Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Eating plants does make a difference!

Vegetarians and vegans have always taken a lot of flak with respect to their eating choices and habits. The most common question they are plaguedwith is “How do you survive on plants?”. Beyond the creative sarcastic replies and stutters wondering how to explain why they are herbivores, there is nothing much to offer. Or is there?

Here is a bit of statistics which can help plant-eaters answer the stream of questions including “How can you live without chicken? Try a leg piece”.  Avoiding the consumption of body parts of animals (whether it is because of religion, culture, or tradition or because of personal choice) ensures a more sustainable world.  It’s true, and there are statistics to prove it! – around a fifth of the GHG emissions globally result from animal products and livestock business (FAO). Also, consumption of meat leads to emission of 100 years of CO2 equivalent (this figure is still under debate). This is because of multiple reasons, including land use, fertiliser use, feed production, and other such activities. So, before we frame elaborate strategies for sustainable industry and energy options, it is probably time to advocate veganism and vegetarianism, because these emissions are more than that of industry and energy combined together!

The logic behind this is simple: reproduction. People reproduce. So animals are forced reproduce, because people need food to survive and the food is - animals. No harm in reproducing, people, but we have no right to force animals to do so. Fat juicy animals (infused with hormones and chemicals) are gassy, and their farts and manure used for their feeds produce a lot of poisonous emissions. According to a report of the Cornell University, maintaining and producing livestock is so expensive in all ways that a lacto-vegetarian (or even better, a vegan diet) saves money, time, and even the environment. Reflecting on the impact of the livestock business, we find that we literally raise to kill!
So think twice before asking the following questions when you meet a vegan or a vegetarian:

1)      But plants are living things, too! When you eat them, why can’t you eat animals, too?


Well, plants do not have the sensory system to detect pain even if they are living beings. At least they don’t suffer and bleed when we pluck them to eat!

2) You don’t know what you’re missing!

Great, but we like living in the mystery of the unknown.


3)      So, how do you survive when you’re outside India? On salads?


Oh, we are so grateful that you are so concerned about our survival all of a sudden. We have full access to a wide range of sumptuous dishes. There are raw vegans, too who improvise a lot and come up with wonderful recipes and are perfectly happy! In fact, we not only survive but also make way for the survival of future generations by doing our bit – having sustainable eating habits.

All that said and done, I am a vegetarian. But my friend, Shasvathi Siva, has gone a step further and turned vegan, and is also making a difference in the vegan food market by introducing her own brand of cheese, butter and milks which are cruelty free. She runs this business out of Mumbai, and her venture is called “Cowvathi”. She also has a very supportive family which helped her pursue her dreams in a country like India, where ghee, milk and curd are staples.


Find the link to her blog here. And you can order (only Mumbaikars for now, but I am sure she will expand her business) your vegan dairy products here.

Let's do our bit, people!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Hrudhaiy.

A totally whimsical poem written in all of 10 minutes!

The first signs started showing,
and I already knew where this was going.
When the indicator lit up rapidly,
with a long pink line all the way up to the "T,

I knew this was the best thing ever 
that had happened in my life; to hold in my heart forever.
Ten months seemed too long a time
to wait to hold you, cradle you and call you mine.

When you finally entered the world, crying,
I laughed out loud, after all the praying.
Seeing your face, I forgot all else
as tears from my eyes rolled out and fell.

Your heartbeat was my sustenance during labour,
the knowledge of the fact that you were in no danger; 
for my water had broken three days before you were ready to fly
and that is why I named you so, my little Hrudhaiy.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Drumroll, followed by depression?

Depression is becoming an increasingly prevalent condition, given the race for jobs, breaking relationships and rocketing levels of stress. In most cases, depression goes undiagnosed, and in some, there is not enough money for treating it clinically. According to the National Mental Health Survey 2015-16, this condition is most prevalent in urban metro areas and amongst widowed/separated women.

The most glaring numbers constitute the percentage of widowed/separated women who are under depression. 1 out of 20 of these women are victims, which obviously results from sudden death of spouse or abandonment, since an expected death or divorce has very less chances of leading to a depression. According to Census 2011, the number of divorced women in India is around 9,10,000. Of this, 5.2% or at least 47,202 women are under depression. The NMHS also states that 1% of the women are under the risk of suicide, which means that at least 9,100 women face this trauma at some point in their lives.

