Friday, November 6, 2015

Lose Weight, Look Great This Diwali : Follow Our 5 Weight Loss Steps

With Diwali just around the corner, you might be looking for some practical ways in which you can shed a couple of kilos quickly. We fully agree that there is no quick fix remedy to lose weight and crash dieting causes more harm than good. However, our tried and tested weight loss tips might just be what you need to get you started on your weight loss journey and lose up to 2 kilos within a week.
These tips also can be incorporated into your daily routine for achieving healthy long-term sustainable weight loss goals.

Image Source - Anandprabu's Klicks 
Increase your liquid intake: This includes drinking more water, infused water, coconut water, freshly squeezed home-made juice (without adding extra sugar) and green tea.  Increased water intake makes you feel fuller, rejuvenates and improves your overall metabolic activity and flushes out the toxins from your system.  Since it is difficult for the body to tell the difference between hunger and thirst, drinking water helps to curb hunger and cravings. It might also help to eat water-based foods like soup or fruits and veggies (watermelon, cucumber, grapefruit etc) that are rich in water and mineral content .But, it is important to understand that water is not a substitute for food and drinking too much of water could be dangerous. Though there are many opinions (depending on one’s weight, age, environmental factors) on how much water one should drink, it is generally agreed upon that 8-ounce glasses of fluid a day is optimum. It is also essential to reduce your sodium (salt) intake as it can cause bloating.

Get involved in an activity: Most of us are constantly thinking about food. Our minds are constantly preoccupied with questions like what to cook, how to cook, when to eat. Thanks to Social Media and countless food channels on Television our minds are flooded with images of tempting culinary wonders from across the globe. The more you think about food, the more difficult it will be to limit those calories and curb cravings. So, getting involved in an activity or work helps to steer your mind clear of those impediments that come in the form of fried chicken or cheesy burgers. Though not mandatory, it will be beneficial if the “activity” involves light to moderate cardio workouts like walking or jogging. Learning a new sport, taking swimming/dance lessons or even getting involved in community service is good. Those who have a certain health condition or those who suffer from morbid obesity, can engage themselves in yoga or meditation to begin with. Even simple tasks like taking your dog out for a walk, reading, blogging, learning a new language  or even learning to play a new musical instrument might help. For example, if writing is my passion then I will decide to write at least one article per day, for the next five days. This way, chances are that I will be thinking of what to write more than what and when to eat.

Keep your menu simple. Boring is good! : This is again a continuation of the previous step. Plan and prep your menu ahead of time so that you don’t end up eating that bag of chips. Keep sliced, chopped-up fruits and veggies within your hands reach.  Having breakfast is an integral part of losing weight. Instead of whipping up a fresh batch of muffins for breakfast or racking your brain deciding between dosa or upma, it is simple and convenient to have a bowl of oats or cornflakes (not the sugary ones) with a piece of fresh fruit (bananas, apples, berries, pomegranate, papaya etc.) along with freshly brewed green tea. Though this is not the most nutritious option, it is much better than having an oily breakfast of puri-bahji or aloo paratha. You might also want to avoid full fat milk and use skimmed milk instead. Soy or almond milk can also be used.  Those who frequent the gym might want to add boiled eggs or a green smoothie for building lean muscles. For a mid-morning snack, an apple or any fruit of your choice along with a cup of green tea (black coffee, black tea with less sugar) will satiate your hunger pangs. Now if that doesn’t curb your hunger, you can have a handful of dry fruits or nuts. Avocadoes are an excellent source of good fat and are extremely good for teenagers and growing children. But always remember to eat in moderation. 

Lunch can be a simple grilled chicken wrap or veg wrap or Rice (brown rice ideally), daal, sabzi or even grilled fish with steamed vegetables. Its best if you can get hold of fresh organic ingredients sourced from local farms. Do not over-complicate the dishes by adding a lot of masalas and spices. Also remember to stay away from processed foods and excess oil.

