Jul 10, 2015

Honey Diet

The benefits of a good diet are unparalleled. It is no surprise that it is not just exercise that helps you remain healthy, but the diet you are following too. There have been numerous instances in the past few years that I have substituted something healthy in place of the so-called junk food, rather than going on a crash diet and depriving myself of the food I like to eat. I am listing a few of those changes, which coupled with my running routine have helped me eat what I want and remain healthy and fit.

Fruits instead of chips: Fruits have been an integral part of my intake since childhood. It only helped that my father used to bring varieties of fruits often and we were introduced to the colors, which made it even more attractive, at a young age. I used to be a big fan of chips, particularly potato and banana chips. However in the last five years, I have replaced chips from my intake with more fruits. A variety of cut fruits, fruit juice, milkshakes, fruit mix with honey and some creative preparations like pineapple rasam have helped me increase my fruit intake. On rare occasions when I really want to have chips, I opt for the baked version of pita chips with hummus and that’s good protein.

Herbal tea with honey: The coffee aficionado in me needed a break from the excess caffeine intake my body was having. Black tea is good in its own way, but what appealed to me was the different types of herbal tea and green tea that I got exposed to during my stay in the US. Herbal tea typically have a hibiscus base and there are multiple fruit flavors which I really got drawn to. With a tinge of honey, these herbal teas are really good cleansers and relievers of cold and a sore throat. I now have made herbal tea a part of my daily routine and cut down significantly on coffee.

Yogurt: With the increasing stress levels in our routine, the body tends to need some form of a cooling agent at all times. While lemonade and other forms of fruit juice do provide a respite to the heat in the body, yogurt or curd (as we call it) is something that I like to have particularly on a warm summer day. Freshly prepared yogurt which is not at a very cold temperature is what I prefer the most. This is followed by flavored yogurt particularly Greek flavored yogurt which is very good in terms of the consistency. The flavors are typically fruit flavors. Another nice healthy combination with yogurt is the one with honey (in lieu of sugar) and that is something I have had multiple times in the past.

With all the above things, warm water with honey is something I have on a regular basis and it simple is the nicest thing you can have the first thing in the morning. Your day begins on a sweet note and your body feels good too. Visit http://www.daburhoney.com/ for information on Dabur Honey and what more you can do with honey. 

Jul 9, 2015

Surf it All! Surf it Fast!

Having been a fan of cricket from the 1996 World Cup, I have seen multiple cricketing events take place in the last nineteen years. These include six World Cups, numerous T20 world Cups, eight editions of Indian Premier League (IPL), multiple instances of the Champions League, test matches and more. Barring a period 2004 to 2009 when I was not following cricket as much, I have been hooked to the proceedings of the matches in many a way.

It is not always that you get to sit in the luxury of your home to sit and watch the matches. If only one got their exams written or homework done by just watching cricket matches. I could go on about how awesome the careers of sports journalists can get, but then I would be digressing.

In 2002-03 time frame, when the Indian cricket team’s tour to Pakistan happened, I was in my second year of engineering. And it was one of those busy times of the semester when you had internals, lab exams, tuitions and assignments all piled up. It was not easy to sneak out and take a look at the score and get back to what I was working on, especially considering I would be under the watchful eyes of the professor. That 2002-03 time frame was also the time when cellular phones, commonly known to us as a mobile, started showing up in the pockets of a lot of my classmates. One thing that was amazing about the phone back then was the fact that one could get text alerts in the form of SMSes. One internet site tied up with a cellular service provider and ended up having a service plan were you could get score alerts whenever you wanted them. The joy that this brought to our class was unparalleled. The professors would go on lecturing, while the mischievous bunch of us would keep looking at the score on a friend’s mobile phone every now and then.

A few years later when the IPL fever caught up, it turned out that the cricket websites had upped their game majorly. The best thing about a prominent sports site was the fact that you did not need to go to the website every time to see the score, but the score would get updated in the title of the tab of the browser regularly. So, I was teaching a class when one of the seasons of IPL was on, but it was a pretty important match of the IPL which would determine the fate of the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) team which I support. So, in between giving instructions to my students, I would take a quick look at the internet browser window which had the cricket site tab open, among other tabs and get updated on the score.

