Thursday, December 31, 2009

Sharing: GOODBYE 2009!

Sigh (A happy one indeed)! The year 2009 has finally come to an end. And it was a wonderful year full of a lot of learning, activities, new things, happiness, achievements…… for all of us.

I would like to thank AMMA BHAGAVAN for all those wonderful things that happened to me and my family during this year.

1. January brought me this job with www.burrp.com when I had been sitting at home after being retrenched from www.buzz18.com. While the whole world was screaming about economic crisis, I landed this job with an excellent pay hike. Thank you AB!
2. All the four of us in our family took Bhagavan’s Skype Darshan on April 5 and talked to Him personally with individual requests. What a darshan it was! Thank you Bhagavan!
3. Our house was renovated completely with internal wiring done, special lighting in the drawing room and painted in the colours of the rainbow. It looks gorgeous now. Thank you Amma!
4. Venkat’s heart disease was found and set right in a jiffy all thanks to Asian Heart Institute and Dr. Nilesh Gautam. And he is perfectly alright now. Thank you Bhagavan!
5. Viggy’s band Orion was featured in the entertainment section of Hindustan Times along with their picture. Thank you Amma Bhagavan!
6. Vinny joined her MBA at Jamnalal Bajaj Institute and is loving her classes and doing very well in them. Thank you Amma!
7. We bought an electronic notebook for Vinny for her birthday. Thank you Bhagavan!
8. I started my own blog Flaming Sun under the guidance of Amma. Thank you Amma!
9. We had the vaastu of our residence checked out by Dr. Snehal Deshpande and made the requisite corrections. We have found a number of positive changes occurring in our lives after this, all thanks to her. Thank you Bhagavan!
10. Another super-duper occurrence this year was the purchase of our car, the cute red Wagon R. It’s just gorgeous and too convenient. Thank you Amma!
11. We all four of us went to Goa for a few days for our Silver Wedding Anniversary on September 13. It was a super trip organised by Vinny and Viggy. Thank you Amma Bhagavan!
12. Viggy went to Goa and later to Bangalore to take part in major music band competitions. Thank you Bhagavan!
13. Vinny managed to resign her job at Radio Mirchi and completed her notice period and went on leave for studying for her MBA 1st semester exams. She was extremely worried about how to juggle everything. The notice period, the exams and joining the new job. Bhagavan, as usual, set everything in perfect order in a DIVINE JIGSAW. Thank you Amma!
14. Vinny joined MDACS (Maharashtra District AIDS Control Society) as a Joint Director on November 18. She is probably one of the youngest to hold this post. This was one of the wishes she had made to Bhagavan during the Skype D. He has already made the wish true. Thank you Bhagavan.
15. I could attend the Arogya Deeksha at the Oneness University at Nemam and had such wonderful experiences. Thank you Amma Bhagavan!
16. It was a dream-come-true when I could take both my parents very comfortably for a darshan to the Oneness Temple and the best part was the newly organised darshan of Sri Bhagavan on screen. We are absolutely blessed indeed. Thank you Bhagavan!
17. Viggy and his band had a live performance at Not Just Jazz By The Bay on December 2 and it was received extremely well by the audience. Thank you Amma!
18. Viggy’s band Orion had another performance at Inorbit Mall in Vashi on December 18 and captivated the audience. The show was supposed to have been on for an hour and a half but went on for an extra hour due to public demand. Thank you Bhagavan!
19. Venkat and I went to Oneness Temple for Bhagavan’s LIVE Darshan and talk on December 18. It was an awesome experience. Thank you Amma Bhagavan!
20. Venkat went for the Maha Deeksha Level 1 conducted at Chembur during Christmas. He loved the three-day course and liked the highlight best – Darshan of both Amma & Bhagavan. Thank you Amma!
21. Saved the best for the last. :) My novel 'THE MALHOTRA BRIDE' was published in the month of May and is available for purchase across the internet all around the world. Thank you Amma Bhagavan! Better still, I have received my first cheque from the sales. :D

I have but brought to you a few of the highlights of our lives in 2009. Every moment, every breath, every action, every thought, word and deed was orchestrated by Amma Bhagavan and our lives are beautiful beyond words.

I can only say “Thank you Amma Bhagavan and please continue to run our lives on a second-to-second basis”.

THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!

And now it is time to say Goodbye to the wonderful year that was and get set to welcome the New Year 2010 with open arms.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Recipe: SABUDHANA KHICHDI

I just tried out this recipe – my own – and it tasted quite yummy! Do try it out.

Ingredients:

Sabudhana – 2 cups (soaked in water for about 45 minutes and drained)
Onions – 2 large ones (chopped)
Garlic – 4 pods (chopped)
White Til – 2 tbsp
Red Chillies – 6
Groundnuts – ¾ cup
Rai – ½ tsp
Urad Dal – 1 tsp
Oil – 4 tbsp
Curry leaves – a few
Chopped coriander leaves – 1 tbsp
Salt to taste

Method
:

1. Roast the til till it crackles and put it on a plate to cool.
2. Add half a spoon of oil to a saucepan and fry the chopped garlic in it. Add the chillies when garlic is golden brown in colour. Stir for a few seconds and add this to the cooling til on plate.
3. Shallow fry groundnuts till crisp in one spoon of oil and add it to the plate.
4. Grind all the above mentioned ingredients into a coarse powder in the mixer.
5. Add the rest of the oil to the pan, crackle the rai in it before adding urad dal.
6. When the dal turns pale brown, add the chopped onion and fry till golden brown.
7. Add curry leaves and coriander leaves, mix and then add the soaked sabudhana.
8. Add salt and cook stirring often on a slow fire.
9. The sabudhana turns glassy when cooked. Add the powdered masala at this point and mix well.
10. Serve hot.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sharing: A DATE WITH BHAGAVAN

Bhagavan had invited a little more than 2,000 people from Maharashtra for a class at the Oneness Temple on Friday, December 18, 2009. My husband Venkat and I were a couple of the lucky ones that were chosen.

We reached the Oneness Temple by 7.30 am in the morning. There was absolutely no trouble reaching the temple that is situated at Sathyavedu in Andhra Pradesh – all thanks to Bhagavan – despite the turmoil that was burning in the Telugu state. We walked around the premises waiting for the class to begin.

The call came to assemble in the ground floor hall of the temple at 10.30 am. We walked inside while being watched by curious monkeys that were hanging around – literally – on the marble carvings and pillars. We all settled down in front of a huge screen and waited with bated breath for Bhagavan to appear.

11.30 am and He was there on the huge screen, blessing us and smiling at the uproarious welcome that greeted him. After a couple of bhajans, Bhagavan began his talk.

I have done my best to bring to you everything that Sri Bhagavan shared with us on this auspicious day.

Bhagavan spoke to us about Mukti. Mukti is described as a state of no desires, no problems and one of a Sanyasi. In today’s world, as we approach 2012, the state of Sanyasi is not required to attain Mukti and a Grahastha (family man or woman) can very well attain Mukti. ‘No desires’ does not mean that we have to give up or squash our desires but that all of them will be granted before we attain Mukti. All our problems related to health, wealth and relationships will be resorted before attaining Mukti.

Bhagavan plans to concentrate on granting our desires and solving our problems and He promises to resolve both within six months. Most of us have been attending the many courses at Oneness University and have had many dreams fulfilled and problems sorted out due to the teachings there. But there are still many things that need taking care of. What Bhagavan says is that all along we have been listening to teachings. Now the time has come to learn everything as an experience.

