April 14, 2015

Smart choice

Stop a moment, and look around you. How many people do you see? Now how many of these people have their phones in hand? What is the first thing you reach out for when you wake up in the morning? Name one thing that you cannot imagine your life without?
In today's techno-savvy, gizmo-friendly, modern era, where a cell phone has become the most overused commodity in life, it becomes utmost important that we pay adequate time and attention in deciding what phone to buy. However, given the huge choice and variety of phones in the market, it is quite easy to make a not-so-smart decision while choosing a smart phone.

Around a year ago, I fell prey to one such 'Smart Phone' dilemma. I got myself a brand new shiny white smartphone. I did not have much time and patience to do much research back then. Looking back, it was rather foolish of me. But how much of problem could a smart phone cause, anyway, I thought. I did not delve too much into the features it provided. Cut to present day, I have to charge the same blasted phone thrice a day. Besides, I have had to get it seen by the 'Cell doctor' around 5-6 times in the preceeding months, for a new reason every single time. While someone explained that it was some manufacturing defect with the handpiece, another technician at their gallery suggested it was the charger (that came along with the set) that was faulty. Exasperated with the experience, I promised myself I would never again buy a phone without doing some detailed research about it. Thus started my smart quest for the perfect smart phone.

After a detailed online research, I finally discovered ASUS Zenfone 2, the perfect answer to the quintessential smart phone. For those who want to know more, here is what I discovered.
  •   As the old dictum goes, never judge a book by its cover. But when it comes to phone, we would definitely give some amount of importance to its look, style, design. AZUS Zenfone 2 comes with an unique and luxurious ultra-thin design that echoes the spirit of Zen. It has a stunning brushed metal finish. Tapering to as thin as 3.9mm at the edges, this graceful ergonomic arc case sports a bold and elegant look. This phone has a spectacular 72% screen-to-body ratio (5.5 inch screen) that renders a maximized viewing experience. That means a bigger, brighter and more beautiful experience. ZenFone 2 is equipped with a high-resolution 1920 x 1080 Full HD IPS display that offers wide 178-degree viewing angles that provide crystal clear, sharp images that are a treat to the eyes. Isn't that incredible? 
  • Ever had problems with your phone cams? Grainy, low-resolution images that send your friends and relatives sulking? Family complaining that you take so much time clicking that they lose the pose and the mood? Well, ASUS Zenfone 2 has a solution to these problems. Equipped with a 13MP PixelMaster camera and 85% wide angle lens, it captures spectacular high resolution pictures with zero shutter lag. Also, the pixel merging technology allows it to capture 400% brighter pictures in low light and at night, without the need of a flash. It also ensures clarity through sun-light and shadows. Zenfone 2's 'Real tone flash' ensures warm skin tones and precise color along with natural illumination for indoor shots. That means no more complaints about unclear, faded out (due to too much flash) or delayed pics anymore. Say 'Yes' to awesome 140 degrees panoramic selfies and smart video chats. (Also special effects apps like 'ZenUI MiniMovie' and 'ASUS ZenCircle' inspire you to get creative, and maybe just maybe discover a hidden passion.)
  •  For all those cell phone addicts (including me) who just cannot understand how their phone gets drained of juice, there is good news for you. You don't need to carry your cell charger and keep searching for plug points every where you go, any longer. Get yourself an ASUS Zenfone 2. The ASUS BoostMaster technology charges much faster than traditional speeds, ie The 3000mAh battery is charged upto 60% in 39 minutes. Isn't that just great? No more waiting. No more missing calls while your cell is being charged somewhere in some corner. In addition, a super efficient LTE connectivity and a dual slim capacity will make sure you never miss a call. If you are on a call on Sim 1, and if someone tries to contact you on Sim 2, you can smoothly switch from one to another. All these features make sure that you are always connected, wherever you are, wherever you go.
  • ZenFone 2 is powered by an up to 2.3GHz 64-bit Intel® Atom™ Z3580 processor. Equipped with a dual channel technology, it is the world's first GB RAM smartphone that enables its everyday performance to be manifold better and faster than its predecessor. Thus, one can enjoy slick web surfing, immersive uncompromising gaming experiences, exceptional video play-back, and efficient time-consuming multi-tasking. It's incredible SonicMaster Audio technology enables crystal clear audio (of amazing clarity), thus enriching the experience.
  • The Zenfone can be accessorized in unique and innovative ways, with beautiful accessories to match your style and choice. So go right ahead. If you have it (ASUS Zenfone ), flaunt it!
I am impressed. This is pretty much all I need in a smartphone. You are free to do your research. I have done mine, and I am convinced that ASUS Zenfone 2  is a smart choice. Simpler, smarter, faster, more convenient, and better in most ways, this truly seems promising of a refined luxury.

With all these exciting features, it seems like 'Incredible' has a new name. I can't wait to try it out now. I need a new phone anyway...

April 01, 2015

Decoding empowerment

Question: What happens when 99 women from various walks of life come together to send out one powerful message?

Answer:  Controversy!
Recently, Homi Adajania directed a short film dedicated to #VogueEmpower, a social awareness initiative. The video was aptly titled 'My Choice' and was based on a piece by Kersi Khambatta. Also starring Nimrat Kaur, Adhuna Akhtar, Anupama Chopra and many others who have made a difference in their respective careers, this short film shows Deepika as a modern day woman talking about her right to be at par with the status that men have been designated (no/few questions asked) by a hypocritical society.
Going by the uproar the video has managed to create, I am pretty sure everyone has watched it by now. But for the few who might have not, here it is.

I first happened to come across this video on a quiet sultry afternoon. Having nothing better to do, I decided to watch it. I'm not a feminist or anything, but #VogueEmpower has always managed to catch my attention. First it was their 'Going home' short film starring Alia Bhat, then it was 'Start with the boys' that had Madhuri Dixit. While I was not too impressed with the former (I found it just okay-ish) the latter was something that hit home. So when I noticed the 'My Choice' video, I was only too keen to know what message it carried this time.
On watching it, I liked the way the message rolled out. The video showed a woman talking about her choices, and the need for equal rights. It spoke about empowerment, the freedom to do as you pleased without being questioned. It reflected satire by the subtle comparison between the freedom bestowed on a man and not a woman.

