Category Archives: Health

Wanted: A doc, not havoc. Of all people, doctors can’t add to our stress.

If you think I’m again going to irritate you by talking about my bout of dengue, then…then…then you are so right. How perceptive of you, no? And so shameful. Beemar bande ka mazaak udaate ho? Everyone I know knows someone who is sick right now. Ab Kejriwal ke raj mein toh we might even start getting special cough-leave per month, even though he seems to have found a surgical cure for his. By the way, sick-talk also has its etiquettes.

calmness-tips-for-doctors-sonal-kalra

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A Calmer You: there’s no party tonight!!

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Hey, all those who are sick and tired of being asked by people how they are partying on New Year’s eve, let’s do a party. Party of the so-called ‘bores’ who, for whatever reasons, don’t want to go out and paint the town red on 31st December. I’m one of them. I have nothing, in principle, against being four drinks down and not quite remembering which year is starting when the clock strikes twelve, but I have issues with doing this under peer pressure.

There were those good ol’ days not many years back when we would excitedly discuss what would come on television on the night of 31st December. The whole family would huddle together to clap and cheer some not-so-successful film stars who would oblige TV viewers for once, by making an appearance on Doordarshan’s new year eve special programme. Usha Uthup, wearing her big large bindi and chanting Happy New Year, in her heavy voice, would ring into our years well past midnight. Then came the barrage of private TV channels, and they started running telecast of various film award shows on New Year’s eve for vellas like me who wouldn’t be out partying. Ab toh shayad woh bhi nahi aata…usually TV channels have some blockbuster film being aired for the 23rd time…just as to say…here, take this, losers. If you are that aalsi or anti-social that you prefer sitting in the rajai as the world welcomes the new year, you deserve no more than the dialogues of Chennai Express when the calendar changes dates. Well, theek hai, I’m okay being called anti-social because I’m running out of excuses when I’m faced with the dreaded question. Sample this conversation I had with a colleague the other day:

He: So, what’s your plan for the New Year’s?A Calmer You there’s no party tonight
Me: I’ll avoid going out. Too much fog on the roads.
He: This time no fog predicted on that evening. Some western disturbances from Rajasthan have blown it away
Me: Oh, good. But anyway, roads are full of drunk drivers
He: Our own paper has done stories about how the police is too strict this time to check drunken driving.
Me: Actually, restaurants have too much of waiting…it’s as if the whole city is out to eat.
He: Do you want me to book you a table? I have contacts. You must go to a place with live entertainment … that’s the whole point of New Year’s eve.
Me: No, thanks. Actually I’ve been waiting the whole year to watch if Usha Uthup comes on some channel at midnight.
He: You are quite weird.

Ab stress hoga yah nahi? It’s as if you have failed an interview if you don’t have a good enough
reason for not doing something that the whole world loves. You see, I have nothing against those who love partying and look forward to this break but the problem is with having the same expectations from those who either don’t want to, or cannot for some reason, have any party plans. To add to this, here are two sub-stresses:

1  The SMS your wish stress: Come the last few days of December and we get bitten by the SMS bug. Copy, paste, create — do whatever — but the wishes have to be texted to the 1400 contacts in your phone book. It’s party time for the telecom service providers because some polite people also diligently respond with a ‘Thank you’ message after each wish. A friend recently told me about some new Chinese app that lets you send these bulk messages on a discount without them seeming like the kanjoos ones that come through the bulk-sms-websites. But Chinese… and discounted… what if this app leaves out something from my wish, to cut costs? Health, happiness, prosperity mein se koi ek-aadha be chhoot gaya toh? I’d rather pay extra for the ‘right quality’ SMSs or make an excuse that I’ve lost my phone or something. I also once tried the excuse that I don’t message anyone because I don’t believe in the ‘English calendar’s New Year’. Someone asked me when the Hindu new year was. I didn’t know. Stress.

2 The post your party pics on Facebook stress: Ab New Year’s eve pe bhi Facebook mein kuchh update nahi kiya toh why are you alive, you moron? Everyone will update their party plans, then their party pics, then their hangover pics. If the pics and status show you dancing away in Goa…suddenly you’ve justified your existence on this planet. If by chance it’s Bali or Ibiza in place of Goa…oh boy, you have arrived, and how. The stress of competing with vacation-flaunters is no mean task I tell you. Himika from my team just told me about this ex-friend of hers (assuming that he’ll no longer be a friend after this) who would be under so much stress to post vacation pics on Facebook that he would download some ‘touristy’ pics of an exotic place like Jamaica from Google, post them up with updates on how he’s enjoying his vacation, and go underground for a few days. It’s only when the photos never showed him — or any other human being for that matter — that someone investigated to find him holed up at home. The poor guy didn’t know enough to photoshop himself on those pics. I also once tried faking an exotic vacation pic. Facebook took revenge by showing ‘posted from Shakurpur’ underneath my ‘Frolicking in Venice and loving it’ status update. I don’t like these social networking sites ever since. Technical blunders, you see.

Anyway, on a serious note —party hard, by all means. But please don’t stress others out by badgering them with questions about their plans. If they have plans and want to flaunt them, they would anyway not stop from telling you. What are you
wearing, where are you going, how are you spending — kind of questions are conversation starters for most people, without realising that they can put the other one in some kind of complex about not having a ‘happening’ enough live. Let me suggest an alternate, polite conversation starter to you. How about — ‘Is Usha Uthup performing in any TV studios this New Year’s eve?’

