Festival Series: Makar Sankranti

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When is Sankranti? Why is it celebrated? What flavour can it add in our contemporary lifestyle? And so a blog post is born!

What's The Reason Behind The Tradition Of Flying Kites On Makar Sankranti?  Find Out!- Daily Bhaskar
Courtesy: Daily bhaskar.com/Makar Sankranti kite flying

Makar Sankranti is the first festival of the year and is celebrated all over India, albeit in various ways and different names. In the north (Punjab, Delhi, Haryana) it is called Lohri, in Gujarat and Maharashtra it known as Makar Sankranti, in Rajasthan it is Uttarayan, in the south it is known as Pongal and in Odia and Bengal it is popular as Bihu. Most of the legends revolve around the movement of the sun, the passage from the southern hemisphere towards the northern hemisphere. It is heralded as spring time in India and much festivities are tied around the first Rabi harvest of the year. A good harvest equals to good prosperity, abundance of nutrition and health. The warmer sunrays provide essential Vitamin D. India being mostly an agrarian country, farmers and cattle owners worship the sun to seek blessings on this auspicious day.

Aren’t our traditions scientific, eco friendly, revering Mother Nature and the celestial bodies?

The reference arises in Bhagwad Gita and the epic Mahabharat dating back to 3102 BC. It is believed that the great warrior of the Mahabharata, Grandsire or Pitamaha Bhishma, fell injured by the arrows of his beloved grandson prince Arjuna, during the battle in Kurukshetra. Bhishma had been granted a boon by his father to choose the time of his death according to his free will. After lying on the bed of arrows for almost a month, he chose the day of Makar Sankranti to leave his mortal self.  That is why there is a belief that those who die during this period will have no rebirth.

Another folklore suggests that any boy or girl who takes a dip at the Triveni Sangam (confluence of sacred rivers) will get a beautiful partner graced by Lord Vishnu himself, as he had come down to take a dip on this day.

If Makar Sankranti means flying colourful kites to the Gujrati community, for the farming community of Andhra, Telengana and Tamil Nadu it means rest time and decorating their cattle, feeding them nutritious grains. To north Indians, revelry in lighting a bonfire and casting away symbolically old and negative thoughts (old cloth) and Maharashtrian women wear black saree with dotted white stars or prints, representing the night sky, and spread cheer and health by exchanging Til Gul. See recipe here

Doorsteps are decorated with tall sugarcane stalks, marigold garlands, auspicious mango leaf decors and colourful Muggulu or Kolam floor designs, drawn symmetrically around dots. Fresh rice paste or ground rice powder is used from the harvested paddy. Kheer or pongal is made, traditionally using a mud pot over fire using dry cow dung pieces. I remember my grandmother chanting Pongal O Pongal, as she uttered each family members name and dropped rice grains into the pot of boiling milk atop cow dung used for fire. Yes…..eeks…but well imagine a village farmer family outside their homes, in the midst of green acres and brown earth, birds flying in the sky and mooo…moooo goes the cow, decorated with bells, tassels and cotton spreads to keep warm.

Can we keep the art and cooking forms alive in this modern day lifestyle? Can we spend a weekend outdoors flying kites and away from TV and social media?

Traditional doorstep Kolam design, particular for this festival

Lucky to meet this young villager and the old bullock in the city streets, each year as they come to collect charity and donations.

The Gangi Reddu/decorated ox earns alms, as he is now unfit for farming.

A festival adds colour and meaning to our lives. Most festivals are a way of showing gratitude to Mother Nature for her bounty. Let’s cherish these traditions in our own ways!

Sanskar Bharati Rangoli Art.

Every festival has some characteristic food, that is has meaning and is seasonal. As the winter months demand higher calories and nutrition the small, husky white sesame or Til (teel) seed, peanuts and jaggery (made after boiling sugarcane juice) are the seasonal remedies. Indians are mostly vegetarians and get their nutrition from seasonal crops, an Ayurvedic practice.

Once every year, I make a fresh batch of Til Gul (sesame seed combined with warm jaggery, dry coconut and ghee). In Hindu mythology sesame seeds are regarded as symbols of immortality, divinely blessed by Lord Yama(Lord of death). If you observe the power packed into them, one will realize its wonderfood! Incorporate it into your everyday diet, feel blessed by Nature, that such a small seed can contain a big gift for you! Calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, manganese, copper, zinc, fiber, thiamin, vitamin B6 and folate, and proteins!

Tell me, which part of the festivities and food is not a complement to our living? What can we continue to absorb? Happy Makar Sankranti and healthy abundant life to all my readers. I do value your comments, so do leave a note.

New Year 2021: Guest Blog 1

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Wishing you all A VERY HAPPY HEALTHY YEAR 2021.

It’s a joy every morning to spend few minutes in our garden and learn something from Nature. I noticed how easily some insects crawled from one leaf to another, one blade of grass to another, without any sound. Similarly I thought, let me practice mindfulness. Moving from one year to another, leaving behind unwanted mind clutter and sad sounds, let me take in new freshness to move into 2021.

And what better way to begin a blogging year than by starting a fresh new series! Each month a guest post will be featured, adding new freshness to the blog. If you wish to send your story here.

Before I introduce my guest, let’s begin with a little visual meditation. Close your eyes, imagine yourself trekking up a small hill or an expansive snow peaked mountain. Feel the cold air touching your face, your body is layered with warm clothing. Feel the faint scent of some wild flowers or just the crispness in the air. Is your breath slow or is it pacing? What are your thoughts of attaining a climb? Is it an internal climb to achieve your daily (yearly) goals? Or are you seeking blessings at the feet of the mountain? Come back!

Here is our first guest of 2021. Thank you, Ulhas Deshpande.

