Saturday, December 31, 2011

Real easy solutions for habitual Resolution-Breakers

Few more hours to go before the New Year and many of us should be busy finalizing the resolution list. Except that there is a problem with my resolutions every year – I find it extremely difficult to keep them beyond 7th of January.

Determined to get it right this time, I have been trawling the net for those secret ingredients to keep resolutions real and lasting (more like 7 months). I have also taken time to reflect on my slip-ups (my walking challenge) and occasional successes (this blog) with resolutions.

I was on a quest to find out if there is a secret formula to make the resolutions successful. Though what I found during my research, kind of surprised me.  Whilst there is no precise formula, it looks like there are a number of simple steps you could follow to improve your chances of winning. Most of them are common sense stuff, though there are few odd counter-intuitive tips as well.

1.      Start – Surely this is the easiest thing to do. Make sure you do it
2.      Keep it real – Overnight success are stuff of movies, be true to yourself
3.      Keep it a secret – Do not publicize your goals before you even start – apparently your brain  interprets it as an achievement of the goal and affects your motivation to actually achieving the goal
4.      Celebrate Success – Positive reinforcement works like magic, make sure you celebrate every milestone
5.      Buddy-Up – Look around you and identify a source of encouragement and feedback – for that occasional push and to pull you out of the drenches when required
6.      Start Again – Expect to go off-track every so often, but important thing is to re-start
7.      Mix-it-Up – Variety, they say is the spice of life and indeed is at the heart of keeping your resolution routine interesting.

My resolution for this year then – well, that’s a secret. 

Image courtesy:

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Gifting tips for the Rational types – A note to my husband

Right, so Christmas and New Years Eve are around the corner. And I have feeling that even this year, I will have to ask my husband for a gift. No, it is not a reminder, dropping an occasional hint or subtle cues - he expects an explicit description of what is on my mind. He can manage with some basic info - product, brand, size, color, type etc - but he would be really pleased if you include the bar-code details.

Put it simply, he isn’t very good when it comes to gifts, especially surprise gifts. He thinks the tradition of gifting was invented by the trader-class as a ploy to increase their business and profits. He says "There are multiple problems with the concept of gifts. Forced reciprocity, false expectations and inefficient exchange are the main issues with the tradition"  

Pleased at the prospect of having found a bemused listener, he goes on to explain "When you give a gift, you are putting the receiver in debt and forcing the other person to spend a similar amount of money. More often than not, people either buy gifts that they would like to have themselves or they buy things that are cheap and unimaginative when the gift is anonymous”.  

I wanted to say I can see the point now but instead said "You are unbelievable! God, how do you argue with such people?”

I kept thinking about my anniversary gift, an iPad 2 - it was first of its kind gift from my husband and I was pleased about it, until now. Reflecting on his latest thoughts, I wonder if it was really a gift, especially since he uses it more than I do! Just kidding, I am being really nasty now...

Back to the plot, I think emotional creatures like us who love gifts, a little surprise and a bit of irrationality in our life has the duty to teach the dry rationalist types a thing or two. So with just less the 7 days to the Christmas Eve, I would like to give you 5 clues (sorry, it does not get any clearer than this!) to help you solve the mystery to buying gifts.

1. Never believe when someone says “I don’t want a gift; I have everything that I want”
2. Do not fall for “you can get me anything” bait. (This line is usually a test - think hard)
3. Don't get carried away. It does not have to be expensive!
4. Wrapping paper and a thoughtful note goes a long way in making it personal
5. Keep the receipt - just in case.....

Monday, December 12, 2011

Matter of tooth

I have a confession to make. I have two false teeth. They have been so meticulously crafted, that you need X-ray eyes to spot them. I’ve been ‘wearing’ them for about 4 years and the fact that I have not received a single comment on it is a testament to the dental craftsmanship.

I am not surprised at this result though, as they were fixed by one of the best dentists around. Her name is Sheby Annie Paulose. She works at Al Wassan Specialty Dental Clinic in Muscat. Okay, it will now be a good time to provide full disclosure – she also happens to be my sister-in-law.

