Panakam Or Gur (Jaggery) Sharbat


India has a culinary culture where the beverages had an important place. Among the many varieties of cold and hot indigenous, traditional beverages sharbats were considered best not just as refreshing drinks but also as medicinal remedies. Most of the sarbats were decoctions / infusions of fruits, flowers, herbs, roots grown locally in a specific region.. They were prepared according to the season. Each sharbat had a therapeutic use. I read somewhere that sharbats were introduced by Mughal emperors in India in 16th century.

In North India, where I live, I grew up with sharbats made with rose, khus, hibiscus, mint, lemon, bael, raw mango or kachcha aam, phalsa, sattu, ilmi or tamarind, gur, badam, sandalwood, amla, kewra, ginger and many other things.  In summer months sharbats were served during festive occasions, religious ceremonies and to house guests apart from their daily use in homes. These specially made serbats helped to combat the merciless heat of Northern Indian Summer.

In other regions also Sharbats were part of the daily cuisine among other beverages.

Gur ka ghol  or gur ka sharbat may not sound fancy but it is delicious taste and has tremendous benefits in terms of keeping the body cool, purifying blood and helping in the digestion. It also helps to ward off dehydration. In rural areas Gur ka ghol was served to anyone who came home from sweltering heat of summer. Gur and water was given separately also. The tradition still continues in many areas but now the commercial drinks are taking over slowly replacing the traditional ones which is a sad thing.

The gur sharbat we drank was prepared with grated jaggery dissolved in water and spiked with black rock salt, lime and mint.

The closest thing to it I found in Old Delhi’s Mohalla Pahadi Imli in chawari bazaar’s chitli Qabar area. The guy makes fantastic gur ka thanda sharbat.

Here we will be making Panakam, a variant of our North Indian Sharbat. Panakam is made in South India during Ram Navmi and is an important Naivedyam. It is not just a summer cooler but it also brings down the body’s heat and stimulates the digestive system. A traditional remedy to prevent dehydration and heat strokes.

Each ingredient in this drink has a purpose and usually it should not be replaced with anything else. You can call it an ayurvedic energy booster.

Panakam / Paanakkam 

Ingredients :

Jaggery Powder or Grated Jaggery – 3 heaped table spoons

Dry Ginger powder – 1 teaspoon (You can use fresh ginger juice too)

Freshly crushed black peppercorns- 1/2 teaspoon

Green Cardamom – 3-4 crushed

Holy Basil or Tulsi leaves –  2-3

Salt –a pinch

Water – 2 Cups

Lemon (Optional) –   2-3 wheels slightly muddled

Ice Cubes

 

Steps –

Dissolve Jaggery powder or grated Jaggery in half cup of tepid water. I use tepid water to quicken the dissolving process.

Let it set for 15-20 minutes.

Crush dry ginger ( sonth) ( if using whole), black peppercorns ( kali mirch)  and green cardamom ( choti elaichi)

Once the jaggery dissolves completely, strain the liquid through a fine mesh to remove all impurities.

In a pitcher add rest of the water. Add the jaggery liquid, crushed spice mix, salt and a teaspoon of lemon juice if using.

Stir properly  and refrigerate. The flavours from the spices will slowly get infused in the sharbat.

Take it out just before serving and add lots of ice chunks or cubes.

You can either strain the sharbat or serve it as it is.

Garnish with lemon wheel, Tulsi leaf and green cardamom pods.

This needs to be served chilled.

 

  1. Adjust the sweetness with the quantity of jaggery. The sweetness will depend o nthe quality of gur used. Always prefer untreated, chemical free jaggery.
  2. You can add edible Kamphur too to make it taste like the original panakkum. I don’t prefer it.
  3. The amount of water used will determine the taste. Adjust spices, sweetness etc according to that.
  4. Always strain the jaggery liquid so no impurities remain.
  5. Pepper gives it a unique taste but do not over spice. Use in moderation.

Bael Panna | Bel Ka Sharbat


Bel/Bael or stone apple is also known as Elephant apple and Bengal Quince. It gets its name of stone apple due to the hard cover.  It is native to India and the tree is considered sacred for Hindus. Bael fruit is used in traditional medicine. It is also found in Srilanka and Thailand.

Bael fruit is a storehouse of  good health and nutrition. Packed with protein, phosphorus, Vitamin C and B complex and tannin it strengthens the heart and mind, cures acidity, increases body resistance and improve the memory. It also cures ulcers and gastric disorders, treats acidity, burning sensation in the stomach and nausea, cleans the stomach of impurities and cures weak eyes. It is also a good cardiac tonic and energy booster. A good source of beta-carotene, Bael also cure liver problems. It also contain thiamine and riboflavin. Once a week intake of Bael fruit cures Amoebiasis .

Bael is used for making sharbat, chutney and murraba. The fruit is also eaten as medicinal remedy.

To make a healthy Bael  ( Stone apple ) sharbat we need : 

Ingredients :

  • Ripe Fragrant Wood Apple – 1 Medium
  • Sugar/Jaggery powder – To Taste (Depends on the sweetness of bael fruit)
  • Water – About 4 Glasses
  • Fresh Mint Leaves – 10-12
  • Lemon Juice – 1/2 Lemon
  • Lime Quarters – 3-4
  • Rock Salt powder – 1/4 teaspoon per glass
  • Roasted cumin powder – 1/4 teaspoon
  • Ice Cubes

BeFunky Collage

Method : 

  1. Crack open a ripe Bael fruit and scoop out all the fibrous flesh in a large glass bowl. No need to discard the seeds right now.
  2. Add 2 glasses of water to the pulp so that it submerges completely. Cover with a lid and set aside for 2-3 hours.
  3. Now mash the soaked pulp with hands and once it mixes properly sieve it through a thin mesh to collect maximum amount of juice.
  4. Add a little more water and sieve again. Throw away the seeds and insoluble fiber.
  5. Add Sugar/ jaggery powder as per the sweetness of the fruit concentrate and mix well. Refrigerate till you are ready to use.
  6. To serve panna, fill the glasses with ice cubes and pour the bael juice concentrate over it. Add Rock salt powder and the required amount of water and stir properly.
  7. Garnish with lemon wheels and fresh mint sprigs.
  8. Serve chilled.