He gave the example of a Westerner who had attended the 21-day course at Oneness University. Let’s call him Tom. He had tremendous pain on his left shoulder and the left side of his chest. It could not be cured despite meeting several doctors and undergoing many medical examinations. To begin with, Tom underwent an experience that he had had when he had been about five years of age. He had been playing at the beach along with his friends building sand-castles. While they were all digging in, young Tom fell inside and the others jumped over him without realising that he was buried under the sand. Luckily for Tom, an adult passing by saw what was happening and saved him from sure death. This had caused a lot of pain on his left shoulder and chest. Usually, when a person undergoes a past experience, the charge disappears and the pain immediately goes away. But not so in Tom’s case! In the next class, he was taken even further back in time, into his mother’s womb. There, Tom could feel his mother’s pelvic bone pressing against the baby Tom’s left side. The pain never left even at this point and he had to wait for the next class. Then, he was taken into a past life experience four hundred years back. Tom had been a soldier in the cavalry in that incarnation. The horse he was riding jumped suddenly and Tom fell off. He was crushed by other running horses, jumped over his left shoulder and chest and had died because of these injuries. The pain immediately left the present day Tom. The charge of the experience four hundred years back had returned to haunt Tom in his mother’s womb, later at the age of five and till the present day.

Bhagavan spoke about how life is related to the way a baby is born, whether naturally or by Caesarean, about the reactions of people who are gathered around the baby at that point, the mother’s response and more. These have lasting effects on the person you turn out to be and this can be either positive or negative. It is the negative that blocks success and wealth, breaks up relationships or spoils one’s health.

Bhagavan plans to remove these negative charges in his classes by giving us many experiences from childhood, at birth, in the womb and past lives.

The next important thing that will be done is to remove the fear of death. For this, all participants will be taken to the other lokas to meet their ancestors and friends who have passed away. Meeting them will make us realise that they are all very much with us. Death is but going from one state to another and is supposed to be a wonderful experience.

Then we will receive experiences with Lord Shiva and Maa Kali where the ego will be removed and we begin to feel Oneness. Bhagavan also promised us a trip into the other lokas such as Vaikuntam to meet Lord Vishnu, etc. All these experiences will be for Hindus. A Christian or Muslim or those belonging to other religions will have varying experiences that they can relate to. And of course, each individual’s experience will be his own, different from the others.

Then we will be given experiences of Oneness with the other human beings on earth, Oneness with all other living things such as animals, insects, etc and lastly with plants and trees. Bhagavan says that all along we have only heard of these but in the following classes will experience these.

Then Bhagavan explained about the relevance of the year 2012. He says that it is important for three reasons.

1. One era is marked from the time when the Kurukshetra War began in the Mahabharata. 2012 is the culmination of 5,300 years since then and marks the end of the feeling of division and the beginning of Oneness.
2. It is also the end of the cycle of 24,000 years of Sathya Yuga, Treta Yuga, Dwapara Yuga and Kali Yuga.
3. This one is totally fascinating! 2012 is the mid-point in the lifespan of the Universe. The Universe began as a small dot 37 thousand billion years ago. It has been evolving since then with the creation of galaxies, the Sun, the Earth, the Moon, etc. Life appeared way later and Man even later. Today, at the mid-point in the lifespan of the Universe, Man will evolve as a Mukta (enlightened one) in the year 2012. Imagine what kind of a progress the Universe will face over the coming 37 thousand billion years when the beginning point will be Mukti of Man. The mind boggles! A small dot to Mukti of Man to what….? Absolutely enthralling.

As Bhagavan says, there is no end to Mukti. You keep growing in your consciousness level even after death.

How will Bhagavan conduct these classes for 64,000 chosen ones from around the world?

Most of the classes will be conducted locally, where the person is living. Bhagavan will be conducting the class Himself through Skype Darshan and not through Acharyajis or Dasajis. There may be a few classes conducted at the Oneness Temple.

By the end of 2011, Bhagavan plans to get his force of 64,000 ready with 108 types of Muktis and make them fit to increase the consciousness of the world population by the year 2012.

Then Bhagavan and his family plan to retire by 2014 when the whole world is transformed to Oneness.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Sharing: VISIT TO THE ONENESS TEMPLE

On my visit to Chennai in November, I was very keen to take my parents to visit the Oneness Temple in Golden City at Varadaiyapalem. It was also a first-time visit for me. I was kind of disappointed when I heard that is was not possible to take darshan of the Golden Ball.

But it is obvious that Amma Bhagavan wanted to give me way more. Bhagavan was giving a screen darshan for fifteen minutes each Sunday morning and we had planned our visit on November 29, 2009 which was a Sunday.

I have to thank my sister Jayashree and her friend Lakshmi for the loan of her car. It was too convenient. Then it was my sister Lakshmi’s colleague Ramesh who acted chauffer. I have to thank both of them for this.

The best was that both my parents could travel the couple of hours up and then down despite the states of their health and visit the temple of Amma Bhagavan. My mother refused a wheel chair and the use of the lift and walked up the staircase to the third floor level praying throughout for Amma Bhagavan’s blessings.

The temple was a sight to see – a superb structure that is made completely of white marble. The weather was just beautiful, warm and mild. As we climbed up the stairs, we could see the green trees and plants for miles to come from all directions.

We reached the huge pillarless hall and took our seats in front of the video screen awaiting darshan of the Lord. Crowd poured in while everything was so well organised and there was not a murmur of disturbance. There were people from all over India and abroad who had come to take the darshan of Sri Bhagavan. There must have been at least 3,000 people in the hall.

And then He was there on the screen! We were just so lucky to have Bhagavan’s darshan peacefully for about 15 minutes while He blessed us and blew us a kiss too! THANK YOU BHAGAVAN!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Film Review: ROCKET SINGH: Salesman of the Year

Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Shazahn Padamsee, Gauhar Khan, Naveen Kaushik, D. Santosh
Director: Shimit Amin
The film is all about Harpreet Singh Bedi (Ranbir Kapoor) who has just managed to get a pass class in graduation. He is simple-minded and straightforward with all his values inculcated by his loving grandfather (Prem Chopra). With no thought of going on for further studies, Harpreet decides that the job of a salesman would be just perfect for him.
He gets a job as a sales trainee at a big company selling computers called AYS. That's where he finds out all about the cutthroat practises of sales. Harpreet being the honest chap that he is, puts his foot completely in his mouth when he writes up a complaint against the general manager of another company when the latter demands a bribe. That's when he faces the malicious side of his boss. Will Harpreet stick to his honesty and carry on with his life or will he buckle under pressure from his boss is what the rest of the film is all about.
Ranbir Kapoor has yet again proved that he is a fine actor by playing his role to perfection. He gives an excellent performance as the young Sardar who is too honest for his own good. The actors playing the part of Sunil Puri (MD of AYS) and Nitin (Sales Manager) have done superb jobs of their roles. Gauhar Khan as Koena, the receptionist-cum-telephone-operator is good. Shazahn Padamsee (daughter of Alyque Padamsee and Sharon Prabhakar) as Shereena has a very small role that is passable. Nothing that requires great acting skills. D. Santosh (Rajguru of Legend of Bhagat Singh fame) has done a commendable job as Reddy. The movie itself is a fun watch as you can well relate to the characters and you can feel the crowd around you feeling happy and sad for Harpreet in turn as his life swings on a balance.
Verdict: Go for it. It most definitely is worth a watch.
Rating: *****
* Silly
** Shaky
*** Smart
**** Snazzy
***** Super

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Health: AROGYA DEEKSHA

The Oneness University offers a health course that is conducted in many local languages and also in English. I attended the six-day course in Hindi at Nemam on the outskirts of Chennai from November 23-28, 2009. All I can say is that I am blessed that I could take part in this course.

