Raindrops, You And I

raindropsjpg

 

 

 

 

Raindrops, you and I
Dropping down from the sky
All so pure, all the same
Bearing neither form nor name!

We reach the ground
One fine day;
Where ever we fall
It’s the destiny, we call!

We pick up colors and smells;
We take shapes and forms.
Everything that is bound
Are acquired on the ground

Drops on trees look green
Those in the ocean taste salty.
Drops on flowers smell sweet
Drops on bees think honey is a treat!

These drops, once so pure,
can’t be imagined so anymore;
Tangled and embroiled with everything else
Isn’t that the essence of this journey called life?

All these separations still
can’t prevent these drops from joining at will!
They join to form puddles and lakes,
Streams, rivers and Oceans too.

Then the drops change form,
Rising up to the heaven or sky;
Forming clouds floating by
To wait until they descend once again!

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Getting back on track

What is the one most challenging part of a fitness journey? Finding time to exercise? No. Muscle burn during and after a workout session? Nope. These are definitely pain points but not the factor that puts you off your fitness track.

It is the ability to bounce back to where we left off every time we are thrown off board. This is especially true when we are in the early stages and are struggling with on and off days. When we are off track, we just assume this is not for us and we totally quit. Even worse is the fear of failure. I realized recently that when we are on track, we feel so anxious to stay on track that we become so rigid with our lives. We struggle every bit to fight life whose very nature is change. Sometimes this affects not just us, but everyone around us too. The solution is to accept this reality and to develop the art of seamlessly lifting ourselves when we sink and diving down when we seem to float up. Just like in swimming, the ideal place for you is the middle zone, completely submerged inside the water, where we can surge ahead and cover real distance. But you do need to come up for a gasp of air now and then.

Getting fit is boring. Yeah, I said it. I do try to keep variety to reduce the boring factor but it still is not so exciting once you get used to it. You just repeat it day after day, and over time, you simply get fit. But it is not so “simple”, is it? Life happens. We get sick or pull a muscle. We get busy with work. Extended family visits us or we go on vacation. Happiness or sadness, we end up binging on comfort foods and our fitness goals fly out of our mind’s window. Once off track, we struggle to get back. The task of looking back and thinking of the uphill struggle to get to the point where we left off itself feels huge. And if we repeat this more often than not, we think everything is lost.  What is the point, we say to ourselves. “I always end up doing this. I’m hopeless. Fitness is not for me. May be I am doing more damage by trying than not.”

Relax! Fitness can be easy when you work it into a routine, a habit. Habit formation has three discrete steps. First, comes the trigger. A condition that pushes you to action. My energy slumps in the evening or my painfully tight muscles when I wake up – I desperately need an energy boost to cover the last part of my day or need to stretch to get myself to face the day. This feeling of pain or dullness is my cue! Now comes my workout session to the rescue. I train myself to automatically hit the mat. We are successfully in the second step of action. Then, our objective is to make this action part a no-brainer. No decision making or scrambling for supplies at this moment or all momentum is lost. Plan and prepare in advance and execute. Definite plan, like monday is yoga, tuesday running or wednesday 20 minutes and thursday 30 mins and so on are some examples. You could also decide what to do depending on how you feel that day, once you get in tune with your body. Work a plan that is meaningful to your lifestyle, your needs and your constraints. Because it is your body, your journey. The third part is a definite result. How do you feel at the end of the workout. Relaxed, calm, light, sweaty, hungry, jumpy, happy, fresh, centered within your body, lesser pain than before, more flexible than when you started… observe and register these feelings every single day. This is what you earned through sweat and hard work, so relish every bit of it.

I read somewhere that exercise is 30% and diet is 70%. May be. But it does not work for me that way. I could never control my diet. The more I try to control, the more it spirals out. That is because I know when I lie to myself! I can’t convince myself not to eat that cookie or the cake when I’m drooling within. But instead when I exercise and feel good, I don’t really need that comfort from food. Once the need is eliminated, I find that the battle is half won. Second, I really know how I feel when I eat a nutritious vs comfort food and what it does to my next workout session. I feel lumpy and heavy and I end up struggling to finish my session. I register this feeling as well. It becomes easy for me to say no because that’s again the truth from within me. It becomes an intuitive decision rather than a struggle of will. But it is easier said than done. I find that emotions play a greater role in my food choices. I need to have routines to improve the happiness quotient like gratitude journal, connecting with friends and family, carving out time for an activity I enjoy and so on. And the time to dissipate the negatives through meditation or calming down, speaking out and the like.

Slow but sure and steady steps are more important than acting fast and ending up crashed midway. Forget micro-managing and look at the big picture for fitness is a process not a result. If you mess up, the one thing you would not want to do is to beat yourself up emotionally, give up and stand at the refrigerator door late night for one more serving of that cake. You may be just starting to walk. But it’s important to keep walking, pick yourself up every time you fall and march ahead. And one day, you will be sprinting like a pro! Oh, and the very next day you may need to fix your walking again, but that is how life goes…

 

Valor

I grew up hearing about this legend every now and then. “Once a Tamil woman drove a tiger away using a winnow.” Of course, as a kid I did not think much of this “story in a nutshell” that was passed down generation to generation and invoked to demonstrate courage or questioning a lack of it. But as I heard it recently, I started having questions. Was a hand woven winnow such a tough weapon or the tiger was more like a cuddly little fellow? Who is she and what really happened? why do we not know her name at the least? Here is a little imagination as an attempt to answer these questions!

