Coffee:Boiled or Filtered?

Here in Maharashtra, many people prefer to drink their coffee boiled. Personally I have never liked this version as it leaves a grainy taste and somehow does not give the ‘nervous stimulus’ that one seeks in a cup of coffee particularly when fighting to stay awake- that’s my opinion.

There are times when I have opted for tea if the usual filtered (nothing to beat this version) or the instant version is not available.

However this study shows that boiled coffee may actually be beneficial for women. (Click here or copy paste the following in your browser:

Research by Lena Nilsson and associates at Umeå University showed that women who drink Scandinavian boiled coffee, (chemically similar to French press and Turkish/Greek coffee) over four times everyday run a lower risk of developing breast cancer than women who drink coffee less than once per day. For the the first time experts could show that different brewing techniques can lead to different risk patterns for cancer.

I hope you have read the above research.
In a broader perspective, it is sensible to focus on proper cooking techniques and not only ingredients as the wrong method contribute to ill health.
Food for thought?
I wonder….

Every drop counts

The infrastructure crisis in Pune city continues. Roads, electricity and water take turns in testing patience of Punekars.

Water currently is the chart topper with monsoons playing truant. Though the Met office says June 2009 rainfall met average levels, dams that supply water to the city are drying up and fast. Currently we face a 40% water cut with supply on alternate days.
Through the year the Khadakvasla and Panshet dams that supply water to Pune serve as picnic spots substituting for Mumbai’schowpaty‘ (beach). The amount of rainfall in the Khadakvasla and Panshet dams is closely reported in Pune dailies.
More constructive action on part of citizens is required.
Saving water in all possible means is of utmost importance at all times.
Install rain water harvesting systems in existing buildings. While the cost may seem high, it would be shared by several people and returns over time would make this investment worthwhile.
Washing machines consume a large quantity of water. Change to manual washing and use the machine only to spin dry the clothes. Else use the ‘economy’ mode available on the machine.
Click here for some tips on saving water at home.
Click here for the latest satellite image of the country to get an idea of upcoming rainfall.
We are paying the price for carelessness and irresponsibility that we resorted to through the years. Simply praying to rain gods or blaming the system now will not count. All round and year round efforts are required at times with some personal discomfort.
Every effort counts to make each drop of water go a longer way.
Do it. Now.
There is no time to lose.

Why me? Why not?

Driving through Pune roads, can at best be said to be strenuous and every signal halt a gross waste of time. Yet these very halts offer a quick bargain as well are a pointer to the latest trends. Almost all major junctions have group of barely clothed kids selling seasonal goods. Come summer and one can choose from activity books for children, fancy yo-yos, rubic cubes, racket shaped battery powered mosquito killers and removable shades for your car windows. Its the time to pick up a few strings of fragrant mogra gajra’s and if you cant stand the heat, try out the portable battery fan.

Rain or no rain umbrellas are readily purchased in the monsoons, as the rainbow coloured accessories can serve as a self protection device too! Beat the ergonomics monster with neck supports in different colours for your car! Duster cloths miraculously appear as the windows mist over in the showers cutting visibility to almost zero!

August brings forth little tricolours to affix on your dashboard or desk too. The latest rickshaw fare card or boxes of tissues are perennially in demand. As the year draws to a close, the little urchins dart inbetween vehicles with Santa caps and stockings. A bountiful crop at Mahableshwar means strawberries galore at the traffic intersections. Getting delayed for that party? No problem- pacify your hostess with a huge bunch of roses or gerberas all picked up enroute of course!

I hate to give money to beggars yet the sight of a mother with newborn hanging on her chest brings out conflicting emotions. But these children were not begging just pleading with you to buy his wares….

They seemed not to have had a bath for ages… As for food, ribs and bone ends poking through the torn clothes told their own story. My fingers itched to pull out some tissues from the box she is selling to wipe the phlegm of the kid’s nose or swat flies settling on the wound on her arms.

Who funds these goods? Do the families selling them make enough to get two square meals?And many more uncomfortable questions…

Yet what do I do? Just turn my head away and desperately wait for the light to turn green.

Is there nothing we can do for these families? Should the authorities not be doing something? Can I do something? Should I?

Why me? But then … why not?

Enough is enough

Nobody doubts that cleanliness in public areas in most Indian cities leaves much to be desired. Lets leave swanky south Mumbai or Lutyen’s Delhi out of this..

So while we spend hours cleaning our homes its all promptly dumped outside.
Now it seems the world has taken note of our habbits and joined the fray.

