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"To expect the unexpected shows a thoroughly modern intellect." - Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Of Dangling Drumsticks, Wily Vadus and more

Spring is in the air. The subtle whiff of fresh blooms and burst of colors from yellow poinciana, red gulmohur, dazzling golden showers or laburnums, gorgeous purples of Queens's crape Myrtle and brilliant multi-colored bougainvilleas dot the landscape around. It's time for new beginnings, say the spanking new leaves in varying shades, from delicate blush to glistening greens - a treat to the senses after the rather mild and dry Mumbai winters. 
The green cover that residents of the city enjoy is all the more delightful with the onset of spring hues. If only the local town-planner knew that he was being blessed and cursed in turns over his casual decision to plant random trees along some streets and on dividers, he might have paid more attention to that matter. Planting silk cotton trees sprouting gorgeous pink blooms was not one of his good ideas. These pink blooms eventually give way to pods that pop open to liberate fluffy bursts of fine cotton flying all over the place, considerately inflicting you with allergies or settling all over your clothes and hair making you look more like plucked chicken than the dapper person you started out as.

Here I am dithering about the vagaries of town-planning while for the bustling mami visiting me, the colors of spring are but distractions that take away her focus from the prime catch of spring! 
So you see, mami was very plainly distressed one fine morning as I took her on a drive to show her the sights and smells of our city. And what triggered that?
Image source

It was the sight of clusters upon clusters of those delectable, slender morsels of gastronomic ecstasy - moringas or drumsticks swaying, callously ignored at a road divider. Her sudden screech on spotting them had me slamming the brakes with a palpitating heart! 
"What, what, what?" I exclaimed while mami mutely pointed to the sight in front of her. Tantalizingly low hung branches laden with willowy clusters of healthy drumsticks! 
In a daze of disbelief she asked, "Doesn't anybody want them?"
"Hmm...," I glanced up at what she was looking at and shrugged, more keen to start up the car and zoom on before the irate honking behind my stalled car got worse.
"How can people just let all that bounty go waste?" she lamented.
"Don't tell me people here don't make drumstick sambar? Your mama will give me no rest unless I add the flavorsome sticks everyday in some form! And moringa leaves, they are the super-food world over, didn't you know?" Mami is this vigilante types you see, keeping track of all these Whatsapp forwards on health and holistic living and a dedicated follower of every imaginable Facebook page dedicated to anything food-related.
"Well, quite honestly I never noticed till your scream gave me a heart attack over them! So I am guessing no one else did too."
"But isn't that like a sheer waste? You know ma, they cost a bomb in the market and that too for scrawnier versions of what we saw! Tch, tch, what a waste, what a waste! Do you happen to have a long stick in your car's dicky?" she asked hopefully.
"Of course not!" I replied and hurried on, keeping an eye open for all drumstick trees that might lead to future shrieks, and she failed me not. Every moringa tree we passed, she shrieked without fail.

Little did I know that I had to be wary of other botanical diversions as well! 
"Aiyyo, Ramachandra!" Mami gasped. I swear she was close to convulsions. But I'd been on that path earlier so I didn't brake instantly, simply swerved the car carefully to the left and parked. 
"Now what is it mami?" I looked around and didn't spot a single long stick dangling from any tree.
But I espied what had arrested her attention this time. Bunches upon bunches of tiny raw mangoes or vadus as we call them, gently swaying and casting a luscious fragrance from a mango tree, again bang on a road divider. The road beneath the tree was liberally littered with fragile vadus fallen from the tree now squashed by speeding vehicles. Street urchins and peddlers who abounded traffic signal junctions had probably bypassed raiding this tree since it was in the middle of a high speed lane.
"Do you know how difficult it is to lay your hands on good vadus? I have to scour the markets from February and plague my regular vendor to keep aside 3 kilos of the smallest vadus for me and still I get saddled with overgrown, withered ones! See, these vadus lying here are just the right size, not too big, not too small, so tender...," and she went into raptures gushing over the merits of the right vadu size for the perfect maavadu or vadu manga (not to be confused with Japanese comics - mangas) that she annually churns out from her kitchen besides every imaginable kind of pickle one can make!
"Can we go pick some out, it is such a shame to let them go waste like this!" she pleaded.
I firmly dragged her back into the car, refusing to give in to her pleas. I conceded with, "I'll take you to the sabzi market later, I am sure you'll get buckets of vadus to your liking," while fervently hoping this would be true.

