Tackle Obstacles with Integrity


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Life often scatters obstacles in our path. Some of us sidestep them while others overcome them. Yet, if we are riddled with difficulties from time to time, we tend to give up. A story from the Mahabharata says that if one tackles problems intelligently and with integrity, it will stamp our success with moral satisfaction and happiness.

Princess Sukanya had to marry the old sage Chyavana whom she had blinded inadvertently. Though there was no equivalence of any sort in the marital ties, the young bride did not have any complaints. She was quite cheerful and sincere in carrying out her conjugal duties.

A couple of years later, the handsome celestial twins, the Ashwinikumaras, happened to sight the beautiful Sukanya. They were smitten by her ethereal beauty. They tried to wean her away from her marriage and make her theirs. The principled lady refused to comply with their wishes, politely, yet firmly.

The demigods were struck by her loyalty to her husband despite his shortcomings. They offered to cure him and restore his youth as a reward for her steadfastness.

Sukanya and Chyavana were ready to accept a lease of normal and healthy life. Just when things seemed to fall in place, the divine twosome laid out their condition. The clause said that Sukanya could continue in her marriage if only she could identify her husband in his new Avatar. She accepted the challenge without batting an eyelid.

Accordingly, the sage was taken to a nearby lake by the duo. The trio immersed themselves in the waters.

When they emerged, Sukanya was startled to see that the three of them were identical in every single way. She was stressed, but gathered her wits and observed the threesome walking towards her. She recollected from her vast repertoire of knowledge that Godly entities never came into physical contact with earth. She noticed that only one of the three dazzling men was leaving footprints on the wet banks of the lake. She walked demurely towards her only love in life and stood by him.

The Ashwinikumaras were highly impressed by her integrity and intelligence and blessed the couple a happy and fruitful life of togetherness. Sukanya had every reason to flounder under the circumstances, that she chose to overcome it reflects her diehard spirit.

Gift for teacher? Classroom Discipline


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S Radha Prathi, Sep 5 2017, 0:08 IST

If teachers were asked what they would consider the best teacher’s day gift, the answer would be an unanimous chorus — classroom discipline!

Well, that happens to be the harsh truth. An average classroom in any school across urban India is almost always in a state of chaos. The teacher-student ratio is unwieldy in most. Under the circumstances, a conscientious teacher has to also double up as the bad cop, usher the students to step in mentally, not just physically, into the classroom. Healthy classroom practices like interactions, discussions and debates on the subject of study is often replaced with pontification, which has almost become a mandatory feature in the lives of teachers. Seldom can they do much else, because the law of the land forbids them from using the cane.

Most teaching staff are ashamed or afraid to rope in the help of colleagues, seniors or the head of the institutions because they do not want to show themselves to be weak or helpless. Besides, they do not want to jeopardise their chances of getting an increment by showing themselves to be lacking in class control skills. The students, for their part, ranging from primary school to the undergraduate levels seem to find it extremely difficult to sit still in the class and focus on what is being taught. Their attention span seems to be consistently declining year after year. They seem to have collectively traded the art of listening for the art of merely hearing that serves no purpose.

Such being the case, teachers have to often repeat themselves to reach out to everyone in the audience. In the process, a sense of repetition and redundancy sets in in the ones that got it the very first time. They become restless till the teacher takes the lesson forward but only after another round of disciplining. When this exercise becomes repetitive, it can get tiresome for both the students and the teacher. Precious classroom time is spent in shepherding students individually or in little groups into a state of silence before continuing with the lesson. Over a period of time, both parties get familiar with the pattern and play it out like clockwork to the point of frustration.

When teachers bare their hearts out on the subject, they are told categorically that “content is king” and the conduct of the teacher is the benchmark in a classroom. While that may be true, even experienced and passionate teachers who do know their subject and carry themselves with dignity are finding it difficult to handle disruptive behaviour. All the same, teachers agree that kids should have their fun and freedom as long as they do not constantly disrupt the classroom. They also vouch for the fact that the young are perfectly nice alone; it is only when they get together they become unmanageable.

