Navratri: One Festival, Many Traditions

Blog Navratri - 18th Sept

Navratri is a 9-day Hindu festival celebrated across the length and breadth of India in the months of September & October. This year, the festival falls between 21st September and 29 September. Navratri is the celebration of good over evil and is celebrated differently in different parts of the country.

Eastern & Northeastern India: Here, Navratri is celebrated in the form of Durga Puja. Goddess Durga who fights the buffalo demon, Mahishasura, and restores Dharma or right way of living or simply, the good in the universe, is venerated and prayed to for 10 days. Predominantly celebrated in West Bengal, Durga Puja includes putting up stage decorations/pandals which house beautiful clay idols of Goddess Durga. People gather at these pandals and worship the goddess, perform rites and recite chants & sing bhajans. One of the eye-catching traditions is what they call Dhunaachi Naach. Aarti or puja is performed using an incense burner called dhoop and sometimes men and women hold one or more than one dhoop and dance with them to the beats of a dhak (a kind of drum played in these parts of the country)

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Don’t Let The Blue Whale Bite Your Children!

Blue Whale Blog - 11 Sept

Dangerous gaming apps like the Blue Whale Challenge have taken the world by shock. The game designed by a Russian has resulted in 130 children suicides in Russia and 3 casualties in  India. The game gives children (generally teens are the victims) tasks to do, tasks as risky as, cutting a body part. The 50th and last challenge is the winning challenge, which is death by suicide. Experts warn parents of this contagious and addictive  game and share steps for prevention

  1. With both parents working, children are often alone for most parts of the day. Make sure you spend time with them once you get home. Ask them what they have been watching or reading on the internet. Sometimes, loneliness is not the reason, it is curiosity or the desire to do something ‘thrilling’ which gets children to play the game.The media has been sharing the consequences of games like Blue Whale Challenge, so your children probably know about it; but even so, do take time out to tell them about the game.
  2. Don’t gift them latest gadgets; it sends them the wrong signal. Children are young and have studies and other activities to focus on. They don’t need smartphones. A basic phone, primarily for communication purposes, is more than enough. In such cases, there is a lower risk of them succumbing to games like these.
  3. Monitor your child’s behaviour closely. Keep a lookout for mood swings, dull behaviour or even when they spend too much time locked in their rooms with phones or laptops. Keep a check on their usage of these gadgets and be stern about when they can use it. For eg, discourage the use of phones during dinner or an outing. However, parents must find a fine balance between monitoring and curtailing the child.
  4. Apart from monitoring your child in the real world, monitor his/her virtual world too. Use parental controls on all devices used by your children. Monitor their digital footprints and give them limited access to social media. For e.g., if the quantity of data is being consumed during odd hours, like between 1 am and 2 am, it is a sign of abnormal virtual activity.
  5. Attend workshops which are conducted by psychiatrists or cyber experts. These workshops will guide parents on how they can prevent their children from falling prey to such apps and even understanding signs of psychological changes or behavioural changes.
  6. Parents and schools must look out for these signs and treat them as they would any other illness; instead of attaching the stigma associated with mental illness.

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Choose Smart Parenting over Smart Phones

Focus on how to give time - 28th Aug

 

Technology is necessary and inevitable in this world of growing distances and diminishing time, but once it starts dominating our spaces, relationships, and lifestyles, it becomes a dangerous addiction.Speaking of dominating relationships, gadgets have increasingly started replacing parenting. Demanding jobs are making it difficult for parents to spend time with children, thus making phones the go-to device for keeping children entertained and occupied. Tabs and phones are infested with games, which children get hooked on to, giving them no opportunity to explore the outside world, learn something new or just have a simple conversation with someone.

Following are some of the ways in which parents can give more time to their young ones:

Whenever you can, make sure you pick and drop your children to school or any other activity class they go to. This commute gives you more time with them. Gadgets are going to be there everywhere, but be stern about not using them while having a conversation. That also means as parents you too should refrain from doing so!

When you pick them up from school, instead of coaxing your child to talk, why don’t you begin sharing your day’s experience with them? Tell them something interesting about your work, something funny that happened in office that day, or something new you ate or did. The child will automatically want to share his/her day in school.

Make sure they eat at the table without any gadget near them. It is important for the family to sit together at least for one meal a day. Again, a good place to strike up a conversation, the dining table often leads to great sharing.

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Go Green and Back to your Roots this Ganapathi!