Lets travel back in time, a few hundred years from now, to a tiny place in what is now called the state of Tamil Nadu, in the southern part of India. A small mountain rises above the green Earth and kisses the fluffy white clouds. It’s slopes are thickly carpeted with lush green trees, plants and ferns on all sides. The dense forest all around are sacred home to a few hundred life forms. Birds, animals, fishes, butterflies, insects… so much variety, so much color, so much commotion! And still a sense of tranquility transcends them all. A small hut settlement, a total of ten to fifteen houses, is seen a few hundred feet from the foot of this hill. A cool breeze brushes our faces, travels past and gently plucks the fingers of the coconut tree leaves lined up majestically row after row, as if a professionally trained hand is playing harp. The combined orchestra from the songs of the birds caresses our heart. The clouds form groups, stopping and gossiping, breathing in all this beauty down below and then slowly move on.

We reach a house in the middle of this small village, with a mango tree covering the porch. Under the mango tree, there is a woman sitting and winnowing chaff from rice grains. She is holding a hand-woven winnow, widely used for this purpose even to this day. One look at her and we could say she is the daughter of this Mother Nature! She sits there as an embodiment of all this prosperity, elegance and beauty. Inside the house, her six month old baby is blissfully asleep in a hammock made out of her soft cotton wedding sari. Her luscious thick hair coiled with jasmine flowers gently curls up and dozes off over her smooth shoulder. Soaking up all this sweetness surrounding her, she reflexively hums a tune. Her husband is returning home this evening, the very thought of which fills her eyes with dreams. A faint smile spreads on her lips and she quickly buries her blush in the dimples of her cheeks. She forgets herself for a few minutes, and some more.

The gentle breeze turns faster, harder. Mother Nature’s beautiful soft face tightens up in a flash. The songs of the birds are now turned into shrieks. She peels her attention off of the rhythmic movement of the winnow and looks up. She feels a hard ball sinking into her lower abdomen. Her throat dries up and she has to forcefully swallow the saliva. She tries to find the reason for this rapid change. She scans every direction for clues. That moment, the very moment when her mind grasps the object of her quest, her breath freezes. Every strand of her body hair stands up on high alert and her eyes enlarge showing the full glory of her iris. Longingly she turns towards her tiny bundle of joy, sleeping inside, oblivious to all this perplexity.

In the periphery she feels a shadow move and her eyes dart towards that direction. It is right there, standing at the gates. It’s body shining like gold under the mid-morning sun with scars of darkness slapped as stripes all over. It’s strong and powerful legs step one after the other and move towards her, reverberating with arrogance and a strange sense of possession over her. With every passing split-second, her heartbeat races higher and higher until she could hardly feel the air move through her lungs. She is frightened and starts questioning all the protective fences that she trusted till this day. The almighty God that protects her from every trouble big and small, her dearest husband with whom she exchanged vows of safety for life, the disciplined life in an orderly society where everyone looks out for one another. How did she end up all alone? She called to her Savior Goddess, Ellaiamma, the Goddess with red eyes and eighteen hands, whom her entire village worships every new moon day, praying to fight off all evil spirits. “Ellaiamma, how did your heart agree to let me, your beloved daughter, get into this terrifying situation?”, her heart pleaded. “All the neighbors have gone to fields for work. Will they be able to hear me if I shout?”, she thought. But she could rarely find her breath, let alone her voice. “What will happen to my baby?”, she panicked.

Her eyes clouded with confusion and fear, she stood there pitifully in front of the approaching tiger. “If I beg in front of this demon, if I fall at it’s feet, will it leave me?” she started thinking in one last attempt to find a way out. By then the tiger had moved in close enough and began to spring on it’s prey. Trying to run away she moved aside slightly, reflexively bringing the winnow to cover her face. The tiger’s aim slipped and she ended up getting scratched in her arms and legs. She could not bear the assault from a 600 pound tiger and rolled on the ground curling up a few feet away. Her sun-kissed bronze limbs were bathed in blood that trickled on the ground causing Mother Earth’s face to turn red. All this woke the baby up and sensing the tension around, it began to cry hysterically.

Tiger heard and turned towards the house. Sensing this, her body tightened up. Pain and anger fueled her strength and her breath seethed like a volcano. “My house, my child. How dare you step in here?”, her heart erupted with fury. She put her right palm on the ground and in one push leapt to her feet. With a new understanding of herself she picked up the loose end of the sari and wound it up tightly around her waist. She collected her long hair and knotted it into a bun. She looked straight up, a dark strand of hair fell across her face reminding the tiger that she too is no less than a tigress in her own right. “Before you touch my child, you need to walk past me!” This very thought lifted her spirits and positioned her like a mighty mountain between the tiger and her baby. The dust from the scuffle had not settled yet but she was already up. Sensing her challenge, the tiger let out a loud roar. The sound echoed in the mountain and reached the villagers. It sent chills into their bones. They quickly remembered her and her baby and hurried to her defense.

She stood there unperturbed. The roar did not move even the strand of hair that ran across her face, let alone her heart. She turned her red eyes and locked it on the tiger. The tiger got confused. Is this the same woman who looked so pitiful a few moments ago, it wondered. It turned once again towards the crying baby inside her home. “Hey!” she let out a loud cry from the depths of her lower abdomen where life surrenders to take form. Every life form that heard this sound, submitted their obedience. The tiger hesitated for a moment and took it’s front leg half way back. This moment was right for her to launch her first assault. She moved swiftly like an arrow shot from a trained archer’s bow, splitting the dust laden air, picking up the winnow that lay on her left side along the way, collected all her mortal strength and landed on the tiger’s head with one mighty blow. The tiger went dizzy but quickly sprung back to it’s legs. It attacked her once again with rage. She held the tiger’s front paws with her bare hands and stopped it right on it’s tracks. She saw the demon eye to eye, her muscles curdling up on her arms, thighs and abs. She was that Savior Goddess now for her baby. Her body chiseled by years of hard-work is matched in strength by nothing less than the diamond. These fences, she realized, are not to save her, but she is there to maintain these for the order of her society.

