Archive | August, 2012

A tale of two cities ……

30 Aug

I am back from a trip to Kolkata. A trip I made after nearly 2 years. Traveling to Cal (I still prefer calling it that way) is always a welcome change. A tamilian born in Durgapur I have fond memories of this part of the country. As I landed at the Netaji airport – I could sense the similarities with Chennai airport. Both the airports are run by AAI (Both suck and are the amongst the most inefficient in the country). Therein starts this exercise and as I was spending a day in Cal – I could not stop myself from spotting the numerous similarities and some differences between these two lovely cities.

Lets get started – Cal & Chennai are the only two metro cities which are still loyal to the grand old Ambassador Taxis . Mumbai is still stuck with its Premier Padmini but every other city has moved on to the Fords, Renaults, Maruti …..

Both Cities have a long history. Being major ports they have been key bases for the British & the Dutch. Remnants are still visible in numerous buildings spotting the city. Cal having been the capital of the British beats Chennai hollow on this count – in terms of numbers, size, magnificence….  Yes the Ripon building is impressive but is no comparison for the Victoria.

Chennai Central is an impressive structure, although smaller than Howrah Station –  both have their similiarities with their striking design and bright red color.

The Howrah Bridge is an icon of Kolkata and a marvel of engineering (Talking of the Howrah bridge do you know how many nuts & bolts were used to make it – that’s a common quiz question, check out Google). Add to this the second bridge over the Hooghly.

The Cooum and Adyar bridge is all that Chennai has – while the Cooum is a disgrace the Adyar bridge is just a small bridge over a river that flows for maybe a few months in a year). But Chennai has the Marina Beach. (Some say this is the longest & widest  beach in the whole world. It is nature’s gift to Chennai but sadly not well maintained)

 Moving on to education. Both have a culture where education is valued, kids are studious, and they have some of the best schools & colleges the country can boast off.  Many are Jesuit institutions over 100 years old – St Xavier’s, La Martinere, Scottish Church, Don Bosco in Cal and Loyola, Stella Maries, Christians College in Chennai. The BE college at Shibpur and the College of Engineering at Guindy are amongst the oldest in the country. Presidency is a veritable institution and many still prefer Jadavpur to IIT KGB. Chennai boasts of an IIT and Calcutta of an IIM.

There was a time when the majority of IIT seats were bagged from Madras & Cal (That has now changed and Hyderabad holds claim to that title now). The highest % of students who crack CA are from the Cal & Chennai CA Institutes. In the 1960’s majority of IAS officers came from these two cities. (That was before reservations, now UP & Bihar hold claim to that record!!) Both cities also contribute significantly to the brain drain – and now for H1B Visas.

Both cities are rich in culture & art.  Chennai the heart of Carnatic music & Bharatnatyam, while Cal is famous for Rabindra Sangeet, Jatra, Baul & Satyajit Ray. Getting seats to the Music Academy or for a program at Rabindra Sadan is equally difficult.

While the Kanjeevaram silk rustles in finery and bright colours  the Bengal handloom holds sway with its elegance and class.

The Chennai “Mami” & Calcutta “Boudi” hold sway as they majestically stride down T Nagar or Bou Bazar shopping for the finest of gold ornaments. (Both cities love to buy gold and are a key reason for the astronomical increase in gold prices in India.)

The spicy “Jhal Mudi” and “Puchka” beckons at every corner while the “Sundal” (Boiled Chana) at Marina  bags a distant third place. Luchi – Allor Dam , Mochar Chop , Baingan Bhaja and the tasty Hilsa , Rui & Katla ( I am veg – just heard , smelt and seen them)  compare well with the  Ghee Roast, Avial , Sambar of Chennai.

Both are predominantly rice eaters (Some say that rice adds to the intellectual capacity and wheat to the brawn power – probably that’s the reason most of the folks in the Indian Army are from north of the Narmada and the intellectuals from TN & Bengal)

The Rosogolla reigns supreme in the land of sweets while the Mysore Pak and Jangri entices you in Chennai. (While I love all sweets – Bengali sweets made of “Chana” are better for health since they  are not fried)

My only grouse in Cal is the difficulty in finding a neat & clean restaurant chain where I can dig into Bengali delicacies. (I always end up at Aheli – but that’s fine dining and pretty expensive). Chennai has Saravana Bhawan at every main street serving delicious treats that are tasty & consistent. When I asked the cab driver to take me to a good sweet shop he took me to Haldirams !!

Business in Cal has been taken over by the Marwari’s (Other than Peerless – every large business is run by Marwari’s – Birla, Abuja’s, Khaitans, even the Lovely Brand underwear are made by enterprising Marwari’s). Sowcarpet in Chennai has its share of Marwari’s & Guajarati’s but the Chettiars control the pulse of business in Chennai.

Madam Jayalalitha runs the show , while here its Mamata Di. Both are mercurial and have a tendency to be dictatorial. Both have ideologies that they are ready to dump and freely switch between UPA & NDA as per their convenience.

