Friday, 29 November 2013

The Blackberry Crush Yay!... all the way!!

I studied in a Hospitality Management college, Food and Beverage was one of the subjects. In the second year of the course we had to learn about alcoholic and non alcoholic beverages. Covering all types of beers, to spirits and wines. We got to taste some of them, the class hardly got a spoonful of the drinks though. We were about 25 of us in a batch for the practicals. While learning cocktails we got to taste the ones that we made, got to have a bit more than the spoonful! I can't drink more than a glass of anything, not into spirits at all. But beers are fine. 

I liked the Goan cashew feni and the port wine, when we used them in one of the college fests. Feni with soda was my choice for the occasions that I felt like having a drink. Wines be it sparkling or red were the second on the list. I always loved the Canada Dry, an aerated drink it was good, probably I was the only one who bought that from the college canteen as it barely had 2-3 bottles in stock where crates of other aerated beverages would be there. 

This is an incident about ten years ago,  I was out with friends and they wanted wanted to have a drink they knew what I liked. So one of them told me that my choice wasn't there, learnt that Canada dry had actually dried! It wasn't in the market anymore. So a friend suggested that  I try the Bacardi Breezer. I knew what Bacardi was all about as much as I knew the Bacardi song! one of the best jingles of our times. Thats when I learnt about the Bacardi Breezer. I liked it. It was the classic taste and something that not just came close to my favourite drinks but surpassed them and has stayed ever since. 

So my connection with Breezer goes a long way, more than a decade now. It has improved over the years and new flavours are introduced. Among the flavours, I liked cranberry and now its Blackberry Crush for me. Its a bit sweet and tangy. A perfect combination of the ingredients, very little alcohol just 4.4 %, blackberry and sugar creating a well rounded and balanced flavour. The taste that I love and find really refreshing. As a drink have had it before meals, with meals or after  meals too in place of a dessert wine. 

All get togethers at my place have a good stock of Breezers. My co sisters who hadn't tried any alcoholic beverage before would just sit through sipping some aerated drink or  fruit juices, while our husbands would enjoy their scotch or rum. That was always the scene, I asked hubby to pick up the different flavours of the Breezer at one of  such get togethers at our place. I told the girls that I liked blackberry crush and told them how it tasted, there was pineapple, cranberry, lime and Jamaican passion to choose from. They had their reservations but when I told them that some cough syrups had about the same level of alcohol ,they tried the Breezer and liked them. Now they even know their favourite flavours. Cranberry and Jamaican passion are the next in demand after my Blackberry Crush. No matter what the men have we stick to our Breezer. They are a great drink to have at parties, barbecues or just as a drink at home.

When its just me and hubby having a quiet evening, some great music we ensure that Breezer is there with us. He then ditches his Scotch to have a Breezer with me.

This post has been written for 'Catch the flavour' contest on IndiBlogger in association with BreezerIndia.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Chakra: Chronicles of the Witch Way - Bookreview

The background

The story starts in Rajasthan on a full moon day in the month of January. Guru Tapan, a Japa was ready to conduct Homa to the goddess Kundalini. The race of Japas worships her as their mother goddess, their source of power. The reason for this Homa is to maintain peace and harmony among the clan. A man who has awakened kundalini is known as Japa and a woman with similar quality is referred to as Japni or Tai.

Ritu talks about witches in her novel, witches who lead a normal life in the modern societies. They hardly use the power they own unless circumstances force them to.  This power concealed within them helps them to smell danger before it reaches anywhere near them. They are able to comprehend the ‘affairs’ going on in the mind of the person next to them.  They are able to move objects purely with their will power, do the supernatural, or just create a storm out of nowhere. They hold many secrets and enormous powers within them. Yes they surely curse and heal!

The story doesn’t revolve around the witches alone but also talks about men who possess equal powers if not more. The story is based on the five clans of Japas namely Jalaj or water, Varuni or wind, Bhumar or Earth, Pallav or Vegetation and Agnee or fire. They play games in a bid to establish their own power and pull the others down. They are ready to go to any extent after all,  all’s fair in love and war!
The women are so powerful and sexy, so much in command and in absolute control of themselves. Appreciate the way she has brought about every character.
The book is very well written, the language is fluid and the flow of the story is smooth and entertaining at the same time. Loved reading it. She managed to keep the curiosity and interest intact till the very end of the book. This is not my regular choice for a book, I am more into reading romances and romcoms, loved it and will certainly pick up more supernatural sagas of power plays. Alluring indeed!!

