Musings on a Maidless Morning


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Every time our maid takes off without compunction or notice for valid and invalid reasons, I promise myself to buy myself an Alladin’s lamp. The genie would solve all my problems. However that has remained in the domains of wishful thinking till date. I have often wondered if the brainy Jeeves could materialize and shimmer in to do my chores with the same élan with which he helps his young master to sail out of troubles. Yet the mere memory of his subtly sly ways to achieve his agenda at any cost makes me think twice about my choice.

I remember what Letitia  Baldridge once said, “ When in doubt look what everyone else is doing.” Since I know that practically everyone in my radar is bearing crosses of different densities on maid miseries, I practically have nowhere to look.  So, I decided to travel down the aisles of history and literature and tried to figure out what has gone wrong collectively with our generation of employers of domestic help? Why is it that we are not able to awaken a spirit of loyalty amongst our helpers like our ancestors did?

We certainly do not expect the likes of the nursemaid like Panna Dhai who quietly replaced her own bundle of joy in the place of the baby prince in waiting of Mewar only to be killed mercilessly. Nor do we expect a reliable slave like Jamal ud din Yaqut who stood by Razia Sultana through thick and thin.  I am sure that none of us expect the cruel alacrity displayed by Malik Kafur in the movie Padmavat when he killed two royals in response to a question that was mouthed in half jest by his brand new master.

Following feudal system or enslaving individuals or practising bonded labour is completely unthinkable, for the law of the land forbids it. Movies, soap operas and novels which showcase “old faithfuls” do not seem to have inspired the blue collared lot, nor has all the entertainment been  able to educate employers on the secret of retaining employees successfully. Common sense quotients like regular increments, generous gifts, timely loans and advance payments do not seem to change their ideas of accountability.

House helps have become a tribe who can be loved or hated but can never be ignored. It will certainly do us a world of good when we accept that they are also people like us and they do need to take off. Never mind if they disappear way too often. So the long and short of it is to just figure out a way to function well in their absence. Then, watch out for Zen like calmness that will ensconce your person once you get into the Swalpa Adjust Madkoli mode!

 

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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Here’s Why You Should Go The PVC Way


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THE POWER OF PVC

By S.RADHA PRATHI

Abraham Lincoln once said that the best way to destroy enemies is to make a concerted effort to befriend them and then there will be no enemies left.  When we look around the world the one common enemy of all mankind happens to be plastics. It has been declared as the most destructive villain of the twenty first century. We have been told in all kinds of manners to shun it like plague. So we should. On the other hand if we give the material a fair chance and use it properly then it is quite possible that we can subjugate the villain and use his pluses to serve our purpose.

The concrete jungles are thriving skywards. The imminent need to use light, strong and sustainable materials is becoming increasingly valid.   Nowadays plastic doors are flooding the building marts. To begin with, we Indians have kindly considered the use of these doors as best solutions for bathrooms, toilets, balconies, terraces, door partitions, half door’s for children’s rooms especially in apartment complexes. Novelties like folded or sliding doors have become more feasible because of the enviable nature of the material to mold into any shape and size without ado. Industrial properties are also increasingly considering these plastic doors as a cost effective and low maintenance option.

So Poly Vinyl Chloride aka PVC is the latest buzzword in the world of builders, architects and environmentalists alike.

So now let us take a look at how this labeled baddie can be made out into a hero of sorts and put into use, so that he does not prove to be an impediment to our beloved planet.

Water Proof

The material is longer lasting than conventional wooden or metal doors because it is water proof. Hence it is non corrosive and has very low chances of gathering moss. Since the surface is non porous, it cannot absorb moisture, leading to expansion and contraction of volume during damp and dry weather conditions, even if they are exposed to the elements of nature.

Termite Proof

How many times have we not seen old doors made of lofty wood like sandal, teak oak or rose wood housing termites an other insects as they age. This is because these natural materials have a tendency to reveal crevices which many have been covered during the carpentry. Besides the layers of wood give way to new crevices while weathering and not much can be done about it with the exception of monitoring the door with pesticides from time to time. PVC doors will never give room for such anxieties given its synthetic and non porous nature.

Light Weight

Unlike traditional doors that flaunt their strength in proportion to their weight, PVC doors are opposite by nature. They are strong but they are not heavy. In fact they are about one tenth the weights of regular doors. Their lightness has proved to be a boon in disguise in high rise buildings which have to be super strong without being weighed down by their own mass.

Hassle free Installation

Installation of doors is no mean activity. It takes a skilled carpenter to fix a door that fits perfectly into its frame. As for PVC doors, any novice can do it hands down provided he has all the tools and screws. Even  if you are planning to install new PVC doors on old wooden or metal frames, it is possible to get a door custom made and fit it into the slot without too much trouble.

