It is interesting to note that every household in our country uses haldi or turmeric powder in their food. This wonder rhizome has been used in vegetarian, non-vegetarian and vegan cooking in the powdered form for centuries now.
The condiment is an integral part of our culture, a mandatory ingredient in our cuisine, an effective curative, and is also used as a cosmetic. Its subtle spiciness can add a zing to just about any curry, pulses, rice, and even baked goodies like buns and breads. The secret of getting the colour and flavour of turmeric right is simple. The haldi powder should be tossed in just before the oil or ghee, which is used for seasoning, starts smoking. If you add it too soon, the turmeric will leave its raw smell behind, and later than the precise moment will lend shades of brown instead of the desired yellow, and will give out a burnt smell.
Turmeric is usually avoided in sweets. The exception to the rule being that a pinch of haldi added to boiling milk, while making milk sweets to lend it a pale creamy colour. If you are planning to add the herb in milk for therapeutic purposes, it is best that you put it right at the end, just before serving.
It is advisable to add sundried rhizomes instead of the powdered form while making masalas for rasam, sambhar, bisibele bath or vangibath at home. It will make a tangible difference to the taste, colour and potency of homemade masalas.
Even as I saw the zillionth person clicking pictures or selfies and sharing them relentlessly, I inadvertently stepped into my personal realm of nostalgia. I remember that we did the most enjoyable things around our homes and with our families, but they were rarely photographed. Every evening, my metre-long tresses would be braided into a plait, and a tassel (kuchchu) would mark the end of it.
Long strings of jasmine buds would be woven around it. Once, a special day was earmarked for me to wear a moggina jade (a readymade pad with jasmine buds and an occasional rose fit on the back of the head and the plait). This red-lettered day was preceded by elaborate preparations.
My mom sourced fresh mehendi leaves, ground them into a fine paste, and applied it on my palms and feet before the event. The following morning, I was given a traditional oil bath and the fumes of frankincense were waved over my drying hair to perfume it. Then, I wore the traditional silk skirt, some pieces of antique jewellery, and got ready to get my hair braided and wear moggina jade. After receiving glowing compliments from all our guests, I was relieved of the same with equal care. I thoroughly enjoyed the exercise while it lasted, and have ruminated on it many times over.
As the years rolled by, I used to feel a little vexed with my parents for not having photographed me in my moment of crowning glory. I would be tersely told that the enjoyment was the reward, while photographing it would have amounted to merely documenting it. Their explanation used to irk me all the more because it sounded like a lame excuse for not having thought of it.
I entertained uncharitable thoughts about their miserliness until one day, when a family friend began showing us her holiday album.
The pictures were glossy and beautiful, but the smiling lady who was ever-present in all of them had little memory of the place or its distinction, or even the names of the other members of the group, because she was always grooming herself to look good in the shots.
It was then that I understood the meaning of what I had been told. A photograph of my long braid would have merely retained the visual. I might have been happy and proud of the picture, but might have relegated it to an album and put it away safely.
However, the fact that it was not photographed possibly preserved the memory of the smells and sounds associated with the event.
Surprisingly, quite a few of them who had seen me enjoying my moment in the sun also seem to remember it quite well, and have since shared it with their spouses and children.
It happened long ago. Few people wielded the camera then. Yet, special moments of the privileged were captured on camera. Since they were far and few, they attained the status of precious family and national heirlooms. Today, technology has made photographing a cake walk. However, we must remember that if we spend all the time behind the lens, we may not have memories attached to them when we look at them at a later date. Let us not miss the woods for the trees.
We are living in times when most people refrain from or at least think twice before helping one another. People, who do help, fall into two categories. One set of them help in the hope of reaping returns later. Another set of people are Samaritans for whom helping is their second nature.
The Samaritans’ natural instinct to help is often exploited by the people who are at the receiving end of the good deed.This lopsided equation leaves the helper braving the brunt of his action, while the receiver is sometimes not even sensitive to the fact that he has plucked his benefactor to the bones. A tale from the Upanishads elaborates the different dimensions of unquestioning helping nature and its impact on the helper.
Once, the Devas decided to perform a Maha Yajna. Protocol dictated them to abstain from possessing arms during this spiritual activity.They requested sage Dadheechi to become the caretaker of their valued possessions. The sage, who led an altruistic life, did not want to get involved. The Devas impressed upon the sage that their rivals would never dare to incur the curse of the sage at any cost.
Dadheechi understood the magnitude and might of the weapons, so he took up the responsibility of safeguarding the same. The Devas completed the Yajna successfully, but did not come back for the weapons. Meanwhile, Dadheechi found it difficult to concentrate on his penance because of this liability. He liquefied the lethal weapons and consumed them.
Several years later, the Devas felt the need for weapons when they were badgered by Vritrasura. When Indra, their leader, came to know that the weapons lay in the bones of the sage, he realised that he could retrieve them only when the sage passes away. Indra did not hesitate to request Dadheechi for the bones, because his need was urgent.
Dadheechi understood the emergency. He gave up his life to honour his promise. Indra created the infallible Vajrayudha using the bones of the sage and slayed his enemy. Dadheechi immortalised the concept of selflessness with his deed.
