Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Run with your mind!

I read an article where the author, Prakash Iyer, narrates an interesting story told to him by a retired Brigadier.

The Brigadier was an engineer who had joined the army.  Unlike his peers, he was one of the few not from the National Defence Academy, and therefore did not have the usual physical training they were used to.  One of his first tests of endurance was to run a distance of ten miles. While the rest were doing it with relative ease, he was struggling and after a while he was close to giving up, when he heard his Commanding Officer shout out - Come on , young man, up till now you have been running with your legs.  Now run with your mind!  The words didn't just work that one time, it remained with him for the rest of his life.

The article appeared in a Career magazine. To stress the point that success in life is not just by talent and physical ability.  Now, why do I need to read one of those?  Maybe I don't, not at this stage, where I have no career change to make.  But I still like to browse through them. They are quite inspiring.  And I believe if something works well at the office, it will work at home too.

While the article was meant to inspire the young to seek bigger avenues in life and not give up in their struggle, I have decided to apply it to my now present obsession of getting my weight back on track. Over the last 30 years, I have gained over 10 kgs.  So many factors, marriage, children, middle age, and a growing sweet tooth.  But the last three kgs beyond the 10 kilos had me on full alert.

My younger one, who normally would have been sprawled on the sofa in the living room was energetic when home  on a short holiday.  It had to with the kick-boxing classes that she was attending. And she took me under her control.  I will teach you some warm-up exercises, she said. As far as I was concerned 'warm- up' meant something one does to 'warm-up' right? Some up and down neck movements, some shoulder and arm exercises.  I was all ready to start.

Like everything else, the word had taken a new meaning.  There was some running, some kicking, stretches, toe-touches, crunches..... and all for a fixed time duration that seemed to stretch to eternity.  It helped, the diwali sweets did not push the needle of the weighing scale to the right anymore. It was static.  That was some achievement.

I am still at it... increasing the number slowly and after I read the article I push myself to do those extra few crunches.  And the needle on the scale is slowly tilting to the left!

.. it helps to run with your mind.

*(image source -

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Reality cooking and cooking reality

I am hooked to reality cooking shows.  Or any food show for that matter. Vigorous stirring, basting, a swirl, a toss and that touch of beautiful garnish.  The fancy kitchen equipment, blenders, sauces with even fancier names.

Anyway, work can throw some strange surprises. And here I was helping organise a cooking contest for a publication. Not like the reality shows that we see on TV where you hear the chef scream ' the clock is ticking away... nine, eight, seven. ...' So exciting, so much pressure. But this was different. Cooking had to be completed at home. The evaluation at the venue, by a chef.

I offered to help with the registration of participants. I thought it couldn't be difficult.  I did not foresee the amount of time or the energy required.. and it has indeed been an experience.  For one, we had to deal with  women who called, messaged and mailed constantly. 

Each call was different.  There were some wonderful ladies.  They wasted no time. Asked for relevant information and were brief and to the point.  There were others who just wanted to prolong the conversation.  It seemed they wanted someone to talk to, and it did not matter if you were a willing listener or not. A lady recited a poem.  Another wrote a long mail and said she was a woman of many talents.  Could she also sing at the contest after presenting her dish?

We even had a male who called and argued that it was unfair that only women could participate.  Don't you think men make better cooks?  I am sure they do.  Especially when they venture into the kitchen to make an exotic dish occasionally. 

There were students, housewives, working women, retired professionals and very senior citizens. And for them it was not just an ordinary cooking contest. Believe me it is a competitive world out there. I began to understand the term  'insider information'. The conversation would go on fine, and suddenly a change in tone, lowering of voice... and then the question.. how many had registered? Which category has the least number? Which dish won the prize at the last week's contest? What stands a better chance? Do you think I should make this particular dish and so on... It was not easy handling this type.  Now, I can also fathom the pressures on those in the stock market or sporting world.  Some kind of dish-fixing this?

The enthusiasm of the women just put me to shame. If only it were contagious! I can twist an old phrase - you can lead a woman to the kitchen, but to can't always make her cook.  And in my case that's reality.. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Not So Long Ago....

It did not seem so long ago... when we stood under the giant tree at the college. Giggling and gossiping.  Especially since we were doing it again..thirty years later..

A friend in the US mailed to say she was visiting town. Could we all meet?  And we did.  One came in from Bangalore, another from Kolkata.  Then there were calls to all those who were in town.  And a hectic itinerary was planned for three days in a row.  And on one of those days we were back again where it all began.

