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For centuries Indian mothers have used simple recipes and folk wisdom to treat common ailments. Today these are still in everyday use, although now they are seen more as stopgap solutions. We call them KAI VAIDHIYAM, which means cures available at hand
These use the spices, leaves, roots, flowers, fruits and even bark of medicinal plants and trees.

In this collection, I am trying to bring together these old treatments known to my family and friends, before we forget them, and are lost to our children.
#curesathand

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The Sunday Market

Hurray! It was Sunday at last! Now you all must be wondering, so what was so special about it being a Sunday?
Oh, Sundays were very special and brought lots of excitement with them. First, it was a school holiday and second, it was the Market Day or Haat as it is called colloquially in northern India.
Haat is an open-air market that serves as a trading venue for local people, and it is no less than a fair.
We would get up early, wash, dress and finish breakfast in no time. Then we (me, my brother and my father) would leave for the Haat. Sometimes, my mother would also accompany us. The transport was a shuttle bus that took 10 minutes to reach there. We were sure to bump into our friends in the bus itself.
The market was a huge open ground almost the size of a football field. Here locals brought their produce and wares to sell. Some of them would put up tents and others would just spread out a cloth on the ground and sit neatly in rows with their laden baskets and hand balance under umbrellas. Vegetables, fruits, greens, pots, pans and what not! It was like one could buy anything and everything there. The produce sold was always fresh.

As we entered the marketplace, a big tent would greet us and immediately our noses would start tingling, and we would be hard put to stifle our sneezes. There would be dried red chilies piled high, red chilly powder, turmeric powder and other spices too. The smells would just overwhelm you!
Next to it would be a display of jaggery. Jaggery is a concentrated product of date, cane juice, or palm sap and can vary from golden brown to dark brown in color. Traditionally, the syrup is made by boiling raw sugarcane juice or palm sap in large, shallow, round-bottom vessels.
They would be shaped as big roundels, small balls or even as small squares. They would all taste different. The best thing would be that we children were always offered some to taste.

The men and women were dressed in colorful but simple clothes. The women wore long skirts and short blouses called Ghaghra - Choli with their heads covered with a long piece of cloth called an Odhni. Their jewelry was made of silver, and they wore ivory bangles. An ideal set had 17 bangles, worn on the upper arm and nine on the lower arm, a total of 52 on both arms. Their silver anklets made the sweetest sound as they walked around. The men wore huge round turbans on their heads in different colors. They too wore silver bracelets called Kadaas on their hands.

The vegetables were fresh, tender and inviting. The greens would be clean, without any sand or grit. We would buy what was needed and move down the rows, stopping here and there. Watermelons and muskmelons made their appearance during the summer months. Carts full of juicy melons would see a massive crowd, everyone wanted to buy them. A small wedge would be cut out to show the purchaser how red, juicy and ripe the melon was. Then it was put back, weighed and sold.
Another favourite would be the mangoes. There were many varieties like Dushehri, Langra, Totapari and Chausa. Each one varied in taste, texture and fragrance. We loved the Chausa or Chausna ( it means to suck ). These mangoes were pulpy and incredibly sweet.
We used to buy them in large numbers. At home, they used to be immersed in a bucket of water, and we all would sit around and take one, then massage it between our hands to loosen the pulp, bite off a bit of its skin to make a small hole and suck out the sweet juicy pulp. It was a no fuss, no mess way of eating a mango. We could not stop at one or two and go on eating much to our mother's consternation. She would admonish us, but we ate to our heart's? No stomach's content! But she had her way by forcing us to drink that extra glass of milk to negate the effects of the mangoes( that is what she believed).

The bags got filled quickly and feeling a little thirsty, we would stop at the sugarcane juice sellers to quench our thirst. Fresh peanuts and water chestnuts would be piled high, brown, green and purple, side by side. And then Ber ( Indian Jujube) would welcome us with its shiny brown skin and sweet and sour flesh.
Butter was always made fresh from the cream bought at the market from the milkmen. They came with tins filled with fresh cream. Our last stop would be this. The cream would be churned by hand to obtain fresh butter. The fluffy, yellowish butter was divine to eat. Mother would keep some for us before clarifying the rest to get ghee. I don't think I have tasted a better ghee ever.

