When I chose to write about exercising
for fitness for this 2014 AtoZ Blogathon, I was a bit apprehensive that all of
my posts would end up being ‘preachy’ Don’t do this, Don’t do that, Do this, Do

This post is deliberately meant to break
the trend. Continuous exercising and adhering to proper diets can become
boring. In fact the restrictions and strict regimen can be a turn off and I
speak from experience.  That’s when I
came across this wonderful article that gave a rational point of view. As long
as one follows fitness guidelines for most of the week its OK to indulge
oneself once in a while. That means sleeping in late on a day or skipping a
workout or even giving in to temptation of a plate of fries or fried chicken. An
indulgence can be a motivator of sorts, something to look forward to. Remember to strike a balance.

Here are some tips before you indulge:

Plan ahead: If you have an invitation to
a party then accordingly modify the other meals of the day to low calorie, high
fibre ones. Then go ahead and tuck into the cake but be regular in the diet and
exercise in following days. Trust me, whatever its benefits, the indulgence is
not worth erasing days of hard work already put in.

Split: Share a serving with your friend which
will reduce the number of calories you consume. Its quite common restaurant
order here for one smoothie topped with icecream but served in two glasses. Its
called 1X2 (one by two) or 2X3 and so on depending on the group size. Cool!

If you have worked hard, you have earned
this ‘break’.   

Indulge, Profiteroles
Photo courtesy @puneribaker

a break: Taking a day off from exercise is actually good for the body
especially when doing resistance training. This is because the muscles
get a chance to rebuild so they become bigger and stronger. 

Go on. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: All
suggestions are general in nature. Readers are advised to exercise
caution before implementing them and seek expert advise about what is
suitable for their specific needs.

Stunning Stupas at Sanchi

The usual factors for choosing a holiday destination for most of us are the Local Attractions (Music, Arts History, Geography, etc), Shopping, Food, Nature, family/friends (at times this helps in NOT choosing a particular place) and so on. After my visit to Hampi, the presence of a UNESCO World Heritage site has become a big plus in the decision process. This explains why we seized the chance to visit Bhopal.

Located in central India, Bhopal is the capital of Madhya Pradesh state and I had often transited this city during train journeys but had never actually stayed there. Sanchi is located to the north east of Bhopal at a distance of about 45 kms. It is home to the Buddhist monuments – the Stupas that show case Buddhist art and architecture. This is designated as Unesco World Heritage Site. It dates back to some time in the 3rd century BC and was constructed by Emperor Ashoka. After its hey day period, it was ignored and forgotten for several hundred years. It was re-discovered and then explored and developed by British Officers during the Raj. There are plenty of reviews and descriptions of this site available on the internet so I would not like to repeat those. This page on the website of the Archeological Survey of India offers excellent information.

Sanchi Stupa, Unesco world heritage site, Madhya pradesh tourism
Buddhist Monuments at Sanchi

Sanchi is easily accessible by road from Bhopal. Entry is with a nominally priced ticket and the guard at the entrance politely told us not to eat inside. There is an excellent museum near the ticket hut but I suggest visiting it after seeing the Stupas. Its a very good idea to take services of a local guide as they have an uncanny knack of retelling the history of the place and bringing it alive.

The main stupa (Stupa 1) is said to hold the remains of Gautam Buddha and the other stupas are of his disciples.  It is distinguished by its bigger size and by the triple umbrella (chhatravali) on its dome. It has four entrances (toranas) and the southern one is thought to have
been the principal entrance.  The
other ones (east, west, north) were built later. Each gateway has two pillars (square with carvings on all sides) and a superstructure of curviform architraves (also carved with different stories).

Our guide brought attention to details inscribed on the pillars which relate the life and preachings of Gautam Buddha and Jataka  tales. Parts of the site have been restored. At no site is the Buddha depicted in the form that we now know him to be but he is depicted symbolically. E.g. Umbrella held above the throne, dharma chakra, footprints etc.

If you happen to visit any place near Sanchi do make it a point to go there. It has a serene atmosphere and the Gautam Buddha’s ideas are conveyed in a very subtle manner via the carvings. There are beautiful seats under the trees that are ideal for this purpose. The skills of the artisans in years gone by is humbling especially considering that they did not have the so-called advantage of ‘modern’ technology. Dont miss the stone pillar with a mirror like polish or the huge stones that would have been hauled from miles away and then installed in its position or the interlocking cylindrical stones that form the peripheral boundary of the main Stupa. These are just a few examples. There are many more at Sanchi. .

