Sunday, December 21, 2008

Acharapakkam again!

We were on NH 45 again, this week end, and guess what, yessssss, it was the iyyiru otel in Acharapakkam again, that saw us trooping in, early in the morning for breakfast and late in the night for "light tiffin" instead of 'meals'. The idlis were still steaming and the vadas were not yet made; we were offered 'boori' and pongal, but no, we preferred to wait for the idlis and vadas.. and boy was the wait worth it! never have i eaten such super vadas, i tell you. as the men in the family would say it, we "cannot, means cannot" make such vadas "at home". as they would have it, ours drip with oil, they can squeeze out the oil..etc!! secretly, i have to agree to this observation, galling though it is. the hot-hot idlis, vadas and sambar-chutney went down the hatch in no time at all, and shamefully, i had room for a boori also, as it turned out. so that too was despatched quickly, washed down with coffee..yummy....
i thought i would not be able to eat a morsel more for a week. but no, i didnt reckon with that organ i call a is just a huge inflatable baloon, i tell you. i have to remind you that i am on this weight loss mission. or so i would have everybody believe. not if you had seen me in action yesterday. i ate like it was my last breakfast and last lunch. yah, the lunch i must tell you about that too....we went to Vaitheeswaran koil you see. and after devoutly offering prayers, (of course, after consuming sambar with vengayam and all that, but we are convinced that the manasu should be suttham -the mind/heart should be clean! that is important) we traipsed off to this small mess close to the temple. there is this mami there, who makes these heavenly meals. when we went though, they were prepared to shut shop. they told us that if we were willing to have sadaam, sambar and extra appalam, they would serve us food, but there was no kai (vegetable side dish) left. if we would wait just a few minutes, rice was 'just' getting ready and we would be served food in '10 minutes'( the mami went off to make some kootu also, we saw her carrying away some cabbage) we agreed with alacrity and sat ourselves at the bench. no sooner than the banana leaves were spread in front of us, (those were our 'plates'- in most of the messes and otels they serve food on banana leaves and quite hygenic that is too), than another group walked in followed by a boisterous leader. seeing that a large clientele had gathered, the quanties were increased in the kitchen i suppose. the 10 minutes stretched on and on and after an eternity, but it was only an hour, food was served. steaming hot rice, boiling hot sambar which had almost no dal in it, appalam,hot kootu, hot rasam and watery buttermilk and lime pickles. just you try serving food like that at home and pralayam (massive floods, actually, disaster) would strike, but there in the mess, we all ate the saapadu like we had been starving for a week. the worst culprit was I. gosh, how i ate! all calorie counting went out of the window and i ate the rice and irrigation (watery sambar and more watery rasam), like it was devamrutham (nectar for the gods). and ate and ate, all the time chiding myself for hogging like a pig. i kept on at it though, telling myself that i would "make up". anyway, i must record here that i thoroughly enjoyed myself, letting go like that after a long time and since it was all rice i didnt feel as guilty as i would otherwise have felt had it been not rice, even 4 cups of it, but 6 pooris. yes of course, breakfast was conveniently forgotten about, i was struck by this short bout of amnesia in that regard and i ate with gusto. lunch over, and feeling satisfyingly fit to burst, we loaded ourselves in our car, which had it been human would have cried from the sheer extra weight of its passengers, we went off to a couple of other temples, Angarakan and Budan.
On our way back we stopped off for a cup of tea, yes, at a way side tea kadai with the shiny copper boiler. and then set off toward chennai. come night we trooped in again at the otel for, as i said earlier, 'lighta tiffin'. this time i didnt have amnesia, and remembered the lunch with the correct quantity of shame and i had already in-my-mind decided that i really ought to skip dinner however light it might be. also the stomach for a change displayed the existence of a firm mind and refused to accept a morsel more, and so the day was saved with no more food being consumed by me. but the thought of coffeee was irresistible, and human that i am, i partook of that heavenly drink and patted myself on the back for turning my back on the lovely sinful looking dosas and oothappams; instead while the rest of the gang ate their dinner, i marched up and down the sidewalk and got closer to the 10,000 step mark for the day. actually my target for a day is 14,000 steps, but yesterday, despite all that temple walking, i could not manage more that 10500. reaching home close to midnight, the last thing i wanted to do was walk 4000 steps more! forget it i told myself, walk extra tomorrow!

and yes, i have made up, so to speak. i got up at 5 and walked 10,000 steps, skipped a cooked breakfast and stuck to a guava, some papaya, a banana and a glass of milk. and i am back on the bandwagon after that acharapakkam otel visit!!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Tiruvannamalai Girivalam