It is time for us to unravel this conundrum. The restiveness stems from the environment the child comes from. The pressure to do well and realise the dreams of their parents has pinned them down. The gadgets they use and the amateurish exposure they get to various subjects on the internet make them feel that they know it all. The junk foods they consume, the sedentary lives they lead and the assorted pollutions they have to deal with have rendered them weak. Their preference to play with gadgets than with siblings or friends has made them strangers to empathy. The stress and strife of modern life is taking a toll on the children.

If we hope to salvage the future of our children, we must work on these issues on a war-footing. Remember, the family is the first school and the mother is the first teacher. Parents should make it their own imperative to spend quality time with children no matter what their age. Children who hail from sensible, ethical and loving homes will reflect those qualities.

Having well behaved students can prove to be a tremendous boost to a passionate teacher’s morale and her capacity to teach. Precious class hours can be channelised to sow the seeds of knowledge, nurture analytical thinking, and help children blossom into responsible, intelligent and considerate individuals. When teaching becomes a fulfilling and pleasant experience, a teacher can make a world of difference to the taught. When that happens, every day will be Teacher’s Day!

Serendipity in Seri


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Once, a couple of us were walking through a boulder-strewn path in the Himalayas. What began as a light drizzle at the head of our trek turned into a steady shower. There was no going back, because the tents we left behind were being dismantled.

While they could be erected again with a little effort , a couple of early birds in our group had already forged ahead an hour ago. We could not possibly leave them in the lurch by staying back. So, we decided to brave the inclement weather towards Seri Valley — our destination.

The obstacle-riddled path appeared to be more challenging when we had to cross a moraine, some newly formed streams and a little stretch of ice. The continuous rain and the dipping temperature proved to be quite a menace.

A slip here and a fall there amid wiping the water off the spectacles slowed me down. Benumbed hands failed to feel the little icicles falling all over and around us. The colourful and beautiful flowers that bordered our path at times had to be sadly ignored because personal comfort appeared to be more important than “stopping by to smell the flowers.”

Conversation almost came to a standstill with exceptions when we had to seek one another’s help. Gusts of cold wind blew about; we trudged along cold, wet and hungry. When it became increasingly difficult, we sighted a frail little open yellow tent among the rocks. Our escort prompted us to seek shelter there till the storm passed.

We found a lone shepherd huddled in blankets in the tiny tent. He ushered us in without a word. He shared his humble bed and let us use it, though we were drenched to our very bones. Just when I thought that his cup of mercy had overflowed, he allowed us to build a fire with his precious little stock of firewood.

A couple of hours passed. He answered our many queries but asked no questions of us. His body language did not display resentment, so we stayed on. The rains subsided. It was time to move on. We thanked him profusely for the hospitality. He nodded and asked us to reach our camp before the next spell of rains set in.

Some experiences in life do have a wonderful way of tweaking our path and make us reflect on existential questions. He seemed to be the essence of Sanghajeevi (social being) for Lokasangraha (betterment of the world). I simply could not stop thinking of experiencing serendipity in the wilderness.

Feast on Festival Delights -Seedai


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Radha Prathi Aug 12 2017, 0:28 IST

Radha Prathi gives us some lip-smacking seedai recipes for the festive occasion.

No Indian festival can be complete without offering the choicest of sweets and savouries to our deities. Krishna Janmashtami takes the cake as our populace from different part of the country have come up with their creative and unique recipes which they think will please their lord the most. The Vaishnavites of Southern India and the Tamilian population in particular indulge baby Krishna with a scrumptious crispy dish called the Seedai. These little round marble like delicacies have been always been made during the festival. The making of these snacks take some time, effort and patience for each ingredient has to be processed differently.

 

Vella seedai or Sweet Seedai

Ingredients:

Rice flour 2 small cups

Wash the raw rice under running water, spread it on a clean piece of cloth and grind it into fine flour when it still retains the last bit of moisture. Then roast the flour till it loses its moisture and allow the flour to cool before putting it to use.

