Somethings the Americans could learn from us, Indians

SprayI am writing this post on my flight from Atlanta to San Jose. We have had a blast on this trip even if I was working from my laptop / other devices except during the week I spent in Orlando.

The US has always been on the forefront of technology or so they claim. They preach about conservation of resources. But my question to them is do they practice what they preach? Petroleum products are used like crazy what with those huge SUVs and XUVs running all over the place. The roads are good let’s give it to them and the traffic extremely disciplined but then no public transport at all aside of some cities. Even the intercity buses they have (Greyhound and Megabus are two names I came across) aren’t even heard of by most people. And I don’t even know if they have intercity trains. Everyone just wants to drive. And they sure can drive. We covered a distance of 450 miles from Orlando to Atlanta yesterday in a matter of 7 hours which was awesome but then if I were in India I would have taken an overnight train or if left with no choice I would take a bus. A car is the last thing I want to drive for such long distances.

I honestly have no right to comment on the obesity prevalent in Americans considering my own obesity levels but I should admit that they can reduce obesity in the US by just decreasing their portion sizes. Kavya and wifey had an ice-cream each in Florida. When ordering they were asked small, medium or large and they opted for small. The size of the small ice-cream was probably larger than the largest we could have in India. The three of us shared the two SMALL servings of the desserts but had to discard almost an entire serving as we could not afford to consume any further. Even when ordering food, they prompt you to have a coke or such (Soda they call it!) and add french fries (which then makes it a meal they say). The proposition price wise may sound attractive but honestly it is a complete waste. I would rather they stop this commercialism of Coke, Pepsi etc. and let people drink water. And yes water is the same price as a Coke if not more expensive! In India we consume so much water and hydrate ourselves (maybe due to the weather too). Their coffee is also huge. I always opt for small but haven’t been able to finish one. Maybe they can downsize it further learning from Indians and the concept of Mumbai’s cutting chai.

Lastly which hurt me the most was their usage of paper!!!! Oh my God. They consume so much of paper. I do appreciate their hygiene levels as you have clean toilets (the sulabh shauchalyas can learn a thing or two from them) complete with soap and hot water. Each toilet has paper napkins either through a manual or automatic dispenser. People here tend to use that paper like there is no tomorrow. Maybe they could do with a lesson or two on paper conservation. And my pet peeve. They don’t have a bum spray and use toilet paper. Jeez. How yucky!!! Wastage of paper and you feel so funny. I wish the bum spray makers in India would patent their creation and mass market it in the US. They can improvise and use the hot water too I am sure (Imagine cleaning your bum with warm water). Or then if the Americans need to learn they are more than welcome to board a Mumbai local at 0630 in the morning and stand at the door. They will learn how the ubiquitous lota / any other container is used.

While we Indians can learn a lot from them in terms of roads, traffic sense, hygiene etc. I am sure they can learn from us too in terms of public transport, downsizing meal portions, paper conservation and not to forget my most missed bum spray / lota.

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P4 at Toastmasters – Fasten your seat belt

Flight of fantasyDelivered my P4 on Saturday, November 8, 2014 at BTM. Objectives of P4 are

  • Select the right words and sentence structure to communicate your ideas clearly, accurately and vividly.
  • Use rhetorical devices to enhance and emphasize ideas.
  • Eliminate jargon and unnecessary words. Use correct grammar.
  • Time: Five to seven minutes

Here is the transcript of my speech. Cruising at 35000 feet, I was reminded of my first flight some 40 years ago. I was all excited but was nervously clinging to my Dad’s finger. To me it was like Neil Armstrong’s mission to the moon.

Toastmaster of the Day, Fellow Toastmasters and guests, welcome aboard my flight full of experiences.

I snapped out of my day dreaming sequence with the pilot rattling off something and I recollected how air travel has changed over the last 40 years from being experiential and exceptional then to becoming a chore now.

To start with the check in – My incline and recline are always towards emergency … the emergency exit seat to accommodate my long legs and jelly belly. But these days, while the staff has become prettier, they ignore my endearing smile and expect me to pay through the nose for that necessity. The thoroughbred Gujju that I am, it goes against the grain to pay for what is rightfully mine. I therefore quietly take an aisle seat nearest to the emergency exit. I park myself into the vacant seat as soon as the doors are shut. Someday let these airlines be more considerate towards challenged people like me.

“Fasten your seat belts please.” reads the sign even before you get into the seat. As our eyes size up the crew, they are confirming all seat belts are fastened along with the head count. The routine drill of demonstrations start after that. And the first thing they teach us is fastening the seat belt! Wondering if they checked everyone was properly fastened or was it some imagination? After take-off the announcement starts – the captain has switched off the seat belt sign. Even before this can get half way, two dozen hands go up on the call bell button. Why? Water! That announcement always beckons people to drink like thirsty camels from the desert! Someday we’ll have automatic seat belts so that all are snugly set into the seats. And just like the tubes and oxygen masks, water would flow like a free and flowing river!

