My Curiosity For Banana Hanger And Other Interesting X-mas Gift Items

By Promod Puri

Ever since it was first introduced in the kitchen accessories section of departmental stores I am still debating to buy it or not. Over the last 15 years or more, when the object of my curiosity was first displayed as an innovative and somewhat bizarre item, it has been a challenge to my buying impulse.

During this X-Mas season of all the popular and useful gifts items, Banana Hanger is at the bottom of my list. And it has been sitting there ever since its first appearance.

I can buy a ‘banana guard’ to protect it from spoilage or an apple peeler, but banana hanger still has to hang on until I am convinced of its merit(s). I use a shirt hanger, pant hanger and even I can think of buying a tie hanger, but for banana hanger ‘not yet’.

I remember once getting a banana hanger as a gift perhaps during the holiday season or on my birthday. The dilemma was what to do with that, to use it or to pass on to somebody else. Rejecting both, I thought of leaving it out in our back alley for street collectors. But the idea was outwardly rejected too. The reason was simple these people love to have bananas, not the banana hanger.

The poor gift item finally landed at the Salvation Army thrift store.

I do admire the craftsmanship involved in its design and its usability to hang a bunch of bananas ( not overly ripe ones ). With its sleekness and curves, it does have an aesthetic value and adorn dining table. But my only apprehension is that what I am going to do with this gizmo when I am left with a single banana. I can’t hang the lonely one on it. Moreover, unlike monkeys my appetite for bananas is limited.

Despite my aversion to banana hangers, the fact is that these are still being sold and people are buying them for their own use or as a gift item. The smart invention, great marketing!

While the BH is on my waitlist, I certainly would not buy some “useless products” which sprout up abundantly during the Christmas Season. These include ear dryer, shoes with tiny umbrellas at toes, hat with false hair, lighted slippers, bacon floss, egg cuber, underpants for hands, and much more.

And the latest entry in the bizarre category is the “popcorn helmet”. It is a headpiece that feeds popcorn directly into the wearer’s mouth, or landing close to it. The device is most useful in a theatre as it saves hands from being oily and salty.

Happy Holidays.

promodpuri.com

 

Universal Appeal of Guru Nanak’s Aarti

By Promod PuriGuru-Nanak-Dev-Ji-230x300

When Guru Nanak Dev, in his myriad spiritual experiences, saw the frame of cosmos beauty, he expressed his gratitude to the Almighty in creating such a splendor.

The lines he wrote at that moment were his reverent commendation of Nature’s arrangements in the universality of its presentation. His few words of appreciation and gratitude were his Aarti, devotional poetry of enlightenment describing His luminous lila.

Guru Nanak captured the scene, a pageant of nature’s elements together in sync performing the Aarti in a heavenly concert.

Aarti is derived from the Sanskrit word “aratika,” where it denotes clearance of ‘ratika’ or ‘ratri,’ meaning darkness.

Guru Nanak’s offers his Aarti in the following verse:

“Gagan Mai Thaal Rav Chand Deepak Baney, Tarika Mandal Janak Moti,

Meaning: Upon that cosmic plate of the sky, the sun and the moon are the lamps; the stars and the constellations are the pearls and jewels.

Dhoop Malyanlo Pavan Chavro Kare
Sagal Banraye Phulant Jyoti,

Meaning: The fragrance of sandalwood in the air is the temple incense, and the wind is the fan. All the flora of the earth is the altar flowers in offering to You.

Kaisi Aarti Hoye Bhavkhandna Teri Aarti
Anhata Shabad Vaajant Bheri”

Meaning: Oh, God, the destroyer of fear, what a wonderful feeling it is in offering this beautiful Aarti! A lamp-lit worship service this is! The celestial vibrations are like the sound of temple drums.

Note: The original Aarti of Guru Nanak Dev has a few more additions to it by saints Bhagat Ravi Dass, Sant Sain, Sant Kabir, and Bhagat Dhanna. And then there is the final contribution to the Aarti from Guru Gobind Singh.

Nanak’s Aarti has universal appeal as to how we all share Nature’s continuous ceremony of lights, the shines of Sun and the Moon, the twinkling of stars, the fragrance of plants and flowers around us.