Urad dal flour 1 table spoon

Roast the Urad dal before grinding it into flour.

Grated coconut 1 small cup

Ghee 1 table spoon

Melt the ghee before adding it t the dough

Jaggery  1 ½ cups

Sesame seeds 1 table spoon

Cardamom 4

Cloves 2

Dry ginger powder

Nutmeg 1/2

Roast the white sesame seeds till they are a golden brown

Salt ½ teaspoon

Oil/ ghee ½ litre for frying

Procedure:

  • Roast the Cardamom, Cloves, Dry ginger powder and Nutmeg and grind them into a fine powder.
  • You must make syrup of the jaggery in the given manner. Take a large pan, pour one litre of water into it and bring it to a boil. Add the crushed jaggery to the water and keep stirring it till it melts completely. Keep stirring the mixture till it condenses to a semi liquid form. You will know that your syrup is ready when your jaggery drops as strings from your ladle. You must turn off the heat before the jaggery starts caramelising.
  • Even when the jaggery syrup is hot, toss in the rice flour, urad dal flour, ghee, powder of the spices, sesame seeds and salt.
  • Mix the ingredients well, add hot water little by little and knead the mixture into fine dough so that there are no lumps.
  • The dough should be firm like the dough of bread or roti.
  • Apply rice flour on your palms and pinch out a little dough and roll it into a cylinder which has the thickness of two of your fingers put together.
  • Pinch out the dough from this cylindrical dough and roll them into large marbles. Note make sure that you do not press the dough or shape them into perfectly smooth balls for they will tend to burst when they are being fried. It is also mandatory for all the balls in each batch to be of more or less the same size for the to fry deeply and well.
  • Spread a clean cloth or use a clean tray which can be used for making the seedai.
  • It will be convenient to make little batches of seven to ten seedais depending on the size of your pan.
  • You can roll out all the batches before frying them.
  • Heat oil. Once the oil starts emanating fumes, drop the seedais allow them to cook well in the oil, till they turn a golden brown.
  • Make sure that the heat is consistent on a low fire till they are fried completely.
  • Remove them from the oil and drop them on a plate laden with fresh tissues so that the excess oil can be absorbed.
  • You can fry a batch of them in ghee for improved taste and longevity. When you remove them from the ghee and drop them on a plate filled partially with wheat flour laden so that the excess ghee can be absorbed. The flour can be later on used to make dough for rotis.
  • Once the seedais cool down they can be stored in an airtight container and used from time to time as a snack.

Here is a little tip to keep your savouries fresh and crisp till the last one is used up. Drop in a two cardamoms, a few peppercorns and a piece of edible camphor in the container in which you store them.

 

 

Uppu or Salted  and spicy Seedai

 Ingredients:

Rice flour 2 small cups

Wash the raw rice under running water, spread it on a clean piece of cloth and grind it into fine flour when it still retains the last bit of moisture. Then roast the flour till it loses its moisture and allow the flour to cool before putting it to use.

Urad dal flour 1 table spoon

Roast the Urad dal before grinding it into flour.

Grated coconut 1 small cup

Ghee 1 table spoon

Melt the ghee before adding it to the dough

Channa Dal 1 small cup

Soak the Channa dal for an hour or so before adding it to the dough.

Sesame seeds 1 table spoon

Roast the white sesame seeds till they are a golden brown

Red Chilli powder 1tablespoon

Roast ten to twelve red chillies without using oil and grind it immediately into a fine powder.

Hing  ½ inch of the solidified variety

Soak the hing in hot water before adding it  to the dough.

Water

Use cold water for obtaining best results.

Oil ½ litre for frying

Toss a pinch of tamarind into the oil, just in case you are using coconut oil to prevent it from boiling over while frying.