Let me tell you another story. Plot is almost the same – another dentist but a case of root canal surgery. Oh, and in the lead role is my brother-in-law who is also a dentist. He once did a root canal. A few months later, the patient had to go to another dentist for an emergency procedure on another tooth. This time he ended up going to one of the most experienced dentists in Oman.

Reviewing the X-ray, the new dentist popped a question “Who did your root-canal surgery?” Unsure about what to make of the question, the patient replied “Dr. Siju George, of the Al Wassan Dental Clinic in Al Khuwair, Muscat; Why?” The doctor retorted with a lump in his throat “I have been practising dentistry for over 40 years and this is the best root canal procedure I have ever seen” Not only that, the doctor send a handwritten note congratulating my brother-in-law on such a good work.

This is what happens when people do what they are really passionate about.

The reason why I mentioned this story is because we were in Muscat over the weekend. We were taking part at the soft-launch of my b-i-l & s-i-l’s new clinic. With 6 state-of-the-art treatment rooms, 3D imaging, a brushing station and kids play area – it is definitely the best dental clinic that I have been to.

Now, you may think I am writing this to get myself in their good books and another free ceramic crown should an opportunity arise, God forbid.

Don’t take my word for it; do drop-in and check it out for yourself if you live in Muscat, Oman

For appointments contact- - 24489469 or 24475008

Image courtesy:

Friday, December 2, 2011

Words at work

Did you know that 1000 words cover 70% of all written text in English? Take that to 2000 and you get 80% coverage. It’s quite impressive isn’t it? I am suddenly feeling the task of teaching English to my daughter got a little lighter.

So, which are the words that we commonly use? Spoken words are easy to spot – especially if you are at the receiving end of a boring lecture. That used to be one of my favourite pass-time during college days and I remember counting 84 'do-you-get-what-I-am-saying's during a history lecture.

Word-spotting as it turns out, is lot easier and more scientific now a days. I recently stumbled up on this amazing tool called Wordle that generates “word clouds” for any text that you feed the engine. You could point it to a webpage or just copy and paste any text and it transforms what appears to be a random set of words into a work of art. The size of each word represents how prominently they are featured in the original text.

The image above is one such wordle based on all the blogs that I have written so far. As you can see, lot of what I write is about Smera, my one year old and her antics. I also seem to have some kind of fascination towards the word “back”, that feature very prominently  – back from, way back, back home, years back, set-back, step-back, turn back and a lot more.

Time to look ahead, I guess.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Thank you? Yes please!

How difficult is to say Thank You?  I am teaching my little one to say thank you - she is struggling and understandably so. With two and a quarter teeth*, you can't expect her to say sounds that require tongue to make contact with teeth for proper pronunciation (try saying Thank you without tongue making contact with teeth!). But what is our excuse as adults for not saying Thank You ? If you are like me who have been occasional victims of impolite behaviour and rude voices - a good place to start the change maybe at your dresser. Look at your self in the mirror and ask when did you really, truly thanked someone, like you meant it....

Most times I am a polite and friendly person that you will see walking in the mall or that you meet in your neighbourhood. But at times, I can be a little ill-tempered and experiences have taught me that even the most impractical task can be achieved with a polite ‘Please’ or genuine ‘Thank You’. Power of these words are amazing - I have got seat upgrades, free top-ups, countless smiles and have got out of a number of tricky situations using these magic words.

Now that I am getting to teach Smera, I am very conscious of setting a good example myself. However, in my excitement to set a good example I may have started using them very generously. On my recent trip back home, aside from showing of my improved local language skills, I profusely peppered the conversations with ‘sorry’, ‘thank you’ and ‘please’ to get my message across. I got a few what's-wrong-with-this-women stares especially from village-folks back home.

Sure, my recent experiment with my ultra-civility has landed me in some embarrassing instances - but I am determined to continue my efforts to set a good example.

Thank you for reading my blog. Please come back here often.

* Two 1/2-visible-teeth on the lower level and four 1/3-visible-teeth on the upper deck 

Image courtesy:

Monday, November 28, 2011

It's a winner !

It’s that part of the year when everything looks so dazzling, joyous and positive. Winters are back in Dubai, though it wouldn't match up to the standards of a proper winter, while this works just right for me. For all those who know me, would know how much I hate summers. High 40-45 degrees (Celsius of course) is definitely not my thing. I prefer going to the malls or anyplace that comes with a basement parking.

