Health is wealth :)

Only when we fall sick do we realize what it means to be healthy really. When I feel feverish and too weak to get up from bed is when I realize how much I love to go out! But more often than not, we do not treat our bodies well. We do not exercise, we eat food which do not really help our bodies, and we spend a lot of time of phones or computers and do not get enough sleep hours. I am guilty of all these from time to time. But fortunately for me, health has become an important priority over the years, esp. since 2016, when I fell so sick that I fainted in the bathroom in the middle of the night. That was when I decided to take control of my eating habits.

The results that I have seen are wonderful! As a kid, I was quite sickly. Every time I used to get a fever, I would faint and fall in the bathroom (yes, it happened multiple times!). Now, I feel much more healthier on a daily basis. This has happened through series of small changes in my lifestyle: better breakfasts, better food habits, healthy dose of walking. I know that I still become indisciplined from time to time: ordering food multiple times over the weekend etc., but I also am quick to take measures to remedy it. For example, Saturday (yesterday) I ordered my meals, so I ensured that I cook both my meals today!

I also usually eat good breakfast, comprising of yogurt and fruits (I am still looking to increase my options) and they make me feel really good! In fact, today I ended up ordering a blender to make myself smoothies every morning! I feel this will increase my  morning options and I will be able to include more greens in my diet! 🙂 I will do a review of the blender after I have used it for a while.

Other than this, I have been sleeping well last couple of weeks, and that makes a world of difference to my productivity. Speaking of which, it’s approximately 11.30 PM now, and I need to head to the bed right now and dream some nice dreams!

What are the things do you do to take care of your health? Share with me the tiny tips that freshen you up! 🙂

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Is this my life?

Note: This piece is part of Creative Writing series.

I am walking on a lonely road. The road is not dark. It is illuminated by the yellow lamps of the shops on the side. It is populated by people walking beside me, ahead of me, people on the other side. I do not know any of them. I do not speak most of their language.

I live in a solitary room. The walls are far away from each other. From the window, I hear rain fall on leaves of trees. I can hear crows caw if I wake up from a nightmare in the morning. I live on my own. I do not speak. I watch my life unfold in text messages, social media posts. I do not really do anything – I do not take decisions. I feel confused: at what point in life do you intervene the river of life and try to course it to the tune of your free will? At what point do you take charge?

Life is passing by. I fight my poor posture, keep straightening my back which invariably slumps back to a more comfortable but potentially harmful position. My teeth ache from time to time, I keep postponing the visit to the dentist. I think under my bed the plastic bowl of food is still lying. I did not cook today. I do not feel like it. I eat junk knowing fully well that is not what I should be doing.

Days are passing by. The love I care about flit through my grasp. I look at his picture on my phone, knowing well that it is futile. We are not meant for each other. Yet, sometimes, most times, in fact, every day, I lie in my bed, hoping for miracles to happen, while somehow being fully aware that the odds are steeped against me. In fact, there has never been the promise of a relationship.

I am at a fork in my life, slouching through it. On my morning walks, I meet the squirrels on the boundary of my apartment. I do not have any relationship with them. I want to Google what squirrels eat, but I do not know if they will come near me even if I take them food they like to eat. I do not wish to take chances. Somehow, I do not want to influence anything. Somehow, I just want to let life run its course, and watch it like a passive audience.

Is this my life? Or is this the shadow of someone else’s life that I am living?

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How to keep your hobbies alive, or, how to keep being who you used to be?

A big part of growing up (read graduating college and joining the workforce) is learning that we are very different people that we thought we were. Or, coming to terms with the fact that we could be very different person a year from now. In a way, I guess a lot of us feel that there is something eternal about us, something unchanging.

I’ll give an example: growing up, I had been an avid reader. I used to be among those bookworm kids who hid storybooks behind their coursebooks and got caught and chided by their parents. I used to gobbles books by the day!

Cut to mid 2017 – I have been working for almost two years. Work pressure is high. I am struggling with relationship issues, poor sleeping habits (I had always been a morning person, and just can’t figure out, how on earth my sleeping patterns changed). I rarely read books – can’t remember when was the last time I visited GoodReads or reviewed a book there or on this blog. Only in 2015, I had promised myself I would read a lot, and in turn focus on publishing my own books. Na-da! Nothing of that sort is happening.

