A SPICY AFFAIR

Potato wafers with a dash of red paprika make the eyes water and activate the taste buds like none other. Despite the steady stream of water from the eyes and nostrils, one cannot leave a half-eaten bag till a later time.

Ever had spiced tea? If you are a tea-person, you may enjoy this variant. Even if you are not a tea-lover, you would still enjoy this beverage. Of course, you could have a pick of your choice of spices!

As a child, I only knew the plain honey as ‘honey’. But today, cinnamon honey is my favourite on a slice of bread toast.

Wo dal hi kya jisme tadka na laga ho! (What taste would lentils/pulses have, if not seasoned!) Well, our Indian readers would sure understand what I mean. Without seasonings (‘chhownk/tadka’), simply boiled pulses, though healthy, are considered to be patients’ food in most Indian homes. As for that matter, Indian meals are not considered Indian without spices.

Spices form an integral addition in most cuisines all over the world. Of course, the type of spices that are used varies from place to place.

Spices are not added to food in huge quantities. Yet, they make their magic well-evident. Spices perform the tri-fold culinary functions of adding flavour and colour to food and preserving them. No, they don’t lead to gain in weight. However, excess addition of spices to food causes discomfort to the body – it may lead to indigestion and an increase in the quantity of certain minerals (more than the RDA of intake). Many spices have anti-microbial properties.

One thing to note here, is that spices are different from herbs. Herbs are usually leaves, flowers or stems of plants used for seasoning or garnishing. For example, coriander/cilantro leaves are herbs. But, dried coriander seeds when ground and powdered serve as spices.

Spices in Literature and History
I had this short story titled, ‘Love across the salt desert’ by K.N. Daruwala in my tenth grade English text. What I strikingly remember till today is that the protagonist remembers his lover as ‘she who smelt of cloves and cinnamon’ among other descriptions.

Not only in this fiction story, years before in one of the biblical poems in Song of Solomon, the narrator compares his lover to many forms of spices.

“Spikenard and saffron,
Calamus and cinnamon,
With all trees of frankincense,
Myrrh and aloes,
With all the chief spices—”

Spices in use for mummification
Ancient Egyptians had the practice of preserving dead bodies. They used lots of fragrant spices to embalm the bodies. This was a practice of the Jews as well. 

Spices for weight loss

Well, well, there is no substitute to a daily regimen of physical exercise to keep one’s body and mind fit and healthy. However, spices are known to contribute to this area as well. The famous ones here are fenugreek seeds, cumin seeds, powdered cinnamon and fennel seeds. They work wonders if used for a long term.

Spices for beauty

Turmeric is the king in this field. Face packs made of turmeric and other ingredients are the bestsellers of all times – especially for the tropical skin type. One caution for those who want to try this (of course, I’m not putting in here the recipe of the packs) – don’t venture out into the sun after applying a face pack containing turmeric. It darkens the skin.

So, here we go – not only in food, but also in other aspects, spices are indispensable!

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LIFESTYLE: A CONTINUOUS PROCESS OF ADAPTATION AND ADJUSTMENTS

Geographic location, family background, socioeconomic status, culture, people and individual personality patterns give shape to our lifestyles. There are certain commonalities in the lifestyle of the human race. But, the ways of living out those lifestyles often varies. For example, all humans eat to live and all wear clothes to be socially presentable. However, who eats what and who wears which type of clothes may differ even between houses on the same lane.

And so, we all have our lifestyles. As adults, we either choose to maintain the lifestyle that we are brought up in or we opt to change that lifestyle radically because of certain thought processes or influences in our lives. Many of us decide to tinker with our foundational lifestyle and imbibe a few features of a new lifestyle and find a middle path to retain the old and imbibe the new. Whatever said and done, we all have certain unique lifestyles.

For a little more than twenty years of my life, I grew up in a city that defined my lifestyle with its mannerisms. Later as I moved to the national capital, I found myself blending in with the capital city’s lifestyle all the while holding on to the mannerisms I grew up with. Close to nine years of my stay in the national capital helped me discover myself and be me. That was something I didn’t get to do in the initial years of my life. Presently, my job has brought me to a semi-rural place with its share of challenges. The transition needed a huge lifestyle shift because since the last four generations no one in my family has lived anywhere close to a rural habitation. To live and work in such a set up requires lifestyle changes.