Winters make me a different person all together. I am in love with the Dubai weather these days - with glorious mornings, breezy afternoons, nippy evening, and mesmerizing late-nights. While the current weather in Dubai is nothing compared to the European winters or the one Delhi where I grew up.15 -17 degrees is cold for me here so I can't even imagine surviving the snow ever. What really makes the weather splendid in winter here is that we get a spell or two of rain but that's about it. 

I am very lazy most of the time during the year; however things are going to change now, doing things I really love - heading outdoors. I intend to make most of this winters and the approaching festive season as long it lasts.

§         Spend time more at the parks teaching Smera football
§         Barbequing with friends
§         Building sand castles
§         Put a swing for Smera in the balcony
§         Having friends and family to visit us
§         Start morning jogging routine (I hope at least this time the craze would last more 10 days)
§         Plan for UAE national day, Christmas and New years get-together
§         Visit the Ras al Khor wildlife sanctuary and Al-Ain Zoo

I will update you on how this goes on along the way. Till then Happy Winters !!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Happy Birthday Smera

It feels like yesterday, but it’s been a year today. Yes it has been a short 1 year, 12 months, 52 weeks, 365 days, 8760 hours or 525,600 seconds of constant anticipation and irregular intervals, numerous diapers and few disasters, frequent sleeplessness and occasional helplessness. I can go on and on – here is a starter for 3

1.     Smiley Frowns

Smera means smile in Sanskrit. However, in real life she frowns a lot. Many of our friends have been at the receiving end of her intense if not intimidating stare. If you manage to survive the initial test, you would soon witness how she lives up to her name.

2.     Who is crying and why?

What would you expect from someone who is on a high-calcium diet? Long finger nails, of course! The impact of long finger nails during the exploratory stage is a scratchy face. I finally managed to muster some courage to undertake this delicate task of shaping Smera’s nails.
After a number of failed attempts, I got her nails between the blades of the clipper – or so I thought. The next thing I heard was a loud scream, I obviously had missed the target by a millimeter – so instead of cutting the nail I had cut her skin.
The next thing Saju heard though is two loud screams – one of the daughter and then the louder version that of the mother. Rushing in to help he was at loss to figure out what had happened and who to console first!

3.     Smera, Sameera or Sameer

We thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of finding the name, Smera. However, one of the problems of having an unusual name is that people usually pronounce it wrong. We have heard a number of versions, but the popular ones are Sara, Sameera and Sameer. This confusion has reached its peak after Smera got her head shaved recently giving her a boyish-look.

It’s been a great first year. Happy birthday Smera baby!

Image courtesy: 

Friday, November 4, 2011

Currently on Vacation

This is the reason why I have been away from the blogsphere for a while. I am currently on my three-city vacation to get together with friends and family back in India. It all started with Bangalore, just the perfect start to our vacation. However, by the fourth day my little one got dreadfully frustrated as her responsible parents kept saying NO to whatever she touched or wherever she went. I am not sure of the impression we might have left on our lovely hosts - soon to be parents this December.

On the fifth day we landed in Palakkad (my hubby’s home) and Baby Smera finally felt at home. The guilty parents now have stopped saying NO and the affectionate grandpa and grandmom just can’t stop smiling.

This is the first time Smera is visiting her paternal grandparent’s house. The house is in the middle of a coconut grove, with a pretty garden, a small pond on the front and a vegetable garden in the backyard. An army of farm animals dot the place - five dogs, four cows, one calf, ten chicken, twenty little domesticated birds and an innumerable other living beings straight from the NatGeo. 

Little Smera is lapping it all up.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Strong-Will or Treadmill ?

Indian festivals and celebrations are synonymous with a customary overdose of sweets. Even though I pride myself for not having a sweet tooth, Diwali is different - the spread of sweets makes even a die-hard savory fan like me go weak at the knees. This is in part triggered by my childhood memories of Diwali celebrations and I blame the rest on kaju-barfi.

I don’t know how I came to love this diamond shaped combination of cashew, sugar, milk, dry fruits and edible silver foil. What I know though is that I can have a whole box in a single sitting and anyone who can resist a bite must have a steely resolve. Kaju Barfi, for me are pieces of pure happiness and contentment.