The bags would suddenly start to feel heavy, and we would be ready to go back home. We waited for the bus at a small shop selling rice, wheat, and pulses. He had a sack full of crystal salt kept in the front. I was very fond of it and would pick up a small crystal and sit licking it much to the amusement of others.
The bus would at last arrive, and we went back home a happy lot. Back home we would help my mother to stack the fridge with the vegetables we had bought, have lunch and go to sleep.
This was our routine most Sundays. Whole through the week, between school, homework, and play, we eagerly waited for the next Sunday.....

#curesathand
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Seeds And Leaves

Coriander, known as Cilantro, or Chinese Parsley is an annual herb and is easy to grow. All parts of the plant are edible, but the fresh leaves and the dried seeds are the parts most traditionally used in cooking. It is employed in cuisines the world over.
The fresh leaves are used as a garnish and for making chutney. The seeds are used whole, crushed or powdered. Coriander lends a distinctive taste and aroma to the dishes.
My grandmother was too generous with it (for our liking ). She would then insist that we eat all of it as it was good for our eyesight and growing bones. We always pulled a face but did not disobey her. I am glad that ate it all up as I am more aware of its benefits now.
As a rich source of calcium, coriander protects the integrity of the bones. Calcium and other essential minerals found in coriander are integral components of bone regrowth and durability. Adding even a small amount of coriander to your diet can help to keep the bones healthy and strong for years to come.
She had a good few remedies up her sleeve too. The summer months are scorching and humid, and we all suffered from heat rashes and prickly heat.
For Prickly Heat
Take equal quantities of Vetiver, Sandalwood powder and Coriander seeds. Grind them to a smooth paste. Add some Rose Water and apply on the affected parts. Wash off with tepid water when dry.
For Itchy Skin
Make a paste of coriander seeds with water. Add a little honey and mix thoroughly. Apply this paste on the itchy areas and get instant relief. Wash off with cold water after 10 minutes.
Coriander, on the whole, has antioxidant, antibacterial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties. Enjoy the shiny green leaves and the seeds in your diet and let them safeguard your body from infections and diseases.

#curesathand For centuries Indian mothers have used simple recipes and folk wisdom to treat common ailments. Today these are still in everyday use, although now they are seen more as stopgap solutions. We call them KAI VAIDHIYAM, which means cures available at hand. 
In this collection, I am trying to bring together these old treatments known to my family and friends, before we forget them, and are lost to our children.

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Singing Waves

Beaches have always been a great source of attraction for me. I could spend hours just watching the waves make patterns on the shore or the tiny crabs trying to burrow themselves into the sand as the water receded. The gentle waves lapping at your feet as you stood there and the feeling of being dragged in with the ebbing water, oh I could go on!
And then someone told me it is an amazing experience to be on a beach at night, under the blazing stars. Fortunately, there were a few beaches near Mayuram that we went to in the holidays. The nearest were Poompuhar to the north and Tharangambadi to the south of it and both were almost equidistant.
A 30Km, Metre Gauge line connected Mayuram to Tharangambadi. It was fun to ride on that slow moving train, except for the smell emanating from the compartments. The train was mostly used by the fisherfolk to transport fresh and dried fish. The smell was unbearable for us and sometimes we had to hold our breath. (Due apologies to all fish lovers) This line had been in operation since 1902, but the line was closed in 1999.
Tharangambadi means a place of singing waves. It dates back to the 14th century. In the year 1302, a Siva temple was built here on a land given by Maravarman Kulasekara Pandyan 1. And as of now that temple is the oldest monument there.
It was a Danish colony from 1620 to 1845, and was called Tranquebar or Trankebar in Danish. The Danes came around 1620, and a Danish Admiral Ove Gjedde felt that this place could be a potential trading center and made a deal with the Nayak ruler, Raghunatha Nayak. He then built a fort which is known as Fort Dansborg. This fort was the residence and headquarters of the governor and other officials for about 150 years. The sea, well protected the fort on the western and the eastern sides. A moat surrounded the fort, and the only entry was over a drawbridge. But there is no sign of the moat now.
The British occupied Tranquebar in 1808 February, during the Napoleonic Wars. The colony was handed over to the Danes in the year 1814 after the Treaty of Kiel and the Norwegian Declaration Of Independence. But it was ultimately sold to the British in 1845.
The Dansborg Fort now houses a museum and the antiquities connected to the British, and the Danish occupation is exhibited there. It showcases porcelain ware, Danish manuscripts, glass objects, Chinese tea jars, terracotta figurines, lamps, sculptures, swords, daggers, spears and much more. It also houses a large sawfish rostrum and small cannonballs.
The Tsunami of 2004 destroyed a few buildings. Some of these have been restored.
As children, we spent many evenings there, exploring the shores, collecting shells and chasing baby crabs. Leafing through my old photos, I relived this moment from my past. It has also made me want to pack my bags and make a trip to Tharangambadi to hear the waves sing once again.

