Fit At Forty

“Eat those greens” was the regular admonition administered by my doctor mom.  But who pays heed in childhood to well-meaning nagging of parents?

A year ago I weighed 67 kg.

Fat Forty at Golconda fort

For a person who had not put on any extra weight even after pregnancy, I looked fat. My girth was not at all flattering, my face seemed puffed up and I wasn’t really feeling confident. I had become laid back, my clothes seemed ill fitted and I looked ‘old’ to myself.

I had turned forty… An age they say to be naughty and flirty! But I felt fat and fifty!!

That is when I pulled myself together. I did not want to enter on other side of middle age huffing and puffing with pills and pains. I joined a gym…

It isn’t that I was eating junk all the time, but the nutritionist pointed out that my carbohydrate intake was definitely much more than the proteins and iron. While proteins help in building muscle mass, iron too is an essential nutrient that plays an important role in many bodily functions. Lack of sufficient amount of iron may lead to anemia, headaches, hair fall, brittle nails, breathlessness and even irritability.

Iron is important

I had no clue that my headaches could have been due to insufficient iron.

Found in two forms in foods, heme in animal products and non-heme in plants, the average intake recommended is 18 mg per day which may vary depending on age and gender of a person.

We women often suffer from anemia. Anemic women may even have trouble during pregnancy with mother’s anemia adversely affecting the fetus. With menstruation being added burden on women, we need at least 27 mg during pregnancy.

Meat eaters have the advantage over vegetarians as the iron content from animal products is easily absorbed in our bodies. Hence the vegetarians need to have more iron rich food and more frequently.

So now at 63 kg, though  yet miles away from an hourglass figure, I know where I went wrong. Besides a daily exercise routine, I brought some changes in my eating habits especially the breakfast.

Reduced weight gives more mobility and fresh look

Now my breakfast menu looks something like this:

Monday:   2 boiled eggs, 1 bowl oats garnished with almonds, colorful tutti-fruity, raisins, walnuts and sometimes banana slices.
Tuesday:   1 generous bowl of spiced boiled sprouted black gram and 1 boiled egg
Wednesday:  2 boiled eggs, 1 khakra
Thursday:   1 generous bowl of steamed spiced sprouted Moth and Moong (brown and green lentils)
Friday and Saturday repeat either of these. Sunday is for either poha, upma, sabudana khichdi or bread-omelette.

I also changed my dinner habits by eating smaller portions and twice a week I eat only sautéed broccoli and mushrooms. Some may however not relish these exotic vegetables, not to forget the exorbitant price these days. Legumes work best for vegetarians, if I may say so, both in cost and iron content.

Now Livogen, aims to educate women on importance and benefits of iron intake for a healthy lifestyle by sharing iron rich food recipes. So here is an easy recipe for vegetarians with cooked lentils.

RECIPE OF USAL:

Ingredients:

  • Soaked sprouted whole moong (green lentil) 1 cup
  • Soaked sprouted whole moth (brown lentil)   1 cup
  • Ginger julienne 1 tbsp
  • Cumin seeds 2 tsp
  • Seasoning : Mustard seeds, Asafoetida, salt, sugar, green chilies, curry leaves, dry mango powder, turmeric powder, red chili powder
  • Oil

Method:

  • Soak overnight the two lentils. Drain excess water and let these sprout for a day. These can even be eaten as quick snack. (Quick snack recipe: mix raw sprouts with finely chopped onion, tomatoes, capsicum, spinach, chat masala, pepper powder, salt, pinch of sugar and juice of half a lemon).

    Sprouted lentils rich in iron

  • Pressure cook the lentils for just about one whistle to avoid over cooking. The cooked lentils should keep their shape.
  • In a pan heat 1 tbsp oil preferably mustard oil or olive oil for added advantage.
  • Add hing(asafoetida) and mustard seeds.
  • As the mustard seeds crackle, add curry leaves, green chilies, turmeric powder, pinch of red chili powder.

Season it away…less oil, just about spicy with sweet and sour taste to balance

  • If the spice in green chili is not very strong add red chili powder; aim is to prepare a breakfast which is easy for digestion and not that will burn your insides.
  • Add cooked lentils. Add a pinch of sugar or little more, salt and dry mango powder.
  • Add raw ginger julienne and raw cumin seed after the water is almost dried.
  • Garnish with chopped coriander(I did not have fresh coriander at home though) . Serve hot.

Usal, ready to eat

The best chefs also recommend cooking food in iron skillet for that iron content in food.

There are however some foods that reduce the absorption of sufficient iron which may not be totally avoidable but can be eaten in moderation. Similarly there are foods that facilitate the absorption of iron. White wine is one such thing.

So what are you waiting for?

Grab that bottle of bubbly, a bowl of sprouts or a roasted chicken and get your fill of the iron!

Vijay Diwas

“Tomorrow we start our fireworks”

17 years is a long time but I remember his phone call like it was yesterday. I could literally hear the excitement that he was so trying to mask in an attempt to quell my anxiety and fear that threatened to swallow me.

Indian Air Force was cleared to launch air-strikes against infiltrators on 26th May 1999. The Kargil Conflict which lasted almost three months began early in May 1999 with the Pakistani intrusion and capturing and inhuman torturing of soldiers of Indian Army patrolling the area. The situation escalated soon enough and Air Force was called upon to provide air support to our men in olive-greens around mid-May.

For any fighter pilot worth his salt, being trained in air warfare, an opportunity to engage and thwart the enemy is the biggest high. But while all the warriors of sky at Srinagar prepared for show of strength, the families back home sat glued to television fearing the worst turn of events.

