Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Caring Hand

An apple a day keeps the doctor away. But that doesn’t mean one will never fall sick. We all have had our share of visits to the doctor. I used to have a favorite doctor in India (back in the ‘90s and early 2000), Dr U, a Parsi gentleman. He was very calm, always made sure the patient was at ease when he/she would be with him and left feeling better also. It was not just the medicines that he prescribed that helped. He would have a very reassuring touch, when he was feeling your pulse or when he was doing a check-up. It is small things like that, which really help a patient and gives them faith. I had gone to meet Dr U last year when I went to India, not as a patient, but as someone who has a lot of respect for the doctor. He has the right diagnosis most of the times, gives you logical explanations in a way that lay man can understand and comforts the patient.
Cut to 2010. Times have changed. To put it in just one sentence, the medical field has drastically changed. Doctors have to see a specific number of patients to get their dues from the insurance companies. The drill is to go to the doctor’s office, have the nurse note down your vitals and then wait for the doctor to come. If you’re lucky, the doctor will arrive within five minutes. And if you’re not, be ready to wait fifteen to twenty minutes till you see the doctor. And somehow, it always feels like the doctor is in a rush to leave the room and get the patient done with. It seems like it’s more about achieving numbers than seeing a patient. The doctor will come, ask how you’re feeling, and may or may not have a prognosis for you. The whole concept of bedside care is dwindling.
Even in the ER, a doctor will stop by fleetingly to see you and to see if the head nurse has taken the proper and adequate steps to take care of you. It’s at times like that that you want to talk to the doctor, hoping the doctor is patient enough to listen to you! After waiting for hours in the ER, when you are wheeled in, the comfort is not there. That seems to be missing. Times may have changed, but a patient’s needs still remain the same. The patient still looks for reassurance, and the gentle touch. The unsaid words make a big difference, rather than the doctor saying something like, “I don’t know why this happened, or you are doing fine and your reports are normal.”
Dr. Abraham Verghese writes about this topic too and his work at Stanford University emphasizes on bedside medicine. His website,, mentions about ‘The importance of bedside medicine and physical examination in a time in medicine when the use of advanced technology frequently results in the patient in the bed having less attention than the patient data in the computer.” Please try to lay your hands on Dr. Verghese’s ‘Tennis Partner’ and ‘Cutting for Stone’.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Boss - Not Just a Hierarchical Senior

I've been working for more than seven years now. And I interned for a couple of months before I began working. Have been thinking about the role that a boss plays for sometime now. The boss I had at my current workplace left some months back. I was relatively new to the field of public policies as had moved from the journalism field. The lady was instrumental in making me understand the basics by giving tasks that would give me an understanding of things. And soon enough, she recognized my strengths and I enjoyed being proactively involved at work. But then she left and although I continue to work and be proactive, I selfishly wish she were still there.

This is the current scenario, but walking back to where I started, it was at a newspaper with one of the largest publications in Mumbai, India. An intern who was still in school and worked during the summer break, L has been the best boss one could ask for. On the very first day of my internship, she told me to tag along with a fellow reporter and I did that for the next day too. By the third day, I began going out on my own for stories. She was receptive to me getting my own story angles and also told me if covering a particular event or running a story would make sense. She pointed out where I needed to improve, and at the same time gave me the freedom to find newsworthy things happening in the city, getting contacts, etc.

Still in my first week as an intern, I covered a tricky story and to my surprise, it was the cover story the next day! By being herself, L taught sincerity, paying attention to details, and finding about stories that people will like to read. Most of all, seeing her passion for work - it instilled in me one of the biggest things I really value - loving the work I do. Some of my classmates and people from my college eventually worked under her and have had the same opinion of L. It has been great to work with her.

Another boss I had in Mumbai, at a different publication was very frank. I used to be intimidated of this person for quite some time. More than a year and a half after I joined that publication, I needed to take leave for some a couple months to go home in Baroda. I was not sure whether this leave would be granted and understandably enough, questions would be asked. It was not something that one does regularly. I told this boss that I needed this break and that would work from home, edit stories from home and help close the issue on time. The boss just asked me one question. "Why do you want to go home?". Before talking to this person, I had been in doldrums as to what to say. I told the boss the truth and the reason for the break. Without thinking for a minute, this person let me go. That day I learnt another thing. A boss will be willing to understand your point of view if you are genuine. To date, am intermittently in touch with this boss and it's always nice chatting with the person.