Helping one another is the only way forward. However, the helped must be conscious not to bleed the helper white and push him to a state of helplessness.
It so happened that a polyglot visited the court of Sri Krishnadevaraya. He told the king that he could read, write and speak impeccably in 18 languages. He challenged the scholars of the court and asked them to identify his mother tongue.
Scholars in various languages were summoned and were asked to hold a dialogue with the guest. Each one of them had a personal interview with the said scholar. They found for themselves that the multilinguist was claiming nothing but the truth. Yet, the challenge was a matter of prestige to the reigning king. He turned to his intelligent court jester Tenali Rama to find a solution.
Accordingly, Tenali Rama waited for the scholar to retire for the night. When the polyglot was in deep slumber, Tenali Rama threw some cold water over him. Almost immediately the shocked sleeping man awoke and shouted. “evarura waadu?” Tenali Rama sneaked away from the scene only to tell the king that the mother tongue of the scholar happened to be Telugu.
This little story is a pointer to the fact that no matter how many languages we might learn and master in life, our mother tongue stands supreme and foremost for it is embedded in our psyche ever since the day we are born.
We learn our mother tongue from our parents and immediate family and neighbours in the aural or shravana mode. We are never sensitised to any aspect of grammar when we learn our tongue. We grasp aspects of syntax, vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation merely by being exposed to it day after day throughout the formative years of our life.
Despite all this, most urban Indian children have lost sight of their mother tongues. Mixed marriages, nuclear families, the need to study in schools of different medium due to relocation of families from their native places can be identified as root cause of this trend.
India is a country of several such languages, most of which are still alive. We can interpret our glorious literature, tradition, culture, arts and architecture better because they share an invisible link with the associated language. A little effort and utilisation of modern technology and media coupled with human effort can keep the link to languages alive and pass them on to posterity.
One cannot simply miss the terracotta images of gigantic Ganeshas peering through transparent polythene sheets serving as rain protection, lining the highways leading to the city and the main market places. Smaller versions of the lord and his mother goddess Gowri flank the bigger images. It is interesting to note that quite a lot of them are in earthy colours, with a glint of gold in places. They have been made by conscientious artists and will be bought by likeminded devotees whose hearts beat to the rhythm of nature. The online portals and niche studios that make and sell eco friendly Ganeshas had their order books completed several weeks ago. More and more people celebrating the festival publicly and privately are clearly responding to the cause of mother earth. It is heartening to note that little communities and social groups are coming together and working on sustainable solutions that can take care of the disposal of festive waste and the customary immersion of the idol post festival without wreaking havoc on our already overburdened lakes and ponds.
Well begun is half done! Looks like years of green campaign by the earnest are beginning to bear fruit albeit sporadically. The recent rains which flooded our cities over have also given a very clear signal that if we fail to take cognizance of violating the basic rules of nature, we must also be ready to face nasty surprises.
For those of us who are still not very convinced about all the furor over using idols that have been fired and painted gaily in toxic colours, we must realize that these idols run colour for a long time. The chemical nature of the dyes used may dissolve in water but not before first polluting it and taking a toll on the life of the fish and other creatures in the tank. Then the idol will take an extremely long time to disintegrate and disperse in water. Even the idols which use coir or hay as skeletal system to give it shape take quite as long too. The residual clay will enhance the silt layer of the water body. It will in turn enhance the height of the lakebed and become instrumental in rising water levels and consequent overflow of water during rains. Then there will be really no point in wondering how, the very Ganesha whom we worshipped reverently made life miserable for us.
An episode from Nilakanta Vijayam underlines the importance and divinity of eco friendly worship. Indra the lord of gods never failed to venerate the deities at the dawn of each day. He would complete his ablutions and then collect a handful of fresh flowers before making a beeline to the banks of the celestial river Ganga in the heavens. Then he would carefully select a couple of rounded pebbles for worship, clean them thoroughly and place them on the sands along the rippling waterline. Then he would offer his prayers and floral tribute reverentially to those little stones (saligrama). Once done, he would return the pebbles to the water, (quite on the lines of how we immerse Ganeshas today) and go his way only to repeat the process the following day.
Now Indra the lord of Gods as we all know had everyone and everything at his beck and call. If he wanted to, he could have availed the most precious of resources to conduct his daily worship. Nevertheless he chose to pick pebbles from the river and return the same to its source the very same day. By doing so, he ensured that he did not disturb the natural order of things to display his devotion or faith. When the lord of gods can abstain from exploiting nature to express his faith, can we not?
This year around, let us ensure a pollution free Ganesha Chathurthi, filled with faith and lots of fun and the one that we will remember to be a model worth emulating in the years to come!
The written word has a charm of its own. It is not merely what is available on the Internet and in media and books. Sign posts, menu cards, brochures, pamphlets and billboards, bloopers and unintended puns have the power to lighten many a heart with their original content and humour. However, I would like to dwell on another genre of writing that has grabbed my attention on and off. Though I have come across many such nuggets, the following take the cake…
A Xerox shop had put up a new price list. Alongside was another sheet of paper that read, ‘We are not responsible for the pricing. If you have any complaints, please approach the CM or PM.’ The smart man had zeroed in on the real culprits who could be blamed for the inflation. The writing on the wall discreetly encouraged the customer to give the matter some thought while discouraging the potential customer from questioning the cost.
