Friday, January 28, 2011

Is tea really healthy?

Eisha Sarkar
Posted on Hello Wellness on Jan 26, 2011

Green, white or black, tea is one of the most popular beverages in the world. But is it really healthy? We find out:

The good…
Packed with antioxidants and phytochemicals that possess antibiotic properties, tea helps protect you from a range of cancers including lung, prostrate and breast cancers, lower the stress hormone levels and reduce chances of cognitive impairment. Green tea has been claimed to be helpful in cases of atherosclerosis, high LDL cholesterol, cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, liver disease, weight loss, neurodegenerative diseases and even halitosis or bad breath.

The bad…
All tea leaves contain fluoride. While it does help reduce dental plaque, high fluoride intake (over 2 mg for children, 4 mg adults daily) increases the risk of osteofluorosis and fractures. The caffeine in tea is addictive and can induce acute diuretic effects if tea is consumed in large quantities (five or six cups of tea a day). Tea also contains tannins which may increase the risk of oesophageal cancer.

And the verdict is...
On its own tea is good for your health. Drink it too often and you ingest more caffeine, tannins and oxalates which are bad for your kidneys.  Drink it with milk and it loses its beneficial effects. A 2006 German study found that adding milk to black tea destroys its ability to protect against heart disease.  Casein from milk binds to the molecules in tea that cause the arteries to relax. Drink tea with too much of sugar and you end up with gastric problems. And if you drink piping hot chai you may risk throat cancer!

The best way to make tea is to steep the leaves for five minutes in hot water. Allow it to cool down a little before you drink it. 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Book Review: Beijing Coma

Author: Ma Jian
Translated from Chinese by: Flora Drew
Publisher: Picador
Pages: 703
Price: Rs 623

In Beijing Coma, Ma Jian writes, "You've scattered into a darkness, like a grain of salt dissolving in the ocean. What troubles you now isn't that you can't see anything, but that nothing can see you." This one line describes the plight of the people of a nation that buries its secrets, makes few friends and keeps a close watch on its enemies and those who empathise with them.

Dai Wei, a PhD student at Beijing University and protestor at Tiananmen Square in June 1989, is shot in the head by a soldier and falls into deep coma. Trapped in his 'wooden' body, he gradually gains consciousness and begins to sense the massive changes taking place in his country. While he lies motionless in bed, his mind actively traces those vignettes of his childhood and youth that he had long cast away. He remembers the voices, sights, scents and sounds he'd lived with till the day he'd been forced to live within this 'fleshy tomb' of his body.

Ma Jian

Through Dai Wei's memories, Ma Jian relays the horrors of Communist China - the Cultural Revolution instituted by Mao Zedong that led to the persecution of millions of Chinese simply on the premise that they were counter-revolutionary, the failed Great Leap Forward that forced peasants to give up farming and make steel in backyard furnaces leading to famines and resulting in large-scale deaths due to starvation, people being forced to "eat the enemy" in order to survive themselves, brutal forced abortions of foetuses so that people would stick to the one-child norm and a whole generation "orphaned" by the policies of the state that destroyed families and forced parents to give their children to the Communist Party of China. 

'The Tankman'

It was this generation of orphans that took to the streets, in the summer of 1989, to protest against rampant corruption and call for democracy, only to be crushed by army tanks in the widespread crackdown by the government on June 4. The memory of that day recedes from the minds of its citizens as China is rapidly transformed by economic modernisation in the next decade. But Dai Wei remains, as Mao advised, "unchanging in changing circumstances". 

As China grows at a rapid rate to become an economic heavyweight and the Tiananmen Square recedes from the minds of its citizens, Dai Wei lies in his bedroom, tended to by his mother and occasionally visited by friends, nurses and the police. Only in his mind does the true account of the Tiananmen Square Massacre still survive. 

