Sunday, March 27, 2011

Vanity, Thy Name Is Woman?

I am determined to age gracefully, let me assure all my faithful readers. I have always told myself that I will not let any strand of grey hair or any hint of a wrinkle on my face faze me in any way whatsoever. There is an acceptance within me that the inexorable passage of time does a number on all of us, and however one might try to fight the aging process, it will definitely be in vain. So here I am, all set to embrace my burgeoning years with equanimity and grace, and not get into panic mode when I see visible signs of the years creeping up on me. However, I am determined to live the rest of my life as healthily as possible, eat judiciously, exercise cautiously, and not wreck my body foolishly till I fade into the sunset.

Eat well and exercise regularly - now that requires super human will and determination. Not quite easy in a world replete with fast food, TV dinners, and ubiquitous "couch potato-ism"! When the temptation of super sizing your meal lurks around every corner, and the calorie-laden frappucinos and mocha lattes assault your nostrils, it is very easy to fall off the wagon, not to mention the margaritas luring you with picture-perfect scenes of white sandy beaches, lush palm trees, blue skies and sunny climes! And then there's always the excuse of your hyper-scheduled, hyper-stimulated, hyper-conditioned, overworked days that blind you to the treadmill beckoning you and justify your lazing around on the couch till it's time to crash into bed.

As human as I am, I rise and fall, rise and fall! I sit in on a meeting, and when the doughnuts are passed around, I have the strength of mind to resist those perfect rounds of sinful delight, but when a graduating student of mine hands me a box of wicked fruit tarts, I indulge in a couple, oblivious to the calories and rationalizing that it's fruit after all. Am out for dinner with my men and valiantly refuse the delectable, calorie-rich sushi and settle for a miso soup and seafood salad instead, but then again, on a perfectly balanced day diet-wise, I give in to some gooey peanut candy saturated with brown sugar (not the dope, please!). Yes, the road to hell is paved with delicacies of all kinds, and while I resist most of them, I yield to a few, and thus the battle goes on, relentlessly each day.

The aforementioned battle is not at all an attempt to look youthful and bewitching, but merely a wise move to stay healthy and disease-free for the remaining years of my life. I certainly am not scheduled to star in a movie or be part of a beauty contest, as ridiculous as that sounds, but I plan not to fall sick with my wayward ways and be a burden to my loved ones when I'm old. Vanity, thy name is woman? Not in my case. It's more like, "Sanity, thy name is Olivia!!!"

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Spring Break 2011

On a lighter note than my earlier posts, this is a personal account of what has been panning out at home in the past few weeks and recent days. The kid and I are having our Spring Break this week, and our original plans of that pending trip to Vegas never materialized for very many reasons. With all the death, destruction, recovery, and nuclear crisis going on across the Pacific, Vegas had receded farther back in our minds. We decided as a family that a vacation in Sin City would be the most frivolous thing to do at this time, and that we should contribute our two pennies' worth to the current relief efforts being undertaken by the rest of the world. So here we are, back at square one, and as can be rightly guessed, the husband has gone to being his usual workaholic self, and the 15-year-old is lost in his books, that is, whenever he is not raiding the pantry or the refrigerator!

The benefits of my 'staycation' have been many, the foremost of them being my being able to sleep in each morning. Sleep ...ahhh, the word is music indeed to my ears! We're talking about a harried working woman who wakes up in the unearthly hours of the morning each day and rushes around like a motor-driven automaton, with not a moment of rest during the day, until her head hits the pillow at night. If you get the general drift of things, you can sense how sleep-deprived I am, so no wonder then that sleep is a luxury to me! Lazing and lounging have been the order of the day this week, and I'm beginning to like it, A LOT!!! Catching up on my reading has been the second best thing, since I have absolutely lost interest in watching movies, desi or otherwise. Give me a book any day, and mine will be the happiest soul on the planet!

The kid had initially told me he wanted to do his own thing, and that he didn't want to be 'nagged' in any way, which actually suited me fine. Well, his resolve didn't last more than a day, and it's he who's nagging me now (and I mean that in a very positive way!), with his endless questions about everything in life. Last night, we had a particularly enlightening discussion about faith, God, the efficacy of prayer, good karma, positive thinking, etc., etc. "Mom, can you feed me, please?" was another surprising request from my teenager, and I was thrilled to feed him the dosai (rice and lentil crepe), as we chatted about his babyhood and days in California - a rare moment of special mother - son bonding!