Go organic this Ganesh Chaturthi - 21st Aug (1)

While world leaders meet every year to discuss climate change and about how they can run their countries by causing least harm to the environment, why not we do our bit? Let’s start with one of the most awaited festivals of the year, Ganesh Chaturthi! The festival is just round the corner and while you, your friends and family prepare to welcome him to your homes, here are some tips for an eco-friendly Ganesh Chaturthi!

Begin with Ganesha himself: At the end of the festival, many rivers, lakes and even seas get clogged with plaster of paris (pop) Ganeshas. This chemical is toxic for fish and other living organisms under water. Whereas, Ganeshas made of clay or mud dissolve easily in the water and don’t leave behind any chemical waste. If you want to give him some colour, use water based paints or water colours. When you immerse your eco-friendly Ganesha, you will do so knowing that you are keeping alive creatures under water!

Ladoos and Modaks: It is that time of the year, when you can give a break to chocolates and sweets from shops and try some home-made ladoos and Ganesha’s favourite Modak. Besan and Rava ladoos are sweets which no chocolate can match ! Just like your momos, Modaks are steamed dumplings but instead of vegetables, they will be stuffed with jaggery and grated coconut-It is Ganesha’s favourite for a reason! [Read more…]

Happy Independence Day!

14th aug1

Independence Day is celebrated every year on 15th August. This was the day when India was freed from the British Rule. It is a national festival and has equal importance for every Indian regardless of religion, class, creed or race. The way of celebration is also the same throughout the country and that is the day when you will find whole India celebrating and rejoicing. Many cultural programs are organized and children love to watch them and participate in them.

Different types of celebrations on Independence Day

Children have a different perspective. They like this day because they get sweets and holiday after flag hoisting in their schools. The National Flag is hoisted by the Prime Minister of India on the ramparts of the Red Fort, Delhi after which his speech is followed. Other politicians hoist the flag in their constituencies. Not only this, private organizations celebrate & declare holiday on Independence Day. Everywhere there is a scene of joy, pride and rejoice. No rituals but only festivities are to be seen.

Some people fly kites to express their feeling for the freedom that we have received from the British Rule. You can see hundreds of colourful kites in the sky that day and some of them in the colour of the National Flag. Some people and celebrities leave balloons of saffron, white and green colours, the colours of the Indian Tricolour, in the air.

[Read more…]

How to Keep Monsoon Diseases at Bay!

19th

The Monsoons hit the south western coast of India right on time this year, making the whole country heave a collective sigh of relief.

Now that our biggest preoccupation has been addressed, the country hopes, the rains will continue their reign over all parts of India until at least October.

The rains bring cheer for the most part, but they also bring misery (Chennai and Mumbai floods come readily to mind). However, they can hardly be held responsible for our bad civic planning, callous land encroachments and mindless destruction of environment.

For parents, the season poses twin challenges: first is getting the kids ready for school and the second is worrying about flooded roads, falling tree branches, severed power lines and careless drivers when they are away at school.

Wet uniform, soggy socks and sodden school bags do their bit to add to the misery and the grim picture about life during the monsoons we have been trying to paint is complete! Well, almost, save for the most important of them all—how to keep monsoon diseases at bay! [Read more…]

Prep your Toddler for Preschool

12th (1)

Parents of toddlers are at an interesting juncture in their life right now: on the one hand, they feel that their precious little baby is too young to be at school, but on the other they—especially when both parents are working professionals— feel a little outside help with the kid would not be unwelcome.

Either way, the moment all parents have been dreading and looking forward to at the same time is here—your baby is fast growing up, and in most cases, a little too ‘faster’ than you would ideally like. After all, we humans have come to expect to have the best of both worlds.

Your toddler is ready to take the next giant stride—she is now considered “big” enough to be on her own, but just about. You hunt for a preschool, and after a round of tut-tutting about the various aspects you were made to cough up for admission, you are now ready for the big day. Or are you?

If this is your first time and you are labouring under the impression that depositing your kid at the preschool would be a cakewalk, you have got another think coming! After all, what can go wrong with as a simple task as driving her to school, planting a kiss or two on the kid and walking away whistling a jaunty little tune. [Read more…]

A Post for Parents to Understand The Essence of Meditation

A Post for Parents to Understand The Essence of Meditation

Compilation of Social Media Ramblings on the subject by Jayaram Rajaram

This is a post for parents to understand the essence of Meditation and Oneness in Diversity. While experiencing the wonders of meditation and yoga is ideal, understanding with clarity what India has to offer is important if we are to educate our children with these core values of oneness. This post is a compilation of my comments on an international mediation post on FB which led to an insightful discussion with people from world over ( The original post is here https://www.facebook.com/NewPerspectivesByShared/videos/vb.149439235544476/221682404986825/ ). I felt there is a lot that the world needs to know about what Bharath , one of the world’s oldest civilizations has to offer. While the world is embracing meditation and yoga, it is high time we Indian parents start taking advantage of these phenomenal tools and also help our children take advantage of them for immense lifelong benefits like heightened intuition, enhanced memory, clarity of thought, understanding core secularism through an experience and feeling of oneness etc.

