2022 Week 39 Update

Success is the sum of small efforts repeated day in and day out. This quote is from American self-help author, Robert Collier. According to Collier, success isn’t handed to anyone. It’s achieved by hard work and what one does every day to reach their goals. The efforts need not Your efforts have to be big leaps and in huge bounds, but if one takes a realistic approach and takes small but incremental steps regularly, success will automatically come.

In my walking quest, I crossed the state of Bihar and reached one of India’s largest states, Uttar Pradesh and am about 100 km north of Varanasi and about 5000 km into my journey. I have about 1700 km to reach my home in Mumbai, which I doubt I will be able to finish this year, but one can always hope.

My reading is going strong and I have read 56 books to date this year, which is about 75% of my target for the year. I read 8 books this month and am on track to meet my reading goals for the year.

There is a shortage of wheat flour in Singapore due to the ban on exports of flour to insulate the Indian market from the global wheat crisis. India is the world’s second-largest producer of wheat.  The heatwave during the summer months parched crops and affected wheat supply domestically which has led to this crisis. And those who rely on wheat-based products like rotis and chapatis as their main carb intake are finding it very hard and rush to buy wheat flour when they hear any store has stocks of wheat flour. Hopefully, this crisis ends soon and we are back to eating the rotis and chapatis as usual.

And this is all for this week. Take care folks!

In My Hands Today…

Shanghai Grand: Forbidden Love and International Intrigue in a Doomed World – Taras Grescoe

On the eve of WWII, the foreign-controlled port of Shanghai was the rendezvous for the twentieth century’s most outlandish adventurers, all under the watchful eye of the fabulously wealthy Sir Victor Sassoon.

Emily “Mickey” Hahn was a legendary New Yorker journalist whose vivid writing played a crucial role in opening Western eyes to the realities of life in China.

At the height of the Depression, Hahn arrived in Shanghai after a disappointing affair with an alcoholic Hollywood screenwriter, convinced she will never love again. After checking in to Sassoon’s glamorous Cathay Hotel, Hahn is absorbed into the social swirl of the expats drawn to pre-war China, among them Ernest Hemingway, Martha Gellhorn, Harold Acton, and a colourful gangster named Morris “Two-Gun” Cohen. But when she meets Zau Sinmay, a Chinese poet from an illustrious family, she discovers the real Shanghai through his eyes: the city of rich colonials, triple agents, opium-smokers, displaced Chinese peasants, and increasingly desperate White Russian and Jewish refugees—a place her innate curiosity will lead her to explore first hand. Danger lurks on the horizon, though, as the brutal Japanese occupation destroys the seductive world of pre-war Shanghai, paving the way for Mao Tse-tung’s Communists rise to power.

World Vegetarian Day

Anyone with a cursory glance at my blog will know that I am a vegetarian. I was raised as one and continue to remain one. My children are also raised as vegetarians and though I would not comment if they ate meat outside the house and in their own homes, when they have one, I will put my foot down about consuming meat in my home and will not allow anyone to cook or eat non-vegetarian food in my kitchen and home. This is, in large part, due to my religious beliefs and is something I will not budge from. I have no issues with people around me eating any kind of food and have on many occasions, in school, at work or even in social situations been with friends and colleagues who have eaten meat at the same table as me. All I ask of them is not to use their spoons to dig into my dish and if they want to taste what I am eating, to use the serving spoon in my dish to take some into their plates and eat, so my food does not get contaminated. And in any case, this is a healthy sharing practice, I believe.

What we eat impacts the well being of ourselves, animals and the planet. Vegetarianism was frequently referred to as a Pythagorean Diet, named after the ancient Greek philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras who was an early advocate for the diet before the popularisation of the term vegetarian in the mid-1800s. Vegetarianism has been present in India since the 5th century BC, though the concept is also clearly present in Buddhism, which originated between the fifth and sixth centuries, in plant-based staples such as tofu which have been consumed in China for more than 2,000 years, in Indonesian, Japanese and Thai cuisines and also on the African continent before European colonisation. It became more mainstream in the US and UK in the 1960s and gathered additional momentum in the 1970s which led the North American Vegetarian Society to establish October 1 as World Vegetarian Day in 1977 to promote the joy, compassion and life-enhancing possibilities of vegetarianism.

A vegetarian diet focuses on vegetables, seeds, legumes, fruits, nuts and grains and also includes animal products such as eggs, dairy and honey, that are obtained without involving the death of an animal or the consumption of its meat. There are many variations of the vegetarian diet: an ovo-lacto vegetarian diet includes both eggs and dairy products, an ovo-vegetarian diet includes eggs but not dairy products, and a lacto-vegetarian diet includes dairy products but not eggs. As the strictest of vegetarian diets, a vegan diet excludes all animal products, including eggs and dairy and even extends to abstain the use of any animal-derived products.

Maintenance of a vegetarian diet can be challenging. While avoidance of animal products may support health and ethical concerns, dietary supplements may be needed to prevent nutritional deficiency if all such products are shunned, particularly for vitamin B12. Packaged and processed foods may contain minor quantities of animal ingredients. While some vegetarians scrutinise product labels for such ingredients, others do not object to consuming them or are unaware of their presence. Labelling is however mandatory in India to distinguish vegetarian products (green) from non-vegetarian products with vegetarian products having a green dot in them and non-vegetarian products having a brown dot which must be visible.

