Category Archives: Health and Fitness

Is Boring the New Cool?

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'I need to reset his internal clock...does anyone have the correct time?'

My friends and family will readily agree that I fall into the category of humans who can be fittingly termed as ‘boring’, and I only have my upbringing to blame.

Father had been the embodiment of rules, discipline and regulation, and age has only reaffirmed his conviction that respecting your body is directly proportional to leading a boring, disciplined lifestyle that involves doing the same activities at the same time, every single day of your life.

As children, we woke up, ate our home-cooked meals, played outdoor games, studied, watched the news (and smiled when Doordarshan aired the movie that had been released more than a decade ago) and slept at the same time every day.

Studies have shown that it takes an average of 66 days to form a habit.

So obviously the pattern that I have followed all my childhood has become all that I am – systematic and boring.

When Sid suggests Pizza, a batch of soft, fluffy rice cakes are ready.

When the husband suggests a late-night movie, I am already dozing.

If the majority in the household won (which usually is the case) and food has been ordered, I am left hyperventilating two minutes after the time promised has elapsed.

And during a pleasant weekend morning when the sleep-deprived majority is lost in the lap of dreams, I am enjoying the rare privilege of a walk in the park with my sleepy son tagging behind me, wondering what was the big deal about the ‘nature walk’ that he was promised.

When the organization that I previously worked for lured its employees into an option of night shift with a hefty allowance, I opted out as going against the pattern of clockwork that governed my life was against my life principles and I stuck to the constant of day shift.

My friends who made the shift spent the weekends sleeping, the week days in a haze and used up their hefty bank balances at designer boutiques that sold trendy plus-sized dresses and beauty salons that promised to replenish their lifeless skin with fragrant chemical combinations.

When the world applauded after the discovery of the microscopic biological machinery that controls the circadian rhythm or our internal body clock won the Nobel for Physiology or Medicine, I was thrilled that even at a time when the three scientists – Jeffery Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael Young – were progressing with this amazing discovery using fruit flies, Father called it ‘discipline’ and we annoyingly termed it ‘dictatorship’.

Not sure if my not-so-cool ways will help me live till a 102 but now that it is official, I will proudly proclaim that boring is the new cool!

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Engineering the Perfect Dream

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The children gave life to beautiful poetry as the three judges – two English teachers and I, found ourselves oscillating between being entangled in the perfectly delivered lines  and the dilemma of deciding which candidate was better than the other.

The trophy went to the most-deserving class and the individual who had put up a perfect show, but we all agreed that every one of the kids who had confidently come up the stage and performed was a winner at the English Coral Elocution of Grade 5.

I had looked back from my seat set before the stage and was overjoyed to see eager parents encouraging children, not for the Science Quiz or the Science Olympiad, but the English Elocution.

This being an Indian school outside India does not change the fact that we are striving hard to produce more Engineers than mosquitoes with the dengue virus.

Science and Mathematics becomes the subject in focus. Always.

Luckily, this has nothing to do with learning and understanding the intricate pattern of our complex body functions or enjoying the magic of numbers but just the key to realizing the dream of adding another Engineer to the outrageously increasing number.

If by any stroke of bad luck, the child took interest in the literary works of great authors and poets, it was gently nipped in the bud before the interest snowballed into the love for Literature.

The perfect child of a parent who yearns a respectable place in the society becomes an Engineer.

A software engineer will be the perfect cherry on the cake of aspiration.

Pledge your enslavement to a non-Indian-based software company that will promise to keep your bank account consistent with a 6-digit number and slogging a couple of extra hours not only adds color to your appraisal and keeps the boss happy, but is a sure technique to be treated to a grand welcome by your family akin to that given to the valiant warriors who return to their kingdom after a fierce battle.

If you wish to take your dreams abroad, then divine intervention in the form of a deity in a South Indian temple will be a sure help for quick and easy attainment of the US visa.

A few slipped disks, rising blood pressure and heart ailments after hours of neck-breaking dedication can be taken care of with a gentle sweep of your insurance card but rest assured that your dream home becomes a reality.

