n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate…
“If they respect you, respect them. If they disrespect you, still respect them. Do not allow the actions of others to decrease your good manners, because you represent yourself, not others.”—Mohammad Zeyara (via darwink)
I like it when I wake up well before he does and sit next to him curled up in deep slumber. My fingertips feel the softness of his (not so) baby face. I admire his long, thick lashes framing his closed eyes, my own breathing relaxing in sync with his slow breaths. I take his small hand in mine, a little shocked at how fast his fingers have grown. I feel his rough palm and feel guilty that I’m not doing enough for his eczema. I want to click a picture of his sleeping self because I want to remember this peace, at a time he turns the house upside down. I want to remember this moment when I’m feeling less grateful in life, for giving me this chance to have a trusting little human being lying next to me on the bed. I want to remember this moment of quiet when he drives me up the wall calling me “Mummy Mummy” at least a dozen times per second, when he wants to show me the new level he has ‘cracked’ on some iPad game. This sleeping innocent face also stabs my heart with the blunt knife of guilt as I recall the times I’ve been impatient and upset with him.
I know he’ll wake up any moment- going from zero to hundred in a matter of seconds- first asking what day of the week it is- so he can plan his schedule accordingly! I can’t help but smile as I type this. And then he’ll protest, “no bath” and then the day will tumble into endless disagreements, negotiations and arbitrations because that’s how a four year old is. Once baby boys grow into boisterous kids, they don’t stay still and they have their own ideas as to how everything in the world must be done. You cannot hold them in your arms for more than a few seconds. Life is exploration on the fast lane and there’s no time to give mummy a long hug - so all mummy can do is to put all her work aside, and enjoy these quiet minutes with her little boy while he dreams about monsters, Mia and mummy with wings.
Tata Motors in collaboration with Blogadda had this innovative initiative of giving this yet to be released in the market car to select bloggers to test drive it over 3 days and share our experiences. The vehicle is yet to be officially launched. Some of the stand out features that this comes with are:
90 PS Quadrajet Diesel Engine
Touchscreen Multimedia Navigation System
Fully Automatic Temperature Control
Driver Information System
Follow-me home Headlamps
Here’s what we found-
On external appearances, it is a stylishly designed car. Sleek lines and a contrasting roof, we got the red car with a black roof that is quite an eye catcher. Inside, the display panel is well designed and it’s easy to read at a glance. In addition to this, there is another electronic display that shows the average milage, a mileage sensor (gives the mileage your current fuel tank can give), outside temperature and time. Again, this display unit has an uncluttered, easy on the eyes design. We liked the adjustable driver’s seat height and steering height which is useful feature.
The one thing that superbly impressive is the cooling. It hardly takes a minute for the entire car to get to the desired temperature, and the blast is extremely good even when fan speed is at medium. The leg room is quite good in the front as certified by the husband who is a tall guy and we took our cousins for a drive and they were happy with the leg room at the back. The lighting system comprises of a bright white light at the center of the car roof.
Boot space, in my opinion is slightly compromised due to the generous leg room provided, but for in city driving, i’d say leg room is of more use than boot space.
Connectivity and entertainment
VistaD90 helps with all the multitasking we folks have to do while driving, by providing connectivity with 5 phones. Better to have this useful feature than risk talking on the handset while driving. The dashboard for the media is again of a clean design - we only tested the FM which came across as a scratchy sound via the speakers at times.
Although we had the car for almost three days, we used it on two long drives and one short drive inside our locality. On the short drive, I found that the car felt a little heavy to handle. The suspension system was tested on some bad roads and passed quite well. The braking system was also extremely good.
On the long drives, we felt that the gear wasn’t smooth enough and there was quite some vibration and rattle from the gear box when the car was cruising at high speed. Furthermore, the gear shift in the middle section i.e. from 2 to 3 or 3 to 2 was also quite strenuous on the wrist. It came across as a front heavy car. Further the car rattles a bit at speeds above 65-70kmph.
I think pricing wise it’s in the same range as Swift and i20 - it needs to be seen how the top end version with ABS and airbags compares with similar versions of the above cars. We got an average mileage of around 11.5 kmpl - which we were told would have improved had we gone on much longer drive.
If the gear gets smoothened out (which I’m told was in need of service after being tried out by multiple bloggers in the city), it is a good car for in city driving. It would certainly be a competitive choice for a family of four looking to buy a new car or upgrade from a smaller car with lesser number of features.
Aural pleasure, visual torture : A song whose video you shouldn't watch
I’m talking about this utterly sensuous song from the movie Rocky - Kya Yahi Pyar Hai, sung by Kishore Kumar & Lata Mangeshkar.
