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HindustanTimes Sun,21 Sep 2014
Significance of the colour red in your life
Prachi Raturi Misra, Hindustan Times
December 23, 2011
First Published: 18:40 IST(23/12/2011)
Last Updated: 17:58 IST(27/12/2011)

Blessings when it's on the forehead or wrists, festive when it surrounds you, sensual when it's on the lips, beautiful or bold when it's on your body and striking when you drive in it. And in the season of Christmas, it's all over the place, grabbing our attention, brightening our days.

Take Santa Claus, for instance. Can you imagine him wearing any other colour but red? Maybe it's because in wintry Europe, Santa's red suit stands out against the snow. Maybe the colour cheers everyone up in the grey days of winter. Maybe Santa simply likes the colour red. The last could be the most correct answer, because doesn't everyone like red? And there are so many reasons why.

santa clausGimme red
If you reach out to a red T-shirt or dress on a bad hair day, chances are, it will actually make you feel better. Red as a colour, says Dr Ramesh Kaushal, Reiki grandmaster, has the kind of energy and vibration that makes you feel confident. "It is a powerful colour that immediately connects you very differently to your environment," he says. "In fact red as a colour is recommended to people who might lack confidence. Red has the kind of energy that immediately peps you up."

It's a sure-shot mood-lifter, agrees Dr Deepti Dhara, naturopath at Tulsi Holistic Centre, Kamla Nagar, Delhi. "Red is a positive colour which, on a grey day, can really help brighten and lift up your mood," she says.

That's because red has a positive effect on your body, says wellness expert and Brunch columnist Dr Shikha Sharma. "Red is the colour of the mooldhara (root) chakra located at the base of the spine, which connects you to the outer world," she says. "It makes you industrious and increases your energy levels. Red also has great healing properties. For example it is recommended to treat degenerating bones."

Red lanternsA colour that makes you feel energetic is clearly a colour that exudes energy, and ancient healing systems have always made use of it. In Feng Shui, the front door is known as the 'Mouth of Chi', the portal from where energy enters. So a red front door means "welcome." And according to ayurvedic colour therapy, red is also the colour of rajo gunn (one of the three 'gunn' - rajo, tamo and satto) or qualities identified by ayurveda. Rajo gunn signifies qualities associated with 'rajas' - ambition, action and success. The use of the colour red increases the rajas element in your being, making you more dynamic.

In food science, adds Dr Sharma, red as a colour is known to whet your appetite, and also boost digestion. And as Anthony Huang, executive chef, Hotel Ista, Pune, confirms, "Sometimes by design and sometimes by default I do use a lot of shades of red either as the main ingredient or as a flavouring. It is no secret that red induces hunger and instantly attracts attention." For instance, one of chef Huang's dishes, the 'Shower Fried Fish', features fresh green slivers of spring onion and red chillies. "Every single guest turns around to see this dish being carried across the restaurant as the colours complement each other so well," says chef Huang.

And red is also considered the colour of focus and is supposed to help improve your memory. Researchers at the University of British Columbia showed 600 people two sets of images: one displayed against flaming red, and other displayed against cool blue. Afterward, these subjects were asked to recall what they had seen. The results were interesting: most people remembered the red set far better, with more clarity and greater attention to detail.

Strike three
lipstickEver wondered why a red carpet or a red tie is considered a powerful statement or why VIPs have a red light atop their vehicles?
Red is known to be a powerful colour that speaks of style and confidence. Little surprise that actress Gwyneth Paltrow was once quoted as saying: "Beauty, to me, is about being comfortable in your own skin. That, or a kick-ass red lipstick."

Thanks to its wavelength, red is a powerful colour. A primary colour, it has the property of appearing closer than it might really be and hence catches our attention before any other hue. Which probably explains why the 'stop' traffic light is red in every corner of the world.

Red stands out. So much so that it isn't hard to agree with Mazyar Fallah, assistant professor at the School of Kinesiology and Health Science, York University, Canada, who once said: "All things being equal between two figure skaters - including their actual speed on the ice - the judges will perceive a skater in red moving with greater speed than a skater in blue, and may reward the skater in red with higher marks."

As a colour, red catches our attention the fastest, which also explains why it's such a hot favourite in the advertising world.

Pamphlets, posters, packets… red usually ensures more eyeballs. "I guess it's one of those instinctive things to like red," says Prasoon Pandey, director and founder of Corcoise films. "It's almost hardwired into us."

redAnd red is also a fashion classic that never goes out of style. "It's organic, it just lifts things up," says designer Ritu Kumar. "And in the Indian context, it has deep significance. Our ceremonies have red, and our brides wear red. It signifies joy and fertility."

So much so that, according to Sanjay Sharma, director, Swarovski Elements India, "In India we always have a larger stock of red because we know it is always in demand."

The other side
But red has its negative side too. Anger is described as 'seeing red', flashing red lights denote danger or an emergency, red also symbolises war and fire.

Studies show that red can have a physical effect, increasing our rate of respiration and raising blood pressure. Which probably explains why our ears and cheeks often flush up when we are angry. Red, explains Dr Sharma, when used in excess, can do as much harm as it can do good. "It can increase your energy levels to an unhealthy high. You should use red very judiciously," she advises.

According to ayurvedic colour therapy, overdo red and you risk raising your pitta quotient. It can also cause stress, heartburn, and an increased tamo gunn, usually associated with darkness and lethargy.

Red can also show defiance and aggression. Celebrated photographer Jagdish Mali, for instance, has never liked the colour. "It seems too harsh to the eye," he says. "Sometimes I asked Rekha (the actress) to change if she was wearing red, because red is a very aggressive colour."

So take the photographer's advice. Don't use red during the day. At night it looks different - warmer and not such an attention grabber.

RubyRedding it

- The red ruby is the traditional Fortieth Wedding Anniversary gift.
-Red is often the colour worn by brides in the East while it is the colour of mourning in South Africa.
-Red is considered the colour of happiness and prosperity in China and also used to attract good luck

From HT Brunch, December 25

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