Personally, I think this video is definitely worth a share. However, the world is always divided into two opinions---yours and mine. While there are some people appreciating the video, there are many who seem to have taken it the wrong way.
It's all fine (freedom of expression et al. After all, the video is about choices.). However, I see a limit being crossed here. There are people frothing at the mouth, claiming that the video was 'oh so wannabe' and pretentious. Lines are picked up on. Parodies are uploaded. Open letters, jokes, hate posts are being written all over the net. Those starring in the video are being defamed. Creative expressions are turned inside out and thrashed, so much that some bloke has tweeted that the film promotes prostitution.
Now what do you say to a thing like this? Give a dog a bad name and hang him, eh?

While haters have gone ahead and searched for Deepika's dirty linen to wash in public, they keep forgetting that she is just the face that has been used to promote the video.
Things about her past are being brought up. Fingers are pointed at her character and abuses are hurled at her for being a hypocrite. Her previous endorsements are challenged. Personal issues as serious as depression are  dragged in. Things are turning ugly. 
I am apalled at the comments on social media, the hate tweets, the perverted jokes on her that were being circulated. Is this just another case of herd mentality? You got a problem with the video? Fine! You have a problem with the message too? That is also fine. But why shoot the messenger, is what I ask.

So let's see line by line what the video had to say. I am going to write about the points that were raised and argued about (wrt the film), and my counterargument as a viewer. In addition, I will also say what the other lines mean to me, just so that I am not misinterpreted in any other way. (If you throw too many brickbats, I might build myself a house with them, and make myself comfortable.)

My body, my mind, my choice.
To wear the clothes I like even as my spirit roams naked, my choice.
To be a size 0 or a size 15, they don't have a size for my spirit, they never will.

A few comments on the above lines pointed fingers towards Deepika's earlier choice of endorsements They accused that it was plain hypocrisy that a superstar endorsing 'weight loss' breakfast cereal was now claiming that being a size 15 is fine as a matter of choice.
What I would like to know is that? How many of our celebrities actually use the products that they endorse? Do you also think ShahRukh Khan MUST use Navratna Tel (Yes, Thanda thanda cool cool), Aamir MUST guzzle gallons of coke, Amitabh Bacchan MUST slurp insstant maggi noodles at meals, Kareena MUST bathe with Lux soap, just because they promote it?

Roping in a celebrity to endorse a product or advertise a campaign is an essential part of marketing strategies. Why? Because they are youth icons. They are popular among the masses. Would you watch a two minute video or TV commercial if it had some obcure run-of-the-mill nobody starring in it? Who are we kidding--of course you wouldn't!

Celebrities provide people the incentive to take notice. So when Deepika stars in a film about women choices, please accept that she is saying what needs to be said...doing what is asked of her. That's her job. If actors started expressing their views about every campaign or ad film they was offered, there would not be any need of scriptwriters, directors and the rest of the crew.
Now coming to what is implied in the above lines (or what I think it means): The 'woman' does not want to be told what to wear or what not to wear. Her spirit is free, unrestricted, and that is how she wants her choice to be. How many times have we flinched when we hear comments like 'She shouldn't have worn that dress' or 'Her clothes invited it' in cases of sexual molestation or rape.? How many times have we argued tooth and nail for the right of a woman to dress as she wants? Inner beauty...strength of character...woman's liberation--haven't we all voted for these before? Then why create a hue and cry when the video says the same thing (in literary expression)??!!!

To use cotton and silk to trap my soul is to believe you can halt the expansion of the universe or capture sunlight in the palm of your hand.
Your mind is caged, let it free. My body is not, let it be.

True, isn't it? Our clothes do not define us. Neither do they protect or limit us. What protects us is our thinking, that ironically seems caged at times. The writer wants to tell us to free our minds, rather than pay attention to our bodies. Our bodies are not caged. It is our mindset that needs to be liberated. Focus on what is more important. 

My choice, to marry or not to marry.
To have sex before marriage, to have sex outside of marriage, to not have sex. 

There seems to be a huge hullabaloo on this topic, especially the 'sex outside marriage' part. In my opinion, this video represents equal rights for women. Like I said before, this might just be the writer's way of challenging the existing situation, when (face it!) a man will not be questioned as much as a woman when it comes to preferences on sex.
Even our movies are evident of this mentality. A man who strays after marriage is most likely forgiven by all and sundry, if he gets on his knees and pleads for forgiveness. Flip side, show me one movie that shows a woman straying and the audience being empathic towards her. In reality, even if a woman cannot forgive her man for his infidelity, there will be a whole society asking her to consider...for the sake of her breaking marriage, for the sake of an unborn child, for the sake of the entire f***ing society. Who can promise mistakes will not be repeated, but chances..a man should get those. A cheating woman, on the other hand, will be labelled a whore, shamed by society, and not given a chance to reprieve her guilt even in hell.

My choice, to love temporarily or to lust forever.

Again, a woman lusting forever is just not acceptable, right? The first to go against this statement would be other women. Visions of a temptress trying to seduce poor innocent victims would come to mind. Mind, exactly! Love or lust are subjective choices. What might be lust for some might be love to others and vice versa. All of us experience it at some point or another. Sometimes its temporary, sometimes it's a little more than temporary. The permanence of any emotion is again a choice. Who are we to be the moral police when it comes to an individual's choice?

My choice, to love a man or a woman or both. 

(Society should not have a role to play in individual decisions as long as they are not harming it in any way. Freedom to choose should be included in the Constitution of India as a fundamental right, eh?)

Remember you are my choice, I am not your privilege.

I simply fail to understand why a man should have a problem with this statement. He should be proud of the fact that his woman chose him because she wanted to and not because he wanted her to. Being someone's choice is always a matter of pride. We should learn to understand that. We should also learn to deserve that,

The bindi on my forehead, the ring on my finger, adding your surname to mine, they are ornaments. They can be replaced. My love for you cannot. So treasure that.

