Category Archives: Thoughts to ponder

This is a place for us to share quotes, stories, and other things that inspire us.

The Celebrations of the Month of Scorpio | Halloween | Diwali



As October draws to a close, us Indian-Americans wait in anticipation for the upcoming festivities.  For us the portion of the calendar that marks the sign of Scorpio hosts two holidays, not just the one that either American children or Indian children get to enjoy in their own cultures.  For this reason, Indian-Americans are lucky indeed!

American families spend their Octobers anticipating and preparing for Halloween.  Indian families spend their Octobers anticipating and preparing for Diwali.  Indian-American families get to celebrate both!

The festivities are surprisingly similar.  In India, everyone wears a new outfit (which they actually call a costume, even though it’s just normal fancy clothes) for Diwali.  In America people celebrate by dressing in some fancy costume also.  In India families prepare lots of homemade sweets to surprise and delight their family and friends.  In America, families purchase or prepare lovely delights for the children that will visit them on Halloween

Diwali Burfi Cookbook
Diwali Burfi Cookbook (click here to purchase)


night.  Indian children run around their neighborhoods asking for all the treats available in their neighbors homes.  American children run around trick and treating.

So what do Indian-American children do?  They dress up in fancy costumes one evening, and crazy costumes another.  They indulge in Indian sweets on the evening of the new moon in October-November, and then gorge on party size treats on the 31st of October.  And they enjoy two really good reasons to run around house to house visiting friends and neighbors sharing treats.

There are so many blessings in being from dual cultures.  You can see why being Indian-American is such a pleasure in October-November.

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I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban – Part 3 of 3


On Tuesday Oct. 8, 2013 a book was published called “I am Malala.”  It’s the incredible story about an incredible young woman fighting for the rights of women, and for anyone who rights to education is being denied.  Today Oct. 11, 2013 she may be the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner in history.    Here is the rest of her story.  (Go back to part 1, part 2)

Malala’s public profile rose even further on December 19, 2011 when she was awarded Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.  At this event Mala announced she hoped to found a national party of her own to promote education.

“The prime minister directed the authorities to set up an IT campus in the Swat Degree College for Women at Yousafzai’s request, and a secondary school was renamed in her honor.By 2012, Yousafzai was planning to organize the Malala Education Foundation, which would help poor girls go to school.” (By Wikipedia)

As Malala became more recognized, she and her family faced more danger.  Death threats against her and her father were published in newspapers and slipped under her door.  Then on October 9, 2012, Malala was shot in the head and neck by a Taliban gunman while returning home on a school bus.  She was in critical condition for a few days and as soon as her condition improved enough she was sent to London further treatment and intensive rehabilitation.  Following the incident 50 Islamic clerics in Pakistan issued a statement against those who tried to kill Malala, but the Taliban reiterated its intent to kill her and her father.

The attempt on Malala’s life propelled her cause onto the global stage.  The United Nations started a global education program for girls called “I am Malala,” demanding that all children worldwide be in school by the end of 2015.  And this year the Malala Fund was created to provide education to girls around the world. This Friday, Oct. 11, 2013, the Nobel committee announces the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Malala has been nominated for this honor.

There are many organizations fighting the same fight as Malala.  All children, rich or poor, of any race, have a right to a basic education.  Badarikashrama is one of those organizations engaged in the fight for education for children.  Please support them so they can continue to support the children they serve.

On her 16th birthday, July 12, 2013, Malala addressed the United Nations in New York.  In her speech she stated, “They thought that the bullets would silence us, but they failed,” she said. “And then, out of that silence, came thousands of voices.”

Beatiful Malala Yousafzai

Beatiful Malala Yousafzai







(Go back to Part 1)

(Go back to Part 2)

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I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban – Part 2 of 3

On Tuesday Oct. 8, 2013 a book was published called “I am Malala.”  It’s the incredible story about an incredible young woman fighting for the rights of women, and for anyone who rights to education is being denied.  Yesterday I started my introduction of her.  Today I’d like continue the story.

