The omnipresence of divinity is seldom acknowledged in our day-to-day lives. It could be due to ignorance or simply lack of comprehension. However, our lives tend to become complicated when we do not grasp the lofty universal truths fully.
An anecdote from the repertoire of stories told by Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa puts across this point succinctly. Once, a layman was enlightened about the omnipresence of god. The happy man left the Ashram with his newfound knowledge. As he was walking down the street, he saw a rogue elephant. The Mahout shouted instructions to the people on the road to get away from the path of the pachyderm. Everyone slipped away in double quick time except the newly edified man. The elephant handled him roughly with his trunk and flung him afar. The hurt man was taken to the Ashram and rendered first aid. Then he was questioned on his foolishness. The naive man said, “I thought that the God in the elephant would not harm me.” To which, the philosopher replied, “But, why did you not listen to the God who warned you through the Mahout?”
This incident enumerates the fact that spiritually oriented people need a lot of discernment lest they come to foolhardy conclusions like the protagonist in the tale.
An incident in the Ramayana expounds the facility of being in the dark about matters beyond our ken to help us function normally and genuinely. When the exiled prince Rama came to the banks of river Ganga along with Lakshmana and Sita, the local chieftain Guha extends warm hospitality and assures unflinching support to Rama. He even offers his position to Rama without blinking an eyelid. When all his offers were rejected politely, Guha personally takes the trio across the river. If Guha had the slightest inkling about the divinity of Rama he would have been awestruck by the mere presence of the trio. His gestures would have been punctuated with nervousness or simply decimated into inaction. Conversely, his lack of consciousness on the matter not only made him offer all his earthly possessions to the creator, but made him take the celestial navigator who helps his devotees to cross the sea of life to cross the river!
Radha Prathi Mar 8 2018, 22:50 IST
The sari is one of the most elegant pieces of clothing. It is versatile and can be passed off as both a traditional and modern artefact. Saris have been recycled many a time to serve different purposes such as creating different outfits or home decor essentials. In a day and age of creativity, innovation and sustainability, it is only befitting that we recycle and create wealth from waste. Thereby, what better way to than to use old saris to create innovative decor pieces.
Many, many uses
For a Victorian look for the windows, weave a pleated chiffon sari along the curtain rod lengthwise. Adjust the length of the sari so that it falls equally on either side and fasten it with a clothespin. Then, equalise and ease out the curved portions in between and pin them firmly at the back. Make corrections where the proportion is concerned.
Make fancy string curtains using colourful synthetic saris. Cut them into strips of about four or five inches wide and picot the edges. Then use a double thread and sew through the centre using a simple running stitch. When you reach the end, push the cloth back gently and allow it to twirl around till it achieves the floral garland look. Then knot the stitch to a close. Keep attaching strips till you arrive at the desired length. Attach a loop at one end for it to slide across the curtain rod. When the stitches are equally spaced and considerably closer, the results will be better. You can play with colour combinations if you’re planning to use a number of saris in the project. You can hang them up as borders of your regular curtains, or hang them all at equal intervals at doorways and open windows.
Make your own fancy foot rugs, telephone mats and table mats by cutting a sari lengthwise into three parts. Picot the edges, place the three pieces one over another and stitch them firmly at one end, and plait it all the way until the end. Stitch the plait close by placing the three pieces one over another. Coil the plait in the shape of your choice and glue it on to a Rexine sheet of the same shape.
You can also create your own corner table using a spare cooking gas cylinder. Make a skirt of the unused saree and drape it around the cylinder and conceal its neck as well. Place a large brass or fibreglass tray on top of the cylinder. One can also use cotton saris for the all-purpose cloth in the kitchen. One simply has to convert them into little-pleated skirts. Attach a Velcro to one of the open ends and fasten them in places you might require them in.
Radha Prathi Feb 23 2018, 22:19 IST
Fenugreek or methi, as we know it, possibly originated in the Mediterranean region. It is interesting to note that the ubiquitous seeds in most Indian cuisine were actually used for embalming by the Egyptians, while the Greeks and Romans used it for cattle fodder.
