Happy New Year

It is that time of the year again. The time when all the events of the past year are rerun on TV. The time when we get into that thinking mode happy for all that had gone wonderful that year and hope for the best for all to come the next year. The new year eve is indeed special in many aspects. It reminds us of monumental concepts like the ever changing time,true friends who have stood for us, with us in our good and bad times, cherishing our family and beloved ones. The new year is the time for the old wounds to heal, long lost relations to be remembered, new desires to crop up, new dreams to get wings and old feuds to be forgotten.

Everyone likes the new year. It is one of those rare days when everyone seem to be happy and positive. Maybe that's what makes it so special. Not to forget the wonderful TV programs and special dinner with friends and family. The new year resolution is an age old tradition which I'm sure is followed for three months maximum. Then the new year is no longer new and our resolutions are comfortably forgotten till that year comes to an end. So this year on this day, the new year eve, I'm thinking to myself,

What have I done different this year?

What more do I have to look forward to?

How have I improved in my personal goals?

What are my achievements?

Most of you , I'm sure must have had the same thoughts. I'm glad that 2013 has been a fantastic year and I have no regrets in spending the time just the way I have spent these last twelve months. Nevertheless there is always a plan for the future. No matter how carefree and in some cases how careless you are, you always have a little plan for the next year. Well, in my case, I have plans-multiple ones. But remember that you do not change overnight just because you made a new year resolution. Oh no! You change over the year only if you set your heart to it.Otherwise , it will just be another namesake resolution that was born and forgotten.

As the new year is around the corner, lets us all make a pledge to

Improve our self in at least one way better than what we were last year,
Make a positive difference in at least one person's life,
Make time for a long forgotten personal talent,
Make time for family and true friends,
Above all remain happy and positive!

Wish you all a very beautiful year ahead :)

Love - Bold and Beautiful

I have added this new channel to my list of channels I love watching - it is a channel called Romedy Now. For all those of you who do not know this channel, this channel broadcasts romantic comedies. You might immediately think that this stuff is girlish. Maybe, but don't guys look for love too? I mean, agreed that fairy tales are a huge hit with girls and fairy tale weddings even more so, but how does a fairy tale wedding happen without a prince? Some of these movies have such predictable dialogues but some are especially extraordinary. And some of these dialogues are straight from the heart if you had any idea of what love is! Hey is there anybody who can say for sure what love is?

The answer for the above question is no. I'm going to go through some of the scenarios to add more mystery to this puzzle.

Scenario 1:

Two happily married couple had everything in life except the thing they wanted most- children. The wife so badly wanted a child that what did the husband do?He discussed with his wife and took in the children of their relatives, educated them, brought them up without any kind of expectations in return. Altogether, they had raised 15 children who are into various successful professions today. The couple had a very happy life. Unbelievable right?!

Scenario 2: 

A beautiful girl falls in love with a guy, lets call him Tim who she thinks is perfect for her. They are together for six years. Meantime there is another guy,Ray, who is equally in love with the girl though the girl does not know. One fine day, Tim just takes off after a silly argument never to return. Ray knows how much heartbroken that special girl is. He knows all about Tim, but never talks about it to the girl, gives the girl a chance to love him objectively after waiting so patiently and finally marries her. They have two beautiful children today.

Scenario 3:

A girl Rina wants to marry the love of her heart. The guy's name is Leo. But due to family circumstances, she is forced to marry another guy. Rina's close friend Meera marries Leo and Rina is heartbroken as she could not understand how her best friend can do such a thing. One day Meera writes a letter to Rina, which reads like this,

Dear Rina, I know how much you loved Leo and how heartbroken you were about not getting together with Leo. I married Leo because I knew you both so well and I wanted to live as YOU with Leo. Can you understand what I'm saying? I'm living as Rina with Leo. I'm doing the things as you would do and I'm living my life as you would live. I decided to live this way because as your best friend, this was the only little comfort that I could give you, the comfort that the two people who you loved most in the world are taking care of each other well.

Love,
Meera.

So what is this love? Love is bold, love is beautiful. Can anyone ever define it in such a way that everyone is convinced with that definition forever? No, that mysterious component, the component which shows the limitless potential of love makes it beautiful and elusive. So the next time you feel true love in the form of a partner or a friend or a family, remember the possibilities of happiness that it offers. You have everything right there and right then.  

I'm Woman

Hethai Abba - The Pride of Badugas

For all the badugas, the hethai abba is a very important festival. The hethai amman is the prime God for badugas and this article registers my experience when I visited the hethai abba yesterday Remeber that this was my first visit and the festival took me by surprise. Badugas are nature worshipers who do not essentially believe in idol worship. For them, the stones and trees are as sacred as their belief in a supreme being. The most striking features of this festival were the ones that triggered this article.

The Madihadda:

Adda means a green valley in which cultivation is not done. Instead the little streams are preserved for local population and the land is mostly used for the relaxation of cattle. The hethai abba took place in one such location. The ground covers a huge area in the middle of which there is a huge temple. The hethai kallu ( mostly seen as the guardian of a village) is placed in the entrance of the temple. The belief here is that sacred stone will protect the whole village from all evil and bring prosperity to all. There is no baduga village without a ethai kallu.

The temple:

The temple does not have an idol for worship. Instead, it has the hethai thadi (walking stick) and the kode ( the sacred umbrella) which are the objects of worship. Badugas from all over the world come to worship there. Prayers are offered in terms of rice, ghee, fruits and the like. Holy chants are chanted when the holy objects are taken out for a routine for all to pray for a short while.

White Magic:

The specialty of this function is that everyone is required to wear costumes in white. The gents wear white shirt, a white dhoti and a white angavastravam ( a towel over the shoulder), the ladies wear sarees and salwars and cover themselves with a white mundu ( draped across the shoulder). It is such a beautiful sight to behold. The white sea of people against the green valley and the blue skies is beyond imagination.

The Paruva:

Badugas are basically peace loving. The traditional annadhanam (food for all) is performed and the entire crowd takes its place at the food line without the slightest fuss. The food is consumed with much relish and gratitude as the devotees feel blessed for having witnessed the grand ceremony of the temple.