On Saturday last, we went to Tiruvannamali to 'do' the Girivalam. Tiruvannamalai is a town about 180Kms from Chennai city in the State of Tamil Nadu in India. There is the Arunachala hill at the foot of which is situated the shrine of Lord Arunachaleswar. Devotees from the world over throng this temple town especially during the tamil month of karthigai, which falls in November-December and worship not only at the temple, but also circumambulate the hill which is the Girivalam- Giri means mountain and valam is circumambulation. the girivalam path is about 15kms, which is just a little short of 10 miles. it is especially auspicious to do the girivalam on karthika pournima, but girivalam is done the year round on pournamis, ie full moon nights.
we made it a point to avoid karthika pournima; devout though we are, we also shy away from crowds and bodily discomforts. on karthika pournami, zillions of devotees arrive in tiruvannamali and the girivalam which normally takes about 3 or so hours would take on that day close to 6 hours we were told, coz the crowd would move inch by inch. we baulked. so we landed the next evening. we arrived around 730 in the evening and after finding our bearings set off on the girivalam path at about 815 in the night.
it was a pleasant night, the moon seemed almost full, it shone bright with nary a cloud. there was a super breeze. we walked barefoot, that is the only way to go and started off without having dinner. now, the devout, again, do the girivalam after fasting the whole day. we ate the whole day and skipped dinner!! well, seriously, after evening tea, we consumed nothing. this, i fear was not for religious reasons but practical thoughts reigned our minds... full stomach, would we be able to walk 15kms?
the start of the path was not so bad, the road is nicely paved, tarred and all that, and we didnt find it at all difficult. we were a group of 7, and of the 7 i was the city born and bred, not used to walking barefoot on roads anyway; still it was not at all difficult. the breeze was so fresh, so cool, something that we have become strangers to in the city. there was a portion of the road where the street lights had failed, but we didnt really miss them, the silvery moonlight was strong and lovely. no wonder the 'elders' had laid down that girivalam should be done on pournamis... where were the electric lights in those olden days? they had good reasons for everything, our elders sure did....
all along the path you find hundreds of maths, ashramams and temples. of note are the 8 lingam temples where you are supposed to worship- i suppose that gives one a much needed break. also along the path are many wayside shops selling tea, coffee, bottled and packaged water, cool drinks and coconut water straight from its God-made container!! ah for the tea... the shiny copper boilers dispensing hot water for the tea. whoever has had the experience of drinking tea from a way side tea kadai in tamil nadu would swear by the tea. our family tours often, making these kutti-kutti pilgrimages. and a number of "mamas and mamis" (uncles and aunts) from our village join us and we have a jolly good time eating in way side 'otels' (hotels) and drinking tea in the tea kadais.... there is a small hotel in acharapakkam on the NH45 which is a great favourite of ours. my friends from the world living in america and europe would cringe to enter a place like that, i suppose coz it seems so unclean... frankly, i cringe too!! but not only do i enter it, but happily hog the hot idli sambar and poori that is served there without fear or favour. 'agattum parthukalaam' is my motto then (let it happen we will see). to tell the truth, so far nothing untoward has happened to my tummy. does it speak of the inner cleanliness in the otel or the inner lining of my stomach? oh but i digress.. to come back to the girivalam.... the path was horribly strewn with empty coconut shells, plastic cups, donnais and leaf plates, sugar cane chewed till it was not possible to extract another cc of juice and so forth. surprisingly, considering that such an ocean of humanity had passed that way just the previous day, you would think the smell of urine and sh.. would be overpowering right? but no, the latter was remarkable by its absence and the former, well there seemed some assigned special spots were the odour was so overpowering that it was intolerable, but otherwise, not at all what one would expect. in fact again remarkably, ok.
the last two kilometres of the valam are to my mind the worst. they are in the town and the road tarred though it was, was strewn with tiny pebbles and we were slowed down considerably by that fact. where we were able to walk 13 kms without even thinking about it, the last two were very trying. in the process, we took the right side of the fork rather than the left to go to the temple and thus missed out on the isana lingam temple, worshipping at which is essential, it is believed, for the girivalam to be poorthi (complete). i fretted a bit at that; but after a late night snack of barotta-kuruma-coffee, or set-dosai as per choice, we did the girivalam once again, this time "car-walking"- when you go around the hill in a car it is car walking, and the elderly or those that cannot do it on foot resort to this! and why not? how else can you possibly do something if you are not able to? (i endorse the "doli" concept also, which you find in sholighur for the same reason- more so, coz it puts bread, or rather rice in a family's mouth!) and when we did the car walking we took the right turn, this time the left fork and saw the isanalingam temple and for the record the girivalam was completed. i am filled with wonder at the training and conditioning of our minds- i actually had walked 15 kms around the hill, not a jot of doubt about that but, since i had not seen the isanalingam temple, i was fully prepared to accept that i had not "completed" the girivalam!! mind you, i am supposed to be highly educated and in a "good position"!!
its not a bad idea to carry a bottle of water and apart from some money and small change to give to the mendicants who are found all along the way, you dont need anything more to do the girivalam.
oh by the way, when we went around the giri the second time, we found a whole lot, a whole lot more people on the road, and that told us that people started out even later than we did. so it would seem that at least in the month of karthigai, maybe girivalam is done on all nights. dont know about other months, though.
we saw the jothi atop the hill.. in fact even as you approach thiruvannamali, you sight the jothi. it is such a magnificient sight.
i am thrilled that He saw fit for me to do the girivalam and see the jothi too..been wanting to do this for a long time, but that it should happen in karthigai, and during those very ten days when the jothi is lit..... thats the blessing.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Reviewing weight loss.

