Sunday, September 15, 2019

Book Review : City of Nine Gates

This blog has been mostly dead due to lack of bandwidth. And the era of text blogging has diminished, and now it is the era of visual story telling, and hence people are more glued to Facebook and instagram worthy content, and Youtube for longer form storytelling. Therefore, I even contemplated shutting down this link a few months ago. I post more regularly on the Facebook and Instagram Pages linked to this blog - so come follow me there to stay in touch with the latest stuff.  My mental health oscillating between bad and worse did not help the case either. Anyway things are better now, and this opportunity to review a book came to me via BlogAdda, so I decided to breathe life into this blog again through this.

Book Review : City of Nine Gates by Pankaj Rajput
Philosophy in the guise of Fiction

The phrase Navadwarapuri meaning the city of nine gates is a metaphoric phrase used in Hindu spiritual discourses. It refers to the human body and is the starting point to explaining the deeper philosophical concepts of Sanatana Dharma.

So, when I picked up this book, I was very curious to know how the author tied this idea into a mythological fiction which is the genre of this book.

 The philosophical part of the book is set in a fictional opening. An atheist entrepreneur who also has an interest in archaeology is the central character of the book. The story takes off when this person is on the stage at an award function his entrepreneurial success. At this award function he gets a vision and what he sees in that vision forms the contents of the book.  The book covers all the fundamental concepts that are covered in yogic Philosophy of Sanatana Dharma also popularly called Hinduism. The author personifies concepts to explain how the human body is envisioned in Yogic tradition. Not only this, other aspects of the Hindu philosophy are visualised as people as well. And  using this as back drop, the path to Moksha or Liberation from one’s Karma phal and Vasana are portrayed as a war with the Mind, Intellect, Ego, Memory and Inherent knowledge of the Supreme on one side and the powerful Desire and the army of Thoughts and Emotions on the other side.  The Samkhya and Advaita schools of thought are also depicted as sages who seek the central character Gyan’s help to understand the approach to Moksha – the way to break the cycle of birth, death, misery and despair that is part and parcel of life as we human beings know it and it all ends with Gyan giving a sermon about his entire experience in the City of Nine Gates that he just liberated.

Frankly, what spiritual aspirants spend a lifetime to understand, this book tries to cover or at least tries to touch upon in 288 pages, due to which there is always too much going on in any given page. Nevertheless, the author’s extensive research and detailed knowledge of the subject shines through the entire book. However, I strongly believe that this book could have been shaped much better had the author written this as a direct philosophy book that aims to put deep philosophical concepts in the language of the millennials rather than attempting a mish mash of a (fictional) story. Once classified as a fiction, one does look for a plot or a storyline which this book severely lacks. But let that not take away the fact that this is a brilliant retelling of spiritual concepts and is worth perusing through a couple of times just for that.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

A hot mug of coffee

This week this is what my BFF and I chatted about during our usual Saturday night chit chat and catch up. It is not a full story, but just a passage that we came up with.

A mug of hot coffee in hand, they sat there just taking in the silence around them. Neither had any energy left. Both of them were so exhausted with the events of the past few days, it all just seemed never ending. The hurried conversations, dealing with doctors, administering medicines, keeping worried family members informed and appraised of the situation in hand. Even taking in a breath of air seemed like extra effort. But perseverence does pay off, and their father  had responded to the treatment and was getting better. Since the situation was getting back under control, it was now time to prioritise the next set of action items. The first and foremost of them was to take a deep breath in peace, without a thought of what to do next, no explanations, no appraisals. A hot mug of coffee in hand, the aroma spiraling around the face. A space in thoughts, like the space after a sentence in an essay. There was still a lot to do, a gazillion items screaming for attention the next morning. But tonight, this night, this moment was theirs. To breathe. To live. To love. To recharge. 

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Life's Calling - Seema's turn around

At this moment, I am super tired and super sleepy. But post the birth of my son, I have developed insomnia - I cant sleep even if I want to, I find it very hard to calm down and go to sleep. The past two days have been tough with a festival coming up (read that as celebration, but also back breaking additional work that usually is borne by one person in the household) and my son suddenly falling sick with high fever 3 days ago (read that as waking up every hour or so to check on him and figure what is causing him to be uncomfortable) - all this translates to aggravated insomnia.