Scratch Resistant

PVC doors are highly scratch resistant. Since they are not and need not be painted there is no question of them succumbing to abrasions and peeling. Homes with pets and little kids need not worry about pawed doorways when they go with this option. One can happily put up posters, stickers and pin ups on this door without causing any damage.

Acoustics and Temperature

If PVC doors seem flimsy and a tad too loud for your tastes and concerns, it will help you to know that the doors have enough thickness to retain the acoustics and temperature of the premises and control the level of external sounds and air that can seep in like any regular door. As usual, thicker the gauge of the door, more the resistance of sound and heat.

Chemical Resistant

Manufacturers and dealers are often asked whether the doors can take the constant onslaughts of chemicals that are an integral part of the soaps, detergents and sometimes acids that are components of the cleaning materials especially in bathrooms and toilets. The answer happens to be in the positive. In fact  if the cleansers  smudge the door, they can be washed off as well.

Maintenance Free

Once you fit  a PVC door, you can happily forget about it . They don’t,  respond to weather, they don’t creak, they don’t need to be polished or painted from time to time and a little soap and water can have them sparkling clean without much effort. In fact public toilets that have already started using PVC doors can be looked upon as silent advertisements to doubtful future users amongst you.

Aesthetics

Those of you who do not want the door to stick out like a sore thumb, please remember that there are a plethora of colours and designs that are available in the market. As far as India is concerned people go in for wood shades that can pass off for the original. Then there are gaily coloured ones and even printed ones if you care for them. If you want any specific design of your choice, manufacturers are very happy to cater to your needs albeit for a higher price.

Low Cost Options

Apart from being eco friendly, these doors are also considerably cheaper than their usual counterparts. Since they serve the same purpose, the cost of building can come down by nearly twenty per cent. Besides, when your property is being taxed for its assets, the tax on wood will also come down.

 

 

 

Curious about Carom?


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Carom seeds

Carom seeds

The carom seeds, popularly known as ajwain, have been a part of Indian cuisine from times immemorial. Southeast Asian countries have consciously included these aromatic seeds in some of their common and exclusive dishes. The spice lends a tinge of heat and freshness to any dish to which it is added.

Since ajwain has its own distinct flavour, it is best not to combine it with other spices. It is particularly useful in curing digestive disorders. The spice has a magical way of lending diverse genres of flavours when employed differently.

If you are planning to use ajwain as a seasoning, then heat some ghee or any cooking oil of your choice and toss the spice when the fat is hot. When the spice inflates, turn off the heat and toss it into your dish. You can give your dosas, salads and buttermilk a twist by adding a dash of ajwain.

While baking some breads and buns or Indian snacks using besan flour as base, make sure that you add raw ajwain to the dough. If you don’t like biting into the spice unexpectedly, then consider adding a pinch of coarse or fine ajwain powder to the dough.

If you want an uniform and all encompassing flavour then make sure that you use a decoction of the spice. Toss a teaspoonful of the seeds into quarter litre of water and allow it to boil down to about 200 ml, add a pinch of table salt and crystal sugar to the decoction before taking it off the heat. Use this decoction while preparing dough for breads, chapatis or paranthas. This decoction can be cooled and stored in the refrigerator and administered a spoonful or two after every meal to overcome flatulence or indigestion.

Dealing with Embarassment


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Some of us go through embarrassing situations in life for no particular fault of ours. It becomes increasingly difficult to take a stand, especially when the people involved are the next of kin, good friends or well-wishers. A story in the Bhagavatha Puranam speaks of one such predicament.

Naabhaaga, an erudite scholar, decided to find his own fortune. He was well versed in all areas of rites and rituals. He knew that he could earn a great deal of wealth if he offered his niche services. For starters, he went to the Yajna conducted by sage Angirasa as directed by his father Nabhaga. The sage was very happy with the arrival of the young man.

On the sixth day, ceremonies, which involved a lot of nitty-gritty, had been worrying the sage. Naabhaaga did the needful efficiently. The Yajna was completed successfully. Sage Angirasa was very happy and satisfied.

In a moment of gratitude and generosity, he offered every bit of his frugal possession as Dakshina to Naabhaaga. The latter accepted his fee thankfully and took leave of the sage. Naabhaaga was waylaid by Rudra. The angry god accused Naabhaaga of walking away with what rightfully belonged to him. The young man was confused. Nevertheless, he walked back to the site of the Yajna along with Rudra. The duo found sage Angirasa in conversation with Naabhaaga’s father. Rudra presented his case. Almost immediately, Angirasa and Nabhaga realised that they had goofed up. Strangely, both of them in their zeal had overlooked that the last portion of the Dakshina had to be lawfully offered to Rudra. They admitted their fault sheepishly, clarified the matter and apologised profusely. Both of them found it highly embarrassing to dictate the future course of action.

