Saturday, 2 November 2013

Joy of the Festival Week . . .

- Pallavi Prakash

Welcome fall of the year and with lights in our heart and warm souls we welcome string of festivities and celebrations. Festivals are a reflection of beautiful amalgation of our old values and new ones. We can take what we know, what we learn and what resonates with us to carry on and create our own meaningful ways of celebrating them The month of Kartik (Hindu Calendar) marks five day long celebrations with Deepawali being the king of them.. However, in order to celebrate and pass on new and old customs, it is pertinent to know the roots and reasons of the festivals before we can determine integrating them into our lives. Diwali is one of the most well known festivals celebrated by Hindus all over the world and  the holiday lasts five days usually with each day highlighting a different auspicious event.

 According to the Hindu calendar, Diwali, begins on the thirteenth day of the month Kartik. This time of year is festive time because it is the season of harvest in which crops are in abundance and even businesses use the abundance as a time to mark the beginning of a new stock and calendar. As a result of this custom, Diwali is known as the New Year!

Let us have a quick review of 5 day long deepawali celebrations. Interpretations are subjective and reflective- one may find their own meaning depending on their cultural heritage, experience and needs. However the feeling of elation and joy is common for one and all.

Day 1: Dhan Teras-

(1st Nov’2013, Friday)

“Dhan” stands for the name “Danavantari” and Teras means “Thirteen”, referring to the 13th day of the half month of Kartik.

The myth aspect:

There is a Myth attached and story goes that the ocean was churned by the Devas (the righteous ones) and Datyas (the unrighteous ones) in order to attain the nectar of immortality which was hidden in the depths of the ocean. Upon churning, the nectar rose to the surface along with 13 other gems (not actual jewels, but things of value). Danavantari-is the ‘Heavenly Physician’ who holds all of the medicine for a happy, healthy life in one hand and a pot holding the nectar of immortality in the other. Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth is also worshipped by some on this day, as one of the gems that surfaced and also as a representation of wealth in all aspects in our lives.

Meaning:

Many of the Hindu texts and mythologies are written metaphorically. In the instance of Samudra Manthan, the “ocean” represents our mind-  its infinite energy freely and forcefully flowing. Churning the ocean means exploring this vast mind, going into its depths to uncover whatever lies below. If this is done with patience, diligence and calmness, eventually we uncover incredible gems within ourselves and nature- immortality as it is used in this story being intended as enlightenment.

Traditions:

On this day, people buy a new pot to symbolize the pot of nectar and buy jewels and precious items to mark entry of wealth in our lives.

 

Day 2: Narak Chaudas (Choti Diwali)

(2nd Nov’2013, Saturday)

 

Narak is short for “Narkasur” and Chaudas means “Fourteen”, referring to the 14th day of the half month of Kartik.

The myth aspect:

“Narak” (hell) and “Asur” (demon) means Demon from Hell .This title was given to a very evil king who tortured and hurt people in his kingdom. Narak Chaudas celebrates the day Krishna destroyed Narakasur and brought peace and joy to the kingdom- it is a celebration of triumph of good over evil. The day is also called Choti (small) Diwali, due to the similarity of the prevailing good over evil in the Ramayana.

Meaning:

Developing the qualities within ourselves that characterize Krishna and which will defeat the ignorance inside us.

Traditions:

This is also the day that it is said Hanuman, the monkey god, was born and it is often celebrated by honoring Hanuman and Krishna.

Day 3: Diwali

(3rd Nov’2013, Sunday)

The name Diwali comes from a larger word, Deepawali. ‘Deep’ means lamp or light and ‘Awali’ means rows. Together they become “Rows of lights”.

The myth aspect:

The phrase Deepawali or Diwali is a reference to the Ramayana, and is the day upon which beloved Prince “Rama” returns from the jungle after 14 years of banishment due to a promise his father had made to one of his spiteful wives. During his time in the jungle, Rama braved many obstacles and defeated the antagonizing King “Ravana”. The night of the Prince’s return, there was no moon, so the people of his Kingdom lit all of their lamps and candles in order for Ram to be able to find his way home.

Meaning:

At face value, we are taught that Rama is compassionate, upholds incredible focus and integrity and is the embodiment of truth- but what we do not stop to consider is what made him that way? We understand with the assumption that this is just the way he was. However, though he might have been born with those qualities, it was only through facing the unknown of the jungle that he was able to test and develop them within himself…and once he did he returned to the lights of home. It is a tale of triumph over the Self-created fears, our ignorance and desires while also accepting the nature of the Self.

