Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Watch your health - Indian goose berry (Amla), an extremely nutritious divine fruit

Indian gooseberry (Amla, Amlaki, Nellikka, Phyllanthus Emblica) is a miracle health food that is gaining attention globally. 

This fruit has been postulated as having :
  • anti-cancerous
  • cholesterol lowering
  • blood sugar lowering
  • anti aging
  • anti-inflammatory ( so may be effective in Rheumatoid arthritis )
  • hair nourishing 
  • liver function normalizing
properties. Besides, it may retard or delay the progress of Osteoporosis. 

These pale green, spherical fruits having smooth surfaces are about 2 cm in diameter and tastes sour/bitter. Inside there is a hard seed about a centimeter diameter. The tree grows about 15 meters tall and has small leaves.   

The fruits are available almost everywhere in India. The common uses of this fruit in households in India is to crush it to prepare 'Amla juice' or to 'make pickles'. In some parts of India curry like dishes are prepared with it. I have seen in the middle east and in some parts of India, Amla being kept in honey to be enjoyed later because it is bitter to consume fresh! Amla is in great demand in manufacturing Ayurvedic medicines, the traditional system of medicine here. 'Chyavanaprasham' is a popular health tonic in Indian homes.

It has high concentrations of Vitamin C. The antioxidant action is said to be due to the presence of Ellagitannins, which also has anti-cancer, antiviral, antimicrobial, and antiparasitic activities, as well as the ability to regulate blood glucose, in addition to other substances that also has antioxidant properties.

There are many legends prevailing about the divine nature of this fruit. One says it has fallen to Earth from the spillage of Amruth, the nectar of immortality, during the 'Kheera Sagara madhana' or 'churning of the milk ocean' described in the Holy Mahabharatha, Indian epic when a fight occurred between the 'devas' and 'asuras'.

Some are of the opinion that these divine fruits were given by Lakshmi Devi, the Goddess of wealth, fortune and prosperity to Sri Adi Sankaracharya, a great scholar, and sage when he prayed to alleviate the poverty of a poor brahmin woman. This fruit is a must when we prepare Vishukkani, during the time of Vishu, a festival during the new year according to the traditional calendar about which I have blogged before.

Amla is thus considered a God-given universal remedy in India and I have not heard any instances where it cannot be consumed. However, always consult your doctor before following any type of health tip. Only your doctor can decide what is good for you.

The first picture shows Amla and it's juice. With the advent of mixie/mixer/smoothie maker, it is easy to crush and smoothen it into juice. If you have the patience to remove the hard seed, well and good :) or just go on with whole fruits washed well and strain the juice once it is done. The residue may be used as 'chammanthy', mixed with a little chilly powder and salt, it is a good side dish with dosa or iddali. You may add a pinch of salt/sugar/honey to mask the bitter/sour taste of Amla juice. I prefer it plain :) All of the above are my culinary experiments, user discretion advised :)

The next picture shows Nellikka (Amla) pickle. It is called 'Nellikka', in the Malayalam language, our mother tongue. Fruits are washed thoroughly, lightly steamed and seeds removed. Some prefer to preserve the spherical shape and would like to remove the seed while enjoying the 'achar' (pickles) during meals. Different oils are used for sauteing like the gingelly or sesame. Spices like asafoetida, fenugreek, turmeric, ginger etc. are used along with chilly powder, salt and there are many recipes prevalent in India for this delicacy. It can also be done plain without oil / little salt but the shelf life will be short and you must compromise upon the taste factor but it is a definitely healthier option particularly for people with high cholesterol. Be careful if you have high blood pressure because pickles, in general, have a high concentration of common salt. 'Achar' is a common accompaniment eating rice or rice porridge in Kerala. 
  • Health is wealth! Food is medicine! God has blessed mankind with many good things but the most important He has given is health. It is our primary responsibility to safeguard this healthy state of complete physical, mental and social well being!
Note: Please read the DISCLAIMER attached to this blog.