Oneness is to bring synchrony to the Body, Mind and Spirit
.

Purpose of this Arogya Deeksha:

1. A shift from a state of disease to a state of well-being by healing at the Physical, Psychological and Spiritual levels.
2. A strong body to cope with the changes that are inevitable in the face of transition – as strong as steel.
3. A shift from dependence on medicine to alternate form of healing. The body has its own self-healing system. But we take medicines to offset negative effects of atmosphere, quality of food, etc. This has blocked the self-healing ability of body. The course helps awaken self-healing.
4. Prepare the body for Mukti – increase in the Level of Consciousness.

We all automatically assume that well-being is all about physical fitness. Over these six days we got to know that physical health is but 10% of the total health of a person. The Holistic Healing Programme talks about healing at as many as eight levels:

1. Physical Dimension: This is all about pure physical health that can be maintained by deep-breathing techniques, intake of large quantities of water, eating the right kind of foods and regular walk and exercise. We were also taught about the different medical systems such as Allopathy, Ayurveda, Homeopathy, Unani and Chinese. We were also taught how constipation causes 90% of physical sicknesses.

2. Emotional Dimension: This is about the impact of negative emotions on our systems. This is the major cause of all illnesses. The course deals with different emotions and situations that affect different parts of our body. I am citing a couple of examples here. There are many more that you can gain from awareness at this level.
(a) If you keep controlling yourself every time you want to say something either because you can’t or because you won’t, you tend to have a pain in the neck. Continuous neck-sprains are generally caused by this problem. Awareness of holding one’s words back breaks this and the pain disappears. Believe me, this happened to me in a matter of seconds.
(b) Self-criticism leads to chronic skin problems. My son’s skin problem that had dogged him over years – no treatment had worked – disappeared within 24 hours when he became aware of this.

3. Vocational Dimension: Job satisfaction is very important to maintaining good health. If you are bored or unhappy with your job, it tends to cause illness. One way of breaking the monotony is the Oneness Dance Therapy (ODT) that was taught here. If you dance your way through your day, it tends to make life more interesting and so your job. Then there are those types of work that put pressure on some parts of the body. A teacher is pressured on her vocal chords as she talks a lot. Preventive Yoga is taught to help these conditions.

4. Nutritional Dimension: The right kind of food intake, the balance of nutrients, etc. are dealt with here. It also talks about the Acid-Alkaline content that needs to be kept at balance in our bodies.

5. Mental Dimension: Maintaining a good mental health regime, using both sides of the brain and how to do it were taught in this. We were also made to learn how the mind chatters non-stop using up all our energy and creating illness and of course, the cure for this was shown.

6. Philosophical Dimension: Whether we are believers or non-believers, old or young, we all follow some philosophy or belief in our lives. It talks about how these blind beliefs affect our lives and our bodies.

7. Spiritual Dimension: This teaches all about how one should always live in a state of Joy and also how to make it happen.

8. Karmic Dimension: The course finally deals with this section that is about the accumulation of karmas (the result of good/bad thoughts, words and deeds from a lifetime and more) and how to get rid of diseases caused by this.

Nine faithful Doctors one must have in one’s life:

1. Dr. Sunshine – Walk outside in a garden or on the road between 6-7.30 am or 4.30-6 pm for about 15 minutes.

2. Dr. Fresh Air – Inhale more fresh air by deep-breathing and brisk walking for half an hour every day.

3. Dr. Pure Water – 10-15 glasses of water to be consumed per day.

4. Dr. Healthy Food – Avoid coloured food, excess salt and sugar.

5. Dr. Exercise – Brisk-walk, Yoga, Pranayama, Oneness Exercise.

6. Dr. Rest – Quality sleep for 6 hours is a must. Change of routine by doing something creative or playing an indoor or outdoor game helps a lot towards this.

7. Dr. Posture – Correct posture is very important. Don’t cross your legs. It affects the organs in one’s lower abdomen and also the muscles in your legs.

8. Dr. Healthy Mind – Constructive emotions lead to good health.

9. Dr. Fasting – Give the digestive system a holiday. Do a 12-hour fast once in 15 or 30 days while drinking lemon water or wheat grass juice during that time. Break the fast with a light soup and salad.

The Divine Quotient: Most of what has been mentioned here may be learned by one from outside sources. But what is special about attending the course at the Oneness University are the Deekshas - transfer of divine energy that is offered to everyone. These cleanse a person at all eight levels, making the transit into a healthy lifestyle totally possible.

I have brought to you but a few highlights of what I learnt during the programme. It is a must to attend this one as it brings about a total healing of one’s Body, Mind and Soul.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Film Review: AJAB PREM KI GHAZAB KAHANI

Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Katrina Kaif, Dharshan Jariwala, Smita Jaykar, Upen Patel
Director: Rajkumar Santoshi
The Story:
Prem (Ranbir Kapoor) is a high school dropout who hangs around with his friends at his Happy Club. The happy-go-lucky young man has no job and takes no responsibilities much to the disgust of his father Shankar Sharma (Darshan Jariwala). He is adored by his mother Shalini (Smita Jaykar). Prem and his friends do their best to bring lost lovers together. When Jenny (Katrina Kaif) moves into the neighbourhood, Prem falls for her at first sight. She befriends him despite the differences in their backgrounds – she is Christian while he is a Hindu Brahmin; she is well-qualified while he is 9th fail and so on. But very soon, Prem is heartbroken when he finds out that Jenny loves someone else. But being the Happy Club President that he is, he goes on to set her love story straight.
What I liked about the film:
It’s a cute film that makes you laugh non-stop. Despite being a no-brainer, it still manages to keep you in splits. Ranbir Kapoor has done a wonderful job and his acting skills grow by leaps and bounds. Katrina Kaif is her usual glam-doll angrezi self. Darshan Jariwala and Smita Jaykar as Ranbir’s parents have done an excellent job. It is very obvious that the full film has been shot in a studio but still is quite pleasing to the eye. It has a bit of everything – humour, drama, pathos, fight-scenes, villains with also a bit of spirituality thrown in the form of Jesus Christ making an appearance in the end.
What I did not like about the film:
Nothing, actually.
Verdict: If you are looking for a couple of hours of fun without asking too many questions, then you must watch it.
Rating: ****
* Silly
** Shaky
*** Smart
**** Snazzy
***** Super

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Recipe: MOR KUZHAMBU

This is a typical recipe from my Grandma’s kitchen and very simple to prepare. It tastes delicious mixed with steamed rice and along with Kothavarangai Paruppu Usili or Stuffed Brinjals.

Ingredients:

Coconut – 1 cup (grated)
Channa Dal – 2 tsp (soaked for ½ an hour)
Green chillies – 8
Curd – 3 cups
Curry leaves – 2 strips
Coriander seeds – 2 tsp
Cumin seeds – 2 tsp
Salt to taste
Water – as required
Coconut oil – 2 tsp
Rai – 1 tsp
Red chilli – 1 (broken in two)

Method:

Wet grind coconut, soaked channa dal, green chillies, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, a few curry leaves with water to a smooth paste. Run the curd also in the mixer and add to the paste. Add salt and mix well and add water if necessary. Cook the mixture on a slow fire, stirring constantly. Switch off the gas when it comes to a boil. Heat oil in a kadai, crackle the rai and add red chilli and curry leaves to it. Then add this to the yummy mor kuzhambu. Mix well and it is ready to be served.
Optional:

I make this plain. You can add to the taste by adding boiled yams (peeled and cut) or shallow fried ladyfingers to the mor kuzhambu at the end.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Health: THE ELIXIR OF LIFE

Four litres of water a day keeps the doctor at bay and that is the truth.