First of all, it is filmed on Sanjay Dutt in his baby (baba) avatar who is paired with the uber-sexy Tina Munim. Why didn’t anyone tell the director that it’s like the Beauty and the Buffoon revisited?
There’s Sanjay Dutt trying out his smoldering sexy look at Tina (check opening of song) and all I can say is *CRINGE*!
Then, there’s Sanjay Dutt in dungarees. As though his face and his juvenile expressions weren’t enough to make it obvious that he’s an overgrown baby with arrested (mental) development.
Clearly, only Tina’s stylist was paid. It’s 1981 and her clothes are anything but the crazy ‘clowny’ stuff Bollywood actresses of those days wore. She’s looking drop dead gorgeous. I’m willing to pardon her non-sexy expressions. She was facing the buffoon after all.
And then the scene at 1:50 where Sanju Baba is behaving like a kid throwing a tantrum in a supermarket, just that this is worse, on the edge of the river / stream.
Oh and the stoned simian dance steps at 3:44, sorry to call them dance steps though, he gives serious competition to this one .
I’m sorry if you saw the video because of this post. I’m willing to gather some negative karma on that one, because seeing the video totally ruined it for me. Now I’m back to listening to it purely on audio.
I am 11 years old traveling by myself from Wadala to Matunga, barely a 15-minute bus ride in a BEST bus. My grandparents think I am independent and capable enough to undertake this short journey by myself, which I am. I get up from my seat and wait in the corner of the gangway of this double decker bus, a couple of stops in advance, so I don’t miss my stop. Just as my stop is about to come, I move towards the edge, and I get this intensely uncomfortable feeling that something is just not right. The bus conductor is holding me back while displaying mock good intentions of not allowing a ‘kid’ to alight from a running bus (which I wasn’t) and holding me back by squeezing my nearly non-existent breast from behind me. The grope lasted for all of a few seconds, but the effect of it has clearly not been forgotten even though nearly 25 years have passed by.
I remember getting down from the bus with my heart beating right outside my chest, feeling horribly disgusted, wishing I had stomped the conductor’s foot badly before getting down from the bus. I remember walking from the stop to my great-grandmom’s house with the quickest possible steps I could manage, staying along the extreme sidelines of the footpath. It took me a long while to gather courage to get out in a bus on my own.
At home, it was the unsaid rule (and sometimes said aloud) that girls had to dress extremely conservatively. I think I wore my first pair of pants, after childhood, straight in my early twenties. All through adolescence, it was only loose tent-like salwar kurtas, which could easily accommodate two of me, and a dupatta of course. This dress code was only slightly short of an abaaya. I do remember having some knee length skirts, which I wore once in a while. It would always confuse me why knee length skirts were okay while full-length jeans were not. I still don’t understand the rationale behind this.
Regarding dress code, this one incident sticks in my head more than any other. It was the class picnic from the class ten coaching classes, to a beach in the outskirts of Bombay, boys and girls combined. My group of girl friends had decided to wear denim. I meekly nodded my head, too embarrassed to admit that my family didn’t let me wear jeans so I didn’t have a pair. That one denim skirt I had, would be my saviour, I thought. The evening before the picnic, I wouldn’t let the non-availability of an agreed-upon dress code dampen my enthusiasm. I was ironing my denim skirt when my grandfather walked in on me and asked why I was ironing it. I told him it was for the picnic the following day. I was bluntly told that either I was wearing a salwar kurta or I wasn’t going to the picnic. Although I had my share of rebellious streaks, I was too afraid to ask him ‘Why?’ and lose out on the chance of enjoying the one day I had been looking forward to, since weeks. I was so angry with them then. Now, I realise they did what they thought was best. They wanted me to be safe. Just that they didn’t realise, whether I wore a mini skirt, or an all-covering salwar kurta, daughters will be groped, just for the simple reason that she is a girl. So I finally went to the beach picnic wearing a salwar kurta, and I remember having a lot of fun and also the heartbreak that my best friend spent more time with another girl than me.
I am 16 and in college. My best friend is my bus-friend. She lives close to my house and we study in the same class. We meet daily, midway to the bus-stop, walk to the stop together and get into the bus from the starting point and sit next to each other. This routine is sacred to me. It is a short ride, not more than 20 minutes followed a 15-minute walk to the college. But all it takes is a few seconds to be groped and be scarred for life.
I would dread the days when she was unwell or was taking the day off, which meant that there was a 50% chance that a guy would sit next to me in the bus and a 25% chance that he would try to keep pushing himself closer to me even if I squeezed myself into the window to keep maximum distance between us. But having a bus-buddy was not the entire solution, there was always the chance that if you sat on the aisle seat, some standing passenger will try and rest his ugly posterior on your shoulder and it will stick to you even after the entire bus gets empty and there are empty seats for the taking. This standing passenger could also be the conductor, who in his donkey’s years of traveling by the bus, standing, needs to take the support of a young girl’s shoulder to stand in a slow-moving bus.