This news from Economic Times dated 08 Sep 2008 should serve as an eye opener. Of course UK councils have all the right to make their environs clean and green and in a cost effective way. But does it justify shipping their garbage to be dumped on Indian soil? And what are our local authorities doing in letting the muck accumulate here?

Sunita Narayan and her cronies should surely be raising a ‘stink’ on this issue but I have not yet heard anything.

Have we become so immune and thick skinned that hygiene matters so little? Has the perennial rat race for money and better living dulled our sensibilities of our earth?

We must change. Recycle, reuse is all fine but please do it sensibly. Remember the world is watching. We have only ourselves to blame if more such waste lands on our shores.

Bulls and Bears

Fuel prices hiked, scream newspaper and other media headlines.

Roll back, urge everyone but those in power.

The Sensex falls by a few hundred almost daily.

Inflation in double digits.

Crude reaches new peak.

Is there no good news, I ask?

Search and you will find news pegs of Indian firms forming JVs or even acquiring firms, winning major projects and adding capacities.

Despite the nay sayers, I am told there was record high payment of advance tax for the current quarter. I am not a finance person but is that not because company earnings are good?

The gloom is not an India specific phenomenon. One finds inflation across the world, to a larger or smaller extent. So many foreign companies are reporting losses, banks going under and retrenchment is on in a big way.

There are several so called ‘experts’ who fuel negativity with dire predictions. Yet there are some sane voices.

Should we really let the bear hug lower our moral, our determination?

Life is never a bed of roses. We have no control over whatever happens abroad or for that matter our politicians. We need to continue with our work, make a difference wherever we can and things will change for the better soon. They have too. It cannot be a one way fall downwards…

Let the bears and bulls continue their fight. We have work to do. Nation building is something each one of must contribute to.

Lets not blame the media this time…

Besides cricket, hockey has been in the news recently as our team failed to qualify for the Olympics. Chak De was huge hit but did it inspire more kids to playing hockey? I don’t think so. Ours is a cricket crazy nation. On a match day one finds strangers entering enthusiastic discussions, impromptu get together’s as pan shops to catch the score on the radio or TV, street celebrations if we win or an autopsy like no other if we don’t. Allegations of match fixing have not dampened this sentiment though I hear of an increasing number of people who have ‘switched off’ from cricket for this reason.

A child could be blessed with special skills but these would be brought out only when given a chance. If the first gift to a boy is a cricket bat, he plays the game in his lane since the age of 5 how would he even develop interest in or know his aptitude for any other sport? Its for parents to spot and understand their child and guide him accordingly – not burden him/her with their own (unfulfilled) aspirations.

It would be easy to blame media and commercial reasons for the cricket focus. Of course these are and will always remain a big part. Yet there is much more. Middle class Indians give huge importance to education. Sport as a profession is not yet widely accepted by Indians. Sacrificing studies to focus on a professional sport career is not something many can digest, I as a mother would not nor would many I have spoken to. Many Pune schools encourage sports other than cricket yet after class 10 most students shift attention to studies. The game fades to the background as they go about preparing for zillions of entrance exams to get into a ivy league college or coveted profession. The sport then just remains something to stay fit.

Corruption in sports bodies too is yet another deterrent which affects sports as there may not be adequate infrastructure. Lethargy of sports bodies has been vividly depicted in the movie Chak De. Often whatever stadia are developed in a city/town are located far away making it impossible for sportsperson to easily access them for training. Sports bodies must work to provide suitable coaches. Girls face the added disadvantage of parental and society pressures of giving up sports as it would hamper matrimonial prospects.

Getting sponsors to fund expensive gear or training is yet another issue many struggling sportsperson other than cricket face.
So lets not blame the media this time. It all boils down to the moolah.

Regional vs National

Does Bollywood overshadow regional cinema. … that’s our topic today. A tough one for me who is not a very keen fan of the movies. Yet no one can be immune to them. Go to any party and Antakshri or ‘dumb charades’ of movie names will follow you there. Turn on the telly and the actors are goading you to buy this oil or that cream or car or TV. Yet these are mostly for those from the Hindi movies- Bollywood, at least that’s what I see in Maharashtra.

Marathi cinema was not doing too well some time ago yet has made some form of resurgence lately. The shows find a place in multiplexes and ‘Shwas’ even got nominated for the Oscar. Yet most get categorised in the ‘art’ category. I dont have enough exposure to other regional cinema but I do know that the southern industry is booming, its actors have almost cult following. I hear that Bhojpuri cinema too is doing pretty well.

The two prominent politicians that cinema has given Indian politics are from the South-NTR and J Jayalalitha. Hindi stars have failed to make a mark in national politics- with the Big B making a quiet exit. Shotgun Sinha and Garam Dharam and Govinda too don’t make the kind of waves they would on the cash registers. So does that mean regional cinema is overshadowed? Certainly not.