Compliments to Ritu for coming out with such an amazing piece of work! Look forward to reading more titles from the brilliant author. Particularly a sequel to this one!

Build your own immunity to help build an Immune India!

Illness attacks you. Its ready for the little war with you every now and then and with the change in weather, comes the "Big battle". 

What does the immune system do?

The immune system of the body defends it from disease causing micro-organisms. But sometimes it fails and allows germs to invade and make it sick. So the best bet against illness is improving ones self-defence the 'immune system'. It is referred to as a system and not as a single entity. To function well it requires balance and harmony among the different entities of the system. The first line of defence mechanism is following a healthy lifestyle, that in turn makes the immune system healthy and strong. Lifestyle comprises of everything that your life comes in touch with both internal and external. Right from what one eats, the general habits that one follows to ultimately how one leads his life.

Early life and vaccination

The immunity of an individual starts right from the time when in the womb. Expecting mothers are told to eat right. Have their hemoglobin and calcium in the recommended range. Also they are told to have healthy and nutritious food. In fact the government creates awareness among the masses through the use of different media. Have seen programmes on the national television on building a healthy with healthy mothers.
Then when the child arrives 6 months of exclusive breast feeding that helps create a good immune system for the baby as well as it helps create the bond of love and trust with the mother.Then there are vaccination schedules recommended for the children as well as diet plans are also suggested for the little ones.  
The early life helps create the strong foundation on which an individual's immunity buids on.

Maintain a healthy diet - what you eat is what you are!
One may choose either a vegetarian or a non vegetarian diet. Sometimes the diet is chosen based on the cultural or ethnic background and preferences. It is said that what one eats has a lot to do with his mental and psychological health. Vegetarian food is supposed to be more in-line with nature and then there is satvik food thats used more for healing and detox. Eating more of meats makes on more aggressive is also an opinion. I do not endorse it though. But in India more people follow vegetarian diet and also people fast on certain days when they don't eat anything. Even if they do its just milk and some fruits. 
Foods contain combination of nutrients and other substances packed with health benefits. No single food item can provide all the nutrients and in the quantity that one needs. To ensure that an individual gets all the nutrients needed for good health, choose the recommended number of daily servings from each of the five major food groups namely grains, vegetables, fruits, beans and pulses, milk and meats. Also it is important to wash the fruits and vegetables well before they are cooked or eaten raw. Another golden rule to follow is all meats should be cooked thoroughly.

Vitamin supplements ayurvedic/ herbal preparations
Sometimes the diet one follows doesn't give all the nutrients that the body requires.This can then lead to certain deficiencies. These deficiencies in turn have an impact on the immune system of the body making it weaker and susceptible to attacks by all the disease causing microbes. It becomes important then to supplement the diet with certain vitamins. Ayurvedic and herbal preparations are recommended. 

Chyawanprash - is one such preparation that contains a combination of different ingredients that help boost an individuals immunity have been in use from time immemorial. The rishis and sages who lived in the mountains bearing all weather conditions had this to have immunity that was a shield against the furies of the weather or microbes. Ayurveda has a mention of that, now that secret is available to all. Chyawanprash is given to people of all age groups to boost their immunity. It makes one strong from inside so theres absolutely no need to fear the changes in weather. It prepares you to enjoy the seasonal changes. Dabur Chyawanprash gives you three times more immunity! 
Good health makes one strong physically and alert mentally. People who have chyawanprash regularly fall ill less often. Not falling ill improves the attendance and also enhances ones performance be it in school or in the office. Its a magic portion for the older people. They too are able to enjoy the little things in life all because of good health! I am a mother and I know what immunity means for my children. I want them to have a great childhood, to grow up in the lap of nature, to play outdoors, run in the fields, get soaked in the rain, enjoy the chill of the winters and learn to bear the summer heat. Experience the charms of growing up. I give them good immunity so that they can do all these and more!

It is said that sitting is the new smoking. So the affects are as harmful if not more. It is important for an individual to devote  at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day. Be it brisk walking, running, swimming, aerobic exercises, playing outdoor games. These activities help in burning calories and are necessary for the general well being of a person. Yoga is good overall health, it also involves breathing and meditation that makes one physically, mentally and emotionally strong and well balanced.
 Maintain a healthy weight
 It is extremely important for people in all age groups to maintain a healthy weight. People who are over weight increase their risk of all lifestyle diseases such as heart diseases, diabetes, breathing problems to name a few. It is important to balance the calorie taken in food and drinks to be with physical activities. Physical activity is important as this helps burn the food energy that may otherwise be stored as fat.