The tiger, that was used to display of it’s strength all it’s life, was surprised by this resistance. It could not get a grasp of the situation that is turning out to be. It thought her strength will go only to a certain point and once she got tired, victory will be easy. It still had the picture of that weak woman slumped on the ground on it’s mind. But it had grossly underestimated her will power. Every time it assaulted, she fell. She stood up. She attacked. Again. And again. And again. At one point the tiger got tired and she got the lead. She pushed though her last ounce of strength and hit the tiger with her hands, still holding on to the winnow that was a mere rag now and the tiger started backing down. By now the villagers had reached her home and were stunned by the fierceness of the fight. The tiger seeing itself in clear disadvantage ran back to the jungle saving it’s life. The villagers erupted with cheers and applause and hailed her name. There was celebration of her bravery all around. She panted and cooled down for a quick few minutes and then raised her hand. They became quiet. She tossed the tattered winnow down and began speaking. “No, not my name. Say that a Tamil woman drove a tiger with a mere winnow!” She knew well that if her story was associated with a name, she will be a legend but then her victory will be all her’s. She wanted every mother, sister and daughter to be a part of her story, her victory. Her weakness, her assumptions, her struggles and her strengths are all common to her kind, Womankind and Mankind. She realized that a woman is not a mere person but a society. She sacrificed her name to uplift her society then and for generations to come.

So, go girl… feed thy body, mind and soul. Nourish the tigress within and live a majestic life. For, when you encounter a tiger in your own life someday, be prepared to unleash that tigress in you!

 

வீரத்திருமகள்

ஒரு சிரிய மலை. மலைச்சரிவு முழுவதும் அடர்ந்த மரங்கள். மரங்களாய் அடர்ந்த காட்டுப் பகுதியில் பல நூரு ஜீவராசிகள். பறவைக் கூட்டங்கள், விலங்குகள், மீன்கள் என அத்துனை வளம். மலையின் அடிவாரத்தில் சின்னதாய் ஓர் அழ‌கான கிராமம். பத்துப் பதினைந்து வீடுகள் இருக்கும். சில்லென்று வீசும் காற்று அங்கிருந்த தென்னைமர‌ ஓலைகளை அழகாய் மீட்டியது. பறவைகளின் இசை நெஞ்சை இதமாய் வருட‌, மேகக் கூட்டம் இந்த அழகையெல்லாம் நின்று நிதானமாய் ரசித்தபடியே கடந்து சென்றது.

அந்த கிராமத்தில் ஒரு வீடு. வீட்டு முற்றத்தில் ஒரு மாமரம். மரத்தடியில் ஒரு பெண் அமர்ந்து அரிசி புடைத்துக் கொண்டிருந்தாள். இந்த இயற்கை அன்னையின் வாரிசு இவளே என சொல்லும் அளவிற்கு இத்தனை அழகிற்கும் மொத்த உருவாய் வீற்றிருந்தாள். வீட்டின் உள்ளே ஒரு சீலைத் தொட்டிலில் தன் ஆறு மாதமேயான செல்லக் குழந்தை ரம்மியமாய் உரங்கிக் கொண்டிருந்தது. கனத்த கருங்குழல் சுருண்டு தன் தோளின்மேல் மய்யல் கொள்ள இயற்கையின் இனிமையில் தன்னை மறந்து உள்ளம் இசைக்கும் பாட்டை அவள் குரல் ரீங்காரம் போட்டது. தன் கண‌வன் அன்று இரவு ஊர் திரும்புகிறான் என்ற எண்ணமே அவள் விழிகளில் கனவுகளை நிறைத்தது. ஒரு மெல்லிய‌ புண்ணகை அவள் இதழோரத்தில் தோன்ற அவள் கண்ணக் குழிகளில் தன் வெட்கத்தைப் புதைத்தாள். சில மணித்துளிகள் தன்னை மறந்தாள்.

காற்றின் வேகம் மாறியது. ரகமும் மாறியது. இயற்கை அன்னையின் கோல முகம் திடீரென அடர்ந்தது. கீதம் பாடிய பறவைகள் அலறல் எழுப்பின. கையில் இருக்கும் முரதின் சீரான ஆட்டத்தில் இருந்து தன் கவன‌த்தைப் பெயர்த்தெடுத்தாள். அவள் அடிவயிற்றில் இருக்கம் தோன்றியது. தொண்டை வறண்டு போக எச்சிலை வலிந்து விழுங்கினாள். தன்னைச் சுற்றிலும் மாற்றம் ஏன் எனக் கண்டறிய முயற்சித்தாள். அவள் கருகரு விழிகள் நாற்புறமும் தடயங்களைத் தேடின. அந்த நொடி, அவள் தேடலின் விடை அவள் அறிவிற்கு எட்டிய அந்த நொடி, அவள் மூச்சு உறைந்தது! உடற்முழுவதும் புல்லறித்துப் போய் விழிகள் விரிந்தன. இத்தனை கலவரத்தையும் அரியாது இன்னும் அமைதியான உரக்கதில் ஆழ்ந்திருந்த தன் குழந்தையை நோக்கி ஏக்கமாய் ஒரு முறை பார்த்தாள்.