Ulhas Deshpande, age 61 has a good regimen of fitness and personal pursuits. He is a former corporate executive and entrepreneur and lives in Mumbai. Since 2014, he has chosen to be out of work and focused on pursuing varied interests. He has climbed many a mountain and travelled to see snow, volcanoes, snow leopards atop a range, and uses his camera. At family meets he entertains subtly with stories and presentations of his adventures and experiences. His other hobbies include a succulent garden, music, working for NGO and leisure travelling.

Meditation in Trekking

Over the last 12 years I have been fortunate to be able to do 24 treks and adventures of different kinds and degree of difficulty. Besides mountain trekking I have explored the Sahara Desert and chased some live volcanoes in Indonesia and trekked the rainforests there and in Arunachal Pradesh, in India. Initially it was all about adventure, endurance, fitness and achievement. Later on the more subtle aspects of trekking started to impact me immensely. The opportunities to introspect and be with yourself in the serenity and solitude of mountains started to work on me. In a mountain trek there are long hours of solo walking, peace, tranquility and unexpected challenges getting thrown at you at times. That provides a very different perspective and prism through which we think about ourselves, our lives and what we want out of ourselves and our lives.

I believe these explorations have made me a more all rounded and holistic individual and I have started becoming more open to new and different experiences in all aspects of life. I  Have got out of my comfort zones and become more accustomed with lack of routine, being alone  and taking  uncertainty unexpected events in my stride. Off beat adventures have taught me the value of patience and persistence and being resilient. I have also learnt the benefit of being slow some times as against speed and action.  Mountains have taught me to expect less and do more with less. As you climb up, there are so many false summits and the final one almost never comes till you are the end of your patience and physical capacity. It has taught me to accept failures more easily after having to give up two summit attempts in the last leg. I have also come to realize that life is more a mental game and that is what decides whether you will enjoy being on this planet.

Then there is the opportunity to meet different kinds of people and see their lifestyles. It is amazing how they go about their lives despite adversity and scarcity of resources with a big smile and faith in themselves and power of God and fate.  Most people in Mountains live frugally and make the most out of whatever they get and become very creative and resourceful in not just surviving but thriving in that environment.  They expect less, have limited needs and make the most out of what comes their way.

There is so much to experience and see and explore WITHIN you. Hope the journey continues for many more years.  Trekking is not just a physical adventure and adrenaline boost, but a kind of meditation in itself. The more you do, the more self revelations and insights you keep experiencing.

Thank you once again Ulhas Deshpande.

And now I leave you with one of my favourite songs from “Sound of Music”. Wish you happiness in year 2021.

Climb every mountain

Search high and low

Follow every byway.

Every path you know.

Climb every mountain,

Ford every stream

Follow every rainbow

“Till you find your dream…….

Year 2020 Diary Blog.

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Year 2020 Diary Blog.

What a year was 2020! The Covid virus caught the world in a pandemic early on, stayed and disrupted life, work and health. It’s far reaching impact was felt on many fronts -social, economical, mental and physical. The sudden displacement of migrant workers, a rise in key workers like medics and therapists, governments globally engaged in fighting the virus, and anxiety of job losses created tense moments. It was remarked that this generation had not experienced a World War 2 type recession or calamity, thus unequipped! It dawned that we lived in a materialistic, consumerist, millennial society. Climate change, communal disharmony, Brexit, US Elections became other news, COVID news was far bigger! Oxford dictionary admitted it had ”too many words of the year” to choose from: Coronavirus, lockdown, social distancing, BLM (Black Lives Matter), facemasks, keyworkers, unmute…the list is long. How did the year and the virus change your life?

From news desk blogging: It’s my 5th year with over 160 posts in different categories. Market narratives, recipes and crochet and quilting kept my creative juices flowing. Each year-end, I adopt a different writing theme. Year 2020 is in diary format. For other themes See here for 2019, see here for 2018 and here for 2015.  

Writing a diary during my school days was like having a dependable friend! It provided a way to pour teenage feelings onto paper, to converse with oneself, without any intruders. My diary often had colourful sketches, a dry leaf or flower collected from a Nature walk stuck in with rudimentary poem making. Later, as a primary teacher, I often set aside first 10 minutes of Monday class for diary writing. Initially some children used to just stare at the wall or paper, not knowing where to begin, but eventually they began to scribble random thoughts, that got better with practiced reflection.

Virginia Woolf, a prolific writer talks that ”It is the habit of writing for my own eye which is a good practice, it loosens the ligaments. Never mind the misses and stumbles.” Author R. K. Narayanan meticulously wrote his diary on a visit to Rockfeller, that later became a famous book. Gandhiji’s grand niece Manu (Mridula) was taught how to maintain anecdotes, till Manu got comfortable about writing a diary at the Seva Ashram. And haven’t we read the diaries of Anne Frank and Kafka?

Photo courtesy: Dear diary – Learning potential.au

Book

January:

The slight chill of winter lingered and we treated ourselves to warmth of woolen shawls and cups of ginger chai and peanut ladoos or sweet treats. We watched the white fragrant flowers on our guava tree that finally gave its first fruit. As the first month unfolded, there was excitement and anticipation about a baby’s arrival. We would grandparents soon, yet again, and we made our travel plans.

For a winter market, written in 2014 see here

February:

Filtered news of a Chinese virus that had travelled to the USA soon became world news coverage. First European country to succumb was Italy, who lost many an aged life, and the grim situation soon led to closures of business and public places. In India, schools, offices and domestic travel were still functional.

March:

A week long yoga retreat in Uttarakhand was indeed a treat to savour sattvic cuisine and do meditation and discourses along the  banks of flowing Ganga river. A visit to the local market to buy wool and jaggery turned out to be perfect blog food. see here. 

