Posted in Economic

Title Deeds In Bold Fonts

NRIs who own estates/homes in foreign countries may know what it is to hold crisp, concise documentation for your investments. No encumbrance ever. Clear title deeds. Neat presentation. Slim portfolio. Sits snug in your briefcase. I did expect this to be the case of papers filed for properties bought and sold in the US, Canada, Australia and Europe. In the case of Asia, I expected such a neat work from the Asian tigers and Korea and Japan. But I happened to chance upon a title deed held by a Filipino in Middle east sometime, that was so concise, fitting perfectly in an elegant file folder. It was easy to handle and refer to. It didn’t seem to run to hundreds of pages. Computer fonts advertised that every single detail held electronic data proof. Ever since I have been wondering, where in India we went wrong. Like in India the filipinos do have language issues with a hundred dialects spoken from island to island in their scattered archipelago nation. But their government seems to have unanimously chosen the English language for official communication. When I looked at their impeccable presentation, I was reminded of the pages and pages of soiled title deeds punctured with staples and holed for tying with thick legal ropes, covered with smudged seals from indelible rubber stamps with no space to spare. Indian title deeds to properties are a riot of colours. Hardly there remains a margin for any notation or observation or comment. We register deeds invariably in local (state) languages and rarely is a documentation done in universally understood English. Which means, the mother or parent documents in a title deed may make no sense to someone from Delhi buying a flat in Chennai for instance. Stamp papers are the way we Indians pay court fees for registration of properties. The top one fourth of every document sheet is therefore reserved for the stamp value affixation. Small mercies: we switched over to A4 size finally with the turn of the century. You just can’t fit the old sepia-tinted papers of another age and time, neatly into a present day folder designed for the A4 culture. To me the documentation in foreign countries underscored the discipline that you found in these places that is lacking in India. Just like us Indians, our title deeds are chaotic and messy making no sense to third parties. There may not be relevance, but documents must be legible and comprehensible to whoever. I guess the title deeds you may find in other parts of the world may be decipherable to a great degree unlike our complicated Indian title deeds that come as a loose bunch mostly: of tattered papers with ends frayed and haphazardly tied up, ink or print blotched. Things are changing in India as well but India being India, do we even have an idea on ‘standardization’ ?! Years before, there was not even the need for the seller to present himself/herself to the registrar when someone sold/bought a property. We have come a long way since then. Now apart from solid admissible ID proof and third party witnesses, there are conscious efforts to adhere to legal parlance in entire documentation leaving no grounds for ambiguity. Loopholes are plugged in documentation process at every stage as much as possible. While bribes have not been completely abolished from registrar offices, there is the saving grace that the data are saved by the government and a lot of the registration process is well streamlined. The statistics garnered must help in future planning. Lot less hassles compared to what it used to be just a decade ago. So can we at all have a neat and presentable documentation of our title deeds?

There are a couple of interesting discrepancies or differences between how we Indians document and register our title deeds and how the rest of the world may be going about it.

Unlike some newborn nations, India has the longest history and living memory which adds to our backlog of attached documents. This is called the chain of title deeds that cannot be broken. We have reams of papers connecting the dots! Government mooted development projects or settlements are not as common in India as in the newly formed republics. In the latter’s case, there is very short history to be recorded formally which means least documentation.

Well for one thing, India seems to be one or one of the rarest nations on earth to have nonjudicial stamp papers for registration. Look at others. They are way too simple. That header is a huge space consumer for us. The stamp duty is calculated at about 7% of guided value of property in question approximately. Further registration charges apply. To that effect, the stamp papers are made in India wherein the title deed may be executed in front of the concerned registrar. This is the legacy from the British Raj understandably. But is it not time we do away with this cumbersome practice. Why cannot the stamp duties and registration charges levied be printed in the annexure to the documents. Or perhaps in the place of the wide header, a small and simple square stamp will do. When did world nations grow out of the stamp paper practice that India is still keeping up.

India has adopted a whole range of economic reforms in last few years. One more in the mode of documentation of our title deeds is the need of the hour. Sleek title deeds crystal clear and to the point can be possible. If I were the prime minister, I would constitute a legal panel to look into this matter. Simplification of procedures and uniformity of terms and conditions and styles of registration are a must. As nothing in India is standardized from our garment sizes to school bus colours, we are at a fix when it comes to grave issues like title deed uniformity and standardization. How would you go about the chain of links or the history of documentation.

The watermark authentication seal must be the only way a title deed can be verified. This will leave room for observations and foot notes if any, at the time of registration. The deeds in any case must not run over a couple of pages. We are not writing volumes here.

Postal addresses in India need to be contracted and regularized as having a distinguishable PINcode has hardly helped matters. Along with postcode, the residential/commercial addresses must not run over four lines. This is how addresses are printed in America.