Sonal Kalra has decided to holiday in Jamaica, this New Year’s eve. Watch out for the pics. She has learned how to switch off ‘location info’.

A Calmer You: Hey doc, I’ve been waiting

Of all the people, doctors can’t be the ones adding to our stress. All those who scolded me left, right and centre for not writing the column last week, please note that medical leave is allowed even in the prison camps of Guatemala. Areey, I was down with a terrible bout of viral infection that caused bad cough and cold.

calmness-tips-doctors-stress

Bekaar mein beemar ko daant diya. Aap dekh lena if Kejriwal comes to power, we may even start getting special cough-leave per month. Anyway, I promised some of you on Twitter that this week, I would recount the stress one faces when one has to visit a doctor.

Especially during the viral infection season, which now lasts twelve months in a year.  I toh have a standard line if I see someone unwell, no matter what season or month it is. I make a wise, grim face, shake my head and say ‘Changing-weather hai. You must take special care these days.’ I swear by Mayawati that I don’t know what ‘changing weather’ technically means but people buy this remark with all seriousness any time of the year. Anyway, so here’s what happened when I went under the weather last week. True story, no exaggeration.

 Me: I have fever and bad cold since morning. I think I should see a doctor.

Colleague 1: Viral hoga. Antibiotic le lo. Augmentin 625 mg. Do gargles and inhale steam.

Colleague 2: Don’t take such strong medicines. Take ginger and honey and black pepper.

Colleague 3: Homeopathy works like magic in this viral. Hum toh preventive bhi le lete hain. No side effects, you see.

Me (Next morning): The cough has worsened. Let me see a doctor today.
Colleague 1: I know the best physician. It’s a bit crowded at his clinic. Let me know when you’re going, I’d give him a call.

Me: That’s okay. Just give me the number, I’ll fix an appointment.
So I call up at the doc’s clinic and ask for a 6:30 pm appointment
Receptionist: Sorry, 6:30 slot is booked. I can give you 7:18pm.

Me (pleased with the professionalism): Okay, that’s fine.
I reach at 7:10 for my 7:18pm appointment and see at least 40 patients, all at various degrees of distress and coughing at various volumes. I go up to the receptionist.

Me: I have a 7:18pm appointment.
Receptionist (notes down my name): Please wait. The doctor is about to reach from his other clinic.

Me: When will my turn come? I’m on time for my appointment.

Receptionist: When he comes, we’ll start with the patients from the 5:30pm slot first. You are at Number 42.

Me: What’s the point in giving me an appointment for a certain time then?

Receptionist: Yawwwwn. Aap meri TV screen ke aage aa rahe ho. Please sit and wait. Dr saab will reach anytime now.

The good doctor comes in at 7:30, and suddenly the coughing in the waiting lounge becomes louder. Mr Verma and Mr Kapoor, both with the 5:30 appointment are, by then, fighting with the receptionist on who will go inside first. ‘Hum Noida se aaye hain,’ says Verma. ‘Noida koi America hai,’ argues Kapoor. Meanwhile the receptionist calls out for Mrs Malhotra out of turn and sends her inside. Suddenly Verma ji and Kapoor ji are united-in-victimisation and question the receptionist. ‘Woh Dr Saab ko personally jaanti hain. She only has to show her reports,’ the highly irritated, and highly irritating receptionist replies. ‘Isiliye Kejriwal rota hai. Everywhere corruption hai ji,’ Verma ji shakes his head. Finally my turn comes at 9:40pm, and exactly 22 seconds later, I emerge with a prescription that  advises: Augmentin 625, do gargles and inhale steam. ‘700 rupees’, the receptionist says. ‘Please give change,’ she adds. “Please change,” I tell her, while dishing out 700 bucks. She doesn’t get the sarcasm.

I don’t really know what calmness tips to give in the situation I described above. By no means can we undermine the importance or value of doctors and the significant role they play in our well being. Having some close friends in the medical profession, I also know the stress and challenges doctors have to face everyday – the biggest one being having to deal with the ‘Internet doctors’ all patients have become these days. We google our symptoms, we google medicine names, we google test reports. This awareness can sometimes be a blessing, but is more often a tool to question a doctor’s advice with cynicism. But that said, the doctors also need to see if the entire experience of visiting them is reducing, or adding stress to their patient’s condition. In this season of manifestos, may I put forward these demands to our doctor friends….

[stextbox id=”info”]Calmness Tips when Doctors are the reasons for your stress.[/stextbox]

Please schedule your day in such a way that you reach your clinics on time. An exceptional emergency is perfectly understandable in your profession, but having a room full of sick and already stressed people constantly staring at the clock and sighing, everyday, is not.
Please do not take up more patients than you can practically see, and pay attention to, on any given day. I know this means less money, but it also means getting a life. Reaching home at midnight everyday with stacks of cash still means reaching home to family members who are asleep.

Please fix a separate time during your day, if possible, for pharmaceutical representatives and influential patients who come with sifarish. To a patient who is in a bad condition and waiting for two hours, it isn’t easy to digest another person cutting the queue and breezing in, just because you wanted to oblige someone. They’ll not say it on your face because yours is a noble profession (?) and you are a life saver, but it hurts the respect that should naturally come for you.

Please hire polite and cheerful receptionists. Please.

Sonal Kalra just googled her symptoms and realised that she might be suffering from lymphocercoma of the brain due to changing weather. Please suggest some specialist.