This site has special walkways for visually challenged individuals and a sign post in braille. This is among the few places that I have seen that offers this facility for the differently-abled.

At the entrance is a small shop that sells some brochures and CDs that have extensive information and history of the site. However they do not have any significant mementos or fridge magnets (I am really partial to those!) which is sad considering that this is such an important destination.  I do hope concerned authorities do something to rectify this. Rest rooms are available and there is small shop that sells basic food
items. So do go prepared with snacks or something to eat depending on
where you have travelled from.

Here is a slide show of some of some photos. It only gives a glimpse of the beautiful place and the images probably do not do full justice. Double click on the image for the slide show to open in a new tab… then its possible to read additional descriptions of the photos.

Considering my interest in trees, this blog will be incomplete if I don’t write about the trees I saw there. The most important is the Bodhi tree planted just at the entrance. There are several Khirni trees at Sanchi, all flourishing and their shiny dark green leaves glowed in the cool morning sun. I also noticed a Kalam (Mitragyna parviflora), lots of Bougainvilla and other trees usually used for landscaping. Here is a slideshow of the trees at the Buddhist monuments at Sanchi.


Simple Joys

All our daily efforts are almost always only geared for one thing and one thing only.. getting joy out of life. Being at peace with our inner selves and people around us. We get trapped in the rat race in our search for the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.

In this process we often forget to enjoy simple things in our lives. They lighten the daily drudgery and ensure we don’t forget how to smile. Can you immediately recall a few such simple joys…

Here is my list:
Encountering consecutive green traffic lights in the morning rush hour
Finding a Rs100 bill forgotten in the pocket of a coat from the last winter
Eliciting a smile from a beautiful stranger in a the train

At all times, sighting a pair of mynahs always lifts my spirits as I vaguely recollect something from my childhood ” … Two for Joy…”

simple joys, happiness, simplicity
Two for Joy

King of fruits

Can there be any one fruit that can be crowned ‘King’ among its brethren? For us here in Maharashtra, there is not much of a contest really! And the title goes to…

Mango…. Alphonso mangoes to be precise. Though botanically all types of mangoes (and there are several – each variety is of a different size/taste and ripens at different times) go by the same name Mangifera indica

The Mango is a summer fruit that first puts in an appearance sometime in late February in its raw form. The green paisley shaped fruit is devoured raw, added to foods, chutneys to lend a unique sour taste or made into a refreshing drink called Panha. The ripe fruit (and I refer to the Alphonso variety) are usually available by end April and subject to the flowering and weather conditions earlier in a year, the produce is available all through May.

Like all fruits it can be consumed raw but it can be added to many dishes to lend its own unique flavour. Icecream, Milk shakes, Kulfi, Shrikhand, Sooji halwa (semolina), even rice and stuffed rotis (flat indian bread made with wheat flour) are just a few examples and the only bar will be the Chef’s creativity!

Make sure you eat mangoes this summer, not just any mango, the Alphonso!
And ignore calorie counting if you want to truly enjoy it.

Stay young at heart

Its that time of the year again, the summer is over and winter is just making its presence felt….
The slight nip in the early morning air (in Pune) is fast dispelled as the sun rises makes its way up over the horizon… The markets are blazing with colour – from flowers, lanterns (आकाश कंदील ), blinking coloured lights.. just to name a few.
Its Divali and time to feast and enjoy.

Take a break from your regular routine and indulge yourself in things you otherwise stay away from.. yes it includes gorging on sweets.. Thats the point of regular year round exercise…

And what is Divali without fireworks and Rangoli? While there are several very strong reasons not to almost literally ‘burn’ away money on firecrackers, some may like to enjoy a few phuljhadi’s…
What I am really trying to say is that its time to let your hair down, enjoy little pleasures …
Keep alive the child inside you..

Happy Divali!!
May the festival of lights bring another year of joy, fulfilled dreams, good health and success!!

Something Special…

Our tenure at Bhuj was among the most memorable for me. Besides the wonderful people we met there, I was honoured to get an opportunity to work with the lovely children of Dhanvantri School. Founded and managed by the dynamic Dr Shantuben Patel this is a one stop halt that caters to all needs (education, therapy and counselling) of special children. I am richer from this experience and from everything I have learnt from Shantuben.