The Divine Blessing:

It is said that the white eagle always comes on this day to bless the devotees present at the temple. The eagle soaring forward and backward spreading its majestic wings is such a blessed sight. Surprisingly there are no crows even when there are a lot of food offerings.

There is a lot of folklore around the baduga community with respect to hethai abba. Though one wishes to know the entire truth, there are so many modified versions of such festivals that one finds it difficult to believe all yet believe none. Nevertheless, the grandeur and devotion involved in the ceremony leaves us with no doubt with respect to the power of the temple and the unquestioning faith of the badugas. All in all, it was an awesome experience, one that I would cherish to tell my children.

Time to Dwell

That funny thing called LOVE


Love gives you,

Strength when you are down,
Happiness when you are sound,
Security when you are scared,
Smiles when you are glad
Hugs when you are sad
And hope when you are hurt.

Love is a small package that has a great value which only doubles by sharing. Time is short while journey is long, some might pass through, some might stay with you and nevertheless there is always something worth learning in a relationship.Love is omnipresent. Sometimes you do not know it is even there. Sometimes you take it for granted expecting it to be always there. Either ways love wants to be with you in the form of a parent or a friend or a sibling or a son.

Love  - The more you get, the more you want to get
The more you want to get, the more you want to give
The more you want to give, the more you learn to live.

Love is a universal presence,a timeless phenomenon which can tear your soul apart and heal a broken heart. Love can make the world go round and bring time to a standstill. It can show you dimensions of yourself that you never know existed. It gives you wings to fly and tears to cry. Love is indeed a funny thing.

Reverse Mortgage


With the varying lifestyles and added pressures, it is becoming increasingly difficult to take care of the elders at home. Children are moving out of their home towns in search of better opportunities - higher education, marriage and settling abroad. Most parents are skeptical about joining their children in unknown locations and refuse outright to do so making it difficult to live together. Also if aged parents decide to live by themselves, the financial burden is yet another factor to be considered. If they are pensioners, they somehow manage their expenses. For those without any pension, there is no source of income. 

What is reverse mortgage?

For parents with own houses who want to lead a dignified life after retirement without depending on their children financially, reverse mortgage is a very good scheme. It is basically a financial instrument which came into effect from 2007. It is the opposite of a conventional mortgage. In this system, the senior citizen can receive a regular payment from the bank against the mortgage of his home. The worth of the property is estimated by the bank. Depending on the worth , the bank sanctions the loan in periodic payments.

Eligibility Criteria:
  • The house should be owned and occupied by elders who are above 60 years
  • The life of the property should be atleast 20 years
  • The house should be the permanent residence of the elders.

General guidelines from RBI:
  • 60% of the property's worth can only be taken as loan
  • The maximum tenure for this payout - 15 years
  • The minimum tenure for this payout - 10 years
  • The property will be re-evaluated once in every five years

Points to be noted:
  • The monthly payment received is not an income. It is a loan and therefore no tax payments are required.
  • This type of loan ends when the last surviving borrower of the loan dies.
  • After that, the bank gives an option to the next of kin to repay the loan along with the interest. 
  • If the next of kin is not interested or is unable to pay the loan, the bank recovers the money through the sale of the property. If there was extra amount after settling the loan , the excess is passed onto the legal heirs.
  • In case of loss during resale, the bank bears it.
The drawbacks:
  • The monthly payout is fixed. There is no way to increase that during any kind of emergencies.
  • The application process is long and complicated and the elders might end up not understanding it.
Reverse mortgage is yet to be popular in India. Nevertheless it is a decent option for aged and lonely parents who are asset rich and cash poor. Before getting into any kind of deals with the bank it is always best to research and understand their policies.


Heart

Thinking of marrying your best friend? Think twice!

A marital relationship should be fulfilling as well as long lasting. Your life partner should be your equal partner in every sense - he or she should make you happy and should be able to share things with you and care for you. All that said, it might look like your best friend could be the ultimate choice as that friend will be someone who knows you in and out. With all due respect to long lasting relationships with best friends, here are some of the reasons why marrying your best friend can be a disaster.

1. For starters, a close friend is defined a close friend because of his ability to accept you as you are. But marriage is a totally different ball game where you are sometimes forced to make adjustments and change yourself for the greater good. You will end up blaming your partner for the change.

2. Everyone is entitled to secrets. The liberty of sharing everything is open only with a close friend. And if you make that one person your spouse you will end up having a mental conflict as discretion is a grand part of marriage.

3. To talk without thinking, to act without hesitation is a blessing best enjoyed with a friend. Leave the spouse out of it and save yourself from hundreds of unwarranted explanations later.

4. Even when your marriage is not so sweet on occasions, you will trust your best friend expecting them to listen and offer suggestion. If you make that one person your spouse you will end up bearing the burden alone because no one understands you like your close mate.

5. A best friendship in true sense is a beautiful way to get to know your spouse better because your spouse will automatically trust your best buddy for bringing up issues they are not comfortable bringing up with you.

6. Marriage demands commitment, commitment demands proper planning and discipline. These things are contradictory to the spontaneity factor of great friendships. A marriage can alter your way of seeing your best friend if you are married to each other. It will only complicate your relationship. 

7. Say your best friend was easy going and not particularly serious about anything, the same things which you found relaxing and even endearing in a friendship will stick out as a sore spot as you will term the same traits as 'irresponsible.' It might end up straining your relationship.

8. Last but not the least, it is very very difficult to earn a true friend. In a country like India, the success rate of marriages is higher even if it is 'arranged' and you end up marrying somebody you hardly know. But anywhere in the world, friendship cannot be arranged. It has to happen. And a true friend is one in a million. It is just not worth losing a best friend through any means - marriage or otherwise. 

Facebook Species

Social marketing has a huge influence on the youngsters today.Among them Facebook has a special place and is easily the most popular networking site. It has cut across genders and locations. Even ten-year-olds are familiar with the 'like' and 'comment' vocabulary.

