November 29, 2015

The 'Natura' way...

According to a recent WHO report, the incidence of Diabetes in our country is predicted to reach a whopping fifty seven million by 2025. With the upward trend in prevalence, our country has become the Diabetic capital of the world. This threat to health is mainly due to urbanization, ethnicity, genetic predisposition, central obesity and Insulin resistance.

It is common knowledge that uncontrolled Diabetes can be our biggest enemy as it brings along with it the risk of complications. As a Diabetologist, I often encounter long standing Diabetic patients who find it impossible to maintain compliance when it comes to a diet plan devoid of sugar. As in the case of the forbidden fruit, most feel an irresistible urge to consume something sweet, especially on festive occasions and celebrations. We cannot really blame them. How long can your resist the temptation of sinking your tooth into a fat little gulab jamun soaked in delicious sugary syrup or that yummy looking custard that seems to beckon you every time you look its way? You finally give up and let yourself go. The happiness however does not stay for long, as you are overwhelmed with guilt soon after. This is not true only for diabetics. Those trying to watch their weight face similar emotional turmoil, and often end up losing their mind and not their weight.

If you are already feeling depressed reading this, then chances are you have been in similar situations. However, the good news is that you can now enjoy your favorite dessert without the guilt of indulgence. Thanks to Sugarfree Natura, the safe sugar substitute.

I have personally tried out a number of recipes in my kitchen by substituting sugar with Natura, and can vouch that one can hardly tell the difference. I hereby share with you one of my favorite sugarfree recipes; easy to make and totally guilt free, Gajar Ka Halwa.

1/4th kg carrots
1/2 litre milk
Sugar substitute (Sugar free Natura powder)
2 tbsps ghee
A handful of chopped dried fruits (limited quantity of rasins)
Nutmeg powder
1/4th tsp Cardamom powder

  1. Grate the carrots.
  2. Heat three tbsps of ghee or butter in a frying pan. 
  3. Add the grated carrots. Cook on low flame for 5-10 minutes.
  4. Add the milk to the above mixture until it thickens.
  5. Add 1/4th tsp cardamom powder and a pinch of nutmeg powder to the above mixture.
  6. Keep stirring on low flame until the ghee separates from the preparation.
  7. Now mix in 4-5 tbsps, that is roughly around 20 measures (with spoon that comes in the bottle) of Sugarfree Natura. Stir evenly.
  8. Sprinkle the chopped dried fruits over it.
  9. Serve hot or cold according to preference. 
That's it. You are sorted. Finger licking dessert ready in nine easy steps. Can it get any easier?
The next time you want to pamper your sweet tooth the healthy way, do it the Natura way.

The above post is an entry to the 'Sugarfree dessert challenge' contest by Indiblogger.
If you like what you read, please vote for it.

November 28, 2015

5 things I didn't like about 'Tamasha'

When I first saw the promos of 'Tamasha', I was thrilled. Movies like 'Jab We Met', 'Love Aaj Kal' and 'Rockstar' have raised my expectations from film maker Imtiaz Ali a notch higher. To top it all, this one had my favorite actors starring in it. Under these circumstances, it was quite natural that I was one of the many eager viewers in the crowded cinema hall.

While I cannot deny the effortless chemistry between the protagonists, I have to say that 'Tamasha' is otherwise a pretty average story. It is about love and self discovery, the key elements of almost every Imtiaz Ali film. What was disappointing though was the fact that the trailers kept implying it would be different from the run-of-the-mill movie that we have seen before. With nothing unique to offer, this story failed to impress.

The puns and the script fall flat at times, with Tara being the only one giggling at most of Ved's joke. There are parts of the movie that are laced with humor, that Ranbeer's comic timing has played to perfection. (I loved his imitation of the legendary Dev Saab.). But the moments that need to have lasted are too fleeting and far-in-between as opposed to the boring frames that are unnecessarily prolonged.
Deepika and Ranbeer are fine actors and have done full justice to their roles. However, the film could have done with some more fresh and interesting dialogues (or explanations), the lack of which made the story seem limp. I could not help comparing this to the duo's previous film. Perhaps I was searching for the 'Ye Jawaani Hai Deewani' chemistry again.