April:

The COVID virus is HERE!! Lockdown in India and other countries. Our travel plans were cancelled, airports closed, safety measures at hospitals and public places created some disruptions. Early warnings of health announcements created anxiety among people. Economy crippled, Indian cities saw a huge problem of labour migrants stuck in cities, away from hometown and without jobs and food. Rich or poor, COVID did not spare any country, any people! Solidarity events like lighting candles and torches from balconies, and another day of music with bells, gongs, conches, plates helped awareness and hope all over the world, creating a new global harmony. War not among humans, but against a virus! 

Every adversity brings opportunities”… Winston Churchill.

Transformation, change and adaptation were key to survive. The demand for internet connectivity surged. Virtual meets, WFH, online classes, Webinars using ZOOM, personal videos flooded social media and work. Paid for classes became Free courses…as the world looked within yourself. Healing, keeping hope alive, communicating virtually became the need of the hour. Spiritual discourses, story telling, music lessons, Mandala workshops, Art as therapy bloomed online. In Balinese Nyepi is time to ponder, meditate and take time to see the little flower bud blossom, or a child smiling. Social media and newspapers screamed beautiful photos of sunsets and birds on trees, as Nature was happier with man locked inside!

See here for an earlier blog on Orange. 

Story telling via Zoom

My Nyepi time was indeed rewarding at home, blessed to have a garden and cook daily meals. For recipes of banana flower see here and of pumpkin curry see here

May:

Summer in India is celebrated in its own way… arrival of juicy mangoes, making lemon and ginger pickles and downing plenty of yoghurt to keep the body cool. This year mango business slumped due to lockdown. Push cart peddlers, mini vans and Amazon delivery flourished. Lockdown brought the markets closer to home. Arrival of a baby in the family brought us joy, though virtually. Instead we prayed not only for our family bonds but for the medical personnel, health workers, and for those in less happier moments. Gratitude for what we have in hand, mattered most!  Locked in gave me plenty of time for spiritual readings as well as reading up my older posts. Mango recipe blog here.

June/July/August:

Here comes the seasonal monsoon. Time for a Haiku or sketching whilst raindrops made melodies on the trees and puddles on the street. The call of mating birds, a garden bursting with worms and caterpillars offered a alternate respite. The virtual world became the ‘new normal’ work from home (WFH) had some initial exciting moods that later brought it own woes of house space restrictions, orderliness and maybe longer hours string at the screen. Webinars and events on Zoom spurred creativity and innovative use of technology. In such locked in moments the importance of a hobby can be a great stress buster.

A blog on crochet/hobby see here

 

September:

Ahhh…everyone is tired of the same talk …Corona Virus! Preparation for the oncoming festive season Navratri, Dussera and Deepavali raised hope and interest. I too felt the urge to get out of home, visit an open air outdoor market. Never before were face masks and sanitizers seen in public places, other than hospitals. Read here for my market visit Rythu or Farmer’s Market at Alwal, Hyderabad

October:

Onset of the festive season, heralds a big shopping spree in India. This year was different! Malls and shops hardly saw customers. Instead online shopping even by the elderly was in demand. Rural weavers and wooden toy makers were caught is a spiral of technology learning and selling their products online to customers. It brought a  tremendous change in perspective, handling and adapting to the technology. Interestingly, many a youth at home encouraged and helped bringing about socio-economic change. 

Read here for a lack lustre festival Navratri .

November & December:

Participated in lots of story telling events online on FB and ZOOM platforms, telling stories of Akbar and Birbal, Nature and growth, festival stories and honing skills to tell in mother tongue. I also told stories to rural children with the NGO http://www.food4thought.org (read my volunteer experiences on their blogsite http://food4thoughtfoundation.org/2020/10/19/integration-of-curriculum-in-story-telling-virtual-joy-of-reading/). Telling and listening to monthly story swops at HYSTA ( Hyderabad tellers) is a good way to hone my skills and meet other tellers. I organized my first online fundraiser storytelling event, with volunteer tellers and raised a good amount for http://www.Chandramauli.org. Located in Kashi (Varanasi) the organization takes in children from less economic backgrounds to teach them Vedic chants, yoga and Sanskrit. A wonderful Children’s day  with Gurukul children interacting with children and adults in the audience, exchange of stories, asanas and mudras. 

Check out: http://www.Chandramauli.org for Gurukul details and donations.

That’s all and an early goodbye from me to you wonderful readers. I have new plans for my blogging journey in 2021. Do write to me your personal stories at seethepalliv@gmail.com and check here for details.

Lifelong learning helps us to stay sharp and healthy as we age, and is also good for the society we live in

Hoping to welcome a new golden dawn 2021, filled with cheer and good health for us all.

Sunrise over Coogee Beach, Australia

World Palate Recipes: Radish leaves and Chickpea Flour Crunchy Vegetable

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From the garden to the kitchen table! Space and time are such a treat in a busy city life.

Having planted radish seeds about a month ago, we have been watching the growth, leaf by leaf. The fresh young leaves were crunchy and tart, and I munched them off, sometimes, early morning garden therapy. I know the leaves are a storehouse of minerals and reward you literally cleaning up the stomach as they secrete acidic beneficial juices during digestion.

Radish are a North Indian winter crop. Acres of farms along the fertile Yamuna river bank are a picturesque green in rich hues. Radish, carrot, cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, beets and spinach all the leaves have a different green colour and texture. Can an artist match his palette to Nature? Experiments at home to grow carrot and radish looked quite promising as fresh leaves sprung from seeds. Soon bulbous white radish peeked from the ground beneath, our eyes popped gleefully too!

Then came a mild cyclone Nivar. Rain filled the Earth. Aahh! Nature wins!

Operation Chop Up! Garden to kitchen counter. Gas stove to blog!

I tweaked my mother’s recipe. She used spring onions and their leaves to make a dry vegetable with chick pea flour, adding an extra dash of oil for tempering. I substituted with fresh radish leaves, added some crunchy roasted peanuts for nutrition and served with hot roti or parathas.

