Monday, January 21, 2013

Goodness of Coconut For The Skin

Being a south Indian and a Tambrahm at that, coconuts were always a part of my existence. My earliest memories of this wonder ‘nut’ is the time when an aunt or grandma would sit down with a bottle of coconut oil and all of us cousins would line up to have our hair combed and neatly plaited. The ritual of applying coconut oil and plaiting the hair of 8 to 10 girls would be followed by application of coconut oil and combing the closely cropped hair of our male cousins. As a child I thought it to be old fashioned to have so much oil applied to our scalp and tried to coax my mother to have my hair trimmed and permed or curled but she would have “none of such nonsense with hair falling over the forehead” and I have to thank her for her effort and the gift of the lovely long hair that I once possessed.  

Coconut oil served to help me bond with my hostel mates when I had to join a boarding school at the age of twelve. I was a stranger in a hostel where a good number of students were Anglo Indians. Having left home I was a total misfit in the hostel. Among the toilet items that my mother had packed for me was a bottle of scented coconut oil that had frozen in the cool weather of the Nilgiris. I was trying to scoop out a little with a spoon when a voice behind me said-

“Why don’t you let it melt in the sun for a while?”

It was my good friend Irene Trencher who had given the suggestion thereby offering to make me comfortable in an alien situation. Others followed and soon at least 10 of them borrowed my scented coconut oil to apply on their hands and legs and my mother was at a loss to understand how a bottle of coconut oil could get over in a month’s time. The warden had to intervene and take the oil bottle in her custody till I felt comfortable enough to say NO to friends who took advantage of my insecurity.

When my daughter was born my mother took the trouble of extracting coconut milk from home grown coconuts and clarifying it like butter and filtering pure coconut oil to give my daughter a body massage. The smell of home made coconut oil was heavenly and my daughter’s skin acquired a natural glow on account of it. She made sure that I brought back a bottle of coconut oil thus prepared and used it exclusively for massaging the child’s body to make sure that her skin did not crack in the winter months.

Apart from external application coconuts are generously used in Tambrahm/Kerala cuisine since it has the property of curing stomach ulcers and is a rich source of fiber, vitamins and minerals. And who can deny that coconut water is the safest soft drink from God’s own factory!!

It was fun participating in this contest by Women's web. Took me back in time. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

On Teenage suicides.........

It was depressing to receive the news of teen age suicide in our town. This time it was a 16 year old student who was answering her pre - board exams from a reasonably well to do family. Both parents had demanding jobs and the girl was perhaps left in the care of grandparents who probably could not offer the emotional support that teenagers require in the present times. I report the incident as an outsider purely from hearsay since I came to hear of the incidence through an acquaintance whose son studied in the same class as the dead girl. My account may not be very accurate but since many others, like this girl, face similar problems I cannot help analyzing the situation.

The girl was a fairly good student till recently but had begun to fare badly of late. Like others of her age she trusted her peers more than her family and would hang around with a few friends some of whom were boys. Her class teacher being conservative would openly reprimand her for her choice of friends particularly her interest in boys. On the day she committed suicide a friend, who belonged to her group and particularly close to her, had decided that he could take no more of the hints dropped by the teacher and decided to break off from the group and concentrate on his studies. He seemed to agree that the girl was distracting him from his studies and told her as much, advising her to leave him alone. The girl perhaps did not worry too much about the teacher’s words but could not accept the fact that her friend too seemed to hold a similar opinion. The two had an argument and the girl left school in a disturbed state of mind. She tried contact him on reaching home but he did not respond. That was it. The girl committed suicide by hanging leaving her family shattered.

I really cannot explain the reason for the emotional vulnerability that teenagers face these days. I studied in a co – education school some 45 years back and healthy competition as well as friendship between boys and girls was accepted in our school. We did not have teachers dropping hints about our character or putting thoughts into our heads. In fact, I don’t even remember thinking of the boys in our class as anyone but good friends who could be depended upon to stand up for me as and when required. Have times changed now? Or was this girl plain unlucky to have a narrow minded teacher? Or was I a plain Jane - simply not cut out for romantic feelings?

Why could the girl not handle the boy’s stand that they needed to concentrate on their studies? Even if the teacher’s insinuations be ignored was it not important for them to do well in their board exams? Why are teenagers unable to face setbacks and the like? People say that lack of a support system in the family - like the one provided by a joint family - was partly responsible for depression among teenagers. But even while growing up I do not remember having to turn to family members for support unless the issue was grave.  We too fought and patched up, had differences of opinion that led to times when we would not be on talking terms with friends for days on end, but none of these depressed us for long. We did not have access to modern communication tools and snail mail was the only way we could remain in touch. In a way I feel lack of effective communication tools enabled us to deal with situations better and equipped us to deal with the rough patches in our formative years. But  why are teenagers unable to handle minor irritants and move on?

