Tag Archives: Beauty

BURNED

I wrote this piece of fiction in honor of victims of acid attacks — especially in India. It was developed at EnActe Arts as part of the WEFT (“women enacting for themselves”) program. It is a humble and probably inadequate attempt to depict the victims’ plight, written with deep humility for unless we walk in their shoes we cannot know the unimaginable pain they bear. I offer it with empathy for their suffering, and admiration for their courage in the face of such heinous crimes. India Today Data Intelligence Unit (DIU) has found that between 2014 and 2018, there have been 1,483 victims of acid attacks in the country, according to data released by the National Crime Records Bureau. Many more go unreported or unrecorded. 

In my dreams I am whole, with my easy laughs, ready quips, fleeting annoyances, steady love of ice cream. I am walking, happy. But I shiver. I walk towards the sun. I don’t see the gaping pit ahead. I wake up shaking, sweating, hot and cold. Then my hands are on my face, and… I feel the scars, the craters, the hardness — Your gift.

Your gift erased so much of me, my face, my one window to the world. They say we are nothing without memories. We are also nothing without a face. This visage, this countenance, this mirror where the world sees itself reflected and knows its place. How do I tell the world who I am? I look in the mirror and my one watery eye sees a stranger, a horror story with no end. This thing that used to be a face, a recognition, a mirror is now a dark hole where all light ends and nothing reflects. Where there used to be me, my signature smile, my left cheek’s dimple – it’s all gone. I remain a nameless, faceless ghost visible only in my misfortune. Your branding iron left a seething script. 

When it first happened, they wanted me to utter your name. I wouldn’t defile my mouth. The neighbors, the relatives, even the police came asking. They came to condole, to comfort my father, my mother, my brother who seethes in daily rage. But I know they just came to see me – the remains of me. Curiosity beats empathy but sometimes that’s the only vehicle to my door. I wrote your name down only once and gave it to the police. My mother took a photo of that piece of paper with my brother’s phone. When did she learn to take photos with a phone? She knew I wouldn’t utter it again, so she kept the “evidence” she said. But I know she keeps this paper to rekindle vengeful fires in her heart. My gentle, god-fearing Kali, who quietly tolerated harsh words from her mother and mother-in-law, is ready to kill for me today.

My father does not look at me. I miss how he used to cup my face, kiss my forehead every morning. Proud Papa. Now he won’t touch my face, just puts a hand on my head looking away. Sometimes I hear him crying when he thinks I can’t hear. My mother hardly cries. Instead she asks him harshly, “What’s the point of crying now?! Have you called the lawyer?” She is hard. So hard I fear her brittleness will break her. She only softens when she brings me food. Patiently lets me eat, gently wiping the drool from my mouth. My lips’ bare remains, mere lines relearn how to contain food. Grateful I can still taste, I tell her how much I love it. She won’t even acknowledge this joy. She keeps her vengeance alive.

I can’t recall the particulars, only the horrific pain of your carnage. Or why? Later they said it was because “you could not bear an unrequited love”. “Love”? Yes Love! Love? I want to laugh! I have forgotten that sordid history. Somehow the acid erased that too; clean, flat, blank like the contours of my face. Perhaps best this way or I may join those that blame me. “She could have said yes…”, “She could have married him…”, “Girls these days think they are better than anyone…”. Your signature devastation demands justice and there will be none. Blaming me helps the onlookers feel better. Perhaps safer. Some relief for their miserable, beaten souls. 

When I came home after the first 23 surgeries, I heard them in my stupor from all the painkillers. I hated them then. All of them who said, who still say I could have alleviated your hate, who think I should now be traded off to someone even lesser, to “free” my parents. Perhaps free them of any hint of guilt. They know they are who made you possible. They supplied the fodder for the kind of anger you thrive in. When I first heard them I would scream but no sound emerged. Only violent, bruising tears. But then my mother – my gentle Kali – took care of them and their solicitousness. That makes me smile – only on the inside. The skin on my face borrowed from my thighs, my stomach stretches too thin to bridge a smile. I’ve tried it in the mirror – a contortion for a smile. I cringe with my eyes without eyelashes, even as I marvel at my perfect painted eyebrows. I often marvel at how well I saw all the flaws in my reflection before this annihilation of me. Maybe now I will learn to accept what I see. Maybe that is how I win.

It’s been over two years since I came home. I must have nightmares because my mother shakes me awake, often caressing my forehead, trying to calm me. But all I remember are dreams where I am whole. At first I prayed for a merciful death. But now I don’t want to die. I listen for the birds singing in the morning. My good eye loves the sun. I still marvel at how well my mother sings. I cook with her, I learn to sew with her, little things. Soon my hands will be steady. I put my head on my father’s knee when he comes home every evening. His blessing stalls the night.

This week I step out for the first time. I shake so hard that my Kali grips my hand tight as I accompany her to the market. I cover the side of my face. I want to keep my old face. I don’t let go of her hand. Soon I know I will bare my whole face and let them all see — and let you see. Maybe when I see you in court. I will look and point at you – steady, unselfconscious, straight. Maybe you can relish what you wrought. Your hatred manifesto. I will let you flinch at my ugly erasure. And when you flinch I will laugh. You gave me unutterable pain, you scarred me for life, almost erased me. Almost. The me that your acid cannot erase, is here. Still here. I win because I will make YOU look away. 


Reena Kapoor is a writer and photographer. Her poems take the reader on journeys through a multitude of places, time periods, and emotions. ‘Arrivals & Departures‘ is her debut poetry collection. 

Art That People Step On

While walking, have you ever walked around or over a spot that looks dirty because of leaks, spills, smudges, or splatter? How about bird poop?

The next time you come across what looks like a dirty area, don’t just keep walking. Stop and look, and have your smartphone camera ready. You will be surprised to find patterns that look like art in the area that looks like it should be avoided.

I initially started looking for patterns in nature and on paved surfaces, walls, and in other manmade objects that looked like the symbol “or “OM”, which is a symbol that has religious and spiritual significance for Hindus. I only found two patterns that looked somewhat like .” 

