Saturday, 18 July 2015

Raising a Toast to My Oldest Buddies

 I grew up as a 1990s kid, part of a generation that didn't have smartphones or tablets to start off their lives ---- even those grand old mobile phones with large keys & an ungainly antennae, were a few years away . But, my parents were eons ahead of their times, as they were my buddies, when the concept of 'buddy parenting' perhaps wasn't much in vogue. They didn't force me .......they enticed me into things that they wanted me to do ! That doesn't mean they granted each and every demand of mine. Dad and Mom devised novel plans to help me learn , not by strict imposition of rules , but by inculcating my lessons within things that I loved to do! And in the process, they themselves got an insight into the world ,through my perspective! 
                   I remember having an aversion towards vegetables , and Mom would have a tough time persuading me to eat a bowl of green veggies. But , she took the help of one Mr Popeye, the sailor, who derived inhuman strength after a mouthful of spinach ! Mom would sit with me for watching the cartoon show, and would always emphasise how Popeye managed to defeat the baddies by having spinach . I took to eating the despicable spinach dishes more out of curiosity than love , but even though I never developed rippling biceps even after eating lots of it, the habit stuck and Mom was successful! 
                      My first memory game experience came courtesy a Kellogg's cornflake pack , as nearly 20 years back , an Aladdin puzzle came free with the packs . Dad and mom would often sit with me , and help me in solving the game . It was quite addictive , and I had trouble solving , but Dad and mom too stuck to the task . I racked my brains hard in an effort to solve it, and I was successful after lots of effort, in the process attaining the zeal to never give up ! 
                     My school had computer classes from a very early age , and I must say that at the beginning , I wasn't too fond of the machines! But my parents told me that since they were 'technologically challenged' , they would like their 'smart' son to become their computer tutor and make them 'modern' ! I became more interested in learning the computer as I knew I had the job of teaching my parents . They took keen interest in learning the basics of Word, Excel , PowerPoint and became adept at handling PCs too ! 
                     I was very fond of cricket , so dad used my own ideas to make me sit for Mathematics! I could rattle off players' runs and averages , as I had learnt them by heart from the statistics shown on TV. Dad quoted those figures to compose sums and I took special care to solve them correctly . As Sachin Tendulkar piled on runs and Anil Kumble took loads of wickets , I could recite their figures in a series easily. Those figures became building blocks for Dad's sums and I must say , I learnt solving sums on averages and percentages from these great players' statistics only !! 
                 Dad also had this trait of asking me out for mathematical duels. He would challenge me to solve a set of sums correctly and faster than him ! As we both worked on the sums, I tried my level best to beat him . Although Dad finished earlier than me most of the time, on the days I beat him , I was elated. I now realise his 'defeats' must have been play-acting to retain my interest,lest I give up due to a train of losses , ( he possibly couldn't have lost out to me on skills). It did excite me a lot and encouraged me to practice harder. 
                 Even Mom had a similar trick up her sleeve. She would ask me to memorise a particular poem in fifteen minutes time and start the stopwatch, whilst she said she would finish off a work in the kitchen in that time. As the timer ran down , I read on vociferously, so that I could finish off before mom returned from the kitchen! 
                Mom taught me the art of recycling old items, when I tried to replicate simple science experiments at home . As I explained to her the principles behind pin-hole cameras and periscopes , she gave me the ideas as to how I could always use old shoe-boxes and discarded mirrors to construct the things ! 
                  But the biggest of influences that me and dad exerted on each other was in the field of Astronomy and Sky watching . It was one of the nights of a power cut in sultry Kolkata , some two decades back , when I accompanied Dad to the terrace for some fresh air. In the pitch darkness all around, the stars shone like jewels encrusted in the night sky . As Dad pointed his fingers to the sky and showed me the imaginary figure of the great hunter Orion , the mind of a five year old boy was enthralled. It kick-started my biggest pastime ---- as I got hooked on to astronomy big time. I would read kids' science magazines , getting astonished at the magnanimity of the universe and would excitedly tell Dad what I learnt . Even though Dad himself did not have too much idea about the cosmic world apart from the names of a few stars, he listened to me intently. He gradually developed an interest and procured a telescope . A few years later , he would join me for a year-long evening course on astronomy at our city's Planetarium ! Every Tuesday , my doctor Dad would hop in from hospital and sit for the hour long class. As I took notes, I could see him dozing off on occasions , but he vehemently denied the charges. Even though I became a doctor , my love for Astronomy never wavered. Later on , we would both join the Sky Watchers' Association in Kolkata . Irony lies in the fact that even though I myself am not able to undertake all the sky watching tours nowadays , Dad never misses out on these ,and comes back enriched with new knowledge, which he shares with me ! Talk about buddy parenting !! What started off as a carefree pointing out of celestial objects , so many years back , continues to fuel our common passion : it opened a treasure trove that remains an integral part of our son-dad chemistry ! 