#curesathand
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Fenugreek Leaves

We were taught very early, the importance of eating green leafy vegetables. A few were grown and others were bought from a lady who went from street to street selling a basket full of greens. Each day a different one would be cooked and it was made sure that we finished our portions.
Fenugreek is a plant that can be used as a herb, spice and a vegetable. The dried leaves are used as a herb to impart flavour to dals and subzis, the seeds used as a spice and fresh leaves cooked as leafy greens.
Fenugreek leaves are rich in calcium, iron and roughage. Though slightly bitter in taste, they have anti inflammatory and expectorant properties. The leaves are especially beneficial for lactating mothers as it is said to increase breast milk.
Many of these greens were used externally as a cure or a remedy too. A paste or juice of fresh fenugreek leaves is used externally for skin and hair care.
For Skin
Fenugreek leaves work wonders for the skin. Wash and grind a handful of fresh leaves and then extract its juice. To a tablespoon of juice add a teaspoon of honey. Massage this in your skin and leave it to dry. Wash off with warm water. This helps in getting rid of spots and blemishes. A facial scrub can be made with some rice flour added to fresh fenugreek leaf juice, that will help in removing blackheads.
For Hair
A thick paste of fresh leaves is used as a hair mask. This mask should be kept for 20 to 30 minutes, then washed off with cold water. Doing so would help prevent dandruff and an itchy scalp. This mask also strengthens the hair roots and thus prevents hair loss.
All the cooking at my grandmother's was done on an open wood fire. This resulted in minor burns from time to time. She would quickly make a poultice from fresh fenugreek leaves and apply them on these burns. As fenugreek has cooling properties, it would help heal these burns and reduce the swellings.

#curesathand For centuries Indian mothers have used simple recipes and folk wisdom to treat common ailments. Today these are still in everyday use, although now they are seen more as stopgap solutions. We call them KAI VAIDHIYAM, which means cures available at hand. 
In this collection, I am trying to bring together these old treatments known to my family and friends, before we forget them, and are lost to our children.


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Indian Gooseberry

The Indian Gooseberry or Amla ( Hindi ) is considered to be sacred by the Hindus. The fruit by itself has a sour and bitter taste. People eat it with a bit of salt. Even so, it leaves a sweet aftertaste when you drink some water after eating it.

Traditional Indian medicine uses both the dried and fresh fruits of the plants. As it is a very rich source of Vitamin C and minerals, it is beneficial for our health overall.

During my stay in North India, I learned that gooseberry was used to alleviate nausea.
The fruit was cut into small pieces and was either candied or soaked in a mixture of yogurt and salt and then dried in the sun. They aid digestion too, and you can have a few after your meals.

