Monday, 11 January 2016

Imported from China, past and present - how the past shaped the present

It is 21:12 here and as I am preparing this post I glance around the room to count all the stuff that is made/imported/finished (assembled) in India using the components from China. The very laptop that I am using, my smartphone, the Samsung TV, home theatre system, the beautiful flower vases, the wind chime, LED lamps, the ceiling fan, the aircon, the vitrified floor tiles...hmm...! Probably the teakwood furniture minus the upholstery, windows and doors made of teakwood, the ? curtain cloth...are pure Indian products.

There is a Chinese touch nowadays to everything, everywhere!

Well, not really, in the past too we have embraced many things wholeheartedly from China. Nothing is mentioned concretely in literary history about the things that probably were brought here by Chinese traders and travelers, but these items bear the connection with China in its' names.

You might have identified the Chinese fishing net (Cheena vala in Malayalam, our local language ) from the picture at the top of this post about which I have already blogged about. A lot of debate is going on about the introduction of these nets and why they are found in plenty around Kochi and not in Kozhikode (Calicut) in North Kerala where many Chinese traders frequented in the past. However, there is a connection with China as the name in Malayalam suggests. Similar nets to catch fish can be seen in Manipur in India, Thailand and many parts of South East Asia. I have also seen Cheenavala at Kumarakom and Thanneermukkom in Kerala.

The picture above is Cheena Bharani, small and large sizes. This is a ceramic vessel traditionally used for preparing pickles in Kerala. I have fond memories of yummy 'Kadumanga' (pickled tender mangoes) at my ancestral house. Sadly that exquisite taste and flavor are missing in present-day pickles.

This picture shows a small saucepan made of iron. This is called 'Cheenachatti', in Malayalam. Traditional vessels were made of clay and this metal utensil found its way to our kitchens bearing a Chinese touch to its name. The clay vessels are called 'manchatti', 'mankalam' etc.

You might probably remember my blog post about Koorkka or Chinese potatoes, a very popular tuber in Kerala. Please check the links below.

This small, fierce green chilli is called 'Cheenimulaku or Kantharimulaku' (Bird's eye chilli). 'Mulaku' is the Malayalam word for Chilli.

I need not elaborate upon this dish that you see on this image. Tapioca (prepared with a little turmeric and salt) and red chilli pickle. Tapioca (Maracheeni) has another name here, 'Cheenikkizhangu'.

Recently a Chinese delegation has shown a keen interest in the revival of Chinese fishnets at Kochi. Hope with their help this tourist attraction will become much more popular. The other day I read in the paper about some historians from China visiting Calicut to research about traders who visited six centuries ago, particularly the great Zheng He. He, as you may be knowing, was a great mariner, explorer, and was an admiral in the army of the early Ming dynasty.
  • It is hypnotic to dwell deeper into the historical aspects of things that fascinate us because this exercise helps in augmenting our understanding about it by adding color and glitter. 
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Sunday, 3 January 2016

Picturing fireworks - be proficient in newer technology for personal development

Perfecting the technique of picturing fireworks is considered a specialty among photo enthusiasts. Using a tripod, tweaking the camera settings and subsequent editing are all important, as you all know. I took these pictures some years ago using a mini SLR Canon camera, and no tripod was used.

Night photography as such is difficult. The noise itself is a nuisance. The timing of pressing the shutter button is very important.

These were taken during DSF some years ago at Dubai.
  • Experimenting with technology is thrilling. It need not be complex or expensive but give it a try, that is what is important. Keep things simple!
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Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Self defense strategies

For a long time, I have been reading a lot about self-defense strategies and related products. Many such products were available abroad but in India, these were not at all popular, needless to say, they were not available to the needy.

Things have changed in the past years with many shocking incidents taking place that prompted terrible hue and cries nationally and internationally. People have become much more vigilant nowadays. Even in small villages in Kerala, you might see CCTV cameras installed in homes! It is common knowledge that miscreants and thieves tend to avoid or will be reluctant to commit crimes in such places; these gadgets will play the role of the deterrents as well. A skilled thief can easily disable such devices but they always target places less guarded. Moreover, the time factor also is important for a thief. Rob, avoid getting caught, get away asap, leaving no traces of identification are the key components of a successful robbery. So even if the area is crime free it is always to have such gadgets; prevention is always better, you know!

Likewise, personal security is of paramount importance. Things like pepper sprays may come in handy if a situation arises, at least, it may act as a deterrent. From the body language itself, one can easily come to the assumption if the individual is security conscious or not. If you project such a strong picture that you are well aware of the surroundings and is confident, no anti-social persons will try to attack you. It also includes avoiding such situations as much as possible. Walking all alone in a crime-prone area especially during night time, wearing expensive jewelry particularly in tourist spots etc. are some of the situations that make us prone to attacks. It is always better to sign up for some classes where they teach how to tackle such situations.