Naabhaaga and Rudra understood the nature of the faux pas. Naabhaaga decided to iron out the matter. He did not play the blame game nor did he cock a snook at Rudra for being angry with him for no reason. Instead, he handed over the entire amount to Rudra. Angirasa and Nabhaga were overwhelmed with the turn of events. Rudra was touched by the integrity of Naabhaaga and blessed him with unlimited prosperity.

If any of us happen to inadvertently get involved in a slip-up, we will do well to display a generous and forthright spirit like Naabhaaga.

Spicy Healthy Delicacies from Curry Leaves


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The ubiquitous curry leaf in Indian cuisine simply cannot be ignored. Every delectable savory and salted item is invariably seasoned with curry leaves to improve its colour and flavour.

Those of you who have green fingers will vouch for the fact that, growing a curry leaf shrub can be a very demanding task, especially in the sapling stages. Besides turning the soil gently and watering it in a limited way, traditionalists have found that diluted sour buttermilk poured at the roots of the plant can improve its colour and flavor.

These leaves which are repertoires of iron supplements have therapeutic   values. Research has proved that these leaves influence lush growth of human hair and also plays a role in keeping its sheen and turning it jet black.

If one consumes eight to ten curry leaves very morning, it can control obesity and sugar levels. Yet most adults and children make it a point to identify these leaves and keep them aside thereby throwing a wealth of goodness away without a second thought. It will prove to be a good idea to grind these leaves and add it to the masala or gravy so that its intrinsic goodness is not entirely lost.

These leaves when cooked exclusively can turn into some very delectable dishes, full of the much requisite nutrients. These dishes when eaten with hot rice and ghee have been time-tested recipes particularly suitable for mothers to be both in the pre- natal and
post -natal period of time.

 

Curry Leaves Chutney
Curry leaves: 1 large bowl,

Urad Dal: 1 cup,

Red Chillies: 6

Hing: 1 Teaspoon

Salt:1 teaspoon

Cooking Oil: 1 Teaspoon
Tamarind syrup: 1 Tablespoon ( Soak a small lump of tamarind in a cup of boiled and cooled water for 10 minutes and extract a thick syrup of the same)

* Wash the curry leaves and allow it to dry completely on a dry towel.
* Heat oil in a pan and fry the urad dal, hing and red chillies till they are roasted completely.
*Run all the ingredients in the mixer till it turns into a coarse paste.
* Do not add water to the Chutney at any point.
*The Curry leaves chutney can be served with hot rice and ghee.A fresh salad or a raitha will complement this dish very well.

If one wants to enhance the shelf-life value of this chutney it can be done so with a little variation. You can substitute 3 of the red chillies with one teaspoon of roasted pepper a tablespoon of roasted jeera. You can follow the same procedure but use dry tamarind instead of the syrup. Make sure to tear the tamarind into little bits lest it gets lumped and interfere in the processing of the mixer.

Milagu Kozhambu/ Curryleaves Gravy

This traditional, and proven gravy not only helps out women during their pregnancy and nursing period but also transforms into a ready remedy for people suffering from constant bouts of cold and indigestion. This gravy can be eaten with hot rice and ghee as an appetizer at the head of a meal to smoothen the process of digestion for a couple of days. This food also can be an appropriate supper dish which relieves one of body aches and congestion of the lungs. Patients recuperating from simple flu, fever and other minor illnesses will find this dish a very  fine appetizer This dish has a long shelf life and can be kept in the open for a week and when refrigerated in air-tight containers can be stored upto six months.   .

Ingredients

Curry leaves: 1 large bowl,

Urad Dal: 1 cup,

Pepper: 1 tablespoon,

Hing: 1 Teaspoon

Salt: 2 teaspoon,

Til Oil: 1 large cup (For best results in terms of taste and effect do not substitute with any other oil)

Tamarind  50 grams,

Mustard:1 teaspoon.

 

* Wash the curry leaves and allow it to dry completely on a dry towel.
* Heat a little oil in a pan and fry the urad dal, Hing and peppers till they are roasted.
*Grind the tamarind along with all the ingredients in the till it turns into a coarse paste.

 

*Add some oil in the pan and allow the mustard and Hing to spatter and pour the ground gravy into the pan. You can add water from time to time in order to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

 

* Once the gravy boils allow it to simmer for 15 minutes on a very slow fire after pouring the rest of the oil into the gravy.

