A Few Good Things

"Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller." – Ibn Battuta

A Few Good Things

Tag: Sweets

A tale of two cities ……

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.

Travel to Kolkata

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 …..

Victoria Memorial Kolkata

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 Railway Station

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

Howrah railway station

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.

Howrah bridge in kolkata

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)

Cooum and Adyar bridge 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.

Xaviers Kolkata

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.

Kanjeewaram silks

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

Bengal handloom

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.)

Gold in Chennai

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.

Luchi in 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)

Rasagolla sweets

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)

Best hotel in South India

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.

Jayalalitha Iron lady

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.

Morning coffee

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.

Local trains in India

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

Special on Durga Pooja

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

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.

Losing weight

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.

Reduce belly

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.

Dietery Supplement

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.

Diet foods

Best diet foods

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) .

Fresh vegetable salads

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)

veg foods for diet

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.

Diet chart

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.


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)

Lose your weight

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.

Best spa

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