I've been blessed to have great bosses, that have let my creative juices flow and let me explore different ways to approach a situation. And there have been times when I've seen that bosses sometimes can't guide their team efficiently and don't take responsibility as a team leader. Or there are those who make their subordinates wary of them.
Knock on wood, I've enjoyed going to work everyday in all these years of my professional life. This blog is for L, A, J, V and all the great people I've worked with!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Love Is...

Love is when you sleepily hold your partner first thing in the morning
Love is when mommy doesn't eat mushrooms, because her daughter/ son has mushroom allergies
Love is when your two-year old comes running at you and hugs you when you pick her up at day care
Love is when your partner does dishes at night, just because you don't feel like it
Love is when your toddler comes and kisses you because he loves mommy and daddy
Love is when a 60-something lady misses her husband, who is miles away from her and writes him an e-mail once in a while
Love is when your friend tells you out of concern that you've put on weight and need to lose some
Love is when your mother or mother-in-law chops onions for you as they make you cry
Love is when your friend wakes up early in the morning only to talk to you in peace (to account for time difference between continents and that she has a 2-year old kid)
Love is when you meet a friend after ages and begin talking as if you just met yesterday
Love is when a dog is your companion on the bus, takes you to your work safely and you give him a nice rub on his back
Love is when the whole family gets together to make a birthday card for a 8-year old's birthday
Love is when your partner writes those little notes on the aluminum foil of your lunch sandwich

It's definitely cliche, but enjoy the small pleasures! It's those memories that take you through the rough times

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Senior Speak

I have to admit that I have a soft corner for senior people. I find it amazing that seniors, who are easily in their 70s, 80s and beyond, are self-sufficient and independent. Having grown up in India, senior citizens are viewed and treated differently. Have not seen them so independent, who drive cars and frequent the theatres to watch movies.

I feel it is a matter to appreciate that they do so much on their own. In India, children and/ or grandchildren would take care of parents - willingly or with a grudge. They are pampered or restricted. My mother-in-law, who is visiting from India also happened to mention that seniors walk so efficiently over here and have the drive to spend their time in a good way.

Some people get irked when they find a senior citizen in front of them at the grocery store and he/ she takes forever to give the current amount. They would put all change that they have on the cashier's table and let the person figure it out. I see it as them being independent enough to step out of the house, drive to Kroger/ Meijer/ Walmart/ Stop & Shop, shop for themselves, and go home. It takes alertness, quite a bit of physical fitness and confidence to do this.
And all these three things don't come easy when one steps in to that age when you start getting mails from AARP (American Association of Retired Persons). At times I wonder if I would be able to do what my mother's mother does at the age of 75 or what my mother's aunt does at 80-something. Do you get that thought? Are you confident that if you live that long, you'd cook so effortlessly, have the enthusiasm to go for a walk in the park or take your partner to the movies or go by yourself?

The concern that I do have is when senior citizens are not alert while driving. Because of this, they not just harm themselves, they may end up injuring a person or a person may lose his/ her life because of the senior citizen.
I am not patient with them or give them one of the biggest smiles because I know that one day I'd get there too. It's just appreciation for something they do so well.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Meeting Children, Teens and Adults in 24 hours - An Unforgettable Experience

When I started studying at the Ohio State University, my on-campus job was at the University's Child Care Center - helping teachers, playing with children and spending time with them. Since my educational background was different from my graduate studies, I was supposed to take pre-requisite courses with the Undergraduates. And then of course was attending classes in my school. It is a professional course
My day began in the morning at the Child Care Center (CCC). I had never known children before my time at CCC. After getting over my initial awkwardness with the children, I began enjoying there. In a lot of ways, I liked the innocence of children, seeing up and close of how children learn the basics of life - not just A, B, C,s - but also learning to eat, learning to walk, interacting with other children, adults and so much more. I began to look forward to interacting with them. There was a really sweet girl, who's mother was at a big position at OSU. I asked her once, "What do you think mommy does at work?" And she said, "She drinks water." All of a little over two years, I broke in to a smile having listened to her reply. The children didn't have sibling rivalry at that age. The kids would love it when their brother or sister came to pick them up with mommy or daddy at the end of the day.