A Calmer You: can I have a tissue, please?

A Calmer You disclaimer: Before I begin, let me inform you that I’m a clean person, lest this write-up gives you a wrong impression. I brush my teeth daily and try to take a bath on most days. However, I continue to suffer from a phobia of those who have a phobia of germs

I know a woman who says, ‘can I have a tissue, please?’ every 30 seconds. No seriously, I do. Fine, the 30 sec bit is an exaggeration but she does it every thirty minutes and THAT is not a lie. Sometimes I think of telling her that by using, and discarding, so many tissues around her, she may be facilitating the formation of a germ country in her surroundings but I fear she’ll give me a dirty look. I’ve nothing against the poor tissues — they are a good invention, though I continue to lament the death of good ol’ cloth ‘hankies’. They were pretty and had so many emotions attached. Somehow, it doesn’t have quite the same ring to say, ‘he handed a tissue paper to his crying girlfriend’. Khair jaane do. I feel that as we have got more progressive with the changing times, we’ve also got more paranoid and fussy about our surroundings.

A Calmer You can I have a tissue, please

And let’s be clear, I’m not referring to those who unfortunately suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), which is a recognised medical condition and must be treated by qualified medical professionals. I’m talking about the rest of us who’ve formed certain rules and restrictions — with or without any basis — in our minds. And they keep up from enjoying life to the fullest, because we’re stressed about complying with these self-created rules.

Let’s take a look at what these myths make us:

1  The neat freaks: You would surely find one such person in your close surroundings — it could be your mom who begins her day by telling you how your room resembles a war-torn city and that your cupboard is fit for newly wed rats to start a family. Maybe it is. But the frequency with which you are reminded about it could drive you to the wall. And it’s dreadful if she decides to clean it herself, even though your porn collection is safely locked away.

It could be your hostel roommate who scoffs every time you leave your towel on the bed. It could be a nagging spouse who wants his/her things stacked at 36 degree angle, spick and span. It could even be a friend, a visit to whose house could give you a heart attack inducing complex, because clothes are arranged as per colours and books on the rack are in an alphabetical order. These people have a method to their life and I truly admire them for it. As long as they accept that there’s a also method in the chaos of other peoples’ life, who are not as organised as them.

My desk may still have unanswered official letters dated 2008 but I manage to find whatever I’m looking for, amidst that madness. And I certainly won’t take too kindly to anyone who will try to forcibly try and remove the much-loved dust on my table. I may have an important phone number written on the dust with my finger and you can’t just cruelly wipe it away. My point is simple. We all have our own definitions and degrees of cleanliness. Don’t impose yours on mine, and there’ll be lesser scope of stress for both of us.

2. The fussy eaters: These people will not enjoy the good things in life, and they will not let you do it either. The thought of street food gives them a stroke and you may find them ‘trying’ to enjoy gol gappas in a fancy restaurant where the waiter wears white gloves and calls them ‘puchkis’, with an accent.

Well, I’m sorry for you, really. It’s not that I want to die of cholera after drinking unfiltered water from a drain, but then I don’t think the excellent tea that the roadside chaiwalla serves in a small glass has the potential to kill me. The germs may just think of me as a friendlier person and refrain from attacking me.

The tip is simple, again. Set your own standards in terms of what you want to eat, and where from. But don’t deny anyone else the pleasure and right of exercising their choice. Also don’t put needless fear in their minds by narrating stories of how you suffered from loose motions the last time you ate at a dhaba. It may well have been because of the meal you ate at a five star hotel the previous night, when the waiter spat into your food because you were making his life hell over how the daal was at 1.37 degrees colder.

3. I-will-burst-but-I-won’t-pee gang: When God made an organ in our bodies called the urinary bladder, He didn’t know some people will make it a mission of their life to torture it endlessly.

These are people who have problem attending to the nature’s call unless they happen to be near their own toilets that are washed with dettol every hour and have hand sanitisers. These people will go to extra length to stick ‘leave the seat dry and up’ kinda notes in office/college loos, but they’ll avoid using the same rest rooms. They flush with their elbows and touch the door knob only with 20 meters of toilet paper or tissues in hand. Actually, to be honest, I don’t blame them. Because it is a fact that public toilets in our country are usually in a sad state and are the biggest source of infection, because of those who don’t follow the most basic hygiene practices. But if you will squirm uncomfortably in your seat the entire length of a movie but won’t visit the cinema hall’s rest room, you need to re-think about your paranoia levels.

The final word: Live and let live. Cleanliness is a way of life and that’s undisputable. Just don’t turn it into a stress monster. Go out and have gol gappas. I promise you won’t die. Just a little food poisoning, that’s it.

Sonal Kalra has taken a pledge to clean her office desk, definitely before the next New Year.

Walk Your Way to Better Health

Here’s some good news for the fitness challenged: researchers have concluded that taking a regular brisk walk can lower your risk of heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure as much as running. In a surprising report published recently in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology, researchers found that the energy used for moderate intensity walking produced similar beneficial results as that used for vigorous intensity running. Both forms of exercise significantly lowered the participants’ risk for high cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure and possibly coronary heart disease.

walking-good-for-heaalth

Walking and running are similar activities utilizing the same muscle groups, only at different intensity levels. Energy expenditure was assessed by distance covered, rather than time. Researchers found that when the energy expenditure levels were equal, health benefits were comparable. In fact in some cases, risk of disease was reduced more in the walkers than the runners. Researchers found that compared with sedentary control groups:

  • Walkers reduced first time diabetes risk by 12.3 percent, while for runners it was 12.1 percent;
  • Walkers reduced coronary heart disease risk by 9.3 percent while for runners it was 4.5 percent;
  • Walkers reduced first-time high cholesterol risk by 7 percent, while for runners it was 4.3 percent;
  • Walkers reduced first time hypertension risk by 7.2 percent while for runners it was 4.2 percent.