Procedure:

  • Take a large pan and toss in the rice flour, urad dal flour, soaked channa dal, ghee, red chilli powder, sesame seeds and salt.
  • Mix the ingredients well, when dry.
  • Add cold water little by little and knead the mixture into a fine dough so that there are no lumps and the dough is firm.
  • Apply rice flour on your palms and pinch out a little dough and roll it into a cylinder which has the thickness of your little finger.
  • Pinch out the dough from this cylindrical dough and roll them into little marbles. Note make sure that you do not press the dough or shape them into perfectly smooth balls for they will tend to burst when they are being fried.
  • Spread a clean cloth or use a clean tray which can be used for making the seedai.
  • It will be convenient to make little batches of thirty to forty seedais depending on the size of your pan. It is also mandatory for all the balls in each batch to be of more or less the same size for the to fry deeply and well.
  • You can roll out all the batches before frying them.
  • Heat oil. Once the oil starts emanating fumes, drop the seedais allow them to cook well in the oil, till they turn a golden brown. Keep the heat high on a low flame for the best results.
  • Remove them from the oil and drop them on a plate laden with fresh tissues so that the excess oil can be absorbed.
  • Once the seedais cool down they can be stored in an airtight container and used from time to time as a snack.

Here is a little tip to keep your savouries fresh and crisp till the last one is used up. Drop in a  piece of hing in the container in which you store them.

 

 Rava seedai

Ingredients:

Semolina 2 small cups

Roast the semolina on a slow fire till it is a golden brown. Adding a teaspoon of ghee while roasting it can make your snack crispier.

Ghee 1 table spoon

Melt the ghee before adding it to the dough

Pepper  powder 1tablespoon

Roast the peppers without using oil and grind it immediately into a fine powder.

Hing  ½ inch of the solidified variety

Soak the hing in hot water before adding it  to the dough.

Oil ½ litre for frying

Toss a pinch of tamarind into the salt to prevent it from boiling over while frying.

 Procedure:

  • Take a large pan and toss in semolina, ghee, hing, pepper powder, and salt.
  • Mix the ingredients well, when dry.
  • Add boiling hot water little by little and knead the mixture into a fine dough so that there are no lumps and knead it well till the dough becomes firm.
  • Apply rice flour on your palms and pinch out a little dough and roll it into a cylinder which has the thickness of your little finger.
  • Pinch out the dough from this cylindrical dough and roll them into little marbles. Note make sure that you do not press the dough or shape them into perfectly smooth balls for they will tend to burst when they are being fried.
  • Spread a clean cloth or use a clean tray which can be used for making the seedai.
  • It will be convenient to make little batches of thirty to forty seedais depending on the size of your pan. It is also mandatory for all the balls in each batch to be of more or less the same size for the to fry deeply and well.
  • You can roll out all the batches before frying them.
  • Heat oil. Once the oil starts emanating fumes, drop the seedais allow them to cook well in the oil, till they turn a golden brown.
  • Remove them from the oil and drop them on a plate laden with fresh tissues so that the excess oil can be absorbed.
  • Once the seedais cool down they can be stored in an airtight container and used from time to time as a snack.

Here is a little tip to keep your savouries fresh and crisp till the last one is used up. Drop in a  piece of hing in the container in which you store them.

NOTE : you can alter the taste of the rava seedai by flavouring it with red chilli powder instead of pepper.

Red Chilli powder 1tablespoon

Roast ten to twelve red chillies without using oil and grind it immediately into a fine powder.

Vennai seedai or Butter  Seedai

 Ingredients:

Rice flour 2 small cups

Wash the raw rice under running water, spread it on a clean piece of cloth and grind it into fine flour when it still retains the last bit of moisture. Then roast the flour till it loses its moisture and allow the flour to cool before putting it to use.

Urad dal flour 1 table spoon

Roast the Urad dal before grinding it into flour.

Fresh butter 1 table spoon

Melt the ghee before adding it to the dough

Hing  ½ inch of the solidified variety

Soak the hing in hot water before adding it to the dough.

Water

Use cold water for obtaining best results.