So, what filled the gaps of time in 2017? I watched a lot of TV series, some movies. That seemed like an easier way to entertain myself. Investing myself to go back to reading was hard: it is just so easy to see things when a motion picture is playing in front of you. So hard to imagine stuff when you have to make out all the motions from reading words! I could not remember that part of myself who used to stay up in the nights to read books. Did that person really exist? Who had I become?

This resulted in a bunch of guilt trips, and did not help with my depression. Not being able to identify with yourself, struggling with an identity crisis, is probably the hardest of all struggles. In your mind, there is a person telling you non-stop that you are not living your life the right way, the way that you have always known as right. You should do something about it, but somehow, you are not sure how and where, you lost that element of willpower which made you do things in the past. What is the cause? Is it work? Is it the pressure of dealing with adult life: living alone, interacting with strangers every day without having any family to go back to? Could be.

Yet, it could also be that what you are going through is a phase. People evolve. Most often when we say so-and-so has changed, we mean it in a bad manner. As if, people are always supposed to remain the same person who we knew. Our cells grow, die and new cells regenerate – that is the law of nature. We change our habitats, adjust to new surroundings. So, it is quite natural that our emotional and mental evolution will be impacted as well. There will be years in which we won’t be able to find ourselves. But the good news is, a small part of us which makes us us, never really dies. It might be sleeping for a while, trying to cope with all the changes that we impose on it, but it is always there.

So, if you really loved painting, really loved reciting poems, chances are, after this rough patch is over, you will get back to it. You just have to wait it out. And what should you do meanwhile? Explore other things in life, go out with people, watch some great movies, or maybe just sleep! Do whatever your current situation needs you to do. Maybe, one of them will become a new hobby! The key is to live life guilt-free. If you cannot spend time doing the thing you loved most right now, it is likely that there are a thousand other things which needs your attention at the moment. Have faith that, this phase will be over too – there will come a time when you have learned to manage those thousand things within reasonable amount of time, and there will be a glorious slice of ten minutes in which you have nothing to do: well, pick up that book lying on your coffee table and read it!

It is 2018 and I am again back to reading and reviewing books. Maybe my routine does not permit it to be as frequent as it used to be, but guess what, this is what life is all about: making way for new things while sustaining the good habits of the past. There has to be some compromise, somewhere!

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Turning your life around… one day at a time

Have there been days when you just stayed inside the bed, kept looking at the ceiling (or more likely the cell-phone in the recent times), and felt nowhere like getting up and going through daily chores of life?

I am a single female, in my early twenties, living in Bangalore in a flat-sharing basis. I work in a moderate to high stress environment, spending approximately 48-50 hours a week at work. I do not have any family living with me. Quite a few times, I find myself slumping into a cycle of unsustainable habits. For quite the longest time, I formed the habit of staying up as late as 1.00 AM in the night, waking up around 9-10 AM next day. I did not eat good breakfast, and somewhere, through the entire day, I felt lacking in energy. Next day, same routine.

I was able to break out of this cycle, by keeping a close tab on myself. I started going to bed earlier, reducing time on the phone when I hit the bed. To a large extent, I realize that I end up staying late because I am too spent staying on my own and having minimal human contact – I usually do not have many people to talk to, so I try to fill it up with the phone. During the worst phase, I had even stopped reading, something which used to interest me a lot at a point.

Today, my lifestyle has improved a lot. I wake up around 8 AM on most days, go for a walk and come back and have a fulfilling breakfast. I spend some time reading work-related stuff, take my bath, cook lunch, eat and then leave for work. In between, I squeeze in time for some TV series, or read a page of a book. Currently reading Return of a King by William Dalrymple. If you guys have read any books by him, comment and let me know!

I have realized that for me the trick is in getting to bed early. On the days I am able to do this successfully, my routine is spectacular. I feel more positive about myself and more energetic too.

That said, such days are not everyday. This Friday night, after I came back from work, I was up till 1 AM, texting on my phone regarding some work-related issues, which I could have easily avoided. After that, I had quite a bit of difficulty falling asleep, I guess I might have only fallen asleep around 2.30 AM. I woke up in the morning at around 8.30 AM, groggy and very tired. My eyes were hurting from lack of sleep. I tried going back to sleep, but could not. I was too lazy to cut the pomegranate, so for breakfast I kept munching on biscuits. I thought I would chill for a while after, so I started watching The Office on phone. Lunch time came, I ordered food, too tired and lazy to cook. When I got off my phone, it was close to 7 PM – and I hadn’t gone outside my bed except for receiving my order and the occasional visit to the washroom. In fact, I did not even fill my water bottle for the longest time.