These two ways ensured that I was updated about the cricket score very well and still managed to stay on top of more important things. Now, there is this nice UC Browser that should serve the purpose. Go to: http://www.ucweb.com/

Jun 15, 2015

MaxFreshMove – Round 2

Scenario 1:
You are waiting on the platform of the metro station/bus station for your train/bus. After a pretty long day all you want to do is find an ever-elusive seat on the train/bus. You’ll then pray that the bus should not be caught in traffic and you reach home to get some well-deserved rest before the rest of the chores begin to crave for your attention.

Scenario 2:
You are at the airport waiting for your flight to get back home to see your loved ones (often after long), to get a city on work or to head out for a well-deserved vacation. Your flight is delayed.

What would make these too scenarios a little more interesting? While the airport, metro stations and bus stations are places where you can see different forms of emotions in people, there is always some form of dullness that accompanies the wait.

Would you not love to have something to pass your time and ensure that the time flies quickly and you don’t really see the minutes or hours sail by that fast? How about a flash-mob?

A flash-mob is where a group of people begins to dance to a few lines of music in an impromptu way in a public place. Of course it involves quite a bit of planning (and perhaps taking permissions from the concerned authority) and this process can get painful. But hey, it is well worth the effort. This is exactly where I would bring in Allu Arjun to shake a leg and ensure that the flash-mob does not end up being a damp squib with not many enthusiastic people around to dance. And if there is a singer like Anushka Manchanda who can belt out the peppy tracks upon request, nothing gets better than that. 

A few years back there was a nice flash mob that was organized in one of the train stations in Mumbai, and the enthusiasm that spread among the people in the train station was infectious. Most of them belonged to the category of people I mentioned in Scenario 1 and a lot of happy faces came out as a result of the flash mob. The flash mob was a 5 minute exercises at that point, but the memories that got carried home were that of a lifetime. Interestingly, the flash mob phenomenon caught on so much in India post that one instance (although all not that successful). With a person like Allu to lure the women into dancing, and a person like Anuksha to make the mood an energy-filled one, this flash mob is definitely one that I would watch out for!

I am blogging for #MaxFreshMove activity at BlogAdda.com. Are you?

Maxfreshmove - Round 1

All of us definitely like to shake a leg. It sort of makes us forget the situation we are in, particularly if it is a stressful one and ensures that we feel rejuvenated. Despite having to left feet, there are a lot of colleagues or friends who tend to entertain you with their dance. There are multiple situations in life that let you shake a leg and help energize your life and fill it with vigor.

A lot of times, weddings (the Indian ones) can get stressful for the bride’s family mostly, and perhaps for the bridegroom’s family too. Starting with the preparation for the wedding that begins months in advance (in a few cases almost a year in advance) to the D-day, it is a testing event. Many a time, there is a need for the bride’s mother or father to ensure that the wedding is what they had dreamed about for their child. After all, we as Indians place a lot of emphasis on the wedding and the rituals around it, and want to make the wedding a memorable one for everyone attending it. In this hard situation, a lot of the families try to beat the stress by ensuring that there is a relatively stress-free event on the day prior to the wedding. This is called sangeet in the North Indian culture, maapillai azhaippu (welcoming the groom) in Tamil and vara pooje (pooja for the groom) in Kannada.

It is during this sangeet, which seems to have invaded almost all south Indian weddings, that there is a pretty significant music and dance component. A lot of times, the bride and groom place emphasis on this event and ensure that their friends are all around and they are able to break free and shake a leg before the hectic day of the wedding. It is also during this time that you see many an aunty or uncle ever dance. A usually inhibited elderly aunty sheds all the inhibitions and apprehensions and dances like no one is watching. This is perhaps the most delightful part of the evening. It gets even better when this shy aunty has the groom accompanying her to shake a leg and the entire crowd’s focus is on her. This is exactly where Allu Arjun could enter the scene and ensure that the aunty is at ease. By singing songs that convey the mood of the situation extremely well, perhaps Anushka Manchanda contributes her bit by making this evening, the very special evening for many a couple, a musical riot!

I would love to go to such a wedding! And I am sure you would too!