Yes, spring marks the onset of the mango pickle-making ritual for mami
It starts off with vadu mangai and moves on to the spicy hot blaze of avvakai, made in different batches - the traditional Andhra style with gingelly oil, the north-Indian style made with mustard oil and the trendier lot made with olive oil for export to folks living abroad. 
In between turning over the pickle maturing in jumbo ceramic jars or barnis, mami finds it ridiculous to have meals devoid of any pickle simply because the new batch of avvakai is not ready!
According to her precise calculations they will mature reasonably only after three weeks of steeping in the tried and tested blend of oil, salt and spices, no preservatives added. In the meantime, quick-fix urgais or pickles like manga thokku, manga curry or molaga manga, will reign over the dinner table. 

Summers are not to be wasted bawling over the insane intensity of the sun. Instead mami prays the sun shines brighter over her home-made vadams, appalams and mor milagais laid out to sun-dry on the scorching building terrace. By the time she is satisfied that these fritters are properly toasted, the rest of her menagerie including mama, the maid and any of the kids/grandkids popping over for the vacation, get a proper tan of the third-degree kind while keeping watch to shoo away birds from pecking at the spread. 
Conferring with neighboring cronies she ensures her larder is stocked with the kiddie favorite chunda and lip-smacking aam panna for a good measure of mango overdose. 

No sir, you do not dawdle and waste precious sunshine. You may not make hay but there's lots more to do while the sun shines! If mami sees her entertainment diary bereft of any festivals, she believes it makes sense to use that time to stock up on all these meal staples. Staples that could raise your BP if you just knew how much salt went into them!
Spring is the time for mami to wrap her saree pallu tightly around the waist and gear up for some extra action on the kitchen front!

I am on my way to mami's to pick up the season-special jar of mavudu that she modestly claims is her best batch yet! Drooling in anticipation....!! 
Oh, I didn't mention what happened when mami spotted the coconut tree-lined street divider, did I? 
Another time maybe, till later, vanakkam!

mami: Refers to a respectful address used for any Tamilian lady (typically TamBrahm) acquaintance, something like the ubiquitous Auntyji though it literally translates to mother's bro's (mama's) wife, mami.

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­­Copyright © 2018 KALA RAVI

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Smart Moms Start Early #FeedIQ

"What? Only one spoonful of ghee?" exclaims my gran indignantly as she snatches the bottle from my hand and goes on to ladle four more spoonsful. "Now, that's more like it! Tell me what do you feel like eating? Shall I make your favourite mysorepak or maybe some badam halwa? I'll make both of them," she decides.

I was on the fifth month of my pregnancy, already having gained some 10+ kgs since the onset of the term with four more months of such decadency ahead! I dreaded passing by a mirror and worse stepping on the weighing scales, as my gynaec looked disapprovingly at my excessive weight gain. Fast forward four months ahead, I was 18 kgs bulkier from my pre-pregnancy weight. Thankfully the delivery was smooth but I never managed to completely shed all the extra kgs I'd gained by eating for two, succumbing to my gastronomic cravings and the pampering foodie love showered by family and friends. 

A first time mother goes from being a naive, inexperienced person to assuming the mantle of motherhood, learning all about taking care of her new-born partly through instinct and partly with help and advice from elders in her family and her support system. Nutrition during pregnancy has always been considered important. That an expecting mother should be fed with the choicest of nutritious foods and be kept in a happy frame of mind is not something new. 

