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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

OVER TO KERALA BACKWATERS


Travel opportunities!


 TRAVEL DIARY: KERALA

For more than three weeks, I'd disappeared from the blogosphere. Yet I missed my weekly creative journey and favorite blogs!

In fact, my husband and I were in the Indian state of Kerala to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary. From the usual cake cutting and partaking goodies with friends and family, we had planned to explore the picturesque land of coconuts, lakes, rivers, canals and inland waterways of Kerala about which we had heard a lot.

Kerala is known as God's own country. It is a land of coconut groves, sunny beaches, intriguing backwater cruises, fragrant spices, banana plantations,  herbal plants and lush green verdure. It is an exotic travel destination.

"Kerala lies along the coastline to the south-west of Indian peninsula. It is flanked by the Arabian sea on the West and the mountains of the Western Ghats on the east."

 "Backwaters in Kerala is a network of 1500 km of canals both manmade and natural, 38 rivers and 5 big lakes extending from one end of Kerala to the other. Backwaters are one of the major tourism product of Kerala, being unique to the state." Wikitravel.

Kochi which was our destination is a gateway for travelers to Kerala and is its commercial hub. Its 'Marine Drive' is a posh area with eating joints, show rooms and shops selling all brands of mobile phones. People here look dark but are strong and healthy. The locals throng all the tourists' places even on week days. At every other corner stood a church. Did not see any Hindu temple, though. It has a sizeable Muslim population also.

" Bolgatty Palace ( where we stayed) is a former palace built by the Dutch in India, on Bolghatty Island in Kochi, Kerala. ... Bolgatty Palace has a swimming pool, 9-hole golf course, ayurvedic centre, and daily Kathakali performances and is a holiday destination for tourists." Wikipedia.

The structures here exude an old world charm. The sloping stylish roof lined with brick tiles looks imposing. On the right is the dining hall and in the foreground is the swimming pool for hotel guests.

 Another dignified looking building having suites for guests.


 The sprawling lawns of 'Bolgatty Palace' were well manicured with gorgeous plants around.

The 'International Marina' bordering Island Resort, offers mooring facilities for pleasure yachts and small sailing boats. Here we met an English couple who had been sailing around the world since 2014.


The Swimming pool at Bolgatty Palace and Island Resort.


Kerala Govt. sponsors some special cruises called sunset cruises for which we got a booking.  It's a kind of a small ship and had AC cooled interiors. But that was no fun. All converged on the deck and had a blast of a time. Captured a similar boat from the deck while being awe struck by the vastness engulfing us. Here we 're already in the Arabian Sea waters.


Took this one from the border of our  Resort.


The two of us hired a boat for a one and a half hour cruise in the lake. The wind kept on playing with our clothes and hair but was cool and naughty.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

KNOW THYSELF




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Look well into thyself; there is a source of strength which will always spring up if thou wilt always look there.”
-Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor (A. D. 161-180)

K is for "Know thyself":

Since the beginning of humanity, great philosophers of the world had been delving deep into the intricacies of our elusive selves.


The ancient Greek aphorism ‘KNOW THYSELF’ is one of the Delphic maxims inscribed in the forecourt of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi.  The curious believers since then always pondered over it.


Later on, Socrates expounded it in many of his discourses. For him “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Socrates even maintained, “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing."

His disciple Plato took it up extensively in his scholarly creations. He was the forerunner of Western philosophy and science. He propounded, “Essence of knowledge is self-knowledge.”


The quest for knowing the truth and establishing identity has been going on since antiquity. Great philosophers and thinkers of the world have all tried to comprehend the mysteries of the self. They came up with numerous insights, which inspired humankind to carry on with this endless search.

The understanding of self-awareness, in fact, opens the doors for realizing one’s potential for a productive life. In our short odyssey on the earth, frequent episodes of inner dialogue happen.  They serve as revelations. A conscious individual always endeavors to extricate self from the limiting absurdities around.   