The tiny bitter seeds can add a rich aroma, colour and flavour when used in various recipes. However, it is best not to use the seeds as they are. Roast them over a slow fire before adding them to any dish. If you want to use it in the powdered form, follow the same procedure. If you want to grind the seeds into the dish, soak it overnight, preferably with a pinch of salt to get a smooth paste. If you want to use methi seeds for seasoning, add them to the oil when it is at maximum heat and take it off immediately. When you grind batter for dosa, make sure that you soak a teaspoon of methi seeds along with urad dal.
For those of you who are hard pressed for time, here are a few tips to keep your methi masala ready:
Roast methi, jeera and dhaniya seeds in one is to two is to four ratio and powder the spices with a half a teaspoon of turmeric powder. Toss a teaspoonful of the spice mix in your curries or rice preparations just before you turn off the flame and mix it well. This will lend a tasty and healthy twist to your cooking.
If you have lots of curry leaves at home, wash and dry them. Add a teaspoon of roasted methi seeds to the dried leaves, powder them and use this to season your sambhar or chutneys.
Though there are a number of factors that lead to a successful negotiation, conviction and logic working as the secret ingredients, the story of Savithri, which appears in the Mahabharata, vouches for the twin features.
Savithri, the princess of Madra, married Satyavan despite being warned of impending widowhood. Satyavan passed away as predicted by Narada on the destined day in the forest. Yama, the Lord of Death, had personally come to release the noble soul of Satyavan from his body. The bewildered young wife collected herself and followed Yama much to his annoyance. He bade her time and again to go away.
When Savithri followed him tenaciously, they got into a lofty conversation which revolved around the concept of life and death. Savithri won over the Lord of Death with her earnest winning ways. She gained his trust enough to make him grant her a boon of her choice with the exception of her husband’s life. Savithri requested him to restore eyesight and lost kingdom to her father-in-law. She continued to trail behind Yama, who granted her another boon on the same lines. This time around Savithri sought that her father should father a hundred sons. Yama conceded and proceeded, only to find that Savithri was close on his heels.
Though he was thoroughly impressed by her, he told her that she could not follow him beyond a certain point; nevertheless, he granted her another boon on the very same conditions. Savithri sought that she should mother a hundred sons. When the boon was granted, she pursued Yama to his chagrin. She made it clear that she could not realise his boon without her husband. Yama was trapped by his own words. He admired the sense of logic and conviction in the young lady and breathed life back into the dead body of Satyavan.
All of us know that death is the point of no return. Savithri was able to overcome Yama; not only because she loved her husband dearly, but also was alert enough to exercise her intellect end execute it with courteous charm. Thus, Savithri laid the guidelines for effective negotiation for all times to come.
People, especially the city slickers do not have any reasons to exert themselves unless they make a conscious attempt to remove themselves from their comfort zone. All we have to really do is kindly breathe, eat and excrete because most of our needs and jobs are taken care of by machines and the rest by electronics and the help we employ.
Just when we are ushered into that idyllic world of doing nothing, there is an official declaration that most of the health problems of the present age stems from our sedentary lifestyles. So being the quintessential couch potato with matching chips alongside is no longer the most favourable position to be in. Those people who have pledged that they will not budge from their comfort zone for love or money will have to think again.
These days, even momentarily opened doors and windows happen to be ushering in winged creatures which are mostly mosquitoes. They breeze in and hum around our ears, settle on the exposed portions of our bodies and merrily quaff on our life blood.
As a rule, we humans do not resent the resultant itching or the sharing of half a drop of blood if it were not associated with a host of diseases. So we started using sprays, lights, coils and repellants with negligible results. Then, the brainier section of mankind invented the mosquito bat. All we have to do is place our thumbs on the button to activate the electrified battle-ready weapon and brandish it around ourselves and vanquish the bloodsuckers that dare to venture into our orbit. If we are lucky, our success is celebrated with some fireworks and we can slip back into indolence till the next beastly pest flies along.
Initially, the conscientious Samaritans were hesitant to indulge in conscious “himsa.” It took a few gurus and their disciples to use the implement in full public view to put across the message that the insects were probably wretched souls seeking liberation so that they could move on to higher planes. Then on, no one seems to have any compunction about using their bludgeons blissfully. On the contrary, they feel secure when they have one such racquet beside them.