Anyway, I digress. As usual it is Saturday night, and I am up, unable to sleep, while the rest of the household is in deep slumber. Loneliness hits the hardest at such times. So I turned to my best friend, i.e my blog to see what we could chat about. I was going through my writing logs and found a piece that would be a good share on the blog. It is a fictional story.  So here goes -

Seema's turn around

Life had brought her to this stage where a lot of things did not matter any more. What mattered was how she would progress in the pursuit of her passion. She was done doing things that 'had' to be done, for the sake of perceived happiness. Obstacles or no obstacles, she had reached a point in her mind where there will be sanity only along the path of the real pursuit. Any step not contributing to her pursuit only seemed like a breath wasted on the planet. Perhaps this is what people called as life's calling. Life had been calling out to her for quite a while, but the rat race of life kept diverting her path in some other direction. But no more. There was only one way forward now, and that way was along the path of her passion.

Seema had never felt her spirit come alive so much. She had always been accomodative of the needs and wants of the people around her, in the hope that when it would be her turn, people would be as accomodative. But that day never came. So much so, such was her state that the very people for whom she made some radical choices in education and career, they had moved on in life and now had no time or attention to give her anymore. They were back to grappling with their life. 'You must do it for me' they had said. It struck her only now that in saying so, they were living and executing the mission of their life, not hers. That she was the only one who would end up taking a stand for her - For a person of Seema's nature, it was a jolt to realise that she was not going to get any reciprocation from any of the people around her. Zero.  Zilch.

Sometimes in life, the toughest of the situations are actually the catalysts that take you to where you should have gone in the first place. And that was what was happening to Seema as well. This was the perfect cleansing of distractions that Seema's life needed.

Without another thought, she decided to pursue her hobby of story telling for children. There were so many parents today who are stuck in the rut of a 8am - 7 pm job that they cannot spend time with their children even if they want to. Someone to give quality time to their children would most certainly be welcome.

Days passed into years, and stories flowed like perennial rivers, triggering awe and imagination in the young minds that they irrigated. Seema came to be known as the pied piper in the playschools around her house. Fifteen years later, a young man walked into her session at a local children's library. "Mam, I learnt the value of paying attention to the person speaking to me through your session, thank you for being there for me. You are the mother figure I needed during those dull afternoons when my own mother could not be there for me" he said. When had Ms Seema become Kahaniyon ki Jadugar, she hadnt realised. "I want you to tell similar stories to my nephew who is going to join a daycare nearby.." he continued as Seema came back from her trance. "Aap usko bhi kahaani sunaayenge naa?" He gleamed, "Maine bhaiyya ko bataaya hai aapke baareme"

As this young man spoke, she was transported to the moment when her father was sitting in front of her with that stern look, "Kahaaniyon se sirf khayaali pulao pakaaye jaa sakte hai, asli pulao nahi. Kuch dhang ka karo, yaa fir rehne hi do, tumse kuch na ho payegaa" these words were echoing in her head again today. "Haa paapa, you were right, khayaali pulao se pet nahi bhar sakta but these stories can sure nurture and nourish the hunger of imagination and creativity!"  Your passion will pave the way for itself. That was her life's lesson.

Image credit :

Monday, August 6, 2018

Why have I suddenly turned into a Breastfeeding awareness campaigner?

So I was quite ambitious to announce in my previous blogpost that I will make 3 quick and successive posts about Breastfeeding awareness. But karma always keeps a check on me, and decided that I will not have such ambitious thoughts and modified my son's sleep and play schedule to quell my ambitions. So before breastfeeding week ends altogether, I thought I will write a combined blogpost to do justice to my proud announcement.

When is World Breastfeeding Week?
World Breastfeeding week is celebrated in the first week of August every year. This year too August 1 to August 7 is World Breastfeeding Week.

Why have I suddenly turned into a breastfeeding awareness campaigner?
Well, for one, I had a baby. And despite having a generally knowledge-able support system around me during the pregnancy, delivery and convalenscence/recovery period, I got very little education from my seniors on the topic of breastfeeding. The C-section date was fixed, I got admitted, operation was successful, baby was in my arms and I had zero clue on what to do, what to expect. And since 'milk' did not start 'flowing' the moment I put the baby to the breast, while I pushed myself into self doubt, my support system added to my fears by talking about it in hushed tones as though it was god given punishment. Well it was not, it was lack of education. And I have had to deal with "your milk is not enough" conversations multiple times since then. All this drove me into serious phobia, depression and I became a galactagogue addict and overdoser, and due to the resultant excess milk supply, my son was on the verge of developing GERD, an extreme reflux/acidity syndrome in infants. My husband and the family at large was absolutely unaware of any of this. When I came upon the resources available in the Facebook group called Breastfeeding Support for Indian Mothers (thanks to this blogpost by my blogger friend Gracelyne Fernando), education happened and I went about fixing the mess that I had landed myself into. And I realised that I was not alone. "milk not enough" conversations are quite common it appears from the varied posts that I see on the aforementioned FB group, even today. Some samples are shared below(names and any references to the persons have been removed) -