After spending 4-5 hours with them, I would attend courses with the undergraduate students. And suddenly you could see how different they were. It made me think about the importance of the different stages of life. These students were all grown up, they were in their late-teens, and I was in my late-twenties! These students were all about keeping up with fashion, texting their friends during class and in a hurry to leave once class got over. Although I knew what to expect, I was still somewhat amazed that students attended class in track pants and shorts. I felt this way as this was not the norm in India where I'd had all my education. I began missing the innocence of the toddlers. The teens would have a different expression on their face when I said that I didn't live with roommates, but with my husband as I was married. It seemed like they were always in a hurry to do everything. What I really liked was to see the energy they had. The energy for life, energy to do things and just go on.

Attend spending a couple of hours learning the pre-requisite courses, I went to my graduate school. This was a professional course, where everyone was dressed really well, some in ties and jackets too. My day literally consisted from muddy pants, to shorts to ironed trousers and business attire. And it went beyond just the clothes. Some of them were fresh from undergrad school, but a lot were in the middle of their career, who attended school to enhance their knowledge on different subjects.

My colleagues at graduate school identified more with who I was, that I was married and came from a different professional background. They were not in a hurry for things. Grades mattered to the undergrads and graduate students both. But not as much to the latter. For them, it was important to be able to use the knowledge at work. There would be times when I'd feel like some of these graduate students would be parents of infants and toddlers and teens also! And that they've gone through so many phases in life.

I sometimes got overwhelmed with school, spending time with really different people, and trying to do well in school. What helped at that time was taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture. The little infants and toddlers gave me perspective on several things. That proper upbringing is so important and in many ways lays the foundation of your life. Stepping back and seeing the bigger picture made me see that each phase in life is so important. The experience of undergraduate years teaches you so much, make great friendships, etc. And then graduate school was important in terms of applying all that you have learnt, teaching others and more.
I have finished the pre-requisite courses, go only to graduate school (have only six more months of studying left!) and left child-care to work at a place that is more relevant to my school work!

No Longer Second Fiddle

Please do not treat this as a feminist blog. Have been meaning to write this blog for some time. It's a blog on how daughters shoulder the same responsibilities as sons, and probably have more responsibilities than them. A quintessential aspect I want to write about is buying a house for the parents.
I am super proud to write about three girl friends of mine, who have partially or fully helped buy a house for their parents. They all have names beginning with S. So I'd refer to them as S-Ahmedabad, S-Baroda, S-USA.
Will start with my friend S-USA. She came to the United States more than ten years back. Over the years, she has become very successful in her field of economics. And just last year, she paid almost half or more than half the amount for her parents' new home. Before we were married, we always spoke of how parents may feel of taking help from a daughter, as she is considered to be of a different family. She said that she felt so proud of being able to help her parents. It is amazing that her husband has also been really supportive of her.
The next is my friend S-Ahmedabad. It is not like her parents could not afford getting an apartment on their own. Her parents work at some really prestigious places in the city. But she really wanted to do this. My friend is an amazing writer and now is on the editorial board of one of the newspapers in the city. She too was so happy to have been able to help her parents. When we were talking, she said that who said that only sons are supposed to do this. She was proud that she also provides emotional support to her parents.
The third is my friend S-Baroda. Her's is a very special story. When she got a flat for her parents several years back, the bank officials, from who she took the loan said that she was the youngest person to who they were lending a home loan. They have known what tough times are. And through all that and through her hard work, S-Baroda gave not just the gift of the house, but support to her parents when they needed it the most. She's been the son of the house in the true sense. She is doing great in her job.
These situations are still rare in India, as Indians believe they cannot take such help from their daughters once they are married. Two of these women are married and helped their parents after their marriage. Goes to show how independent women are. And that even though times may change, and you may live in another country, but the values inculcated when we were children remains the same!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Your Destiny in Your Hands. Really?

