Memory Vs Photographs


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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.

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!

 

 

 

Home Remedies For Menstrual Blues


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The monthly cycle can be a cumbersome affair to many menstruating women of all age groups. While seeking medical help seems to be the most apparent option, niggling problems can be effectively ironed out by taking a leaf out of natural home remedies used by our grandmothers and their grandmothers. It will surprise us to know that they managed to find hands on solutions to most hassles sourcing readily available ingredients off their larders. Here are a few tips that were largely used by them rather successfully without any side effects. It will be a good idea to know them just in case we want to ease ourselves or our kind as and when we need them.

Women who have painful periods can overcome cramps forever if they consume a teaspoon of fenugreek seeds soaked overnight in curd with a pinch of salt for forty five days  continuously on an empty stomach.

Consuming the plantain flower can do a world of good to the female of the human species. The flower contains the much needed home remedy for most problems related to the menstrual tribulations of women. These florets when cooked with dhal supplement the protein requirement quite adequately. There are certain ground rules for using the plantain flower as they can be a very sticky and tiresome process. For those of you, who are not familiar with the plantain flower, please note that each petal of the flower conceals more than a dozen florets. The first few petals which are a deep crimson could be discarded and only the florets are to be used in the given method. Once the petals appear to be cream in colour, the flower can be cut up as you would use any other vegetable.

If you happen to experience intermittent cramps or a dull continuous ache in the underbelly region rub a few drops castor oil in the area, the pain will subside. Repeat the process before your daily bath during the period to avoid more bouts of pain.

It is normal to have slightly bloated tummy before the period, if the condition continues post period add a little salt to a teaspoon of coconut oil and rub it on to your belly before your daily bath and leave it for ten minutes before washing it off.

Weakness, dizziness and low blood pressure syndromes during the period can be wiped away with a glass of pomegranate juice with a dash of lime in it.

Inability to eat on time or loss of appetite during the periods is usually a temporary phase. Consuming a couple of bananas and a glass of milk will supplement a nutritious meal and help us overcome acidity.

A full body oil massage followed by a hot water bath post the cycle can rejuvenate the body and mind by making it moisturized and supple.

Places of worship, Indian festivals, fasts and functions normally do not encourage the active participation of menstruating women for religious reasons. At such times ladies might like to advance or put off the cycle by a couple of days. Though one can use over the counter medication for the purpose, relying on natural home remedies will prove to be the best for one can be assured of zero side effects.

If you want to advance your period for some reason by four to five days start taking a spoonful of fried sesame seeds (til) along with a pinch of jaggery, til chikkis will also do the trick after the fifteenth day of the previous cycle.

If you are due for your period in a day or two and you are impatient to finish it off without it being an impediment to your schedule, two servings of papaya or pineapple will do the trick.

There may be times when you would want to defer the period by a couple of days. If there is time to plan it in advance, ensure that you have an oil bath at least three times a week. Refrain from the aforementioned foods which stimulate the menstrual cycle.

Enclose With Elegance


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neat Get a small quantity of white acrylic paint and colour the insides of your showcase. photos by author

Did you know that the showcase that adorns your living room is perhaps one of the features that is almost never missed by your guests and visitors? They pay special attention to the showcase because they are aware that it is the hotspot in the house which conveys a lot about the residents.

The trophies that assert one’s success, the souvenirs that stand witness to your travels around the globe, the antique piece which speaks about your aesthetic inclinations, the family heirloom that display your affection for your grandparents and so on and so forth, jostle with one another and proclaim your collective personalities as a family.

It is true that all of us who have arranged our showcases must have spent some time giving it our thoughts and exercising our creativity. However, we may have noticed that not all of them are always appealing or exotic. This does not for a moment mean that your stuff is not good enough nor does it mean that your showcase has become redundant. All the same, the lacklustre aspect could be attributed to several reasons.

For one thing, it may have collected dust and grime. Otherwise it could be overcrowded or sparsely filled up. Sometimes, we leave essentials like keys, bills, torches, money, matches etc in some section of the showcase for easy access, not realising that they could be an eyesore.

If you think that the above reasons are not applicable to you perhaps, you have never changed the arrangement over the years, giving it a sense of predictability, which will fail to garner the attention of your visitor. So, here are a few tips that will ensure that your showcase attracts renewed attention:

Remove all the contents of your showcase and clean them thoroughly.