Later in January 2009 the Taliban outright banned girls from schools.  They had already blown up over a hundred girls’ schools and the night before the ban the air was filled with the sound of artillery fire.  The next day, Malala couldn’t go to school, but she also read for the first time excerpts from her own blog that had been printed in the local paper.

Even after her school was shut down Malala continued to study for her exams.  She hoped that her school might re-open, but in February they still remained closed.  In solidarity with the girls’ school, the private boys’ schools also decided not to open until February 9.

On February 21st, the local Taliban leader announced that he was lifting the ban on girls’ education but the girls must wear burgas.  But only a few days later Malala blogged that there was yet another skirmish between the military and Taliban.  She wrote “People are again scared that the peace (that was recently announced) may not last for long.  Some people are saying that the peace agreement is not permanent, it is just a break in the fighting.”

On March 9th, Malala wrote that she had done well on a science paper, and also mentioned that the Taliban were not searching vehicles like they had been.  Her blog ended on March 12, 2009.

Soon after her blog ended, Malala and her father were asked by a New York Times reporter named Adam B. Ellick if they would like to film a documentary.  She was also introduced to President Barack Obama’s special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Hollbrooke.  In her meeting she pleaded with him saying, “Respected ambassador, if you can help us in our education, so please help us.”

Meanwhile, Malala’s father was issued several death threats from the Taliban leaders because of his own work as an activist for education.  After the documentary Malala was interviewed all over the world and her BBC blogging identity was revealed in Dec. 2009.  She also began appearing on television to advocate education for girls around the world.

Beatiful Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai








(Go back to Part 1)

(Go to Part 3)

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I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban – Part 1 of 3

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban

Yesterday a book was published called “I am Malala.”  It’s the incredible story about an incredible young woman fighting for the rights of women, and for anyone who rights to education is being denied.  Today I’d like to introduce you to her.

Here story began in 1997, when she was born to loving parents in a small town in Pakistan called Mingora.  There she grew up with her two younger brothers, her parents, and two pet chickens.

She was educated mostly by her father Ziauddin Yousafzai, a poet, school owner, and an educational activist himself.  He ran a group schools known as the Khushal Public School.

Thus Malala’s love for education began very young.  It was like it was in her blood.  As a young girl she told her father she wanted to be a doctor.  But they would spend hours late into the nights talking about politics.  He felt his daughter was truly something special and encouraged her to become a politician rather than a doctor.

Over the years of her childhood the Taliban at times prohibited girls from going to school.  In late 2008, Malala started to speak about education rights when her father took her to Peshawar to speak to a local press club.  The speech was covered by newspapers and television channels all over the region.  Her question to her audience was “How dare the Taliban take away my basic right to education?”

At the very beginning of 2009, Malala’s father was asked by a BBC reporter out of Pakistan if any women at his school would write about their life under the Taliban.  Other students volunteered, but where quieted by their parents that feared for the lives of their families.  Eventually, Ziauddin Yousafzai permitted his own daughter to agree to the project.  She was in the seventh grade at the time.  Fearing for her safety, the BBC editors insisted that she write under a pseudonym.  They chose “Gul Makai” which means “cornflower” in Urdu and is the name of a character in a Pashtun folktale.  Starting then, Gul Makai blogged for the BBC in opposition to the Taliban, drawing their militant rage.

(Go to Part 2)

(Go to Part 3)

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Gandhi’s experiments with Diet | Raw food diet – Part 3 of 3

Gandhi: Peace is it's own reward

Gandhi: Peace is it’s own reward

(Go back to Part 1, Part 2)

I do have, however, a few conflicts with this kind of diet, which Gandhiji himself faced and I will read something about what he said at the earlier stages of his experiments.  Gandhi would also be interested today in the many web sites about raw diets, of which there are hundreds, however, what I did see which might amuse Gandhiji was that there are myriads of recipes but so many of them use the dehydrator, which to me seems like cooking as it uses electricity and goes to very high temperatures, which certainly is heat, a different process than fire, but heat nevertheless.  Gandiji’s diet was very simple as we just saw awhile back. He once did the diet calling it then the vital food trial in Mumbai for a week but had weak spells and other health problems. Later he started in South Africa with different health problems. He also wrote that he felt that the majority of human beings would ever do away with cooking did not seem feasible. The vital food will not, cannot, as such, minister to the wants of the soul.