as i said earlier, i am on a weight loss mission. this started on 18th july 2008 to be precise, and today, on 25th sept, i am 11 pounds or almost 5 kgs lighter. Mission continues. While i slowly march toward the end of this tunnel, i cant help but think back on all those earlier attempts, which by the way were rather successful, i had made to lose weight.but gained back every single kg lost and more. it didnt make sense then, it does now. it is so simple, but one doesnt see what is most obvious oftentimes, does one?
after losing weight and arriving at a desirable level, one must continue one's efforts to maintain. that is the key. the trick. which so obvious though it is, is something i just did not do. one should remain conscious about one's weight, aware at all times. on one's toes so to speak. what i did, i think now, is that i managed to shed 'n' no. of kgs and then i thought the body would take over and take care by itself... "look, i have now brought you down to this level, now it is upto you" sort of thing. as if the body can do anything independent of the mind!!

i remember, when my daughter was born, i did put on some weight which i lost pretty much without making a great deal of effort. in those days, i did all the house work, running after the child when i was home and went to work too... so it didnt seem to be a major task at all. i did retain a couple of kgs but then i never was aware or bothered about these things. i just accepted that after childbirth, a woman just became a little plump...we didnt have internet then and the information avalanche that we now have. lifestyle diseases, illnesses, obesity, all these things were not something one heard of in the normal course of conversation, like we do now. slowly slowly the grams crept in. then my son arrived. after his arrival i remember how much i used to walk in the lawn at home in guwahati.. it was a semicircular pathway and i would just go that half circle a zillion times. passersby on the road would stop and gawk. and i slimmed down like anything! but like i said i let go that advantage, just let life pass by without realising that the blouses worn with the sari were becoming just a little tighter and i was telling the tailor each time to make them 'just' half an inch bigger.

we moved to delhi and lived in a beautiful house with huge, huge space all around. but dont you know, the open space, fresh air, walking opportunity, rang no bells at all. i now think back and ask myself how i could have been so very dumb! we moved after a while to a first floor flat and that meant a spot of climbing up and down . it was in this flat that for the first time ever i went on a serious diet with the express purpose of losing weight. i cut out oily food, no puris, no oily paraathas, no chappatis, no deep fried pappads and vathals, no sweets. only Phulkas, dal and subjis without too much oil. my excess weight vanished magically. again in those days i had no idea about bmr, bmi, calories in-calories out and such like things. yes, yes, i am a working woman,i have an M.A., i did a lot of reading back then.... and working for the Central Government, no less, and you would think i would have been smarter and more aware.. i cant imagine how i didnt know these things. back home, the elders in the family, specifically the women, our relatives constantly urged us to eat well, they told us that thatwas the only thing that would stand one in good stead when one grew older. even now, they frown on our non-eating. it is as good as not eating from their point of view if you dont have at least two cups of cooked white rice with lots of sambar, kai and thayir and so forth- in every meal!! a breakfast of idlis means 4 idlis...2 idlis is a no-n0. i have now learnt how not to displease them and please myself too.

often i have complained to the people around me, my near ones, that had they once told me that i was bloating, was becoming a barrel i would have done something about it. i wonder about that too, now. why on earth blame them for something that they probably didnt even give a thought too? anyway. all this information explosion has done me personally a lot of good. i stand in front of a mirror, and i really dont look fat to me. but obviously i am and others see that . some ten years ago when i thought i wasnt all that badly built, there was this officer, who asked another about me-....'oh, that fat lady...' i do believe that was the first time ever that i became really aware of the fact that others see me as 'fat'. that is when i started that serious diet in that flat. and i started aerobics at home with a jane fonda cassette, and it went well for some years. she still is my favourite, and i can see her in my mind's eye. how i enjoyed dancing to that tape. how my aunt and my mother were most impressed that i could be so flexible. i never was much of a moving person as a kid i guess, in the sense of dancing and stuff like that, and when my mother and aunt saw me do that 20 mt tape, they said hey, you are just a step away from dancing!! i still remember the delight, and i recall so clearly my aunt stretching her arms over her head in reaction to my aerobics!! sigh.... while i didnt slim down to levels which i now desire, i sort of 'maintained' myself.

it is in the past two years that all hell broke lose. i lost complete control over myself, no portion control. i ate voraciously, walked only 45 minutes a day, and thought that should and would do. obviously not. in two years i gained 12 kgs, and that is no joke by any stretch of imagination. the worst part of it is that i didnt think i was eating too much, and i attributed all that to perimenopause. and stress. it is true, i did have a bad case of mood swings, how easily i could cry in those days, i think they must have been the worst 8 months of my entire life... and the weight was a direct result of binge and emotional husband was overseas on a posting, else i am sure he would have taken me in his hand, under his wings so to speak and made sure i was ok. one year down the line, when i was visiting him, he casually mentioned, and i realise how big a risk he was taking telling me that, i can be very volatile! that was not my intake increased? he never remembered me eating 'so much'....luckily for me, i didnt hit the roof. and i had the good sense to think about it. that very night i implemented the 'eat less, work more' slogan. and i reaped rich benefits; that combined with a lot of walking, made me lose a kilo and a half in two weeks!! i came back home and went back to my routine. which involves a lot of sitting!! the lost kilo and a half came right back and a little more too!! gosh! how many times does one make the same mistake, over and over and over again? what a glutton for punishment i was turning to be!! then came my sister in law for her vacation-combined with my son working out and dieting and being strictly in control of himself, and my daughter home in the break before going off to pursue higher education...and the rest as they say is history.....
this time round, now that i am able to get out of my body, stand out and look inside, i hope i would lose weight sensibly and maintain it equally sensibly.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Walking to New Delhi