We, humans, are shaped with such personality traits that help us to adapt to our surroundings on most occasions (though the extent to which we adapt varies from person to person). That’s how we thrive. 

But, then some aren’t able to cope with lifestyle changes. There was this family I know who moved to New Zealand from India, on getting more promising work opportunities. Their children were quite small at that time. However, they had to return to India in a year’s time as their little daughter wasn’t able to acquaint herself with the new place and the lifestyle changes. 

Also, there are some who don’t wish to cope with lifestyle changes. There’s a friend’s vegetarian husband who was to travel to London for an official trip of a week. From the day he received the order, he fell sick with rising blood pressure (though he is an absolutely healthy man). His worry was how would he have his meals at a place that served non-vegetarian food! (He assumed there is no space for vegetarians in Western countries). Well, finally he ended up stuffing his suitcases with a lot of eatables so that he won’t have to eat a thing in London. Of course, he had a different story to tell on return!

The most demanding lifestyle change of all is brought about by marriage. No matter how well the couple know each other before marriage, staying under the same roof with a commitment for life is a different ball game altogether. It requires huge lifestyle adjustments. Sometime back I heard a person nearing sixty describe how his and his wife’s tastes are polar opposites in every matter. One needs the fan to run at full speed while the other barely needs the fan. One dislikes cold drinks while the other dislikes all hot drinks. He cited many other such instances. It was really amusing to hear him narrate. But, he concluded that in spite of all these differences they have loved each other all these years and have remained committed without any major argument between them. Well, I won’t call it ‘the perfect marriage’ as I have written in one of my previous articles that there aren’t any perfect couples and perfect marriages – only well-adjusted ones.

Lifestyles can be static – especially if people do not wish to let go of traditional generational mannerisms. But, lifestyles can be vibrantly dynamic as well, for people who are open to exploring and imbibing newness and variation.

It’s wise to be open to exploration, but instead of blindly aping on newness, it is prudent to adopt the lifestyle that is good and acceptable in the eyes of God.

LOVING WISDOM OF THE MOTHER HEN

Elusive, these days, are the sights of hens with their brood of chicks tagging behind them. But, if you go to the countryside, you’ll be greeted with such endearing scenes near farmsteads and in the fields. It is truly entertaining to watch the chicks following the mother hen wherever she goes. The mother hen, on her part, is wise in her ways to exhibit behaviours that her little ones would follow to learn.

A psychologist by the name of Konrad Lorenz was intrigued by these sights. He keenly observed the phenomenon of some species of animals forming an attachment to the first large moving object that they meet (it may be any object, not necessarily a parent animal). After conducting intensive research, Lorenz came to the conclusion that this phenomenon is innate and programmed genetically. He named this process ‘imprinting’. Most animals acquire their locomotor skills by imprinting.

Imprinting is not proven in humans, though babies are seen to imitate their caregivers in various respects. Be it in animals or in humans, caregivers are known to train their young ones as they go about their day-to-day activities.

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(Image Credit: Google Inc.)

A mother hen ensures that her chicks follow her to the right places to pick on the right type of fodder. The chicks observe their mother picking on certain worms and insects and leaving out certain others. These, they understand are poisonous. Also, the chicks learn from their mother’s behaviours how to identify the predators and ways to escape from their clutches. Sensing danger and inclement weather conditions, the hen calls out to her little ones in her special language and the chicks hurry to the safety of their mother’s wings.

The role of the mother hen is to train, guide, protect and make her chicks capable enough to survive and fend for themselves in the world.

But, not all chicks are sensitive and obedient to their mother’s voice and behavior. There are those who prefer to go their own way. They are the ones who learn their life lessons the hard way. At times, they don’t live to learn the lesson!

Looking at this picture and penning these lines, I am reminded of God’s ways of training and nurturing human beings. He shows the footprints that need to be followed and calls out to each of us in languages that we can well understand. He points out where enemies lurk around to pounce on us. Those who are sensitive and obedient to His voice walk confident of their ways – may be in rugged terrains, but sure of the grip of every step they take.