Chennai wakes up at sunrise to Suprabhatam, temple bells and fresh hot filter coffee. Cal wakes up a little later to “Allah O Akbar” ( in many parts) and  the aroma of Darjeeling tea. (Never figured out why Cal has a Coffee House in College Street and not a Tea House).

Both cities have their share of minorities – 20% Muslims in Cal & 20% Christians in Chennai. But thank God they live in harmony and peace.

The intellectuals at Calcutta love their “ Adda” over a cup of hot chai (In earlier times in a mud pot)  with a spicy & tasty “Singhara” (Samosa) and many of the worlds problems are solved in these neighborhood “Addas”.

Darjeeling is an overnight journey from Cal and so is Ooty from Chennai. Two of the finest hill stations in the country, which are sadly well past their prime. Both are similiar in height at 7000 feet.

Both have local trains that keep zipping thru the city from morn to night.  Cal got its metro many decades back, Chennai is working on getting it soon. The Trams in Calcutta are iconic. Chennai is a major auto hub; Cal was also nearly an auto hub, till Didi got into her act in Singur.

Chennai expands to OMR with high-rise building and world-class amenities; Cal is fast expanding to Rajarghat (which when fully done one day will look like New Calcutta, its already called New Town).

The Iyer Brahmin in Chennai is pure veg , the Brahmin in Cal eats Fish & Chicken & Mutton. The DMK preaches to be an atheist, so do the Communists. DMK Patriarch Karunanidhi’s son is named Stalin and the doctrine of the original Stalin runs deep in some of the venerable institutes of Cal. But Religion runs deep in both cities. Chennai probably has the highest number of temples in a metro while Cal celebrates Durga Puja, Kali Puja, and many others … with pomp & joy

The prince of Behala is waiting to be  a kingmaker (Hopefully when Jagmohan uncle comes back as the BCCI President) while Chennai adopts Dhoni , Kolkatta has adopted Gambhir.

The “Kalkatta Pan” is world famous while Chennai has its “Madras Eye” (Red Eye infection).

President Venkatraman one of the finest the country has seen  came from Madras and now Pranabda from Calcutta will probably match him.

The Statesman founded in 1875 and The Hindu founded in 1878 were the leading news papers from Cal & Chennai – both are a class apart with great editorial and error free english.

I could go on and on – but then I am going to lose my reader. So Lets stop.

Whenever I travel to Chennai or Cal I come back with a feeling of “ when is my next trip”. I remember the title song of a Bengali serial we used to watch in DD many years back in Durgapur when we were kids  “ Aajob Shahar, Premer Shahor, Bichitra Nagar, Ei Kolkata” however when I travel to Mumbai or Delhi its always “ when can I get out of this city” .

Which leaves me wondering – when we have two cities with so much of culture, tradition, intelligentsia… whys is Delhi the political capital & crumbling Mumbai the financial capital. Is there hope, will we see a change in fortune and will Cal & Chennai come back soon as the top 2 cities of this country and the world at large ?

Please do share your thoughts.

Losing Weight when you are 40+ : Part 2

26 Aug

A quick summary of what we  discussed in Part – 1 of the blog.  1. Set Goals  2. Join a good Gym 3. Get a good Trainer 4. Try a variety of activities  (Not just running on treadmill) 5. Be Regular – 6 days a week 7. Be patient and finally 8. The Importance of Diet – and how it could contribute as much as 50% in your weight loss program. Given the importance of the last point this section is dedicated to diet and finally  a few  importantly things that you need to be careful about.

The Stomach is like a balloon. The more you eat the more it bloats up. With festivals like Onam round the corner – take care , your body does not need even a fraction of this sumptuous spread from a nutrition point.

Thanks to our eating habits, lifestyle and maybe our genes the Indian mans  belly  (and women’s butt)  are world beaters. You just have to walk into a water park to see the amazing shapes and sizes – they are all big, bigger, massive chunks of flesh. With so many important organs and miles of intestine inside your abdominal cavity – spare a thought before you dump it with food like in a  dustbin.

The body just needs food that is equal to both your palms put together. So the importance when it comes to diet is Quantity & Quality. Less Quantity and the right Quality.

Step 1 : Have light meals at regular intervals. A good breakfast (Body digests faster in the morning) , a mid day snack (An Apple, a few nuts , some sprouts etc ) + Green Tea , a very light lunch (Subway sandwich OR 2 Rotis + Subji + Dal, OR  a small serving of Pasta ), Green Tea + a light snack 2 hrs before workout, something high in protein after a busy workout ( 2 – 3 egg whites) and  a very light dinner (Soup + Salad + Upma etc) two hours before sleep.

Most of us do the exact opposite – we hardly have time for breakfast as we rush to office and we have a very heavy dinner with dessert late at night when the body metabolic activities are the lowest.

Step 2 : Take help from a dietician for a few months. 