Now the key to weight loss is having an early-light dinner. Soups or salads (without the mayo dressing of course), lean protein etc. are excellent options.  Keep it simple and clean. Make sure that you have your dinner as early as possible so that your stomach gets plenty of time to digest the food before you go to sleep. If you are craving a post dinner dessert, you can have a bite of dark chocolate which contains flavonoids and powerful antioxidants. Finish off with a cup of chamomile tea which helps to reduce stress, bloating and promises a good night’s sleep.

Repeat the same menu for a week: Do not try to be innovative with food while you are on a diet. We end up eating extra calories while we try to be creative with food. To elaborate, if you decide to have cornflakes for breakfast, then eat cornflakes as breakfast for the entire week. But you should remember to change the choice of fruits that accompany your meals and the vegetables that go in your salads every day for nutritional variety.

Go to bed early and get 7-8 hours of sleep daily. Most of us are sleep deprived and survive on tea, coffee or some sort of energy drink to make up for the lack of sleep. You also tend to overeat when you are tired to compensate for the lack of energy. Getting enough sleep stops you from late night snacking and aids fat loss. Waking up early is just as important as it gives you more energy. It gives you a head start to plan and organize your day. It might also give you that extra bit of time to go for that morning walk which you have always been planning in your mind. You can also use this time to prep your food ahead of time so that you don’t end up snacking.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Kovan's arrest - I strongly protest

I strongly protest against the arrest and slapping of trumped up sedition and other bogus charges against the Tamil folk singer Kovan for criticizing Jayalalithaa in his song. Are we living in a democracy or dictatorship ? In a democracy people have a right to criticize politicians and the government.

In feudal times the king was supreme, and the people were his subjects, and so they had no right to criticize the king.
In a democracy, however, this relationship is reversed. Now the people are the masters, and all state authorities, whether President of India, Prime Minister, other Ministers, Chief Minister, Chief Justice of India and other Judges, bureaucrats, police, etc are nothing but servants of the people.

That being so, the people have a right to criticize the state authorities, because surely the master has a right to criticize his servant if he thinks the servant is not working properly.

Consequently Kovan had every right to criticize Jayalalithaa.

I had thought that Jayalalithaa had learnt her lesson, and had mellowed down, but now it seems otherwise. She still seems to have dictatorial tendencies.

As regards the police officers who ordered the arrest of Kovan, and the policemen who carried out the order, they must all be put up on trial, and given harsh punishment. They must not be allowed to take the plea that they were only carrying out orders of Jayalalithaa.

At the Nuremburg Trials after the Second World War, the Nazi War Criminals took the plea that 'orders are orders ' ( i.e. they were only carrying out orders of their political master Hitler ), but this plea was rejected and they were hanged.

This article appeared in Justice Katju's blog. Posted here with his permission. Follow him on twitter here

Crispy Cheesy Delights

I am very glad to say that I am a total turophile. There is nothing in this world more motivating than cheese for me. Serve it cold or hot, it tastes always good. Add cheese to any boring dish and it becomes full of life. When all else fails, cheese is always there for you. Please indulge in these cheese fingers to brighten up your mood.

This is such a simple and quick recipe.

Prep Time: 10 mins    |  Frying time: 10 mins    |  Serves: 3-4

List of Ingredients:

    1 cup Gram flour (Besan)

    5-6 tbsp Water

    1 large Potato, boiled

    1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

    Coriander leaves, shredded

    Salt, red chills and black pepper

    1 tsp Garlic paste

    Bread crumbs

    Oil to fry


Take gram flour in a large bowl, add water and form a smooth paste. Add cheese to this mixture and make a firm dough. Now add the mashed potato along with the seasoning and coriander leaves and mix well.

Make oblong shaped rolls of this dough and keep aside.

Roll it in the breadcrumbs and dip in the hot oil for frying

Let the cheese rolls drain the oil on tissues.

