Saturday, 16 December 2017


Is it possible to change somebody else’s mind? Whether it is in the political arena or at our work place or even at our homes, we regularly come across individuals with whom we do not see eye to eye on multiple issues, who think differently, perform differently and opine differently. Is it possible to change their opinions? In America the Republicans and the Democrats are both patriotic Americans but, on issues more than one, they are as different as chalk and cheese. In India the BJP mocks the secular credentials of the Congress and blames them of appeasing minorities and pamper a particular political dynasty and the Congress in turn labels BJP as Hindu nationalists and anti minority. So with such a huge chiasm in between can there be a common ground where saner minds can meet, discuss and march ahead? This will require a very special art, the art of persuasion.

We are not programmed robots. Each one of us has the ability to think in an advanced and different way from earth’s other living creatures, and that is what makes our world a place full of creativity and progress. However, the intellectual openness we have causes each of us to have different opinions, which inevitably leads to misunderstandings and disagreements between people. This situation often leads to the development of arguments and conflicts in a variety of areas, whether it is strategies to rule our nations or for actions at work or planning a family vacation with a spouse.

Of course, each of us should try to see the other side's logic, but if you are confident in your position, you should not try to aggressively convince the other side by yelling like our parliamentarians do. Instead, you should learn how to become the type of person who knows how to explain their thoughts in a way that you’ll get the other side to see the full picture and understand you.

Have you ever wondered why is it so difficult to get others to accept our opinion? I am of the opinion that even if your argument sounds convincing, the moment you try to prove that the other person's argument is wrong, you’re forcing them to change their mind by embarrassing them and making them admit they are wrong, something which not everyone can easily do. So though the Congress was unquestionably corrupt and inefficient, if the present dispensation keeps on harping on that how can they make them change their mind?

The ideas we raise during discussions may be very good, but because we lack persuasion skills we may not be able to convey them in a way that will get others to agree with us. Most of us lack this ability, and as a result, many discussions can turn into arguments in a matter of minutes. When this happens, we and the person in front of us become defensive. We try to take shortcuts to prove that the other's opinion is wrong, and at the same time to show that we are right. What results is a slanging match, something we see in almost every parliamentary session.

Correcting mistakes almost always leads to failure in the attempt at persuasion. There is a boomerang effect or backfire effect - trying to correct another person's mental error only increases the ambiguity about the truth in his/her head. When someone's deepest convictions are challenged by contradictory evidence, their beliefs actually get stronger. In other words, trying to change one's mind by presenting his/her own mental error is useless. People who are "corrected" in their opinion more forcefully reject ideas that come from beliefs that are different from their own.

So how do we convince people and make them see our point of view? In the 17th century, French philosopher Blaise Pascal said the trick to persuading others is simple; the most effective way to change someone’s mind before disagreeing with them is by pointing out the ways they are right. In his famous article "On the Art of Persuasion", which he wrote even before the field of psychology was invented, Pascal offered 2 simple steps: 
1. Recognize the validity of the person's point of view.
2. Lead the person opposite us to discover the other side of his argument.
These steps are based on the fact that each person's opinion has value, so we must first identify the validity of the point of view we oppose and admit that there is some truth in it. We then have to reveal the other side of the argument in a gradual manner, which is to show the person opposite us the facts that were ignored in their argument. Such an approach will not offend the other by dismissing their opinion outright because it will show them another side of their argument. So no one will be disappointed. It makes the person in front of you realize that they have not seen the full picture, instead of emphasizing their wrong judgment.

Let me now take you back to the debate on Goods & Services Tax. The government was banging its head against a brick wall of opposition till it did not give credit of initiating this vital financial bill to the Congress, take them on board, assured them that their reservations were genuine and will be looked into and agreed to  a whole lot of concessions. The persuasion attempts usually work better if the other person understands the reasons for their change of mind than if we were to impose it. By initially describing areas of agreement with the opposition, the communicators of the government looked more reasonable and likable individuals, thereby increasing their persuasiveness. By pointing out the ways in which the opposition was right, the government’s interlocutors enhanced their own position and credibility. A good debate which is low on rhetoric high on mutual acceptance and one that generates less heat and more light can , in the long run, change the other person’s opinion.

Whether it is at home or at work, people whose opinion you want to change respond more favourably to suggestions instead of commands. This approach to resolving disagreements can also help you hide your intentions in order to persuade, so you must pay attention to your tone of voice. You have to play the role of a guide rather than a commander, that is, you have to guide the other person to the thought you want to create in their head instead of commanding them to accept it. Pascal also argued ‘people are generally better persuaded by the reasons which they have themselves discovered than by those which have come into the mind of others.’ So the trick of persuasion is to make someone discover our point of view themselves, may be with a little bit of guidance but certainly not by an order or command.