அவள் விழியோரத்தில் ஒரு உருவம் அசைய மின்னலாய் அவள் விழிகள் அந்தப் பக்கம் பாய்ந்தன. அவள் வீட்டு வாசலில் அது நின்றுகொண்டிருந்தது. மதிய வெயிலில் அதன் உடல் தங்கமாய் மின்ன, இருளின் நிறத்தை தன்மீது பட்டை பட்டையாக அப்பிக்கொண்டிருந்தது. வலிமை வாய்ந்த கால்களை ஒன்றன் பின் ஒன்றாக வைத்து மிகுந்த‌ ஆணவத்தோடும் உரிமையோடும் அவளை நோக்கி நெருங்கியது. தன்னை அது நெருங்க நெருங்க தன் இதயத் துடிப்பு ஏரிக்கொண்டே போவதை அவள் உணர்ந்தாள். இந்த ஒரு கணம், தன்னை காக்கும் என நம்பிய கடவுள், கணவன், கட்டுப்பாடுள்ள சமூக வாழ்க்கை என அனைத்து வேலிகளும் எங்கே என அவள் பதறினாள். “எல்லையம்மா! உன் பிள்ளையை எப்படி இந்த இக்கட்டில் விட்டுவிட மனம் வந்தது உனக்கு?” எனக் குமுறினாள். அண்டை அயல் வீட்டார் எல்லாம் வயலுக்கு சென்றுவிட்டார்களே, கத்தினால் கேட்குமா என சிந்தித்தாள். இனி தன் பச்சிளம் குழந்தையின் கதி என்ன எனத் திகைத்தாள்.

குழப்பமும் பயமும் அவள் கண்களை முழுவதுமாய் மரைக்க, பரிதாபமாய் அந்தப் புலியின் முன்னால் நின்றுகொண்டிருந்தாள். கடைசியாக தன் கைகளைக் கூப்பி மன்றாடினால் ஒரு வேளை அது விட்டுவிடுமோ என என்னும் முன் தன் இறையை நோக்கிப் புலி பாய்ந்தது. திரும்பி ஓட முயன்றுகொண்டே தன்னிச்சையாக தன் கையில் உள்ள முறத்தால் தன் முகத்தை மறைத்தாள். பாய்ந்த புலியின் குறி சற்றே விலகி அவள் கை கால்களில் தன் கூரிய நகத்தால் கீரியது. புலியின் அடி தாங்க மாட்டாமல் சுருண்டு விழுந்தாள். காயங்க‌ளில் இருந்து பெருகிய குருதி பூமித்தாயை முகம் சிவக்கச்செய்தது. அவள் விழுந்த அதிர்ச்சியில் தூங்கிய குழந்தை விழித்தெழ, வீர் எனக் குரல் எழுப்பியது.

குழந்தையின் அழுகையை கேட்டு புலி வீட்டுப் பக்கம் நோக்கி நகர, தன் குழந்தை ஆபத்தில் இருப்பதை கண்டு உடலில் புது முருக்கு ஏர உணர்ந்தாள். வலியும் கோபமும் அவள் உடலிற்கு வலிமை கூட்டியது. “என் வீடு, என் குழந்தை. என்ன ஆணவம் இருந்தால் இங்கே வர நீ துணிவாய்” அவள் உள்ளம் சீரியது. தன் வலது கையை பூமியில் பதித்து தன்னை மீண்டும் கண்டறிந்தவளாய் எழுந்தாள். கலைந்த தன் சேலையை இருக்கிக் கட்டினாள். அவிழ்ந்த தன் கூந்தலை வாரி முடிந்தாள். நிமிர்ந்தாள். “என் பிள்ளையை நெருங்க நீ என்னை முதலில் கடக்க வேண்டும்” என்ற எண்ணம் அவளை அந்தப் புலிக்கும் தன் பிள்ளைக்கும் நடுவில் ஒரு மலையாய் உயர்த்தியது. புழுதிபரக்க அவள் நின்றிருப்பதை பார்த்து அந்த புலி உருமியது. உருமல் சப்தம் வேலை செய்யும் கிராம மக்கள் செவிகளில் விழ, அனைவரும் உரைந்தார்கள், அவள் தனியே இருப்பதை நினைத்து விரைந்தார்கள்.

ஆனால் அவள் அசையவில்லை. உள்ளத்தை விடுங்கள், அவள் தலையில் இருந்து சரிந்து விழும் ஒற்றை முடி கூட சலனப்படவில்லை. கோபம் அவள் கண்களில் கொப்புளிக்க கணைகளாய் தன் கண்களை அந்தப் புலியை நோக்கி நிருத்தினாள். சற்றுமுன் பயந்து சரிந்த பெண்ணா இவள் என அந்தப் புலி குழம்பியது. அழும் குழந்தையை நோக்கி மீண்டும் பார்த்தது. “ஏய்!” உயிர் ஜனிக்கும் தன் அடிவயிற்றின் ஆழத்தில் இருந்து அவள் உரக்கக் கத்தினாள். உயிர்கள் அனைத்தும் அந்தக் குரல் கேட்டு அடங்கின‌! முன் வைத்த புலியின் கால் ஒருகணம் பின்வாங்க, அந்த நொடிப்பொழுது போதுமாய் இருந்தது அவளுக்கு! தன் கெண்டைக்கால்களின் வலிமையால் மின்னலாய் அந்த புலியை நோக்கிப் பாய்ந்தாள். தன் இடப்புரம் விழுந்து கிடந்த‌ முரத்தை ஒரு கையால் எடுத்துக்கொண்டே காற்றில் பறக்கும் கணைபோல் தன் உடல் சுழன்று செல்ல‌, புலியின் தலையை நோக்கி தன் மொத்த வலிமையையும் திரட்டி இடியாய் விழுந்தாள். புலி சற்று தடுமாறியது. சீற்றத்துடன் அவள் மேல் மீண்டும் தாக்க, தன் இரு கைகளால் அந்தப் புலியை நிறுத்தினாள். சிறு வயது முதல் காடு மலைகளில் லாவகமாய் ஓடி விளையாடிய கால்கள், வெயிலில் சுட்ட மண் போல் இறுகிய‌ தோள்கள், கடின உழைப்பால் பட்டை தீட்டப்பட்ட வைரம் போல் உர‌ம் பாய்ந்த உடல்! பெண்மை என்றால் மென்மை என்று ஏமாந்து விடாதீர், அவள் புலிகளை பெற்றுக்கொடுக்கும் பெண்புலி… வேலிகள் அவளின் கட்டுப்பாட்டிற்கு இல்லை; அவள் கட்டிக்காப்பதற்காக அமைந்தவை!