It is with these sentiments that Nobel laureate Rabindra Nath Tagore suggested that Guru Nanak’s Aarti should be declared as an international anthem for all humanity.

(Promod Puri is a journalist, writer, and author of Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs, And Traditions. Websites: promodpuri.com, progressivehindudialogue.com, and promodpuri.blogspot.com)

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She Was Not “Supposed” To Enter Kitchen

By Promod Puri

I don’t know if she belongs to the class of housemaid, aka “bai”. If so, then her status could be upgraded in India’s class and caste society.

She had a regular assignment at our home around 11 every morning and finishing her limited but reserved task in 15 to 20 minutes. It was the most needed part of daily cleaning.

She was a Christian Punjabi-speaking girl in her teen years. Most kids in her age group were in schools at that time studying and playing. But here she was punctual in her daily routine seven days a week.

Besides our house, she was duty-bound attending a few other households in the neighborhood.

I remember when coming to our place she was often provided “breakfast”, which most of the time was some leftover food. She had a designated cup and a plate set aside for her exclusive use.

Her monthly income if I remember correctly, was about 50 rupees back in the early ‘60s. And she often asked for raise. Her requests were quite legitimate when comparing the nature of her work with maids doing household chores including washing dirty dishes.

As her work was considered “contaminated” she was not supposed to enter the kitchen or other rooms as a maid helper.

By nature, she usually was a quiet person with innocent lively expressions. But there occasionally were some disquiet and afflicted rebellious moods as well.

She was from the class of people from the lowest ring of the Indian caste system who converted themselves as Christians from the Hindu faith. Their “Basti” or settlement constituted a segregated community which was a few miles away from our neighborhood.

The place was called Bhangi Colony. And she belonged to the Bhangi caste. Her professional title was “Bhangan” doing the dirty occupation of “manual scavenging”. According to Wikipedia “manual scavenging is a caste-based occupation involving the removal of human excreta from bucket toilets or pit latrines.

A few years back the profession by law was declared illegal.

However, the rebellion she felt in her teen years is still there among the people of her clan or community against the dehumanizing practices rooted in the social customs of India.

I don’t know if our “Bhangan” is still around. But the profession she was involved in continues. And her upgrading for equality is still pending in India’s degrading social behavior which often defies the laws.

(This article carries some fiction. It was written a few years ago. It is republished to mark World Toilet Day on November 19,2019. Please read a very touching and thoughtful article by the BBC about the plight of sanitation workers in India. https://www.bbc.com/news/in-pictures-50406148)

PERILS OF DEMOCRACY

In democratic-elect governments like India, Turkey, 

download (6)the Philippines, and several African, Central, and South American nations, there is an emerging wave of fascism and despotism. Liberalism, meaning individual and minority rights, are fading in these countries led by demagogues invoking the sentiments of nationalism and patriotism.

Greek philosopher Plato in 380 B.C., predicted the peril of democracy that can lead to the rule of tyrants supported by the majority population.

-By Promod Puri

Don Cherry’s Colorful Costumes Have Stains Of Racism Too

By Promod Puri
This Cherry never blossomed to the changing realities of diverse and culturally rich Canadian society.

Don Cherry’s colorful (in costume only) long career as hockey commentator ended abruptly with a blot on his iconic stature. At the fag end of his life, after more than three decades on the air, his stylish apparel also got stains of racist rants against Quebecers, indigenous and the rest “you people.”

From his little domain of “Coach’s Corner” on the Sportsnet, Mr. Cherry delivered his last diatribe November 9, zeroing in on immigrants, new and old, who don’t wear poppies to mark the Remembrance Day.

The controversial remarks on the sports network clipped his job. He said, “Now you go to the small cities, and you know, the rows and rows … you people love … they come here, whatever it is, you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey, at least you can pay a couple bucks for a poppy or something like that. These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada, these guys paid the biggest price.”

The divisive wordings of “you” and “our” is a type of racist thinking prioritizing the superiority of one group of people as more Canadian than the rest. It endorses the stereotype that immigrants are apathetic to the significance of Remembrance Day.
Wearing a poppy is not a certification to Canadian patriotism. The solidarity to Canada is not a one-day visible affair on Remembrance Day, but an on-going contribution of all us born in Canada or anywhere else.

