Happy Pongal, Makar Sankranthi, Lohri to everyone in India. It is the festive season now.
What I remember of Pongal as a kid is waking up early in the cold winter morning and walking towards the drawing room to catch a few more winks on the sofa half asleep waiting for Amma to call us to come to the kitchen. We would wait for the milk to boil and rise and shout ‘Pongalo Pongal- Pongalo Pongal’ and prostrate before the Pongal Panai (pot) .It was a time to feast on chakkarai (sweet) pongal and venn (salted) Pongal with some other delicacies that Amma would prepare .
Fast forward a few years.
I am the one who is buying the turmeric leaves, applying turmeric and kumkum to the pongal panai (pot), tying the leaves securely to the pot, cleaning the gas oven and kitchen counter top in the morning ,adding the required ingredients in the panai and simultaneously keep calling my kid an hubby reminding them that its time to wake up. Now my son ambles half asleep towards the sofa and then to the kitchen when its time for the milk to boil and rise up.
I am more than happy and satisfied by the time I prepare both the varieties of the pongal dish and the “neivedhiyam ” is offered to the Sun God! So the lunch and breakfast of the day is done minus any more delicacies that my Amma would prepare.
Pongal literally means “boiling over” as the milk is allowed to boil over, signifying abundance.
I look forward to this morning every year
Perhaps I manage to follow certain customs in ways convenient to me during the current times with some short cuts . Our beautiful traditions have evolved radically but the essence still remains the same and they keep reminding us about the beautiful culture that we belong to.
Childhood is the time when we are most active , bubbling with energy , stress free and with all the time in the world playing and bonding with friends . As we grow into an adult the scenario slowly changes and it is a mixture of fun and stress of a different order be it about academics, one’s looks , peer pressure, relationships, career, marriage , learning new skills , adjustments , childbirth, raising kids, taking care of elderly and the list is really long .
Especially women in India have to make lots of adjustments and for us the twists and turns of life and age sometimes makes us ponder over the uncertainity at many stages.
In the journey of life at different stages of life, there does come a time when one is not sure about the future, a fear somewhere resides in some corner of the mind, yet life goes on. One tries to do what one thinks is best at that point of time. And when ones wishes are fulfilled its a nice, beautiful feeling.
How many women can resonate well with the fact that we tend to put everyone else ‘s needs before our own . Priorities change with time with family commitments and raising kids that time just flies ahead juggling between home front and work front .The fact that when kids are a little older and need us a little less as their circle of friends widen is the time which allows us to pursue our own goals, hobbies & passions which had taken a backseat.
So just stop for a couple of minutes & think, ” what is my oxygen mask” ?
Do things that are highly energetic and reflective. Spend some time in nature and enjoy your surroundings, have a chat with a good friend , watch films, do exercise , yoga , dance , pen down your thoughts, feelings, listen to music and sing along to your favourite song, travel, read, rediscover a hobby or a creative interest , just something you enjoy wherein you are so involved that there is no room for worrying about anything else. Spread your beautiful wings and fly to all the places you wish to be.
Do what you enjoy and fly and soar up in the sky and be perched on the throne like a “Queen” and rule your life and life will open new doors for a better you.
Deepawali is just around the corner and there is a festive atmosphere around. I am reminded of how my parents would wake us up in the early hours on Naraka Chaturdashi day for the customary oil bath. We would be woken up around 4 am in the cold winter morning of October/November . Appa would have switched on the radio and would have tuned into Short Wave band for some south Indian music. The early morning celebrations would start on an auspicious note with Nadaswaram music.
Getting up in the wee hours of the morning was a big task. We are three siblings and we had a rule. As per the rule –“whoever gets up first will take bath first.” That way the other two could catch up with some extra sleep was the idea. But the question was – who would wake up first?? The solution was that whoever’s name is called out first while waking us up would have to take oil bath first and then one of us would grumble to Amma – “Why did you have to call only my name first??”
On the previous night Appa would have applied a little haldi and kumkum to the corners of the new dresses which would have been piled up on a tray . All the new clothes, sweets, savouries, crackers, homemade special herbal medicine, a big vessel smeared with little rangoli pattern , gingelly (sesame) oil would be placed in front of the God.
After waking up Amma would make us sit on a low level wooden seat and anoint our hair with warm gingelly oil. We would then go out and light a cracker/sparkler . The one whose name was called first would go for the oil bath while rest of the two would try to catch some few more winks of sleep.
Post bath Appa would give us our new dress and Amma would give us the special homemade herbal medicine in the form of a small ball . I hated it. My sister used to find it tasty. Amma would ask me to eat it fast as it helps in the digestion of all the sweets and savouries that we would be consuming for the next few days. I would find it very difficult to push it down my throat. We would wear the new clothes and seek the blessings of the elders.