How many of us have seen people wearing rings with stones of green, blue, magenta, etc? Or know family people fasting on Tuesday, Thursday or any of the other five days? I bet a lot will have positive replies to this. I find myself often asking one question. Is this hypocrisy?
A lot of people wear it to avoid having a bad spell on their life or to have a reduced effect of a bad spell. Some wear it to improve their current life. Some have a reason that because they did all these things, things are not as bad as they could have been. Others will do it to have a better health, to help the couple procreate; succeed in their academics, etc. The list can go on and on. Maybe you can add on some as well. I am not being sarcastic here. And it is not like life’s always been rosy and smooth for me. In fact, it has been after going through those potholes (some really huge ones) that I think on these lines.
Now the thought of why I consider this hypocrisy. The Holy book of Hindus is called Geeta. One of the biggest and better known preaching of the Geeta is that ‘Do your own duty. And in return, do not think of the fruit (outcome).’ I believe that this contradicts with the wearing of rings, some necklaces, fasting, etc. In this case, you are fasting, wearing some stones, etc, to get a desired outcome. Does this not mean you are not doing what the Geeta teaches you? One is performing an action or duty (fasting, wearing stones, in this case), precisely to get a particular outcome (something that you really want).
This not only makes me think that the two thoughts have different approaches, but also tells me about faith. Those who believe in the Higher power will have faith in His decisions. And not try to manipulate that. Whenever things don’t go too well, we are told, “Don’t worry, everything happens for a reason.” This once again contradicts what one says, and what one does. We are told to “Have faith in your own self”. If we do, then why let a stone or a particular day influence that? I agree that particular days are meant for specific deities and stones for some other purpose, but what religious book tells you to do these things? And how will doing so change the course of your life?
If one is doing it for their own satisfaction, that’s fine. But then few will admit to that. This may seem like a strong article, but this was something I’ve been thinking for sometime now, and am now putting it across. I hope not to offend anyone’s feelings with this.

Religion and Spirituality

I was at Barnes and Noble (a bookstore, a couple of years back, looking at some books. Curiosity got the better of me and I asked one of the employees to help me find books on spirituality. He took me to the isle that had books on religion and showed me several books on Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, etc. I told him I was looking for books on spirituality and not religion. To which he said, “This is all we have here.” After some time, I did find a few books on spirituality. This incident made me think of how people may confuse spirituality and religion. But the two are actually really different things. It also means different things to different people.
Over the last ten or eleven years, I’ve developed an inclination for spirituality. And have also seen how it has helped me. To be more clear, by spirituality I do not mean going to the temple regularly and reciting a long list of prayers. I have seen that meditation helps, especially over a longer period of time. Connecting with your inner self, knowing who you really are, what you are as a person helps. Just watching your breath, and keeping your eyes closed is so helpful. One can start meditation that way. This is spirituality to me - Connecting to the Higher Being through your inner self.
There was an Indian religious festival a couple of months back. In way of conversation, I was told that even early in the morning, there were so many devotees in the temple that day. And was told, “Seems like a lot of people are turning to spirituality.” So I said that, just because you go to a temple, doesn’t make you spiritual. You could be religious, and so, may go to the temple. In way of conversation, the person felt that you do need to go to a temple in order to be spiritual. This is where my point of view differed. My quest for spirituality began at a friend’s place. And over the years, I’ve found myself meditating in the living room of my house, on a lazy Saturday when am just lying in bed, or in the bus when am going to work. And this has been the case for other people also.
This doesn’t mean that visiting a temple is not needed to connect with your spiritual self. Different things work for different people. It could be that people need to go to a temple for connecting with the Higher Being. Silence works for people like me. And so temples usually don’t help, where there are lots of people, talking about things, meeting others, etc.
One technique that I have found useful to meditate – sitting, sleeping or standing, is to touch the tip of your thumb to the tip of your fingers one-by-one. If possible, close your eyes. If not, it is fine to leave them open. When you touch the finger tips with the tip of the thumb, and press very gently, you’ll feel your pulse. Feel your pulse on all four finger tips. And as you do that, transition to following your breath. And then visualize any image that calms you or makes you happy. See how it goes. Do it whenever you want, whenever you find the time and inclination for it.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

What's for Dinner Tonight?