Unfortunately, most places teach martial arts as the sole solution for all these problems. Counter-attack is not an easy defense strategy; it has to be perfected over a long time with continuous practice. But if you get the courage to take the spray out of your handbag and use it effectively you are ok :) and that is what you must have! On an average, about 70 % just freeze on the spot! So find a place where they teach simple things like the assessment of problem situations, creating a spatial orientation while in public, identifying people who are likely to invade personal space, critically evaluate people, anticipating troublesome behavior, simple tricks to defuse the situation etc. No harm in getting some training in martial arts and some physical self-defense techniques also, it instills courage. In short, try to learn mental self-defense strategies as well! 

There are many websites that deal with security products. Personal alarms, luggage alarms, travel security items, home security etc. are interesting. There is no need to install elaborate, expensive and technically complex gadgets. I have heard a story that the inmates forgot to push the button on of such a comprehensive installation one night when a thief coolly entered the mansion :) So what is the use if people are not security oriented. Just a door latch is enough but you must put it securely before opening the door! 

  • Safety is of paramount importance. Safety and security can only be successfully guaranteed by the co-operation of everyone concerned. The best security system is a vigilant human being.
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Friday, 25 December 2015

An elephant in a mall...! and, Merry Christmas...

Surprised to see an elephant like this in a mall...!
It looked so real, indeed! This picture was taken some time ago.

Lulu mall at Kochi always will have surprises like this in their stores! It is Christmas time and the mall is glittering with decorations!

Merry Christmas...all of you...:)
  • Creativity at it's best is something great to experience
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Sunday, 21 June 2015

International day of yoga, June 21

Today is Sunday, the day we normally get up late, spend it lying on the couch lazily watching telly and enjoy the delicacies that are served on the dining table if not visiting some weekend spots. The routine was more or less the same today too initially until the TV was switched on. Live telecast was going on from the Rajpath in New Delhi, the capital of India where Mr. Narendra Modi, our Honourable Prime Minister was leading the yoga session conducted as part of the celebration on this auspicious day where more than 35,000 people participated. Similar events took place almost all over India with remote snow-covered regions like Siachen and Kargil included where defense personnel performed yoga.

Busy with work and the inevitable pressures associated with it, I was totally detached with the buzz about it around these days, so much so, I almost missed this historic celebration. I felt guilty for not performing yoga for a long time, even though I have learned it perfectly well. Promptly got down from the couch, dusted the yoga mat and while watching the mega event performed the postures (asanas).

Yoga needs no introduction. When I was in my twenties, being a voracious reader, I happened to read many things about yoga that made me interested in it and the only option available to learn it then was to buy a book and do it by myself. Remember this was the time when yoga was not at all popular and its benefits were largely unknown. The popular belief was that yoga could do harm to the body. There were a few practitioners and teachers, but no one was sure who or what was right. I bought a book written by a journalist and started doing some of the asanas that invited considerable ridicule by parents, friends, and relatives. To be honest, I felt bored after some time and stopped doing it. Slowly yoga became popular in India mainly with the inflow of westerners who thronged the ashrams and other spiritual places in India seeking gurus and nirvana. I restarted the training soon after my graduation, this time attending classes conducted by a qualified yoga master. It was an awesome experience and I am thankful to him for guiding me through the wonderful world of yogic bliss and joy! It was simply amazing! After almost two months into practice, I began experiencing a 'never felt before' well-being that I find it difficult to express in words. A friend of mine commented about the 'glow' that I have had, probably indicating the positive aura induced by the regular practice of this great philosophy gifted to us by our ancestors. Thereafter, I can only say that I remained as an on and off practitioner of yoga. But on this auspicious day of summer solstice, the International day of yoga, I made a resolution inspired by the spirit of millions from all over the world, that I will practice it daily from now on, no matter what. Witnessing the enthusiasm shown by the people from different walks of life, from each and every nook and corner of the world made me motivated once again and at the same time making me ashamed for ignoring such an awesome thing for a very long time even though I was fortunate to get to know and experience the magnificent world of yoga a long time ago!

Mr. Narendra Modi, our Honourable Prime Minister appealed to the UN last year to mark June 21st as the International day of yoga. This was agreed upon immediately by the Assembly and the rest is history. Today we all witnessed the sheer enthusiasm with which world celebrated the yogic way of life that is based on peace, inner joy, and bliss. Yoga is not a set of postures or exercises, but a way of life, a philosophy based on living in tune with the self, others around us and Nature. Yoga shows the way to live in harmony with the vibes of the Universe. The speech by the Honourable Prime Minister at a yoga conference in New Delhi was brilliant that made me wonder what more the delegates could discuss other than what he had said. A great orator and visionary!

Dear friends, please share your experiences with yoga. How did the celebrations go in your country?
  • Yoga is a gift to mankind by God. Of the many things showered upon us by Him, this one needs special mention. It is something that one needs to experience because it shows the way to a beautiful and happy life.
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Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Laughter is the best medicine😊 - join an online laughter club..😊

Laughter is the best medicine 😊
I am totally convinced about this saying; there is no doubt about it!

