06 December 2014

Mauryan Messenger : Interview with Author Sumedha Verma Ojha .

"Historical sense is a perception of not only the pastness of our past but its presence...a sense of the timeless as well as of the temporal and of the timeless and the temporal together ..."T .S Eliot 

03 July 2014

Kathmandu Kaleidoscope -III

Kathmandu is a dusty, polluted, frenetic town-village .First look -and its just a mess of hodge-podge roads awash with India's discarded ,decrepit,diesel spewing Tata Sumos , Boleros and Maruti 800s .Bisected by a terribly polluted Bagmati river ,it has humongous power cuts.Its otherwise stunning location - as the base of a vast bowl surrounded on all sides by snow peaked mountains,can be seldom appreciated as  the dust haze obscures everything.In Maurice Herzog's 1950's,it was car-less and tree dense.Not any more.
All the pollution now gets trapped at the cooler valley bottom, making it a bad place for those with eye, nose, chest problems.
Yet,there is a point when,after the rains,a rainbow hangs from one distant snow peak to the other and the western peaks are awash with streaks of melting gold . A peach-orange-crimson-marmalade .And you understand why Kathmandu is so intensely romanced in song and word.Like this Cat Stevens song :

Believe me this dysfunctional , falling apart town,is  one of the most charming and fascinating places I have been to. Not just because its highways lead on to the enchanting Pokhra .You can not ignore the traffic and pollution in the dozen odd main streets;but just wear a Rs 50 pollution mask and take a walk in the backlanes. And find timelessness - even peace and quiet .
A walk down  the bylanes of the charming old districts of Patan or  Hanuman Dhoka in Kathmandu or a little way out in Bhaktapur; you find yourself face to face with another world . So much colour , life and energy suffuses these old corners ! And the gently charming denizens literally hold your hand with a sweet little smile and beckon you to explore more.

The air is damp and cool in these lanes and the intricately carved wooden architecture of old quarters is simply stunning.Life bustles regardless of both the beauty and the decay.The old and timeless stands casually and un-selfconsciously next to the garish and the transitory.An immense good-natured graciousness animates everyday life here - of a kind hard to imagine if you live in Delhi .Armed with a camera, I often felt, I was intruding in the lives of these people - as in these close knitted courtyards much of everyday life is carried on in the streets .But never once did I feel less than welcome .
 And yes ! women dominate the public spaces here -  running tea shops, selling incredibly fresh vegetables and fruits grown in their backyards, doing crafts ,gossiping , tending kids and livestock , smiling , offering water to strangers ,helping them out with directions and teaching them how to make the Nepalese sweet Lakhamari in their sweet shops ! Never felt unsafe here, nor was ever hustled . People may come and offer to be your guides but if you refuse they smile and say bye -unimaginable in Agra or Jaipur!
And what beautiful women ! with proud gaits , high foreheads and shining black tresses . I forget how many Manisha Koirala equivalents I saw in humble tea shops doing the washing, or in busy markets and temples .But they get married too young - most above the age fifteen  sport sindoor !
I am drawn in by the clouds of incense wafting from the stupendously carved pagoda-ed wood and stone Hindu-Buddhist temples where serpents , dragons , Hindu deities - all sit convivially coiled over Buddha eyes; daubs of kum-kum decorate the ancient carved wood and prayer flags flutter in merry festoons.Busy squares have ancient statues draped with marigold .Roosters and dogs snooze by a massive temple bell strung on poles.Old men feed their goats juicy green grass by hand and ruddy faced school-kids slide down the backs of massive  lions and griffins guarding the temples and palaces.
Quaint shops operate out of ancient doorways .Impossibly cute wicker baskets,mats, brooms,stone-ware being carved and polished ; shiny brass and copper vessels of  delightful shapes ; all latch on to my hungry eyes .If I could , I would have bought them all.You feel somewhat rich as the rupee goes a little way longer here .But only in a crude commercial sense.
A little girl,grubby faced and pig tailed peers out of an impossibly cute wooden jharokha , a hill dog all black and brown , delirious with joy, joins her .The girl sees me looking and waves out - the dog licks her face .Granny picks the girl up but the dog continues the street vigil from the balcony .I have many such moments that stay fresh in my heart if not on camera.
Actually these people are rich for all their dismal HDI ranking.I did not see any starving or abandoned kids or ill-treated animals throughout my trip.Yes! they sacrifice goats at the temple and eat meat but they also really love their livestock and live in happy co-existence with the dogs, roosters, cows et al.They like to do a little vegetable gardening and this probably accounts for the food self -sufficiency (as well as good health) of the house-holds. 
I am appalled to find that a similarly placed official in Nepalese bureaucracy earns a paltry 30000 rupees as salary and no perks like medical facilities and vehicle allowance .In offices , tells my husband, things move haltingly if at all .Even highest officials of land preside from decaying buildings where urine pong and a sense of despair as well as resignation pervades.The decision to offer a cup of tea to a visiting team is a big one - because no one can decide who will fund it .Worse is the indecision regarding who will reply and what will be the  reply to the queries ? All communications are in hindi-scripted Nepalese -English proficiency is plain Bad.India for most,is a place of glittering modern dreams where money can be made and where all kinds of hospitals can be relied to treat all kinds of diseases which Nepal's crumbling state Hospitals can not.
If there is beauty in Kathmandu, despite non-existent Governance and hibernating administration ,its because of the natural good nature and hard work  ethic of the common people who smile a lot .Maybe its the proximity to the Himalayas , maybe its a sense of making do with whatever they have, instead of noisily clamouring for more and more entitlements.
I would take Pokhra anyday or nurture Annapurna dreams,but still Kathmandu is an intriguing place which will exceed your expectations and belie your apprehensions. I have spent boring times in people-free ;desolate towns of middle east and Europe and in that dull diplomatic haven Geneva : which have all possible offerings of man-made and commercial nature,but where people move around with shuttered faces in monochrome unvarying environments .
Give me Kathmandu's rustic  colour and life anyday.

28 June 2014

Kathmandu Kaleidoscope - II


Morning 7.30 am at Pashupatinath Temple - half an hour drive out of town . 
Here, Shiva is the lord of the Beasts.And the atmosphere is of febrile confusion.