Tiananmen Square Protests
Beijing Coma is a complex but fascinating work of literature. It connects with youat both an emotional and political level. And while its Dai Wei's story all along, it's the suffering his mother goes through that tugs at your heart. Born in a rich landowning family, her father commits suicide after his factory is taken over by the Communist state. Then her husband is labelled rightist and sent off to brutal reform-through-labour camps for about two decades. She staunchly remains loyal to the Communist Party of China and tries to dissuade her sons from joining the protests at the Tiananmen Square. As she grows old caring for her comatose elder son, her younger one builds his own life in the United Kingdom. To pay for Dai Wei's medicines, she first sells his urine, then his kidney. She takes to Falung Gong (a blend of Buddhist, qigong and Taoist traditions) to get some peace and a companion but is arrested during a crackdown against Falung Gong practioners. And when she comes back to her starving son, broken and insane, she finds bulldozers waiting to pull down her house to make way for the a shopping complex and the Bird Nest stadium for the Beijing Olympics. Then she casts away her loyalty to the Party and says, "I want to go to the Square. I want to go on a hunger strike…” China's development has come at great human cost!

Lucid, pacy and thought-provoking, Beijing Coma is touted as Ma Jian's masterpiece. His partner Flora Drew has done a fantastic job at translating it from Chinese so much so that you'd think the book was  originally written in English. A tale of courage and confusion, development and despair, apathy and agony, Beijing Coma is a must-read.

(I had trouble finding this book in stores but you can definitely order the copy online from Flipkart or Amazon.)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Tyre Blog

In school, I had read the story of John Dunlop cutting up a garden hose to make tyres for his son's bicycle. The story had impressed on me the fact that tyres are made up of rubber. It was on my first visit to my husband's (then boyfriend's) tyre factory, Innovative Tyres and Tubes, near Vadodara, Gujarat that I discovered that tyres are indeed made of nylon, steel, rubber and carbon. I figured the different patterns - the lugs in back tyres for greater traction and ribs in front tyres for better steering control. I noticed the sizes, and the numbers used to depict them - from the smallest autorickshaw tyres to the largest ones for the tractors. The number of processes that go into manufacturing a single tyre are many. And with all the carbon around, it's not a clean job. Yet, just watching a flat sheet of rubber being moulded into the form of a tyre that gets an ISI stamp, can be very inspiring. The history of the tyre is the history of industrial development as you can see from this link. My husband has started a Facebook Page for the company. No, we don't expect you to buy tyres on Facebook but it will give you updates on what's happening at the factory every now and then. Do check it out!

Monday, January 24, 2011

The stress epidemic

Eisha Sarkar
Posted on Hello Wellness on Jan 24 2011 11:20AM

"Stress is a quick and convenient explanation for many health problems these days, from a heart attack to a pimple on the nose," write David Wainright and Michael Calnan in their book, Work Stress: The Making of a Modern Epidemic. The word stress has become synonymous will all that doesn’t go well with us. Once epidemic in only the Western world, globalisation and multinational work culture have brought this silent killer to other regions of the world and those in Asia’s booming economies are feeling the greatest pressure.

Fight or flight, it’s a deadline!
Stress is a state of tension that is created when you respond to the demands and pressures that come from work, family and other external sources, as well as those that are internally generated from self-imposed demands, obligations and self-criticism.

An immediate danger or an upcoming deadline places one’s body in the mode of fight or flight, or the stress response. Hormones epinephrine, norepinephrine, and cortisol are released from the adrenal glands, resulting in dilated pupils, decreased digestion, increased heart rate, increased breathing rate, and greater flow of blood to muscles.

Plague of the 21st century
With more choices, technologies and activities at our disposal, we find hard to resist the temptation to fill every minute with some activity. We don’t want to say, "No." Stress adds up over time and we become irritabile, anxious, confused, angry, and lose our concentration and judgment. It manifests as muscle tension, headaches, back pain, insomnia and high blood pressure, which can lead to physical illness and sometimes death. Stress also aggravates conditions such as multiple sclerosis, diabetes, herpes, mental illness, alcoholism, drug abuse, family discord and violence.

The business of stress
Stress has become multi-billion dollar industry with many healthcare products, services, books, expert guides, and professionals in the field who help you deal with it. However, little has been understood of how to manage stress. While exercise, meditation, diet and relaxation therapy help reduce stress, the best way to tackle it is to get to the root of the problem and find its solution.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

And the healthiest cooking oils are...

Eisha Sarkar
Posted on Hello Wellness on Jan 20, 2011

Fat is actually a valuable part of your diet. It helps absorb certain nutrients (including vitamins) that the body needs. The healthiest oil to cook that contains mainly monounsaturated fatty acids that lower risk of heart disease by reducing the total and bad cholesterol levels in your blood. Oils containing a high degree of saturated fats are considered the least healthy by nutritionists.

