July 28, 2018

Are you a bookworm too?

The 'Bookworm Bingo' tag has been doing the rounds on Instagram, and so I decided to bring it onto the Blogosphere as well. 
Below is the original tag and my pictorial edited version. I have also included a customized description of my choices, because for someone who loves words, I just could't restrict myself to ticks and crosses. 

The original tag

My choices --- guilty and proud!

#1 - Cancelled plans to read a book - Guilty. On several occasions actually. Honestly I find a good book to be better company than most people.
I have cancelled plans to finish (reading) a book and have cancelled plans to finish (writing) a book. Sigh! I guess most would just call me a ‘plan canceller’ .
So, guilty...guilty...terribly guilty!

#2 - Can name a book that changed your life - Guilty.
I can name a few that did. But if I had to stick to one, it would have to be ‘Noddy and his new car’. That was the first book my parents introduced me too (at least the first one I can remember). I remember being so fascinated by it. That book triggered off the spark of reading in me. After that, there was no looking back!
So yes, while most would quote Ulysses or some such epic, I’d say it was ‘Noddy’ that changed my life by introducing me to the wonder of books.

#3- On a first name basis with the librarian - Not Guilty! 
Not my fault actually, small towns like Goa have frequently changing librarians. They never really stayed long enough to know them on a first name basis. Also I must confess it’s tough to see beyond books when you are at the library.

#4 - There's always a book in your bag - Not Guilty!
I find the concept of carrying an entire library along more fascinating. So usually have my iPad in my bag during holidays and staycations. Or the reading app on my phone for normal days.

#5 - Read until the sun came up - Guilty, Guilty, Guilty! 
Almost every second day for this one.
I normally prefer reading in the night. And now with reading devices having their own inbuilt light, it gets even better.

#6 - Wept over a tragic plot twist - Guilty! 
‘My sisters keeper’ by Jodi Picoult, 'Love story' by Erich Segal, 'The boy in the striped pajamas' by John Boyne (just to name a few). Yeah, yeah! I know. I am a book-keeper and a book-weeper. *facepalm*\

#7 - Posted a book review online - Guilty!
A lot many times...
Writing, reading, and discussing books make me happy!

#8 - Owned an item of lit-inspired clothing - Guilty
I once owned a T-shirt with 'REDRUM' written on the front and the back of it. Until one day, I accidentally spilled some ketchup on it and it had to be discarded.
Honestly, I had a good mind to leave it unwashed and leave it lying around---to ward off unwanted visitors.

#9 - Spent way more on books than planned - Guilty
This used to happen all the bloody time, until e-shopping (for books) came along to keep my book budget in check.
Yet, even now when I enter a book store, it's like the whole Mamma Mia song running in my head....

#10 - Joined a book club - Guilty
I've been an ardent fan and regular member of 'Between the lines', a monthly book club with an eclectic set of members in Panjim's Fontainhas, and although the club did not hold up as long I'd wished or expected (that is forever), it was still great as long as it lasted.
Currently, I am a member of several equally interesting online book clubs.
After all, online or offline, as long as there are books and bibliophiles, little else matters...

#11 -Wish list consists mainly of book titles - Guilty
I include as many new books as possible....because who doesn't love the self-fulfilling feeling that comes with ticking off things in your wish list?

#12 - Utilised randoom items as an emergency bookmark - Guilty
I have used things as random as ballpoint-pen caps, ticket stubs, boarding passes, candy wrappers, dried leaves, and chopsticks (Yeah, beat that?). Desperate times call for desperate bookmarks!

#13 - Maxed out your library card - Guilty
I'd always max out my library card back in the good old school and college days. I don't visit the library as often now. Technology and age has changed that!

#14 - Guilty of book-sniffing - Guilty
Irresistible...but only if the book is brand new or ancient!

#15 - Owned a signed copy - Guilty 
I usually tend to shy away from teeming crowds that crash upon the author's space (or so I tend to feel) for a signed copy. But there have been those rare occasions wherein I've waited for a ghost of a smile from a Jeet Thayil or Ruskin Bond or Geetha Hariharan in my direction, and jumped for the kill  autograph.

#16 - Tried to write a book - Guilty
Tried, succeeded and plan to try again!

#17 - Reccomend books frequently - Guilty
I think that is a default feature of every bibliophile. I recommend only when asked though, but once I start, there is no guarantee I'll stop.