Sniff sniff ….  Tempting aromas waft from the end of the aircraft – It is now time for me to flex my muscles. The tray table can only rest on my little stomach at an incline. I puff my chest like Salman Khan pumping his 6 packs, suck the stomach in hard and hope that I can have the tray table at 180 degrees. Beads of sweat roll down my neck before I can achieve my goal. I now have earned myself a meal. I polish off the entire serving complete with the bread crumbs. With every passing day, the spread has become thinner and my appetite? Well less said the better. Oh these low cost airlines. Someday we will have a free all you can eat buffet mid-air.

Just as I start fidgeting, fretting, fuming I hear the captain’s voice “Crew to your stations for landing” and around that time I also hear phones receiving messages. Didn’t they ask you to switch off those noise making devices? VP Membership, they are perfect for BTM and we meet at a walking distance from Mumbai airport. Let’s go grab them.

The landing is smooth as silk but as the plane is taxi-ing on the runway (MIND YOU the runway and not the parking bay), the sounds of seat belts being unfastened and cell phones ringing are audible. Everyone makes a beeline for the bus and each one wants to stand closest to the door. Getting into the bus doesn’t guarantee you will get out first at the terminal or does it? Finally we arrive at the terminal. Like a child praying to Santa, every time I pray “Please let my luggage be the first to come out”. My prayers have so far been unanswered I know but ….. someday “We shall overcome …. someday”

Air Travel these days leaves a lot to be desired. Airlines have to be more considerate and passengers have to be lighter too. Passengers should be willing to pay more and airlines should be willing to serve more (food as in my case what else). And we must all adhere to rules like we do at Toastmasters.

Cabin Crew – Disarm all doors.

Over to you Toastmaster.

A fight for life!

blackQuite a title for a post and the image too shows the frame of mind too. Right now, nothing else comes to mind. My Kaki, Pushpakaki is battling for survival since the past 9 days. She was admitted last Saturday with breathlessness and was then put on oxygen. On Friday, November 30th in the evening she was put on ventilator and is right now in the ICU. Her kidneys are considerably weak  given the fact that she had great difficulty in passing urine but now that problem is not so much as she has been able to fend it off. Her breathing problem however continues. Surely not easy it is for the immediate family and us the extended family. She has always been a very lively person and will always be indebted to her for her staying with us in the end of 1983 for a month when my parents were in the US for my Dad’s bypass surgery. She started calling me Peettan affectionately from then and would always chide me for my long talks on the phone with Parin at 9.30 every night.

Even when we met her after Diwali (18th November), she was so much full of vigour that she insisted we sit and talk and we had a gala time till maybe half past midnight. No one ever left the house hungry. She always ensured everyone was fed well and even at 10.30 in the night she would ensure some food went into everyone’s stomach. She told me on that day too that had I informed her in advance she would have made the Tomato Omelette Sandwich which I love. A cricket fan, she would watch matches and enjoy. Life dealt with her unfairly as my younger cousin brother passed away in a tragic accident and then my Kaka followed by my elder cousin who battled cancer. She stood there like a rock ensuring that everyone held their nerve in tough times like these. On 30th afternoon when we were there she made it a point to mention that an upcoming marriage in the house should go on as scheduled. Tears well in the eyes of all but all we can do is stand and watch as she battles for her life. May God do what is best for her. Honestly, it is difficult to see a loved one so much in pain.

Bane of being a vegetarian … well almost

At the very outset, I am no sadhu baba. Unlike my wife who is a chaste vegetarian (sometimes driving me up the wall honestly with her food preferences) I am a person who treads the middle path. It is not that I have not tried different meats. I have even tried beef which is taboo according to Hinduism but well I am what I am. That is another story that I have never liked any meat save and except for chicken. At home we don’t even get eggs (no we aren’t Jains but my better half, you see:-) so I have been used to relishing chicken outside. Sometime in 2008 before we went to the US, I decided to stop chicken but with a caveat that I would not go hungry if there was no vegetarian food available. I had been to Buenos Aires earlier in 2008 where vegetarian food can be a challenge (known for the steaks) but well pulled through thanks to the theplas we Gujjus carry. Last month I was in Bangladesh where vegetarian food I felt was a challenge. It was a new place and did not want to venture into any unknown joints. Did end up experimenting a bit but the joint was so vague that the sole vegetarian dish was swimming in oil. Took 4 tissues to drain the oil out and yet I could see the oil floating. Did have the odd chicken burger there at KFC / McDonald’s just to get the same kind of taste. They use mustard oil I think in Dhaka which is something I am not used to. But well BCBC which means beggars can’t be choosers.

