Thursday, April 21, 2011

Of eyes and wheat...

Of eyes and wheat…

Last summer my husband and I went to Marakalla, a small town in Kerala to meet an old school mate who is also an Iridologist…someone who looks at the iris in your eye and is able to diagnose your health issues. Go to if you’d like to know more about him and iridology. It is amazing how the iris in our eyes represents different parts of our body!

His place is on the banks of river Pemba, which originates from Sabrimalai. As you sit on the swing in his garden and watch the river gently roll past, with the coconut trees swaying by the banks, the sunlight twinkling in the water, the breeze giving it a life like quality and the kingfishers flitting in and out of it… it is like meditating with your eyes open.

But I am digressing. This is not why I started writing this piece. Manik told us that we were both allergic to dairy and gluten. And we should give this up for at least a year. Giving up dairy is easy to understand though tough to do. But giving up gluten was difficult to even comprehend. As we queried him he said it was simple, it meant we give up all food that had wheat in it. Try and imagine the scenario…no rotis, no bread, biscuits, upma, pasta, pizza…you name it, we couldn’t eat it! Thus started our search for what gluten is and which foods are gluten free. Rice is. Gluten free that is.

We started reading food labels for everything we bought and discovered a whole new world of foods…a world barely heard of and forgotten, a world from the past….cereals that reminded me of my grandmother such as jowar, bajra, saboodana, sattu, amaranth (raam dana). I remember these names being mentioned and eating stuff when we were small children. These were also eaten regularly and maybe still are in Maharashtra, Gujarat and many other parts of India that are not “wheat eaters”. Wheat we learnt is inflammatory and in today’s world of hybrid seeds, genetic modification and chemical fertilizers, it is increasingly considered a food to be avoided.

Coincidentally this morning’s newspaper carried an article on Navratras and the food people eat during this period. Navratras are meant as a period of prayer and fasting. It is a time to purify ones body and soul. Non vegetarian food is not eaten and interestingly the one other thing which is not consumed is wheat. Instead pooris etc are made from…kuttu, singhara, raagi flour. So probably wheat was not seen as satvik even in our scriptures?

What has been the upside for us in this whole journey? My husband has lost 7kgs in six months by giving up dairy and gluten, while he gorges and eats more than he did earlier on all the new wonderful options we have discovered. My knee pain is 80% less in just one month of giving up wheat.

Try to give up wheat just for one month…really…do give it a shot and write back and tell me how you feel J
Two Poems...

Yeh bhi woh bhi

Hum nazar bhi hain aur nazariya bhi
Kinara toh hain par dariya bhi
Bund ankhon sai jab jahan ko dekha
Ehsaas hua...zarra bhi hain aur zariya bhi


There is some thunder
And lightening too
A huge big wave of rain
Comes closer and closer

It lifts me off my feet
Takes me in its embrace
And then playfully
Throws me up high in the sky

Up up high up I fly
Like a feather in the clouds
Floating, fluttering gently
With no fear of falling down

My head is in your lap now
As you gently caress my hair
I fall in a deep dreamless sleep
And all is well  

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Greed and Contentment

What is the value of 10,000 for someone who earns 5,000 a month, vs the value of 500,000 for someone who earns 500,000 a month?

I learnt the answer to this from my maid last week. Her name is Meenu. She worked for me for 10 years. She used to earn 5,000 a month and left last year to get married. I gave her money and other household things as wedding gifts, but she also borrowed 10,000 rupees from me which she said she would return after about six months when she came back from the village. I happily gave her this loan.

There was no news from her or her husband for many months. I called on the number I had, and learnt she was back in town but unwell and could not talk to me or come see me. At first this did not bother me, but as time moved on I realized that perhaps she was not coming to see me because then she would have to pay the ten thousand back. She did not want to pay that and therefore did not want to see me, simple. I reconciled to this thinking she deserved to keep the money and I should let it go.

Last week I heard this story from a friend who mentioned that a senior director in their company left them a few months ago. I don’t know his name, let’s call him Manish. He earned a salary of 500,000 per month. He had taken an advance of 500,000 from the company which he refused to return under one pretext or another. To date he has not given it back, and has told them clearly that he does not intend to. He threatened legal action if they pushed him too hard. Even though the money was rightfully theirs, they decided not to waste time in legal battles and reconciled to this.