Eighty percent of our body consists of water. It is very important to maintain the water content in our bodies as it is a very important ingredient for the following:

1. For rebuilding cells – this applies to all kinds of healing processes that happen in our body. Mending is quickened by keeping the water cycle regular.
2. For keeping the blood flowing consistently.
3. Helps digestion.

A minimum amount of water a body requires is about 3-4 litres in a 24-hour day. This is true for children too after they begin to eat solid food. Try to drink more water during the day and comparatively less before you go to sleep.

If you don’t drink enough water, the body tries to find various ways to retain the water already present in our systems. The first couple of signs are that you stop sweating and want to pass less urine. This is the body’s way of defending itself. It refuses to let go of the little it already has stored in the system. This probably will lead to a headache (a tiny hammer that keeps knocking and gets no relief from tablets as you are obviously barking up the wrong tree) and swelling of hands and feet. The few times you may pass urine, it tends to be a dark yellow and you also get a burning sensation.

These are warnings that your body is giving you about the lack of water supply it is getting. And it is the beginning of dehydration. Drinking a few glasses of water will immediately ease this kind of headache. Coconut water will be a great help at this point too. But you carry on with this situation over a few days, it might result in retching when the body refuses intake of even fluids through your mouth. That’s when you need intravenous fluids.

One more problem when you don’t drink enough water is kidney stones. The situation is very simple and logical. The excess salt in the body - not necessarily the common salt we consume, this is also salt that is produced by the body to aid the various chemical processes such as building of cells, digestion of food, etc. - is flushed out from the system through the kidneys. Urine is made up mostly of water and these salts collectively called urea. The more water consumed, the better these salts are cleared from the body. When you drink very less, the salt that is unable to get out slowly solidifies to form kidney stones.

Some common reasons why people drink less water are:

1. People get overweight when they drink a lot of water. This is probably the other way round. When you consume more water, your food intake is reduced and your digestion also improves terrifically. Your skin glows with health.
2. New born babies should consume only mother’s milk and not water. This is just not true. Babies should be given water from the day they are born. Only ensure that it is purified water.
3. Drinking a lot of water means that many visits to the loo. Stop one to avoid the other.
4. Drinking a lot of water makes one bloat. It is actually the other way round. Parts of your body swell up when you drink less water.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Festival: HAPPY DEEPAVALI

One more festival in the long line of celebrations that have been running over three months in a row. And Deepavali is the best of all – a time to celebrate, make merry, visit relatives and friends, a time for giving, one for sharing, wearing new clothes, buying gold and other assets, eat sweets and savouries, burst crackers – let me catch my breath – and whatever you all want to do. The idea is to enjoy and be happy.

The Legend the North Indian way:

Lord Rama slew Ravana of Lanka and rescued Sita Devi from his clutches and that occasion is celebrated as Dassera. Just after the war, Rama, Lakshmana and Sita complete their fourteen years of exile outside the home country of Ayodhya. Lord Rama’s triumphant return to Ayodhya is celebrated as Deepavali. The people were overjoyed to have the rightful heir to the throne return to take up the reins.

How Deepavali came about in South India?

Narakasura was a demon who was born to Bhumi Devi or the Goddess of Earth. He performed severe penances and became very powerful. So much so, that he threatened the city of Indra. He battles with the King of Devas and wins over his crown. A petrified Indra goes to Lord Krishna and seeks his help. The Lord went into battle with the asura and after a long fight, cut of his head with the Sudarshana Chakra. The dying Narakasura requested Lord Krishna to grant him the boon that his death day would be celebrated as Deepavali. This is the day when good triumphs over evil and the people celebrate it by taking a Ganga Snan – a ritual oil bath – early in the morning. The Lord had promised that the divine River Ganges will flow through all the water ways on that day. People wear new clothes, light a number of lamps, burst crackers and eat sweets to celebrate the end of the demoniac era.






Recipe: RAVA LADOO

One more easy-to-make sweet recipe that you can relish this Diwali! Another recipe from my Grandma’s kitchen! :)
Ingredients:

Rava – 3 cups
Sugar – 2 cups (ground to a fine powder)
Ghee – ½ cup
Elaichi – 8 (peeled and powdered)
Kaju – 6 (broken into small pieces)

Method:

Take a saucepan and add two spoons of ghee to it. Once heated, add the rava and roast it in the ghee till golden brown in colour. Stir continuously to ensure that the rava is evenly roasted. Cool the rava and grind it to a coarse powder.

Mix the powdered rava and sugar and add the elaichi powder to it. Heat the rest of the ghee and fry the broken kaju in it and add the whole thing to the rava ladoo mix.

Mix well and mould into round balls the size of lemons. The delicious Rava Ladoo is ready to eat now. Have a wonderful Diwali, one and all!

Recipe: RIBBON PAKODA

We can’t just manage with the sweet, can we? So try out this salt item that is easy to prepare and yummy too!

Ingredients:

Rice flour – 3 cups
Besan flour – 1 cup
White butter – 1 cup
Water – as required
Salt to taste
Oil for deep frying

Method:

Take a flat vessel and add the two flours and salt to it. Mix it lightly before adding the butter and mix well. Then add water and mix into dough the consistency of that you make for rotis. Heat oil in a saucepan. Use a hand-press (check out picture) to squeeze the dough in the requisite shape – that of ribbons – directly into the hot oil. Be careful so that the steam rising from the saucepan does not hurt you. Wait for a few moments for the pakoda to fry before turning it over to fry the other side. The oil stops bubbling once the pakoda is cooked. Make sure that it is cooked to a nice golden brown colour and does not become too brown. That is the right time to remove it and place it on a tray lined with paper towel. Store it in an air-tight container once the ribbon pakoda is cooled. The crunchy Ribbon Pakoda tastes delicious with Godhumai Halwa or with tea or coffee.

Recipe: GODHUMAI HALWA

Otherwise known as Wheat Halwa, this is one of my favourite sweets. I remember my grandmother, Pattu Paatti, making this so many times. After all these years, while I handle my kitchen, I appreciate the way in which Paatti took care while cooking anything. I used to think that she took too much tension. Looking back, I realise that it was not tension but a load of respect to the process of creating a dish. Thank you Paatti, for making me aware of the value of great cooking!

Ingredients:

Wheat – 1 cup (soaked in water for about 4 hours)
Water – 2-3 cups
Sugar – 2 ½ cups
Elaichi (Cardamom) – 6 (peeled and powdered)
Kesar – a little
Badam, Kaju, Pista – 3 each (sliced into slivers)
Kesar colour – 1 pinch
Ghee – 1 cup

Method:

Grind the soaked wheat along with water into a fine paste and strain the white milk through a tea strainer or a fine cloth. Grind for 3-4 times till the milk extract is quite thin. Keep the thick milk in one vessel and the last thin one separately.

Take a steel plate or tray and apply ghee to the surface and keep aside. Shallow fry the dry fruit slivers till they are crisp.