Serve hot with the choice of sauce.

Kitchen Notes:

    While making the paste (in step 1), add water slowly to avoid runny batter. In case the batter is runny, add more gram flour.

    Fry on high flame to get crispy fingers.

Modi's Vikas

Before the May 2014 Lok Sabha elections Narendra Modi was projected by a large section of Indians as the modern Moses, the messiah who would lead the beleaguered and despondent Indian people into a land of milk and honey, the man who was best suited to be the next Indian Prime Minister.
And it was not just the BJP and RSS who were saying this. A large section of the Indian so called 'educated' class, including most of our 'educated' youth, who were carried away by Modi’s slogan of vikas were saying this, thinking that now millions of jobs will be created and they would all get jobs..

I was flying from Delhi to Bhopal before the Lok Sabha elections.. Sitting beside me was a Gujarati businessman. I asked him his opinion of Modi. He was all praise for him. I interjected and asked him about the killings of over 2000 Muslims in 2002 in Gujarat. He replied that Muslims were always creating problems in Gujarat, but after 2002 they have been put in their place and there is peace since 2002 in Gujarat. I told him it was the peace of the graveyard, and peace can never last long unless it was coupled with justice. At this remark he took offence and changed his seat on the plane.

 Today in the whole of India, Muslims (who are over 200 million of the people of India) are solidly against Modi (though there are a handful of Muslim chamchas who for various reasons disagree). The atmosphere of intolerance which has been created in India under Modi's rule, the hate speeches of many BJP leaders, the brutal lynching of Ikhlaque, 'ghar wapasi', 'love jihad', beef politics, vandalization of churches in Delhi etc have created fear and insecurity among the minorities

It is claimed by Modi supporters that what happened in Gujarat was only a 'spontaneous' reaction (pratikriya) of Hindus to the killings of 59 Hindus in a train in Godhra. I do not buy this story. Firstly, there is still a mystery as to what exactly happened in Godhra, and who was responsible for the killings. Secondly, the particular persons who were responsible for the Godhra killings should certainly be identified and given harsh punishment, but how does this justify the attack on the entire Muslim community in Gujarat. Muslims are only 9% of the total population of Gujarat, the rest being mostly Hindus. In 2002 Muslims were massacred, their homes burnt, and other horrible crimes committed on them.

To call the killings of Muslims in 2002 as a spontaneous reaction reminds one of Kristallnacht (see online) in Germany in November 1938, when the entire Jewish community in Germany was attacked, many killed, their synagogues burnt, shops vandalized, etc after a German diplomat in Paris was shot by a Jewish youth whose family had been persecuted by the Nazis. It was claimed by the Nazi Government that this was only a 'spontaneous' reaction, but in fact it was planned and executed by the Nazi authorities using fanatic mobs.

I have said in my article 'What is India?' (see on my blog as well as on the video on the website that India is broadly a country of immigrants (like North America) and consequently it is a land of tremendous diversity. Hence the only policy which can hold it together and take it on the path of progress is secularism and equal respect and treatment to all communities and sects. This was the policy of the great Emperor Akbar, which was followed by our Founding Fathers who gave us a secular Constitution. Unless we follow this policy our country cannot survive for one day, because it has so much diversity, so many religions, castes, languages, ethnic groups, etc.

India therefore does not belong to Hindus alone, it belongs equally to Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Parsis, Jains etc. Also, it is not that only Hindus can live in India as first rate citizens while others have to live as second or third rate citizens. All are first rate citizens here. The killings of thousands of Muslims and other atrocities on them in Gujarat in 2002 can never be forgotten or forgiven. All the perfumes of Arabia cannot wash away the stain on Modi in this connection.