You need to customize a diet from the food that you regularly eat every day. Following a crash diet , protein shake diet or only fruit diet is not sustainable. Every indian food can be eaten in moderation at the right time. The word moderation is key – Green Tea is good – but 6 cups a day is not. Nuts are good – but again mix it in variety in limited quantities. The body needs a large variety of carbohydrates , proteins , minerals etc – which can only come from a wide variety of food.  Sadly the way food is grown , transported, cooked and stored  today – it loses most of its nutrition and you have no choice but to take some nutritional supplements (Especially when you are a vegetarian,  its true that horses & elephants are vegetarians – but they eat in enormous quantity fresh food from the jungles packed with nutrients). Its good to be a vegetarian (humans were meant to be ) but in todays world you need help with supplements –  thats the reason  you need the services of a dietician who can customise a schedule for you.

I would suggest the following – 1 Becosule , 1 Neurobin , 1 Cal Mag D daily and a sachet of granules to supplement Vitamin D every Sunday. (but again check with a doctor or your dietician, also be careful that the supplements do not come from any Baba’s ashram – they may be laced with steroids). You need 80 grams of protein every day – our normal diet does not have that, if you are doing regular exercises,  all that I talked about in Part – 1 ,  you need to have have 4 – 6 egg whites every day. (1 Egg White has 4 grams of protein) . The muscles need the protein.

Cut your Carbs. I have cut my rice intake by 80 %. When I eat rice its red rice. And the vegetables are boiled with less oil.

Step 3 : Fill yourself with fresh food 

Salads & fruits. Most people think that salads are just cucumber, carrots & tomatoes. But there is a lot more than that ( Your next birthday or Anniversary gift to your wife could be a great Salad Book) .

Try some partially cooked salads – they taste great and help create a variety. Some salad  ideas – Sprout Salad, Banana Flower Salad , Betroot salad, Pumpkin Salad (White & Golden)

And eat a lot of  fruits. Here again be careful of the fleshy fruits which help you gain weight. Mangoes, Chickoos, Bananas are Ok immediately before or after a workout  but a lot of  Apple, Pomegranate , Papaya , Guava, All the colored fruits (Berries, Plums ) , Pineapple etc. at breakfast and for short snacks are highly recommended.

Step 4 : Drink lots of water 

You can start and your day with a glass of lukewarm warm water with 1/2 a lemon . Keep drinking through the day , at least 8 – 10 glasses . (Avoid fruit juices as they have only sugar and are less on fibre & nutrients and definitely stay away from carbonated drinks). Even when you are gymming keep drinking water preferable with some lemon squeezed in it. Initially when you cut your food quantity you will feel hungry – fill your stomach with water after a light meal. There are myths associated with drinking water when eating food – but they continue to be myths.

Step 5 : Nuts & Seeds are healthy 

Again take in moderation because many of them can be very fatty. Avoid roasted nuts with salt.

Step 6 : Sweets & Oily food. 

Lets face it we are not Yogis & cannot stay without eating Puri, Aloo Parathas, Sweets …. Don’t ban them from your diet. Restrict their frequency to once a month or once a fortnight. Always try and eat such food items in the morning rather than at night. Eat them at home rather than outside – the oil at home is healthier. Talking of oil stick to Olive Oil.

Step 7 : Some More Important Points 

Must Do 

1. Substitute white bread with whole wheat  Bread and Maida with Whole Wheat flour.

2. Switch to skimmed milk.

3. Minimal Oil, Butter, Cheese usage.

4. Reduce Sugar consumption to 2-3 teaspoon a day.

5. Have maximum of 2-3 cups of Coffee or Tea a day ( Never start your day with Coffee or Tea on an empty stomach)

6. Restrict vegetables like Aloo(Potato) , Carrots and Matar (Peas).

7. For non-vegetarians-opt for chicken breast, fish and egg whites.Red meat, Organ meats ( liver, brain, kidney) should  be  restricted. Go for grilled, baked, barbecued, boiled, roasted and tandoori options always.

8. Restrict animal foods, foods high in proteins like paneer,pulses and daals for dinner.

Nice To Do

1. Make it a point to have one glass of warm water  with ½ lemon after every meal and one in the morning.

2. Add melons- Musk melons, Cucumber, Watermelon to your diet

3. Have 100% pure fruits and vegetable juices or coconut water as beverage substitutes.

4. Have at least one cup of Green Tea everyday

5. Wash vegetables before cutting them, not after cutting.

Avoidable 

1. Avoid Fasting or Feasting. Don’t starve. Don’t overeat.

2. Avoid Late dinners and skipping breakfasts.

3. Avoid Fried Foods and bakery products- Samosa, Burger, Pakoras etc.

4. Avoid Sweets and Confectionery.

5. Avoid Fruit juices (like mazaa and fruity), Ice creams and Milk Shakes.

6. Avoid eating sour things like Sambhar/Kadhi in the night.  Avoid too much of salt in the night. They both cause water retention.

