Wednesday, April 26, 2017

V is for Vicco (Turmeric Skin Cream)


My son’s first pimple – I asked him to put a dot of Vicco on it; my daughter has a cut – Vicco is the answer; I burned my skin while cooking – once again, yes, you guessed it, Vicco saved the day! And yes, the letter V is for Vicco - more specifically Vicco Turmeric Skin Cream
This is an Ayurvedic skin cream comprised of turmeric (duh!) and sandalwood oil, that just, simply put, fits perfectly into my theme for the AtoZChallenge - which is - Favorite Childhood Memories, be it games or books or food or movies or just random somethings - with one additional twist - these are memories I would like to build for the future as well - with my kids! In this case, this is not just a memory from childhood, but an everyday routine for me since childhood and maybe for my kids too as they grow older.
I have been using this cream for, ummm, it seems like forever - definitely longer than I can remember. I have to ask my mom about it (she uses this cream as well, now and from forever too!). And this has been my only make-up routine (with some moisturizer on dry winter days) for my face for years - since I was a, I should say, little girl! Yes, it has been around from a long time - my grandmom used it too from what I recall when I was in college (but not sure if she still uses it now though - need to check with her the next time I visit:)). Far as I can say, my skin has been problem-free (mostly) and in addition to being the one that brightens my day (literally, with just a look in the mirror!), it is my go-to solution for cuts, burns, scrapes, pimples, and just about anything.. Now my kids know that as well, and they use it automatically :) Below is the tubes of the cream at home currently :) another thing I bring back with me during my visits to India


With the benefits of turmeric being touted a lot more currently, I think I am hearing more about this from others who have never used/heard of this product now than before. You can find it in many Indian stores even in the US and is also available on Amazon.


Q to the reader: Have you heard of or used this product? What is your go-to product for skin-care?

Signing off on Day 26 and the letter V as I continue on the #AtoZChallenge  and #UltimateBloggingChallenge
My #AtoZ2017Posts and #UBCPosts: 
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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

U is for Upanayanam, for Urga

U is for Upanayanam - The word upanayana means ‘taking near’ or ‘leading to’. The upanayanam itself is a traditional rite of passage typically performed at seven years of age. It traditionally marked the end of childhood free of rules and the start of being a student by taking certain vows.  At this time, the child is initiated into another phase of life. He is taught the 'Gayatri Mantra' from the guru (the child's father is considered as the first guru/teacher) - this mantra/chant is considered to be powerful and will help protect the child by keeping the mind and body in positive spirits. Once the ceremony is completed, the initiate is referred to as 'dvija' or twice-born (by gaining the knowledge of the Gayatri). I found a couple of informative descriptions and details here and here.
There are similar rites of passage in other cultures/religions as well.

So how does this fit into my theme? (My theme - Favorite Childhood Memories, be it games or books or food or movies or just random somethings - with one additional twist - these are memories I would like to build for the future as well - with my kids!)

This ceremony is one I have been a part of many times over in my childhood - the most important one being my brother's thread ceremony, and that of cousins, and friends. Now we have, as a family, already fit it into my theme, when we performed this sacred rite of passage for my son in July 2012 in India with family and friends taking part in the celebrations. It was a wonderful time, especially emotional my father-in-law passed away a couple of months after this ceremony, and the memories of his being a part of this from planning to enjoying his grandson's upanayanam made it all the more special. My son is now 14 and recites the Gayatri as part of this initiation regularly (well, as regularly as he can!).

Here are a few photos from the ceremony - 1. My brother (the boy's uncle) holds a ceremonial cloth over the child and his guru (dad) while the Gayatri mantra is recited to him; 2. He is brought into the hall on the shoulders of his maternal uncles with much fanfare (can you see the shower of flower petals); 3. Part of the items needed for the ceremony (coconuts, sweets, other offerings); 4. Before we proceed to the venue of the ceremony, an oil bath is needed and the child's paternal aunt does a symbolic massage of oil on his head; 5. A little after the main part of the ceremony is over, joy in being the center of everything :) 6. Various aunts, cousins, and family friends wait in line as my son performs the Bikshakaranam (where  the boy seeks alms from his mother and other ladies (and with most of our family members, aunts, uncles, cousins on both sides; as well many friends attending - he had this going for some time!)


Image attribution: wikipedia
And one more for U - it also stands for urgai (the Tamil word for pickle, pronounced oorgaai). Why is this part of my theme? Pickles in India are made from various vegetables and fruits by chopping/grating them and marinating in spices infused edible oils or brine. These pickles are found in most Indian homes (home-made or store-brought) and we grew up eating them with many meals; in many forms and many ways. And now my DD (11 years of age who loves spicy foods) loves pickles, especially the ones both her grandmoms make!!

Her favorite one - the quick cut mango pickle. (Note: You could always substitute Granny Smith Apples where you cannot find mangoes)




My #AtoZ2017Posts and #UBCPosts: 
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Reading Challenges ... catching up a little more


 Short Story Reading Challenge - Deal Me in 2017  
As I play around with the order I had planned for the reviews I was going to write this week, here is my first review for a short story - Tagore's Kabuliwala. My list of stories for this challenge are in the google docs here or in my first review post here.
 