Our teachers had retired. And instead we found a few of our classmates and seniors occupying the staff rooms that we would so hesitantly enter as a student. This time we walked in with a new found confidence, ignoring the poor attender who tried his best to find out if we had a prior appointment.  We barged into classrooms and labs.  And none seemed to mind.  I guess our happiness was infectious.  Soon, there were more smiles.  Students offered to take our pictures as we posed in familiar nooks.  A friend even danced in the auditorium oblivious to the amused looks.

It reminded me of the old Carpenters song... Yesterday once more.. those were such happy times and not so long ago, and we wondered where they'd gone, but they're back again....

From college, we trooped into homes and met the mothers who had welcomed us way back.  They did so once again.  So obviously delighted to see us.

It seemed as if we had wound back the clock.   A friend got a call from her son who wanted to know if she had forgotten he existed!! That reminded the rest of us to get back to the present.  We all parted  with the promise that we would meet again.  Soon.

Going back in time, I think erased a few wrinkles too.  That could be my imagination... but nothing could have been more rejuvenating! 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Skirting the issue...

A school in Ipswich, UK has banned skirts for girls.  They now have to wear trousers.   

It clearly has been a war on short hemlines. Teachers were found with tape measures to check the length of the skirt. Recalcitrant students were often sent home, some were required to change into a school owned skirt, others were made to unhitch the skirt to roll down the hems.  Some even suspended. 

It is a matter of discussion of course whether strict uniform rules in educational institutions  improve the standard of education.  It may not, though teachers may have more time to concentrate on their subjects ( pun intended) rather than monitor the hemline.

I guess we grew up in a world without television.  And fashion fortunately did not play an important role in the growing years of our lives .  Our parents knew children grew fast.  And our school uniforms had to last for two academic years.  We were no exception.  The first day of school had all of us in uniforms that extended at least 3 inches below the knees.  And with long john socks one could barely see  skin!  Well into the second year, the hemline would show a decrease. It then led to opening  of hems to increase the length to what was thought decent enough.   The discolouration of the exposed cloth to the concealed hem  was obvious, but no one cared.  

In my class, one of the girls started a movement by wearing the belt at the hip.  And it caught on.  I have no idea what it did to our appearance, but sure enough, I joined the gang. The low waist movement of our times?  Anyway, our teachers turned a blind eye.

My  elder one went to a popular girls college run by nuns. They  found girls just out of schools, having got  rid of the school uniform, rather unmanageable. They came dressed like Britney Spears. Not all, but a few were enough to raise their hackles. The shalwar kameez rule was enforced   It was amusing to find a senior, fierce looking Sister standing at the gate, giving students a look over as they walked in.  We would find girls hurriedly donning a jacket over their sleeveless kurtas before they turned into the lane leading to the college.  Obviously the jacket would be off as soon as they left in the evening.

But there are others who seek  attention.  For instance, the Badminton World Federation wanted to ban shorts and introduce skirts for women players.  A  feeble attempt to glamorise the sport.  The idea was dropped almost as soon as it surfaced.  Some felt, if the men wanted to watch girls in skirts they would go elsewhere and not to a game of badminton.

 Probably a Maria Sharapova or Anna Kournikova in any sport can add glamour.  What tennis players wear or what they do not are hotly discussed.   And they make the most of it.  They don designer apparel with trendy jewellery.  Even with the dress code at Wimbledon, they  still make their  fashion statement. Perhaps, the reason why officials at Wimbledon have also wanted to look their best.  The  ball girls, linesmen, umpires have their outfits designed by Ralph Lauren their official outfitter since 2006. 

While less clothing can cause a controversy, you would think it makes sense to wear more? But in some countries apparently not.  Take the case of the purdah.  There is a ban on that too.......And  the debate continues ....  

Cartoon source 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Not Just the Fine Print.....

It is not just the fine print I am having a problem with.  The big and the bold, is what I am unable to comprehend. 

We have a Tata Sky connection.  Remember the milkman ad with Aamir Khan?  Where he says the cow does not know the consumer has gone on a vacation.  So you pay for the milk even on the days you are not in town.  And then of course, the ad ends with the promise that Tata Sky gives you a subscription holiday .  You pay only for the days you use.  