 

* Once the gravy cools transfer it into an air tight container and it can be served with hot rice and ghee from time to time.

 

CURRY LEAVES  RICE

Ingredients

Curry leaves: 1 large bowl,

Peeled garlic cloves: 6

Urad Dal: 1 cup,

Red Chilli  6,

Pepper: 1 tablespoon,

Dhaniya 1 tablespoon

Turmeric:1 teaspoon

Hing: 1 pinch

Salt: 2 teaspoons,

cooking  Oil: 1 large cup

Tamarind  syrup:3tablespoons

Mustard:1 teaspoon.

  • Heat very little oil and roast the garlic, urad dal, dhaniya and pepper together and grind them together.
  • Wash and dry the curry leaves and grind them separately without adding water
  • Add little oil to a pan and toss in the mustard seeds, turmeric powder and hing.
  • Pour the tamarind paste into the pan, add salt and add the ground curryleaves when the gravy starts simmering.
  • Reduce the flame and add the remaining oil little by little and keep stirring the mixture for a while.
  • Just as the oil starts collecting towards the fringes add the powdered spices, bring to a simmer and put off the fire.
  • The Curry leaves gravy can be served with hot rice and ghee. Sautéed or deep fried papad will complement this dish very well.

The gravy can have a shelf life of about three months. The gravy tastes best when mixed with rice and allowed to soak up the gravy for at least two to three hours. If you make the gravy for just one time use, adding cut drumsticks or broad beans along with the curry leaves powder can add to the flavor.

 

 

FLAVOURED BUTTERMILK

If you have drying up or dried up curry leaves on your hands, do not throw them away. Dry them in the shade along with a handful of lemon leaves and couple of green chillies. When the ingredients dry up without retaining an iota of moisture grind them with a little salt and hing and store the powder in an airtight container. The powder can be used to flavor buttermilk instantaneously.

 

 

 

 

 

Did you know?

Curry leaves have divine connections.  There is an interesting folk tale which speaks about how the king Thondaman lined up a whole range of gifts for his daughter Padmavathi on the occasion of her wedding with lord Srinivasa. The gifts consisted of just about everything that a bride could need. Expensive clothes, jewellery, furniture, make up items, provisions, flowers, fruits, nuts and vegetables among other things. The king and his queen were proud of the rich array of their paraphernalia as they took the grooms mother Bakulamalika on a guided tour around the presents. When the king said that they had not spared a single item that could be possibly be included, Bakula gently pointed out that they had missed out on gifting their daughter something important. The royal couple went through the itinerary but could not zero in on the missing article. Then Bakula gently pointed out that they had forgotten to keep curry leaves which is a mandatory ingredient in most of our traditional cuisine!

 

 

 

Finding Your Footing


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The other day, I was swollen up all over. Not with importance! And no, nobody had beaten me up. The long hours of travel caused edema in my limbs. I knew that some professional massage will set matters right.

Along came the therapist – a slim, young smiling lady. She ushered me into a room to knead my limbs back to normalcy. We indulged in rambling small talk. She casually mentioned that she was a student of engineering. I thought she was kidding. Why on earth would she be rubbing oil down my limbs then?

I gave her a long look. She appeared to be serious. She told me she had completed three years of the course. She could not continue with the seventh semester because she had not cleared any of the examinations thus far. In answer to my questioning look, she said that her father’s unreasonable tenacity to make good of his money compelled her to study engineering.

After a moment of fleeting silence, I asked her how she had landed this job. I realised that I had unconsciously switched over from vernacular to English. The lass lapsed into the queen’s lingo when she said that she had trained for six months as a masseuse. I noticed that her language was deliberate and heavily accented.

The teacher in me popped another query. Should she not be working on her backlog and passing the examinations? She agreed. That would be the most ideal thing to do. However, she could not do it. I wondered why not? She said that she could not cope with the course. I blurted, “Then, why did you take it up in the first place?”

“Ah! That was a mistake. My dad worked for the local MLA all his life, so the politician gave me a free seat in his engineering college as payment for my dad’s services.” She nodded away and swore it was true. She had passed her class 12 with difficulty and that had proved to be unfortunate. She had switched back to Malayalam. She did look earnest. I decided to take her word for it.
When I reflected on our interaction, I realised that the girl had essayed the role of the obedient child quite like Casabianca. When she could take the heat no more, she had the courage to accept her limitations and abandon the beaten path.

Practical common sense had ruled her decision. She had donned her new hat with ease and relief, without ever feeling apologetic. By choosing her own path she had carved a niche for herself by alienating herself from the rat race. Hats off to her!