Monday, September 12, 2016

The Audacity of Hope

I bought this book way  back in 2012, when I had just moved back home from the United States, and Obama had been reelected for a second term. Having been through the election frenzy, surrounded by both passionate Democrats and Republicans, I had really enjoyed the entire process of the election. I never got around to reading the book, until now. But I vividly remember why I bought it. I stood there in the bookshop looking at the title and analysing it for a moment. Why would he use the word 'audacity'? There are a lot of less audacious synonyms for the word. Courage could have been a slightly meeker option. I was also struck by the rest of the title. How can something so fleeting and changeable as 'hope' be full of an emotion reserved for words like passion, greed and ambition?

Now that I have finally read it, Obama's tenure as the President of  the United States is almost over. On second thoughts, there could be no better time to write this review than right now!

On the surface, the book is just like the President. You don't come across a bold plan, or a radical rhetoric. To a great extent, it felt like reading Amartya Sen. The narrative of his early life explains his constant (and sometimes boring) sense of balance between both sides. The book is neatly divided into nine chapters, each one a balanced essay on the topic at hand. In the first few chapters, it comes across slightly contrived, or so it appeared to me, considering that he wrote this before running for president and he was just being very careful in his approach towards controversial issues. In the first five or so chapters, his positions definitely seem rather "safe".

However, his writings on faith and on race are so well thought and presented that they transcend the "American context". Particularly moving are his observations on inner city Black poverty, the neglected Black neighborhoods and the breakdown of the Black family unit as such in America. What is also remarkable is his ability to present both sides of the issue, even when it comes to race and welfare state.

And now that we look back, President Obama has done something productive about almost everything he talks about in this book. Whether it is the passing the Affordable Health Care Act or the capture and killing of Bin Laden. The US saw the repeal of the Don't ask Don't Tell policy, ensuring people of the LGBT community can now serve openly in the US armed forces. He has achieved almost everything he had promised. It kind of brings home the point that big changes need not be accomplished by waging wars. Big changes can be brought about through collaborations and team work. And the face of change doesn't have to be one person.

His choice of the word 'audacity' was inspired by a sermon. However, I think his presidency has given the title a new meaning. It was historical in many ways. He was the first (half) Black president with a paranoia inducing middle name, to win an election post 9/11. He took control during a recession and promised changes which seemed too difficult to achieve given the socio economic mood of the nation. Yet, he has managed to accomplish things which most of his predecessors couldn't.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

My greatest source of (un)happiness.

I happened to stumble upon this hilarious talk by Prof. Dan Gilbert. He is one of the leading researchers in the field of positive psychology and the author of the best selling book, 'Stumbling upon Happiness'.

A few years ago, one of my European friends had a rather peculiar observation about how modern humans reproduce. He said to me, "People spend all of their 20s trying hard not to have kids. And then the same people spend all of their 30s trying hard to have them". It was so true in that given moment -- at a house party of about 30 drunk adults in their twenties -- that it made me laugh and broke my heart at the same time. I was once discussing the modern (?) dating problems with my mother, who in spite of her rather liberal stand on relationships and dating, still believed at the time that getting me married and having a grandchild would make her happy. The discussion came to all the deal-breakers in modern relationships. And one person not wanting kids was always trending on the breakup analysis. Even for her, it was unpalatable. "If you don't have kids, what do you do all your life?", she exclaimed.

"You travel! You set up a food truck! You read as many books as you want!" , was my answer at the time. But inside I knew that all of this is never going to  make me as happy as having a kid would!
I was not entirely right. Before I sound like I regret becoming a mother, let me establish the boundary of my thoughts. I don't think having a child is going to make you happy, if you are not already reasonably happy. A sad person wanting a child in order to become happy, probably won't work. But as you go about your reasonably happy life and happen to have a kid, I think you'd find that your happiness is a bit on the decline. :)

Kids are cost and energy intensive. For the first three months or so, it feels like a startup which is going no where. You are just feeding and cleaning a strange little human. You love them to bits but they are just using you for  nourishment. They don't smile at you. They are constantly stressed and have trust issues with you. The sleepless nights don't help, and neither does the constant anxiety of doing something wrong, for you are nursing a piece of your own heart.