Traditions:

Typically this day is the largest celebration of the 5 days, with puja, sweets, lots of food, large gatherings, fireworks and all the rest. The tradition specifically for this day is the lighting of lanterns, lamps and candles. It also symbolizes re-union of all relationships and essence of building stronger ties!  

Day 4: Annakuta or Govardhan puja

(4th Nov’2013, Monday)

This occurs on the first day of the second half of the month Kartik. “Anna” refers to grains or food and “kuta” means mountain or heap, together making” a mountain of food”. “Go” means cow and “Vardhan” means growth or increase in productivity, “Govardhan” means that which increases the growth and productivity of cows that is grains and food. Both of these words indicate the same thing – an abundance of food.

The myth aspect:

In the time of Krishna, there was a large mountain range known as Govardhan, it produced an abundance of food for cows, which in turn helped work the land and also provide sustenance for the people. During the harvest, people would worship the god of Rain for nurturing the crops. Included in this display of appreciation, people would offer huge quantities of food to the god, which would then be wasted. Krishna decided this waste must stop and that people must see that the food is not a gift from the god of rain, but that of the land they live on and the mountain Govardhan. He asked them to honour the mountain instead. The god of rain became angry and rain poured down for days, flooding the land. Krishna asked everyone to go on the mountain where they and the crops remained safe from the floods. Afterwards, everyone celebrated with the food from the harvest.

Traditions:

Puja for Krishna and a large feast is planned. One should plant a flower, herb or even vegetable in order to symbolize our connection with earth to symbolize this festival 

Day 5: Bhai Dooj

(5th Nov’2013, Tuesday)


In Hindu traditions, this is a prominent festival symbolizing love and ties between brothers and sisters.  Bhai Dooj on second day after Diwali (also known as ‘Yama Dwitiya’) is considered to be the most auspicious.

The myth aspect:

Yama (the lord of Death) and Yamuna (the spirit of the river) were twin brother and sister, born of the sun and consciousness. Yama, being the lord of Death was always very hesitant to visit his sister, because nobody wants a visit from Death. However, the love between them was so strong that Yamuna made Yama to promise that he will visit her. Bhai Dooj is the day Yama visited his sister, Yamuna, and they both were overjoyed and happy at being together after so long. Yama was so happy that he proclaimed any brother who visits his sister on this day will have no fear of death.

Traditions:

On this day, brothers visit their sisters and bring her a gift! It marks strong blood tie between them.

Let us keep alive the real meaning of these festivals to sustain love, joy and universal feeling of brotherhood. Enjoy the week long festivals and Enjoy Life!!!

 

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Fight Stress and Win the battle of your life ! ! !

- Pallavi Prakash


It is a gift to human beings that all good things come with a condition !Good life is not a De-facto anymore nor is life a combination of black and whites to suit human psyche but a major chunk of our life is gyey !!

Gone are the days when we proudly boasted our picture perfect lives to our friends and colleagues. Welcome to the world of “Neo Big Money Syndrome” called Anxiety and Stress!! Almost every one out of ten individuals are suffering from this modern day disease .Reason is simple ,we are wearing out of patience ,we expect immediate results and immediate gratification of our wants and desires .If this is not achieved we confront stress and anxiety which is an enemy to our balanced human behaviour .

But all is not  lost yet .The good news is we can beat this enemy and still have a luxurious life by seeding a few good habits and exercising few rules .We can fight stress and anxiety by administering few simple steps to a healthy life. 

Regular exercise is an absolute proven stress-reduction technique. But sometimes we feel even too stressed to workout on a consistent basis. Simple modifications in posture, habits, thought, and behaviour often go a long way toward reducing feelings of stress and tension.

 Here are 10 quick and simple things one can do immediately to help keep one’s stress level under control.


1. Control Your Anger:                                                         

Watch for the next instance in which you find yourself becoming annoyed or angry at some minor thing, then practice letting go - make a conscious choice not to become angry or upset. Divert your thought to the last good thing that happened in your life. Effective anger management is a tried-and-true stress reducer.

2. Breathe:

People suffering from stress should always breathe slowly and deeply. Before reacting to the next stressful occurrence, take three deep breaths and release them slowly. If you have a few minutes, try out breathing exercises such as meditation or guided imagery.

3. Go Slow:

Stressed people tend to speak fast and breathlessly .Whenever you feel overwhelmed by stress, practice speaking more slowly than usual. You'll find that you think more clearly and react more reasonably to stressful situations.

4. Share your stress:

 It helps to talk to someone about your concerns and worries. Perhaps a friend, family member, teacher or counsellor, can help you see your problem in a different light. If you feel your problem is serious, you might seek professional help from a psychologist, psychiatrist or social worker. Knowing when to ask for help may help to avoid more serious problems later.

