Spirit of Festivals


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The Indian calendar has a good number of red-letter days marking festivals of social, religious and national importance. These special days help us to rejuvenate the bonding amongst the people we are associated with on a daily basis.

So, Sankranthi is our friendship day when we distribute sesame seeds and jaggery to seal our amity, Raksha Bandhan rejuvenates sibling bonding, Karva Chauth reinforces marital ties, Navarathri celebrates women power for nine days etc. Besides, each of these festivals serve as renewals as they remind us of the triumph of good over evil. Not to mention the birthdays of gods and feasts to earmark other occasions. In other words, these festivities highlight the significance of forging strong and harmonious bonds amongst family members and society at large.

Festivals possibly gained a lot of importance in the subcontinent because of its multi-dimensional values. We have rituals and worship, family and community bonding, regional and seasonal food carnivals which can be a gourmet’s dream, exhibition of talents by way of fine arts like dance and music on the one hand and arts and crafts on the other. Besides, local economy gets a boost as it encourages people to spend freely and stand them in good stead when they make investments. Moreover, these occasions double up as much-wanted breaks from the daily grind and uplift our spirits.

Our ancestors realised that growing up in a healthy family atmosphere is a must for all individuals. They also believed in leading by example. They were aware children imbibe much more by imitation rather than being preached to. Kids pick up their basic characteristics of caring, sharing, being fun loving, adjustable and understanding in their homes and they learn to cope with jealousy, competition and tragedy amongst their loved ones.

This is a time-tested truth approved by psychologists. It is a proven fact that the people who attach value to the family structure strive to do well compared to their counterparts who think otherwise.

They have a drive to achieve laurels not only for themselves but also want to credit their folks with their accomplishments.

If we remember that each celebration can revive us physically, spiritually and mentally, our lives can become more meaningful.

 

 

 

 

Eco friendly is the Way Forward -Ganesha Chathurthi


3rd September 2016

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!

With Renewed Zest


 

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cared for Smiling faces at Nightingales Elders Enrichment Centre, Bengaluru;

It is said that a well meaning gift given with warmth has the penchant to grow on you.  Namma Bengaluru received one such Christmas gift in circa 1999. Dr Radha Murthy realized the need for Home Health Services when she had to straddle between tending to her sick husband and attend to her thriving medical career. She decided to take a leaf off her personal necessity to provide a common ground for the aging people of our metropolis. Mr Prem Kumar Raja joined hands with her towards this noble cause and Nightingale Elder Enrichment Center –NEEC was born.

This nonprofit organization was very focused about its approach towards eldercare not to be misinterpreted as an old age home. On the one hand NEEC decided to provide home healthcare facilities where warranted and on the other hand they decided to redeem the elderly from ennui and detrimental preoccupations. A group of earnest volunteers who chose to support the idea worked hard on the concept and decided that they would steer clear from the club culture. As a result, NEEC is doing a splendid job in joining hands with loving families who are constantly on the lookout to keep the elders of their homes entertained, socially involved. The organisation sometimes takes up the responsibility of taking care of them if the family is away on a vacation or is unable to take care of a convalescing senior citizen for some reason.  Nevertheless, its main focus revolves around making it an elevating experience for the elderly on a day to day basis.

What started as a pilot venture in Malleswaram (1999) has blossomed as a vibrant teenager, all of sixteen years with aged members who can give a stiff competition to real life teenagers in terms of verve and a zeal for life. Members meet just about on all working days, sometimes twice a day, not merely to hobnob but to participate in the various activities charted out for them. They listen to varied genres of music, share their thoughts and cast their rebuttals when they listen to lectures on a spectrum of subjects from experts, have chat sessions on happenings around the world, play a round of carom or chess, work on crafts and projects, exercise themselves through Yoga or Tai Chi, bounce a ball around besides sharing their experiences and concerns with one another.

Celebration of Raksha Bandhan, Diwali and Pongal help to bring out the integrated flavour of the festivals including the special features across India. Celebrations of birthdays and wedding anniversaries pep up the elders to have fun with their peer group. An occasional picnic, movie or a play, rejuvenate them to tackle with routine life with renewed vigour. Attending a wedding or a function together help them bond better. Comforting fellow members and their families during illnesses and consoling them when in bereavement improve their empathy factor.