Take a thick-bottomed vessel (a pressure cooker or pan can be used) and add the sugar and a cup of water to it. Heat it on the gas till the sugar dissolves. Filter the sugar water before heating it again till it thickens to the consistency of honey. Keep the flame low and add the thick wheat milk extract while stirring non-stop. Add half a cup of ghee while stirring the mixture as it thickens. Make sure that it does not get stuck to the bottom of the vessel. Stir continuously while adding kesar colour, kesar and elaichi powder. The mixture must be quite thick now. Add the thin milk and mix in well. Add the rest of the ghee, fried dry fruits and cook till the mixture begins to leave the sides.

Pour the hot halwa mixture on to the prepared steel tray. Wait for the mixture to cool for a while before cutting the halwa into squares.

You can have the delicious melt-in-the-mouth halwa immediately or wait for Diwali morning!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Film Review: WANTED

Cast: Salman Khan, Ayesha Takia, Vinod Khanna, Prakash Raj, Mahesh Manjrekar
Director: Prabhu Deva

Well, what to say – it’s better late than never. I know it’s almost a month since the release of this Salman Khan starrer. But what the hell, I saw it after I heard so much of praise for the film from some of my friends. I played it safe.

Radhe (Salman Khan) is a loafer who also doubles as an assassin. He belongs to no group and plays for himself. He is always ready to kill for money. The higher the bidder, the more enthusiastic is Radhe. He is clear that he will never touch women or children. Into this highly-principled man’s life comes Jahnvi (Ayesha Takia), a beautiful young lady working for a call centre. She lives with her widowed mother and young brother. Jahnvi is from a middle-class background and she falls for the handsome uneducated Radhe. But she is shocked to find out how violent he is. Whether the two of them will get together and why Radhe is what he is forms the rest of the plot.

From the promos that I had seen on television, I was convinced the film would be too violent for me. That is why I refused to go near a theatre during the release. There is quite a bit of violence, but nothing that you cannot take. The film is woven with a lot of comedy and that was the best part. That’s when I realised that many of the Bollywood flicks have enforced comedy that runs parallel to the main plot. This copy of the Tamil flick Pokiri has excellent comedy and the timing is just awesome. This could make all the difference to a film.

Like, even the villain, played by Prakash Raj, has many funny moments. Not that they make him seem ridiculous or any the less dangerous. That was the best part of it. Salman Khan’s comeback is definitely worth a watch. He plays the role of a guy who must be in his thirties and he has done it so well. Welcome back, Salman!

Ayesha Takia was cute and plump and she could act too – in that order. Prakash Raj was awesome and Vinod Khanna was good. Mahesh Manjrekar as the bad police man has done his role so well that you want to kill him with your bare hands. Kudos!

Verdict: Definitely worth a watch. If it is too late to find the film in theatres near you, I am sure the DVD will be out soon.

Rating: ****

* Silly
** Shaky
*** Smart
**** Snazzy
***** Super

Recipe: JEERA MILAGU RASAM


Rakshita, this one is for you!

This is a common recipe from typical South Indian households. Any changes from the regular recipe are my own. A hot cup of rasam during the monsoons tastes out of this world. It is also very good for the stomach. A diluted version of this is served at five-star restaurants as mulgitawni soup. I suppose they mean milagu thanni (pepper water, literally) :)

Ingredients:

Tamarind – a small ball the size of a lemon. Soak it in hot water and squeeze the syrup and extract two cups of tamarind water and keep aside.
கடலை பருப்பு  - Channa dal – 1 tsp
தனியா - Dhania – 1 tbsp
மிளகு - Pepper – 1 tsp
ஜீரகம் - Jeera – 1 tsp
கிராம்பு - Cloves - 2
வெத்த மிளகாய் - Red Chillies – 2
பூண்டு - Garlic – 10-15 cloves (optional)
Ghee – 2 tsp
Turmeric powder – 1 pinch
கடுகு - Rai – ½ tsp
Curry leaves – a few
Salt to taste

Method:

Take a vessel and pour the tamarind extract into it. Add salt and turmeric and keep on the gas to boil. Take a sauce-pan and add half a spoon of ghee to it. Shallow fry the channa dal and as it turns golden, add the dhania and when that turns a light red, add pepper, jeera, cloves and red chillies and roast them for a minute. If you are using garlic, add them at this point and shallow fry till golden in colour. Otherwise turn the gas off. Cool the masala and grind it as a powder and add to the tamarind mix that has boiled for at least 7-8 minutes. Bring the mixture to a boil and add water – about 3-4 cups should be fine. Wait for the mixture to boil and taste the same and add more salt or water if necessary. Crackle the rai and curry leaves in the balance ghee and add to the rasam. Drink the rasam in a soup bowl or add to white rice and relish the same.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Sharing: MY BIRTHDAY

I know it sounds pretty self-involved talking about my birthday celebrations. But I have to share this with one and all.

I had the biggest surprise of my life when a group of friends from WEB 18 barged into our section - Nicky, Sagina, Nilima, Shilpa, Vaishali and Chaitanya - in the evening around 4 pm. They were loudly singing Happy Birthday and almost had me blushing.

They were armed with a fruit cake from Mongini's, a knife and a camera. What more could a birthday woman ask for?

They sang wildly while they made me cut the cake, fed it to me, ate some themselves, helped themselves to the chocolate bars (tiny ones) on my desk, wished me loudly, caught me on camera a number of times and burrped loudly before I shooed them away.

They made my birthday absolutely memorable. Thank you Guys! :D

Festival: TIMES BANDRA FESTIVAL 3

It was Pankaj Udhas' ghazals on Monday, September 28, 2009 on Dassera day. Venkat and I were really looking forward to it and reached the MMRDA Grounds along with Pooja and Maya quite early to get good seats.

We reached there and got into the fourth row too and were mighty excited. The programme began with Udhas singing the song Zamana karaab hai. It was nice and after this he spoke about how he has been singing for over thirty years. He also explained the lyrics before every song and gave due respect to the poet who had written them.

I liked best the explanation he gave about Nazam - stories that are written in the form of poetry in Urdu and sometimes in Hindi. It contains four verses or bandh. The first speaks about daada-pardaada, the second about the father, the third about oneself and the fourth about the forthcoming generation. The nazam that Udhasji sang for us spoke about the first generation living in mud houses and working on the farm while leading satisfied lives. The second generation lives in brick houses and worked in offices. The present generation lives in bungalows and races by in huge cars but are not so happy with their lives. The poet hopes that the future generation would lead a happy, peaceful and satisfied life. All this came across in the lyrics as Pankaj Udhas sang Dukku sukku ek sabka... ek o bi tha zamana, ek yeh bi hai zamana. It was beautiful.

Jiyo tho jiye kaise... bin aapke is what I liked the best. The artist did sing the much-awaited and eagerly-looked-forward-to song Mohe aayi na jug se laaj main itna zor se naachi aaj, ki ghungroo toot gaye but the background music was too loud and Udhas' voice was buried under. Sad!

Overall, the show was good with the flautist and tabla-artist playing exceptionally well.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Festival: VIJAYA DASAMI

Vijaya Dasami is the tenth day of success of glory. Be it the Mahishasura Mardhini – the form of Goddess Durga – who triumphed over the evil Mahishasura or be it Lord Rama who won the war against Ravana, the lord of Lanka, the day is one of success and is celebrated accordingly.

We had a simple lunch at home with Semiya Payasam as prasadham. I said a small prayer for the Kali Yuga to end and the Satya Yuga to be rung in smoothly – this too being the conquest of good over the evil.

I was quite impressed with the article on Page 12 of Mumbai Mirror dated September 28, 2009. Titled ‘Ram, Leela, Who?’, the article has been presented by the 14-year-old Kabir Mantha. He talks about how students in the city are so taken up on Hollywood, internet and computer games that they don’t know anything about what’s happening in town. Read it for yourself – a fitting story for Dassera.