Paying detailed attention to every entry in the title deed and rectifications and regularizations can make way for sleekest and slimmest document folders in future.

World is growing out of physical monetary system, physical ID proofs, physical certifications etc., and even physical board meetings, as we slowly transcend to the digital age. Soft copies cannot summarily replace hard copies and the original title deed documentation is one such an area where transit from physical form to digital can be slowest and unreliable. May be in future, there is the possibility when we can entirely shift to electronic documentation. One of the hurdles that prevents such a total transformation is the age old parent documents that have to exist to maintain the chain link and authenticity of title deeds. The clue lies in how we process these old papers and bring in a revolution in the documentation process. Is Pradhan Mantri ji listening. Have you given a thought to this ji. Further, will this be foolproof. Can the digital title deed lead to scams and forgeries. Or is this the way forward.

Just a thought. With this I set the ball rolling. Why not. When Aadhar is here, PAN is here, Rupay is here, PayTm is here, Smart family card is here, Smart driving licence is here, when futures trading can be done from the cool comforts of your home, when there is the cryptocurrency, why should not be there an electronic title deed at all. How do we assemble the jigsaw puzzle.

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I am limiting the scope of this post to mere appearance and/or shape and physical volume of title deeds with no input for substance.

Posted in Political

India can do without those damaging loose cannon shots

When our Indian politicians and bureaucrats decide to shoot their big mouths off target, nobody can shut their nonsense and filth up. So damaging were the recent off-the-mark remarks that have sparked a fury in the Middle-east undermining India-GCC bonhomie that took years or perhaps decades to foster. So much so that our late external minister Smt. Sushma Swaraj could quote from Sanskrit at the OPEC meet where Pakistan was kept at bay. Foundation stone for Hindu temples in the Emirates were laid by ruling Arabs. Just imagine the clout India has been enjoying in the epicenter of Islamic fraternity. Millions of Indian citizens are gainfully employed in the gulf nations repatriating valuable foreign exchange over years. Indians own business enterprises, Indians run hospitals to supermarkets. Indians are successful entrepreneurs. Indians are doctors and engineers to shopkeepers and teachers. Indians are SAP professionals. Indians are bankers. Indian community is far better placed among the whole lot of expats – some 100+ nationalities, who constitute the workforce in various capacities in GCC countries. Indians enjoy unparalleled prestige and respect in the Arab world that took years and Himalayan efforts to earn. And a majority of Indians making a living in Islamic nations are HINDUS. India’s traumatic history has left some scars no doubt but we are now invested in mutually beneficial economic and productive activities in the Middle East, that has offset many a bad memory kept alive only thanks to our textbooks. In today’s context especially when world economy is sluggish and employers are cutting corners giving pink slip to long serving staff without batting their eyelids, GCC nations are doing a great job employing not just Indians but blue and white collar workers of every race, hue and faith without a discrimination.

We expat Indian Hindus feel safest and securest living in Arab countries over living in crime-ridden India. We are respected, treated fair and well provided with. We enjoy world class medical and other amenities for FREE. The Arab governments take good care of us. For most of us NRIs, it is the inevitability of returning to India for good someday that seems like a nightmare.

Exactly what is the contribution to Indian economy from the Silicon valley NRIs in the US. From the Patels of hotel chains. It is always the expats employed in Arab countries who fill India’s coffers with foreign currencies and gold bullion. It is the NRIs from middle east who drive the stock markets and real estates up with their substantial investments. Who is buying the gold bonds, debentures, retirement plans and insurances the way the expats from gulf nations do. Suppose the NRIs in the gulf nations are to be displaced, can India find suitable placement for every single one of them returning home. Its not just economics, employment in gulf also guarantees India longtime peace and spares India from civil-war like grave economic situations. The harsh truth is that, the core industry of India still cannot absorb the quantum of fresh graduates Indian universities are churning out year after year. Where will all these young men and women fit in. Partly Indian government’s headache finds a panacea in job markets open for Indian citizens in gulf countries. Unlike the US, UK, Australia and Canada who want only the creamiest Indians leading to braindrain in India, the gulf countries provide scope of better and fruitful engagement for our middle level grads and even factory and site workers. To absorb and train a healthy chunk of the core industry workers produced by India is the greatest service the GCC countries render to India. Once upon a time, it were the Keralites who comprised the maximum percentage of Indian expat community in the gulf countries. Now, there is representation from every corner of India in gulf nations. Representation found a new meaning, I mused, when I struck up a conversation with Bhutan women in a shopping mall in Qatar. There are the blue collar workers employed as site workers, chauffeurs, cooks, shop assistants, nursing staff etc., who may be otherwise jobless in India plunging the nation into misery and chaos.