7. Avoid being empty stomach for long durations.

8. Avoid Liquor

Step 7 : Read the book ” Dont’ lose your mind  – Lose your weight” by Rujuta Diwekar.  This is a simple practical book that tells you what is the best way to lose your weight (The author is the lady who helped Kareena Kapoor get to size Zero)

And finally a few points of precaution

1. Take it easy step by step – don’t overdo anything. Whether its exercise or diet – the body will slowly respond. (Thats why crash diets and military regimens at the gym fail). The idea is to enjoy what you are doing – see the results and sustain it as a way of life.

2. Before & after exercise stretch – your knees and joins and muscles need the stretching to avoid injuries.

3. Be careful of excessive cardio.  Running when you are overweight can hurt your knees. DO NOT run on concrete surface.  Cardio exercise have minimal effect beyond 15 min ( + 5 min cool down)

4. Which is why a good mix of Yoga helps. Best done in the morning , Yoga is a great way to de-stress and strengthen your muscles. As you enter the world of trainers and classes you will hear the word ” Core” a lot.  Basically a lot of what you do is controlled by your muscles around the stomach & abdomen. Yoga helps you strengthen your Core. Also using your body weight is the best way of exercising Vs external weights. Yoga is a good companion to regular gymming.

5. Pre workout – If you are working out after having breakfast and lunch then take a gap of atleast 1 hour till you start with the workout. Post a strenuous workout eat something rich in proteins ( Boiled egg whites-2/buttermilk-200 ml/low fat curd/yogurt-1 med bowl/skimmed milk-150 ml/roasted chana-50-75 gms)

6. Take a days rest every week. This is a must. And join a good Spa. There will be a lot of aches & pains as you start on this journey and a fortnightly massage will feel like bliss.

Losing Weight when you are 40+

24 Aug

The mind has amazing powers. As I start writing this blog I recollect a few lines from an elocution piece I narrated in Class 8 (1984). The topic was a humorous piece from Readers Digest titled “Confessions of an Obese woman”. Here goes

I cant bear to watch the spectacle of that sister of mine tucking in cakes, scones, pastries and what not …. and washing it all down with hot creamy tea while I had to make do with black coffee” . 

This kind of summarizes the situation for most of us. Some folks are born lucky to not put on weight while others struggle to lose a few inches. Unfortunately I fall in the second category. (How times change – many years back, 35 to be precise I struggled to gain weight and was on a special diet to add few pounds)

REC Surat University Champions Badminton 1990 (I am the tallest guy behind the Coach) 

20 years of long hours at work, lots of travel , hotel & plane food, stress, an addiction to sweets and junk food , predominant rice diet, a hereditary fatty liver, connoisseur  of good food, and a recent Saturday night club ( thanks to 3 friends in the building) that converted me from a teetotaler to a social drinker to beyond   – all added to the problem. And when the weighing machine creaked past 105 Kgs and my daughter started calling me fatso- I realized it was time to act.

What I am going to list down here are some points that can help you get fit & lose weight after 40. We all make New Year resolutions and forget them very soon. But if you treat this as a project with goals & targets chances of success are brighter. Motivation gets you started, habits keep you going and targets help you achieve your goals 

Step – 1

Take stock of where you are. Here are some simple tests that you can start with. Your ideal weight should be your height in Cms – 100. So if you are 192 Cms tall your ideal weight should be 192 – 100 = 92 Kgs. (If you are in 90 – 95 Kg range that is OK)

Weight is mainly composed of 4 key elements – Bone weight, Body Fat, Visceral Fat, Muscle Weight. A BMI machine can help you determine your body fat % (For men the ideal body fat range is 17 – 24% , anything above 25% is obese) Visceral fat should be 1 – 12%.

Check your metabolic age (at 43 my metabolic age was 48). Your metabolic age needs to be your actual age or lower. Its possible to reverse it even if it’s higher. (We have a neighbor who at 36 has a metabolic age of 18 – just that she spends many hrs a day in the gym!!)

Also check your Cholesterol, Vitamin D (You will be surprised that almost every vegetarian is severely deficient on Vitamin D in this country), and Blood Sugar.

Step – 2

Define a goal.  (I initially started with an ambitious goal of Six months to a Six Pack – but sadly realized after 3 months that’s not going to happen). A good plan is to try and reduce 2 Kgs / Month.

Step – 3 

Join a good Gym.  Many of us would have wasted money with gyms in the past having paid 6 monthly subscriptions and gone for less than a month. Zela the gym I go to (@ Residency Road, http://www.zelalife.com) is so good that it’s addictive. This is the first gym that I have managed to go almost 6 days a week for the last 4 months and I enjoy every single day.

Choose a Gym that has good equipment and variety of classes. Doing the same activity every day can be boring. Also different activities help you work out different set of muscles. Circuit Training , RPM , Aqua Aerobics, Zumba etc. are group activities that can be fun and help you burn loads of calories. (Most of them can help burn 800 – 1000 calories in 1 hr).