Heating makes it different
Oils that are healthy at room temperature can become unhealthy when heated above certain temperatures. Soya, canola, sunflower and corn oils become toxic when heated. Prolonged consumption of burnt oils can lead to atherosclerosis, inflammatory joint disease, and birth defects.

How healthy is your oil?
Olive oil: Packed with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, olive oil is the healthiest cooking oil, especially if you suffer from ulcers, gastritis, heart disease, and high cholesterol. Olive oil should be used to prepare salad dressings, as a seasoning for soups, for sautéing vegetables or for grilling.

Sesame Oil: It contains vitamins, minerals, poly and monounsaturated fats and is known to lower cholesterol and risk of heart disease. This oil is mainly used in stir-fries because of its short shelf life and low smoke temperature.

Groundnut oil/ peanut oil: Containing heart-friendly monounsaturated fats, the oil is suitable for frying, grilling and seasoning. Although the filtered oils are nutritionally superior, they often contain toxic compounds or adulterants. Buy refined groundnut oils of reputed brands.

Mustard oil: Characterised by its pungent flavour, mustard oil is a rich source of mono and polyunsaturated fats and is suitable for all types of cooking including frying. However, it should be used along with other oils to reduce the content of the harmful erucic acid it contains.

Sunflower oil: It is rich in polyunsaturated fats, particularly linoleic acid that lowers the levels of both good and bad cholesterol. Hence, sunflower oil cannot be used as the only cooking oil.

In order to derive maximum benefits from oil, consume a mix of oils to maintain a balance between the fatty acids.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Tracing Gujarat's history, post-1960

Unfortunately for most people in India, history stops at 1947. Few school textbooks talk about the developments post-Independence and moments that made history.  This is a tiny attempt to highlight some of the most significant moments in Gujarat's history post-Gandhi.
Mahagujarat Movement
The term Mahagujarat encompassed the whole Gujarati speaking area including Gujarat, Saurashtra and Kachchh. In 1948, a Mahagujarat conference took place to integrate the entire Gujarati speaking population under one administrative body and on 1 May, 1960, the Bombay State split into the states of Maharashtra and Gujarat. For the first time after the Sultanate, Gujarat was once again autonomous.
After the formation of the new state in 1960, Gujarat’s elite, as a new political entity, had the freedom to initiate their own ideas for development. Many took to modernization and technology as the instrument for change and encouraged the tapping of human and natural resources to develop agriculture and promote industrial growth in the state.

Green Revolution
Gujarat saw a growth in the agriculture sector in the 1960s and 1970s due to extensive cultivation, expansive irrigation facilities and the Green Revolution that brought in high-yield seeds and increased used of fertilizers. Farmers started cultivating cash crops such as cotton, tobacco, groundnut and oilseeds. Unfortunately, the change in the cropping pattern, coupled with erratic rainfall led to a decline in food crop agriculture in the 1980s and 1990s. Since 1999, the state has experienced rapid growth in the agriculture sector propelled by government inititatives, biotechnology, groundwater economy and improved market access. Judicious use of water for farming got a major fillip in 2003 when the state government floated the Gujarat Green Revolution Company to encourage drip irrigation. From 105 lakh hectares in 2000-2001, the state's cultivable area now stands at 120 lakh hectares.
Sachivalaya at Gandhinagar
Conflict over the Rann of Kachchh (yes, that and not 'Kutch' is the official spelling)
Although Kashmir has been the bone of contention between India and Pakistan, other border disputes have also existed, most notably over the Rann of Kachchh. In 1965 fight broke out between India and Pakistan in the Rann of Kachchh when the latter started building up in Kanjarkot about 1.3km south of the Indo-Pak border. Initially involving border police from both nations, the disputed area soon witnessed skirmishes between the countries' armed forces. British Prime Minister Harold Wilson persuaded both countries to end hostilities and set up a tribunal to resolve the dispute. The verdict, which came later in 1968, saw Pakistan awarded 900 square km of the Rann of Kachchh, as against its original claim of 9,100 square km. However, there was no ruling on the demarcation of Sir Creek, a 100-km-long estuary between the Rann of Kachchh and Sind in Pakistan. The area abounds in very good fish and is the scene of numerous arrests of fishermen after they stumble into either the disputed areas or the territory on the other side of the border. Sir Creek is one of eight major issues on the Pak-India composite dialogue agenda for the peace process they launched in 2004.

