Monday, 20 July 2015

A Question from the Wild

I have often contemplated how difficult it is for us humans to survive in today's industrialized and polluted cities. We are more to be run over by a vehicle or die of cancer than we were a few decades ago. And then it struck me how much more agonizing it perhaps is to be an animal in today's world of total human dominance.

We have not only established our place at the top of the food chain but also made it clear to all other living beings that they are mere underlings at our mercy. Our mindless urbanization has reduced forestlands and marshlands where many animals would thrive once upon a time. We, as a specie, pride ourselves on our scientific progress, but we must me ashamed of our selfish attitude that has led to the extinction of quite a few species and rendered many others endangered or vulnerable.

Today, I am going to vote for three species that I strongly feel should be conserved. The first of those is the ungulate species of antelope - Antilope cervicapra, commonly known as the blackbuck. These slender creatures thrive in open plains and woodlands. With humans culling trees and setting up factories on plains, these blackbucks are losing their homes at an alarming rate! Blackbucks generally travel in herds and graze on grasses. The reducing number of blackbucks makes it harder for solo fawns to survive. In addition to wild predators, illegal poachers pose a great threat to them.

A blackbuck strolls about in Velavadar National Park, Gujarat

Not many of us know that the blackbuck is native to the Indian subcontinent and is classified as near-threatened by IUCN. Blackbucks need to be conserved because they are the only surviving species of the antelope genus! Just imagine what will happen if this species is extinct! The entire antelope genus will cease to exist! Believers of mythology must know that blackbucks are regarded as auspicious, so killing them must certainly be a sin!

The second specie I wish to conserve is the Macaca silenus or lion-tailed macaque. These old world monkeys are very special as they are endemic to the Western Ghats, that too in South India. These animals are called Bartaffe (beard ape) in jest as they have a lustrous white mane covering their contrasting ebony-black face. Also known as wanderoo, these primates romp about in tropical rainforests in the night. They are essentially diurnal and excellent climbers. They spend most of their time far from the ground and up above in the upper canopy of evergreen trees.

A lion-tailed macaque stares into the camera at Annamalai Wildlife Sanctuary, Tamil Nadu

Population of the lion-tailed macaque is declining rapidly due to indiscriminate construction of water reservoirs for plantations of tea, coffee and teak in Kerala. Powerhouse-construction (to support humans living in the areas) has also added to this issue.

The third specie that I am rooting for is also one of my favourites - Panthera tigris, aka, the Bengal tiger! This royal creature has starred in many movies and documentaries. Many campaigns and features have run to save the Royal Bengal tiger. But that has not stopped from this national animal of India to be labelled endangered. Tigers largely live solitary lives and have the confidence to take on predators and preys with equal grace and strength. The piercing gaze of a tiger is enough to make one's heart skip a beat. This ferocious wild cat fiercely protects its territory and trespassers are often overpowered by its sheer weight and might.

Piercing gaze of a Bengal tiger in Ranthambore National Park, Rajasthan

Please save these three species. We must especially keep India's national animal alive, or forever hang our heads in shame. Humans will show their true skill not when they can rule over the entire animal kingdom, but when they learn to live amicably with the wild.

In my dreams, I often hear a question from the wild - "Will our cubs and fawns and calves and babies live to see the Earth? Or will they die living in a concrete jungle, breathing toxic fumes in place of clean air?" The answer is in our hands. Which one will you choose?

I am participating in the Save the Species contest for the book “Capturing Wildlife Moments in India” in association with Saevus Wildlife India.  Read the reviews for the book ‘Capturing Wildlife Moments in India’ here.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

The Goodness of Nature

My colleague at work recently had a baby! I am elated for her. She was a wonderful employee right up to the ninth month of her pregnancy. She only took her maternity leave three days before the actual delivery date! I was mighty worried looking at her baby bump which appeared as though she would go into labour any minute. But this lady would go about her daily routine just as any of us would. She would walk about and get her own cup of tea, run her own errands, and even spend tiring days on office offsites! She is such an inspiration to me! When I become a mother, I wish to be like her - non complaining and not misusing any of the facilities available to me.

Now that she has her bundle of joy in her lap, she treats him with utmost care. People are allowed to touch the baby only after using a specially formulated hand wash. The baby's clothes are washed in sterilized water. The baby right now only feeds on his mother's milk, but I am pretty sure, when he is old enough to eat other stuff, all his utensils will be sterilized and his food would be checked for temperature and safety. Another thing my friend worries about is his bath water. It has to be of the perfect temperature and absolutely clean. Before the daily afternoon bath, the baby boy gets a nice, long massage.