Soon, I realised that public transport is something I cannot avoid in the city and I cannot live in this perpetual fear of being groped or pinched or nudged. I formulated the flowchart in my head.
Always try and take the ladies’ seat
Make sure a lady occupies the ladies’ seat next to me, because there are guys who would insist on sitting in the ladies’ seat and give you the excuse that there are women sitting on the general non-reserved seats.
If a guy sits next to me, I’d give him a stern look as soon as he took the seat, to give him the signal that he’s dealing with a no-nonsense person.
At the slightest indication of the guy trying to get close to me, I’d tell him in a stern yet polite voice to keep his distance from me.
If he was the more shameless types, I’d tell in a loud and clear voice “Theek se nahi baith sakte kya?” so fellow passengers can hear this. This last resort tactic made quite a few people get off the bus in embarrassment, especially if they were the suited-booted ‘executive’ type people to start with.
May be because it was Bombay, I’ve never had to do anything beyond this. Just voicing out my anger loudly was good enough to shake these cowards off my back.
The point I’m trying to make is that all this was in Bombay, good localities, broad daylight, fully covered me, non-crowded public transport. Not a shady lane with pubs post 10 pm or skimpily clad me. Because, no matter what you wear, how good the locality, how bright the morning is, there will be dirty minds waiting around any corner to pounce on you. The only reason being -you have two X chromosomes and the XY chromosome reads this as an open invitation to abuse.
Much later in Bombay in my late 20s, I used to be chauffeured around in a car thanks to a much caring and indulgent husband. When we used to drive past certain areas, I’d feel the piercing stares of the men right through the raised windows. They can be trusted to make you feel naked and insecure even in a locked car. And then I would watch the girls walking on that street, scuttling away as fast as they could, dupattas completely wrapped around them knowing fully well that the lecherous stares of the loafers in the street can pierce through many layers of clothing. I’d feel slightly better at having this protected life and sad for the girls who had no option but to walk down those streets everyday, to be molested by the bystanders with their eyes and words on a daily basis and something with their hands.
Today, I feel thankful I didn’t grow up in a family with a chauffer driven car, or even a car for that matter. It was always buses and trains and only in the most indulgent of times, cabs or autos. It exposed me to the big bad world. It taught me that I must shout out loud at the first possible doubt that something is not right. Now, I feel brave enough to take the public transport in any city. This exposure early on in life made me strong enough to protect my younger sister in a long-distance train, like a brother would. When walking / running on the street by myself, I plug in my noise-cancelling headphones with music on full volume so I don’t hear the blood-boiling remarks these guys sometimes mouth when they pass us by, for the sole reason that we are women walking on the street. I prefer to shut out these voices only to avoid myself from getting into street fights every time I walk alone on a street.
A few days ago, when I saw news pouring from all sides about the 17 year old girl molested in Guwahati, all the buried scars started to feel fresh and I wanted to write about them. There’s no comparison of course, hers is an awfully terrifying story. No, I didn’t see the video. I don’t have that kind of courage or crazy curiosity. You can shut down pubs entirely, prohibit liquor, block porn websites, make it compulsory for women to wear burkhas, but all it takes to be molested, raped, abused is to be a woman. No other conditions apply.
If you ask me, the one sensible move our government should make is make 2 years of self defense training compulsory for every girl when she turns 10. And girls should make sure they use these skills liberally on anyone who makes them feel uncomfortable. Because men should realise that they cannot just grope anyone they please.
My two year old son, my driver and me form the three members of our little farewell group as we get into the crowded Secundrabad station this afternoon, helping my parents with their luggage. It is my first time at this station and I must say it is quite well organised and maintained. Atri is thrilled to see trains in various colours and he is screaming out one of his favourite rhymes - “Engine Engine Number Nine”. He cannot contain his excitement as to which view to take in and which to let go. The train to Bombay has arrived well ahead of time and we find the bogie without much of a walk. We clamour in, get their bags all settled, take some pictures inside the compartment, exchange goodbyes and leave for home. The walk from platform number five to the car park is just under five minutes but the heat is sweltering. In the half hour ride in the car back to our home, a lot of thoughts are swimming in my head. I had to write them down.
My parents just left for Bombay. They had come over to give me company and support me while the husband went to conquer the Atacama, over the last two weeks. I’ve been an independent girl for most of my life, never depending or demanding too much from parents or relatives even though we lived in the same city for a considerable length of time. I prefer it that way.