In the age of social media telling a story is perhaps the best way of persuasion. People can often be more easily persuaded by hearing stories than just facts that prove the story they believe is not true and offer them an alternate story. The falsehood is a story and here again rather than ripping that story apart it works better to simply replace the false story with the true one that people can hold onto.  For a while, it will probably feel like your arguments are falling on deaf ears. Because beliefs are driven by coherence, people will maintain the strength of their initial beliefs for quite a while. The more information that people get that supports an alternative story, though, the more likely it is that the initial web of beliefs will collapse and be replaced by a new, no less coherent network.

A successful persuasion attempt won’t be achieved only by raising an argument of some validity. To prevent others from becoming defensive during a discussion, one should use a technique that encourages collaboration rather than trying to satisfy only oneself. We should not pre-empt the ideas of the person in front of us, but if we see an error in their way of thinking, we should bring it up and change their mind wisely so that they themselves discover the value in our argument.  This is the only way to avoid unnecessary conflicts whether at home or in office or in parliament.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Vicks VapoRub – time tested and people’s choice

Vicks VapoRub has been around for over a century, and it can now be found in many households across the globe and is undoubtedly the most commonly sold over the counter medicine. Lunsford Richardson developed the formula way back in 1894 when he created a salve for his children, after travelling to France.This Salve, with its combination of menthol, camphor, and other ingredients, which include oils of eucalyptus and nutmeg, cools and soothes at the same time. Individually, these ingredients have specific uses such as pain relief, itch reduction, increasing circulation, acne fighting and anti-fungal. Therefore, with all these combined properties, it's not surprising that it can be used as more than just a decongestant.

A Vicks VapoRub advertizement
dating back to 1922
Richardson-Vicks was sold to Procter & Gamble in 1985 and is now known as Vicks. VapoRub is also currently manufactured and packaged in India and Mexico. In German-speaking countries (the exception of Switzerland) it is sold under the name Wick VapoRub. VapoRub continues to be Vicks's flagship product internationally, and the Vicks brand name is often used synonymously with the VapoRub product. My love affair with this product was initiated by my mother but later on in our Industrial Chemistry class in Colvin Taluqdars’ College in Lucknow, when my charismatic Chemistry teacher Mr. Shamiulla taught me how to make this product, I was absolutely hooked on ti it!

In India, Vicks VapoRub is made by Procter & Gamble (P&G). The formulation is almost the same as the one stated above. P&G states Vicks Vaporub to be an Ayurvedic Medicine, which is indicated on the package.
The ingredients (per 100 g of product) are stated as follows:
Pudinah ke phool
2.82 g
5.25 g
Ajowan ke phool
0.10 g
Tarpin ka tel
5.57 ml
Nilgiri tel
1.49 ml
Jatiphal tel
0.54 ml

Like me, many Indian children have been brought up by mothers who would double up as family doctors too and for them medicines like Vicks, Amritanjan, Ajwain ka arak, and Nux Vomica or Brionia would cure nine out of ten problems.  You probably have this very useful medical ointment Vicks sitting at home right now in one of your cabinets. So let us take a look at some of the unique and clever ways that Vicks can be used in everyday life.

1. Decongest Chest 
The most common use of Vicks is to decongest your chest and throat area. When applied to the upper chest, it provides excellent relief of cough and congestion symptoms. 

2. Headaches
VapoRub can be inhaled with hot steam. Since VapoRub ointment is an oil-based medication, it should not be used under or inside the nose or inside the mouth, and it should not be swallowed. Any oil-based product can get into the lungs if used improperly. If you're suffering from a sinus headache, inhaling the vapors can help open your clogged airways to relieve the pressure. All you have to do is rub a small bit of Vicks under your nose. If you're suffering from a non-sinus headache, try rubbing a small amount of Vicks onto your temples - this is supposed to relieve the pressure you can feel from your headache. The mentholated scent will release pressure in your head and instantly relieve pain.

3. Humidify Your Sleep
Vicks VapoRub can be used in special types of humidifiers and vaporizers. Ensure your humidifier has an aromatherapy compartment before using. The humidifier will circulate Vicks throughout the air and keep you breathing easy all night long.

4. Nail Fungus
Many of the compounds that make up Vicks VapoRub are anti-fungal and, as a result, it can prevent the growth of fungus on your nails. Rub VapoRub on your toenails if you suspect you have a fungus. Within days, the nail will turn dark—this means the Vicks is killing the fungus. As your toenail grows out, the dark part will grow off and you will have fungus-free feet. Keep applying the ointment over a period of two weeks to fully cleanse nail beds of any remaining bacteria.

5. Itch and Sting/Bite Relief
Mothers and grandmas across the globe have been using Vicks to stop itching and pain from outdoor encounters for many years. Simply rub it into the affected area and let those magical ingredients do their thing. If you get bitten by a tick, apply Vicks immediately. The strong odor might help get the critter to release itself and stop bugging you.

6. Nausea 
Mint has always been a popular go-to for people suffering from nausea. To combat nausea, either rub some Vicks under your nose, or create a facial steam to inhale.

7. Achy Breaky Muscles
Vicks relieves sore, overworked muscles. It increases circulation and provides almost instant aid. Use a generous portion and apply it all over the aching area.