You can muddle some fresh mint leaves and add to the fruit concentrate too. A hint of ginger also tastes good at times.

Do make the traditional summer beverages that used to be a part of our daily cuisine. They are not just refreshing but also therapeutic. Keep away from commercial, synthetic drinks.

 

Quick Recipes With Popped Amaranth Seeds


Amaranth, the royal grain, is known as Raamdana/ Ramdana, Rajgira in India. Actually it is not a grain but seeds of the Amaranth plant. These tiny seeds  pop up  when roasted to become light and fluffy and provide more protein content than the much touted quinoa. A whooping  9 gm of complete protein in one cup. Amaranth contains all the essential amino acids which makes it much better than any seed/grain.

This tiny yet power packed seed is a store house of many essential nutrients. It has a significant amount of calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, iron and Vitamin C. Another good thing is that it is gluten free so people who are celiac or gluten intolerant can easly incorporate it in their meals.

I have very fond memories of munching on raamdana ladoos as a child. Light and mildly sweetened with jaggery they are the best snacks to have at all ages as they are easy to digest too. We even used these popped seeds in porridge, both sweet and savory. Raamdana is very versatile and you just need to be innovative to include it daily in your diet one way or the other. You can use them in cutlets, frappes, ladoos, soups, muffins, breads, cakes, quiche, energy bars or use it as a breakfast cereal or baby food or sprinkle over salads etc. .

Here I made some quick sweets and a frappe using Organic popped amaranth seeds from I Say Organics. 

Dates, Mix Dry Fruit and Popped Amarath Ladoos 

This is a fantastic easy and quick recipes which can be made with or without cooking if you already have the amaranth seeds popped.

You can make bite size balls to eat as snacks. The size depends on your wish. I make them small so I can eat it often. There is no oil/ghee or added sugar so that makes these a wonderful snack.

To make these nutritious ladoos you will need :

Dates –  1 cup pitted (good quality)

Popped Amaranth / Rajgira Seeds – 1 Cup

Chopped or Powdered Mix dry fruits ( Almonds, raisins, cashews. walnuts etc. ) – 1/2 cup

Any seeds ( flax seeds sesame seeds) if you desire – 2 tablespoon

( If you have the  wet dates then no cooking is required but if the dates are dry then they need to be heated a bit. )

Method – 

Pit and chop the dates fine.

Dry roast the nuts and chop or powder them as per your taste. If using seeds then dry roast them too but take care not to over roast. Just light roasting is fine.

If  you are using dry dates then heat a non stick pan and add chopped dates to it.

Keep the flame low and stir till the dates soften.

Add the nut mixture,  seed mixture and popped ramdana, give it a nice sir and switch off the gas.

Remove the mixture in a plate and mix it thoroughly so that everything gets incorporated nicely.

Make small balls of the mixture and let them cool before putting them in an airtight container. Eat these  nutritious power packed ladoos any time of the day. I am sure kids wuld love them too. Do give it a try.

If yo uare using the soft, wet dates then just chop them and put the dates and powder/chopped dry fruit mixture in a blender and mix till a gooey mix is obtained. Take it out in a bowl and make small bite size balls from it.

Ramdana/ Popped Amaranth Brittle/ Chikki 

Our next recipe is for the brittle made of raamdana.  I have used Organic jaggery and popped amaranth seeds from I Say Organics in this recipe to get the maximum benefits from the ingredients.

Ingredients: 

Popped Amaranth Seeds / Rajgira / Ramdana – 1/2 Cup

Organic Jaggery – 1/2 Cup ( you can use Palm Jaggery too. Crumble it or cut into slivers with a sharp knife.)

Ghee/ coconut oil – 1 tbsp ( coconut oil for vegans)

Pinch of salt

Method – 

Grease a baking tray/ plate with oil and set it aside.

Put a heavy bottom pan on medium heat and add the oil or ghee to it.

Add the grated or crumbled Jaggery with a pinch of salt. I don’t use shakkar or granulated jaggery.

Stir it constantly till the jaggery melts and there are no lumps. Keep the heat low if required so the jaggery doesn’t burn. It will become more like a syrup.

Add ramdana / amaranth seeds and mix well.

Pour the mixture in the greased tin and

spread it evenly with a spatula.

Let it set for 20-30 min then remove it from the baking tray and either break into pieces or cut into squares.

Keep in an airtight container.

Note- Some people make a syrup or Paak of jaggery with water. I prefer it this way. To make it crisp you’ll need to melt the jaggery a little longer without burning. I just wait till it dissolves completely and add amaranth.  This chikki/brittle is a bit softer than the market version.

Popped Amaranth seeds Parfait with Mixed Fruit And Nuts 

I love yogurt Parfaits and this is one of my favorites. You can do so much with this basic recipe. Add any fruits, nuts, seeds to it with natural sweetness of fruits and perhaps some home made preserve or organic honey  or organic jaggery slivers/ granules if you like it sweeter. Dates/ Prunes make this frappe very delicious and naturally sweet too.

Ingredients –

Chopped Prunes or Dates

Popped Amaranth seeds

Chopped mix nuts (walnut, cashew, almonds etc and  mixed raisins ( black, gloden)

Hung yogurt

Homemade preserve/ honey/ maple or date syrup/ molasses or jaggery

Method 

Just layer these ingredients one by one to make the parfait presentable or if in a rush just toss everything together  and have it. Both ways you’re getting the goodness of this power packed recipe. Top the frappe with the Preserve or any of the other sweetening ingredient mentioned above. It is entirety up to you what to add/remove.