Even when I lived in Bombay, I was a good 25 kms away from them, and while I would go every other weekend to see them, they would rarely travel that traffic ridden distance and stay with me, unless there was a pressing need. But I do remember, whenever they did stay over for sometime, especially my mom, I’d always feel an emptiness when she left, even if she were just an hour’s drive away. Sometimes I would cry too. People who have read my previous post, might think I have this disorder that makes my lachrymal glands go into an overdrive at the drop of a hat. I promise you, it is not so. So when I do get into these emotionally overwhelming states, I want to analyse why this happens to me. The analysis does not always end with an answer, it makes an interesting introspective session.
My relationship with the parents, while it is caring and all that, we are not the lovey dovey sorts, hugging each other and calling each other by terms of endearment. It is the typical not-so-orthodox Tambram way of showing respect to them and not too expressive of our feelings towards them. While I tell my son “Mamma loves you” and I teach him to say “I love you” to me, my parents and me have never exchanged these words. You know what I mean? Not that I am complaining - we know the love and caring is there, but the bridge between their generation and ours was built that way. Also their way of doing things is almost radically different from ours. Right from meal timings to menu to daily routine is as different as it can get. When they are at my place, I adjust to their way of life, as it is easier for all of us that way.
My mom and me often have our squabbles regarding something or the other and I crib to my dad that he cant find things in the kitchen that are right in front of his eyes. Their waking up at an unearthly hour of 4.30 am instead of relaxing and enjoying their retired life, irks me. Also, watching Podhigai channel at 5 am, even if it is airing ‘How to solve class 10 papers’ from ten years ago ;) Certain things like old kutcheris and blade movies that are forever on the rerun on one or the other Tamil channel, grate on my nerves. The fact that they want to go walking to the temple in the blazing sun despite the car and driver waiting downstairs is another matter of irritation.
So we have our reasons to fight, crib and squabble. The good parts are, mom takes over the kitchen totally. Our kitchen here in Hyderabad for some reason is smaller than the bathrooms (which are HUGE) and more than one person working inside this kitchen is sure to create a mini war-like situation. Besides my mom likes to go about her cooking in her own fashion and I don’t think she appreciates my poking in the middle. Tea is ready when I wake up, courtesy dad. Atri’s (our two year old son) morning tantrums on waking up are soothed with kind words or suitable distractions. I don’t have to worry about what lunch to cook. Amma has already gotten started on that. Afternoon tea is again prepared before I can think ‘tea’ by Amma and served to me in my hand, while they manage Atri so I can relaxedly sip my favourite beverage, which is more than impossible with him around. When I am too tired of entertaining the son, they gang up and play silly games and make him laugh. Mealtimes especially run like clockwork, which is quite the opposite when I am by myself. Also, being cricket world cup season, my cricket mad parents and sister are the perfect company to watch a match, do ball by ball analysis and also play the blame game, other than giving choicest abuses to Ashish Nehra.
When Sumanth lost his credit cards en-route to the Atacama, I was a bundle of nerves not knowing what to do, how to send him the money, etc. Just having them around provided me with a sense of strength. While they might not understand what makes their son-in-law take up such an adventure, they were there to support me all along and to congratulate him on his achievements when he returned back victorious.
We get on each others’ nerves, we also care for each other. Some things about each other we find intolerable and yet when they pick up their bags and leave, they’ll miss me and I am reduced to tears. Tears of guilt for not being a better, more understanding daughter, tears of loneliness that I will face through the day once they are gone, until I get adjusted back into my old routine. The same little eccentricities that are peevish when they are around are the ones that remind me of them the most when they are gone. Their regimented and disciplined life that irks me when they are around makes me miss the little order that it brings to my life too, when they go back home.
As I type this, I have eaten the food prepared by my mum this morning, a simple meal of Poricha Kootu (which I can never make like her), Capsicum curry and rice and Amma, Appa and Nivedita must be eating the rotis I packed for them for a train mini-meal. A perfect way to exchange love.
I still remember that morning, almost a year ago, when the husband came up to me and asked “Darling, have you checked your mail?”. It’s not often that he sends me a mail, so I was wondering what that could be.
When I checked sometime later, it was a link to a website called 4Deserts and him telling me, we must do one of their trails together. I checked the link and what this was all about. These are ultramarathons which involve running 250 odd kilometers over 7 days in the harshest conditions, carrying your entire supplies for the week on your back. These are not your ordinary runs. They require intensive training over months, complicated equipment and nutritional supplementation which is not exactly easy to procure in India. So, having gathered this from my brief surfing of the website, I said, “may be sometime”. Given that our son was barely over a year old then, and no one else at home, other than the three of us, it wasn’t practically possible to think of plunging into this together.