Considering the above numbers, at least around 56,000 women in India require treatment for depression resulting from divorce. The NMHS reveals that the cost of treatment for depression per individual is at least Rs. 1250 for one month, and it needs to be treated over a minimum period of 6 months. Therefore, the cost of treating depression per woman is around Rs. 7,500. The average annual Indian per capita income is Rs. 74,290; in which case, 10% of the annual income would go towards treatment. In several cases, such women might not be earning members and there might be only one breadwinner in a family of at least three members. How affordable is treatment in this case?
The government provides for abandoned women through a fund under the National Social Assistance Scheme. However, the accessibility of these funds is a million dollar question, since most women don’t have the resources or energy to prove the abandonment in courts. This raises a significant doubt – on whether courts are the supreme judges when it comes to a problem between a husband and a wife. How can an institution determine the truth of what has transpired between a couple inside a house? Or inside a bedroom? Circumstantial evidence might as well be reactive evidence, and there is no way to prove any provocation or action behind such a reaction. What, then, is the point of putting both parties through the trauma of contesting a case, the process of which itself is stress-inducing? None whatsoever.


Probably the best way to deal with such cases of abandonment and divorce is mediation outside the court atmosphere with the presence of both parties and an unbiased counsellor, with family members if required. There is a fair distribution of institutions which offer social work as a course for students, and the cream among these students could be well-employed through providing such services. Until reconciliation or amicable parting of ways, such repeated counselling sessions could save thousands of women from depression, and could also divert them into more lucrative areas such as taking up a job or setting up a business. Cost of treatment is one of the major reasons for not taking it up, and such counselling could well be the path towards preventing or at least mitigating long term effects of depression on women, and even suicides.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Labour.

A number of people have shared a variety of experiences with me about their delivery and the process of labour. The truth is that how many ever experiences we hear out, each labour is unique, special, and shakes every mother up like nothing else does. Every record of delivery is hazy and vague, because it is true that the pain is a blur, especially after the child is born. In reality, the postnatal period is more challenging, nerve wracking, tiring, sleep deprived, but beautiful. Beautiful as the baby grows. More beautiful as we learn the significance of every move of the baby. Every pain, small or big, seems to fade as we look at the tiny round face. One thing is for sure - no lady will go through this for anyone else other than her child. By the time every mother crosses 40 days after delivery in one shape, she is ready to even go through one more round of delivery. 

Having said that, I personally feel that the baby puts in more effort and goes through much more, right from conception up until he/she is ready to face the world. Right from adjusting in the tiny space inside the womb, putting effort to come out through a tiny hole, trying to adjust to a different temperature, atmosphere and environment as soon as he/she is born, learning to suck, learning to cry, learning to play, learning to see, learning to hear, learning to smell, learning to pee, adjusting to the people around him/her, getting over the shock of bathing for the first time....I can keep going. The message here is that the baby goes through as much as, or probably more than the mother. However, I don't remember that process, and neither can I ask my baby about it because he probably won't remember it either. Digressing a little, how wonderful would it be if adults could forget things as easily as babies!

Anyway - In this article, I give a note of my experience as a mother who underwent labour. This will contain the raw, plain details of what actually the mother goes through. 