8. Bruises
Vicks, thanks to the camphor and menthol present in it, is able to help heal bruises faster. This is because the aforementioned ingredients help increase circulation. Simply rub some ointment onto the bruise to help it heal.

9. Burns
A minor burn can be soothed by using Vicks. This is because the camphor, along with some of the other ingredients present in this ointment, have the ability to heal burns and numb the pain.

9. Paper Cuts and Splinters
To prevent infection and speed up healing time, dab a small amount of Vicks on any small cut or splinter.

10. Reduces stretch marks
Rub some Vicks VapoRub on your stretch marks, and in just 2 weeks you will see that they gradually become less visible.

11. Relieves earache
Put a small cotton ball with Vicks VapoRub in your ear, and leave it there for a few hours until you see your doctor. Remember: although this method does help relieve ear pain, it doesn’t cure the infection itself. So it’s very important that you consult your health professional as soon as possible.

12. Pimple Buster
Got a huge spot on your face that you think everyone is looking at? Dab some Vicks on it to dry it out and make it disappear.

13. Takes good care of your feet
Before going to bed, apply some Vicks to your heels, especially to the cracked and dry areas, and put your socks on. Make sure you’re using old socks because the next day they will have a super strong menthol smell. In the morning, wash your feet with cold water, use a pumice stone to scrub away dead skin, and then apply your regular foot care product. Keep doing so every night, and soon you’ll see some noticeable results.

14. On Your Tootsies
Applying Vicks on your feet provides nighttime cough relief. Generously rub VapoRub all over your feet and cover them with socks. Within moments your cough will subside—in the morning you’ll wake up a new, hacking-free person.

15. Belly fat – helps get rid of it
Mix one tablespoon of crushed tablet camphor, one tablespoon of alcohol, one tablespoon of baking soda, and half a jar of Vicks VapoRub until you get a paste. Before doing your physical exercises, apply this paste to your abdomen or to the area that you plan to work on, and wrap yourself with plastic wrap. When you finish your workout, rinse with plenty of water.
Having the same effect as those expensive slimming creams, such homemade applications, performed 2-3 times a week, can make a real difference.

16. Stop Your Cat from Scratching
Cats are notorious for scratching every hard surface they get their claws on. To prevent Miss Kitty from ruining your doors, walls, and windows, apply a small amount of VapoRub to these areas. Cats detest the smell and will steer clear. Vicks can also be applied to your arms and legs if your kitty is prone to scratching you.

17. Pet Pee Deterrent
If your dog or cat is not yet potty trained, put an open bottle of Vicks on the area he or she likes to mark as their territory. The smell will discourage them from lifting their legs and wetting your rug.

18. Reek-free Racehorses
Professional racers smother VapoRub under the nostrils of racehorses on race day. The strong stench deters the stallions from the alluring odor of the female pony and keeps them focused on the race.

19. Go Away Mosquitoes
Vicks wards off mosquitoes. Apply small dabs of Vicks VapoRub to your skin and clothes and mosquitoes will steer clear. If you do get bitten, apply Vicks to the area and cover it with a Band-Aid to relieve itching.

20. Creaky Doors
If you have a really annoying creaky door, but can't get your hands on some oil or WD40, then try rubbing a bit of Vicks on the creaky hinges.

According to WebMD, there have been a few complications in children when Vicks is used inappropriately. A few children reacted negatively and ended up hospitalized when Vicks was applied directly under the nose. Though this is extremely rare and only happens to those who are sensitive to Vicks, consumers should use caution when applying it to the face or on young children.

Even though its strong stench may cost me a few friendships, I am definitely heading to the nearest drugstore to stock up on this little blue smelly bottle. After all, I never know the next time I’ll have a headache, or am heading to the racetrack or decide to do something about my pot belly.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

THE DEATH OF "I can't"

This is a beautiful piece written by Jarle Refsnes of Bryne, Norway which I have to share with you. This text can prove to be truly transformational and life changing!

We often find ourselves in situations that challenge us, and we often give up on these challenges, claiming that we can’t. The following story is dedicated to every person who ever said to themselves, 'I can’t,' and my hope is that you will take this message to heart and work on your 'I can' because, as a wise man once said, "If you will it, it is no dream."

Donna's class looked like all the other classrooms. The students sat in five columns, each with six tables. The teacher's desk was in front. On the notice board hung the works of students. It seemed a perfectly ordinary class, but something was completely different the day I walked into it for the first time - a feeling of excitement accompanied me.
Donna was a teacher in a small town in Michigan, two years before her retirement. In addition to being a teacher, she volunteered to participate in a national project I organized. The studies focused on subjects in art that would make students feel better about themselves and take responsibility for their lives. Donna had to take part in my classes and pass on to her class what was being taught in the project. My job was to visit her class and encourage this process.