Gorging on the different sweets and savouries would be fun. Phone calls to greet relatives and friends would be with “ Ganga snanam accha?”. Evening time would be spent in lighting diyas, greeting friends and exchanging sweets. Since my growing up years were in northern and western India we would save the bursting of crackers for the next day when the whole neighbourhood would be bursting crackers.
In today’s age enthusiasm is the same for celebrating and I do eagerly look forward to this festival of lights but some things have changed for me I realize.. Waking up at 4 am has shifted to a little later by 2 hours, gingelly oil has been replaced by parachute coconut oil for namesake, shikakai has been replaced with shampoo.
When it comes to sweets and snacks –it’s the shortcut as I prepare just one sweet and one savoury item as I find the deep frying chores in the kitchen immensely boring . Rest are purchased from shop. Diwali herbal medicine too is purchased ( symbolically bought if available) and the packet remains unopened for days to come, and is finally discarded one fine day. Crackers too are brought on a minimum scale now keeping in mind “green Diwali”.
Piling up new dresses on a tray with haldi and kumkum smeared in a corner and placing the sweets , savouries , Diwali herbal medicine and crackers along with the new set of clothes is something I look forward to. Its also time to bond with neighbours and friends by exchanging sweets.
What has also got added is looking forward to make a colourful rangoli apart from the traditional rangoli with rice flour and decoration with lots of marigold flowers and lamps , diyas, serial bulbs.
With my generation some things have changed, and with the next generation some more things will change. We do try to hold on to some rituals ,customs, traditions as per our convenience and the love, laughter and bonding continues to keep everyone together.
May the beauty of Deepawali season fill your home with happiness
Wishing everyone a very Happy and Joyous Deepawali
“Mens sana in corpore sana” is a Latin phrase which means ” a healthy mind in a healthy body” .This phrase is so self explanatory emphasising the importance of health in our daily lives.
I believe that a sound mind dwells in a sound body. Only when we are far away from ailments and physical pain we can concentrate in our daily activities. Fitness is very important. Our body is like a temple and each individual is a caretaker of this temple. There are many ways to keep this temple clean and fit on a physical and mental plane.
As a teacher i have different types of students in my class. Some are good in studies, some are good in sports,some are good in extra curricular activities. I try to relate myself to these three categories whenever I have to do an activity . I realized that when it comes to activities involving mind and some extra skills I am like one of those students who is good in academics and extra curricular activity . However when it comes to a physical activity I am like one of the students who is not good in academics in a class. I have always felt this whenever I joined classes like aerobics, dance, yoga wherein I will be among the students who fares badly compared to the others in their exams. This on a physical level is associated to fitness. By birth we are bestowed with some genes which we cannot change but we can always make an attempt to improve our lifestyle habits and compete with ourself to become better .
I was always on the skinny, lean side till my mid twenties. In fact putting on weight was a task in those days when my metabolism was perhaps at its peak. At mid twenties life got busy with a career, marriage, commuting, childbirth, stress and responsibilities that fitness took a backburner. The body is supple, strong, agile for another decade and although I knew that I am growing horizontally I did not bother much about the expanding waistline.
It was only when I hit my mid thirties that I actually paused and mulled to take control of my lifestyle to incorporate health and fitness as a priority. It has been my constant endeavour since past couple of years to take care of my health. Diet and physical activity is something I am particular about now. But, alas its a yo-yo type swinging between overweight to obese. :-((( whenever I have been unable to give time to physical activity.
Yoga has helped me to become flexible with little less stiffness in my joints and improved my breathing technique. Most of us do shallow breathing instead of abdominal breathing. The proper technique of breathing through abdomen is something I have become conscious about now.
I also try to squeeze out some time for walking and strength training whenever time permits. The most important knowledge apart from “what to eat is when to eat’. I am slowly becoming aware of this concept these days and try to incorporate it in my routine apart from keeping myself well hydrated. I normally neither sweat too much nor do I feel thirsty which makes me drink less water. I make it a point these days to keep sipping water often.
Starving oneself to shed the adipose layers is also a mistake as the metabolism goes for a toss. Our body needs calories input even to perform the basic activities like breathing, repair of tissue, circulation, digestion when it is at rest which is called the BMR ( basal metabolic rate) so we should not deprive the body of food thinking it will help in shedding weight. I try to keep this in mind. 80% diet and 20% exercise is the secret for a healthy and fit body.
Getting some basic tests done on an annual basis is important to keep a check . The annual health check up in a way helps me to keep a check and monitor my health parameters.
I came across this once-“If we do not make time for exercise now we will probably have to make time for illness later ”
It is important to find time in our already packed schedules to allot some time for exercises as the benefits are plenty in the long run. My parents generation was not aware about how important it is to find “me time” but my geneartion is aware about “me time” concept . So I believe in using this ” me time” to work on my health both on the physical and mental level . Sleep and rest are also important for the body so as not to increase the cortisol levels that causes weight gain .
