a different kind of experience

4 Jan

I received the following email in my inbox, one of those endlessly forwarded emails. But, it was such an amazing tale, that I wanted to share it on my blog too. If anyone knows the original author, please let me know, and I will be happy to credit it to them. I am simply copy/pasting the email I received, with some changes in formatting, to fit this blog’s line width.

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I was invited to one Friday evening event by one of MNC Vendor organization who had organized the event to raise funds for the visually handicapped people in a center for blind people.
 
As usual, since it was a Friday evening, I first thought to skip the event considering it could be a bit boring and rather spend the evening relaxing by some other means.
 
But being alone and sometimes finding it difficult to kill time, I thought to accept the invitation and registered online for booking. Moreover it was free 🙂 which was another motivation to go to the event. I was looking at the event to pass some time, meet few people and nothing else.
 
When I went there, there were approx 40 people from various industries invited for that event. I found some Indians and naturally talked to them about how life is in Singapore etc etc. Initially we were shown a video about the visually handicapped center. What are their activities, how are they helping blind people in Singapore to leave more fulfilling life, etc .. It was a short 15 minute video and quite inspiring that how people from different walks of life spend time in helping these blind people without expecting anything in return. They shared the satisfaction and fulfillment they get by helping them.
 
After the video, we all were gathered in a hall and were briefed about next event. The theme of the next event was “Dining in the Dark”. And this is the event which turned out to be inspiring and worth sharing.
 
What is meant was that we all 40+ people were going to have Dinner in a pitch Dark room !!!! The next 2 hours were completely planned, organized, directed and executed by three blind youths. One was a girl (Leader) and other two boys were assistant to her forming a team of three blind volunteers.
 
The blind leader first gave us tips for dining (These were ACTUAL STANDARDS THE BLIND PEOPLE FOLLOW IN ORDER TO MAKE THERE LIFE EASIER)
 
1, When you sit at your table the things will be placed as follows :
at 3 o clock of your dish : You will find a spoon.
at 9 o clock : Fork;
12 o clock : spoon.
2 o clock : Empty Glass
Dish at the center with Paper napkin tucked at 6 o clock.
 
2. There will be two large Jugs circulated to you. The Jug with plain walls will have water and the Jug with curved wall will have orange juice.
 
3. When you get your Jug based on your choice you have to pour it in your glass. You have to dip your forefinger in the glass so that when you fill it and the liquid touches your finger, you have to stop pouring. She asked whether everyone has understood . All said yes but everyone was confused and trying to remember what she said and confirming with each other. Next 1 1/2 hours we spent were full of fun and learning. In completely pitch dark room where we could not see ANYTHING we were enjoying various delicious food without seeing it.
 
We all 40 people were taken in groups in the dark hall . Each one was directed by blind person till he/she sits on a chair (We were finding it awkward because actually we are supposed to guide blind people to their destination and help them)
 
We were Served full five course dinner by this team of three blind people- Welcome drinks, appetizers, starters , main course and desserts. The amazing thing was that the team of three blind people were serving exactly vegetarian dishes to vegetarian people who were sitting randomly in the room !!!
 
While registering online we were asked question to choose from “Vegetarian” or “Non vegetarian”. I obviously chose Vegetarian, being one. We were so nicely hosted that we did not had to wait in between serves. As we were ending finishing one dish, we were served with next without any delays.
 
After approx 1 and half hours of Dining in the dark, the leader asked whether everyone has finished eating. After confirmation she switched on the lights of the dining room. We left the Dining room with tears in our eyes.
 
We realized how lucky we are and how we have been gifted with beautiful eyes to see the beautiful world. We realized how difficult lives of blind people are (and other handicapped) without being able to see. We realized how uncomfortable we were for just two hours without being able to see anything and how they must be living their lives. We realized how unfortunate we are, that we do not value such simple things in life we have and cry (sometime louder, sometime within ourselves) and run after what we don’t have ……………..for whole of our lives without having time to adore for the things we have.
 