The study analyzed some 33,060 runners and 15,045 walkers, aged 18 to 80 years, with a majority in their 40s and 50s.

Walking is a more sustainable form of exercise for many people, and puts less stress on tendons and joints. These findings give new hope to those who have little inclination or desire to join a gym or try to keep up with the latest fitness craze. You don’t need complex equipment, in depth instruction or even fancy fitness togs; just a decent pair of walking shoes.

In addition to these new findings, walking is considered a weight bearing exercise, which helps women to maintain strong bones after menopause. So make some time in your daily routine for a brisk 20 to 30 minute walk to receive a cornucopia of health benefits and lower your risk of disease.

Walking is so easy that even smokers can participate. For the sake of your walking companions, however, you should either refrain from partaking while walking, or else switch to one of those electronic cigarettes so that you won’t interfere with their oxygen uptake!

A Calmer You: how to permanently kill your sense of humour

Even a flicker of laughter is henceforth banned on this column. You have to pass a test before I let you read this week’s write-up. Get up and go in front of the mirror. Carefully look at the photo of the girl on this page and then at yourself in the mirror. Ensure that your facial expression is as pathetic, forlorn and sad, if not more. Khabardaar agar smile kiya toh! Through advanced augmented reality, I’ll get to know who is smiling, and my curse will ensure that your face bears a constipated look every single time you get photographed for the rest of your life. Those of you who haven’t got married yet, apni wedding albums ke bare mein soch lo. You can’t afford to take this risk, can you? Now with the serious face, try to understand my point this week. After leading an utterly useless life that involved baring my teeth and giggling away to glory at the slightest provocation, I have finally found a mission in life.

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To attain, and help everyone around me attain a state of zero sense of humour. Because in the past few days, some people have helped me realise that laughter is the silliest of human emotions. That it is frivolous and wasteful to tickle the funny bone when you can utilise that time to indulge in critical and meaningful activities like getting offended and preaching morals. And haven’t you noticed, serious people are way cooler than us idiots who can’t contain their laughter and let out strange, gurgling sounds from the throat. Toh maine toh decide kar liya. No cracking jokes anymore. In any case, most people don’t get my twisted sense of humour. And it gets me into trouble more often than I care.

Last week I went to the neighbourhood park for a walk, and then sat on the bench to watch small kids play on the swings. A woman sitting next to me tried to strike a conversation and asked which of the children was mine. Intently gazing ahead with a devilish expression, I replied “I’m still trying to decide”. Before I could pat my back on my brilliant joke, the woman had rushed to collect her child and warn others about the demented kidnapper on the bench. Reputation barbaad in the colony, permanently. Hasna hi nahi ji mujhe ab…not at all.

And this came exactly a day after a police constable scolded me, when, on seeing a road-side sign that said ‘Yeh bus-stop aage chala gaya hai’, I scribbled underneath – ‘Usey jaane kisne diya?’ I got a long lecture about how padhe-likhe people should not indulge in mazaak. Anyway, his scolding was justified, but this thing of how I can be cool, mysterious and intellectual only if I’m serious in life has entered my head strongly now. So, for myself, and for all of you who need growing up, here are tips to become permanently serious.

1. Be a joke killer: Go to a temple and take the oath that you’ll never let a joke break your resolve of not laughing like mad people who have no control over their emotions. If someone says a joke, stare at them as if they’ve lost it. In fact, read up all the jokes on the net, so that if someone tries telling a joke, you can kill their punchline, or make that genius remark – ‘Suna hua hai. Puraana hai’. I’ve seen people do this to others’ jokes and although all this while I hated such spoilsports, now suddenly I have newfound respect for them. In fact, I demand a special reward for those brave people who take pride in saying ‘hamein toh hansi nahi aayi’ when someone tells a joke. They are the real assets because of who India continues to hold a serious position in the global scenario, otherwise the velapanti gang of non-serious people would have laughingly destroyed our image. Flippant fools, I tell you.

2. Take everything literally: Wipe off the concept of metaphors or clever phrases from your head. Be an expert at missing the point and start taking everything anyone says literally. You may be branded as an annoying ass but so what? It’s all for a good cause. Argue endlessly with people as if they mean everything they’ve said. Slowly people will start avoiding saying anything non serious in front of you. The shallow frivolities will be out and life will become meaningful.

3. Make a mental bank of sad thoughts: Since I’m trying it out these days, let me tell you that reaching the zero sense of humour stage is not as easy as it sounds. Your body will want to revolt, a smile will try hard to escape your mouth in certain situations. But you have to be strong. What really helps is having a bank of sad thoughts in your head. The moment something funny starts to happen around you, retrieve an image from the bank – it could be the first time you got thrashed by the school teacher, or the moment when your girlfriend made you spend all your pocket money in a single date, or the state of poverty in Africa, or the rising corruption in our country. Anything that’ll keep you from feeling happy at that moment.  I’ll personally congratulate you once you’ll reach that level of turning sad anytime you want to. What an achievement sir ji!

