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Sweet Nothings

As part of the new curriculum “Pathways” at Toastmasters, I was to deliver a speech which I did in June of 2018. Based on the feedback from my evaluator, I had to modify the speech and present it again, which I did on August 11, 2018. Here is the transcript of the same.

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Towards the end of a business lunch, I asked “Dessert?” “No thanks. I am a diabetic.” “Sandeep, you are barely in your 20s, with an athletic body and you expect me to believe you are diabetic? It only happens to old people, right?” This was way back in 1998, how wrong was I!

Toastmaster of the day, fellow toastmasters and guests, welcome again to my tryst with diabetes.

About a year later, I had a skin infection which refused to heal and the dermatologist asked me to get my blood sugar checked. The results – Fasting of 180 against the normal range from 80 to 100. Postprandial 225 against the normal range from 100 to 120. My cousin, a vitreoretinal surgeon, specialises in eye problems in diabetics and so is well versed. “Manish, go to Dr. Argikar right now. I have set up your meeting”. I followed Dr. Argikar’s advice off and on (more off than on). My sister, Parul, is a dietitian and so chipped in with a lecture on exercising which I did take to. Learnt swimming, began walking.

Life trudged on and everytime someone would ask me about my blood results I would cringe “You know how scared I am of injections”. I used to avoid tests not for months but for years together. My wife and sister would nag me to get myself tested but I persisted with my phobia and also began exercising.

In August 2016, my blood report was good what with the cycling, walking and yoga I was into. I then became complacent and began basking in the glory.

In February this year, I mustered the courage to go to the lab after almost 2 years. The results left me shell shocked. Fasting 188 which was the worst ever in my history and postprandial of 140. Parul called me “Do you know what you are getting into? Change your medicines, change your lifestyle, change everything but get this under control” Dr. Argikar too gave me a piece of his mind along with increased medication.

Parul, like any other dietitian, got me on to a strict diet. She sure was getting even with me for all the childhood pranks. She was in constant touch with the powers that be in the kitchen – my Mom and wife and would instruct them on what to make and how much oil to use etc. Kavya would take photographs of the dinner plate and send it to her. She would then veto if it was good to eat or not and if the portion was OK or not. Imagine staring at food, not being able to eat it and watching it being reduced even before taking in a morsel. Many a slip between the cup and the lip.

Was it just food? No. Exercise. She put me on a strict exercise regimen walking thrice a week for about 90 minutes each, walking for 20 minutes after dinner, cycling twice a week and yoga as before twice a week. Thanks to social media, she was in touch with my yoga guru and I am now asked to do some specific exercises there too.

The results weren’t satisfactory even after having shed some kilos. So I was asked to maintain my daily schedule and we discovered that I wasn’t getting enough sleep. So I changed my morning alarm from 4.45 to 5.30 and would sleep at 10 pm instead of 11 pm.

Stress was another component that added to the levels. Any increase in stress and the sugar would spurt. Yoga helped me there with deep breathing.

With all of these, I can’t say I have been cured 100% as there is no cure for diabetes. It is like your shadow, always following you. Hence what we diabetics need is a lifestyle overhaul. One may take tablets or be on insulin but what definitely works is:

  • A Proper diet. No need to completely ban sugar though you can only have it in moderation. Control carbohydrates too. Watch not just what you eat but also how much you eat.
  • There is no substitute for exercise. I must exercise atleast 5 days a week mornings and evenings be it walking, cycling or yoga. And add a small change like I did – Climb stairs.
  • An essential part of diabetes management is adequate sleep, something I learnt the hard way. Sleep early as you have to wake up early and exercise come what may.
  • Learn to destress. Stress is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do but gets you nowhere.

Remember diabetes is like a roller coaster ride. It has its ups and downs but it is entirely your choice whether to scream or enjoy the ride.

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Toastmasters Pathways Began my journey again

Pathways

I restarted my journey at Toastmasters under the Pathways Program which is a modernised program. Delivered my P1 speech on Saturday, April 28, 2018. The objectives of P1 are similar as before and it is the icebreaker. Given below is the text of the speech.

The late bloomer

What’s common between Madhuri Dixit, Juhi Chawla, Akshay Kumar and me? I can’t dance like Madhuri Dixit, I don’t sport the same smile as Juhi Chawla nor do I have the physique of Akshay Kumar. Yet, there is one thread that binds us together. We were all born in 1967.

Toastmaster of the Day, Fellow Toastmasters and guests, Welcome to the discovery of my passions in life.