5. Fresh Air:

Fresh air is great antidote for depression and stress .Reduced oxygen levels often lead to anxiety hence get outdoors for a brief break. Our grandparents were right about the healing power of fresh air. Don't be deterred by foul weather or a full schedule. Even five minutes on a balcony or terrace can be rejuvenating. Outdoor exercise is also usually the best option.

6. Physical activity:

 If you are nervous, angry or upset, release the pressure through exercise or physical activity. Running, walking, playing tennis or working in your garden, are just some of the activities you might try. Physical exercise will relieve that “up tight” feeling, relax you, and turn the frowns into smiles. Remember, your body and your mind work together.

7. Avoid Hunger and Dehydration:

Drink plenty of water and eat small, nutritious snacks. Hunger and dehydration, even before you're aware of them, can provoke aggressiveness and exacerbate feelings of anxiety and stress.

8.  Quick Posture Check:

Hold your head and shoulders upright and avoid stooping or slumping. Bad posture can lead to muscle tension, pain, and increased stress.

9. Recharge at the end of the day:

Plan something rewarding for the end of your stressful day, even if only a relaxing bath or half an hour with a good book. Put aside work, housekeeping or family concerns for a brief period before bedtime and allow you to fully relax. Don't spend this time planning tomorrow's schedule or doing chores you didn't get around to during the day. Remember that you need time to recharge and energize yourself - you'll be much better prepared to face another stressful day.

10. Discover your limits:

 If a problem is beyond your control and cannot be changed at the moment, don’t fight the situation. Learn to accept what is for now, until such time when you can change it.

11. Group Activities help:

 One way to keep from getting bored, sad, and lonely is to go where it’s all happening. Sitting alone can make you feel frustrated. Instead of feeling sorry for yourself, get involved. Offer your services to a neighbourhood or volunteer organizations. Help yourself by helping other people. Get involved in the world and the people around you, and you will find they will be attracted to you. You’re on your way to making new friends and enjoying new activities.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Summer Parents ! ! !

- Pallavi Prakash
Cool drinks, refreshing getaways trips to some distant hill station, frequent dips in the pool and those mouth-watering vanillas!! Does that ring a bell?? Synonyms of Summer season. What else...it’s not a million dollar answer but trust me sometimes summers can be million dollar expensive. With the advent of this quarter of the year most of the schools go for their longest vacation and with the tiny kids to Uncle Tom kids being Home Alone, situation can be pretty troublesome. If proper planning is not done to channelize their energies into productive activities they’ll end up asking for resorts, parties , most expensive video games and last but not the least frequent visits to the eateries. Besides soaring up the pre-inflated monthly budget they’ll just learn to kill the time and killing with a heavy price ! This does not mean that kids should be deprived of fun but a fine balance between fun and knowledge is to be achieved. This balance and the variant ratio is to be decided by parents which should be directly proportional to age of the kids and their interests.
It’s time; we take the role of “Summer Parents” and draw a few guidelines for effective ward handling in this summer break. To ensure success in keeping your children busy during summer vacation, remember to first choose the activities that are best age-appropriate and then adapt them to the ability of your child or children. Some activities are free or virtually free and some activities will cost money.
Summer Activities for Children Age 1-4
If your kids are in this age bracket – it must be a hard time getting anything done without a part time sitter or a “mother’s helper”.  I would really recommend you consider hiring some help.
1.      Stock up on workbooks and coloring books, along with crayons, markers, stencils, etc. and plenty of plain paper
2.      Create an activity ‘station’ where the kids can go to make a mess whenever they want and later ask them to clean their stations.
3.      Rotate toys – kids get bored quickly, so once or twice a month, hide the old and bring in the new!
4.      Get a baby backpack –Ask kids to stock in their favourite articles in their backpacks (help them stock in soft toys, old books, some pictures and probably few games)
 
Summer Activities for Children Age 4-7
Keep the kids “Moving and active”
1.      Take trips to the Library.
2.      Download fun worksheets and sneak in some learning.
3.      Let the kids weed a small garden for you.
4.      Order craft project kits.
5.      Let them create their own scrapbooks
6.      Teach them to create their own PowerPoint presentations
7.      Download a free screen-saver maker and let them create their own slideshows.
8.      Swimming! Swimming is a great summer activity for kids to stay busy during summer break. Children get exercise, have fun, stay cool, and really seem to enjoy swimming.
Summer Activities for Children Age 8-15