And don't ever forget it. Even when you are bubbling with rage on misunderstanding or misjudging a video  woman. Love needs no evidence. When a man does not need to wear a mangalsutra, bindi or adopt a different surname after marriage, why should a woman? Now, isn't that a tad unfair?

My choice, to come home when I want. Don't be upset if I come home at 4am. Don't be fooled if I come home at 6pm.

This is for all those suspecting married men who have a curfew at home. This just goes to drive home the point that you can never be completely sure of your wife's integrity unless you love her completely and trust her. A wife might be busy working till the wee hours of the morning while her husband suspects that she's cheating on him with her boss. On the other hand, a wily female might plan her moves so well that her husband might never know of her adultery. The message here is, you can't curb her freedom just to make sure.  All you can make sure is that you love her so much that she 'chooses' you till the end.

My choice, to have your baby or not, to pick you from 7 billion choices or not. So don't get caught.

For those who protested against this arguing that a baby should be a couple's decision, let's just get this right. You cannot break a line as you please, especially when it is in relevant continuity with the line(s) that follow. This part of the message might be written to emphasize how much a monogamous relationship means to a woman---She chooses one person from seven billion others to be the father of her baby.
Besides, try as we might want to justify equal partnership (between a man and a woman) in creating a baby, the truth is that a mother will always have the upper hand in the situation. 'Janani', the one who houses the foetus in her womb for nine months, right from conception to the delivery of a healthy child, is the heart of the home. Her responsibilities do not stop just there. Even during the growing up years, the mother's role is most crucial.(Of course, there are exceptions, and I'm not denying that.).
But think of those women who are forced to go to abortion clinics repeatedly, only because the family or husband does not want a girl child, those single mothers who have been dumped by the man they loved, only because he was not man enough to be a father or husband. You still thinking of those exceptions now?

My pleasure may be your pain.
My songs your noise.
My order your anarchy.
Your sins my virtues.
My choices are like my fingerprints. They make me unique.

This speaks of individual choices...independent ones. It goes to say no two people are alike. What may stand justified for one may be totally unreasonable to another. These are choices---they make us who we are...they make us unique.

I am the tree not the forest. I am the snowflake not the snowfall. You are the snowflake.

By 'snowflake' she means, each of us is a part of the whole. Every one of us is as miniscule as a insignificant when alone. But together, we constitute something beautiful.

Wake up. Get out of the shitstorm, or choose to empathize or to be indifferent. 

I guess the writer knew exactly what he was getting into. Perhaps 'Vogue' was aware it wouldn't be easy pie too. This short film was bound to create controversy.

I choose to be different. 
I am the universe, infinite in every direction.

Someone laughed on the validity of this statement by saying that the last three words 'in every direction' were totally uncalled for, as it was the universe that was being spoken about.
Well, to this, I'd just say. The human mind is akin to an universe. And as we all know it, we have witnessed many a minds (in the past few days) go infinitely unidirectional on this topic.

 It is true that women all over India, especially rural India need to be empowered much more and over issues much more basic. It is also true that this topic has been done to death. And yet, 'Vogue' comes up with this new short film on empowerment.Think about it!

To empower someone is to hand over the reigns of their own life to them, to make them confident enough to claim their rights and control their own lives, to give them the power to do as they please so as to enable them to become secure strong individuals who do not need to feel threatened because of their vulnerability...who can make their own choices.

Do you really think that women in cities are all liberated and empowered? Don't these so called 'modern women' face issues of their own? Cases of suicide, female foeticide, depression, rapes, eve teasing, crime against women are seen as much in metros as in villages. What is evident is always just the tip of the iceberg. The problem lies concealed...silent...and in most cases, suppressed. Haven't you heard of the educated illiterates? Empowerment is necessary and of utmost importance for woman in all spheres of life. We have to start somewhere (and go on until it is acknowledged). Is it such a huge mistake that Homi Adajania has chosen to first address the Youtube watching, internet surfing milieu?

As an author, I can understand how painful it must be to have a mad mob dissect your creative have mass criticism flung at you for something you believe in. As a woman, I can imagine how harrowing it must be to silently witness a negative reaction to something you are part of, for no fault of yours. As a human who has learned to try and see things from another person's  perspective, I can empathize with 'Vogue' who tried to pass on a strong social message and instead got castigated for hypocrisy.

So there! Having explained my interpretation of the video, I leave it up to you. You can choose to understand it from a different perspective or choose to stay hell bent on what you think is right (or wrong).
Who am I, you ask? And why am I defending this video?
I am just a woman who believes she still has choices...

March 26, 2015

The change we needed...

As a child, I hated waking up early in the morning. It was lucky that my school was just a two minute distance from my home. That meant I could even wake up as late as 7:30am, brush my teeth, have a shower, eat my breakfast, pack my school bag, and yet be able to make it on time for the morning eight o'clock assembly. This was a boon during exam days. Being a last-minute person, I would be cramming up until the second I left the house. Higher secondary was not much different. Tutions and extra classes too were within a close radar, all of which made me quite used to this convenient and comfortable routine.
So when I had to travel a 65 mins journey from home to Medical school every single day, it was quite a brutal reality shock. For the first few days, I thought it was great fun. Spending a minimum two hours a day in commuting to Goa Medical College was quite a thrill. I would happily traverse the distance chatting non stop with a few colleagues. All this lasted until I experienced my first bout of motion sickness. I recall stopping to puke on the way. I had reached college looking like something the cat dragged in. From that day onwards, the 65 minutes to GMC would be spent with eyes closed, imagining all my favorite things, out of fear that I  might puke if I stopped.
As the days went by, this phobia made me miserable. The 'last minute' studying habit had followed me to Medical school. But the motion sickness (or rather the fear of it) did not allow me to read while traveling. I was too afraid to open my eyes. Mr Vertigo could strike anytime.  As the increasing syllabus and impending vivas threatened to cause a nervous breakdown, I realized the seriousness of the situation.