Be cheerful. Adore whatever you have in life. You may try for whatever you dont have but never feel sad about it.
 
You need to experience it, something like I had experienced, to believe this philosophy of life.
 
If you like this article : Pass on to those you think you should share.
 UNQUOTE
 
What an incredible experience! In trying to find the original author, I found a restaurant chain which offers similar experience. I haven’t been to it yet, but maybe, it’s worth adding to my bucket list?
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gmo food = junk food

13 Oct

It’s simple. Multi-million dollar research goes into genetically modifying food – for making it commercially viable. The focus is on increasing shelf life, increasing yield, making it prettier or sweeter. All are worthy commercial goals. Who says ever “Oh! Let’s put more iron in the spinach and make it healthier!”

Take GMO salmon (AquAdvantage® Salmon) for example. It grows to three times the size in half the time! Cha-ching!! But, what about the consumers? Wild salmon is rich in omega-3 complex fatty acids and wide-diameter muscle fiber, which are good for you. They also take longer to produce and store in Salmon bodies. GMO Salmon grows big quickly, primarily by producing and storing omega-6 fatty acids and lean-diameter muscle fiber. These are faster to produce in the salmon body, but way unhealthy for human consumption.

Now, consumers need to eat three times as much GMO salmon and still get much less quantity of omega-3 fatty acids. And they will load-up on lot more of omega-6 fatty acid in the process, leading to obesity, clogged arteries, cholesterol, heart disease… Higher medical bills.

As long as salmon is sold by weight or size, and not by its nutrition content, I cannot trust GMO salmon to be the right choice for consumers. Or any other GMO product for that matter.

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believe the theory that gives you peace

8 Sep

“Believe the theory that gives you peace and reject the one that causes you pain. Why believe in a theory if it causes you unhappiness?”

~ Neelkanth, in “The Secret of the Nagas”

 

 

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yes, you look fine! you really do!

6 Sep

yes, you look fine! you really do!

This picture should be posted in every teenager’s room!

It is really sad to see so many teenagers and young adults worrying needlessly about how they look. Nature has created each one of us through years of painstaking evolutionary selection. Or, God has created each of us with special attention. Either way, we are perfect as we are. There is no need to obsess or worry.

(I could not find the original credit for this picture. Please let me know if you know it.)

getting started with gardening

31 Aug

I believe in holistic, wholesome experiences, and I am quite weary of artificial or commercial products. Based on that, I realized, it is time for me to learn gardening. I am the kind of person who is supposed to have a “black thumb”; I’ve killed almost every plant I ever received. So, I started small, and am trying bit-by-bit to ramp-up.

Here are some tips that helped me get started.

Pick hardy plants

Each geographical area in the US is assigned an agricultural zone. Find your agricultural zone. You can try this site for starters http://planthardiness.ars.usda.gov/PHZMWeb/ . Based on this, you can narrow-down the plants that will grow well with little care in your area. Local nurseries or master gardener groups can also help identify low-maintenance plants.

Saplings vs Seeds

I liked to start with bringing little plants, or saplings. That way, I can see the plants thrive, or not. And if they die, most sellers provide a replacement for free. With seeds, it was hard to know if some birds or insects ate them up, if they were sprouting or not, and, sometimes, I couldn’t tell if the sprouts were of the intended seed or some weeds :-p Yeah, I’m really a beginner!

Bring them in early in the day

Little plants were living in a different environment, and moving them into a new home can be stressful for them. (Who knew!) Apparently, it’s like bringing foster kids home. They are tender and shy, and don’t know what to expect. Bringing them into their new environment works best earlier in the day. It gives them time to adjust before they “sleep” at night.

Allow time to adjust

I bought some tiny strawberry plants with strawberries already on them. Once the “crop” was picked, they seemed to stop flowering, even though it was still their fruit-bearing season. A friend advised to wait  a year or two, because they need time to adjust. I stayed patient with them. Slowly, they started to flower, but with no fruits. Last week, I actually got some tiny strawberries! The whole process has lasted about 3 months, so I guess I lucked-out. This is the end of their fruit-bearing season, so I hope to get big strawberries in the next season.