I sat in an empty chair at the back of the room and watched. All the students were given the task of writing down their thoughts and ideas.
A ten-year-old student sitting next to me filled her page with "I can’t" sentences. "I can’t play football", "I can’t do long division", "I can’t get Deborah to like me." Her page was already half full and she showed no sign of giving up. She continued to work with determination.
I walked around the classroom and looked at the other students’ papers. They all described things they could not do. "I can’t do ten push-ups," "I can’t climb over the fence," "I can’t eat just one cookie."The activity intrigued me, so I decided to check with the teacher what was going on. When I reached her, I noticed that she was also writing. I felt better not to disturb. "I can’t get John's mother to come to the parents' meeting," "I can’t get my daughter to fill the car’s gas tank," "I can’t teach Alan to use words instead of fists."
As I tried to understand why the teacher and the students were writing negative thoughts, I went back to my place and continued to observe. For another ten minutes, they all continued to work. Most of them filled their pages, others took another page.
"Finish what you’re writing right now and don’t start a new page," the teacher said.
The students were ordered to fold the papers and bring them to the teacher's table. They put the papers in an empty shoebox. When all the papers were placed in a box, the teacher put the lid in place, took the box and went out into the corridor. The students followed her and I went with them.
Everyone stopped in the corridor.

Donna went into the janitor’s closet and came out with a shovel. With the shovel in one hand and the box in the other, Donna and the student convoy followed her to the farthest corner of the school playground. There Donna started digging.They were going to bury their 'I can’ts! The excavation lasted about ten minutes because all the students wanted to participate. When the hole was quite deep, the box was placed at the bottom and covered with dirt.
Thirty ten-year-olds stood around the fresh 'grave'. Each of them had at least one "I can’t” page in the same box. And so did the teacher.
At this stage, Donna announced, "Boys and girls, please hold hands and bow your head." They formed a circle around the pit and held hands. Donna made a speech.

"Friends, we are gathered here today in memory of 'I can’t.'" While he was with us on the face of the earth, he touched the lives of all of us, some more, some less, his name was mentioned in every public building, in schools, in municipalities, And yes, even in government offices. We erected a tombstone with “I cant’s” name engraved on it. His brothers and sisters will survive with us, 'I can,' 'I will,' and 'I am capable.' They are less known than their famous relative and certainly not as strong as he is. Perhaps one day, with your help, they will become stronger in our world. Rest in peace, 'I can’t,' and we will all continue to live our lives from this point on even in his absence. Amen".

As I listened to the eulogy I realized that these students would never forget this day. This activity was symbolic, a metaphor for life. It was an experience that would stick in their consciousness and sub-consciousness. Writing 'I cant', burying the pages and preparing a eulogy was a tremendous effort on the teacher’s part, and the ceremony was not yet over.
At the end of the eulogy, they went back into the classroom and had a feast with refreshments. As part of the celebration, Donna prepared a large tombstone from cardboard. She wrote "R.I.P I Can’t” and added the date at the bottom.

The monument hung in Donna's class until the end of that year. On the few occasions when one of the students forgot and said, "I can’t,"Donna pointed to the cardboard tombstone and reminded him that 'I can’t' is already dead.

I was not one of Donna's students. She was my student. Still, that day she taught me a beautiful lesson.
Now, years later, whenever I hear the phrase 'I can’t,' I envision this unforgettable fourth-grade funeral. 

Like those students, I remember that 'I can’t' is already dead.

Thursday, 23 November 2017


Are you an impatient traveler like I am? I don’t mind reaching the airport early, as advised by the airline but I feel my baggage should be spinning on the carousel by the time I reach the baggage belt. But that hardly ever happens. As travelers, we're universally obsessed with how our bags fare on the luggage carousel. We rush from the plane to the baggage hall, immediately furious that our suitcase isn't waiting for us. Conversely, we love the anticipation. We enjoy the challenge of selecting where to stand so that we're best-placed to see the baggage emerge, then we savour the feeling of immense smugness when we spy our bag and make exaggerated preparations to remove it from the conveyor belt and swagger through customs. But if the baggage takes too long to appear I for one am not very happy.

So this time when I was on my way to Kochi by a very early morning flight from Lucknow I made the best use of the company of an airline official who too was taking the same flight to Bangalore, by asking her what could I do to ensure that my baggage arrived at the carousel early? She was very sympathetic and offered a lot of tips, some known and some not known to me. Let me share them with you one by one:

1.     Travel light with only cabin baggage. Airlines have a very high tolerance for small but heavy cabin baggage but they do not like large cabin bags even if they are light. The downside of this method is that you will not be able to pack liquids or any other items that cannot go in a carry-on bag as you will need to bring the bag with you through the security checkpoint and to the gate.
2.     Your best option of early baggage retrieval is to be one of the last passengers to check in your bags. Bags will always be loaded front to back on the bag carts so if you check in last, your bags will be in the last bag cart, which will make them the last on the aircraft, and then the first off the aircraft at your destination. This only holds good if you have a direct flight, but if you and your bags are changing flights this condition may not hold true!
3.     Remember to be nice to your counter agents and gate agents. The friendlier you are the more likely you will get what you want. Chances are the agent has already been yelled at multiple times for things they can't control, so they will go out of their way to help someone who is nice!
4.     Flying business or first class means you'll almost always get a "priority" bag tag that separates your luggage out from the herd. But that's not really a trick, so much as a privilege.
5.     Some frequent flyer programmes offer this as a perk, even if you're stuck in economy.
6.     A "fragile" sticker attached to your luggage makes it more likely to be set aside with extra care and loaded on last. It's worth a shot, at least. You will be asked about the nature of the fragile stuff and my standard answer is ‘surgical precision equipments’. By the time you are depositing your bags it has already gone through the scanner!