Ingredients:

A bunch of radish leaves ( about 200-250 gms)

1 cup chickpea flour

1 big ladle cooking oil ( add extra if reqd.)

Tempering with

mustard seeds, ajwain, red chillies, hing or asoetifida (optional), turmeric, salt as necessary, handful of roasted peanuts (optional if allergic!)

Method

Check underside, clean, wash and pat dry leaves with young stalks. Chop finely. Roast peanuts and keep aside. Prepare ingredients for tempering.

In a pan or wok, heat oil, add ajwain, mustard seeds, turmeric, asatoefida, and crushed dry red chilles. Stir fry, add peanuts, stir. Add the chopped greens and salt. Stir.

Quickly add the chickpea /besan flour spoon by spoon, keep stirring, remove lumps if any. Add a dash of oil. Cover and cook for 2-3 minutes. Flour tends to go dry, so sprinkle few drops of water or add oil, cook well.

Place in a bowl and serve warm with hot rotis or parathas….or just nibble away this nutritious, crunchy vegetable, by itself! Any left over leaves can be chopped and added to wheat flour to make parathas…on another day.

Radish leaf crunchy vegetable

It’s almost year end. What’s cooking in your kitchen or growing in your garden? Share your pictures if you do cook this recipe or tweak it to your taste.

Lacklustre Navratri Festival Celebrations in India, 2020

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India is a land of diversity! And this festival is an ample showcase. Though the underlying element of prayer, worship, silence and introspection, removing evil from the mind/body is the message, the way of communicating it differs in every region of India.

This year however, the festival is lack lustre, low key due to the pandemic. Shopping for sarees and artefacts have been mostly online, the call of the mall has plummeted, leaving products on the shelves! Fewer people are going out to eat and meet, thus impacting the food sector too. Being conservative about spending due to job losses, they are turning to home treats and maybe real introspection.

Moving from materialistic consumerism, to finding meaning in life in what we have, understanding the meaning behind rituals and stories, is re- learning, ancient traditions.

Navratri – in Sanskrit/ Hindi means nine (nav) and nights(ratri), including the tenth day as VijayaDashami ( tenth day of a win). Different forms of the goddess are worshiped, it’s a time to reflect and look inwards to see our moods, behaviour, emotions, preferences, cleansing our mind, purifiying and rejuvenating from within. The first 3 days Goddess Durga is worshipped (a powerful form killing the demon Mahishasura), next 3 days Goddess Lakshmi, ( goddess of Wealth) reminding wealth is to be shared by donating food, sarees to women, Kanya puja /young girls are gifted food and clothing. Last 3 days Goddess Saraswati, is meditated upon. She is associated with learning Art, Music, Literature, or beginning of a new study.

In my story telling journey, this was one story I researched from mythology adding elements of Veena music, chants and paper craft while telling children via Zoom. ‘Learning the story and how to craft a lotus flower, is Goddess Saraswati too!” quipped a young girl. That was a prized response!

Mythology has enough stories for each Goddess and her attributes for each of the 9 days, 9 forms, an easy Google search.

Beautiful Face Of Goddess Durga For Happy Dussehra Or Shubh Navratri..  Royalty Free Cliparts, Vectors, And Stock Illustration. Image 86477844.
Courtesy: 123RF/Internet.

Let’s travel to different parts of India for a glimpse. Festivals are not for timid hearted! India means colour, taste, noise of bells and drums, chants from devotees, crowds who throng streets and temples.

In south Indian homes elaborate muggulu /rangoli patterns are drawn with rice flour each day, an Art to study, forget the Mandala and Zen workshops! Puja altars are cleaned, decorated and assembled with Bomma Koluvu / Golu dolls. Nine steps arranged with dolls from scenes of human life from farming, house chores, to music, Art, education, prayers and finally spiritual learning is the theme, ascending towards the ONE Truth.

In some states elaborate floral arrangements made with medicinal plants and colourful flowers are placed for Bathukamma festival, where women and girls dress elaborately in festive sarees and jewellery and sing songs and dance with sticks each evening. Here is a story of how the tradition of singing and celebrating began.

https://www.telanganatourism.gov.in/bathukamma/history-of-bathukamma.html

See here for older post.

Festivals (2): Wooden Toy displays during Navratri

In Gujrat, western India Garba dancing takes a feverish high! A pot filled with water, leaves, flowers, depicting Mother Earth is placed at centre of garba on most streets each night. Men, women, children dance night long in their swirling chaniya -cholis and ghagra. The elaborate costume making itself is employment and empowerment to many workforce and designers.

In Maharashtra and adjoining states the Nandi Bayl , Gangi Reddu or decorated bull/ox is brought to markets and doorsteps of homes, by nomadic tribes called Jangam. They collect food, clothing and alms while the ox is made to bow and bless the donors. This man visits our street twice a year – once during Sankranti, in January and again during Navratri festival. After receiving food and alms, he offered to pose for numerous photos happily. I’m enjoying cultural life in India!

The decorated Gangi Reddu ox visits homes for alms.

Photo Essay: Flowers – A Way of Life, Art and Business. is where you will find another photo of the ox, in a market in Bangalore.

Move over to North India, where the epic Ramayan is enacted in street shows, drama classes, dance dramas and story narration. The demon Ravana‘s effigy is burnt on the 10th day – VijayaDashmi ,celebrating goodness over evil. Young and elders all take part in singing, drama and wearing colourful costumes depicting characters.