Learn some plant language

Like pets, plants speak a different language. Learn to observe when they are asking for more/less water. They often die due to over-watering by zealous new gardeners. So, wait till the leaves begin to wilt/droop a little, (but not so much that they start to turn yellow/brown). Then, water them as gently as you can.

No splashing, and no watering with a strong stream of water, as it will spray mud all around, and valuable nutrients will be lost. Slow “drip-watering” is ideal.

Stop watering before water starts running out the bottom (if in a pot). That water is also carrying valuable nutrients with it.

“Poke” the soil occasionally, preferably just before watering, to aerate the soil, and for better absorption of water. Be gentle, to avoid damaging the roots.

Let sleeping plants lie

However tempting it might be, try to let plants sleep at night, and minimize poking and prodding at night. I even try to avoid watering them at night.

They’re not dead until they’re really dead

I had a fragrant Jasmine plant in a pot, which died due to extreme heat in my garden. I figured it was dead, and stopped watering it. I was also too lazy to uproot it or throw it out. My Dad visited after almost a year, and revived the plant! He trimmed all the dried, “crunchy” leaves and vines. And, he showed me the little speck of green still alive right at the bottom, near the roots. He watered it and moved it into a bit more shady area, and now the plant is thriving!

Be fearless!

Try-out different techniques and experiments. Use search engines generously to look-up care for the particular plants you have. Post pictures on social media accounts or gardening forums, and you will be surprised at the wealth of customized information you will be able to get. And if you kill a few, that’s ok. You can just start over.

how do i get my son to eat healthy

29 Aug

I get asked this question very often, and all I can say is “Well, mostly, I just lucked out.”. My son is an incredibly easy-going and relaxed kid. I don’t know where he gets it from, because both his parents are quite “hyper”, in different ways 🙂

Anyhow, I read all I could about parenting, and tried-out all the ideas I liked. Here are some that worked, and my son also agrees to share.

Tough Love

When my son was little, (read: couldn’t fend for himself), I offered him healthy, nutritious food. If he ate, I praised him a lot. If he didn’t, I took the food away, and didn’t offer him anything to eat until the next meal time. Yes, he got cranky. So, I cuddled and hugged and distracted him with games/nap and did a lot of deep breathing. My mom did not approve, but I stuck with it. Next meal time, I offered him the *same* healthy food again, even the container was the same. This time, he ate it up gratefully. (At that age, meal-times were about 2 hours apart, so I knew he wasn’t going to get sick or anything).

Update: Just wanted to clarify, If he asked for food in between, he did get food. Just the same healthy food 🙂

One weekend of this, and we were set. My son learned to eat whatever was on the table. There was no special meal being cooked for him, nor for anyone else.

It’s important to have consistent rules.

No temptations

When my son got older, (read: figured out the snack drawer and the refrigerator), I simply eliminated junk food from the house. Yup, none for me or the other family members either. All we had at home was home-cooked, healthy meals in the refrigerator. The only “quick snacks” we had were fresh fruits. Fortunately, they happen to be sweet or tangy. Both are flavors my son loves!

No deprivation, either

We have all kinds of rules at home. And all of them are thrown-out when eating out – at a restaurant, a party or someone else’s house. He gets to eat absolutely anything he wants. He can even drink all the soda he wants! Feasting on food once or twice a week never hurt nobody 😉

“One bite” rule

This is the most important rule in our home. Everyone needs to eat exactly one bite of whatever is on the table. No exceptions. If people like what they sampled, they can have more. If they don’t like it, they need not take more. Of course, he tested the rules and refused to take more of the new dish after the first bite. I always thanked him for trying out the dish, and let him eat something else, from the table. And of course, all the dishes on the table were “parent-approved” 😉

Teenage Years

Yes, these are harder than any other. Since he turned 12, he has decided to become non-vegetarian (we were a vegetarian family for past several years), and has become picky about what he will or will not eat. He is free to fix himself any alternate meals if he doesn’t like what’s offered. And he does that frequently. Usually, he sticks to making smoothies and eating fruits.