If one talks purely of money then I guess Hindi stars command huge rates but probably matched by some southern stars. Hindi is our national language and often movies serve as a means for people to learn basics of communicating Hindi. Not only India I heard German girls speaking Hindi all learnt from our very own Shah Rukh’s films. I am told Raj Kapoor films evince the same interest in Russia. The Hindi music industry churns out hits that survive from Friday to Friday but stay alive on our ring tones and dialler tones. In this backdrop Bollywood truly overshadows regional cinema.

A good film will get due recognition and accolades and will probably be dubbed or screened with subtitles in other languages. All in all, each has its own place and audience. They cannot be adversaries but must complement each other to entertain us and bring forth socially relevant messages as and when necessary. Yenjoy!

Whats in a Word?

Finally accepting the inevitable, I visited the doctor for the mandatory post 40 check ups. Despite being ‘only screening’ I had to visit the radiologist, pathologist, gynaecologist… Years of exercising and healthy eating paid off in the green chit I received from all these learned people.

At every halt in my doctor round, I was referred to as ‘patient’. My objections to the receptionists fell on deaf ears. I was awaiting an audience with the doctor to pronounce a verdict on the state of my bones, blood, heart, nerves etc so did not argue too much at this stage.

Having been cleared by the medicos, I have been ruminating on this peculiar term. The word conjures agony both physical and mental due to embarrassing strip downs and white rooms smelling of antiseptics with green curtains.

Does ‘patient’ refer to the sick waiting uncomplainingly at the waiting rooms before they are examined? Most doctors I have visited or heard of inflict this wait on those they have to examine, appointments not withstanding. Peculiarly, the sick too grade the doc higher, the more time they have to spend on the hard lumpy sofas with outdated magazines for entertainment. So could having to wait patiently at the consulting room have given rise to word ‘patient’?

Any one who has spent time in a pediatrician’s waiting room will agree whole heartedly with me that the word patient must have its origins related to the harassed parents therein. Every kid is accompanied by a minimum of one person and miscellaneous belongings containing clothes, disposal bags, toys, food and water sufficient to cater to any unforeseen situation. Mom and dad, a doting grandma and ayah accompany some of the lucky children. Sound levels remain constantly high as every person coming out from the sanctum sanctorum tests his vocal cords in case the doc forgot to! Patience is just what the doctor ordered for the parents here, awaiting the magical potions to end the child’s and their trauma!

A person is permanently branded ‘patient’ after a visit to doctor’s clinic long after his illness is cured. This is really difficult to understand. If a person is healthy then how is he still a patient, is a question for which I have not yet got a satisfactory answer. Even years after the encounter, the doctor and his staff always refer to you ‘patient’.

Why blame the docs, people too proudly claim to be patients of a particular specialist long after his need is over. Inexplicable, really, considering one is impatient to get well and forget ones ill health as soon as possible. Neither are we going to be patient about any delays by the insurance company settling our claims. NoSir!

There is an increasing trend for doctors’ waiting rooms in India to be flooded with overseas visitors who are here to make the most of our medical expertise, which is much cheaper than in western countries. The official term is ‘medical tourism’ and some establishments offer luxury tourist packages for the visitors to enjoy– after the healing touch is administered of course!

I did some searching and found that the noun ‘patient’ means person under medical treatment. The adjective ‘patient’ means calmly enduring or awaiting. Both go back to the Latin word meaning ‘pati’ or ‘to suffer’. Some sources say the word ‘patient’ first came to be used in English in the 14th century.

We are members of a gym, buyers at retail stores, clients at the beauty parlor, users of mobile phones, HNI for the financial advisor and so on at every establishment where there is a cost incurred for services rendered. Medical advice except in government institutions comes at a price Will it be unethical to be called health consumers instead?
Can we be addressed by our names instead? Mr/ Ms/ Miss/ Mrs/ Dr- the choice is wide and in no way detracts from the prowess of the doctor or the illness. This becomes especially relevant considering doctors themselves advocate preventive screening in healthy individuals.

Lets pause for a minute and think of all the taxes we pay knowingly and unknowingly for goods and services we use – excise, sales tax, state tax, octroi etc. Being branded a ‘patient’ can be considered a small due in return of getting back our health. It’s just a word after all.