As for my personal goals of eating healthy, exercising, and losing weight, everything has gone right on track, and I'm immensely pleased with myself, needless to say! This break has mostly been my ME TIME, and I'm eternally grateful for all of life's blessings, great and small. The fact that I have a job in uncertain economic times, and one that keeps me busy at that, and the opportunity to relax and unwind now and bond with my son, have not been lost on me at all. That Vegas trip may not have worked out, but as my mother often reminded me, here I am, counting my blessings, day in and day out! :)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

On Despots And Dictators

I have been watching with unbridled interest the upheavals, unrest, and change sweeping across North Africa and the Middle East in recent times. With Nature unleashing its fury on man on one side, it is the despots and dictators on the other side who are brutalizing their own people, the ones who have dared to protest against their tyrannical rulers after decades of oppression and appalling brutality meted out to them. With uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Jordan, Bahrain, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Libya, and so on, to name a few, it is obvious that the power-hungry tyrants will do anything it takes to stay on at the helm, even if it means the mass murder of their own people. A case in point is Libya's Moammar Gadhafi, a wily fox of a ruler, who is clearly delusional about his people loving him despite their taking to the streets against him.

Egypt's Hosni Mubarak tried brutalizing his people as well, but was smart enough to step down when the tide turned against him, with the people power swelling up against him in Tahrir Square, and the world body urging him to go. Gadhafi is different altogether - here is a man who shows obvious signs of being mentally deranged, who refuses to understand that his people want him gone, and who has no qualms about slaughtering his countrymen who dare oppose him. "I am Libya," he says, his massive ego blinding him to the discontent raging amongst his people, and he has vowed to fight till the end, unmindful of the brutal massacre turning the rebel-held city streets into rivers of blood.

With the UN backing a NO-FLY ZONE and the coalition forces pulverizing Gadhafi's air force, tanks, and munition depots, the despot is deep in hiding in one of his fortified underground bunkers, and is sending out his messages of defiance via telephone to the outside world, messages rife with bluster and bluff. With his billions stashed away in foreign nations now frozen, there are rumours that he still has billions in hard cash in Libya, so the fight is expected to go on for a long time, as long as he can arm his so-called "loyalists" who have been coerced into taking up arms for him against the rebels. Reports indicate that young, inexperienced men have had one hand handcuffed to the tanks and forced to go into the rebel-held cities, resulting in their bombing deaths caused by the coalition, and those who tried to desert his fighting ranks have been executed at point blank range. Women and children being used as human shields are collateral damage, innocent lives being lost all for the sake of this despot wanting to stay on in power.

One of Gadhafi's sons was on TV a few weeks ago, before the Allied action, and was complaining of not being able to indulge in his hobby of going on African safaris. As if that were the only thing that mattered! His other London-School-Of-Economics-educated son was echoing his insane father of how the Libyan people loved his Dad and would give up their lives for him, and how the rest of the world had misunderstood this whole thing. This extended drama being played out at the cost of innocent lives shows the urgency of the situation in Libya, and like all dictators in history, this one too shall pass into disgrace and infamy. Having plundered and looted their nations for decades at a stretch and having stayed on at the helm for too long, it is time for all despots and dictators to go, so their people can enjoy their freedoms they truly deserve.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Signs Of The Times

When I was a child growing up in India, the Seventh Day Adventist Church used to publish a periodical called "Signs Of The Times." It was an American publication that was circulated widely among the church members, and had articles about the Biblical prophecies predicting the end of the world. I'm not sure if this is in publication these days, but I remember vividly the beautiful illustrations by American artists depicting the end times in those glossy magazines that so captivated me as a little girl. The Adventists believe in the Second Coming or Advent of Christ at the end of the world, and I was raised on all those prophecies and signs that would alert one before the big event, and the calamities and disasters that would occur before it.

This is not a religious post, but just a shocking, chilling reminder to myself of the lessons learned at church as a child about the signs of the times, considering the various tragedies unfolding across the globe. The recent triple whammy of the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear fallout that Japan is currently reeling from, beginning last Wednesday, and the preceding earthquake in Christ Church, New Zealand, are truly epic and apocalyptic in nature. Just when we think that one natural disaster is over and get over the terror and shock of that event, another one is unleashed upon an unsuspecting populace, more intense and more destructive than the one before. How much more can the planet take, one wonders! For the coastline to have shifted by a couple of metres, and for the earth to have shifted off its axis by a few inches speaks of the magnitude of the calamity in itself.