Going forward

I believe from this point on, my son is exploring being an independent person. He will make his own choices about food, and other things too. I just hope I have done my job as a parent, and shown him how to eat healthy vegetarian meals as a lifestyle. I continue to have the healthy foods at home, though I do bring-in some junk food on special occasions.

I remember how I wanted to do everything the opposite of what my mom did, for several years through my teens and early twenties. Eventually, when I wanted to return to a healthy lifestyle, I remembered how my Mom did it, and returned to my roots.

And I hope, when my son is ready to return to his roots, he will remember how I did it.

 

lean-in by sheryl sandberg

28 Aug

I just finished reading “Lean-In” by Sheryl Sandberg, and I totally loved this book! I only wish I had read it when I was starting my career, oh, about a dozen years ago. But I guess Sheryl was in her “not feminist” phase at that time :-p

What I loved about this book… a lot of common sense advice, in an easy-to-read format. The book is not too long, and she quotes extensively from latest research studies. There are about 40 pages of fine print foot-notes for those who are intrigued by the details of the studies.

I first heard Sheryl give a talk at some event, can’t remember where/which one. That was when I first heard the “Lean In” concept. It really spoke to me, and I started repeating it like my mantra. In my interpretation, it simply means to do more. And not let narrow imaginary walls hold me back.

A lot of my views around Lean In have formed through reading Sheryl’s interviews elsewhere. I think her views came out more clearly in those sometimes, when she could be more informal. Some of the great ideas she highlights in her book:

“Rubin likes gold” moment: 

Sheryl Sandberg talks about this incident in her book “Lean-In”. Secretary Rubin was appointed the co-chairman of the board of Goldman Sachs. At the end of his first week, he noticed Goldman Sachs was heavily invested in Gold. When he asked about it, he was told it was based upon his advice! Apparently, on his first day, he had commented “Gold looks interesting”. That got translated into “Rubin likes gold”, and someone down the chain invested millions of dollars in gold!

Mentors are not Prince Charming:

Sheryl has an interesting perspective on “mentors”. Women are often told, “Get a mentor, and you will excel.” That is another take on a Prince Charming coming-in to rescue you. Instead, Sheryl advocates “Excel, and you will get a mentor.”

I so agree with that. No matter what advice the mentors give, at the end of the day, we ourselves have to execute on them, and we are responsible for how it turns out.

Find a suitable partner:

Sheryl talks about finding a partner who will lean-in at home more, allowing you to lean-in more at work.

I can’t emphasize this enough. I think it’s very important for couples to support each other in their passions. Somehow, we never think about this aspect when dating or looking for a relationship. But it’s really important, right up along with their FICO score 🙂 (that’s from Suze Orman, and a future blog post)

Oh, and through-out the book, she refers to Dave as her “partner”, not as “husband”. I thought she was just being politically correct, being from California and all, you know. But a colleague pointed-out to me… that’s her “partner”, as in “equal partner”. Wow! What a thought!!

Lean-In when you are going to have a baby

“The best time for a woman to take-on a new and challenging job is right before having a child. If she finds her new role challenging and rewarding, she is more likely to be excited about returning back to work.”  Another brilliant idea!

“Career loving parent”, a nice alternative to “working parent”

Work-Life Balance:

If you’re getting burnt out at work, check to see if you have any vacation left. Why would you think about quitting a job if you’re not giving it a fair shot?

She also talks about going public with her policy of leaving work at 5:30 to be with her kids. Yes, I remember reading about that. And I remember thinking… if she can do it, and be successful, so can I.  Oh, and that’s a rant I have heard from many parents… even single dads, who felt compromised at their work-place because they had to leave sharply at a certain time, even in the middle of a meeting.

Final thoughts:

“We cannot change what we are unaware of, and once we are aware, we cannot help but change.”