Vasantha Murthy, retired principal of Government college in Andhra Pradesh, says, “Ever since I joined nightingales, 16 years ago, it has been a great support for me emotionally.  I have had many downfalls but the fact that I am what I am today is because of Nightingales.  The physical space or the ambience may not be attractive but sharing our feelings and nostalgic moments with people of my generation makes me feel good.”

Shaila Shanker, one of the center managers say that her hands are always full and happily so when she is working for NEEC for she ends up learning so many things even while casually chatting up the members.

The fact that many of them have been able to overcome depression and detrimental diseases like Dementia and Alzheimers almost as a side effect of their enriching exposure speaks in volumes about the success of NEEC.

Constant additions of branches speaks in volumes about the validity of its existence. Kasturi Nagar welcomed NEEC with open arms in 2000 and Sanjay Nagar refused to be left behind and started   its own branch in 2013. Each branch has its own flavour, favourite pastimes and friends’ groups who manage and run the center on a very modest monthly contribution of Rs 250.

NEEC has so much to offer, yet is finding it difficult to cope with the rising demand for trained caretakers. A mix of locals and relocated senior citizens happens to be another challenge because there are so few centers and too many takers. Lack of space, accessibility and mobility has thrown in a wet towel to a promising initiative.

The need of the hour is to encourage the elders in the house to go out and interact with people who belong to their age group. This exercise will help them let off steam, exchange and compare notes, enjoy and help one another, and most of all make them realize the constraints of the changing world. NEEC has made all this possible, if we expect the yeoman services blossom and continue to spread its good work we must address the need of the hour. Hear Ye! Hear all! We need trained care givers and dedicated volunteers to run the show, and yes some space please!
For more details, visit http://www.nightingaleseldercare.com or call 080-42426565.

Of Festive Cheer And New Hope


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FRESH START: Flowers are, inarguably, among the best decor elements in a home.

Mark the first day of the New Year by giving your home a fresh makeover with floral arrangements, intricate toranas and artful decor elements. Radha Prathi tells you how

Can you imagine a world without festivals? Or a home without celebrations? There would be no home decoration tasks, no meals to feast upon and no bonding opportunities. Decor-wise, festivals offer a good excuse for some spring cleaning and bringing in new elements to your home. Every abode gets a moderate, if not grand, makeover and a new lease of life. The old goes out and makes way for the new. By doing away with clutter, we create a perfect space for happiness and serenity.

Today, as we celebrate Ugadi, it’s good to remember why, traditionally, homes have been spotlessly dusted, scrubbed, cleaned and spruced up to welcome the New Year. The ornate rangoli at every doorstep, beautiful toranas of lush green mango and neem leaves, the floral designs — all represent the festive spirit in its truest sense.

The joy of sharing

So, you have been busy with work and family responsibilities, and don’t have much time to spruce up your home for the much-awaited festival? Don’t worry. You don’t need to bring down the walls or go shopping for the latest decor trends. All you really need is the some basic essentials and your home is ready to welcome the new year in style!

The most important aspect of any decor makeover is decluttering. Don’t take up the mammoth task on yourself; involve your family members too. Make every family member responsible for their own stuff. Every member should take a realistic stock of his or her belongings and take a firm decision on what should stay and what should go. There is really no point in holding on to old clothes, toys, knick knacks, shoes or books that one has outgrown. Old curtains, bedspreads, electronic appliances, luggage items, cutlery items, containers et al. No matter what the article, please remember that there are many people out there who will be very happy to use your hand-me-downs.

So, just give them away to deserving individuals or charitable organisations.

Make a master timetable and allocate responsibilities of dusting, washing and cleaning to all your family members. Draw a list of things that can be recycled or need to be tailored, repaired, or are in want of new batteries, and delegate responsibilities. If you do stick to the schedule today, then be rest assured that your home will always be squeaky clean and tastefully done through the year.