Get adequate sleep
Sleep - is something we do everyday. Its a part of everyone's routine. Quality sleep is necessary to keep our minds and bodies healthy and alert. It helps us to stay calm and be in control of ourselves and remain in harmony with our environment. Now how much sleep an individual needs depends on the individual, his age and lifestyle that he follows. Young children need more sleep than the adults and again older people sleep more hours than the younger and active adults. Children may sleep upto 10 hours whereas adults need sleep of about 8 hours. Thats considered to be 'Good'. and beneficial.

Control psychological stress
Control stress - thats the route cause of a lot of ailments affecting an individual. It isn't as easy as it sounds. In fact managing stress starts from first of all identifying the source of stress in ones life. Most of the times its not obvious  and can be easily overlooked. They are deep thoughts and fears one may have. Can be related to ones own life, fears, concerns, relationships or work and colleagues. Stress also gives rise to the ever increasing lifestyle ailments. Modern life is demanding and that itself is a big source of stress. Its important for an individual to find that out and take help to manage it. Sometimes its the professional help! but it is you the individual who'll manage 'your stress' as every individual has different thresholds.

One can also reduce infections by washing hands thoroughly after every activity that requires you to do so.Another rule that I learnt from my children's pediatrician is not give antibiotics just like that. Most of the time they are given in cases when they are not needed such as they are meant for viral infections and not for bacterial. So they may actually not do anything to the ailment but may harm and individuals immune system.

So in order to build immune India, start from your own home. Make lifestyle changes to pave way for good health and wellness. Government will have health schemes, may build parks and jogging tracks buts its all of us the citizens to imbibe the good practices into our own lives and help build an 'Immune India'.

This post is written for Immune India contest on IndiBlogger in association with Dabur Chyawanprash,

Some images are taken from google with due credits.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

Traditional Knowledge helps Natural Growth

We in India have a rich tradition of living in harmony with nature. Ayurveda originated here.We use some or the other form of Ayurveda in our lives. We still rely on home remedies before taking any ailment to the medical practitioners.Grandmothers had their secret remedies that they passed on to the generations ahead. Then came in the English medicine just like every other thing and these remedies somehow found a backseat. After nearly 5 decades we are going back to the good old days embracing nature again. We have realised and seen the harmful effects of using synthetic and chemical products. We are going organic.... seeking organic products be in food, vegetables, cosmetics or another items of daily use. Natural remedies are not only healthy but also save a lot on the medical bill. They are safe and believe in, "Prevention is better than cure". They don't take the place of modern medicine but form an integral part of an individual's total wellbeing. No wonder day spas and wellness centres have found  people who swear by them.

Lets look at how these natural products and age old practises and remedies touch our lives. I shall put myself in the cycle and see what has worked and what hasn't for me. I was born pre mature in a remote village and at home could not be taken to the hospital immediately. My mother says that my grand father who had worked in the Army during the British time knew a lot about medical emergencies and knew exactly what to do. He built an incubator for me a basic model. It was a cane basket, coated with thick layer of cotton, it was extremely warm, wasn't an uphill task as month of May is quite pleasant in the Kumaon Hills, in Uttarakhand, North India.That was my crib and home for the next two months. Milk was given to me in drops using the dropper. Neem leaves were used to keep the insects and other germs away. I survived the three crucial months, so the remaining journey was easy. Till then there was no medicines given to me. 
Mom says grandma had a home remedy ready for every little thing. Be it doing the daily message (grandma had made a message oil using some herbs infused in mustard oil), cold, cough or indigestion. All was sorted with grandma's kitchen remedies and her magic wand that was unconditional love and loads of caring. Mom picked up a few of them and used on my siblings when we were growing up in a city and grandma was only letters and phone calls away. 
As a child and during my growing up years didn't really know what mom gave us but do remember a few of them. She would use eucalyptus oil if we had a blocked nose, she would roast some ajwain (carom seeds) , tie them in a cotton cloth, forming  a little bundle and warm the chest with it, that would clear the chest congestion. Honey and ginger for cough also was a regular feature, turmeric in milk was good antiseptic, lime juice was given for better immunity.
I embarked on the journey of motherhood and had to use some of those time tested remedies, Infact started using some of them soon after I learnt that I was carrying. If I had cough would take ginger and honey. Somehow my mother in law didn't approve of medicines especially in the first trimester. I was given a good nutritious diet consisting of whole cereals, greens and fruits with ample dairy products. Though I am not a person who loves milk and milk products I was told why they were necessary. Had to included food items rich in iron and calcium.
Also I was told to do the little household chores on my own apart from dedicating 20 minutes to daily exercise. In the last trimester, in the ninth month mom in law would give me milk with a little bit of ghee (clarified butter) and some turmeric in it. I didn't like it but never refused as it was her knowledge and she wanted to give things that she thought were best for me. I was a bit apprehensive  as gynaecologist do not recommend such fattening things in the diet.  I was also told to sweep the floor as the older ladies believed that it helped in the delivery process and it was a good exercise. I was active, fit and fine in the nine months journey but had to go in for an emergency c- section. My son was healthy and very active.