At the end of the year 2016, I started noticing other patterns in spills, leaks, stains, smudges, splatter, spit, and weathered, eroded, and repaired portions of sidewalks and other paved and semi-paved areas that people generally step on without paying much attention. To my curious mind and eyes, some of the patterns looked like works of art. Soon I started noticing more and more ‘works of art’ as I walked on paved, semi-paved, and unpaved surfaces. Using the camera on my smartphone, I started taking pictures of the artistic patterns observed.

I, now, have a growing collection of photos called “Art That People Step On” and am able to quickly spot art-like patterns in dirty-looking areas on surfaces.

Some of the skills used to identify patterns of art in what appears to be dirty-looking areas include focused observation, identifying patterns, making connections, rotational visualization, asking questions, curiosity, and imagination. 

Viewers’ interpretations of what the pictures are and the artist’s interpretations may be quite different, and this is perfectly okay. Everyone perceives things differently, based on their prior knowledge, experiences, and cultural perspectives. 

If the pictures provoke some conversations among strangers, acquaintances, friends, and family members who view them, I will be happy. 

Photos from the “Art That People Step On” collection have been exhibited at the Beverly Hills art show in May 2019, October 2019, and October 2020. During the show in October 2020, one photo was awarded the Third Place ribbon by the judges and also won the People’s Choice Award in the Photography category

Why don’t you try your hand at it? What would you title this picture?


Dr. Mandayam Osuri Thirunarayanan was born in Madras, India. He became a citizen of the United States and currently lives in Miami, Florida.

The Serenity Project Transforms Pain

Serene Singh is a Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford completing her postgraduate studies in Public Policy but it is her work outside of academics that initially inspired her. As former America’s Junior Miss and Miss Colorado Teen, her pageantry and modeling experience created a space for her to empower women worldwide. She created The Serenity Project nonprofit to give confidence and self-love tools, improve, and provide access and opportunity to at-risk women.

The Serenity Project was founded in 2016 after Serene lost a best friend, a survivor of violence, to suicide.

Suicide is one of the leading causes of death for at-risk women in the U.S., womxn who unduly battle body dysmorphia. While working in the US Senate on violence, trafficking, and rape policies she noticed womxn survivors were never in-charge of the settings where changes impacting survivors were created. Serene dreamt of empowering survivors to dream again. In the face of a culture of mental health stigmatization, societal shaming of survivors, and a lack of tools for at-risk womxn to gain confidence, Serene’s vision to support and empower women has made waves and had an impact spanning across the United States and reaching hundreds of womxn. Previous project participants include (but are not limited to) survivors of domestic violence, attempted suicides, PTSD, human trafficking, etc.

Empowering womxn survivors to transform their pain into their power is what The Serenity Project is about.  

The Serenity Project empowers “at-risk” womxn by challenging 1) unhealthy beauty standards 2) the rising number of suicide attempts and 3) the lack of support, tools, and skills survivors receive to grow through the trauma they have gone through. 

The Serenity Project begins with a 10-15 at-risk womxn to participate in a kick-off fashion show (featured in the Documentary) followed by a 12-month curriculum called the Soaring Curriculum, alongside a globally-based mentorship program. The curriculum builds skills (i.e. self-compassion, meditation, public speaking) while womxn mentors from around the globe are able to serve as mentors and support survivors to develop passion projects that help the womxn pay their experiences forward and invest in their dreams.

The Serenity Project’s recent release of The Serenity Project documentary captures the very first year of the project lifting off the ground. The visceral impact of witnessing womxn gaining confidence and unapologetically being their true selves touched everyone’s heart. The Live Zoom event followed by the Youtube Premiering of the Documentary brought tears to the eyes of many viewers who were survivors themselves. 

Serene Singh states, “There is nothing more powerful and inspiring than a woman who discovers her wings and uses them to build herself up and bring others with her too. That is what this nonprofit is all about.” 

For more information or inquiries, visit their website or email theserenityprojectofficial@gmail.com


 

They Call Me “Manu Master”

Virtual Bharat’s most recent film is set in Koolimuttam, Kerala. A story of a man, a rebel, a master, known to his disciples and thus to the world, by one name; “Manu Master,” he says with pride as he looks at the nature around him. His eyes are kind and filled with strength and wisdom. His red shawl flutters in the wind. 

Manu Master was born in Koolimuttam, in the 1960s, as Abdul Manaf. Little Abdul loved the arts. He accompanied his uncle to Kathakali recitals, performances and katcheris alike. He jumped across the compound wall at school every day to simply watch and admire the dance lessons that were being taken by a teacher right next door. Spotting his interest in the arts, his uncle enrolled him to learn bharatanatyam when he was only 12 years of age, and that marked the beginning of Abdul Manaf’s journey in Bharatanatyam

Bharatanatyam was considered a temple art form. The postures and grace of the dance are a reflection of those of several Hindu gods and goddesses. Abdul Manaf was not a part of this culture, and was thus regarded an outsider. He trained in several other dance forms – Mohiniyattam, Kathakali…but his heart always lay with Bharatanatyam. At the age of 20, he decided to move to Tamil Nadu to train and master the traditional style of Bharatanatyam – one that had been banned by the British, in their move to stamp out Indian culture. Today, he is one of the leading exponents of this style of dance. 

Abdul believes that “the true God, is love, and art is the medium to reach love. “Mohabbat,” he says, is what his dance is an expression of. He refused to allow aspects like his name to get in the way of his love for dance. Abdul Manaf took the name ‘Manu’, a nickname given to him by his mother, and started to practice under this name. He admired the Tantric school of the dance and says it was his Guru Chitra Visweswaran who changed his life. She showed him how the body, was but a small replica of the entire universe, and thus how through certain postures one could unveil the Maha Mantras (sacred truths of the world). 

His movements echo the simplicity, grace, and freedom of postures of love and desire – characteristic of the Tantric school of Bharatanatyam. His audience is spellbound when he moves. The very air around him changes. There is a silence and magic to his performance and even the simplest of mudras can bring tears to the spectator’s eyes. Manu today, dedicates his life to not only keeping this Tantric tradition of Bharatanatyam alive, but to his disciples as well. He looks at them with a smile, and says “my teachers have always shown me the right path, but I want them to be able to choose their own paths.” 