In contrast, Durga Pooja festivities, pomp, music, sangeet and food donations take a lion’s share of activity in Kolkatta, Bengal. Women and children dress up in white and red, symbolizing blood of demons, as well as fertility. From elaborate idols, rituals of painting the eyes of the goddess to flowers and mud lamps, there is even traditional music competitions and graceful dance performances around the open air pandals. To the ever hungry gastronomic, and pious fasting there is themed menu and community kitchens that offer bhog prasad. It is said that Goddess Durga after killing the demon/ asura on the tenth day, restored balance and peace on the Earth, and manifesting to her original Shakti departs for her own home.

This year is different! Restrictions on travel, crowding, tightening of the purse, ban on community food kitchens, has made not only an economical impact, but a mental shift in acceptance, conformity to celebrations at home and hopeful of a deeper meaning and understanding of culture.

Jai Maata ki, Ya Devi Sarva Bhuteshu , Jai Durga Mata are some of the various chants meditated upon. Hope your days are filled with harmony and peace and goodness.

If you celebrate this festival, do leave your comments for other readers

Plan 2021: Gift of Story Bites from the Readers

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The year 2020 will be one to remember! The pandemic brought in lockdown in various stages, economic impact, medical workforce serving unendingly, rise in anxiety and domestic abuse, bonus and bane of WFH, home cooking and chef makings, enormous migrant labour movement, restrictions on travel and events, closure of schools and start of online ZOOM classes, online music events, use of technology as a rescue or addiction to social media and Netflix…..I could keep rambling…

But let’s look at the positive side.

What are YOUR stories that emerged? Personal or community reach out? Stories of friendships restored, an exercise regime, a new twist in cooking for family, search of a new hobby, armchair reading, stories of failure or success, of hardships, immobility and aged care, travel diary, quotes on observing colourful sunsets and birds…an endless list. EACH of us has evolved, changed, delved deeper inside. How did the pandemic bring change near you, was it fruitful time or anxious moments?

As my travel and outings were limited this year, but passion for reaching out to children, rural and urban via Zoom soared with storytelling, I’ve drawn up a fresh idea for 2021.

A gift of Story Bites: ‘Exchanging and sharing each other’s stories.’

You write and send me short story bites ( 500 words max.) or poems and a photo to seethepalliv@gmail.com. I will try to match some write up to go along or maybe not, and set the STORY EXCHANGE BALL rolling!

Till then here is something to chew on:

https://yourstory.com/socialstory/2020/10/people-queue-outside-baba-ka-dhaba-viral-video

https://www.beaconjournal.com/story/lifestyle/food/recipes/2020/09/28/covid-19-pandemic-changing-how-and-what-we-eat-latest-trends/3525232001/

https://thecreatneteducationblog.wordpress.com/2017/02/22/a-touching-story-is-all-that-you-need/

Don’t make excuses, grab your pen/paper,, your laptop, photo archives …what are you waiting for?

Mahatma Gandhi Quote | Gandhi quotes, Gandhi quotes life, Leadership quotes

Flashback! Learning Does Not Stop

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Few friends have been inquiring about my travels and writing. Some who have read older blogs remarked about my(improved)writing style and flow of thoughts. Others like the photos interspersed between words. and one asked “How do you make a story out of nothing.” I laughed out! Thank you all those motivating comments everyone. Art of writing, and I am still learning that. Add to that recent storytelling sessions I indulge in, not just in the classrooms while teaching, but to online audiences that include parents and adults too. Do you find similar threads?

Back to writing- reading helps to write better, one learns to make visual images and then find vocabulary to describe it. A creative mind HAS to be calm and searching, I understand these words better now. Whenever I enter a market area now, I am quickly able to focus on a certain aspect, whereas earlier times, I took aimless photos first, then tried to work out a story. Observation, travel blog reading and innate sense of ”something brewing” whether in a setting, people, conversations challenges me to dig deeper, spot the unspotted, draw out the unseen! Glad to have reached so far!

Let’s move on to story telling to an audience – weaving THAT into the blog writing and vice versa.

A story well told, engaging the audience can become quite ‘mesmerising.’ Stories engage us in physical, mental, emotional and sensory channels. Don’t you find yourself becoming relaxed, absorbed, imagining while listening to a story? Doesn’t it bring back memories of something? Do you remember sitting in grandmother’s lap and asking for more stories? Why?

Well, stories help improve reading, writing, listening, critical skills, vocabulary skills and communication, imagination and comprehension. WOW! whoever thought Grandma was dishing out SO MUCH goodness by just telling a story!

Now mix blogging or creative writing and telling a story to an audience Do you find threads interweaving? (Psss…..my family might just say…you like talking TOO MUCH, so writing gives you a platform).

Years ago I started blogging for self improvement – learning hands on to use technology, finding apt usage of the zillion photos taken, organizing thoughts in my head FIRST, then writing on paper…then..giving blank stares at the computer screen! Practice, practice, keep learning!

I leave you with an older post to explain this journey. https://walktomarket.wordpress.com/2018/12/29/year-end-2018-my-blogging-journey-so-far/

Till then, stay safe, stay healthy. The virus is still lurking around!

Rythu or Farmer’s Market at Alwal, Hyderabad

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Close to the Alwal railway station, nestled quietly away from the main road lies an expanse of green. The municipal authorities have allocated some land here for the local Rythu market. Set in this quiet oasis, on the outskirts of the busy city, this semi rural ambience was an attractive invitation to explore the space.Needless to say, the rain washed greenery and a few cattle and poultry moving around made it picture perfect!alwal grassland

The agricultural development committee of Andhra Pradesh State began Rythu or Farmer’s market in 1999 as a social initiative. With a purpose of bringing the farm produce directly to the consumer and removing any  middle men and price negotiations the markets became a safer and healthier option for local business. Now, every city in the state is allocated a certain area on a semi permanent basis or a weekly basis where Rythu operate. The weekly ones shift from one area to another within a certain kilometre distance. Vegetable farmers or committees fix the selling price of produce on a daily basis. A notice board is placed at the entrance of the market (Language: Telugu). The committee appoints a presiding officer and other personnel for upkeep of matters, hygiene of area, sanitary requirements.Distribution of seeds, fertilizers and farm knowledge and support are also given to the small scale farmers who enroll in this scheme.

alwal market entrance

Inside the semi open, semi constructed area there was a generous feel of space made magical by a canopy of trees. There were well designated, cemented slabs made for each vendor. At the far end were slabs were devoid of produce and vendors, but the bright red painted background walls depicting ” muggulu or rangoli” traditional patterns looked very inviting.