White Revolution
India’s milk revolution began in Gujarat with the birth of the Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation in Anand in 1973, also known as the Amul Cooperative. India’s National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) replicated the Amul model and launched Operation Flood, a rural development programme to create a nationwide milk grid. Operation Flood, often referred to as India’s White Revolution, helped reduce malpractices by milk traders, in alleviating poverty and in making India the largest producer of milk and milk products.

Silos of milk at the Amul factory, Anand

Discovery of Oil
Gujarat currently accounts for 62% of petrochemicals produced in India. While Cambay had been the focal point of geophysical surveys since 1947, Lunej in Anand district was where the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Ltd. (ONGC) made its first oil discovery in 1958. When the then Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru visited Cambay in 1960, a few drops of the black gold sprinkled on his immaculate white sherwani. A visibly impressed Nehru declared that the spots on his sherwani symbolised the aspirations of a nation and carried the “souvenir” back to Delhi.

Since the discovery of oil at Ankleshwar and Kalol in the 1960s, ONGC alone has pumped in $3 billion into the state paving the way for other petrochemical companies to do the same. With Soviet help in 1961, the Indian Oil Corporation set up the Gujarat refinery at Kayoli near Vadodara, the largest public sector refinery in India. The Reliance Group’s set up the world’s largest refinery at Jamnagar in the 1990s while Essar in 2006, too set up another big refinery at nearby Vadinar.

A water-constrained region with limited cultivable land, the newly formed Gujarat could not depend on agriculture for economic development. Instead, policy-makers in the 1960s developed a strategy for rapid industrialisation that has enabled the state to triple its economy every 10 years for the past five decades. 
In the 1960s, business was concentrated on cotton textiles, with entrepreneurs investing in yarn spinning, fabric weaving and processing and in supportive sectors of chemicals, dyes, bleaching agents, textile spares and equipment in the engineering sector. Thereafter, with the successful exploitation of hydrocarbon discoveries in the mid-1960s, a foundation was laid for investment in petrochemicals, plastics and several man-made fibres.

Policies of successive state governments, establishment of industrial estates with all infrastructural requirements by the Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC), continuous availability of power and water, developed rail links between important trading centres, finance facilities and the enterprising people have favored the growth of manufacturing, engineering, pharmaceutical and diamond sectors in the state.  
Though the decline of the textile industry in the 1980s led to the closure of many mills in Ahmedabad, the economic reforms of 1991 paved the way for new models for development and growth. The state government aggressively promoted investment in Gujarat though tax concessions and incentives. The state saw a growth of 35% in 1992-93, in just one year post-liberalisation. Since 2003, the biennial Vibrant Gujarat Global Investor’s Summit has managed to attract investment proposals worth over $370 billion.

While industrial growth has boosted Gujarat’s economy, it has come at a great environment cost. Some of the major industrial centres such as Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Ankleshwar, Vapi and Surat have much higher pollution levels than the norms allow. Excessive quarrying by cement industries has also led to the depletion of some of the greenest regions of Saurashtra.  

The Swarnim Gujarat Logo

The development of industries in the state, paved the way for rapid urbanisation of Ahmedabad, Vadodara and Rajkot and later, other parts of Gujarat as well. The migration of people from the dry northern and eastern tribal regions of the state and other states such as Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh to these industrial centres for their livelihood has pressed the demand for more homes, better infrastructure, electricity, water and other facilties. Around 6.5% of all urban households in Gujarat are of migrants from within the state, which is the highest in the country. More people have moved from agriculture to non-agriculture occupations and choose to settle down in urban centres. According to Forbes Magazine, Ahmedabad is the third fastest-growing city in the world.  This rampant urbanisation has also led to the creation of slums, unhygienic living conditions, stressed water supply and conversion of fertile agricultural land into non-agricultural land for construction, disruption of ecological habitats.