Image source: Pixabay

With evolving technology, mothers now have the added advantage of modern research and studies within their reach to help them on the journey of motherhood at every stage. I wish I had known during my pregnancy some very informative and interesting facts that I am about to share with you.

Did you know that, 
A child's brain development begins from conception, with 90% of the child's brain development happening by the age of 2 years

Requisite right nutrition, and stimulation or infant brain exercises are necessary to build neural connections and encourage brain growth, both crucial factors for a child's brain development? 

Genetics also affect the brain development of a child but since they cannot be altered, would-be moms and new moms need to focus on getting the nutrition and stimulation aspects right.

Have you to-be moms heard of Feed IQ?

Feed IQ literally means that a mother feeds 'IQ' to her baby through breastfeeding and stimulation i.e. infant brain exercises.

Mommies to-be and new mommies you gotta START EARLY!

Nutrition for brain development of infants

Nutrition during pregnancy and lactation impacts the growth and development of the foetus and adds to the maturity of a healthy baby. The right nutrition during pregnancy leads to improved health of the baby. Mother's diet is the primary source of energy, protein and other nutrients in breast milk. Insufficient calories or lack of macro and micronutrients during pregnancy can result in shortage of building materials essential for foetal development. Pre-term infants need high energy and micronutrients to prevent further deficiencies and support normal growth

Today, with improved awareness and proven research, many myths surrounding nutrition during pregnancy have been bust. Most pregnant women have to hear, "Don't eat this, don't eat that, are you eating enough....!" and when they are new mothers, they get unsolicited advice from everyone possible on how to raise the baby right!

Gran darling, I do wish you could have read this: Common Myths and Facts about Pregnancy Nutrition.

Brain exercise for child brain development

The age-old traditions of a pregnant woman listening to soothing music and chanting progressing to singing lullabies, making babyish conversations, playing peek-a-boo, stacking toys, sorting shapes, reading out aloud, finger painting, dancing,  etc. with the infant are important activities that are now called 'brain exercises' that help a baby's brain develop. 
An interesting fact is that the amount of cumulative vocabulary by 2 years of age in a child is enormously predictive of later brain development of the child's IQ.

Brain exercises with increasing levels of complexity starting from the time the child is born up to two years of age will help develop the baby's vision, hearing, tactile/sensory, linguistic and cognitive skills. Do look up here to enrich your baby's cognitive development.

Here are some helpful pointers for new moms to monitor and gauge the child's development:

To all dear expecting moms, new moms of pre-term, full-term babies, 
You need to be aware of the impact your diet has on the growth and development of your child. Right nutrition combined with stimulating infant brain exercises will ensure the right development of your baby's brain. You could look up this extremely resourceful website for more information:

Be aware, be informed, eat right, be happy and have and raise a healthy baby! 
Remember you gotta START EARLY!

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the blog are my own. The blog post is not meant to be a replacement for a doctor consultation, nor is it a medical recommendation or prescription of treatment for expecting or new mothers

­­Copyright © 2018 KALA RAVI

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Spreading Thyroid Awareness #RuleOutThyroWeight

There are quite a few women in my acquaintances that I am in awe of. One of them is my friend Sona (name changed), working mother of two. This lady is a bundle of energy and sunshine, always on her toes with a wide smile on her face. One day when she stayed over at my place on an official trip, I observed her popping a pill first thing in the morning. When I asked her about it, she casually mentioned that she suffers from hypothyroidism and has been on medication for years. On probing further she explained that in her late teens she suddenly started putting on weight and felt tired all the time. Despite following a strict diet, neither the weight nor her lethargy and fatigue decreased. Though the weight gain wasn't substantial, her parents were worried about it. A visit to the physician and a few tests later she was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and put on a lifelong dose for the same. The results of the medication were almost miraculous, she says and I can well believe it as I have seen her bustling about, juggling a family and a successful career, all with a cheerful smile. 