Folks, I live in Chennai that was Madras, in Tamil Nadu, in India and I have decided to walk to New Delhi our capital city! Well, not exactly that... you know I keep reading hazaar things on the net about people in America walking around the world, from one end of the country to another and stuff like that.. the walking clubs etc!! The 'America on the Move' stuff... I am kind of inspired by that and have decided to set myself this goal.... Walk the distance to Delhi, to start with and take it from there... 1749 kms/1087 miles. Thats going to take 300 days give or take a few days.. I do try to put in at least 6 kms a day, more on holidays. Delhi Chalo! Will keep you posted on developments.. must chart out the route etc. I am planning a trip to Rome come October, do you think any walking that I do there would count toward this DC walk? Should na, after all this is some kind of 'virtual walk'. I am looking forward to this.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Coconut Burfi.

Easy to make, good to eat.
Fresh, grated coconut: 2 and 1/4 cups.
Sugar: 1 and 1/2 cup.
Ghee: 1/4 cup.
Cardamom powder: 1 tsp.
A greased plate.

Heat the ghee in a thick kadai and fry the coconut in the ghee for 3 minutes. Add the cardamom powder and sugar and stir well. When the sugar is added and stirred in the heat, the mixture becomes a little 'loose'- keep stirring on medium flame till the mixture starts to show crystals and starts to leave the sides of the pan- when the heated coconut paste sort of starts looking whitish and snowy you know it is ready. Slip the paste onto the greased plate and pat flat with the back of a greased spatula. Cut horizontal lines and then vertical lines on the flat coconut paste-on-the-plate while it is still hot. Leave to cool. Once cool, diamond/square shaped burfis can be prised out. Enjoy!!


Here is a hot favourite of mine. A little time consuming, lots of ghee, but very yummy.
Maida (white flour): 1 cup.
water 1/2 cup.
ghee 2 tsps.
salt a pinch.
1 cup crushed jaggery soaked in 1/2 cup water.
1 tsp of cardamom powder.
1/2 cup grated coconut.
1/2 cup cooked chana dal.
Add the salt to the maida and the ghee and mix well. Now add the water and make a dough. Knead for a few minutes and keep aside.
Heat ghee in a kadai, add the coconut and fry for two minutes. Add the cooked chana dal paste, mix well and then add the cardamom and mix. Now slowly add the jaggery water such that whatever muck is there in the jaggery gets left behind. Stir the mixture well over slow fire till it starts thickening. Remove from fire and cool.
Use a thick plastic sheet about 6 inchces by 6 inches if you have no access to a plantain leaf of similar size. Pour a little ghee on the plastic sheet and spread it. Now place the maida dough the size of a small lemon on the sheet/leaf- pour a little ghee on it. Using the fingers and the palm of the right hand flatten out the dough to a plate of about 2 inches dia. Now place a tablespoonful of the filling in the middle and fold the dough over completely. Now again pour some ghee on this and start gently patting out the ball of dough containing the filling into a round shape till a thin poli is formed.
Heat tawa, reduce flame. Hold the plastic/banana leaf with the poli stuck to it at an angle to the tava and prise the poli off the leaf on to the tawa directly. you have to be a little careful here for, while it is ok when the banana leaf gets a bit singed, its not nice when the plastic sheet does that. Cook the poli on both sides using ghee liberally. Serve hot with ghee or Cold with hot ghee.

Sunday, September 7, 2008


Ganesh Chaturthi brings Kozhukattais. Here is how i made them this year.

1/2 cup raw rice, soaked in water for about 30 mts.
1/2 cup jaggery grated and soaked in about 1/4 cup of water.
1 tsp cardamom powder.
1/2 cup fresh grated coconut.
1/4 cup chana dal cooked and drained of all water.
A pinch of salt.
1/2tsp ghee.