This only proves why it is important to fix the sleep pattern. Last night, I did just that. I went to bed relatively earlier. Today, I went for a morning walk, came back, ate good breakfast, and studied for two hours. I cooked myself lunch, and again did some studying. I took a little nap in the afternoon, took my bath after, and then went to do some groceries. After that, I took another long walk, using that time, to speak to my mother and relatives on the phone. I came back, studied again. Cooked dinner with a flatmate, and had a good conversation over dinner. It’s about 11.30 PM right now and I need to go to sleep, and I will after I have finished this blogpost – but I accomplished so much today! Last night, I was so depressed from having wasted a complete day unnecessarily.

I guess what I want to tell you all is: there will be bad days even when you are getting to the right track. But the point is to make one single change in your routine, to muster the willpower to do one thing differently one day, and everything else falls in place. Try it!

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Changes are good because…

Every time I come back from a break from home, I feel as if a new chapter of my life starts. The flights to and fro home give me ample time to ponder over my life and its priorities, and I see them most clearly when I am riding the airport bus from Kempegowda Int’l Airport to my part of the city.

I grew up in a small town. While my hometown has all the facilities of modern life, it also has a blanket of silence that wraps it with care. This time, I went out on several morning walks, amid the monsoon greenery, and I felt the silence more than ever. Durgapur is somewhere you can take a pause in life, recharge your batteries and go back to the busy life that you had been living.

Bangalore, of course, is big, and with it, comes the noise. And when I say noise, I don’t mean the traffic. My apartment is quite peaceful, I wake up to the calls of little birdies and I can see trees from my window. It’s peaceful enough. The noise that I am talking about is the ricocheting of thoughts in my mind. In Bangalore, I am always busy. I lead a small team of four at work and throughout the day, that consumes my mind-share. If I am not thinking about that, I keep thinking about the thousand other things I could be doing in my life other than working in the corporate sector, the amount of money I must save, what I should be cooking for lunch. Durgapur has my parents, I spent my childhood there. The noise of responsibilities of my life is somewhat borne by my parents in that tiny town, and if not, I can somewhat put a hold on that noise for the time that I am at home. Alone, lying in my bed in Bangalore, I have a harder time falling asleep – having no one to speak my mind as the thoughts come by the droves at night.

This time when I came back from home, I decided to make a few changes around the room. One of it is the arrangement of the bed. When I was younger, I always preferred sleeping on my side, close to the wall, so that I could feel its cold and find some support in the wall. My bed in Bangalore was placed such that my head would be towards the wall and not my side. Monday night (in fact, early Tuesday morning), as I lay rocking in my bed, unable to sleep, the noise in my mind too loud against the sleeping apartment, I decided to place it in this manner:

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The amount of white space that this arrangement resulted in the room instantly made me happy – somehow, this makes me feel better about this room. I keep thinking why I had not thought of it earlier.

There is another addition to my household. Say hello to Daisy:

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Aloe vera is a great medicinal herb and works like a charm on the skin. I have an oily skin which breaks out in acne once in a while. I brought this from home, my mother was sure the herb would survive the travel and end up growing. “It has a strong lifeline,” she says. Throughout the week, I was quite busy to plant it. Yesterday, I found some time to put it to a mug which has remained unused for the past 2.5 years. I don’t know if it will grow, but the leaves are still green. I guess we will find out. 🙂

Arpita ❤

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Taste in books – Short review of Memories of Midnight by Sidney Sheldon

This Monday, I was travelling back to Bangalore from a week-long vacation at home. I had about half an hour to kill at Kolkata airport before boarding, so I decided to check out the book-store.

I picked up two books: Memories of Midnight by Sidney Sheldon and A Train to Pakistan by Khuswant Singh. I had not bought a book for myself in the longest time – thanks to the online library facility, Kwench, that my company provides. Besides – I had not read something really interesting that would make me want to invest financially and space-wise. But this time I wanted a good way to spend the two and a half hours flight (too used to having internet, and flight mode basically sucks), so ended up purchasing these two books.