வலிமை மட்டுமே பழகிப்போன புலிக்கு ஒன்றும் புரியவில்லை. தன் முழு எடையையும் கொண்டு போராடிப் பார்த்தது அந்தப் புலி. அவள் தசைகளில் வலிமை இருந்தாலும், அது ஒரு எல்லை வரை தான் என நினைத்தது. ஆனால் அவள் உள்ளத்தில் இருந்த வலிமையை அப்புலியால் அசைக்க‌ முடியவில்லை! எத்துணை முறை விழுந்து புரண்டாலும் அவள் மீண்டும் எழுந்தாள். தாக்கினாள். ஒரு கட்டத்திற்குப் பிறகு புலி சளைத்து விட, தன் கையில் உள்ள முறத்தால் அடித்து விறட்டினாள். அதற்குள் ஊர் மக்களும் கூடிவிட, தான் வந்த வழியே தப்பிது ஓடியது அந்தப் புலி!

அன்று முதல் புலியை முறத்தால் அடிது விறட்டினாள் ஒரு தமிழ்ப் பெண் என்று மக்கள் வழக்கில் அவள் நிலைத்தாள். நிலைத்தது ஒரு பெண்ணின் வலிமை, அவள் உள்ளத்தின் உறுதி, தாய்மையின் காக்கும் உணர்ச்சி!

Update:

You can find the English version of this story/ post here.

Sugar Coated

I caught this one on Netflix. I haven’t been able to catch documentaries for a long time now, especially after K. So I decided to indulge in something meaningful this time. Here are some takeaways…

Sugar is not empty calories, it is toxic calories. The increased consumption of sugar by humans have resulted in the non-communicable diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and so on, also called lifestyle diseases. Not all calories are made equal, and hence metabolized equally by our body. When our body has a overload of sugar, like when we eat dessert, the fructose needs to be processed by our liver which then feels overwhelmed and converts the sugar to fat thus contributing to weight gain.

Sugar is dangerous when consumed beyond a limit. That limit is set by World Health Organization to 5% for children and for adults 10% of daily total energy intake. That comes to 25g of sugar at 5%. Now, approximately 4.2g is equal to 1 teaspoon. So, that makes it 6 teaspoon of free sugar per person a day.

Sugar is hidden in MOST of the packaged foods. Even bread contains sugar- my package says it is less than 1 g per slice not 0g. I consider myself to follow a normally healthy lifestyle. I cook all my meals and use ketchup, syrups, sauce in moderation. So, how did my sugar intake add up for today?

  • Organic tomato Ketchup 4g in 1 tblsp
  • Coffee 12 g
  • Brownie 24g
  • Honey as I have cold : 1 tbsp 16g
  • Total = 56g =  14 tsp.

Whoa… that is more than twice the recommendation!! Add to this any snack for evening time that is just not under my control yet.

Dry fruits need a special mention. When they package dry fruit, seems they dip it in sugar syrup and then package to increase the weight to maximize the profit. So it is not ordinary dried fruit but sweetened dry fruit. Sugar is so rampant in packaging because it is cheap for it’s weight and makes the food palatable. Especially the low fat version where the food tastes so bad they add sugar to make it tasty.

“No Added Sugar” on the front of the cover does not mean it contains no sugar. Sugar in ingredients list also comes in so many different names. We need to read the nutrition information at the back for the actual grams of sugar per serving. This is especially true for fruit juice, fruit jelly, fruit snacks that are for kids. While it is OK to indulge in them on occasion, regular eating damages dental and over all health.

Once our tongue gets used to a specific quantity of sugar or salt or spice, that taste does not stand out. To make it sweeter, we tend to increase the quantity of sugar automatically or go for larger quantities to get to the same experience. This works in favor of food industry as the consumer tends to finish up the product quickly and return for more.

Sugar through whole fruits, whole foods is fine. The fiber in whole foods fills us up quickly and we don’t consume dangerous quantities plus we get to have the nutrients that our body needs for daily function and repair.

So the bottom line is, we need to be more watchful of the limit on sugar intake per day. This limit, though it looks adequate, can easily be surpassed by the sugar we consume without notice though packaged foods.

 

 

The Island

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Lets go to this place
that is not too far, yet much forgotten;
This island for one
where other than you, there is none.

You are no mother or father
nor daughter, sister, uncle or a son;
Except for your one single self
You are in no other relation.

You have nothing to possess
nothing to show off to the world.
Everything there is, everything you need
just to be used and left behind.

No big house, no posh car, no shiny shoes
no branded clothes, no accessories either.
Not even banks to tally your net worth;
All in abundance, but nothing your own.

