How I ended my toxic obsession with food..

I have lived most of my late 20’s being slightly overweight and almost all of my 30’s being obese. In the past two years I have shed almost 40 kgs of extra weight which is more than 40% of body weight I have carried for a long time. Most of my weight loss happened in 2021 through a structured regime and with an expert weight loss coach. No gymming or heavy exercises were involved in this regimented weight loss program, neither were my calories restricted. Someday, I will surely share what my program was like but today I broadly want to tell you that in the crux of it, it was all about changing my relationship with food.

For the longest time I had been living to eat, and not eating to live. It’s a funny saying that “foodies” love to say and I used to do the same. But today I want to open up about the toxic relationship I shared with food that continued for a long time.

At a difficult time, many years ago, I lost a lot of relationships instantly in life that I’d known as a child – my whole maternal and paternal family barring less than a handful of people, left my life. Uncles, aunts, cousins, all but few abandoned me. Dad wasn’t around anyway since he had passed on many years back. The relationships that I was left to count on were barely few weeks old. Work was stressful as I was growing faster in my career than my young age could handle, the expectations from a 25 year old me at a new home as an elder daughter in law were those that are from a 45 year old. Not many had seen my struggles so they didn’t care what my past or my trauma has been like or feels like, for no fault of theirs as their frame of reference couldn’t fathom what I had been through or the cushion I needed. My physical appearance had always been peculiar due to a skin condition and my metabolism was screwed. Back then, I didn’t give myself the option to say to anyone that I am not ok, that I am struggling. As a child I was taught that asking for help means you are weak! I had nowhere to hide, no one to reach for comfort and pampering. I had no friends who would be there for me, just kind acquaintances who helped if and when I asked them to.

I have always been a survivor. I instinctively turn to what will help me stay afloat and good tasting food for one reason or other was easily accessible and affordable in those days. This had come as a blessing after years of not getting tasty food either due to medical treatments or lack of money. After hours of smiling, being at my best behaviour, with no one to talk to about my real feelings, not even a proper ‘my’ home to go back to at the end of the day, or ‘parents house’ to go back to, I turned to food. I could ‘talk’ to good food. I could eat as much as I wanted and the food wouldn’t judge me or stare back at me for over eating it. I could eat whenever I wanted, as many times as I wanted.

Because my coping strategies were next to nil, I couldn’t be an alcoholic or a drug addict, and because my own consumption of food was the only thing in my life that I could control, I embraced food as the only thing I could hold on to. It kept me sane. I’d counterbalance meetings with tough stakeholders or toxic colleagues with a loaded cold coffee with chocolate. I’d soothe myself for the lack of friends or family with mutton biryani. I’d end a rough day at home with six chapatis and rice along with three bowls of rice and sabzi. I’d counter lack of sleep at night by reaching the fridge post midnight to gorge on gulabjamuns or half a can of condensed milk.

I am not berating my past self for doing that as survival is tricky business. Food and consuming it this was has genuinely kept me sane, away from mental breakdowns I just couldn’t afford and dare I say, kept me alive, away from dark thoughts of ending my life many a times.

Food thus became something my soul needed. My emotions became associated with it and that’s how I gave access of my feelings and sanity to food. A good portion of my favourite food could take away the worst of experiences and help me understand and think how to cope with what’s ahead. It could soothe my bruised heart or mind and prepare me for the next days’ grind. I didn’t care if someone told me I am hogging onto it because they didn’t see the reason for my ‘emotional eating’ . So I’d smile, listen to their concern and ridicule it in my mind.

The few years of doing that stunted my metabolism and started putting pressure on my vital organs. Fatty liver, high cholesterol and high sugar levels became normal and by the time I wanted to lose weight, my body became resistant. It got ‘addicted’ to sugar, wanting frequent meals, large portions and sugar rich foods. I’d get ‘hangry’ and despite heavy workouts and killing myself in gyms or on jogs in hot North Indian weather the scale wouldn’t budge. The heavy workouts would make me more tired and hungry and I’d lose it and gorge back into big meals in frustration eventually giving up on diets. I was looking at weight loss as a punishment and deprivation of food and being away from food was making me sad, upset and dejected. As if, someone is taking away the only good thing in my life. The only thing I can control, the only thing that doesnt judge me.

When I met my coach and started my fitness journey last year, the first thing that changed was my relationship with food. The self coaching that I gave to myself to stop looking at food as a channel, outlet or means of solving for emotions was perhaps one of the most important things to happen in years to me. As I educated myself more and more on how excess food is poison and the damage sugar in many forms does to the body, the importance of consuming only what is needed kept becoming clearer.