Step – 4 : Get a good Personal Trainer. 

It makes all the difference to a get a good personal trainer. They are expensive (About 6 K / Month or 500 Rs / session) but its worth every paisa. They go about in an organized manner of helping you build agility, flexibility, strength & stamina.

My Trainer Muthu (In White T Shirt) 

The sheer variety of activities that they can plan in a 1 hr session is something you can never dream of doing by yourself. They also help you to set limits – not to overdo but at the same time stretch you as much as possible.

Step – 5 : Follow a schedule 

A good rigorous schedule every week could be as follows

3 days of personal training, 3 days of RPM , 2 days of circuit training or Body Pump, 2 days of Surya Namskar (50 sets) , 2 days of brisk walking , 2 Days of swimming or Aqua Aerobics, 3 days of regular yoga  –  the idea is to try and do at least two sets of activities each day morning & evening. Each session for about an hr.

In addition to this there are many things you can do in your day to day life – Walk down the stairs for lunch (I walk down 19 floors at UB City every working day and then walk half a km for my lunch) , Take a bath using a bucket & mug – you bend nearly 50 times every day – that helps with flexibility , Sit down on the floor and eat – you will find that you eat a lot lesser. (After doing all this I lost 7 Kgs in 4 months – its hard work. Now you have to work harder to lose weight –  as I have started to gain muscles). This is when you start losing inches even if you don’t lose weight and its so much of a joy when you need to poke new holes in your belt and your pants become loose & wobbly around the waist.

Step – 6 : Lifestyle Tips

a) Early to bed ( 10PM) and waking up early ( 5 AM) helps. At 40+ you don’t need 8 hrs of sleep 7 hrs is enough. After 8 hrs at work and 2 hrs of activities in the Gym you will be dead tired by 10 PM if you wake up at 5AM.

b) Eat out less

c) Don’t Drink (At best stick to Red Wine)

Step – 7 : Food 

This maybe the last point but is the most important element of reducing weight. A proper diet can help by as much as 50% or more in reducing weight. Since this is so important I will  treat this as a separate section in my next blog entry. But a few quick points

a) Your stomach is as big as both palms put together – that’s all the food you need at a meal

b) Eat a heavy breakfast and light dinner preferably 2 hrs before sleep

c) Late night snacks (Chips , Kurkures, Nuts , Coke) that we eat between dinner & sleep time can harm all the good that you have done in a hard days work at the gym – so stay away. (This is easier said than done)

d) Sweets are harmful & injurious to health. They should be banned – they cause more death and damage to the body than cigarettes & liquor – so stay away. If you are addicted to the juicy Rasogollas, the soft & delicious Kheer Kadams, ghee soaked Mysorepaks, the lovely Laddus, the tasty Baklavas, the  yummy Tiramisu ( I am already feeling like having some) – remember that one of them = 1 hr of RPM . If you MUST have them do it in the morning and not as dessert after dinner.

More on food later – it’s a big area of discussion and since it accounts for 50% of the weight loss program – will deserve a lot more attention.

In conclusion – two things –  As Gandhiji said “Find Purpose the Means Follow” – so get started. We have heard so much of supermoms (rightly so) but there are many super-dads too. Dads who work in tough jobs, and who come back on a monday morning after a weekend and say ” Thank God Its Monday” . These Dad’s owe some time for themselves – they need to invest for the health , they need some space & time of their own. Being a gym fanatic is a nice cathartic release. So guys no more coaxing needed – Get Started NOW !.

Flax Seed Curry Powder – Tasty Healthy Recipe

19 Aug

I am on a health trip these days ( Look out for my next Blog on Staying fit post 40 – Coming soon). My Nutritionist advised me to take a few spoons of soaked Flax seeds every day. Thats when I did a little bit of research on Flax Seeds.

This tiny grain packs a lot of power. (Technically its not a grain). It has vitamins & minerals similar to most grains – but the amount of Fiber, antioxidants & Omega 3 fatty acids makes it a super grain. One last point – flax seed is very low in Carbohydrates making it ideal for people who want to lose weight. Its also very affordable and easily available.

The best way to eat it is by grinding it.

Eating flax seeds whole offers no nutritional benefit. Whole flax seeds are very difficult to digest and will pass through your system whole. Flax seeds in whole form can aggravate digestive problems, such as irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulitis. The best way to eat it is by grinding it. 

Flax seed fields ( Looks like the kurunji flowers of Nilgiris) 

Our initial attempt was to grind it and mix it with Roti dough. Given the protein powder that we already add (thanks to an Amway relative) , addition of this new ingredient really messed up with the taste. The roti no longer tasted soft & fluffy and became a medicinal roti.

