Wednesday, 31 December 2014

The Razor Sharp connection .. from worthy warriors to worthy wordsmiths

Thanks to my love for reading, I have read about many men, in my life.  

And, thanks to this #WillYouShave activity, recently reflected & inferred a razor sharp connection .. between many illustrious men .. be they warriors or wordsmiths.

To start with, did you know that Scandinavian men who lived 3,000 years ago were buried with bronze straight-edged razors?  Many men were buried with shaving kits in the early Bronze Age. Razors and tweezers made of bronze have been found on Denmark’s Funen (Fyn) Island:

Image Courtesy.  Original Courtesy: National Museum of Denmark

Egyptian men embraced shaving with gusto at the start of the Dynastic Period. During this time, hair became seen as a symbol of man’s animalistic tendencies. Thus to put off the primal man and become civilized, Egyptian men began removing all the hair from their heads, faces, and even bodies. Wealthy Egyptian men often hired full-time barbers to live with them in order to maintain their smooth as a baby’s behind look every day. Less affluent Egyptians would frequent the local barber to have their faces and heads shaved daily. To appear unshaven became a mark of low social status.  Hair removal was so important to Ancient Egyptians that kings would have their barbers shave them with sanctified, jewel-encrusted razors. When a king died, he was often buried with a barber and his trusty razor, so he could continue to get his daily shaves in the afterlife.
The Ancient Romans were clean-shaven folk. A young man’s first shave was an important event in his life and was ritualized in an elaborate religious ceremony.
Some ancient Hindu sects practiced a first shave ritual similar to the ancient Romans. According to the Grihya Sutra, a collection of ritual texts that outlined the rites a Hindu was to perform in his home, a boy was to receive his first shave when he turned sixteen. Known as the Godanakaruman, this ceremonial first shave was performed by a local barber.
That's a diverse set of worthy warriors from the ancient past.  
Where are the wordsmiths, you ask?
The twain shall meet here: Mark Twain, the author of "the Great American novel", in 'Innocents Abroad', writes on his cherished fantasies of opulent old world shaving palaces and the reality of the experience. Here is an excerpt:

While in France:

Then we hunted for a barber-shop. From earliest infancy it had been a cherished ambition of mine to be shaved some day in a palatial barber-shop in Paris. I wished to recline at full length in a cushioned invalid chair, with pictures about me and sumptuous furniture; with frescoed walls and gilded arches above me and vistas of Corinthian columns stretching far before me; with perfumes of Araby to intoxicate my senses and the slumbrous drone of distant noises to soothe me to sleep. At the end of an hour I would wake up regretfully and find my face as smooth and as soft as an infant's. Departing, I would lift my hands above that barber's head and say, "Heaven bless you, my son!".

As humankind progressed, I can - despite geography or history - see a razor sharp connection between the literary men in my life .. worthy warriors to winsome wordsmiths. 

I know the guys reading this post must be heaving a sigh of relief about the goodies Gillette brings you, instead of those bronze age scary equipment.

This post is a part of #WillYouShave activity at BlogAdda in association with Gillette

Cheers :)

Cleanliness is Godliness

Yeah, I know .. the saying goes, "Cleanliness is next to Godliness".

The earliest I learnt this is from THE man in my life, my Dad.  

Through life, slowly but surely, I understood, more through his actions than words ever .. that 'cleanliness, in mind, body (face included) & soul, indeed is Godliness'.

Read on .. unfolding right here, right now, my journey of understanding .. 

Dad's always been a man of discipline, values & clean principles .. come what may.  I have seen him in a very high pressure job, with a family to fend for .. and yet, fearlessly & ethically standing by what he valued as the 'right thing to do'.  Oh wait, I understood this much later in life .. almost past my teens and well into adulthood.

What first caught my attention about Dad being 'clean' is .. his face & that, through his aftershave :)

Dad being an avid Old Spice user, my earliest childhood morning memories are a tie between Mom's garden flowers wafting in their freshness & natural scent and Dad's aftershave lotion.

As a little girl, I was fascinated by his aftershave fragrance. Long before I inherited an allergic gene from Grandpa, during my puberty, that rendered me allergic to (strong) perfumes & fragrances, I used to meticulously observe Dad in the mornings. 

I must have been, like, eight or nine years old, when I asked Dad, unable to hold onto my curiosity anymore, "can I use that?". "That" was his aftershave lotion :-D

Dad, sure, was amused.  Mom was irritated!  But, Dad is a very good communicator & what he imparts .. he imparts indelibly .. for a lifetime.  