I recently joined online 'Skype laughter club'. Wow, what an experience... cool!

I was contemplating joining a laughter club ever since I began researching the amazing beneficial effects of laughter. There is a wonderful laughter club in my city but they meet early in the mornings and to reach there through heavy traffic will take almost an hour, so I found it difficult to join them. Moreover, it will take much more time after returning home to get prepared to go for work. I then googled about online laughter clubs that took me to the well known 'laughter yoga website' and also to the 'skype laughter club'. Every day at a scheduled time, a coordinator will come online via Skype, start laughing along with whoever interested in laughing out loud. They will add you too if you follow the instructions on their website about how to join, all for free! It is so easy and convenient :)

I am completely satisfied with skype laughter club. Here we are laughing, sitting at home, with other cool people from different parts of the world and enjoying the amazing health benefits of laughing out loud, all free of cost! The only investment probably would be our laptop and the internet charges. Lie on a couch, sit relaxed in a chair or do whatever you want and LOL.

Select the timings convenient for us. Time conversion is made easy by a link provided over there. You will find detailed instructions on how to join the club on the website. Download the latest Skype, check the headset speakers, microphone and test it all with the tool Skype has provided. Follow the instructions that you see on the 'Skypelaughteryoga' site and start LOL. You can type text, send emoticons and crack jokes with the group while lol. If you are interested send and watch the video too.

Laugh out really loud, let it become contagious, enjoy, stimulate others too to lol, and make the session lively and wonderful. If other family members are interested let them also join you.

Laughter has gained a lot of attention recently especially in the medical community. A lot of research is going on about it. Online you will find so many studies made by reputed centers agreeing to the age-old saying ' laughter is the best medicine '. Some of the beneficial effects are:
  • It relaxes our body. Work pressures, emotions, stressful thoughts, the list is endless, that make muscles in our body to go into a state of tightness. The moment we start to laugh cool waves begin to sweep away all those aches and pains. It is said that this relaxation effect will last about 45 minutes or so. So laughter is a cool stress buster.
  • It boosts body immunity. With laughter, our body will start releasing endorphins that help in reducing levels of cortisol and adrenaline, the chemical substances that get accumulated with stress. Thus laughter indirectly strengthens the immune system.
  • Pain is an unpleasant sensation. Physical therapy modalities actually operate upon stimulating the release of endorphins for the relief of pain. Endorphins along with the betterment of mood play a great role in alleviating pain when we laugh.
Now, what actually are endorphins?
They are a group of chemical substances released in the body in response to stimuli like laughter, TENS application, soft tissue techniques like massage etc. Relaxing, pleasant thoughts in the brain trigger release of them, while toxic thoughts produce bad substances damaging our system.

You are what you think of; not what you eat...😊

It doesn't matter if the laughter is fake; fake laughter turns into real laughter eventually. This is very infectious making everyone in the group also laugh. Try LOL all alone and you will start LOL with a real feel in no time.

Laughter helps to improve social relationships by better bonding. It is quite natural we get attracted to people that make us LOL. With such people, conflicts will be rare. You will never feel isolated when you join laughter clubs. It is the best solution for lonely people. The sole business there is to LOL and nothing else. They take the business of laughing out loud seriously.

Laughter is a cool remedy for anxiety and fear. It improves mood. Lol brings a lot of joy to us, it improves optimism and self-confidence.

I need not elaborate on how to bring more humor, laughter, joy, and happiness in life. Comedy shows, funny clips, 'impractical jokers', jokes, laughter yoga classes, joke apps, online resources, a cute pet etc. etc., the list is endless!

Remember, happiness is your right; LOL is your duty.

Let us thank Dr. Madan Kataria, a physician from India who almost single-handedly popularized the power of laughter. He started the movement called Laughter yoga years ago in India. He incorporated some body movements also while laughing and named it laughter yoga. Now as you all may be knowing, there are thousands of laughter clubs all over the world.

World laughter day is celebrated on the first Sunday of May every year.

Why do we become so tense and sensitive?

Before allowing ourselves to succumb to worry, fear and stress...ask ourselves these questions...!
  • Is the problem really serious?
  • Do I have to worry a lot about it?
  • Is it very important?
  • Are there no solutions or remedies? 
  • Can it be solved? 
  • Has it happened because of my fault?
  • From my experiences in the past does this problem at hand demand a lot of strenuous mental activity from my side?
  • Do I have to involve my friends and well-wishers to solve this problem?
Always remember, there are solutions to each and every problem in life; never, ever lose hope!

My skype id    hello005577

Finally who actually said first that 'laughter is the best medicine'? King Solomon? If so, how did he find out this secret?

  • Accept the fact that there is nothing to lose by laughing for some time every day but there are many positive effects to better our mental and physical health attached with laughter. Laugh out loud; stimulate others also to laugh out louder.
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