No matter how much iconic Don Cherry might be in the realm of hockey, but his remarks certainly show a lack of historical facts that there were thousands of troops from the entire British Empire who fought along with Canadian soldiers in both the First and Second World Wars.

WHAT NEXT AFTER BABRI MASJID-RAM JANMABHOOMI VERDICT

via WHAT NEXT AFTER BABRI MASJID-RAM JANMABHOOMI VERDICT

What Next After Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi Verdict

Neither Hinduism is enriched, nor Islam is poor with the Supreme Court verdict over Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi case.
Though the fundamentals of religions are often buried in the foundations of temples and mosques, in their spirituality, none of them reside in the bricks and plaster monuments.
The 16the century Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, which was demolished by Hindu mobs in 1992, is now going to be grandeur Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Ram, believed to be his birthplace. But the possession was with a heavy cost that saw one of the deadliest religious riots.
Well, a new temple is ok, but there is enough land to build a hospital there as well. Who knows one day in that very hospital, a Hindu patient would realize that the blood he received was from a Muslim donor? Or that a Muslim patient got a new heart from a dying Hindu patient.

By Promod Puri

Stairs Excercise Controls Blood Sugar And For Healthy Heart

(This is an update to the article written a few years ago)

By Promod Puri

The fun in life includes some simple recreational activities in our daily life. And the one I like the most is just a few steps away as part of my every day up-and-down commute.

These are the stairs leading up to our apartment. Over the years I have done this personal “Grouse Grind” hundreds of times. Although my experience with stairs is quite extensive, still I would not call myself a stair-master.

But as a veteran of the stairs, I have learned some techniques and some dos and don’ts of going up and down. These know-hows are not meant for practicing to hike Mt. Everest, but simply to enjoy the staircase walk as physical activity. Stairs make an excellent place to get a daily dose of cardio and some belly alignment. A simple stroll up and down the stairs gives a good aerobic workout.

According to a Mayo Clinic newsletter, stair climbing helps strengthen and tone our leg muscles. It keeps our leg arteries flexible, allowing blood to move more easily. “Better blood flow in your legs equals a healthier heart and body.”

It can also burn off calories — about 65 calories in 15 minutes. Going at a faster pace or carrying heavier items can burn even more calories, according to a Mayo newsletter.

Moreover, a three-minute up and down the stairs after a meal helps control blood sugar.

They say keep a balance in life. That is true for stairs too.

In this upscale workout keeping the body in balance is essential. Tripping and slipping often happen when the body wobbles due to imbalance. Balancing exercises are quite common in the gym. A popular one is trying to balance the body on a hemisphere shaped ball. At home, one can practice balance by standing on one foot or keeping one foot in front of the other for as long as possible. Balance requires concentration. Or to be more precise it is meditation in action to coordinate mind and body.

Now on to the stairs. A brief stretching of legs, keeping a uniform pace and raising each leg almost parallel to the upper body for each step, are some basics of the stair exercise. At a little advance stage, one can climb two steps at a time. Or do a little bit of descending acrobat of lifting the entire body by firmly holding railings on either side and then dropping both the feet on just one step down, definitely not two.

Another tip: While going up or down, heels or toes should not be hanging down rather whole foot be placed on each step. This gives full footing with more safety as well. A trivial act of misplacing a foot can be the cause of a serious fall. Looking down is not only a humble posture but a better choice to avoid a stair accident.

If safety is the main concern, and it should be, then the cardinal principle is the use of hand-railings all along the stairs. Railings are primarily meant to be a support system for a fall-free stair walk. Curves or bends, and sleekness of a staircase are the aesthetic elements that don’t promise safety.

It is often said when going up or down the stairs do nothing, no phone, no buttoning of the shirt, etc.

Keeping these safeguards in mind stairs does offer a simple, easy and free recreational activity.

“Demon King” Ravan Enjoys Respect And Honor Too

By Promod Puri

Ram and Ravan are the most known mythical rivals in the Hindu scriptural narratives.

Ram is addressed as Lord by his being an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, “the preserver” in the Trinity divination. The rest two are Brahma, “the Creator,” and Mahesh, “the Destroyer.”

Contrary to Ram, the status of Ravan is given as a “demon” king according to the Hindu holy book Ramayan.

A major part of the epic volume is devoted to fighting evil. Ram is the warrior, out to destroy Ravan, the “devil king.”