So here goes:

Meditation comes from Sanatana Dharma, Yoga and Vedantam which is the core of the Advaitham philosophy and school of thought. This is a gift from India (Bharath) to the world. We believe in Ekam Sat Viprah Bahuda Vadanti which means there is only one Truth but the paths are many. We do not need to convert anyone to anything. We allow people to seek the truth and believe in Vasudaiva Kutumbam which means the world is our family and the same one God resides in every creature. Loka Samastha Sukino Bhavantu – Let all creatures be free and happy, let my thoughts and actions in this birth contribute to their freedom and happiness. Sanatana Dharma now called Hinduism is timeless and is not polytheistic as propagandists make it out to be. It is pluralistic and The one God we refer to as Brahman or Paramatman can manifest in any form the worshiper can relate to and love. We accept Ganesha, Allah, Jesus, Rama, Krishna , Shiva, Saraswati, Durga or any other God or name one wishes to give the one God as manifestation of the one Truth or God. We honour God realized souls or Gurus who can guide mere mortals to this one Truth. No dogma, purely individual and not against physical / modern science. Meditate and find balance for a peaceful world that promotes oneness in diversity and not sameness. We accept all religions as true without expecting any reciprocity , as expecting reciprocity is desire and unmet desire leads to anger which is futile and removes the benefits of meditation and yoga :) So we believe man and woman move from truth to truth and hence nobody is wrong or nobody is to be condemned. Even polytheistic religions of the world or schools of thought or even atheists are not to be condemned (and are not condemned by Sanatana Dharma) and they too can benefit immensely from meditation and yoga as they are for all of humanity without any discrimination. In a nutshell meditation is for every human being!

meditation
When one meditates and enters the no-thought zone they slowly realize God or the source within. We call this nirguna bhakti. This means the source has no form as is also stated in Christianity and Islam. One could call this God consciousness , Christ Consciousness, Brahman consciousness etc. The essence is that any picture of Christ, the Kaaba stone or deities in Hinduism are aids for the spiritual child to achieve one pointedness of mind and to give a personality/attributes or association to easily focus and slowly move inwards to realize the formless source within. For this one has to eliminate the mind through practice. Not easy but a slow and steady process. The breath controls the nervous system and thoughts is what some schools of yoga talk about. We only have control over our breath. In essence if we master our breathing slowly over time we can get into deeper meditative states and manage life’s situations with a better sense of balance. Slowly we will realize that we are all ONE. The division is caused by ego or what is referred to as Maya. Love , oneness and mutual respect are the need of the hour. We mustn’t just tolerate one another, we have to respect each other and our paths from our very core.

Further, Christ, The Prophet, Rama , Krishna, Buddha, Guru Gobind Singh, Sidhas, Sapta Rishis, Jagad gurus have all walked this Earth at some point and are all God realized souls who have shown the way to millions and continue to inspire them. We have to learn from all of them without getting carried away by political versions of any religion that seeks control and blind belief without seeking, as that causes huge problems for everyone. In Sanatana Dharma we are very clear that nobody is superior or inferior- we are all one despite our bodily appearances and differences in approach to the One God.

If we read and introspect on teachings by Jagadgurus (Gurus who have experienced the Truth) or all realized souls from any religion or spiritual path we would never condemn any religion. In all cases it is unrealized /ignorant people who mess up the message and meaning handed over to them by realized souls, for control and dominance or out of sheer fear and ignorance. If we seek and practice our faith without the need to dominate and control others the world will be peaceful. While Sanatana Dharma is individual with no one person starting the religion and with thousands of scriptures and timeless Vedas discovered through meditation and penance by rishis, even founders of today’s organized religions were  God realized souls who understood oneness. The issue of bigotry comes in when mere mortals and followers of any religion misinterpret texts without seeking and understanding things in perspective and context and apply it blindly to dominate others who they feel they are superior to when the message of their religion is equality and oneness. A percentage of people of all religions without exception are guilty of feeling superior to another and brainwashing others to believe so and there lies the problem. When we meditate I believe we have to keep telling ourselves that all people and all creatures are manifestations of the One God and  parts of the whole or rather the whole in parts intrinsically interwoven and connected though invisibly. I pray and meditate for this perfect world everyday .