As   you enter the temple complex from the approach lane full of marigold, incense, flowers and shreephal in pretty leaf baskets; every sense is overwhelmed.
Swarms of pigeons flutter and coo.Cows are fed and garlanded. Monkeys clamber over the shikhars. A bull pees on a Sivalinga. Sacrifical goats tethered and untethered bleat. Bushy haired dogs laze under the mandapams with the sadhus and bhajan singers. Photogenic sanyasis look expectantly at you .

 A colourful Hanuman will bless you for a fee.
A light drizzle has started .And I try my best to thread through the assorted,melting droppings of the beasts and birds .Kids bawl.Beggars and mad women run their little shows. Pagodaed shrines, lingams , ghats are scattered like confetti.Cameras go wild.
Smells mingle :Incense, camphor, shit and burning flesh from the pyres across the ghats of the highly polluted Bagmati river.
This is indeed a UNESCO -World Heritage site .Sacred shaktipeetha.
At the gate of the inner compound a sign says 'Entry for Hindus only' and 'no cameras'.Buddhists are allowed -  meaning a posse of Korean, Chinese and Japanese tourists.
It is a Shiva temple completely unlike the ones in India. 
In Nepal - Hindu , Buddhist, tantric and animistic traditions are so densely interwoven that you can not separate the skeins.The same diyas , the same pagodas , the same fluttering colurful flags that you see at the monasteries are seen here.The presiding deity is the only difference.
The main attraction is the five faced linga and a huge Brass Nandi .But the complex is hyuuge and people count and touch and rever every linga they encounter .
The seated Nandi visible from the outer compound..


Here, I also encountered  the only pot-bellied image of Shiva I have ever seen :) !


We move on to Swayambhunath monastery- the most sacred Buddhist shrine here ,also a UNESCO- World heritage site. Its mysterious as it is self-created (swayam- bhu). And the all seeing Buddha eyes or the third eye (?) is painted everywhere. The place is a jumble of Hindu and Buddhist iconography and offers interesting views of the city scattered beneath.
It is chaotic for a monastery but calmer compared to Pashupatinath.

Enjoy the climb.The place is swamped with monkeys, pigeons and meditating mountain dogs.More sanyasis, bhajan makers and lots of maroon robed monks. Similar pagoda like structures , festooned with colourful flags,with the dominating Stupa at the centre .There are kum-kum dotted  prayer wheels all around .I enjoy turning them so much that I do three- four parikramas.

I loose Hubby in the melee. We find each other after a long meandering and head for a well-earned Brunch.

27 June 2014

Kathmandu Kaleidoscope. - I

Kathmandu is like so many places I have been to yet, very very different.Sitting in the Jacaranda shaded cafe of the Yellow House a sense of intense familiarity overwhelms me.The attire, the mannerisms , the script , the customs are all Indian. Bits of Banaras , Haridwar, Patna, Himachal , Darjeeling ; all thrown around in a crazy Kaleidoscope that morphs into colourful Mandalas with every flick of the wrist . 
Yes! this crazy, strange- familiar but memorable place is Kathmandu .
I am in a Time -machine .Sometimes this is small town India of the eighties or nineties.Sometimes its a never-never land in the medieval ages. Its certainly not *Abroad * in any sense , even though I carry a Passport .
At the Tribhuvan International Airport, the ageing luggage belt creaks , groans and stops several times before finally, achingly delivering our bags. Its the pre- AC era here and in the heavy June air ,we feel soaked and soiled by the time we are through the several apparently mindless checkpoints to the Exit .
 Outside the whole town is gasping for breath .The dust, debris and decay grabs you almost instantly - no wonder everyone is armed with pollution masks . The  driver hears me swear at the sewerage laden Bagmati helpfully puts on the music. It consists of doleful Kumar Sanu and Anuradha Paudwal duets from the nineties.
I curse myself  : wrong idea for a holiday ! When will I learn ?
I drink tea at a Chia Pasal ( Chia= Chai ; Pasal= shop)  opposite the Guest House- when the ashen heavy heavens opened up with streaks of lightening.The clouds coalesce and with a clap of thunder ,downpour begins. Abandoning tourist plans I run off to my room and fall asleep.I wake up an hour later to magic.
The grey vistas on my window have been pulled aside revealing range upon impossibly emerald range of distant hills. And bang opposite on an unnamed peak is the most glorious sunset in progress : bold streaks of crimson , peach and gold on a purple canopy. From the terrace of the building I see a swarming city ensconced in a garland of hills and vast distant mountains . No wonder Cat Stevens could not stop loving it. 
I spend the evening hanging around in Thamel which is a psychedelic tourist haven.Evil masks and shiny brass artefacts  glint ;outdoor gear shops beckon ;you get lured by tourist kitsch of  T-shirts, caps and picture postcards. Every lane of the district is same,punctuated only by hotels , restaurants and guest houses of every hue called Yak,Yeti, Lama, Third Eye or Tantra. Some are favoured only by the Koreans and Chinese. Some by Spanish .There are German-Austrian lanes.And US lanes. Cabaret shows are on in rooftop restaurants. Travel and Adventure shops abound promising to solve all Travel problems and make your trip "Easy and Funny". We have some 'vegetable Plow' at a local Bhancha Ghar ( Nepalese kitchen ) and head back. 
The chowkidar hands back the room keys alongwith a respectful ( touching the right hand wrist with the left hand) offering of fresh peaches from the tree at the entrance . In the afternoon I had exclaimed at the overloaded plum and peach trees near the entrance .The plums are still not "Ramro" ( good for eating ) he explains apologetically .

 I am totally floored . 
I have a snack of the freshest juiciest incredibly sweet-sour peaches.Next morning the entire neighbourhood is alive with a-doodling cocks jealously guarding their hens .The eggs are a rich brown here with firm yolks.And rearing hens is a popular pastime for every householder. Yes, Kathmandu is so many pastoral dreams well concealed in the urban decay.

I can deal with whatever this city has to offer me.Beyond the green Bamboo walls of the garden at Yellow House , a tree full of promise - of unripe sweet limes nods - in time everything will turn perfect.


And the yellow House is a perfect Refuge .




I head for an early morning visit to the Pashupati Nath temple : the holiest of Hindu shrines in Nepal.

Contd.

01 June 2014

How I was bitten by Anemia .

