“Welcome, Polar Bear! Keeping yourself warm, huh?”, remarked my co-worker one evening as I donned layers of clothing ranging from fleece jackets, gloves, woolen socks, cap, and a long coat, getting ready to head home after work . My skin show was restricted to eyes and nose, so it’s not hard to imagine what one would have looked like. This was five years ago in Chicago. For someone who had spent a better part of her life growing up in a tropical climate like India, living in sub-zero temperatures with the Lake effect was as good as moving to the Antarctic. Well, not really! In retrospect, I wish I had known the tricks of choosing appropriate layers of clothing without looking like a Polar Bear or sweat like a pig in the hot Indian summers.
One is not spoilt for choice in India when it comes to outdoor clothing especially for winter. It’s hard to shop for the right clothing at reasonable prices and it only gets worse if you are traveling from southern to northern parts of the country that get a good deal of snow and waves of cold air. For a recent trip to Delhi, here’s how I went about carefully packing the right kind of dresses for my husband:
- Inner layer - Woolen socks and thermals made of polypropylene.
- Middle / Insulation layer - Sweaters, woolen hats, gloves, fleece, polypropylene jacket, full-sleeve t-shirts and dark pants.
- Shell or outer layer - Long woolen coats, and wind gear.
Some points I keep in mind so as not to feel bogged down by the layering in winter or overheating in summer:
- Prefer woolen as it is an excellent insulation material. Looks elegant though it can be a little pricey. Shop for winter gear in one of those end-of-season sales to get the best bargains. It will come in handy for the next winter.
- Cotton is strict no-no for winter as it is a bad insulator in wet conditions. But this is the fabric to swear by in summer.
- While buying outer layer clothing, try not to get a size too fitting or small to ensure you leave enough room for other layers. This will keep you comfortable.
- Fleece is great at regulating one’s body temperature in winter.
- Wearing two layers of socks does the trick - a thin inner layer and athick outer layer. Often, I have found that if the feet is kept warm, the body feels much warmer.
So, what are your tricks of smart dressing for outdoors?
It was the monsoon of ‘99 when I first moved to Bangalore. Since then, I’ve lived here for four years at a stretch and then moved in and out of the city only to return with a renewed fervour - a longing one has only for a place you feel at home. You can live for years and still not feel the pulse of a city. Pune was one such place for me - cold! The three years I lived there, I never knew which restaurants served the best Italian food or which road-side paanwala rolled the most mouth-watering paan, or which day of the week you got the best chole bature at the neighbouring sweet shop. To Pune’s credit, it was the most welcoming city I’ve ever lived in; its just that with a closed-mind of always ‘wanting to go to Bangalore’ I never made the effort to fit in. There I said it and it is a huge relief now.
Things started looking up towards the end when I enjoyed some delicious chats almost four times a week during our evening walks; never realised how those colorful chutneys could arouse one’s taste buds - an act of gluttony, is all I can say! The thought of those crispy samosas, glistening jalebis from Pradeep Sweets every Saturday morning for breakfast will make it tough for me to get into bed now. Sabudana khichdi figures way high on the list of my favorite food items now - something that I tasted for the first time there. It’s pohe and sabudana khichdi anyday over Idli/Dosa. So you get it how I felt for the food I discovered in Pune yet there was this emptiness of not knowing enough to strike a conversation when it came to places and understanding the pulse of a city.
Bangalore has changed dramatically these past few years but somethings never change like the ubiquitous Shanthi Sagars (we preferred calling them *.sagars in the good ole techie days). Even after all these years, I can confidently vouch for some of the good eat-outs around the city from where you get the best tea leaves to the most creamy malai ras, to the best soan papdi in town and where you can indulge in greasy parathas that feels like real parathas. It feels so nostalgic as I recount some of the places we have frequented in Bangalore East. Many hold fond memories - of good food ofcourse. I am a total foodie, you can count on that; someone who eats first and regrets about calories later when the flab shows up!
- Casa Piccola @ Indira Nagar: Black Forest Crepes, Chocolate Mousse, French Fries, and Grilled Cheese Sandwich
- Little Italy on 100 Feet Road, Indira Nagar
- Caesar’s on MG Road
- Orange County @ Manipal Center
- Bombay House on CMH Road : Malai Ras
- KC Das on Varthur Road - Misthi Doi
- The Dhaba : Dal Makhani
- Lalitha’s Paratha Point near Commercial Street
What are your recommended hangouts in the city you live in?