I am blogging for #MaxFreshMove activity at BlogAdda.com. Are you?

Apr 26, 2015

Crash the Pepsi IPL - 2

I guess it is fair enough to say that life has its shares of ups and downs. We usually end up seeing the downs outweigh the ups, even though it may not necessarily be true. And there is always an opportunity in negative things too.

The second of those Pepsi IPl ads that I quite liked was this one:

A simple concept where a guy is both dumped by his girlfriend and fired by his company at the same time. And instantly, without being bogged down, he is able to convert a simple conversation in another table into something that is favorable for him and the ad ends on a happy note.

While things may not be that simple in reality, I quite liked the ad for the simple, subtle yet important message that ups and downs are part and parcel of life and that one just needs to keep going.

Another interesting ad was this one:

With just a bottle of Pepsi and showing how the bottle gets empty as the match progresses towards a victory for the side one if supporting, this ad had it all. Minimal props, no actors, and a compelling message. I am sure I will be seeing this on TV sometime soon.

After all ad making is trying to be able to strike a chord with the audience and ensure that they buy the product you are offering. A lot of things are usually taken for granted by the makers of the ad. And it is not that all ads have to make you laugh or smile. There are ads that can be touching and drive the message at the same time. The fact that there are too many ads these days and they usually end up being a rehash of what the ads for the products were 10 years ago is indeed a thing to be bothered about. However, there is art in ad making and the ads in India, for me, rank among the better ones (considering the way the ads are in the US).

Another thing that’s critical for ad makers is that more than trying to sell the product, they should rather work towards making the buyer want the product and buy the product. For instance, a major manufacturer of phones, tablets and personl computers is able to make the ad experience so personal that the effort that the creative head makes towards showcasing each of the products as a product that the customers has an utmost need for it, is something remarkable.

Check out the #CrashThePepsiIPL videos & participate in the activity at BlogAdda

Crash the Pepsi IPL - 1

Ad making is not an easy thing. I recall that I took part in the student competition called ‘Mad Ads’ many a time while in school and upon looking back I realize how lame I was and how my ideas were. The concept of Mad Ads was to take be able to advertise a product with some amount of humor and ensure that the audience laughs. The creative instinct that one needed to be able to combine the selling with laughing is something that I lacked. A lot of people would take assistance of an already popular ad and using some wordplay they would make it funny and entertaining (both not necessarily at the same time).

I saw this Pepsi IPL video activity that Blogadda had and I noticed that there were many many videos (all of 30 seconds) that people had submitted and I went through a few of them. A few of them were extremely creative and brilliant. And one of those ads is what I am going to pick to write about in this post.

The ad’s concept is pretty simple. This is something all of us have experienced when we played gully cricket. The batsman hits the ball for a six and it goes into someone’s house. Just like any other grumpy neighbor, that aunty takes the bat and ball away from the kids and the kids are left with nothing to play. That’s when they spot the cap of a Pepsi bottle and an idea strikes. They use the empty bottle as a bat and the cap as the ball.

The ad touches many things at once. One, how presence of mind can be useful in situations like this. Rather than sobbing and heading back home to work on nothing for the rest of the day, the kids have a make-do arrangement and derive happiness from it. Two, it instantly strikes a cord with the 90s kids (and perhaps the millenials) who’d use any flat or long object as a bat (including the examination writing pad) and any rollable object as a ball (including the question paper for the exam that they just finished writing). While we waited for our parents to come pick us up or for the school van to arrive, we would end up doing a similar thing. Three, on a advertising front, this is sure to become a hit with kids who will perhaps start playing this way to entertain themselves when they do not have access to a bat and ball.

Overall a great thing to see so many videos that were submitted by people like you and me. Time for me to make on of those videos, I guess!

Check out the #CrashThePepsiIPL videos & participate in the activity at BlogAdda

Feb 8, 2015

Yennai Arindhaal [Movie Review]

I have been a fan of Gautam Menon’s female leads. Mostly. Be it Maya in Khakha Khakha, Aradhana in Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu or for that matter even Jessie in Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya, they all have a sense of contemporariness in them. Maya and Aradhana (both played by Jyothika) came alive in Yennai Arindhaal in the form of Hemanika. Wonderfully played by Trisha who looked stunning to say the least (and voiced ably by Krithika Nelson), this character had just enough screen time to make it a memorable appearance.