Make it as healthy and innovative as you desire.

Hope you liked these recipes. Do try and let me know in the comment section about your experience.

Receiving And Giving – The Healer Friend And The Magic Of A Dream


This is a very special post for me. A token of love and gratitude to the friends who have made difference in my life. Once in a while you come across someone who touches your life in an unexplained way. Someone who is a giver more than a receiver. I feel that is very inspiring. Not many give so unconditionally and freely.

I came to know Penelope and Slim Chandra-Shekar via Facebook. I felt an instant energy exchange. Strange, isn’t it, how a social network can become a channel for healing, for receiving and giving, for sharing and expanding in all possible ways? That itself is indicative that life opens up many ways to heal and to blossom. Love changes forms, negative turns to positive.

Healing works through spirit guides. If you are open and receptive distances don’t count.   Even though I have known Slim for sometime, I met him, for the first time, in June. He was visiting India to celebrate his father’s 99th birthday in B’lore and after that for three days he visited Delhi to meet friends and relatives. His physical presence was such a joy. They say when the student is ready the master appears. It is the same with spirit guides. They will be there when it is time. In that short time we spent together, I learned some meaningful life lessons, had long conversations over good food, listened to his amazing story of life transformation and how he and his wonderful wife Penelope are touching one life a day to bring joy and love through their work.

The Magic Of Gayatri

You know, sound is a very powerful medium of healing. The vibrations can actually dissolve the negative in you within no time. You just need to be in right energy frequency.  I still carry the essence of the positive energy I received through our interactions. Slim is shaman, healer, nutritionist, hypnotherapist and a wonderful human being. You can know a little about him HERE. Meeting people who are selflessly doing healing work is a gift that life brings. Apart from the love, care and understanding Slim gave me a token of spiritual love that I will cherish all my life. The Magic of Gayatri.  Gayatri mantra has been part of my life since childhood and I am aware of the immense peace and light it brings when chanted the right way. You will find many versions of it on the internet but the reason I found this particular CD worth listening is the profound energy vortex it creates within you. The calming voice of Slim, the introduction to the mantra the soothing music and the sublime rendering of the mantra makes it a wonderful vehicle to meditate, relax or just be inspired. The mantra works at whichever level you need help – physical, spiritual or emotional. For me, it opens my mind and heart when ever I chant it.

This isn’t a promotional post and I am not being paid to do this. This post is in gratitude, in love, in honor of what I received from my friend. It is important to spread the magic of Gayatri so that more and more people can benefit from it. You can let it play in the background as you work or sit quietly and let  the words wash over you. Since ancient times people have always used and still use the sound-vibration of chants for healing purposes. Many of us just chant the mantra mechanically and are deprived of the true value of Gayatri Mantra. Listening to Slim explain it with such simplicity made me chant it with intent and with an open heart. I am not a religious person but this mahamantra is a universal prayer that spiritually connects us. Frequently listening to it creates a permanent template of peace in our consciousness and even if you are not chanting the mantra it stays in you creating the inner calm. This, of course is my personal experience. I believe that we are all energy beings and we are all fluid. it is in our inherent nature to flow. If we don’t we rot. We need to keep expanding our vibrations. I don’t know if this makes sense but do think about it. I also feel that one needs to be watchful about what’s being said or repeated and this is not just for mantras, chants etc but in daily conversations, the sounds we hear and produce for they impact us in a very permanent way. Gayatri Mantra is next to chanting ‘Om’. It unblocks a lot of energies as it permeates through consciousness. The knowledge of the science and philosophy of Shabd brahm is an integral part of Indian spirituality. The Gayatri Mantra has a specific sonic pattern coded in syllables and vowels to carry the cosmic energies of sound and act as a spiritual tool. I feel that the chanting of mantras scientifically helps in healing as well as strengthening our mind-body-spirit triad. Filling us  with eternal calm and love.

When I talk of calm and love my thoughts turn to Penelope. I have not interacted much with Slim’s wife but followed her insightful writing and lovely art work on FB. I think the meeting with Slim expanded my inner horizons to receive more. I had always felt connected to Penelope at a different level. Many times I would just browse her pictures with grand children, friends, her husband or look at her paintings and other artwork and it would instantly fill me with calm and strength. Beautiful and talented as she is, one can feel her paintings through the screen. Slim and Pen are perfect examples of people for whom age is just a number. It is an inspiration that one can pursue one’s passions at any age. You are never too old for anything.

Here is another example of how the fragrance of healing comes to you. When we are open and even when we are not or think we are not, we are in relationship with everything around us. It is for us to consciously recognise and choose the positive and be in it.

Abstract Painting is one of the gifts Penelope has. She works with acrylic and mixed media. Her art has this strange calling. There is much more that what is clear. Art as a medium to heal is a concept I love. I reviewed a book sometime back where a doctor has introduced and infused poetry, music, art with medical care. It is exciting to know people are opening up to complementing and alternate healing therapies along with the modern medical care. The mind, body and spirit need to be in harmony for a wholesome wellbeing. Art in all forms – dance, music, painting, creates that harmony. Neuropsychologists believe that art and music heal by changing the person’s physiology and attitude. It changes from fear and stress to deep relaxation and inspiration, helping the person to change his/her perceptions of their world. Art, prayer, music and healing come from the same inner source of our body and are associated with similar brain wave patterns, mind-body changes. They all are deeply connected in feeling and meaning and take us to our inner resources of healing as we know that all healing comes from within.