“The knowledge of self will preserve your from vanity.”
                                        
Miguel de Cervantes



However, in the rat race of modern life, is it possible to listen to the internal voiceless flow? It may appear paradoxical yet in spite of this fast-paced existence, a desire to make life exceptional and more dynamic has to be developed.
....

Here is an attempt at loud thinking based on  impressions gleaned over the years:

One thing, which helps in discovering ourselves, is our interactions with others. Reactions good or bad in specific or everyday situations of people close to us or our acquaintances or our friends or others throw useful learning lessons. Self-knowledge acquired thus help us in adapting our self-image vis a vis others.

In a way, behavior of others educates us about those whose association leads to pessimism, brooding and pulling us down. It signals us to be friends with those who perk up our confidence and shun the naysayers. Developing links with people who raise us and enhance the positive aspect of life should be assiduously pursued. Being aware of this option becomes an inspiration for better management of our lives.

Self-awareness is akin to mindfulness, exhorting us to devote single-minded approach to our life tasks. As Swami Vivekananda succinctly puts it,

“Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life - think of it, dream of it, live on that idea. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body, be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success.”

Writings of great philosophers especially Socrates' polemics with his listeners and Plato’s dialogues are great influencers in clearing doubts and bigoted perceptions.

Looking inside for analyzing our fears and anxieties objectively is conducive to finding solutions. A free and relaxed mind expands the creative horizon.

A serious evaluation of our experiences can help in making better decisions for self-improvement.

Self-knowledge also means being true to one’s core values. Honesty truthfulness and probity are our treasures and under no circumstances should ever be compromised.

Our internal invisible monologue says a lot about our thinking process, which defines our personalities. All its warnings and appraisals nudge and activate our receptiveness to change and to act courageously.

Acquiring self-knowledge is an exercise, which continues throughout life.  It is rightly pointed out that we are always in the act of becoming.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

LET'S CREATE OUR OWN JOYS




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Early morning scene as the sun glides up at a retirement community in South India.



 There is so much joy to experience!  




J is for joy:

Celebrate the morning breeze and stillness serene
Feel uplifted energized as if in a land of dream.

Rejoice at the crescendo of bird noises at dawn
Sway with the mystic exuberance of the morn.

Experience delight at the sun’s radiant birth  
Pause at the joyful blooms to savor their mirth.

Disallow the negativities your joy to steal.
Dive into each act with devotion and zeal. 

Grapple with failures relish each triumph
Pledge to reach sublime ladders to climb.

Faith will maneuver nature on your side
Undaunted pick the shells by the life's tide.

Ignite a spark at the threshold of gray zone
Life fulfilled bid adieu sans groan.


Friends welcome here as always!     



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Wednesday, March 7, 2018

AN INTERESTING INCIDENT




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WHEN I’S CAUGHT IN A DUST STORM.

 I for interesting:

Figurines made from waste and discards embellish the famous Rock Garden in Chandigarh.

 
It happened a long time back in the 1960s. We were living in Chandigarh. I’s a college student then and used to cycle down to college. It was the early days of the establishment of the new city ‘Chandigarh’. It was called the city beautiful, because of its well-planned structure, openness, and overall cleanliness. The credit for its marvelous design went to a renowned French architect Le Corbusier. At present, it is a union territory and capital of two states of Punjab and Haryana

In those days, it was slowly coming into existence and lacked facilities. One had to cover a KM or two to even buy vegetables. There were no vendors passing through the roads with their hand driven carts. Below, an effort with PAINT for once.

It was summer and very hot. Mother needed vegetables for the evening meal. On that particular day every week, a vegetable market used to be held in a different sector in the open ground. I offered to do the job by cycling to the market.Though there were signs of dusty haze in the atmosphere, I’s not dismayed. Armed with a satchel, off I went enthusiastically. I pedaled fast and reached in no time. 