Here is a list of five things that I found rather irksome about 'Tamasha' in no particular order.
1) Two strangers (Ved and Tara) meeting in Corsica, and having one helluva fun time without revealing anything about each other was a rather common but interesting concept. They promising to lay their hands off each other during the entire course of the holiday was even more intriguing. What was a bit irritating was that they kept reminding us of this sacrifice, only to end up making out at the end of the week long holiday.

2) Honestly, I think it is super rude to insult someone in a language they do not understand. It just proves that you do not have the balls to confront them in a way that they understand. One of the opening scenes has Tara doing just that. There is an instance when she politely doles out a number of Hindi expletives to a couple of French men in Corsica. Also, there are a number of instances where in both, she and Ranbeer talk in mock accents (apparently something sounding like Mexican and Japanese) and expect the audience to laugh at their immaturity.
Imagine some foreign language film insulting Indians who don't have a clue about what is being said. How would that make us feel?

3) I was hoping for a logical explanation behind Ved's outbursts. While the audience is left to guess and even shudder a little in response to his uncalled for aggressiveness, we  are also left wondering how he manages to get all perfectly normal again without psychological help. No fair!
There are so many people battling with mental problems and depression that ought to be coped with professional help. Ved refusing any kind of help and instead dealing it all by himself by visiting some crazy man in the hills could send across a wrong message.

4) Tara's love for Ved seems like fickle attraction when she admits that she is in love with a completely different facet of his personality that is somehow lost in the race of life. This is all fine. People make mistakes, get infatuated, realize and move on. But trying to reach out to him just because she is guilty of pushing the wrong switch in his head is clearly 'Pity Party' (this kind of guilt should not be encouraged, for the betterment of both the people involved). Totally wrong move, I say. But Imtiaz Ali believes in sudden realizations and recoils...sigh!

5) I found the stage performance (especially at the end) a bit turgid and unduly prolonged. But this could also be because I was distracted and busy texting my friends by then.

Perhaps you need an artist's eye to love this movie. Perhaps you need a philosopher's mind to realize the nuances in each frame. On the flip side, maybe you need a juvenile audience to titter at the silly jokes, or perhaps young impressionable minds who are happy with whatever little of foreign locales you give them.
However, somewhere between the two are people like me, those weary souls who constitute the major part of the Mango Junta, who have had too much of old wine to not recognize it in new packing, who step into a cinema hall to watch a good movie and are only satisfied when they actually see one.

As I stepped outside, a rather indifferent expression on my face, I just had one question on my mind, the same one that the poster screamed out, "Why always the same story?!"  

Film Rating: 3 out of 5

November 25, 2015

The last illusion

I have witnessed this scene unfolding, maybe in a dream. 

I am seated in the front row of a crowded auditorium, wearing a warm pink pinafore, a ruddy tote slung over my right shoulder. I couldn't be more than fourteen or fifteen, my face has that flushed look most anxious teenagers have. I have fuchsia ribbons in my hair, and am wearing shoes to match. Even the spectacles that I keep adjusting over my nose time and again are tinted rose. I must be having a really bizarre fashion sense to dress up like that (but maybe that can be forgiven because I am dreaming.) The crowd is buzzing with the excitement one would normally see at a circus. But there are no animals around. The tent is illuminated with fairy lights, and clouds of glitter rise from the ground adding to the charm of the place.

"Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your patience. The show is about to commence," a woman on the stage announces. She is beautiful with flawless skin and an hour glass figure.
The show she is referring to is the magic show by renowned conjurer and illusionist, Efil Llasuskcuf. I know because I am a huge fan of his, just like all the other enthusiastic spectators in the audience.