As a five-year-old, Sid said that he wished to become an astronaut after he watched an episode of Mickey Mouse singing and dancing around the rings of Saturn and during his time on Earth, he hoped to juggle a career of racing on the Formula 1 tracks and become the next Tintin.

But now that he is well aware that dancing around the rings of Saturn has its risks and aspiring to become an investigative journalist is akin to being on a literacy mission in Taliban-occupied Afghanistan, he says he is looking into a few safer options.

Taming the Blue Whale

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'Mom, when you need parenting help, do you call grandma for tech support?'

One evening I caught Sid maneuvering his way about a sheet of newspaper that had flown out of its place onto the floor. He went about his task and on his way back, he jumped over the newspaper, high-fiving into the air before threading his way back to his room.

Little Princess who assumed it was a new game got busy jumping on either side of the fallen newspaper.

“Will it be too much of an effort to just put that paper back into its place?” I asked my son.

His eyes rounded in shock, making me wonder if I had asked him about putting the moon back into its place in the infinite sky.

As I continued my rant, the instant shock was quickly replaced with the usual glazed look – one that made me wish that I had a piece of technology that could decipher his thoughts at that precise moment.

“Your little sister learns from you, so you need to set a good example,” I continued.

But as my mind buckled under the strain of toggling between giving him a healthy dose of motherly advice while wondering what was going on inside his, I said the inevitable,

“Look at me. Do I ask you do anything that I do not practice myself?”

I got no answer – just that glazed, distant look.

 

“Have you heard about the Blue Whale game?” I asked him later in the day, gingerly peeking into the screen of the tablet that had his attention for a little more than five minutes.

“Hmm,” he said without taking his eyes off the screen.

I settled myself on the table munching on a crispy pancake, seating myself where I could get a view of his screen while pretending to browse through my phone.

“Heard of that 18-year-old Pakistani boy who made this anti-Blue Whale App? You must get that app. It tells you to do positive things like helping your parents with a chore or waking up at 6 a.m.”

He looked up. That glazed, forlorn look in his eyes.

Is there an app to track his thoughts?

“You know tasks that we did out of sheer responsibility during our times and those that require an application for your generation,” I ranted on for effect.

“Ma, did you not tell us that it is unhealthy to fidget with the phone while eating?” he questioned in all innocence.

I gently pushed the phone aside, my focus instantly zeroed onto the pancake before me.

Is ‘practice what you preach’ one of the positive tasks listed by the young man?

Then I would need the Anti-Blue Whale app!

A Life Full of Care

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"I'll shake your hand as soon as I'm done downloading this hand sanitizer app."

This Friday we ditched routine and ventured out for a morning at the beach.

Sid enjoyed the yo-yo with the husband while Little Princess rolled around in the sand, the calm and clear waters revealing starfishes basking in the morning sun, building sand castles while filling her pocket with treasure (shells, rock and lots of sand) as her tiny fingers toiled hard on digging into the wet sand getting more sand on herself (and me) than the castle itself.

At the fringes of the shore stood a young mother and her little daughter watching us while hiding their faces, gleaming under layers of sunscreen (surely an SPF 1700), under the shade of a big umbrella cautiously avoiding the sun, the cool waters and the sand.

The mother, an obvious germophobe, squirmed at the sight of Little Princess – who was still reeling from days of making her way around my in-laws’ garden (back in the India) chasing butterflies on her bare feet, her tiny fingers squashing the life out of centipedes (until they all convened and went into an emergency hibernation to prevent their extinction from the area) and catching dragon flies that joyfully flitted about – now heading to get her sandy hands on a star fish that had washed ashore.

Her antics, that I labeled cute, had not impressed the mother, for in apparent shock she quickly cleaned her daughter’s hands with a thick dab of sanitizer (as if to sanitize the mere memory of what had just convened before them) before quickly threading their way out of the shores balancing her umbrella that was designed to block every ray of the pleasant morning sun.

I wondered if she indulged in an occasional shot of sanitizer to clean off the friendly bacteria that resided in her gut.

But the mother obviously cared, like I did with my first born for the first few months of his life competing with the slim, attractive and ever-smiling concerned mother in the disinfectant advertisement in soaking every object that came into his contact with the white pungent liquid, only to see him fall sick at the drop of a hat.

