Test of Truth


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Sometimes, the truths that we know or believe in can be pretty hard to establish for want of witnesses or proof. The societal values, the situation, place and time eventually end up delivering a verdict which may or may not measure up to universal justice. Different places in the world have diverse religions, belief sets and values framed on the basis of the native environment. The person at the receiving end of the situation ends up with a raw deal because his contemporaries cannot see beyond their nose. The victims and martyrs of such situations have always had unique ways of ascertaining their stand.

Panditha Jagannatha, a Sanskrit court poet of Mughal emperor Jahangir, fell in love with a Muslim maiden who he called Lavangika. The Brahmin community was aghast by the affair. They could not dissuade the already married poet from having a relationship with the Muslim woman. Eventually, Jagannatha was excommunicated and exiled. The sad poet went to Kashi. He realised that he would not be able to make his contemporaries realise the genuineness of his feelings. Hence, he decided to launch his test of truth. He sat on the fifty-third step of Panchaganga Ghat and started singing the paeans to river Ganga. He emphasised on the power of the mighty river which could liberate the worst among sinners. It is said that with the composition of each stanza, the waters rose by one step and touched his feet. The poet felt vindicated by the divine touch. The people around him realised that he was earnest about his feelings though they did not acknowledge the same.

Even now, people swear by the truth by taking the names of those they truly love. When we wonder about it and question ourselves what makes us do what we do, we are likely to realise that we are trying to connect what we believe as truth in what we believe in as truth. Most of the times, we resort to this method to reiterate our beliefs. If we, who live in this technologically advanced world, adopt this method, imagine what it must have been like for the people who did not have the privilege.

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!

Accomodating Our elders


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A random study of the civilisations across the globe reveals that mankind as a single unit has certainly recognised the fact that it is inevitable that man grows older and experiences a deterioration of his faculties and general health over a period of time.

In spite of this physical weakening, he grows stronger in spirit and emerges as a wise person which he derives from the various experiences of life.
Perhaps an African proverb which goes, “A library dies when a old man dies” speaks volumes about how the elderly were looked upon in the past.

As each day rolls by we grow older, little realising that old age will be taking toll of us very soon. Yet most young people have a firm belief that they will never age and hence become insensitive to the older people around them.

The ever-growing number of old-age homes in a traditional country like India is an alarming development that needs to be checked as early as possible.
At this point it will be of essence to remember an old fable where a man served his aged father gruel on a cracked plate day after day as he felt that he had no more benefits to reap from the old man.

One day, when the old man left home with disgust and melancholy because of the treatment meted out to him, the young grandson picked up the cracked plate, cleaned it and wrapped it up neatly in a brown paper. When the surprised father asked him to explain his action, the little boy said that he was keeping the plate safely so that he could serve gruel on the plate when his own father became old and infirm.

This answer struck the father like a lightning and he immediately set off to find his own father filled with remorse and guilt.

Even as the world is progressing, old-age homes mushrooming around the world are taking the role of a reliable support system.

Each of us will do well to remember that we must not let the golden chance of showing our gratitude to the elders who shaped our lives slip by. After all did they not spend the best part of their lives caring for us?

Bhikshatana-Soup for the Soul


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We live in times where begging is a sign of abject poverty or perhaps laziness coupled with lack of self respect. It is generally looked upon as the last resort of an individual who possibly refuses to lead a procreative life.

Yet going on Bhikshatana or a tour of begging was a part of student life and that of the men who belonged to the Brahmana sect of the ancient Indian society. A little trip down our traditional society will reveal that the practice finds its roots in the Varnashrama system that was propounded and followed during Vedic age.

Those were times when people contributed to society in which they lived on the basis of their physical and mental capabilities. The students and Brahmins who expended their time in rites and rituals, research, learning and disseminating knowledge, had little time to take care of the daily logistics of life. Hence, society took it upon itself to sustain such members in their community as and when their help was sought.

Thus, Bhikshatana or seeking of alms came into practice. The seekers of alms would arrive at the doorsteps of their potential donors and call out loudly and humbly for their requirement. The charitable household would take stock of their situation and then the lady of the house would give away one or two items. Usually it would be some food grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts or a length of cloth according to their financial strength.

Rarely though, there were times when the seekers of alms would receive very little or face rejection or derision from the public in general. This experience taught the seekers to accept discourteous or negative response without feeling offended or judgmental. They learned the valuable lesson of humility in the practical way.

Moreover they imbibed the value of curtailing the impulse to save up or hoard for a future time. In other words, Bhikshatana served as soup for the soul to evolve as a mature personality.

Indian culture introduced and included the practice of Bhikshatana variously, with the intent of inducing charitable and humble traits in our society.

Hing _ The Adopted Child of Spices


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know your ingredient

 

The asafetida or the Hing as it is known in most of India happens to be a happy by product of the silk route. Long, long ago when Arab merchants traded with our continent, they enslaved our olfactory senses and taste buds to the gummy resin. Ever since we adopted this alien spice as our own and incorporated it into our choicest dishes to make them more eclectic.

Given its numerous therapeutic and curative powers, this spice is also referred to as the ‘Food of the Gods’.  Or it is known as  devil’s dung avoided by people who adhere to satvik food.

You can buy this resin these days off the shelf in three different forms. Though it is essentially the same ingredient and is used in more or less the same way for the same purposes, if you pay attention to the way it should be used, it can give optimal results.

The solid form is the best for it retains the flavour intact. There are two ways to use it. You can soak it in hot water and use the syrup to knead it into the dough.

One of the ground rules of using Hing is to strictly avoid using the ingredient if the dish uses onion or garlic mandatorily.

The granulated form of Hing can bestow its best  on liquid foods like buttermilk, rasams etc or semi solid foods like Sambhar, gravy, vegetable kootu etc taste best when granulated Hing is added to the seasoning of the recipe at the very end.

The powdered form of Hing can give optimal results when added as additional flavoring in salads, kosambari , raitha, pachadi etc. Heat a little oil or ghee and toss powdered hing into it before adding it to the dish.