The ad was telecast so many times.  It stuck in my mind and when I was indeed going on a vacation, I called up  customer service.  The guy  listened patiently and asked me the days I would be away.  He repeated the dates for me.  He had got it right.  I wanted to be extra sure. I asked him to reconfirm the dates the connection would be temporarily disconnected. He tells me the dates.  ‘But that is only 10 days, and I am going for three weeks’!.  He gave me an explanation.  I really did not understand. Neither did I have the time.

Oh well, I should have known, I must have been too busy watching Aamir Khan.  I must have missed something.  I just let it pass.  Till yesterday.  While I was back talking to customer service again. 

I had received an alert.  The annoying yellow envelope that pops up on the TV screen.  Subscription due.  But it also said – Receive a Rs 15/- bonus when you recharge on time.  Anyway, I thought why leave it to the last day, I might just forget, and so I got online and recharged the account. And immediately receive an SMS.  Account recharged. NO BONUS

The Rs 15/- was hardly an issue.  But the caps stating NO BONUS, was rankling.

It was night, and so I shot off a mail.  The call came early the next day.  Ma’am – you renewed last month on the 28th of June at 9.25 pm.  This month you renewed again on the 28th at 8.50 pm.  So I said, ‘Yes, 3 days before the due date!  Why no Bonus

It appears that the Bonus is applicable only once in 30 days and I had recharged half hour too early!! 
That was just too much for me to digest.  I must have sounded exasperated.  The girl on the line asked me to hold on so that she could speak to her superior.  She came back and said that the bonus would be credited to the account.

My daughter, to whom I narrated the story, said Good Show, Ma!   After all she has never ever seen me bargaining at the market. I  always end up paying more than the others, and here I was leaving no stone unturned to get that silly Bonus!                                                                                                                 

I reckon if big companies with celebrity endorsements want me to part with my money, they will have to work a little harder.  After all  *Conditions Apply.  

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Indian Politician

I am upset with the Indian politician.  

The recent defiance of the politician with regard to their portfolios has made me very upset.  What is their definition of a coveted post?  Is it the power one can wield or the money that can be amassed?  Is development not given a thought?

The attitude of two disgruntled ministers is disgraceful.  One can see an opportunity to do so much good in the portfolio as the Minister for Drinking Water and Sanitation.  And what about Science and Technology?   And yet we have the ministers who were given this responsibility seen openly sulking.  It is clear they do not have public service on their agenda.

  I should think they are probably incompetent too to head these departments.  We require qualified and committed individuals. 

I remember the movie Nayak, where an ordinary citizen is given the charge of being the Chief Minister for a day. If only it were true.  If I was given charge, among other things, I would ensure that the water connection  to all ministers' homes be disconnected, at least  for a day.  

It is time, we really gave our elected leaders something real to sulk about.

Would they then wake up?  Empathise with the thousands who have no access to drinking water, who have to trudge miles for a bucket of water, who live in unsanitary conditions. Would they understand the magnitude of the problem when faced with a similar situation?

Hard to tell.. but worth giving a try.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Back Again..

It's been a while since the last post. But then, I was on a holiday....

 It was almost a five year plan.  The visit to the UK to see the elder one and S-I-L.

The visa application had been downloaded so many times in the past.  Filled in too.  And just kept aside. I think the elder one did not take us seriously this year either.  Especially when we had not submitted the papers and hardly a month left before our scheduled date of departure.  She threatened to cancel her leave.

And when it finally did happen, it was one major rush.  The passport with the visa arrived a week prior. The scramble for tickets. The volcanic ash almost playing spoilsport. The on and off  airline strike.  And then, suddenly, it happened. The whole family together after a very long time.

 We were given a day to rest and then we were off to the countryside.  Initially the camera had not a moment of rest.  Until it appeared that every scene had to be captured.  But how many?

A trip to Lake District, and we realise how Wordsworth, who lived here, might have been inspired. The poetry could have been spontaneous. But while he did pen down his words, I was only left speechless. The scenery  so breathtaking.

While we were sad it ended, we were also glad to get back to the routine, however mundane it might be.  I guess that is what keeps one going.

Groan, groan, another boring day...... another menu to think of ...getting ready to work.... until the next holiday.

Monday, May 23, 2011

When the mind is blank...

When the mind is blank and the screen is white, you can be sure there is no inspiration. 

I have had these warning signs.  A delayed image on the screen, a flash of white, and so on.  I even took it to the service centre.  They warned me of  impending doom.  But nothing beyond their control.  And it would only cost me 19K.  I turned white too. 

And now, stolen moments on someone else's system is what I have.  And just doesn't feel the same.  What I also miss are the websites I had bookmarked. 