As the team of Virtual Bharat shot with Manu Master, they were spellbound by not only his movements but the way these movements echoed the beauty of the nature around him. Watch the film capture his story through his dance below!

 

Virtual Bharat in collaboration with India Currents will release a monthly series highlighting the stories Virtual Bharat is capturing in India. Stay tuned for more!

Virtual Bharat is a 1000 film journey of untold stories of India spanning people, landscapes, literature, folklore, dance, music, traditions, architecture, and more in a repository of culture. The vision of director Bharatbala, creator of Maa Tujhe Salaam, we are a tale of India told person-by-person, story-by-story, and experience-by-experience. The films are under 10 minutes in length and are currently available on Virtual Bharat’s Youtube Channel

Orchha – A Hidden Heritage Site

Just because you’re stuck at home doesn’t mean you can’t add another place to your travel list.

Orchha in Madhya Pradesh, India is a ‘hidden’ gem. It’s historical monuments adjacent to pristine nature narrate a story.

I happened to be in Orchha, Madhya Pradesh, on the occasion of ‘Namaste Orchha’ festival, whose director Yasmin Kidwai said that, “Madhya Pradesh is a very underrated destination. While its wildlife is acknowledged, the state’s vast historical and architectural heritage is not. The state represents what best India has to offer. Orchha is a part of these untold and undiscovered destinations in the state.” 

A small town in Bundelkhand region may have just emerged as the key to unleashing the rich potential of tourism in Madhya Pradesh, but it is a treasure trove of forts, rivers, forests, and cultures. 

So, to explore its historical and architectural heritage, I had decided to roam around the nooks and corners of the small town with a glorious past. 

Colors of Architecture 

Chatturbhuj Mandir

Founded in the 18th century by Rudra Pratap Singh, Orchha became the capital of the Bundela Rajput dynasty. Planned along the river Betwa, the complex of forts, palaces, and cenotaphs surprise the visitors with the unexpected. While exploring them, legends come alive and you are lost in a labyrinth inducing curiosity.

Yes, this is Orchha. A vast canvas with all the colors of architecture and each color tells a unique and vibrant story. It is the only place in India where Lord Ram is worshipped as a King. The grand temples stand majestically against the landscape, merging the stories of valor of the Rajput Kings with those of the Gods. 

Chhatris – Memorials of Rulers 

Chhatris along the river.

Fourteen chhatris or cenotaphs line the Kanchan Ghat of the river Betwa. Built in the 17th and 18th centuries, chhatris are memorials spaces for the rulers of Orchha. Like the pyramids of Egypt, they were constructed to respect the dead, but no treasure can be found here. While watching the flowing river, walking through the green fields, you can marvel at their intricate beauty. While passing through the square shape cenotaph of Vir Singh Deo, I felt as though I could spend hours admiring the structure. 

Splendid Palaces 

Orchha, which means ‘hidden’, has a paradise of forts that need to be explored and admired for its blend of Mughal and Bundela architecture. To understand the grandeur of the past, one must visit the fort complex where Orchha’s rulers used to live. It is a delightful experience to watch the sunset from the jharokas built on the fort’s exteriors. From the top, you can see the entire town and three main structures of the fort – Raja Mahal, Jehangir Mahal, and Rai Praveen Mahal. 

Raja Mahal includes the Sheesh Mahal and every evening you can enjoy a light and sound show which narrates the story of the Bundelas. It is one of the most historic monuments in the fort.

Situated to the right of the quadrangle, is a palace built by Madhukar Shah. The plain exteriors crowned by chhatris, give way to interiors with exquisite murals, bold colors, and a variety of religious themes.

Jehangir Mahal has intricate carvings and large verandahs at every step. Passing through several dungeon-like staircases and maze-like rooms will leave you in awe. Invited by the Bundela King, Jehangir came and ended up staying for a long time; this was constructed to honor him. The Jahangir Mahal is multi-story and offers spectacular views from its balconies.

Rai Praveen Mahal was constructed for the poetess and singer of the royal court at Orchha during the time of Raja Indramani. When Emperor Akbar heard about her beauty, he ordered to send her to Delhi. But, her commitment and love for Indramani forced Akbar to send her back to Orchha. The palace built for her is a low two-storied brick structure, designed to match the height of the trees in the surroundings. Now it is left with stories of the glorious past in its ruins.

Temple Tales 

Raja Ram Temple is the main temple for the people of Orchha, where Ram is worshipped as king, not as a God. This complex was originally the palace of then-ruler, Madhukar Shah Judev, a devotee of Lord Krishna. His wife, Queen Ganesh Kunwari, worshipped Lord Rama and wanted to place his idol in the palace. At odds, the Queen set out to Ayodhaya. Pleased by her prayers alongside river Sarayu, Lord Ram appeared in the form of a baby and agreed to go with her on the condition that he will be the king of Orchha and the first place she seats him will be his final place of stay. On returning, the queen placed him in the palace for the night. Next morning, when she tried to take the idol to the Chaturbhuj Temple, which was constructed for it, Lord Ram did not move; hence the palace became the Raja Ram temple. 

The Chaturbhuj Temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and constructed on a stone platform and is a rectangular building only reached by climbing a long flight of stairs. The temple has brown walls and beautifully carved high ceilings; a 202-meter-high ceiling is undoubtedly a unique feature of any Hindu temple. You will not find any carvings in this temple but the beautiful blend of palace and temple architecture is impressive. Lotus emblems and other symbols of religious significances provide delicate exterior ornamentation. Within the sanctum, it is chastely plain with high, vaulted walls emphasizing its deep sanctity.

Laxminarayan Mandir

Laxminarayan Temple is also a blend of fort and temple architecture. The interior is decorated with wall paintings and ceiling murals, which are vivid compositions. Although it’s a palatial temple with ongoing construction, you can still feel the serenity and calmness soothe your mind and body. 

Homestays – An Emerging Concept

Maximum tourists are preferring to stay in homestays, which is an emerging market. Designer Anupama Dayal painted the walls of these simple but comfortable stays with the drawings of Gond art. “It is a repetitive motif albeit in completely different art styles in the frescos and the colorful Gond art. These lovely motifs symbolize the freedom and the link between earth, waters, and strong elements of Orchha,” she told. 