My grandmother and my aunts used to make an oil with gooseberry and coconut oil. The regular use of this oil promotes hair growth and arrests premature greying of hair. The recipe was very simple.
Gooseberry Oil
A few fresh berries would be cut into small pieces and added to coconut oil. Keep this oil in the sun for about five weeks. After that, you can filter the oil or use it like that.
If you are not that much into oiling your hair, then this hair mask would do too.
Hair Mask
Mix two tablespoons of gooseberry powder with a tablespoon of honey and yogurt. Add water to adjust its consistency. Apply this paste to the hair strands and roots, keep for 30 minutes and rinse off with warm water. You can use this mask weekly.
NOTE
Gooseberry is considered to have a cooling effect on the body, so those knowledgeable about these cures, do not recommend it if you are suffering from a cold.

Not only these, but my grandmother also made delicious chutneys and pickles out of them too. Her neighbour had many gooseberry trees in their yard. We had a free run there and would spend time helping them pluck the fruits. And in return, we would get some to eat.
A fresh gooseberry or 1/2 a teaspoon of its powder is enough to get maximum benefits

#curesathand For centuries Indian mothers have used simple recipes and folk wisdom to treat common ailments. Today these are still in everyday use, although now they are seen more as stopgap solutions. We call them KAI VAIDHIYAM, which means cures available at hand. 
In this collection, I am trying to bring together these old treatments known to my family and friends, before we forget them, and are lost to our children
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Magical Mint

My grandmother not only had cures and remedies for our day to day ailments but also had many magical beauty solutions.
And the use of mint was one of them.

Mint is a favorite, perennial, aromatic herb found all over the world. There are said to be between 13 to 18 species and hundreds of varieties of mint.
It is a herb that has been in use for hundreds of years for its remarkable medicinal properties too.
Mint tea, mint oil, and mint juice are all very useful in treating problems related to the skin.
For Acne
Wash and grind a handful of mint leaves with rose water. Apply the mix to the face, leave it till it dries off. Wash with tepid water. The combination can be used twice a week.
For Acne Scars
Mix equal quantities of mint juice, tomato juice with a little Fuller's Earth (Multani Mitti), apply this paste and wash off with lukewarm water when dry. When used regularly, visible results can be seen.

As children, we bore the brunt of many insect bites and stings of honeybees, wasps and hornets too. They used to be pretty painful, and we used to come bawling to her. She would rush to back yard and come up with some mint leaves. In a motor and pestle, she would pound it and extract its juice. This juice then would be applied to the affected areas. The cooling sensation of the fluid would relieve us of the pain and also the urge to scratch. It also helped in reducing the swelling.

Mint cleans the skin like it is a jewel. The harsh rays of the sun and pollution make our skin dull and lifeless. Drinking mint tea on a regular basis helps rejuvenate the skin. Antioxidants present in the mint act on sunburns, wrinkles, premature aging and skin eruptions.
Mint Tea
Wash a handful of fresh mint leaves and bruise them a bit. Add to boiling water, remove from heat and let it seep for a few minutes. Drink warm.
Though at that time my grandmother might have been unaware of the antioxidants present in mint, she sure knew its benefits. So next time you use mint, make it a point to pamper your skin too, with it.