Makeshift stalls with plastic sheets tied to bamboo poles made competition stiff and the walk through was narrowed. Squatting on available side space, vendors pitched a slightly lower price, but the produce too was (maybe) a day old. Beware! plainclothes middle men touts were seen walking around demanding their share of money! So not all is quiet and controlled, in spite of an agricultural committee and officer allotted to these areas for supervision.

stalls at market

Seeing farm fresh produce and hearing a constant buzz, is such a delightful market experience! I stood admiring some green vegetables: green beans, cluster beans, chillies and bhindi or lady finger…each a different green! Stacked in mounds on the platform, they were taken out of the transporting plastic reinforced carry bags. Each could carry about 10 kilos of vegetables, at the least. Brought in from local farms around their villages in Upprapally, Gajvel and other areas, the vendors collected and paid for the produce on a weekly basis,then loaded it onto hired tempo vans and brought them to the market.

Most worked as couple pairs or family help, they lifted the bags themselves from the parking area to the sheltered slabs half a kilometre away. Here they sat daily from 8 am to 3 pm, bringing along their tiffin carriers for a mid day meal.( I would have loved to take a peek into that too:)…another day perhaps!)

Covid 2020 had its own impact. ( Notice how everyone is wearing cloth masks!).Produce was plenty, but lock down restrictions meant, some vegetables were wasted or could not reach the market. Some was sold at lower price within the rural areas or sold in designated city areas by young vendors operating mobile vans and having a police permit.

I chatted with a few women vendors who looked curiously each time I raised my mobile phone camera. What was their daily routine? What was the impact of Covid on home and economic condition? What time do they rise each morning to put time into their business? Who helps them at home?

Some ignored my conversations, others narrated about tough time without money, still other women laughed they missed the routine of travelling in and out of home, and meeting fellow vendors. Life in the new normal is for one and all! If we educated ones are dealing with virtual classes and learning moments, they too are learning to use news on the mobile, save money to top up charge, set aside time and money to seek help with functioning of mobile phones and use them not just for talking but being more productive with business needs. One vendor inquired if I was a newspaper writer, another noticed my different Telegu accent ( though I do speak the language quite well) yet another told me off straight in Hindi not to take photos of the local papayas that she procured going from farm to farm in her neighbourhood. Hindi /Urdu are the other official languages of Telengana state, besides Telugu.

Mallama and her elderly husband aged 60 + years have been regular sitters on the outside area, awaiting their licence permit to be able to sit on the stands inside the premises. She sells seasonal vegetables, and in the monsoon picks up the corn baskets from the farmers. She sells about 5-6 kilos each day returning home in the late afternoon to clean house and cook.

As I purchased some berakaya , ridge gourd a highly nutritious vegetable and a local popular , I noticed the colourful glass bangles on this vendor. They fit so snugly on her wrists, she was able to continue her household work and maybe once in 3-4 months she visited the bangle seller for a change. “That is some luxury! ” she laughed, talking in local Telugu language. “Berakaya chutney is made with lots of green chillies, tamarind and coriander. Put it on a mound of hot steaming ration rice…and you have a good meal!” She added.

On my way out, I picked up seasonal guavas and some local (not hybrid variety) of papaya from these two lovely, chatty vendors. They posed,wanted to see their photos and talked about how their young children are constantly using mobiles! A changing face of rural India! And the elder communities grapple with why /how/when/if…..of the mobile phones and apps. 

That’s all for now about my first hand experience into buying fresh and helping the farming community in my own small way.

What is it that touched your heart while reading this post?

What experience can you relate to in your own country with the vendors?

Do leave your comments for a good exchange of news.

World Palate Series:Ripe Banana Masala Poori (fluffed bread)

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   Life is full of banana skins. You slip, you fall…you carry on. 

Daphne Guinness.

Well, if you’ve read the earlier blog about banana plant and pith, now its time to talk about ripe bananas! Many fresh bananas have been gifted to neighbours, friends and the needy. The Sanskrit phrase from the Rg Veda teaches us ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbam’ the world is one family (Vasudha= Earth, kutumbam= family, eva= One) and bounty MUST be shared!

The ripening process itself taught us many a lesson. How to store, where and how to place the fruit, what happens inside the paper bags or cloth coverings, and how often to check….Ooops! 2 clusters have over ripened the juice flowing out! The sweet aroma of ripened bananas is wafting through the house, and is getting a bit heady too:) Is that why they say ‘I’m going bananas!’

We have made banana bread, banana milk shake, banana with cereal, and our yummiest fried bananas with coconut. See here 

Time for some masala snack, in the rainy days here. I am sharing my mother’s recipe of masala banana poori (fluffed wholewheat bread) today. Most homemakers will find more than one way to use over ripe or abundant fruit. I remember on a visit to Germany, our Airbnb hostess plucked (exotic) kiwi fruit and was making jam after distributing fruit to neighbours!

Mother used to make these spicy -sweet pooris for our school days snack. Roll it, munch on it and run and play. Instant energy! Just yesterday, as I spoke to my sister she chuckled “I remember how I once bought over ripe bananas purposely when Mother asked me to buy some. I wanted her to make those delicious, hot, brown pooris” Well sis…eat them virtually now.