Today I look at food as medicine and I have no shame in admitting that. I understand what good taste is and indulge in it once in a while, but with a clear knowledge that it is all but an indulgence. The taste of most of the food gets perceived as good because of the sugar content in it (fructose, lactose, maltose etc) and the more food is consumed for taste than need, it ends up harming the body than doing it much good.

Today I understand food must be eaten to survive, thrive and to have energy to think clearly, physically work and have a healthy body. Not eating food or fasting is as important as eating if not more and restraint has a role to play as well in keeping the body healthy.

The reason I opened up about my long toxic relationship with food is to make aware that addiction comes in many forms. Too much of anything is addiction, not just alcohol or drugs or smoking. Too much food, music, phone, whatever be that you link to your brains reward system can become an addiction.

Food is not the solution. Food is barely food. It has a place in life to help get us energy that we need for survival. If you had an addiction to food or cant live without certain food groups, or stress eat or do emotional eating, talk to a coach or a friend who can help you talk through this, solve for this.

There’s a world of health benefits on the other side of food addiction. You can enjoy your occasional meal, and yet live a healthy and fit life physically and emotionally. Just give yourself a chance.


If Pandemic couldn’t teach us this, what will??

Two years back, in the last week of 2019, the news of a new contagious, dangerous, life threatening virus that was rearing it’s head in China started doing the rounds. Some were in denial, others bemused, most indifferent. The clairvoyant in me said it in a text on a whatsapp group that I have saved till date – “I have a nasty feeling, this will turn into a pandemic.” And so it did. Took away so many golden days of our limited lives and also swept away loved ones from everyone’s lives around the world.

This one is not going to be a particularly long post. My point is very simple. If this pandemic hasnt been able to teach humans the very basic life lesson that we are more similar than different, then there is no hope for us. In 2019 the world was as polarised as it could have been. We all know how the assertion of patriotism, faith, culture and other such boundaries is creating more factions than bringing humanity closer as one would have expected. And in such a time the pandemic hit. It was named the “china virus’ to begin with. I am not going to talk about my point of view on China’s active or passive role in bestowing this virus upon the world. The reality is here we are after two full years with all the consequences and the umpteenth wave and new set of restrictions. Globally.

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How did this virus treat us differently based on our definitions of superiority in terms of race, belief or location? In India, where I live, people were quite sure that with a supposedly “strong immune system” Indians will not get affected. In cold countries, people thought cold will kill the virus. In hot countries, they thought the heat will. When the pandemic hit, did it matter what country one is in? Or what race are they from? Or their gender or faith mattered? Lives were lost everywhere. There were rows of unattended corposes, put to rest without the dignity they would have received if the situation at hand wasnt there.

Turns out through this dark misery, we around the world in our self created differences are not all that different in the way illness, viruses and death treats us! Our bodies respond similary in fighting, winning and losing. Our hearts cry the same when we lose someone. Our helplessness is the same when we can’t get oxygen or hospital beds or basic amenities.

Is there a point then in drawing these boundaries of race and nations and faiths? Another common factor is how daft humanity is to obvious answers that a tragedy couldnt teach it. What could be a bigger tragedy than this. We still want our wars, our supposed superiority, our sense of competition in a world where we all could co exist better with collaboration.

For those who have chosen to learn through the pandemic that we are not all that different. You and the person next to you. Or the one on the other side of the world. Please chose love, acceptance and tolerance as we move into another year.

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Chances are there will be wars. There will be hate. And the crimes. All the millions of lives lost for nothing while the pandemic stll looms large on our heads along with the daftness of hostility that becomes more intense with each passing year and the media propaganda that intensifies it as our necks are bowed down to keep our eyes glued in our mobile phones for longer. In 2120, hundred years from now, if the earth exists by then, there will be another pandemic, going by the pattern of the past. Would humanity have evolved enough by then to learn the lesson that this global tragedy couldnt teach us at large this time around? The one of chosing love over hate? The one of “oneness”?

I lost 30+ kilos in 2021, and gained these five insights

In January of 2021, I found magic which helped me lose 36 kilos or almost 80 pounds of extra body weight in 10 months. My journey still continues as I am on the last mile. In this year I have lost almost 40% of the body weight I was carrying last year. Along with that I have lost prediabetes, high cholestrol levels, high uric acid, high levels of hypothyroidism etc too. My weight loss journey started with a Rheumatoid Arthritis scare as I carry an Autoimmune disorder from the age of 7. It didnt start with the intention of looking a certain way, but to really take any long or short term risks a bit farther away from my present.

