Saturday, October 25, 2014

Going Vegan ? Here's what to watch out for!

Switching to a completely vegetarian diet may be a good choice but there are certain things to be cautious about. This type of selective diet can lead to deficiency of a Vitamin called Vitamin B12.

Vitamin B12 is a water soluble and contains the mineral cobalt.
It is required for proper red cell formation, neurological function and DNA synthesis.

Vitamin B12 is  naturally found in animal products such as fish, eggs, meat , poultry , milk and milk products.
Vitamin B12 is generally not present in plant foods.
Certain fortified foods such as cereals are a good source of Vitamin B12.

Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA)
RDA is the average daily level of intake sufficient to meet the nutrient requirements of nearly all (97%-98%) healthy individuals.

The RDA of Vit B12 in Adults is 2.4 micrograms. The requirement may increase in pregnancy and lactation.

Signs and Symptoms of Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Vitamin B12 deficiency is characterised by anaemia, fatigue, weakness, constipation, loss of appetite and weight loss. Neurological changes such as tingling in the hands and feet, can also occur. Additional symptoms of Vitamin B12 deficiency include difficulty in maintaining balance, depression, confusion, poor memory, soreness of mouth and tongue.

Groups at risk of developing Vitamin B12 deficiency

  • Strict vegetarians, especially women who are pregnant or breastfeeding feeding.
  • Elderly people
  • People with problems with food absorption
  • Malnutrition

These signs and symptoms can be avoided if vegetarians chose products which are fortified with Vitamin B12. Fortified breakfast cereals are one of the few sources of Vitamin B12 from plants and can be used as a dietary source of Vitamin B12 for strict vegetarians.

If signs and symptoms develop, then treatment can be with Vitamin B12 injections given intramuscularly into your arm or buttocks or  by high doses of Vitamin B12 given orally.

Lord Ganesha

In India,  which is home to million of Gods and Goddesses, one of the most worshipped deities is Lord Ganesha.

Ganesha can be easily identified by the presence of an elephant head over a human body.

Ganesha is considered as the remover of obstacles, the God of wisdom, knowledge and new beginnings. He is honoured at the start of rituals and ceremonies.

A popular festival which is celebrated to honour Lord Ganesha is called Ganesh Chaturthi. This is a 10 day festival which typically falls in late August or early September. It is celebrated by bringing in clay idols of Ganesha into homes , symbolizing his arrival, followed by prayer offerings to him.  At the end of the 10 day festival the idols are immersed into water.

The story of Ganesha ' s elephant head is fascinating. As the legend goes , Lord Shiva (another one of the revered deities in India) was away from home fighting for the Gods. Meanwhile his wife, Parvati,  used her powers to create a son, Ganesha, to help protect her at home while her husband was away. One day while she was taking a bath inside the house , she ordered her son to stay at guard outside and not let anyone come in. So when Lord Shiva arrived home from battle, Little Ganesha did not permit him from  entering the house. In a fit of rage Lord Shiva slashed off his head. Parvati was inconsolable when she found out about this and to make it up to her , Lord Shiva replaced the child's head with the head of the first animal that came into his sight. The animal was an elephant and therefore Lord Ganesha, got an elephants head over his human body.

  • His broad crown is an invitation to think big.
  • The tiny eyes speak of the importance of concentration and attention to detail for success in any foray.
  • One chief form of concentration is to listen to others more, and talk less. This is symbolised by the huge elephantine ears and small mouth He sports.
  • Ganesh has only one tusk, with the other broken off. This symbolises the importance of  holding on only to the good and discarding the bad.
  • The trunk of Ganesh symbolises the importance of being efficient and adaptable in order to be successful in one's ventures. The curvature is also said to represent the rising of the kundalini (spiritual energy that is believed to be coiled serpent-like at the base of the spine) powers.
  • His large tummy points to the necessity of digesting all that life has to offer—the good, the bad, and the ugly.
  • The abhaya mudra (gesture of fearlessness) of His lower right hand symbolises Ganesh's blessings and protection on a person's journey through life, especially the spiritual one.
  • In His upper right hand, Ganesh usually holds an axe, with which He is said to cut of all attachments.
  • He pulls the devotee nearer to the spiritual path by the rope that He carries in His upper left hand.
  • He offers rewards for penances (sadhana) done with the modak (type of confection, usually made from rice flour and a stuffing of jaggery, coconut, etc.) He holds in His lower left hand.
  • The bowls and baskets of offerings at Ganesh's feet are there to symbolise that the entire world, and all its choicest pleasures, are out there for the taking.
  • Ganesh's tiny pet and vehicle, his mouse, bowing down close by, is there to indicate that though a little desire is good, it is essential for one to master it. You have to ride your desires and not vice versa.
Love these tales in Indian mythology...

