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.