I stare in awe at the shimmering tent, the glittering lights, the busy back stage, it all looks surreal---a scene from those picture books I loved as a child. It only makes me more eager to know what is in store. I take off my glasses for a while, the pressure has caused the skin on the bridge of my nose to pit. As I rub the depressed area with my fingers, I notice that the tent doesn't seem as attractive any more. It now seems to be made of dirty tarpaulin. The enthusiastic announcer is now retreating back stage with a scowl on his face. All of a sudden, she is looking rather overweight, not that beautiful at all. Perhaps her scowl put things in perspective, I think to myself. I adjust the ribbons in my hair. There are sullen adults all around me complaining of the dust. I see what they are saying. It is rather dusty, this place. Perhaps the dim lights did not allow me to notice the grime settled on the seats. I try to distract myself from worrying about my lovely dress getting dirty. Trying to catch the attention of the people around always helps. I check out the faces in the crowd. They too have come to watch the show, I guess. None of them look too pleased though. I try smiling at the plump woman sitting besides me.

"Nice day, isn't it?" I say, trying to start a conversation.

She nods but says nothing. I become a little conscious. I fidget with the glasses in my hands. She now looks at me, rather wistfully.

"I used to wear those," she says, a ghost of a smile emerging on her face. Then regaining her sombre expression, she continues, "a long time ago."

Clutching my glasses a little more tight, I decide not to talk to her any more. She seems disinterested. No one except me seems to be willing to share a smile. I am the only one eager to strike a conversation. The reluctance in her attitude disappoints me a little. I put on my glasses, and wait for the show to start. A little later, when I glance in her direction, I see her give me a big broad smile. I wave back.

Efil Llasuskcuf is greeted with a loud round of applause. He takes his position on the podium, and gets ready for his performance. I wonder if he requires any rehearsals at all. After all he must have performed a million times. People say his magic never gets rusty and that he never goes wrong. Each of his shows has a surprise element---he never announces his tricks before hand, I've heard. The anticipation of this much awaited feat makes adrenaline rush through my veins. I wonder what wondrous trick he is going to perform.

"Today, Mr Efil is going to treat you all to a special act. He has been bored of performing the usual rabbit-out-of-the-hat trick, and has decided to retire from the world of magic. Before leaving, he wants you to witness his last feat, a special magic before his final bow,"

There were mixed reactions from the audience. People were both happy and sad, happy because they were going to witness a never-before event in the history of magic, and sad because this was the last time they would be seeing Mr Efil perform. I adjust the spectacles on my nose. They help me see only the bright side---I feel lucky to be a part of this magnificent event.
Strangely, I cannot seem to ignore the gleam in his eyes. It seems a little diabolical, but I wave it off as my imagination.

E.L speaks, "What is about to unfurl is something much much bigger than my usual card tricks and vanishing illusions. It is going to affect one of you in a colossal way. It will expose your weakness, yet magnify your strength. It is going to bring about a permanent change. It will reveal ugly truths, but will also uncover beautiful lives."

Then looking around in the audience, he asks, "Volunteers anyone?"
I feel his gaze fall on me.

Before I can even respond, I feel my feet comply. They trot towards the podium. Something in my heart tells me that I am to be a part of this final act.

Hocus-pocus, Abracadabra, and POOF!!! 
A cloud of dust springs up from nowhere. There is something in my eye. I have to take off those rose tinted glasses to see clearly. 
CRUNCH! I hear a sound. I open my eyes only to see Efil Llasuskcuf crushing my glasses under his feet. He stomps on them until they turn to tiny sparkling pieces of pink dust. I see the dust and grime settling everywhere. He smiles at me. I know I am supposed to feel angry. How am I supposed to view the world without my rose tinted glasses? 

But to my surprise, I no longer care... 
I am not just a part of the final act. I am the final act.

Yes, I have witnessed this scene unfolding, maybe in a dream. 

Writer's note: Take a special moment, and read the name of the illusionist backwards. It would help splash a little more light on the post.

November 24, 2015

H for 'Hall of Fame v/s Hall of Shame'

I am sure every one of us can recall incidents that leave a strong impact on our lives. Sometimes, the smallest of things bring about a permanent change in our outlook, our personality. We might not realize it then, but years later when the haze of the past clears and that one incident comes shining through, you realize that it is responsible for making you the person you are today.