During one of my conversations with M, I was telling her of how I cook for the week on Sunday. Weekdays for me are very hectic and by the time I return home, it is any time between 8 PM and 9 PM. I don’t have the inclination or enthusiasm to cook after that. M remarked to this routine that, “That way you don’t have to think everyday as to what make for dinner?” And I told her that for three years, I cooked food every evening. But somehow that question never arose in my mind.
Growing up, like several of you, my mom would also ask, “What do you want to eat for dinner tonight?” As we grew older, we realized that this was the story of many households. When I got married, I consciously made a decision not to bore A with this question and ask him in the morning or afternoon as to what to make for dinner. And somehow, four years after being married, and add to that three years of living in Mumbai where I took turns cooking with my flat-mates, I don’t run out of ideas of what to cook. In these four years, would not have asked him more than twice or thrice to help me decide what to cook. The question that was asked by my mom, I see the same question being asked by girls of my generation too. And I’ve seen their significant others not particularly being interested in answering this!
I’d attribute several reasons for this. An over dose of watching Food Network! I still have not gotten tired of watching Giada and Rachel Ray and Paula Deen! Another reason is reading some really wonderful food blogs by some amazing Indian women/ moms/ cooks. They try out authentic Indian recipes, some recipes that have been passed on from one generation to the other, they’d try authentic recipes from other countries like Italian or Mexican or Mediterranean cooking. I have really liked some of their fusion recipes and the way they use some vegetables, etc. Must say the photographs on the blogs of these women are the reason I am tempted to try them. Even if you simply Google ‘Indian food blogs’ or something to that effect, you’ll get an entire list of some really nice websites.
The third and one of the most important reasons is that I’ve somehow always been around some really good cooks. To start with – I would love seeing the way my nani (mom’s mom) cooked. And the patience she had to be in the kitchen and churn out amazing food so effortlessly. Just remembering the way she cooked, and what she made sometimes gives me ideas for dinner. And then was my mom, who still makes such amazing food. After coming to the United States, I saw my friends in Connecticut cook some of the best food I’ve ever eaten. I’ve already written a blog about them. Scroll down to read about them. Anand even ate eggplant when one of them made baingan bharta (cooked/slightly smoked eggplant, mashed and cooked with onions, garlic and other Indian spices)! Their cooking techniques, flavorful food and our weekend get-togethers were things to cherish! Even in Columbus, R, a friend and a colleague is a great cook and makes delectable food.
Oh, and yes, I am able to experiment on my cooking because A is one of the best guinea pigs I could ever have! By now you’d have guessed how much I enjoy cooking, and knowing more about recipes. :-)
So the next time you run out of ideas as to what to cook, try implementing one of these ideas. Who knows, along with some wonderful food, you’d enjoy a trip down memory lane that you can share with your children, parents, better half! Trust me, with these things, you’d find yourself asking the ‘What’s for dinner tonight’ question fewer times than before.

Is Gangtok the Capital of Sikkim? Is Itanagar a capital city or not? What about Dispur?

The title of this blog does give an idea of what this blog is going to be about. Will start with telling how this discussion started and evolved over time. A and I were returning home from a party about two years ago and he was telling me that someone from his family had lived in Itanagar several years ago. All I knew was Itanagar was in the eastern part of India and was a capital city. But was not willing to admit to him that my knowledge ended there. And thus started a quizzing session. I didn’t go too far before A knew that I was ignorant of the capital cities of India. I knew most of them, but the capitals from eastern India got me really confused. And what surprised me or probably didn’t was that he knew all of them!
I was willing to bet that most people would be like me, who wouldn’t know their capital cities too well. It started first with our close circle of friends in Connecticut. Of the 7-8 of them, none of them knew the capitals. Gradually, this mini-quizzing session started with several close friends, family, relatives, colleagues, etc. I don’t think I have met more than two people who know all capital cities of India. It definitely doesn’t look good on us when we don’t know the capital cities of our own country.
Recently, A’s school friend put a statement on Facebook of a survey done by Hindustan Times. That the children of International schools in India didn’t know the capital cities as compared to children from state board schools. (For those who are not aware, for a very long time, India had three types of schools. State board schools where the state government controlled the syllabus of all schools. There were CBSE schools that had a centrally or federally controlled syllabus. And then there were ICSE schools). Who was at fault for this? The education system? Children’s inclination to remember? Too difficult to remember? Is India not that open to tourism?
The point I am trying to make here is that it is not just children who do not know capital cities. I feel like adults like us, whether you studied in India or any other nation, should have basic knowledge like this. Ask yourself. Are you aware of all capital cities of the country you studied in? Maybe both children and adults should know the capital cities of states. What do you think?
Here are capitals of some states.