He also took a vow in South Africa to abstain from cow milk and buffalo milk as a protest against the mistreatment of dairy animals and the belief that taking of another species milk to be unnatural. He did however, due to health reasons, begin taking goat’s milk. Gandhi felt that a raw food diet allowed him to consume less food, therefore decreasing his consumption of world resources and the inevitable violence caused by growing and transporting food. His diet of mainly peanuts, lemons, dates, and olive oil led to his ill health when he added goat’s milk. He did still promote a vegan diet. Again I too experimented with a vegan diet while I was living in India, I took soy milk and tofu which I made myself, but my relationship with our cows led me to think that with proper treatment of the cows, closeness to their offspring, that they gave up the milk without too much of a fuss, and the use of milk in so many religious rituals was another factor. Also I saw that for many rural people milk was an additional protein source. He did take care to eat only fruit which was available and affordable for the poorest people, but olive oil has always been costly and not freely available and is even now one of the costliest oils, I also don’t understand why he didn’t explore the use of soy milk for he promoted the use of soy beans and their growth.  In spite of all his personal strictness in his own diet in his books on health as the Key to Health, and Diet and Diet Reform he advocated a well-balanced diet with proper balance between protein sources, fruits, vegetables and fats, and sugars.  Had Gandhi lived now I definitely feel he would have changed a few things but certainly would never give up vegetarianism.

Gandhi did not talk that much about exercise. However he did recommend that people should establish a balance between bodily labor and work. He also advocated doing physical work before you had a right to eat, or bread labor. Manual work should be part of education bringing the best in body, mind, and spirit he also wrote.

The longevity, the universal influence of the great people who have come to the world can be measured by their relevance to the present circumstances. Certainly, in every area of his life and teachings Mahatma Gandhi fits this definition. Just as he was advanced in his thinking and personal experiments and writings for society he is relevant for our times today. Read him and meditate on his words, you can only ignore him at your own peril.

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Gandhi’s experiments with Diet | Raw food diet – Part 2 of 3

Gandhi Proverb: An eye for an eye

Gandhi Proverb: An eye for an eye

(Go back to Part 1)

Gandhiji read extensively about diet, health, and nutrition in the literature of the times and also corresponded and met with a number of prominent writers on these subjects. He also wrote numerous articles and books on the subjects usually using his own experiments as examples. Examples are the Key to Health, Guide to Health, Diet and Diet Reform, which consists of many articles he had written in the Harijan and other publications. He also freely and openly discussed the failings and shortcomings of these experiments and changes he implemented. He was keenly aware of the economic realities of his time. He was very vocal in his condemnation of the use of polished rice, white flour, and white sugar pointing out the loss of vitamins and minerals in the processing of the whole grains and sugar cane. His approach to diet was very balanced and rational. He sagely noted the unhealthy departure from older methods of processing foods and the ill health of many urban peoples. Probably today he would again be taken aback by the relentless use of white flour, white sugar and white rice. Again he would also be happy to see that the whole grain alternatives are readily available. He was also opposed to the use of condiments as salt, chilies, pepper, turmeric, coriander, mustard seeds, cumin, and so on. This of course, could never become popular with the majority of people. Salt as Gandhi pointed out occurs naturally in all foods, but cooking methods often take out the natural salt and we put it back in. one could also argue that many spices and seeds have beneficial qualities as methi, and haldi—or turmeric. Chilies, of course, have the interesting history of coming from the America and traveling where they sautéed themselves into Indian cuisine; black pepper, native to India, traveled to the western world and beyond and stuck there. Condiments Gandhi observed destroyed the natural flavor of foods. Tea, coffee, and cocoa were also on Gandhi’s taboo list. And we need not mention intoxicants as liquors, drugs, tobacco, where he observed the ill effects of time and again in England, India and South Africa.

