Nourishing Neem


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It is impossible to pass an unworshipped neem tree, especially in rural India. Neem tree, also famously known as sarva roga nivarini, has proven to be a sure panacea for many physical problems. Here are the many benefits of neem:

Chewing a couple of tender neem leaves can deworm your stomach, help you recuperate from jaundice, and also help in regulating blood sugar. It can also treat mouth ulcers, bleeding sore gums, and can prevent tooth decay.

Regular intake of neem leaves after meals regulates your digestive system, and can also get rid of psoriasis.

Consuming tender neem sprouts or capsules for a fortnight to a month can detoxify the body and strengthen the immune system. A healthier immune system helps your body in fighting off many illness and diseases.

When a paste made of neem leaves mixed with coconut oil and turmeric powder is applied to the face and washed off after an hour, it can leave it glowing.

Regular consumption of tender neem leaves can help you deal with fever, cough, aches and pains, sore throat, fatigue and nasal congestion.

Make your own insecticide by making little cloth bags of dried neem leaves and leave it in your provisions, clothes cupboards and bookshelves.

Bacterial infections in the nasal passages and respiratory system can be decreased by inhaling steam from boiling the leaves with a drop of eucalyptus oil.

This neem tree was outside our home.

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Beating Retreat


Published in School Edition of Deccan herald on 29th January 2019

Most of us are very particular about beginnings. We take all the care to begin well because we know that “Well begun is Half Done”. The care and the interest we have at the commencement of a project somehow takes a back seat when we reach the end of the road. If you are still wondering what I am talking about, just have a look at the first pages of your notebooks and the page in which you are writing presently, you can see the setting in of carelessness. On the other hand, if you find that you have improved on yourself, you are on the right track. If you maintain the neatness and enthusiasm till the end, you can be sure that you have all the qualities that are the hall mark of successful people. Yes! Conclusions are as important beginnings.

All of you must have seen or at least heard about the elaborate celebrations of Republic Day in Delhi. The humungous amount of effort that has gone into organising an event of that scale goes without saying. However, how many of you are aware that our nation has the proud heritage of winding up this event with equal elan?

The conclusion of Republic Day festivities known as Beating Retreat  is conducted three days after the big day which falls on  29th of   January every year.  The Indian Army, Navy and Air Force are joined by the Central Armed Police Forces and the Delhi Police and they march in Vijay Chowk which is close to the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

The Chief Guest of the function is always the President of India. This year when our president Ram Nath Kovind arrives his bodyguards the trumpeters will herald his arrival. The function will commence with the hoisting of our tricoloured and the playing of our  National Anthem. Then a grand march will ensue and the ceremonies will be declared closed officially.

Did you know that the ceremonious conclusion of our Republic Day festivities happens to be a direct rip off of the British tradition? As usual we have given it our unique Indian touch and made it wholly ours.

The ceremony was designed by Major G.A.Roberts a British national in the year 1950. Jawaharlal Nehru the first prime minister of India was keen to impress our colonisers with the grandeur of our land and our prowess. He delegated Major Roberts to come up with a spectacular event for the Queens visit. That is when Beating Retreat came into being. It also became a showcase of our strengths making the leaders of other countries think twice before taking us for granted.  Thereafter it became an official ceremony year after year where our president and a special invitee usually the head of another country inspect the grand march.  Our guest list shows that we have honoured rich and poor, strong and weak, friendly and unfriendly countries alike. According to the records listed in Wikipedia, thus far we have missed out on having invited guests only three times 1952, 1953 and 1966.

Did you know that the average Indian citizen can buy tickets for this event which is priced from Rupees twenty to Rupees five hundred. In fact our government has made arrangements for people to pay and watch the rehearsals also just in case they are busy otherwise on the 29th of January. For those of us who do not live in the national capital we can watch the ceremony from the comfort of our homes either on television or the website.

Sankranthi Shopping


Published in student edition of Deccan Herald dated 14th January 2019

The ushering in of the “Uttarayana Punyakala” popularly known as Sankranthi, is feted variously across the Indian continent. Yet the concept of the celebration is much the same across the nation. The largely agrarian population is glad that the hard winter days are coming to an end and it is time for them to reap the well deserved harvest of their sweat and toil.