#18 - Secretly judged someone's literary tastes - Guilty
Err...I won't name the authors. Some of them are...err..in my friend list.

#19 - Followed authors on social media - Guilty
Sure. Some because I really like their writing. And some because, they follow me! *facepalm*

#20 - Read in an odd location - Guilty 
I've done it for a couple of family functions I was obliged to attend.
When would smart phone reading-apps come in handy otherwise? *grins*

#21 - Have a nook in a bookstore you consider 'yours'- Not guilty 
Duh! I have a reading nook in my home that I consider mine...

#22 - Pre-ordered an upcoming book - Guilty 
Currently pre-ordered 'Sea prayer' by Khaled Hosseini.

#23 - Fell in love with a character - Guilty
Heathcliff (don't ask), Atticus Finch, Hassan (the kite runner), Will Turner.

#24 - "The book was better" - Guilty 
No movie adaptation till date has been able to match the picture painted (in our mind) by the printed word.

With that, we come to the end of the 'Bookworm Bingo' tag. If you are a bibliophile, feel free to take it up...
And do leave a comment so that I come over to read you.

Cheers! :)

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July 25, 2018

The pro(s) of #ProteinWeek

For all those who are diet conscious and working on that size zero figure, here is a fun fact for you.
Around 68% percent (or more) of Indians are not happy with their body and suffer from low self esteem. Coincidentally, around the same number have insufficient protein intake and land themselves up in trouble.

Pic Source: Google
It has been observed that a large percentage of Indians suffer from protein insufficiency.
Expressing concern over this disturbing fact, the Indian Dietitian Association has declared 24th to 30th of July as #ProteinWeek, a gesture supported by the PFNDAI (Protein Food Nutrition Development Association Of India) as well. The aim of this week is to emphasise on the importance of protein in our diet and raise awareness of its deficiencies amongst the public.

Functions of proteins:
  • Proteins, as we all know, are the building blocks of life, and are important for the normal functioning and well-being of our body.
  • They are responsible for mending the wear and tear of muscles. 
  • Hormonal proteins like insulin and oxytocin play a major role in regulating blood sugar concentration and uterine contractions during pregnancy respectively.
  • Also proteins help in formation of enzymes like Amylase and lipase that help digest carbohydrates and fats.
  • Proteins also play a role in supporting the immune system by helping macrophages fight invading organisms.

Required daily intake: 
1 gm/ kg body weight.


Daily intake of 56 gm in males and 46 gm in females.

Dietary sources:

  • Beans and fish are rich sources of lean protein (healthy).
  • Complex carbohydrates like whole grain and vegetables
  • Egg white
  • Milk (contains a protein called ‘Caesin’)
  • Pulses, nuts, greens
  • Other sources include, meat and meat products etc.
Proteins are made of individual components called amino acids.
Those amino acids that cannot be produced by the body and hence can be obtained only from our diet (meat, poultry, eggs, dairy, fish) are known as 'Essential amino acids;. These include  Histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, tryptophan, phenylalanine, valine, threonine, methionine. Proteins that contain these are most important for health, and need to be included in our diet..

Protein insufficiency/deficiency symptoms:
  • Easy fatiguibility 
  • Muscle wasting or atrophy
  • Muscle cramping
  • Weakness, soreness
  • Hair thinning
  • Faded hair colour
  • Brittle nails 
  • Severe protein deficiency causes redness, flaky skin and depigmentation. 
Our muscle mass tends to decrease with age. However, it is important to maintain healthy muscles, as these not just keep the joints in good shape but also provide energy for muscle contraction and movement.

Maintaining a healthy muscle mass and tone can be accomplished by 
  • A balanced diet with adequate amount of proteins.
  • Regular exercise. (Even brisk walking for 30 minutes a day, five times a week is enough to keep the muscles and joints in good condition.)
Pic source: Google

According to the IDA, the Indian diet has 50% inadequate protein pattern, especially vegetarian diets. It becomes imperative, therefore, to supplement our diet with additional sources of protein, especially in energy demanding situations like convalescence, pregnancy etc.

So next time you watch a svelte Shilpa Shetty preening on screen or a shirtless Salman Khan flaunting his six packs, remind yourself that glorious body you covet so much is not a consequence of eating less, but rather just a result of eating right...