As you get back to your life, amidst various judgments (should you have any other life now?), the graph definitely picks up. Your child supports you through this ofcourse. I watched this talk again and again. Then I realised that before we can summarize that kids make us unhappy, we should also define what makes us happy. Not in terms of circumstances, but in terms of the state of our mind.

The great thing about toddlers is that they live in the moment. On my way to work every day, I used to hear my son yell "fan" from his car seat at the back. Initially I dismissed it as his word practice. Eventually, I realised that he used to say 'fan' every day at the same spot on the road. One day, I pulled over and checked, and to my surprise, there it was! A giant air conditioner fan installed on the third floor of a school building! After the initial swell of pride, and the superiority of my DNA, I realised that he could do that because he was drinking everything around him with his eyes. I never do that anymore.

At our recent vacation in Pondicherry, my son threw a tantrum because he wanted to go to the park (of all the things we could do, we had to drag ourselves to a park which felt no different to what we do in Pune). We dragged ourselves, feeling sorry that we cannot just sit at a French cafe, sipping on an espresso, eating a pan-au-chocolat. Once inside the park, it was obvious that we HAD to buy a soap bubble maker. So I sat down on a bench and started making bubbles for Vikram to chase. All of a sudden two blonde kids showed up next to me. They were French and they followed the bubbles and realised I was the source. For the next 30 minutes or so, I was standing on a park bench like an idiot and blowing bubbles at roughly 7 kids. They were all so deliriously happy that it indeed made me forget that I was pissed off about coming to the park instead of a cafe!

I think that's how kids make you happy. They are, like Prof. Gilbert says, like cashmere socks. Sometimes you like them because you are spending so much of your life and money on them. At others, they genuinely make you feel warm and fuzzy. Even if it is only for 30 minutes in an entire day. :)

Friday, August 12, 2016

References Matter!

I used to follow Rujuta Divekar quite ardently. I read both of her books and at the time, tried to follow her strategy and quickly became disillusioned with it. I realised that for me and my situation in life, her strategy does not work. But I still respected that approach. Basically Rujuta's strategy can be summarised in just two words: Portion Control.

She advocates eating everything. She does  not demonize just a single ingredient. She advises against shunning fats. She advises eating fruits like mangoes and jackfruits. All of this is amazing. However, in all her open lectures she almost never mentions that you can eat all this (in small portions) to lose weight.In this interview, her advocacy of mango and jackfruits borders on disturbingly nationalistic. She opens with a statement (which I am translating from Marathi, video is shared for verification):
"The farther your food travels to you, the farther it will take your belly from your spine". She uses this statement against apples and kiwis, which typically are imported, and tries to promote mangoes and jackfruit.

Giving her the benefit of doubt and considering that the statement is metaphorical, I still have a lot to say against this statement.

Firstly, eating (Indian) mangoes instead of (imported) apples because we have looked down on our own fruits in the quest of Western practices, sounds just nationalistic. Mangoes are mangoes and apples are apples. They don't travel with passports.

Secondly, it would be great if they are compared in context. It can be presented as: "Instead of having 1 apple and depriving yourself of mangoes, have two slices of mango, which is equivalent to one apple." That's how any non-famous dietitian would explain it. .

Eating local food is great. And it is commendable that Rujuta's lectures have made people realise that you don't have to eat quinoa, chia seeds and almond milk. You can always substitute western ingredients with something local. However, if you eat the right amount of food and aid your diet with a work out, any kind of food, Western or Indian, should give you the same results!

After I watched a couple of her open day talks, I went back to the sample diet plans she recommends in her book "Don't lose your mind, lose your weight". I am not going to give the diet plan here as I don't want to make that information available for free, But it would suffice to say that her claim that you should have 8-9 meals a day to lose weight is a bit misleading. In many of her diet plans, 1 slice of cheese is considered as a meal. If you count the overall calories of the entire day, the total would not cross 1000, which is the equivalent of about 2 complete meals (Rice, dal, roti sabzi, salad and buttermilk)  spread over the course of a day.

In most of these sample diets she recommends eating mango. However, it is taken as 1 meal with nothing else along with it. One mango can be a really healthy snack. However, when you say that people are scared of mangoes, the implication is not the fruit but its quantity and form. How does a normal Maharashtrian eat his/her mangoes? As pulp (Aamras) with fried puris! That's what we are scared of when we are trying to lose weight! On an average one mango would add 200 calories to your diet. So having a mango by itself as a meal (or having 1-2 slices with hot breakfast) would do no harm. But how many of us have it that way? And how long can we sustain considering a slice of cheese and a handful of roasted peanuts as "meals"? Only until we have professional supervision. The moment we let go of our dietitian, we also let go of the diet.