Arunachal Pradesh – Itanagar
Assam – Dispur
Sikkim – Gangtok
Tripura – Agartala
Orissa – Bhubaneshwar
Nagaland – Kohima
Mizoram – Aizawl
Manipur – Imphal

Did I take you back to 5th grade?

Friday, January 22, 2010

L is for Letters

It seems as if writing letters has been a thing of the past. What happened to the good ol’ communication of putting ink on the paper? I know of very few people now who still continue to write letters. What prompted me to write this blog? Well – I received a New Year greeting from our very close friends, N and N. And enclosed with it was a little hand-written letter. A and I were so happy not just to read it, but simply see a hand-written letter. The feeling of getting a letter is so different than getting an e-mail or just a New Year greeting card or a greeting with the family’s photograph. That personal touch, the personal thought that goes in to writing a letter is evident when you read a letter. The personalizing of it makes a world of difference to a person who understands the value of a hand-written note or letter! When I see that hand-addressed envelope sitting in my mailbox, I have a smile on my face, and my walk quickens to go home and read it.

Have still continued to write letters. I still exchange letters with A’s and my mom. I would write in Gujarati (our spoken language at home in India) at times also. That used to be more frequent when I would communicate with my grandparents. It is an equally good feeling to pen a letter, as much as it is to receive one. Maybe you want to give it a try! It may feel odd initially. With communication having become more quick and efficient, it is highly likely that when you sit to write a letter to your parents or friends or significant other (if he/she stays away from you), you may not have matter to write. What I have felt is that when you sit to write a letter, there are things that come up, which may not come up in routine conversations.

The last I wrote a letter was when I sent a gift for another very close friend’s new born daughter. We were roommates in Mumbai and she’s now settled in LA, and is the mom of a beautiful baby girl. Every time I would write letters in Mumbai to my parents or grandparents in Baroda, she would always say, “When will you write me a letter?” Being in the same town, I never got an opportunity, but she did get a letter almost six years after that!

Letters make for beautiful memories! On a day when you’re feeling low, if you go back to the old letters that you got from your mom and dad, siblings, friends, loved ones, it would bring back your mood. For those who have lived in India or received letters from there would know of the light blue International mail letter. Sometimes, just seeing that envelope does the trick for me. For one of my birthdays, when I lived in Mumbai, K had given me this beautiful letter pad made of hand-made paper. It lasted a very long time and I still remember writing letters on those hand-made papers with a beautiful design on the top!

Some years back, when letters were already beginning to get replaced by e-mails, people would write long e-mails. And it would feel so good to see a long e-mail sitting in your inbox. A has a habit of writing good long e-mails once in a while. But now, getting long e-mails is also rare. They’re also becoming short and to the point.
I hope I convinced you to pick a pen and write a letter to anyone. Just think of the reaction they would have when they see a personal note from you! Happy writing!

SMS English in Daily Communication

SMS is short for Short Messaging Service. And yes, I am aware it used to cover as much information you can in 160 characters when you send a message to someone’s mobile phone. My question is: Why use the same kind of English in e-mails and social media (except Twitter, which has text limits)? There is no dearth of space in an e-mail or other forms of communication. Nor do you have to pay an extra buck for it. I am not against using small words when it comes to texting someone, but gets irritating when transferred to other media of communication.

Most people these days have a good control over the keyboard and have a good typing speed. It makes me wonder as to how much longer it will take if one wrote a complete word in regular English than in SMS English. Writing ‘dissertation’ will probably take two seconds longer than writing ‘dissy’! I have come across some formal mails also where people have used disastrous English to communicate through English, which is not even SMS English probably. Some alphabets like ‘g’ go missing at the end of a word for some people. It is absolutely normal for them to write ‘evenin’ or ‘clubbin’, etc. I may come across as old-fashioned when I write this, but I really wished people wrote regular English in e-mails, letters or other social media websites.

Here are some words that I’ve routinely seen that really makes me wish the above.