 It is said by his supporters that Modi had no hand in the killings of Muslims in 2002, and it is also said that he has not been found guilty by any Court of Law. I do not want to comment on our judiciary, but I certainly do not buy the story that Modi had no hand in the events of 2002. He was the Chief Minister of Gujarat at that time, and the horrible events happened on a large scale in Gujarat Can it be believed that he had no hand in the events of 2002? At least I find it impossible to believe it.

Let me give just one example. Ehsan Jafri was a respected, elderly former Member of the Indian Parliament living in the Chamanpura locality of Ahmedabad in Gujarat. His house was in the Gulbarga Housing Society, where mostly Muslims lived. According to the recorded version of his elderly wife Zakia, on 28.2.2002 a mob of fanatics blew up the security wall of the housing society using gas cylinders, they dragged Ehsan Jafri out of his house, stripped him, chopped off his limbs with swords, etc and burnt him alive. Many other Muslim were also killed and their houses burnt. Chamanpura is barely a kilometer from the police station, and less than 2 kilometers from the Ahmedabad Police Commissioner's office. Is it conceivable that the Chief Minister did not know what was going on? Zakia Jafri since then has been running from pillar to post to get justice for her husband who was so brutally murdered.

.Modi has claimed that he has developed Gujarat. It is therefore necessary to consider what is the meaning of 'development'. To my mind development can have only one meaning, and that is raising the standard of living of the masses. Giving concessions to big industrial houses, and offering them cheap land and cheap electricity can hardly be called development if it does not raise the standard of living of the masses. GDP growth is meaningless if it means benefits only to a handful of big businessmen. The further question to be asked is : who is getting the fruits of this growth, the Indian masses or only a few big businessmen ?

Today, 48% Gujarati children are malnourished, which is a higher rate of malnourishment than the national average. In Gujarat there is high infant mortality rate, high women's maternity death rate, and  57% poverty rate in tribal areas,  and among Scheduled Castes/Backward Castes. As stated by Ramchandra Guha in his article in 'The Hindu' of, 8.2.2013 in Gujarat environmental degradation is rising, educational standards are falling, and malnutrition among children abnormally high. More than a third of adult men in Gujarat have a body mass index of less than 18.5 – the 7th worst in the country. A UNDP report in 2010 has placed Gujarat after 8 other Indian States in multiple dimensions of development e.g. health, education, income levels, etc. (see Hindustan Times, 16.12.2012 P.13)  Farmers suicides are common in Gujarat.

 Mr. Guha further states in his article: “As a sociologist who treats the aggregate data of economists with scepticism, I myself do not believe that Gujarat is the best developed State in the country. Shortly after Modi was sworn in for his third term, I travelled through Saurashtra, whose polluted and arid lands spoke of a hard grind for survival. In the towns, water, sewage, road and transport facilities were in a pathetic state; in the countryside, the scarcity of natural resources was apparent, as pastoralists walked miles and miles in search of stubble for their goats. In terms of social and economic development ”.

The slogan 'vikas' has now lost its magic and lies in shreds. The Indian economy is stagnant. Hardly any new industry has been set up after May 2014, and foreign businessmen, far from investing in India are exiting e.g. Jim Rogers ( see online ). Why will foreigners invest in India when even Indian businessmen are not investing ?

Prices of foodstuffs have skyrocketed in recent times, e.g. dal selling at Rs.200 per kilo. Is this vikas?

This article appeared in Justice Katju's blog. Posted here with his permission. Follow him on twitter here

Monday, November 2, 2015

Are you ready for the “Donate Your Clothes Challenge?”

You do not have any space left in your wardrobe. In fact, it is bursting with clothes, both old and new. One slip of the hand and you won’t know if it was an avalanche that hit you or if it was just a pile of clothes from the shelf. You have not worn that pair of skinny jeans since college and have been holding on to it in the hope that someday, you will fit into them again. You have not given away any of your child’s clothes, especially those adorable mittens and booties, because there are so many memories attached to them. What about those tight cartoony T-Shirts that you outgrew ten years back? Are you keeping them for your younger sibling hoping that he or she will wear it someday? Let’s not forget those baggy loose clothes that you wore all through pregnancy. Will you wear the same clothes for your next pregnancy? What about that old-forgotten blanket kept in a cardboard box high up somewhere in the attic? Will you take it out this winter? Then there is the bed linen you haven’t used in a while because it no longer matches the room’s color scheme or decor.