Like any busy, always-stressed mother of a one year old, I promptly forgot about it. By then, S had made up his mind to do the Atacama Crossing in March 2011. The madness of undertaking this project slowly grew on him over the days. And then he started training.
Sumanth has been into running for over 2-3 years now. So, while he was already running over an hour a day almost everyday, training for this was a different ball game altogether. He had to complete 2 hours of running plus exercises and reach home by 7.30 am, so he could get ready for office and leave home before 9 am. For this he would lay out all his running gear, water supplies, nutritional supplements etc in the other room, the previous night itself and wake up at unearthly hour of 3.30 in the morning, so he could leave home by 4.30 am and get done by 7.30 am. To keep up with this schedule, he obviously had to be sleeping or at least in bed by 8.30 - 9 pm. Try waking up at 3.30 am, doing this strenuous training, put in a full day at work, and you’ll know what I mean. You’ll be sleeping off while watching TV on the couch by the time it is 8.
All our activities of meeting friends, having people home have revolved around his schedules. He had supposedly one rest day, and that was not a true at-home day. It involved going to the gym and getting the whole body stretched out in preparation for the running of the week ahead.
Getting hold of the supplements and equipment, gear, shoes etc is another story altogether. None of them are available in India and anything we got shipped here got levied with exorbitant import duties. S’s brother in the US and good samaritans from Twitter came to our rescue in helping us source and get the stuff back to India on their travels to other countries.
I must say, hat’s off to him for sticking by his training schedules. Never failing to wake up at 3.30 am, no matter what. In this last one year, I can probably count the days he has defaulted on training, using fingers of one hand. I remember the time he was down with high fever (suspected Dengue, Malaria and what not) and his main complaint was loss of one week of training.
In the last one year, I have seen the running-clothes in his wardrobe multiply like rabbits nearly take over his entire wardrobe. Ditto for the running shoes.
I realise I have not been entirely supportive of his rigourous schedule or his crazy hours of trainings. The alarm going off at 3.15 am, our son waking up at that unearthly hour due to dad waking up, our entire life revolving around his weekly running schedules, all those missed moments of togetherness doing simple stuff like having a cup of tea together in the morning or staying late watching a movie on the telly, it is almost like I have loaned my husband to someone else in this whole period. And which wife likes to do that? Our son literally glues his ears to the door at around 8 am every morning, knowing that the key will turn and dad will let himself inside. He goes running to the door at the slightest clicking sound so he can take the bottle and some paraphernalia from his daddy’s hands and let him inside the house. I can’t even write about this without my eyes tearing up.
Meeting a whole bunch of people from the Hyderabad Runners’ Club at the Bangalore Ultra in November,2010 was a great thing for Sumanth as he got tons of encouragement from the nice people in the group. He also managed to find some people to run with on some days of the month, a good respite from the totally solitary running he was doing all along.
After the 50 odd km at the Bangalore Ultra, it was the Mumbai Stanchart Marathon where S did the full 42 km and the same night we left for HongKong for a small vacation cum stocking-up-for-race trip. I did feel bad about the fact that he didn’t even get time to rest his weary muscles before leaving for the journey.
February was the month of further intensified training where he started training with the newly acquired actual ultra-marathon gear from HK. This meant filling up the backpack with heavy weights (up to 10 kg) and walking a good 20-25 km with that lugged on the back. It wasn’t an entirely new experience for him as he had already started training with his regular haversack filled with medicine-balls coming to 9 kg since end of last year. I for one, cannot even lug this bag from the main door to the guest bedroom, which has kind of become a running-supplies room since the last few months.
The last one week has been stressful and tumultuous for me, as far as emotions are concerned. Due to last minute visa issues, S had to change routes, ticketing and travel dates, necessitating him to leave 2 days before the scheduled date of departure, thereby cutting down on valuable family time before the big race. I have cried quite a lot these past few days, vented on twitter. Many people ask me, “Why? It is a great thing, something to be proud of”.
I ask myself, why do I cry over this. It is surely not about him going away for over two weeks. He has done a lot of travel on his earlier job where I have stayed all alone for well over two weeks in more delicate phases of my life. Is it because he is going to go through this enormous amount of physical and mental strain over a week? It is something he has chosen, knowing fully well the stress and strain involved, and I know for sure he has trained most methodically and trained well at at, for this big event. As regards the risk involved in this race, they are equipped with some of the best equipment, medical teams and technology all along the race. So it is surely less risky than driving a car on the roads of Hyderabad. Is it the fear of handling my toddler all my myself for two full weeks? Thankfully not, as my parents are being kind enough to come over from Bombay in a couple of days and stay with me until Sumanth is back. Also, the event website has live updates, photos and videos from the trail itself. Needless to say, I will be glued to that for those seven days.