Sffring – it means ‘suffering’
Anvsry – it means ‘anniversary’
Dissy – it means ‘dissertation’
Sm – it means ‘some’ (This makes me think about the time it takes to write ‘sm’ and to write ‘some’)
Nt – it means ‘not’ (Again makes me think the same thing)
Hv nt – it means ‘have not’ (would be better if this were written on the cell phone, rather than e-mail)
Sumtyms – I know what it means, but again, there’s literally just two more alphabets to type in the original word of ‘sometimes’
Pychas –I think this one takes the cake. Guess what this means! And I’ve read this word written by quite a few people. It means ‘pictures’!!

Maybe people write this type of English to stay with the flow or keep up with the times! In this aspect, I continue to remain old-fashioned or ancient and write in the English I’ve grown up learning!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

'Egg'ceptions Apply

I've been allergic to eggs since I was five or six years old. It never posed much of a problem in India as there always have been eggless foods to bank upon. A lot of people there do not eggs as they believe it to be a non-vegetarian food item and against their religion to eat it.
Before I came to the United States, A's sister and A had told me that a lot of food items will have egg here. Having come from India, I had never thought that ice-creams and some everyday breads can also have egg!
It so happens that when at a house party or when invited for dinner, I would ask if some food has egg, only to avoid a problematic situation for me as well as the hosts. Several families find it difficult to fathom that a person can have egg and other food allergies. Or some people feel that it is extremely uncommon for people of Indian origin to have food allergies. So over the years, have come across a wide array of things people have told me when I said I don't eat desserts, cakes or anything that has egg or eggs itself.
Here are some reasons that people have told me. And these are after I have told them that I am allergic and have been tested for it also just about a year or two back. Please feel free to tell me your experience, if you've had any on these lines.

1. Are you sure you have an egg allergy?
2. Why don't you try this food? It has egg, but who knows, you may not actually react!
One of the most common thing I get to hear is this:
3. I am sure it is psychological. You should keep an open mind. It's all in your mind. Just eat it. Then see what happens! Take the thought out of your mind and try it once.
4. Beta, does your entire family not eat egg? (I don't understand why family comes in this. But I still say that my dad, mom and sister eat, but I can't. And then I get to hear this) So only you don't FEEL like eating eggs?
One of the most bizarre ones I hear is this:
5. When A eats eggs, and everything else, then why don't you?
Even as I write this, I feel like telling them that there is just no connection in the question you just asked me.
6. Beta, you should do Pranayam, your allergies will go away. All allergies will go away if you do it everyday for X amount of time
7. Maybe you are plain scared to try eggs.
8. Why don't you start eating eggs now? Maybe you had allergies as a child. I have not heard of any adults having food allergies, so now you should eat eggs.

I started eating chicken a year back, not to increase my food options, but because I started enjoying it. So people's comments have reduced a little, but one comment remains.
9. See, now that you can eat chicken, try egg. I think it is a psychological barrier you have against eggs. When you eat non-vegetarian, what is wrong with eggs?

I had a funny experience when I was in Delhi this summer, visiting T. T, her daughter and I were out shopping. At lunch time, I thought of getting myself a butter chicken frankie. Out of my usual habit for checking if the tortilla (outer covering of frankie) had egg, I asked him if anything had egg. And the guy told me that they had a regular roti (Indian flat bread), then an omelette and inside that they put the chicken filling. So I told the man to omit the omelette and just put the filling in the roti. To which he said that the omelette will accentuate the flavor. And I persisted saying I still didn't want it. And then he said, "Lekin madam, aap ne toh chicken frankie order kiya hai. Phir bhi?" ("But madam, when you have ordered chicken frankie, why omit the egg?) After I said yes once again, he did omit the egg, but was definitely flustered at this weird order!!

I feel good that sometimes people are genuinely concerned and some will go the extra mile and read the tiresome list of ingredients when they go shopping. This really touches me that they went out of their way to accommodate me. It gets to me when people assume I have a psychological block over and over again.

One last bit of information for those who have egg allergies. Here are some foods to watch out for. They are foods that you may assume do not have eggs.

1. All flavors of Ben n Jerry and Haagen Dazs have egg.
2. Subway veggie patty has egg.
3. So do some multi-grain or 12 grain or 15-grain breads.
4. Some whole wheat organic and regular burger buns.
5. Most Kaiser rolls.
6. Indian flat breads in restaurants - especially naan and kulcha have egg most of the times. Won't hurt to ask if it does or doesn't.

Wish you all happy and healthy eating!