When the IPL T20 matches were on in April - June, the most played ad on TV was the Vodafone Happy to Help one; it portrayed a pug with a lil’ girl that helps her stick stamps on post cards, gets her sock and finally, runs behind her bus to give the neck tie that she’s forgotten back home. A very cute ad with a great song –
Everyday I want to fly, stay by my side
Everyday I want to dream, stay by my side
Every morning I wish I could just play
Wish the mornings would just stay
LG loved it so much so that whenever it played he would drop everything and rush to the drawing room to dance ..the happiness and smile was so infectious that we got hooked on it. Sometimes, during the late night matches when LG would fall asleep and the ad played, we caught ourselves sheepishly shaking a leg. The ad has stopped playing now..all the ads in the “Happy to Help” series have been wonderful. Vodafone guy: if you are reading this, please get back the Pug.
As temperatures soared since the beginning of March, tempers flared too. Blame it on the furnace liking conditions inside the house with a high humidity. The first downpour of the monsoon season Tuesday evening brought a much needed respite from the heat. The first showers are always welcoming. I love the cloudy look while many find the Seattle-like gloomy atmosphere very depressing. The first rainfall of the season is akin to the first snow of winter. The excitement is high when one doesn’t really give much thought to the long winter ahead or the incessant downpour for weeks confining us to stay indoors. It’s also the beginning of muddy roads, power cuts, mosquitoes breeding in poodles of water and when white clothes are better kept in wardrobes.
Yet it’s fun despite all that it gets with it. The smell before the rain or the dust settling in with the leaves showing their true green color, roads cleaned naturally – there’s more to celebrate during monsoon than any other season. Chai (for a buff like me) has never been more exciting. And for people like me with all the time in the world, it’s a pleasure to watch the rain while singing “rain rain go away” to my toddler son. Sure, it disrupts our evening schedule but who cares? - it gives me an opportunity to go out with LG at noon or any time of the day when it isn’t raining. And sometimes the unpredictability of it all is such a turn on with LG looking at me like I’m crazy to go out at that hour of the day!
Striving for a carbon free lifestyle this World Environment Day
World Environment Day (WED), commemorated on 5 June, is hosted by a different city every year. First established in 1972 by the United Nations General Assembly, WED is used by the United Nations Environment Program to create awareness the world over relating to the environment issues affecting us. The day is celebrated in many ways including street rallies, parades, exhibitions, and competitions to make it more interactive, empower people to act on issues affecting all of us and change the attitude towards adopting a healthier lifestyle.
The slogan for the World Environment Day 2008 is Kick the Habit! Towards a Low Carbon Economy. It will be hosted by New Zealand with the main celebrations scheduled to take place at Wellington on June 5, 2008. The Chicago Botanic Garden will play the North American host this year. New Zealand, among the first few nations striving to be carbon free, is focused on controlling deforestation and promoting forestation as a means to curb the release of greenhouse gases. It may be recalled the greenhouse gases such as CO2 is one of the main reasons for global warming.
The World Environment Day 2007 held in Tromse, Norway concentrated on the impact of climate change on life ecosystems in colder regions such as Arctic with the theme “Melting Ice – a Hot Topic?” If 2007 was about the colder regions of the planet, then 2006 laid emphasis on the hotter ones with the theme “Deserts and Desertification”. What could have been a better place to host the event than Algeria.
June 5, 2008 will mark a milestone in the celebrations of World Environment Day - the 35th year since it was first observed in 1974. What is sadly worth mentioning here is that, in all these years India has never been a host even once. India, the seventh largest country in the world area wise (3,287,590 sq km) and second population wise with a burgeoning population of over 1.1 billion, we use a significant amount of the planet’s natural resources and cause a greater impact on its environment if not more than the developed nations.
One of the topics that has repeated as the theme several times is climate change manifesting itself in different forms – global warming, greenhouse gases, ozone layer depletion, melting ice, green cities to name a few. It was not without reason that Al Gore (jointly with UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 in recognition of his efforts to create awareness across the world about global warming through his much acclaimed documentary “An Inconvenient Truth”.