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Girl interrupted

My strength has been tested
My limits have been pushed
Happiness has been elusive
Life a mystery

It's not the same
It will never will be the same
But everyday I spend wondering what if it had been the same.
Time freezes

I want to break free
From the darkness that surrounds me
The hollowness inside me
Emptiness grows

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


Driving home from office was a nightmare today! The usual 20 minute drive turned into more than an hours drive because the streets were clogged with traffic. The madness on road today was due to celebration of a popular hindu festival called Dhanteres. 

Dhanteras is the first day of the five-day Diwali Festival as celebrated in India. The word Dhan means wealth and Teras means 13th day as per Hindu calendar. It is celebrated on the thirteenth lunar day of Krishna paksha (dark fortnight) in the Hindu calendar month of Ashvin
On Dhanteras, Goddess Lakshmi is worshiped to provide prosperity and well being. On Dhanteras it is considered auspicious to buy a metal object for the household. Lord Kubera, the God of assets and wealth is also worshiped on this day. This requirement explains the traffic on the roads today as people throng markets to get a new metal utensils or gold/silver coins.
The legend
As per an ancient legend the horoscope of the 16 year old son of King Hima predicted his death by snake-bite on the fourth day of his marriage. After his marriage, the princes newly-wed wife did not allow him to sleep on the 4rth day of his marriage. She laid out all her jewellery and lots of gold and silvercoins in a heap at the entrance of the sleeping chamber and lit lamps all over the place. Then she sang songs and narrated stories to keep her husband from falling asleep. The next day, when the god of Death (Yama) arrived at the prince’s doorstep in the guise of a Serpent, his eyes were dazzled and blinded by the brilliance of the lamps and the jewellery. Yama could not enter the Prince's chamber, so he climbed on top of the heap of gold coins and sat there the entire night listening to the stories and songs. In the morning, he silently went away. Thus, the young prince was saved from the clutches of death by the cleverness of his new bride, and the day came to be celebrated as Dhanteras. The following day came to be called Naraka Chaturdashi ('Naraka' means hell and Chaturdashi means 14th). It is also known as ‘Yamadeepdaan’ as the ladies of the house light earthen lamps or ‘deep’ and these are kept burning throughout the night glorifying Yama, the God of Death. Since this is the night before Diwali, it is also called 'Chhoti Diwali' or Diwali minor Diwali.
According to another popular legend, when the Gods and demons churned the ocean for Amrita or nectar, Dhanvantari (the physician of the Gods and an incarnation of Vishnu) emerged carrying a jar of the elixir on the day of Dhanteras

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Prague: the capital city of Czech Republic

Prague , the beautiful capital city of Czech Republic still has an old world charm in its air. The well preserved 13-14 th century buildings and cobble stone streets can give the feel of how life had been back then. The rich cultural heritage of the city is the reason why Prague has been included in the WHO world heritage sites.

The pretty city of Prague (Praha in colloquial language) was built around the Valtava river during the Romanesque era and flourished in the Gothic  and Renaissance eras.

The places which require a special mention and are must for tourists to visit in Prague are  the Old Town Square, Prague Castle, Charles Bridge , Opera House and St. Vitus Cathedral.

To begin  with, I was most impressed with Prague's opera house. The rich,  plush interiors with intricate carvings , lighting and chandeliers transported me to the erstwhile era where in ladies in gowns and gentlemen in suits rode upto the opera house in horse-pulled carriages.

The town square, located in the old part of the town is the nerve centre of Prague. Many interesting buildings, shopping arcades, restraunts, cafes are a part of the old town square.

One of the main tourist attractions in  the town square is the astronomical clock. It is a medieval astronomical clock which was first installed in 1410 in the town square making it the third-oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest one still working.
Astronomic Clock in Old Town Square

Old Town Square

Old Town Square

The Prague Castle and the St. Vitus Cathedral  are located in the Hradcany district of Prague. The castle  was built in the 9th century and was the seat of royals from then. After the liberation of Czechoslovakia, it housed the offices of the communist Czechoslovak government. After Czechoslovakia split in to Czech Republic and Slovakia, the head of Czech Republic i.e., the president resides in the castle.
Hradcany Area

Prague Castle

St. Vitus Cathedral

St. Vitus Cathedral     

The trip to this awesome city had shades of both retro and modern in evetything. Prague with its beautiful buildings, gushing Valtava river,  awesome eateries and clubs  made my trip special and so much fun!      

