resorted to indulging in decadence by misappropriating the funds received from collecting large sums of donations. This phenomenon is alarmingly rampant in all cities of India, and more so in cities and large towns which perhaps house the largest number of educational institutions in the country.

Parents, teachers, students and the office-bearers of several managements will vouch for the fact that we have opened the proverbial Pandora’s box unwittingly in the name of education.

Government schools run both by the state and the central governments are not favoured by the general public to a large extent because they want their children to get the best possible education. Unfortunately, the fears of the public cannot be dismissed as unfounded because most of these government schools do lack infrastructure and sometimes do not even have teaching staff on their rolls.

Despite the implementation of the Right to Education, urban Indians, who lay a premium on education, do not mind going the extra mile to spend a few lakhs of rupees to see their children through school. While children’s schooling turns out to be a nightmare for most parents, sending the children for university education turns out to be a more exorbitant affair.

Parents of children who desire to pursue professional courses find it very difficult to oblige their wards but nevertheless do so sometimes by selling their land, property, hearths and homes. The average cost of completing a course is multiplied several times over if it is done from a private college.

If students with a low score opt to study professional courses in private colleges, they end up paying at least six times more than the normal amount. Students with an above average percentile not only have to battle it out economically but also find it an obstacle to sidestep the reservation system.

Lose-lose situation

When parents from weaker economic backgrounds find it difficult to fund the university education of their academically average wards, they often run into debts or end up selling their property, gold and at times even the roof over their heads. Poor parents of meritorious students find it punishing to funding exorbitant amounts way by of fees and when they refrain from the exercise, they ride a guilt trip for no fault of theirs.

Sir Moser, a German–born-British academic and Warden of Wadham College, Oxford, said, “Education costs money, but then so does ignorance,” and he added that the public were free to make a choice. It is this brusqueness which is reiterated in many ways by several managements who have put fancy price-tags on their courses.

It is true that unaided institutions have a relatively good infrastructure and do provide a lot more facilities to their students and pay their teaching staff rather well. Yet, the fact remains that most of the money which flows in is often unused, misused or abused.

The moment commercialisation of education takes precedence over dissemi-nation of knowledge and an educated and informed society, we can be sure of the dissipation and the eventual fall of evocative and effective education. This in turn will lead to a society with a wobbly value system and a weakness for everything that is unbecoming and deteriorating.

Ogden Nashe said, “Certainly there are a lot of things in life that money won’t buy, but it is very funny – have you ever tried to buy them without money?” It is high time we tried for a student-friendly and purse-friendly educational scene

Quintessentially Indian


Radha Prathi, August 14, 2015:

The streets have exotic stuff that can turn your home into a haven of beautiful things.

You can shop for beautiful and exotic items that are sure to brighten up your home, on the busy streets of India. Radha Prathi explores the enticing choices

Are you the sort who takes pride in thinking globally and acting locally? Are you mindful about boosting our local economy by carefully buying goods made in our country? Do you enjoy patronising indigenous artists? Do you think you have innate bargaining skills? Do you always gravitate towards all things bright and beautiful? Do you think that your home or office decor should be expressive of your personality? Then it is time to hit the streets.

The highways leading to Indian cities and busy streets have exotic stuff, which can turn your home into a haven of beautiful things. You will spot these goods being sold by artisans and their families off the sidewalks. Since they pay little or no rent to the city corporation, their articles are sold with minimal profit margin. If you happen to buy more than one unit, you can always demand for more discounts. Make sure that you examine your purchase for damages or anomalies before they pack them for you. The only flipside really is that your credit cards will not be accepted.

The silver lining is that you can pay up in a jiffy, without waiting in long lines and also, round off the bill amount to a lower denomination! Now let us take a look at all the possible things that can brighten up your hearth and home.

Down to earth

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It does not matter if you’re the sort who is down to earth or eclectic, or for that matter anywhere in between. Next time you see terracotta items being sold somewhere, stop. The humble water pot fitted with a stainless steel tap can be a healthy replacement to your electrically managed water filter. Tea and coffee have a way of assuming a surreal look when served in terracotta crockery. You can select a collection of figurines or wall plates of gods, damsels, animals and birds and place them tastefully in your garden amongst the plants or anywhere else you fancy.