7.     And last but not the least – have patience! It is a beautiful thing.

My new friend told me that the last bag can take up to 15 minutes to arrive when you arrive in a small aircraft, such as a ComacARJ, and even up to an hour if you were in a large plane such as a Boeing 747. Thank God I have never experienced such delays!

Saturday, 14 October 2017


I had a patient yesterday who walked into my consultation chamber with the most pleasant aroma following him, an intense smell which managed to refresh and reinvigorate me, brighten up my day and send my senses to an unimaginable crescendo! I have never in my life smelled anything like that and what was most obvious was how it changed the mood in the surrounding. This middle aged gentleman and his wife were from a small city near Lucknow called Kannauj and they were in the business of manufacturing perfumes or ‘ittar’, as they are called in Hindi and Urdu, for four generations now! The word 'attar', 'ittar' or 'itra' believed to have been derived from the Persian word itir, meaning 'perfume' and my patient, a gentleman who never went back to school after passing class seven, today has business in five continents!  What mesmerized me was his and his wife’s exhaustive knowledge of the product they sell, how they fare against international competitors and what vision they had for the future of their industry. And then again, when I remember that he was a Class seven drop out, it has only reaffirmed my faith that schooling has very little to do with education!

However, the history of perfumes is not very glamorous all the way and slick glass bottles and airbrushed celebrity campaigns of today’s perfume counters belie a strange history that dates back thousands of years – and involves chemicals derived from the butts of dead cats, the Plague and whale vomit. My patient told me that Musk is a secretion from the musk pod of the male musk deer, an organ used to mark territory; civet is a liquid from the anal glands of civet cats; castor is made from the scent glands of beavers; and ambergris is a grey oily lump found in the digestive system of sperm whales. All these were sources of perfume once upon a time in the western world! The earliest use of perfume bottles is Egyptian and dates to around 1000 BC. The Egyptians invented glass and perfume bottles were one of the first common uses for glass.

In India perfumes have a long history too. Our Ittar is an essential oil derived from botanical sources. Most commonly these oils are extracted by hydro or steam distillation. They can also be expressed by chemical means but generally natural perfumes which qualify as ittars are distilled with water. The oils are generally distilled into a wood base such as sandalwood and then aged. The aging period can last from one to ten years depending on the botanicals used and the results desired. Technically ittars are distillates of flowers, herbs, spices and other natural materials such as baked soil over sandalwood oil/liquid paraffins using hydro distillation technique with deg and bhapka. These techniques are still in use today at Kannauj in India. This is one of the oldest natural fragrant materials, nearly 5000 years old. Some of the first lovers of ittars were the Mughal nobles of India. Jasmine ittar was the favorite perfume of the Nizams of the Hyderabad state.

Traditionally in India, it was a customary practice of nobility to offer ittar to their guests at the time of their departure. The ittars are traditionally given in ornate tiny crystal cut bottles called as itardans. This tradition of giving a scent to one's guests continues to this day and my wise patient and his wife offered me two ittars, one for me and one for my wife! I will now enlighten you with some pearls of knowledge which my patient impressed me with.

Perfume governs us in ways we cannot understand. We know that the smell of vanilla – almost universally beloved – brings water in our mouth. We know that the smell of sandalwood is soothing and devotional. It did not take long, though, for people to discover perfume’s romantic potential and it was used both for seduction and as preparation for love-making. Ittars have special medical value and they are generally classified based on their effect on human body as warm ittars’ such as musk, amber and kesar (saffron) are used in winters, they increase the body temperature. Cool ittars such as rose, jasmine, khus, kewda and mogra are used in summers and have cooling effect on the body! Ittar is mainly used to calm the nervous system because it has a soothing aphrodisiac essence and an anti-depressant. It is also used to control sleeplessness so that you can sleep normally. The oil extracted from Jasmine flowers is a potent aphrodisiac that can be used to attract the opposite sex. Other medicinal purposes include; it relieves stress and strain, helps in treating skin ailments, calms frail nerves, and uplifts mood!

In the west with the arrival of eau de cologne, 18th-century France began using perfume for a broad range of purposes. They used it in their bath water, in poultices and enemas, and consumed it in wine or drizzled on a sugar lump.

The history of Perfume is thousands of years old, with evidence of the first perfumes dating back to Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia and Cyprus. The English word "perfume" comes from the Latin pro fumum, meaning "through smoke." Those were the days of animal sacrifice and what the gods wanted was the rank blood-smoke of sacrificial victims, and if a more fragrant offering were burnt before them, it was to disguise the smell from us the humans, not to please them, the Gods.