My friend has her own mother who helps her out, and there is also a maid specifically to take care of the demands of the new baby in the house. Still, my colleague insists on massaging the baby on her own. She tells us that spending more time with your own baby improves the mother-son bond. The baby learns to respond to her words and even uses special communication techniques that only the mother can understand. For the body oil, my friend trusts Dabur's natural baby massage oil. She relies on the therapeutic properties of olive and almonds that naturally keep the baby strong and the softness in his skin intact. The first few months are crucial for a baby's muscular development. And a good massage goes a long way in improving flexibility in a baby. A baby's reflexes also start developing with massages. It is very important to steer clear of artificial and strong ingredients such as paraffin or paraben or chemically formulated moisturizers.

A baby is well nourished only when the massage oil is natural. The goodness of nature cannot be replaced by anything artificial!

I am participating in the #FirstLove activity at BlogAdda in association with Dabur.

The First Massage

I just returned home from a hectic day that involved exposing my skin to the dust and pollution of Mumbai as the rickety auto rickshaw jolted through the potholed roads of my maximum city. In the unseasonal heat of monsoon, I perspired as I got off the auto to enter the air conditioned confines of my bib collection venue. The "bib" in discussion refers to my running bib for the latest marathon that I shall run next Saturday. I noticed how the sudden drop in humidity inside the hall almost robbed my skin of its moisture. Later, when I got back home and started cooking, I could feel beads of sweat coating my body again.

The routine above is a similar one that most of us go through - a routine of temperature and humidity change. In all of this, our skin suffers a lot. In low humidity and low temperature conditions, we have dry, scaly skin which looks unhealthy and undernourished. Contrarily, when it is hot and humid, we have boils all over. I really miss the skin I had as a baby. It was smooth and supple, so soft to the touch. Everyone who came to see me would pick me up and plant a kiss on my cheeks. They would cuddle with me and nobody could keep their hands off my plump body.

I had such a wonderful skin back then only because my mum and grandmums made sure I got an oil massage every day. Even now, my mother tells me how she made sure I was massaged with the finest olive oil imported from Italy. My grandmums would stretch my limbs softly and make me exercise during the massage. They firmly believed that my bones and muscles would develop with good massage. It would also help me learn to walk quickly and improve my motor skills. I would quickly and expertly learn how to pick things up and crawl and perhaps walk with a wobble.

Good baby oils are very important when you massage your baby. The natural ingredients make sure that the baby's sensitive skin does not react to any artificial chemicals or colours. Oils, even otherwise, are very good for the skin's texture. They retain moisture and protect your child from cold and the harsh atmosphere, especially in winters. Mustard oil also builds immunity. Let me know how you take care of your baby's massage needs!

I am participating in the #FirstLove activity at BlogAdda in association with Dabur.

Friday, 10 July 2015

Dieting - Hits and Crashes

It is raining intermittently these days, and with the erratic weather, our food habits are changing as well. I work with several people of different age groups and one problem emerges as universal - the problem of controlling one's weight. What most people fail to understand, unfortunately, is that weight is only a number. It is the quality of weight in you that really matters.

You could be as light as a feather and still have an unhealthy disposition if all your body is made of is fat. On the contrary, if most of your weight comes from bone and muscle mass, you are sorted! While you can control a lot of your weight and figure by working out, your diet plays a large and important role in how successful you will be in your endeavour.

Crash diets mainly focus on getting you to lose weight. This weight loss, if sudden and immaturely planned, will inevitably come back soon after you are off the diet. Most fad diets eliminate a particular nutrient group from your meal. There are several low fat or low carb diets that find many takers. There are also high protein or fruit only or carb only diets. Every time you deprive your body of a nutrient, you fall prey to a disease or disorder. Your body's natural mechanism against germs reduces drastically.

What you should do instead is follow a balanced diet. Your breakfast must have complex carbohydrates such as oats or corn flakes which are harder to break down and digest, and keep you full until lunch. You must also eat generous portions of various fruits and vegetables for your daily dose of vitamins and minerals and fibre. Protein is another important nutrient which will help your body in its cell repair. And let us not forget water. Lunch and dinner should also have all nutrients in balanced proportions.

Many of us wonder how we can stay slim if we continue to eat everything. The trick is to replace poor items with nutrient rich ones. Replace your regular sugar with honey or jaggery. Honey Diet is an interesting way to keep enjoying sweet tasting items without ruining your health. You can add honey to milk, coffee, desserts, finger foods and also bitter gourd!