Wasting so much time in traveling could turn things ugly (for me). Besides, I would be exhausted by the time I reached home. The continuous lectures at college plus the daily traveling had started taking a toll. My back hurt. My neck strained. My legs cramped. Studying under so much physical and mental fatigue had almost started becoming impossible, and this had started affecting my grades as well.
The ultimate eyeopener, however, was when I flunked in Anatomy viva. That was when I decided I'd  had enough. As I stood nervously stuttering in front of my professor, hoping for some divine intervention to whisper the 'nerve supply to all muscles of the upper and lower limbs' that I had not read a word of my ear, I had not read a word of, I had an epiphany. If this went on, I would royally flunk my exams. The syllabus had suddenly started to seem like an endless ocean of knowledge. I had not even finished reading half of it. There was hardly any time.
Clearly, I was doing something wrong here. All the problems narrowed down to one major issue. It was the journey that was killing me. I had to cut down my commute time and put in more study time. That also meant I had to make sure I wouldn't fall asleep as soon as I hit the bed (like would happen those days). That was when I had another epiphany---I decided to shift to the hostel.

Our hostel warden was a stubborn old woman who liked to play 'God'. She enjoyed designating rooms to students as per her whims and fancy. The girls who would get assigned rooms were usually the ones who threw a pity party (sobbed and wailed about their problems to her) or the ones who kissed her ass, neither of which I was. Hence, I was rudely brushed off, and my name was included in a super long waiting list of other candidates who had applied for a room but had no hope of getting one. That was when one of my best friends came to the rescue.

Apparently Tina had a relative who could help us search for a small studio apartment within close distance of GMC. Tina informed me that another of my colleagues, Jaya,  was caught in a similar situation (No, not the motion sickness...the weak grades) and pooling in the rent seemed like a good idea to all three of us. Exams were just around the corner, and I did not have much time to waste on deciding. I plunged at the offer. Thus started our search for an apartment.

The ordeal continued for the whole of the next week. Tina's uncle put in a lot of effort to search around. We met a few brokers and tried to explain to them what we exactly wanted. Some managed to confuse us, some we managed to confuse.
A lot of disappointments (that involved high rent, space issues etc) and embarrassments later, we finally found a reasonable deal. Thinking back, had an online platform like Housing existed back then, it would have made our home search so much easier. With an amazing clarity in careful planning and execution, 'Housing' is said to be the new face of real estate today.

However, life was different back then. After a tiring search with a few frustrating encounters, we finally decided to make do with what was available. Due to constraints on time and patience, we had to compromise on the quality. But we reminded ourselves of the hot scorching heat outside and that beggars couldn't be choosers. The flat was a 1BHK, our best bet in that hour of need. Without wasting much time, Jaya, Tina, and me moved in. At least, we could hope to clear our semesters now.

The next one week was spent in adjusting to the flat and each other's company. Neither of us had lived away from home before. Gradually, we started getting acquainted to one another. Study patterns, eating habits, sleep timings got discussed and adjusted with. The chaos was slowly coming under control. Life was falling in place. The convenient location made sure we got ample time to study and make up for lost time.

Thinking back, the apartment was in no way perfect. But it did set many things right. I topped in Anatomy that semester. Jaya and Tina got excellent grades too. We became best buddies, discussing everything from past crushes to future responsibilities. Since the place was within close distance, we could go and observe deliveries being conducted in the labour room and cases being managed in Trauma & Casualty unit (something which is normally done only in year 3). The senior residents were only too amused (and maybe a little impressed too) to teach a bunch of enthusiastic freshers how to suture gaping wounds and take histories. We even assisted in a couple of normal deliveries.

That year we learned a lot of things. We learned the importance of time management. The unavailability of hostel rooms taught us not to give up on seeing a closed door but to instead look around for open windows. The time we spent together made us realize that friends are the family we are allowed to choose, and that compromises, adjustments and communication are most essential in any relationship. We realized that intrigue and enthusiasm together with sincere determination and hard work are a must for one to keep learning.

It was only in the next year that our application for hostel rooms were accepted. We bid farewell to that apartment and shifted to the privacy of our single rooms. By then we were strong enough to handle the pressures of medicine on our own. We got busy studying.

Days changed into weeks, and weeks to years. Time just flew by. We graduated from medical college, got our respective post graduation degrees, and are in different places. However, even today, every once in a while, we get gossip, group study, or just remember those wonderful days as house-mates in that rented apartment that changed us for the best, the one that started our new life!

March 24, 2015

Thanks Wala Nashta

If we were asked to choose just one meal a day, which one would it be?
I am pretty sure most of us would opt for dinner. That is the one meal we think we can thoroughly enjoy. Having wrapped up for the day, we think we can sit back and relax with family and friends over a soulful dinner conversation and enjoy the flavor of the food we are eating until we are satiated and content enough for a good night's sleep. A good dinner and a undisturbed night's rest before we wake up and head for work tomorrow...what more do we 'want', right? Wrong! Have you ever wondered what more we actually need?

Breakfast, the most hurried meal of the day. Most of us would not even be able to recollect what we last had for breakfast. Bites of toast and gulps of coffee consumed between getting ready for work and stepping out of the house? No? Not even that?

Research says 'Breakfast' is the most important meal of the day. It not just  kick starts your day on a happy note, but also provides energy for the brain and keeps you alert. Breakfast helps to improve our metabolism and reduces the body's glucose levels. An ideal breakfast should be packed with energy and vitamins in addition to proteins, fiber, iron that is essential for a healthy growth and development. Milk, fruit and cereal are the three essential components of a nutritious breakfast. It helps to keep the mind fresh and alert, and also assists in problem solving. It is said that breakfast-eaters can think faster and concentrate better than those who skip their morning nashta. Despite all these advantages, breakfast is still the least popular meal of the day. Why, you ask? Well, life, the rat race, the size zero craze, and everything. Different reasons for different people.