Cleanliness is close to craziness in a world where being extra sanitized and absolutely germ-free with anti-bacterial soaps, alcohol-based sanitizers and perfumed hand washes has become a fad with the industries that thrive in this new high feverishly raising their researching standards for more ‘attractive’ solutions to kill germs and bacteria, that actually benefit and strengthen our immune systems.

This has, in turn, benefited the rising pharmaceutical industry and doctors (with degrees longer than their name) treat strange allergies that have made an appearance among our children.

It is time we give our children a childhood that they deserve , a few friendly germs and all, while you relive the joys of being a child once again!

On the Other Side of the Break

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'Hope you had a good break...Welcome back!'

It is said that you can never forget how to ride a bike. Google explains that the type of memory that understands the ‘how and what’ of things or the procedural memory is responsible for this.

I cross my fingers, mutter a silent prayer and hope that registering the technique of writing a blog post too is the responsibility of the procedural memory for the fun, excitement and thrill of being amongst family and friends back home in India has kept me away from the blog for much more than I had anticipated.

Luckily, the technique of cooking three simple meals a day is one that I have still managed to remember for like any Indian family – all meetings were planned around food (all of them NOT cooked by me) and the joy of togetherness included full and happy stomachs.

When a cousin surprised us with his visit, we decided to celebrate at a South Indian restaurant that served more than a dozen varieties of starters which were relished in fervor as we chatted, laughed reminiscing old times while we carried our laden stomachs to try and retry the elaborate varieties on the main course.

My sweet-toothed sister-in-law insisted that the few sweet days in her company is sure to get sweeter with the choicest Indian sweets that begged to be relished.

As for Mother, her expression of love was served on a table laden with a variety of delicacies that only her passionate hands could magically cook up.

As I drag myself back to reality, suffering the withdrawal symptoms of a joyous break, it is evident that at the end of every happy holiday is the shock of weighing scales that tip up to unreasonable figures, clothes that have mysteriously shrunken in size and the concern that Google is unable to convince me if recollecting the technique of writing a blog post is the job of the procedural memory.

 

 

 

I am Home!

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As the mercury soared and the rising temperatures competed with the humidity, we decided to take our vacation party from the confines of our home to my parent’s home, where mess does not usually include shredded newspaper or toys that squeak, and the kids and I could effortlessly topple, upset and upturn the routine of its occupants who woke up, slept and ate at the same time every single day.

We have managed to bring the Sun with us for the rain Gods are on vacation after a brief spell.

My parents who found Little Princess’s creative zeal and post-midnight antics cute over Skype are now  seen to oscillate between being caught under her spell and reeling under the pressures of her new-found ideas, games and undiminishing energy.

The week has been spent enjoying the warmth of family, relishing the tastiest pani puris from the smiling street vendor whose disposable polyethene gloves are crinkled and worn with use, walking under the broad canopies of the gulmohar and banyan trees in Cubbon Park that is bereft of the Page 3 ‘hip’ population who prefer to crowd the zillion malls that litter the city, riding pillion on my brother’s bike up the misty roads of Nandi Hills, and staring endlessly from the hired Uber cab at the dozen bikes and cars that stand shoulder to shoulder, some of them ‘Working from Traffic’, amidst the menacingly slow moving traffic while I thank the Gods for small mercies like that of ‘Working from Potholes’ that is yet to catch up in this city.

When I wake up to the smell of mother’s filter coffee and can write this post uninterrupted – I know I am home!

I am Home!

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As the mercury soared and the rising temperatures competed with the humidity, we decided to take our vacation party from the confines of our home to my parent’s home, where mess does not usually include shredded newspaper or toys that squeak, and the kids and I could effortlessly topple, upset and upturn the routine of its occupants who woke up, slept and ate at the same time every single day.

We have managed to bring the Sun with us for the rain Gods are on vacation after a brief spell.

My parents who found Little Princess’s creative zeal and post-midnight antics cute over Skype are now  seen to oscillate between being caught under her spell and reeling under the pressures of her new-found ideas, games and undiminishing energy.