I had hardly parked my cycle when unexpectedly a strong dusty wind overpowered the area.  It’s certainly a dust storm. It attacked gaining its full fury very fast.  My cycle tumbled down. The sand circling around was blinding. I immediately slumped to the ground and sat there with my head in between my legs glued to the ground. It was as if I’d be blown away. Small pebbles were hitting me from all sides. The sandy wind was rustling furiously. I dared not open my eyes. It was like a whirlpool of dirt engulfing me in its fold. A total bombardment of raging muck. It was scary.

 Google images

How long I sat facing the ferocity of the storm I don’t remember.  When mercifully the storm started subsiding, I tried to open my dirt-filled eyes. After continuous blinking, it dawned on me that already it was dark and I should rush back home. I accomplished it somehow. Everybody was worried at home. On seeing me safe, their faces lighted up. Inside in the light, my hair and face powdered with earth presented an interesting sight. An evening ended as a damp squib.

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Wednesday, February 28, 2018

HAPPINESS IS NOT JUST A WORD!



Women Power! Happy Moments! Me (second from right) with colleagues at a  farewell party in my college some years back.

Happiness is:


It is a conundrum. It is an abstraction. It is subjective. It is no less than a concept. It encompasses a plethora of human emotions. It is something to do with our feelings. In fact, we associate happiness with activities, which give us joy, satisfaction, confidence and positive orientation. Yet it defies absolute definition. Here is a bit of discussion about the way I take it.

Happiness is being honest with oneself. It is having some principles and a value system to lead life by. It is being better than yesterday. It is in having some goal, maybe a simple one and adhering to it. It is being unselfish but loving yourself and being you. It is not in pleasing others but helping others genuinely. Hypocrisy is its enemy. It is to try to conduct yourself righteously. It is in having convictions and sticking to them with courage. It is also in setting your priorities right and time management.
 
It doesn’t imply an absence of negative emotions. They are bound to be there. Unpleasant life situations spring up from nowhere. It is to control unfounded fears and fight skepticism. It is to shake out negations with the strength of character and catapult oneself back into the mainstream of life faster. It is to plunge into positive action braving odds.

Happiness is to be grateful for whatever one has. It is shunning impossible cravings and misleading fantasies. It is not about dwelling upon human frailties around you but learning lessons from them. It is in accepting yourself and others as they are.

It lies in being conscious of natural phenomenon in all its manifestations. It is in reading good books for inspiration, visualization, and personal improvement. It is to be polite and a patient listener. It is to respect elders and learn from their experiences. It is to indulge in positive affirmations for the good of all.

Friends these are the ideals I believe in. Don't you think, we do need such reminders periodically to prevent ourselves from straying into lethargy and mediocrity. 

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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

NATURE'S GREEN WORLD




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G for THE GREENERY AROUND US.

Man and nature are inseparable. Man’s relatedness to nature corresponds to his evolution through various stages of development for millions of years. His first refuge from the threatening elements was under the canopy of mammoth forests. The forest cover fulfilled his basic needs for survival.  Man kept on evolving slowly and steadily. How man reached the present state falls under the realm of history.

Wheat fields on the side of a highway
Greenery i.e. plant life is the major part of our blissful life endowed to us by nature. Life without the magical presence of green world around us is unthinkable. It is the backbone of our lives. Green crops feed us with their nutritious grains.  Green vegetables provide us with the necessary vitamins needed for our mental and physical growth. Green fruit plants bless us with their sweet and luscious fruits.


Trees standing stately in our midst clean the air we breathe. They help in balancing the ecosystem. Trees care for the safety of the avian families. Birds entertain us with their interesting sounds. Insects stay in the lap of plants. We keep wondering, how these tiniest wee bits can produce those stunning noises. 



Flowers after rain-washed nights steal our hearts away. Their lush green shoots soothe the eyes. A blade of green grass glimmering in morning light topped with its pearly dewdrop captivates our senses. The freshly mowed lawn attracts hordes of bird families. What a delight it is to watch their joyful chirps as they eagerly search for grubs! Branches of trees thickened with new leaves swing merrily in the breeze during spring. Theirs is a unique inspiration that can never be replicated.