Friday, 10 July 2015

Balanced Diet - with a Honey Twist

       From a very early age,Mom had instilled in me a belief that I had to eat a ' balanced diet'. As a kid,  I knew what diet meant, but could never quite understand how that can be balanced. To me, balance meant something that helped keep things in order,  without falling off!  In school sports, there was this spoon race, where everyone had to keep a marble on their spoons and I knew the ones who won the race had good balance.One could walk in a narrow line if he had good balance. So, I never could connect  'balance' and food. But mom tried to clear the confusion in my yet uncomplicated brain, by making me realise that a balanced diet indeed helped something from falling off - our good health! As we progressed in school, textbooks taught us the proportions of carbohydrates, proteins and fats that are required to make a balanced diet, but in my mind, the explanation given by mom stuck!!
          We grew up in a housing complex,  which had ample space for kids to play, and so, unlike the kids of today, who spend most of their spare time in front of the TV,  we played outdoor sports a lot. Every evening,  my garments were covered in dust and mud,  and my knees and elbows were never free of abrasions.  In spite of being engulfed in dirt,  thankfully, we never suffered from diseases too frequently and this was put down to the generous helpings of nutritious food at home. Mom never encouraged me to eat a lot of food,  she always told me to eat just enough, so that I never fall short of energy.  So,  while fried food and rolls were almost alien items at our household,  grams,  honey,  ground nut,  green vegetables, and fish featured daily in the diet. We learnt to replenish our electrolyte stores from a very early age, as we made our own lemon-salt-water concoction after coming up from the playground!! We had fun calculating our own BMI, and felt happy that it always stayed within the normal limits. There never was the advantage of a customised Honey Diet programme like now ,where you just key in the parameters and get the BMI as well a diet chart , ......we learnt things from Mom and textbooks only!
          But there was another side to the spectrum as well.  As studies increased disproportionately to our age,  and playing time got reduced,  some of my friends got plump day by day.  Before the exams, they would vouch that once the exams ended, they would get back in shape,  but it was immensely difficult. The fast food frenzy before attending tuitions made it all the more difficult.  Crash dieting was a concept I came to learn much later, from girls in school , who tried to attain size zero imitating movie stars. I was incredulous on coming to know that they were nearly starving themselves.  The plan didn't quite work out,  for the loss of weight didn't come easy: it also took away the natural lustre of the skin. From that we got to know,that thriving simply on curds and one or two fruits is not enough to sustain a human being. True to its name , crash dieting indeed does one thing to a human body: it crash lands the whole metabolism processes going on within and confuses the various hormones & enzymes at work!  It will definitely put a strain on the fuel stores,  as our body needs all the different food particles to keep up its functions!
      Even now , when somebody stays of food for prolonged periods, I try to discourage them from doing so. I know that small but frequent meals are the order of the day to help the body digest and absorb food better, while staying hungry for hours, and then gorging on a large quantity of food does nothing to decrease the bulging tummy . On the contrary, the body will attempt to store more fuel , anticipating a subsequent period of starving, and in the process, increase the abdominal girth even more!!
      So, here's wishing that every young Indian like me embraces a balanced diet and abolishes crash dieting forever !!