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Monday, 28 April 2014

Innovations - the largest Varpu in the world, Crafters, Jew Town, Kochi

Varpu is a large cauldron made of cast bronze traditionally used in Kerala for preparing sweet dishes like 'Payasam' (Kheer in Hindi). This large cooking vessel will be put into use during feasts, festivals and special occasions when food has to be prepared for a large number of people in Kerala. A smaller version of this vessel is called Uruli, and it is golden colored. Nowadays you will see such vessels filled with water and beautiful flowers floating, in many resorts and hotels and households. But 'varpu' is still being used by large catering business firms that involve cooking for a very large number of people.

I remember seeing such huge cauldrons at the Sri Padmanabhaswamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram, the capital city of Kerala. While visiting the historic Jew town area of Mattancherry in Kochi, I happened to visit this awesome antique shop called 'Crafters', where the world's largest varpu is being exhibited.

Stunning! It is huge!

They have entered into the Limca book of records; their's being the largest varpu ever made in the world. This measures twelve feet in diameter and weighs 3184 kg! It has taken about 30 skilled craftsmen and 160 artisans to work tirelessly for 13 months at Mannar in Kerala, to bring this dream of the owners of this beautiful shop to possess the largest varpu in the world, into reality!

What an amazing achievement!

The artworks on this vessel are beautiful. You can see beautiful floral patterns cast below the handles. All along the perimeter beautiful lacework is also seen!

HRH the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall have paid a Royal visit here recently; the photos are on the wall as well as on their website.

This is a very famous antique shop at Jew Town having unique and priceless items. They sell some spices too; we bought a packet of tea mixed with Cardamom. Awesome tea! More about it in the next post😊

Nothing is impossible; things are possible! Fearing obstacles, not taking the baby steps is the number one mistake we always make. This doesn't mean that we must go against reality or do some foolish act. Just pointing out the negative aspects only forgetting to look at the larger picture is the mistake. 
  • Ideas are precious. Determination, hard work, and sharply focused mind are essential to convert such creative ideas into beautiful reality.
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Saturday, 26 April 2014

Awesome Chinese fishing nets at Fort Kochi, enjoy it during Sunset

We call it 'Cheena vala', in the Malayalam language, our mother tongue in Kerala. 'Cheena' signifies something related to China.

'Chinese fishing nets', 'Shore operated stationary lift net' are some formal names of this popular tourist attraction in Fort Kochi  (Cochin) in Ernakulam district, Kerala, South India.

These are large, fixed fishing nets permanently erected on a platform raised and lowered into seawater by a cantilever mechanism. Heavy stones attached at one end acts as a counterbalance when a person walks along the pole that extends into the water area and the net sinks into the water. After some minutes, he walks back and the other fishermen pull the stone end of the pole down to raise the net from water to net the fish!

Cheena valas are a common sight in and around the historic Fort Kochi area. Some are present at Ashtamudi Lake in Kollam district.

Surprisingly, these nets never became extinct with the influx of the most modern fishing methods in Kerala. Currently, these have become historic symbols and are very popular tourist attractions. There is also a great demand for the catch and it sells quickly at a good price.

How they were introduced here is a matter of controversy. The name signifies it has a Chinese connection and probably were brought by the Chinese traders around the 13th or 14th century when Kerala had trade relations with China. There is also a strong basis of the finding that these were brought by Portuguese Casado settlers from Macau. Anyhow, these magnificent structures survived and still exist providing awesome, unforgettable images in the backdrop of the setting Sun. Undoubtedly, these would surely form the most photographed images in this coastal city! Just Google image search 'Kochi or Cochin attractions'! You will see so many images of these nets.

I will try to get a video of its operation asap. When I went there the other day it was late in the evening and cloudy.

Chinese, Portuguese and all others who came here for trade/invasion have left centuries ago. But these beautiful installations still stand here elegantly! People watch these centuries-old structures sitting on the seashore enjoying the cool breeze, especially in the evenings during Sunset. I think it is an awesome feeling when we watch the slow rhythm of its movements silhouetted against the setting Sun at the horizon!