I am struggling with a lot lately. I have a nervous temperament and am very vulnerable to everything around me. Life is challenging when you are a woman, rebel and have a mind of your own especially when living in Indian society. The fact that I trust so easily and open too soon is cherry on top and yet that is all I know. I am still learning to consciously be attentive to my emotions. To choose which emotion to act on, which to drown in and which to let go. To love, and bring myself up again.

On one such day, caught between the emotional and health issues, I had a very beautiful and life affirming dream. It was about Penelope. She came to me as a mother, a confidante, a friend. Women, I think are born healers. Some of us may not know it and hence not use the energies in positive ways but those who know, do amazing work. I have never spoken to Penelope, nor interacted with her much but still she found me as I sought the spirit who could guide me and she responded, a healing inspiration across time and space. I am a lucid dreamer and have earlier also connected to spirit guides in various forms and each time is special. It doesn’t have to be a human. It can be a spirit animal.

Let me introduce you to Gyp at this point. She was a Dingo, an animal companion of my very dear friend and mentor, author and artist Kris Saknussemm. Kris introduced her to us on FB through photographs and little stories about her and I always felt a calling. It was as if she was there, in the shadows, watching over me. I told Kris and he was very pleased. She was an animal spirit guide for many who met her or came in contact with her in some way. I often go and read this Article Kris wrote in her memory. The moment I read it for the first time I knew why we felt connected. Another female spirit , brave and wild, who was inspiring lives through her energies. Do click on the link and read.

Coming back to the dream, I shared it with Slim over the phone and he suggested writing to Penelope. I was hesitant but at the same time excited. The love I felt needed to be shared so I wrote to her. Here is what I said,

“I have been through difficult times and am still dealing with challenges, trying to bring on the positive in my life and this dream is a new beginning, new insight for me. Positive warm thoughts coming from you.”

“In the dream, You were making a painting with bright blue, fluorescent colour butterflies, fireflies etc. A beautiful scene from around where you stood. Not sure of the place but it was some lovely hilltop. I am sitting on a rock watching you paint.
The creatures you painted weren’t around us. You said “Tiku, if you believe in goodness of life it comes to you. Even inanimate comes to life.” I said , I believe you Pen, but how can inanimate come to life. It can have a different life, an aliveness about it but it can’t live like us.

You said, “like this” and as you gave the final touch to a wing of a bumblebees everything you had painted began to fly out, crawl out of the painting. Birds, butterflies, fireflies, bumblebees, the air got filled with a fragrance I can’t explain but I felt it. The canvas became white again as I watched awestruck. The voice I heard was soft, motherly voice. Something I crave for. It filled my heart. Not a shrill sound but light as a feather.”

“Wrapped in the fragrance and the sight I slept but I remembered the whole scene after waking up. I felt relaxed and the message came to me so clear , to move on, to cleanse myself of all the negative about myself, people , places. All the while we talked and I watched you paint Slim was in my thoughts too, as if validating the good vibes we shared. I loved the healing bond we formed.”

She responded with such love. A new bond was formed. She was even inspired to paint the dream and trust me, it is exquisite.

Tiku's Dream

Posted with the permission of the artist. (Penelope’s painting)

What can be more fulfilling that this? A blessing from the universe. You ask and you

receive.

Life unfolds in so many magical ways. One can only be grateful for such events and imbibe from them. That is the true gratitude. To learn from what you seek and flow with it. Heart connections are always way above the geographical distances. I always believed in this and now it’s proven in yet another amazing way.

Thank you Slim for connecting me and Penelope. For bringing to me the Magic of Gayatri, for your friendship and for the tremendous love and light you bring in so many way to so many people.

Thank you Penelope for making me aware of the immense possibilities that lie within me, for the dream visitation, for the awesome support work you are doing to touch so many lives and for being a strength, a solace and a source of light.

Thank you universe for your benevolence and for the challenges that make me strong.

For the gift of vulnerability in me.

The more we journey inwards, the more we shine outwards.

Let us create more space for healing. Do please listen to Magic of Gayatri and if anyone who is reading this wants to help Slim in making the CD available in India, please leave a note in his ‘contact me’ on the site link above.

“The things you take for granted are the things others are praying for.” Be generous with  gratitude. Be in harmony with yourself and with all.

Digital art by me. All rights reserved.

Digital art by me. All rights reserved.

Healthy Traditional Indigenous Indian Coolants


The  Indian Summer is at its peak with all the right ingredients including merciless sun, scorching winds which sap the energy out of  the body. Soaring temperatures diminish the want to eat and one longs for some chilled refreshing drink. In the days when  fizzy, carbonated drinks full of empty calories, artificial sweeteners, colours and synthetic flavors beckon you from every food mall, roadside shops and eateries our home is heaven for traditional nutritious summer coolers. Natural home-made drinks which not just keep the body cool but are also healthy.

Summer in our country is ferocious and most of the body fluid is lost in sweat. It is an age-old tradition to offer water with something sweet ( at our home peda or petha) to anyone who comes from outside. It helps to keep the person hydrated and the sugar gives instant energy.

All the summer coolants are region and season specific and can be divided into two categories – Dairy and fruit based. Some fruit based summer drinks are hibiscus and Rhododendron drinks. We have the most common Nimboo pani( shikanjee) , lassi( sweet and salted)( thick creamy whipped curd /, taken plain or with dash of sweet concentrate or blended with mango) , buttermilk, fruit smoothies, fruits crushes, kokam (fruit of a tropical evergreen tree (Garcinia indica) )  sherbet, thandai, sherbets made from local seasonal fruits like bael, phalsa, raw mango ( aam panna).  Tender coconut water and fresh fruit juices are also popular. Jal zeera is another summer favorite. All these drinks are rehydrant and prevent heat strokes and other summer maladies. Sattu drink ( sweet and salty) are again making a place for themselves.  Then there are very popular mixes of sugar and natural essences like rose, kevda, khas, and other sherbets made by infusing herbs and natural essences. These are a little high on sugar but still a popular choice.  Most of them have medicinal properties and good for summer.