Monday, October 13, 2014

A Quirky Championship!

Wife Carrying Championship: A championship which makes a man value his wife's weight!!

This is unique sport which originated in Finland and basically is a contest where a husband carries his wife through an obstacle course. The couple who completes the obstacle track in the shortest time, wins.

The husbands are allowed to carry their wives only in a few ways. These ways are:
1. piggyback
2.  fireman's carry (over the shoulder), or 
3. Estonia style (the wife hangs upside-down with her legs around the husband's shoulders, holding onto his waist).
In Finland these compitions are held every year and the winners prize is beer . It doesnt just end there.. the quantity of beer given away varies according to the wife's weight. Therefore if a guy has a big wife and wins the means more beer!
The competition today, is held in a number of countries.

The story behind the origins of this completion dates back to the 1800 's in Finland. A robber named Herkko Rosvo-Ronkainen lived in a forest with his gang of thieves. He and his gang of thieves stole food and women from villages. They kidnapped women and ran away from the village with the woman on their backs. This wife stealing act eventually became an annual and much loved competition.

Interestingly, an International Wife Carrying Competition Rules Committee has been set up. This committee has set up the rules to standardise the competition taking place in different parts of the world. Some of the rules worth noting are:
  • A defined length of the  track (253.5 meters) which has to have atleast 2 dry obstacles and one water obstacle.
  • The wife to be carried may be your own, or the neighbor's, or you may have found her further afield; she must, however, be over 17 years of age :)
  • The minimum weight of the wife to be carried is 49 kilograms. If she weighs less than 49 kg, she will be burdened with a rucksack containing additional weight to bring the total load to be carried up to 49 kg :)

So if the competition was to happen in your city , would you participate ??? :)

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Polio Program in India: A Historic and Path Breaking Campaign

Poliomyelitis often called polio or infantile paralysis, is a disease caused by a the spread from person to person of the polio virus. 
Most patients suffering from polio dont have any symptoms however in about  1% of cases, the virus enters the central nervous system leading to muscle weakness and acute flaccid paralysis which most often involves the legs. The legs of the affected person are paralysed for life.
Government of India launched the Pulse Polio programme, an immunization campaign which deals with vaccinating all children under age of 5 years against polio virus,   to eradicate polio in India. The programme started in India in 1978 and the last polio case was seen in 2011. In 2012, India was removed from the list of polio endemic nations and in 2014 , India was declared polio free. This is a big feat for a developing nation like India which has a population of over 1 billion people.
The success story of polio eradication is a story of innovation,  perseverance, dedication, commitment and partnership.  This programme has been successful due to participation of both the civil society and the government.

This project deals with the ways to fight poliomyelitis through a large scale immunisation programme, co-operating with various international institutions, state governments and Non Governmental Organisations, as part of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, spearheaded by Rotary International, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Major Success Factors are:
1. Strong, political and financial commitments
2. Meticulous planning, execution and monitoring
3. Generation of high quality data and objective evidence
4. Ongoing tactical and scientific innovations based on data analysis and research
5. Perseverance and resilience to overcome the range of challenges
6. Strong, enduring, effective partnership.

The programme required detailed microlevel planning such as house to house vaccination, tools to collect data child vaccination of every household ,putting a mark on every vaccinated childs finger in  order to identify unvaccinated children, putting a mark on every house in which children remain unvaccinated. In a population of over one billion people this was a tedious task but through combined efforts it was accomplished.

Two major challenges which have been seen and tackled during the programme are (1) failure to vaccinate (2) vaccine failure

The first challenge i.e., failure to vaccinate was tackled by massive human resource development for community mobilizations, reaching out to community leaders etc.

For example, the Kosi river belt in India is an area which constantly experiences heavy floods thereby making the area inaccessible. Thus it was a challenge to eliminate polio from this area and 10-15%  children were always missed during campaigns. This area was identified during surveillance programmes and a multipronged approached was taken to achieve high coverage in this area.

The second challenge i.e., vaccine failure was tackled by observing response to the three available vaccines i.e., monovalent, bivalent and trivalent. On realising that bivalent vaccine was most effective, this vaccine was used to achieve high elimination rates.