And till I find a permanent solution, it will be a short break from blogging and blog hopping. 

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Bow Wow Yoga

Bow Wow Yoga is a book ( and no, I have not read it) – by Gerry Olin Greengrass – who watched her dog stretch his paws and raise its behind effortlessly. Yoga was what came to her mind. And she has in this book ( according to the review on given a hilarious account of what she has termed Canine Yoga with illustrations.

In contrast, my niece A posted this picture on fb– of herself doing the Surya Namaskaram under the watchful eyes of her canine gurus

I loved it. ( Picture taken by P )

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Baby Talk

The recent Kerala election campaign led to some sniping between Rahul Gandhi and the Kerala Chief Minister Achutanandan. Rahul Gandhi indirectly indicated that the CM was an old man . The CM in turn called him an Amul Baby. Shashi Tharoor, ever ready to tweet said there was nothing insulting in the CM's remark and Amul Babies are healthy and focussed.

The Kerala CM has moved on with times. He probably would have been more familiar with the Murphy Radio baby. A cute healthy baby, with his finger on the lower lip. Their baby calendars were always in big demand. And generally found a place in the room of an expectant mother.

Babies, like Rahul Gandhi, nowadays are a pampered lot. And corporates have realised that parents love to indulge in their new bundle of joy. Exclusive stores for infants have surfaced. Kiddy things are no longer confined to a small corner of a departmental store.

Things have obviously changed. Earlier buying anything new for the baby was unheard of. And considered inauspicious. Grandmothers were quick to get into action mode as soon as they were informed about the pending arrival of the baby. Well worn sarees and dhotis were acquired from close relatives and friends, cut into squares and rectangles and painstakingly hand stitched to form blankets, frocks and jablas for the baby. They were the only things considered suitable for the soft and sensitive skin of the newborn.

Walking in to buy a gift for a young child I was amazed to see what was being stocked in these stores. Special baby furniture, baby toys, baby clothing, fancy prams, car seats, baby feeding spoons…. So many choices. And tiny clothes that are at least three times more expensive than adult clothing.

New borns and their mothers are now smartly dressed. And ready for visitors. The old sarees are of no use. And grandparents have turned hip. And have no time to make handmade baby clothes. Most times they are flying to different continents to take care of their young wards. And old jeans definitely would not make soft baby clothing.

I have digressed from the not so friendly banter of the Kerala CM and Rahul Gandhi. But it is a matter of Old vs New. We will know shortly which will triumph in this case.

In the meanwhile Amul cashed in on the moment with this ad..

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Chai and Biscuit

The thought of biscuits takes me back many years when we had a lovely biscuit factory - JB Mangharam & Sons. I say lovely, because I can still remember the wonderful aroma that used to waft from their factory as we went past the area where they were located. Even as far as a kilometer away!

The lane outside the J B Mangharam factory had these carts that used to sell huge packets of broken biscuits. Like the export rejects of the present day. There would be wafers, cream biscuits, ordinary tea biscuits in all sizes and shapes. For a princely sum of five rupees. These would be brought home and stored in two 5 kg tins of Sway detergent powder!!

Sway used to be the detergent of our times. They were probably the first company that introduced the detergent powder. They sold it in packs that were placed in these big light blue tins. After which the tins would be scoured and sun dried and ultimately found a pride of place in every kitchen. Most kitchens would have rows and rows of these tins in which pulses and eatables were stored and as in our house the JB Mangharam biscuit bits.

The variety of biscuits or cookies available these days are mind boggling. There are many who will proclaim that the most boring biscuit of them all is the Marie biscuit. But invariably when you go visiting friends,unannounced, you will be given a cup of tea with the Marie biscuit. Some have even rechristened it as Mary Biscuit.

Hard to think of the good old Marie biscuit as a food of the royals or upper class. In fact it is thought that the large size was intentional . Ever noticed that it cannot be dunked into the tea even in a fairly large mug until after the first bite. It would have been highly 'improper'for a royal to indulge in dunking!

The biscuit was named after the Grand Duchess Maria, or Marie,daughter of Czar Alexander II of Russia, who was supposedly the Lady Diana of her time. She married Alfred , the second son of Queen Victoria. To commemorate the union, a bakery in Britan created the Marie biscuit.

Now with a Royal wedding coming up, Prince William has brought this otherwise considered boring biscuit into limelight, by choosing it to be a main ingredient of one of the cakes that is to be served.