  1. Get a metal detector and let the kids explore the yard.

  2. Keep common ingredients in your pantry for Kids friendly cooking projects.

  3. Arrange exciting classes for kids like English Elocution, Speech & Drama etc,.

  4. Summer Volunteer Jobs! Or if your child is old enough-- a summer paid job! A healthy and proactive way to keep your child busy during summer vacation is to help them find the perfect volunteer job.
5.      Sports Programs! Check out your local YMCA, multi-generational center to see what sports programs are going on over the summer. Exercise is great for kids and you may find a sport your child is interested in. Participation on a sports team can vary from lessons to competitive and can last from a week to the whole summer. You can probably find information in your local newspaper, the internet, or your city's website.
6.      Free Summer Workshops
Many retail stores and museums hold free or low-cost workshops, even for kids. Topics may include home improvement projects, history, nature conservation, safety tips, art, crafts, and many more. Workshops are generally interactive, keeping the kids busy making or learning about something. To find out about these workshops call and check the websites of local museums, home improvement stores, zoos, craft stores, and anywhere else you can think of. These aren't always filed under events listings.
Hence, it is imperative to give our children a healthy, informative and lively childhood .These fun based activities will shape their personalities for a golden future!!!

Sunday, 9 June 2013

SAVE TREES - SAVE MANKIND


Pallavi Prakash

One of our famous poet rightly said “There is always Music amongst the trees in the Garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it” .And that heart bleeds whenever it hears falling of this green wood. Alas! Enough mankind...its time we called truce and take a breather to ponder, ponder on the ironical situation. Since time immemorial trees have sheltered us, saved us from environmental disasters and today mankind is paying its tribute by slaughtering them. Global warming is being debated all over the globe with different perspective but doesn’t the root cause lie in roots itself??

Preventing Deforestation is an age old appeal but if we look at the prism of problem from a different angle and try and educate masses about the benefits of our green friend, slowly and gradually the message would render many hearts.    

For some trees exert a powerful emotional influence and to some a tree is a thing of spiritual sustenance and renewal. The tree is the embodiment of mankind's condition: birth, life, death, regeneration and rebirth. The rising sap is the spirit of life and seeds and fruit are the symbols of fertility. Particular importance for us has been the role of trees in the evolution of mankind and development of human cultures and communities Some 65 million years ago, just after the demise of the dinosaurs, a small rat-like species of mammal ( known as a prosimian) left the ground and took to life in the trees. Eventually after 50 million years had passed, this creature returned to the ground as the ancestor of man.

Let us explore our ocean of knowledge to find few more vital usages of trees.

1. Edible products

We get all the minerals and vitamins needed for our proper health and growth from the fruits and other plant products like vegetables, cereals, grains, grams etc. Around the world everyone is opting for the vegetarian diet as it provides a wholesome and balanced diet.  The balanced diet keeps the people healthy and prevents many diseases.

2. Environment friendly

The roots of the trees hold the soil firmly and prevent soil erosion.  This leads to the increase in the ground water level and the continuity of water cycle gets balanced resulting in good rains.  Ultimately trees prevent the drought and provide greenery to the environment. Apart from taking care of the soil and water, the trees provide shelter to many animals and birds in the forests which ultimately help in the ecological balance of the nature. Having more number of trees around will reduce the hazardous effects of global warming. 

3. Prevents Global Warming

We are taking the trees for granted and felling them mercilessly.  This will lead to a treeless environment which cannot be even imagined.  But the woods from cut trees also help us to make beautiful furniture and other things required for the house. The wood is used as a fuel even now in many rural areas.  The trees provide us shade and the breeze will be so cool in the places where there are number trees. Many people who suffer from chronicle ailments are said to feel better when they were put in a beautiful tree surrounded areas. 

 4. Medicinal usage


Previously the only known treatment for malaria was quinine, an alkaloid found in the bark of the evergreen cinchona tree. Aspirin is a derivative of salicylic acid, which comes from the bark of the white willow, Salix Alba. In this day and age aspirin is produced synthetically. The maidenhair tree, Ginkgo biloba, has long been used for medicinal purposes. The leaves have been a tradition of Chinese herbal medicine and used to treat everything from asthma to haemorrhoids. Now maidenhair tree leaves have found their way into western medicine and are used to treat memory loss. Fluid extracted from the leaves helps to improve blood circulation. It relaxes blood vessels, enhancing blood flow throughout the body

 5. Ornamental usage

Ornamental trees are planted for their aesthetic features including fruit, stem, bark, habit, scent and overall form. Landscape designers utilize these trees to create added interest to designs. Ornamental trees are planted to be enjoyed by passers by, gardeners, visitors and the public in general.  