There are many descriptions of experiences of people from all walks of life about the movement of these magnificent nets along the shores of Kochi. Many, from all over the world, have described the feel as 'hypnotic', well..they can't be wrong; the majority always win! Considering the huge number of visitors from different parts of the world with a sizable number returning year after year this can't be wrong. Such beautiful sights we have around us may send hypnotic vibes towards us. Accept it, enjoy it and be relaxed.
  • Soaking in the rays of evening Sun, enjoying the cool breeze and languishing in the memory of rich heritage, a wonderful way to relax. It is hypnotic, indeed!
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Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Get inspired - Edward Jenner, the great physician who invented Smallpox vaccine

I do not think Edward Jenner (1749 – 1823) needs any introduction.

He almost single-handedly popularized vaccination against Smallpox, a deadly and highly contagious disease of the yesteryears, that led to its total eradication from the world by 1979 - 80. It was the first disease that was eradicated completely by a combination of preventive measures, vaccination is an important tool and we achieved it in the year 1979! Just imagine, this great feat was accomplished before the advent of the internet and other sophisticated medical discoveries of the modern world.

Now, where do we stand? Why we were not able to eradicate any disease after the success with Smallpox and rinderpest?

We now have mind-boggling technologies and thrilling discoveries not only in the medical field but also in every field, all round developments have taken place. I decided to post this topic being driven by a recent post by Andrew, my blogger friend, about abandoned structures. On his blog,, he posted pictures of Renwick Smallpox hospital, an abandoned hospital, where Smallpox sufferers were once housed. The youngsters today are completely ignorant about the severity of this disease. It is like Chickenpox in a much severe form but the face is the body part that gets affected more and gets disfigured, ugly scars occur. Mortality is also high from respiratory complications, sometimes eyesight is lost because of the ulcers and in the olden times, there were no antiviral medicines to treat it. A natural cure was the norm and if the poor soul survives the bonus was lifelong immunity. And such people acted as caregivers to other new patients. The mortality rate was very high among children.

I have vague memories of being taken to a municipality preventive clinic in 1968 or so by my dad along with my sister to get vaccinated against Smallpox. In the clinic, multiple punctures were made with a bifurcated needle dipped in vaccine solution on the outer aspect of the left upper arm on two spots, one above and the other about 5 cm below it. There was mild pain and we were crying all the time but were restrained by dad. The reward for co-operating with this dreadful exercise was 'rose milk', sweetened cold milk with rose syrup added, a popular drink in the era prior to colas and other types of carbonated drinks in South India, which was available in a hotel by name 'Lakshminivas', nearby. The waiters wore white uniforms with frilled caps and the huge ceiling fans there had an egg-shaped bottom. Fond memories :) boy, that was the sweetest drink we ever had, no drink enjoyed later on in life from awesome restaurants in different parts of the world could replicate the same effect. The sweet taste buds of childhood!

The young generation will not be having vaccination scars of Smallpox, it was stopped in the USA in the 1970s itself.

Edward Jenner was aware that milkmaids were immune to Smallpox and he assumed it could be due to the immunity conferred to them from contracting cowpox that was a mild form of pox the cattle had. The practice of inoculation/variolation of pus to persons, who were willing to try it for prevention, from the lesions of Smallpox patients that made its entry to England from Turkey was also prevalent at that time. All these made Jenner believe in the effectiveness of vaccination. His trials finally gained acceptance among the medical community as well as the public after much ridicule and criticisms. This finally made the Government ban the crude practice of variolation and adopt vaccination by cowpox material formulated by Jenner for the prevention of Smallpox. But his lucrative medical practice suffered because of his work on Smallpox. He continued with his activities with grants from the British Government. He used to vaccinate the poor at his clinic. Finally, after suffering from a massive stroke he passed away in 1823. May his soul rest in peace!

Smallpox was considered as a curse from the Goddess in our place in the olden days. People used to conduct elaborate rituals to please the Goddess to avoid the wrath. Being a viral disease there was no medicinal cure those days, only prayers were the remedy hoping for a natural recovery. The situation was more or less the same, everywhere in the world, only the practices differed.

With the support of world leaders of that time, provision of funds, the willingness of people to try their best to eradicate this serious disease, an effective vaccine, lifelong immunity of people with no re-infection, all played in its eradication. Sadly, such collective and determined efforts are lacking nowadays. The only hope is Polio, which may get eradicated soon!