Week 16 - 5 of Hearts - a short story by Tagore - First off, for Hearts, I decided to go with Stories/Authors I love(including some rereads) and to pick an unread short or a short not read for a long while by these authors. Tagore is a beloved author from childhood and the first story I read which is easily my favorite and most memorable (at least the first lines) is Kabuliwala. I read it in one of my Hindi textbooks in school years ago (maybe grade 5 or so). And mom recalled reading it when she was a kid and she had memorized the story(she still recites it) which starts in it's Hindi translation with 'मेरी पाँच बरस की लड़की मिनी से घड़ीभर भी बोले बिना नहीं रहा जाता।' (Translated to English, this is 'My five years' old daughter Mini cannot live without chattering.'). And you are introduced to one central character of the story right there - Mini. Told in first-person by Mini's father (an aspiring author who is - while indulging his daughter - also in the middle of his next literary creation), this is the story of the  sweet friendship between Mini and Rahmat Khan, the tall, turbaned Pathan (the Kabuliwala). It tugs at your heartstrings effortlessly and reading this again made me understand the concept of pathos - this is it! This story transcends race, age, nationalities, and gender and leaves the reader with a sweet poignancy. 

You can read the story here. . I found a beautiful quilt portraying this story and other stories by Tagore in Patrick Finn's Timeless Textiles collection here.  The story has inspired movie-makers (two films have been made based on this, in Hindi and in Bengali) and continues to inspire playwrights and the stage over and over again.


Rating: A+

Note: Kabuliwala is a term that was used for Afghans who had traveled to Calcutta and peddled their wares (usually dried fruits, nuts, spices, and perfumes from their native land) door-to-door to make money and send it back home. Today, the term is still used for the many who have made the city their home and I loved this photo-essay about them. 

My #AtoZ2017Posts and #UBCPosts: 
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Monday, April 24, 2017

T is for the Taj Mahal

T is for the Taj Mahal - that was the item both kids mentioned I should include for my AtoZChallenge's letter T to go with my theme - Favorite Childhood Memories, be it games or books or food or movies or just random somethings - with one additional twist - these are memories I would like to build for the future as well - with my kids!

So this does count as one of those. My first trip to the Taj Mahal was when I was around 5 or 6 years old, I am guessing. I have a photo back home in India of my brother and I standing at Agra fort (silhoutted and with the gleaming white Taj in the distant background).  I tried to recreate that (though do not have my old photo) with a photo I took of my kids in a similar location - at Agra fort with the Taj in the background. The photo is below with other photos taken during the same trip.

We visited the Taj last summer and all of us were awed by it - the kids declared this was the best part of their trip despite the fact that after an hour of exploring the Taj in absolute peace with minimal crowds early in the morning, we were then caught in an unexpected downpour for the next hour as we were walking around the rest of the attractions the Taj has to offer and were drenched to the bone.  But the sheer beauty and magnificence of the place made us forget everything else.



In the below photo, which was taken at the mosque built to the left of the Taj, you can see that the floor is tiled to exactly accommodate for prayers - each tile meant for one person to lay their prayer carpet and pray.

Some more photos taken during this trip - a collage...  and if you wonder about the minimal crowds in the photographs taken, we were there at dawn (the Taj is open from dawn to dusk), and it had been raining earlier in the morning (pre-dawn) which accounted for fewer people around..
In the collage: clockwise from the top-right, one of the four towers/minarets around the Taj, a closeup shot of the Taj, the red sandstone building to the right of the Taj - which was built as the "jawab" or the mirror to the mosque on the left of the Taj to maintain the symmetry, closeup of the top of the sandstone, the front view of the mosque on the left, the entrance gate as seen from the inside and reflected in the pool, and finally the Taj and its reflection in the pool.

No photograph or description can do justice to the beauty of the Taj and we left the place with contentment and awe all at the same time!

Q to the reader:Have you visited the Taj? If not, what is the most beautiful monument you have visited? Do let me know so I can add it to my list :)


Signing off on Day 24 and the letter T as I continue on the #AtoZChallenge  and #UltimateBloggingChallenge

My #AtoZ2017Posts and #UBCPosts: 
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Sunday, April 23, 2017

Playing Catch Up on Reading Challenges - Short Reads Second Time Around

Today's post is another catch up post for my Short Story Challenge - Deal Me In 2017. With still some catching up pending, here are my reviews for the ones I finished. My list of stories for this challenge are in the google docs here or in my first review post here.
My last catch up post is here.

 Short Story Reading Challenge - Deal Me in 2017 - Here is my catching up (sort of):.

Reviews to come this week - one for each day
Week 8 - 8 of Spades - 'The Snows of Kilimanjaro' by Ernest Hemingway - yet to read - so Thursday
Week 10 - 7 of hearts - A short story by Dahl - Yet to read - so Friday
Week 11 - 6 of Clubs - You were Perfectly Fine by Dorothy Parker - Monday
Week 12 - Q of Spades - 'A Sound of Thunder' by Ray Bradbury - Yet to read - so Wednesday
Week 13 - 5 of Clubs -Just Lather, that's all by Hernanda Tellez - Tuesday
Week 14 - 10 of Clubs - Who Cares? by Santha Rama Rau  - Monday
Week 16 - 5 of Hearts - a short story by Tagore  - Tuesday
Week 17 - 10 of Diamonds - Phoenix and the Turtle - William Shakespeare - yet to start - for the next week - Saturday

For today, the words of Tagore which I learned in the form of a song we sang most days at assembly in school and one my kids know now as I have sung (and still do sing) this to them many nights as they fall asleep
“Where the mind is without fear
and the head is held high,
where knowledge is free.
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls.
Where words come out from the depth of truth,
where tireless striving stretches its arms toward perfection.
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost it's way
into the dreary desert sand of dead habit.
Where the mind is led forward by thee
into ever widening thought and action.
In to that heaven of freedom, my father,
LET MY COUNTRY AWAKE!”
Rabindranath Tagore, Gitanjali: Song Offerings


Signing off on Day 23 as I continue on the #UltimateBloggingChallenge

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