Let's assume that apples and kiwi which have a huge carbon foot print make you fat. Where are the references? Who has proved it? All of us have been gobbling up "rujuta's gyan" in good faith. We are taking her advice on eating ghee and fats. Some of it has already been proven by western science. However, it would be great if her claims about the mechanisms in which indian foods promote weight loss come with references. If there has been no research which proves that indeed eating a mango in Maharashtra is better than eating an apple for your weight loss, then it should not be claimed on a public forum and used as a click bait!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Road Trip

Do you want to listen to Adele again?

Oui! But first, let me get this fucking GPS to talk in French. I cannot follow the stupid American accent.  Petit Conasse, can you please read the address for me?

Absolutely, my little slut! It is, 140 E. Walton Place, Magnificent Mile, Chicago, IL 60611.

Voila! We are ready to go to Chi-ca-go! I am so excited! Let’s listen to Someone Like You.
It’s like our little theme song now. Two single women. Women or girls?

Girls. Let’s be girls.

Yeah. Two freshly single girls, if I may add. Singing Someone Like You loudly over Adele’s voice, going to Chicago from Lansing. We are so happy, yet so sad.

I am French. All of us are always sad.

In India they prepare you for lifelong suffering, right from birth. It’s okay to be sad. When you’re sad about the big things, you can get euphoric over the smallest of things. I cannot imagine always being happy. It would be exhausting.

Yeah I agree. Sometimes I force myself to think positive when I don’t want to, and then I feel very tired from all the effort I put into it. It is easier to be sad when you want to be sad. You can be happy later.

 I know! We have our entire lonely life ahead of us to be happy! Fuck this road. I wish I could add some hills along this way.

 I could cut paste some from South of France. Or you could bring some Himalayas.

But the blues are a calling at the end of this road! Maybe we will meet some cute guys!

Pff! I don’t care. I am not so good when I flirt in English. I get tired from translating in my head. But we can go to the French Markets and get some cheese. That’s as good as having sex for me.

Cheese that smells like socks.

Will you please shut your mouth about my cheese?

Okay sorry! We’ll get the cheese and I will help you flirt. But you don’t need to flirt. You’re so pretty.

Ah Non! My, what do you call it, the part between your knees and your feet?


No. Between that and the knees?

Yes! My calves are fat.

No they are not. And you don’t pronounce the ‘L’ in calves. It’s Ka-aa-v-s.

I don’t give a tiny rat’s ass.

Oh! You picked that up nice! I will teach you more.

I teach you French, you teach me English. I tell you about French mustard and baguette. You tell me about roti and paneer. We make an awesome couple.

Yeah! You know, our trips remind me of On the Road by Kerouac. Sur La Route. Except, he doesn’t whine about how monotonous the Midwest roads can get. He writes passionately about the corn fields and the clear starry skies instead.

How about the sunsets in the Midwest? Someone should write about it. Every evening the Sun gives a big hug to the corn fields. It is as if the sky is trying to make up for the boring earth. Sometimes, I just want to go right in the middle of a corn field and watch the sky turn pink, sitting next to a cow.  

You are so poetic! But there’s something good in every place. Today, we are bitter and lost. But in a few years, no matter where we are, this place is going to make us nostalgic. You, Ms. I-am-so-French, are going to miss The United States.

Non! Never! I will miss these times, but I will never miss this country.

You cannot separate time and place when your head is in the cloud of memories. You will miss everything. Even the big fat sugary muffin from the corner coffee shop. Our minds have the ability to edit memories. They are filtered to keep the happiest.  

In a way you are right. I didn’t like the time when I was in Toulouse. But now I miss it. Fabrice was never really in love with me but I was in love. And when you are in love, you remember those days with happiness.

Are you out of love now?

I don’t know. But I moved seven thousand kilometres to get over it. So at least I am far away. And you know, the idea that only one man is made for you is kind of crap. I think there’s only one rever, what do you call it in English, the story you see in your sleep and then sometimes you make one up, when you’re bored and awake?

A dream? Yes. It is a dream.  A reverie.