Then why cry? Why do I feel that little hollow spot in my heart every time I think of this? I don’t know. Sumanth asked me yesterday as to why I am not more positive about this. I don’t know. I want to be. This whole thing is just turning out to be tougher on me that it should have been. He has left early this morning to BLR for a transit visa for the new route to Chile, waking me up ten minutes before he was scheduled to leave the house. Early morning is really not a time I get too emotional or hysterical. So it is all good. I said goodbye with a hug and a kiss and clicking a photo of him leaving to pursue his dreams big time, quickly saying a little prayer to the good forces to be alongside my husband to be with him and guard him.
I’m truly sorry darling, I wasn’t anymore supportive than I was, but I know you will rock the show.
When the Atacama Crossing ends on March 12, 2011 - my husband will be the first Indian guy to complete this race and I will be proud.
People may think I’m nuts to get a proper degree in medicine and then take a degree in Nutriton. This makes me a doctor in the field of nutritional medicine but people are only too quick to jump and label me a “dietician”. Almost a century ago, a man with a great mind, Thomas Edison had said “The doctor of the future will no longer treat the human frame with drugs, but rather will cure and prevent disease with nutrition.” Well, great though he was, he did not realize that doctors and pharmaceutical companies would see a million times more gain in cure than prevention by nutrition and other holistic means and thereby (almost) totally ignore this thing called ‘Prevention’.
In ancient China, practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine were paid an annual retainer by the rich folk to keep them healthy. If any of them fell sick, the doctor lost his retainer fee. Quite the opposite from today’s scenario where if you fall sick, the doctor stands to gain. While the good bone in your doctor will wish you good health, all doctors would starve if people never fell sick. Luckily for the doctors, the way the people are treating their bodies like an amusement park, they will never run out of business.
My simple question to you is-why wait till you are diabetic to avoid all refined food products? Would you not rather eat everything in moderation today, than wait for a time, five-ten years from today, when your doctor asks you to avoid half the things you love to eat? Why wait until your blood vessels become hard enough and you getting labelled a hypertensive to start some form of exercise and eat a healthy diet? Our body is a miracle by itself. It heals itself to normal an infinite number of times, giving you umpteen chances to rectify your reckless life, before really breaking down to a disease state.
Great doctors like Dean Ornish and Neal Barnard have been talking about reversing Heart Disease and Diabetes respectively. If your body can reverse back to health from a diseased state, can you imagine the healing power of a good lifestyle? If a disease state can be reversed to normal, simple changes in your lifestyle and diet, when you have still not reached the diseased state, can actually keep you disease-free lifelong. Our body is made to last disease free for a 100 years at least. Constant abuse and excessive load on the immune system is what makes us suffer the ailments of modern day life such as hypertension, diabetes, kidney disease and so on.
We even have names for pre-disease states. Syndrome X is one of them. According to the Mayo Clinic -
Metabolic syndrome (or Syndrome X) is a cluster of conditions — increased blood pressure, elevated insulin levels, excess body fat around the waist or abnormal cholesterol levels — that occur together, increasing your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Having just one of these conditions isn’t diagnosed as metabolic syndrome, but it does contribute to your risk of serious disease. If more than one of these conditions occur in combination, your risk is even greater. If you have metabolic syndrome or any of the components of metabolic syndrome, aggressive lifestyle changes can delay or even prevent the development of serious health problems.
Getting diagnosed with Syndrome X is actually a good thing. It is a mild warning your body is giving you when you are at the crossroads. You can choose to take it seriously, do something about it, turn around and take the healthy route back to a youthful state, or ignore it, continue the poor lifestyle and take the route of accelerated aging and disease.
So what is lifestyle modification? It may sound like a bombastic term, but in essence, it is something very simple and doable. These are simple changes you would make in your day to day life, if you have the will to stay healthy and alive, to the maximum. This is the investment you will make into your own wellbeing to avoid paying out the heavy sums to get a new coronary artery, a new pair of knees or that pancreas replaced. It is the loving care you have give the original organs and body you were born with, because when it comes to the human body, the spare parts are just not good enough.
Out of the top lifestyle modification techniques, food and exercise would occupy the first two rungs. Food, because that is what finally breaks down to make up and nourish every cell of your being.