Dad then, over many discussions, shared with me what he called, "the art of shaving". To an eight year old girl child! I am Dad's son .. I am also his daughter.  That is how he raised me.  Long before I finally became a woman, I was an unforgettable tomboy!

An already fascinated me became privy to blade angles (yes, that is how sincere Dad is, with imparting any art or science, for that matter), razor attributes (he used to tell me, "this is the most important thing - not every advertised razor is good"), shaving frequency, how men should take care of their facial topography [Dad used to tell me how some develop "potholes" on their cheeks over a medium to long term - that is the language I understood then, so he went that way] and to my delight, how & which aftershave to select .. and to my disappointment, why exactly I can never use his aftershave .. very nearly.

Why "very nearly" you ask? Because, together, we found a way I could use his aftershave.  As I graduated to a two wheel cycle (a lovely bright red bicycle), Dad & I were regulars around Delhi's admirable park circuit. Every residential locality then had a healthy green park.  I struggled with my balancing initially & despite Dad running after me .. I had enough falls and bruises. Guess what Dad applied first onto my bruises? His aftershave .. he maintains, to this day, it is an antiseptic :)

This is how I first learnt the secret behind his well maintained clean face.  Dad is dark complexioned .. one could even classify him as rustic in looks.  His two winning features that have stood out .. since I was like two years old to this day .. his discipline and maintenance of his hair and his face.  I have never seen Dad shabby or with stubble.  Now a senior citizen, he still maintains a head full of hair - though lots sugar than pepper now and a clean face .. with no 'potholes' of course. To this day, his aftershave fascinates me.

That first lesson in cleanliness then extended to a lifetime of watching him weave cleanliness in not just body, but mind and soul.  Unwavering, indelible, unmatched.

At age ten, I once asked him, "don't you get bored that you have to shave? you don't seem to have an option not to?".  Dad retorted, "Does Mom get bored of weeding your favorite garden?".  Enough said.  What until then seemed a burden, at times, to me now seemed an exercise in enabling.  What's a garden full of weeds? What's a face full of hair?

Dad quite admired Cary Grant, someone he & his friends used to call the "God of Shaving".  Until today, I thought it was a title they lovingly conferred on Cary.  

Then, hit Google today, ahead of this post and discovered a shave blog actually titling a post on Cary, "God of Shaving".  Phew! Gals, and we thought only we run beauty and grooming blogs? 

As a grown up literature fan, I have read with interest Noah's story, "The Wart" where Noah is referred to as "Noah stood before a life size mirror and started shaving himself.  It was a sort of ritual he performed religiously every day. Shaving and bathing were preparations for prayer.  And prayer was a starter .."

Dear me, that applies so much to my Dad as well.

I learnt from Dad that "Cleanliness is indeed Godliness, by itself". Be it cleanliness of face & body, of thoughts & mind, or of values & soul.

This post is a part of #WillYouShave activity at BlogAdda in association with Gillette

Cheers :)

Even Supermen Shave!

Well groomed is well armed.  

Leading that armory .. for both ladies & gentlemen .. are hair & face.

For me, personally, a clean face (sans acne for ladies & sans stubble for the gentlemen) is an instant, healthy people connect.  Color doesn't matter.  Clean quotient does.

I never pondered if I am the only one who is thus predisposed.  And, how the larger world perceives this. What defines us & our personalities .. first & foremost? Are we all men & women or guys & gals of action alone? Are our impressions made long before we act or deliver results? And, are results a substituting or compensating effect for 'less than par' grooming standards?

Until I made this discovery in the run up to this post .. 

Lest you either think I am the only one or you think this is for ordinary mortals .. ah, ah .. hang on .. take a look at .. what I discovered ..

A bevy of, well, no, not beauties .... a bevy of Supermen .. take grooming very seriously .. and are caught shaving!

Utter "Supermen" and my top two favorites are, indeed, Batman & Spiderman. From childhood, they have always been men in my life .. first through comics & then through Hollywood movies.

Batman, quite simply, for making sure Gotham City doesn't become 'Go to them' city, preventing it from falling prey to evil. 

Spiderman, for poignantly & repeatedly, spinning home the truth that "Great Power comes with Great Responsibility".

If there ever is a feeling that only money & power matter, then, here are our supermen, out to dispel that .. they groom first .. deliver next.

I caught them shaving .. and, needless to say, was amazed.

Even more, I was quite amused to see how they shave; a picture, they say, is worth a thousand words, so partake your thousand right below:

Image Courtesy - Artist: DragonArte

These are, just to reinforce, "Supermen"!

I would think these supermen are beyond life's everyday foibles.  Their selves are what I would call, beyond selfies!