Yet I would prefer to be addressed by my name…

Pet Peeves

I was under the firm belief that a dog is a man’s best friend. There are umpteen stories of a canine’s bravery and devotion to his two legged master. Yet I am quite convinced that things are gradually changing. Yes I do mean that Man could soon be rated as a dog’s best friend! My belief gets strengthened daily as I watch the world with my presbiopic eyes! Let me illustrate…
Pouring rain or freezing cold one finds the master out on the roads to enable this family member relieve himself. Despite the recent extended unseasonal cold, hard core late risers in Pune sacrifice their cosy razai to troop out to the canine demands. I must add that the pet too is well protected against the chill with woollen garments of various types- just one more design for Grandma to knit when she makes sweaters for her grandchildren! It’s OK to dirty the roads but not the house; that’s their policy! I have counted at least 5 dogs who treat the compound in my building as their personal toilet while their masters and mistresses indulgently look on! Is there no way to properly potty train dogs? I am told that in the US, the dog owners have to clean up the streets as they walk their dogs along.

Being health conscious I try to make it a point to walk my daily 6kms but often end up logging just a couple of kms. Before there are any doubts about my sincerity or hints towards laziness let me clarify that all shortcuts are necessitated by friends. You may well ask, what’s wrong with meeting friends? Let me explain- it’s not the friend that I am averse to but his four-legged family member. Even before our greetings are complete, the hound has already got his two forefeet on my chest and is trying to slobber me with saliva. The experience of a close up examination of the dental architecture of a panting hound is most frightening, not recommended for the fainthearted. All the while my friend indulgently says, “Polly won’t do anything!” Anything? I would be the one having to take 21 injections in my stomach if any of those pearly whites as much as scratched me! Then there is a bull dog who insists on following me as I try to get to my target heart rate. I should not be bothering really, the sight of the dog is sufficient to get my heart racing as it is! So you can well understand how my resolve to stay fit is desperately challenged each day. Why can morning walkers not bring along their pets on a leash? Of course in some cases, the sight of the duo is hilarious as one wonders who is taking whom for a walk as the dog surges ahead, pulling his hapless master behind him!

Visiting such friends can also be a testing time. Pomeranians tend to want to contribute to the conversation in a manner that leaves one temporarily deafened with their high pitched barking. Honey is one pooch who is most protective of her mistress’s property. She doesn’t bother with troubling her vocal cords though preferring to keep a malevolent eye instead, pouncing forth if I as much as move a finger to pick up a magazine as my friend goes off to get me a cup of tea and biscuits for Honey. Believe me I am too scared even to reach into my purse to make a rescue call on my mobile. All joy of meeting my friend is totally overshadowed by having to sit erect and immobile for the entire period. To add insult to my injury, my friend waxes eloquent on some of Honey’s frivolous antics as I am forced to make appreciative noises as I watch the DVD of Honey’s birthday party!

Then we have these well wishers who feed every stray dog they can attract. End result being that the dogs soon assume food to be their right, the area becomes a flourishing maternity ward and the newest entrants end up snapping at the two-legged legal owners! I am all for feeding a hungry animal even offering some shelter but not if it ends up being a public nuisance.
Dogs are of tremendous aid to differently-abled persons and children. Dobermans and Labradors do an excellent job to supplement our Police Force, be it to track down explosives or thieves. I can understand the companionship a dog can afford a child or as a beloved family member. However, it should not end up traumatising people around them and being a nuisance to society in general. Postmen, newspaper boys will whole heartedly agree with me I am sure!

These are just some of my Pet Peeves. It is really immaterial who is who’s best friend. The Earth belongs to all of us and we need to coexist peacefully. Excuse me folks I have an important task to try to reform my neighbour and or his dog…. Hey, doggie that’s my freshly washed car you are heading for…

Copy Cats

Visit any xerox tapri in Pune for a single copy and its a long wait. Usually run in a tiny area with barely enough space to hold the machines they do roaring business all day long and often till late into the night. And what is it that the machines are spitting out furiously? Endless copies of notebooks (notes religiously made by one sincere student that will cater to the entire class) and text books. While so much is written about plagiarism and piracy, one finds students prefer to photo copy a book often costing upwards of 1K instead of buying it. At 30 paise a page the conscience easily loses this battle.

Their justification.. whats the point in spending so much for one book for one term which is of no use later? With newer editions coming out, there are no takers for old ones.
Does it justify copying text books? What is the way out?

Most shops on Pune’s ABC (Appa Balwant Chowk- the ultimate destination for text books for all disciplines), offer fresh books on ‘library’ basis, meaning the student buys the book at full cost and uses it for a year. He can return it before the specified date for a refund of a percentage of the cost (40-60%). Returning is optional but one has to choose that when making the initial purchase and get the requisite stamp and preserve the receipt.

Copy Cats may seem ‘cool’ but surely but surely preparing ones own notes is a better alternative? I must check with my younger friends ..