Old Wine in New Bottles

In recent days the life and style sections of the newspapers are carrying numerous articles with titles like 10 Beauty Hacks to Make you Glow, Be the Best Hostess With These 20 Useful Party Hacks; 15 Kitchen Hacks to Save Time; Have a Sparkling Diwali With These Simple Hacks…

I was intrigued by this oft-used word Hack. My vocabulary dates back to days before even Computer Hackers became news. The only meaning of Hack that I could recall related to the act of roughly chopping down a tree or, as we read in novels, a word used to refer to a slogging journalist or so-so writer. How the word leant itself to beauty and parties and kitchens was a mystery to me.

Being the curious word aficionado that I am, I looked up the word Hack in the dictionary. I was surprised to find the word had many more meanings than I had imagined:

Cut away

Fix a computer programme piecemeal until it works

Significantly cut up a manuscript

Cough spasmodically

Be able to manage successfully

Kick on the shins

One who works hard at boring tasks

A mediocre and disdained writer

An old-fashioned taxi

An old and overworked horse.

This search, having significantly expanded my list of two meanings, still did not reveal what I was looking for—the links with beauty, kitchens and parties. I thought to myself “What the Hack”!

And then Eureka—I came upon the word Life Hacks! And I discovered…

Life hack (or life hacking) refers to any trick, shortcut, skill, or novelty method that increases productivity and efficiency, in all walks of life.

It is a tool or technique that makes some aspect of one’s life easier or more efficient.

Aha thought I,  at last!

Then came the more amusing part. I discovered that there are so many websites offering innumerable Life Hacks for everything from how to get up in the morning, to how to carry out some of the most basic functions of life and living—from the sublime to the absurd! For example: ‘Do a 20 minute good workout in the morning and you can be lazy the whole day without feeling guilty!’ OR  ‘If you left home and forgot to brush your teeth or you ran out of toothpaste, chewing an apple can help with bad breath.’

I am sure one could come across some handy tips, but thinking back a bit…

Were these nifty suggestions not too long ago shared widely as DIY TIPS!

Baking soda and hot water to clean drains; a face pack of honey, cream and turmeric for that glowing skin…where did I hear those before? From mothers and aunts, of course. And magazines carried them under the title Grandmother’s Secrets!

I certainly spent an amusing hour browsing the many sites, and along the way I also found what I think is the best way to describe this term: A life hack is a colloquial term for common sense that makes people feel good about their basic creativity, or lack thereof. Typically life hacks are not all that helpful, they are simply advertised well so as to provide a false sense of improvement in the user’s day-to-day operation.

Well well well. What a great way of repackaging tried and tested ‘do-it-yourself’ ideas. Why go to Granny when Youtube will show you how!


Stitch and Rip

I am clumsy and so often put rips and tears on my clothes, and break my buttons. I only have to look at food and I put on weight. Between these two tendencies, I need to stitch up tears, and let out clothes.

So the two most important ‘simple machines’ in my life are the Needle Threader and Stitch Ripper. Simple, but oh, what amazing inventions. For those who don’t know what these are, here is a brief.  And even if you are young and sharp-eyed and the super sorted-out, do not scoff at these, for the day will come when you need them!

Needle Threader: A needle threader is a small sewing tool designed to help pull a thread through the eye of a sewing needle.

When exactly the first needle threader was invented is unknown, but within the European context it is likely to be an eighteenth or early nineteenth century development. There were various forms of nineteenth century needle threaders. But the one most commonly in use even today is a late nineteenth century form which consists of a small plate (often stamped with a profile image of a woman), with a diamond shaped loop of fine steel wire attached to it. The wire loop is flexible and easily passes through the eye of a needle. The sewing thread is passed through the loop and the loop (with thread) is then pulled back through the needle eye.

A number of needle threading devices were patented in the United States in the early 1900s, including Herman Trzeciak’s model patented in 1924 and Carl J. Schuster’s design in 1945. The first automatic needle threader incorporated into a sewing machine was designed by Juki in 1978.

Seam Ripper: There doesn’t seem to be much agreement on who invented this but there is a patent application by Allie  M. Minter, from Petersburg, Colorado in the US and Canada, in 1903.

Seam rippers are an item designed for breaking or undoing sewn stitches, often on seams. A seam ripper is also known as a ‘stitch unpicker’, ‘quick unpic’ and a ‘quick unpick’. (I call them Stitch Rippers). Typically, seam rippers have two spokes, one sharp and the other blunt, connected by a handle, while the intersection is usually a sharp blade.

I sometimes have nightmares of a gangsta (or a lady older and clumsier than me), holding me up with a gun (or pair of knitting needles), and saying “Your Needle Threader or your Stitch Ripper”. I have thought this horrific scenario through. I will part with the Stitch Ripper. One can substitute a safety pin to do this function (albeit a bit clumsily). But for the Needle Threader, there is no substitute!







Guess what is making cricketing news these days? Runs and wickets? Tantrums and tampering? No, it is none other than the good old Banana! It is reported that the Indian team has requested an ample supply of bananas for the team during their 2019 World Cup tour to England. The banana has been designated the “fruit of their choice!”

While the mango always lays claim to being the king of fruits, the solid trustworthy banana is taken much for granted, as it does not make a dashing seasonal appearance and compete for awards of the most varieties and the best of them all!

But, there’s more to a banana…

Bananas are both a fruit and not a fruit. While the banana plant is colloquially called a banana tree, it’s actually an herb distantly related to ginger, since the plant has a succulent tree stem, instead of a wood one.

Bananas grow in what are known as “hands,” so-called because of their appearance, which make up the larger stalk, known as a “bunch.”

The banana skin that we peel and throw is, in fact, a fruit because it contains the seeds of the plant. Although since bananas have been commercially grown, the plants are sterile, and the seeds have gradually been reduced to little specs.

The banana plant evolved in the humid tropical regions of S.E. Asia with India as one of its centres of origin. During the seventh century AD its cultivation spread to Egypt and Africa.  Carl Linnaeus an 18th century Swedish botanist whose work led to the creation of modern-day biological nomenclature for classifying organisms was the first person to successfully grow a fully flowered banana tree in the Netherlands.

Today banana is grown in more than 150 countries, and it is widely believed there are more than 1,000 types of bananas in the world, which are subdivided into 50 groups. There are at least 300 varieties of banana in India.

Even then, Linnaeus speculated about other uses for the versatile banana such as boiling bananas with sugar to cure anger, mashing bananas with honey to soothe eye inflammation and crushing banana root soaked in milk to alleviate dizziness. Today the banana is an acknowledged as a Superfood by all schools of health from Ayurveda to the trendy Diet and Nutrition experts. From digestive issues to depression…the banana is the panacea for all ills!

source: Google

And there is an International Banana Museum in California, which they claim is “the most aPEELing destination” with over 20,000 (and still adding) banana related items…the world’s largest collection devoted to any one fruit!

I do know that the Banana was my father’s favourite fruit. He always used to say “sabse achha kela!” “Banana is the best”. So true…The scientific name for banana is musa sapientum, which means “fruit of the wise men.”