Avoiding junk food, sugars, aerated drinks, deep fried items, white flour (maida), greasy food, frozen food, tetra pack juices are some of the food habits that I am very particular about. I am particular to use good cooking oil medium like saffola which is good for the heart.
People lose weight without realizing that it is very important to lose fat and not muscles. I am trying to keep this in mind that my exercise and diet regime should target at fat loss and not in muscle loss as both show reduction in weight on the scales
I am trying to remain healthy by following a structured diet along with correct physical activity five times a week. I believe that ” health is wealth” .
Taking care of our temple (body) should be one of the priorities in today’s busy lifestyle to avoid the lifestyle diseases to rule us.
Bombay is a city of dreams. For me too it was, it is.
Although Politically its called Mumbai now, for me it will always be Bombay- as that was how it was called when I moved to this city to build my dreams.
I spent nearly two decades in this city. I came to this city as a young girl in my early twenties when I got a job. This Metro city has a magnetic effect. Whoever comes here gradually falls in love with the city inspite of it being called fast paced. She takes into her arms every one who comes to her , and gives an experience of warmth, struggle, love, independence, exposure and the various other ingredients that are required to experience life.
Its a city for everyone- for the rich as well as the poor. I have always felt that she has a beat, a rhythm, a pulse to her. She is a city who never sleeps.
She gave me – my first job, my first house, my first love, my bundle of joy , friends, an experience and exposure which taught me so many things in my life. As I started loving the city immensely there came circumstances because of which I had to relocate to another city. I think relocation is not the word- uprooted would be an appropriate word.
My heart was torn. I felt very sad too . Although I moved to another city which is equally very developed but my heart does not belong here.
This was the time I came across the book ” who moved my cheese”? by Dr Spencer Johnson and it helped me to deal with change in life, It taught me how to adapt to change, how to look at life beyond the comfort zone.
Well, after moving to another city, I try to look at the positive side that the city has to offer me. I did learn couple of things here . I just hope change leads to something better and I manage to fall in love to the new place too.
For my blogger friends who understand hindi- this is the song which is very apt for me when I started my life after marriage in Bombay
” do diwaane shahar mein, raat mein yaa dopahar mein
aabodaanaa dhoondhte hai, ek aashiyaanaa dhoondhate hain”
Hope and Uncertainty go hand in hand. This term ” Uncertainty” is definitely a heavy word. In the journey of life at different stages of life, there does come a time when one is not sure about the future, a fear somewhere resides in some corner of thelife goes on. One tries to do what one thinks is best at that point of time. And when ones wishes are fulfilled its a nice, beautiful feeling.
Sometimes it does happen that, what one may think is best for oneself , God does not think that way, as HE has a different plan chalked out and when that happens , its a tough time. Hoping against hope one has to tread the difficult, dark path waiting anxiously to see the light ahead in the tunnel of life.
I am always reminded about the time when we come to a fork point in life. Which path to choose be it career, studies, spouse, house, relationships, relocation to another city/ country , medical issues , etc sometime tear us apart giving stress . One then follows what ones heart/head/or others say with the cloud of uncertainty hanging over the head, leading each day with a SECRET desire that all turns out well with no REGRETS of the decisions taken , and with the LOVE , support of family at HOME, friends, associates, we TREASURE we take each day as it comes.
I strongly believe that “LIFE IS A BOX OF UNCERTAINTY AND HOPE”.
Whenever I have faced UNCERTAINTY in my life . I like to remember these lines that I came across once to give me comfort
The water falls from the hills,
it never thinks it has fallen,
it rises to run as an Unstoppable river.
Life is not about falling.
It is about rising at every fall
This is a view from my window in summer. What a beautiful sight it is!! I tell myself as to how lucky it is to start my morning watching the beautiful bloom & enjoy my cuppa along with the newspaper sitting in front of the window.
The flame of the forest is all over the place now. It was sometime in the first week of April that I noticed tiny buds sprouting .
These Gulmohar trees with their fiery orange flowers in summer seem to be competing with the fiery sun rays to me.
How I wish that I was a sparrow [they are hardly seen in cities these days 😦 ] or any other bird and I could soar up in the sky and be perched on the branches and sit among the orange blossoms & keep chirping to my heart’s content.
Wishful thinking !!
There are some other equally nice things that summers offer apart from the king of fruits. It’s the melodious voice of the koel. I often get to hear their voice from far off while I am in my home. I have realized that summers offer a feast to the eyes, ears and taste palate too.
My earlier place of residence in the city of dreams offered me to enjoy the koel’ s voice during summers apart from the famous Alphonso mangoes.. My current place of residence in the city of pearls offers me an additional visual treat .
The koel’s voice reminds me that the rains are not far off. As I walk on the orange carpet of flowers as I set out in the morning I really wish that the sweepers while sweeping the roads during the course of the day do not remove this beautiful carpet made by nature.!
Just a month or more and mother nature will adorn herself with a beautiful green colour as the showers will bathe the entire vegetation around and it will be time for me to admire the different shades of green.