So you are just looking for someone to make that dream with. My dream is to live on a farm. I didn’t really want to get a PhD. I kind of kept studying and I ended up here. I would like to make cheese on my farm as a business. Live there with my three kids and a husband.

Cheese, which is organic and dairy free!

Oh come on! Don’t make fun of my Frenchness. For a long time, I was sure that it was going to come true. Now, not so much.

You are absolutely right about the dream. But the trouble is, we are trying to cast actors who are not willing to be a part of our movie. Our dreams and their dreams don’t match. And in our times, dreams are the only flimsy strings, which tie us together. What do we believe in, apart from our dreams? Our dreams even come with a plan B.

We believe in our phones. And our music. On that note, could you play something nice?

Like Edith Piaf?

Non! Zazie! Je Suis Un Homme!

What do we believe in? Do we believe in God? No one gets terrified into being good any more. We are good because we want to be good. No one is forced to get married because they got someone pregnant. People get married because they share the same dream. And that’s good. That is how it should happen.

In India people get married all the time. How do they do it? Indian men are not as much afraid of marriage as the French.

Ha! That’s because they aren’t really free.

What do you mean?

You know, the Indian middle class kids, the ones you meet here in the US, are raised on an imaginary conveyor belt. They are raised to excel at everything that brings status. Education, employment, marriage, family! There’s no breathing space. You can’t be a chef if that’s what you are passionate about. You have to be an engineer. That’s considered good. They are produced, quality controlled and packaged before they are sent off to the US.

But there’s structure. Indians do certain things at certain times. When I was growing up, I used to see my father come home tired from the farm, my mother cooking our meals, and we used to help out in the kitchen. I don’t see that no more.

Would you prefer to cook meals for your family instead of what you are doing right now? And our life has a different structure. We take a two hour swim in the morning, eat fancy food grains, and do Yoga to calm the fuck down after six cups of coffee in a day. That’s also structure.

Non! I don’t mean it like that. I would love to have some of that family structure. At least the basic structure. I don’t mind if I come home from work and my husband cooks meals. I don’t even mind if it isn’t my husband but a boyfriend. As long as we have children and we live happily.

But this is an endless pursuit. Finding someone who shares our dream, then liking him enough to build a dream with him, sustaining that dream while keeping it together. Sometimes I feel like having a baby without a man.

Me too. That would not be ideal but it will be more peaceful than trying to find a man who lives in the same city as me, gets good money, is not a psycho and wants children.

You make it sound so dramatic. With a sense of impending doom.
What is doom?

It is the feeling you’ll experience if Nicholas Sarkozy gets elected again.

Ah putain!

So, what do you want to listen to next?

I don’t know. Something that makes me calm. Yoga music?

Alright Madame! Anoushka Shankar coming up for you. Just, for, you!

How did you decide that you’re going back to India so quickly? At first I thought you did it just to feel secure after your break up. I was kind of sure you will change your mind.

I love this life. But I don’t want to live this life forever. I don’t want to live here and also try to live in a parallel Indian Universe. The same routine: meeting Indian friends on the weekends, setting up a perfect American home with a small corner for Indian Gods. Going to the Indian store to buy dead eggplants and shredded coconuts. Talking to your kids in your language only to get a reply in English. I don’t want to be an Indian in the United States. I want to be a westernized, cultureless idiot in India.

Is it also because you are an only child? And you feel it is your duty to go back and be close to your parents?

Yes. That’s a big part of my decision. I don’t feel obligated. But I feel the loneliness in my parents’ voice when they talk to me. If I ever have a family, I would love my kids to be close to their grandparents. We do a much better job of inspiring kids as a grandparent than a parent. And I am sick of standing in front of arrogant American visa officers. I don’t want to depend on the American government emotionally. For them, I am just a number.

But what if you don’t find a man when you go back to India?

It is not about finding a man and settling down as much as it is about courage. For years, I have evaded the nosy questions about my apparently directionless life.  I have tried everything but I was never able to look them in the eye and say, “I don’t know when I am getting married. Fuck off”. I want to do that now.

That’s true. If someone overhears this conversation, they might feel we are making a big deal out of all this, but it does hurt. Even though I don’t have much pressure from family to get married, when I see my cousin with her two kids, I feel pain sometimes. It is not a good feeling but it happens to me. And then I feel bad.

It’s okay to feel envy. It gets better if you accept it. Makes it easier to move on. Maybe, your cousin also feels the same about her smart, world travelled cousin.