4. Act depressed: This is tough, but together we can manage it if we try really hard. Stop wearing bright colors, switch over to earthy, dull shades. Keep your eyes a bit droopy all the time, and your expression confused and fed up. When you say something, don’t let even a hint of enthusiasm enter your voice. If someone else tries to speak to you, say ‘hain?’ with an utterly irritated expression at least thrice. Make them feel as if they are THE burden on mother earth and should not take the risk of saying anything non-serious in front of you. Every once in a while, go on facebook and leave sad, preachy comments on all the so-called funny status updates. Do it on my timeline too. Oh, you already do so? Okay.

5. Make fraandship only with serious people: Stick to people who are unfunny since birth. I once found one such woman in a hospital. She said she was there to ‘donate’ her eyes, rather than ‘pledging’ her eyes for donation. So I asked her, with all genuineness, if she had someone to take her back home since she won’t be able to see. She shouted so rudely at me that for a moment I was also tempted to be equally rude and add that if she decides to donate her entire body, a hungry family of four in certain countries could survive just on her right thigh for a year, but stopped myself just in time to avoid being slapped. I have now decided to pursue her till she makes me her best friend. Together we’ll spend our lives, spreading the message of seriousness all around us. Amen.

Sonal Kalra declares that nothing will make her laugh anymore. The only exception is Chaddha ji doing Kapaalbhaati aasan in the balcony…lol.

A Calmer You: say it once more and i’ll slap you

If a mosquito annoys us, it’s okay to kill it. If the same rule applied to humans, some people would’ve travelled to heaven long back. Chalo yoga karte hain. Maine naya naya seekha hai. You know, while I’ve been learning to practice spiritual yoga and hence hoping for the various asanas to help calmness descend into my unusually chaotic mind, someone in my life is working overtime to ensure that I pay back to Yoga, by inventing a new asana or posture of my own. And I’ve dutifully done that.

calmness-tips-repeating-habits
This asana involves standing straight, looking into the eyes of the person in front of you, slowly raising your right hand and landing it on his or her left cheek in a swift motion. I call it chaantasana, or for the faaltu firangs among you who claim to not understand basic hindi — the slap asan. Advanced followers of this practice can also learn the second part of this posture that involves physically lifting the target and throwing them out of sight, but you need to build adequate stamina and strength to reach that stage. Trust me, I’ve dreamt about doing this aasan everyday with Chadha ji and the calmness it gets me is unmatched.
But the hero of today’s column is not Chadha ji. Today, I have no choice but to tell you about the person who prompted me to think of chaantasana in the first place. For reasons that involve peace of mind, I will not be able to tell you the name, nor will it be possible for me to reveal this person’s gender. So as weird as it sounds, let me address ‘it’ as ‘Idlu’. Idlu is someone I have to meet every now and then, and by all outwardly standards, Idlu can be safely categorised as a good human being. However, all that goodness of the heart takes a back seat when Idlu opens the mouth and starts to speak. Because whatever Idlu says, important or not, relevant or not, Idlu repeats at least five times. EVERYTHING. Here’s a sample conversation.
Idlu: ‘It’s really hot today,
isn’t it?’
Me: Hmm, it is.
Idlu: ‘Even the forecast says
it’s really hot.’
Me: oh, ok.
Idlu: ‘Vaise whether the weather forecast says or not, when it’s hot, it’s hot. No?’
Me: That’s so true.
Idlu: ‘It is indeed hot. I’ve been feeling it since morning. You?’
Me: Come here. I have to show you a new aasan.
Idlu: ‘Wahin se bata do. Don’t even feel like getting up. It’s so bloody hot. Hai ke nahi?’
My life is an eternal quest to avoid Idlu, but mostly I lose this battle. I don’t know about you, but according to me, it’s people who have the habit of repeating the same thing over and over again — and not junk food — which has to be the biggest cause of hypertension in the world.
These people are either madly in love with the sound of their own voice, or they take others to be complete idiots who will not get their point in the first attempt. And to make it worse, they mostly end their statements with a question, so you have no choice but to play this chalo-ek-hi-baat-baar-baar-bolte-hain game with them.  It’s like every bit of your mind is screaming ‘Shut up. I heard you the first ten times’ and throwing imaginary bricks at them, but you feel helpless.

[stextbox id=”info”]Calmness Tips for People with Habit of Repeating what They say[/stextbox]

While chaantasana should ideally set things in order, mostly these people are not bad at heart, and could also be physically stronger than you, so you can’t really slap them as many times as they repeat the stuff they say. So here’s what you need to do if you have a parrot like Idlu in your life. By the way, let’s be clear that I’m not talking about elderly people who, because of age conditions, sometimes tend to repeat things without realising it. If you can’t respect that and be patient with them, it’s you who needs chaantasana. Got it?

1. Play their game…and beat them at it.: The next time someone like Idlu unleashes their ‘hai-ke-nahi’ fury at you, reply in the same coin. “Haan hai toh. Aur hoga kaise nahi? When there is something, it has to be there. No? Because if it isn’t there, then it has no existence. And existence depends on whether it’s there or not. Isn’t it? So if it is there, it has to be there. Hai ke nahi?” In other words, confuse kar kar ke maaro. I’m sorry I’m teaching you to take revenge, but I’ve realised that in life, some people do not get the message till it is spoken in their language. Isn’t it?