The users of the bats will vouch for the fact that their arms have been strengthened while protecting themselves from some dreadful diseases. More enterprising batsmen and women also manage to burn a few calories when they scout for victims in the vicinity of their homes. In fact, a couple of engineering students have started working on the sports model of the bat which can keep scores of hits and misses quite on the lines of Pokemon Go!
Now that the power and position of the haloed bat has been established, the day is not far when the mosquito will be declared as an endangered species. True blue users of the bludgeon will understand that one of the sovereign duties of a desi is to safeguard the cesspools, potholes, garbage piles so that we have a never ending supply of offerings to the ubiquitous bats that each one of us possesses. After all, is it not our duty to protect our protector?
Deccan herald 30th January 2018
These days we find plenty of courses that guide people into communication skills. Aspects like correct usage of language, body language, tone, clarity and confidence are emphasized in these soft skill sessions. At the end of the day people are taught to communicate pleasantly and effectively to forge successful personal and professional relationships. Hence it is no wonder that educational institutions, governmental organisations and corporate bodies do not hesitate to invest a pretty penny on honing these skills of their new recruits at all levels.
A reading of the Ramayana reveals the universal significance and the cornerstone of communication skills has remained the same right from the good old times.
Hanuman was sent as the most hopeful candidate to search for Sita because Rama was impressed by the simian minister’s intelligence, sincerity and communication skills. The emissary of Rama discovered Sita in the Ashoka Vana of Lanka. He realized that he would traumatize the doe like Sita if he appeared in front of her without notice. Therefore he narrated the story of Rama in mellifluous verse to attract her attention. The act of Hanuman construes the importance of using introductory talk as the unshakeable basis of every conversation. The fact that Sita gave him her Choodamani – the hair accessory, which happened to be her only earthly possession and proof of her existence to be given to Rama, speaks in volumes about the success of Hanuman’s ability to communicate effectively.
When Maruthi returned to Rama with the good news, he does not indulge in formalities or flowery language. Instead, he very simply hands over the Choodamani of Sita with a brief phrase that said, “Sita has been found.” The magical phrase sent a surge of joy through the being of Rama and prepared him mentally to take in the details about the disheveled and depressed status of Sita and her resolve to hold on to her life for another month till she was freed from the clutches of Ravana. Hanuman used speech as a tool sometimes eloquently and at other times briefly. He just proved that there are no hard and fast rules about the length of the talk. He had the discernment to understand that content is king in any conversation. When truth, tenor, confidence, clarity, humility and simplicity adorn the content, communication becomes complete.
Genuine thirst for knowledge
There was a time when people who thirsted for knowledge went to great lengths to acquire it. The passion to learn helped them to overcome distance, hardships and challenges without an iota of hesitation.
Once the students became erudite, they safeguarded knowledge fiercely with great care and awkwardness and passed them on selectively to some trusted disciples for reasons best known to them.
A story in the Upanishads records how Indra, the Lord of Devas, once initiated sage Dadheechi with divine knowledge like Pravarga and Madhu, because he was excessively impressed by the sage’s severe penance to learn the same. Since it was niche knowledge, he categorically told the sage that his head would be cut into 100 pieces if he passed on his learning to anybody else.
The Ashwini Kumaras, who happened to eavesdrop during the last segment of the conversation, were tempted to learn the special subjects. They did not want the sage to pay with his life. So, they cut off the sage’s head and hid it in a secret place and placed a head of a horse on the sage’s torso. The sage was awed by their genuine desire for knowledge, humility and the willingness to take such a huge risk for the love of learning. Dadheechi imparted the Vidya to them. At the end of the session, Ashwini Kumaras wanted to transplant the original head of Dadheechi on his person. They thought that even if Indra decided to carry out his threat, the head of the horse would be mutilated.
In the meanwhile, the enraged Indra decided to take the twin Devas for a ride. Indra took the original head of the sage into his custody. The nervous twins were forced to confess. Indra recognized their genuine thirst for knowledge and returned Dadheechi’s head which was duly fixed. The Lord of the heavens realized that it was impossible to hold back learning if the teacher and the taught were enthusiastic about gaining mastery over the subject.
Today we have come a long way. Just about every subject under the sun is available to us at the click of a button. The opportunities to learn and expand our mental horizons intellectually are infinite. Despite the immense and easy facilities, we find that most of us are not serious takers.