But don't stop at just dieting! Keep up your workout regime. A healthy body is made with good diet, good workout and also good rest. An important thing for vegetarians is to supplement their protein portions properly. Soya chunks, tofu, paneer, sprouts, broccoli, all have a lot of protein. Just make sure you add these to your meals. I am no dietician, but common sense teaches you a lot. Do not fall for fad diets. Use your own head. If you starve yourself, you will end up looking uglier and weaker. Be strong and beautiful. Eat well, jog well and sleep well!

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Fixing the Perfect Match!

The Indian Premier League is long over, but the cricket fever still remains. It is a little like eating chocolate and still lingering on to the aftertaste. I have heard many people say that cricket is like a religion (with its own God ;-) ). But I beg to differ.

I feel that cricket is much more than a religion. Most religions have Godmen who prescribe. But cricket does not have to resort to any tactics to garner followers. One gets addicted from the very first game! Cricket is more like a cigarette or drug addiction. (I do not smoke or do drugs, but I know a lot of people who do.) The more you indulge in it, the more addicted you are. And this addiction does have its side effects - you forget to do your homework, to take your dog out for a walk in the evening, to buy groceries on Saturdays or to be on time for your oh-so-very-important meeting at work.

Cricket has become so overpowering that most people have started missing their kids' PTA meetings, skipped their cousin's wedding, sacrificed a long, romantic dinner on one's own anniversary or missed their daily workout.

Fortunately, we can now stay connected to the game while doing all the other thing that we love to do or are required to do. All thanks to UC Browser, This new mobile browser in the market claims to be faster than your usual options. And what's more! You can get live cricket updates and pictures and videos on a specially dedicated cricket service - the UC Cricket. This feature gives you the live scores with auto update, fixture and result reports and the latest news and videos.

Now that you can carry cricket in your pocket, make sure you carry your own self to all those wonderful events which you have been missing! Your child will actually study harder if she/he knows that you take keen interest in school and related activities. With UC Browser set to take care of everything, you can now go on that date which you had been missing for the match. Who knows, your date might actually want to watch the cricket match that you never wanted to sacrifice for any occasion. 

With so much time at hand, I would certainly go travelling to offbeat places with my smartphone or tablet in tow. The moment I get in the train, I would switch on UC Browser and start the cricket service. Now, for every workout session, I will watch the UC Cricket videos as I run on my treadmill. This will be so much better than being a couch potato and neither eating well nor doing any exercise. So, the next time you decide to choose one over the other, choose both! You will have both cricket updates and social media status updates from your new location where your are trying a cool activity with all the people you have been too busy to meet.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Buddy Parenting - A Positive Trend

When my parents grew up, they were reared with a threatening cane which would come down sharply on their knuckles if they misbehaved. Fortunately, that trend has changed. When I was growing up, my parents ensured that I learned to behave well not out of fear but out of understanding. I am no longer a kid and am old enough to have my own now. I am now treated as an adult and my opinions are valued at home. I was wondering how people bring up their kids these days. So, I decided to carefully observe my cousin and my little nephew of six.

My sister in law is an angel of a woman and I strongly believe that only luck won my cousin such a gem of a wife. She is an even better mother! I spent quite a few weeks in their spacious home in Ahmedabad, and observed how my little nephew was being treated like a young mind and not just a cuddly baby.

Large rooms can help your kids play and stay happier!

As a toddler, my nephew learned to brush his teeth before eating anything in the morning as my sis in law would make that look more attractive than tearing open a bag of chips. Every time my nephew wet his pants, he would start crying out of fear and guilt. But my smart sis in law, would give him a perplexed stare and ask him what the big deal was. She would ask him to change his pants as she wiped the floor clean. My cousin learned to deal with guilt in this way. His fear of trying out new things was quashed as my sis in law would make him accompany her to the grocery store. The little kiddo learned how to pick his favourite biscuits and carton of Chocos from the aisles of the supermarkets. He learned how to assert his individuality in his own little way.

If your kids hate walking, buy them a mini-scooter!

On my latest trip abroad to Moscow, I saw how happy the tiny tots looked. Most of them did not have to be carried or dragged on prams. They wore skates, used skate boards or scooters to keep up their pace with their parents. I even saw some cool parents take to scooters so they could commute the way their kids did.

Our children can teach us wonderful ways to enjoying the little things in life. We must not be instructive or authoritarian in our style of parenting. It is much better to be a friend to your little bundle of joy. Try buddy-parenting and immerse  yourself in the 'Khushi Ke Pal' as you emulate the philosophy of 'Khuljaye Bachpan'!