IIM Ahmedabad
At the time of its inception, the literacy rate in Gujarat was around 30.5%. The increase in the overall literacy rate to 69.14% (as per the 2001 Census), girl child development and decrease in dropouts from schools and colleges has been due to several governmental, NGO and corporate initiatives in the field of education over the last 50 years. The 1960s and 1970s marked a period of substantial growth in institution building in Gujarat. Academic institutes such as National Institute of Design (NID), Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A), Center for Environmental Planning and Technology (CEPT), Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), Institute of Rural Management and Agriculture, three government CSIR laboratories, Entrepreneurship Development Institute (EDI) and several colleges and universities were born during this period and Gujarat has become a hub for higher and technical education in India.

Migration and Diaspora
Gujarat’s proximity to the Arabian Sea has been responsible for the ceaseless mercantile and maritime activities of its people. At the turn of the 19th century, many South Asians were imported by the British to work as indentured labourers in the construction of East African railways. As towns sprang up around railheads, Gujaratis of Patel, Lohana and Visha-Oshwal castes began migrating to East Africa and Madagascar where they established themselves in business. Within a couple of generations, they became very rich, lived by their caste and kinship ties, spoke Gujarati at home and their business and even set up Gujarati schools. After several African states gained their independence, a deliberate policy of Africanisation made life increasingly difficult for Gujaratis and in the 1960s, they began to leave for Britain. Racial attacks, harsh economic conditions and the imposition of more stringent immigration laws in England resulted in many of them moving to Canada, US and Australia, joined later by refugees fleeing from the Idi Amin regime in Uganda. Intially, discriminated against for good jobs, the Gujaratis gradually settled with jobs in sales, insurance and real estate. Some, with the advice and financial help of their kingship networks, were able to set up small businesses. This kind of chain help among relatives and friends with caste and village ties has resulted in the dramatic expansion of the Patel community’s hotel and motel business in the US where they control nearly 30% of the industry. In the 1970s and 80s, Jains from Palanpur migrated to Antwerp in Belgium where 90% of the world’s diamond trade is concentrated, successfully breaking the 500-year monopoly of Jews by taking over nearly 65% of the diamond trading market. Since the 1980s, many Gujarati students, professionals, doctors, lawyers and businessmen have migrated to the US seeking better jobs and opportunities. One in five Indians in the US is Gujarati. The Gujarati Diaspora maintains its emotional, cultural and economic relations with its motherland by establishing hospitals, schools, colleges, cultural and religious institutions and successfully lobbying in their host countries for foreign investment into Gujarat.

Natural Calamities
Gujarat is in a geological and geographical crossroad that makes it very vulnerable to disasters. Massive cyclones regularly batter the region, and drought has become a way of life in north Gujarat. But even the commonness of calamity couldn’t have prepared its citizens for the earthquake that shook the state on 26 January 2001 which flattened entire villages in Bhuj, Anjar and Bhachau in Kachchh and killed around 20,000 people, injured 167,000, destroyed nearly 400,000 homes and damaged $5 billion worth of property in the state. Around 21 districts were affected and 600,000 people left homeless by the quake which had a magnitude between 7.6 and 8.1 on the Richter Scale and epicentre at the Chobari Village in Kachchh. In Ahmedabad, as many as 50 multi-storied buildings collapsed and several hundred people were killed.

Volunteers, food, medical aid and relief material poured in from all corners of the country and abroad as relief and rescue operations were conducted by the state and NGOs. While scars of the seismic tragedy still linger, the Gujarati spirit remains indomitable.

The 2002 Riots
The long tradition of peaceful co-existence between religious communities in Gujarat was nearly completely wiped out in 2002, when large-scale Hindu-Muslim violence broke out leading to massive damage to lives, property and the state’s secular image. On 27 February 2002 at Godhra, the Sabarmati Express train was forcibly stopped and attacked by a large Muslim mob. 59 Hindu passengers — mostly women, children and seniors returning from the holy city of Ayodhya — were burned alive. The attack prompted retaliatory massacres against Muslims across the state. Places of worship and properties belonging to Muslims were damaged in the ensuing carnage. 61,000 Muslims and 10,000 Hindus fled their homes. The nature of the events remains politically controversial in India. Some commentators have characterized the massacres of Muslims as a genocide in which the state was complicit while some government sources have countered that the Muslim dead were victims of mere "riots". Islamic Mujahideen groups often cite the riots as example of Hindu progrom against Muslims to justify their acts of terrorism in India such as the 19 bomb blasts that rocked Ahmedabad in August 2008 and the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai the same year.