Suman Bajpai is a freelance writer, journalist, editor, translator, traveler, and storyteller based in Delhi. She has written more than 10 books on different subjects and translated around 130 books from English to Hindi. 

You Are the Cake and More

“I start my day choosing happiness and being in the moment, as the mystery of the moment opens up to me” writes Geetanjali Arunkumar in her book, ‘You are the cake’. Such revelations that she arrived at through travails of illness and loneliness are what she shares in this debut work.

This is a book written from the heart and is a timely and gentle reminder to tap into our essence, even as many influences sap our energy and erode our confidence. A joyous, tasty metaphor for everyone alike, young, old and in-between, the title leaves open the door to accepting and enjoying who we are as individuals and build on that.

Accepting such a notion and not just thriving, but flourishing is the author’s message, one that she’s obviously been mastering even as she’s overcome inordinate challenges.

Right from the get-go the reader can realize that this author’s journey is one that many of us can relate to, even if the challenges may be varied in intensity. Reading on, one also realizes that this is not from a self-help guru, though we need guidance at times from one such, but from lived experiences and lessons learned through struggles.

As she aptly says, trusting the inner voice clarifies the action and path empowering one to make the right choices, be it of friends or partners, and other life’s decisions, big or small.

For many of us life rambles on, at times desultory and as Michelle Obama writes in, Becoming, of her good friends, ‘ Most of us lived in a state of constant calibration, tweaking one area of life in hopes of bringing more steadiness to another’, and ‘’You’re the cake’ offers a recipe for that.

I’m one for mnemonics and  “FACT-RE” as depicted by multiple layers of the cake – self- forgiveness, acceptance, compassion and trust, leading to respect and empowerment – is one I’ve begun remembering when I feel unsettled.

Original Artwork of Sravya Attaluri

Geetanjali then expounds thru’ the Recipe and Utensils used for cooking up happiness, emphasizes what seems obvious, such as hobbies, but often ignored, limited by our daily lives. 

The author quotes Muhammad Ali, “It’s the affirmations that lead to beliefs, and moreover once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.”  Affirmations convert desires into reality, but she points out it’s good to be realistic about desires to begin with, and with time it will lead to greater things. 

Geetanjali provides tools like journaling, keeping a gratitude diary, or even tasks as simple as, when falling asleep ‘being grateful for the smallest things that happened during the day’ and, ‘ wak[ing] up in the morning using Abraham/Esther Hicks method of seventeen seconds of positivity and beauty.’ These soften the dissonance or even chime a song in our hearts!

Showing appreciation and acknowledging another person and being non-judgmental, as we’d like to be treated ourselves, strengthens the other and certainly builds lasting relationships.

I wish I’d had this book when I’d had an accident some long years back and was quite dispirited , but needing to pick myself back up, raise our toddler son and get back to work, with great support from my husband and loved ones.

There’s a Tamil proverb my grandma used to tell my mom, which roughly translates to, ‘only if you have a wall, can you paint a mural’. Only when we are kind to and take care of ourselves, can we be of support to others 

Geetanjali’s talents show not only in her writing style – such as, “…. Ways to unfold your soul, which whispers to you the truth of your gifts…” and inspiring thoughts, which are well-researched and informed, but also she accompanies them with lively and spot-on illustrations. This Bay Area author serves up the cake with swirls of decadence and pearls of wisdom on an inviting platter! 

Madhu Raghavan is a pediatrician who enjoys writing, exploring our great outdoors, gardening and art as pastime.

First Sari Parade Held in San Francisco

All photos: Alpana Aras. www.alpanaaras.com

WomenNow organized a Sari Parade where over 600 participants walked down the streets of San Francisco, flaunting their culture and identity woven in five yards of grace.

The Sari Parade was held at the fifth annual Spring India Day Festival this June and this unique parade took place for the first time ever. Both events were free for all, resulting in an amalgamation of cultures tied together with dance and music. Lining the parade were stalls of food, clothes and jewelry similar to a street market in India.

The buzzing excitement of participants wearing Incredible India sashes, the dances along with live Dhol, and the colorful landscape of Union Square evoked emotions beyond a national pride. This truly was a showcase of India’s true colors and heritage.

Photo: Alpana Aras. www.alpanaaras.com

The event was held in collaboration with Compassionate Chef, which works with the Tenderloin After School Program to help impoverished kids obtain the resources to become global citizens.

Notable guests in attendance included Mayor London Breed and the Consul General of India, Sanjay Panda.

Mayor London Breed gave an encouraging speech about how our different cultures and families bring us together, and how our different backgrounds are an important identity of the city of San Francisco.
A vast spectrum of participants from housewives, to models, Silicon Valley technology gurus, doctors, engineers, as well as representatives from every other professions were present. The vast spectrum of saris were showcased and every style of sari from traditional to modern, every type of drape, and every color were in attendance.
In the midst of the parade were demonstrations of how to drape a sari in various styles for everyone to learn more about what exactly a sari means to an Indian women.
The parade was sponsored by Incredible India! India’s official tourism agency, to showcase Indian tourism. Other sponsors include Zee TV, Rotimatic Singapore and Shasta India.

Sun: Natyanjali’s Stunning Production

Sun, The Annual Magnum Opus of the Natyanjali School of Dance Comes To Town

Dr. Malini Krishnamurthi was wandering through the Altes museum in Berlin, Germany when she spotted a familiar sight. The statue so familiar in so unfamiliar a setting took her by surprise. A ray of pleasure shone into her eyes. Her heart warmed as she spotted the statue of Soorya, the Sun god. Instantly transported to her home in India she remembered feeling the same pleasure when she had spotted the Egyptian Sun God, Ra in the Metropolitan museum in New York.

“Two ancient civilizations, India and Egypt miles apart had followed similar rituals and beliefs unbeknown to each other”, said Dr. Malini Krishnamurthi. “Both civilizations had similar ways of perceiving divinity. I want to share this with the rest of the world through the synthesis of North Indian, South Indian and Egyptian music and dance.”

The Natyanjali school of dance, whose artistic director and founder she is, is known for its annual magnum opus productions that are elaborate, unique and distinct. They aim to educate, inform and entertain. They appeal to both the novice and the connoisseur.

