Category Archives: Wellness

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

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’.

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

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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.

sense-of-humor

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.

calmer-you-column-sonal-kalra-calmness-tips

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.

No need for revenge. Just sit and wait

Anger, they say, is one letter short of danger. They may be right. Actually they are right, but they may be broadcasting this, sitting in the Himalayas. Bhai hum toh insaan hain, gussa toh aa jaata hamein, ab kya karein (We’re human, we inevitably het angry, what to do). But actually, what we do with that anger, is what’s the more important point. Considering I live pretty far from even the foothills of Himalayas, I have no qualms in admitting that like all other lesser mortals, if someone wrongs me, my first impulse is to get back at them. But you see, the bad accountant that I am, I often fail to calculate what all I’m giving up, by simply indulging the thoughts of the so-called ‘sweet’ revenge.

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This week, I’m telling you to not be that bad at calculation. Just for yourself, not for any larger good of humankind. Here’s why. Pia (not her real name), a friend of a younger cousin, used to be a cheerful, chirpy girl till last month when she found out that the boyfriend she used to blissfully describe as ‘steady’, was seeking bliss from two other sources.

In other words, she had stumbled upon irrefutable proof of how the guy was three-timing her via his multiple Facebook accounts that had details of his love chats with the others. Anyway, she came to me, all tears, and fed up of life. And in full filmy ishtyle, I told her to get back at the j*** by telling the other two fountains of his joy what he was up to.

Well, she did, and got herself entangled into a whole new saga of emotional complications when one of those girls then decided to stick by the guy, and together they started making Pia’s life hell on social platforms etc.

To cut the long story short, in the days that followed, I saw Pia looking more and more miserable as friends around her also got into a scheming mode, with everyone suggesting their own style of revenge. Eventually, I had to tell her to snap all communication and discussion on this topic – not because she had exhausted all her options of getting back, but because thinking about this for even a minute longer meant wasting the time she could constructively utilise in moving on.

[stextbox id=”info”]Calmness Tips to Control your Anger[/stextbox]

What I’m saying is nothing you don’t know already. And I know that I come across very saadhu-sant like saying this, because in practical terms, it’s very difficult to be a pushover and digest the feeling of being messed around by someone, be it at work or in personal life. So here’s what I suggest you do, and let me know if this helps.

1. Turn very selfish:

Yes, you heard me right. Ab toh I don’t sound like Sanyasin Sonal Ma giving a lecture on forgiveness, nah? Turn damn selfish, and weigh the importance of every minute of your own time.

Figure out how much of it do you wish to spare for thinking about some worthless sleazebag. While you do it, just remember that the more you hold onto the thoughts about what that person did to you, the more power you are subconsciously giving to the wrongs he/she has done.
Of course you are strong, and of course you have the power to take such revenge that one day he’ll feel worse than you do, but in doing so, you might be making the wrong choice between closure and keeping the wound afresh.

Because it’s impossible to think about revenge without constantly reminding yourself of the misery you’ve gone through. Think of an analogy where someone shoots your family member and runs away. Would you prefer running after that person, or would your first priority be to rush your loved one to the hospital? In this case, that loved one is your own heart and peace of mind. Make it your priority. Turn selfish.

2. Have revenge fantasies, but in full:

When we are really hurt, we all fantasise about hurting our tormentor really bad, don’t we? It’s natural, and normal. But please don’t edit your fantasies, to end at a point where you don’t see the repercussions.

Some years back, a nasty colleague had made my work life such hell that I would fantasise about planting a bomb underneath his chair and watch him shred to pieces. But thankfully, my dream then also showed me getting arrested for it, and hence it always remained a dream.

You see, I may be an extreme case but most kinds of revenge involve illegal practices to some extent. Even if it is hacking into someone’s email or Facebook, or making prank calls on someone’s behalf, or even puncturing someone’s car tyres (what fun!). They all fall under criminal practices, and have repercussions.

At the risk of sounding boring, let me suggest something safe like thinking of your opponents as gas balloons and watching them fly away out of your life. Or even write their name on a piece of paper and flush it, a la Jab We Met. You’ll feel better. And isn’t that what the ‘selfish’ you wants to do?

3. Trivialise it:

Not plotting a revenge for just about everything helps you see a lot of things as being petty matters. Not every altercation or every insult is even worth taking revenge. If you’re able to tell your mind that you are not going to give faaltu importance to every louse moron that tries to take you on, you’ll feel superior and stronger.

4. Finally, understand the golden truth – Living well is the best way to get even.

Show your tormentor that you are happy, despite them and all they did. Trust me, it’ll kill them. Safely, and legally, because there’s no law, as yet, that stops you from showing off your happiness and laughing like a maniac in front of a scumbag. Try it, bahot mazaa aata hai (It’s a lot of fun).