Recently I was at an office farewell party and in a group of ladies the talk turned towards quinoa and oats : and my normal loquacious self (on these topics at least ) turned tongue tied .
I felt like such an impostor. A card carrying anemia and fatigue aficionado talking on nutrition ? Ha-ha ! :
What if I tell them that I have anemia?  
 I have got serious anemia . Pretty serious.Its not something I am proud of. 
For a health blogger who presumably knows her iron deficiency from her insulin resistance or thyroid : this is pretty ironic !
Right ?
But all this regret  and self-criticism while being my companions,do nothing to make this thing go away .Living inside this messy state and owning ,examining and healing it ONE DAY AT A TIME is the only way out.
Throughout April I had been  feeling overwhelmingly tired after my workouts- recovering later ,trudging by, instead of being asswhupping .I ascribed it first to new workout regimen (Dan John's 40 day programme); then to stress, then to ageing. I conjectured about possible issues- thyroid, adrenal fatigue, hypoglycemia, weight gain and other complicated stuff. I no longer looked forward to anything. Everyday went from crankiness to indifference to world weariness. Possibly some of it was emotional but a day came when I could no longer ignore the waking- up- tired- and- all-I want-to-is- go- sleep- some-more thing .Where was the woman who traipsed rather than walked and loved running the dogs *before* her workouts ? And who did well on overnight recoveries and who did not ever sigh at a flight of stairs?
Tests were done and the only red mark was Hb. I was shocked because for a person who eats five to six eggs daily and lots of green veggies this is not warranted . So I wanted the doc to dig deeper.Everything Iron was again tested in detail. And the shocking truth was that whatever I was eating was not being absorbed .The habit-supposedly healthy- of sipping green teas and having post meal tea/coffee in winter, having glasses of milk /yoghurt was only blocking whatever dietary iron I was taking. Infact egg protein too is iron blocker!
Drinking post meal tea and coffee may not be a crime for everyone ; but for someone with low ferretin levels is .Infact anything with tannins or caffiene may boost your energy or may even be nutritious otherwise but for people prone to Iron deficiency they actually block the intestinal cells from absorbing iron. 
My habit of exercising hard was another minus point .If you are low in stores and doing hard exercise you are depleting your low stores even faster.How ?One,I did not have enough RBC s to ferry Oxygen to my muscles.So more fatigue , slower recovery.Two,hard training leads to quicker turnover of damaged RBCs and you need to draw upon your stores to synthesize fresh RBCs .But if your store is near empty ?
The body will slow down the metabolism and ask you to stop spending what you dont have in the bank .There are no credit cards for buying metabolism .What you earn you have :No wonder I failed to sustain an easy programme like Dan John's Forty day Strength.
 The tests revealed that not only was my haemoglobin ( the protein in the RBC that binds to Oxygen and forms our basic mitochondrial fuel ) low ; but my RBCs were small , their numbers low and their density meagre .
"It is iron that makes our blood red. Haemoglobin, the red blood pigment is a complex protein molecule and contains a central divalent iron atom. This molecule is responsible for transporting oxygen from the lungs to the cells. Haemoglobin contains about 71 percent of the iron stored in the body, 10-12 percent is bound in myoglobin (muscle protein to store oxygen); the remaining 10-15 percent is found in ferritin, a special iron storage protein. A healthy average adult carries about 3.5 to 5 grams of iron in them. Iron, however, does not just form blood – another 180 (!) body functions require iron, for example, hormone production in the glands, or the production of energy in the cells."
Our body is like one thrifty housewife .It responds to any shortage of metabolic currency (and iron is an important one) with hard-nosed budgeting and urgent scaling down of operations.The bone marrow factory is required to make 150 billion RBCs  in a day and when the basic component iron is in short supply it starts making fewer , bigger, mis-shaped ones ( all of which are indicated by low RBC count and low MCV,MCH on my complete blood count test.
The body will do what it must for survival : it ensures the transport of oxygen with the remaining iron for as long as possible.But it will not tolerate any profligacy in spending those limited stores by doing lifting , sprinting or interval training .
 It announces its depleting iron store with a whole array of symptoms: constant tiredness, general decline in physical and mental performance; forgetfulness; difficulty concentrating; anxiety; inner disquiet; loss of appetite; stomach-bowel trouble; shortness of breath;  dizzy spells;  dwindling muscle strength; shortness of breath during exertion; dizziness; fainting; irritability; forgetfulness and sleep disorders. Chronic fatigue or Restless Legs syndrome (restless, twitching legs) and fibromyalgia can also be attributed to a lack of iron. 
 A lack of iron can lead to depression or disturbed sleep through reduced hormone production.Or as in my case,sleep without rejuvenation.Too little iron can cause exhaustion or difficulty concentrating as a consequence of reduced energy production in the cells.
The thing is we all feel tired and overwhelmed at times and it is very easy for us to ascribe it to the external stuff - the heat , the madness of city life , the office -rather than something compromised inside our bodies.And without routine blood tests we never realize how low our levels are until the indirect symptoms cause direct health problems like convulsions, fevers , fainting and so on .No I did not have any of those .Only terrible tiredness and an uncharacteristic unwillingness to do physical stuff. With a grand total of 11 as my serum iron and 4 as ferretin I am pretty close to physiological apocalypse even though I did not fall head down that cliff! (rolled gradually and uncomprehendingly) .
My takeaway is :
Ladies please pay attention to not just low Hb but also low or borderline  ferretin levels .Especially if you are the sporty active kind of woman .Of course also if you have heavy periods or are pregnant.Low ferretin is a kind of sub-clinical anemia and any swing in diet , stress levels, gut issues can swing you over the cliff . And that is a nasty fall .Ask me .

20 April 2014

The Magic Of Play :

Mid-day in Rishikesh :having crossed the creaking Ram Jhoola over-run with two-wheelers, cows ,monkeys and pedestrians , I wended down towards the inviting green waters. The round rocks strewn on the white sands of the Ganga made a perfect perch and I gratefully dipped my feet into the chilled green waters.
Only a few foolish tourists like us were around at this hour. There was a lone firang Yogi doing some sort of fusion tai-chi cum yoga on a tilting rock in the middle of the waters. He seemed delighted at having camera wielding audience and made his movements elaborate and theatrical for our Nikons . It was a time for peace and siestas otherwise .