Will Nupur Sharma or whichever loudmouth find jobs for millions of Indians gainfully employed in GCC countries, in India. What is the need to upset the applecart? Highly irresponsible. Years of diplomacy and political correctness and goodwill have finally come to a naught thanks to such an insensitive ignoramus. The cost of this hostility will be borne by the labour class and working class Indians working in GCC countries. Every single loose canon shot by careless Indian politicians damages the political goodwill hard-earned by the Indian diaspora over years. It only takes a moment of sheer callousness and thoughtlessness to destroy such a precious relationship that India has been traditionally enjoying with Arab countries. Our media guys are bastards. Jealous outright. They would rather see the NRIs suffer because these guys are now sweating it out in our tv studios. They will do anything to inflict damages. Then there are the TRP ratings for sensationalizing non-issues. India never took sides when the GCC countries were divided over Qatar. Top brass in India as well as GCC nations are aware of the significance of the strong ties enjoyed by both sides. It is time for Modi government to shut some loudmouths tight. India has been a great ally to Arab countries walking the tightrope, never missing a foot. Hopefully this matter dies quietly the soonest. India can do without these debilitating controversies. This is no good.

Is this a local Indian issue: May be. Media still has to play a responsible role. Sometimes the architects of riots are none but the Indian media. The ones who must be booked are the anchors who did the lead and the producers behind the stories.

Posted in Food For Soul

The Dharmic Money

Okay there are so many many inspirational, motivational quotes flooding our social media timelines. Here is something on what I may term ‘the Dharmic money.’

What is Dharmic money. Are you a believer in Sattva, Rajas, Tamas and Rakshasa gunas that have something to do with the food we eat. If so, you gotto believe in Dharmic earnings and spendings as well. Dharmic earnings are hard earned money for which we work. Which means nothing comes free to us. Suppose we hold title to movable and immovable assets passed on to us by our ancestors who had had earned dharmic incomes building their wealth, then what they bequeathed to us is also dharmic that we can enjoy without a guilt. This kind of income benefits everyone, the benefactor (our forefathers), the beneficiary (ourselves) by way of good Karma. In turn those who we spend our money on, such as teachers, physicians, artisans, tradesmen, bankers, performers, servants etc share the dharmic quality of our white money. What we pay them for their goods and services will be wholly absorbed by the community with full benefits. This is the power of EARNED INCOME OR DHARMIC EARNINGS/MONEY. DHARMIC MONEY IS THE PRIDE OF THE INDIVIDUAL, PRIDE OF A NATION. A sense of satisfaction prevails with all concerned parties. The recipients of dharmic money register a gradual growth in their economic status and start/keep flourishing. Mostly the middle class families have dharmic incomes with nothing to hide by way of tax evasion or ill gotten wealth. The booming middle classes lower, middle and upper support a whole range of services and professions and arts and crafts with their hard earned money. Industries are sustained by this honest income, taxed and transparent. India’s economic engines run on this CLEAN WHITE DHARMIC EARNINGS AND SPENDINGS. Trades and businesses prosper with the infusion of this dharmic money. From fruit and flower seller to sole proprietors, dharmic money reaches many levels. Even showrooms and hotel chains and cinemas and auto manufacturers do well when dharmic earnings are expended on entertainment sector. This is because the dharmic money has the nature of the sattva guna. It is generally harmless and productive.

On the other hand may be the UNEARNED INCOMES, ILL GOTTEN WEALTH that are also spent lavishly on vanity but never on philanthropy generously. Taxes evaded, accounts and figures fudged, there is nothing dharmic about this other kind of money that can buy anyone fake friends and relationships. Wherever this money is spent, adharma rears its ugly head. The adharmic money is like the rakshasa guna. The character of the unearned corrupt incomes manifests in its every spending. This is why for instance, pictures financed by mafias bomb at the box office. Big businesses floated with pomp run aground. Most adharmic funds expended as investment projects do not bring about a big positive changes. Typically the adharmic money is not only unaccounted black money, but it also goes into shady businesses such as breweries, drugs, weapons etc., for instance. The adharmic money helps in buying out law enforcement, justice system everything. Money power also translates into muscle power. The adharmic incomes never stick to us. This is why when we lose something valuable and gain it back we say, hard earned money can never go waste but will get back to us.

Typical loss of Adharmic money/earnings can be witnessed even today in fallen kingdoms such as the Afghan, etc. Like individuals, nations have Karma.

The adharmic money we earn or the adharmic money we are paid with for our goods and services may be meeting our hospital bills who knows. Or take the form of stock market crash depleting our holdings. In short losses we suffer in life are those gains we make with adharmic incomes with or without our knowledge.

The dharmic-adharmic money is never discussed in public forums. It is not the subject matter for speakers on podiums. It is not for those who sell their soul for a share in the unearned income pie. Only the middle class with their hard earned money have the conscience to openly claim their sources of incomes and list their honest spendings.