#curesathand For centuries Indian mothers have used simple recipes and folk wisdom to treat common ailments. Today these are still in everyday use, although now they are seen more as stopgap solutions. We call them KAI VAIDHIYAM, which means cures available at hand. 
In this collection, I am trying to bring together these old treatments known to my family and friends, before we forget them, and are lost to our children
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I started this collection some 15 weeks ago. At that time I was very apprehensive and unsure as to how the simple remedies and folk wisdom that I was going to write about would be received. My apprehensions have been laid to rest and I am very happy that they are being received quite well. I wish you all a very happy and prosperous new year and look forward to your continued support and encouragement.
#curesathand
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Eucalyptus Oil
The winter months in southern India ( November to February ) were not severely cold when compared to the North. But for us, it felt very chilly and the usual respiratory problems bothered us.
My grandmother was prepared for this, not only with her stock of herbs and spices, but also with the wooden box full of small bottles holding essential oils. These oils were treasured for their medicinal value and were administered with care. The most used oil in these months was the Eucalyptus Oil or Nilgiri Tel as it is called in Hindi. Interestingly when translated Nilgiri literally means the Blue Mountain.
This oil is colourless with a strong woody and sweet scent.
She would insist that we add a few drops of Eucalyptus Oil to our bath water. The hot water would help to diffuse the oil and we would thus inhale its vapours. This would help clear our nasal passages. At night a small cotton ball with a few drops of the oil would be kept in the sleeping area to further facilitate breathing. ( We had no diffusers those days )
To treat a runny nose and to loosen congestion, eucalyptus oil can be applied topically to the chest, nose, forehead and back. As it is a strong oil and cannot be directly used on the skin, she used to mix it with Sesame oil in the ratio of 1:4 ( a part of eucalyptus oil to four parts of sesame oil )
This oil mix can be put to good use to treat minor cuts and wounds, burns, insect bites, abrasions and sore too. It acts as a natural pain reliever to the affected area and keeps it from being infected.
All this was fine with us, but sometimes she would make a tea out of dried eucalyptus leaves and the eucalyptus oil and insist that we drink it. We dreaded that, as we did not find it to our taste. She would stand there, in front of us till we finished it. She let us know loud and clear that as the leaves were not available locally it was to be treasured and not wasted.
Eucalyptus Tea
METHOD - Boil water and add dried leaves and a few drops on eucalyptus oil in it. Cover and keep for 10 minutes.
HOW TO USE - Add a teaspoon full of honey and drink it hot three times a day.
BENEFITS - This helps in clearing congestion and relieves coughing.
NOTE - The tea should be made fresh every time and should be consumed hot.
Eucalyptus Oil is a strong oil so less is more.

#curesathand For centuries Indian mothers have used simple recipes and folk wisdom to treat common ailments. Today these are still in everyday use, although now they are seen more as stopgap solutions. We call them KAI VAIDHIYAM, which means cures available at hand. 
In this collection, I am trying to bring together these old treatments known to my family and friends, before we forget them, and are lost to our children.

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Adamant Creeper

As the name suggests this plant is really hardy and grows quickly. The tendrils, though tiny have a firm grip on the ground as well as any other plant or tree nearby.
The scientific name of this plant is Cissus quadrangularis. It is a perennial plant of the grape family. Its common names are, veldt grape, devil's backbone or adamant creeper.
This plant has been used as a medicinal plant since antiquity. There was a big patch in my grandmother's backyard. She put it to good use. A chutney made of the cleaned and sauteed stems with dried red chillies, salt, tamarind, urad dal and jaggery was a must twice a week. It was eaten with hot rice and ghee. This chutney treated all digestion related problems like gastritis, indigestion and lack of appetite. I once questioned her that when it tasted so good why can't we have it everyday? She laughed and said, it was beneficial only in moderation.
She went on to extol how useful it was in treating swollen joints and minor sprains and fractures.
A poultice was made by grinding together the cleaned stems, a little sea salt, a pinch of turmeric powder and a bit of tamarind. It was then heated in a pan till the heat was bearable. This was then applied to the affected area and wound with a clean cloth or bandage.
The Sanskrit name is Asthisamharaka meaning that which prevents the destruction of bones.
I am aware that many will doubt the efficacy of such a poultice, but it has been in use for a long time. Nowadays it is available in powdered form too.
NOTE - While cleaning the stems, care must be taken. Oil your hands lightly or they will itch. While preparing the chutney, the cleaned and cut stems must be sauteed very nicely.

#curesathand For centuries Indian mothers have used simple recipes and folk wisdom to treat common ailments. Today these are still in everyday use, although now they are seen more as stopgap solutions. We call them KAI VAIDHIYAM, which means cures available at hand. 
In this collection, I am trying to bring together these old treatments known to my family and friends, before we forget them, and are lost to our children.

Photo
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