This year, in 2019, the school’s production is Sun, a tribute to the Hindu Sun God, Soorya and Egyptian Sun God, Ra will showcase the contrast and similarities of the two civilizations and their penchant for nature worship. Fifteen students from the age of ten to eighteen will perform a string of dances showcasing the two beliefs.

 Choreographed to Egyptian music the dance will show the juxtaposition between the two civilizations.

While Indians offered Gayatri Mantra prayers and water to the Sun, the Egyptian civilization used their intermediaries, the Pharaohs to appease the Sun god and plead to the serpent, Apophis who challenged Ra.

The oldest surviving Indian Vedic hymns, such as hymn 1.115 of the Rig-veda, mention Surya with reverence as the one that dispels darkness, empowers knowledge, the good, and all life. TheKonark Sun Temple represents the temple built for the Sun god.

In Egypt, the obelisk, a tall, four-sided, narrow tapering monument that ends in a pyramid-like shape, symbolizes the sun god Ra. “The rays of the sun, touched the obelisk and hit the floor. The temples were built with no roofs,” said Dr. Malini Krishnamurthi.“Two civilizations, we now see from the records of the historians, were doing identical rituals without knowing what the other was doing.”

Highly accomplished and acclaimed musicians from Bangalore Shrinithi Mathur Vocal, Shri H Shrihari on the Mridangam and Narsimha Murthy on the flute will give music to the performance.

The performance aims to entertain and educate. Under the direction of Guru Dr. Malini Krishnamurthi from Natyanjali school of dance students are trained in the craft of Bharatnatyam. One of the leading exponents of Bharata Natyam in Los Angeles, California, Guru Dr. MaliniKrishnamurthi, Founder and Artistic Director of Natyanjali School of Bharata Natyam Dance in Los Angeles, teaches dance in West Covina, California.

Date, Time: August 3 @ 6:00 pm – 8:30 pm

Venue: Campus Theatre at Fullerton College, 321 E. Chapman Ave.
Fullerton, CA 92832

Website / Contact : Darshana https://natyanjali.org/event/sun/

VIP seat ticket $50.00 Standard seat ticket $30.00 Discount seat ticket $20.00

Ode To A Saree

Ode To A Saree

Author in a saree

I am tradition and culture
savvy and modern
I am ageless
neither old nor young
I am emotions, memories
sentiments and longings
I am of all hues 
pastel and vibrant
I am beauty and grace
happiness and envy 
I anger and placate
entice and flatter
I conform to contours
draped any which way
I am a riddle until unfurled
6 yards of sheer wonder
I am an obsession 
of every woman!

Bangles

From the Indus, Mayan, Mauryan, and Roman civilizations to Chanel, Kate Spade, Swarowski, and Bvlgari, bangles continue to tantalize women the world over. 

Perfectly rounded and ornate, 
glass, metal, lacquer, and agate.
Unparalleled in splendor and beauty
the very symbol of femininity.
Seductive, tantalizing, trendy
beautiful, bright, contemporary.
Luminous, delicate, tinkling 
intricate, shiny, twinkling.
Of every color and every shade
satisfying any need and taste. 
A child’s laughter, a bride’s pride
exotic, precious, worn with delight.
Ancient as the ‘Dancing girl’ sculpture
donned by women in modern culture.

Author at her wedding

An only child, now a wife and mother of two adult children, I am a poet at heart who involuntarily thinks and writes in verse.  Emotions and memories that tug my heart slip out into my notepad as poems. Poetry which began as a hobby when I was a teenager became my catharsis after my father passed away in 2015.

Ayurveda: Good Health as Reality

Ayurvedic Face Packs

AYURVEDIC FACE PACKS

Chickpea face pack for dull skin
This is one of the most effective and efficient face packs for dull skin. Its exfoliating action takes away the dead cells, and it is a famous Ayurvedic remedy for blemishes too. Regular usage will result in soft, smooth, and glowing skin, and slowly, blemishes will start fading too. There is no other face pack that takes sun tan away like this one does. It clears the skin and gives it an added glow.Face Mask

Ingredients
1 tablespoon chickpea flour (besan)
Few drops fresh-squeezed lemon juice
Pinch of turmeric powder
1–2 tablespoons rose water (for aged skin) or milk (for dry skin) or yogurt (for acne or oily skin), or enough to make a paste
Method
1. Mix all ingredients to make a paste.
2. Apply the mask to cleansed face and leave on for 10 minutes. Rinse with warm water.

Saffron skin glow-enhancing ubtan
Saffron is the best antiblemish and complexion-enhancing agent. Oats are highly absorptive and soften the skin. Red lentil has excellent skin-cleansing properties. It can be used on the face as well as all over the body. Milk has a nourishing quality. All of these wonderful ingredients, when mixed and applied on the face, clean it as well as soften it and add a glowing quality.

Ingredients
½ cup red lentil flour (masoor)
¼ cup ground oats
¼ teaspoon saffron strands
1 tablespoon cool milk, or enough to make a paste
Method
1. Mix all ingredients into a paste.
2. Apply a thin layer on face and body. Wash off with cool water after ten minutes.

Rose Exfoliator
This recipe is for good for all skin types including extremely sensitive skin.
Ingredients
1 teaspoon rock candy, ground into a fine powder
1 teaspoon whole milk
1 teaspoon rose water
½ teaspoon honey (for oily/hot skin) or ghee (for dry skin)
Method
1. Mix all ingredients to make a paste.
2. Use both hands to exfoliate the face by rubbing the mixture gently on the skin.
3. Rinse with warm water after a few minutes. Moisturize if desired with a light moisturizer.

MUNG BEAN PANCAKES
Mung is mentioned as the best among beans in Ayurveda texts. This is my everyday breakfast. I make the batter ahead of time and make fresh pancakes for the entire family. This recipe is satiating but very light and works for everyone. Whether you are trying to lose weight or gain, mung supports a healthy metabolism.