I can’t remember if I have read other Sheldon books, but needless to say, he’s a popular author. Even if I have not read his works, I remember reading such fast paced, mystery thriller books growing up – I was quite a fan of the genre at the time. I loved Gone Girl when I read it in 2016. However, when I revisited the genre through Memories of Midnight, I can’t say I was quite excited. Some of the key traits that jumped out for me are:

  • The fast pace of the writing, which is characterized by more telling than showing
  • While the character development is not poor, it does not feel like a priority, but more like a secondary requirement
  • The primary focus is on mind-boggling actions, bringing people back from the dead, showing larger-than-life (and in my mind, sometimes quite impossible) victories in business deals or courtrooms
  • Lastly, there are multiple scenes which leave nothing to the imagination on the reader’s part – with too many obvious paragraphs which can easily be dropped to make the narrative stronger

While I have nothing against the writer or people who enjoy such writing (thrill is always exciting), from a writer’s perspective, a lot of the book felt like poor, lazy writing. I realize that over the years my taste has changed towards more muted, and closer-to-life narratives. I am interested in the story of the common man, the trials of regular life that s/he faces. Which is why I avoid most of Bollywood flicks, unless I am really in the mood for some drama.

However, I must credit the writer for his research on how different professions work: from information on oil fields to courtroom dealings to a psychiatrist’s clinic – this book covers a lot of ground.

All that said, I guess each author has a specific audience. In fact, even though the writing was poor, I did end up finishing the book, because I wanted to see it through to the end. Moreover, even though I had another book to choose from in the flight, I started with this one, coz, well, I was looking for a popcorn style book, made for light read! 🙂

How do you feel about these popcorn-style books? Should publishing houses continue to publish such books? Which are your favorite authors in this genre?

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Uniquely Bengali

I am Bengali – I belong from a state in India which is well known for its confusing political state, its obssession with fish, intellectual addas, chopsingaramuri, its contribution to Indian Cinema, music, its extravagant Durga puja and so on. It is a beautiful state, but who doesn’t feel that way about their birth places?

But beyond all this, what is the underlying motif of being Bengali, of being part of a Bengali household? This will differ a little bit depending on which area you are from, but here’s how I see Bangaliayana as:

Being Bengali is waking up early in the morning, sometimes as early as 4-4.30 AM, freshening up and heading for a morning walk with a translucent polythene bag. The men may wear shorts and sports shoes, but the womenfolk tread on in their pumps and sarees and their petticoats and blouses, sweating profusely through them. The polythene bag acts as a storage of all the flowers that they will pick up on their walk, sometimes over a little chat with the neighbor whose trees they are picking the flowers from, sometimes secretly, making sure no one sees them in their flower-picking exercise. These little furtive activities sometimes make for the most pleasurable experiences for a Bengali soul.

Being Bengali means standing in the line in front of the dairy or the meat shop, bargaining for the best pieces of mutton: chest, leg pieces etc. Being Bengali means going to the market for the fresh vegetable produce and fish, before everyone else had picked it up.

Being Bengali means the occasional fast on a plethora of festivals, to appease the 33 lakh gods the Hindus pray to: Manasa pujo, Bipottarini pujo, Shitala pujo. Being Bengali means making luchi and payesh to break that fast, and distributing small portions of those as well as the auspicious threads to tie on the wrists among the neighbors.

Being Bengali means gossip for the womenfolk as they do their dishes and shout out from the windows to the neighbor – whose daughter was not going getting married yet in spite of looking for grooms for the past year, whose son failed in the exam because he fell into bad company, whose children don’t look after their parents after having comfortably settled in Germany, whose mother-in-law is too quarrelsome and makes life hell for the young wife. Being Bengali means womenfolk sitting on moras in winter, with the December sun lusciously teasing their backs with cozy warmth, as they knit mittens and sweaters for their grandchildren.

Being Bengali means conch shells blowing in the evening, along with the burning of incense sticks and ululating women. It means the mandatory arati of the tulsi plant, which is regarded as the sacred plant and is part of every Bengali household.

Being Bengali means prodding the children away from the television as dusk falls, to their study rooms, because the mothers and the grandmothers will now watch the serials that have been continuing over ages, and also because, everyone wants their children to be doctors and engineers and they have to beat Mr. Sen’s daughter in maths.

Being Bengali means the machher jhol ar bhaat ar akta ruti for dinner. It means leaving the dishes in the sink for the cleaning lady to grumble over the next morning. It means the tucking of the mosquito net under the mattress of every bed, irrespective of mosquitos being in the season or not.

These little snapshots in time, in my eyes, are uniquely Bengali. This is what I know my Bengali households as. I know, like every other community we have our faults and failings, but hey, every little fault makes us who we are: human. And do we excel at that!

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