However, there are those who choose not to be sensitive to His call and care. They opt to go their own ways. Still, God spreads out His love as a mother hen spreads out her wings to protect her chicks from harm.

Indeed, God is gracious and merciful in His ways – teaching us amidst myriad life events, the ways to live and emerge victorious. Are we willing to learn under His loving care?

VALUABLE LESSONS FROM THE SPIDER

You must’ve seen me around you some time or the other. In case you haven’t, you must’ve at least heard about the encounter of the valiant king Robert Bruce with one of my brethren. Let me remind you about that encounter in brief. The king of Scotland, Robert Bruce had been defeated six times in battle by the army of England. He was dejected and was in hiding in a cave. That’s when he spotted one of my brethren trying to spin a web – attempting again and again till success was achieved. King Bruce was inspired and got up to attack England again. This time he was victorious!

We spiders don’t have lofty ambitions. But, we are pretty much target-oriented. Whatever target we fix, we make sure to achieve it. We don’t leave any work undone if its within our capacity. Take for example, spinning our webs. At times we face external hindrances while spinning our webs. Gusts of winds blow them away, rains wash them away or humans brush our webs off to keep their houses clean. But, we start all over again. We do not give up! Well, yes, we create nuisance for humans by finding a space for ourselves in the corners of their houses till we are discovered. But, then that’s how we survive. Think of it human readers – don’t give up till your targets are achieved. Don’t get discouraged by hindrances. Keep working on your goals with focus, and you will attain success in the work of your hands.

Do you know why we spin webs? To trap prey for our food. You would’ve observed the fine threads of a spider’s web. Let me tell you one secret about the threads. They are our unique gifts. These are not ordinary threads. The threads we spiders use are fine silk threads produced by our silk glands. Again, there is no uniformity in the type of silk that we use to spin the web. The threads can be thick or thin, dry or sticky, rough or smooth. We use the type of silk depending upon the prey that we are planning to trap for the meal. After all, like human beings, we too have our meal moods and varying tastes! We are grateful to our Creator for gifting us with such special silk glands. Our Creator has gifted something special to each of His creation. Discover the special ability you have been blessed with and use it to proclaim your uniqueness.

We don’t hesitate to enter into lofty towers or kings palaces, though we are negligible, tiny and unwanted. We give priority to our survival tasks. A wise writer writes about us, “The spider skillfully grasps with its hands, and it is in kings’ palaces.” We want to encourage you not to be taken aback by the gigantic personalities in your lives – but, to be clear about your tasks and prioritize them even if it would require you to barge into unwanted terrains and face difficult people.

You may have observed another thing about us. We walk on our ways alone. You will never see clusters of spiders together spinning a web. We don’t hesitate to walk alone on our paths. Teamwork is good, desirable and essential in certain circumstances. But, in our lives, we walk the way on our own. A message to our human readers, don’t be afraid to walk your path alone. You may not always find favourable company or the support that you desire. But, that shouldn’t stop you in your tracks. Keep on moving ahead by yourself knowing that your Creator is close beside you.

I believe I have given a brief peek into myself and those belonging to my clan. You’ll find us everywhere – of course, the type of our species depends upon the climatic conditions of the place. Antarctica is the only continent that remains unchartered for us. But, now with the global temperatures increasing, we’ll be there soon too.

So yes, fix your targets, discover your special inner abilities, prioritize your goals without being afraid of people or circumstances and lastly, never hesitate to walk the path alone.

Next time, you spot one of my brethren, be sure to recall and strive to practise these four lessons!

CAN YOU?

For every mother that is greeted today,

There’s someone yearning for a child

 

For every child that greets the mother today,

There’s someone yearning for a mother

 

For every mother who feels proud of her womb today,

There’s someone unable to carry a foetus

 

For every child who feels the comfort of a mother’s bosom,

There’s someone awaiting with outstretched arms

 

For every mother who wipes her child’s tears,

There’s someone whose hands have none to wipe

 

For every child who has a mother to lean on in sickness,

There’s someone longing for those nursing hands

 

For one such mother without a child,

Can you be a child?