2. Learn to focus…elsewhere: Real meditation is not always to sit in a yogic posture with your eyes closed, stressing about how not to stress. Real meditation is when you go into a trance like state while an Idlu repeats itself ad nauseum. Plaster a dreamy look on your face, narrow your eyes, just log off your mind and think about the lush green meadows of Ireland, or the hot new chemistry teacher. Come back well in time to hear Idlu’s last sentence so that you can give some kind of a coherent reply.
In any case, the last sentence would be the same as the fifteen spoken before it. Also, it pays to keep a few vague queries handy, so that the other person does not suspect that you’ve been mentally away to Switzerland. So in between, keep saying totally irrelevant things like ‘really? or ‘yeh kaise’ or aahh, I see’. These are life-saving phrases that have absolutely no meaning but can keep a situation from becoming messy. Try them.

3. Tell them: I’m serious about this one, beech mein hasna mat please. Many a times, people who you really love and care for have an annoying habit they are not even aware of. They mean no harm, but may just be driving others mad with their behaviour. If you genuinely care for such a friend or family member, sit them down and in the most gentle way, tell them what’s annoying others around them. Make sure you say it in a way that makes it clear that it’s the habit that’s irritating, and not the person. Someday they’ll thank you for it.

By the way, if after reading this, you’ve realised that there’s a hidden Idlu in you, try and practice chaantasana on yourself. It’s way better done alone, than someone else doing it on you. Trust me.

Sonal Kalra wonders how people can keep repeating themselves. Is there any point in saying the same thing again and again? Koi point hai? There’s no point. Isn’t it.

Throw away these 5 things. Right now!

Haylo, good people. If you detected a hint of threat in the headline, let me explain that it is not. Just a hint, I mean. It is a full blown warning because I’ve had enough of you not realising that it is high time you chucked some stuff out of your life. Hey, those of you who immediately thought of spouses and/or in-laws, give me a high-five. Now, give your right cheek one, because we are not talking humans, yet.

More than four years ago, I wrote in this column about people who just wouldn’t discard things and how a lot of homes look like museums — of trash — but then nothing seems to have changed. Meri sunte kahan ho aap log? Maybe if I change my name to something like Sushri Sushri Sonal and start charging you by thousands to tell you how to inhale-exhale air will you take me seriously.

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Yeh three rupees waali advice ki koi value nahi hai, by God. Anyway, our homes, workspaces, sometimes even vehicles, are full of clutter that’s not only taking away a lot of space but also keeping us from, well, inhaling-exhaling fresh air. Just take a good look around you. Is there anything you spot that’s been there forever without being of any use, but only because you were too lazy or stingy to throw it out. I’ll smack you if you’ll let your clever brain cook up a ‘nostalgia’ and ‘emotional attachment’ argument to cover up your inherent inertia. Because my mind tries to do the same, all the time. Why is my physics text book of ninth standard still lying somewhere on the shelf? Because, you see, my bestestest friend and I played tic-tac-toe on the back cover and got our first punishment together. Ugh. That best friend, who’s now friend number 3654 on Facebook doesn’t even know if I still exist in this physical world. But the physics text book stays. THAT, is our problem. Mind hi blocked hai ji, kya karein.

[stextbox id=”info”]Five Things You Could Throw Away to De-Clutter your Home and Life[/stextbox]

Anyway, I tried to apply mine and here are five categories of things I think should be discarded right now, in the larger interest of humanity, to reduce poverty, to cut corruption in the country, and to make India a safe place for women to live in.

1 Black Spaghetti: No matter how much you deny, each one of us has a janjaal of unused cables and chords lying around in the house. An old charger of the 20 kg heavy Motorola phone that was the pride of your life in 1992, maybe the phone/pager itself that never got an antim sanskar, 265 pairs of earphones that you flicked each time you boarded a Kingfisher flight — when they were still Kings of good times, that is. Some cables that came with your TV video game on your 5th birthday, and are still around in the hope of seeing your 50th. C’mon yaar. THROW. And puhleez, read up on e-waste and dispose them off properly.

2 Clothes that don’t fit: Our favourite hoarding candidate, this one. The wardrobe is screaming that it can’t take it anymore, but we’ll keep stuffing it with more clothes everytime the wretched ‘50% off’ beckons. But we still won’t give away the dress we bought at 50% discount 10 years ago and which didn’t fit us even at that time. ‘Someday I’ll lose weight and fit into this,’ Yeah? Aao thappad khao. Saale Sale junkies, all of us. (That’s a typo in the first word… I didn’t mean the extra ‘a’ but the back button on the keyboard isn’t working!). Golden rule: Deny yourself a new dress till you take out an old one.

3 Show-pieces: In the last century when I was a kid, every house used to have a ‘showcase’, in which people placed all kinds of weird, I mean cute, things. Terracotta swans with necks entwined, photo frames of all sizes, shapes, material with pictures of relatives in all shapes, sizes and material. Plastic flowers in plastic vases. Now, I have nothing against these, seriously. Because the whole point of being the Lord of your house is to be able to do it up the way you like. But the problem is that we keep adding ‘show-pieces’ without knowing what to do with the old. Even when the showcases have all but gone in last decade’s renovation. The same goes for old toys, especially stuffed teddy bears that may be full of mere desh ki mitti from 1979, but we won’t let them go because well, there are emotions involved. Do the same emotions not tell you then to donate the clothes, toys or books in good condition to some kid who may value them much more than you? Think about it.