Dharmic money is sattva. Adharmic money is rakshasa. The sattva money recipients prosper in the long run with the goodwill that is associated with the dharmic money. The rakshasa guna of the adharmic money will seed greed and sin in their recipients and precipitate adharma. The adharmic money is spent mostly on tax evasive channels. The routing of the unearned incomes also remains mystery. Unexplained incomes, unaccountable incomes always give this moneyed circle a wrong sense of entitlement. The adharmic moneyed classes run a parallel black economy harming the nation. Unearned incomes easily take the form of bribes. The adharmic money earned is exactly the plundered or looted share of public wealth from the masses without a shame. The adharmic money spenders/inheritors are none but freeloaders. Unlawfully amassed real estate bank to unearned commissions and agencies and licences, the adharmic money deprives the general janata a decent and comfortable living and just and equitable opportunities. Adharmic money inheritors/spenders prosper parasitically at the cost of public welfare. To sum up, adharmic money is bad Karma.

So, like the food we eat, the incomes we earn also have a quality about them. Finally they come to define who we are and our lives.

Posted in Political, Women & Family

Pro Choice Vs Pro Life.

Pro Choice Vs. Pro Life, an Indian perspective

The raging debate in the US right now is on women’s rights on abortion. Its a very sensitive issue there where teenage pregnancies are not rare. And equally common are broken families, adoption, foster homes. The legislation expected could have political, social, economic ramifications. I never expected any nation to be so much alive and politically-socially conscious as the US, although I have been increasingly aware how mature and literate the American population generally is. And I am also surprised how the country is divided on opinion. Well balanced. I guess America has come of age. I respect the way they dissect a bill before it becomes a legal statute. The pro-life – pro-choice arguments are heated, and for reasons justifiable. How the population engages in healthy discussions and present counter arguments is interesting. There are campaigns, rallies educating masses and gathering support. Before the motion is brought to the floor of the house, the finer aspects are contemplated and analyzed logically in great detail leaving no room for misgivings. Witnessing the democratic way the entire construct is executed building momentum showed me how every voter’s or citizen’s right counts in democracy. I wish India is as mature, and not just the world’s largest democracy. We have to move things from grassroots level and our masses need to be well informed and opinionated. In coming months we shall come to know what will be the law of the land, but as of now the pros and cons are doing the rounds in the States.

I may be an outsider, but my family is American so it concerns me as much. I was not vocal on the matter during my recent visit to the US because, women there are extremely sensitive when it comes to women’s rights and issues especially when it comes to something as personal as women’s body. Precisely this is why I am Pro-Choice.

a question of quality vs quantity. don’t our unborn children have a right to dignity. https://vijiravindran.com/2019/03/30/when-law-needs-to-take-a-walk-medical-termination-of-pregnancy-after-20-weeks/

As a grandmother, as a mother, there is a lot I have seen in my life than the younger women of today who are raising banners for Pro-Life. They in all probability have no clue what they are talking about. How many of these women in twenties or thirties or still in teens will have the patience or mental strength to raise a spastic child or a Down’s syndrome baby whose birth could have been prevented. Leave alone the medical bills to foot. India has such Draconian laws that do not allow women to go in for Medical Termination of Pregnancy (MTP) when the foetus is twenty weeks. I have known a case when the ultrasound scan and other medical test reports showed anomalies in the second semester when the pregnant mother was forced to carry on with her term against her wishes, expecting the birth of an abnormal child. The couple have been raising a boy physically and mentally handicapped since his birth and now he is eight years strapped to his baby cot, fed through tubes. How many women who shout slogans arguing for pro-life will have the devotion, courage, financial backbone and/or strong heart and mind to go through what these young parents are undergoing. Their happy life as they knew it long since vanished with one scan report years back. A simple MTP could have done everyone good. Only, the detection came a couple of weeks later. Laws that are outdated need repealing. In this scenario, I do wonder how mature societies like the US can actually go on and frame constricting laws that can do more damage than bring in welfare to the society.

The religious perspective adds fuel to the fire as we can see. The Catholic church is not for termination of pregnancies.

What about teen pregnancies. Illegal pregnancies appear to be rampant in the US in underage women which can be constituted as ‘rape’ (as in any other country). How can any legal statute try to legitimize the birth of a baby born out of such unholy nexus. How can any law enforcement agency reserve the right to deny these victims their fundamental right to abort what they do not want or deserve. How many babies are abandoned in the trash can every year? How many end up in foster care? Is this what the state wants for our unfortunate unborn children and their poor unlucky mothers.