What I also know is that, every time I have had a generous helping, the happiness fades quickly and calorie guilt kicks in. With over 500Kcal packed into every 100grams (about 3 pieces) and a family history of diabetes, I think I am perfectly justified being on a guilt trip.

If I feel this way, imagine the plight of a person who is diabetic or someone trying to diet. Diwali brings with it a sinful plate of temptations along with the festive cheer. This definitely should be one of the most vulnerable periods that could squash months of labour that kept the notorious glucose levels in check.

So what really is 500 calories? It is about 25% of what you require daily. It is equivalent of pounding on the treadmill for nearly an hour. Now that is a scary thought – an hour of treadmill for paltry 3 pieces of kaju barfi. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Free Advice, Anyone ?

I am sure you also get this a lot, some are wanted and some unwanted. Some are meaningful while some have no meaning whatsoever. People love giving, while they are not keen receivers. I get it all the time - I am like a magnet when it comes to unsolicited advice.

I admit, there are some exceptions though. There are times when I look for advice from a very select group of people - my mom tops the list, followed by my hubby and then Google. I thought Google was immune to providing unsolicited advice. However, I was proved wrong when I stumbled up on this one during one of those ego-surfing trips (okay, that's googling about yourself). I just couldn't help clicking at the link which said 'advice to the younger generation' after one of my recent posts about life's instruction manual. I know what you are thinking, it is not entirely unsolicited but there we are.

It was a research from Aviva (a large insurer) on top financial advice from retirees to the younger generation. As I was reading through the article, i started scoring myself and my views against each of them

1.     To have fewer children – I think that’s a wise advice particularly if you have a notorious one like mine (Obviously they are hinting at the phenomenal the cost of raising kids)

2.     Keep a tight lid on the cost of the big day - well, this is already done with, but one to keep an eye on if you are planning to splurge as you take the plunge

3.     Shop around with every penny – I love doing this, through thorough research (aka window shopping) before landing on that right pair of shoes at the right price.

4.     Drop designer labels – Yeah I am not fussy about the labels, as a matter of fact I love street shopping and never leave a good bargain!

5.     Don’t use credit – This is a difficult one and I would say use credit wisely (i.e. use credit cards for convenience, detest personal loans etc)

6.     Spend less on cars – I agree great value to be had from this if you think cars as a mode of transport to get you from A to B.

That's not too bad. My grand mother would have been proud. I have to confess this self assessment would have been lot worse had I answered these some 4 years back. I think starting a family forces you to think about your financial future and more pecuniary aspects of life.

You can read the full study on: 
Image courtesy:    

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Can dirty shoes make anyone happy?

I am a stickler when it comes to keeping things clean and organised. Making sure clothes get folded in a particular way, ensuring odd sized things  go into stackable boxes and feeling great after a session of spring clean-up are just some examples . I wasn’t always like this – I fondly remember my messy bed half piled in books during my college days.

I think, as we grow up, we grow out of liking things lying around random. We become conscious about what other people think of us if things appear unorganized. We are worried about guests coming home without notice, setting bad example for our kids or leaving a bad impression on strangers.

Being the mom of an 11 month old has put my obsession with cleanliness and organisation to test. Smera loves to mess things up. When she is in action, books fly off the shelves, clothes jump off the line, food turns facial and magazines transform themselves into toddler origami. All this have forced me to re-learn the art of appreciating the unorganised and unclean.

I hadn’t thought about this change until yesterday. We were out for our weekly shopping and for the first time Smera walked outside the comfort and safety of home. She was in her elements hoping around in her pink boots at the shopping mall and at the parking lot.

As I was making her sit in her car seat, I noticed her soiled boots. As silly as it may sound, I felt happy watching a pair of dirty shoes. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Dishwasher Insight

I've never tried a dishwasher. We have one sitting idle in our kitchen that we currently use as additional storage. Finally, last week I got curious enough to figure it out and started searching for an instruction manual. I turned to google for help after completing my offline search (that's the kitchen and cupboards). As I was typing the words "instruction manual for..", Google gave me some auto complete options - ipad, ipad2 and life. "Very interesting" I told myself "people actually search for an instruction manual for life?"