Wish one and all a Very Happy Dassera – better late than never. :)

Festival: Times Bandra Festival 2

On Sunday, it was singer KK who rocked the stage at the Times Bandra Festival. He began at 8.20 pm and went on for two hours without a break. I was amazed at the energy exuded by KK while he entertained the audience throughout the show. It was awesome just to watch him jump all over the stage from one end to the other – it appeared as if he had flubber fitted to his shoes.

We were highly entertained by all the songs that he sang – both fast and slow. Dard me be …hum muskura jaathe hain, O hum dum suniyo re, Bandha ye Bindaas hai, Yaaron dosti badi haseen hai, Kya mujhe pyaar hai… yah, Ek nazar me hi pyaar hota hai… meine suna hai, Pal… hum rahe naa rahe, Aankhon mein teri ajab si and more were wonderful listening to. The crowd went crazy with the performance and had fun.

KK also spoke about how he had remained with the same band-members for ten years now since 1999, about his first chance in Bollywood - Thadap thadap ke ek dil which he sang beautifully with the thadap very much in tact.

A lovely evening that ended with dinner at Rasna Punjab in Matunga along with Pooja and Jeetu.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Festival: SARASWATHI POOJA

Today being Navami of Navratri, we South Indians celebrate it as Saraswathi Pooja. It is also known as the Ayudha Pooja where we do pooja to all tools of one’s profession. For example, a student would keep books in the pooja. I am a writer, so I prefered to keep my published novel, my pen (a super-cool one gifted by my mama, Balu), a miniature guitar for my son and a few account books for my husband.


The best bit was that my friend Pooja had organised a Lalitha Sahasranama Archanai at her home as instigated by the Oneness University. This is the utterance of the 1008 names of Goddess Durga. We did a kunkuma archanai to Amma Bhagavan’s padukas that I had placed on a plate that was kept over all the abovementioned ‘tools of trade’.


The archanai went on for two hours conducted by Nag Gayatri, also a devotee of Amma Bhagavan. She was very clear in the utterance of the Lalitha Sahasranamam and the experience was wonderful – a once in a lifetime one for me.


I am not too much into formal poojas. But this was just great. Pooja then gave us a yummy lunch of rice, sindhi kadi, moong, sheera – homemade; dal-pakwaan – from shop and the kadalai sundal that I had made from home as prasadam.


I wonderful way to celebrate Saraswathi Pooja, I thought.

Festival: TIMES BANDRA FESTIVAL 1

On Saturday, September 26, 2009, Venkat, Vinitha, Pooja and I attended a light music concert by Hariharan as part of the Times Bandra Festival. Wow, what an experience!

This blog I must surely dedicate to Dorai Thatha and Rajeswari Chitti. I have heard so much about the two of them attending concerts during the Chennai music season over the years. Somewhere deep down in my subconscious, I had made a decision to attend live music concerts too.

So far, I must have attended about half a dozen throughout my life. If I had the time and the inclination, the tickets would not be available or vice versa. But this weekend, it feels as if I have won the lottery.

My daughter, Vinitha, got us passes for four concerts at the Times Bandra Fest - the best time as it is a long weekend with the Monday off for Dassera. Yesterday was the first one with Hariharan – the man with the golden voice – on the stage.

Blessed I feel living in the same era as this music maestro. He was FANTABULOUS, to put it in one word. I am not too knowledgeable about the many nuances of music, but have a good ear for it. This man’s range is awesome. His voice swings from one end to the other, from the upper to the lower and again to the highest levels in a matter of seconds. It’s God’s gift, nothing less.

The show was on for about two hours where Hariharan had the audience hanging on to the edge of their seats, swinging to the music and rhythm of his songs, feet tapping, hands clapping and some of us out of our seats, dancing away. He held us all enthralled as the mice bound to the pied piper.

Hariharan began the concert with Bharat humko jaan se pyaara hai from Roja and from that moment on we were totally hooked. Without a single break, the concert went on for two full hours – a dream come true for me.

Some of the songs that we all enjoyed were – Mohe rang de – how many ways would it be possible to sing a couple of lines – amazing!

Roja jaane mann that flowed into Dheemi dheemi
A song from the Wonder Wars by Hariharan’s younger son Karan – very nice
Then there was Priyasiiiiiiiiiiii…. nahi saamne ye alag bath hai from Taal – I realised that there is no limitation to this musician’s pitch
Chanda re from Sapnay peppered with Hariharan’s own ups and downs – my favourite song
Vennilave – Tamil of above – loved it
Nilaa Kaaikiradhu, neram theikiradhu – another Tamil number, simply superb
O Hansini Meri Hansini – an old Kishore Kumar favourite
Medley from Colonial Cousins – along with his elder son, Akshay – the bestest
I am the one so crazy about you – along with both sons – the audience went crazy along with them
Chappa chappa – a wonderful finale to the evening.

Hah – a wonderfully satisfying evening that we finished off with a lovely dinner at Himalaya, Sion along with Vignesh and Pooja’s son Jeetu.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Recipe: VEGETABLE RAVA UPMA


Delicious Rava Upma made from Semolina – रवा – ரவை along with vegetables. It makes a wonderful breakfast or a snack and tastes yummy with coconut chutney or sambhar.

Ingredients:

Semolina – 1 cup
Water – 2-2 ½ cups
Chopped onions – 4 tbsp
Chopped tomatoes – 4 tbsp
Peas – ½ cup
Chopped carrots – 4 tbsp
Chopped French beans – 4 tbsp
Cashew nuts – 4 (broken into pieces)
Rai – ½ tsp
Urad Dal – 1 tsp
Channa Dal – 1 tsp
Oil – 2 tsp
Ghee – 1 tsp
Salt to taste
Coriander leaves – for garnishing

Masala:

Green Chillies – 3 (slit across)
Red Chilli – 1 (cut in two)
Curry Leaves – a few
Ginger – ½ tsp (grated)
Method:

Heat the ghee in a saucepan and add the cashew nuts. Turn till golden brown and add the rava. Roast on a medium flame till golden in colour. Remove from saucepan and keep aside. Add oil to the saucepan and crackle the rai before adding urad dal and channa dal. Once they turn a light brown add the masala ingredients. Turn it for a few seconds before adding the onions. Wait for the onions to turn golden brown before adding the tomatoes and mixing well. Add the water and the other vegetables and salt. Give the whole mixture a few minutes to cook. Once the beans are cooked well, keep the flame low and add the roasted rava and cashew nuts to the saucepan. Stir carefully as the mixture will cook very fast. Mix evenly to avoid lumps. You can even keep the gas flame off for a couple of minutes while mixing the rava with the rest of the stuff. Then turn the flame on to low and cook for a minute. Put the flame off before garnishing with coriander leaves. Serve hot.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Humour: TELEPHONE CONVERSATION

A catty take on the dia(?)logue that I had with someone on the phone.

SHE: Hello, is that you, Sundari?

ME: Yeah, who…

SHE: (Name) How are you? Heard that you all went to Goa. How was your trip?

ME: Wonderf…

SHE: Heard that you have got a car too. Congratulations. What then? How are Venkat, Vinitha and Vignesh?

ME: They are…

SHE: And then you know how busy it is during Navratri. My husband and I just don’t have time for anything. I kept Golu. But it is so difficult to call people and give them haldi kumkum. There is just no time. Either he has to be home or I have to. Today I had to go to the market and buy everything. Somehow I managed to keep the Golu and everything. Then, I thought the other day also I wanted to talk to you but I could not. Venkat spoke to me and kept the phone. So what else?