 Soon a scrawny calf ambled down to the river followed by a panting white bitch .As we are a family of animal Magnets, both decided to check us out for a pat and eats : The dip-drink- pat routine done ,we saw that by a secret morse code that only animals have, they had  hailed a coterie of like minded dogs.Scrawny ones , brawny ones and majestic ones . And all of them wanted a good soak , some love and lots of play ! No matter the blazing sands : they had company, they had a loving audience and they had the great River to chill in !
How they sprinted and chased each other on the near empty beach! -having rough and ready conversations; taking turns to be the predator and the prey : white sand flying all around:


They splashed full speed into and out of the water .Crouching low to stalk , jumping  and pouncing ! They bowed, they spinned . They flipped on the sand and they made elaborate biting shows ! I just can not explain what complete joy those ten odd minutes were .




We humans often get caught in the business of being grown up and forget , or willfully omit play and clowning from our lives .When we play, we do so for complicated competitive and egoistical reasons. But watching Dogs play always puts me in touch with the core principle of play : Pleasure : Ecstasy of moving in creaturely ways and forgetting all but that moment :
That's why I keep  a folder called Blues on my PC . Besides having funny , quirky quotes and pictures it contains an overwhelming number of video-links of dogs playing and clowning around , sent to me by other dog lovers in a google group or shared by friends. None of them has ever failed in making me smile .Of course doing the actual rough and tumble with a bunch of dogs cures me of all shadows of blues :D
Do you know that people and dogs are species that continue to play in adulthood ? Though this playfulness is apparently purposeless , it helps them form  bonds, be cooperative and find pleasure ?One sign of  ageing in man and dog is a reluctance to indulge in play. Lemme go out and find Leo : my play date :)

05 April 2014

Adi Goes For Nature Walk.


 Aditya flung the Nintendo across the room , wailed and waited for his mother's reaction.
NOoooooooooo !
The cry sliced the walls, spilled on to the verandah, rolled down the lawn and bounced right up to the trembling wooden gate. The menagerie of dogs at the gate cocked their ears worriedly and whined.
What a masterpiece it was ! Already Mom's urgent footsteps and anxious face told him he was on the right track.
He most certainly did not want to be dragged to a nature walk on the very Sunday morning when the Grand two hour show of Terminators season 2 was to be aired ! Not to forget that he had stayed up late last night to watch Delhi team win the IPL league match. Only silly birds and moms got up at 7 am- on a holiday .
Adi knew that Moms were often unreasonable about waking up and walking or both. But he knew how to handle that. A little distraction ,some shock techniques and you could easily make them drop their crazy proposals. 
However, today ,the problem was not her : it was her visiting younger brother who was a footloose photographer and had landed up in Delhi after 10 years of roaming obscure places on the globe .This strange,bald, bearded, smiling mamajee of his- came in ,picked up the nintendo , and happily chucked it in the dustbin, disregarding the horrified look on Adi's face .
Aditya you are a smart young boy : Nintendos deserve to be destroyed : lets get going son : I've got an orange backpack for you and a lovely notebook too , to scribble your thoughts.
Aditya felt panicky . Dad ,his permanent ally in TV watching and staying in bed till late was also out of town : who would help him out of this jam ?
Mamajee can we do a deal ?If I do not go today, you can take me out for nature walk for double the time tomorrow ?I haveto-haveto watch Terminators today .
To his delight, mamajee nodded readily :poor man had no idea that Dad will be in tomorrow and then nothing could come between them and the teevee .
Whatever you say young man :BUT FIRST:you haveto-haveto give me a 200 words on Season Two Terminator :
WHAT ?? Now ? Adi HATED writing even more than he hated reading .I don't - I cant do write ups :
Then you have to come son :that is my side of the deal !
And that was how a very sullen Adi got dragged to the Yamuna Biodiversity Park and did Nature Walk : whatever that meant:
Poor him : walking along the dirty mud path with straw fields on one side and a thin streak of river on the other. Buffaloes sitting in filth and mud.He refused to look at anything .Till suddenly something darted across the path .He jumped and shrieked :Ewwww : mamjee there is some strange animal here .A mongoose : mamajee smiled .Maybe he is chasing a snake ! You better look around sharp and keep close. Tell me if you see anything .
Aditya was wondering what was there to be seen in this place when overhead a swarm of expanding -contracting ; chittering- quivering birds glided and settled down on a bare branched tree.
He was transfixed : what noise they made ! They sang and squeaked and their calls grew frenzied. An angry crow flew in and scolded them and they went quiet for a moment. The image of Mrs Battu - the junior school principal flashed across Adi's mind and he smiled.  
A moment latter their song resumed at the same mad -glad ,breakneck- boisterous pace.
Mama jee  they are having a party !  Is it Jazz or Rave ?
Mamajee laughed : these guys  are Rosy Pastors - on their way back to Europe. They come to feast and fatten up in India before they breed .They relish the fat green semal pods , figs and mulberries just like you love potato chips and kurkure .And as they feast, they love to sing and scold.A shikra glided in - on one of the branches and the whole swarm lifted in synchronized flight as one being; settling now on the red berried tree : the Ficus - as mamajee informed him.
         Mamajee handed him the binoculars and Adi *Actually* saw a black and white pastor plucking a goolar berry ,holding it in his beak and gobbling it ! His  friend ;came and pecked at him angrily for having eaten it (just like Aurav his BFF ! snatching his Lays ! :))
This is soo Perfect! Adi  thought. This is Discovery channel live !
As he warmed up, mamajee took him right up to the sandy banks to wade into moss green waters and let the weeds touch his ankles . 
He forgot about the time of his TV show or when it ended .He was so enthralled by the yellow throated sunbirds building their raggedy nests while dancing and singing .And the shrieking lapwings who were taking  a walk among the reeds with their scrawny offspring in tow.
They laughed at the innumerable and unremarkable yellow beaked babbling satbhai busy washing themselves in the dust.They were not glitzy but  they had enough attitude and belligerence to hold your attention !
And there were hordes of shellducks and combducks on water .Blue Jays and kingfishers ! And everyone was busy feeding, flying, squawking and squabbling.
Seeing them eating , he felt very hungry and hot.And there was not even an icecream wallah here. Mamajee hailed a boatman and they took a  thrilling fifteen minute ride to the fields across the river where melons and cucumbers could be had right off the branches (or creepers) .He had never seen a melon field before ! And had never tasted such refreshing sweetness before!
As he asked the farm hand to slice up more for him , the old man smiled indulgently and said :puttar ,*geeliyan ret te meeethe khet *
"Son, wet sands mean sweet fields". Adi  nodded sagely and repeated the words to himself.
The old farm-hand Nawabdin sat them on a charpoy  and asked Adi if he would like to have tea or lassi. Adi felt very grown up and asked for tea : and he got it : sweet and strong .They chatted :the old man talked of the river of his youth which was three times wide and did not smell of pesticides.And how all the sands were full of nesting birds and there were no Housing Societies or landfills. How in his opinion the mangoes had lost their sweetness even as they grew big sizewise. He introduced them to his two buffaloes : Bhainsi and Budhia and his cantankerous hens who rushed at them, full of offended clucks.This is because they have laid eggs - Nawab whispered to Adi. Softly , he guided them towards the barn - where the secret stash of hen eggs was visible concealed in straw tokris .
Adi was thrilled to bits. Nawab gifted Adi two eggs and a shock of sleek russet- red feathers from the country hens.
They bought a lot of melons cucumbers and fresh vegetables to make mom smile.Adi  was about to stuff his orange backpack with the veggies when he saw a barebacked boy his age staring.I also go to school , he said proudly : third class .Adi smiled .The boy shyly gave him some lovely pearly shells collected from the river. Adi gave him his bayblade that he always carried in his pocket and his new scribble pad .
They said goodbyes and got on the boat for their journey back. 
This post is for  the Indiblogger Nature's Friends Contest.