Sankranthi times in our country invariably spell a lot of prayer, fervour and joy not necessarily in that order. The thought of breaking away from the normal routine of life and indulging in a faithful and felicitous celebrations have kept the Indian race on their toes. Preparations for festivals begin days ahead of the red lettered day in order to gear up for the occasion.

Long ago, when supermarkets and malls had still not caught up with large sections Indian population, the barter system was the order of the day. People seemed to personify the essence of Khalil Gibran’s thought process when he said,

“To you the earth yields her fruit and you shall not want if you but know how to fill your hands.

It is in exchanging the gifts of the earth that you shall find abundance and be satisfied.”

Farmers generally harvest sugarcane, rice, wheat and a couple of pulses besides a variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables during this season. In the past they would take stock of their resources and utilize their excesses to get themselves their requisite necessities. Over a period of time bartering gave way to small time trading when people used to sell their goods and buy the things they needed. Usually they indulged in spending their money at wholesale markets which offered them the best bargains.

Then, just like everything else in life the process of shopping metamorphosed from the friendly neighbourhood kirana shops to departmental stores, supermarkets and eventually to massive mall which claim to sell wares for all your needs under one roof.

Though the method of shopping for our needs, comforts and luxuries has come a long way from the days we bartered to the present day credit card culture, the concept of shopping is pretty much the same. There was a time when the ladies of the house would forgo their siestas at least a fortnight before Sankranthi to organise themselves for the big day. They had to shell and roast peanuts, gram and gingelly seeds, slice copra, granulate jaggery and fashion cubes and dolls from sugar syrup and stock them up to be distributed among friends and relatives on the day of the festival.

These days working women in cities find time scarce to indulge in the long drawn process. This certainly does not mean that people do not celebrate the festival in the traditional manner anymore. The milling crowds in the markets and malls during festival season selling the quintessential “ellu bella” in neat packets or little boxes besides variously crafted sugar cubes and dolls is proof enough that tradition is very much alive. If one is willing to shell out a little more money one can actually place orders for customized products which even include neatly chopped sugarcane sticks. Similarly, if one is running short of time or simply does not feel like cooking up an orgy, a horde of restaurants, food courts and smalltime catering units cook and serve the customary Pongal, vada along with the conventional fare.

People shop for the specific needs of the festival besides picking up clothes, furniture, electronic appliances or anything else they fancy during these times as shrewd retailers and dealers cash in on the sentiments of the people by offering discounts, freebies and exchange offers.

This changing trend which has retained the core value of the festivities has been possible because the average Indian likes to be rooted to his culture but does not quite mind the idea of using modern facilities and technology to serve his purpose. Happy Sankranthi!

The Ubiquitous Protector


http://www.deccanherald.com/content/659033/ubiquitous-protector.html

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?

Sky is the Limit For Unshackled Women


http://www.deccanherald.com/content/600038/sky-limit-unshackled-women.html

The world of women has always been oscillating, especially in our sub-continent. Recorded history and sociology vouch for the fact that women were enlightened and emancipated in the best possible manner in the early Vedic ages. Conditions regressed in the later periods, only to deteriorate steadily. Women were weaned from the right to education, equality, economics and even dignity.

Foreign invasions and inland political insecurities which prompted the use of the purdah system caught on to the point of shrouding our sisters in some parts of the country till date.

Dowry system which was paved with the intention of passing on the rightful fraction of the family heirlooms and property took demonic proportions which started smouldering and singeing young women in their marriages. The rigid caste system, polygamy and the system of honour killing almost decimated the status of women to non-entities.

Our society slowly fell into a decadent pattern that proved to be a dreadful nightmare for women in particular. So much so that even five centuries ago, there were formulae for bringing up children. A separate set of rules for sons and daughters. By the time they were responsible young adults, they were prepared to slip into their slots and play their part within and outside their households. This methodology worked quite well through several centuries.

Several centuries later, the fairer sex stepped out of their hearths and homes pursuing education and professions. They did face teething problems till they emerged successfully. Then the trend became an accepted norm.

Young women blossomed at every given opportunity while their less accomplished sisters experienced the much needed exposure. This encouraged them to dream for a bigger platform for their daughters. If this phenomenon of getting better with each passing generation were to become a reality, then the world we live in will transform into Utopia.