I was given the traditional diet consisting of panjiri, made from whole wheat flour fried in ghee and sugar.It also had saunth(dried ginger), gound (gum arabic), carom seeds, dry fruits like almonds. Eggs were also part of the diet and so was milk. I used to wonder looking at everything being so rich that I would never be able to shed the pounds.I breast fed my child for nearly 1.5 years. Exclusively for the first six months and later it was just in the morning and evenings as I joined back on work when he was six months old. I  had the guilt of eating such rich food laden with so many calories,  never kept a count of it though. The best part is all those pounds that found me managed to leave me in precisely 1.5 years after the delivery. So no complaints in fact when I looked back I absolutely loved what my mother in law gave me. After all it was her traditional wisdom! I religiously followed the diet and vaccination schedule recommended by the paediatrician for my baby too.

When he was a week old, was given  massage with oil before his bath, this routine continued till he was one and a half years old. He was a very active child. Got to learn from Mother in law that the message helps the baby by not only strengthening his muscles but also strengthen the attachment with the mother. The child stays relaxed, cries less and thus sleeps better. Massage improves blood circulation and the child is active reducing the number of times that he may fall ill. Skin to skin contact is anyway healthy and makes the child emotionally balanced and everlasting bond is created with the mother, the bond of trust and well-being. My husband and I also learnt the technique from my mother in law. We too started giving  massages to our son before his bath. It was a beautiful bonding time for the three of us and a ritual we all loved.
I  used more of home remedies on my child for the minor discomforts like cough, cold, upset stomach or being cranky. With the second one the routine was the same, as I believe that nature has all solutions and they are absolutely harmless. They may take a little longer to cure but what's the harm when you know that it is not going to have any side effect . Teach the child to eat healthy but do treat them once in a while with the so called 'junk food' as what they are deprived of can become their weakness later on in life. I believe in children being told about everything good, not so good and ugly and allow them to make the choice. You are there to help them do that. That's what parenting is all about isn't it?

Some rules that a mother needs to follow while bringing up her little ones, In fact every mother has her own set of secrets that she swears by. For instance in case of fever, don't start medicines immediately. My children's paediatrician Dr. Gaikwad, the best doctor I know; always tells parents not to rush their children to the doctor. Don't give any medicines till the fever is 100 or more. Give some time, chances are it'll subside, if not then consult the doctor. But monitoring it is important.
My theory for cure of  any illness in children is that just be with them, hold them close and let them know that you are there so nothing will go wrong. This assurance in children somehow makes them jump to good health. If you are a working mother take off for a day or two, the child will be perfectly fine. Give them a healthy diet and feed them at regular intervals. As the old saying goes feeding the fever helps but never force the child to eat. Every child is different and requires different ways of dealing with  specially when they are unwell. With all the time you spend with your child and the magic of your hugs will nurse them to good health.

This post is written for IndiBlogger Dabur Lal Tail

Pic 1 and 2 taken from google

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

How love happened to us......

Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.~ Lao Tzu

It was 2004, I was focusing on my career and education and not really looking at marriage. Parents had asked me to tell them if I had someone in mind, what they wanted to know was if I was seeing someone. I didn’t and I told them so. It went on for a couple of years, parents always respected my choice never forcing me to accept a proposal just like that. One fine day, since I wasn't talking about anyone to my parents they fixed a meeting with Rajesh, through my mother’s friend circle. We both are from the defence background and our mothers had common friends. He was invited to our place with his parents. After tea with family the elders asked both of us to go to my room and speak to each other. Funny but this is how it is in arranged marriages in India!

We both were casually dressed, just being ourselves nothing to impress anyone, and we got talking. He was frank and spoke everything  negative that he thought he had. I was told that he was a Physics graduate, a First officer in the Merchant Navy and the eldest of his siblings. Extremely intelligent, having a good personality and very down to earth. I was weighing him on all those parameters. What made me really pay attention to him was that he didn’t speak of any of his positive qualities, or any 'quality' for that matter!  He only highlighted negatives about him and his profession which was so contrary to the usual talk of saying all things nice. I found him interesting and of course different…. No sparks flew!