It is not just the US, it is high time even India revisits the law governing MTPs. If abortions cannot happen for valid medical reasons on completion of twenty weeks of pregnancy, then the screenings for anomalies at any stage is pointless. Quality of life is worth considering than quantity of life. These were media reports stating that government was considering allowing legal abortions until 24 weeks although there is no update on the issue. There is always misuse in some quarters but this is a small collateral considering the larger benefit on anvil. Govt of India can weigh allowing MTP upto 24 weeks consulting a medical bench when the mother’s life may not be endangered. Asking for sex of the foetus is illegal in India punishable with a sentence. This is to prevent gender-based crimes in the garb of MTPs. It seems to be serving the purpose.

Posted in Lateral Thinking

Greyrocking The Gaslighting.

The Stonewalling Tactic

Gaslighting is emotional abuse when you are constantly put down and made to believe you are worth just that, below what you are really as a person, as an individual. This is underplaying your credibility, undervaluing you, undoing you. Gaslighting has the potential to scar you and leave you with permanent marks: if you allow it. Greyrocking is an effective method to deal with gaslighting. To whichever good samaritan who underscored this immense strength we are capable of, I would remain forever grateful. This way you stop yourself from responding to provoking situations that try to negate your character. Some of us may find ourselves gaslighted even by family members. There are two ways we can get back at those who try to undermine us and pin the blame on to us: by knee jerk reactions typical to some of the sensitive among us, and/or going quiet. The second option is not easy for empaths who are known for their outspokenness. You go verbal that comes to you naturally. You lay your cards open. Pretty transparent. The manipulators and narcissists’ best kept secret is keeping mum which helps them control situations. This kind keep their cards close to their chest never revealing what they have to play. It is up to the empaths to develop this kind of silent arsenal that can take on the gaslighters. The terms are new to me but I am increasingly identifying circumstances in my society where these neatly fit. Greyrocking is a slow working tool which can imply that you couldn’t care less. But it is bound to leave an impact in the long.

Posted in Food Porn

Not Everyone’s Cup of Tea But Someone’s Shot of Double Espresso!

To those of us bred on steaming hot south Indian filter coffee, even Starbucks sucks. Cannot palate their latte. The turmeric latte, the pumpkin spice (cold), chai latte, mocha everything is bland to us. (I have been to Starbucks in the US but never in India. Its Coffee Day for us in Chennai). But I found a scintillating coffee in a truck shop when we drove down the Rainiers: it was hot Hazelnut coffee at its best. Of course we can never have anything filter coffee-hot other than in Tamil Nadu, still this by far is the best given the chilly mountain air (and as Seattle is the Swiss of the States). I have tried hazelnut coffee brewed with the Middle east/Arab coffee. Arabs always have either cardamom or hazelnut in their coffee. So I take care not to buy either by mistake because it makes for lousy Indian filter coffee. Flavoured, but strange. Somehow I guess the mix is not perfect. But then theirs (Arabs) is just coffee, black coffee or karak coffee (like the karak chai they have) not milky like our Indian filter coffee. (By the way the word ‘chai’ from India is now international. it means kind of tea latte). Arab coffee in general I love, that I brew at home in Doha and buy for family back in Chennai. Its not Indian by origin, meaning it is not from Coorg or anywhere in India. Its mostly from Lebanon or Turkey. I alternate Arab coffee with coffee from Marks & Spencer that sell best grade 5 (darkest, strongest) Peruvian/Brazilian/Columbian. All these brews are minus chicory – a point to note. I never add chicory to my coffee like fellow Madarasis which means, I have to scoop more coffee for thick decoction. I brew my coffee decoction the traditional south Indian way (meaning no electric coffee maker but copper or stainless steel manual filter coffee maker which takes time to brew). Cannot do without my first cup of filter coffee in the morning. Its my fuel. So I end up spending more on coffee than others as I brew the purest coffee/coffee blend without additives to acquire the desired consistency and strength. During my Malaysian residence over exactly a quarter century before, weak Indonesian coffee was also something I got used to – having no alternative. It would be mild and did its job, no complaints. In Bali, got to taste the best varieties of coffee a couple of years back but then again, it was all so much Indian-like except perhaps for Kopi Luwak! And nooo! I did not sample it! In India i go for a brew of Plantation A and Pea Berry mixed in ratio 1:1. I see to that the coffee beans are roasted in my presence and packed. Coffee has to be that fresh for me, yet from experience I know, Indian coffee is so-so, passable, but has super rivals. So, my vote is for Arab coffee any day. It has a curious tangy twist (like some metalic twinge!) unlike Indian coffee – or may be familiarity breeds contempt for Indian coffee in my case! Arab coffee is an acquired taste and once you develop it, very difficult to dislodge! In the US, of course, I try the Brazilian-Columbian that is staple kind of. Recently was introduced to Mercury that is chain in Washington State and Virginia. Macadamia nut Mocha without cream was recommended to me by family. Had it hot hot! Omg, by far the best coffee I have had in my life I guess! Just wanna go back for my second mug! For all coffee lovers like me, I recommend the greatest coffee variant to my knowledge, the macadamia nut mocha without cream, which I am sure is not yet at Starbucks. My limited foreign travels have allowed me to sample coffee from different parts of the world. I do love the chocolate creamy, frothy, cold coffee etc., and the fruity flavours like strawberry and raspberry, or nutty like the soy, and even a dash of wine or whiskey with the coffee hahaha if that’s fine (!), but I do wish that it is the coffee flavour that comes out strongest and not the variations. Because if you suppress the coffee with superlatives, then what is the point in having coffee. You can as well have ice creams! Exactly this is why I just cannot get the Decaff. My personal preference is always hazelnut or vanilla and never anything over that, but my latest craze is the macadamia nut mocha not yet available in India.