02 February 2014

Memoir Writing Workshop by Cheryl Strayed .

courtsey : Literature Studio 
 I had come across Cheryl on the web especially on Rumpus as the most Radical of all Agony Aunts:  but never known the full force of her writing .
I believe in the Theory Of Attraction .
That people who come in your life in a way that resonates or Events that touch you do so for a reason.That they are feeding a thirst or a hunger ; filling a void inside you; showing a light to your darkness.
Why did I call  Sangeeta Khanna that evening ?Why my ears perked at the words writing workshop and how I managed to squeeze my way in at the last minute in the already full session ? I needed someone to light my way and there she was :
 Before I did this workshop , had only a vague idea about how a Memoir was different from an Autobiography .Its not just that Autobiographies are written by famous people and memoirs by ordinary folks.
A memoir is  a slice of life story made meaningful when you see it through the prism of time and experience .Its not just a chronology of events and dates and public minutiae of a life, but a narrative of emotional consequences of events  and spiritual and mental growth that happened as a result .Thus the Personal becomes the story of the Universal as coping with darkness and pain, surmounting odds and getting over irreparable loss is the struggle of every human being. Of course to focus the lens on your own failings and the painful route to growth requires rare courage and commitment to honesty. So writing Memoirs is as foolhardy and as liberating as riding a motorbike to the highest peaks .
Cheryl wrote her memoir "Wild"- the story of a 100 day hike along the Pacific Coast Trail after her mom who was her anchor ,died of Cancer.In her grief she felt unable to cope , let her marriage dissolve ,saw her step father become  a stranger and her siblings get scattered.And in this Great Alone she thought that she might as well go in the wilderness to find herself. Its not just an account of a journey but an account of a Transformation.
And now this fearless pioneer woman was right in front of me at the American Centre to talk about stuff that she loved !Cheryl was not some intellectual Giant sitting with the shiny Writer Hat on her head .She was as real as the ever compassionate , close confidante Sugar in her best loved Agony Aunt avatar.
She posed some difficult and searching questions before us : and asked her to delve into our consciousness to write the answers on the sheets before us .
We could share what we had written if we wanted to .And when we did she would exclaim or  laugh or feel with us .That was the unique beauty and love that she infused in the session.
The whole two hour plus session : the way she elicited responses by nudging and persuading us to inhabit our pasts was a unique experience .And also emotionally draining.
The biggest Take Home message was  : take everything that life has given you : when you embrace it and make it your own it turns into a Beautiful Thing ,a thing that nurtures you .
Literature Studio and American Centre deserve a Big Round of Applause for making this happen and we are thirsty for more. 

06 December 2013

In Defence Of Farooq Abdullah .


Finally in Mr Farooq Abdullah we have a spokesperson for all the Misandry that the Indian Men are subject to . But in face of feminist fire even he was forced to take cover. This is Not Right. Time and again the Mainstream Media portrays Men as misguided morons,speaking with their foot in the mouth,potential Rapists and assaulters.We must Speak Up Against this.
 Day after day the feminist brigade spews unmitigated verbal violence, hatred and sheer vituperative anger at every innocent male pursuit ( from ball scratching to lip smacking, to boob gazing, to urinating in public). 
And now every raving outburst of a female brain will be taken as truth by the Law ?This is Awful .Worst . Horrible .Where is Democracy ? Where are Men's Rights? Who will speak up for the persistently persecuted, petrified Indian Man ?
As if it was not enough that Men were being smooth talked into wearing pink attires on football field and cricket grounds; hoodwinked into changing diapers and cooking dinner , now our most basic needs are being snatched away ?
Where are we to go if we can not scratch balls, sing hindi songs like *gandi baat* while gazing peacefully at boobs around us ? How can we dare to open our mouths in Feminine presence if Bollywoods Catch Lines are taken away from us ?
We have to stand up and fight against this Misandry.
The Right To Perpetrate was ours but that rug has been snuck from below our feet and we are now being perpetrated upon by evil Matriarchal forces .Will the next generation of men grow up without knowing what it is to throw pickup lines at random girls in the bus or what it is to harass / trouble/do lafda with a woman in a gay and carefree , filmi hero ishtyle without any negative  consequences ? The Sheer Horror Of It !!
The Female Prejudice, the double standard ( they like it all, but they say they don't)  thats pervading the society like some sickness must be stopped at all costs. We must fight on .We must huddle together and constitute Rapist Support Forums and Eve teasers guide to staying safe from Rabid Feminists.
We are being systematically deprived of all power influence and even our Voices. We will not stay Silent .
STAND UP MEN.SPEAK UP. The Nation is All Ears.

23 November 2013

Reporting Lift Rape is Good ; Preventing it even better.