When the Kargil conflict reached its frenzy, I was engaged for almost seven months and eagerly waiting for month of October when I would finally be in arms of my beloved. That phone call from my fiancé, a pilot posted in Srinagar, on 25th May 1999 set the tone for coming days till next two months for me.

No sooner had Air Force struck on the enemy when two aircrafts were shot down by Pakistani stinger missiles with one of the pilots taken prisoner of war and another brutally murdered by the Pakistanis. The news sent fear waves among all the families of pilots participating in the Kargil war.

I can only imagine what the martyred pilot’s wife must have gone through on hearing about her husband’s sacrifice. Though I was yet to be married but the news had made me numb….never had I prayed as much as I did then….everyday.

The day began with newspaper. Only after scanning each and every page would I get on with rest of the day. The most routine work seemed never ending and incomprehensible. I kept checking the wall clock willing the day to end soon….I often thought the clock wasn’t working and would check other clocks of the house to reaffirm that time was indeed slogging past.

We did not have cell phones then. The air base at Srinagar had all but one public phone booth and obviously everyone wanted to call back home to assure their families of their well-being. Every night at eleven I would sit by the telephone waiting for his phone call before calling it a day.

Even during such times he would call up and whisper sweet nothings from the public telephone booth unburdening my worried heart. Everyday I made him promise that he would call me back the next day….it was my way to assure myself that he would be safe next day and talk to me again…

As we celebrate another “Vijay Diwas” for the victory of Indians over enemy, for reclaiming the land, for remembering the brave hearts and for honouring their sacrifices and indomitable spirit, I feel immensely fortunate that my soldier is safely back with me.

Wars are most devastating for the families of men in uniform….the casaulties are merely a number for others….Yes, our husbands, brothers and friends are paid for their jobs…but how many of those who say so will be willing to go and stand before the enemy for same amount of pay?

This ‘Vijay Diwas’, I wish people start respecting defense services and their personnel with more compassion….and not measure their sacrifices and their committment to duty.

I am proud to be associated with these brave courageous men who put their family life and comfort at stake for the service to nation.

May they always win all battles of life. Jai Hind

Aaji….

“Shoma, meri zara bandook toh lana( Shoma, bring me my gun!)” 

I distinctly remember her words which sounded funny even then, back in 1984-85 when I was a 9 year-old who was witnessing violence among Hindus and Sikhs, in the wake of Indira Gandhi’s assassination. Houses of Sikhs were being attacked and burned by Hindu youth and Hindus were being killed by young Sikhs who roamed with bare swords in their hands. One such Sikh man reached our door step while my parents were away on their duties as doctors in the government hospital at Ghaziabad. My grandmother stood near the door and shouted for me to bring her imaginary gun as me and my sister giggled inside the room hidden from the view. The perpetrator scooted off without getting a chance to harm us!!

Whatever little fearless spirit I have is passed on due to my strong Aaji. As far as I remember, this woman, my dear grandmother addressed as ‘Leela Aatya'(Leela Bua) by all and sundry even her own sons always had silver hair, wore white soft cotton saris, pearl ear-drops, two light gold bangles in her wrist with a small safety-pin hanging in one of the bangles and a thin gold chain. She had this coin sized depression on her forehead…a reminder of a childhood injury.

I never knew my grand father….he died when my father was a mere 14-year-old boy. All the responsibility of four young sons fell on his wife… my AAJI.

She was one hell of a brave woman. When whatever property she had inherited from her deceased husband was lost in gambling and to the money lenders by her brother-in-law, instead of crying and feeling helpless, she shifted to her brother’s house in Gwalior for providing better education to her four sons. But she did not burden her brother with expenses, instead she completed her high school and trained as health-worker and mid-wife. She shifted to Nagpur and taught as primary school teacher for few years but later shifted back to Gwalior and worked in hospitals as health worker. By then my father had joined a medical college and could support his brothers and mother by taking tuitions of small school children after college hours.

Once when she was travelling along with a six-year-old me in second class sleeper via Kalpi, a small town in Uttar-Pradesh, some one tried to snatch her only possession in the dark of the night…her gold chain. She held on to the chain and did not let the thief get away with it. The thief had to release the chain when the train started moving again and pulled away from the platform. Her palm had a deep gash from holding on to the chain and I realised of her injury only when she woke me up the next morning on reaching our destination!

In another incident in 1984, when we had recently shifted to a new house and new city Ghaziabad, three men attacked our home when my parents were on duty. The thieves hit her on head with pistol butt and stole whatever they could lay their hands on. The fearless woman, locked me and my sister in the house and with the bleeding head in a heavy rain, walked to the main road, reached another doctor’s family who had a telephone at their house and contacted my parents!

Years later, in 2003, when my daughter was born, in spite of poor eyesight and failing health, she stitched frocks for the baby fashioned out of her soft saris! She even massaged the baby, cradled her to sleep and sat near me telling all sorts of do’s and don’ts of upbringing a baby.

Love you Aaji....

Love you Aaji….

My grandmother died when my daughter was three years old. Her memory had failed her and she was bed-ridden with many body sores. It was painful to see her in last few days of her life because I felt helpless as she lay in bed unable to recognise me… But her sloppy smile and a faint recognition that lit up her eyes on seeing my three year old daughter is the most important memory that I cherish….I feel satisfied that during her last few days my daughter could bring a little smile on her face.

Memories of her time spent with me and my sister are many…times when she pampered us, scolded us, protected us, made sweets and her special treats, feigned her annoyance, let us do her hair, told us stories, scolded our parents for scolding us…..

Her continuous struggle in life is an inspiration to never give up…stand up against adverse situations and take troubles by the collar….

I wish I had half her courage, I might have been more successful in life I guess……..