ME: I…

SHE: You know these nine days I dress up in different saris. I wear cotton saris in the morning for making the prasadam. I will never wear a nightie while doing this. Then there are the nine silk Kancheepuram saris that I have kept aside to wear to the school I work in. You don’t know how everyone admires the way I match everything – the sari, jewellery, bangles and everything. I get so many compliments. Some of the kids are so fascinated with the matching colours and keep coming to me and commenting on them. It’s really so nice. How about you?

ME: I try…

SHE: Then you know in the evening, there is this ground behind our house where there is a dandiya raas conducted. I don’t take part in the dance but go there for the aarthi. I don’t go in the same sari that I wear to work. I wear a different sari in the evening. I have already kept 27 saris aside for the nine days. Then there is the prasadam to prepare. I really enjoy doing all this. When will you be able to come?

ME: Let me….

SHE: This is the problem you know. I go to work and then there is just no time to invite anyone home. I give haldi kumkum to whoever comes home. Even today a few people came. Otherwise I have to rush to work every day.

ME: What about Monday? It’s…

SHE: I don’t have holiday. The school is working. And with exams approaching, I just don’t have the time to do anything. I don’t know how to invite anyone at all. What other news?

ME: We…

SHE: With the exams approaching, we are both so busy with the tuitions and everything. On Sunday, my sister-in-law and her family will be here for lunch. Then on Monday, on Dassera, we have to rush there. I don’t know when I will be able to accommodate you. When will you be able to come? And you did not tell me, how are Vinitha and Vignesh?

ME: Vin…

SHE: This is the problem you know. Doing everything, running around, managing the market work, doing the cooking, going to work and all. I just don’t know what to do. You are not saying anything. What other news?

ME: I…

SHE: Ok, Sundari. We have been talking for so long. It was so nice talking to you. Bye.

ME: (Staring at the telephone receiver that has a ring tone now) ?????

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Recipe: SUNDAL

It’s Navratri time and the Prasad that is offered is the hot favourite Sundal. It is very simple to make and extremely healthy in giving you the proteins that you are probably missing out on during the year. Nine types of Sundal are made over the nine days. I am bringing to you one particular recipe that may be copied with different grams and pulses.

Sundal can be prepared from:

Whole Bengal gram – Chickpea – வெள்ளை கொத்து கடலை – सफ़ेद चन्ना
Peanuts – கடலை – शेंग्दाना
Broken Bengal gram – கடலை பருப்பு – चन्ना की दाल
Whole Bengal gram (brown) – கொத்து கடலை – Brown चन्ना
Dried Green Peas – காஞ்ச பட்டாணி – सुक्का हरा वाटताना
Dried White Peas – காஞ்ச வெள்ளை பட்டாணி – सुक्का सफ़ेद वाटताना
பயறு – हरा मूंग
Black-eyed Beans – காராமணி – चोव्ली (2-3 types are available – all make good Sundal)

I am bringing you the recipe for Bengal gram Sundal - கொத்து கடலை சுண்டல்.

Ingredients:

Chickpeas – 2 cups (soaked in water for at least four hours)
Coconut – 4 tbsp (fresh grated)
Mustard seeds – ½ tsp
Red Chillies – 2
Curry Leaves – A few
Asafoetida – A pinch
Oil – 1 tsp
Chilli Powder – A pinch
Salt to taste

Method:

Pressure-cook the soaked chickpeas till they are soft. Take a saucepan and heat a spoon of oil and add the mustard seeds to it. Wait for it to crackle before adding the broken red chillies and curry leaves. Add the asafoetida, chilli powder and then the drained peanuts. Mix well and add salt. Keep the gas flame low throughout this procedure. After a few minutes, add the grated coconut, mix it and switch of the gas. The yummy Sundal may be had hot or cooled.

This is the traditional method of making Sundal. You can make your own twists by adding sautéed onions, freshly chopped tomatoes, boiled potatoes, freshly cut green mangoes, a few drops of lemon juice, etc. One can use any one or different combos.

Sharing: NAVRATRI CELEBRATIONS

India is the land for festivities and celebration. We all love to dress up, sing, dance, have fun, eat feasts, et al. Life here, even in the huge Metros, seem to be one long festival, especially during the second half of the calendar year. Today is the beginning of one more such celebration – Navratri, meaning nine nights.

Navratri lore according to South India:

Mahishashura was a demon with a buffalo head. He was invincible and creating havoc amongst all the people on earth. Parvathi, Lakshmi and Saraswathi – consorts of Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma – came together as one and took the form of Goddess Durga. Durga stood in penance on the tip of a needle during the period of the nine days and nights of Navratri. On Vijayadasami – meaning victorious tenth day – Goddess Durga slew the demon with her Trishul and to this day, the people from South India celebrate these days as one long grand festival. The use of a needle is avoided in most homes during these days. There is a Golu that is kept in many homes. This is a display of dolls. The habit is from the olden days when there were not too many play things especially for the girl child who was not allowed to even play outside the home after a certain age. The practice of Golu happens especially in homes where there are girl children. Temporary steps of wood or steel are constructed and dolls of many shapes and sizes displayed on them during these days. The dolls used to be traditional ones of the many Hindu deities along with other dolls that portray the different customs. There is the wedding set where one can see the bride, groom, the fire, the purohit, the musicians and more. A traditional Chettiar and Chettichi is a must. They represent the provisions seller and his wife with heaps of grains in front of him for sale. People are invited – mostly women and children – for receiving ‘vethilai paakku’. It is generally a gala celebration where people visit each others’ homes and socialise. The Prasad usually consists of a sweet in the form of Payasam and the Sundal is a must. Whole grains such as Kadalai (Peanuts), Kothu Kadalai (Chickpea) and others are boiled and mixed with coconut and served as Sundal – one variety per day.

Navratri in the North:

These days mark the war between Lord Rama and the evil Ravana of Lanka. The Dassera is the tenth day on which Ravana was slain by Lord Rama. This occasion is celebrated with huge effigies of the evil Emperor of Lanka being burnt along with smaller effigies of his brother Kumba Karna and his son Indrajit. The North Indians celebrate these nights by playing the Garba and the Dandiya to music at their homes, their building compounds and also at rented halls and grounds. The whole festivity is one of colour, fun and frolic.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Health: PRANAYAMA

While we rush about our day-to-day activities, we tend to take half-breaths most of the time. This stops the required amount of oxygen from reaching our system. A large amount of oxygen has to be absorbed by the lungs and passed on to the blood stream. The blood then ensures that the oxygen is spread evenly throughout the body as required. Taking deep breaths ensures that the system is functioning correctly. Pranayam helps us in the intake of the necessary quantity of oxygen which is also called the life force or prana.

Pranayam or Pranayama is a breathing technique. It’s a way of handling one’s life breath or prana by regulating one’s breathing. There is a method of inhaling and exhaling that brings about the maximum absorption of oxygen while chucking out all unnecessary things in one’s body including diseases. The ancient method is all about breathing while seated in the correct posture.

What you need to take care of while doing Pranayam:

1. The best time to do Pranayam is first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. If there is no time, ensure that there is a gap of at least two to three hours after a meal before you sit down for the breathing exercise.
2. You can sit in Padmasan, Sukasan or in a chair with your legs crossed at the ankles while you are doing this. Sit in the posture most comfortable to you.
3. The flow of breath – both in and out – must be continuous. Never hold your breath midway and break the rhythm.
4. Begin with three minutes of Pranayam and go on to 15 minutes per day.
5. There is nothing like, ‘I have been there, done that’ syndrome while doing any kind of Pranayam. It is like breathing or drinking water and is best done throughout your life.
6. If you do not understand the breathing techniques when you read the instructions, please learn it from a proper teacher as doing it wrongly can adversely affect a person’s health.