Sonal Kalra laughed loudly every time she saw a colleague who had been nasty to her. Now he’s spread rumours that she’s lost her mental balance. Can someone help me take revenge, please?

Do these sounds drive you crazy?

Did you know that just like Facebook, there is a huge worldwide community, bigger than most countries, of annoying people? I’m serious. I’ve seen them in action. In fact sometimes I feel I even belong, but that’s a deeply personal sentiment and out of bounds for this discussion.

Do these sounds drive you crazy-calmer-you

Anyway, a common thread of bizarre stupidity binds people of this community, which transcends geographical boundaries, borders, religions and culture. Their primary, sometimes only, purpose of existence is to drive others crazy, through the use of innovative, unusual means. They mostly achieve their aim.

Last week, I bumped into Chaddhaji who’s well qualified to be the regional head of this community. Now, in a cruel joke played by destiny, he happens to be a neighbour and I’ve known him for as long as I’ve known the definition of idiocy. So, I was already prepared for some extraordinarily boring talk. But, this time he had a strange weapon to torture. Something I wasn’t prepared for. Sound. Yes, you got it.
He had developed the art of interspersing an utterly meaningless conversation with the strangest of grunting sounds. And, he made this weird sound after every second sentence. Worse than what Maria Sharapova makes when her life depends on the third set.

A deep guttural sound that would distract you from all things logical and make you want to end lives, your own, or that of the perpetrator. I was very alarmed and asked Chaddhaji if he was unwell, secretly hoping that he’ll attribute this to the starting symptoms of a throat disorder whose only cure is to move to the hills. But he said he was fine.

Well, I wasn’t, and neither were people in the distance of two kilometres. I came back, did some research with a close friend, Google, and lo, he knew before I did that out of all the annoying things in the world, sound comes right at the top. True to my tendency of writing the most meaningful and earth-shatteringly eye opening stuff in this column each week, I decided to put together a list of the most annoying sounds ever.

And no, I’m not including the usual mosquito buzzing in the ear or nails being scratched on the blackboard variety of irritating sounds, here. I’m mentioning the new-age irritants that can cause ear-drums, and brain cells to shatter with simultaneous precision.

1. Car alarms: A few years back, some genius invented the auto-locking, burglar alarm for our precious-than-life cars. We were so impressed that now we could central lock our cars just by bending 178 degrees north from our balcony and pressing a single button.

Just imagine, not long ago was the time when daddies shouted at mummies and the chunnu munnus after every ride and asked them, ‘tune apna door lock kiya?’ No more hassles. Then some genius decided to add ‘features’ to this invention. Soon we had alarms to go off not only when the doors remained unlocked or if someone tried to open them with a key, but also while reversing the car and even when the naughtiest kid in the mohalla decided to perch on the bonnet and strike a pose.

And as if this wasn’t enough, some genius then decided to provide ‘variety’ to the sounds made by these alarms. So now you have a police siren, a musical siren, and the worst — that shrill, non-stop peun peun peun sound that goes off suddenly, mostly without provocation, and refuses to stop till the proud owner rushes out of the shower or wherever else he is, bends at 178 degrees north and presses the remote.

In most cases, the alarm of another nearby car goes off exactly three minutes after this. Conspiracy, you see. And you know what, some buffoons have a reversing alarm that actually speaks. “This car is reversing. Please stay away.” I so want to shout out, “This driver deserves a slap. Please ask him to come out.” Ugh.

2. Whining kid: Dekho yaar, I adore kids. Sometimes even other than mine. And I mostly love all kinds of sounds kids make. So, don’t take me wrong and get all emotional here. It’s not me but science that says that out of all the annoying sounds in the world, that of a whining kid is the worst.

Hell to science. I did not believe it one bit, till a few months back when I travelled to the US. In the seat two rows ahead of mine, was a child who I complimented and called ‘cute’ when we boarded the 23-hour flight. Exactly after One hour 23 minutes, I begged the airhostess to open the emergency exit so that I could end my life for paying that compliment. Because that cute creation of God decided to open his mouth, look out of the window and uttered the weirdest sound that resembled ‘Maaaaamy’ but was not because mommy was right next to him. 267 times. Non-stop. No amount of ear-plugging helped. Mouth plugging, I was told, would be termed a criminal offence.

3. Nothing. Can’t you see? There’s no space left. Are you related to Chaddha ji or what?

Sonal Kalra should stop writing this column. Because she’s started churning out anti-calmness rants.
What do you think?