Ingredients
1 cup yellow mung beans (soaked 3 hours or overnight)
½ teaspoon ground, roasted cumin
½ teaspoon rock salt
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
¼ teaspoon grated fresh ginger ⅛ teaspoon asafetida
2 tablespoons ghee

Method
1. Drain soaking liquid from mung beans and place in a blender. Blend on high speed for about 1 minute, adding a small amount of water (about 2 tablespoons) until smooth.
2. Add cumin, salt, turmeric, ginger, and asafoetida and blend again briefly. Thin the mixture with enough water so that batter is a medium-thin consistency similar to wheat-flour pancake batter.
3. Heat a small amount of ghee (½–1 teaspoon) in a skillet or griddle on medium heat.
4. Drop a small ladle full of batter (¼ cup) onto griddle and spread in a circle. Cook on first side until edges start to brown and lift, about 5 minutes.
5. Flip pancake with spatula and cook on second side until golden brown, about 3–5 minutes.
6. Repeat steps 3 through 5 with the rest of the batter and ghee.

Read here for more details on book. https://indiacurrents.com/ayurveda-good-health-reality/

Excerpted from Ayurveda Lifestyle Wisdom, by Acharya Shunya. Sounds True, February 2017. Reprinted with permission. For more information, visit www.acharyashunya.com

Ayurveda: Good Health as Reality

Ayurveda: Good Health as Reality

The book, Ayurveda Lifestyle Wisdom, has the potential to change your state of health for the better—permanently. Health is not just a possibility that you might achieve. It is a reality, an underlying natural state of being. Health will manifest once you begin to live in alignment with Nature’s intelligence. This is the promise of Ayurveda, India’s five-thousand-year-old system of health and healing.Ayurveda

When I was growing up in India, I witnessed a spiritual master, my grandfather, whom I addressed as Baba, remind the diseased and the suffering of their abidingly healthy nature. He taught them simple ways to align with Nature on a daily basis, and enigmatically, this ignited powerful healing of body, mind, and soul. While there wasn’t a focus on the symptoms of disease perse, I saw cancers disappear, ulcers heal, and chronic depression lift.

I think I had rationalized that these “miracles” were possible because my teacher was a spiritually realized being. Clearly, my guru’s spiritual presence was undeniable. But as I grew up and observed more, I recognized that Baba’s skills in transmitting a highly rational science of Ayurveda lifestyle was also a key factor.

Ayurveda proposes two methodologies toward approaching health. The first is preventive and promotive. It proposes protecting and enhancing health with a set of lifestyle practices. This is the “wisdom” approach of evoking inner health, known as swasthya-raksha in Sanskrit. It incorporates at every step lessons from the spiritual sister sciences of yoga and Vedanta.

The second methodology is “restorative.” It includes disease management using herbal drugs, body treatments, and even surgery (though surgery is no longer an active modality in Ayurveda today). This methodology is known as vikara prashamana in Sanskrit. Both approaches are equally valid, at appropriate junctures.

If disease management via drugs is taken up without a parallel investment in a healthy lifestyle, the body becomes a battle-ground all too quickly. There is a wellspring of power within us, a spiritual truth, that we must honor; and we never give away our power to any disease, just because we have a scary-sounding condition with a grim prognosis. In fact, it is now more than ever that we must activate our latent health response through a scientific life-style that is in sync with Nature’s laws. If you are consuming Eastern or Western drugs, a healthy Ayurveda-inspired lifestyle in conjunction will expedite recovery and additionally facilitate well-being.

When we examine Ayurveda’s source literature, spanning from the Vedas (4500 BCE) all the way to the sixteenth century, it was lifestyle wisdom that occupied the central stage. Disease management gained increasing priority in the later texts. In fact, this is how the sages who gave us the ancient Vedas and original spiritual sciences of Ayurveda, yoga, Vedanta, meditation, sacred art, architecture, music, and dance lived! They boldly cultivated radiant health day by day as an expression of their god consciousness.

I am one of the fortunate teachers born into a family of teachers with an uninterrupted educational lineage, a family that has lived as well as transmitted this ancient wisdom for untold years in the plains of northern India. I have not only mastered the knowledge academically, I have also lived it.Indian Spices

Vedic education was imparted to the student for a minimum of twelve years. I studied for fourteen, along with regular schooling, and graduated as an acharya, which means “a master spiritual teacher of lived Vedic knowledge who teaches not only by word, but through role modeling by behavior.” When I was growing up in India, living and learning this knowledge in the family of my teacher, I had no idea that one day I would be writing this book for a world audience. And yet, this is what has happened. This is less a testimony of my life journey and more of a shout-out for Ayurveda. What is the truth cannot be kept under wraps for long. More and more people are seeking Ayurveda’s lifestyle and benefiting from its transformative wisdom.

I hope this wisdom will change your life for the better too, as it did mine. But first, you have to believe that anything is possible.

Excerpted from Ayurveda Lifestyle Wisdom, by Acharya Shunya. Sounds True, February 2017. Reprinted with permission. For more information, visit www.acharyashunya.com


AYURVEDIC FACE PACKS

Chickpea face pack for dull skin
This is one of the most effective and efficient face packs for dull skin. Its exfoliating action takes away the dead cells, and it is a famous Ayurvedic remedy for blemishes too. Regular usage will result in soft, smooth, and glowing skin, and slowly, blemishes will start fading too. There is no other face pack that takes sun tan away like this one does. It clears the skin and gives it an added glow.

Ingredients
1 tablespoon chickpea flour (besan)
Few drops fresh-squeezed lemon juice
Pinch of turmeric powder
1–2 tablespoons rose water (for aged skin) or milk (for dry skin) or yogurt (for acne or oily skin), or enough to make a paste
Method
1. Mix all ingredients to make a paste.
2. Apply the mask to cleansed face and leave on for 10 minutes. Rinse with warm water.

Saffron skin glow-enhancing ubtan
Saffron is the best antiblemish and complexion-enhancing agent. Oats are highly absorptive and soften the skin. Red lentil has excellent skin-cleansing properties. It can be used on the face as well as all over the body. Milk has a nourishing quality. All of these wonderful ingredients, when mixed and applied on the face, clean it as well as soften it and add a glowing quality.

Ingredients
½ cup red lentil flour (masoor)
¼ cup ground oats
¼ teaspoon saffron strands
1 tablespoon cool milk, or enough to make a paste
Method
1. Mix all ingredients into a paste.
2. Apply a thin layer on face and body. Wash off with cool water after ten minutes.