Aam Panna made with tender boiled raw mango, water and sugar

The plan is to help the body stock up on essential vitamins and minerals.

raw mango pulp with spices, salt and sugar

raw mango pulp with spices, salt and sugar

Exif_JPEG_420

Let us take two more very healthy traditional summer refresher today.

You can roast the mango on direct flame of stove or preheated oven at 200 degree for 30 min depending on the size of the mango. Wrap it in aluminuim foil and place on the rack. to get gorgeous roasted mangoes. Add jaggery for a healthy drink. I use organic jagerry granules or shakkar

Sattu ka ghol ( Sattu drink) 

Sultry day demands something cooling to give a boost to your energy levels. Sattu ghol is our own indigenous substitute for whey protein shake. Made of roasted channa ( gram) flour, this composition is one of the highest sources of vegetarian protein and a quality that is most easily absorbed by the body. Sattu is a special unique drink with a good source of natural fiber and carbohydrates and is made with scientific formula. Originally sattu was made from roasted powered chick peas but with time it has evolved and we can get many variants and mixes of pulses,legumes and cereals like barley, maize, wheat, rice, horse gram, oat etc in form of sattu. Sattu was originally known as Sat-Anaaj(seven cereals, millet and pulses). All across the states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttarpradesh , and Orissa Sattu is eaten daily in various forms. Sattu drinks can be sweet or salty according to the taste. Jaggery is used instead of refined sugar to make it more healthy.

Black Gram and Barley Sattu

One can buy sattu from a good store ( I buy from Navdhanya) or make it at home too. It has innumerable health benefits and has digestible dietary constituents of vital importance. It has high protein value and beneficial for diabetic patients. 

Mix Barley and chana Sattu drink ( salty)

Rich in Iron, calcium and magnesium Sattu is good for digestion, weight management, low blood pressure etc.

Here is how we make Sattu drink (one glass)

Ingredients : 

Chana Sattu – 1 Tablespoon

Barley Sattu – 1 Tablespoon

Salt – as per taste

Roasted cumin seed powder – a pinch

Lemon Juice – To taste

One can add, grated raw mango, coriander , mint, etc. as per taste. One can also make with sweet with jaggery.

Method :  

In a glass add both sattus , salt, cumin powder and other ingredients. Add chilled water. Mix well.  Your healthy summer drink is ready to be savored.

You can also make it sweet by omitting onion, mint , lemon, salt  and adding shakkar (Fine jaggery powder and roasted cumin seed powder.

 

Related Post 

Phalsa Sharbat 

Sensitivity Is Awareness : Are we ready for change ?


Shivani’s blog post  Happy Periods? Hah!! is a must read for all. Here is what she says,

” If you are calling the menstrual cycle impure, you are calling whole process of reproduction impure. It is nature’s rule, how can you judge it to be pure or impure being an insignificant human? I don’t think girls need to be ashamed of it. Can you men bleed a week and not die working? You won’t come to this world if this reproduction cycle doesn’t exist, and you make fun of a girl and enjoy in her despair? Shame on you!

If our strictly traditional elders loosen their mythological, ancient, superstitious-and add whatever adjective you wanna add-traditions, and men become more understanding and start treating us as humans when we are down, we might really have a Happy Period. Mere saying doesn’t make it happen.”

Taking off from her post and the fact that even when the TV advertisements scream about various kinds of sanitary pads and their benefits I still feel it is something no one wants to talk about openly as if it a “tainted thing” to go through this monthly cycle. One day when my periods came earlier than usual time accompanied by severe cramps  I sent my elder son to the chemist explaining which pack to get.  The teenager came fuming with anger and told  he “fucked the happiness of the shopkeeper and a lady customer there”. I was interested to know more.It turned out that the guy did not have “black plastic bag” and kept searching for a newspaper to stash away “the thing”.

When my son demanded that he hand over the pack and forget the bag etc the lady standing at the counter told him,

” Beta these things are not carried openly. Doesn’t look good. waise to your mom should not send young boys to buy it . It is so embarrassing or at least she should have given a bag or something.”

It seems the young man blew them apart in front of the whole crowd before leaving the shop. I gave him a proud smile.

After reading Shivani’s post we all remembered the incident and this started a series of debate at home.  The taboo topics- Sex education  including masturbation, mensuration, sexual orientation and other things.

It became obvious that the father was aghast that I being a woman could openly talk about “such things” with grown up boys and even share “adult jokes” or tease them. Horrifying .

Well, if I don’t talk about it to “grown up” boys do I talk to toddlers then?, I asked

Why can’t a woman talk to her young sons or for that matter anyone about it as part of discussion?

“Not dignified ” came the answer. “Balls to it”, I said. Hypocrites.

During our talks we discovered how most of the schools, offices are not equipped with any disposable facilities mainly because the thought never entered the minds of men who designed the place.

“It is time India had some vending machines installed in bathrooms in malls, offices, schools etc ” , a teenage girl joined the discussion. LMAO,  vending machines? First let them become sensitive and most of all aware of the natural process on which we have no control. Let them puke the age-old formula that has been shoved down their throats by the elder women of their homes.

It is ironical that women themselves make it look like a curse. Hiding, feeling guilty and embarrassed about it.

Another one made a face,” it is a private thing. I would not like to advertise it to the world.”

I asked her politely, ” is asking for sanitary pads or tampons and carrying them unwrapped or telling your boyfriend or son or husband to get it for you if they are going to the market an advertisement?  Is it not normal to say,  ” I have my periods and need napkins etc. or I have cramps or heavy flow so need rest? Is it something abnormal ?”