Stress: Here’s what you can do to relax

Stress is the human mind’s response to physical, mental or emotional demands. When an actual or perceived challenge is sensed, the nervous system releases various hormones including adrenaline and cortisol to prepare the body to deal with the demand. These hormones increase the heart rate, raise blood pressure, make muscles clench, and heighten sensory perception. These help the body to focus on the problem at hand to find solutions or countermeasures. One important point to note is that the hormone release happens even if the challenge is not real, but only imagined. Some stress is good for the person and can act as the motivator to excel at what he is doing. For example, in creative people like artistes and musicians, some level of stress helps improve their performance from average to outstanding, likewise in competitive sports and even in business executives.

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Continual stress is however harmful both for the mind and the body. Many people feel stress from even everyday events like traffic congestion, inability to get through on a phone call or even a delayed cup of coffee. This stress results in various physiological problems. Some can be transient like irritability or anger, but others can be more sustained like inability to sleep, nausea and indigestion, muscular aches and pain. The human reaction to such stress could take various forms like hitting out at other people or breaking things or in alcohol or tobacco abuse, binge eating etc., which lead to actual harm to the human body. In extreme cases, clinical depression has been caused by continual stress. Chronic stress also causes impact beyond the environment where it occurred. For example, workplace related stress is carried home into the family and stresses from the home front impact work performance.

The major concern with stress is that the continual release of hormones can become addictive so that the person actively seeks stressful situations. For example, even when the traffic is flowing, a stress seeking driver will change lanes and jump traffic lights. In meetings or discussions, the stress-addict would take an antagonistic stand to provoke an argument.

The first step in managing stress is to recognize the symptoms. The first important indicator is the human body itself. The first quick indicator is the breathing pattern. Any departure from normal is indicative of stress. Similarly, the clenching of hands or jaw muscles, rigidity of shoulders or arms indicates stress. Once the person recognizes the signals, it is possible to find the means to relax. For example, if the breath is rapid and shallow, you can pause and slow the breathing to a more normal cadence. If the hands or shoulders are clenched, you could consciously relax them and so on. The very process of checking for stress helps dissipate some of it.

Once stress symptoms are identified, it is possible to develop habits to avoid stress situations. To begin the process, it is good to write down each day, the events that led to the symptoms of stress. For example, if it is traffic, whether one can start early, take a different route or even if the time can be used productively to listen to music or play an audio-book. If it is work pressure, whether some tasks could be deferred. It is also important to realize that all events cannot be controlled, and many have to be accepted as they happen.
The following relaxation methods are known to work in overcoming stress.

[stextbox id=”info”]Relaxation Tips to Beat Stress[/stextbox]

Below are some of the great tips to relax and beat day to day stress.

Deep breathing – Relaxation Tips to Beat Stress

Deep breathing is fundamental to various relaxation exercises. The breathing has to be from the abdomen. When the breath is drawn in, the stomach should rise. Exhalation should be through the mouth and prolonged to expel all air. Both inhaling and exhaling should be slow and controlled. Typically, the person is asked to count slowly to six both for inhaling and exhaling. This focus on deep breathing not just increases the oxygen intake to the body but also focuses the mind on the act of breathing and avoids other thoughts, including the event that caused the stress.

Progressive muscle relaxation

This is another good way to reduce stress. Adopt a comfortable posture and take deep breaths to relax the body. Start with, say, the right foot. For about ten seconds, tense and relax the foot focusing all your attention only on that foot and its sensations. Thereafter, work on the ankle, then the calf and the knee and so on each part of the body. This muscle relaxation exercise done at least once a day, is a good stress-busting technique.

Meditating on the body

This can follow the muscle relaxation process described above. In this exercise, no muscles are tensed or relaxed but only the mind is focused on each limb in turn for a minute or two. Starting, say, with the same right foot, the mind focuses on the sensations in the foot without any attempt to modify or change what is felt. This process is followed in turn for each body segment. This practice is also established as a good stress avoidance exercise.

Focusing the mind on the present

The human mind is constantly switching from reliving past events and worrying about imagined future events. This is one reason for stress. In this exercise, sometimes called mindfulness, an effort is made to keep the mind focused on the present instant. To help in this, an artifact like a candle or the thumb or a religious picture or icon can be used. The mind is focused on the object and all other thoughts are consciously avoided. This practice can also be done, for example, when walking or jogging. The attention is focused on the footfalls and the breath to the exclusion of other thoughts.

Yoga and Tai-chi

Both Yoga and Tai-chi depend on controlled movements of the body in consonance with breathing. Practice of these ancient exercise forms are also known to be effective stress management methods.

In conclusion, it is important to recognize that continual stress can harm the human body and mind. To avoid stress, the first step is to identify the causes and to think of ways to avoid being affected. Mind and body relaxation techniques help overcome susceptibility to stress.

Above is a guest post by Alia Haley who is a blogger by profession and currently she is writing for Fisher Price Toys for Toddlers.

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?