There are always few things that are bound to happen on a life altering journey and they did with me to. The sense of achievement and the beautiful looks, compliments and encouragement I got along the way was beautiful. But equally here are five insights that I didnt expect or anticipate but experienced on my journey that I am sharing with you.

February 2021

Sadly, your weight has a bigger impact on your image than you think it does

I have always been confident in my skin and have been lucky to have a partner & family who have loved me fully and devotedly whatever my shape or size or appearance has been like. But I was amazed at how much it matters to the world how you look as my transformation happened. There were people who came and said they revered or even feared (!!) me when I was heavier but now find me less intimidating. Go figure! There’s more men in public spaces who think they can get away with inappropriate touching than before which I of course fight back with equal force. There are people who’d come and tell me they thought I was “really fat” and now I look “much better”. There are people who told me how it’s a shame I have lost my curves and the glow on my face to become a flat chested ugly woman (quite literally, no exaggeration). My learning? 1) Everyone will never like how you look so be happy in your own skin 2) Love your body the way you are. The world is out there to judge you and those who truly love, will love you anyway 3) Lose or gain weight for the right reasons. Not to look a certain way because there is no perfect look.

September 2021

Weight loss is equated to being more sincere, hard working and health conscious. WTF?!

Let me be clear. I have been trying to lose weight for years now. I had given up sugars many years back and also have been eating limited portion size. I have been running and weight training too but things didnt work out for me until I found the right guidance for my body and hormones. People have been complimenting me for “finally” paying attention to my health, not being lazy anymore, not being a glutton and it has just made me sad about how people who struggle with weight are perceived to be lazy, gluttons and many other things while they may just be struggling with underlying issues that have led to weight gain. Many people’s weight gain interestingly is related to stress, trauma, lack of time for self care, slow metabolism that fights weight loss and their situation is the exact opposite of being laid back. As a society, we need to stop judging people without knowing their full reality anyway.But specially related to generally accepted medical advice and fitness advice, there needs to be more awareness and encouragement around self care, mindfulness and being healthy than on weight and body image.

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Everyone is a critic/expert of your fitness program and will have an opinion on it

India is a country of self proclaimed experts on every topic. And most of the well meaning people who I have met on my journey who have been impressed with my results were also great “experts and critics” of why my fitness program isnt a)sustainable b)good for health in long term c)authentic and proven d)safe etc! How a diet or exercise routine that they know of, is more meaningful while I continue on the path of doom. And rather than defending it, I have let people express their opinion and nodded to their request to me to not continue with my fitness regime any longer all the way. I have realised, when something is too tough or overwhelming for most people, they tend to discount it. Those who wanted my results have signed up for it and benefitted as well. Between the few people who picked and seriously pursued the program from me, they’ve collectively lost 20+ kgs in the past few months as well. Lesson learnt – dont discuss everything about your fitness program with everyone. Generously help and guide those who genuinely need guidance – don’t hold back. Dont defend yourself and your path to those who critique it. They are talking to you with time on their hand with nothing to lose while you lose your sanity in a meaningless argument.

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You will disappoint people you love on the journey more than once. And that’s okay!

When you have a different path in terms of what you eat, when you eat and how you eat; it is going to impact your relationships. With family, friends and colleagues. You will be cajoled, blackmailed, threatened and shamed into eating what you shouldn’t because eating is a social activity in humans. My mom and mother in law were sad that I wouldnt ask them for making my favorite dishes anymore or have just one roti or poori at lunch. My partner would feel disappointed that our dates didnt happen at our usual hangouts/food joints and it left me heartbroken too until we discovered new ways to date and spend time. My colleagues and friends would make jokes on what and how little I eat. My son would be exasperated and ask me ‘mama, when will you stop eating salads! why do keep walking all the time!” My family would hate it that when everyone sat together to chat, I put on my shoes to go for a walk. The three magic words that worked for me were patience, stoicism, compassion. I had to be firm in my decision and help those I love manage their emotions around the change I was making in my life. As results started coming through and I remained focused some leaned in. Others didnt but they also learnt I have changed. And that is alright. If a relationship in your life breaks down (unlikely though) because you want to care for yourself, then it wasnt meant to be – it was just looking for a reason to end anyway.