She didn’t know how to answer that. Obviously her parents never talked to her openly about it and this view was never expressed. What is privacy and what are socially imposed taboos, are two concepts one needs to be clear about.

When a biological body function experienced by half the world is limited to the confines of home and only between members of the gender experiencing it, it needs reviewing. Making menstruation a tainted issue or something to be hushed up and never spoken about with the other gender is counterproductive and completely unnecessary

It  is an integral part of our  body and being forced to feel extra discomfort or shame about  it  is not only unfair but it  also affect our  mental well-being, productivity, self-esteem among other things

During the discussion the boys shared how the jokes go among male friends about women taking pause from men, looking  like train wreaks and  are things not to be trusted for they bleed for 5 days and still live  and so on.

The younger one said that during their class on reproduction all that they could hear was giggles and sly remarks. I and the elder one were the ones who gave him the real lessons.

It also turned out that major section of their male friends either did not have correct info or did not care to talk about it openly. Even in their homes the topic was ever discussed even if they had sisters.

Is menstruation a taboo undercover topic because it is a woman related thing? Would it become a hot conversation if somehow men began to menstruate? A masculine event to brag about ?

My boys think that media is not helping in any way to make the pea brain men aware and in breaking the taboo. How? Well all the advertisements are women based and if men were introduced as supporting understanding factors things just might improve.

A really good thought to ponder on but will it really work?

In her post Shivani talks of  absurdity of calling a period “happy” and I fully agree with her. It is the most painful thing mentally, physically and emotionally and the men easily blame it on the hormones and get away during those PMS days. One thing I noticed was the names given to the products, “whisper”  a name like this says a lot about society’s attitude towards this important bodily function.

It pushes my button very hard if people use euphemisms for these things. I hate this culture of shame. it is disgusting to see some women subject themselves to self-shame giving in to some stupid deeply ingrained social religious beliefs. .

As we sat thinking on this issue another vein opened. Talking sex is taboo too. Well, talk about it.

Everyone enjoys  a good laugh at its cost, sex is talked about  in hushed voices and practiced behind closed doors, people drool over magazines like playboy and FTV  but when it comes to openly discuss or educate young children a very moral approach is taken.

I have seen parents who are themselves so ill-informed and riddled with misconceptions that they have nothing to offer to their growing children. Also they are too reserved to broach the subject and somehow shove it under the carpet if the kids raise it .

Not all parents though but most.

Masturbation is something most kids learn about on their own. While talking to my boys it turned out that between friend these days girls openly talk about all these issues among themselves and with guys too but that’s a very tiny percentage. Maximum people feel extremely shifty when the topic comes up.

The mindset of parents in so-called modern India is still orthodox when it comes to discussing/ debating sexuality,  puberty, live in relationships and relationships in general, sexual preferences etc.

I was stunned when my son told me that his sexually active friends choose not to use protection even after knowing  the implications of unsafe sex. Reason ? “It doesn’t feel the same” .

WTF I said.

“Is it the boys who feel this ? What do girls say?”, I asked.

“Well , most of the girls are desperate to experiment and experience the real thing  so they agree to it and take morning after pills etc” . He said.

I understand , even adults are curious about sex so it is natural for young boys and girls to be curious and experimenting.

“Pills off the counter I believe ” I said.

Of course , you think they take advice from docs or their parents ? “, he replied.

It sucks.

Why is it that these kids are not guided properly ? Is it that parents don’t spend quality time with their children and that they are no longer role models for them ? Is it that the younger generation sees through the faults in the previous generation and rebels against the system not knowing where it is taking them?

Why do parents think that the child will be automatically educated about sex, is it not their responsibility to guide them?

It is not surprising that Sex is the top search topic on internet by youngsters.  I feel it is a huge risk as internet dishes out a lot of titillating garbage  which these young brains can not filter.

India is still a country of sexually repressed people with half baked knowledge and utter confusion leading to various problems at all levels be it health, society or anything else.

Is it not time to wake up to reality and break the shackles . To be aware and sensitive.  To shake the age-old chauvinistic taboos.

If the urban India is steeped in such muck how do we plan to uplift the rural India?

Stretch Your Body : Fitness Tips


Stretching is one of the keys to a balanced fitness regime. Regular stretching exercises helps in maintaining a flexible and supple body.

The benefits of flexibility include prevention of injuries and increased range of movements during the fitness regime, easier and less tiring daily activities because as we know supple muscles use less energy, increased blood flow to the muscles, improved performance, agile body, release of tension, and improved coördination. Stretching can help realign the body and keep up good posture which otherwise can cause repetitive stain in the back and legs.

Here’s a basic guide to a stretching routine that will help you stay fit every day. Remember to stretch only as far as is comfortable. If you experience pain with any technique, drop it until you discuss it with your instructor or doctor.

Always warm up and then gently, patiently stretch your muscles. A good walk is perfect before doing your stretching routine. Do not stiffen your limbs, the moment you feel uncomfortable in holding a position, remember it is time to stop.

1. Shoulder Shrugs

Sit straight, keep your shoulders relaxed. Inhale and squeeze your shoulders up toward your ears. Hold them tight till the count of ten and relax as you exhale. Repeat ten times to start.

Roll Your Shoulder

Rotate your shoulders forwards and then reverse direction. Do five rotations each side.

Neck Stretch (Do not attempt if you suffer from Cervical Spondylosis)

Sit straight, exhale and let your neck drop forward. Relax for about 2 seconds, now inhale as you lift your head, exhale and let your head drop to one side, relax, and inhale as you return to center. Repeat to the other side. Do the whole sequence 5 to 10 times.

Stretch Your Spine

Sit straight with your hands clasped behind your head, exhale and turn slowly to the right. Look behind you, twisting as far as comfortable without straining the neck. Hold for the count of five, and inhale as you return to the starting position. Repeat on the other side. Do this stretching exercise 10-20 times, 3 times a day.