And if these supermen can, right before setting out each day to save our world, give grooming its due .. well, well, men on Earth .. that's some super message.

Grooming counts .. and I guess the smarter ones .. make it count for them.

Meanwhile, Gentlemen, never mind, what in my opinion, are the super messy ways of these supermen grooming themselves.  

You sure have smarter ways of shaving & grooming.  Thanks to Gillette.

So, what are you waiting for? Go, grab your armor.  Get well armed.

This post is a part of #WillYouShave activity at BlogAdda in association with Gillette

Cheers :) 

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Let's Undo Classroom Hunger in India

Belonging to a truly "Tech(ie)" generation, I call myself a member of the "Undo" generation.  Unabashedly.  I am sure many or most of us do.

We are used to the ability to undo anything. Pretty much. Within the precincts of our privileged tech & online world. 

But, alas, how I wish we had the power to undo a whole lot, outside the online world. In the offline world.  Every experience in the offline world increasingly brings to my mind, our utter helplessness and inability to undo a whole range of ills plaguing our society and humankind, in general.

Chief among them - childhood hunger and educational deprivation because of that. One of the cruelest ways in which life can manifest.

Life - even for those raised in protective families, given more than average food, clothing, shelter, emotional security, education & protection - is far too tough these days. I can say that emphatically from my own limited but intense experience.  Leaves me aghast at life's depravity. 

How would life be, if we were, say 8 or 12 years old & have to either miss education because we can't afford it or because we have to find livelihood & food for the family? 

Sure, the Government of India (irrespective of which political party has been / is in power) has introduced schemes extending education to children without the access and means.  

But, as someone with keen interest in gardening, I can tell you - no matter how much shade & soil you give to plants - its the water & nutrition that you invest - that ultimately yield the sweetest fruits & the spectacular flowers.

For a child, the first brush of nutrition comes from food.  For anything we invest in a child to bear fruit, the child must be well satiated and well nourished. 

Therefore, to educate a child - we necessarily have to feed the child first.  This is where the various Government schemes around school meals as well as foundations such as Akshaya Patra Foundation deserve mention.  Each of these have made their own valuable contribution to a very vital social need.

To put this social need in perspective, let me quote some staggering statistics from The Wall Street Journal:

Number of malnourished people in India: 213 million 

Percentage of children under age 5 who are underweight: 48%

That latter number is striking because it extends to children not getting to school or dropping out of school; their families need them to find food first.

It is in this context & background that the Central (federal) and State Governments of India as well as non-profit foundations such as Akshaya Patra are concentrating on school meals - to not just avoid classroom hunger but to ensure the children are fit enough to receive education at its optimum.

Proof of the pudding lies in the eating, as they say.

I researched to find this International Growth Centre study.  The study begins by reminding us that undernourished children are more likely to have behavioural problems such as attention deficit, depression and aggression which in turn inhibit educational attainment.  I would add they go on to add to the Nation's crime statistics, eventually.  Such is the brutality of denial of basics.

The study finds practical proof that tackling classroom hunger by providing school meals results in improved attendance, fitness and concentration in school children - ultimately turning out better educational attainment.

This is good news.

Now, how do each of us - beneficiaries of a modern and tech India - participate in & give back to this cause?

Here is the first way in which I want to do it:

Nothing fancy.  I detest fancy announcements when it comes to social welfare. I prefer quiet, understated, focused, committed efforts at the individual and group level.

My thoughts:

1.  I would love for each of us to adopt one kid's (to start with) food and nutrition requirement for an year.  

2.  From a public school in our locality or closest home. 

3.  Just meet the parents and the school authorities and draw up a nutrition chart with the help of our family physician (or a nutritionist if you fancy).   

4.  Make no demands from either the child or the parents - except that she / he regularly attend school.  

5.  I would love to extend this a bit (life and means permitting) to food grains for the family.  Its cruel when families have to pull out performing students to find livelihood to augment family sustenance.

6.  Later, extension of medical subsidy would be great too.

The Government can play a crucial facilitator role in this - remember the infamous education cess we all pay as part of our Income Tax for a while now - its mandatory!  Ever cared to go through how much of it gets allocated where? I got lost.  I wish the Government will broad base this and encourage each of us to go local.  

Hope you find reason in what I hold forth.  Do let me know your suggestions for eliminating classroom hunger in India and the World. 

To start with, I am going to #BlogToFeedAChild with Akshaya Patra and BlogAdda.

Thank you BlogAdda for this opportunity - much appreciate & cherish your initiative. 

Cheers :)