Wash the rice thoroughly, and grind to a fine paste. Add a quarter cup of water, the salt and mix well. Heat half the ghee in kadai, and mixing the rice paste well, add to the ghee. Reduce flame and keep stirring the rice batter till it starts coagulating. The white color of the batter now becoming dough would turn transluscent. When all the water is absorbed, remove from fire, and applying a little oil to your palms, knead the dough well taking care to remove any lumps that may have formed. This should be done when the dough is still hot. You could use the back of a laddle to do this. Cover and keep the kneaded dough aside.
For the filling:
Grind the cooked chana dal and keep aside.
Heat the remaining ghee in another kadai and add the grated coconut to it and fry for a few minutes. Then add the chana dal paste and mix well. Add the cardamom and mix well. Now pour the jaggery water in it slowly so that any dirt that may be in the jaggery is left behind. Reduce flame and keep stirring the mixture well till it starts thickening. Remove and cool.
Oil your palms again. Place a ball the size of a big nellikai/amla of the rice dough in your left palm, and flatten out to the size of your palm with your right fingers. Now place a spoonful of the filling in the middle of the flattened dough, fold by bringing the edges together and seal by pressing gently. Repeat with the rest of the dough and filling.
Heat water in a steamer. Place the kozhakattais on a greased plate in the steamer and steam for about 10 minutes. They are cooked/done when the kozhakkatais turn transluscent.
Serve hot with ghee.

Friday, August 22, 2008

broken wheat upuma.

here is a simplified version of the broken wheat upuma i mentioned in an earlier post.
what you would need is a cup of broken wheat, vegetables one cup (chopped beans, carrots, fresh peas), one med sized onion chopped, a tsp of any vegetable oil, salt to taste. water two cups.
heat the oil in a wok.add the onions and saute for a couple of minutes, then add the broken wheat and fry for about 3-4 minutes, now add the vegetables, salt and then the water and mix gently and well, flattening out any lumps that may have formed. close with lid, lower the flame and cook till the water is fully absorbed and the wheat is cooked. serve hot with yoghurt!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