Vegetarianism may be adopted for various reasons. Many people object to eating meat out of respect for sentient animal life. Such ethical motivations have been codified under various religious beliefs as well as animal rights advocacy. Other motivations for vegetarianism are health-related, political, environmental, cultural, aesthetic, economic, taste-related, or relate to other personal preferences.

The American Dietetic Association has stated that at all stages of life, a properly planned vegetarian diet can be healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may be beneficial in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Vegetarian diets offer lower levels of saturated fat, cholesterol and animal protein, and higher levels of carbohydrates, fibre, magnesium, potassium, folate, vitamins C and E, and phytochemicals. Studies have shown that a vegetarian diet may increase the risk of calcium deficiency and low bone mineral density. A 2021 review found no differences in growth between vegetarian and meat-eating children. Vegetarian diets are under preliminary research for their potential to help people with type 2 diabetes. A study presented at the European Congress on Obesity found that vegetarians appear to have a healthier biomarker profile than meat-eaters.

Vegetarianism reduces the risk of major killers such as heart disease, stroke and cancer while cutting exposure to foodborne pathogens, provides a viable answer to feeding the world’s hungry through more efficient use of grains and other crops, saves animals from suffering in factory-farm conditions and from the pain and terror of slaughter, conserves vital but limited freshwater, fertile topsoil and other precious resources and preserves irreplaceable ecosystems such as rainforests and other wildlife habitats, decreases greenhouse gases that are accelerating global warming and mitigates the ever-expanding environmental pollution of animal agriculture.

Established by the North American Vegetarian Society in 1977 and endorsed by the International Vegetarian Union in 1978, World Vegetarian Day is observed annually around the globe on October 1 to emphasise environmental considerations, animal welfare and rights issues and personal health benefits to encourage people into ditching animal products. It taps into the studies which highlight the proven health benefits of a vegetarian diet. The day is also marked to raise awareness about saving animals‚ lives and helping to preserve the Earth. World Vegetarian Day also initiates the month of October as Vegetarian Awareness Month, which ends on November 1, and is celebrated as World Vegan Day, at the end of that month of celebration. Vegetarian Awareness Month has been known variously as the Reverence for Life month, the Month of Vegetarian Food, and more.

Hinduism does not require a vegetarian diet, but some Hindus avoid eating meat because it minimises hurting other life forms. Vegetarianism is considered satvic, which is purifying the body and mind lifestyle in some Hindu texts. Lacto-vegetarianism is favoured by many Hindus, which includes milk-based foods and all other non-animal derived foods, but it excludes meat and eggs. There are three main reasons for this – the principle of nonviolence or ahimsa applied to animals, the intention to offer only vegetarian food to their preferred deity and then to receive it back as prasad or offerings, and the conviction that non-vegetarian food is detrimental to the mind and for spiritual development. Many Hindus point to scriptural bases, such as the Mahabharata with its maxim that nonviolence is the highest duty and the highest teaching, as advocating a vegetarian diet.

A typical modern urban Hindu Lacto-vegetarian meal is based on a combination of grains such as rice and wheat, legumes, green vegetables, and dairy products. Depending on the geographical region the staples may include millet-based flatbreads and fat derived from slaughtered animals is avoided. Many Hindus, particularly those following the Vaishnav tradition, refrain from eating onions and garlic either totally or during the Chaturmas period which is roughly between July and November in the Gregorian calendar. In Maharashtra, many Hindu families also do not eat any eggplant preparations during this period.

If you are not a vegetarian or are contemplating a change to a more plant-based diet, this is a good opportunity to dip your toes into this diet. Try and see, you may decide you like it after all.

In My Hands Today…

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less – Greg McKeown

Have you ever found yourself stretched too thin?
Do you simultaneously feel overworked and underutilized?
Are you often busy but not productive?
Do you feel like your time is constantly being hijacked by other people’s agendas?

If you answered yes to any of these, the way out is the Way of the EssentialistThe Way of the Essentialist isn’t about getting more done in less time. It’s about getting only the right things done. It is not a time management strategy or a productivity technique. It is a systematic discipline for discerning what is absolutely essential, then eliminating everything that is not, so we can make the highest possible contribution towards the things that really matter.

By forcing us to apply a more selective criterion for what is Essential, the disciplined pursuit of less empowers us to reclaim control of our own choices about where to spend our precious time and energy – instead of giving others the implicit permission to choose for us.

Essentialism is not one more thing – it’s a whole new way of doing everything. A must-read for any leader, manager, or individual who wants to learn who to do less, but better, in every area of their lives, Essentialism is a movement whose time has come.

Festivals of India – Navaratri

Dedicated to the Mother Goddess and the feminine energy, one of Hinduism’s most revered festivals, the Navaratri is a biannual festival spanning over nine nights and ten days, first in the month of Chaitra which translates to March/April of the Gregorian calendar and again in the month of Sharada which translates to September/October in the Gregorian calendar. It is observed for different reasons and celebrated differently in various parts of the country.