After the meeting, mom asked me about Rajesh and I told her that he was okay. She would’ve conveyed it to his mother. Then I didn’t hear anything of him. Our mothers felt that we were a good match and were trying to push things from their side, he went sailing and I was back into my routine work. I didn’t feel like seeing any other 'proposal' read it as another gentleman, after that. Then, one fine day in the month of April while I was on my way to work, mom called me to say that Rajesh’s mother had called and that they both thought  we should get engaged that Friday, 22nd  April 2004. I wasn’t pleased and I started arguing with her that I was working as a Lecturer in a professional college and it was exam time, how could I manage a leave? She started highlighting that it was a nice proposal and started complaining that I didn’t listen to her, the usual emotional talk. Giving in, I told her that I would try. On reaching college I walked straight to the principal’s office requesting for leave that Friday saying that I was getting engaged and that even I got to know just then! We made some changes in the practical schedule and I got the leave sanctioned. In the evening my brother and I were going looking for a venue for the engagement. As we were driving, my brother  asked me whether I was happy. I told him that it was," Okay"….he stopped the car , told me what else did I want, being from the shipping industry himself he said that Rajesh was a great guy, he had a good personality, he was earning well and he was a fabulous human being. It should not be just okay but I should feel happy about it. I accepted that and my confused mind started to settle a bit.... Probably this was the first platinum moment for me!... special indeed.

We fixed a venue for our engagement, mothers were very happy as our horoscopes had matched perfectly. Everyone was gearing up for the engagement. I called up my friends and told them that I was getting engaged in 3 days. Everyone was surprised but happy for me at the same time. Finally I met my would- be on our engagement day. It was a traditional ceremony with family and close friends. At the time of exchanging rings we found that the sizes were not correct, mine was a bit too tight and his a bit loose. This could have been the result of exchanging the ring sizes on phone, later got to know that the jewellers do not have standard or universal ring sizes and there can be variations. I loved my ring, a nice diamond band but it didn't fit fact we don't wear those rings, they are kept safely! 
He had to join back on work in the first week of May. I didn't even go to see him off at the airport, we just spoke on the phone. When he reached the vessel, he sent me the vessel email address and we started communicating through emails. Not too many as the vessel internet was with the captain and others received a print out of their emails.I would wait to hear from him, would read the sms that he would send while at a port, over and over again; in fact my phone couldn’t store so much of data so I started writing all the sms in a diary. This was platinum moment two!

He came back home after 4 months. Our wedding date was fixed for December 14th 2005. This was our real courtship we learnt almost everything about each other, about our families and thefriendship grew into trust and love. I also got to know that he too had met a few of the 'proposals' that had come for him and that nothing created that ‘wow’ moment. When his mother asked him to meet me, he had said that I was the last girl he was seeing. He often teases me with, save the best for the last! I thank God for being that ‘last girl'. Finally the D- day arrived and we had one of the perfect weddings! Typical North Indian affair going into several days. As I moved into his home I found our room to be a replica of my room in my parent's house. I was touched beyond words, Rajesh had got the room renovated to make it look just like the one that I was used to living in. That was my platinum moment three!
When I saw the new Asian paints ad recently where they show Capt. Rathore's house, I felt that Capt. Todiwan did that way back in 2005. I felt that I knew everything in my new home as we had talked about it all. Though we are from different communities, the differences were hardly felt. We were blessed with our elder son Arnnav in 2006 and the younger one, Abhinav was born in 2009.

We got busy with our lives, didn't realise how time flew....  Captain sails four months, when he is away from home the communication is generally through emails, now he has the vessel internet so no print outs! He also calls through satellite phone when the vessel is in the mid seas and through calling cards while at a port. This time, he arranged WiFi on board and we chatted on Skype for the first time... this was certainly platinum moment four! 

Yes, we have come a long way indeed from the humble, far and between sms to talking on skype. It was such a pleasure to see my husband onboard going about his regular errands and also getting to see his office and cabin. These things may sound just a matter of fact but for me they are the platinum moments. 

We don't wear our engagement rings but this time when Captain is back home, I shall get the platinum love bands celebrating the eternal love, trust and friendship that we share and that shall be our Platinum Day of Love! We have had numerous platinum moments as these are the little things that make a relationship beautiful.

This post is written for IndiBlogger Platinum Day of Love

Picture 1. - Rajesh and I on Arnnav's 5th birthday
Picture 2 - Capt. Rajesh Todiwan, onboard the vessel.