I am not exactly a morning person.  By this I mean, I just cannot wake up in the morning and get all geared to prepare an elaborate breakfast, packed with vitamins, minerals, proteins and fiber. Already, I have a tough time getting my eyes open enough to hit the snooze button on my clanging alarm clock. (Yes, mine is the big fat steel alarm that goes on forever and shuts up only when it is flung on the floor by a grumpy me. Modern day cell phone alarms are too decent to wake me up..). So, proceeding into the kitchen to fix a nutritious meal after this early morning rush of madness is out of the question. Hence, when I first came across (Kellogg's wale) Gupta Ji (of the 'sunny disposition' fame) looking all fresh and cheerful early in the morning, I was intrigued beyond doubt. Who in this world could be caught smiling like a sunflower on a grumpy Monday morning?

It was known that everyone in the society kept asking Gupta Ji for a breakfast invite. Much to his children's (Ritu and Rohan) irritation, everybody had just a question to ask them "Nashte pe kab bula rahe ho?"
The reason was Mrs Shalu Gupta's amazing breakfast options. A quick neighborhood research told me that she had a recipe for almost every mood under the sun. The woman was a freaking superwoman, I thought. How could someone be so enthusiastic over making elaborate meals first thing in the morning? That was when curiosity got the better of me, and I decided to check out some recipes she had posted online here .

Voila! As I scrolled down one interesting recipe after another, I noticed a pattern. Most of them had one common ingredient---cereal. Being aware of the health benefits and nutrition quotient of Kellogg's, and enticed by pics of the delicious end product, I was tempted to read further. Kelloggs oats are rich in fibre that help reduce cholesterol. They help one feel fuller longer, and thus help control your weight.  The soluble fibres in oats can help reduce the risk of developing type 2 Diabetes. Corn is rich in antioxidants that help maintain eye health and keeps vision problems at bay. Barley can help reduce blood pressure. Kelloggs Muesli (Nuts delight) makes up for an nutrition  packed breakfast that is needed to set your day in enthusiastic motion by generating the required energy boost. Corn is a star when it comes to overall goodness of whole grain and fibre. Sometimes oats, sometimes cornflakes, sometimes sweet, at other times spicy, Mrs Gupta and her original recipes make every healthy breakfast a treat to eat.

Shalu had posted some family videos on Youtube as well, where she and Chef Ajay Chopra whipped up breathtaking recipes, that were not just quick to fix but also yummy to eat.  Besides as the age old saying goes, always trust the restaurant where the owner dines. Mr Gattu Gupta, one of the leading distributors of Kellogg's cornflakes, unwavering loyalty towards the product stands testimony to its quality and standard, and it being his family's favorite breakfast option is proof of its merit.
Mr Gattu Gupta and his family are aware of the health benefits that come with a nutritious breakfast, and Chef Ajay and Shalu make sure they embark on a magic carpet ride of gastronomic delights every single morning. Be it Kellogg's Tomato-Salsa oats or Power-Up poha, together, the family  savors every flavor.

I thoroughly enjoyed all the recipes (especially the 'Fruity Yogurt Cup' and 'Cheesy Cornflakes', which I am sure is an instant hit with kids, and also the simple yet refreshing  'Peach Cornflakes' and 'Cornflakes Date Shake'). Hats off to Mrs Shalu Gupta for coming up with such spectacularly innovative ideas. I would love to meet her and her family someday, and tell her what a great example they are setting. Besides, it would be an honor to meet Chef Ajay and thank him for converting a healthy choice like Kelogg's into an irresistible one.

Being a general physician and diabetologist, I have a lot of patients coming in with issues like diabetes, hypertension, obesity, most of whom find it impossible to shift to healthy eating. They often come up with excuses not to stick to their diet plan. Most prefer to start their morning with just a cup of coffee, not realizing that they do themselves more harm than good by skipping breakfast. Having very limited choices to choose from, they prefer going hungry. But what they do not realize is skipping a meal causes them to lose essential nutrients as well.  With Mrs Gupta's tasty recipes, I expect them to feel more motivated into eating healthy, eating regular and eating right.
I think I can take a little liberty and modify the age old dictum into 

"A Kellogg's meal a day keeps the doctor away."

Coming back to the Guptas, there is much talk about Shalu's hospitality. I am hoping that meeting with her will manage to make me catch some of her infectious enthusiasm for cooking. (I so desperately need that...sigh!).
They say 'The way to a man's heart is through his stomach'. Who better than good old Kellogg's Wale Gupta Ji can testify this? The chemistry between Shalu and him is really cute. Meeting the prankster Rohan and the rebellious Ritu would be a fun experience. Watching all their videos has made me feel like a part of their family already.

So lets take this seriously. Let us pledge that we are going to wake up and fix ourselves a power packed breakfast every day. It's simple really---milk, fruit and Kellogg's, that is all it takes.

So make the right choice. Believe in the goodness of grain. Have a positive attitude.
Stay healthy. Stay happy!

Toh bataiye Guptaji, nashte  pe kab bula rahe ho?  
Arre bhai, 'Thank you' bolna hai...
:) :) :)

The 10x housing mantra (of the home & the heart)

The world is changing every single second....and so are our dreams and aspirations. In this race of life, nobody wants to be left behind. Everyone is constantly on the run, seeking a better lifestyle, striving for a better quality of living. However, what we fail to notice is that this constant struggle for improvement is slowly but surely taking over what is most important...our relationships.

I have seen a lot of people changing. 'No time to care' seems like the new age mantra. Everyone is busy caught up in their own lives, trying to better their tomorrow. The fact that they are neglecting their today goes unnoticed. However, there are a few people who still appreciate the simple life.
In this world of rapidly changing priorities, they have still not let go of their values. It is in stheir small acts of genuine simplicity that I realize that all is not lost. The world still has hope for a better tomorrow, a tomorrow where man will respect relations more than wealth, where honest, God-fearing people will bring up their children the right way, where love and kindness will be most supreme.

Meet Savitri.
Despite of residing in crowded shanties, Savitri  is a neat and tidy woman with oiled kempt hair and a cheerful disposition. Her clothes are old but washed. She is the sole earning member of her family, the others being a drunk husband and a grand-daughter, Sayli, whom she adores.
Till date, Savitri has not once mentioned about her daughter and son-in-law, and I have never asked. I respect her privacy, but the occasional bruises on her arm are an indicator of domestic abuse. Despite all these hardships, Savitri always has a smile on her face...a smile that tells the world she is not giving up, at least not as yet.