Huge vats, vases, shallow basins and flower pots can double up as corner pieces. Gaily painted hundis and masks have the ability to warm up hearts and hearths. The traditional diyas can light up your place. If you are good at wielding the paint brush, unleash your skills on your earthen goods. Though terracotta goods can be found through the year, they have a tendency to mushroom around the Diwali season giving you infinite choices to pick from. If you care for the good earth in the form of porcelain, there is a whole market waiting for you out there.

Wood is good

If you are a connoisseur of Channapatna  toys, pencil tops, containers et al, you don’t have to necessarily go to the toy town or an arts and crafts emporium, as you can easily spot these beauties in busy market places. If you want any particular item, you can request the seller to procure them for you and he will, in all likelihood, be only too happy to do so.

However, there is a catch. Original, handmade, lacquer-painted goods are sold along with machine-made ones coloured with acrylic paints, and it can be hard to notice the difference if one is a novice. At such times, it’s better to give the benefit of doubt to the seller and take his word for it, if he refuses to lower the price after a certain point. These wooden pieces prove to be safe anywhere in the house, from the kitchen to the children’s room.

Friends with nature

If you are an eco-friendly person, never miss an opportunity to stop by at a place  where coir or woven grass items are sold. Mats, coasters, fans, baskets, jewellery boxes, winnows, musical instruments, rattles, toys, wall hangings and pen holders are some of the things that are made in coir and woven grass. In fact, you can find just about any item that has utility or aesthetic value sitting pretty in such shops. You can pick them all if you mean to give your space a theme or just zero in on the ones that attract your attention.

For the love of carpets

Having a luxurious Persian or Kashmiri hand-knotted carpet spread across the living room floor is worth every penny you spent on it. These days, we find native craftsmen doing the rounds around cities, selling handmade carpets and mats on push carts. If you fancy any of them, do not buy them right away; visit the nearest Kashmir emporium and do your homework. Unroll the item of your choice and inspect both sides of the carpet in daylight. If you love it, haggle until you reach some point of agreement. If you want variation, voice it and you may be able to get in the time frame suggested by the seller.

Perk up the walls

If you think your walls need that fresh coat of paint badly, but you do not have the means to do that due to various constraints, do not get disheartened. You can instead fill up your walls with all your favourite posters. Or you could even make that collage you have always dreamt of. When the time comes for painting the walls, you may have to rip them all off. But if you want it to be long-lasting, you could consider laminating them.

Something that sticks on Stickers happen to be the most contemporary, prominent and practical way of expressing yourself these days. You will be spoilt for choice with regard to the design, quality and size. You can find traditional stickers for the home’s doorstep to the shining stars that adorn the ceiling. If you feel overwhelmed by their sheer number and variety, go slow as you are likely to hoard on them for they come really cheap.

Stained in delightful shades

The next time you spot a vendor selling Plaster of Paris idols, vats, vases and wall plates – which come in some delightful classical and mythological forms – do take a look. They are usually light, stained in gold, silver, copper or bronze shades and are available at competitive prices. If you want to customise them, go in for uncoloured ones. With a little effort, talent and patience, you can create magic.

Brass effect

Occasionally, busy roads are punctuated with antique dealers who sell brass items like gramophone equipment, classical telephones, lamps, bells, figurines, junk jewellery and coins, among others. Make a selection of the items you fancy, but don’t buy them on the spot. Come back with a pinch of tamarind or some lemon juice and touch the tips or the bottom of the selected items. If the metal glows, then go ahead and clinch the deal.

Knick knacks

There are times when you find an assortment of adorable items like fur dolls, puppets, wind chimes and the like sold along the busy city streets. Inspect them and do not hesitate to make a purchase if you really care for the items because you may not spot them again and even if you do, they may not turn out to be the same.