This is when the Palghat Iyer genes in us woke up (actually not in me but my wife) and we started exploring how to make an alternate tasty dish. After much discussion she set about experimenting a tasty , spicy , dry powder that can be eaten with rice – with Flax Seed as the main ingredient. The IP for this belongs to us – so if any day you find MTR selling Flax seed Curry Powders remember where it originated from !

Flax Seeds Curry Leaves Podi Recipe

Preparation: 20-30 minutes

Ingredients:

2 tsps oil/ghee for roasting

1/2 cup flax seeds

1 cup packed curry leaves, washed and dried

1/2 cup bengal gram dal

2 tbsps cup black gram dal

1 tbsp coriander seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds/jeera

8-10 dried red chillies, tear into two and de-seed

8 garlic cloves OR 1/4 tsp asafoetida

Salt to taste

Step 1 :  Drizzle oil in a heavy bottomed vessel and roast the channa dal on low to heat for 3-4 mts. Add split gram dal, coriander seeds, cumin seeds and dry red chillis to the roasting channa dal. Continue to roast till the dals turn  golden. Remove and cool.

Step 2: In the same vessel, add the flax seeds and roast on low flame till they give a crackling sound like sesame seeds. Remove and keep aside.

Step 3: In the same vessel, drizzle little oil and add the curry leaves and roast on low flame till crisp. Remove and keep aside.

Step 4:  Place the cooled dals-spices mixture, curry leaves, flax seeds and salt in a blender and grind to make a coarse powder. Add the garlic towards the end and grind for a few seconds

Step 5:  Store in an air tight container and place in refrigerator.

Freshly made hot Flax Seed Podi 

How best to eat this 

Mix this with hot rice. Add a large spoon of melted Ghee or Til Oil and mix it evenly. Eat with any side dish or curry. Best eaten on a silver plate. Start your lunch or dinner with this every day like a starter. Its also convenient to carry when you are travelling.

You must try this – and dear friends with Diwali round the corner and the health fever still continuing don’t be surprised if we swap the traditional Diwali sweets of Laddu & Mysorepak this year with a nice attractive pack of our very own Flax Seed  Curry Mix.

Sare Jahan Se Acchha

15 Aug

Its our 66th Independence Day. The ladies in our building put together a nice 1 hr program to celebrate the occasion. The kids had to sing ” Sare Jahan Se Accha  Hindustan Hamara …..”. My 5 Year old was part of the group and she has been practicing hard for the last few weeks. Last night as we were chatting post dinner before bedtime and she asked me a simple innocent question ” Is India really the best in the whole world “.

I was in a spot. I couldn’t tell her lies , yet I really had to think how to prove to her that India is really the greatest in many many aspects.  I was anyway sick & tired of all the negative press we see in our newspapers & TV every day (Corruption , rape , train accidents , murder – I seriously feel our media folks needs to focus on more positive commentary)- so here are some points I shared with her.

We have been Independent for only 66 years 

When you look at the history of India of nearly 2000 + Years – we have actually been independent as a country for only 66 years. The concept of Bharat & Hindustan has been around since the Aryan era but from the late 800 AD we have been plundered again and again by invaders –  Starting with Alexander , Ghori, Ghazni, Aibak , the Turks , the Mongols , the Dutch , The French , the British ….. . Think of any country that has faced the wrath of so many invaders  – not many names come to our mind. The US has been independent for hundreds of years, Europe faced the effects of WW for a few years, Japan was bombed once  – but we have been controlled, ruled , butchered ,  dominated for over a 1000 + years – and have still retained our traditions, culture & art . That really makes us the best in the world.

Idli, Dosa & Rasogolla has Global acceptance 

Look at our diversity in food.  Walking into the Indian kitchen its amazing how the housewife creates magical varieties of dishes from over hundreds of  ingredients thats part of almost every household . They say in India if you travel every hundred kilometres the food and the language changes.  And today we have absorbed different food habits – North Indians eat Idli , Dosa, S Indian Eat Dhokla & Sabudana Poha, Luchi Aloo Dam is a favoured dish Pan India , Rajasthani  Thali is loved all over – food has truly integrated us as a nation all over. Why just India the humble Indian Curry is the most popular disk in UK and Saravana Bhawan has opened in over 25 countries to roaring business. So when it comes to food we are the best in the world. Nobody can match even remotely the variety of dishes this country can serve. 

Culture & Arts 

Learning Bharatnatyam takes many years – for a kid of 5 , a committment of 10 years to become a exponent of Bharatnatyam is not an easy one. Why Bharatnatyam – take any Indian Musical instrument  – Veena , Mandoline, Tabla , Ghatam… its hard dedicated work to become a specialist. They say to become an expert one needs to spend nearly 10,000+ hrs in an activity – if you spend an hr / day thats 365 hrs a year and 30 years to become a world specialist. Yet we excel in this – every indian family wants their children to learn at least one Indian art form. In a city like Bangalore every weekend there will be at least 10 different stage performances happening of some traditional Indian art form or music. Find me a country that can match the sheer variety of dance forms , music instruments that we have in India. That makes us the best in the world.