Notwithstanding the debt we owe to trees, their emotive power, and their importance to other forms of life, the forested area of the earth is steadily being depleted. This is leading to the degradation of the environment and the extinction of many species. There is now a real danger that in the not very distant future man will destroy a large proportion of the present population of species on earth, create an uninhabitable environment.  We must remember that the trees are very essential and we must start growing more trees in our surroundings for the sake of next generation to give them a beautiful and healthy environment.  We should keep in mind that the deforestation will lead to the extinction of many animals and mankind in general. Hence SAVE TREES SAVE MANKIND! Enjoy Life!!!

Saturday, 11 May 2013

A fine balance . . (Attaining Balance between Work & Family Life)

Pallavi Prakash


Life is a “Sea-saw” and it is very rightly observed that the ever balancing act to maintain equilibrium calls for some introspection .The most debatable topic persisting since ages is “which should get more importance ?” Sometimes the extreme misbalance causes lot of anxiety and stress at both the fronts hence it is pertinent to know the “mantra” of successful professional life backed with a healthy and happy personal front!

Family-work balance is a process, not a static achievement. It’s important to make the ‘big decisions’ – selecting careers and jobs, timing children, allocating roles and responsibilities, etc.­ that will provide the opportunity for balance. The real task of balance takes place on a weekly and daily basis, even from hour to hour. Commonly cited pro-work factors include potential income, career continuity and advancement, workplace intellectual and social stimulation, enriched childcare social environment for kids, etc. Adverse factors include reduced time spent with family, fatigue, weekends dominated by domestic chores, chronic crisis coping, etc. Hence one should be very focussed as to achieve a perfect “sea-saw” euphorbia. Few tips which will help reduce this stress!
Key to Attain Balance between Family and Work:

1.    Identify your support system

Find out who can be counted on to help when help is needed? Categorize people and write the names of people who could be counted on if necessary. For example, if daily childcare is needed, who can be relied on to provide it: husband, relative, friend, paid baby-sitter, childcare centre? Who will provide child­care in emergencies, or when the child is ill?

2.    Delegate Tasks

Children develop self-esteem, competence, and responsibil­ity by helping with household tasks and family decision making. Knowing that their contribution is expected and appreciated helps all family members feel valuable. Hold weekly family meetings to review the chores assigned to each family member. Praise for accomplishing tasks for the week. Re-evaluate chores based on the activities for the coming week. Use chore time as family time. Working with the children on family tasks can help them stay focused and complete the project enthusiastically.

3.    Be Realistic.

One should not set expectations that can’t be achieved. For example one should question our mind “Are housekeeping standards realistic?”

“Does the kitchen floor really need to be mopped four times a week?”

“Is laundry a daily necessity?”

“Who cooks and shops?”

“How can chores be shared?”
 
4.    Plan Ahead for the Next Day.

Spending time working away from home means that there will be fewer hours available in the day to accomplish the same number of jobs around the house.

To make mornings less stressful:

• Take time on the week-end to plan meals, chores, and activities.

• Before bedtime, help youngsters organize themselves for school the next day by setting out their clothes and school items.

• Set out your work items and clothes for the next day.

• Have a morning routine that children can rely on to start the day. If possible, have both parents share in getting through the morning routine.

• To lessen separation anxiety, especially with younger children, tell them who will take them to day-care(if there is nobody at home to care of them after school) and who will pick them up at the end of the day.

• Take time for breakfast. The children can help set the table for breakfast the evening before.

• You (and your partner) can leave work on time and leave your “work life” at work.

• One can use commute time to shift gears and plan activities for the evening.

• You and your family can spend some time re-connecting by shar­ing a snack or meal and talking about the day’s experiences before the tasks of the evening are started. Even 10 minutes spent with the family sitting together and talking about their day can help to set the tone for the rest of the evening and developing that special tie.
5.    Prioritize responsibilities at work

One should make a mental chart of tasks of high importance, medium importance and least importance. This will help cope up with the essentials first as to reduce mental stress of laying off things

 6.    Don’t bring work at home

Unless in extreme cases like board meetings or crisis at work one should never carry work at home. This acts like de-catalysis in family life. Hence one should try best to achieve official goals at work only.

Hence, balance is easier to achieve when your job helps you reach family goals, and family activities help you be successful in your job. Ideally, what you take home from your job helps your family, and what you take to work from your family relationships helps you in your job. Arriving at a balance between family and work will mean different things to differ­ent families. What is important is that you have a balance between these two areas that is comfortable for you and your family. It is a very popular phrase “A happy person is a successful Boss”! Enjoy life!
Published in Times Of India Delhi Edition / Alwar Plus / 29th May'2011 by Pallavi Prakash