Once in a while, it’s absolutely fine to pick up a few balloons for your home. You don’t always need a birthday party or an anniversary at home to buy balloons. Available in a plethora of colours, shapes and sizes, they never fail to attract the eye, especially when they seem to wink at you from a busy street corner.

Tasteful home decor items need not always be sourced from international visits or high-end decor shops. As you traverse the streets of our beautiful, diverse country, you’ll be amazed by the splendid choices on offer. And once you clinch a deal, it might leave you asking for more!

So, this Independence Day, as we sport the tri-colour with pride, let our homes too reflect the splendour and rich diversity of our many arts and cultures.

Grace and Humility


Radha Prathi, Aug 14, 2015,

The big fat Indian wedding has wheels within wheels. It is not just about grandeur, rites and rituals or give and take.

It is a bond that brings two families together which can stand by one another through the ups and downs of life. Yet the noble idea has been distorted over the years.

We Indians have been somehow led to believe that the groom’s side has the upper hand. It is deemed that they have all the rights to call the shots, while the bride’s people have no other choice except to pander to their wishes. If you are under the impression that it is a hoary tradition followed by kings and the common man alike, an incident in the Ramayana will vouch for the contrary.

King Janaka of Mithila sent his messengers on the fastest horses to Ayodhya. King Dasharatha was apprised of how his son Rama had won his bride Sita by performing the incomparable feat of breaking the bow of Shiva. The happy king rallied his royal entourage and reached Mithila in double quick time. He was extended a richly deserved warm welcome by the host.

The raja Rishi Janaka who was on the verge of completing various rituals that he had begun at the head of the contest knew that it would be right on his part to complete the task that he had ventured into before conducting the nuptials of his dear daughter.

He gently broached the subject to Dasharatha, because he was the groom’s father. Usually it was the bridegroom, and his people who directed the proceedings during a wedding. Yet Dasharatha magnanimously asked Janaka to do as he thought fit, for three reasons. Firstly, Dasharatha recognised Janaka to be a Rajarishi who understood the importance of the Yajnas that he had commenced.

Secondly, it was a well known fact that a man of integrity would be bound by his sense honour to complete the activity begun by him. Thirdly and more importantly, Dasharatha made it clear that in a marriage, the bride’s father was the giver while the groom’s people were the receivers. Ideally, the giver is superior to the receiver because his hands are above the hands of those that receive. Hence Dasharatha, graciously let Janaka go ahead with the wedding according to his convenience.

When we examine the situation from a conventional point of view, King Dasharatha had all the necessary power and position to take umbrage at the proposition.

Yet he chose to be compliant because of his innate noble nature and also because he understood and believed that misplaced ego should not play spoilsport in the alliance between the two families that were coming together to pave way to a new beginning!

Royal Beauty Secrets


Radha Prathi, Aug 01, 2015:


Image for representation

Radha Prathi narrates tales of beauty – of princesses and maids, describing how you too can have a regal glow by adhering to certain simple, yet effective natural skincare regimens

Classical tales invariably brim over with beautiful women with tailor-made features that have the ability to change the lives of the people around them. Helen of Troy and Cleopatra managed to change the course of history with their looks. But what is highly doubtful is if the beautiful women from fairy tales, mythology and history ever used beauty soaps and branded cosmetics to enhance the glow of their skins.

That does not mean that they did little or nothing towards the upkeep of their epidermis. They sourced their skin toners, scrubbers and beauty masks from nature. A bedtime story narrated in our family encapsulated a beauty regime. The tale talks of a beautiful princess in ancient Magadha and her even more beautiful maid. The curious princess was eager to learn the beauty secret of her maid’s enviable skin. Her pride would not allow her to ask the maid directly, so she employed a spy to find the maid’s beauty secret.