During Savitri's eight years of working as 'help' in my house, there were many instances when her integrity had been unintentionally tested---times when I left my hand bag open on the table, tired evenings when I carelessly placed my wrist watch by the bed side, forgot a fifty rupee note in my jeans pocket. But it was Savitri who unfailingly pointed out and corrected my recklessness. ..every single time!

Recently, a close friend had stopped by my house. Like is the norm in my case, friendly gup-shup often steers in every single direction under the sun, and we ended up discussing real estate. Savitri happened to around then, mopping the floor.
Nikita was explaining to me about Look Up's 10x housing mantra, and the revolutionary initiative that got all the elements together and make housing easier. Her dream seemed just a step away now. Housing was no longer a cause of panic attacks. As I checked the website, I had to agree it was an impressive approach.

Soon after Niki left, Savitri asked me what we were talking about.
I had realized Savitri was eavesdropping, and it amused me.

"That is her dream, Savitri. She wants to lead a comfortable life. Owning a plush house has always been top most on her priority list."

She was silent. I wanted to continue the conversation. It was not every day that Savitri initiated a conversation.

"Do you have a dream?" I asked her.

 "Yes, Memsaheb," she said, almost instantly.

That is when she amazed me yet again with her clarity and simplicity of thoughts. Savitri had a dream...a dream to educate her grand-daughter and make her a responsible citizen.

"Memsaheb, education is most important, isn't it? I am illiterate. But I will never let that happen with my Sayli," she said.  "My grand-daughter stands amongst the first three in her class. She wants to be a doctor like you," she smiled.

I couldn't help but smile back. I was proud of the determination I saw in her. She told me that her grand-daughter studied well in advance for her exams. As  electricity was scarce, she sometimes studied under the street light. I saw a strange kind of passion in Savitri's eyes....the grit to overcome the odds, the hunger for knowledge, an ambition, a goal, a dream.
I felt a strong urge to help this woman fulfil her dream. If only I could help her in some way, I thought. I knew Sayli was a bright child. I decided to offer to pay her school fees. But Savitri refused.

"Thank you, Memsaheb. But I cannot accept it," she said, declining the money proffered to her.

"But why, Savitri? You  don't need to pay me. I am aware of the hardships you have to go through. Sayli is doing very well. Things would be easier if..."

"Nahi Memsaheb," she interjected. "My Sayli should know the importance of her education. She should know how much her mother has sacrificed so that she can study. Only then will she learn. Only then will she remember."

I nodded. I knew what she meant.

"She respects me, Memsaheb. She knows I do all I can...only for her."

I was proud of Savitri. Some other person, in her situation, would have gladly accepted the money. But Savitri, although poor, was a self-respecting woman. She had not once asked for more than what she deserved. That day, I realized why. Savitri's self-respect, honesty and dignity of labor were the driving force behind Sayli's perseverance. She wanted to teach her grand-child to dream on her own fly with her own wings. She was hopeful. She was optimistic. This woman, standing in front of me, had not let go of her dreams, but she had not forsaken her values for it. With an upbringing like this, I was very sure that her grand-daughter would live up to her expectations.

"I have saved some money for Sayli's college," she told me. "People tell me to rent out a small kholi with that money. But I am saving it for her education. I can live in a hut all my life. But if I stop dreaming, I will be miserable. She is my only reason for happiness. You think I am wrong, Memsaheb?"

"No Savitri. You are absolutely right," I smiled. "What is more important than the four walls of a house, is the happiness of the people living in it. You are absolutely right. Don't ever give up on that dream. "

Savitri might not have good housing facilities today. But she had earned respect in the eyes of her grand-daughter. They both shared a silent promise of love and selfless devotion to each other. She safe-guarded a dream in her eyes....a dream that would nurture their relationship.

That day, I realized that love worked on a 10x housing mantra too, just like Look Up. If allowed to house in the heart, it makes one push their limits to move towards a better future.

March 23, 2015

Together from the start...

They say we can repress certain memories if we want to. I sometimes wonder if that is really possible at all. How does one forget to remember?
Perhaps we can jumble up our fix them in order of preference, pretty much like a jigsaw. Change the sequence, shuffle the deck, do what you want--some memories just fail to leave you. They become a part of you.

One of the most memorable moments in my life revolves around my best friend, Rashmi. It's rather bizarre, the way we became friends. I was the shy intern, she was a senior resident.
It was during one of my postings. I was doing my internship then. Dr A.K, a senior consultant in the department, had just returned after six long years in the United States. Suave, smart and American accented, he was the talk of the whole department. He was in his early fifties, a perfectionist in his work, and a seemingly mild mannered person. We interns did not have to interact much with him, except for the rare occasions when he decided to hold group discussions.
I had a very good impression of Dr A.K until he started calling me to his cabin a little more frequently. Initially I would ignore this, but as days went by, I started finding his behavior a little odd. Amidst sniggering co-interns and embarrassed patients, he would compliment me on my attire. He would ask me to leave aside my case history and assist him in another case. I was aware that his behavior was getting really weird. Besides he was a senior consultant, and a person of his caliber did not usually take interest in teaching interns. But those were the days when I was naive enough to believe that decency has something to do with age, and that all men your father's age must see you as a daughter (now I know better). Hence I would go to his office when called and listen to what he had to tell me (usually an elaborate textbook concept that did not need any explanation but would consume a lot of time) This happened for a couple of weeks.
They say every girl/woman possesses this innate gut instinct that alerts her of anything fishy. My intuition warned me to stay away from Dr A.K. I started bunking clinics on days when his unit would take ward rounds. I exchanged duties with interns from other departments. I feigned headaches. I avoided him like the plague.