Back Stretch

Lie on your back with your knees bent; keep your feet flat on the floor. Keep both shoulders completely relaxed and flat against the floor. Slowly let your knees drop to one side only as far as they will go comfortably. Relax there to the count of five and then bring them up again. Repeat on the other side. Do this up to five times on each side.
Use a hand or pillow to support the back of your head if your neck is uncomfortable against the floor.

Hip Extension

Holding onto a table or back of a chair, grasp your foot or ankle. Let your knee dangle straight down. Move your thigh backward, then return, repeating on both sides up to 20 times.

Hip Flexes

Sit in a chair and hold the seat with your hands, lift one leg as if you were taking a step. Keep the back straight and do not lean forward as you lift the leg. Keep your abdomen pulled in for support. Repeat 10 times then do  sequence with your other leg. This simple stretch will build hip strength as well as flexibility.

(You can do this by sitting on the floor also with legs straight in the front. Take support of the floor with hands flat on the floor)

Hamstrings Stretch

Stand upright; keep your leg straight and your foot resting on a low stool in front of you. Exhale, and slowly lean into your straight leg until you feel a comfortable stretch. Hold for 10-30 seconds and return to start. Repeat on both sides, at least 10 times.

Calf Stretch

Stand facing a wall with your toes almost touching it. Lean forward into your hands placed at shoulder height against the wall. Move one leg back only as far as it stays flat on the floor. You should feel a comfortable stretch in your calf muscle when you lean into the stretch. Your toes should point forward. Repeat on both sides, holding for 10-30 seconds.

Abdominal stretch

Kneel on floor or mat with hips straight. Place hands on the back of hips keeping your palms against your lower back and your fingers pointing down towards the floor. Lean your torso back by arching back. Hold the stretch for a few minutes. Repeat 5 times.

Pelvic stretching exercises that you can practice to reduce  intensity of menstrual pain.

1. Lie straight on your back and slowly bend your knees and clasp them. Now, slowly without raising your head and chest, try to bring the knees up to your chest. Hold it in this position for a few seconds and then slowly go back to the original position. You can try it with one leg alternatively also.

2. Lie flat on your back and slowly raise both legs up into the air, perpendicular to the floor and hold this position for few seconds. Be careful, while going back to the original position. Go very slowly and if it is not comfortable, first bend your legs and then lower them slowly.

So stretch out, ease that tension, tone up and stay fit for life.

Psychic Meditation: Technique and Uses


We are all part of this vast universe and need to know our place in the vast scheme of things and to discover how to play that part properly. Mediation is not just sitting with your eyes closed in a secluded room; it is an absolute harmony between our physical realm, sensual realm and our life energy. Psychic meditation can help us in many ways.

Over the years, psychic meditation has helped people with their growth, their perception, and their losses and has helped many to discover a new way of life. It has touched every area of life by having  ability to see and hear what is within. We all have our psychic abilities in the form of gut instincts and intuitions.

To start with, the concept of meditation is to understand oneself better, wherein we understand what our strengths, flaws, and triggers and so on and so forth. To develop patience and partnership, we can only make ourselves intuitive towards the significant others needs, but also adjust one’s own aura and being to be more receptive to someone else’s efforts and advances.

Deeper forms can lead us to insight towards past lives and the subconscious and see where the partnership has been and what its future is.

Greater still, we can also understand the subtle messages the significant other has to impart upon our being, and how we can grow towards our path.

Focused meditation provides makes the mind receptive to intuitive information. It quietness’ the mind and filters out the noise in our consciousness. This allows the sub-conscious mind to voice its thoughts, and enable the mind to become in tune with the environment.

To practice Psychic Meditation wear comfortable clothes, choose a place, which is quite, light some incense sticks and create the right atmosphere.

Take slow deep breaths and think about the precious life-giving air that you are inhaling. Inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth.

Focus on breathing is very essential here. When your attention is diverted, even your energies divert. Keep the rhythm and discard the random thoughts that are entering your mind. Become aware of the space around you.

Imagine you are in a calm serene surrounding and form a question in your mind, which needs an answer. Slowly make it appear in front of you on a piece of paper and let your inner answer it for you. Hold on to the thought, connect with it and you can make it happen. Slowly you will realize that there is a solution instead of a question on the paper.

One can resolve many difficult situations by this technique; even physical ailments can be treated by focusing on the affected area and removing the negative element though your guided energies.

Meditation also strengthens our energy balance, making us almost psychic whilst dealing with those we love, simply by balancing memory, understanding and insight towards others and developing a sixth sense simply by slowing the moment down by processing our breathing.

I have done this meditation with amazing results in healing myself and close ones. It is advisable to learn in under guidance for effective results. Every thing in the universe is connected and once you understand and accept this concept, you can tune yourself to be one with the universal spirit. This spirit then becomes your guiding force.

Through practice, you can achieve great benefits and enlighten your inner. You can connect with people you love, heal them; make a difference in their thinking and find love compassion and understanding to better your relationships.

It is known that if you aspire for something with all heart, the universe helps you in getting it and psychic meditation helps in connecting with the universe.

A Guide to Hot Yoga


Imagine a scene where men and women in their jogger shorts and trunk tops locked inside a furnace like room .The temperature 110 degree Celsius (43.3 degree Fahrenheit).The brain child of Bikram Chaudhary, this style of yoga is very different from the Ashtanga yoga or Power yoga taught in the swanky health clubs.

Ashtanga or power yoga has endless variety of head stands, twists and turns where Hot Yoga, as the Bikram Yoga is called, has 26 postures, held for no more than 10 to 20 seconds.

The heat is the key factor as one the only sound is that of sweat plopping onto yoga mats. It is brutal but has a deep spiritual and physical satisfaction. Normally it is a 90 minutes of exercise in a pressure cooker environment.