A couple of days later, the princess was informed that the maid did nothing in particular to enhance her appeal, but her actions were peculiar in some ways. For instance, she would never wash her hands immediately after handling oil, kneading dough, cutting fruits and vegetables or even after whipping eggs. Instead she would wipe her hands over her head, face, arms and legs before washing her hands eventually. By the time the maid finished all her chores, her face, arms and legs would be caked with the residue of her kitchen work. She would have a refreshing bath using the humble besan with a pinch of turmeric after a tiring session in the kitchen and would come glowing to the palace, to work as the handmaiden of the princess. The princess became clearly jealous when the maid looked exquisitely pretty when the breeze caressed her, the warm sun kissed her and the tingling drizzle drenched her occasionally.

That was not all. The princess also discovered that eating right can show on the skin. The maid consumed a humble meal and popped in the peels and sometimes pieces of fruits and vegetables as she cut them for the royal house. She never really got to eat the fried delicacies and sweets, because they were reserved for the royalty. She walked up and down the palace doing her chores happily and gulped down several glasses of water to replenish her energy.

Those of us who want to explore simple and effective ways to tone, cleanse and shine our skin the natural way, will do well to take a leaf from the beauty secrets of our grandmothers and their grandmothers, who generally changed up their skincare routine prior to their weddings. Their beauty regime began with a laxative made from ground neem leaves or a teaspoon of castor oil, which was repeated once every ten days till the D-day. Not only did this practice detoxify them, but also made them healthier, lighter, lustrous and lithe. Once every three or four days, they would oil their bodies from head to toe, before washing it off with shikakai or besan. If you are thinking this is reserved only for the royalty or soon-to-be-married folks, you are wrong. You too can follow these home remedies for clear, fresh and smooth skin. If beautiful skin is your aim, use these remedies at least once a week.

* A brisk scrub can exfoliate dead cells clogging the pores of the skin. A teaspoon of turmeric powder mixed with a teaspoon of coconut oil rubbed on your face, neck, arms and feet for an hour before your daily bath, can leave your skin clean and glowing. You will no longer feel the need to use a moisturiser off the shelf because the coarse mixture would have done the job. This is a proven therapy which can prevent skin from ageing rapidly and can correct dry skin problems in the long run.

* If you have oily skin, add a dash of lime and a pinch of turmeric to milk cream and apply the mixture on your face and leave it for ten minutes before rinsing it off. The cream will retain the essential oils and the lime juice will eject excess oil while the turmeric will leave your face glowing. Alternately, equal proportions of sandalwood paste and turmeric along with a little rose water or plain water can be mixed and applied on the face, neck, arms and feet and left on for an hour or so before rinsing it off, to manage oily skin.

* Many women avoid using turmeric because it leaves a residual colour. Remember, regular application of turmeric can prevent skin infections, heal small cuts and abrasions and its carcinogenic property can keep skin cancer at bay. Make sure you buy kasturi turmeric which is used for cosmetic purpose. The turmeric powder used for cooking is sometimes doctored so that it looks just the right shade of chrome. This setback can be overcome if we are a little proactive. Use a mild soap to wash off traces of yellow, preferably half an hour after rinsing it off.

An alternative remedy could be the application of beaten egg yolk with honey over the face. Leave it on for twenty minutes and rinse off with warm water. It is also highly effective on oily skin with enlarged pores. The pulp of over-ripe bananas can be used as a face pack to achieve the same results.
* If you happen to be dealing with acne, apply a teaspoon of lemon juice mixed with a spot of honey on the face and leave it for 20 minutes. Rinse off with warm water. Repeat the process once a week till you get rid of the spots. Don’t be surprised if you turn out a few shades lighter than what you were earlier.

A traditional oil bath followed by a massage at least once a fortnight can revive the skin and hair magically because it can relieve the mind of stress to a large extent. Make sure that all your meals consist of a generous helping of fruit and vegetable salads. Go slow on excessively oily food and bakery items. No matter what the weather, keep your body hydrated, by drinking plenty of water.

Make it a point to spend some time outdoors and allow your skin to get in touch with natural light and air. A bout of sweating can tease the dirt off your skin and help it breathe better. It can prove to be therapeutic both to your mind and body. If you follow this regime for three months at a stretch, you will be sought out for your “glow secret”!