The word Navaratri means nine nights in Sanskrit, with nava meaning nine and ratri meaning nights. Navaratri, which is dedicated to Goddess Durga is all about the victory of good over evil. Goddess Durga fought the demon king Mahishasura for nine days and killed him, marking the triumph of good over evil. In the eastern and northeastern states of India, Durga Puja is synonymous with Navaratri, where Goddess Durga battles and emerges victorious over the buffalo demon Mahishasur to help restore dharma. In the southern states, the victory of Durga or Kali is celebrated. In all cases, the common theme is the battle and victory of good over evil based on a regionally famous epic or legend such as the Devi Mahatmya.

Celebrations include worshipping nine goddesses during nine days, stage decorations, recital of the legend, enacting of the story, and chanting of the scriptures of Hinduism. The nine days are also a major crop season cultural event, such as competitive design and staging of pandals, a family visit to these pandals, and the public celebration of classical and folk dances of Hindu culture. Many devotees often celebrate Navaratri by fasting. On the final day, called Vijayadashami or Dusshera, the statues are either immersed in a water body such as a river or ocean, or the statue symbolising evil is burnt with fireworks, marking the destruction of evil. During this time preparations also take place for Deepavali or Diwali which is the festival of lights which is celebrated twenty days after Vijayadashami.

The nine forms of Goddess Durga, collectively known as Navdurga, are celebrated during Navratri. Every day of the festival is dedicated to a different incarnation of the Goddess. There is a colour for every day that can be worn throughout the festival. These colours have a lot of importance and are considered auspicious.

On the first day, Goddess Durga is worshipped as Shailputri, the daughter of the king of mountains, or Goddess Parvati who is worshipped as the wife of Lord Shiva. This avatar embodies the combined power of Brahma, Vishnu, and Mahesh. The colour for the first day is red indicating strength. An individual who leads a frugal lifestyle, who is cheerful and bestows happiness, richness, tranquillity, and grace upon all of her devotees, Brahmcharini is worshipped on the second day. Brahmcharini is supposed to be the way to Moksha and royal blue is the colour for the day, associated with a calm yet powerful soul. On the third day, Goddess Durga is worshipped as Chandraghanta who is the epitome of grace and dignity. A symbol of peace and prosperity, she is a strong woman with a lot of power and so yellow is the colour for the day.

Kushmunda who is worshipped on the fourth day, is believed to be the founder of the cosmos and is said to have created the universe and enriched it with flora and fauna. This is why the colour of the day is green which symbolises the globe and greenery. Skand Mata, the commander-in-chief in their war against evil is worshipped on the fifth day. She is the representation of the vulnerability of a mother who can fight anyone when anyone troubles her children. The colour of the day is grey which represents a mother’s fear when her child is in danger and she is determined to do everything it takes to keep her child safe. On the sixth day, Katyayani is worshipped. She was born to the great sage Kata as an avatar of Goddess Durga. While clothed in orange, she emits immense courage and so orange is the colour of the day symbolising bravery.

Worshipped as Kalratri for her three eyes, dark skin, unkept hair and exuding a fearless attitude with her breath-producing flames, Kalratri resembles Goddess Kali, Goddess Durga’s most terrifying aspect. She wears white, the colour of peace and tranquilly and so the day’s colour is also white. On the eighth day, Goddess Durga is worshipped as Maha Gauri, representing intelligence, peace, prosperity and calm. Her hue was said to have changed from white to black after spending time in the deep Himalayan forests. After Shiva bathed her in the waters of the sacred River Ganga, her body regained its beauty, and she was given the name Maha Gauri, which means extremely white. Pink is the colour of the day, representing hope and a fresh start. On the last day, she is worshipped as Siddhidatri who has incredible healing abilities. She has four arms and looks to be in a cheerful mood. She blesses everyone as a manifestation of the Mother Goddess. The goddess is shown in a happy state as if she were a clear day’s sky. As a result, this day’s colour is sky blue, symbolising awe at nature’s splendour. In South India, on this day, Goddess Saraswati is worshipped who is the manifestation of learning, knowledge, music and the arts through the Ayudha Puja. On this day, everyone worships their tools of the trade so students pray to their books, musicians thank their instruments, office workers pray to their laptops etc. Students visit their teachers, express respect, and seek their blessings.

The festival ends with Dusshera on the tenth day when Goddess Durga was victorious over the demon Mahishasura. In some parts of India, Dussehra is associated with the victory of the God Rama over the demon-king Ravana. In northern India, the Ram Lila of the Play of Rama is the highlight of the festival with different episodes of the epic Ramayana dramatised on successive nights. On Dusshera, the actor playing Lord Rama fires a flaming arrow at an effigy of Ravana which is then burned. In many regions, Dussehra is considered an auspicious time to begin educational or artistic pursuits, especially for children.

Today, we are on the third day of Navaratri and my prayer is that may Goddess Durga and her various incarnations protect you from everything and remove all obstacles from your lives. May the divine feminine energy grant you all your wishes!