A fifty year old well placed , well spoken man, drunk on media clout and political muscle , thinks nothing of forcing himself  on a woman old enough to be his daughter, his junior colleague; who is not only his daughter's friend but also his friend's daughter !
He makes creative excuses,then denies then says it was banter and contorts into his kacche ka nada so much that the whole world watches in repulsed,ridicule and amazement.His staunch supporters Vinod Mehta ,Khushwant Singh and Javed Akhtar rise up for him but only get reviled for their questionable efforts .
There is no reaction but Outrage to this one.But apart from raving  and ranting and wondering why no FIR was filed and so on ,I was wondering what if the girl had given a knee to Groin the very first time when she was cornered in the lift and pawed at by Mr Tejpal ? Or a Palm to Nose ? What if she was full of Anger from Hell rather than fear ?
Because the world thrives on tamasha and in India, politics gets into everything,none of which helps in redressing an assault to the dignity of a woman.Hence all the more  important to prevent it .And white collar wolves whose groins get out of control with aid of drinks or when defying gravity (lifts) will get the message with ringing clarity with a swiftly applied knee-to-groin.
 The problems of Intimidations Attacks Molestations stem from a power gap and a Strength gap.Doers do these things as they have the confidence to get away .Because they have got away in the past. The Institutions always try to brush stuff under the carpet and unless the protest is ringing and clear ( which in this case is) the matter rests.
And demanding decisive action rather than apology if  an assault does happen really seals the deal in your favour .

Lure of Low Carb and other tadkas ; when will they not work ?


A sizzling, fragrant Tadka happens when whole spices hit hot oil. Put the same mix in cold oil and there is zero response.
That oil is your metabolism. The spices are your strategies: lifting, running, meditating, eating well, sleeping well, fasting . 
When the metabolism is geared just right , throw in exercise and good eating it will sizzle like Sheila's jawaani. There will be strength, weight loss and rude good health. It will neither burn you out nor sink in without  a trace.
If you are stuck at a plateau, if you have no desire to work out or if a workout feels like a punishment , if you do not sleep well  the answer lies in getting that oil at the right temperature .Not in looking for more spices.
And getting the oil at right temperature involves lot of gentle movement, less sitting, regular hours of sleep and waking, sunshine exposure and whole balanced, Real foods, at regular intervals even if the quantity seems shocking to you.
I watch with dreadful fascination when instead of thinking of ways to get the oil temperature right , women seek new and more tortured ways to find the perfect spice.We had gone to the trade fair the other day and there were amazing supplements for attaining a lean and disease free physique. Propolis, pollen ,organic honey, royal jelly ,glucosamine etc etc.But would all these help if movement ,sleep,sunshine and Real Foods are neglected ?
Beyond the few listed above , there aren't any foundational spices !
And anything else will work only and to the extent when these work !
But Metabolism is not as attractive or in the face as a lean body so it is seldom pursued  with the same zeal . Nobody says : I am so proud that the last whole week I slept a deep refreshing 9 hours straight and had a hearty breakfast before going for a long amble in the sunshine.I feel ready to lift a 100 kgs now. I did not lose any weight ,yes , but I feel like I am reborn . 
What we do is pursue the outer heedless of the long term cost to the inner. How ? 
  • By eating less and less calories. This,when you are at a relatively normal weight, will make the oil go colder and colder .
  • By eating little or no carbs.This is another way of eating less calories.Dont . Do . It .For.Long. This also suppresses conversion of T4 into T3.This is Bad News. Especially if you are a woman .You likely are already on a hormonal roller-coaster.Making crash landings will not be pleasant.
  • More especially if you are in/approaching premenopause - times of inbuilt thyroid stress.
  • I know low Carb worked for X, Y and Z or even you at some point of the journey.
  • Mostly this was when you/they were folks with lots of weight to lose, with poor eating habit and poor insulin sensitivity.A period of carb restriction works wonders at that stage by helping them to achieve balance and repair their eating habits.
  • But the same thing may not give a roaring success for  relatively healthy older women who want to get leaner while increasing their strength and capability and feel good inside out.
Believe me the slow road is more recuperative and takes you towards your goal while keeping it simple and fun.The most important thing about Nutrition is knowing about all the crap in the food supply and keeping it to a minimum.Caring about food quality obsessively.Eating and savouring food without minding about quantities.And to do that ; working up an appetite with consistent and pleasurable activity.

Tortuous Path to Straight Punch .


 Before I took up Krav Maga ,  I never thought that a straight punch could be so complicated and technique intensive.
I am always doing something or the other wrong.Specifically :
  1. I lock my shoulders.
  2. I do not reach out at the target but step closer .This is =MAJOR SIN. You are NEVER EVER to step closer to the opponent but reach out with you arms .
  3. I punch only with my shoulders and keep forgetting to throw the whole body weight behind the punch. Which robs the punch of all punch.
  4. I land the punch wrong . On my finger nubs at times which is SHAMEFUL even for a newbie (which I am not).But mostly I land them on WRONG KNUCKLES .Instead of first three (Bigger) I land on the last three (smaller) which is a stupid injury causing mistake.
  5. My wrist goes down.
  6. I take my elbows behind the shoulders.
  7. I forget to keep the guard up.
  8. My Footwork is wrong .
  9. My Punch falls below shoulder height.
  10. I do not pullback fast enough.
PHEW: I wonder if at all I can ever get all this right .So here is a list of pre-punch drill I must memorize and chant .
A Haiku or Mantra if you will :
Elbows in front of shoulders ; Guard Up
Keeping feet behind a metaphorical line
Reach out : Feel the Inner Arm Stretch.
Follow the damn knuckles .
Force will come when all else is in line.
And I will pray .

09 November 2013

Yes Health IS about Size : But Health is also not about Size.