Many such road blocks were tackled effectively and timely to make india completely polio free. The last case of a polio patient a young girl called Ruksana was seen in 2011. Since 2011, no news cases have been detected however surveillance continues as unless polio is eradicated around the world , possibility of eliminating the virus from India completely is  distant possibility.

The success story of polio programme in India sets an example for the other countries which have not been able to root out polio completely. It is a testament that much can be achieved by concerted efforts of both thd civil society and thd government.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Season of festivities: Dusshera

The beginning of autumn fills the air with so many reasons to cheer about! Along with great weather, these are many festivals lined up in the month of October to December. As a winter chill sets in here in northern India, a relief from the scorching summers the festivities begin with the celebration of the Dusshera festival.

Dusshera also known as Vijayadashami celebrates the victory of of good over evil as described in hindu religious texts where Lord Rama defeated the demon king Ravana and Goddess Durga defeated the demon Mahishasur.
Effigies of 10 headed demon king, Ravana
As the legend goes, King Rama who was a reincarnation of hindu God, Lord Vishnu, killed the great demon Ravana who had abducted his wife Sita and taken her to his kingdom, Lanka. Rama took blessings from Goddess Durga and along with his brother Lakshmana, his follower Hanuman and an army of monkeys fought a  battle defeat Ravana and  rescue Sita. 

Dusshera is celebrated by burning effigies of the 10 headed demon king Ravana and his accomplices and bursting of crackers.

As per another legend some of the demons, were very powerful and ambitious and continually tried to defeat the Devas, or Gods, and capture Heaven. One such poweful demon Mahishasur defeated the Devas and wreaked havoc on eargh. To overcome and defeat this demon, the devas joined forces and released a single mass of incandescent energy called Shakti to kill Mahishasura. This shakti emerged in the form of a young, beautiful female with ten hands, known as Goddess Durga. All the Gods gave their special weapons to her. In a battle that went on for 9 days Goddess Durga , riding on a lion, fought Mahishasur and finally defeated him on the 10th day. 
A idol of Goddess Durga, showing her ten hands , the lion she rode and the demon Mahishasur she defeated

Hence the nine days preceeding Dusshera are known as Maha Navratri refering to the nine days during which Goddess Durga fiercely fought Mahishasur. Hindus often observe fast on all of these nine days and offer prayers to the Goddess.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

River Banks and Bridges of Budapest

The beautiful capital city of Hungary,  Budapest is built around the majestic Danube river. It is not only the largest city of Hungary but one of the biggest cities in the whole of Europe. The numerous historical monuments and abundant sightseeing spots in Budapest make it a haven for tourists.

While describing my trip to the city, I have to begin with the boat cruise that I took on the Danube river because without doubt it was the highlight of my touristy journey around the city.

Danube runs through the centre of  Budapest dividing it  into two regions i.e.,  Buda and Pest.  There are many bridges linking both the parts of the city. The beauty of these bridges is that each of has been given a special name and varies in its construction style. Over 10 bridges link east and west of Budapest. Each of these bridges are an architectural marvel but of note are the Chain bridge,  Elizabeth bridge, Liberty bridge, Megyeri bridge and Margaret bridge. It was interesting to learn the history behind each of these architectural marvels.

Chain bridge was the first bridge to be built across Danube. It is a suspension bridge and lion structures adorn it. It was built by an english architect William Clark in 1839 and was opened to public 10 years later.

Elisabeth bridge, named after a popular queen of Austri- Hungary, goes through the narrowest part of Danube and is the most elegant bridge of Budapest. It was built in 1894 and unfortunate as it is, the queen died just a couple of years after the bridge was constructed.

Margaret Bridge

This bridge was built by a French architect and  it is the second oldest bridge in Budapest. The bridge leads up to Margaret island which lies in the center of Danube and is a popular tourist spot for its landscape parks.

Liberty bridge
This beautiful green bridge has large bronze statues of the Turul, a falcon-like bird, prominent in ancient Hungarian mythology on its  four masts. The bridge was built between 1894 and 1896. 

Megyeri bridge is one of the newly made bridges and circles the entire city.

These multiple links keep the city connected and are important landmarks of the city.  An interesting fact about these bridges is that most of these structures were blown up 
/destroyed during world war II and had to be reconstructed.

During a night cruise  on the Danube the bridges are beautifully lit and look divine. Other beautiful buildings on the banks are are also well lit and make the cruise an exceptional experience.
Photos to support my claims :)
Birds eyeview of Budapest city

Parliament On  the banks of river Danube

Buda Castle

Fishermans bastion on the banks of river Danube