Cheers!

Posted in Women & Family

Can Vitamin D be absorbed by our scalp, hairline, crown?

I have always had this doubt regarding vitamin D which is best absorbed by human body from direct sunlight. Many of us however miss it. Even those of us who have scope for sun exposure sadly dab the SPF(Sun Protection Factor) creams of various strengths ranging from 15-20 to 60-70 (in case of those who have to be under direct sun for hours in tropical climate). Since I am a home bird, I have never had much of use for the SPF sunscreens. Also I am out of touch with the cosmetic world. I go for a few known brands whose produce are not tested on animals. Plus I am missing out the beauty routine as I am not the salon person. All these put me in fix and I have no idea on anything when it comes to grooming. My friend’s young daughter of 22 recently advised me that, even at home I need the SPF protection as I am exposed to ultraviolet rays from my desktop/laptop and mobile phones. Also I spend hours close to my window. Although there is no direct sunlight filtering in, she said I may still be exposed to the uv rays that infiltrate the atmospheres. I wondered whether vitamin D from sunlight is better and healthy choice, or the protection of our skin from ageing because of uv rays of the sun is! As I am mostly based in middle east whether temperatures can hit 50 c easily in summers, I do make it a point to apply a coat of sunscreen whenever I go out. I leave it to my exposed arms to soak in the vitamin D, saving my face and neck from the job! However, whenever I have to wear full sleeves, I rue the fact that not a square inch of my skin is open to sunlight. After all, sun light is the best and natural source of vitamin D and it comes free! I wondered whether my exposed crown and scalp can absorb the vitamin D for me! Can nails and hair that are external growth without nerve endings absorb anything at all, even something as finer as the rays of the sun? I googled for information but there is no satisfactory answer. The search results all summarize that loss of vitamin D can lead to hair fall. Anyway, this is also news to me! But my question is different. I just want to know whether my scalp, my hairline or my crown may be capable of absorbing the vitamin D from sunlight. Thanks to some indoctrination on importance of sunscreens, nowadays i am habituated to moisturizing my face and neck with at least a weak SPF cream that I never used to until a couple of years back. In cold weathers, I have no option but to wear full sleeves. I wonder whether my scalp and hairline are doing some OT (overtime) work for me in the circumstances when it comes to vitamin D absorption! Just a thought lolz. I wouldn’t really bother about a tan. Bleaching which is staple with most women where I come from, is ruled out for me as I can’t stand the whitening treatment. So I have to balance my sun exposure and vitamin D soaks. Any day vitamin D wins hands down! Still if anyone can assure me that my scalp/hairline/crown can absorb vitamin D for me, I will feel free to lavish on SPF creams. I feel guilty for dabbing a blob from a tub of sunscreen everyday now. Am I denying myself the much needed super vitamin for after all some useless vanity. Honestly I couldn’t care less! We menopausal women have much use for vitamin D as we tend to lose our capacity to make more of this vitamin resulting in the onset of Osteoporosis. Yet, given the level of air pollution in India and the heat and the dust and the high temperatures of both India and Qatar that are sunny most part of the year, I would like to have both the protection of an SPF layer as well as my quota of vitamin D from direct sun whenever and wherever possible. If only I get credible evidence that our scalp and hairline and crown soak vitamin D, it will ease my conscience and I will feel less guilty going for the SPF. Where to find the answer to my curious questions. Nobody I have asked to, has provided me with satisfying solution. Nobody simply has any idea. I do have the habit of feeling my scalp whenever I am out in the sun with a veil of sunscreen on my face. Whenever I would feel the familiar warmth of the sun in my crown, I would wonder if that’s vitamin D that is seeping in right at the moment hahaha!!! Anyone ever wracks one’s brains to think the way I do?! All said, my friends are going for an annual course of Vitamin D therapy that is recommended to me. As most of us do not absorb sufficient vitamin D from direct sun, physicians are prescribing the 7 day vitamin D intake that I am planning to commence shortly. The procedure is to be repeated every year. Hopefully that will allow me to go easy on SPF sunscreens. A friend recently felt disoriented and the diagnosis was Vitamin D insufficiency. Ever since I am taking vitamin D much more seriously. In any case I do not go for more than SPF 25 that can last me for maximum of two to four hours after which I am open to sky when outdoors. I guess this is good material for research!