For one such child without a mother,

Can you be a mother?

 

A SPRING IN HER STEP SPEAKS OODLES

An adroit writer, an ace homemaker and a doting mother gifted with nimble fingers for expressing the brimming creativity within her – be it by way of painting or craft skills, a brilliant smile and sanguine temperament that promises to add buoyancy to a weary day – this is KALPANA VOGETI, the writer I’ve virtually met in the blogging platform of Candles Online.

What I most admire about Kalpana is the way she brings out the best in her in even the most trying circumstances. Though I don’t know a great deal about her, from the little I know, I can vouch for her abilities to tide through testing times.

As a writer, she is versatile, vocal, meaty and inspiring. There is a gentleness in her articles that surfaces to me as a reader.

COME WALK IN MY SHOES FOR ONCE! This post of hers rates high on my all-time favourite blog list. In this post, she writes about the challenges of parenting sharing slices from her experience, especially the pressures as the mother of a special child and how she copes with them. As a Counsellor, having dealt with many children with autism and the phases that their parents go through, I’ve seen the toughness of the practical life – parents breaking down, giving up and losing hope. I’m sure deep within she has been through these episodes time and again, but has risen with renewed vigour to make the best of each day – for her family and for herself. Though the path is rugged, I pray for God’s constant strength to you all through.

STOP PASSING THE BUCK – This is a second favourite, which was originally published in her own blog. In this piece, she very aptly points out how each one is responsible for corruption but easily passes on the responsibility to others. Too much finger-pointing, but no self-ownership. In fact, this is why corruption thrives despite many assessments and controlling agencies being in existence world-over. A much-needed article for the times!

SOCIETY CAN YOU MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS PLEASE – And here’s my third favourite where she addresses the issue of people poking their noses into everyone’s business – especially to aggravate matters that need not be, but refusing to raise a voice when it is much needed. If people can’t speak up when it matters, they need not speak up when they are uncalled for. She has very nicely brought out an unpleasant reality that we all live with and are part of, at times.

Kalpana’s articles are from the heart – wise expressions of experience and thought.

Let me also tell you that of all the bloggers in this group Kalpana has been one who has got the highest views and comments more than once. Speaks of her Midas touch!

Scoot ahead Kalpana – Candles Online adores your presence and your readers appreciate your skill.

God bless you to help make a difference through your inspiring articles!

(Dedicated to @world4womencom)

LISTENING TO GOD

‘Listening to God’ – the title may seem a bit crazy or whimsical for some! Some others may think that it would be an article full of religious stuff. To help do away with your assumptions, let me assure you that listening to God is neither a crazy thought nor a religious supposition. It’s not a crazy thought because God does speak. It’s not a religious supposition because God has nothing to do with religion. Religions (there are uncountable many – and every other day new religions are born) are socio-cultural identities to which a sense of divinity has been pulled in to help make it sacred. God created no religion. He just created human beings and gave them the freedom to choose to follow Him or to look the other way. And, that is how we have different belief systems, ideologies and philosophies about God the world over.

Having cleared the air a bit, let me ask you – have you ever listened to God speak to you? I have. And, that’s what makes me write this article with confidence.

THE WAYS GOD DOESN’T ALWAYS SPEAK

  • God doesn’t always speak ‘what’ we would want Him to.

There are times we want God to intervene in our lives during tough situations. Desperate for a word of assurance from Him, we wish that He would speak a word of affirmation into our situation. But, it doesn’t always happen that way. That’s because God knows what is best for us in the infinity of His wisdom than what we desire with the finiteness of our longing. His ways are different from ours. His thoughts are different from ours.

  • God doesn’t always speak ‘when’ we would want Him to.

Living at a day and age of instants – instant Maggie, instant Coffee, instant Soups – and at a time when data gets downloaded in seconds and nanoseconds, it is quite understandable to want quick-fix solutions to problems and shortcuts to success. It is also quite understandable to want God to speak to us instantly as soon as He is called out to. At times, He makes us wait – the delay leading many to conclude that ‘God doesn’t exist’. However, we need to understand that God is beyond time. With God a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.