Ghee ½ litre for frying

Procedure:

  • Take a large pan and toss in the rice flour, urad dal flour, hing and salt.
  • Mix the ingredients well, when dry.
  • Add water little by little and knead the mixture into a fine dough so that there are no lumps.
  • Apply rice flour on your palms and pinch out a little dough and roll it into a cylinder which has the thickness of your little finger.
  • Pinch out the dough from this cylindrical dough and roll them into little marbles. Note make sure that you do not press the dough or shape them into perfectly smooth balls for they will tend to burst when they are being fried.
  • Spread a clean cloth or use a clean tray which can be used for making the seedai.
  • It will be convenient to make little batches of thirty to forty seedais depending on the size of your pan. It is also mandatory for all the balls in each batch to be of more or less the same size for the to fry deeply and well.
  • You can roll out all the batches before frying them.
  • Heat Ghee. Once the ghee starts emanating fumes, drop the seedais allow them to cook well in the oil, till they turn a golden brown.
  • Remove them from the ghee and drop them on a plate filled partially with wheat flour laden so that the excess ghee can be absorbed. The flour can be later on used to make dough for rotis.
  • Once the seedais cool down they can be stored in a airtight container and used from time to time as a snack.

Here is a little tip to keep your savouries fresh and crisp till the last one is used up. Drop in a  piece of hing in the container in which you store them.

NOTE

Since the shape of the dish has the propensity to choke when accidently swallowed by little children, our tradition always makes one third of the portion of the dough in the form of a cheepi (that which can be sucked). The same dough is kneaded lightly into little thick sticks and fried so that they can be given to very small children.

 

 

On Making Pragmatic Promises


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There is a sea of difference between bravado and an earnest promise meant to be kept. People make tall promises in a moment of generosity or false pride.

When they do keep their word, they end up compromising on their well being or losing their possessions and peace of mind. If we are afraid of going back on our promises, we must give considerable thought to the commitments that we make, lest we end up feeling frustrated or shortchanged for lack of pragmatism.

A story from the Vishnu and Vamana Purana, deals with this aspect of promises in a telling manner. Once Mahabali, an Asura king, wanted to gain power over the three worlds performed a related Yajna. He gave away rich gifts of the receivers’ choice when they came to attend the rites. Then, Mahavishnu manifested himself in front of the king as a dwarfed Brahmana.The Asura king welcomed him with due respect and rituals and requested the lustrous young man to seek gifts from him. When Vamana sought land measuring three times his feet, Mahabali could not help feel amused.

He urged the recipient to ask for more. After all, he was a mighty sovereign, hoping to have the whole universe under his custody. He could certainly afford to give more than three feet of land measured by the tiny feet of the celibate who stood in front of him. The young man refused to alter his stance.The king set out to fulfill his promise in a ceremonial way, much against the counsel of his Guru Shukracharya who thought something was fishy. Mahabali was also intelligent enough to understand that the young midget who stood in front of him was no ordinary boy. Yet, he did not want to retract his vow. When the time came for the mysterious midget, to measure out his land, he grew magically. His giant feet measured the earth in one pace, the heavens in the other. When there was no other place to gain his third measure, Mahabali kneeled humbly before Mahavishnu, offering his head for the third pace.

Nevertheless what needs to be commended is that he made good of his promise even at the cost of his own life, which cannot be expected of mere mortals.

Green Building for a Better Future


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Every creature on earth worth its salt has carved a niche for itself in some portion of the earth by way of shelter to see them through the inclemency of extreme weather conditions. Such being the case, can man, the most intelligent creation of them all, be left behind?

Archaeological surveys across the globe have revealed that ever since the evolution of man, he has felt and acknowledged the need to be sheltered from extreme conditions exuded by natural elements. Natural caves chosen as residence by the Paleolithic man had all the makings of a rudimentary home. Gradually, he gleaned know-how from the natural life around him and learned to build secure liveable homes deriving his sources from nature.

We have come a long way since then. Today we have the know-how to build state of the art buildings with every possible facility under the sun. Yet there is much to be desired in terms of planning and having equal accessibility to these conveniences. Startling realities of life like congestion and pollution are wreaking havoc especially in Indian cities.