I know. There’s always the second side. We feel sad because we want everything. This and that too. But when I am old and lonely, my travel will not make me feel better. If I have grandkids, I will have something to look forward to.

What if you die today?

Pff! Now you’re being a big drama bitch.

No. It could happen. You never know! What should I play next?

I know what I want to listen to. That Indian song with French rap.

Delhi 6? Awesome! Rahman coming up!

Sometimes I just want to get a big glass of red wine, sit in the bath and listen to music with no thought.

And sometimes I want to analyse what all this angst is about. You feel it. I feel it. It is about something that hasn’t yet happened. Maybe it won’t happen at all.

But many of my friends are married or living with their partners. They post photos of their family online and invite me for baby showers. My uncertain future is their present already.

Yeah. Those pictures really screw us up. It used to be nice when pregnancy news was discreet. Now it turns into a fucking biology lesson. But someone might be saying the same thing about our photos. You know when we went snowboarding, or our pictures from Vegas. They must be calling us fucking show offs.

Vegas was a really good time connasse. You almost killed me by making me laugh! That’s what I really like about you. You can really talk. Something I wish I could do. Maybe we could be roommates forever.

Yeah and maybe we could also do a sitcom! I think this is a pause in our playlist. This time in the United States. We are going to come back to this pause again and again. We are going to remember it fondly all the time.

Do you want to get a coffee and a bagel?
Yes! And shmear it with cream cheese!

So? What next?

I don’t know. I am kind of lost now.

No. I mean what you want to listen to.

You decide.

Okay. We will play some Louisiana. Kermit Ruffins! I still can’t get over Nawlins. If I really had to choose a city to spend the rest of my life in, I would choose New Orleans. I wish I could just set up an office there.

Ha! And do what?
That’s the problem. I have to invent or discover something I could do in New Orleans. Can you imagine how great it would be to walk those roads every, single, day? The food? The beer and the music?

Pff! No! I don’t like New Orleans. It is too loud for me. I like Chicago.
That’s where we’re headed. So I am sure it will cheer you up.

I am not sad. I am just French.

But look at it this way. We are so free. We can do anything in this world.

 I don’t think freedom is really helping me. You want dark chocolate. You go into the grocery and there are seventeen kinds of dark chocolates. There’s too much choice. If I go back to Europe, which country do I go to? If I stay here, where do you I move next? I meet men all the time. But I have this awesome ability to always choose the bad ones.

First world problems.

Eh come on! Don’t be like that with me. I will make you get out of the car. Then you will have to walk to Chicago like people in India do.

Hey! We have cars in India, bitch! Both of us are victims of the opposite kinds of syndromes. I love being directionless. When I was a little girl my mom always made me drink milk. I didn’t get any tea. And I used to imagine my life as an adult. In that daydream, I had twenty cups of tea in a day. That’s why I want more choice.

It is such a pain in the ass to choose. So these days, everybody is a kid. We have toys we put around ourselves. Phones, video games, video chat, online movies and shows, headphones. And we think we are cool. We think we have everything.

Yes Grandma.

No! Seriously! We are thirty! Our mothers were done having babies at our age. My mother already had three! And I don’t even have a stable boyfriend.

But maybe we’ll produce kids of better quality. So one would be enough! When you meet the right guy, you could even have a baby in a year.


Why do we hanker for this milestone? Why is it so important? Is it because everybody does it at some point or is it because we really want to do it? What if we just decide to get over it? We settle down in life. We choose a permanent place to be, we buy a house, hell we even have babies but without a man. Why is it so hard to imagine?

But nobody does it that way unless they are really late at everything.

Elephants do it. Elephants are raised by females. The females stick together and look after all the kids. Maybe be we could follow elephants.

You’re crazy. But it would be great to have kids and live with each other. I will name mine Mirabelle. What would you name yours?

If it is a boy, I will call him Kabir. And if it is a girl, Ananya.

Wow! Such beautiful names! Actually Mirabelle is the name of our cat back in France.
You just picked your cat’s name for your child? You’re a monster!

Petit Conasse! In all my fear and confusion, I am just so glad I am with Someone Like You.

Me too!

Friday, June 17, 2016

When Health Becomes a Habit

I lost 6 kilos over a period of 3 months. There are a few insights I would like to share from this ongoing journey.