So I'm here to note the most popular types of people found on this networking site.

1. The Photomaniacs

Ok.. you are beautiful..You have a much better face and physique that is the envy of most people. But such beautiful people are obsessed with clicking themselves in various attires and poses and constantly post them on FB as profile pictures. Ok so you need not be like me who only changes profile pictures once in two years. But neither should you be like a photo maniac who changes the profile pictures once in two days or worse still, once in two hours. The whole world knows you are be-you-ti-full. What is the obsession with getting the most likes of every other person on the planet?

2.  The Poster Bunnies

These people have a sweet tooth for emotional posters mainly about love and relationships. Love is this, love is that, love is more this or less that.. we get it, alright! Love is good and everybody needs a healthy dose of it but who wants to be a love preacher? I wonder how much time they spend on hunting such posters.

3. The Commentators

These people have a constant urge to let others know what they are doing from morning till late night.. as if we are interested in their history. Ate idlis for breakfast.. listening to Ilayaraja.. Raining heavily.. Parottas for dinner.. Who cares man! Their verbal diarrhea has modified into finger mania where these people cannot survive the night between two days if they do not broadcast their life all the time.

4. The Emoticons

Some people just cannot post without ample use of emoticons. Feeling blessed ( a halo around the head) feeling happy ( barring all teeth and glaring at anyone who dares to ask why) . There is less content and more emoticons. What are you trying to convey and to whom? I soon have to find an emoticon for sheeeeeesh!

5. The Couplets

These people have no private love life. Their pictures are plastered all through their pages as one embarrassing snap after another is displayed with great relish and no shame , I might add. Hugs, kisses, skimpy clothes, party and booze, smooches and what not.. Yuck! If you are trying to prove that you have a very hip and happening life, I suggest you re-evaluate your opinion of your life. If a couple has a beer together, it does not mean they are happily ever after. It means they are going to have a bad hangover and a bitter argument the next day. Stop giving such arrogant and vulgar poses and start acting your age!

6. The Like-it-alls

These people have a strong belief that they have a duty towards liking every tom, dick and harry's post. They do not think twice about anything. You post anything , they will not waste even a minute before liking it and going forward to the next item on the page. All they can do is 'like'. Even if you ask for an opinion about something they will like your question without actually bothering to share their opinion. They go ahead and like as many pages as they can the result of which the others on their friend lists are constantly badgered to like the same.

All in all, you will have it on your head and conscience , dear Facebook, for discovering a whole new set of species who were unknown till now. 

Happy Birthday!

Good Publishing Houses - India

Are you a writer who is passionate about your work? Do you want to publish your manuscript for the whole world to read and enjoy. Then this article might be helpful for you.

Traditional publishing houses go through these processes for a fiction or a non-fiction type of book

They first ask you to send a mail about the details of your book. The details normally include,
1. Synopsis of your story
2. Chapter outline
3. Plot of the story (about 100 words) just like the ones you find in the back of a book)
4. Three sample chapters
Publishers who entertain e-mail samples are:

- Penguin India
- Roli Books
- Random House
- Shrishti Publications
- Fingerprint Publications

Some publishers normally ask for the same content as a hard copy. They do not entertain e-mail submissions.

- Rupa Publishers
-Westland Publishers
-Harper Collins India

Most of them are based at New Delhi. For children's books, poetry and short story works these companies may have a different format. 

These are only some of the publishing houses. There are other less known publishers who are willing to take on new authors. If they are interested in your manuscript, they might ask you to send  the complete manuscript. These companies take anywhere between a month and six months to respond to new submissions. Patience is the key virtue here. Most companies do not relpy in case of rejecting your work. 

In that case, you can still get your work published. It is called 'Self-publishing' which means getting your work published by yourself.


Wise & Unwise

Golden Days of Childhood

Those moments that made my childhood special..

1. Playing on the streets screaming at the top of the voice

2. Delicacies by grandma on special occasions

3. 'Mile sur mera' song based on national integration on the only channel available on TV - DD

4. Going for long walks with daddy

5. Playing 'Mario' video game like it was the best game in the whole world

6. Pranks with cousins during summer vacations at our native place - climbing trees, picking fruits, playing downstream, making new friends, having fun in meadows with cows and birds, wearing traditional outfits, being a part of grand festivals and family get-togethers..

7. Sweet mango juice after a hot day at the park.

8. Bed-time stories with Mommy

9. Bursting crackers starting from two months before Diwali

10.Bombay Mittai ( Gum chocolate sold by a man with a clapping puppet)

11. Summer time specialties - Mango pickles, Rice Vadams ( for which we were the official crow hunters)

12. Elephants with mahouts strolling the streets occasionally.

Elegant Baduga Wedding

Badugas are natives of the majestic hills of the Nilgiris. Their weddings symbolize their down-to-earth qualities of being simple yet elegant and meaningful. They are taught to enjoy all that life has to offer in simple terms. The main aspects of their wedding is that there is no dowry in any form. Why is this a major highlight? It is because in the Indian culture, the dowry can make or break a marriage. Families have been greatly disturbed by this social evil. But no.. Badugas are happy with what they have. There is no posh or elaborate ceremonies. There are only simple act of coming together to celebrate love and commitment.

For a baduga, a wedding is a family affair. And by family,I mean the entire village where the bride and groom are associated. The entire villages come together to celebrate the noble union. They do not marry within the same village because it clashes with their basic principle of brotherhood. Villagers from the same village are considered as brothers and do not entertain any thoughts of marriage. 
There are three ceremonies in a baduga wedding -
-The engagement
-The pre-wedding ceremony
-The wedding 

The engagement ceremony is where all the relatives of the bride and groom get together and officially announce the betrothal. The wedding date is fixed on the engagement day. The pre-wedding ceremony is essentially a ceremony of the bride's family. The most striking feature of the wedding is the dance and the food. Traditional foods are prepared and enjoyed with gusto. Dance is a very integral part of the baduga culture. Starting from kids to aged elders, it is uniformly enjoyed and considered a matter of pride. Elders from the groom's family come to the bride's house on the pre-wedding day to accompany the bride to the temple or mandap(where the wedding is to be held the next day.) A holy chain called 'ungaramani' is presented to the bride as a welcome symbol by her new family. On the wedding day, the entire family of the bride accompanied by select few of the groom's relatives travel to the venue amidst singing and dancing. Occasional chants of 'Haw Haw' grace the ceremony. It is the holy chant of badugas which is sung during happy and sad occasions. The mangal sutra is tied making the whole process a witness to the glorious life awaiting the blessed couple. The bride is asked to perform simple duties like carrying water and eating along with her new family to further strengthen the ties. the wedding comes to an end with an elaborate lunch. Altogether the wedding is a fulfilling step towards getting acquainted with new relations and a better and happy life.