At the outset let me make it clear, that the school is forever filled with joy and laughter and optimism. This arises from the diminutive soft spoken power house called Shantuben!  The school was razed to the ground in the 2001 earthquake yet Shantuben and the teachers relentlessly worked on. Their efforts have resulted in a beautiful new complex that offers succour to special children from in and around Bhuj.

There are several large-hearted benefactors that help keep this noble venture going and the school recently got a wonderful new gift- a school bus. The gift was made all the more special as the one and only Big B, Mr. Amitabh Bachchan did the honours by presenting the bus keys to Shantuben.

Due to commitments, he was unable to visit the school, something the children were really looking forward to. When Shantuben reached the school, they reverently touched the keys as ‘He’ had handed them over. Such unquestioned, unadulterated adulation and adoration and respect has to be seen to be believed. We do hope that Mr Bachchan can visit and spend time with the students of Dhanvatari School in future.

Here are some images of the children and their new bus.

In case you happen to be visiting Kutch or Bhuj, do make it a point to visit this school. It’s not about what you can give the school or its children but the hope and optimism that you will can learn from them….
Good Luck!

Garland Competition for London 2012 Olympics

This is an interesting news that I must share with you all….
For Details, click here  ( and here ( ).

This BBC article talks about botanic gardens around the world who have a competition for children aged 11-19 years to design a wreath made of indigenous (native) species for the 2012 Summer Olympics at London. The aim is the get children to learn about their native plants while creating something beautiful. Photos of the winning entries will be displayed during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

Considering the huge number of beautiful fragrant blooms in our country I do hope there are some entries from India.
Good Luck!

Silly Mistakes

Movies- we love them, hate them yet many find their way into our ‘must see’ list for each week or month. Often we depend on reviews to help decide if its worth spending over Rs 1500 for an evening doing something we don’t really enjoy…
Then begins the tearing apart. Actually we need not even bother to go to a theatre. Many of us can do so based on TV trailers, Web-based previews etc etc.
Such ‘tear downs’ are usually about acting, direction, editing and so on.

Do we ever pay attention to small things in the background of scenes in these movies?
Most likely not.

For those looking for more topics to criticise a movie watch a programme called ‘Silly Mistakes’ on Saam TV aired on Fridays at 5PM and 10PM (as of today). Saam is a relatively new Marathi channel.

The host is a chirpy youngster who systematically points out faults in ‘continuity’ of the movie- even huge Hollywood blockbusters have not escaped his minute scrutiny. For those who can’t catch on, he helpfully puts out arrows and circles to the ‘faults’!
So watch out for ‘action’ stunts wherein cars suddenly roar past with intact glasses being undoubtedly shattered in a previous shot.

When fed up of the usual soaps, surf across to Saam and have a good laugh.

Happy Cows

Today’s ‘Sakal’ (the indispensable Marathi daily for Punekars) has an interesting news titled translated as “cleaning machine for cows” (page 3 of the main paper). The cow’s expression of pure enjoyment is what caught my eye.

With some help from Google search (who else!) I located this Daily Mail article dated 22 July 2010 published online here (
The article describes how the cow wash designed by DeLaval helped improve milk production while obviously keeping cows happy!

Wow! This is truly spreading benefits of mechanisation to all!

Football Fever (again)

Here we go again…
The Jabulani ball indeed has captured our imagination like no other…
In Zulu, Jabulani means ‘To Celebrate’- read this ET article that describes the Jabulani’s India connection (
Shakira’s Waka Waka is another World Cup product that will linger long after 10 July 2010 (day of the final)!

Shakira performed ‘This Time for Africa ‘ at the inauguration of World Cup 2010. The song is called “Tsamina” or “Zangaléwa” by a group called Golden Sounds of Cameroon. This link gives some information on the song’s background(

From what I gather “Waka Waka” means ‘Do the job’.

The catchy number is infectious and won unlikely fans- women (baby boomers), children and those from a staunch Marathi upbringing as well. I’m sure it lends well to an energetic aerobics floor workout as well…
For those of you who are not Vodafone users (the service provider offers downloads of the number), Sony Music Entertainment has released a CD of World Cup songs called ‘Listen Up’.