My experience was slightly different. During the ante-natal period, I hardly vomited, went through rounds of hyperacidity, and started having mild contractions since two months before delivery. I slept like a log every day, hardly helped out at home and went around like a zombie in a sleepy state. Ten days before I delivered, the contractions started getting more sharp and frequent, and I became a short-tempered shrew. I started snapping at everyone within speaking range and only my mother could manage the mood swings resulting from undergoing the pain and hormonal change. 3 days before delivery, my water broke. We rushed to the hospital. After a vaginal examination, the duty doctor declared that this was only a case of liquid discharge due to a probable small tear near the top of the uterus. I was scared, but took the risk of coming back home. I went back the very next day for a consultation, and the doctor with whom I was consulting (Dr. Uma Ram) checked me. During the course of a day's gap, I had actually lost some amniotic fluid. She asked me to get admitted immediately, and told me that she would induce labour. The process started on Thursday night. The first time labour was induced, I started getting contractions - but they subsided after a while. On Friday, a second attempt was made, and this pattern repeated. My hope started wavering, but Dr. Uma Ram examined my fluid levels once more, and they had miraculously increased, allowing for pain induction for the third time. The resulting contractions seemed strong, but irregular. "You aren't getting enough pain", said the nurses, whereas I felt like a truck was rolling over me again and again. Finally, on Saturday morning, Dr. Uma Ram unleashed the final attempt at induction. Meanwhile, the loss of fluid was happening intermittently. I swallowed my fear about the welfare of the baby without enough fluid, and the nurses also helped by checking my baby's hearbeat from time to time - this was literally the only thing making me hold up. My mother stood next to me like a rock, and looking at her face, I saw how much it cost her to see her daughter go through so much pain. Seeing that, I decided that I would not make a single sound, and carried of labour without shouting even once. I resorted to taking deep breaths as suggested by the doctors, and found to my amazement that it helps to no end. I had also attended pregnancy yoga classes, which helped me relax. Thanks to my instructor, Mrs. Lakshmi, for helping me out. 

On Saturday, once I was shifted to the labour room, I made my mother do what very few mothers could have done. She watched the entire process of delivery, and it is no mean feat. She was focused entirely on my delivery, and gave me the best moral and physical support that anyone can get. My sister (studying in the UK), who was facing her most important exams at that time, swallowed all her worry and tension about my delivery to offer words of encouragement alone, and compromised on the moral support from my mother at this important juncture. The last leg of pain induction began at 6.30 am on Saturday morning, and the effect was instantaneous. The pain was blinding and unbearable - as if a thousand hands were forcibly contracting my back, abdomen and legs. But I was still not dilating enough. My contractions were still being labelled "mild", at least according to the machine which was monitoring them. Amidst all this, the induction had started affecting my baby's heartbeat. It was withdrawn and replaced again, and in this gap, I placed all my trust on the doctors and my positive thinking even though this news made me extremely anxious. By the end of mid morning, all doctors had started giving up hope about normal delivery and were contemplating a C-section. But I refused to give up. It went on like this, when Dr. Uma Ram walked in and said that the pain was unique to every mother and that I should alert them immediately if I felt that the contractions were unbearable. I told her that I would wait for some more time, and by this time, over those two days, I was sick of the necessary but uncomfortable intrusions which were the vaginal examinations - they happened over ten times. I knew that these were necessary for a normal delivery, but they were difficult! The last but one examination revealed a huge difference - I had dilated 3 cm! By this time, I had asked for an epidural to manage the pain. My mother watched every single thing without batting an eyelid, but I recognised how difficult it was for her. At 3 pm, the last examination happened. The doctor told me something that excited me to no end - that she could see the baby's hair!

The next hour was a blur. I was taught how to push, and Dr. Uma walked in with a victorious smile, because she was confident that I would achieve a normal delivery even when my hopes started sliding. My mother held my head like a baby's , while I pushed with all my effort. Dr. Uma started uttering words of encouragement, and in half an hour, my baby was out! After pulling him out, she said "It's a boy" and placed the little one on my chest. He gave a tiny cry which was the best music to my ears, and in that moment, all the happiness we had lost when my dad passed away due to a heart attack in January 2016 seemed to come back in one stroke. In that second, my baby looked exactly like my dad and the happiness and contentment on seeing this was exquisite. My sister in the UK saw him first, and he gave a little smile which made all this - delivery, labour, pain induction, water breaking, etc. etc., - all worth it.

Thank you, Seethapathy Clinic and Hospital, Unit - II. Thank you to the very able team of doctors, sisters and anaesthesists. And welcome, Hrudhaiy. I hope I can help you handle the world as it is today, because even I find that difficult. Delivery seems easier! :D

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Popular misconceptions which Tamil cinema has given us

“Kalyana Maalai” is an interesting series of debates which discusses social issues which have infested the society. This particular episode drove a clear point on why Tamil cinema has become an illusionary space. In this speech, the orator was quite indignant about repeated representations in movies that there is always a hero to the rescue to bash up villains, save the heroine, take up her goal as his own, and basically risk his life for her. This is not what happens in real life – but young, na├»ve girls with rose-tinted glasses place their trust in one of the common men they fall in love with, when only 1 in 100 of who have the kind of commitment showed in such scenes. There is no clear distinction between cinema and real life. In those times, cinema was strictly fictitious with dance, drama, historical stories, and that kind of fare. Following that, movies like Salangai Oli, Sankarabharanam and Mouna Raagam showed the harsh realities of life. But now, cinema seems to have mixed reality with fiction to deliver a product which constantly traverses boundaries just when we marvel at the truth of the scenes showed onscreen.