Born and brought up in Matunga in Mumbai, I never left the place and continue to love it even today. My Father has retired now and my mother is a homemaker. Academically, I am an Electrical Engineer even if I can’t change a light bulb. Professionally, I am an entrepreneur who is into software and hardware solutions for the Enterprise and hospitals. My wife, Pauravi has the herculean task of raising two children, one of who is standing before you and as you can see is slightly overgrown.

Our lives weren’t complete until I was 37 as that is when Kavya entered the world and since then things have been different. She is the best thing that has happened to us and I am the lucky one as I get to be called HER father. She knows how best to get her way be it with her grandparents or parents.

I started BKS Iyengar yoga on May 1, 2008. A friend of mine asked me to start that and honestly being well endowed with fat, I thought it would be an easy way of getting rid of oodles of adipose tissue. How wrong I was! It is almost 10 years since I have been doing that (well whatever I can do). My target is to do shirshasana someday without any help.

Kavya learnt to swim at the age of 5 and one day she mocked at me “You still don’t know swimming?” That made me take up swimming lessons at the young age of 42 and believe me it wasn’t easy. But thanks to her, I atleast can now do breast-stroke. My target is to learn free-style swimming.

In March, 2013 I rekindled an old flame as I restarted cycling which I had left off sometime in 1986 after I began driving. Started with a few kms and happy to say that I have done a single ride of 155 kms once and can do 100 kms very easily. Target is to complete 5000 kms this year. 

Thanks to Suneel Agarwal, I got introduced to Toastmasters again in 2013 and got back to my passion for the English language especially grammar so much so that people call me a Grammar Nazi. Enjoy speaking when I can like I am doing today. And it is not just speaking, I had the opportunity to be a VP PR, VP Membership, President and now Area Director. And I would like to continue to learn which made me restart my journey under Pathways.

As a Toastmaster you also attract opportunities for speaking at or hosting events outside of Toastmasters. Suneel once recommended my name as a compere for a musical program. Got to meet some like-minded people there who were equally passionate about R D Burman or Panchamda and we formed Pancham Paagals. I was the default compere for the events and once I sang too. The audience response was good and so I took to singing my versions of Kishore Kumar and R D Burman numbers be it as a part of Pancham Paagals or at my club.

In hindsight, I find that the things that you are passionate about are not random, they are your calling. I discovered a few of mine and continue to discover more at this age of 50. What is your passion? What is your calling? Don’t let it stifle inside you. Let it show up and enjoy life.

And I was the best speaker for the day too 🙂

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Yes I am a diabetic!!!

Diabetes

My close friends and family know I am a Type 2 diabetic but I am now coming out in the open with the admission.

Last Tuesday, I went for my blood test after 18 months. I was in for a rude shock as the values were the worst ever in my diabetic life of over 15 years. Fasting of 188, Post lunch of 184 and A1c of 8.4. I was ashamed of myself. And these results were despite all the exercising, walking and yoga I do!!

Many calls with my sister, a dietician, who had always lectured me on controlling portions. She said, “It is 20% Exercise and 80% food and portion related”.

What am I doing now?

  • Early days so far but I have started having an omelet every morning with a slice of bread. I use 2 egg whites and 1 egg yolk. And I add a lot of vegetables, not just the routine onions and tomatoes.
  • I have stopped sweets completely since December 2017. By sweets, I mean the external sugars. What comes in the food/fruits naturally can’t be avoided.
  • Cut down on chappatis from 3 to 2.
  • Stopped rice (though I have been advised that there is no need to omit it completely)
  • My toughest time is when I get home in the evening as I pig out on whatever I can lay my hands on. Trying to curb that habit. So far I have been having generous helpings of soup (without any milk, cream etc.) followed by dinner.
  • So far so good but need to change things drastically around my eating.
  • Exercise wise, my earlier schedule was Waking about 9 km each on Mondays and Thursdays, Cycling about 30 km each on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Yoga for 90 minutes each on Wednesday and Saturday and finally cycling anything from 50 to 100 km on Sundays. I have changed that a tad bit (not that I liked it). I have stopped cycling on Fridays and instead am walking. I hope to get the sugars down and then get back to cycling on Fridays soon.
  • I am an early riser with the alarm going off at 0444 every single day. Now have changed it to 0530. I sleep by 2230.
  • Also, I had this dirty habit of keeping the phone right next to my bed on the side table. Would check emails in the middle of the night. Now I keep it a good 8 feet or so away from me in the bedroom just so that I can switch off the alarm.
  • I now climb stairs to get into the office though I don’t do that at home. About time I started that too.
  • Another admission I am mortally scared of the injection. So much so that I have to shut my eyes to avoid looking at the needle or the syringe. That is the reason why I don’t go for blood tests. This time I have taken my Doctor’s appointment for next month and also noted down in my calendar, the date for blood tests.
  • Stress – The real killer. Trying to calm down so I listen to music/audiobooks on my way in the car. Earlier, I used to talk on the phone thanks to the Bluetooth feature in the car (not that I don’t now but sparingly).