losing weight

anyone who has seen me knows i am comfortably built. i have been trying to change that for several years now... trying all kinds of diets. last year i enrolled in a gym and six months back i joined one of these famous places which promise to right curve you... nothing worked. i kept attributing it to that time in life when nothing works toward weight loss....i was quite despondent; thinking to myself, i walk so much, i eat so little and yet the weight remains.. am i destined to remain and die fat? i was in Rome around april this year, and my husband who is on deputation there, told me, at the risk of incurring my wrath, that i was eating a lot of food these days, unlike earlier times.....i was very bugged at that, but knowing him and how much he cares for me, i started rationing the food i was eating. in the two weeks i spent there we walked a lot, a lot, about 4 hours a day, touristing, so to the end of the fortnight, i had lost 2 kgs....i didnt stop to connect up all these things and wonder what i did to lose that weight... within two weeks of my return to india, i was back to square A.....
i did all the right things it seemed, kept journals, walked regularly and long, ate right.... all this i now realise was a matter of perception.
a couple of years ago, one of the coaches of my son told me to run on the treadmill instead of walking... i baulked at the idea, me, run?! i couldnt possibly do that!! he assured me that i wouldnt collapse nor break a bone.. i said ok, but didnt do anything about that. then again, in the early part of this year, i happened on an article in the local paper about running and looked up the site mentioned in it.. was amazed at the number of older and old people who had taken up running when in the middle years...not runners from their childhood or youth or anything like that. just people like me, who took up running just like that and were able to do it.
now i am not the kind of person who waits for anything... since i know to stay afloat, i dont mind jumping off the deep end of the pool and will myself to survive. so i promptly 'researched' running and from the www, what a wonderful place that is for information, i got a schema for running for beginners. i started straightaway that evening, ensuring, like a typical south indian, that it was not a "bad" day. within one month i was able to jog slowly but steadily for 30 mts at a stretch. i cant believe that, even now, that i did it...
once i started jogging, i started looking up calorie counters and found that a 30 mt jog helped me burn much more calories than the 40 minute walk i usually did... i am simply not able to walk any faster than 5& 3/4 kms an hour... if i was doing 6kmph, then i am trotting....and remember, i always thought i couldnt run, and i never sort of connected up the fact that trotting could be some kind of very very very slow run... i wish i had made that connection!! this caused a great deal of excitement in me, this discovery that i could burn more calories in lesser time...time is a great constraint for various reasons, not least of which is a desk bound job and a work place which is 25kms from home, one way, and 1 hour 15 mts by car!! (thats the traffic of madras!). i decided that while i wouldnt stop walking, i really enjoy walking up and down and up and down and round and round anywhere, anytime, i would try to run at least 10-15 mts a day. i did try jumping rope but found it boring and hurting. so i started this running... i would go to the nearby park and if i am unable to leave the house either in the mornings or late in the evenings, then i would just go round and round the 22 yard cricket pitch we have for our son in our house....just going round and round. there is a nice big electronic clock right outside our gate on the opposite house's gate, and i would time myself by that clock....the problem had been that i was not able to go to the gym, or the road or the park....i decided this between pitch running was better than no running at all...where there is a will, there certainly is a way...however cliched that may sound, it is true and well said by our elders.....
while all this was happening, simultaneously, i decided to take my food habits in hand. decided that first of all the number of teas and coffees i had in a day, indian style with lots of milk and sugar, had to be drastically curtailed. made it one coffee in the morning and one tea in the evening with one teaspoon sugar only and one tea each mid morning and mid afternoon with sugar free pills. it was very difficult in the beginning. but now i find that i cannot quite drink "overly sweet" coffee, that i prefer sugarless coffee instead. i decided that i was not going to skip meals, or have erratic meals... i would eat orderly and start reducing the quantity.... so it was bf, snack, lunch, snack, snack, dinner.... at this stage i even measuring out the food i was eating. i would measure with the measuring cups and spoons i specially bot for the purpose i tried to earnestly control the quantity... while i knew how much i was eating, and yes it was much much less than what i used to eat, it was to be some more days before i would drastically cut food....i was greatly inspired by and impressed with my son who enrolled in a gym, who strictly followed the regime set for him by his trainer and nutritionist and before long had lost fat and developed muscles....even now, if he is tempted by some food which he doesnt need but wants, he eats it and then goes for a "road run" to work off what he consumed. his determination and discipline is awesome.
it was around this time that my daugther returned from her stint as research assistant in the iisc bangalore. she was in between two courses...she was waiting to go to the US for doctoral studies. i had been running, walking, eating in a restricted fashion, and yet the numbers were not adding up.... calories in and calories out, a deficit and i should be losing weight..but it seemed not to be happening. so one night, late night, i literally went to her crying, she was at the computer doing some lord of the rings thinggy, asking her to tell me where i was going wrong and why i was not losing weight.. i showed her my diet and exercise enteries and showed her that it had been two full weeks and i wasnt seeing any progress.
my daughter immediately stopped the work she was doing...we spent some two hours on the computer, worked late into the night: she extracted a whole bunch of information from the web and made a spread sheet for me, to put in the 1440 minutes of activity i did every day, calculating calories spent. i was already working with my bmr figures etc,but it was a bit crude kind of calculation i was doing, but she asked me to keep as accurate a log as i could possibly could without guestimating activity. (since i was doing it anyway, why not do it properly, she asked. it is important.) that way i could keep track of being in deficit of 500 cals at least in a day. she told me to rework my bmr every time i lost a pound of weight. and she told me, what i knew all the time, but which i kind of never consciously accepted... that "its only two weeks amma, dont give up, it will take 6 weeks to see results.. dont lose heart, and you will lose weight." i love the girl for mothering me so....
i have an old mechanical bathroom scales. the next day i got my son to pick for me a posh electronic one which would show weight in kgs as well as pounds.
that was in the beginning of july...and i thought, come what may, i will do the pitch running...even when the house is full of people and there is much work to be done, surely i would be able to find 15 mts? in the event, except for a couple of days, i couldnt!!
but something else happened. my sister in law, landed with her children for their annual vacation from the US. other sisters- in-law with their children also arrived. the house overflowed with people...there were suitcases everywhere, people everywhere and every hour was meal hour, some one or the other was eating or drinking... it was like a marriage, a huge festival....and in the rush of things, i couldnt honestly find the time to run...but i did continue to walk for half an hour in the beach on my way from office at least thrice weekly.