Girly Talks

A Real Chance at Childhood

Children's day is celebrated on November 14 in the honor of Jawaharlal Nehru, our first prime minister. He was a great admirer of children and strongly believed in them. And we carry on the tradition though today it is only for name sake.Why is it a meaningless tradition today?

It is because, children are mini-adults today. They are not technically children anymore. Why?

For one,children are strongly opinionated and love to talk strongly about things even which they haven't got the slightest clue. They are the unacknowledged technical geeks in the family who are engineers by passion and scientists by necessity or so they claim. They are not interested in silly walking and talking animated objects (called cartoons) over which the previous generation literally drooled over. Their childhood is already skewed because in most cases, they are the only child in the family. They never actually have the choice or chance of understanding the fun of coming together. Outdoor games are literally not existent along with interesting board games like snake and ladders and ludo. Children are taught to talk in English but they haven't got the slightest clue why trying to own a neighbor's toy is wrong.

Neighbors and cousins are as foreign to them as algebra. Computers rule their life. They know what an unknown person is doing on Facebook but they haven't got the slightest clue what their own siblings are up to.

All that said, these are not complaints against children. These are observations of how children blindly follow their parents. So if you want your child to have a memorable childhood, stop being glued to the computer and spend time with your child. Get out of those four walls and explore the world around you. Chase butterflies, skim rocks in the river, have great nature outings, maintain a scrap book or play hide and seek. If you want your children to turn out to be great, be a great parent from whom your child automatically learns by example. A child's mind is like a clean sponge which absorbs everything early. There is no analysis of whether it is right or wrong. That is how they should be. Today my son split some kum-kum on the floor and had smeared his face and hands with it. At first sight, my reaction was 'Why can't you sit quiet?' But hell, he is just a year old. If I'm expecting him to sit quiet, he will defy the definition of a toddler, won't he?

So my final word. Just let them be. Teach them things the traditional way so that they learn to slow down and enjoy their childhood. There is no rush to engage them in things which are meant for adults. If he does not know how to operate a touch screen phone or have an account on Facebook, the world does not end. Being a child with lot of smiles and happiness is a blessing every child deserves. It is the moral responsibility of every parent to ensure that their child gets a real chance at childhood.

Alive

The Ballad Of Father GIlligan - W.B.Yeats

One of my favorite poems revoking unquestioning faith in God.

The old priest Peter Gilligan
Was weary night and day
For half his flock were in their beds
Or under green sods lay.

Once, while he nodded in a chair
At the moth-hour of the eve
Another poor man sent for him,
And he began to grieve.

'I have no rest, nor joy, nor peace,
For people die and die;
And after cried he, 'God forgive!
My body spake not I!'

He knelt, and leaning on the chair
He prayed and fell asleep;
And the moth-hour went from the fields,
And stars began to peep.

They slowly into millions grew,
And leaves shook in the wind
And God covered the world with shade
And whispered to mankind.

Upon the time of sparrow chirp
When the moths came once more,
The old priest Peter Gilligan
Stood upright on the floor.

'Mavrone, mavrone! The man has died
While I slept in the chair.'
He roused his horse out of its sleep
And rode with little care.

He rode now as he never rode,
By rocky lane and fen;
The sick man's wife opened the door,
'Father! you come again!'

'And is the poor man dead?' he cried
'He died an hour ago.'
The old priest Peter Gilligan
In grief swayed to and fro.

'When you were gone, he turned and died,
As merry as a bird.'
The old priest Peter Gilligan
He knelt him at that word.

'He Who hath made the night of stars
For souls who tire and bleed,
Sent one of this great angels down,
To help me in my need.

'He Who is wrapped in purple robes,
With planets in His care
Had pity on the least of things
Asleep upon a chair.'

Working Mothers, Tussi Great Ho!

Work life balance is a tricky concept. Because the balance part normally is not applicable to the ladies. We are brought up in a patriarchal society where even from a young age we put the needs of our family or others in general before our own. On hindsight, this looks like a huge mistake because, the entire concept of individuality goes for a toss then. The women of the family are good if they care about the rest while if she does something for herself once in a while, she is considered selfish. To add insult to injury, she is taught to feel guilty about spending time her own way.  For a working woman the challenges are greater and if that working women is a mother, the challenges become twisted, since women are looked upon to embrace the responsibilities of motherhood while men just pop their head into the window of their children's life,as fathers here and there.

If a man is never present for his children, he is extremely busy earning for his family. If a woman does the same, she is inconsiderate. If a man is successful, everybody likes him. If a woman is successful, her personal life is scrutinized inch by inch for flaws. It is possible for a man to be a good father by just buying expensive gifts for his children, while a woman spending most of the time with them is never enough. Women have to struggle to get things accomplished while the same things are taken for granted by men.

We are in an era where the gender bias no longer makes any practical sense since survival as a family is the key here. Women rule the boardrooms as well the kitchen and they do not care about the acknowledgement part anymore. They are not scared to air their opinions or being judged harshly. When they started working, they shed their shyness. Now they are armed to take over the world. We do not expect men to appreciate us and congratulate us on our achievements. No sir! that will be expecting way too much. What we expect is to let things be as they are. There is no need to blow little things out of proportion. So what if she arrives late and is unable to make dinner. She slogs to support the man financially. So what if she wants you to take over the grocery department once in a while. She always cooks for the two of you no matter how irritated she is. So what if she needs you to don the father hat more often. She juggles a lot more than you are even capable of imagining. So what if she cries once in a while. That is the only way she can handle her unreciprocated emotions. Her hands are always full but her heart has a space always specially reserved for you.

If you are that special guy who knows the value of your woman, this article is not meant for you. For all the others, please rethink how your life would have been if not for that woman.

Go Ahead

ABOU BEN ADHEM - James Henry Leigh Hunt

Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight of his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An angel writing in a book of gold:-
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the presence in the room he said,
'What writest thou?' - The vision raised its head,
And with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answered 'The names of those who love the Lord.'
'And is mine one?' said Abou. 'Nay, not so,'
Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerly still; and said 'I pray thee then,
Write me as one that loves his fellow-men.'

The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names who love of God had blessed,
And lo! Ben Adhem's name led all the rest.

This is the first poem I enjoyed at school!

Only For You My Baby!

It is becoming increasingly difficult to spend time with children in a nuclear family set up. And that too, if your child is a baby or toddler demanding constant attention, then it becomes more of a work than a joy. Juggling all the routine activities and taking care of a baby are equally monumental tasks but not impossible. With a little organisation of your activities you can always have the best of the both worlds. Here are some of the tips to spend and equally enjoy that extra time with your baby.


- Try to cook lunch along with breakfast. This ensures that you have at least two hours free in the afternoon. Mornings are always the time when the work gets done so fast because we are fresh during the start of the day.

- Take a nap. When the baby takes a nap, quit doing work and lie down sometime with him. You can take a short nap to feel relaxed. If you are not a napper, you can simply do some recreational activities which you know will relax you. When the baby rests, you too have to rest. It rejuvenates your tired bones.

- Have meals on time. It is very difficult when you  have to run around the baby all day. His needs always come first . As a result , you might end up throwing your own things out of schedule. A hungry stomach fuels your irritation all the more.

- Play with your baby. You don't have to watch all the TV serials from morning to night. Choose two or three programs that you regularly want to see. The rest of the time, devote to your baby. When you do this regularly, the baby gets to know your schedule. He will wait eagerly for his playtime instead of trying to get your attention all the time.

- Get out of the house for a stroll. Being in a confined hyper active space for a whole day is not a good sign at all. You will end up being depressed and inevitably you will blame the baby for it. So go out and enjoy that cool wind in your hair.

Your kids will remain babies only once in their lifetime. Make the most of it :)

The Big Fat Indian Wedding

Do marriages work because people really make the effort to make it work or merely because people learn to live it just the way a toddler learns to learn ABC. Why is marriage called an institution anyways?
Is it because you always keep learning to manage things no matter how experienced you become.
Eitherways if all the great love stories and legends that claim true love are to be believed, then marriage should really be a good thing isn’t it? A wonderful relationship where you have somebody whom you can share your fears without being laughed at, share your joys without the fear of jealousy, share your worries without the fear of competition and most important of all when you fall down you always know that there is somebody to catch you.
The idea slowly sunk in, until one fine day I felt truly excited about the whole process.
I decided to get married. That is not so bad.. is it??
And so the traditional process of match making started.  Little did I know the complexities of the whole thing.
Height , weight, colour, education, salary, Family background, location, in laws.... the list was endless..

After going through all these initial criteria.. then came the meeting stage.. And this is when I knew I had a true inner voice.
“ Do you know to cook?”  Are you looking for a cook?
“How much do you earn?”  Are you planning to give me a promotion?
“Are you planning to quit your job after marriage?” Moron. What has my job got to do with marriage?
“Will you wear only sarees after marriage?” Only if you wear dhotis after marriage
The kind of questions that came up.. some were funny.. some amusing.. some direct. But some downright no no.. Its a wonder people even manage to get married after these kind of conversations.

Then the discussion stage..
The guy is not in a decent job.. 
He is too dark.. 
His family is not good enough...


All my dreams about getting married were slowly ebbing away.. I cannot get married to somebody for the sake of getting married , Can I?

Six months later..

I'm happily married to a wonderful guy now. I always wondered how people manage to get married after all this drama. But it does happen someday , when everything just feels right , special and suitable for you that you can no longer turn down a proposal. And that is how one gets married. I guess I learnt it practically!

Present


Sanitary Measures

Sanitary pads are used as a protection for menstrual flow. They have been around for so many centuries though in various forms. It is said that a woman uses approximately 16,000 sanitary pads in her life time. For a product that is used extensively, women must take the effort to know the proper safety measures. We see a variety of brands on all types of advertisements. Are all the fancy brands safe? What are the different choices offered to women? It is not advisable to spend money on an unhealthy product which might pose a health risk in the long term. The main component of a napkin is cotton. The cotton is bleached using chemicals in most processes. In addition to this, napkins may also contain residue of the pesticides that have been used on the cotton crop. Most of the product companies also use artificial fragrances for the cotton. All these combined together may cause various side effects like headache, dizziness, and bacterial infection. So what should we as women, be aware of?
1.       There are a variety of models available for different type of menstrual flow. Take time to go through it and use it.
2.       Certain chemicals may react adversely with certain women. If there is irritation, itching or discomfort in the menstrual area, check your napkin and change immediately.
3.       Organic pads are a very good option for a healthy life style. They are gaining immense popularity in recent days.
4.       Do not use a single napkin for more than 6 hours at a stretch. Try changing as frequently as needed. Prolonged use of the same pad may accelerate the growth of bacteria.
5.       It is always better to be safe than sorry. High priced napkins need not automatically equate safer napkins. Always be alert about ongoing issues regarding the different brands.
6.       Last but not the least- do not be shy of discussing health issues with regard to menstrual cycle. Immediate attention may curb a lot of risks.
      Menstrual cycle is natural and a very important cycle of life. Seeking medical attention when needed and using appropriate measures will prevent infertility in women, since uterus and vagina are the most vulnerable organs in most cases.


Be Aware. Be Safe.

Power Yoga

The 'Power’ Yoga

With the every-day rapid changes in lifestyle, physical and mental fitness is fast becoming a luxury. But here is a way to effectively achieve your fitness goals with just an hour to spare every day.  A new fun style in an age-old process - this is what power yoga brings to today’s generation of fitness- conscious population.

What is Power Yoga?

 Power Yoga is commonly used as a generic term to describe any vigorous yoga practice. The concept of Power Yoga was initially popularized by K. Pattabhi Jois in the mid-1900s. Power Yoga has its roots in the Indian Ashtanga (eight spiritual concepts) yoga. This yoga stems from the variation of the most popular yoga called the Hatha Yoga. In contrast to the slow rhythms and structured functionalities of the Hatha Yoga, the Power Yoga offers completely action packed package of modern Yoga. While the emphasis is on physical flexibility while nurturing self-discipline, this yoga does not have specific poses and can vary depending on the teacher’s style.

These are the eight spiritual concepts on which the power Yoga is based on.  

  • Moral codes
  • Self-study     
  • Posture      
  • Breathing control
  • Separating the mind from the body 
  • Enhancing the power of concentration
  • Deep meditation
  • Higher consciousness

Health Benefits

Power Yoga classes are designed for beginners, intermediate and advanced depending on the vigour of the poses. The sessions last from anywhere between 30 minutes to 90 minutes depending on the ability of the learners. For effective weight loss, power yoga must be practiced at least 3 times a week mainly for beginners.

Combined with vigorous activity, it is one of the most effective weight loss options available today. It is a fact that one hour of power yoga can easily help you burn about 300 calories.  Poses in Power Yoga involve stretching the legs and hips and compressing abdominal muscles. This extreme or rather active form of yoga also includes rapid switching between poses making it a ideal work out for weight loss. In addition to slimming down, it is a great form of cardio-conditioning to get strong and flexible. The fast-flowing movements enhance the body balance. The movements are synchronized with breath-control to achieve complete benefit. It tones up all body parts, burning unwanted fats and relieving stress. Maintaining poses help strengthen muscles and joints. Power Yoga focuses on integrating all the vital elements of yoga to give a well-balanced body, mind and spirit. The greatest advantage this new form has to offer is that, it can be learnt at any age as alterations to poses according to age is perfectly possible. Power Yoga is immensely popular for its customizations as well as its immense health benefits. Countries all over the world are embracing this technique for a happy and healthy life. Fitness for any age at any time – Power Yoga.

The Divine MS Subbulakshmi

Today is the 97th birthday of MS Subbulakshmi, the great music Icon from Madurai. She was the first woman to win the Bharath Rathna Award, the highest honor of our country. Her contributions to carnatic music are well-known. She gave her first public performance at the age of 13. Her contribution to devotional music in unparalleled. She has sung in all the south Indian languages along with Hindi, Bengali and Marathi. In her youth, she is also said to have acted in a couple of Tamil films. In the later period she quit films and devoted her life entirely to music. These are some of her much appreciated musical works.

Bhaja Govintham
Hanuman Chalisa
Suprapatham
Kanda Shashti Kavasam.

Interesting facts:

A kanchipuram Sari clour called MS Blue is named after her.
She was acknowledged as the court singer at the Tirupati Devasthanam.
A postage stamp was released to honour her in 2005.
She was a philanthropic at heart donating most of her concert money to charitable organizations.
She was awarded a lot of honorary degrees by various universities.

A music legend who still resides among us through her undying renditions - M.S. Subbulakshmi

Women and Education

Every one would have heard of Montessori schools which are very specialized school for kids which focus on education through play. Ever thought about who conceived the concept and when. It was Maria Montessori. She lived from 1870 to 195. She was the first woman to graduate from the University of Rome's Medical College, famous for her work in the education of young children. The schools that we know today are named after her.

In 1819 Emma Willard writes her “plan for Improving Female Education”. Though it was not as successful as expected it defined the road map for female education. Even in the 1900s, Mary McLeod Bethune dedicated her life to improving educational opportunities for African Americans, founded school for African American girls. Helen Keller is a very familiar name with all. She was a triple handicap (deaf , dumb and blind) who incredibly went on to show that a will is all that matters to achieve. Not even her unfateful circumstances prevented her form getting a good education and proceeding much beyond that.She overcame blindness and deafness, graduated from Radcliffe, gave many speeches on behalf of the physically handicapped and wrote several books. Her inspiration was her teacher Anne sullivan.

Recently Malala Yousafzai was given a chance to address the UN gathering about women and education. The speech that she gave was so in-depth and full of determination that it is difficult to belie that speech came form a 16-year old. She threw light on the plight on Afgan women and stressed more than once that education was extremely important for a dignified survival. In her own words,

I raise up my voice – not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard.
Those who have fought for their rights:
Their right to live in peace.
Their right to be treated with dignity.
Their right to equality of opportunity.

Their right to be educated.

Article 26 of universal declaration of human rights states thus:

1. Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
2. Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

3. Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.
The world average literacy rate is estimated to be 84%. But sadly India registers the largest illiterate population. Needless to say, the population comprises a majority of women.

What does this show?

 That we have not taken education for women seriously yet. In increasing population, females are made to take over activities like farming which was once a male role. The tasks which does not require any formal education are gladly pushed to the female boundary and to sustain it, the society maps such activities are women-centric. Less than 2% of women who are involved in agriculture are educated. Inequality based on gender differences thrive even better today, increasing the uneducated female population to alarming levels. Even during the previous centuries when the world was not so much civilized  we had women pioneers in the field of education. It is a crime today to think education for women is an extravaganza. A woman is entitled to as much liberty as a man in getting an education. I might even go to the extent to say that she has the fundamental right to education. It is a chance for her to change her life positively and influence hundreds of others in doing so. Like how Helen Keller or Maria would never be forgotten ever.


Special Note:
International Literacy Day is celebrated each year on 8 September. It aims to highlight the importance of literacy to individuals, communities and societies.

Right To Education Act

The right to education act is a blessing for all the under privileged children who wish to take up their education seriously. It basically states that every child between 6 and 14 are entitled for free elementary education even in private schools. For all the parents who are struggling to educate their children in good schools, this is a great opportunity. Providing a strong education will ensure that the citizens of the future are sensible. This act does not allow capitation fee or donation for the above mentioned children. This act has always existed in various forms till now undergoing amendments through the years. Gender and social discrimination is not present in this act. It is done in the best interests of all the children. Values that the children learn early in life undeniably shape their attitude. This is a great platform which only requires the awareness and co-operation of the parents to send their kids to school under this act.

Education is a fundamental right in our constitution. 
It is our duty to see that our children get access to good education.

I Know How It Feels

My sister had come home from the hostel. She is  currently staying at the usual good-for-nothing hostels which have high rents and low amenities. As expected the chances that she comes home seem like n escape route to her. Being the youngest in the family, she was always showered special attention. But now she does not even have enough to eat at her hostel. It is the same case with all  the hostels in her area.

I on the other hand am the mother of a hyper-active toddler. Managing a one-year old without the support of elders in the family is no easy task. I rarely have my meals on time as there are a lot of things going on at once in our house. My day is spent cooking and cleaning after my little one who constantly likes to mess up things and eat stray things on the floor. Obviously his diet is of concern since he shows a lot of interest even for inedible stuff. On the other day I caught him chewing on a strand of hair.. Ewww.. Disgusting, isn't it? I know. So I have to police him around all day and the only time I catch my breath is when he takes his daily nap. I long for some kind of support so that I have lesser aching arms and more free hours.

So when my sister comes home, I feel relieved. At least I can have a cup of coffee uninterrupted if not anything else. She arrives pulling a long face because yet again she is upset about the lack of cleanliness in her hostel. I cook a special meal just to cheer her up. It takes me the whole morning. IN between I run errands for my little one. I'm dreaming of taking a nap in the afternoon. By noon, I have a mountain of vessels to wash. In addition to that I have all the other house hold chores waiting for me. I do it one by one juggling the baby somehow. My sister is constantly spending her time on the phone. I'm just waiting for her to relax. She needs coffee every two hours and is very careless with her things. My baby is having a grand time spilling her make-up on the floor and smearing his face with lipstick. She yells at him and asks me to take him inside. I feel disappointed at her lack of care. I have been working from the moment she walked in without a moment's rest. It is already evening. I did not even have a minute's rest let alone nap. Atlast my baby is tired of playing and wants to sleep. I put him to sleep and try to catch up with my sister thinking she would be angry for not spending time with her. But when I peek into the bedroom she is happily sleeping. I just sit for sometime all by myself. I have so many things to talk with her. But this is the only chance for her to relax. From tomorrow she has to put up again with her dreaded hostel and lifeless roommates. She wakes up an hour later and drinks some more coffee. Then she settles down with a book. All my attempts at making a conversation go in vain as she simply nods her head to whatever I say.Then it is time for me to prepare dinner. The baby needs feeding too. My husband comes back from office and the rest of the day is a blur. By the time I make my bed everyone is fast asleep. Lying down in bed, I think about my day. I have the feeling of juggling two babies instead of just one. I want my sister to understand how I'm feeling about things. But she is occupied with her own set of worries. So this is how her every visit is going to be. Maybe I should stop expecting from her. After all she is pretty much young to know about parenting and the stress associated with it.

Then out of nowhere I think of how my cousin's face would light up every time I visited her while I was studying. Sometimes her relief would make me confused. She has two kids two years apart who constantly bring the house down.Now I perfectly understand how she must have felt. Though I was not as detached as my sister, I now think I could have helped her smile a bit more.

We The Women

When a girl is born, most parents think of her a huge responsibility. According to the majority, a girl is nothing but additional cost to the family. Still in many parts of India there is no proper education for girls. Education for girls is not a necessity here. If a girl is educated, great. If not no serious harm done.Why do we need to educate girls anyways? She is going to be another part of a very different family pretty soon. Her own parents seldom know what is going on in her mind. How can we expect some total stranger to understand and accept her? From the day she is born , she is constantly judged, commented, bullied and expected to adhere to the expectation of everyone who surrounds her. She is deemed good if she keeps her head low and goes about playing the perfect subservient girl and wife. If she has her own opinion she is rarely permitted to voice it. If she does not have one, no one bothers to ask her why? Sometimes she wonders what is the purpose of her life? If she has to go about absolutely living for others who do not care about her reasonable wishes, who will live her life? If she has to speak for others where is her own voice? Intelligence here is prohibitive since it lessens the chance of landing a good husband. So what if the wife is clever than the husband? They are meant to be happy together anyways, isn't it? The job of a typical good girl is to remain unnoticed and unacknowledged till the end. The sad part here is women have been living like these for centuries and continue to do so. If a women performs splendidly at work and somehow if her personal life goes for a toss, everyone blames her for being stupid and immature. If it is a man, the issue becomes common and unnoticed.

To all the men especially husbands who have been having a ball bending women, here is to say that,

Women are very much capable of what you are doing and more.
You cannot even compete with a lady in the top qualities of patience and diplomacy.
Her survival skills are excellent. Whatever you throw at her she has a knack of getting adapted to it for the sole reason of her family's well-being.
Her management skills are highly appreciative. She can work full-time, cook and clean at home, help the kids with homework and put up with a guy like you all at the same time. What more proof do you need?
Finally before you judge a woman, you have no idea how much courage it takes for being a woman. (Yes sir, you heard it right! If you were to fix a monetary compensation for all the work that she does in a day, you would not even last a day.)

Chola Puri

My husband and myself decided to go out for a stroll today. We took our one year old son along. He is yet to walk. So we carried him alternatively all through the walk. It was evening and the traffic was heavy. The roads were dusty but we went along with no particular agenda in mind. For those who used to roam occasionally without agenda get to know how much fun it is. We watched couples happily chatting, crowded bazaars where haggling was a daily phenomenon. It was a weekday. Personally I don't know if a weekday is worse than a weekend or vice-versa in a metropolitan city. Both have their merits and de-merits.

After walking for nearly twenty minutes, we happened to cross a hotel. Out of habit, I read their menu while attempting to cross it. One name struck out. It was Chola Puri and Chenna Bhatura , my husband's favorite. I nudged him to show it and the next instant we were inside the hotel with our son. We ordered the item and sat chatting while my little Bunty played with the glasses on the table. The puris arrived and I eagerly took a bite. Meanwhile I placed Bunty on my lap. I also gave him my house keys just to distract him so that he would not have the constant urge to tear my puri apart. Hardly two mouthfuls later, he threw away the keys. It hit the person at the next table. I profusely apologized to him. Within this gap, Bunty reached and struck at my glass of water. My lap was drenched along with Bunty's T-shirt. I tried to get up from the place when Bunty decided it was the best time to grab my puri. The puri was in his hand. I tried to desperately save it by tugging but he would not let go. He grew angry and threw my precious puri on the floor. I looked in horror at my husband who did not even attempt to get up and help me one single second. He was laughing his head off, to add insult to injury. I will never eat another Chola puri without remembering this big incident!

To See You Smile

It was a balmy evening with just the right breeze. I decide to take my little baby for a stroll. My son, Inu is eleven months old. We live in a two storeyed building - apartment style. There is a small park in the front yard. I rarely go down for a stroll. Noisy kids and a restless screaming Inu is not exactly my favorite combination. Inu gets restless when he sees the other kids. He wants to get down from my secure grasp and play with them, preferably in the mud. If I do not entertain his request he gives this piercing scream which can be heard across four streets. It takes an awful lot of time to console him and bring him back to his normal state of mind.

From birth, Inu had always been with crowds. Our family is a huge one and while I was at my native after my delivery, there were always some one or the other visiting Inu, showering him with hugs and gifts. After I came here, its just me and him in this big house. The first couple of days, Inu was completely restless yelling and screaming for his grandparents (my mom and dad). My presence was little consolation to him. He was completely wide-eyed and bewildered to be alone in a new place with new people. Nothing could soothe him then. His tantrums were endless and his screaming was driving me over the edge. I had never been alone with a baby earlier. There had always been help in some form or the other. It was like the two of us in a separate world. My husband would go to the office in the morning and come back late at night. There were the cursory questions and answers. At least somebody was happy we were here!

I put on my salwar shunning my night dress which has been my costume for the last one year on account of the feeding schedules. I wash Inu's face and after I'm sure his drool is under control I take him to the little park. We can actually see this park from our balcony. But no! Inu likes to be in the place of action. The park is crowded as usual. I hold him uncertain what to do next. All the play things are occupied and there is not even a place to sit. Should I go back? I muse. Inu is quiet for once observing his surroundings.

"Hey there." I turn around. "I'm Sanu, Rihan's mom". A nice lady in pink salwar is talking to me.
"I'm Sneha and this is Inu, my son"
"How old is he?"
"Eleven months."
We engage in casual banter. Slowly complete strangers start gathering around me asking about the baby. They share their experiences on motherhood and assure me that boys are naughty by nature. The conversations flow naturally as every one is eager about Inu. They carry him around, hug him and introduce him to their kids. After coming here, it is the first time that I see Inu actually grinning and enjoying himself. He loves their attention and the noises. His face has a big smile. Adjusting to a new place should have been difficult for him too. But as a mother I know that I have to make every effort to keep that smile in place. It is challenging and sometimes I myself want to throw a tantrum along with him but instinctively I realize that every mother should have gone through the same emotions at some point of time. It is a lot of work but not impossible. I hug Inu, a little more close to my heart.

A Contented Mind

"When will the bus arrive?" I asked the old man standing next to me. I was travelling back to my place after visiting my native village. There were limited bus facilities and unlimited crowd waiting for the bus. It was afternoon and the sun was at its full height.

How do these people do this everyday? I silently admire them. There are no luxuries in the village but still everybody seem contented. Strange, isn't it? I for one can always remember wanting one after another in my life, a good salary, nice job profile, a computer, a scooty, a new dress... I'm seldom contented. Maybe it requires a different level of maturity. Their ungrudging happiness and fulfillment is beyond my understanding.

"Here comes the bus", the old man next to me interrupted my train of thoughts. I run forward to secure a place to stand. The bus was full to its limit - surprisingly not only with people. I could see chicken, goats and a lot of vegetable sacks all going to some town just like me. I was ushered in, a little graciously since people recognize that I did not belong to the village.

A family of three adjusted so that I can sit along with them. Wow! What are looked at as inconveniences at the modern town are read as a helpful gestures here. The journey was an hour long. I looked around to pass the time. There was a little girl sitting next to me talking animatedly to her mother about her friend. She must be around six or seven years old, I assume. Suddenly she turned to my side and gave me a wide grin.

"Your bangles are nice. Will you give me these?" I engage her in conversation.
She nodded her head in the negative. I expected this. I wonder how these kids learn the word 'no'. Maybe it is the most used word in a household. Anyways, all kids are possessive of their belongings.

Before I could persuade her, the girl simply said, "Do you know why you can't have this? Because they are too small for you. You need a bigger size. I have some bigger ones at home. I will give you those."

If I say, I was dumbstruck, it would be a gross understatement. The child looked very vulnerable and came from a very ordinary family. Her parents looked as if they worked for daily wages. Yet they taught their little daughter the importance of being contented. The little girl had all the innocence that came with a village territory- the charm, the non-stop talk, the bright colored dress with mismatched bright ribbons. Beneath all that was a heart of gold. Learning to be selfless is an art even most elders do not manage to foster. The girl did not even know me. Still she was ready to give up what little she had. I learnt a very important lesson that day. Contentment and happiness go hand in hand. The girl believed that she had everything she needed. That was why she was open to sharing whatever she had. I made up my mind. I'm blessed with so many things. In the hurry to go forward, I'm forgetting to enjoy the moment that unforgivingly passes by. I learnt to be contented. I learnt to be happy.

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