Ingredients to make dough

2-3 ripe bananas ( they get brown spots on skin)

3-4 cups wholewheat flour ( as required)

1-2 tsps of sooji rava semolina (optional – used for texture)

spices – roasted cumin powder, turmeric, fennel powder, chilli flakes ( add to your taste)

salt as required

oil for frying

Fry the pooris preferably one by one, or two at time only.

Method

Mash the bananas in a bowl, add the powdered spices, salt, chilli flakes, oil ( NO WATER!!) and the whole wheat flour slowly. Keep turning and blending. The mashed mixture will decide the amount of flour required to make a dough consistency. Remember…the longer you keep it aside…it will go runny and difficult to roll out. ( I have frozen 2 batches).

Heat oil in a big wok, throw in a small pinch of dough to see if it rises, checking the temperature.

Make small balls of the dough, dust with bit of flour if sticky. Roll out into round poori, bit thick so they fluff well. Place gently into the hot oil, tap with ladle ( special sieved ladle is good for frying). Turn over when fluffed. Remove when a bit browned/golden. Keep aside on plate lined with tissue, if required to absorb the oil. ( that’s why sieved ladle is better, as it removes excess into the wok itself).

Serve warm with chai at snack time ( before the children munch them up) or serve with a gravy vegetable dish at meal time. The pooris stay well for 1-2 days in airtight box too for a later date. Enjoy with family and friends.

In your culture, how do you cook bananas? Is there a story behind the cooking process?

If you ever make them, do leave your experience here to share. i sincerely hope food from my kitchen travels to you all. Stay safe, stay healthy!

World Palate Series: Banana Pith and Cucumber Salad

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World Palate Series: Banana Pith and Cucumber Salad

It’s such a pleasure (and excitement!)to share news from our garden with you all. Our first banana plant (Cavendish fruit variety) has now borne fruit! It took over 10 months of growth from a baby plant to a mature one yielding fruit! Such a treat as we saw the broad green leaves unfolding slowly, one by one. The plant grew taller and then bore a purple flower bloom!

Yeah! we’ll soon have bananas! we muttered.

For a recipe with the flowers see here

The banana plant is called KalpaVriksha –each part of this plant is SO useful in daily life. The leafy sheath/pseudo stem can be cooked into variety of dishes and has many medicinal properties. The inner pith is used in making fibre and even shirts!The leaves become eco friendly plates specially at religious functions and Indian weddings. In Malaysia, Thailand a number of soup bowls, decorative wrapping and food cover is popularly made with the leaves. Banana peel/skin is used to make paper, and boards. The flowers are exotic and used in variety of edible dishes. The fruit itself -is a tropical delight that is carried to all parts of the world and sits on almost every supermarket shelf. Can a government topple because of this golden fruit? Check out the internet. Do leave your comments which part of the plant you use and how? 

Today I will share some photos and one recipe with the inner white pith. You can find a number of recipes ( In Tamil – Vazhaithandu, in Malay – Gulai Batang Pisang, a rare curry served during weddings).

As the plant bears fruit just once, it is then chopped off, leaving the side shoots or suckers intact and allowing them to grow. The central stem made of overlapping leaf sheaths was then chopped into smaller pieces, removing the outer layers to expose and retain the inner white core (pith). Thanks to hubby and househelper, an interesting but labourius commitment!

 

Using a sharp knife the big bunch was first separated from the plant. Each ‘cluster of hands’ were then chopped leaving the ‘banana fingers’ intact. The clusters were wrapped in newspaper layers and a cloth layer to facilitate the ripening process. Google research on ripening has proved useful. National geographic  has a wonderful colour code range of the banana ripening process.

https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nationalgeographic.com%2Fenvironment%2Furban-expeditions%2Ffood%2Ffood-journeys-graphic%2F&psig=AOvVaw1RHVkCsHaKN4eU-l-S2z3x&ust=1596535332480000&source=images&cd=vfe&ved=2ahUKEwi5kJfc4_7qAhVHFLcAHeA8Dj4Qr4kDegUIARD-AQ

https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.promusa.org%2Fblogpost579-Gros-Michel-or-Cavendish-which-is-the-yummiest-

banana&psig=AOvVaw1RHVkCsHaKN4eU-l-S2z3x&ust=1596535332480000&source=images&cd=vfe&ved=2ahUKEwi5kJfc4_7qAhVHFLcAHeA8Dj4Qr4kDegUIARDZAQ

http://www.kitchenmagpie.com

 

Till our fruit ripen and I prepare the pith, an elaborate process…how about a story?

Here is a Philippine story about how a turtle outwits a monkey for the banana plant.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Turtle_and_the_Monkey

The pith is finely sliced into round rings to remove the strands. Oil your palms and gently pull out the fibres in circular motion. Drop the rounds in very dilute lassi or buttermilk or lemon juice. This helps to retain colour and flavour, else it will go rancid! Check on You Tube ‘how to prepare banana pith’

Boil them, keep aside, cool. they can be refrigerated for a day or two.

The pith is bland in taste, thus versatile in cooking. You can add it to sambar or lentil curry, or make a smoothie with yoghurt.

I made a simple salad with assorted ingredients and boiled pith pieces. Add a dash of lemon, some salt and pepper and some curry leaves or coriander for garnish. Enjoy the bounty!

Mix all the ingredients and crunch….munch! Eat healthy.


As much as I enjoy cooking, taking photographs and writing these posts, I also like my viewers to talk about what and how they like here. Your comments are valuable. Thankyou.

 

Arm Chair/Lockdown Travel and Food Quiz 2020

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Covid 19 virus and the lockdown, has brought a huge negative impact on the travel and tourism industry. Travel restrictions, empty airplanes parked safely in the deserts, gloomy airports, and not a sight of big fat destination weddings! Why not read up more posts, bring out memories and have quiz time?

Till then, wishing everyone a brighter, better future! Stay safe, stay healthy.