now, these three sisters in law of mine are the same size they were twentyfive years ago. whereas i had put on 20 kgs. i know now, that i had always envied their size... they could eat whatever they wanted, put on 2-3 kgs while here on vacation, but year after year they returned the same size....what did they do, i finally wondered, to get where they are.
at last i was beginning to think and observe....its a great pity it has taken me two decades to get this start thinking. i could have saved myself so much pain., so much heart ache.
one of the girls is my husband's brother's wife....she does all the housework back home in the USA... , she has two daughters, one of whom is about two years old. all of us know of the terrible twos, this girl is perhaps worse than most two year olds... once she wakes up in the morning, she is on the go... she doesnt sit down nor stand in one place, she is constantly running, and so fast the mind spins.... the child is so active; built very slight for a child of her age, their is nothing wrong with her activity levels.... she is so busy discovering the world, that she has no time to eat any meal and we believe that if we didnt feed her, she would just go without a meal for days on end and be none the worse for it.. well, thats a bit of an exxageration, but you get the picture. and my sister in law was constantly, constantly, constantly running after this girl, feeding her, keeping her out of trouble.... she wasnt doing the 100 metres dash, by no means, but she was on her feet and walking, slow or fast, walking every single waking hour of the day. the child naps for about an hour in the afternoon, thats when my sister in law got her rest!! thus i found her days were full of physical activity. i saw the food she ate here...i carefully observed what she consumed...lots and lots of vegetables, sambar, rasam, milk, tea, sweets, yes sweets, snacks, you name it, and they all went down the hatch...but rice? she would have no more than 2 tablespoons of cooked rice at any meal. maybe sometimes twice as much, but not the way we here in south india eat rice... aha! and did i think i "hardly" eat anything? surely not after the quantities of rice i consumed every meal? i realised that the two cups of rice i packed away, thinking it was not "much" was actually way too much! it was at this juncture i recalled what my husband had told me in rome, and how i had curtailed my food portions, had walked a lot and had actually lost 2 kgs in 2 weeks, apparently effortlessly....
observing her, i decided that while i couldnt possibly afford to eat sweets and mangoes, however tempting they are, i should be able to cut down drastically on all the rice i was merrily eating thinking it was necessary. i had been measuring out two cups and one cup for my meals...
my observation of her told me two things... that i could safely further reduce my rice consumption without having a fainting fit, and number two, i had to walk every minute i could get. she was easily burning close to 4000 cals a day, and even if she was eating 3000 cals, it was this that had apparently made her lose the 30 pounds she gained in her second pregnancy. she told me she lost that much in 6 months just running after this child. so i thought to myself, my girl, it is sit up instead of lying down, stand instead of sitting, walk instead of standing, and run instead of short, keep moving, keep moving, just dont sit on your seat all day the office, instead of sitting continously get up every now and then and walk around in the room....walk during the lunch hour. walk in the morning, and walk when you find time.
about three years ago i was a very manageable weight... around 58 kgs... still a bit on the plump side for my 5ft 1 inch small frame, but compared to the 69.5, dangerously close to 70kg i was slight!!!!!!!actually it was this fear, that i would breach the 70 kg mark that started this entire attempt of losing weight this time round. i now connect that at that time when i was 58 kgs i used to religiously log 10,000 steps a day... my brother had sent me a pedometer, my brother in law gave me one, and my husband bought me one... soon one after the other stopped working...wearing them with a sari ensures that they fall off every now and then and there are only so many hits that even the sturdiest pedometer can take... and i decided that since i couldnt take care of one i didnt deserve another one. i thought i could keep count even without a pedometer....obviously i didnt keep count and the 10,000 became 4500 max.... i now connect that it is little wonder that i put on 12 kgs effortlessly in three years.....
i decided that i was going back to 10,000 steps a day... i would just have to find the time... 6 hours of sleep in a 24 hour cycle should be adequate, i told myself and so i started to rouse myself in the mornings just so i could log those steps.... i put up pep talk posters on my cupboard so i could read them and continue to be motivated. i told myself that if i fell off the bandwagon, i would just have to pick myself up and get on with it....i would not get angry, offended or react adversely when the older ladies in the house chided me for not eating well or properly or enough and tried to force me to eat more... i would just patiently explain that this would continue only till i right sized and thereafter i would eat well enough to satisfy them, but at the same time not gain back the lost weight....
and you know what? it is working! it is working!! i eat regularly, religiously.... i promised myself mangoes next season when i would have attained my target. i would not eat sweets till had this target in sight. i would treat myself with a scoop of icecream or a small bar of choclate when i have done well, but would work it off. i would log in 10,000 steps. i would not eat more than a third of a cup of rice in a day. the other meal would be phulkas. i would eat broken wheat upumas... i would avoid deep fried stuff but would not avoid oil totally... being a vegetarian, i would need ghee or butter as a source of some fat.
i think it is showing too...but people havent told me i have lost weight... but it doesnt matter. doesnt matter that i have not received any comments on that fact, that i seemed to have lost weight. my scales tell me i am losing weight. and it is not one or two pounds.. that could be some kind of error.. not 8 pounds, that is not an error surely? the lose fit of the blouse is not an error surely? the kurtas no longer fittint like a pillow cover is not and error surely?
its working! its working!! when i started this whole thing, in mid july i was about 154 pounds. its about six weeks now and i am 146 pounds... thats a good 8 pounds. i know lots of people do far better than that. but i believe that given my schedule, i am doing well. i have found solutions to pain areas apparently insurmountable problems ...when to walk, where to run, what to eat, how to keep moving..... and i see results. my sari blouses which i had made when i was not this plump now are beginning to feel comfortable. i feel lighter. and like i told my daughter, i chose the long road to fitness and slimness... this road, now i see is tree lined on both sides, it is beautiful and cool and at the end of the road is this magnificient glen, waiting for me to arrive there.....
i am confident i would achieve my goal. immediate is 65 kgs, then 60 kgs, then 55 kgs and then 53 kgs...
i had all the information with me all the time. i had all the tools all the time. i was doing many of these things all the time....but i didnt have patience. i didnt have faith. and i didnt believe it was possible. but now i believe anything is possible. if it took 3 years to put on 12 kgs, should i not give myself at least 6-8 months to lose that? sure i can. it will not go away by magic. i have work for it, and stay focussed.
i will.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