This revelation about my friend led me to wonder about Thyroid Disorders. It is baffling to know that 1 in 10 Indians suffer from thyroid disorders of which women are more prone to it. 
I was fortunate to attend a blogger meet organized to spread Thyroid awareness.

Eloquent and well-known endocrinologist, Dr Shehla Shaikh shed light on lesser known facts and bust some myths revolving around Thyroid disorders. 
The event received support from much loved Bollywood diva Juhi Chawla
Juhi shared her personal experience of her husband and father in-law and one of her staff members who lead perfectly healthy and fulfilling lives despite having a thyroid disorder.
The Thyroid gland, a butterfly-shaped organ located in the neck, secretes the hormones T3 and T4 which have an effect on almost all tissues of the body. The thyroid hormones affect the metabolic rate, influence growth, development and reproduction. 

A dysfunctional thyroid gland may lead to the more common hypothyroidism (insufficient thyroid hormone) or the less common hyperthyroidism (excess thyroid hormone).
So any imbalance in the thyroid hormone will affect all parts of the body and its activities like breathing, BODY WEIGHT, cholesterol, muscle strength, menstrual cycle, pregnancy etc.

Thyroweight is a unique concept that helps increase awareness about Thyroid disorders. In most cases when we experience small to moderate weight gain, we dismiss it as something normal, blaming it on factors ranging from heredity, sedentary lifestyle, improper diet habits etc. This is where 'thyroweight' should flash, we need to seriously consider that the sudden, small weight gain could be due to an underlying thyroid disorder.
Some symptoms of thyroid disorders:

For more information please visit: http://thyroidindia.com/thyroweight/

A timely simple blood test, the Thyroid Function Test (TSH) can quite easily detect and rule out if you are suffering from a thyroid malfunction. #RuleOutThyroweight is something which every person needs to resolve if faced by symptoms of small weight gain, along with fatigue, hair fall etc.

Dr Shehla informed us that thyroid levels tend to fluctuate in certain women during pregnancy. Hence it is important to get the thyroid test done as soon as a pregnancy is confirmed.

It is also important to understand that one does not need to become depressed or worry relentlessly about it. With medical advancements, thyroid disorders can be very effectively be managed, 
  • Through timely detection 
  • With the aid of medicines 
  • Following a routine healthy lifestyle
So dear friends, how often do you complain of fatigue, tiredness, lethargy, irritability, hair fall, weight gain along with changes in your menstrual cycle
If you do complain often then it's high time you made a trip to your physician/endocrinologist. It makes a lot of sense to get these symptoms diagnosed because these supposedly innocuous symptoms could well be because you are suffering from a Thyroid disorder. Give a thought to #RuleOutThyroweight if you are above 35 years of age, have a family history of thyroid disorders or have any of the above symptoms, just go and get yourself checked.

Our multi-tasking roles as mother, wife, daughter, employee, entrepreneur, etc. are not easy to pull off if we don't have good health. It therefore makes sense to not ignore these niggling symptoms and rule out a disorder like thyroid imbalance. And hey, the treatment is perfectly simple and treatable!
The earlier the better, why wait for conditions to worsen? 

Loving your family and doing your duties is good but keeping yourself healthy so that you can continue to effectively do your job is more important! 
You owe it to YOURSELF!

Having a Thyroid disorder should not dampen your spirits, energy or focus to succeed in any field or have a life as good anyone else!

'Disclaimer: I attended a discussion on thyroid awareness facilitated by Abbott India Limited. Any opinion expressed in this blog is my personal opinion and not the opinion of Abbott India Limited. Abbott India Limited does not assume any liability for the content of the blog. The blog post is not meant to be a replacement for a doctor consultation, nor is it a medical recommendation or prescription of treatment for people having thyroid problems. Any reader of this blog suffering from thyroid problems should specifically consult his/her doctor for the same and follow the suggested course of treatment.'

Copyright © 2018 KALA RAVI