While there is peace in Gujarat now, tension between the two communities still exists and post-riot community ghettos have formed in Ahmedabad, Mahesana and Vadodara districts.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Turn teetotaller in 2011

Eisha Sarkar
Posted on Hello Wellness on  Jan 18 2011 10:25AM

Think you will have no social life if you don't drink? You don’t have to actually explain or give reasons for not drinking. Be proud of resisting the pressure to drink because not everyone is as strong.  Here are three reasons why you should turn teetotaller in 2011:

Abstinence makes you brainy
That alcohol damages brain structure and function is well-known. A study conducted by University of North Carolina in 2004 found that complete abstinence from chronic alcohol consumption can, in a few months' time, help the neurons in the brain grow back and recover their metabolic activities and function.

Save your liver
Complete abstinence from alcohol can help stabilise liver functions in the case of three alcohol-induced liver conditions - fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis and liver cirrhosis - that are characterised by jaundice, inflammation, fever and abdominal pain. Fatty liver and alcoholic hepatitis are also reversible with abstinence.

Beat the Big C
The cancer rate in alcoholics is ten times higher than that in the general population. While ethanol itself is not carcinogenic, in the body it gets broken down into the highly toxic acetaldehyde which interferes with DNA repair. No alcohol will reduce considerably the number of carcinogens the body has to deal with regularly.

There are healthier ways to relax than downing pegs of whiskey - a hot bath, yoga, exercise, meditation and soothing music. And you don’t have to miss out on those cool parties just because you are a teetotaller. Opt for mocktails and fruit juice instead of cocktails and drinks. Suggest to your friends that you’ll drive them home and they’ll be glad to invite you over.  Mend your ways today for a healthier tomorrow. 

Monday, January 17, 2011

The museums I've visited

I love the dead, their belongings and the things they left behind for all of us to see. In short, I am a museum buff. The geek in me would like to spend all day in a museum browsing through antiques and trying to find the origins of each item on display and how it came to being there. History may be boring, but tracing history can be as interesting as creating one. But it never struck me as a hobby till a friend came up with the idea of listing museums - museums I've visited, museums I wish to see, museums I liked and museums I didn't like so much. The idea is to get to know how many museums are there in this country (and the world) that are still waiting for me to discover them. This list is a work-in-progress, but here's a start:

  1. Chhatrapati Shivaji Vastu Sangrahalaya, Mumbai
  2. Bhau Daji Lad Museum, Mumbai
  3. F D Alpaiwala Museum, Mumbai
  4. BEST Transport Museum, Mumbai
  5. RBI Monetary Museum, Mumbai
  6. Mani Bhavan, Mumbai
  7. Aga Khan Palace, Pune
  8. Tribal Cultural Museum, Silvassa
  9. Raja Dinkar Kelkar Museum, Pune
  10. Maharaja Fatehsingh Gaekwad Museum, Vadodara
  11. Musuem of Archaeology and Ancient History, M S University, Vadodara
  12. Baroda Museum and Picture Gallery, Vadodara
  13. Shankar's International Dolls Museum, New Delhi
  14. National Handicrafts and Handlooms Museum (Crafts Museum), New Delhi
  15. Tribal Cultural Society, Jamshedpur
  16. Tata Museum, Jamshedpur
  17. Indian Museum, Kolkata
  18. Victoria Memorial, Kolkata
  19. The Louvre, Paris
  20. Le Musée des Égouts de Paris or Paris Sewers Museum
  21. Centre Pompidou, Paris
  22. The Musée de la Mode et du Textile or Textile Museum, Paris
  23. National Museum, Male (Maldives)
  24. Haus der Geschichte (history of the Federal Republic of Germany), Bonn
  25. Bombay Natural History Society, Mumbai
  26. Swiss Museum of Transport, Lucerne, Switzerland
  27. Schokoladenmuseum (Chocolate Museum), Cologne
  28. Colombo Dutch Museum, Colombo 
  29. Kanha Museum, Kanha National Park, Madhya Pradesh 
  30. National Museum, New Delhi
  31. Gandhi Ashram, Ahmedabad
  32. Sardar Patel Memorial, Karamsad, Anand