This went on for several days until all hell broke loose the day Dr A.K asked the peon to examine a new admission and present the case to him. The memory still manages to get my blood boiling. I remember me stepping into his cabin with the patient. He asked the patient to leave and told me that he wanted me to present the case without the patient. (This was when the warning bell in my brain went on) As soon as I started reading from the file, he shifted uncomfortably in his seat, and called out to the peon outside, asking him to shut the door on the pretext of the OPD being too noisy and not allowing him to concentrate on the case. With the door closed, Dr A.K got up from his seat and walked towards me. There was something about his smile and the look in his eyes that made me shudder.  Alarm bells were clanging in my head by then. My palms had turned sweaty, my pulse was racing. Without thinking any further, I made a dash towards the door.
"Sir, I have forgotten one of the case sheets in the OPD," I said, pretending to shuffle the papers in hand.
Before the a**ehole could even respond, I pushed the door open and scurried away.

That was when Dr Rashmi Kamath stopped me. Dr Rashmi was the senior resident in the department, the only female resident amongst a group of six doctors. Looking at my face, she had sensed something was wrong.
"Is everything alright?" she asked me.

It was then that I couldn't bottle it anymore. Fear, panic and anger were bubbling within me. I burst out into angry sobs.

"Shh...Let's go to the canteen. We can talk there," she comforted me.

While at the canteen, I narrated the whole incident. I also confided in her about my decision to leave internship midway. I had three more months in that department, and Dr A.K would make my life hell. He would see to it that I get an extension....especially when I insulted him by dashing out like that. I panicked. It was better to quit voluntarily...that way I still had a chance to complete my internship elsewhere.

That was when Dr Rashmi told me about her experiences in medical school, of the pressures she had to undergo during her internship year, of the discrimination she had to face being the only female in the PG batch.
"You can't run away like that. You will meet a Dr A.K in every college. You got to stand up and fight. Every step from here on will be a new battle. You will meet people like these at every step. Don't give in, and more importantly don't give up," she said.

The next three hours saw both of us talking like sisters...old friends. Dr Rashmi was no longer just a senior resident. She had become my guide, my confidante, my buddy. She told me she had faced a similar situation due to which she had lost a year. She said she had been a coward, she did not want me to be one. She told me she had realized her mistake a little too late. One year was spent reflecting on decisions, sorting priorities and organizing life.

"Quitting is always the wrong decision. Winners never quit," she told me, as we were just about to leave.

I was feeling better after having spoken to her. I had finally opened up to someone who seemed to understand what I was going through...who had once been there herself.  Dr Rashmi's encouraging words lit a spark of positivity in me. Dr A.K was in the wrong, I did not have anything to be afraid of. I would not give up, I decided.

As we re-entered the hospital corridors, Dr A.K crossed our paths. A wave of nervousness hit me. Perhaps I still needed time. He still managed to unnerve me. Dr Rashmi noticed that. Holding my hand, she went up to Dr A.K.

"Hello Sir. I have been noticing you are taking special interest in our intern batch. I would want to relieve you of that burden. From tomorrow, they will present their cases to me. I hope that is okay with you."

"Er..uh..Y..Yes...why not?" Dr A.K fumbled. His gaze shifted from me to Dr Rashmi. It was his turn to be nervous now. Her choice of words had made him realize that she knew more than he wanted her to know. He knew she was capable of complaining the matter to the dean.
I, on the other hand, had regained my confidence on seeing his displeasure. Dr Rashmi had convinced me that I was not alone. We were in this journey together.

Years passed, but that day's memory is still fresh in my heart.
Today, I am far more bold and self-assured than I once used to be. I have come a long way. Life has taught me to stand up for what I believe in, because nobody else will. I have learned to face my fears, fight my own battles. I have learned to never allow my faith in myself waver.
Dr Rashmi and I are still the best of friends. We lean on each other for professional and personal advice and suggestions, just like best friends should. We are still together in this journey.

Thinking back, it is never the advice that we depend on people for. It is their company that provides that small little nudge that is required to push our life back on track.

And just like that, a life long friendship is born...

March 22, 2015

A pocketful of sunshine

 "Happiness is like a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you."
~ Nathaniel Hawthorne

What is happiness really? Can we define it at all? Some might try to define it as an emotional state of well-being. Some might say 'Happiness' is being pretty, rich, famous or popular. However, the concept of 'Happiness' continues to be confounding, just like its pursuit.
Different people experience emotions at varied levels. So how can 'Happiness' mean the same thing to all of them?

Personally, I am someone who believes that happiness is more of a personal choice. One can only be happy if one chooses to be happy. However, if you constantly hound life for happiness, its very likely that you might miss it by searching too hard. A watched kettle never boils. Likewise, if one keeps looking for opportunities, he will never find them.
I have often thought about this. Everyone in this world wants to be happy. This pursuit does not have an end. As we get nearer to our goals, our expectations tend to increase. More expectations lead to disappointment. We strive harder to meet new demands. In this chase, our satisfaction and peace of mind takes a back seat. We are constantly running after ephemeral milestones...success, money, fame. But in this rat race, aren't we all forgetting what really matters?
Meanwhile, Happiness, arrives like an unexpected visitor and taps softly on our door and waits for you to let it in. But we are too caught in our lives to notice the tapping. The visitor silently leaves thinking that it is not welcome. We, however, continue to crib in oblivion, losing sleep over something we miss, yet cannot identify. Sleep eludes. Happiness evades. Tomorrow is going to be yet another tiring day, we complain, exhausted and unhappy.

I am only human. I have made mistakes in life. I have lost out on chances only to learn that they will never come my way again. Like everyone else, I too have learned from my experiences.
Somewhere down the line, when winning or losing ceased to make a difference, I realized that what is most important is time well spent. What matters is not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game. Life is not about the destination. It is more about the journey, about the scenery you enjoy along the way, the people you befriend, about the lives you make a difference to.
I have realized that happiness is just not a experience of contentment or well-being. It is the very force that drives the world into motion...that brightens up hearts and faces. It is omnipresent, omnipotent and omniscient, just like God.
However, for it to make its presence felt, it needs our acknowledgement. It needs us to let go of our fears and embrace it. It wants us to open up our hearts and welcome it...whole-heartedly.

Happiness is a limitless concept...blurred around the edges.. The more you try to encase it the more fleeting it becomes. Hence, I have learned to let it free. We can hardly know when it will arrive, but when it does, I have learned to embrace it with all my heart and soul, breathing in the magic, basking in the pristine simplicity of the emotion..