When I decided to become a vegetarian some 45 years back I also had to experiment in a land where it was considered a little mad. Gandhi, however, was my guiding force and strength as I read and reflected on his life. At the time I did think he was a little extreme but such a revered worldwide figure could not be rejected for any reason. Again, Gandhiji has come to my aid in my own extreme as I also go on another experiment to improve my health and find the correct diet for losing and maintaining proper weight and giving up salt and sugar, which I have seen for a long time as unnecessary evils. When I see the incidence of heart disease, diabetes, obesity and other related ills I again see the wisdom of Gandhiji. But the Truth has to slap you in the face and cause sufferings and pain before we can recognize it as the Truth, for most of us. My body has said once again, “stop,” and this time I think my mind is listening.

An example of what Gandhiji ate in his unfired or uncooked food experiment is this:  Sprouted wheat, pounded almonds, whole almonds, green vegetables, raisins or fresh fruit, lemons and honey, sometimes he took sprouted grams and grated coconut. He strove to find the right combinations of food. He also stressed proper mastication for unfired food and so on.

While reading again Gandhi’s writings which I always find to be clear, concise, and touching many sides of the topic, I became fascinated once again with his diet of unfired food, I took a vow to myself also to eat unfired or uncooked food until Gandhi Peace Prayer Day, today, and I am considering going until after Navaratri which ends on October 13th. Since Gandhi realized that most people need to take some milk product he introduced nonfat cheese in a small amount.  I am going towards my weight loss goal I feel very fit and full of energy and I feel full most of the time.

(Go to Part 3)

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Gandhi’s experiments with Diet | Raw food diet – Part 1 of 3

Gandhi peace day: focus on peace

Gandhi peace day: focus on peace

On September 29th, 2013, Badarikashram celebrated Gandhi Peace Day.  As part of the festivities, Mangala ji gave a talk on Gandhi’s raw food diet, and her experiences while trying to follow it.  I found it fascinating and thought you might also.  So, here is a copy of the speech she gave.

Gandhi wrote:  “I would like to say to the diligent reader of my writings and to others who are interested in them that I am not at all concerned with appearing to be consistent. In my search for the Truth, I have disguarded many ideas and learnt many new things. Old as I am in age, I have no feeling that I have ceased to draw inwardly or that my growth will stop at the dissolution of the flesh. What I am concerned with is my readiness to obey the call of the Truth, my God, from moment to moment, and therefore, when anybody finds any inconsistency between any two writings of mine, if he still has faith in my sanity, he would do well to choose the latter of the two on the same subject,” April 29, 1933, in the Harijan

Keep this in mind as we further look at Gandhiji’s experiments and beliefs about health, diet, and nutrition. Gandhi also said “I have found after prolonged experiment and observation that there is no fixed dietetic rule for all constitutions…laymen out to acquire a workable knowledge of the body which plays such an important part of the evolution of the soul within. And yet about nothing are we so woefully negligent or ignorant as in regard to our bodies. Instead of using the body as a temple of God we use it as a vehicle for indulgences and are not ashamed to run to medical men for any variety of ailments.”

Gandhiji conducted many experiments in dietetics which began in earnest in England while he was studying law. There he explored many facets of vegetarianism trying different combinations. Here the seed was sown for his lifelong commitment to vegetarianism in spite of experimenting with meat eating. He even started a branch of the Vegetarian Society during his stay abroad.

Later he felt that control of the palate was essential in observing the vow of brahmacharya. He pursued his experiments with brahmacharya in mind. He felt that a bramacharya’s food should be limited, simple, spiceless and if possible, uncooked. The ideal diet he concluded was fruits and nuts. Brahamacharya means control of the senses in thought, word, and deed.