Here we go.

  1. Earliest lanterns originated in the Han Dynasty. It was a craft of needles, bamboo, gauze or silk. It was used in palaces and later by monks. Which country patronized these red and gold lanterns? When are they traditionally hung?

2. This expansive market building has borrowed architecture.

  In which country will you find this ‘Marche’ building?            What can you say about its architecture? 

3. Yumm..mangoes are top favourite fruit, and can be added to many a dessert. What is the local name for this mango preparation? Name some Indian dessert recipes that use mangoes?  

4. My post has a countrymarket in this famous city of Blois, France. Can you name the river that passes through? What is the unique roof architecture of French buildings?   

5.  This garment is the national symbol of which country? What is it called? 

6.   Sunny, stunning beach view in Australia! Guess Sydney’s famous beaches?  

7.  Tell 3 differences between a fresh market and super market? What would you generally buy in either? 

8.   A very popular place for yoga in India. Where is this bridge? What is the significance?

That’s it for now.

Hope the photos bring back some memories or answers here. Do take your time to leave your ideas and comments below.

 

Fasten Seat Belts! It’s Lockdown. Recharge with Positive Actions

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Chapter 6 of the Bhagvad Gita (a 700 verse Hindu scripture)   elaborately discusses the Mind.  “He who is the master of his mind is a sage, while he who is a slave to his mind is a fool.”

ie. if one controls the mind and channelizes its energy into positive actions, it can create a fulfilling life, calm and creative. Think of the great artists, writers and engineers who single pointedly focused and put their energy into a positive goal. If one cannot arrest the monkey mind it will be drunk with the wine of desires, quotes Swami Vivekanandaji and Adi Shankaracharya, the great Hindu philosopher and saint compares the mind to a huge Tiger, lurking in our backyard!  

Covid 19 lockdown time has brought upon all of us a ‘new normal’ and each of us has a story to tell. A change of mindset and positive thinking is necessary to tide over these challenging times. Those who are blessed financially and health wise have been lucky, but I send out a prayer each day to the needy, aged and below poverty line people. Lockdown has  become our new teacher, in a new garb of technology. Keeping the mind calm and well fed with nutritious thoughts will help us pass through the day.

Change is the only constant in Nature.

Positive Growth and change in Nature

Has sheltering at home become a cramped, claustrophobic space or a time and space to bond with family, share household duties and learn some new hobbies? How has this time impacted you? What have you done for a change?

Initially I was restless, always waiting to pack my bags to visit family. Retirement and lockdown created frustration, anxiety and a sense of ‘whats next’? It brought me SO MUCH free time, I did not know how to channelize it (other than just house duties and exercise). Well, “stash away those bags and dig open my craft and hobby materials”‘ I said to myself. Get going, stay calm, be happy for what you have NOW!

Having a hobby to focus on forces us to take a break from stressful activities and negative thinking. Without a reason to take a break, we may unwittingly overwork ourselves to the point of exhaustion. Indoor hobbies do wonders for children too – drawing, craft, reading is much better than staring at gadjets. Studies have shown that the best hobbies for reducing stress include knitting, gardening, reading, and yoga. At our home, hubby digs up soil and feeds the plants in the garden, I calm down with Nature craft.

What is your hobby? How do you feel when engaged in it?

Crochet: Spring and Summer Flowers

Here is my lockdown project inspired by our blossoming garden. An old silk saree is being converted into a day quilt, lined with an old bedsheet. Old is gold (memories)…and incredibly soft!

 

Another ongoing project is editing my older posts. Phew! as a novice, 5 years ago the posts written have no clarity of thought, nor a good flow of language. Well, I’m glad to have come out of the cocoon into an emerging butterfly! Thank you dear readers. I now have over 250 followers and more than 40 narratives about various markets I’ve visited. It makes me more responsible to write better, isn’t it?

My trip down memory lane brought out few posts, dear to me and friends, as I edited. Remembering those far away travels, meeting friends who hosted and cooked for us, surely they were a beacon of light on our travel journey.

Summer in Canada:Maple Syrup,Summer Fruit and Outdoor Kiosk

Beachfront Weekend Market at Manly, Sydney

World Palate Recipes: New Zealand Carrot Cake(2)

Daily Post Challenge Close Up: Parsi Saree Borders

Focus 12: Types of Markets

With Zoom, whatsapp, Insta, Meet/hangouts and other online portals coming up with a variety of free classes in Art, Music, pencil sketching, Scriptural discourses and story telling sessions, it’s a whole new ‘virtual’ world I have been swimming in – I even got Zoom fatigue within few weeks, felt dizzy staring at the screens, and saving multiple passwords. Haha…

That brings me to story telling via Zoom. Now that real-life classrooms are shut down for a while, rural children in India are being ‘virtually’ engaged by NGO’s and other tellers. I climbed onto the train journey to keep connected with story telling, rural children and technology. It did feel weird without hearing any noisy distractions from children, rather it was ‘use the chatbox to put your comments, or type raise hand or thumbs up’ Engaging or disengaging interactions? What are your experiences using virtual classrooms and meets?

Here are a few links for stories I told:

https://www.worldoftales.com/Asian_folktales/Filipino_folktale_45.html#gsc.tab( Turtle and Monkey)

Panchatantra wisdom tales,

Sang Kanchil, the clever mouse deer @Malaysian animal stories DashaAvatara of Krishna @ mythological stories

Australian aboriginal tales of Krangalang the crab and Tiddalick the greedy frog.

Aboriginal Dreamtime Stories

 

These are some drawings made by children, using Aboriginal theme of painting with dots.

What books or podcasts have you been listening to?

Do you have any story /link to share with us from your culture? 

That’s all for now. Stay safe, stay positive, be productive.

            If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal.

                                Not to people.

Albert Einstein