Then there was this message on a sheet of paper stuck on the front glass of a large car: ‘Kindly park your car properly or we will punkcher your tyre.’ The car was not moved. Overnight there was an addendum to the note: ‘I mean puncture,’ in block letters. I could sense the despair of the scribe who felt that there was no response to the memo because he had misspelt his threat. I also observed the change in the use of the first-person pronoun from plural to singular. In the coming days, the car was parked ‘properly’, without inviting more such nag notes.
Another time, a sheet of paper stuck on the elevator door read, ‘Please don’t press 2, dead end.’ I could not figure out the import. A staff member explained that the general entrance to the second floor had been sealed off because it had an internal lift that connected the first and the second floors. Therefore, if people did stop at the second floor, the door, which was still operable, would open to a wall that sealed the entrance. I understood the good intention and the dark humour behind the cautionary words.
I cannot forget another such piece of writing taped over a young neem tree. ‘You will not prosper if you use the leaves of this tree.’ According to the grapevine, the sapling had been planted by a green enthusiast only the previous year. The locals had helped themselves to every leaf that sprouted, for medicinal purposes. The tree had survived the onslaught and had unfurled its green umbrella the following spring. It was Ugadi and there was every chance of the neighbours stripping the sapling to its scrawny branches, hence the warning. The tree lover had cashed in on the power of curse to play mind games on the people who may be tempted to relieve the tree of its leaves.
These and many such memoranda that are laced with humour happen to be insightful. They reflect the genuine intent to communicate effectively and honestly. They mirror the feelings of disgust, anxiety or disapproval. They also testify the fact that the scribes of these notes have possibly failed to express their thoughts orally. They could have been timid, may have wanted to avoid open confrontation resulting in embarrassment or unpleasantness, or, they may have believed more in the power of the written word. Yet, the fact remains that they are generally put up with the expectation of seeing desired results. Oftentimes, these gems of prudence are written in English, albeit with some creative liberties taken with the Queen’s language, with the hope of reaching out to a larger number of people.
If it has not been already done, these cryptic notes can be compiled, analysed and studied. They will throw light on the human mindset, lifestyle, and thought processes of our contemporary society.
The Nightingales Medical Trust and The Nightingales Elder’s Enrichment Centre, had their 16th Anniversary Celebration in style last December. They not only bid 2015 a jolly goodbye, they also celebrated the various skills the senior club members had to offer with music and dance. S Radha Prathi sent us this writeup about this versatile and talented show by senior citizens.
Namma Bengaluru just proved that it has not lost its knack for springing its pleasant surprises on us in the most unexpected ways. Even as people resolved to attach the epithet Pensioner’s paradise to good old Bangalore, Nightingales Elders Enrichment Centres (NEEC) gently prompted its denizens to reconsider the old title. Accordingly, the members of the Malleswaram branch decided to have a gala time on the second Saturday of the last month of 2015. It was the sixteenth year of their collective identity. When they looked further north they sighted their two year old sibling branch in Sanjay Nagar whose members were also working towards making a statement of their existence. It did not
take long for the wise old souls to realize that more the merrier would make a more meaningful phrase if they came together. After all, the guiding spirit of the clubs is the same. NEEC serves as a haven to those who care to register themselves as its members to keep them engaged, educated, updated and entertained right round the year. The club has made it a point to culminate each such vibrant year by celebrating an annual day. The fact that they ensure that they make it the crowning glory of the year has now become a tradition unto itself.
This year around, they decided to gather at Seva Sadan at Malleswaram around mid morning and showcase their variegated and vintage talents. If it was a treat to the senses to watch them display their skills in Yoga or Tai Chi, sing, dance, play act and spoof creatively, the take away was homework for our minds and mindset. For all of us, who are under the impression that old age is a curse of sorts, beset by aches and pains and deteriorating strength, the show was stimulating. Do not for a moment think that all these glittering stars on the stage are blessed souls without a care in life. On the contrary they happen to be sensible souls who know how to put behind the setbacks of life and put their best foot forward to make life pleasant for themselves and those around them. The fact that they had meticulously planned, practised and played out their program with utmost enthusiasm and sincerity spoke in volumes about the wondrous qualities of sincerity and passion which must have been the guiding forces of their lives. Dedication and determination came through the veneer of the light heartedness displayed on stage in each and every piece. That was not all; while the souvenir brought out on the occasion celebrated their cerebral capabilities, the sumptuous lunch enjoyed at the end of the function gave a glimpse of the gourmets who had nurtured a fine taste for all the beautiful gifts that life has to offer.
The fun filled full house, the fanfare and the feverish fervor that ruled the day was fittingly presided over by its founder members Dr Radha S Murthy and S Prem Kumar Raja who had dreamed it all up for them. May their tribe increase manifold!
If you are a senior citizen who wishes to join the Nightingales Elders Enrichment Centre, visit: