I count myself as one lucky person to have been given all sorts of hand-me -downs from my parents and elders. There are beautiful artifacts and foolproof recipes given to me by my mother, and antique furniture which I treasure, received from my mother-in-law. But the most meaningful hand-me-downs in my life are some beautiful family traditions and values which I consider important to pass on to the next generation. Simple things like ‘ Put on your plate only as much as you will actually eat, you are welcome to take a second or even third helping ( which shows that you found the food tasty !) but no wastage please!’
Recently my son could not attend college for a couple of days on account of a muscle sprain. It felt nice when all his friends came to visit him . it was a lovely gesture to come and wish him a speedy recovery. Some of them brought flowers for him and pastries. A friend brought a home made chocolate mousse in a crystal bowl. Later as my son picked up the washed container to return it to his friend , I told him what I had learnt from my mother,’ We don’t return an empty container, fill it with some sweets.’ My son was pleasantly surprised and he obliged. This tradition is followed by many families in our country. It signifies prosperity, contentment and thanksgiving.
Another hand-me-down which both my husband and I firmly believe in, is something that a senior colleague told me several years back. She was a widow and perhaps spoke from some sad experience in her past. This is what she advised ,’ Never sleep after having a fight. When you love someone, don’t wait till the morning to sort out the issue- if need be rise above your ego and say sorry first.’
Life is short ; little sweet and kind gestures make it worth living.
For the first few months of this year , I went about doing all my work and performing my duties, but at the same time , just could not stop cribbing about something or the other. In fact, I was at my most irritable best. Finally, I decided that enough is enough and resolved to do something to come out of my cranky self and de-stress . Well, I couldn’t really keep blaming the weather for feeling so irritable. There just had to be a way out ! So one day I sat down for a while with my eyes closed and chalked out my ‘ De-stress Mantra’ . And phew ! It really does work ! Over the past few months , I’ve been feeling wonderful with absolutely no stress or strain on my mind. So what is this mantra all about ?
Wake up fifteen minutes earlier than your usual time : O.K. suppose you have set your alarm to wake up at 6 am in the morning, and the minute it starts to buzz you shut it off and doze off into a half sleep kind of state. It always feels so good to steal those extra minutes of sleep. But when you finally wake up at 6:45 am, that marks the end to the blissful state of your being ! The panic button has been pushed and so has the stress trigger in your brain! You’re going to be late today and will skip breakfast as a compromise -leading to hunger pangs later in the day and still more stress. Mantra no. 1 is a simple trick . Set the alarm for 5:45 am . Even if you wake up by 6:30 , you still have time to take a few deep breaths, stretch your limbs and make yourself a cup of coffee. These extra fifteen minutes will give a head start to the day.
Prioritize your tasks : With a host of responsibilities it does become difficult at times to strike a balance. Why not actually write down on paper all the work that you need to be done ? Then re-arrange the items on the list in order of importance and urgency of that task. So you are now on the way to a stress free life. Greg McKeown , author of the book ‘Essentialism’ advices to make a priority list of 6 items. Then , cross out the last 5 and spend the first 2 hours of the day on the first item before moving on to the next. Your life will see a positive change.
Stress Busters : Weall have our own stress busters ; something that simply makes us happy and diverts the mind from unpleasant thoughts. Try to look for or think consciously about what you think makes you happy. Is it a walk in the park? or perhaps reading your favourite magazine? Music? For me its fragrance. The moment I walk into my house which smells fresh and clean I feel energised and refreshed. Fresh flowers ,scented candles , essence sticks can do the trick. A great smelling body- mist or perfume always uplifts my mood. Come on, choose your own stress buster mantra!
Good Food and Drink : You must have surely heard that stressed out people tend to binge eat? In the process, they are kind of caught in a viscous circle because all the junk food they eat will ultimately lead to more stress ( pimples, tyres around the waist , etc. etc.). So the mantra to lead a de-stressed life is to eat healthy and wise. No dieting and no starving -just eat healthy. Believe me, healthy food can be tasty and is much faster to cook. If you continue to follow my posts , I promise to share some recipes with you.
Take a Break : Now and then it is good to take a break from your routine. Go for a short weekend holiday if possible or go shopping with your friend. For me, a small tea time break around mid-day works wonders ! I sip my cup of freshly brewed Green tea or Darjeeling tea mindfully, savouring the flavour. It really helps to relax and unwind. There are a host of different tea varieties to choose from. I also love the lemon and ginger tea that my daughter gifted me and my honey chamomile organic tea. Being a tea addict of sorts, I have invented my ‘cheats tea’ ( to avoid too much of caffeine intake ). It is also good for your digestive system. The recipe is shared below-
Riurang Cheats Tea :
Water – 1 and 1/4 cup
Aniseed – 1/2 tsp
Cinnamon – a pinch (powdered)
Green tea – 1/4 tsp
Honey – 1 tsp (optional )
Method- Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan. Put the aniseed and cinnamon and let boil for 1 to 2 minutes on a low flame. Switch off the gas and wait for half a minute. Now add the green tea. Cover the saucepan with a lid. Let the tea steep for 1 minute, or 2 minutes if you want a stronger taste. Strain , mix the honey if you like and enjoy!
Adequate Sleep : According to recent PTI news, a Mexican woman named Leandra Becerra Lumbreras , celebrated her 127th birthday on August 31, 2014. She is believed to be the oldest human to have ever lived. Her family said her secrets to longevity are eating chocolate, sleeping a lot and not getting married. Well, this news does draw our attention to the benefits of sleep (and chocolate of course !)
Sleep undoubtedly is the best tonic for a tired body as well as mind. Researchers have shown that sleep flushes out harmful toxins accumulated in the brain during your waking hours. On the average, an adult needs about 7 to 8 hours of sleep to wake up fresh and rejuvenated. So sleep is a must on my De-Stress Mantra list.
Think Good: There is an old saying that out of all the thoughts that cross our mind or that we consciously focus upon during the day, one of these thoughts can actually become a reality. We generally tend to worry unnecessarily about things , events or our future and stop living in the present. This feeling is particularly intensified when family or loved ones are involved. Howsoever cliched it may sound the best solution to keep stress at bay is by thinking good and having a positive attitude.
‘The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another.’ —– William James
When it bites, it bites you really hard. There are many types of bugs – bed bugs, stink bugs and even software computer bugs. But that’s not what I am talking about. What I am actually referring to is the writer’s bug! This is one bug bite which is very difficult to cure. Apparently, I am one of the victims and surprisingly, rather enjoying the whole process of reading and writing. Writing can lead to completely opposite effects on different individuals. Some writers become more social, as they now like to listen more and speak less. They wish to catch the subtle nuances in what people are talking about. They also become keen observers and look at their surroundings in a new light. Food bloggers are intrigued as much by how a dish looks as it tastes, and travel writers wish to capture every moment in ink and pictures. But there are others who become more of a recluse, confined to their own four walls, digging deep into journals and looking for some peace and quiet so that they can write. One such example is the fictitious writer Peter Van Houten, in John Green’s best-selling novel,’ The Fault in Our Stars’.
I suppose I belong to the former category, as I have started enjoying social gatherings and meeting people ever since I started writing. Perhaps it is also due to the fact that I am a much happier person, doing what I like. But at the same time,though I may not exactly be a recluse, there are times when I savour my own company , whenever the opportunity arises. It gives me time to reflect and contemplate, read more, reflect again, and read some more.For any person who reads,books are the best and most trusted companions, and for me they are my pillars of support! Reading educates, entertains, improves language skills and most importantly, widens your outlook.
To quote Stephen King, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
Once bitten by the writer’s bug there is actually no looking back. Ideas start pouring into the brain at the oddest times during the day. It could be while driving, teaching your kids or while doing household chores. All this is perfect. What really annoys me is when all these super ideas (and complete sentences) come rushing into my brain when I wish to catch some sleep at night. I keep tossing and turning but they refuse to leave me. Often I get up in exasperation and start scribbling on paper – lest I forget everything in the morning. How wonderful it would be if I could sleep peacefully and dream of something interesting to write about, just like the chemist Kekulé, who discovered the structure of benzene molecule. In his dream he saw a snake eating its own tail. This gave him the idea for the ring
structure of benzene. So let the ideas keep pouring in and let all writers continue the good work of reading and writing. Who knows your million dollar idea may be just round the corner!
People in the west get invariably excited with the onset of summer after the long and harsh winter months. In contrast, most in India are reeling under the intense heat and would prefer the winter season any day! This is quite understandable, as the intermittent power and water supplies in some parts of the country add to the general public’s woes. All this put aside, the Indian summer does have its share of romantic and nostalgic moments which make us love this season.
There are certain associations with summer that have got deeply ingrained in my psyche. Here is my pick of musts for the Indian summer.
Mangoes: Can you imagine an Indian summer without mangoes? A versatile fruit, it finds place in a number of savoury and sweet dishes such as mango shake, mango soufflé and mango ice cream. Every household has to have its share of mango chutney, pickle, ‘aam panna’ ( a delicious mango drink) ,mango rice and what have you! My favourite story is one which my mother often told me. Being one of seven siblings, the whole family used to gather in the courtyard of the house which was close to a passing rivulet. They sat under shady trees, squatting on floor- mats , with dozens of mangoes immersed in tubs full of ice cold water. They all literally had a mango meal, devouring one mango after the other (I assume there was very little scare of pesticide on fruit in those days). My mother also taught me the most elegant way to eat a whole mango without cutting it- creating minimum mess.
Lassi: Lassi or buttermilk is a cool drink prepared with curd and ice cold water and it is the perfect thirst quencher during the summer months. It has many variations – can be had sweetened either with sugar or Rooh- Afza (sharbat) .Sweet mango lassi is also a great option. The figure conscious can enjoy the drink with some salt, roasted cumin powder and a pinch of black pepper. It has cooling properties and is very refreshing. Yet another variation is ‘Katchi lassi’ which is very simple to prepare. Katchi means raw. Just mix cold milk and water in equal proportions and add some sugar or syrup like rose syrup or saffron. Top with lots of crushed ice. Serve in a tall glass. Garnish with dollops of fresh cream. Delicious!
Visit grandparents: Summer is the time to visit grandparents. It is essentially a time when the whole extended family can gather at one place. As a kid, for me it was a time to catch up with cousins and while away the time playing board games like luddo, scrabble and monopoly, while the adults played cards or were busy discussing the wedding preparations of an older cousin.
Head to the hills: Oh yes ! People would rather travel abroad now, given the chance. But a drive uphill to places like Shimla, Barog, Mussoorie or Manali has its own charm. A weekend away from the hustle and bustle of city life and the slight nip in the air is the perfect way to recharge a tired body and soul.
Getting wet in monsoon showers: How incredibly romantic it is to get wet in the monsoon showers. Nothing can surpass the heady and musky scent of the wet soil when the first drops of rain splash the earth. Add to that the piquant aroma of freshly fried delicacies like ‘pakoras’ coupled with cups of hot cardamom ‘chai’ (tea). Ah! These are definitely moments worth treasuring. Inevitably, I get reminded of soul stirring melodies of late Shri Jagjit Singh and Shubha Mudgal and my mind conjures up images of all the wonderful bollywood rain songs.
This list is by no means exhaustive. There is so much more to love about this season. What do you like about the Indian summer? I would love to hear!
In life there is so much that we wish for and so much that we wish to achieve.But, sometimes that little voice somewhere in the mind, that urges you to follow your passion and pursue a dream can get lost in the humdrum and mundane duties and activities of day to day life. I am not talking of studies during student days or your work.That is a routine part of your life (unless you are one of the lucky ones whose work itself is their passion).What I am presently focussing on is a passion like learning to dance or wanting to scale a mountain peak,that might have taken a back seat.
A tip is to finally make a start.Find time to pursue your dream.Be inspired.Let me take my own example.I used to write when in college, highly influenced by greats such as William Wordsworth and Jane Austin.Then I took a long sabbatical and resumed writing a bit seriously in 2012.Since then there has been no looking back, with several articles published.In fact I also wished to have my own blog but somehow never really took the initiative.The idea generally got postponed on account of more urgent work.Finally it seems the time is now right.So here I am today with inspiration given by my son, with my very first post!
‘Lock-up your libraries if you like ; but there is no gate ,no lock,no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.’ —- Virginia Woolf
I am a die hard optimist,absolutely in love with all the colours of life. After all we live only once so why not make the most of it? Life is in deed a roller coaster ride with high as well as low points.The optimism comes in handy to tide over the low phases keeping the zest for living it to the fullest, alive.
Riturang has been visualised as a magazine with content ranging from articles to recipes and reviews. I hope you enjoy reading.