Following some simple principles in eating matters can go a long way to helping you stay healthy. Micheal Pollan, author of Food Rules summed it up in one line - “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” He clearly says if your great grandma would not identify what you are eating today as food, don’t eat it. My own great grandma has told me how gingelly oil and coconut oil used to be manually expressed from sesame seeds and coconuts respectively, in her back yard and I know these cannot be bad for me. Eat your traditional foods because that is what your genes are programmed to metabolise best. Eat foods closest to their natural form. Supermarkets, while bringing a whole lot of convenience to our doorstep have also made us into a food-zombie. Should we choose high fiber, or low-sugar or made with artificial sugar or watch out for transfats. Packaged food always gets us into trouble. It is because, that packaged food company is out there to make profits, and not essentially to ensure your wellbeing. On the contrary, a simple ‘palak’ and ‘potato’ grown in the outskirts of your city have no ulterior motives. Besides, you are going to cook them into something, knowing every single ingredient that is going into it. Even if the vegetables aren’t “organic”, it cannot be too bad for you. After tons of research that goes into any nutrition topic, it always ends up in square one- that Ayurveda had it figured out thousands of years ago and back in those days, science may not have been split into biochemistry and DNA studies, but they surely knew their stuff and they were always right. The last simple food rule - Unless you are living in a famine-sticken land, be secure that you are going to get your next meal. Eat slowly and moderately. There is always the next meal and you are going to eat again. No point stuffing ourselves like there’s no tomorrow. That’s about the food.
We all know that exercise is a MUST for a healthy body and mind. Ever wondered WHY? Don’t give me the answer of “burning calories” or “releasing endorphines”! Everything in our body is meant for a purpose. The legs were meant to help us run away from danger, go in search of food and the hands to put the food in our mouth. The first priority was survival - surviving the wild, running away from getting killed by the wild animals and putting something in our mouths to keep us alive. The second part, we have been doing only too well, forgetting the keeping active part. Since the body is made to stay active, the muscles contracting-relaxing, the heart pumping out the blood and the lungs oxygenating every cell, our extreme levels of inactivity or the activity limited to our closed cubicles and posh compact apartments are not really keeping in tune with what nature intended us to be. This is what leads to an ‘unnatural’ or diseased state of the body. Since we don’t have to run away from wild animals and the neighbourhood supermarkets ensure that we don’t have to walk miles in search of food, we have to find alternate ways to keep active. And that doesn’t mean making a hefty donation to the neighbourhood gym. Anything that keeps you moving- a walk with your friends, walking to do your chores in the locality, cycling around local places, climbing the stairs, deciding to dust and mop your house one day of the week, wild dancing with your children for half an hour - all this is fun without making it seem like dreary ‘exercise’.
So, coming to the topic of this post - I want to get into something I believe in whole heartedly. The way I care for myself and my family is what i want to do for the people. I want to make sure in every little way that people stay healthy, take note of the little warnings that the body gives them and come back to the fit and balanced state as soon as possible. In this process I may not make the lakhs that a cardiac surgeon makes out of one bypass surgery or have the hoards of patients that sit in the waiting room of a general practitioner, but it is okay. Because this is what I want to do. Ensure that people around me have a good life.
An unpleasant experience with Paediatrician Dr. Niranjan Rao
I am new to Hyderabad. It has been just over a year that we moved from Bombay. The toughest part about relocating is finding essential services that suit your temperament. In this case, I’m talking about a paediatrician. After being under the care of an extremely fine gentleman of a doctor in Bombay, we were looking for someone as good, if not better.
After seeing two paediatricians, one who was somewhat far off and other whose timings didn’t suit us and another Children’s Hospital that required us to take appointment the previous day for any problem (never heard of this system before) - we settled on this doctor named Niranjan Rao who calls himself a ‘Senior Paediatrician’ . He had recently started his clinic in our vicinity. His earlier practice was in Ameerpet.
During the very first experience, I found his “receptionist” (a 50+ lady with a permanent scowl on her face) very off-putting. The doctor had a nature to match the receptionist. Rough, unsmiling and surely did not make me or my child feel comfortable. Despite these impressions, I went to him as people recommended him for his ‘experience’.
I was kind of behind schedule for some of Atri’s vaccines (but well within the time limit prescribed) for which he spoke rudely to me on the very first visit. Before giving vaccines, he would ask “How much money have you brought? We can plan the vaccines accordingly” which I found very crass.
Before giving a vaccine, he would never examine or auscultate my son for a fever or any other conditions which might make him unsuitable for vaccination on that particular day. Also, I found he clearly lacked the gentleness in dealing with a young child. He would not tell me or mention on the file the brand name of the vaccine used or staple the vaccine cover with mfg date / lot no. etc on the file, for any future reference, if required. And, he would NEVER give a receipt.