Alarming urbanisation on the one hand and the need for cost effective housing on the other is pressurising architects and builders alike to construct homes for just about everyone who chooses to live in the cities. Every prospective house owner dreams of having a sleek, functional aesthetic contemporary home that is reinforced with strength sourced from premium housing material at an affordable price.

The expectations of the public appear to be reasonable and the builders are only too eager to fulfil them but in the process. Hence, homes are built all over the place without really ploughing through the pros and cons of the issue. The housing sector is riddled with chaotic posers from environmental, economic and ethical issues. There are a plethora of other related aspects that need to be sorted out.

It is high time man realised that global warming across the world is not a coffee table topic of the “eco-friendly lot” anymore; it is a serious issue that needs to be reckoned with. Conservation of natural resources and abstinence from using non-biodegradable materials should become the sovereign duty of each and everyone who walks the planet earth.

This does not mean that man does not have the right to enjoy his life, build his home or do it up the way it pleases his aesthetic sense. Yet if man remembers the words from the “Good Book” he will understand that “Charity begins at home.”

Dignity of labour
Home builders, owners and users should realise that the strength of eco-friendly architecture can go a long way in replenishing or at least sustaining the natural resources to a large extent. For starters, we can circumvent the use of extensive machines in the building industry and rely upon skills of people, thereby attempting to revive dignity of labour besides empowering labourers economically.

Eco-friendly ideas span across several possibilities like building materials, construc-tion technology, attitudes towards workers, alternative lifestyle, passive solar cooling, embedded energy, localising the act and such others. No construction can have all these possibilities explored in one, but may adopt as many ideas as possible towards a greener future.

Using natural building material tempered with technology can prove not only to be cost effective but can revive several traditional time-tested building techniques by master artisans across India.

If this measure is taken seriously by architects, builders, interior decorators and prospective house owners alike, we will not only be supporting the livelihood of several masons and artisans but will indirectly promote and rejuvenate a dying art which is eco-friendly and the need of today.

These days, space is a constraint in growing cities hence most people have to compromise on translating the home of their dreams on terra firma and look forward to realising them in one of the floors of a high rise building. Strong and light materials will prove to be invaluable companions in providing more floor space and letting in light and air in good measure.

When we take practical realties into consideration, it is obvious that one cannot turn the wheel of time back and undo all the damage that has already be­en wreaked on earth yet, if the decisions we make while constructing or renovating homes can be examined philanthropically, it automatically becomes our duty to switch over to eco-friendly building material.

Living in the Present


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There are many a time we put off doing or experiencing something for a later date. It may not always be money. We reserve our best clothing, crockery, candles, and accessories among other things hoping to use them at a premium occasion in our lives. Our usual excuse for doing so is usually a feeling that the present moment is not ideal for the activity.

A tale from the Panchatantra speaks about the dangers of being in the saving mode all the time. Once a hunter shot a wild boar, the wounded animal pounced on him and ripped his flesh apart. The agonised hunter was shocked to death by the boar before it breathed its last. A jackal which was passing by was beside himself with joy when he saw the corpses of the wild boar and the hunter. He realised that he need not go around scavenging for food for several days to come. He circled his newfound treasure and saw the bloodstained bow. He decided to save the bulk of meat for future. He proceeded to lick the life fluid off the bow and in the process triggered the arrow that was ready to be shot, right into his open mouth.

Almost immediately, the jackal fell dead beside his feast. The jackal died in his earnest bid to save the best for the coming days.

Those of us who are at least a couple of decades old must have realised that the precious moment that we have been waiting for may have come, but we may not have always had the time or the mind space to dig into our paraphernalia and fish out what had been saved for the red lettered day. It is also quite possible that our prized possession may not really rise to the occasion or we may have come across a better and a more contemporary and practical substitute to the stowed away goodies.

While it is pragmatic to save for a rainy day, it will do us a world of good to overcome our magpie syndrome and live each day to the fullest. It is said that yesterday is history, tomorrow is mystery but today is the present. It is impossible to discount the valuable content of the saying.