4 Casettes/CDs that don’t run: Another big nostalgia candidate. Okay fine, kuchh toh rakh lo… because even I have a big emotional attachment with my old music cassettes. But when that attachment translates to shelves full of old CDs which have died of scratches, or cassettes which didn’t run even when we had the player till the time you wound up the whole magnetic tape with your finger, then you’ve got a problem. See, all thanks to technology, your favourite music is now safe, and accessible anytime, with Internet baba. Keep your attachment with the music, not the medium. Make space in your room, in your life.

5 Medicines you no longer use: The other day in my medicine box, I discovered a strip of antibiotic tablets that had expired two years ago. I deserve to have expired with it. For being so scatty with things. We all are. We buy new medicines each time we fall sick, but keep retaining the old, unused ones, expired or not. The same goes for the tube of painkiller ointment which will itself writhe
in pain if you’ll try to extract anything further out of it. Or the face cream that gave you allergy the very first time you used it. Here’s a request – please donate unused, unexpired medicines. There are people dying in our country for want of basic medicines. It just feels inhuman to be hoarding them. Don’t you think?

Sonal Kalra has decided to throw away five things everyday. She’ll de-clutter her house by 2030. Dekhte Jao.

So your friend is gay? Big deal!

It’s most humbling to receive hundreds of feedback mails for this column each week, and the nicest thing that’s common to most of them is when you say you liked it because you can ‘totally relate to it’. Well, some of you may not relate to what I’m going to write this week. But, that’s not stopping me from still taking up this topic because, who knows, a lot of you may just.

calmness-tips-for-homosexuals-gays-lesbians

Last week, I got two mails from two very different individuals, but with a thread of irony connecting them. One mail was from a young college student, Kabir, from Delhi. ‘I’m gay. I’ve totally accepted this reality of my life, though my family and friends don’t know yet, though I’m sure they suspect. Now, I want to tell my best friend. But, I don’t know how he’ll react. What if he starts avoiding me once I tell him? I don’t want to lose his friendship.”

The other mail, interestingly in a gap of just two days, was from 18-year-old Akshit in Lucknow. “I have a serious problem. I’ve come to know that my best friend is gay. He’s not yet told me, but I feel he soon will. I’m absolutely cool with it, but I don’t know what’s the right way to react when he tells me. I don’t want to lose his friendship.”

Now look at this! The first thought that came to my mind after reading these was how most of our life’s stresses are because we are caught up in mind-webs of our own. We spend more time imagining and worrying about others’ reactions than dealing with things when and if they actually happen.

Anyway, coming back to the subject. See, much to an acute embarrassment of my intellect, this column has not turned out to be a forum for serious, intelligent talk. In my own way, I try and tell you how to deal with small problems in life, with simple solutions. In this case, however, I don’t think there is a problem to begin with.

 [stextbox id=”info”]Calmness Tips for People With Unnatural Sexual Orientation [Homosexual, Gay, Lesbian][/stextbox]

Without sounding as if I’m trivialising the issue bogging Kabir, Akshit or several others, I just want to say that I’ve had enough of people categorising something as basic and private as sexual orientation — homo or hetero — as a problem. I would say there’s a ‘problem’ if you or your friend is a pervert, dishonest, cheat, thief, ill-mannered (a crime in my dictionary. Yours?). Different sexual preference? I’m sorry, but no ‘problem’ there, my friend. Still, if it is stressing you out, there have to be calmness tips. Here’s my advice for Akshit and all those to whom a friend, or a family member has confessed to be homosexual.

1 No drama, please:

I don’t know why we think it’s imperative to react to every bit of news. I’m not saying you act indifferent to what someone tells you, but there’s no need for a dramatic reaction to everything in life. If a friend tells you he or she is gay, do NOT say something like ‘Haww. How come?’ or ‘Are you sure?’ or the worst of the lot — ‘It’s okay. I still love you.’ If you use the word ‘still’ as if they’ve told you about some crime they’ve committed, I will beat you up. I mean it. C’mon, man. Somebody is sharing a very, very private part of their life with you. Don’t let the stupidity of your own beliefs come in the way of reacting sensibly. Just tell them you love them, and leave it at that. I still vividly remember an evening 12 years back when one of my close friends told me she’s homosexual. All I felt at that time was, ‘My god, she must trust me a lot to share this with me.’ And my only response to her was, ‘Thanks for telling me.’ It’s one of the few things I’m still proud of. Be sincere. Be honest. Be simple. No tamasha.

2 Don’t let it bother you:

Frankly, I don’t believe in beating the chest and saying, ‘I support the rights of gays and lesbians,’ because that just segregates them from other people, when they are no different. I don’t care if you attend marches or parades holding placards. If you really want to make a difference, do just one thing. Don’t treat them differently. That’s it. Hate a gay friend if he or she is a bad friend. Just like you would have hated a straight friend for the same reason. Love them as much, not more, as you would have loved any other good friend.

I honestly don’t think what anyone does behind closed bedroom doors should make a difference to your friendship with them, unless they are doing something to harm you. The thought of homosexuality creeps you out? Fair enough. Who’s asking you to like it? But how does that give you the right to be unreasonable or mocking towards someone who does? Don’t judge people for feelings they can’t control.