There are many benefits of conducting yogic exercises in a sauna .It burns 600 calories at a time and helps tremendously in weight reduction. Faster circulation of oxygen carrying red blood cells helps to burn fat. Stretches help the blood to flow into the inner recesses of the muscle tissues.

It helps in reducing  rigidity of joints as it softens the collagen around the joints. The heat speeds up the metabolism and these postures improve elasticity and circulation in the body.

Bikram yoga is not just about limber limbs but it also helps relieve the symptoms of many ailments ranging from insomnia, kidney cancer diabetes and if followed faithfully it helps in many chronic diseases.

Many yoga fans do not like this system. They claim that yoga is to relax the nervous system and that’s impossible when you are in such hostile conditions sweating like crazy.

If one is medically cleared for normal athletic activity than practicing hot yoga causes no harm as believed by many because our normal core body temperature is already 98.4 degree Fahrenheit.

Sometimes one may suffer from nausea, dizziness, headache or weakness but the remedy is to stay calm and relax instead of getting hyper about it. All the 26 postures are repeated in every class and that has a calming effect. The body is not tensed for the fear of unknown and gets used to the heat. As he kicks the yellow smiley balls all over the room the participants relax and do not feel claustrophobic.

The cobra series at the end of the session helps fight the fatigue even if one is ready to call it quits.

The well warmed muscles stretch nice and easy and the body feels great. It makes one feel more energetic and ready to face the world.

Getting to know about Mangoes


Mango tree

India has a long history of worshiping trees, plants and for the ancient Aryans nature was revered. Many trees like Ashoka, Peepal, Banyan Tree, Bael tree, Neem and Sandalwood tree, Bamboo, banana, coconut and most of all Mango trees are some of the most significant ones. Mostly all these trees have medicinal properties as well as socio-religious significance. All of them are large shady trees and perennials.

Hot summer day. A rope swing on the strong branch of a lush green mango tree, intoxicating fragrance of the mango flowers and the delicious fruit makes the Mango tree is one of the most loved trees in India.

Smooth luscious, velvety and juicy that’s a mango, the king of all fruits as far as India is concerned. This tropical fruit lives up to its name. The mango tree is thick and shady therefore excellent for planting in avenues parks etc. Everything from this tree is used in one form or the other.It has a religious importance as well as medicinal one. Mango is our National fruit and rightly so for it has a whole culture of mango eating associated with it.

In north India the land owners who harvested mangoes took pride in their crop.Mango festivals and mango eating sessions and contests were held all through the summers. Big drums of water were filled and ripe mangoes were soaked in them to cool. The families gathered and amidst fun and laughter sucked the mango pulp and juice directly from the fruit by rubbing the ripe mangos with hands loosening the flesh. The dripping juices the sweet taste and the intoxicating aroma were all part of the ritual. It is still fun to eat mango like that instead of cutting and eating it with fork or spoon. They were the connoisseurs of the fruits. Baskets of the best ripe mangoes were exchanged as gifts.

The mango has been cultivated in India for over 4,000 years and is an important part of the Indian heritage and culture. It is almost an object of veneration in Hindu households. It is also considered a symbol of love and fertility.

During the long hot summers mangoes are relished all over India especially in the North. We have hundreds of varieties with exquisite flavors, exotic names and unmatched deliciousness. There is dashahree, langra, tota pari, safeda, alfanso and neelam all known for there distinct flavor, shape and color.

Religious significance

In the Hindu religion, mango tree has a lot of importance. To the Hindus, it is a symbol of the Lord of all creatures. The twigs are used as toothbrushes and the leaves as spoons for the pouring of libations. The rooms in which marriage ceremonies are held are festooned with Mango leaves. It is considered auspicious.

The wood is also considered as sacred because it is included in funeral pyres. Hindus also dedicate the flowers of the tree to the Moon on the second day of the month of Maagh.

The flowering and the fruit-bearing species symbolizes reproduction as they don’t stop growing.

Other uses of the tree

Apart from the delicacy of the fruit, the tree has some other valuable properties as well. The timber of this tree is kiln-dried or seasoned in saltwater. It is quite soft and durable and thus very good for planking and making packing cases and tea boxes. It is gray or greenish-brown, coarse-textured, hard, easy to work and finishes well. In India, it is used for raft making, window frames, agricultural implements, for boats and boxes, including for making crates for shipping. The wood makes excellent charcoal.

The bark possesses 16% to 20% tannin and is used for tanning hides. It yields a yellow dye or when mixed with turmeric and lime, a bright rose-pink. The bark produces a somewhat resinous, red-brown gum that is used in medicine.

Medicinal Uses:

Dried mango flowers, contain 15% tannin and serve as astringents in cases of diarrhea, chronic dysentery and many other ailments. The resinous gum from the trunk is applied on cracks in the skin of the feet. Various parts of the tree are used to stop bleeding and prescribed in cases of snakebite and scorpion-sting as well. The immature fruit is used to treat certain eye ailments and some people believe that a tonic prepared from the ripe fruit can be proved good for the liver.

Mango kernel concoction and powder are used as astringents in hemorrhages and bleeding hemorrhoids. A combined concoction of mango and other leaves is taken after childbirth.

Nutrients

It is a rich source of vitamin A C D and has only 70 calories per 100 grams, despite its powerful sweet taste. Mango also contains beta carotene, vitamin B1, B2, B3, B5, B6 and B9, a lot of vitamin C, and some traces of calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus and potassium, lot of antioxidants.

Both raw and ripe mango is used in various food preparations as appetizers, fruit smoothies, deserts, salads, jams squashes and also used in main dishes . Raw fruits are used for making chutney, pickles and juices. Sun dried raw mango slices are powdered and used in Indian cooking.

Source: Trees of India