Rose Exfoliator
This recipe is for good for all skin types including extremely sensitive skin.
Ingredients
1 teaspoon rock candy, ground into a fine powder
1 teaspoon whole milk
1 teaspoon rose water
½ teaspoon honey (for oily/hot skin) or ghee (for dry skin)
Method
1. Mix all ingredients to make a paste.
2. Use both hands to exfoliate the face by rubbing the mixture gently on the skin.
3. Rinse with warm water after a few minutes. Moisturize if desired with a light moisturizer.

MUNG BEAN PANCAKES
Mung is mentioned as the best among beans in Ayurveda texts. This is my everyday breakfast. I make the batter ahead of time and make fresh pancakes for the entire family. This recipe is satiating but very light and works for everyone. Whether you are trying to lose weight or gain, mung supports a healthy metabolism.

Ingredients
1 cup yellow mung beans (soaked 3 hours or overnight)
½ teaspoon ground, roasted cumin
½ teaspoon rock salt
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
¼ teaspoon grated fresh ginger ⅛ teaspoon asafetida
2 tablespoons ghee

Method
1. Drain soaking liquid from mung beans and place in a blender. Blend on high speed for about 1 minute, adding a small amount of water (about 2 tablespoons) until smooth.
2. Add cumin, salt, turmeric, ginger, and asafoetida and blend again briefly. Thin the mixture with enough water so that batter is a medium-thin consistency similar to wheat-flour pancake batter.
3. Heat a small amount of ghee (½–1 teaspoon) in a skillet or griddle on medium heat.
4. Drop a small ladle full of batter (¼ cup) onto griddle and spread in a circle. Cook on first side until edges start to brown and lift, about 5 minutes.
5. Flip pancake with spatula and cook on second side until golden brown, about 3–5 minutes.
6. Repeat steps 3 through 5 with the rest of the batter and ghee.

Fifty Shades of Green and More in Switzerland

Fifty Shades of Green and More in Switzerland

The journey begins when the airline stewardess sets a tray of Swiss chocolates in front of you. I chose one tiny piece, even though the whole tray looked scrumptious enough to eat. The chocolate melts in my mouth and hits a sweet spot—the Swiss experience begins in the air! Braunwald chalet

After the plane gently thuds onto the tarmac, within moments I am whisked into an automated tube train hurtling towards the main airport terminal. The sounds of alpine horns, yodelling and the mooing of cows surges in a soundtrack over the whoosh of the train as we ride along—the Swiss sure know to welcome a guest.

I leave the bustling airport swarming with skiers, backpackers, school children on vacation,  tourists from all over the world and  buses filled with Indians. Yes—that’s rights—there are buses full of Indian tourists at the airport. Indians are beloved by the Swiss Government for they are among the country’s most dedicated visitors. The Government recently erected a statue of late Yash Chopra  the famous Bollywood  producer in Interlaken. He used Switzerland as the backdrop for many of his blockbusters which resulted in thousands of Indians making the country their first choice for a vacation. They continue to visit  to relive the onscreen romances of Sharmila Tagore, Rajesh Khanna, Shahrukh Khan, Aishwarya Rai, Rani Mukherjee and others.

Chopra visited Switzerland for his honeymoon and was bewitched. Romantic scenes set against the background of waterfalls, snow, mountains and meadows featured so prominently in his movies that the scenery can almost be counted as a character in his idyllic romantic extravaganzas. The “king of romance” shot extensively in the region of Interlaken while he made Faasle, Chandini and the  legendary Dilwale Dulhan Le Jayenges—the stuff of dreams and fantasy indeed. He was given the title of Ambassador of Interlaken and a train on Jungfrau Railways has been named after him, an honor only bestowed upon one other persons—the founder of the railway system Adolf Guyer. A five star Victoria Jungfrau Grand hotel and spa in the area has also been named a suite after Chopra.

I enjoy the sights in Zurich, one of the most expensive cities in the world which is teeming with hedge fund millionaires, creative artists, students, and a thriving tourist industry. The city overflows with boutiques, galleries and stylish stores that spread out from a once gritty area Langstrasse to Hauptbahnhof the main  railway station with boutiques nestling under the arches of a 19th century viaduct.

After browsing through stores where we see floors of diverse goods from around the world, we now go in search of chocolate. Every year, 175,000 tons of chocolate are produced in Switzerland. And the average Swiss native eats 12 kilograms per year! Armed with that information we set off looking for the oldest chocolate maker Sprungli, situated on the main shopping street, Bahnhofstrasse. It is indeed the perfect confectionery destination, with an array of sweet treats.  I indulge in Luxembergli, a heavenly biscuit flavored with chocolate, vanilla, raspberry, caramel, champagne and more. One bite and I feel, “All’s right with the world!”

As we return home, I glance outside to see sheep and cows on the hillsides. I hear that you have to be careful on such deserted hillsides, as there have been instances of cows attacking people. And magically a picture postcard scene appears in front of me. A sparkle of a stream, frisky ponies galloping to the fence as our car cruises along roads that cut through dark forests with mountains on the far edge of the horizon. There is hardly any noise and a sense of deep calm and permanence pervades me. The beauty fills me to the point of tears.

The next day we get a chance to walk in those meadows. We are off on pine scented trails, a quintessential experience in itself. We walk up a winding road for a couple of minutes and we are amid greenery on all sides. The silence, the hushed all-embracing quiet, surrounds us as we stroll in patches of sunlight that dazzle. We pause at a stack of wood piled six feet high. A fat squirrel skitters up a tree and my eye follows it into the branches of a tree that soars upward into the blue sky. A horse and rider quietly canter by and we spot another couple. A brief smile and greeting with the traditional “Gruetsky,” we walk on again wrapped in silence in this green world of ancient trees, shrubs and mysterious pathways. Silence and contemplation overtake our senses. My heart and eyes are open as we drive down the sloping roads encircled by grey shadowy mountains, forests glinting in the sunshine, pellucid lakes and vast blue skies. And the open spaces around us? Fifty shades of green no less. How is it possible to go about one’s daily business surrounded by this aching beauty—I wonder.Black Madonna in the Benedictine monastery

If nature does not make you catch your breath and you pine for the jet set glamorous holiday on ski slopes, take off to St. Moritz, Gstaad, Verbier and Zermatt, slip on DayGlo ski suits, Gucci goggles, sunblock, slim poles and move swiftly across the snow. A Swiss sport, Skikjoring has skiers pulled by galloping horses. You can play golf, polo and see exciting horse racing or urge on racing dog sledders and feisty cows who lock horns on the meadows A traditional Swiss sport Steinstossen involves heaving 180 pound stones into the distance. If you prefer less exertion, you can go on a spectacular journey to Mount Titlis, a glacier paradise of ice and snow caves with welcoming restaurants on the top.