Not even a mirror
to admire your face or features
Nobody with whom you have the need to compare
You are the one and only there,
not even an audience to cheer!

Stripping off all these distractions,
you are left with your core – 
the values, principles and meaning, 
things that matter to you the most!

This person, in this stillness
when have you met him or her?
Gender too, does it really matter?
How friendly is he to you and you to him?

Other’s thoughts, words and actions fade into a low hum;
what you think of others too is no more than tides on the distant shore.
Now just within you, with you and by yourself,
soak in every drop of this magnificient silence!

Valuing this self and treating him with kindness
and planning a frequent little retreat together 
will keep you strong and grounded on shifting sands
and when riding the tide of time!

But I’m Supposed To…

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The other day I was having a conversation with my daughter and she was feeling bad that she forgot to do something related to her school. I tried to cheer her up and she kept saying “Ya, but I’m supposed to have done that.” She was into this self blaming phase for a little while which got me thinking about how much I as a woman get into this. How many of such instances have occurred in my life that left me questioning myself. One of the things we women do is ruminating, because of our biological brain build. We stick to a past shortcoming and make a mountain out of nothing. We are equipped with this capability to work through the problem and find a long term solution but most of the time, we just stick to the working through the problem part and never get to the solution and move on. This keeps us at a disadvantage in a professional race when we compete with men who think differently. Failure for them is an instance that they shrug off quickly. Their emotional part shuts down and quickly move to solution finding mode. If we have to give our girls and ourselves more confidence, we need to become aware of this and work on it.

Coming to the actual title of this post, “I’m supposed to”, this is a never ending list of expectations, some stated and some understated, that hangs in front of our eyes every time, everywhere from our parents, teachers, friends, relations, society as a whole and then from ourselves. Of course, one can not satisfy everyone every time, and this is when priorities come into play. If we are in touch with our self, we will be in a better position to prioritize what we want to do in life at that moment and life will be by choice, instead of trying to live a life to be worthy in eyes of others. As a daughter, I’m supposed to be obedient, helpful and understanding. As a student, I’m supposed to pay attention at class, get good grades. As a professional, I’m supposed to be reliable at work and constantly improve my capabilities. As a mother, I’m supposed to give the best nourishment and care to my baby. As a parent, I’m supposed to instill good values and conduct in their character. As a sister, as a wife, as a friend, as a xx relative… as a woman in a society… it goes on. Many times, there will be a clash and what you pick will have to be in line with your own values. This will give a feeling of deep contentment even if it is not viewed favorably by others involved.

As a stay at home mom, I was told that I’m wasting all my education and experience by sitting at home. I’m supposed to be at work earning money, respect and advancing my career. First, value of education is not the money you get by working a job that you get based on your education. Learning is life long and does not matter what you learn. As long as you add something new that expands your mind, it is enriching. In fact, after quitting, I could learn about religion, spirituality, science, parenting, cooking, health, people dynamics, self help and it felt like I hit a highway from an narrow inroad suddenly. Second, I stayed with my baby for not just baby’s need but my own need. I wanted to be with my kids during their foundation years, which enriches me deeply. If someone wants to work and finds fulfillment in that, then definitely they should go for it. Again, the choice should be of the person and not other’s around. That is true empowerment. True, women before us fought to get to where we are in terms of equal rights to work. But I think taking a break when a woman needs is an organic extension to this and not a setback to this fight. I mean, 3 months maternity leave, really? I dream of a way better situation for our daughters. Third, I have used my education and experience in serving what I am doing currently. When we get the knowledge, we should be able to apply it to our life situation so that it helps us do our job better, more efficiently. That, I think, is the purpose of education. It is not just what you do that decides your capability, but how you do whatever you are aiming for. If I go to work when I am not ready and give a half-baked result, that is not OK. But if I succeed in giving my 100% to my nurturing during the break, then that still is a time well spent. Fourth, there is no “supposed to”. Other’s expectations are other’s problems. I should be more in tune with my needs. As women, we push ourselves behind easily. We are the “giving” type, even when no one is asking for it! We need to learn to “take” control of our lives.

Finally, our heroes in epics, Rama was a prince. He was “supposed to” rule Ayodhya but Ramayan was not about his ruling but the 14 years spent in jungle. Pandavas were so capable and they were “supposed to” rule for the people’s good. But their story was that of the struggles they faced before they could establish that rule. Siddhartha was supposed to be a Emperor. But he became Emperor of hearts. There is no real “supposed to”. It is time to write our own stories, take our own decisions and give our heart and soul to what we do and make this world a little better one day at a time.

Reference:

Ruminating from The Confidence Code

Anatomy of Prayer – Part 2

This is a multi part series, where we discuss the different steps in Shodashopachara Pooja which I learnt in a religious class in a nearby temple. We did not go into the specifics of exact rituals and Vedic methods, instead we dealt with the more abstract meaning and thought process as a mental exercise and how we can make use of it in our modern lifestyle.

In part 1 we lighted the lamp. The next step in is Aachamanam, which means purification with water. In Vedas, water is considered an important element. This could be because of how water responds to positive thoughts and emotions. At the end of a yagna, I have seen priests sprinkling this water all around the house for spreading the positive effect.

In Achamanam, we narrate 24 names of Vishnu and touch various sense organs after sipping water. Since we are considering Prayer as mental exercise, we will ignore the physical aspects for this article.