It is the bland flavour of the biscuit that makes it specially suitable for sweet dishes. A friend made this rich dessert from Marie biscuit the other day. She made a liqueor of coffee. Dunked the biscuit in it. A layer of that on a shallow dish. A coating of marmalade. And over it the chocolate sauce. Followed by nuts. And some whipped cream. This was repeated thrice. The leftover cream was slathered over the top. Decorated with more nuts and then frozen. And sliced and devoured.

A delicious alternative to dunking in tea. And Prince William would definitely concur.

PS: If you like dunking biscuits into your beverage, check out this site.

A google search indicates that JB Mangharam is now a subsidiary of Britannia Foods.

And Sway detergent vanished when they were outsmarted by Surf. Sway detergent increased their sales by giving a plastic bucket for every 3 packet tops. Sales soared, till Surf bought all the buckets that were manufactured. Sway could not keep up their offer of bucket exchange. Housewives changed their brand and the detergent company soon closed down. The Sway tins remained in many households like ours till they corroded.

Image courtesy:

Monday, March 7, 2011

Visiting the Daughter

I am on a short trip to visit my younger daughter in Delhi.  I never generally travel alone, but this is one of those few times.  She shares the apartment with two of her classmates from law school. 

I am reminded of the song - Sunrise, Sunset from the old musical - Fiddler on the Roof. 

When Tevye sings -
Is this the little girl I carried..?. 
and his wife Goldie joining him with ...
I don't remember growing older, When did they?

Yes, when did they?  It's true, she left home early and went five years away at college, but then she did manage to come home at least twice a month since we lived not too far away.  It is now close to two years that she has started work and this time far away from home.  The other two of her flatmates are as young and confident as her.

And they manage it all.  Despite working almost seven days a week, they manage to catch up with friends, throw in a small party, go out for a movie.   Where do they get their energy? 

It is a reversal of roles.  She is the caretaker.  And it  seems the time has come  for me to imbibe some of the qualities .  They were definitely not inherited.  

I will soon head back home.  And will continue to worry.  Which parent does not?  But in a way content that she has a good head on her shoulders.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Are you aggressive on the net?

In this article Freedland talks about being a different person on the net.  I can quite relate to that.  As someone who might not retaliate in person, I take up issues on the net.  Bad service, faulty product... and I am online making a complaint. I have found it quite effective. 

Freedland states that just as a car windscreen can make a person ruder than he would have been as a mere pedestrian, the computer screen also has some sort of a similar effect!  It brings out the darker side of the person!  He states -quote - For reasons not yet fully understood, the internet seems to have robbed many of embarrassment. Unquote.

Interesting.  Does it work the same way for you?  I think I should mentally put myself behind a screen when I have to take up issues next time. 

Friday, February 4, 2011

A Jumbo Project

A real Grand Trunk Road - an underpass built in Kenya so that the elephants get to safely cross over to the forest without either endangering their lives or that of the motorists.  Totally built with donor funds.

We have many jumbo projects in our city.  One underpass that is nearing completion after over three years....

They had to get the permission of the railways and that took time.  Makes you wonder why they ever started off without the permission.

And another one

which took seven years for completion..... all because half way through, they realised they did not know where to end the flyover!! 

Which really is the jumbo project?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Frankly, my dear....

I grew up with the Wren and Martin grammar book. And the dog-eared copy I owned, had small print too. Hard to read, even harder to digest. If you followed the grammar rules, you could get close to 60 per cent in your English examination paper. Which, by the way, was excellent in our time.

The chapter on Letter Writing was as important as the rest.   And we were taught that business communications started with a ‘Dear’ or Sir/madam as the case may be.  But like all things, this too seems to be changing.  The salutations are vanishing.

An article in WSJ aptly titled ‘For a Dearly Departed Salutation’, deals with these issues. It quotes a spokeswoman for a Democrat in the US, who says ‘dear’, is just too intimate and connotes a personal relationship. And she wants to keep her business communications with the press at the utmost and highest level of professionalism. So to communicate an important message from her boss, starts off her  letter with a ‘Hey Folks’

Maybe I am just too old fashioned , but to start off an official communication with a Hey Folks, is not acceptable. I would use Hey to someone I know well enough to be informal!

As it is, letter writing has undergone some changes.  The address at the top of the letter has moved from the right to the left. That is fine by me, but to drop the dear?

Hey, that does not seem right! I wonder if I am in the minority.

(picture -
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