The Power of Yoga 

Over 1000 years of invasions all our manuscripts and scriptures were plundered , burnt , ravished (Read about what Mahmud Ghazni did at Somnath , and that was follwed right till the age of the British)

We find glowing references to India in the writings of pre-colonial Europeans quoted by Swami Vivekananda: “All history points to India as the mother of science and art,” wrote William Macintosh. “This country was anciently so renowned for knowledge and wisdom that the philosophers of Greece did not disdain to travel thither for their improvement.” Pierre Sonnerat, a French naturalist, concurred:

We find among the Indians the vestiges of the most remote antiquity…. We know that all peoples came there to draw the elements of their knowledge…. India, in her splendour, gave religions and laws to all the other peoples; Egypt and Greece owed to her both their fables and their wisdom.

Look at the Power of Yoga. A practise that retained its glory thru the ages and was imparted from Guru to Shishya , Father to Children. Anything that is genuinely good and delivery value needs no marketing or publicity ( Look at Apple Products!!). Today we probably have a Yoga teaching centre in every major city of the world. Millions practise the Surya Namaskar  every day and profess of the benefits they have gained. Its the perfect example of Word of Mouth Marketing.

Yoga, spiritual thinking and the ability to share this knowledge by individuals and small teachers is what makes India unique.  An example of this is Yoga House – a small Yoga Studio that has opened in Indranagar – started by a passionate Yoga Practitioner. She could have rented her house in this prime area and made a lot more money rather than try running a Yoga Centre with delectably tasty health food (Veg). There are still many practitioners like her across the world spreading the power of Yoga and Spiritual Thinking ( Not every one like Baba Ramdev & Sri Sri are running a commercial venture)

People like the lady who runs Yoga House or the many Yoga Ashrams across the country propogating health & spiritual peace are what makes India the greatest.

In Conclusion I had to tell my daughter – lets look at the positives around us that makes us a great country. The journey has started and yes there is hope that some capable person ( maybe its Kejriwal) can strike the right chord and wake the millions in this country from slumber ( The slumber of what Can I do ? ) and help us get our wealth back ( Black Money from Swiss Banks) , eliminate Greed (So that we are happy with one house and don’t buy 3 – and even if we do pay the right amount in Chk and not evade property tax) , Elect Good People ( Not Crooks) , Create a sense of Community and pride (Sadly other than Sachin, Dhoni and the winers of Olympic medals and maybe Aamir Khan there are no national heroes. There is no Ambedkar , or Sardar Patel who can bind the country as one).

There is hope and we definitely have a right to  keep singing Sare Jahan Se Acchha Hindustan Hamara.

An Apple a Day ….

6 Aug

An Apple a day keeps the doctor away. We all grew up with this age old adage. Its indeed True – most nutrition consultants will advice that an Apple is the ideal fruit (Compared to fleshy fruits like Bananas, Mangoes, Chiku, Lychee etc which have a lot of fat)

I am on a  6 month project to lose 14 Kgs and my  Nutritionist did advice me to eat at least one apple a day. We normally buy them in bulk from a superstore and rarely do we get to figure out the cost of 1 Apple. This Sunday we ran out of stock and as I was headed to the Gym for my RPM Class – I stopped by at a fruit vendor  en-route and picked up 1 juicy red apple. I paid him Rs 10 and was about to go when he stopped me and gave a dirty look . He quickly weighed it did the math and told me to pay Rs 32/-.

I was shocked – Rs 32 for One Apple and thought the guy was taking me for a ride. I checked with the next cart standing beside him and he confirmed that ” all was well” – Apples are Rs 120/- Kg – and you get 4 in a Kg – So Rs 32 for a nice big one is at par.

I always thought that exotic fruits like Kiwis and  Plum  cost a lot ( I checked –  a Kiwi costs less than Rs 30 and a plum slightly more, so its perception more than  reality) – but an Apple for Rs 32 – I am still not able to absorb that.

I started doing some quick math – 1 Kg of  Sona Masuri A Grade Rice that can feed over 10 people to their hearts content costs about Rs 40/- . And the whole  country  screams when the price of Rice &  Aata goes up by Rs 2/-  ( thanks to Mamta and her brigade)

Montek says that you are not poor if you earn more than Rs 30/- a day . But everybody who is not poor should be able to afford at least an Apple  a day – the magic fruit that keeps the doctor away. So maybe Montek needs to rework his math.

I keep hearing of the amazing work being done by the Akshay Patra team. They feed millions . I wonder why not just give the hungry kids  an Apple a day  Its so much more easer to transport Apples than hot Indian food. Now the answer is clear – An Apple is more expensive than a square meal of Rice / Roti / Dal / Subji that a poor man can buy off the road.