There are six types of Pranayam practices. Bhastrika Pranayama, Anulom Vilom Pranayama, Kapal Bhati Pranayama, Bahya Pranayam, Bhramari Pranayama and Udgeeth Pranayama. The simpler ones are the first three. The others are best learnt from a master.

Bhastrika Pranayama:

Sit in a comfortable posture with your hands upturned on your knees and close your eyes. Bring your thumbs and forefingers together with the other three fingers pointing straight. Breathe in slowly through both your nostrils and fill in your lungs and abdomen. At this point, you should be able to feel both your chest and stomach expanding. Now breathe out uniformly but with more force then while you were inhaling. The exhalation time (ET) will be less than the inhalation time (IT). This is one cycle. Breathing in and breathing out may be continued for three minutes on Day One and may be increased to as much as 15 minutes gradually.
Tip: Do this as long as five minutes for seven days in a week and your life is made.

Kapal Bhati Pranayama:

Sitting posture is same as above. Inhale air through your nostrils normally and exhale forcefully. The ET should be way shorter than the IT. You can feel the pressure on your abdomen when you exhale. You can do this for three minutes on Day One and up to five minutes over a period of time.

Anulom Vilom Pranayama:

Sit in the same posture as before. Close the right nostril gently with the right thumb. Inhale slowly through the left nostril and fill your lungs and abdomen fully with air. Now, close your left nostril with the middle and ring fingers of the right hand and open the right nostril. Exhale through the right nostril slowly and fully. Now, inhale through the right nostril, close it with your right thumb, open the left nostril and exhale. This is one cycle. Begin with five cycles on Day One and continue till you reach a duration of about five minutes.

Doing the Pranayam on a regular basis builds up a person’s body resistance and also cures a number of ailments. If you are suffering from any kind of chronic illness, it is better to consult your doctor before doing this.

QUICK FIX:

The two nostrils on our nose represent the sun and the moon. The right belongs to the sun while the left to the moon. When you have a headache, close your right nostril with your right thumb and breathe evenly through your left nose – both inhaling and exhaling. After doing this for a few minutes, you will find your headache vanishing.

When you are tired and sleepy in the middle of your work, do the reverse. Cover your left nostril with your index finger and breathe evenly through your right nostril. After a short while, you will feel refreshed and wide awake.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Spirituality: THE YEAR 2012 - Part 3

…to continue from where I left off in Part 2

We are moving towards a world seeped in Oneness, where man will be able to ‘walk and talk with God’ and there will be ‘heaven on earth’.

How do Amma Bhagavan propose to do this?

Amma Bhagavan have been working on this from the year 1989. This is from the time they opened Jeevashram, the school that they ran twenty years ago. Bhagavan has been working on this since he was three years old. Bhagavan was born on March 7, 1949. He could perceive the golden ball of enlightenment from age three. He has been meditating on this golden ball since then. He has been empowering it over all these years. Finally, his long-term vision has come true in the form of the Oneness Temple at Varadaiahpalem, where the Golden Ball has been consecrated and kept for public viewing. This will help Man increase his consciousness level.

Why this part of the world?

This area of Varadaiahpalem where the Oneness Temple is situated is a belt where many saints have lived over the past few centuries. This is because this area has got the rich potential to create enlightenment. That is the very reason why Amma Bhagavan have chosen this area.

The Golden Ball is the centre point. It is placed in a huge pillar-less hall where around 8,000 people can meditate at one time. When they meditate 24/7 chanting the Moola Mantra, the energy created by them will travel through the morphogenic fields (something in the lines of latitudes and longitudes) and cover the entire Planet Earth, increasing the consciousness levels of both the people and the planet itself.

By the year 2012, Bhagavan expects to have 64,000 human beings with a higher level of consciousness who would pray at this hall, raising the consciousness level of humanity. Once this increases, Man will begin to feel Oneness and that’s how we will go into the Golden Age or Satya Yuga.

What is consciousness?

It can be termed as an invisible energy field that surrounds a being. It is measured as Level of Consciousness (LOC) that calibrates from 0 to 1000. The more the number of calibrations, the higher the consciousness level. An enlightened being is one who calibrates at a high level of consciousness. For example, Lord Jesus calibrated at 999, Lord Buddha at 999 and Lord Krishna at 1000.

In comparison, the average LOC of man had sunk down to as low as 204 at the end of the last century. If it had gone below 200, we could have surely had an apocalypse and the world would have ended. But the presence of one human being with LOC of 1000 calibrations can uplift the entire humanity. Luckily for us, Amma & Bhagavan (two of 1000 calibrations) had already come down to earth by then as Avatars of Enlightenment and saved the earth from such a calamity. It might be difficult to believe, but Indians had a very bad LOC of an average of barely 150 calibrations at that point.

Thanks to Amma Bhagavan, the situation is already well under control and moving on towards betterment in the very near future.

What is enlightenment?

Being enlightened is to attain the state of a Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, Mahatma Gandhi or a Ramana Maharishi. This does not constitute becoming a saint. When one attains enlightenment, one stops feeling the need to harm and that will lead to the end of Kali Yuga. When a person attains the state of Oneness, you get to understand that hurting the other is hurting oneself. Then the need to harm disappears. Along with it leave the negative emotions that we feel such as anger, jealousy, greed, etc.

This does not mean that we will not want to have fun, enjoy life, earn large incomes, etc. We tend to believe that enlightenment and sainthood go hand-in-hand. We could not be more wrong. God is not a saint. He is the one who created fun, wealth, humour and joy. Please understand that we will not be giving up any of these.

In fact, the state we will be attaining is one that is quite unimaginable. We have to experience it to actually know what it is.

Golden Age or Satya Yuga

The consciousness level of humanity and the earth are intertwined and they work in cohesion. When LOC of Man increases, the LOC of the Earth will increase and vice versa.

Global warming will come to an end as Man will stop warring with nature and will understand the value of the Green Belt and treat it with better respect. Just as Man stops hurting human beings, He will also stop harming the Earth, will realise that He is but harming himself. He will stop fighting against the seasons like we do today. In summer we complain of heat, in winter we complain of cold and during rains we complain of the wet. Just stop and think for a minute what will happen if the seasons don’t do their work. We are so lost when the rains get delayed. Will the Earth function without the Sun that is the centre of the Solar System?

Yes, Man will begin to think on a totally different level altogether. The tremendous shift in consciousness levels will bring about an enhancement in CREATIVITY, HEALTH, WEALTH, PROSPERITY, RELATIONSHIPS and more.

With constant prayers and relentless efforts of a certain percentage of people the whole of humanity will stand to gain, to enter the Golden Age.

On June 6, 2012, during the Venus Transit, Bhagavan has predicted that the Earth will come to a stand still, it will stop rotating. That is the point when everyone had wondered whether the Earth will die. Now, thanks to Amma Bhagavan, we know that the exact opposite is going to happen. The Earth will become enlightened absolutely along with all the human beings living on it.

This wonderful and incredible phenomenon is to occur less than three years hence. I hope that we all sail through the intermittent time without any hardships. I sincerely pray to the Creator – Amma Bhagavan – to take us all safely into the GOLDEN AGE.

Click here to read Part 1

Click here to read Part 2