Saturday, January 15, 2011

LOL! It's good for you

Eisha SarkarPosted on Hello Wellness on Jan 15, 2011
Remember the time when you were in school and the girl/boy next to you started giggling. You probably didn't get the humour, but the sight of him/her laughing triggered you to join in as well. Soon there were six of you trying hard not to laugh out loud. Laughter is more contagious than most diseases can be. And it's much better for you than you think. A good belly laugh:
  • Reduces stress: A good, hearty laugh relieves stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after. Laughter also triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain
  • Protects the heart: Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems
  • Lowers BP: While you're laughing, your blood pressure first rises. But after that hearty ha-ha, your blood pressure drops to a level that's healthier than before you laughed
  • Is a workout: Laughing gives your abdomen and diaphragm a good workout. The muscles of your thorax, neck, shoulders, face, and scalp also benefit from the exercise
  • Strengthens immunity: By decreasing stress hormones, humour and laughter increase infection-fighting antibodies
  • Keeps negative thoughts away: Humour distracts you from negative emotions, changes your  perspective and makes you feel more energetic
  • Connects you with others: Laugh and the world laughs with you. A sense of humour attracts others who want to be around cheerful, positive people
Laughter helps you forget judgments, criticisms, and doubts and your fear of holding back and holding on are set aside. Humour allows deeply felt emotions to rise to the surface. It gets you out of your head and away from your troubles!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Top 5 lifestyle changes in 2011

Eisha Sarkar
Posted on Hello Wellness on Jan 11, 2011

It's a new year, a new start. Make health your priority and these five lifestyle changes for a better life:

Diet: Chuck the junk and eat whole foods. Grains and veggies are good. Too much of fat and red meat are not. Fish has its benefits when it's fresh and not polluted. Crash is fad and so it's bad. Salt looks little but can harm a lot. Sugar is sweet but nutritionally empty. Pile on the vitamins, minerals and fiber and drink eight glasses of water.

Exercise: Those muscles and bones were meant for movement. Sitting in front of the television or computer all day makes them weak and brittle. Swim, run, cycle, hit the gym or simply take a walk in between office tasks to make your body flexible and fit. Start slow and add more as your body becomes stronger gradually.

Sleep: Not getting enough of it can make you physically and mentally tired. Go to bed early and rise early. Rest is as important to your body as the food you eat. 

Quit: Smoking, alcohol, soft drinks, caffeine and drugs. They're all addictive, nutritionally empty and expensive. The smoke brings on cancer and the alcohol, liver disease. Soft drinks cause dental caries and drugs can kill you. Quit now!

Stress: Handle it with care and it motivates you to do your tasks better. Manage it badly and it wreaks havoc, causing strokes, heart attacks, headaches and ulcers. Say, "No" to things you don't want to do and "Yes" to things you want to. Spend time with your family and friends. Balance your work and home to lead a better life. 

Breathe easy, develop a positive attitude and you'll sail through 2011 in style!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Calm Technique

Eisha Sarkar
Posted on Hello Wellness on Jan 6 2011 10:34AM

Bad news, bad bosses and bad days! It's difficult to keep those nerves in control when you're feeling low. Meditation teacher and author of The Calm Technique, Paul Wilson once said, "The most important skill in staying calm is not to lose sleep over small issues. The second most important skill is to be able to view all issues as small issues.” Easier said than done, you think. Not really!

According to Wilson, to find real peace and contentment, you should:
  • Commit yourself to finding a calm solution to life
  • Meditate to get relief from tension, anxiety and fatigue. It will also help you cope better, improve your concentration and tolerance and make you healthy and happy
  • Maintain an 80:20 balance between the acid-forming foods (wholegrain flour and cereals, fruits, vegetables, etc), and alkaline-forming foods (coffee, meat, sugar, processed foods, etc) in your diet
  • Regularly exercise because it's very relaxing
  • Selflessly help others
  • Be optimistic  