And then my maid turned up last week to see me. She had genuinely been unwell and came to see me as soon as the doctor allowed her to. And she brought the 10,000 back! I could not believe it. I gave 5,000 to her husband right away as a gift since I met him for the first time.

Once Meenu left I wondered, how do we decide how much is enough? Where does greed stop and contentment start? How is the value system of a maid different from that of a director in a company? We may have coined words such as the bottom of the pyramid (BoP) and so on based on economic parameters, but in my view Meenu is at the top of the pyramid (ToP) when it comes to morality and a value system and Manish at the bottom.

What do you think?

Friday, October 8, 2010

What Matters Most...

My younger son Akhil works for Facebook for the last four years. All these years he has tried hard to make me sign up and use Facebook more. All these years I have struggled to understand why millions are doing something I am finding difficult to do.

Well, the understanding dawned on me yesterday. And the person who helped me see this was our driver Manoj. Here is what happened...

My driver comes to work for me from 9am to 7pm. He lives in Rajiv Nagar in Gurgaon in a one room place with his wife who does part time work in nearby houses. Their room is in a building which has several such rooms on the ground and first floor, all occupied by migrant workers from Bihar and Bengal. They share a common bathroom; have a common place to wash their utensils and clothes. If they use an iron or a cooler in their room they pay extra for electricity. The rent is 1200 rupees per month. The road in front of the building is broken up, water logged during rains, and electricity comes for barely 6-7 hours a day. The area they live in has many such buildings.

I have offered for Manoj to move into our servants’ quarter with his wife. This is a room twice the size of his current room, free, with water electricity and other comforts round the clock.

Guess what, he declined and prefers to stay where he is. This is despite all the issues re basic amenities and having to pay a substantial portion of their earnings as rent. I spent an hour talking to him about this yesterday to understand why. There is one simple but powerful reason for which he is willing to trade off living in comparative comfort at our place...his need for a community. In his current place they live a community life, sharing their happiness and sorrows with similar other people, speak Bengali and eat similar food. They have the freedom to do what they want after they return from their daily jobs. Compared to that, at our place, they speak in Hindi, eat the food we eat, and live a relatively isolated life...meeting friends and relatives on holidays only.

Community living is what is driving Manoj’s decisions. These are driving decisions for many of our friends who have chosen to live in condominiums and give up their independent houses. This same need is driving millions of others to live in/on Facebook. Whether we do this in a real world or fulfill this need virtually...this is what matters most.

I finally get it...

Friday, September 24, 2010

Open and Close!

Two things happened this week that have never happened before.

I was interviewing someone for a fairly senior position last Friday. The interview started as most others do. The guy was bright, enthusiastic, with the right kind of experience and then...somewhere 10 mins into the conversation I realised he was chewing gum. I have seen cricketers and many others do this, but never realized you could chew gum at a job interview. And to expect to get a job after that! Imagine!! But that is exactly what happened. I talked to him for close to an hour, and have made him a job offer because he is really good at what he does and we need just this kind of a person. I wonder what our clients will think when they find him chewing gum at our next business presentation!! I hope they are as open minded as I am :)

Then later that same evening my husband and I went to our neighborhood mall to see the latest Salman Khan movie. After the movie we had dinner at a food of these places where your favourite restaurants from all over the city are bundled up next to each other. It is interesting to see Chandni Chowk, South Extension and Pandara Road all merged into one. Just as we were leaving we saw a "paan" outlet. All these years, buying paan has been the "nukkad" park your car in a spot where there is hardly any place, saunter over to have the paan made to your specifications, handover the money ( a nice round sum) and shove the big juicy triangle into your mouth as you wipe your hand on your hair. I have never seen paan being bought any other way. Well we bought it differently that day...a digital card was swiped, a receipt produced, and then on showing the receipt the paan was gently handed over with a napkin. I looked at the receipt...36 rupees and twenty eight paise plus a sales tax on "paan"...well saraa mazaa kharaab ho gaya. I would any day prefer to buy paan the old fashioned way. Closed mind you say??

Lets see what next week brings...