"Ur milk is not enough that's y she is not sleeping...u won't agree to give she is vaccinated...she is becoming fussy at nights...if u give formula she will sleep for 5hrs.. don't be so stubborn for giving bf..we used to hear what our elders tell...ur not such of a kind..ur baby is hungry sucking fingers all time". 

*He is not getting enough milk 
*he doesnt like ur milk taste

Before i used to get more milk and nowadays my breasts are getting full only after 4 hrs. Before that if my lo drinks she's not getting enoughmilk and she cries

These are real conversations that are happening commonly in a lot of households.
This is why I am motivated to spread the knowledge and information about breastfeeding, especially to women who are about to deliver their child and their immediate support system.

Breastfeeding basics in a nutshell
Well there are a lot of things to understand, and it is best to study this document prepared by the Adminstrators of the Facebook group Breastfeeding support for Indian Mothers. But some key takeaways are -
  • Breastmilk is the best source of nutrition for a child for the first 6 months
  • Latching the baby in the first one hour after delivery is important to establish the milk supply
  • Consuming galactagogues or milk secretion enhancers should be done when there is a real need for it.

What can you, as a reader of this blog, contribute to a breastfeeding mother's journey? If not how can you spread awareness about breastfeeding? 
First, if you know anyone who is about to deliver a baby, please take a printout of this document and ensure they read it. (I recently gave a print out of this document to a friend who was just about to deliver her child, and she just tossed it away to read 'later' and has not read it till date. I haven't checked on how her breastfeeding journey is as she is in her hometown right now)

Second, if you know anyone who has already delivered a baby, and they are facing difficulties in breastfeeding, please take them to a lactation consultant, before drawing conclusions about their low milk supply. Do a thorough profiling of their nutritional intake and see how you can help the mother improve her nutritional intake, instead of supplementing the baby's breastmilk.  Have calm conversations with the baby's mother and watch out for any signs of depression as depression can have harmful impacts on the Mother and baby's breastfeeding journey.

And if you are a mother reading these posts, and have made an informed to choice to 'supplement' your child's breastmilk intake with cow's milk or formula, that is really your call. The goal of this post is to spread knowledge and awareness about the benefits of breastfeeding.

There is a lot more to write and share, but this is all the time I can afford to give this at this moment.

That's it for now folks. Let's make this world a better place.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Sock bag from scrap fabric

So I needed a bag/container to hold my son's socks that would also be handy to quickly grab a piece.  And I was reusing the plastic holder bag in which it came from the store. But the holder was for a capacity of 3 and I had to store more than 3 socks, I was stuffing it to the max. It was starting to wear out and wasnt containing all the socks anyway. Earlier, I would have done a couple of rounds in Lifestyle store, or in DMart or in Homecentre for some organizer and would have been done with it. But there is a ban on DMart visits in our house, and outings are really rationed with the toddler's schedule getting highest priority. So I was rummaging through my scraps and found a trapeziodal piece that I thought would fit the bill to be converted into a sock bag.

I initially started hand sewing the edges, and was wishing for something that would get the job done faster without needing to go to the tailor. While looking through Amazon for some fabric glue, it struck me that I had a bottle of mod-podge from my previous life (:P). Mod podge is a famous crafting supply - it is a decoupage medium - an all-in-one glue, sealer and finish used to attach paper and fabric to various surfaces. Since this project was anyway about using up scraps, I decided to put it to use and applied it liberally to the corners of the fabric which needed to be attached. While doing it, I was doubtful if it would work. But a few hours of drying and it was like magic! Attaching pictures and descriptions, the photo of the final product is at the end.

The design was simple - I had a trapezium shaped fabric, I decided to fold it in half and secure two of the open sides. and I could have a bag like structure ready.

So this is the bag like piece - Notice the stitches on the two sides? That's where I applied Mod podge glue and secured the two edges. It was looking a bit too plain and I was not sure if the glue will wash out when the bag goes for laundry, so I decided to make some blanket stitches just as an extra level of security.