T.Nagar all decked up

those that know chennai that was madras know t.nagar. it is the commercial street of madras.... hundreds of shops that sell from safety and bobby pins to jewellery worthy of a maharaja. walking down the main road called usman road is an experience in itself. there are two wings to this road, north usman road and south usman road. till about a few years back all major shops were located on south usman road only. for a long time, i believe, it was believed that shops on north usman didnt thrive as well as those on south u did. but that is history; now there is a GRT on north usman road too and the jewelery there is more fashionable, light weight and new generation.

i pretty much dislike crowds and avoid them at all costs, except one.... when i need to buy jewelery or gold coins as we madrasis seriously believe in gold as a if not the means of investment, i am forced to go to t. nagar. no other place and no other shop would do. it has to be grt and only grt. i decided that having saved a few thousand rupees, the time had come not to postpone the dreaded visit and better to get it over and done with. so off i went in the evening straight to t.nagar. i must say that was pretty adventurous of me, even if i say so myself. why? well, there is this brand new flyover that had been constructed which was to be inaugurated by the chief minister and his minister was not with a little trepidation that i ventured to the you may ask why, when i knew of the big event didnt i change my mind and stay put. well, as we say , i am like that only....having decided i did.

it was the magic hour of dusk and i approached s.u. road from the northern side...all shops on both ends were decked with garlands of lit little bulbs, gently swaying in the breeze. there were flags everywhere, the 'service road' was all new, there was police posted everywhere.festive atmosphere, it was like deepavali was here already.. all those lights and all those shoppers. it was close to 630 but the inauguration had not yet happened....well, now, that is another story. the usually crowded roads in the area were surprisingly bare...well perhaps not to the average australian but by our standards, the crowds were nt there. where had they got to, i wondered. soon i found out... in GRT at least, it was impossible to approach any counter.....there were thousands of people i am sure in that shop, buying gold and silver like there was no tomorrow. madrasis, already gold savvy, always hoarding gold in the form of jewelery have cottoned on to gold coins and the rush at the coin counter, which in earlier times used to languish like a what-not, was to be seen to be believed.

the crowds inside the large number of and large textile showrooms were equally massive. shopping in tnagar must rate as one of the most exasperating and exhilarating experiences ever. thrilling things happen to you.... when you least expect it, a long pipelike toy would suddenly appear on your side making weird noises...the vendor would have just that second blown into a little tube which would have caused this long pipe to snake out and erupt into some sort of music. children love that kind of makes grown ups jump out of their skins.

i didnt expect to come out unsquashed from that place. normally one feels like one has been put through a wringer....i can well imagine how sugar cane feels .........yeah! completely wrung out. that is another huge attraction of tnagar... the freshly made sugar cane juice. with a dash of lime and fresh ginger. naaw, i dont drink the stuff anymore. as a kid i loved it. as a grown up i fear it!!
but today, the travel to and from tnagar wasnt bad at all. the flyover would make it better. if so, will tnagar be the same again?

madras that is chennai

chennai to me is the most beautiful place on earth, garbage, two wheelers, huge hoardings included. its home. i loved the grand canyon...its amazing, the deafening silence of the gc, the niagara the deafening roar of the falls, thoor effel, the colloseo....i have seen some very lovely places on planet earth- breathtaking views, so beautiful a lump comes to your throat and refuses to go away....and yet, when i return to chennai...its like there is no other place on earth for me.

the hoardings are gone though. well, most of them anyway. chennai was notorious for its hoardings, larger than life size cut outs of cinema stars, politicians....and then one fine day, the hoardings came down and suddenly, there are these beautiful parks, lovely old trees, great open spaces all that were hidden behind the hoardings. maybe they will all come back, but till then its good to see the ooru, as we say. and i do think this ooru has lots and lots of trees and greenery. way to go chennai!!

the other hallmark of chennai is its two wheelers.... gosh! do we have them! they dont make the noise that rome's two wheelers do, but they do their share of noising i tell you. have you seen young women riding pillion, clutching infants? all that smoke into the kids' lungs. i have seen families of four on bikes....i havent sat on a scooter/bike, i think in decades....they seem so precariously balanced. weaving in and out of traffic. but madras as i think of it mainly, doesnt have fast cannot have, its roads are so congested with shops everywhere and no foot paths, and so people walking on the edges of roads, we sure are a city in transit stage...

i think i was slightly heartbroken when they changed the name to chennai from madras...but it seems to be happening all over the place, mumbai instead of bombay, kolkota instead of calcutta, bengaluru for bangalore and so forth...but you get over it and thinking of madras you call it chennai and get on with it.....

lots of changes here. a decade ago, people wouldnt think of walking.. for anything. now you should see the fitness walkers and joggers all over the place. to think, in chennai, there would be people out walking at four something uh? by 7 ish people are done walking mostly and back in their homes getting ready for the rest of the day. where else will you find madusaru mamis in reebok or nike shoes happily walking as they gossip? why, i myself slip into my pair of nike in the car,get off at anna samadi and walk to the light house every evening on my way home from office. and yes, i am in a sari....sometimes, very sometimes (that does sound so madrasi no?) i am in a salwar suit, but most days it is the sari and nike combo for that evening walk along the marina...sari pulled up and tucked in at the waist in a bunch and away i go.... what sights! and what smells... ya, the fish and eggs included, one just gets used to it, and the over heated reused oil for the deep fried stuff....corn on hot coals, ice cream vendors every 10 feet away, 'fast foods' and madras version of the bhel .... come to think of it, the murukku sundal fellas dont seem to be that many in number... one mostly sees these chana masala, samosa, bhel sort of thing. there is a lot of beautification activity going on just now, so there is a lot of dust and rubble about the place....on the other side of the road you have these really old red bricked buildings with the lovely architecture... we pass them every day and take them for granted...

the marina cricket ground which languished for a long time is now back in action. often one sees matches in progress. right now, they are doing up the outfield. i dont think we can possibly have the dhoni and yuvi types playing there, you would need a ball for every ball sent, they would send it into the sea but well.. the ground seems to be seeing quite a bit of local action. another of the madras sights.