I do not seem to have very much to say these days : I have grown mellower and less opinionated over time . But the issue of seeing exercise/food as a *shrinking*  enterprise is something that I still feel vocal about .
I keep telling  women that while it is not wrong to have an Aesthetic goal, it is often possible to choose a wrong goal when Aesthetics are the chief motivation . An ideal shape , as projected by models/actresses who dominate our visual and mental space is not attainable by many women who have a different Body Frame/ Body type. Not unless they choose to trash their metabolisms and insult their physiologies.So we must choose our goals with a lot of respect and compassion towards ourselves.
When I tell them not to try extreme diets and endless exercising to get fashionably thin, I frequently find this question thrown back at me : Why Workout then ? Why Eat Clean then ? Why are you trying to confuse people ? What are you trying to say ? Are you trying to defend being fat ? Are you saying this because you are not the perfect size ?
At the outset let me say : YES ! I am a Big woman .And I am also rather fit in the sense that I can out cardio and out lift many young bucks of either gender in the Krav Maga class I frequent.So I will of course defend my size .More so, for I know that shrinking always makes me weaker rather than stronger .And that the strongest women in martial arts are not the Ectos but the Mesos and Endos.
Note that I am NOT saying  that *all thin girls are on the brink of bodily disaster *, or even that *all non-thin women are paragons of fitness and good health*. I grant that there maybe women like Lakshmi Menon or Padma Lakshmi who are  members of that smallish Ectomorphic frame who have far lower than average BMIs  and can eat pretty much anything, maybe do some cardio or Zumba occasionally and still look like swimsuit models. And there may be a lot of complacent aunties around you who may take pride in their elephantine proportions while tucking in Oreos and pastries.This kind I call unhealth at any size.
However, there is the fact that while somehow we have come to identify tiny waists , tiny busts and slim. thigh gapped legs and slim boyish hips as indicators of physical superiority,this ideal is a Wrong Goal for a majority of Adult women. Also for a majority of overweight women who got into fitness to get fitter/thinner.Please keep in mind that many women who are fashionably thin may have traded heavily to get taht way.They may have deprived their systems of important nutrients to get so slender. They may have taken harmful drugs or undergone surgery to create a façade that nature never intended. Or they may have been extensively Airbrushed. 
So while Thin maybe healthy for the naturally thin : It may also be decidedly unhealthy for many who aspire to thinness . 
Being healthy means eating right and exercising regularly. If you’re a size 14 who does her cardio/weights 4 days a week and steers clear of junk food, you may be way healthier than a size 0 who never has to lift a finger to maintain her figure.
  1.  As someone who exercises and eats well you will be able to bounce back faster from injury or illness
  2. Will experience fewer problems as you age.
  3. May sail through major life events /changes smoothly (Menopause, Retirement ,Empty nest).
  4.  May live longer. 
Even if you are exactly the size and shape you want to be, don’t think for a minute that you should stop working out or getting your daily protein fruit and veggie fix. Your body needs movement , fresh air, sunshine and good food no matter what .
Yes , Health IS about size and being in shape : If you are too big or too small, you are putting yourself at risk.
But health is also NOT about size. Thin and healthy are not synonyms, and the most important thing you can do for your body is to care for it properly. Just because you’ve gained 5 kgs doesn’t mean you’ve suddenly become unhealthy – and it CERTAINLY doesn’t mean that you’re bad, that you’ve failed, or that people love you any less. And just because you’ve lost 5 kgs doesn’t mean you’re done.
I know it is far easier to say this than to believe this  and I am myself not immune from a groan of dismay when I see the weighing scale creeping towards right . But I am equally mystified by its arbitrary movements to the left when I have been actually carbing up or missing workouts.I guess, an honest ,self-care based Lifestyle is the Biggest favour we can do to ourselves, whatever be our size or shape.
Yes I agree size and shape debates are soo very silly. And we need to get above them .
Then there comes someone who breaks my heart with tales of being bullied in school because they were plump.Or that they got into fitness to get glamorous.Or someone who is starving to get thin. 
So there maybe some Right Thinking on this tired topic, still left to do; I believe. Trust me, if you keep Self Care and Regular Movement as a permanent Agenda Item ,you will place less trust in the scale and more trust in your Body.And will be actually be able to say Boo to anyone who tries to belittle your size or shape .

10 September 2013

Memoirs on De-stressing Belonging and Tribing.


In my growing up years ,in the seventies, nobody pursued fitness or followed Diets.Diet was a fancy word I learnt while furtively skimming through women's magazines borrowed from newly married neighbourhood ladies.I am sure that not one of them followed any of those .
I remember distinctly, that while the solitary TV programme on Dhirendra Brahamachari and his Yoga was watched, no one really felt compelled to try any of that.The only exercise ladies did involved wearing white PT shoes and engaging in long Gossip sessions while leisurely sailing around the neighbourhood. The men played tennis or badminton .Mostly doubles, unless they were very young and energetic.These long leisurely matches that lasted the long summer evenings or lazy wintry afternoons were more for passing time : drinking nimbu pani  and doing bromance rather than exercising or fitness. 
When I was in class X th I read an American book on joys of jogging or some such .And I would get up every morning while it was still dark and jog the campus. This made all the aunts and uncles quite aghast.Because this was only somethings rangroots ( as fresh recruits to the lower police services, were called) ; had to do . Likewise my Jane Fondaesque bouncing contortions caused a lot of amusement  and ribbing .
Yet by and large, the uncles and aunties in my growing up landscape were not plump and were more or less in good health.They had no clue about diet or fitness regimes but had one key ingredient in plenty. The knew by heart the gentle Art of De-stressing  and bonding with the community. And they had better lifestyles by necessity .
Our fathers  often went to office on cycles ,even after scooters had come on scene. Because petrol was expensive and the shaan ki sawaari on scooter was mostly a weekly affair ,when the whole family clambered on and went to someone's house or the market. Everybody did stuff ( from watching movies ,going for walks or picnics or even visiting a sick colleague) in annoyingly large walking groups .This was in part necessitated by limited number of personal transport and in part by absence of any competing individualistic pursuits like TV ,computer or cell phones .People ,neighbours et al were close enough to rib and rag anyone who was putting on weight. A remonstration to the plumper one, to do two more rounds or else be cut off from the chola-bhatura or mango-milk party invitation list was extended as a routine courtesy.And yes , even if you did get the chola- bhatura invite : everything was home-made; not catered ( hence laborious ).Every invite required a counter invite of  chokha-litti or idly -dosa or jhunka -bhakar invite . So you never really got a carte blanche to hog without putting in some hard work .Winters meant at least one round of *Making Gajar ka halwa on the wood fire* with 5 kgs of Raw Milk .Bansi the milk man would favour us with the best quality creamy buffalo milk ( w/o water :) ) in return of a portion. The gajar had to be uprooted by hand ,washed ,scrubbed,grated , neighbours would also donate extra gajar and it would be a grand memorable day of fun and feasting and lots of exercise too inadvertently.there was a lot of hand work always as Divya shares here.
That playfulness,sense of belonging and spirit of fun is something that should is missing in our dalliances with healthy stuff these days.
Where I train in Krav Maga , the brutal 3 minute rounds of all out hits become do-able only because a lot of good-natured ribbing and jousting and egging is going on all the time .We need people to mirror our loves,to speak our tongue, to point a gentle finger and to give pat on the back ,even when we are doing what we really believe in and what we love.It is a pack thing .We absorb and feed on the energy we get from the pack !
Everything is doable and everywhere is reachable with  a shared smile !  Fitness fun and friends work great together !

18 August 2013

Making Thandai : the Indian Protein Shake .