I recollect when in the US a pound of Royal Gala Apple (Tasty Crunch ones) was 59 Cents Given the 2 – 3 % inflation in the US I guess the price would not have gone up too much – even if it went to 99C for a Lb thats Rs 120 to a Kg – very similar to what we have in India.  At Dubai its 8.61 Dirhams to a Kg ( Cheaper than India)

I then looked up a website called Expatistan (http://www.expatistan.com/) and  compared the cost of living between Bangalore and many cities in Europe & US.  Cost of living in London is 336 % higher (But the cost of Apple is only 20% higher)  similiarly Rome is 200% more expensive than Bangalore (But cost of Apple is only 5% higher).

One can expect a Kiwi coming all the way from New Zealand to be expensive – but an Apple – most of which is probably grown in Kashmir or Himachal , how can that be so expensive.

Is there a scam here ? Is there an opportunity for Anna to make this a political issue ? Can he link the health of millions of  undernourished kids in this country and promise a campaign in his new party – “we assure that every kid in india will be entitled to 1 apple a day – we promise rosy cheeks and healthy minds. We will stop the Apple scam and replace NREGS with an Apple a day” .

This campaign may even appeal to Sonia – Italians love Apples and the cost of an Apple in Rome is just 5% more expensive than in Delhi – so there may be an option for an old friend from Italy “Apptrochi” to export Apples to India – in Million or Billions. People question arms deals – who will question the healthy Apple being imported for malnourished kids.  Her mother in law started the slogan Roti – Kapda – Makan , she could become famous with Apple – Bijli – Sadak – Pani. The Congress has failed in providing Bijli – Sadak – Pani for over 60 years – so maybe there is a chance for some reprieve and deliver on the 1st promise of ” An apple a day for every munna & munni in India” .

Folks – If an Apple costs Rs 32/-. Its wake up time. We accepted the $ 1M  Villa in Palm Meadows (Bigger Villas with Pools in dallas cost 300K) , we accepted the Camry at twice the price its sold in  US –  but then an Apple at Rs 32/- is just not acceptable.

50 Shades of Grey !

3 Aug

Its Appraisal time (My Company follows a Oct – Sep cycle). I am getting ready for a discussion that always comes up as an ” area of improvement” –  consistently in the last 20 years.

Here are some lines that I picked up verbatim from my Appraisal reports. “You  are too DIRECT”. “Life is not Black or White, its  GREY”. ” As you grow in a corporation you need to be comfortable with Shades of Grey” . ” Give the other person some space to maneuver”.

My answers have always been the same. I thought that was my strength! Isn’t it  good to be straightforward and take the no nonsense, no BS approach? (Apparently Not)  I am not a diplomat or a politician. After some years I gave up and told myself that I would never make it to a CEO / Country Manager unless I change my DNA and incorporate some shades of Grey. (I am happy doing a planning & execution job , being one level below a CEO – Less headaches , more peace of mind , better work life balance)

Way back in the early 1990’s a young and passionate Azim Premji (AHP) used to conduct a two hr session for all new Wipro recruits at the Chowdiah Memorial Hall. He used to talk of Wipro Beliefs and later touch upon the importance of looking at all things in life as Black & White.

His famous quote was “There is nothing Grey – If its Gray its Black ” . To me AHP is the epitome of Integrity and his words on looking at life in Black & White has stuck over the years.

On a slight deviation – was discussing this topic with my old Wipro colleagues a few weeks back. (A lot of old Wiproites have moved on to MNC sales organizations). A quick back of the envelope analysis revealed that 90% of MNC Country Managers in India originate from areas that are N of the Narmada. While 90% of the Top Management in IT Companies like Wipro , Infosys , TCS   etc originate from S of the Narmada. So the question that begs to be asked is there something about the culture of different states  & territories that influences the art of “Grey” in an individual.

Lets move to Circa 2012 – Aug 1st. I was at the airport  and had a few minutes to spend at the Crossword store. A book with the name ” Fifty Shades of Grey” beckoned me  – It was a bestseller too. The cover had the picture of a Tie – A corporate Look – and I thought here is the answer to my woes – maybe there is scope to ingrain some concepts of “Grey” into my personality – with a long flight to Delhi ahead of me , I intuitively picked up the book without even reading the back page summary.

This is what happens when you do something impulsively. The title & the cover had no correlation to the problem I was trying to address. How could an author & a publisher do this ? The first 100 pages of the book is  Mills & Boon and the last 200 is Hard Porn.

Who in his wildest dreams would have thought that a book with the name 50 Shades of Grey and a nice Corporate cover would turn up like this. (If you are still interested in the book grab it fast before someone from the moral police brigade in Managlore reads it. Be rest assured that it will get banned after that)

Maybe its a good idea for the IIM’s & other leading MBA schools to have a subject on ” Incorporating Shades of Grey in your personality for a successful career path ” – not much research has happened in this field  – so its virgin territory and a few Phd papers could get written on this. Because Shades of Grey (Or crudely put elements of JUGAD) are  today not just the core competency of Politicians and CEO’s , but qualities that you see even with representatives in your building association management committee.