When I landed up in Colombo from Dhaka, I was on familiar grounds having been there a month earlier too and it was peaceful there. Found a Dosa King right across the Hotel which served only vegetarian stuff. Also had Indian restaurants so it was all safe in Colombo unlike Dhaka.

But unknown / first time places can pose problems for vegetarians. I have been carrying my share of theplas made by ladies at home and with that the usual Gujju snacks like Khakhras etc. (Chedda Stores Matunga ki jai ho). US is not a problem honestly these days and even Venice wasn’t a problem for me as I stayed with my friends there. Bangladesh yes was challenging a bit but now I know where to go so next time I will be better off.

Can’t keep weight off….

I am rotund and obese and I have no qualms about admitting that (not that if I don’t it will make me any thinner unless if the other person is completely blind). Have not really tried any weight loss tricks (despite being a practising dietitian and weight loss expert’s brother). Thanks to my sister who keeps lecturing me for hours from the other side of the world and my doctor, I exercise daily. Walking is what I do these days since it is cold (Yes we in Mumbai have cold weather too by our standards) and also do Iyengar yoga twice a week but Yoga is not for weight loss so let us set that aside. Once the weather warms up a bit, I will get back to swimming. I normally swim one kilometer every day in 45 to 48 minutes (breast stroke and not free style. My doctor is fine with any stroke so long as I swim on a regular basis). What do I do the rest of the time?  I lead a sedentary life style and indulge in my passion – FOOD. Yes I love binging on all the possible wrong things under the blue sky. Result no weight loss / decelerated rate of weight gain:-) That is me – shameless.

This morning I read an interesting blog from Anjali Mukherjee who is a celebrity in the weight loss field in India atleast. No I am not going there or any such thing but this blog which I am verbatim reproducing below, makes a lot of sense. Do read it. I have not yet deployed any of these things. (Come on I read it only 15 minutes ago and I am still on my chair in the same position so how do you expect me to get moving so quick?). Do share your experiences too (maybe my dear friend Hiten, my cousin Kashyap and me will start a support group for each other for losing weight, not for binging)

The link to the blog is http://eathealthybefit.com/blog/2012/01/cant-keep-the-weight-off-your-diet-and-lifestyle/

 You have dieted, exercised and slogged your way to the new you.

  • You look better, feel better and glow as the compliments come your way.
  • But your joy is short-lived.
  • Within a few months, you see some of the weight slowly creeping back.
  • You panic, feel frustrated and immediately put yourself on a crash diet.

Sounds familiar?

It’s a pattern numerous dieters readily identify with- to lose weight on a diet and then put it straight back on as soon as they return to their regular eating habits. Infact, many vouch that losing weight is not as difficult as keeping it off.

The key to maintaining your weight loss is to focus on permanent and realistic lifestyle changes. True, dieting may have helped you lose weight but you cannot follow a restrictive diet forever. It’s equally important that you do not resume the diet and lifestyle you had before your weight loss. For successful weight maintenance, you need to permanently embrace the principles that helped you lose weight – proper eating and regular exercising. For instance, when you were dieting, if you snacked on fruits when hungry, why have a bhelpuri now? Similarly, if you took the staircase to reach your home, don’t take the elevator now. Also, don’t ignore food portions, calorie counting etc once you stop dieting. But this does not mean that you have to deprive yourself of the foods you love-just make sure you have them in moderation. Remember, a realistic and flexible eating plan makes weight maintenance easier.

  • The method that you have used for losing weight plays a major role in helping you maintain the lost weight. If you have corrected your metabolism by detoxification and subsequently nourished your body with vitamins, minerals, anti oxidants with the help of a health promoting food plan & exercise – you are more likely to maintain your lost weight as you have corrected your metabolism. However if you have crash dieted and eaten less you have more chances of putting weight back on.
  • Your diet should include lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein such as chicken and fish. Also, fibre-rich foods such as green leafy vegetables, fruits, beans, bran and whole grains fill you up and keep your digestive system healthy. Minimize intake of red meat.
  • Start your day with a healthy breakfast comprising foods such as high-fibre cereals, whole grain breads, eggs, vegetables juices.
  • Minimize fat intake – it helps to keep your weight stable and reduces your risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer. Opt for low-fat dairy products such as skimmed milk, low-fat yoghurt etc.
  • Avoid fried, processed, and fast foods. Instead, bake, grill or steam food. Replace sugary and salty snacks with fruits or whole grain crackers etc. Avoid or limit alcohol and colas-both add unwanted calories.
  • Marriages, parties etc. could tempt you to indulge. A good idea would be to eat a small, healthy meal before you reach the function and opt for the low-fat dips, toppings etc., once there. For dessert you could have fruit salad but without ice-cream.
  • Exercise regularly. People who exercise find it easier to maintain their weight loss as compared to those who do not exercise. Being physically active helps you not only to burn calories, it also boosts your resting metabolic rate, which means your body is working even when you actually aren’t. Your level of activity also determines how many calories you need everyday-the more physically active you are, the more calories you need to maintain your body weight. Find an activity you enjoy so you will be more regular.