It’s not surprising that this year’s theme focuses again on climate change. What is commendable is the focus has narrowed down to a specific cause of global warming – emission of carbon gases which makes it easier to educate people how to kick the CO2 habit. If each of us does our bit, it will go a long way in controlling the emission of greenhouse gases. Carbon dioxide comprises about 9-26% of the greenhouse gases, the others being water vapour, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone and CFCs.
Puneites are becoming increasingly aware of the green revolution, thanks to the exhibitions, seminars and talks about it in the mainstream media. The “go-green” campaign is gaining momentum like never before. Despite this, feeling down of trees continues in most parts of the city. Recently, one witnessed a beautiful cotton tree being cut down for no apparent reason. Every individual has a carbon footprint that depends on their lifestyle. Research by Energy Information Administration (EIA) shows an average Indian in 2003 emitted about 0.96 tons of C02 annually while an American’s emission was about 20 tons annually – about 20 times more than that of an Indian. The next EIA report is due in May-July 2008.
Here are some of the changes that we can bring about in our daily life which will go a long way in reducing the emission of CO2:
Conserve Energy: Switch off fans and lights as you leave a room. Turn off the electrical appliances such as washing machine, mixer-grinder, TV, music system when not in use. Reduce the usage of water motor to pump the municipality water to the overhead tank. Finish off your chores as much as possible when the direct water supply is on. Use solar heater as much as possible. This will reduce your energy bills drastically.
Conserve Water: Make provisions for rainwater harvesting at your home. The collected and stored rain after the first few showers of the monsoon can be used for future use. Ensure the place where the rain water is stored is kept clean.
Plant trees: If you have a backyard full of wild grass or a lawn that is not mowed, clean it and have it planted with trees such as mango, papaya and some flowery plants or simple have a vegetable garden. It will not only lighten the atmosphere of your home, it is also good for the environment. The pleasure of cooking vegetables plucked from the backyard is to be experienced. With the monsoon a few weeks away, now is the time to get started.
Fresh vegetables from the local vendor: The lure of modern retail stores is hard to resist and people are increasingly turning to More, Spencers’ and such for buying vegetables. These vegetables are presented and packaged well which is appealing to the buyer but think of the energy consumed in processing and storing to keep them fresh. So, buy fresh vegetables from the local vendor in your street corner.
Use CFL bulbs: CFL bulbs are becoming increasingly popular such as the ones from Philips or Wipro. Replace incandescent bulbs with CFL to save power.
Say “No” to packaged products: No Tropicana or Real can beat the taste of freshly squeezed oranges or mango shake. Fresh juices are healthy with no added preservatives. Sure, it’s a little effort but one that’s worthy and healthy!
As Al Gore rightly said in An Inconvenient Truth, “Future generations may well have occasion to ask themselves, “What were our parents thinking? Why didn’t they wake up when they had a chance?” We have to hear that question from them, now!” Let’s make the right choices now to save the planet for our future generations. And, there is no one giant step that does it. It’s a lot of little steps like you and I.
The mercury is rising in Pune and it gets worse in the evenings leaving one completely drained and thirsty all the time. Recently on one of our routine evening walks when I could walk no further, I stopped by at a local grocer’s to grab a cold drink - my choice being Amul’s flavored milk. As I made my exit in came a little girl who couldn’t have been more than 7 years old and said, “Uncle, can Pepsi chahiye!” Mind you, it’s not just Pepsi anymore..it’s Can Pepsi. In yet another incident, a neighbor’s daughter in her 8th std. prefers walking to school about 2 Kms away in this sweltering heat instead of riding her bicycle - as a mark of protest for not being given a two-wheeler to drive. Parents anticipate demands for a cell phone coming soon. Contrary to most parents, the girl’s parents are stubborn too and let her walk deciding not to cave in so easily.
Choices of this generation are changing fast. For one, they are aware of what’s available and understand the ways and means to get it. They are more comfortable dealing with money. And parents are more comfortable handing them money. Until I was 17 years old, all I had in my school bag was a 5 Re. note to deal with an emergency which most likely was my cycle tyre getting punctured. Which never happened on the way in the two years I rode my cycle to school. Which also means that I never got to use that Re. 5 mote and duly handed it over to my mother on the last day of my school. One need not expect that of this generation. According to a report in Reuters, you can make your kids financially savvy by actively involving them in monthly budgets and letting them deal with a little money early on. Exposure to how you as parents earn, wisely spend and invest will go a long way in them not making extravagant demands. So says the study.