Meditation is a great way to understand that the jivatma (body and self identification) and paramatma (our source/ God what is within and keeps us alive) is one and the same. After knowing this, one must slowly reject the body as ”Not Me’ and dwell on the source.

Having said all that I have,  I owe my very little (almost insignificant) understanding  of the subject to all the mahaans who have walked this Punya Bhoomi called Bharath. We can all learn much more from the teachings of Adi Shankaracharya, Kanchi Paramacharya, Swami Vivekananda, Ramana Maharishi, Paramahamsa Yogananda and countless realized souls who have walked amongst mere mortals and left behind a wealth of knowledge that cannot be learnt in one lifetime . Best is to meditate and slowly tap into universal consciousness.

So, whatever your faith or religion is, walk into your place of worship, whether church, gurudwara, monastery, temple , mosque, synagogue etc and slowly ‘just be’. Enter the no thought zone, focus on your breath or start by just one pointedly focusing​ on the image of God of your faith (if any image or form exists/can be given ) without asking for anything or praying for anything- You can do this at home or in a park or even in office, on the plane, in a bus- just about anywhere! Trust and be mindful of the present moment and acknowledge any thoughts and then bring back focus to the No Thought Zone. Absolutely no need to pay anyone any money and no need to convert to any other faith or religion . Stay in the religion of your birth and understand with confidence that we are all one.

The more spiritual, inclusive knowledge is shared, the more peaceful our world will be is what I firmly believe. This is not my knowledge, it is knowledge from the timeless Vedas with no one source. It cannot and must not be attributed to any human being as rishis who meditated discovered the sound of the Vedas through austerities. It is ‘Aupurusasya’ meaning no man or woman wrote the Vedas- Their vibrations exist as part of the cosmos (what modern science probably calls the Big bang). Vibrations create and sustain life and every creature and object has a vibration. As humans we have the option to tune in to the right frequencies through meditation and yoga because what is inside us (the microcosm) is actually a replica of what is there in the Macrocosm (cosmos, space, multiple universes etc) is what the Vedas say

As a parent I pray that every child learns to meditate, so at least the next generations learn that we are all one and learn to live peacefully with mutual respect, warm-heartedness and compassion for everyone.

The Forgotten Fun Games

10th (1)

Nowadays when you see kids with their heads stuck on a gadget, you go into a mini flashback – Your mom shouting your name asking you to come home for lunch, and you wanting to finish that last over. You had your own collection of marbles; your skipping rope had the extra jingles attached. Ahh! Memories!

Before the invention of any electronic gadgets, the so called ‘80’s & 90’s’ kids have had their share of the best gala time. They were physically, socially & mentally active.

This century kids have a favourite question, “What did you do for entertainment during summer holidays in your younger days?”

This is a moment with a faraway look in your eyes and a happy smile playing on your lips, you begin…

‘We went to the library, you know, it’s a big building that houses rows of books,’ you begin on a sarcastic note, ‘and we researched our subject using many books. ‘As far as entertainment,’ you add, clearly warming to the subject, ‘we played many wonderful games all day.’

Impressed by the wicked gleam in your eyes, your kids cry in unison: ‘Tell us all about it.’ You send out a silent prayer for being bestowed upon moments like these that make parenthood worth all that trouble, and say, ‘OK, will tell you about the more popular ones; there were many, mind you… [Read more…]

How to Manage a Fussy Eater

27th (1)

Have you felt like screaming on top of your lungs when the food (which you took hours to make) gets spit out in a second? You can’t shout – You can’t show your anger anywhere, but smilingly cajole your kid to take another morsel.

Yes, it’s tiring – Yes, it’s demotivating and No, you can’t starve them!

How to then make them eat? Firstly, you relax! Here are some simple ways which can reduce (not eliminate) your troubles with a fussy eater.

Children who are fussy eaters (also known as picky eaters) are particular about what they will eat. Sometimes the child will eat a small portion of the food and may refuse to eat at all at other times. Another exasperating trait they exhibit is ‘food neophobia’ or refusal to eat new foods.

‘Food training’ should start at an early age–the earlier the better. This is because children display their aversion to food to every stage of growing up. For instance, toddlers they may refuse to eat lumpy food, while older children are known to develop a passionate dislike for vegetables.

Kids are fussy eaters and they are, by no means, an exception but rather the norm. But fear not, and try out these useful tips we have put together for you: [Read more…]