This protein week, start eating healthy and make a difference...to yourself first! 

July 14, 2018

The looking glass

If mirrors could talk, I'd demand to know
Why it stays mum when I wear my make up too loud
My lipstick too red, my kohl too dark
Why doesn’t it tell me that I am still beautiful
Without that layer of white-wash on my face
That appearances do not define me, it is what
Lies inside me that does, why doesn’t it tell me
I do not need to prove myself to the world
That there is a whole universe inside me
Waiting to be discovered, why doesn’t it tell me
I needn't be ashamed of the scars on my face
That the blotches, spots and acne in this case
Are temporary but the blow to my self esteem may be not
That the 18 hour lip color is easier to wipe away
Than the tears springing from my eyes
While I am worried even then about
The mascara ruining my plastic-doll lies
If mirrors could talk, I'd demand to know
Why it fears so much to show
A reflection of me that truly matters!

~ Priyanka Naik aka Pri
(Originally written and published at Story Mirror)

July 11, 2018

Losing count on #WorldPopulationDay

“Didi, I have to go to the doctor for a checkup today. I am pregnant,” my house help announces, a little embarrassed.

“Oh Congratulations!” I say instinctively, even before realising that her face does not reflect the happinesses an expectant mother’s should.

Lalita (name changed) has been working with us for the last five years now.  An otherwise unobtrusive personality, the only time I see her complaining is when she speaks about her alcoholic husband.
I sense her discomfort on being congratulated, and quickly ask.

“But...don’t you have three children already?”

She stays mum, her gaze fixed on the floor.

“Lalita, is everything alright?” I ask.

It is as if this question has broken down the dam holding back her tears.

“He wants a son, Didi,” she cries.

This scenario is not unique only to Lalita. There are millions of Lalitas in our country, who are going through unwanted pregnancies.
Improper family planning, inadequate knowledge of contraception, lack of education, and growing illiteracy have been the contributing factors to the dismal state of population explosion.
As of today (2018), the population of the world stands at 7.6 billion, with India at 1.35 billion.

Image source:Wikipedia

According to the chief of UNFPA, developing countries have an estimated 214 million women who want to avoid pregnancy, but are not using modern contraceptive methods. This includes 155 million women using absolutely no family planning method. Some 59 million are using traditional methods that are unsafe and unreliable.

It was fifty years ago, that family planning was declared as a Human right by the United Nations. Today, we are celebrating World Population Day with the theme of ‘Family Planning is a human right’ to remind us of the same.

But how is this going to reach people like Lalita?
The Government should ensure that the women in our country are educated of her sexual/reproductive rights, and that all couples realise their contraceptive choices.
It is only through awareness and education that we will able to burst the myths about contraception, and ensure the safety and empowerment of women in the world.

Another factor that needs serious attention is the issue of maternal health in our country. The safety of health is paramount. And we have to reinforce the idea that adding the pressure of repeated and closely spaced pregnancies can only take a toll on the health of the mother.

However, the entire onus does not lie on the Government alone.
Professionals like doctors, educators, mass influencers, media should share the responsibility of reaching out and spreading awareness.
Every woman should be made aware of her reproductive rights and the freedom to exercise her will (or lack of it).

As I explain all this to Lalita, she looks up at me, her sunken anaemic eyes teary but convinced. I promise her I’ll talk to her husband as well. 

And that makes me wonder...
Lalita has been going through this ordeal for the last so many years now. But it’s only now that I took notice. I couldn't help but draw parallels with the larger problem at hand. The earth too has been exploding with people since ages and we are practically being blind to it.

How easy it is, sometimes, to miss the obvious! 

July 03, 2018

Mindfulness decoded

“I wish I could be in two places at one time,”my friend sighed.

“Wished every woman ever,” I laughed, and we both rolled our eyes.

She was desperately trying to squeeze her hair spa appointment in between her work hour break. The voucher she had won for an Instagram giveaway had been pending since the past five months now and was nearing expiration, and Ria (name changed) was, in no way, one to give up on a freebie without a fight.

“Just imagine!” she sighed, “I could be at the spa enjoying my aroma oil hair massage therapy, and completing my project with my team at the same damned time. It would make time management so much simpler.”