Alas such is not the case. Parenting has become a challenge. Despite all the talks and convictions about creating a level playing ground for children of either gender, the harsh truth remains contrary. To be fair to parents of our sub-continent, many of them do walk their talk. There are lakhs of couples who have parented only one girl child and have helped her achieve wisely and well. Yet, sadly the fact remains that many of these young women are considered to be round pegs in square holes because the world at large openly or secretly consider them to be second class citizens.

Freedom for girl child

More than ever, there is a serious threat to the security and freedom of the girl child, especially in urban set ups. We are living in times where stories of molestation, rape and the fairer sex being subjected to indignities have started making headlines almost on a daily basis. While rationalists would like to smother this news content as the hype created by media, we must also remember that there can be no smoke without fire.

Let us face facts, looks like we have reached a stage where debauchery has begun to become a byword in our country. At one glance it is obvious that there is something essentially wrong in the way we bring up our children. It is not just about gender inequality which begins at the foetal stage.

The health and education sectors which make a staple contribution during the formative years wallow in corruption. The families and immediate society which moulds the child’s thinking and shapes its character unthinkingly imposes its biased convictions and baseless theories which undermine its personality in the long run.

Intrinsic human values like truth and compassion have given way to superficiality and wanton display of materialism. Certificates and documents have substituted learning and imbibing knowledge. The global village which leaves us spoilt for choices have made us blind to the positive qualities of our vicinity. There seems to be no censor over the entertainment sector which is dishing out brain candy and promoting medieval beliefs and superstitions. The scenario is bleak.

Despite this drawback, it is heartening to note that quite a decent number of the fairer sex in our cities have not only managed to survive but also thrive. If women can stand up against all odds and prove their mettle, just imagine, how much more they can achieve if they are unshackled of obstacles? The sky will be the limit!

New Age Challenges of Teaching Undergrads


http://www.deccanherald.com/content/587593/challenge-teaching-age-undergrads.html

By S Radha Prathi, Dec 21, 2016,

Teaching at the undergraduate level is increasingly becoming a challenge even to the most enterprising, enthusiastic and experienced of teachers these days. Barring a handful of undergraduates, most students are hardly ever interested in the course. For most urban youth, it is a passage of rite to be fulfilled before they enter the world at large to pursue their vocations, businesses, jobs or personal lives.

Lecturers and professors both old and young who had gathered at a national seminar seemed to be speaking in one voice on their pet subjects. They began with the most sacred ritual of marking attendance which gains sacrosanct dimensions especially towards the end of the academic year.

The UGC insists on a minimum of 75% attendance requirement before taking up the prescribed examinations from time to time. Every student who falls short of the mark, unable to get a proxy or have the means to circumvent the problem, makes it a point to be there towards the end.

These students add to the nuisance value in the classroom because they are unaware of what is transpiring in the room and that naturally keeps them diverted. Interestingly, they are the ones who come up with ideas of having special classes in a bid to step up their attendance quotient.

These days, the courts stand testimony to the increasing numbers of affidavits filed by erring students suing colleges for depriving them of the attendance that would have enabled them to take up examinations.

Attendance has been boiled down to the level of being physically present in the campus. Never mind if you are late, distracted or have misbehaved in the lecture hall. A couple of medical certificates and wedding cards genuine or otherwise have the powers to set matters right.

Neither the students nor their parents seem to be unduly worried about the learning curve that could have shot up if discipline and diligence were employed. This act  is nothing but a sterling example of how colleges inadvertently nurture downright carelessness laced with rudeness which gains legal validation because of obscure processing.

Gone are the days when lectures were interrupted by garrulous youth and giggly girls who indulged in small talk or biting into a morsel of food during the serious hour. These days they are otherwise occupied checking or sending messages on their cell phones, that is if they are not playing or shopping.

If they are asked to deposit their instruments outside before a guest lecture, each one will take their own sweet time to make “suitable arrangements” before taking leave of their external organ for an hour or two.

Internet age
Taking down lecture notes is passé, because graduating youngsters believe that everything worth learning can be found on the internet. Necessary course material can always be bought, photocopied, scanned or stolen if necessary. Most pupils are not interested when there are relevant digressions from the topic because they do not figure in the scheme of the portions prescribed for examinations.