Clean the showcase and the covering glass using soap and water. If the walls of the cabinet have yellowed or scaled due to age, rub the surface with sandpaper and scrape it completely.

Get a small quantity of white acrylic paint and colour the insides. If your cabinet is made of wood, a coat of ready-made wood polish will do the job.

Check if you have one too many articles that will look good when hung. Take stock of the number and fix little sticks on hooks (easily available in the market) on the ceiling of the partitioned area.

Sort out your showpieces either in terms of size or theme. If you are the sort who likes to rearrange memorabilia time and again, it will be a good idea to stick to a theme. On the other hand if you want to take things easier, identify a few things that you always want to display and change only the other items from time to time.

Make sure that all the unsightly wires that run through are carefully stapled and hidden away.

Toss in a few pieces of camphor in every shelf to keep it pest-free and fragrant.

Use an old newspaper to wipe the glass clean from both sides before sliding it over the showcase. Make it a point to wipe the glass clean at least once in a fortnight.

Repeat this exercise and bring variations in the display once in every three or four months.

Do not place damaged pieces, picture postcards or family photographs amid other things, unless it happens to match the theme.

Know Your Mother Tongue


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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.

Constants and Variables of Life


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It is a fact that human behaviour, habits and social behaviour always alter according to the venue, circumstances and other basic needs. Hence, it will be highly unfair to determine whether an individual, community or race isright or wrong, on the basis of what we consider to be correct.

For instance, people who went hunting in the past and dared the feral aspects of wilderness and triumphed over a carcass of a dead feline or an elephant were celebrated as heroes of sorts.

Nevertheless, if someone were to copy the feat today, he or she is likely to be booked by the law for perpetrating a serious offence. For those of you who think that citing an example that spans across ages is obsolete, let us examine a real time reality.

In certain countries it is considered highly sinful for a woman to even get her clothes tailored by a male sartorial professional. On the other hand there are countries that encourage sunbathing with minimal or no clothing to its people to ward off hazards like melanoma.

The two cases have been cited to clarify that most aspects of human life are variables. What we eat or wear, how we speak or function, the language and the culture and the habits that we adopt among millions of other such trivia can vary from place to place or time to time. One cannot really fault  or eulogise them because, we as a society figure out the best practices that will work for us as a unit.

Change in culture

Once we find the practices redundant, we have the knack of shedding them entirely or very simply salvage the core value of the custom and reinvent the same to suit our needs. Right from Paleolithic times, man has realised the need for food, clothing and shelter and he has worked on his necessities and come up with practical and economical solutions that can cater to him at the given point of time.

The food that was cooked using fire is now processed through a plethora of new age equipments. The animal skins and barks that constituted our clothing have come a long way now, as they come in a spectrum of colours, materials and designs.

Caves that sheltered man through the vagaries of nature have given way to varied housing from chalets to skyscrapers and everything in between. Everything else that we use or possess happens to be ancillaries to our basic needs. Therefore, mankind as a race must realise that there is really no point in nitpicking, categorising or even on contemplating on sticking on to anything at all.

It is mandatory to remember that the only constant is change. Besides, are we not constantly reinventing the proverbial wheel by working out solutions to the same requirements?

Physics and mathematics explain the conceptual difference between variables and constants and the subtle but irrevocable relationship between the two factors. One cannot exist or function without another.

To put it more simply, we need a constant to evaluate the variable. So also, in life we need constants and variables. We must understand that constants remain invariable across time and space whereas variables always undergo modifications.

It is interesting to note that science, religion, psychology and psychiatry have surprisingly come up with a constant — Truth. The truth they speak of does not subscribe to any region, religion, cult or culture. It is a human truth that is woven around integrity, responsibility, reliability and intrinsic goodness punctuated with a generous dollop of compassion.

The person who adheres to this kind of truth need not feel obligated or answerable to anyone except his own conscience. And as the bard said, if one is true to oneself, the night shall follow the day.

The ability to go through life as an onlooker without getting involved or critical about matters that do not concern us or understand will make it happier, simpler and straightforward. But, as they say, “It is simple to be happy but very difficult to be simple.”
Truth can never become outdated because we need the north star to navigate through the sea of life.

If each one of us strives to sort out and differentiate between variables and constants, we will find ourselves becoming less and less judgemental. Bonhomie and harmony will seep through seamlessly through the newfound maturity and make the world a better place to live in.

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!