And that got me thinking.  There have been so many times I have actually been in two places at the same time. Physically present in one, and mentally somewhere else altogether. We drift off in between conversations.  doze during seminars, are constantly distracted by our phones during dinner with friends or on a movie date.
In today’s day and age, mindfulness is a diminishing art, known and practiced only by a select few.
We talk more than we listen. We listen to only half of what we hear. And we hear the cacophony of a million tongues wagging at the same time.

So what exactly do we mean by mindfulness? To put it simply, mindfulness is the art of giving your whole self to the moment you are in, and accepting it without prejudice or judgmental any sort.
Studies have shown that this kind of interaction (with the self and with others) has a lot of positive effects on our physical and mental well-being.
  • It helps to alleviate stress and prevent stress related ailments like hypertension, heart disease, diabetes etc.
  • Improves concentration and allows one to focus better.
  • Increases creative potential.
  • Has a soothing effect on the nerves, thus helping to calm the mind.
  • Sharpens cognitive abilities.
  • Improves memory.
  • Contributes in building healthy, happy relationships.
  • Betters social skills and interactions.
  • Makes one feel content and satisfied with oneself.
  • Allays anxiety, palpitation, nervousness and helps elevate a depressed mood.
How do we then practice mindfulness in our day to day life? Here are some tried and tested tips that I have been practicing for a while now.
  • Maintain a gratitude journal. Write about the things you are grateful for. It could be a lottery won, a vacation with a loved one, a promotion at work, or a flower blooming in your garden, count your blessings. Jotting them down in your journal will only remind you how lucky you are.
  • Follow a simple meditation routine every morning. Mindful meditation sessions can range from 1 of 2 mins to as long as fifteen minutes or more. I’d suggest a fifteen minutes session every morning. And brief sessions as and when you feel stressed out during the day.
  • When you are eating your meals, keep your phone away and focus completely on what you are eating. Be mindful of every bite. Appreciate the sight, smell, and taste of every morsel you eat. This will not just keep a check on how much you’re eating, but will also ensure you relish the food on your plate—something we often tend to take for granted. 
  • Keep your eyes and ears open only for the one you are conversing with. Giving your hundred percent attention shows that you care. Exercising mindfulness during conversations will automatically improve your quality of interaction and strengthen your interpersonal relationships.
  • I recently read about known as ‘Thin slicing of mindset training’ which is a fascinating mind exercise that Microsoft CEO Satya Nadela follows. It includes four easy steps spread over a period of 90 seconds. Every morning when you wake up, take in a deep breath for around 12 seconds while still in bed. This will reset the sympathetic nervous system that activates the ‘flight or fight’ mode. Next, mentally name something that you are grateful for. This step triggers in you a cheerfulness and optimistic approach. Then decide on one intention for the day and visualise it in your minds eye. This will help you visualise yourself performing better and more efficiently. Lastly, put your feet on the ground and just feel them. This makes you aware of the thoughts, emotions or body sensations you are experiencing in that moment. Practice this exercise on a daily basis to combat stress, improve concentration and make every day into a productive one.

In short, focus on one thing at a time. Do not worry about the past or future. They are not in your control. Just throw in your entire self in the present...in the now.
It is never too late to start this journey of mindfulness.  All you need to do is begin.
I started noticing positive effects within a week of practicing mindfulness. I was feeling less stressed and more at peace with myself.

Below is an easy guide to initiate the journey:

Select a spot in your house. A spot with a window view is preferable since this tends to be more comforting and relaxing. This will be your go-to spot for mindful meditation.
Slowly but surely, your mind will be conditioned to accept that spot to be a meditation zone.
Sit up straight with your legs folded (but stay relaxed), hands on your lap, eyes closed, focus on your breath for the inhale-exhale rhythm. Then slowly drive your attention to the sounds around you. Try to concentrate on the most distant sound you hear. Maybe a car honking from across the street, or a cycle bell, or a bird chirping. Notice the quality of that sound, the duration, the nature, the fine details you normally overlook. Now slowly move your focus to the other noises, until you come nearer and nearer and back to the source of your own breathing.
While doing this, try to drive away all stray thoughts that tend to interrupt. It’s going to be difficult in the beginning. Forgive yourself if your mind tends to wander. With practice you will soon be able to focus on your thoughts and improve on your concentration power.

In the wise words of Henry Miller,
“The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.”
Start paying attention to the world around you...
Start exploring the universe within yourself!