Swiss, French, German and Italian cuisine dominate the landscape of culinary choices, although there are any number of Thai, Sri Lankan, Russian, Brazilian and Indian restaurants as well. When it comes to local fare, you can try raclette cheese melted over pickled vegetables, boiled potatoes or rosti hash brown potatoes crisply flavored with herbs, bacon and cheese. A cornucopia of cheese based regional specialties abound as do signs for local cheese and dairy fairs. There is a lot of pride in recipes handed down through the generations despite fusion foods being listed on the menu. For the epicurean and sophisticated consumer, boutique restaurants offer creative exciting menus, architecture, sweeping views and the descant of distant cowbells on the meadow. A truly heady experience at so many levels!

We lunch at Hotel Wassemar which is perched on a hillside by driving through a winding pathway through a forest that seems to be right out of a postcard. Atop the mountain, we sit out in the terraced garden overlooking meadows and mountains and are entranced as our dishes are brought outs—french fries that arrive in a tin bucket and a sliver of fish surrounded by asparagus, that cost 30 euros. Dining out can be expensive, but there are also small restaurants where you can grab a sandwich and hot chocolate and watch the world go by. There are any number of salad bars and food stalls enticing with excellent bratwurst on the main boutique  shopping road Bahnofstrasse or the self service restaurants where we often rested our weary feet. These are very affordable choices in the city.

A stroll around the Limmat River banks with bobbing boats and tourists is a must. If you prefer  a walk that is even more tranquil, you can meander round the twisting streets, Gothic guildhalls, churches and a very impressive Cathedral Grossmunster, a 12th century Romanesque cathedral. Another landmark is the Fraununster church with stained glass windows by Marc Chagall and St Peterhofstatt which has the largest clock face in the whole of Europe.

We went on a visit to the church of the Black Madonna in Einsiedeln, a 45 minute drive from Zurich though sweeping vistas of mountains and lakes. This Benedectine Monastery houses the 15th century Black Madonna made of black marble. Pilgrims and visitors have been worshipping here for 1,000 years as the sacred place is known for its miraculous powers.  Local folklore explains that the Black Madonna’s black hue was formed by centuries of candle smoke which changed the color of the original flesh-toned image. We pray, marvel at the frescoes  and baroqoue edifices, browse the souvenir stores and rest with cappuccinos while the sun sets in a brilliant hued sky.Traditional Swiss home in the village of Ellg

During our visit, we meet families from India who have chosen to become Swiss citizens and cannot imagine living anywhere else. There are around 3,000 Indians working in the fields of technology and banking in Switzerland. Magnificent towering  apartment buildings with excellent amenities are straddled across the city housing the families. A growing number of people from Italy, France, Germany and Austria cross the border daily to work here as well. Work ranges from construction work to clerical and managerial duties.

So what is the language spoken among these diverse populations? The Swiss speak four languages fluently. Three European cultures have been so inextricably linked with the history of Switzerland that German, French and Italian are spoken along with Romansh which is perhaps the only native Swiss language. Romansh is barely used by one percent of the Swiss.

After assimilating these intriguing facts, we decide to explore the country’s history further and we felt spoilt by the  choices in front of us. There are 1000s of them in the country and we soon learn that this is the place with the highest per capita concentration of museums in the world! Museum of Shoes and Museum of Sewing machines are just a few incredulous titles that we saw on the list.  In the heart of Zurich is the Reitberg Museum exhibiting excellent collections of masterworks from India, China, Japan, Peru and other countries making it a truly global visit.

Zurich is full of surprises. On our last visit I happened to go to the police station to file a report and the walls inside the police station were filled with incredible murals and paintings. A traffic violation took me to the station. We took an illegal U turn. A foolish mistake indeed when a tram was heading in our direction with it being barely six inches away from our car. Tramlines and car lanes intersect on the same narrow roads—a detail that escaped our attention, as we were not used to looking out for trams. A deafening screech was heard as the fender of the tram hit the side of our car and merrily towed us a few hundred yards. Mercifully, no one was hurt.

At the police station far from the chaos of the accident scene, I am stunned at the visual spectacle in front of me. The painter Augusto Giacometti who died in 1947 was a brilliant artist, renowned for his visionary paintings, murals and many buildings in Zurich exhibit his versatility. This police station with huge halls and massive porticos, must have been the home of a nobleman perhaps, and it now proudly exhibited Augusto’s art. As I file my report, I find tourists gazing with rapt wonder at the murals. Obviously the police station was part of their itinerary!

The surprises keep coming. I learn that the Swiss cuckoo clock was not made by the Swiss but its birthplace was in the Blackforest area in Germany.

As they say what can be more Swiss than a chalet? So off we go chugging up a toy train in Braunwald and with deference to our wobbly knees, ignore the steep walk up, and take the only taxi up the winding enchanted mountain side to the chalet. Here we are within nodding distance of the mountains, verdant valleys and most certainly I need to use my vocal cords. So I spring up the green hillside, spread my arms to the sky and sing lustily—“The hills are alive with the sound of music,” a la Julie Andrews and no one complains!

For three months, we steeped ourselves in a fifty shades of green landscape, a country of placid lakes, gushing rivers, soaring mountains, swaying cornfields, meadows of sunflowers and storybook homes tucked away in faraway forests. We again hear the Alpine yodelling, cow bells descant on the sound track of our airport train as we head towards the plane which will fly us back to Los Angeles.

Prem Souri Kishore is a  travel and food writer, and a voice over professional speaker and radio host. She has written a book titled, ‘India: A Culinary Journey.’ Passionate about words, her personal license plate reads ‘wordstrck’ that stands for Wordstruck!