Arun Vijay, the son of ‘Nattamai’ Vijayakumar, has been an unlucky actor for quite while (I’d say close to 18-20 years). He seemed to have some decent movies on and off, but nothing that was a big break! Fortunately, Yennai Arindhaal has space for his performance and he doesn’t disappoint. Playing Victor, who again seems a mishmash of Khakha Khakha’s Pandian (played by Jeevan) and Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu’s Amudhan (played by Daniel Balaji), Arun makes the best out of this outing. While Jeevan and Daniel Balaji did not seem to have many big releases following their respective movies with Gautham Menon, I sincerely hope this is the break that Arun Vijay was waiting for. And Gautam (un)subtly tries to portray him in either white or black. And yes, he’s become one more inspiration for me to get fitter! :P

Billa (2007) was my last favourite movie of Ajith Kumar. Having become that mass hero, Ajith rarely has had a fun outing in the recent past (you may say Mankatha, but no that wasn’t one for me!). Embracing his salt and pepper look (which suits him very well), Ajith takes a role of a character who is in his late thirties, and he mostly succeeds in it. While he lacks the grace of Surya’s Anbuselvan character, there is definitely an influence of Kamal’s Raghavan character in many a way. His pairing with Trisha is spot on and it is difficult to believe that the pair has grown so gracefully in ten years since Ji!

With these three actors and their characters and some more, Gautam Menon tries to come out with yet another chapter in a policeman’s life. With his intentions all in the right form, Gautam Menon tries to interpolate his storytelling from the first two movies assuming that it will have the required effect. But what comes out in the end is mainly nostalgia, thanks to Khakha Khakha and Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu. It is not that Yennai Arindhaal does not have its moments, but every bit of it is either predictable or employed in another Gautam Menon movie. This includes the father sentiment with Nasser (in a wonderful performance) and wanderlust, both like in Vaaranam Aayiram. With yet another influenced soundtrack (with a couple of good songs) and uninspiring background score from a complacent Harris Jayaraj, Yennai Arindhaal could have been much more, especially considering that Gautam Menon had two able screenplay writers!

Dear Gautam Menon, I think you should take a break from these cop movies and love stories and make a movie with two or more female leads, like what Rajeev Menon did in Kandukonden Kandukonden (an adaptation of Sense and Sensibility).

Your fan from Minnale days.

Jan 18, 2015

Kurukshetra - Aryavarta Chronicles #3 - [Book Review]

Kurukshetra (Aryavarta Chronicles, #3)Kurukshetra by Krishna Udayasankar
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A few weeks back, I was in a discussion with author Krishna Udaysankar on BlogAdda’s chat on mythological fiction. In general, I am of the view that a lot of the happenings in our epics are left open to interpretation and it is always refreshing to see someone go down an untraveled path while exercising their creativity. The author, in the discussion, mentioned that a lot of details differ in editions including critical editions, and we just assume that the popular version is the ‘correct’ one. I could not have agreed with the author Ms. Krishna on this more, and this perhaps is where the Krishna Udaysankar’s trilogy ‘Aryavarta Chronicles’ stands out. A retelling of the Mahabharatha standing in a very stable way in a very new realm, including a (fictitious) plot point that mostly works, Aryavarta Chronicles is a wonderful journey from start to finish. The focus of this post will essentially be on the third book of the trilogy ‘Kurukshetra,’ but there will be references to the first two books ‘Govinda’ and ‘Kauravas’ in a few places in the post.

For the fact that Mahabharata got me back to reading, I am usually keen on reading any interpretation of the epic that shows up. Upon hearing about the Aryavarta Chronicles and the author (and her credentials, I must say) my interest was piqued. With BlogAdda having this third book for review, it was no brainer for me to apply and ensure that I had read the first two books before the third one. I was tempted to try this one as a standalone, but a friend mentioned that flow and the understanding of the characters would be better if I read the first two books. (More on this a little later in the post.) I got the first two books, and it formed an integral part of my mornings for six days when I read it on the bus (my first time with continued reading on the bus).