According to the narrated story, Ravan abducted Sita, the wife of Ram, in revenge that the latter, thru his brother Lakshman, mutilated the beautiful figure of Ravan’s sister, Shurpanakha.

The fight between Ram and Ravan over the abduction of Sita and her rescue has been plotted in such a dramatic way that connects with the overall mission of eliminating the “forces of evil” and bring back a regime of peace for the people in the kingdom of Lanka.

A tense spirited battle followed in rescuing Sita, who was not inflicted with abuse and harm while in custody of Ravan. Besides her recovery, the whole episode leads to its consequence that it was a war for righteousness against the forces of evil, respectively, represented by Ram and Ravan.

Customs and traditions followed from the epic’s anecdotes. And all that resulted in crystalizing the images of good and bad as portrayed in the Ramayan.

The symbolic burning of Ravan on the major Hindu festival of Dussehra, meaning 10 heads, in northern, central and western parts of India reflects the defeat and death of evil, and the ultimate triumph of good.

Nonetheless, when we explore the personality of Ravan in the maze of multiplex stories, we find him a man of multi-talents with great administrative skills. He was a scholar with complete knowledge of Shastras and the four Vedas. Ravan Samitha, a book on Hindu astrology, has been credited to Ravan as its author.

His wisdom and knowledge were so vast that the imaginative ten-head portrait, without biological explanation, is justified.

Ravan was a follower of Lord Shiva, and an accomplished maestro of a musical string instrument, Veena.

The personal character of Ravan is revealed when Sita passed the controversial “Agni pariksha” about her purity. The ritualistic fire-test was sought by Lord Ram that involved plunging into flames to know her chastity during the time spent under Ravan’s captivity.

With his treatment of Sita in his custody, Ravan proved to be a man of virtuous and moral character. Moreover, in the contemporary Hindu thought, there is no dispute about Ravan’s scholastic and theological credentials along with his divine reach.

But the conflict revolves around his ethnicity and caste identifications.

Was he an Aryan by race or belonging to the indigenous Dravidian people of India, called Adivasis? Was he a Brahmin, Kshatriya, or Shudra/Dalit by caste?

Ravan, the “devil king,” is revered and owned by a section of Hindus belonging to Brahmin caste, Dalits and Adivasis of South India. He is worshipped along with Lord Shiva in many Indian temples. In several parts of India, some Brahmin sub-caste claim to be descendants of him. The Gondi tribe in Central India are proudly committed to their ancestral lineage with Ravan.

In the southern states of India, especially in Tamil Nadu, Ravan is embraced with Dravidian roots.

His identity as a Dalit is turning into a very popular movement in Punjab, where the Valmiki clan is upfront seeking to ban burning of Ravan’s effigy on the Dussehra day.

A respectable online publication, The Citizen, in its September 23,2019 edition, carries an interesting article revealing that in the Dalit-dominated districts of Doaba and Ferozepur “it has become increasingly common for Dalit families to use the names of Ravan’s family and his mythological soldiers as surnames.”

Ravan Sena Bharat (Ravan’s Army India) president Lakhbir Lankesh told The Citizen, “We see the burning of these effigies on Dussehra as an insult to Mahatma Ravan. The Dalits and Dravidians have been painted black over the centuries. For us, there are only two categories of Arya and Anarya. After the Aryan invasion, the other was pushed to the margins.”

Similar dissent can be noticed across the country from North to South, and East to West, as well as among some Hindu diaspora abroad. There also seems to be a systematic misrepresentation of Ravan over the centuries.

The identity of Ravan in terms of tribal ethnicity and caste hierarchy is hard to confirm from the piles of complex and contradictory mythological stories. But both Indological and social anthropological research would help review the personality and mythical believability of Ravan.

Demonizing of Ravan is a sensitive issue given the emerging voices from a large section of the Hindu population, especially from the so-called Lower-caste communities in India and abroad.

Ravan can keep his role of being a villain opposite Ram, the hero, in the epic drama of Ramayan for a balance to the equation. But out of it, a festival like Dussehra is smoldering to the devout feelings of all those who venerate him both for his divine and scholastic attributes, as well as ethnic or caste-based ancestry.

(Promod Puri is a journalist, writer and author of Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs, And Traditions.)