 Let’s face it, we are hoarders. We like to hold on to our stuff because letting go is difficult. So, as we tuck ourselves in or our dear ones in warm cosy quilts and duvets, let us take a minute to think of the plight of the homeless or the poor who cannot even afford even a warm cup of coffee. The images of the millions of refugees trudging across Europe, despite the harsh weather conditions, are even more heart-rending. 

If the Ice Bucket Challenge gave you the chills, our Donate Your Clothes Challenge will make you feel warm and nice on the inside. It’s very simple. All you have to do is clean out your closet and give away the clothes that you no longer wear, to the ones who really need them this winter. Once you have done this you can go ahead and tag your friends and family to do the same. This will serve as a gentle nudge to remind them if they have not done so already. You can post pictures of yourself with the clothes you are planning to give away or even write about that special feeling that comes along with giving away something very close to your heart. Use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and everything within your reach to spread the word. 

You can reach out to your family or friends and ask around if they know somebody who would benefit from this endeavour. Asking the nanny who takes care of your kids or the domestic help that comes to your house might be a good place to start with. The intrepid ones can talk to community members or leaders and can take the initiative to organize a campaign for donating clothes. You can call up your local charity or an NGO of your choice or even the local/community news channel and enquire if they are interested in collection and donation of old clothes. Only such proactive engagements will yield positive results. 

Winter is very well on its way and we have very less time. Britain could be headed for the coldest winter in more than 50 years if weather forecasts are to be believed. As the temperatures plunge to a frigid low, the death toll this year is expected to rise. In India, winter is the second major reason for deaths after lightening as per the natural disaster statistics. This is tragic news for the elderly, infants and the other vulnerable sections of the society who cannot afford warm quilts, blankets, nutritious-warm food or shelters with central heating. What’s even more tragic are the easily preventable ‘excess winter deaths’ of the homeless-the ones who cannot afford a place to stay. So, for the millions of homeless across the world this winter is going to be about life or death while the rest of the world enjoys the festive season. So as the cold wave sweeps across the land, can we spread the message of hope across to people who are struggling to stay alive this winter? This is your chance to be someone’s hero. 

Saturday, October 31, 2015

What are our kids watching on TV?

My toddler started taking an interest in cartoons recently. That is when I realized that the cartoons/ programs on Nick Jr., Disney Jr., Baby Tv etc. are repeated every other day. There are NO NEW EPISODES. They keep on repeating the few episodes they have, over and over again without thinking how it might affect these kids. The whole idea seemed quite daunting and alarming. I mean, aren’t these cartoon channels even the least bit concerned about the Indian kids? Why haven’t the parents reacted yet?

If you were a 90’s kid, you would have probably seen shows like The Rugrats, Hey Arnold, Spongebob Square Pants (not the terribly dubbed version in Hindi), The Wild Thornberrys, The Flinstones, The Jetsons, DragonBallZ, The Loony Tunes, The Scooby Doo Shows, The Powerpuff Girls, The Angry Beavers, Cat Dog, Beyblade, The Avatar, Card Captor, Naruto, Captain Planet, Duck Tales, Tiny Toons etc...the list goes on and on. We have some amazing memories of some amazing cartoons that we grew up watching if you were lucky to have cable TV at home. There was mystery, adventure, romance, action, comedy and what not. What happened to our Cartoon channels? Have you ever wondered?