Now you may ask me, why I did not insist for all of the above, when I am ranting about it now. I used to take my toddler by myself to the clinic. His assistant was of no use in managing the child while I talk to the doctor. On the contrary, she was this scary thing who can make kids even more petrified to enter a doctor’s clinic. And the way Dr.Rao would roughly shove and turn him around on the examination table was enough to set my son screaming deliriously. All this would just leave me with no opportunity for questions or debating the doctor’s practice ethics in his cabin.
Early this month, I took my son to the clinic to be vaccinated against swine flu and DPT Booster. I clearly remember paying him Rs.3000 for the same in six 500 rupee notes, even as Atri was screaming in pain from the two injections. On the aside, I now wonder why the doctor did not even give me the option of the inhaled swine flu vaccine which my friends have given their kids for Rs.200, as against the pain, swelling accompanying this injectable 1500 rupee vaccine. Possibly the injected one is better suited to a child my son’s age, but not discussing the options of various available vaccines with me, is a big negative. I kick my intelligence as a doctor, to have not questioned him on this, then and there. My son has never cried for more than a few seconds after any vaccination, cried for a whole day after the two vaccines on both thighs and for a boy who does not sit in one place for more than a second, he refused to walk for a whole day. I don’t know if this is a one off case of severe post-vaccination pain and suffering, or it is because of his rough handling.
Today, I went back to him for some other problem. What he diagnosed it as and the full page of medications he prescribed for that, is another story altogether. Luckily we confirmed with another doctor in the evening, who diagnosed my son’s skin condition as plain and simple dry skin. As soon as I entered the clinic, he told me that I had walked out the other day without paying him Rs.3000 for the vaccines, which shocked me no end as my memory told me otherwise. He said that his “receptionist” had also been informed about the same that very day. When I asked him, if he has any written record as proof that i did not make payment, he just grunted and obviously did not show me any such written record.
Another toddler-mom I spoke to late last night, told me that once when she went to this doctor and did not have enough cash to foot the bill, he immediately made a note of this in their file. So, she is sure that if I had indeed not paid, firstly he would not have let me leave his premises and even if he had, he would have made a note of it in our file.
Since this doctor does not believe in giving receipts unless the patient insists, I had no proof to support my side of the story. Since I didn’t want a scene with this doctor, I said I would pay up by card as I wasn’t carrying 3000 in cash then. He does not accept credit cards or debit cards. Only cash mode of payment. He had the gall to tell me, why don’t you go to the ATM opposite the clinic, withdraw amount and pay me NOW. At that moment when I looked into my handbag, I realized in my hurry I had forgotten my wallet at home. I felt so embarrassed that didn’t even have the 300 rupees to pay for his consultation, so I told him that I’m extremely sorry, I’ll just send him Rs.3300 once I reach home. At this, his turned quite angry, asking me how one can forget a wallet at home and mumbled some more. This was really the pits. I gave him back saying I am a doctor myself, he can trust me not to run away with his 3300, even though I strongly believe that I had paid him that day. I even asked him not to embarrass me further on this matter. He just went on and on and with his scary receptionist breathing down my neck, my son crying in confusion and fear at the showdown.
I rushed back in tears to my car, never having been humiliated like this, this was a new low in doctor interactions. As soon as I reached home, I sent him Rs.3500 to him with my driver, asking him to “keep the change” and send me a receipt this time. This doctor actually kept the change and sent me a receipt for the amount.
Right from Medical College days to dealing with pediatricians for my son, I have come across all kinds of doctors, but yet to encounter this kind of low-life, who not only dupes patients by not giving receipts and telling them they didn’t pay earlier, but also extremely rude in not empathizing with a hassled mom who herself was very embarrassed at what was happening.
I’m nobody to tell you which doctor to see and not to see. But like me, if you have been to this doctor once and you did not get the right vibes, may be my note will help you make your decision. If you are new to Hyderabad like I was a year ago and searching for a paediatrician, my note will give you some clarity in your search. Your precious child and you surely deserve the best there is.
Finally, some key learnings from this experience:
Go with your gut feel. As mom and dad, you know what is best for you. A humane doctor who comforts you is a million times more valuable than a posh clinic, modern implements and a tattoo for your child at the end of consultation. If you think, something is not right, stop seeing that doctor immediately.
If you have a young child (less than 3 years of age), make sure you take your spouse along with you. If he/she in unable to make it, take along a friend, a relative or neighbour who can look after your child while you ask the doctor all the important questions. Also, this person is your witness to what transpires in the consulting room.
Before giving expensive vaccines, ask your doctor for the brand name and the box in which the vaccine came, so you can note down in your file, if the doctor does not do it himself.
ALWAYS insist on a receipt. It is your hard-earned money and you better have proof of the fact that you paid the doctor.