Not too old as compared to these kids but I already feel much older to sense what has been called the generation gap for ages. To step into their shoes and bond with them is not going to be easy. It doesn’t stop with heir food choices. That’s just the beginning. It extends into all other aspects of their lifestyle - clothing for instance. I am at times shocked by their knowledge of the fashion scene and what was hot in the Lakme Fashion Week to which model is touting which cuts and fabric from which designer. And am I shocked to see 15 year old girls coming into salons to get their hair highlighted, eyebrows done and pedicure. All this from girls in their teens? Oh and wait - there was also this ad recently about a gym opening up exclusively for kids. Seems like the most happening thing where in kids can chill out with their buddies at the gym and work out too. Excuse me since when did they stop hitting the playground every evening for an hour. As kids, the days seemed incomplete if we didn’t return home every evening from the park and mom yelling for entering with mud filled shoes. With huge disposable incomes and indulging parents, getting the designer wear or a trip to the spa is not tough for these not-so-elite kids. With the exposure they get from TV and friends alike, they are also wearing it. No wonder Businessworld reported a story titled “Young Luxe” on how luxury brand such as Gucci and Lacoste are finding huge takers in India.
As Lil’ General grows up, it’s going to take a huge makeover of my attitude to begin with.
I did not say that ..Times of India did. Correction - actually a study by University of Michigan says from their ongoing survey of 8000 U.S families that husbands are instrumental in keeping their wives on toes by adding all the extra chores around the house. All you voluntarily unmarried single women have one more reason to keep your status. The study has gone a step further to claim that “A wife saves men from about an hour of housework a week.”
Many of us have cultivated at least a bad habit over the years, the seeds of which were sown early. One such that I have stuck to since childhood is an inadequate intake of water - a habit that can have serious impact on one’s health. V has given up trying to advise me on its benefits and devising new methods to make me drink water. I don’t have any aversion as such - it’s just not a habit as I don’t have the normal instinct to drink a glass of water after food or during food and it goes down to less than a glass the whole day during winter/rainy season. During my pregnancy, I consciously kept a filled bottle and set time targets by which the bottle had to be emptied - it worked for a while. Naturally, I complain of sickness that V doesn’t such as frequent headaches, constipation, increased weight and a general uneasiness.My brother and I had inherited this habit from my mother while my dad gulps down bottles and bottles through the course of the day.
Last week, my dad narrated a story of his obese colleague who was suddenly sporting a fit body. He didn’t waste no time in finding the secret - Water Therapy. I’ve tried getting dad - with a generous midsection himself - to do yoga, diet control but to no avail. Since this was easy, he started on it last Monday. Inspired by him, mom and I have been staring our day with 500 ml of water this past week. I can’t say it has worked wonders but I definitely feel lighter and good. If nothing else, the increased bowel movements
I’ve written about my fear of cockroaches before. Family generally takes care of keeping it a hushed up affair even if they sight one ensuring it’s either out of my sight or killed and properly given the last rites. All hell breaks loose if I sight a cockroach even a dead one for that matter. My fear for this insect goes back a long way when my granny’s ancestral house was (and still is) infested with hundreds of them that it was difficult to walk in the kitchen without stepping on one. I know - what a creepy place! Nothing worked - pest control, Hit, acid, name it and it has been tried. The source of the problem is a 1ft*1ft opening which was once the mouth of a well. The well has been covered for years now but there is a belief followed in South India that a well should not be completely sealed. I guess the well has drained and has now probably become a open gutter making it a heaven for these insects.
And then decades later, when I lived in Bangalore it was a nightmare in every house that I’ve lived. One night I wake up at 2:30 a.m. and switch on the light for I felt something moving over me and to my shock there was a rat at the foot of my bed and about 50 cockroaches over my bag, my clothes name it and over my roommate as well. Just before you start thinking what kinds of a shady place we lived in, let me clear the air. I shared a room with another girl for a year on the ground floor and it was a spacious and well kept one. We had it cleaned every day and turns out the lady who cleaned left the window open to let fresh air in. We forgot to close that evening and the neighboring house no doubt was a shady one that was a breeding ground for cockroaches and rats. We learned the next morning that they had emptied two cans of Hit the previous day due to which all their cockroaches found a new home in ours. Without wasting any time, the first thing I did that weekend was to leave the place into another where the neighboring houses were great too. This is a common problem in Bangalore when people get pest control done. The more I write about it, the worse I feel so I better stop now. At times, when I’ve sighted a cockroach I dream of hundreds in the night - it’s not imagination, it’s just old memories coming back to me.