This green repertoire of nature reflects immense life lessons. Nature has its own indivisible laws. Like life itself, it does not move continuously uphill. It has its breaks and setbacks. Winter of nature as of life is bleak. Plants seem withered. Trees look like skeletons shorn of leaf. Yet soon spring arrives with it magical apparel of freshness, new tender shoots and wraps the world in its green sheen and beauty. Likewise, in life obstacles and despair invade us suddenly and leave us heart broken. If we have faith in ourselves, we can overcome difficulties with patience and sincere efforts.

Plants as nature’s representatives follow a decisive rhythm. The flow of automatic change of seasons vouches for this spontaneous activity. Vegetation has the gift of resilience. This quality in itself gives us a lesson of hope. However bad a situation is, it will get resolved. Plants are our allies. Their bounties to the human race are free.

Let’s act responsibly towards nature. If pushed to the wall by man’s greed and selfishness, it mighty rebel.

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Thursday, February 15, 2018

FENUGREEK LEAVES AND SEEDS




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FENUGREEK LEAVES AND SEEDS


Continuing with my food trail, I thought I should bring center stage the lesser known plants and herbs, which are powerhouses of wellness but were ignored for long. Such wonders do require resurrection.

(In my write up, I’d be using the word 'Methi' for Fenugreek leaves.)

In this category, I'd place F for fenugreek leaves (methi). In my parents' household, my mother would cook methi with potatoes during winters as a routine. Once a week that is. It flourished in our kitchen garden. It is another matter that her children showed no inclination to eat it, because of its sharp and slightly bitter taste. Children anywhere in the world act squeamishly when parents cajole them to eat something hardly appetizing but considered good on other accounts. Amusingly have children ever cared about 'other accounts?’ 

However, dear mother's culinary ingenuity would make us eat the yesterday's preparation in an indirect manner. She would knead the cooked methi in wheat flour and make paranthas for breakfast, served with sweet and creamy homemade curd. The bitterness neutralized, the olfactory element enhanced, the green textured paranthas used to be delicious. Sometimes she would knead the stuff in maize flour and make rotis. The taste of hot Makki di roti with melting butter on it used to be heavenly.  

Over the years, after myriad experiments, interactions with friends, I learnt about doable extensive uses of methi with interesting results. The exercise strengthened my culinary repertoire no doubt.

New researches have shown that fenugreek leaves and seeds have multiple health benefits and should be consumed in some form or the other.

In Indian cuisine, its leaves or seeds have been extensively used in various preparations for ages. Only in our modern avatar of fast foods coupled with the paucity of time it has been somewhat relegated to a lowly position. 

However, slowly it is regaining its rightful place in the food fraternity.

Here are some of the dishes we prepare with Methi:

1. Methi with potatoes cooked as a vegetable dish.

Google images this and above

2. The real Indian curry, we prepare with black gram flour and curd, which gets its green look and mouthwatering aroma with finely cut methi leaves lightly roasted with Tadka. When fresh methi is not available seeds or dry leaves are substituted.

3. Indian style chicken cooked with methi leaves.

4. Cauliflower vegetable dish cooked with some methi leaves to aid its digestive process.

5. Methi pakoras and tikki fried after mixing with black gram flour.

 Some of the accepted benefits of consuming methi, I will briefly list below:

 1. Its regular consumption is said to reduce inflammation in the body, which causes many health issues.

2. Its water-soluble fiber aids digestion and reduces constipation and other internal inflammations.

3. Its use promotes heart health. It reduces cholesterol and triglycerides in the arteries.
 
4. Methi is the repository of most of the essential minerals and vitamins. It is a source of protein and carbohydrates as well.


In conclusion, one can say that methi is a wonder plant. If its consumption can reduce the number of countless pills we pop up as part of our routine, then why not try this.

Dear ladies, it is just an initiation or an introduction to exploring something healthy. Search the Internet. You can find the treasures of knowledge about it.  It’ll amaze you.


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