Then comes the decoration aspect. If you find it cumbersome to draw a fresh rangoli outside your home every day, but at the same time hate the idea of using stickers, it’s a good alternative to draw your favourite design with a chalk and paint along the lines with colourful acrylic paints of your choice. This way, your home will always sport a traditional look throughout the year.

How about welcoming your guests with a big ‘Happy Ugadi’ sign written in colourful chalk at the entrance of your home? You can also do the same in your balcony, porch or living room. Get the kids to place flowers and mango leaves around the writing. This way, you will not only give a flowery welcome to the year, but also offer the young ones a wonderful opportunity to learn about their culture and traditions. In the evening, you can transform the same setup with some tea-light candles or diyas. Nothing like some beautiful lights to bring in the festive cheer!

Another idea is to look through your cupboards for old photo albums and select pictures that were taken during Ugadi and make a collage. This exercise will not only trigger a trip down memory lane, but also serve as a conversation starter when you have visitors at home during this festive season.

Saying it with flowers

Flowers are, inarguably, among the best decor elements one could ask for in a home. So, arrange some seasonal flowers in beautiful shapes in different corners of your home. Alternately, you could fill large terracotta or brass bowls with water, add a drop of rose essence, essential oil or eau de cologne and throw in some flower petals. Add some floating candles for instant illumination.

Every festival is marked with delicious and lavish meals. But why should only one person slog in the kitchen? This year, you could use this opportunity to bring your entire family together for ‘Project Ugadi Cooking’. Assign different tasks to all family members and enjoy the bonding that is sure to ensue.

One of the best things you can do this New Year is decide to grow a green thumb. Even if you have some potted plants in and around your home, there’s every reason to get some more this Ugadi. In case you are not sure how to go about it, read up on the Internet or consult your neighbourhood nursery. A green patch around your home will always add to its aesthetic appeal. And a greener world is the need of the hour.

It’s time to welcome the New Year with renewed hope in your heart and festive ambience at home. Happy Ugadi!

Welcome To A New Beginning


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Radha Prathi, March 20, 2015, DHNS

Start the traditional new year with some decorative ideas to help take the rut out of long-followed festival traditions, says Radha Prathi

Tomorrow will see a change in the Saturday routine of most families – some will wake up early – to offer special prayers, to cook sumptuous meals and welcome or visit dear ones. But more importantly, all these activities will be preceded by (from tonight, in all probability) a round of complete and thorough cleaning of the house. Why?

Because it is Ugadi, the new year and a new beginning. Traditional Indians who follow the lunar calendar are all set to celebrate their very own indigenous new year. Since we spend the best part of the day at home on this auspicious occasion, entertaining our dear ones, it is always a good idea to do up our space to earmark the festivities.

Even if you happen to be living in a gated community or apartment complex and choose to celebrate the festivals in the common community hall or basement, you can still create an amiable and traditional atmosphere, which will give a glimpse of our culture and creativity. Here are a few ideas that you can work upon this new year:The ground rule for any decor begins with cleaning up the premises thoroughly.

Take stock of items like photographs, wall clocks, curtains, bedspreads, cabinets, crockery, furniture, among other things, and rearrange them within your home. You can feel a sense of freshness by simply changing their locations in your surroundings. If you have a pile of unused gifts and new items, bring them out of hibernation and use them appropriately. This exercise will spread a positive energy for it will make you realise how loved you are, whenever you associate the articles with the person who presented it to you.

Rummage your closet and fish out the photographs taken on previous Ugadis or rare pictures of family and friends, and display them at vantage points. If you have one too many pictures, it will be a good idea to make a scrap board of them. Creating a nostalgic conversation piece can prove to be therapeutic.

Add some colour

A colourful rangoli at the doorstep and one in front of the deities is considered a must in our culture. We will be welcoming manmatha samvatsara this Ugadi. So you will do well to include the name of the year in a semicircular form at the head of the rangoli. If you are pressed for time or ability, use it to your advantage. Draw the outline of the writing and design with a chalk or a crayon.

This method will help you erase and make corrections as and when necessary. Fill the outlines and segments with flowers and leaves or food grains. Sea shells, sequins, shredded cloth waste can also be used alternately. Light some traditional diyas or fragrant tea light candles around the rangoli towards dusk to enhance the ambience.