1. Weight loss is 80 % diet, 20 % exercise

My previous failures have taught me that it is near impossible to outexercise your over eating. There's a logical reason behind that. Most dieters underestimate the amount of calories they eat. So you can only lose weight successfully if you stop looking at exercise as your knight in shining armour.  Exercise helps if your calories are in line. And exercise helps you in many other ways. It keeps you happy, it is great for cardiovascular health, it keeps you motivated in other tasks during the day. But it is almost powerless when it comes to relying on it solely for weight loss. You also have a limited time window to exercise in your schedule, but food can happen anywhere, anytime. So to put it in perspective, at my weight, 45 minutes of vigorous (at your peak heart rate) cycling burns 730 calories. And you eat over 700 calories if you go out for dinner at a Punjabi restaurant (2 rotis, butter chicken and Jeera rice). Now imagine yourself doing 45 minutes at that pace every time you go over your calorie goal. 

2. "Eat every 2 hours" strategy is doomed   

I was a big fan of the "Rujuta Divekar" theory, until I started practicing it. Eating moderate amount of calories every two hours does help alleviate sudden over eating after a long bout of starvation. But it needs a lot of planning. Without professional help, it becomes tedious to constantly count your macros. You also tend to over eat a little at each meal, making you miss your goal anyway. Additionally, if you are eating five times within a span of 8 - 10 hours, you end up working much more in the kitchen trying to plan healthy snacks for the day. A lot of research points to the fact that the body does not treat bulk calorie consumption and calorie instalments differently. It is our minds that need constant feeding. 

3. For me, Intermittent fasting (IF) works

I have recently jumped on to the fasting bandwagon. This theory draws justification from the eating patterns of ancient humans. They typically had a feasting phase and a fasting phase. IF can be practiced in many different ways ( I follow the 16-8 method. I eat breakfast, lunch and tea. I stop eating at 4 PM and fast until breakfast. However, I do not consume lesser calories than what is prescribed for my BMR.  I eat all my calories in two meals. So instead of having three 300-400 calorie meals & two 100-200 calorie snacks, I go up to 600-700 calories for breakfast and 400-500 calorie for lunch. Depending on how many calories I have consumed in these two meals, I can even fit in a snack at tea. I continue to eat my macros the way they are prescribed for weight loss, avoiding sweets, fried food and sodas. The basic premise of IF is to create a time span inside your body where there is no food to be digested. Hence your insulin levels drop, triggering the conversion of stored glycogen into usable energy. 16 hours of fasting gives the body enough time to trigger that biochemistry. And if you think of it, if the popular diet urges you to eat at 7, you are incorporating a 12 hour fast into your day anyway! This method just adds a few more hours to that.  

4. Protein rich breakfast actually helps 

I have done many days of experiments where, keeping everything else identical, I only changed my breakfast to contain more protien. And it's certainly not a myth. Protein rich breakfast greatly helps weight loss. Contrary to the meticulous diet programs prescribing egg white omelettes, I have whole egg. And it doesn't derail me in any way.

5. Everybody needs a cheat day

Prior to this moderate success, I tried to restrict myself from eating out until I reached a certain weight goal. However, every "down" moment where I could not lose weight or gained half a kilo threw me into a spiral of self pity. So I incorporated a compulsory cheat day in my week. No matter what my weight loss state is, I always take my cheat day. Every week, I plan my cheat day treat and look forward to it. It keeps me well behaved on the remaining days, which means I get it right 6 out of 7 times. That's 85 %. Trust me, this is all the efficiency you need when you are on a weight loss regimen. :) 

 6. Weightloss cannot be a straight line with a negative slope. 

Don't expect it to be steady. There are going to be days when you weigh more than the previous week. But you have to keep your focus and not lose faith in your diet and work outs. It is an emotional journey but if you incorporate the fact that you can draw a straight line through all those points when you are done, life becomes easy. Sometimes  the distance between two points on the line makes you ignore the entire line. Don't let that happen. Have compassion for yourself but not pity. :)

Beyond all these insights there is one clear lesson. This cannot be a short term strategy. This has to be a lifestyle. 
Our lives are managed by larger forces which constantly aim at exploiting the addictive value of food. It is up to us to know that treats should be treated like treats! And that our body also needs a break from this constant sensory overload. Trying to do it on your own, without the help of a "weight loss program" may give you slower results but in the long run, you learn it better than trying to lease your soul to an external inspector. It teaches you a lot about food, exercise and most importantly, about yourself!