For the top open edge, I didnt feel like mod podg-ing the irregular edges so I decided to hand stitch. While doing this, I realised that I had cut the fabric in a bit of a hotchpotch way, so I had to do different types of stitches at different zones of the same edge!!
I started with a back stitch, and ended up hemming the second half of the length!

Now, the basic bag was ready - but I still needed a handle of some sort with which it could hang on my wardrobe's handle. After thinking briefly, I decided to cut up the mini hanger from my previous sock holder and..

The old plastic socks holder from which I cut off the plastic hanger

mod-podged it in place, of course!!
The plastic hanger getting a coat of mod-podge with a layer of base fabric

Secured onto the bag

So finally this is how it looks. It was looking a bit drab - so I decided to use up some old left over fabric paint to make a design on it. Afterall, the whole project was about using up old left over stuff!

Picture with the socks getting loaded

Finally in its place -

A closer look at the design - 

Well, it is not a fabulous looking piece, it is has a lot of flaws in the sense - there are all sorts of stitches on the hem, the blanket stitch isnt done till the end, the fabric piece for the hanger is in a randomly different color, and the base fabric itself is a bit drab. But, it is functional and at this point a successfully working proof of concept. And done in a jiffy with the limited time that I have in my hands. So as the famous tagline goes - Tedha hai par mera hai. Adios folks!

Featured post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Awareness for Breastfeeding - World Breastfeeding Week 2018

World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) is a global network of individuals and organisations concerned with the protection, promotion and support of breastfeeding worldwide based on the Innocenti Declarations, the Ten Links for Nurturing the Future and the WHO/UNICEF Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding. WABA is in consultative status with UNICEF and an NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC).

WABA coordinates the annual World Breastfeeding Week campaign. WABA works closely with many organisations and individuals. Our partners in this effort include:  the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (ABM)International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN)International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA) La Leche League International (LLLI) United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) World Health Organisation (WHO) Food Agricultural Organisation (FAO) and several other international organisations.

WABA's work, including World Breastfeeding Week, is made possible through the generous support of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida).

All the material on the WorldBreastfeedingWeek website is driven around conversations that are held in western countries around eradicating poverty,etc. I would like to drive conversations from a layman point of view, from the Indian perspective. In a country like India, where people have found ways of making tradition co-exist with modernity in multiple spheres of life, sadly, one area where people (in the last 30 years) have been meticulously schooled away from is breastfeeding.  What seems like a very natural thing to do, is exactly what has become very complicated due to various social conditioning.  While in the urban centers, people are being lured into formula feeding, there are quite a few rural centers where the support system around the new mother is quick to suggest alternatives(such as cow's milk) to breastmilk. I am not a vegan-ist or an anti cow's milk campaigner, but I definitely consider that the first 6 months of a child's life should be an intervention/alternative free natural diet.  Intervention, and/or supplementation should be only on a strictly case by case basis where there is a valid medical reason to do so. That said, one cannot impinge upon the personal choices made by a mother for her child, but is the support system around her ready with the knowledge and information that will enable her to make an informed decision? I am not sure. Anyway, without digressing, this is an upcoming series of blogposts to spread awareness about breastfeeding, which is needed sadly, even though it is the so called modern age of 2018.

So when is World Breastfeeding Week?
What can you do to spread awareness about Breastfeeding? 
Know someone who is pregnant and is about to deliver soon? How can you reach out to them and contribute to their breastfeeding journey?
Why have I suddenly turned into a Breastfeeding awareness campaigner?

Here is my next blog post that attempts to answer some of these questions 

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Music album for children(and adults) - The Talking Trees

Music is wonderful a medium of education, I have personally experienced this multiple times during my days of school and college.
Here is a music album of songs in Tamil language about some of the life sustaining trees of India. The content of the songs is structured as a conversation between an inquisitive squirrel asking questions and the trees responding accordingly. This is an audio publication by STD PATHASALA, an organization that I have been associated with since childhood. This music album is available on iTunes, Saavn and Spotify.. Please do check it out..

A cute collection of songs on some of the life sustaining trees of India - "Pesum Marangal" aka "The Talking Trees". You can now listen to the complete album on any of your favourite music apps. Click away and enjoy the lovely music and do share it with children.
ITunes -
Saavn -
Google Play music -
Spotify -