Do we not love our kids? Or are we just plain ignorant or just not paying enough attention? If you happen to pay attention to the cartoon shows that your kids have been watching, you are sure to go bonkers. There is nothing new on these cartoon channels except for the unimaginative desi cartoons with despicable accents, some creepy-strange looking Japanese or Chinese cartoons and unnerving repetitions of classic cartoons like Tom and Jerry or Mr. Bean, Johnny Bravo, Dexter’s Laboratory, Blue’s Clues or Dora the Explorer. So, you think Chhota Bheem is the best because your kid is crazy about the show. No, it is because you don’t know any better and your child never had the opportunity to see some wonderful cartoons that we, the 90’s kids, grew up watching. Don’t our kids deserve any better than these cheap Japanese imports like Shin Chan or Doraemon? Strangely, these uncanny characters that grace our television from morning till night, day after day, are awfully flawed and are not the best role models for our kids.  

 I shall maintain my silence regarding the religious connotations of shows like Chhota Bheem or Kisna. But, I am of the strong opinion that they could be made a bit more imaginative than the morbidly redundant story-line of the desi-superhero beating up monstrous villains with “oohs”, “aahs” and “dishoom-dishooms”. Are these cartoons doing any justice to our cultural heritage? Wait, no! Absolutely not. Are these cartoons reflective of modern India? No! And most importantly, why the terrible accent? They could have at least done away with the accent.

Well, this again is my personal opinion. I prefer my child watching cartoons than playing with the mobile or fiddling with the laptop. While these cartoon companies are minting money by showing sub-standard cartoons to our children, we must remember that these cartoons are going to be a big part of their childhood and it is up to us parents to make it memorable and meaningful.

                                                                                                               -Letter from a concerned parent.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Restaurant Review: Little Italy-A taste of Italy in Bangalore

“Little Italy” restaurant is located off the Hosur main road, a stone’s throw away from Forum mall, in Koramangala. It is easily accessible due to its location and has got Valet parking, so customers needn’t worry parking. As the name suggests, Little Italy packs a delectable menu of 100% pure vegetarian, authentic Italian dishes for those who love Italian cuisine or just simply want to give it a try.

The restaurant is spacious and has seating on the ground floor hall, first floor hall as well as the ground floor lobby. However, we would advise against the last option as it would mean that one has to sit through the generator’s mechanical judder, which with Bangalore frequent power cuts might be just too often. The interiors are done aesthetically with a predominant brown color on the seats, wall and ceiling. Though we had called for reserving in advance, we were informed that we could just walk in. We were initially seated on a table near the wash area. When we expressed our displeasure with that seat, we were promptly shifted to another table of our choice.

We were happy and relieved to see that the menu card had details of the ingredients and cooking method of each item listed on the menu. This is really helpful for those customers who are not well acquainted with Italian cuisine. Though the names were in Italian, they’ve also got an alphanumeric key which makes it easy to order. However, we did try our share of tongue twisting which was hilarious. 

The menu card is clearly divided into sections like soup, starters, 1st course, 2nd course, Mexican and desserts. We started with “Zuppa Di Cippole” which is spring onion soup served with crunchy croutons. Each mouthful was delicious and bursting with flavor. The spring onion was neatly chopped into equal size pieces which instantly melted in the mouth and the croutons were really crunchy. As for the starters, we decided to go for “Verdure Trifolate” which was a mix of mushroom, cheese, baby corn, tomatoes, olives etc. served with farmer’s bread. It was heaven on a platter. Not a single ingredient was out of place and the vegetables were cooked to perfection. For the 1st course we had “Tortellinie Di Zia Cuncetta” which is tortellini pasta in white sauce. It was a tad bit disappointing as compared to the soup and the starter, but it is only fair to appreciate the effort that has gone into preparing such a complex, delicate dish. We were tempted to try the Nachos with cheese as well and therefore decided to skip dessert. They even have a separate menu for wine, cocktails and mocktails but we skipped it.

The service was prompt, courteous and pleasant. It was definitely a good experience and definitely worth the money spent.