A famous perfume critic Luca Turin wrote: "Nobody ever died from wearing Mitsouko, but lots of babies were born as a result of it." Quite so. Vive les nez! The ingredients that are used to create scents have historically been important for trade routes; high-class scents have always been used as a way to distinguish nobility from peasantry, and fragrance has been tied to expressions of religious devotion, cleanliness, and health precautions for most of the history of human civilization.

The Ancient Egyptians were the first to incorporate perfume into their culture, followed by the ancient Chinese, Hindus, Israelite, Carthaginian, Arabs, Greeks, and Romans. The oldest perfumes ever found were discovered by archaeologists in Cyprus. They were more than four thousand years old. A cuneiform tablet from Mesopotamia, dating back more than three thousand years, identifies a woman named Tapputi as the first recorded perfume maker. But perfumes could also be found in India at the time. 

The Egyptians loved perfume, and they used it for both ceremonial and beautification purposes: fragrance was believed to be the sweat of the sun-god Ra. They even had a god of perfume, Nefertum, who wore a headdress made from water lilies, one of the most popular perfume ingredients of the time!

Persians invested heavily in perfumes and their kings were often painted with perfume bottles. The Persians dominated the perfume trade for centuries, and many believe that they invented the distillation process that led to the discovery of base alcohol. One thing we do know is that Avicenna, the Persian chemist, doctor, and philosopher, experimented extensively with distillation to try and make better scents, and was first to work out the chemistry behind perfumes that weren’t oil-based.

Many ancient Roman and Greek perfume recipes have survived that it’s actually possible to recreate ancient perfumes in our modern era so accurate was their documentation. In fact, there’s even a mural in a perfume-maker's house in Pompeii that documents the process of making Greco-Roman perfumes. First the oils were made by pressing olives, then ingredients such as plants and wood were added to the oil using meticulous measurements, this was then left to steep so that the oil could take on the scent of the ingredients, thus creating perfumes!

The ancient Chinese utilized scent by burning incense and fragrant material instead of wearing it on the body. Histories of the use of scent in Chinese society tend to emphasize that perfumes weren’t considered a cosmetic there; rather, they were used for disinfection and purity, as they believed they could eliminate diseases from a room. So the biggest difference between this and other perfume traditions was that most Chinese perfume ingredients were used for other purposes such as food and medicine and not worn on the body.

If you were anybody in Europe from the 1200s to the 1600s, you carried a pomander – a ball of scented materials, kept inside an open case, and used to ward of infections and bad smells. Since medieval Europeans believed that bad air could make you sick, these little balls were seen as life-savers. The first alcohol-based perfume was created in this period too: it was known as Hungary Water, because it was believed to have been created for the queen of Hungary during the 14th century, and included distilled alcohol and herbs. A serious breakthrough in perfume production came in medieval Italy, when they discovered how to create aqua mirabilis, a clear substance made of 95 percent alcohol and imbued with strong scent. And thus, the liquid perfume was born. After this invention, Italy, Venice in particular, became the center of the world perfume trade for several hundred years. Coty and Guerlain were the first companies to mass-produce perfume, and Chanel No 5 smashed sales records and made perfume history! Famous women such as Elizabeth Taylor and Katy Perry have given their names to and marketed their brand of perfume markets for decades.

For thousands of years ittars were used and understood to be something that attracted angels and warded off darkness or evil spirits. Saints and spiritual aspirants would adorn themselves with the finest scents to assist them in their journey towards enlightenment. Today, perfumes are a multi-million dollar industry and our own Ittars are competing with the best in the world for a share of the lucrative pie!!

Wednesday, 13 September 2017


Travel and tourism to me is an educational pursuit, a way of absorbing knowledge through experience and it is the spice of life. I never stop learning when I travel. I never cease absorbing new things about the world, about life, and about myself.  Though everyone picks up different gems of understanding at different times, there are a few universal truths, a few inalienable facts that we all have to learn. Some of these truths are hard won, while others are subconsciously absorbed with time. Our tastes, our traits and our personalities make us choose the destinations we choose for our holidays and so there is a distinct traffic heading to Las Vegas and a very different bunch going to Varanasi. They will both enjoy their respective destinations though not necessarily each other’s target cities.

So what has travel taught me as I have grown up travelling my vast country and the world? Plenty; I have acquired certain invaluable pieces of knowledge, mostly about myself, which makes me a far more reassured and happy traveler, who complains about virtually nothing. I must admit that my love affair with the internet which makes me plan my travels far more efficiently has a lot to do with this, but what has changed most is ‘me’.

I today intend to share with you some of these valuable travel lessons. They make life easier. They make life simpler. These basics might be philosophical, existential, physical, or even simple common sense, but the fact is the more you travel, the more you come to realize they're true.

1.     You're here for a good time, not a long time: This is something a teacher said to me when I was young and under his tutelage was out on a school trip, and I've never forgotten it. The idea is that you don't get many holidays in this life. You don't have long to explore the world. So with that in mind, don't sweat the small stuff. Don't get upset when things go wrong. Just savour every little moment.