The week has been spent enjoying the warmth of family, relishing the tastiest pani puris from the smiling street vendor whose disposable polyethene gloves are crinkled and worn with use, walking under the broad canopies of the gulmohar and banyan trees in Cubbon Park that is bereft of the Page 3 ‘hip’ population who prefer to crowd the zillion malls that litter the city, ride pillion on my brother’s bike up the misty roads of Nandi Hills, and staring endlessly from the hired Uber cab at the dozen bikes and cars that stand shoulder to shoulder at traffic snarls, some busy ‘Working from Traffic’, and move at a menacingly snail’s pace while I thank the Gods for small mercies like that of ‘Working from Potholes’ that is yet to catch up in this city.

When I wake up to the smell of mother’s filter coffee and can write this post uninterrupted – I know I am home!

Hello Friends, hope you are all well. Been MIA for more than a week, but will catch up will all your posts very soon. Wishing you all a happy Sunday.

On the Bright Side

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'Look on the bright side. Global warming is heating up the water, helping to evaporate all the oil.'

“Awesome Mausum (weather in Hindi),” came the melodious voice of the RJ on the car’s radio followed by the weather update of 42 degrees and 42% humidity.

Really? Only 42 degrees? It surely felt like 62.

But when the husband broke into a sweat rubbing his hand after touching the steel buckle of the seat belt and the children groaned on their ‘hot’ seats, I was relieved that it was not a case of hot flashes but just normal UAE temperatures at this time of the year.

A stray thought of tapping into the heat and try cooking the family’s favorite Indian pancakes on the bonnet of the car crossed my mind, but other than Little Princess I was sure that no one might find the idea hot enough.

Soon the interiors of the car began to feel like a very bright sunny day atop the Himalayas under the influence of the cool fabricated air and we glide through the road that is free of traffic jams as for this time of the year, air fares compete with the rising temperatures and the traffic jams take to the skies.

Environmentalists claim that global warming could make the heartland of the global oil industry – The Persian Gulf – suffer heat waves beyond the limit of human survival making the region uninhabitable before the end of the century.

Then, would the Burj Khalifa make its way to Mars giving visitors one more reason to visit the red planet?

 

As for now, I should live in the moment and enjoy the ‘bright’ holiday season, the empty roads, the ‘hot’ summers offers and make merry (hay) while the sun shines. I abolish my ‘tall’ woes and join in with the husband and Sid on a heated discussion of whether Roger Federer might make the record breaking win with the eighth Wimbledon title as Little Princess mimics her brother’s words inside the cool confines of the car.

 

Chocolate-Coated Memories

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A friend who has recently moved into the UAE confessed that she allowed herself one full bar of chocolate a day. In order to appease her guilt, she relished one half in the morning and polished off the other half through the rest of the day.

Being the ‘Five Star’ and ‘Diary Milk’ generation who fought tooth and nail with our sibling for the bigger half when we just chanced to get our hands onto one, weren’t we all guilty of such sweet pleasures?

During our school vacations, my cousins, brother and I waited for the arrival of our uncles (who lived abroad). We gave them our best smiles and a cheerful welcome as our eyes strayed towards their big suitcases that would soon get a ceremonious opening,  spilling the many fantasies they contained.

The many bars of chocolate that later filled the better part of my aunt’s refrigerator led us to believe that our lucky uncles lived in a fantasy land where bars of chocolates grew on date palms.

But upon my arrival into the UAE on a hot summer afternoon and –  40 plus degrees, a new home, the new husband who politely accepted the burnt and sometimes bizarre-tasting results of cooking skills I thought I possessed (not with practice but genetically acquired), a new job and new friends later –  it became evident that only dates grew on date palms and chocolates occupied huge racks in supermarkets and they all came with a price tag attached.

As the world celebrated World Chocolate Day on July 7, 2017, let me confess that to this day, chocolates tasted best when they were sneaked out of my aunt’s refrigerator and gobbled up, one bar at a time, while hiding from the prying eyes of my brother – who sat in another dark corner doing the same.

Are you a chocolate lover?  What is your chocolate-coated memory?

 

Dear Friends, Good morning.

I have been taking some off-screen time due to conjunctivitis. I will be catching up with all your wonderful stories, that I have missed last week, over the next few days. 

