Long live Ayurveda

Our own space Odyssey
Sqn Ldr Rakesh Sharma (bottom, left), the first Indian but 138th human in space, got his share of headlines. His moment was the “Saare jahan se accha” quip when PM Indira Gandhi asked him how India looked from space. But lines must be spared for the mission’s Indian backup cosmonaut — Wg Cdr Ravish Malhotra (top row, right) — who despite training equally hard and outranking Sharma, never made it.

Times gone
ed You grew up the day your father ruffled your hair and strapp on an aged HMT watch to your wrist. It was the fulfilment of initial aspirations and often a symbol of the passing of the patriarchal baton. Inspired by prevailing design trends, the government mandate for Hindustan Machine Tools, till then

Ayus, or “life” and veda, “knowledge”, come together in Ayurveda, the ancient Vedic science of health. Today it’s a form of traditional medicine, one of India’s most important cultural exports. Research is on, worldwide, into the health benefits of herbs used even as Indian institutions worry that these may be patented in the West. Meanwhile, tourists flock to our spas whose tribe has grown.

The original terr or icon

forging heavy tools, resulted in these nickel-shiny timepieces. The aam-admi got his Janata model, now prized by collectors.

Hot sams Convented brides...
Wheatish complexion. Or, how about a homely but “convented” girl? The big Indian arranged marriage was turned into a money-spinner by the newspapers, and now the Internet does an equally competent job.

What the hamburger is to America, the samosa is to India — a deep-fried pastry filled with potatoes (or mince or peas or nuts). An anytime snack, all the way from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, served everywhere from the toniest 24-hour diners to neighbourhood “sweet shops” to makeshift roadside stalls, the samosa unites India. Images of the Taj Mahal hotel in Mumbai on fire may be fresh in our minds but it is this 35-year-old skyscraper that will always be associated with terror in our hearts. The Air India building in south Mumbai was among several city centres targetted during the 1993 serial bomb blasts. Fifteen years later, Mumbai’s iconic building witnessed another terrorist assault — only this time it was the neighbouring Trident-Oberoi hotel.

Dosa diners
The dosa, with its steamed companion, idli, is permanently associated with the identity of a “Madrasi” (south Indian). S/he must be asked by fellow countrymen about the secret of mastering this preparation if s/he is a bonafide native. But the southies went a step further to satiate north Indian taste buds — by stuffing the dosa with paneer. Ugh!

Family planning
h The Hum do, hamare do slogan, the red triangle and Nirod condoms featured in what were probably the first social marketing campaigns in the country with the background score of “pyaar hua iqraar hua “.

Dhaba feasts
The dhabas, succour for millions of Indian highway users, can be credited to Punjabi enterprise and truck drivers in need. Today, of course, all our highways have these food havens where hearty, inexpensive meals and makeshift “restrooms” are guaranteed. And the concept has moved on: It is not odd to find a “dhaba” in a five-star hotel!

Kama Sutra land
When Vatsyayan wrote the Kama Sutra, his how-to treatise on sex in the fifth century, he could hardly have imagined that it would be in active publication so many centuries later. To the world, it signals sexual prowess, something Indians lament is sadly lacking in themselves. Yet, India remains the Kama Sutra land — ask any visitor.

Steady slip ons
Worn by celebrities and commoners alike, the humble Kolhapuri chappal aka “paaytaan”, as it is called by locals, was originally fashioned by cobblers in rural Maharashtra. Ingeniously designed, the footwear does not have any iron nails since the sole and the upper body of the chappals are joined by leather cord stitches.

Colourful chaos descends on the sleepy town of Shravanabelagola every 12 years. The exquisitely carved monolith of Bahubali, considered among the largest in the world, is the holiest shrine for the Jain community in the country. Devotees come in lakhs to perform the Mahamastabhisheka, a ritual that may seem to be in total contrast to the austerity preached by the sect — a chance to perform it can cost up to Rs 1.5 crore.

Super sensuality
What women, both urban and rural, are likely to hold in common is the continued and powerful belief in the special capacity of the saree to make a body more beautiful and womanly. This degree of intimacy between the wearer and the garment, more than that for any other form of clothing, may lead to a sense of the saree itself being animated, as having, in a metaphorical sense, a life of its own.

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