His suggestions for instant calm are:
  • Breathe deeply: As you breathe in, sense your lower abdomen rising. Slow your breathing until the breaths come 8 - 10 times a minute. Listen as each breath goes in and comes out.
  • Move slowly: Move, speak and breathe at a relaxed pace
  • Relax your face: Raise your eyebrows to relax the brow muscles, place your tongue against the roof of your mouth to relax the jaw muscles and then smile to relax the cheek muscles. It takes fewer muscles to smile than frown!
  • Massage your feet: Find the reflexology points that help to relax by pressing your fist in the hollow of your foot. Slowly press as you breathe out.
  • Have a lavender bath: Add 5 drops of lavender oil to a warm bath, turn off the lights and soak in
  • Write: Get the worries out on paper. Your anxieties will vanish and you will be able to see the problems in their true perspective
  • Quiet your mind: Concentrate on your breathing. You may want to add a word "Peace," "Calm," "Serenity," "Center" as you breathe out or choose soothing music you can get lost in
  • Press on your wrist: Apply a downward pressure to the acupressure point inside of your wrist - in line with your middle finger, two thumb widths from your palm - as you breathe out.
  • Take a walk: Walking is the most relaxing exercise of all. Do it whenever you feel tense
  • Concentrate: On the task at hand to forget your stresses and anxieties  

Calmness is the cradle of power. It has the strength to soothe and heal. Be positive and stay calm and you'll be able to tide over all of life's problems.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Are you Fit to work?

Eisha Sarkar
Posted on Hello Wellness on Jan 4 2011 4:23PM
Being fat is not funny. You're the butt of all jokes. The medics describe you as "high-risk" and you have a tough time with insurance. You try to give up the chips, cheese and chocolates but when you fail, you go on a binge. And as if you’re not upset enough, now the fat's hurting your job prospects too!

Getting fat is expensive
Being overweight or obese can prove expensive to your employers. A Duke University study from 1997 to 2004 found that obese workers filed twice the number of workers' compensation claims, had seven times higher medical costs from those claims and had lost 13 times more days of work from work injury or work illness than non-obese workers. In terms of average lost days of work, the obese averaged 183.63 per 100 employees, compared with 14.19 per 100 employees for those in the recommended range. Generalise those findings in a country like the US, where 74.1 per cent of the adult population is obese or overweight, it means expenses in excess of $150 billion.

Belly fat brings in bias
While it is commonly believed that employers prefer to hire fitter, better-looking people, a 1998 study by Ohio University psychologists suggests it's the activity of the job and the obese person's perceived inability to perform it that deters employment. The study found that obese persons were more likely to be hired for sedentary jobs such as computer programmer, film editor or cheese blender than those at the other end of the activity scale, such as health club manager, industrial manager and landscape gardener.

Obese people are often associated with words like sloppy, dumb, slow, lazy and undisciplined. Even if these perceptions of you are not true, the unconscious bias of co-workers and employers can negatively affect your opportunities for promotions and career growth.

Obese employees are also paid less than normal-weight employees who do similar jobs, especially when they have employer-sponsored health insurance. Obese women on average make six per cent less and obese men make three per cent less than normal-weight employees.

Combating obesityObesity is emerging as the next big killer in India. Over 2.2 crore people in India are obese, of which many are morbidly obese with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of more than 32.5 and are highly vulnerable to high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiac problems, sleep apnea, high cholesterol and a host of other illnesses. The treatment for morbid obesity is surgery to reduce the stomach volume and/or bowel length. But if you’re overweight, you don’t have to go that far. Take care of your diet and exercise today for a healthier tomorrow. 


Mandvi Gate is one of the main landmarks in the old city area of Vadodara, Gujarat. Built during the Mughal period, it was restored by governor, Malharoa Maloji  during Damaji Rao Gaekwad II's reign in 1736. This impressive square pavilion has three bold arched openings on each of its four sides. The Mandvi Gate is illuminated on special occasions. While the structure itself is beautiful, it shelters a makeshift police chowky and is probably the only place I've come across which shelters both Hindu and Muslim shrines. To your left are the 99 names of Allah and two your right is a small temple dedicated to Shiva-Parvati and Kali. The gate literally stands between the ghetto-like Hindu and Muslim areas of the old city, which were torn apart during the riots of 2002. I don't know whether the shrines were there before that catastrophe, but what I do know is that the gods have found peace under one roof. Hopefully, human beings will be able to do the same. 

The 99 names of Allah

A Shiva-Parvati Mandir