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My Guru said, in Hinduism, we have so many Gods and then we have so many names for each of these Gods. It is like we have so many pet names for pampered kids in our family. The more the pampering, the more the number of pet names. We call and pamper the child with all these names when we are in a nice mood. Also, these names form a specific characteristic or role or activity of that God form. For Example, Krishna means dark skinned, Keshav means curly haired, Govind means cowherd and so on. He said, we don’t practice noticing and saying nice things to people in our daily life these days. We just take so much for granted. To live consciously means to notice these tiny aspects of life. It is increasing the quality of our life’s moments. So we have the practice of praising God, an invisible entity. He said, lets describe and pamper Him or Her and then lets take it further to our own family and outer circles slowly.

This is so true. I wonder how many times I have failed to notice and register the beautiful features of my kids, of my spouse, of even my own self, the little acts of affection and love we give and get, in the daily business of life! Being mindful makes us conscious of all the love we have for others and this love overflows in our actions and words. When this happens, our relationships get stronger, our emotions are in the right state and overall, life seems wonderful and fulfilling.

Now, to the ritual:

Om Keshavaya Svaha
Om Narayanaya Svaha
Om Madhavaya Svaha
Om Govindhaya Svaha
Om Vishnave Svaha
Om Madhusoodhanaya Svaha
Om Trivikramaya Svaha
Om Vamanaya Svaha
Om Shridharaya Svaha
Om Hrishikeshaya Svaha
Om Padmanabhaya Svaha
Om Damodharaya Svaha
Om Shankarshanaya Svaha
Om Vasudhevaya Svaha
Om Pradhyumnaya Svaha
Om Anirudhaya Svaha
Om Purushothamaya Svaha
Om Adokshajaya Svaha
Om Narasimhaya Svaha
Om Achutaya Svaha
Om Janardhanaya Svaha
Om Upendraya Svaha
Om Hariye Svaha
Om Shri Krishnaya Svaha

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The third step is Pranayama. Pranayama is breathing practice. We use Gayathri mantra for this step. Gayathri is considered a very powerful mantra in creation of positive energies for the person saying and the one hearing it.

 

Om pranavasya
para brahma rishihi
paramathma devatha
devi gayathri chchandhaha
pranayama viniyogaha

Om boohu
om bhuvah
om suvah
om mahah
om janah
om tapah
om sathyam

Om tat savithur varenyam
bhargo dhevasya dheemahi
dhiyo yonah prachodayaath

om apo jyothi raso amrtam brahma bhoor bhuva suvar om

Meaning:

According to Vedas, one progresses through the seven planes of existence Bhooh, bhuva, suvah, mahah, janah, tapah and sathyam by their spiritual practice to achieve enlightenment or liberation at the end.

We meditate on that most adorable, desirable and enchanting brilliance of our Supreme Being, our Source Energy, our Collective Consciousness….who is our creator, inspirer and source of eternal Joy.  May this warm and loving Light inspire and guide our mind and open our hearts.

The next step if Guru Dhyana. Guru is any incident or being that makes us know or realize something that was within us and was not visible until then. It is like shining light on something which was invisible in the darkness of ignorance, but was present already. When we learn something new, we believe that it was totally new and someone gave it to us through training, teaching or knowledge sharing. But here, the idea about learning is to uncover what was already there within us. We just did not know that it was there. So a Guru is merely a catalyst that makes us know what we already had within. That gives a feeling that we are enough, we don’t need anything from outside of us. This idea is amazing. It instantly calms our constant quest for material or other gains – to add something more to make us a little better all the time.

Gukaras thvanda karovai
rukaras thanni varthakah
andhakara nirodhithvad
gurur idhyabhi dheeyathe

guru brahma guru vishnu
guru devo maheshwara
guru sakshaat param brahma
thasmai shri gurave namah

Meaning:

The consciousness when shining on my inner self, removes the darkness and brings out the universe. What I see, feel, hear, smell and taste are not outside but the play of senses within my head and emotions in my mind. (Who remembers Matrix?) This consciousness is my Guru, my guide. This consciousness creates, protects and destroys what I perceive as my world around me. It is also the consciousness that is beyond that perception which is the universal truth that does not change with perception. Let this consciousness be my guiding light to clear and keep my world in right perspective.

We completed steps 2, 3 and 4 in this part. We will move to next steps in part 3 shortly.

Kids Mealtime Drama

My memory goes back to my early childhood when my grandma used to pamper me to bits especially during my summer vacations when I get bulk of time to spend with her. She would feed me, play with me, listen to my stories, take me out to market… Those are warm memories I cherish to date. I particularly remember how she used to consider food. According to her, food makes you strong and you need to treat it right. She says if I leave the food on the plate after it is served and go to play or do something else, I am disrespecting it. If we spill even grains on the floor, we pick it up immediately because food is God and we don’t want to step on it. Particularly when she fed me, she would put a small piece of it in her mouth, almost as a reflex action, and then start with me. I once told her if she was hungry, she could eat first and then feed me. She laughed and said, she was not hungry, but it had become a practice to check the food first, before offering to babies/ kids. She was checking for taste, ingredients and how hot/warm it was. It stuck to my memory and comes up every time I prepare to feed my baby. This simple action makes me understand if my baby has tough time with that feeding session, why he might be doing so.

I have seen some of my friends struggling with feeding their infants or toddlers. Kids these days need a distraction to eat. Mostly it is videos. It is sad to have the mind of the kid taken away from one of the most satisfying experiences of life, that is, having a tasty meal. Sometimes, there is a rush and the kid does not understand the concept of time. Sometimes, the kid is too tired to sit for a satisfying experience and would appreciate finishing off quicker than usual, so they can go to sleep early. Sometimes, the caregiver is unwell and needs to finish the task with minimal energy and time spent. These times, taking help of videos for distraction is fine. But they should enjoy the food experience in a normal daily basis.