If you exercise intensely you must eat well .
Doodh -Badaam have been traditionally renowned as the ideal Khuraak for wrestlers , who consume upto one kilo of badaam in a day.
While none of us live to exercise that intensely ,we can benefit from incorporating this refreshing and lip-smacking drink in our daily regime.it is great breakfast or snack for kids too.

Basic Badaam Thandai :

Step 1: Assemble Ingredients  (for two glasses):
  • Badaam - 50 gulbandi badaam, peeled after overnight soaking ( which have a high fat content compared to American giri)
  • Peppercorns : four- five
  • Green Cradamom : three-four 

Step 2 :Dump in the dry grinder , whiz with small amounts of water till fine buttery paste forms.


Step 3 : Add this nut and spice paste to two glasses of full fat milk in the blender and whiz again. Sugar/stevia to taste.
I often make the thandai paste for two days at a time and store in refrigerator.It is a lip smacking power-up drink : post workout or as breakfast in a glass.It can be added to your regular protein smoothie too and makes it even more yummy.

31 July 2013

Are you Romancing Lower Back Pain ?


I have not met anyone in their 30's or 40's who has not had at least a brief flirtation with LBP. Most have full blown ,on -again,off-again affairs infact. 
Lower Back Pain (LBP) is like a High Maintenance mistress. The attractions it promises : of endless sitting ,surfing , moving without engaging or not moving at all are seductive.The toll of falling for her is never fully paid . Yet, we keep going back to her doorstep .For we do not unlearn our habits. Not easily .So let us find out how this Disastrous Relationship develops:
 Take a close look at the Long-suffering ,self sacrificing Back , LBP's  unglamorous sibling. The Back thinks that her silent love will make us stand up and take notice . She does all the work ,even that which is not hers and lets us take the credit . Common boasts like "Had  marathon meetings lasting six hours.Two days in a row ! Could not even get up for loo. But I will not miss the weekend Tennis date with you."  are thrown around.We send a frenzy of messages on our cells hunching over the touchscreens while we do the one hour commute.
 We know that we can manage as long as Back allows ; and the Back allows an unfortunate lot for a long time ! The motto of the back - is Main hoon Na (MHN).Mostly because she is always there,in line of fire-   
  • Glutes in a permanent Rigor Mortis of flexion from deathless hours of sitting ? Never mind you go and play tennis .Main hoon na !
  • Upper Back slouched and unable to do a single push-up ? You go and lug grocery,laundry and a couple of kids.Main hoon na !
  • Paunch sagging,TVS(transverse abdominus) straining outwards instead of hugging the spine ? Koi baat nahin .Carry on buddy : Main hoon na !
  • Hips flattened to oblivion,Pelvis tilted and unable to stay straight and support the spine ? Do the Bench press and Bicep style Body building : I will manage ! mujh pe chod do.MHN !
  • Hammies hiding,quads quivering , knees rusty ? Carry on with the Zumba and Hip -hop .You Rock ! The Back always manages- Main hoon Na !
So no wonder we learn to milk our Back to the last drop  and treat her like a doormat . The MHN Back continues to carry on bravely on her suicidal path ,till the hurt of  not being loved back starts showing.Not that it makes us notice anything.Because , after all ,we are strong and amazonic Cowgirls or studly Cowboys .We take pride in the physical feats we do *despite* our *Bad* Backs. Soon we twinge into spasms and we find ourselves pushed into the waiting and eager arms of LBP. LBP starts calling the shots and we are in her thrall! Over time, we start holding our Backs in a resentful contempt : the temperamental bipolar character , around whom one must walk on eggshells.Maybe rest, maybe medication,maybe Yoga,maybe Pilates : a hundred prescriptions are thrown around to get the Back Back .And because we do not know what else to do, we continue sleeping with LBP.
We do not know how we ended with LBP . But actually we should .Because  a lifetime of taking the Back for-granted is by default a lifetime of courting and making passes at LBP.The question now is are there any chances of redeeming yourself  ( and the  audibly suffering Back) by undoing all the wrongs .Or will you take the  fait accompli road and settle down for good with LBP ?
In case you really want out , what Amends can you make ?
I have written on the specific exercises ; on core strengthening and glute activation  .But I think irrational fear of strength training and Resistance to positive Change is the biggest obstacle.So now I will say only this :
Restoring a Relationship needs loving and enlightened effort .A few grand gestures like a abhayangam massage or chropracter session are great . But consistent love triumphs.Saying stuff like : I only do Yoga or planks and Strength Training is a no-no, does not help in restoring complete confidence in your troubled relationship with the Back.
When something is broken ,you have to look at both immediate and long term rehab.
Yoga /pilates /or any exercise that helps you stretch and stabilize the affected part help immediately. But if you never venture beyond them ,you  are holding back from progress.Progress means getting every damned muscle around and adjacent to the vertebrae wake up from their sedentary slumber and chip in full throttle.
Compare two towers (spinal columns) held together : one with vertically stretched rubber bands and another with high tensile polymer . Both of them are entirely stable right now ,because they have been put through plank drills . But  when force is applied or sudden movement happens ,which will be easier to topple ? The one with tensile Strength .
Strength training is about transforming rubber bands into tensile polymers . 
  • Unless strength happens in the glutes, TVA ,upper back ,the hundreds of small stabilizer muscles running along the vertebra ,
  • unless your Core - that juncture of pelvis,diaphragm,spine ,glutes ;  functions as a Unit -while bending ,lifting ,lunging,climbing, twisting ;
until then you and your back will never really trust each other.
And this Trust happens , not by reading more articles on how to do planks and Bird- Dogs and reminding yourself of engaging the TVA or glutes or keeping the spine neutral.Your mind can not control the muscles verbally !This happens by burning these advisories into your Muscle Memory by repeatedly doing free weight functional exercises which engage the Core against gradual resistance.
What if you start lifting and hurt yourself further ? This is a natural query.And the answer to that is Functional Strength .Start with Bodyweight only ,functional movements like the Push up ( which is nothing but a Plank that goes up and down) , try perfecting a one leg get up from a chair or a seat ( there are muscles in the bum!) , attempt a pull up .Push heavy stuff or pull it for distance .Do bodyweight squats! These movements have zero hurt potential .When you achieve a respectable status here ,you are ready for free weights. 
Its not an either/or or this-versus-that thingie really.Its about progressing from *managing* to  *being functional*  to becoming optimal. 

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