Put up a traditional thorana of fresh mango leaves and bracket it with a bunch of neem leaves at your doorstep. Long lengths of marigold or artificial flowers can be used to drape the frame of the main door to enhance the festive look.

You could arrange flowers in vases and intersperse them between the pots. Or you could very simply stick little bunches of neem leaves in the wet soil of the pots for a change. If you have potted plants and shrubs, place them around the living area and outside the prayer room. You could trail serial lights over these plants. Stick lighted incense sticks in the pots. Not only will this exercise create a fragrant atmosphere, but also keep the mosquitoes at bay.

Lay out the food

The prasada and food items that are meant for sharing and distributing can be arranged tastefully, adding to the decor. Clear your dining table, push it against the wall for a day and use it as your decorative handyman. Place several bottles of drinking water and some trays along the wall.

Display you prized crystal or silverware or some fancy bowl by keeping the traditional bevu bella (neem and jaggery) in it. Sliced and serrated mango slices could be arranged like the petals of a flower around a little bowl consisting of salt and chilli powder. The holige could be folded as cones and placed one over other forming little conical pyramids.

Dishes like payasam, pachchadi and kosambari will look very appealing if stored in glass or silverware. Keep a bowl of cashew nuts ready so that you can dress your payasam every time you scoop some out. Do not forget to garnish the pachchadi and kosambari with curry leaves time and again. Paper cups and plates could be placed along the borders of the table.

Traditional tamboolam items can double up as Ugadi decor with a little imagination. Clear a table for this purpose. Instead of using a regular table cloth, bring out that lovely silk sari with intricate zari work and spread it over the table. Cover the sari with a clear plastic sheet so that it will not get stained or damaged. It is time to use your silver, crystal, brass or fancyware to keep haldi, kumkum, akshata, betel leaves, betel nuts, flowers, coconuts and fruits.

Arrange the items tastefully in floral patterns on large plates or trays in the order of their use. You could leave a couple of beautiful trays alongside. These items have a tendency to leave some dregs behind. Make sure that you wipe the tray every time before the next use. If you are planning to give gifts to your visitors, remember to wrap them in happy colours. And how about stacking them on the table?

Christmas Décor


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Christmas is round the corner.

If you have still not decided about the decoration for the coming event, here are a few eco-friendly and cost effective ideas to do up your place. Make sure that your attempt at beautifying gratifies all the senses.

Collect the outer leafy covers of maize and sort them out in terms of size. Bring out your water colours and brushes and streak the leafy covers in various hues and leave them to dry. Staple each whorl to the tip of the last whorl to desired lengths and hang them up as festoons.

Collect coconut husks and tear them apart with your fingers till they appear uniform in texture.

Spread them evenly on a newspaper. Bring out your turmeric or powdered food colours. Sprinkle the colour over the husk. Repeat the process with various colours of your choice. You can use the coloured husks as the flooring of the manger.

Bring out all the Xmas and New Year cards that you have received. Tie a string across the manger area and clip the cards on the string at equal intervals. You could fasten balloons in the gaps to add to the festive look. Bring out all the unused plastic water bottles and cut them in such a way that the conical part is separated from the rest.

Fill the cylindrical base with different coloured waters (use food colours or paints) and place them strategically in the main décor or as a border. Float multi-coloured sequins in them during the day and lighted candles in them during evenings.

When placing lit candles in open areas, place the conical section of the bottle sans the cap over them so that they serve as a unique transparent lampshade. Fill small plates with chocolates and toffees wrapped in bright colours as little mounds and place them between the candles. These can be given away to young guests and refilled from time to time.

If you have interesting pictures or posters relevant to the holiday season tape them onto the background wall tastefully.

Flower arrangement need not always translate into bouquets; buy a couple of yards of strung marigold or chrysanthemum which are likely to last for a couple of days in this weather and hang them as festoons. The smell of these flowers will keep the mosquitoes and flies away.

Light incense sticks and place them in potted plants, so that the ash can spill into the soil besides making the area fragrant.

Play soft instrumental music to please the ears while filling the home with harmony.