Posted in Environment

Daag Achche Hai. Extinction is good!

Does a leopard change his spots? Or was it the cheetah or jaguar or tiger. Leave alone the panther and puma, they are a different cat family altogether where they belong with the lion. For that matter how many of us know the crocodile from alligator or the gharial. Whale from shark and dolphin and porpoise. Comodo dragon from the monitor lizard. Ant eater and the tapir? By the way, I never expected tapir to be sooo huge, and another surprise was that its natural habitat is Malaysia (or south east Asia). Up close with the tapir in Seattle zoo for the first time ever 😀 How different are the deer, antelope and the gazelle? Eagle, vulture, kite, buzzard, falcon? Can you tell between the turtle and the tortoise. Wolves and foxes? And oh, the (siberian) husky I believe is the closest domesticated living relative to the wolf. What about the gorilla, chimpanzee and orangutans. The monkey family trees are way too many. Similar are the rodents. Birds are myriad and the sky is the limit for the avian genre. Bewitched by the African pigeon that was fowl size! The animal world is truly fascinating. Even giraffe has okapi from the family although both have distinct identities. The zebras may somewhat come as closest second cousins but then they have the ass and the horse lineages to blame their genes on. Nature has worked wonders with living organisms creating a spectacular and divergent array of species, and some including us human sapiens may still be ‘work under progress’ really. Yeah, we may not be finished with as yet. One of the flipsides of the evolutionary process is that, as species may interbreed, mutations could pave way to infertility and bring to halt some bloodlines. Thus the mule is non reproductive, just as the tigon is. May be cloning is the way forward?

Zoos are not happy places, that much I know. Its pathetic to view a bored lioness tearing at nothing just as you gaze a dozen bored and soft listless Bengal tigers pacing up and down their airconditioned cells in Dubai dry heat for instance., where wildlife even makes for pets to the richest Arabs. The apes have nowhere to swing to. The winged beauties cannot flee their nettings. The otter has to keep swimming in loop just like the penguins within the glass aquarium. The rhino pair just have each other and the manmade pond to wallow in. Yet I know the value and importance of conservation when it comes to endangered species. Sometimes, zoological nurseries become the only way out to stop exotic species from going to extinction. Or on retrospect, are we doing it right. To borrow from the ‘Sapiens’, should we be allowing the rhinos to go extinct in the bush rather than save them to live a miserable life staring at space. What have we humans done to the poultry that progenerate many million times every single day. After visits to half a dozen zoos around the world, and coming from India, home to a stunning range of wildlife, I am for afforestation to increase green cover. A single lion or elephant in the wild in India may require a minimum living territory of 400 sq km for instance. This is not just the breathing space for a predator but also its prey zone. So when we shrink the wildlife habitat, the population count drops. The least we can do is NOT take over the elephant corridors for development and/or encroach upon our sanctuaries and wildlife reserves for industrial expansion or mining. Our green cover also serves as our country’s lungs. Shrinking the forests will directly dent the ozone layer over India depleting the oxygen in the atmosphere.

Heartening to learn of giraffe birthing healthy young calves in Mysore zoo and to watch the radio collared tiger mom in Panna with her newborn cubs on Mother’s day. While the former is an astonishing breeding in captivity, life in the wildlife reserve will be tough for the tigress and her brood. Managing the delicate balance between sustaining wildlife in their natural habitats and development and progress of human society is a Herculean task. Zoos may still be a last resort only. One of the unshakable memories for me is listening in alarm to the traffic noise outside the Mysore zoo even as I stood admiring the gait of the Bengal tiger almost six feet long restlessly growling and pacing down the enclosure.

Posted in food as therapy...

The International Vegetarian

Go Veggie Internationally!