2.     More money does not equal more enjoyment: As a budget traveler you find yourself occasionally lusting after five-star hotels and fancy dinners, but as you grow older and start affording them, you start missing the good old days of budget travel. Some of your best travel experiences will be had on low-budget journeys to unfashionable places.

3.     You travel for your pleasure and not for your Facebook status: This is not a competition. You're not holidaying to impress your friends, or to make your colleagues jealous, or for any other reason besides the pure enjoyment of travel. You choose your destinations for you. You choose your experiences for you. No one else matters.

4.     Kids don't have to slow you down: There's an assumption that having kids will put an 18-year halt on your travel plans, that you might as well get used to staying at home for a long while. But it's not true. Travel with kids of all ages is not only possible, it's enjoyable, and rewarding for everyone involved.

5.     Less is more … It takes a while to understand that you should take all the money you think you'll need for a holiday and double it, and take all the clothes you think you'll need, and halve it. Yes, you understand that you really don't need all that gear, and that you could easily ditch half of it – but which half? Wheelie luggage makes it even more tempting to over-pack.

6.     You need more money than you thought: You really do. Something tends to happen to money when you're travelling: it just disappears. Best to take lots of it but not in cash. Cards are best and safest.

7.     If you can't afford to lose it, leave it: There's no point stressing out your whole holiday over your expensive watch, or those nice earrings, or the bag you really love. If you've can't bear to lose something, then don't take it travelling. It's not worth the worry.

8.     Backpacking is a state of mind: You don't have to be young to backpack. You don't need to stay in hostels. You don't even need an actual backpack. Independent, long-term, experiential travel – the sort of travel backpackers do best – is open to anyone at any time. That said, there will come a point – usually before the age of 40 – when you realize you're too old for dorm rooms. The rustling of plastic bags, the lights on at 4am, the drunks stumbling around … There's only so long you can put up with that.

9.     People rarely just want to practice their English….smell a scam: There's a wariness that comes with experience for travelers, a knowledge that, sadly, not everyone you meet on the road has the best intentions. One of the classic warning signs is the friendly local who wants to practice their English. This has "scam" written all over it.

10.  Change your money in the airport: Do not rely on friendly locals to give you a better exchange rate. This is an age old trap. Do not ever lose the sight of your passport, even when you need to show it for hotel check in.

11.  Haggling is essential: It's an uncomfortable feeling, essentially arguing with someone over money – but haggling is a deeply ingrained part of many cultures, and it's something you should try to enjoy. But don't go too hard.

12.  Take it slow: In your first holiday, you want to see everything. Ten countries in two weeks: no problem. Check all the boxes, do all the things. After a while, however, you realize that sometimes less is more when it comes to travel. Spend more time in fewer places, and you'll be richly rewarded. Imbibe the culture, appreciate the geography, get inspired by the architecture and the civilization and enjoy the distinctive cuisines. Breezy conducted tours will not allow you to do all this.

13.  Language is power: You can travel without being able to speak the local language quite easily. However, you're just floating across the surface; you're seeing everything in 2D. Learning a language allows you to interact with locals, to learn and experience and show respect. It's a difficult skill, but so valuable.

14.  Local food is best: By far the safest way to eat when you're travelling is to dine on whatever it is the locals enjoy. The food is fresher, it's cooked with passion and skill, and you eat it surrounded by new friends.
15.  It's OK to splash out: You want to spend $300 on dinner because you love food? Go for it. Want to experience a night in a five-star hotel? Do it. Want to hire a Tuxedo and attend an expensive concert? Do it. Want to fly business class just once? Make the booking. There's no shame in saving up for something you really want to do and then splashing the cash. It is your money and it is being spent on your happiness……no harm done!
16.  Bad days happen….makes you capable of amazing things: You can plan everything to the finest degree: you can do your research, you can read reviews, you can book ahead, you can pack everything you need. Some days, however, will just be a disaster. Move on. You can survive when things go wrong. You can make yourself understood in another language. You can befriend strangers. You can explore the world on your own. You can change your life with a split decision. This might be the most important lesson of all: you are capable of amazing things.

17.  People are fundamentally good: There's a tendency to be on your guard at first, to listen to tales of thievery and scams and believe it's safer to assume the worst in people. But that's a mistake. The people you meet on the road are overwhelmingly good of intention and of heart. You might run into the odd exception, but the vast majority of people are kind, generous and well meaning. Exceptions are everywhere, they don’t form the majority.

18.  Risks are worth taking: Travel is at its best when it challenges you, when it forces you to reconsider what you thought you knew when it takes you outside your comfort zone. It's a thrill, an experience, a story. The idea of "risk" is different for everyone, different for different ages, but the benefits remain the same.

19.  Off the beaten track is good: Most people tend to begin their travel careers in popular, safe destinations. As time goes on, however, you discover that sometimes the best experiences can be found in the most unlikely places. The entire world is worthy of exploration.

20.  But some of the best things have been done before: There's a reason Italy is so popular; same as it's no surprise everyone goes to Australia and Canada. These are truly amazing places. Just because a destination is mainstream, doesn't mean it isn't worth a visit.