What does not feel good being done to us, does not look good when we do it to another, however small that person may be. For example, we don’t like being force fed. We don’t like to eat something we don’t like the taste of. We don’t like to eat when we feel full, because we had lesser activity that day or due to temperature outside or we feel constipated etc. We don’t like to eat when we are thirsty and want to drink just plain water, even if it is meal time.

There are a few points we need to remember when feeding our kids.

  • Satisfaction instead of completion: Our duty is to offer nutritious foods at right times and in adequate quantities. It is the choice of the kids to decide how much they want to eat. That bowl or plate need not get empty. Only that the tiny tummy needs to feel satisfied.
  • Kids change as they grow: We need to know their taste, if they like a particular spice or ingredient more. This comes with trial and error. Sometimes they just need to grow up a bit more before they like what we are offering. My baby was not taking cow’s milk when I offered it soon after his first year. My doctor advised me to try different flavor, sweeten it and so on. I tried, but nothing helped. He was just not ready. Every few weeks I would try and give up. At 17 months, he was ready. Forcing them to gulp down what we think is important for them is the most violent thing a person can do to a tiny human that has not developed skills to communicate or defend themselves. This works the other way too. What the kid/baby eats well at a point, they may not like as their palette matures. The textures, tastes all change. We need to be flexible to this fact and celebrate the growth involved.
  • Saving our energy and emotions: Taking so much effort and time to make a meal specifically for a baby and then throwing 99% of it to trash is heartbreaking! It’s emotionally and physically hard on the caregiver. So, instead of pushing ourselves to make another meal and then ending up in frustration, lets have backup plans like fruits, quick snacks, ready-made foods for emergencies. We have limited time and energies. Lets not waste it worrying about the past and save it for the next meal time.
  • Forget the clock and let them feel hungry: Just leaving the kid to play some more until they get really hungry will make them eat well. Don’t go by the clock. Physical activity and outdoors help a lot.
  • Handling Rejections: While eating, if after a few spoonfuls, the kid refuses and turns his/her head away, we have the urge to somehow make them eat what is in our hand. Just this one, we plead. I had caught myself doing that a few times. My feeling was one of being rejected or dejected. Why is it so hard to take a no from a child? Is it the “adult ego”? I don’t know. I consciously put the spoon down and back off a couple of steps to register that I am not in any pressure to get that food in. The baby is in charge.
  • Give them space and time: Sometimes, my kid needs a few moments before he continues eating. Probably, he is overwhelmed at the speed at which he is eating and wants to take a leisurely pace. Or he just got interested in some play suddenly and couldn’t concentrate on food immediately. Sometimes, he is working on a tiny bit of nut or veggie that is stuck in his mouth and he can’t accept another spoonful. Sometimes, he has dry throat and needs water and not food that time. There are so many valid reasons that could be addressed or just waited over before continuing with the feed. Giving him space and time usually resolves it and he usually comes back on his own.
  • Gentle but firm: Perseverance pays off. With kids there is a learning curve. We just need to stick to what we need to do firmly and not give in to junk foods or other short cuts/ bribes to get them to listen to us. We need to be cautious about being gentle but firm at the same time.

Babies and kids are more in tune with their bodies than us adults. Following their lead not just makes parenting more enjoyable and less of a war zone, it definitely produces better results and improves confidence in our kids as we respect their choices. Kids have very big hearts. With all the well-meaning mistakes we parents make, they shower us with so much unconditional love! I have my share of mistakes and learning during my journey and I’m so grateful for this love from my little ones!

 

Baahubali Milk

Come cold season, we expect common cold and flu symptoms especially with little kid and grade schooler at home. One of my childhood memories is whenever I used to catch cold, my mom would prepare Masala Paal (half a cup of warm milk with 1 tablespoon honey, 1/4 tsp turmeric and 1/4 tsp pepper powder) that night for me. I hated the very look of it. Yellow liquid with black specks floating at random. Milk is supposed to be white and frothy and sweet and soothing. This was nothing of that sort. I would run and hide as much as I could, bargain with her to reduce the quantity she gives me by half or even argue on why she should skip that damn pepper which leaves my lips burning. She would increase the honey but no other compromise. Fine, I would have one more teaspoon of honey at the end of that milk. How much drama I used to create! Now, with my kids, I give them the same at the first strike of a cold symptom. I know what they feel when they rebel. But it is important for them to drink it in order to feel better and stronger the next day. Falling sick is lot more work than few minutes of argument and lecturing! Logic and logistics are mommy’s worries. Kids are kids and I have to give them reward at the end anyway! Of-late, I started calling it Baahubali Milk, which turns their white blood soldiers racing in their blood streams into super heros that they are capable of fighting the bad guys, the virus and bacteria that have launched an attack now. Drama! Works both ways 😉

So what makes this milk so special? We all know turmeric is anti-inflammatory. It boosts our immune system. But then, when we just add turmeric, our liver would flush it out through the kidney by making them water soluble. When pepper is present, though, this function of liver is inhibited. Plus when we have a fat base, which is the milk, that helps absorb a good portion of it through our lymphatic system, bypassing the liver. This bioavailability (availability of a component in the blood stream) of turmeric in presence of pepper increases by 2000%. Now that is definitely super hero standard! How much my mom knew when she forced, cajoled me into having this except that she did not know the science, I marvel now. I do want to bridge the “why” gap for my kids!

Reference:

Why Pepper boosts turmeric blood levels

Boosting the bioavailability of curcumin