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You are not your weight, dress size or looks

When on a fitness journey, your body starts to look more like a socially accepted image of what fit is, its easy to lose focus. The compliments on how you look beautiful, hot, sexy etc when you havent received them for a while can sway you if you get flattered easily. But it’s important to remember it’s just people’s opinion. Based on what media tells them beautiful is, fit is. Fitness is holistic – its how your body feels whatver its weight, its your mental and emotional health, its your spiritual and social health, its your financial health. And how “Fit” you are is not as important as how “Happy and Grateful” you are. Do not lose focus on your gifts – whether you like to sing, paint, write, travel, blog, read or whatver else. As you excitedly look for new clothes and want to beautify your body, just remember it’s merely a body. It will die. Either it will rot in the ground or burn in ashes in the end. I know this is morbid but we all are mortals. There is more to life than merely obsessing on looks. Your transformation is as temporary as anything else around you. Don’t let it make your spirit and personality shallower or less richer. Retain kindness and keep learning more of what you like.

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Change is never easy. And it throws curved balls one’s way that make the journey insightful. I hope you found my account interesting and amusing. I would love to know your opinion or thoughts on this. I will write more about this interesting year and my journey of fitness when inspiration strikes. After all, this is only the beginning

Self Compassion is more important than Pintarest Perfection

It’s Saturday night, half past eleven. I am wrapping up the day finally in some moments of solitude as I shut the locks, lights, fill up water, clean the pantry et al. My mind and I are in a subconscious performance discussion. As I scan and clean my son’s room I am thinking of how we haven’t spent quality time whole week, what with long workdays, and even on Saturday I was out completing chores. He deserves more of my time and attention with studies and play than what I have given him this week. Specially, since he is been doing online school for 15 months now.. I shut his room, make a mental note for next week in the parent’s tab of my brain, I reach my office to scan some weekend emails and shut the laptop. I am now thinking about how I said no to a couple of meeting requests from colleagues in UK/US who wanted to speak at 7/9 PM my time during a couple of weekdays as I was in the kitchen and how I could have done more work, paid more attention, finished two more meetings this week. I could have been a more productive employee if I gave more time to work. I listen to my own chastising and slightly irritated now, shut the office and see my husband repairing something in one room and my mom watching her favorite TV show in another. I am filled with guilt thinking I need to do more to help my husband around the house and spent more time with ma – she is lonely away from her town, almost homebound at my house for covid safety reasons. She is getting older and she needs my company to counter loneliness. I also think by the way of two relatives, five friends and few acquaintances who I have been wanting to call for days now but haven’t been able to. The kitchen looks like it needs additional attention, it makes me feel like a lousy woman. Overwhelmed now by my own bashing, anxious and troubled, I rush up to sleep, remove my fitness tracker to put it on charge and chide myself with another glare about the walk and exercise I have missed for three days this week because of how hot it has been and also how my grey hair need a recolour that’s been overdue.

Suddenly an epiphany (sort of) strikes, my mind is numb and I sit down on my bed a little shocked. For the past 30 minutes after a long day of chores, I have given a mental assessment to myself about how I have not done enough as a mom, daughter, wife, employee, homemaker and a person. This is my self talk. Am I telling myself I didn’t do enough because I secretly feel I am not enough? And this is when I have a partner, who never stops gushing about how much I try to do in my life, appreciates me, and encourages me constantly. I have cheerleaders in my life and yet in a vulnerable moment my first instinct is to shoot myself for all that I have not picked up. Suddenly all the women’s magazine articles talking about perfect women, Instagram and Pinterest pages, TV shows all come together and I realise the subconscious utopian standards to be perfect at everything I have built for myself, that I am bashing myself for. Do stakeholders in each of these areas also find me as imperfect or sucky as I am telling myself to be? And even if they do, does it matter at the cost of happiness, health and peace?


Working mothers in a culture like ours are not celebrated enough for the multitasking they need to do. The moment we start talking about it, it needs to be appropriated and balanced with talks about contribution of fathers and grandmothers and homemaker parents for political correctness. But if we just pick up the topic of working mothers at once, as someone has famously said, they are expected to be mothers like they have no job, they are expected to work for office like they haven’t got children. In lockdown, my son’s school has made no mention challenges of working mothers, neither have attempted to shape the curriculum in a way that helps mums who can’t sit with their children while office goes on during school time. And this is an international school. This is a school that assessed whether I am an educated and employed mother while interviewing for admission. By default they do address any communication to mothers because for 100% of my son’s class it is the mothers who are primarily responsible for children’s studies – working at office or home. Despite knowing that children’s education is primarily a mother’s job by default generally, most schools haven’t considered the flexibility or breathing space working mothers need with children’s education during the pandemic.