Assuming you wanted an instruction manual for life, where would you logically go ? Google ? How about your Grandmother? - They have lived long enough to reflect on life and figure things out. Again assuming they are alive and you are still in talking terms with them you get some tips from there. Both my Grans passed many years back, so I decided to settle for the second best option, the good old Google.

As usual, she didn't disappoint me. The search fetched me an impressive 23,500,000 results in 0.16 seconds. Without going in to too much detail, let us take a moment to marvel at the enormity of this information. If this were to be printed out as a book it would be twice the height of burj khalifa which is currently tallest tower in the world. If you were attempting to read only the highlights, say a million pages, it would take you about 192 years assuming you find time (not to mention live that long) to cover 100 pages a week.

At this stage I am tempted to give up and live a life without instruction manual – intense reading hasn’t killed anyone that I know, but why take a chance…

Friday, October 7, 2011

Murdering Malayalam: Guilty as charged

Malayalam is first language for my parents, my husband and his parents. I normally think in Hindi and consider it as my first language. But with a score of 5-1, I ignore my Malayalam skills at my own peril.

Under normal circumstances, Malayalam should have been my first language - but I grew up in Delhi, at the centre of Hindi-heartland. Even though I grew up listening to Malayalam at home, I did not pay enough attention to be able to converse in it fluently.

I never considered it as a big deal until I got married to a true-blue-mallu. Being in Kerala for the wedding and meeting relatives tested my Malayalam language skills for the first time – rest as they say, is history. The word about the new bride with a funny accent and a flair for gaffe spread like Chikungunya !

Being from a country with 500+ languages, you would think that you get away with some minor goof-ups on your second language. However, our family circles have not been very forgiving with my exploits with Malayalam. And I don’t blame them frankly– check out some of my famous mallu bloopers below

I wanted to say..
I ended up saying…
Elder brother (Chetta)
Scoundrel (Che-ta)
Nice (Ko-llam)
Murder (Kol-aam)
Be Careful (Shradichu)
Vomit (Shardichu)
Fever (Pani)
Pig (Panni)
A yogurt based curry (Kaa-lan)
Lord of Death (Ka-lan)
Remember (Marakathey)
You better..(Mariyathey-ku)

Not an excuse, but an additional context to non-Malayalam speakers (that’s about 6.5 billion as of this morning) - Malayalam has 51 alphabets compared to a measly 26 in English, it can get quite tricky at times.  

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Why true love is like Wifi?

Search for my next blog idea led me to our neighborhood coffee shop. Sipping a flat white, I stumbled upon a question many of my unmarried friends ask about marriage. “How does it feel to be married?” I was chasing that line of thought and had started typing the letters L-O-V-E, when I was interrupted by a barista – “Madam, your WiFi code”

Putting a fake smile and hiding my mild annoyance for breaking my train of thought, I thanked her. Staring at the sheet of paper with the WiFi access code, I was trying to re-start where I left off – Love. After drifting for a while I landed on another idea, a bit removed from the original but still related. Why is true love like Wifi?

  1. It is everywhere but you have to find the right connection.
  2. Some are secure, some unsecure, just like in love.
  3. Public Parks and Shopping malls are the new ‘hotspots’
  4. One is blind, the other invisible
  5. Distance may weaken the connection
  6. You take your home connection for granted, Neighbours’ connection may require passwords
  7. Beware of hackers and virus attacks
  8. You think you will find it at coffee shops – but signals are often weak and baristas could occasionally distract you!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Nine things I wish I had learned at school

They say you learn, most of what you learn, about life, in the first 15 years. If you are not like me, you would have spent most of the time in a classroom. My place usually was just outside. 

Re-reading the first line of my last post brought back memories of my school days. Since then, I have been thinking of things that I wish I had learned at school. Some of these things are never taught, but should be and there are others that I should have learned, but didn’t pay much attention.

1.      Get to know my own self
2.      Importance of being myself
3.      How to choose friends
4.      Finding my passion
5.      Chasing my dreams
6.      Take some risks, kick some ass
7.      Making decisions
8.      How to laugh at myself
9.      Financial Literacy
10.  Mathematics*

* I have to say me and my teachers tried really hard at this one. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Remember to forget

I remember numerous occasions in a familiar setting – me sitting in an examination hall. Scratching my head, how I wish I could retain more of what I read the previous night. Try as hard as I would do, the answers just wouldn’t come to me. And I would come back home with a report card which read “Can do better, must try harder!”