"And you will be hearing of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not frightened, for those things must take place, but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and in various places there will be famines and earthquakes" (Matthew 24: 6-7), are verses that come readily to mind as I look at the unrest unfolding and sweeping across the Middle East and North Africa, from Tunisia to Morocco to Egypt to Yemen to Jordan to Bahrain to Iran to Saudi Arabia to Libya. One cannot open the newspaper without any news of an uprising or protest or killing or war. Famine is widespread in Africa and many other parts of the globe, and earthquakes are increasing in frequency, wiping out sizable chunks of the earth's population. And so are tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes, floods, and a multitude of other disasters. A frightening spectre indeed!

Armageddon is yet to come, but with the heightened threat of terrorism these days, all it takes is for one mad man to get hold of a nuclear weapon and trigger a battle that will wipe out the entire planet. We live in truly dangerous times these days, needless to say. With natural disasters decimating human beings on the one hand, and men killing each other in uprisings and wars and acts of terrorism on the other hand, the future seems so bleak and dismal. I hate to dwell on the theories related to the Apocalypse and the doomsday scenarios of the end of the world, but the recent happenings around the globe have made me pause and take stock of all those prophecies I was introduced to as a child. All I can do now is to hope and pray for those in suffering and in need, and keep my fingers crossed for merciful deliverance for all of us at long last!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Battle Of The Bulge

A couple of months ago, the theme of study in class was Food, and who can ever resist the potent fascination of the same! All the students thoroughly enjoyed the topic, and the passionate foodie that I am, it was a splendid opportunity for me to sample various dishes from all parts of the globe. Everyone took great pride in showcasing the food from their native countries, brought the dish for everyone to taste, and then went on with their spectacular presentations on how to cook that particular dish. Truth be told, it was one extended four-week party in class! The janitor must've wondered what exactly we were doing in a language classroom, what with all the paper plates and cups and bowls and cutlery left in the trash cans each day!

The end result of all our wonderful learning/partying was that everyone had packed on a few extra pounds, and needless to say, the Instructor the most! The love my students show to me is humongous, translate that to double servings of everything! They serve me and stand watch over me to see the approval and appreciation in my face, and that's how I ended up in the royal Battle of the Bulge. There was no way to secretly chuck all that food in the trash, and in order not to disappoint them, I had to make a valiant effort at eating all that was on my plate. On many an ocasion, I had to skip dinner, afraid of what all that delicious food eaten during the day would do to my waistline. Besides, I was given whole ziploc bags of ingredients so I could try out those recipes at home. In my kitchen now is an entire basket full of grains and nuts and berries and sauces and powders and what not, complete with a folder full of international recipes to boot.

Ironically enough, the next topic was Health, and it was now all about fitness and eating a balanced diet. As it is, I had put on 10 pounds over a period of 3 years, and I decided that I could not be complacent anymore about my weight. Now was the time for me to start shedding those unwanted pounds and what better way than to eat healthy and stay fit, I thought, and thus set an example for my students! I was hesitant about following any fancy diet, so just decided that I would avoid eating anything white - rice, potatoes, sugar, and salt, to name a few. With this improved diet have come dramatic results in just a month's time - a loss of nearly 9 pounds, a feeling of increased energy and better health! Today marks one month of my Battle of the Bulge, and maybe I'll reward myself with a dosai (rice and lentil crepe) for dinner tonight!

Food can be a potent drug, and with all the glossy magazines with their endless array of delectable dishes, and the zillions of shows on the Food Network, "Food Porn" is the new reality of the day. It is extremely easy to get addicted to food, and as I have learned from experience, it requires extraordinary willpower to resist its allure. It also requires a sense of self-worth to keep one's motivation up, something that I have in plenty right now. I am not starving myself or depriving my body of carbs or anything like that, but just the mere watching of what I put in my mouth has worked wonders for me so far. On March 18th there's a potluck party in class to celebrate Nowruz, the Persian New Year, and I have already given my students fair notice to spare me this time. I hope to God that I don't fall off the wagon now and revert to my eating ways of a couple of months ago. Here's to more of healthy eating for me in the months ahead and a new and improved Olivia in the days to come! :)