Trying to change my lifestyle gradually for the better just so that I can bring down my weight and my sugar.

Decided to take diabetes head on and counting on the support of each one of you to help me get through it.

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Yoga and how it benefited me

Monday, July 3, 2017 – A day I won’t be able to forget. Went for a walk in the morning as usual. Upon returning the pain in my left shoulder and left upper arm was acute. I couldn’t even get my T shirt off. I thought it was a heart problem (left shoulder). Not wanting to panic all at home I didn’t mention it and quietly drove down to the office. It was a day of severe discomfort. I didn’t mention it to anyone all day except two of my closest friends. Around 1645 I went to the cardiologist to eliminate the heart problem. I underwent an ECG and the doctor advised me to go see an orthopaedic surgeon as that is what I needed. Left from there, relieved that it wasn’t the dreaded heart problem. At the Orthopaedic’s clinic, he asked me to raise my left hand and I couldn’t. He just touched the left shoulder and I screamed as he had hit the right spot. He advised an X ray which was taken under tremendous pain. Medication prescribed. Was asked to refrain from cycling and yoga and also follow up after 5 days.

Took the medicines and remained at home for the next 3 days. Skipped yoga on Wednesday and Saturday too. Cycling was never on my radar. Saturday, when I went for the follow up was advised to take a cortisone shot which would have elevated my already high sugar levels. I decided to let it pass.

Spoke to my yoga teacher, Mrs. Bhavana Roha and told her that I wanted to avoid medication. She assured me I could do it with Yoga.

Went for the class on Wednesday when she made sure I did different poses than the rest of the class. One of the poses she made me do was supta bhadakonasana. I was in pain but it was definitely better than the cortisone shot. Over the next few turns, I was made to do asanas and it showed. I persisted with my faith in yoga and she helped me pull through. Her passion for BKS Iyengar yoga is infectious beyond doubt and she instilled that faith in me that I could actually overcome this injury without the cortisone shot or any other medication. Yes, it did pain at times but as she always maintained, bear the pain.

Thank you, Madam, for pulling me out of this mess.

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101.36 My longest ride – A memorable journey