On the one hand, they want to be treated like adults when reprimanded for permissive public behaviour; on the other, they want to be spoon fed with the exact mark allotment for each question.

It is ironical to note that the youth of the world which believes in worldwide networking do not make an attempt to see the interrelated nature of subjects which can go a long way in shaping them as sensible and sensitive global citizens.
The harsh truth is students no longer learn to gain knowledge but to earn degrees. They attend college for the frivolous social ambience and not for getting a panoramic on various subjects. Politics, groupies and sectarian views have substituted the secular outlook.

Examinations, mark sheets and certificates have become passports to the first jobs which are usually procured through campus interviews. Hence, it is no wonder students are becoming increasingly removed from the teacher-taught equation. They have forgotten that being a graduate is not about procuring document, it is about graduating to a higher phase in life and emerging as a better human being who has some expertise over the chosen subject.

Matters will improve only if we are able to instill a love for learning in the young or just devalue degrees of the ones who do not measure up to display basic knowledge of the chosen subject and show evidence of etiquettes demanded of a graduate.

Improve Quality of Living in Villages


http://www.deccanherald.com/content/574083/improve-quality-living-villages.html

Urban India has undergone a sea of change over the decades. A little more than half a century ago, industrialisation beckoned to a large number of people from small towns and villages to shift to the happening cities. Cities welcomed youngsters who were barely out of schools and colleges with open arms. They established their families, educated their children, bought property and built their homes. The vast expanses of urban land were occupied. Satellite townships were absorbed to expand cities and everything seemed to fall into place. Thus the great Indian middle class came into being when the migrants decided to settle down in their second home for good.

But, the success and the relative comfort of the city dwellers as against their country cousins proved to be the thorn in the bush. More and more agrarians who were working hard for a pittance and their landowners who found themselves at the mercy of erratic rainfall looked citywards.

The innumerable job opportunities for the unlettered as the support system of the city to help it function smoothly, translated as secure salaried jobs for them and a better future for their kids. They came in broods from all over and occupied the nooks and crannies of the cities and looked forward to making it big or at least reasonably sustainable. Though their skills were limited, their willingness to learn and work hard for a living stood by them. And today, the second generation of the working class has proved that the speculation of their parents hit the bull’s eye.

They have been educated in English medium schools and colleges and many of them have landed jobs as  drivers, mechanics, electricians, clerks, accountants and many have even been absorbed in white collar jobs.  Quite a few have managed to clear loans, buy a little gold and build homes for themselves.

Millions of such people who have migrated to the cities in search of greener pastures have no doubt found the experience enriching in more ways than one. Yet the price that they have had to pay is humongous. They have embraced a way of life very different from their own. They have battled against variance in ideologies, language, culture and ethos and have come to terms with them without ado. They have been removed from their families and communities. They have even lost touch with Mother Nature in the bargain.

One is likely to think that the merging of the rural and urban populace would have happened over a period of time and must have helped the city that has sheltered and supported them to progress in a healthy way. Yet, the picture is quite to the contrary.

Contemporary picture
If one were to present a contemporary picture of Indian cities, it is likely to be uniform across the length and breadth of the country. We are riddled by a large population, pollution of every sort, concrete jungles, garbage and traffic jams — not necessarily in that order. There is a definite line of demarcation that separates natives and migrants socially, economically, politically, educationally and emotionally.

Yet these setbacks have not discouraged mass migration from villages to the cities.
The people who come in search of better prospects know that they have to stretch resources like housing, water, electricity, sanitation, transport among other things till they become threadbare. They are acutely aware that one of the reasons for pseudo inflation is the inverse relationship between demand and supply.

The other obvious reason is, there are not too many hands toiling away and growing food for those of us who are willing to buy them. Yet, these factors do not seem to deter hopefuls from making a beeline to the cities.

The Indian cities are bursting at their seams and are presently witless to deal with fresh onslaughts like dealing with rain woes, overflowing garbage, increased power cuts and traffic jams.

The only way out of this syndrome is to step up the quality of living in our innumerable villages. The government does not really have to do much on this count, except encourage entrepreneurs to establish their industries in and around the villages. Housing, transportation, communication and attendant facilities will follow automatically.

As for the ever growing cities, its population should be persuaded to take up terrace gardening, rain water harvesting, solar lighting and garbage management in right earnest. Only then shall the twain meet!