I fail to understand why our society, including our cinema, believes in mostly portraying gays as comic characters. At the same time, I fail to understand why a lot of homosexuals are sensitive about that, because that would only mean taking a joke seriously, when it’s not supposed to be. I have a lot of gay friends, just as I have plenty of straight friends. Some are funny, some are a real pain. It’s got absolutely nothing to do with their orientation. Base your friendship on what sort of a person they are… trustworthy, truthful, sincere. Not what gender turns them on, because that’s none of your business. The day you get that fact firmly in your head, you would be sorted in life. And it’s a good feeling.

3 This one is for Kabir or anyone who’s having a hard time coming out of the closet. Dekho yaar… you do know, more than anyone else that your sexuality is not an acquired fad. It’s the reality of how you feel. And there’s never a point trying to shun reality.

I once read a graffiti on a church wall in Europe. It was not in the context of homosexuality, but it said, “If it is not a choice, it is not a sin.” You get the point, don’t you? If your parents, friends or family see a flicker of shame in your eyes, they would go on a wrong reaction-path. When you’ve not done anything wrong, why torture yourself with thoughts that someone will leave you. If they indeed do, it’s their loss. But, that said, don’t forget that while you may have spent sleepless nights thinking and coming to terms with your alternative sexuality, it is unfair to expect an immediate positive reaction from those who you break the news to, as a surprise.

Your friends may have grown in households where the thought of homosexuality is taboo. We all have. But then, there used to be a time when things like contraception or abortion etc also used to be taboos. Times change. Mindsets change. But not overnight. Give them time, answer their queries, have patience. If they love you, they will come around. Sexuality is just a trivial part of life… don’t make it the cause of all your happiness or sadness in life.

And puhleez, don’t get into an overdrive of trying to understand the psyche of those who just can’t get their heads around homosexuality. The more you try to convince someone, the more it would seem as if your self-respect is dependant on that someone getting convinced. I’m sorry, but it.is.not. It’s OKAY if they don’t understand how you feel. Some things people are just not meant to get. Big deal.

Sonal Kalra thinks that gay parades only reinforce the notion that homosexuals are any different from the others. But, she totally loves the rainbow masks. What to do?

Yes, I admit it I am a misfit [Feedback]

This column was published on 25/9/11 in HT City. Here is an excerpt;

“Raise your left hand if you’ve ever felt like a misfit — in school, college, workplace, social gatherings. Now raise the other hand if you’ve killed yourself (not literally, Einstein!) trying to change yourself because it made you feel inferior. If both your hands are up, GOOD. At least for the next few minutes, this should be your punishment for being so stupidly harsh on yourself.  If you must know, my one hand is raised too, and believe me, it’s not easy to type out this column single-handedly. See, I have nothing against people trying to better themselves….

Read Full Column

Best thing about reading Sonal’s column is that there is always a smile on your face without losing the seriousness of the subject. Same thing happened with this column too. I was smiling all through first few paras but then could not continue any further obviously because I had started feeling pain in both of my arms for having raised them for so long. Also, because I was doing this after a long long time – obviously, I did this in school last time.

Most of us do find ourselves quite a misfit not once but many times in a life time. But, obviously, this ‘misfeeling’ tends to fade away with time and age….no we don’t get rid of this problem but ultimately, we accept the fact that we are a indeed a misfit and can not change for good and hence, no longer feel bad about the same.

[stextbox id=”info”]”One of the processes of your life is to constantly break down that inferiority, to constantly reaffirm that I Am Somebody. ”
Alvin Ailey[/stextbox]

We continue to feel misfit as long as we feel that we can still change ourselves to cope with others. This generally happens in a timeframe ranging from early teens to somewhere when we reach midlife. After having felt bothered about being misfit and subsequently, having tried to change (though, in vain) a lot many times, most of us do tend to give up and try to make calm – not with accepting  ourselves – but with the fact that now nothing can be done. This is the time when, most of us have refuses-to-grow-in-age wife and always-growing kids at home . At this time, specially kids, become the single most factor to distract us and in turn, they become our soft targets.

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It is then, we change our whole attention towards changing or moulding our kids so as they don’t get the same feeling of ‘misfit’ when they grow up. Little, do we realize that such an effort is only going to make the matter worse than ever. The poor kids who until now have been enjoying their lives slowly starts becoming aware about what a misfit could mean and starts relating the same with their own life only to conclude that they are indeed a misfit as their father was.

None of the problems of our life (including this one) develops overnight. When you tend to feel a certain way for quite a longer duration, it is then that ‘thinking’ turns into a disease. It is true with most of the pschological problems. So, obviously, the best way to prevent such problems is only by changing the thought process.

[stextbox id=”info”]”Misfits aren’t misfits among other misfits.”
Barry Manilow[/stextbox]

The three point solution cum medicine which Sonal has prescribed in her column is definitely a fit and hit and can really help people suffering from this problem. However, as we all know “prevention is better than a cure”. So, why not to try to prevent this problem from infecting us ever.  Childhood is the only best time when we can change the thought process  with quite an ease. So, why not try to make our kids life better so that when they grow up, they don’t find themselves a misfit as we did and instead find peace with what they are. So, next time when dealing with your kids, stop quoting examples of other kids to prove them wrong. Even if your kid is not doing good, you should handle this situation without ever doing any comparison with any one. These early age comparison are the seeds for the more bigger and serious problem /issue in the later life.

Well, as Sonal had quoted this in one of her earlier column on the similar topic which was probably published sometime in May 2011 (read that column here) –

 “When Roosevelt said ‘No one can make you feel inferior without your consent,”

This is more than true and useful if you really want to make peace with your own feelings.