In this case, people tend to blame the mother for being career minded and suggest that the girl perhaps felt lonely and left out. Even if the mother had been a home maker could she have understood the cause for her depression? Don’t we as adults fail to concede that a seemingly trivial issue can be a matter of prime importance to the child? How many of us in her shoes would have asked for a meeting with the teacher and boldly stated that as a teenager a girl tends to seek male company and as long as the children interacted as a group there was no cause for worry? Or, even if the teacher found her behavior unacceptable she ought to discuss the matter in private with the parents rather than demoralize the child in public.

No, we as parents would have screamed at the child and threatened to pull her out of school if another word regarding her ‘bad’ behavior was ever mentioned by the teacher. I remember telling my son that I would send him to work as a porter in the railway station if he did not do well in class.

I have no problem” he replied “It is up to you to decide whether you wish to be known as a porter’s mother”. 

It was easy for him to say this because he was well above average and knew that my empty threats were best ignored. I shudder to think about the impact my words might have had if he had been unable to cope with academic pressure and had taken my words seriously.

As for teachers, I am afraid they too are ill equipped to handle today’s techno-savvy teenagers with every facility made available to them by doting parents. Being conservative is one thing but the present times also require some amount of flexibility. Parents and teachers need to interact regularly and decide how the best in a particular child may be brought out. The appointment of a counselor should be made mandatory in every school and value education ought to be imparted not as a sermon from a pedestal but by acquainting one’s self of the problem areas in a student's life and adopting a non- judgmental attitude for students to be able to approach teachers for emotional support. 

Friday, January 04, 2013

On Family/Societal Values..........

A lot has been written about rape and rapists and I fully endorse the view that as a society we Indians need to do a lot of introspection regarding the respect accorded to women treating them as thinking individuals rather than considering them as inanimate objects to be used and thrown. I may sound harsh but apart from a lucky few, majority of Indian women do not even have the privilege of expecting their families to stand up for them in the case of a crisis be it torture for dowry, physical or sexual harassment.

Ours is a patriarchal society and its norms have been tailored to suit our men folk. They will ‘allow’ us o work outside home but will have control over the money that we earn. A colleague of mine was upset that her husband bought gifts for his parents and siblings when they visited them but never asked her what she would like to gift her parents. Oh, yes she did buy stuff for them too but it was his lack of concern that upset her. She had waited for years to see him treat her family with genuine affection but it never happened. On the other hand she was expected to take to their ways like fish to water. He had no qualms about asking her to apply for loan to finance the lavish wedding that was planned for his sister but the gift of a silk sari to her mother on her 60th birthday was waste of money. Would you expect a son who observes the dominating behavior of his father respect the women who may be his class mate or office colleague or for that matter the girl who may marry him? I would be happy if he did but would not be surprised if he didn’t.
Take another scenario. A mother is unable to cope with the influx of unexpected guests and needs help. She invariably expects her daughter to pitch in and help and vocally expresses her displeasure if she doesn’t. The son on the other hand may not be disturbed and the husband continues to chat with the guests discussing anything from politics to share market. The mental tuning is such that it does not even occur to the mother that the men in the family also need to do their bit.

The day a girl child is born one starts cribbing about the expense that would be incurred at the time of her wedding. ‘Who will marry her for free?’ is the common refrain. Did the new born girl ask you for a lavish wedding? She grows up listening to family members calling her ‘paraya dhan’ and even while educating her, parents – particularly the mother – never fail to remind her that spending money on her education was a waste since it would be her husband and his family that reaped the benefits. If one’s daughter was self assured and confidant and established herself in her new home would it not make parents proud? The girl grows up feeling inadequate and is it not true that we need to learn to respect ourselves before expecting the world to do so.

I can quote several instances that indicate that the mind set of subjugating women has been accepted as their fate by women and right by men for generations. Rapists and the like derive sadist pleasure in overpowering their female counterparts and their act is an extension of the will to control and subjugate them. Teaching our sons and daughters to treat each other with mutual respect will help control incidents of sexual harassment, molestation and rape to a very great extent. Distributing sweets when a son is born is not sufficient. It is the not only the responsibility but duty of parents to inculcate values in them and this can be done by leading by example. Like charity societal values also begin from one’s home.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Happy new year!!

Hi all of you. A very happy year 2013 to all of you. My computer has gone crazy and I am trying to use my I pad to write this post. Nothing like the old fashioned desktop with Microsoft word installed where one could write at leisure and save documents. I think sooner rather than later I am ging to either buy a laptop or get my computer fixed. I pad and the like are not for me. Or who knows? I may just get used to this version of technological advancement. Wish me luck.