Now, I take good care in ensuring there’s not a single cockroach. Pest control using herbal gel is the mode I prefer - it’s safe if you have kids around. After using it every 6 months for the past year or so, I must say it’s very effective. First introduced by the Pest Control of India , it has been widely adopted by many small players. The Times classifieds in Pune has a lot of listings. They usually charge anywhere between Rs. 550 and Rs.600 for a 3 BHK. All it takes is about 20 minutes. They apply a small paste all around the house - cracks, furniture, wooden cupboards, toilets, kitchen sinks etc etc. Once done, you wouldn’t see a cockroach for the next 6 months. If you do sight one frequently, then it has not been properly done and call them up and they will redo it. I’ve found PCI expensive - they charge Rs.2400 annually whereas the rest do it at Rs.1100. Bangaloreans, check it out!
My aunt and my mother had just returned from the astrologers’ den after a 4-hour ordeal and said later that night, “One profession where you don’t need a degree, no equipment or capital investment for a swanky office but just a room rent and still keep a thriving business - astrology!” They were tired from the madness, the push and shove, the I-go-first adventure of the day. They could’ve returned, but they persisted until they had seen The Man.
Human beings are curious creatures, all eager to know what the future has in store for them - willing to lie on our bums for the rest of our lives if the astrologer predicts “You would settle abroad.” Your stars will work towards it, isn’t it?
Fortune telling is a thriving profession in India and manifests itself in various forms - palmistry, tarot reading, olai chudi/nadi josiyam, numerology, coffee reading, tea reading and astrology. The takers are no less in number ..it’s a different story whether we believe it or not. Some do it seriously as if their life depended on it and some just for the heck of it. No wonder Vivek Oberoi becomes Viveik Oberoi and just about every celebrity in Bollywood making the spelling confusing, sometimes tongue twisting ..with some changing it back and forth so many times that it’s hard to tell which is the current one. It was an obsession a while ago in Tamil Nadu and the name boards of even the tiniest grocery store changed the way they spelt it based on Numerology.
Belief in astrology has been so ingrained in our culture that people rush to fortune tellers irrespective of their class and caste, often ruining their lives by spending a fortune in parikarams, to set things right whatever be the problem - loss in business, daughter-in-law /mother tussle, marrying your longtime girlfriend or missing that much wanted promotion yet again. Often times, I’ve seen people visiting a particular temple one particular day of every week for months or fasting or taking a pilgrimage to a remote temple in a remote village of the country.
Astrology is a science; I’m neither ridiculing its believers nor doubting the credibility of those to who these people believe. Sometimes I wonder if they are just good observers and psychologists who believe in saying what we love to hear with a tinge of bad news to give it that authenticity. I just find it funny how this as a profession has passed down generations in this nation and in most cases serves as the only source of income and how people hold on to every word the astrologer says. As if the human version was not enough, we now have numerous software that boast of accuracy in prediction and high success rate in match making. There are no degrees or experience certificates to prove these astrologers are the best in their profession - it’s all by word of mouth. Of late, I’ve heard people in the marriage market complaining there’s a dearth now and many are increasingly turning to the software version but are missing the solace and comfort of hearing their fortunes from that of another human - the reassurance and personal touch is missing.
Years ago, ‘93 to be precise, a distance uncle saw my palm and said, “You would never travel abroad.” I replied, “But I just got back a month ago.” Surprised and adjusting his posture he said, “Well that was your last trip.” He pursued palm reading as a hobby and did not read everybody’s. I had no inkling about this hobby and later my granny said he was good at it. We’ll see I had told her. Those were the growing up years when all one dreamed was to study and work in U.S So this prediction was kind of upsetting. In due course of time, I perhaps forgot. More trips followed - ‘98, ‘00 followed by another one in ‘03-’04. I’m sure you have heard people tell you all sorts of things. They are good at telling what has happened in the past but when it comes to predict what is going to happen I doubt!
After all these years, I’d like to not believe any astrologer, not go to one (I don’t) and not don my fingers with colorful stones. Future is exciting when you don’t know what’s in store - isn’t that why it’s called that. Recently I was told I won’t work for the rest of my life and never have a career again. We’ll see!