21.  Stereotypes are ridiculous (and sometimes true): Experienced travelers know that Germans aren't really uptight, the French aren't rude, the Americans aren't boorish, the English aren't whiners, and Australians aren't drunks. Occasionally, however, they are.

22.  Two weeks is enough: Anyone waiting for that perfect time to see South America, or Africa, or North America, to hold out until they have six months to "do it properly", will probably never make it there. Two weeks is long enough to have an amazing experience. And there's no better time to make it happen than now.

23.  The world is a safe place: Despite all of the security issues, all of the unrest, all of the bad news stories and potential danger, you learn as you travel that the world is actually a pretty safe place. Countries you thought were dodgy are not that bad. People are trustworthy. The world is good.

24.  Your own country is worth exploring: Though it's tempting to view India as a destination for "later", there's so much to explore here, so much to appreciate. Whether it is a beach resort or a hill station, a desert safari or a tiger reserve, IPL cricket or white water rafting we have so much that's worth seeing and doing now.

25.  Travelling alone is amazing: At first, it seems intimidating: going out on your own, tackling all of travel's challenges without anyone's help, existing purely in your own company. But solo travel is something everyone should experience. It's the ultimate freedom, and will teach you more about yourself than you've ever known.

26.  Expect the unexpected: Things will go wrong when you travel. Trains will run late, hotel bookings will fall through, restaurants will be terrible, and nothing will look like the brochure. That's life. The sooner you accept these mishaps and move on, the more enjoyable your travels will be.

27.  It's not wrong, it's different: It's easy to judge other cultures, to decide that their way of doing things is a mistake. But your world changes completely when you take on this mantra: "It's not wrong, it's different." This way you will not antagonize anyone and enjoy your travel.

28.  You've never "done" anywhere: Any traveler who tells you they've "done Asia", or they've "done the US", or they've "done" anywhere, are kidding themselves. Nowhere is ever done. There's always something new and amazing to discover.

29.  Trains are better than planes: The hierarchy of transport options goes like this: trains, then planes, then buses. Trains are the best way to see the world, a way to mix with locals and stretch your legs while travelling efficiently. Planes are fast but soulless. Buses have character, but take forever to get anywhere.

30.  You'll probably never see these people again: When you're young you part with new travel friends promising to stay in touch, swearing you'll catch up soon, convinced this will be the start of a lasting friendship. But then you come to realize that with 99 per cent of those people, that won't be the case. You just have to enjoy these fleeting relationships while you can.

31.  Great holidays can never be recreated: It's an easy trap to fall into, wanting to go back and do the same things again, wanting to recapture the magic, to see and feel the same things you did before. But travel doesn't work like that. It will never be the same. Better to go somewhere new and make fresh memories.

32.  Insurance is essential: This is a lesson that's occasionally learned the hard way – with a whopping medical bill – but one that everyone picks up eventually. You need travel insurance.

33.  It's never too late to get started: Though we've chosen to focus on age, one thing to stress is that there's no wrong time to begin your wanderings around the globe. At any age, or any point in your life, the decision to travel will be a game-changer.

34.  Coming home is the worst: Come home fresh and not exhausted. Your batteries should be fully recharged. There really is no more miserable feeling than the "back-home blues", the knowledge that all that excitement, all that anticipation, all of those challenges and joys and thrills, are all finished. There's only one cure: book another trip.

35. Avoid political hot spots and war zones: There is absolutely no reason to travel to terrorism prone part of the globe, chaotic countries during their elections, countries under insane military rulers and countries which curtail your civil liberties. War zones are best left for soldiers and the Red Cross!

These five lessons we never learn
Budget airlines are bad
You pay next to nothing to fly on a budget airline, and yet you still roll up to the airport each time expecting five-star service and an on-time departure. Not the way it works.
Brochures are untrustworthy
Though you know, deep down, that there's no way any hotel or resort is going to look the same as it does on a website or in a brochure, it's still a disappointment.
You can't get an upgrade
You can ask for an upgrade, by all means. You can dress smart, you can talk slick and you can make pleading eyes. But it's extremely rare to get bumped up.
Possessions aren't important
Every time you travel you realize you can quite easily get by with just the contents of a small suitcase. And then you get home and completely forget again.
There's no cure for the travel bug

Just one more trip, you think, then I'll stop for a while. I'll stay home and save for that house, that car. But there is no cure for the travel bug. You'll never stop.

Travelling is a spice of life. It promotes the feeling of brotherhood as we are able to meet different people and make new friends. It also promotes trade and commerce and international relations. It broadens our outlook towards life. It is a source of good health. It refreshes our body and mind. This is the easiest way to come in closer contact with nature, cultures and civilizations. Travelling is an essential part of the education for the practical knowledge it imparts to our character. Travelling gives our eyes and our minds views that leave a lasting impression. Travelling also removes narrowness of thoughts and broadens our outlook and helps us to leave behind superstitions as we progress.  Thus, there is the need for every man to travel and so we do.