Friday, January 29, 2016


I envy musicians. Every time I listen to a favorite track, I imagine how it might have been conceived: in an expensive but lonely studio at midnight, after weeks of relentless practice with a dozen musicians or just an epiphany in the shower. Whatever the source, good music has one endearing quality - all the team members have to enjoy making it in order to get that standing ovation. I don't think it happens that often in other kind of team work. Nowhere else, other than in dance and music, is the result so instant and the mistakes so obvious. I watch video after video of great concerts and always find that glow of success mixed with happiness on the faces of the performers. Even the accompanying musicians always look happy. Even though they are not the focal point, without them, it won't be as good. 

I used to repeatedly listen to this fusion by Pt. Ravishankar and Yehudi Menuhin. About six or seven years ago, this would play in a loop on my small ipod shuffle. The soothing sound of a violin and the energetic strumming of the sitar makes it really addictive. To add to that, the "East meets West" theme makes it exotic. The sound of Indian notes from a violin can suddenly escalate to an emotional level for me. So this track had always been special. 

Then I stumbled upon this!

It is a direct recreation of her father's work. This time, you can actually see the entire ensemble in action. The energy of the concert is certainly envy-inducing for me, and the legacy just makes it even more precious. All teams should be built the way musicians make it all work - together!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Purposefully Peripatetic


I have spent the last month deleting unpublished drafts of posts which did not pass. I even accepted for a short time that all of this is over. Writing, blogging, reading blogs and being a part of all the writers' platforms available online. 

But writing was getting difficult due to my self imposed filters. I had decided that I am not going to go down the "mommy" road. It is very tempting to write about what's constantly on your mind. And for a while, after the commencement of motherhood, your baby is the only person you want to talk about. It suddenly becomes obvious why there's an imaginary line between parents and non-parents. No matter how "cool" you try to be, you can never go back to your pre-parent days. 

I could've blogged about a million baby related things. But now that I look back, some of them were just momentarily overwhelming. 

Something that hasn't become easier with time however is, getting back in shape! I don't really subscribe to the "getting your body back" school of thought. Because I don't believe motherhood has in anyway taken away my body! It's still very much here and is perhaps more obvious now than before!

But during my experiments with different work outs, I made a really good choice. I bought an activity band. And it has changed my life. An activity band something you wear on your wrist, which syncs with your phone and diet apps such as myfitnesspal. You can put in your diet diary and your workouts and know how much over or under you are for your goal. The ideal activity goal is taking 10000 steps every single day. To put it in perspective, if I don't exercise, even after running behind my crawling son four hours a day, I manage to take only 4000 steps. So 60 % of my target activity has to come out of purpose and intention. 100 % of my food intake has to come with purpose and intention! 

I use the Jawbone UP (move) tracker. It has a computer generated Smartcoach, which keeps egging you on, without nagging you. The effectiveness of this way of losing weight or staying fit is the statistical analysis that goes on everyday about your habits. It has three sections, sleep, food and activity. It monitors all three parameters and draws charts to show you where you need improvement and where you're doing great. 

If you're meeting all your goals, there's a software generated "pat on the back". If you're slowing down, there's a friendly concern, or just an observation posted on your home screen. It's far better than actual humans trying to give you advice on how to lose weight. 

So now, if I have to walk across the street to get something, I don't just rejoice in the thought of upping my step score, I also take the stairs! I look forward to beating myself at my own game and I take weekends as an opportunity to eat extra healthy and build a bigger step score. It has given my exhaustingly busy life an amazing new purpose (yes! Even beyond all the greatness and satisfaction of motherhood). 

And on that note, let me also confess that motherhood is anything but that delicate Johnson & Johnson advertisement you see on TV. This Friday, after spending a entire day agonising over whether to take along my son to a party, I got stuck with him in traffic on my way home just before the party. And by the time I had gone through the usual drill of changing and feeding him dinner, he just decided to fall fast asleep with no care in the world for any party. So I decided to go by myself leaving him in the care of my mother. I called a taxi after a really long time. And the feeling of being in a quiet transit, with old Hindi songs playing in the taxi, wind in my freshly washed hair -- best 30 minutes of my recent life! :) 

And I still managed to miss my son all the while I was at the party!