Among the retellings of the epic Mahabharatha, I was most fascinated by two books for two different reasons: the character analysis in Irawati Karwe’s Yuganta: The End of an Epoch and general theme of M.T. Vasudevan Nair’s Bhima: Lone Warrior (though I am tempted to add Jaya by Devdutt Pattanaik to the list!). I can safely say that the Aryavarta Chronicles is going to feature in this list.

A portrayal of the lesser-known characters in a very new dimension, Kurukshetra starts at where Kauravas ended: a hint of the declaration of a war between the cousins. While many a version have written about the epic and the war in great depth, Krishna adds in a premise featuring a section of people called the Firewrights and a Secret Keeper. The reasons for many happenings in the epic are attributed to the Firewrights, and this includes the occurences of events including Dharma marrying Panchali and the empire expansion with the annexure of many a kingdom in Aryavarta (described in detail in Book 2).

Who are the Firewrights, what do they want, what is their ancestry and why is that the First borns are involved in the occurences along with the Firewrights? These are all the questions that Krishna tries to pose in the first two books and answer them (mostly satisfactorily) in the Kurukshetra. The fact that the Firewright theory stemmed from one of the first few people of the Kaurava family is indeed interesting and I quite liked how the author blended the happening in the last year of the exile of Dharma and his brothers to this.
There were many thing that had the book going great for me. Firstly, the writing. The author takes into account the intelligence of the reader and leaves quite a few things open for interpretation or for the reader to figure out himself. In an age, when story-telling can mean jotting down a screenplay lazily, Krishna makes a wonderful effort to introduce elements into the story which have meaning much later in the story, and it is up to the reader to connect those. Secondly, there was no God like stature to any of the characters, including Govinda. For example, the fact that the shaming of Panchali did not have a divine angle to it made you sympathize with the character a lot more. In addition, Govinda is shown as a selfish character for the most part (and there is a reason to it), and this I guess makes the character a lot more relatable. Thirdly, the main characters in this retelling included the characters that are mostly mentioned in the other versions to drive the story. With Dhristadymna, Shikhandin, Ashwattama, Sanjaya, Vyasa Dwaipayana, and Suka, forming a major chunk of the characters on who the story is focused on, it is refreshing to see the author not adopting the safe route for the epic. Even though a lot of the other characters including Pritha (Kunthi), Gandhaari, and Dhritarashtra, do not get enough screen time in the book, it doesn’t seem to affect the premise.

Two more things that I loved about the book were the innocent romance that Abhimanyu and Uttara had in the first part of the book including the days leading up to the war. I would definitely love to read a short piece by the author solely focusing on these two characters. One reason, she did not take Uttara’s love for Abhimanyu granted and two, Abhimanyu’s dignified (and perhaps awkward) behavior. The second thing was that in the book (and in the trilogy), a different side of Syoddhan is shown. One, he is not shown on the arrogant and angry cousin of Dharma. Two, his reason to declare a war of Dharma and his brothers is not for the kingdom as such. I would love to dwell on this for longer, but it would mean posting spoilers.

A couple of things that did not work for me in the third book was the identity of the secret keeper and in general, the (lack of) emphasis of the Firewrights. I was able to identify who the current secret keeper was in the first few pages of the book and perhaps that made me a little disappointed because I was waiting for the author to spring up a surprise and prove me wrong. Firewrights have been an intergral part of this trilogy with a major part of the second book focusing on the happenings involving them. Perhaps the author intended the third book to focus on the war more, and considering that the war was a result of the action of Firewrights, it is justified. A few minor typos, which do not matter in the larger scheme of things, could be corrected in the subsequent editions.

How does this book stand by itself and how is it as a part of the trilogy? I can safely say that for an enhanced reading experience and better background of the characters, especially considering the characters the author focuses on, the book is better read a trilogy. However, as a standalone too, the book is able to speak for itself, and the author provides sufficient background on a few of the key happenings the reader would need to know or remember from the first two book.

Overall, with some good writing which wonderfully compliments the reader’s intelligence, Kurukshetra (and overall the Aryavarta Chronicles) is a winner! I would love to see how Krishna Udaysankar’s next book turns out to be. And the TV show on this trilogy.

This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

View all my reviews