My childhood memories were triggered by a recent bout of ‘I can’t remember moments’. Be it time spent searching for keys or arguments lost searching for words; there is lot to be gained from remembering things. Surely, it would be better for us all if we could remember everything we see, hear, read and experience. 

Would it really be a good thing to remember everything from your past? Heartbreaks and headaches, bruises and betrayal, failures, flare-ups and fall-outs – There are things that I would rather forget.

While we often complain about not remembering things, I think we often overlook our power to forget things. It helps us start afresh, on a clean slate. I also believe forgetting plays a big part in forgiving – yourself and others.

Let’s take the time spent searching for the house keys, getting upset over missed birthdays, and everything I wanted to write after this but forgot as a small price to pay for this amazing gift. 

Image courtesy:

Friday, September 23, 2011

A Himalayan Perspective

Himalayan mountains are the world’s highest. It consists of a series of gigantic peaks including the Everest and K2. It is no wonder then the word Himalayan is often used as an adjective to signify something really huge. Like as in Himalayan blunder.

So when I saw on the TV about the Himalayan earthquake. I assumed it to be massive, just like the mountains. At 6.9-magnitude, it is definitely a strong quake but a seismologist would not classify this as a massive one.

Compare this with the 9.0 magnitude Japan quake that triggered tsunami earlier during the year. Intensity of which was over a thousand times stronger than the recent Himalayan quake. Reason for such a big jump in the intensity between seemingly small numbers? Ok, this is going to get really technical - the Richter scale readings are on logarithmic scale (courtesy Mr. Walking Wikipedia in my life). I am digressing now.

So, is Himalayan quake really Himalayan in the sense of the word? I think it depends who you ask. To a sit-at-home Mom watching the news in Dubai, it may seem relatively small. A seismologist may classify this as a ‘strong’ quake and for you the reader, it may be something else. It is unlikely to be massive or Himalayan for most of us.

But think about the families of the 100 people who lost their lives, thousands of people who have lost their livelihood or residents of one of the 100,000 homes that were damaged in the quake. For all of them this has been massive, a Himalayan quake, both literally and figuratively.

So next time when you read about a minor accident, small terror incident or a 6.9 earthquake – spare a thought for people whom it may be major, big or a 9.0. 

Better still, spare some change for those people who are trying to rebuild their lives. The link below has details on how you can help 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I feel half-Canadian this evening!

We are just back from dinner at newly opened Tom Hortons in Dubai.  The spread included an over-indulgent dose of Cheese Bagel, Tuscan Chicken Panini (must try!), Timbits and Coffee (AED 7, can you believe!).

We have lived all these years listening to our Canadian friends raving about Tim Hortons. The queues that extend around the block, freshly ground fair-priced coffee and Timbits (miniature balls of doughnut dough) are stuff of Canadian legend.

After reading the newspaper story about the Dubai store mobbed by Canadian expats, we set out to try it out this evening. We planned a dinner stop at Sheikh Zayed Road on our way back from Karama . Being the culinary hub of Indian food, I do not normally come back hungry from Karama, today was an exception.

We pulled into the service lane at Sheikh Zayed Road after Fairmont hotel, went past Crown Plaza and over-bridge to the Financial Centre  Metro station to find the store. If you are looking for landmark, this is just opposite Rolex Tower and next to the Starbucks Coffee!

We quickly queued up (thankfully not as long as I had feared), placed the order and enjoyed the sandwich, bagel, timbits and washed it down with some great coffee.

Hmm.. there is something about this place that works – here is my verdict

  1. Love the price of the coffee (Did I say it is AED7?)
  2. Super selection of comfort foods
  3. Soups and fresh fruit smoothies for the healthy lot
  4. Enthusiastic and helpful crew
  5. You’ll never be late with a store timing of 6am to 3am

I hate to admit but I need to say to all my Canadian friends that I sort of now understand their love for Tim Hortons. I feel half-Canadian this evening! 

Contact no: 04-3861193
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