Loving Mexican – as authentic as it can get… From the Tacos and Tamales to the Chipotle sauce… being vegetarian restricts your food choices but then Mexican has great veggie options for those like me. Fast food joints do a super service. Their tacos are even lighter and can be had on the run – so no wonder a hit with the local Americans. Exotic/ethnic cuisine gets distorted in other parts of the world as we see with even Indian curry masala. After my Pizzas and Risottos and Raviolis in Florence and Rome, never could I bring myself to touch the Spaghetti or Pasta again anywhere else. The US may not be exactly the right place to sample Mexican but this is the best that I could manage. Tamales are my No.1 and somewhat remind me of steamed south Indian rice dishes such as Uppurundai for instance, and Tacos come a close second. What makes Mexican special is that, it is a bit spicy to cater to typical Indian taste buds bred on red hot chili pepper and pickles. Neither did I find the Mexican junk. With rice and bean sauce and elaborate preparations, the cuisine can be a complete meal. A vegetarian connoisseur’s delight lies in discovering regional veggie cuisine. That way the Falafel is my hot favourite Arab signature dish with their dessert ‘Baklava’ now getting popular in India. Of course, the Sharia rice is irresistible to me, so filling and sumptuous tweaked with kismis and pistachios toasted on ghee. A curious twist of long grain rice and vermicelli, the dish is yet to hit the party circles. Egyptian Kushari is a welcome diversion as is their Babaganoush, the eggplant dish. Love equally the Lebanese veggie platter with ‘Labneh.’ Labneh or labaneh which may be the whey is my most preferred bread spread for last fifteen years. We live in the Olive-and-Date heaven so I make most of the flavour of the region. Sehlab the syrian ‘kheer’ and the Turkish ice creams remain my other top favourites. Life in Middle East is a blessing that way that I get to sample the original versions, as gulf countries teem with expats from every corner of the globe. Partial to cheese – and as much as possible I go for vegetarian cheese that is not made with rennet. We have a selection from the Mediterranean to choose from. Vegetarian from birth, I have been aware i can never get to taste most of the food spread the world has to offer and that my choices are enormously limited. But sampling the global vegetarian cuisine seems to somewhat make up for what I stand to lose on food front. Of course, of late I am loving something as staple as Mashed Potatoes and Spinach Potato patties from IKEA, so predictable and boring to most, served with Mushroom sauce. But only a vegetarian will know, what a luxury it is to find something as trivial as smoked potatoes in a world gorging on meat and fish. My exploration of vegetarian world dishes started with our time in Malaysia. The ‘Kuihs’ from ‘kumpungs’ of Malaysia, the rice dumplings steamed in Pandan leaves, were my first ever veggie foreign dish over a quarter century back nearly. Introduced to me by my Malay and Chinese friends, a wave of nostalgia washes over me as I think of kuihs and I can strangely remember the aroma of the pandan even now. May be smell travels fastest over light and sound! I was lucky to get my order of veggie Kway Teao (thick Malay noodles) done to my taste and preference in Malaysia. Come a long way since then. This as much breaks the stereotypes about nations and cultures. There is no doubt that India is the vegetarian capital of the world with infinite and unique recipes from practically every district and state of the country. A lifetime is not enough to experience and savour the phenomenon called India palate. But there is vegetarian aspect to every cultural cuisine as I have seen, that most of us Indians especially vegetarians tend to neglect. It adds a beautiful dimension to food theories. India does not monopolize vegetarian cuisine. Neither can we Indians reduce others to mere meat eating status. I have savoured Poori and Halwa, veggie Samosas and Channa-Dal in Pakistani restaurants and Bindi (okra) and Naan from Afghan. The latter to me offered the bestest bread basket ever, putting five star restaurants to shame. My favourite eating place is Chinese with its simmering Tofu on the grill with mixed vegetables and Jasmine tea. The variety of veggie cuisine the world has to offer with respect to regional and seasonal harvesting/vegetations makes for interesting menu. Survival is possible in any part of the planet provided we nurture an open mind even as a vegetarian. Help yourself to generous servings of global vegetarian. You will want to eat out of humanity’s hands.

Posted in Food For Soul

Mano Dharma.

A lot of debate on this lately. My flight pic this time was ‘Marry me’ with Jennifer Lopez. I am a huge fan of hers. Loved ‘Shall we dance’ and ‘Maid in Manhattan’ in both of which she played her romantic roles to the hilt. In the second one, she is not a glam queen crooning to hysteric crowds, so that’s kind of departure from her expected portrayals. ‘Marry me’ was typical though. A rockstar set to wed her equal, Cat instead marries someone from audience out of sheer impulse in front of hundred thousand super-excited fans. She says, one must embrace the spontaneity of the moment and that’s what she does. And this is what Mano Dharma is all about. Embracing something on intuition, with no contemplation. But is it really manodharma we have in ‘love aajkal.’ Every single move is deliberate is it not. Each and every step is considered, weighed, analysed, planned, executed to perfection. Masterminds chalk out back-to-back strategies plotting approaches, means and ends. Hacking and stacking followed by emotional abuse is the norm. And we do have the nerve to pin it all on ‘manodharma.’ Thank you, JLo, I wasn’t really looking for a glaring example to disprove facts but you helped, even if its from Hollywood studios. Some of the guys here need a lecture. Manodharma is not materialistic. Manodharma is NON MANIPULATIVE. NOT CALCULATIVE. Manodharma is freewill, Manodharma is dharmic, fair, unbiased. Manodharma is truly embracing the spontaneity of the moment, intuitive, impulsive and most of off without a logic or MOTIVE.