In spite of his personal strictness he studied the nutritional requirements of people and advocated a number of changes in the national diet of India. He was very advanced for his time. He realized the dangers of overconsumption of sugar and salt. He gave up sugar entirely and salt for ten years straight although after some time he reintroduced a small amount of salt due to the advice of medical friends. Through he lent towards being a vegan he eventually included goat’s milk in his diet due to some health issues. He of course always advocated non meat eating under any circumstances. Vegetarianism he felt was one of the priceless gifts of Hinduism. He would now, however, be disturbed by the number of meat eating Hindus both here and in India and I am sure would have a lot to say to them. Conversely he probably would be encouraged by the growing number of vegans and vegetarians throughout the world, especially pleased to see so many dietary options.

(Go to part 2, part 3)

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Indian teaching proverb | You can give a man a fish, but… – Part 2


teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime

Teach a man to fish

(Go back to Part 1)

The Muslim minorities feared that they would be marginalized by the Hindu majority. A dispute broke out, and the leaders realized that it could not be resolved by reassurances and compromise. In the end, British India was divided into two separate nations: India, with a Hindu majority, and Pakistan, for those who believed in Islam.

Partitioned India: India and Pakistan

Partitioned India: India and Pakistan

The partition of British India into two sovereign countries was meant to pacify Muslims and strengthen relations between the two nations. Instead, both sides dredged up their rage towards being oppressed for so long and took it out on each other. Millions of people were murdered.  Towns and villages were ravaged, and the rivers ran red with the blood of India’s countrymen. Those who had escaped, had done so with barely the shirts on their backs. When I asked my father HOW they survived and thrived after such tragedy, he smiled sadly. He said that their persecutors could take their homes, their livelihoods, and even their very lives! But they couldn’t take their hearts and minds. Whatever lessons they had learnt while growing up, whatever education they had received, had proven useful in rebuilding their lives elsewhere. And in so doing, they were able to redirect their rage and anguish towards their persecutors and work towards a better future. And that is exactly what my father and his family had done…

- Written by Neelam Wadhwani

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Indian teaching proverb | You can give a man a fish, but… – Part 1


Written by Neelam Wadhwani


You can give a man a fish, and feed him for a day.

Or you can teach the man how to fish, and feed him for a lifetime.

-  Old Indian Proverb


When I was growing up, my father told me many stories of his childhood in British India. He also told me about when India gained its independence, and the years that immediately followed. It is during the latter that I wish to share my thoughts on…

The year leading up to the end of British rule in India was a restless time. People could taste Freedom, and they were chomping at the bit… The Brits had grown anxious and many of them were leaving. The riots that had broken out across the country in favor of Indian sovereignty had escalated to a point of no return. The Brits had lost control over the country, and they were preparing to relinquish their power.

Indian leaders knew Independence was close at hand, so they started tossing around ideas for the governance of their new nation. In so doing, they opened “Pandora’s Box”.

Go to Part 2

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A Prince in Our Midst

I once heard an Indian folk tale about a wise king who found that his kingdom was descending invariably into darkness. To halt this descent, and hopefully change the course of the future, he devised an ingenious plan.

He announced to all that one of his queens was soon expecting a baby.  To ensure that his people believed him, the king waited four months before announcing the baby’s arrival. The people reacted joyously, and asked to see the newborn. Instead of complying, the king said this to his beloved countrymen:

My dear countrymen, the Queen and I made a decision shortly before our baby arrived, that we would place the care and upbringing of him in YOUR hands. So just as I stand before you here today, my precious son is in your midst!

The countrymen were astonished. Bravely, one spoke up. But Your Majesty! Where is He? Who have you placed him with?

The king smiled reassuringly, and responded. Ah, but that is the question of the hour, isn’t it? My son is in your midst, and until I decide to share his identity with you, you must all treat your infants as if they are the One.

And so it was decreed that all the citizens of the kingdom would treat their infants with utmost love and care. As the years progressed, righteousness returned and the king, now older, realized that his goal of long ago had been accomplished!

- Written by Neelam Wadhwani