  • God doesn’t always speak ‘where’ we would want Him to.

Most of us have this notion that God can be found in and would speak in serene tranquil surroundings, in seclusion, away from habitation – maybe on a lonely sea beach or a lofty mountain top. To get you right on this, God speaks to His handmade human beings at all places. He is Omnipresent. So, if you are thinking that you need to get away on a quiet vacation in order to have God speak to you, you are wrong. God can speak in the storms, in the tumult of crashing waves, in the whirlpool and in the wind. But, to be able to listen to Him, we need the silence of our hearts with our spirits attuned to Him.

  • God doesn’t always speak ‘how’ we would expect Him to.

Not every dream is from God. Not every vision is from God. Not every prophetic word is from God. Not every voice from within is from God. Not every counsel received from trusted loved ones or experienced wise ones, is from God. Not every seemingly evident sign is from God. So, beware that you do not mistakenly assume that the voices of the world, of your own desires and of the devil are from God, thereby preventing yourself to listen to the voice of God.

HOW THEN, DOES GOD SPEAK?

  • God speaks through His audible voice.

God is simply not a figment of human imagination. He is not a mere superpower, somewhere up in the high skies. He is a living entity. He is not a lifeless totem. And so, He speaks with an audible voice. Those who have heard Him speak describe His voice as thunderous, like the sound of many waters. At times, He speaks in silent whispers and at other times in a calm clear call.

  • God speaks through nature.

Nature is God’s footprint on earth. The myriad animals, birds, fishes, insects, trees, flowers, seas, oceans, mountains, sun, moon, stars all bear the stamp of God. They are silent witnesses to the existence of God and God speaks through them. Nature is not God. But, it bears the impression of its Creator.

  • God speaks through people.

While all human counsel is not from God, God does speak through people – at times through people known to us, at other times through complete strangers and sometimes through people whom we don’t seem to agree with.

  • God speaks through supernatural means.

Again, while all dreams, visions and signs are not from God, God does speak through these supernatural means. He has been using these means from ages of old and does so even today to reach out to people.

  • God speaks through His Word.

I believe in the Bible as the living Word of God. God has revealed Himself through His Word – not by the word of a human author/s. The word of God is alive and active, sharper than any double-edged sword and God speaks out loud and clear to all humanity through His word.

HOW CAN WE LISTEN TO GOD?

  • Tuning our spirits to God

When we tune our spirits Godwards, we train our ears to listen to God. A newborn baby knowing the difference between the mother’s voice and that of others, responds to that familiar voice while discarding others. With spirits tuned to God, His voice distinctly makes us listen to Him.

  • Having a spirit of discernment

If all counsel is not from God, but some are; if all supernatural means are not from God, but some are, how do we know for sure which to listen to? This is when a spirit of discernment is needed and this is something given by God Himself.

  • Spending time in the presence of nature

Nature speaks of the glories of God. Spend time in the quietness of nature and allow God to speak to you. Not the voice from within you, but the voice of God. You’ll hear Him!

  • Quietening our hearts and seeking to listen to Him

When we quieten our hearts and consciously seek to listen to Him, there is no way we would miss Him speak. Hearing may be accidental, but listening is always a conscious choice. If we choose to listen to God, we will definitely listen to Him.

  • Clearing the clutter

The digital age has made pep talks, motivational speeches and positive thinking lectures available at our fingertips. They do help pep us up for a while but pose as the biggest obstacles to desire to listen to God. So, while you feel motivated and pepped up by listening to experts, don’t allow those voices to cloud the voice of God – you’ll miss listening to the best motivator!

In this week, when we are writing about ‘Listening’, I chose to write about ‘Listening to God’ because this is the most important voice that every human being needs to listen to. And, this is the voice that goes unperceived the most leading to chaos in families, societies and the world over. I urge you to desire to listen to God speaking to you. When you do, you’ll know what I mean.

Stay tuned for articles this week that focus on the importance of listening in our day-to-day lives – in families, among friends, in workplaces and everywhere else!