Did the world's focus and attitudes changed to cure and care, from prevention and eradication? Priority to allot funds shifted to much more profit-making ventures globally?
I would like to hear your views on this topic😊
  • No words can sufficiently portray efforts for humanitarian causes by great people. Their good deeds speak volumes about themselves. Let it all inspire us to do something, be it a simple thing, for the betterment of mankind.  
Visit this awesome site to learn more about this English Physician who saved millions of life on the planet !

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Sunday, 20 April 2014

How to stop worrying and start living by Dale Carnegie

I bought this book years ago. When ?...well, about 22 years ago, yes..., the 'real' book, not the digital version of the book.

How many times I have reread this book? Countless... !
How many times I have packed this book while traveling? Difficult to count...!
How many times I have recommended this awesome book to friends? Lost the count...!

Took this out of my bookshelf today and decided to blog about this.

Dale Breckenridge Carnegie (November 24, 1888 – November 1, 1955).

I do not think I need to write here in detail about this genius who pioneered self-help programs in the modern world. I attended a personality development program about 22 years ago spending a huge sum of money, almost a month's full salary while working as a junior staff immediately after my graduation and internship. There I happened to hear about this brilliant man and subsequently bought his book from a bookshop in Bangalore when I went there some months later because it was not available in our place at that time. Expensive book, it was!

Now, I feel lucky in learning the important principles outlined in this beautiful book at a very early age. Thereafter I attended many such personal development programs but what I felt is that they were all modifications of the same principles clearly and simply written by this brilliant man years ago. I have applied these principles that I learned early in my life as much as possible and I can state truthfully that whatever little success I think I have attained is because of this book and its contents.

I found all his books wonderful. Collected many, some are in digital formats. I make it a point to tell my friends to read a self-help book online or offline daily. Many are available for free online, so getting one is not a problem at all, no need to spend a dime!

Some interesting quotes collected from the www supposed to be made by Carnegie:

"The ideas I stand for are not mine. I borrowed them from Socrates. I swiped them from Chesterfield. I stole them from Jesus. And I put them in a book. If you don't like their rules, whose would you use?"

"People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing."

"Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success."

"Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit at home and think about it. Go out and get busy." Well, this one may be amended to suit the life of today's world with internet opening never before horizons of success - "If you want to conquer fear, do not sit idle at home, start some home-based business or if you prefer to go out, get busy with something you like in the world outside😊"

“We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon instead of enjoying the roses blooming outside our windows today” 

For more quotes and further details:

The last quote is the basis of this blog - live in the present and the present moment is magical.
  • Live in the present happily and contented. Time just flows away, it never waits for none. The magical present moment that we have in our hands right now is the only thing that is sure for you to posses and whoever utilizing it well is the wisest on Earth.
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Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Walking down the memory lane - Beautiful flowers, sweet memories

Enjoy these beautiful flowers :)

All these were shot some time ago. When I saw these recently while searching my external hard drive, it brought back many good memories. These were shot when I bought a second camera, a Panasonic point and shoot model, some years ago. I used to compare pictures taken by this cam with my favorite Canon during that time.
  • An old picture can stir so many memories. It is good to walk down the memory lane once in a while. 
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Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Exotic flowers, positive vibes...Nishagandhi (queen of the night, Epiphyllum oxypetalum), the fragrance of love)

Pictures of Nishagandhi (queen of the night, Epiphyllum oxypetalum). 

This flower blooms only at night; during the daytime, it looks like what you see in the picture. At night when it blooms, it emits a wonderful fragrance, addressed poetically as the' fragrance of love'. 

I searched my collection in my hard drive recently and found this picture. This was taken about 5 years ago during one of my visits to my ancestral house. I did not know the importance of this unique flower at that time, apparently, I do not have a picture taken at night when it blooms emitting divine fragrance. If I happen to get it from my relative who might have taken its picture I will surely post it here.
  • Search for hidden gems. We may not recognize the value of many simple things in life but it becomes valuable at the right time.
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