I remember one such incident from my primary school days. Yes, I know it is not really possible to have lucid memories from so far back then. But somehow this has managed to create a stamp ink memory which just refuses to go away. Our class teacher Ms Suzy was a pretty young thing; a heart shaped face, deep set eyes and a soft spoken personality that not just made her our favorite but also allowed us to take her for granted. She treated all the children with a warm maternal disposition, never once losing her temper on any child. Yet, there were these dare devils who loved trying her patience. They would get their uniforms dirty during sports class, splash ink all over their hands, color outside the lines in their drawing book, leave their class work incomplete, tear up pages from notebooks because they liked the sound of paper tearing, and create a ruckus in the class room (you get the drift, don't you?).

Now, it is with great embarrassment that I have to tell you that yours truly led this pack of hooligans.
Me and my cronies were always up to no good, troubling her with our shenanigans. Nothing she would say or do would cause us to behave. Hitherto, she had tried to distract us off our mischief with all the tricks in the book. But all in vain. We'd take pride in being the cause of her headache. We'd enjoy the surprise in her bewildered eyes every time she saw what we were up to. Troubling her had become a part of routine.

Until one day, Ms Suzy explained the concept of the two halls. We looked at her open mouthed as she divided one corner of the black board in two equal parts. On one side, she wrote the words, 'Hall of Fame', and the other was labelled 'Hall of Shame'. She explained that every time we did a good deed, our names would be included in the former list, and when we committed a shameful act, it would be mentioned in the latter group. She further elaborated that God too maintained similar lists for people. We stared at her in awe. We, kids at that impressionable age, were gullible enough to believe that Mr God was watching us trouble Ms Suzy and keeping tab. We instantly felt guilty over our actions.

On reaching home, I narrated this incident to my mother. I wanted to counter check if this was actually possible. Was there really such halls of fame and shame? My mother smiled. She was only too happy to play along. If sticking with Ms Suzy's story meant taming the brat I was, she would do it.

"Every time you refuse to eating your veggies, your name goes in the Hall of Shame," she said with a serious face.

I looked disdainfully at the salad in my plate.
"And if I eat it, will God add my name in the Hall of Fame?" I asked, slowly raising the fork to my mouth.

"Hmmm...only if you do all your home work on time and stop troubling Ms Suzy," my mother said, suppressing a giggle.

The next day, at school, I behaved like a prize student. I got mentioned only once in the Hall of Shame (for pulling Geeta's pigtails). But I was listed in the Hall of Fame during Arts class. I had drawn within the lines and not chewed off any crayon. I was happy. Ms Suzy looked pleased too.
Soon enough, the enthusiasm spread among all the kids. Each one of us strived to get our name listed in the Hall of Fame. Our uniforms no longer got dirty, our books were neat, and our class work was done on time. The mischief mongers would get into the Hall of Shame and become the laughing stock of the class. At the end of every month, Ms Suzy would award the student with the most mentions in the Hall of Fame with a bar of chocolate. Soon enough, the whole class became an example of exemplary behavior. Ms Suzy had managed to get the whole class in good conduct, without raising her voice. As usual, she had figured the best way out.

I recently met up with a couple of school friends over coffee. We spoke about old times, and Ms Suzy. The concept of the two halls had stayed with us all through our growing up years. We agreed that somewhere at a deeper sub conscious level, we still believe in it. We are no longer as gullible as we used to be. But it does help us stay in check. There is no Ms Suzy to chart out lists and mention names anymore. There are no class mates to tease and laugh at our embarrassed faces. There is no prize chocolate waiting for those of us on our best behavior. All we have now is a conscience that Ms Suzy helped to shape.

And as long as we know where we are going, we will find a road to take us there...


H for 'Hall of Fame v/s Hall of Shame' is the eighth post in the 'A-Z Series' of posts, a chain of write-up's by me on topics starting with each alphabet of the English language. Read back and forth for the other posts, and please feel free to contribute your thoughts on the subject.