Below is a list of some things that have the 'Happy Effect' on me: (in no particular order)
  1.  Petrichor: This has been one of my very old favorites. They used to call me 'The rain child' back when I was a kid. The fact that I am a 'June baby' might have something to do with why I love the rains so much. The pleasant scent that frequently accompanies the first rain adds that magical quality not just to the surroundings, but also to my mood.
  2.  Birds flying freely over vast expanses of blue sky: These, to me, signify freedom, freedom that I wish humans bound in the shackles of society will be able to attain someday. Someday, I want to live in a world like theirs, where we are free to choose our own sky.
  3. Reading old diary entries: because they remind me of how far I have come.
  4. Dinner conversations with loved ones: Good food and good company is the perfect recipe for a happy evening.
  5.  Seeing the joy on a child's face when he is given his favorite chocolate: Reminds me of  the simple pleasures of my childhood. 'Nostalgia' is my happy drug.
  6.  Writing/blogging: makes me happy. That way, my heart and mind can be best friends at least for a while.
  7.  Red roses: because they remind me that beauty, love and passion still exist in this world.
  8.  Chocolate: An instant stress-buster I know I can always count on.
  9.  Shooting stars: Wishing on them always fills me with hope. Isn't 'hope' another name for happiness?
  10.   Libraries and book stores: My favorite place in the world. I can never realize when minutes at a library/bookstore change into hours.
  11.  Cuddly fat gurgling babies: With not a care in the world, their enthusiasm is contagious. That's the only time you will catch me talking in baby language *blush*
  12.  This one is a recent one...When my novel 'Twists Of Fate' does well in the sales chart, and readers tell me they loved my book This 'Happy' effect lasts the whole morning, afternoon and night. It's indeed rewarding when your efforts are appreciated.
  13. Leaving footprints on wet sand on the beach: There is a special kind of happiness in watching the waves crash away the shore, observing floatsam getting swept away in the clear water, listening to the sound of the sea, collecting sea shells, or even a simple introspective walk alone by the sea side. 
  14. The 'Eat all you want but don't gain an ounce' happiness: This one is every woman's dream, and I am sure all the girls out there will be able to relate to me when I say this. No matter how short-lived this joy might be, nothing can beat the exhilaration when you tip toe nervously to the weighing scale and discover (much to your surprise and excitement) that you have lost a couple of pounds despite eating out thrice in the previous week. This might last only until your smart-ass spouse/sibling or some other smug family member points out the error in the scale. (At least it makes us happy for a while. Sigh!)
  15. The feel of holding a paper-back in hand and reading it as opposed to a kindle or Ipad: Call me old school, but I still adore turning pages by hand, using fancy book-marks to mark pauses, going shopping for book-ends, and making room for new books on shelves in the library. 
  16. The smell of coffee brewing early in the morning: This always manages to kickstart my day on a happy note.
  17. Phone calls or text messages from my favorite people: Distance can never be an issue when friends want to be together, isn't it? We choose to be happy despite the odds.
Having mentioned all these, I have also come to realize that happiness is an emotion very fickle. Something that makes us happy today might have the same effect on us tomorrow...especially if we depend on someone else for it. Broken relationships would stand in testimony of how something that made us so happy in the past has changed into a bitter memory of the present. So how can we make sure that our reason for happiness stays the same forever? Sorry boss! There is no such a guarantee. All we can do is choose to stay happy because it once made us happy. Then step away and move on. Easier said, eh? I know...
Happiness is a lock to which the key keeps changing. Disappointing isn't it? Such a traitor, this happiness!
However, all is not lost. The keys are all with(in) us. It's just that often times we hang on to an old key way too tight. We keep forcing it into the lock hoping that it will open. (It must. After all, it did so in the past, right?). Sadly, in the process of trying, we forget to try out the other keys on the key chain. We keep feeling dejected, lost., unhappy,..when the truth is, all the while, the solution is in our lap, waiting patiently to be picked.
The basic rule is this: When the old key doesn't fit, try another one. Happiness is a choice. We got to keep motivating ourselves to make necessary changes. Life offers us many privileges...friendship, love from our dear ones, self respect, potential. All we got to do is keep our eyes open and recognize each one of these. Acknowledge them. Embrace them. At the end of the day, our happiness depends on the happiness of those we love. Laugh a little more for them. Make them laugh a little more. 
Find a little more time for your friends. 
Cook that surprise dinner for your wife. 
Sacrifice that daily 'Saas-Bahu' soap for your husband. 
Tell your mother how much you love her.
Spend an evening with your dad. 
Take your kids out to an amusement park. 
Spread some light in an otherwise monotonous life. 
Buy a meal for a beggar boy. 
The next time, the locality kids break your window with their cricket ball, smile and tell them to be careful next time. 
Go surprise that grumpy old Aunty next door with a friendly hug, or simply offer to share a Coke with her.
Carry a pocketful of sunshine wherever you go, and hand it to someone who could really do with it.
Spread some smiles around. Happiness is always just a step away.

March 20, 2015

A year long affair

I remember you in pulls and tugs,
in random kisses, in waves and hugs,
in coffee mugs and cutting chai,
in every hello and each goodbye...
To my lips, a smile these bring,
But my heart refuses to heed and sing...

With January carrying a chilly breeze,
and the month of love being such a tease,
March-April saw both as proud and vain,
May & June as soaked in strawberry rain,
July-August went by so quick,
Came September-October with Cupid's trick,
November heard what we couldn't tell,
December brought in that sweet farewell...

'Our year' we called it, you and me,
But perhaps it just wasn't meant to be...
A bit of us still lives today,
a memory to be cherished and made to stay,
Friendship or love,  we couldn't decide,
But in our lives, it will reside...
Miles away yet close at heart,
forever together yet always apart...

Author's note:
I allowed my heart zip and zoom on paper, and it ended up creating this above piece. I couldn't help but smile on reading it, and so decided to post the unedited draft up here. Pretty immature it might seem, but some memories are best kept that way...

Titles, however, might not always be as short lived as they sound! :)