A link to the speech is provided here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OMmifi3c7tg&list=PLbV6OT2Vc8M7Dim2LS7ZxUtFa_QXX-ELs

This makes us wonder on the number of misconceptions which Tamil cinema has offered, and the number of minds polluted by such false beliefs. The line between childhood and adulthood seems to have blurred when it comes to visual content, and just being 18 years old doesn’t provide the licence to watch adult cinema with copious amounts of violence, sex, disturbing scenes or bloodshe-d. Cinema equally influences children and adults. All of them are exposed to a very small word within office and home. Social gatherings are either thin on the ground or under the influence of alcohol; therefore, pointers for social etiquette are picked up from this medium, since there is no real life example to emulate. Here are a few of those ideas, which the society is rapidly picking up but is showing no signs of shedding:

1)      A girl must deny being in love with a guy even though she likes him (Raja Rani)



This is a typical trait which every heroine (at least those in South Indian movies) must possess. Even though she likes the hero, she has to make him follow her around for ages before she admits to being in love with him too. (After which, of course the guy can relax and take her for granted).

2)      The heroine must fall in love with the hero (Oru Kal Oru Kannadi)


 This is borderline harassment – the hero, with no kind of background, qualification, earning, or behaviour chases the heroine until she is forced to love him through threats and humiliation. The poor girl must finally give in to save a life, leave her home and parents or convince her educated parents to accept him as her husband, and after marriage, work both at office and at home (wearing only sarees) because the hero is too busy being a man and not doing anything with his life (this was not shown in the movie but would have probably been part of the sequel).

3) The heroine keeps smiling as the hero flirts and dances with multiple girls


Be it Suriya in S3, Vijay in Bairavaa, or Prabhas in Baahubali, they are free to dance around with girls and even flirt “harmlessly” with random girls while the heroine watches on without a trace of possessiveness or jealousy. She keeps smiling and waiting for the hero to come home and show displays of affection in spite of the boiling lava pit of anger in her stomach which the hero laughs off calling her a “silly girl”.

4) The only identity of the heroine is that she is the lover (or wife) of the hero


Read “Kabaali”. The heroine is an independent woman, who abandons her family to live with Kabaali who in turn abandons her when she is pregnant (which is not justified, whatever may have been the given circumstances). The heroine in turn gives birth to a baby with a bullet inside her and survives after that to wait 25 years as a servant and helper until her husband returns. She then tells the villain that she is “Kabaali oda pondaati”(Kabaali’s wife) in the climax scene. Imagine the girl’s potential if she weren’t just someone’s wife.

5) Hero saves heroine from rape even though he doesn’t know where she is until the last minute (Pokiri)



The hero has a sixth sense or intuition which leads him to save the heroine from being raped/molested just before she turns victim. Ladies, NO ONE is going to save us in real life except half an hour of exercise everyday (so that we can run fast) and pepper spray in our bags.

6) Smile remains unfazed on hero’s face even though heroine’s father displays cold behaviour (Theri)




The heroine’s father remains mute throughout the movie, expressing no opinion on his daughter’s marriage but remaining cold towards the hero, who patiently tolerates him and keeps smiling. But that’s probably why the father didn’t appear in the movie at all even when his daughter died. Ha. Who can cold-shoulder his/her groom in South India and get away with it?


These are just a few examples. The reality of life is that none of these scenes is what happens in everyday lives. But movies play a large role in influencing people, especially youngsters, in terms of behaviour, habits and sometimes even decisions. It is probably time to start thinking about more responsible cinema, and learn from some of the more practical movies like “Papanasam”, “Pink”, and “Dangal”. It is important to educate the audience that normal people do get caught in crime rackets, girls do get objectified and molested and have nobody to help them, and that sometimes parents do impose their dreams on children because in a few cases, they know what’s best for their children. One rule cannot be applied to all. One movie doesn’t depict life.