101.36October 2, 2014 – a red-letter day in my life. Well it was a normal holiday as usual but for me it was different as I was attempting my longest ride ever (attempting – Yes that is the word we use at Toastmasters before anyone gives his prepared speech). The previous best was 68.77 kms return and this time I was aiming at 80 kms return. I had marked the location on the map (Google maps – what would I have done without you?) and was scheduled to turn back from the junction where you turn right for Kalyan on the Eastern Express Highway
Preparations: The previous Sunday I slept through so missed on the ride to Thane but my companion Rony warned me to do some riding so on Monday morning went all alone to Afghan Church in Colaba and returned via Eastern Freeway. Tuesday was an aimless short ride, something that I too was ashamed of but in hindsight that helped too. Wednesday had the usual BKS Iyengar yoga. On Wednesday evening, I was preparing myself mentally and nutritionally for the ride. Being a diabetic, I was devoid of sugar and the instant energy boost it would give me but my sister, a qualified nutritionist and weight loss expert, advised me to carry diluted juice. Had a 200 ml Tropicana Grape Juice without any added sugar which I diluted with 500 ml of water. I also had a 1 litre bottle refrigerated during the night to which I added salt to bring in some electrolytes. My bag was stuffed with a spare napkin and two white handkerchiefs to be used under the helmet to protect my head from the heat. Also had a handful of nuts ie Almonds, walnuts and prunes in a plastic bag. These days we are so used to being digital and so had the battery back up and cable with me just to ensure that the phone didn’t run dry. Slept early around 2200 the previous night.
Motivation: This was an essential component. Before I went to bed the previous night, I messaged a couple of my close friends in the US, my sister and my yoga teacher just so that I knew I was accountable and couldn’t chicken out. Of course had made a big noise about it at home. They all encouraged me and their words of encouragement made it impossible for me to then back out.
The Big Day: I was up at 0359 with the alarm and was ready by 0500. I had a banana in the morning and along with that had my usual coffee. Left at 0530 from home and reached the meeting spot at King’s Circle where Rony was to arrive. He was doing the distance and was going all the way to Igatpuri which is 128 kms one way. At 0530 the weather was very pleasant and the traffic wasn’t too bad. Just that there were no lights on the roads in patches which made it difficult. So a word of caution for fellow cyclists (beginners like me) please ensure you have proper lighting not just on the rear of the bicycle but also on the front handle. And make sure they are ON.
Couple of water halts and we were in Thane easily and continued to Bhiwandi and ended up at Kalyan junction where Rony had some snacks while I had my apple and banana with the water. Bought water from there. Hydration is a must so keep adequate water in your bag. Of course the heavier the bag, the more difficult it gets to pedal. Rony goaded me to add 10 more kms to the distance so that I could overcome the 100 kms return milestone. The what if scenarios came to the mind of the doubting Thomas. But then it was pleasant so decided to give it a shot. Did it and turned back while Rony proceeded on his way to Igatpuri.
Alone and I was trying to gather all motivation mentally to keep me going. Quite a few times the thought of giving up came to my mind but the messages of the previous night made me think, how could I face them with a DNF (Did not finish). And most importantly what would Kavya think if I gave up when I am always telling her “Never give up” Went on. When up the slope, I would hear my Yoga Teacher telling me “Exhale! Exhale in the pose” (as she does during yoga) Then I could hear Kavya’s voice telling me “Come on Papa you can do it”. Imaginary yes but had a telling effect. Made it past Bhiwandi to Thane and it was getting hotter. The sun was all guns blazing at me and for a person used to the air conditioner, it was living hell. Found a coconut juice vendor on the service road in Thane which was shaded too. Had one there and asked him to pour another into the bottle. Also bought a couple of bananas of which one I finished there.
Next stop I took was on the service road from Airoli junction to Vikhroli. Bio break cum hydration break so it was input and output 🙂 Very few trees honestly and it was getting tougher. Started singing Manna Dey’s “Tujhko chalna hoga, tujhko chalna hoga“. Gosh I sure need a lot of motivation.
Halted at Amar Mahal junction under a tree then moved on for the next halt under Bhakti Park bridge. I was now in extra familiar territory. Thought of giving up thinking that now I am almost home, can take a cab. Plus my muscles around the knees were getting cramped. Lowered the gear substantially to continue at ease. Turned at Sion Hospital and made it home. First thing I did was check the distance before entering the lift. It was 101.36 so yes I did make it.
Entered home at 1220 tired surely but elated. Screamed to all as I entered home. Kavya wasn’t there but shared with her later on. Posted on Social media, SMSed & Whatsapped people too. Post the shower and lunch, slept like a log for 3 hours. Thighs paining, butt busted but all in all it was worth it all. If you can dream it you can do it. And if you just push the envelope slightly more, success is yours.
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Insomnia after a flight

Insomnia

I have this very funny disorder if I may say so. Post landing I just can’t sleep. It gets miserable every time and if at all you have a busy next day, you have had it. And by flights I don’t mean those long haul transcontinental flights crossing time zones or such. Even a simple 75 minute flight from Bangalore to Mumbai will give me that effect. Last night I reached home by 2245 from Delhi but was up until 0200. No it wasn’t mindless TV watching but I was working. Honestly, I forced myself to get up at 2 am from the computer and get into bed. That is another story that I was then twiddling with the phone trying to read news etc. Don’t know then when I fell asleep. But as a result I woke up straight around 0900 and missed Yoga much to add to the guilt. Any clues on overcoming this or even reducing it someway? It is irritating honestly.

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Swimming Progress

Today is a remarkable day in life… Kavya for the first time today swam without any float even if it was in 4.5 feet depth. For her it was still deep as her feet would not touch the ground. I am so proud of her. She even swam across the length of the pool with the instructor but that was using a board as it was her first time today in the deep as I would call it. It is good to see both father and daughter in the same class under the same instructor with giant strides being made by the younger student as the older one still struggles to get over the accumulated phobias of 43 years. Something good coming out from the Matunga Gymkhana membership aside of the Yoga which incidentally I shamelessly bunked this morning as I slept!!!! Made up for it with over 90 minutes in the pool today.