Wishing you all a happy Sunday!

Published!

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Dear Friends,

I am very happy  to inform you that I am taking my passion for writing a step from my blog to the ‘Off the Cuff’ section of the Gulf News. After reading my work, the Editor has willingly agreed to publish it.

Today, the first post was published. Please read and let me know what you think. Wishing you all a happy weekend.

Organically perplexed

Thanks to extensive marketing techniques, coupled with a drastic increase in the educated lot of customers opting for anything that claims to be produced organically, we now have even a new brand of bottled water that claims to be organic

Published: 17:12 June 29, 2017Gulf News

Pranitha Menon, Special to Gulf News

Every morning, after the cows were milked and fed, my maternal grandfather would walk up to the vegetable patch that bore the fruit of his hard work and his passionately green fingers, a basket in hand. He would scrutinise every one of his beloved plants, pulling out an unwelcome weed or a half-eaten ripe vegetable — the remnants of a stray mole’s dinner after it had eaten its fill, as he carefully chose the day’s harvest.

Most of what he brought back would get a touch of grandmother’s magical fingers and become lip-smacking dishes for a hearty lunch. The rest would be dried or pickled and carefully stored in enormous jars that would join the many others in the dark confines of the attic and found their way back into the kitchen only on a rainy day.

At home, father made his way to the vegetable market every evening with a cloth bag in hand. The place would be abuzz with vendors who occupied every inch of the sidewalks, selling their day’s fresh harvest. I watched father make his choices — sometimes striking a bargain and at other times giving into their demands.

There was the old lady who had spent the day picking and bundling up fresh herbs and leaves that father bought without a second thought and almost always paid a rupee extra earning him a blessing in return.

There was the smiling coconut vendor who gave away a tiny piece of sweet white coconut meat to children who accompanied his customers, a goodwill that earned him many customers with happy, hungry children in tow.

Those were the days when ‘organic’ was confined to the Oxford dictionary and goodwill was yet to become a marketing technique.

Left in a dilemma

This week, when I was at the supermarket, I spotted bunches of fresh green palak leaves stacked to perfection on one side with its equally-fresh organic counterpart stacked on the other. I was left in a dilemma as to whether it was healthier to feed my family to cubes of cottage cheese simmered in blanched and pureed palak leaves that have been treated to a good healthy dose of pesticides, or a crisp green batch of the same that have been treated to manure (or dung) from organic-fed cows and generously watered with freshly-treated sewage water.

As my not-so-green fingers and pathetic gardening abilities, that I have not inherited from my maternal grandfather, forbade me from growing my own batch of herbs, I thought that my family will be better off on a diet minus the delicious ‘palak paneer’. I instead chose a batch of perfectly-rounded, red hydroponic variety of tomatoes. I have not bothered snooping around at Google’s doorstep trying to find faults with the hydroponic technique of farming, as ignorance, in this case at least, is bliss.

As I glanced upon the white glistening crystals of organic sugar, I willed my mind not to think of the not-so-organic techniques employed to give it its beautiful white sheen.

At the poultry section, I came across a variety of eggs, priced exorbitantly, that had a picture of a fat, healthy and happy hen that appeared to be smiling. Upon checking, I learnt that the smiling hen had actually been put on a vegetarian diet as the owner had decided to go on a mission to improve humanity’s brain function and immunity with this brand of eggs. We must applaud the owner for this creative marketing strategy and forgive the fact that this person is just earning some extra bucks in the process.

Thanks to extensive marketing techniques, coupled with a drastic increase in the educated lot of customers opting for anything that claims to be produced organically, we now have even a new brand of bottled water that claims to be organic. Yes, you heard it right — ORGANIC water.

There is already the Smart Water that apparently improves brain function, Vitamin Water to boost your health and Diet Water to make you skinny.

What could be next, a new range of gluten-free water or trans-fat-free water?

Thank goodness that even in this world of ruthless industrialisation and inhumane marketing strategies, somebody still cares about our health.

Pranitha Menon is a freelancer based in Dubai.

http://gulfnews.com/opinion/off-cuff/organically-perplexed-1.2050884