Finally been to Parathe waali galli in Delhi

Yesterday, February 15, 2011, I finally visited the famous Parathe waali galli in Delhi. The place sure is unique and is an obscure lane in Old Delhi. Keshav being my usual guide in Delhi and he mentioned having been there once. Went by the metro to Chandni Chowk station and from there it was a short walk. Let me set expectations right. Don’t expect any star ambience there and this is surely not for the calorie conscious. I had read about the experiences on the web and so was prepared. We went to Pandit Gaya Prasad Shiv Charan which has been in existence from 1872! That is what the web said and so did the board. The place is really small and all it serves is parathas of different varieties. You had the usual aloo (potato), muli (radish), gobi (cauliflower), paneer (cottage cheese) methi (fenugreek), phudina (mint leaves) etc. and some unique ones which were sweet such as those of cashew nuts, raisins, sweet cream of milk, kela (banana!!), bhindi (okra), karela (bitter gourd), papad (Imagine that!!). The prices are damn reasonable ranging from Rs. 30 a piece to Rs. 45 a piece just that each dish comes with a pair of two parathas so double the price. We settled for paneer and cauliflower and since they were in pairs, each of us had one each. The parathas are served with some vegetables, chutney and some sour kind of salad. After that we experimented with the papad paratha…. The papad paratha reminded me of the papad choorma we had at a Marwari restaurant near Mumbai Central (thanks to my dear friend, Parin). These parathas are deep friedin ghee (calories be damned) unlike what we have in Mumbai shallow fried or whatever it is termed as. So calorie bombs. After the parathas (quick work though as we were out in about 40 minutes), we went across the small street and had a lassi. The lassi was divine. They make it from pure curds and no water is added but they add milk…. Our stomach was full to the brim and returned back to the metro station and back to the hotel for me. Here is a link to another interesting blog on the same subject with some pictures too.

Bangalore and Mumbai differences

I returned from Bangalore last night after cutting short my travel plans thanks to the terrible cough which just kept getting worse so much so that I was practically living on water (Imagine consuming 10 litres of water in 21 hours) and rushing to the loo so often. It was terrible. I am not saying that I went to Bangalore intact and contracted the cough there. NO. Just that the cough worsened thanks to the pollution on the roads there. You have to experience it to believe it.

So what do I find different in Bengaluru as it is now called from Bombay now Mumbai? Pollution for one is definitely higher there. The weather in Bangalore is awesome and you see many gardens (it used to be called the Garden City of India though I don’t know for sure if it still can be). They have a 24 hour FM channel which plays only English music (Radio Indigo 91.9). Come to think of it, even Delhi has one but there is no such thing in Mumbai. Bangalore has only one FM station that plays Hindi music (94.3 Radio One) whereas in Mumbai all the 7 private channels play Hindi only save and except for the Club nights past 10 pm on Fridays by which time I have hit the sack or close to. The radio stations play the local songs (or maybe other south Indian languages but for a person like me they all are the same). When in Mumbai there was a demand for Marathi music the channels slipped in Marathi songs on Sunday afternoons when the whole world is sleeping.

They have nice cheap food but it is hygienic (I have not had a problem on that for over 3 years now). You get filter coffee everywhere and if you want it without sugar then you have to ask for “less sugar”. Another thing to be noticed is that in Bangalore the shops sport their names in the local language in a font far bigger than the English name. When in Mumbai they tried to implement it, there was a hue and cry!! Why? Bangalore has its fair share of power woes though power is dirt cheap in comparison to Mumbai. I think it is the price we pay in Mumbai for stable and uninterrupted power supply. The autorickshaw guys in Bangalore mostly will not come by the meter (at least with me). In Mumbai I have not come across such a thing. Bangalore has a lot of the air-conditioned buses which are sorely lacking in Mumbai. Bangalore has a huge and nice airport which is light years away from the city which thankfully Mumbai has in the heart of the city. Come to think of it, a Meru ride from the airport to the city centre will lighten you of 600 or more. Mumbai will lighten you by 200 or so.

What is similar in both cities is that the Metro continues to remain a work in progress with the public at large wondering if this will ever see the light of the day. Don’t want to talk about Politicians anywhere so let me just end.