There are expectations from everywhere and defined standards of perfection. The bar keeps going higher and higher every time. And we don’t make this constant hustling any easier on ourselves. Rewards make us feel guilty, neither do we coach our minds to first pat ourselves on the back for how much we have achieved. Healthy and happy kids at home, safe family, being a friend to our partner, happy team at work – all were achieved this week but all that my mind once let loose, focused on was the have nots. What we women do to ourselves is self criticise, not self forgive. There is a manager and an employee in my head and this self assessment and criticism for not doing enough is a constant battle. There is an immense amount of effort needed to become self forgiving. To become accepting of not being perfect in each area is an art I do believe. As a coach, I am quite sure that some coach somewhere has figured out a mantra to do that and it just needs to be found out.

For now what I am going to do is balance out wanting to make everything perfect and being grateful with also being self loving and appreciating. Every time, I bash myself for what isn’t done, I will consciously thank myself for what IS done. I will thank the woman, mother, wife, daughter, leader, employee, sister, friend et al for remembering to be who they are and putting in all the effort that they could. I will forgive myself for my shortcomings of the week and clink glasses with the mirror for a little TLC. Yes there are people in my life who love and value my contribution, but firstly, I need to do that myself. In thirty years from now, if I am alive, it wouldn’t matter what I did on day to day and what I couldn’t – I need to keep that in mind.

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We need to normalise life in all its reality as being what it is. Move away from the Instagram version of reality and aims of perfection and embrace today, warts and all. This perennial guilt that comes as an occupational hazard of the roles multitasking women play, we need to keep it in check and balance it with self appreciation and self acceptance.

I hope when I am repeating this process next weekend, I’ll be kind to myself. And remember that I do enough. I am enough. I cannot control everything because I am not God, but I can fill the spaces left incomplete at home and at work with love, compassion and kindness. Every time I find myself beat down by anyone for not doing enough, I hope to find my cape of achievements lying around the house – my happy and healthy child and partner, my safe and warm home, my mom and rest of family, my work achievements and happy team, my friends, my pet projects, books, music, dreams of travel and fly high to tune out the noise of negativity. Because I am enough and this imperfect world of mine is perfect for me right now and will do just fine. 🙂

Empowered Women, Empower Women

Its become customary for us middle aged people to go melancholy on special days or anniversaries and decide to share our musings with the world. I am quite the cynic about days dedicated to women in a world when our curses are based on womens genitalia that we spew like caramel in a range of emotions and use surnames of father for children by default while women carry the foetus and go through the tribulations and joys of growing the child inside them. So as a feminist who truly believes women have it tougher, I want to celebrate women’s day, a day when we applaud women for standing up for themselves and others, for making the world a better place.

There is a very common and overused phrase which says women are women’s worst enemies. We are blamed for telling on each other, being jealous, not being trusting of our kind, being judgemental, putting each other down and loathing each other. On a lighter note there is also a saying that if women ran the world, there wont be many wars, just few jealous countries not talking to each other!

How can we change this perception? What can we learn from men that will teach us to be kinder to our own gender? Have and show more camaraderie?

Before we answer this question we need to understand why these perceptions are there in the first place? Why cant women catch a break from other women! I am going to compare this to the colonial conditioning of developing countries and I am going to talk about urban India as an example. Three or four generations have been born in India post independence and there still is a strongly prevailing shame and loathing of our cultural heritage. In urban India, my own friends and colleagues for the longest time have taken pride in not knowing hindi numerals. Hindu friends are ashamed of their religion and hyper critical of even the good parts of their faith. Friends from other religions in India also like fellows of their faith from other countries better than their countrymen. This certainly is not to say we all need to become blind followers of what is being presented but have a rationle and objective view of what is good, be proud of the good things from our heritage and not feel embarased of our identity. But taking example of countries who’ve been on this journey we know it will take a littke while more for this awakening to take place.

Similary, I’d argue women have been hearing inferior remarks on their gender, explicit or not for thousands of years. What they witness as children on roles their female family members play, their place in the household and how they express their own frustrations in homes generally led by a patriarch have lasting impressions and shape their own identities. Many of us have seen aunts and sisters in law coming to our homes as new brides who have a fairytale notion of what a daughter in law is, who are ready to be doormats to be that person who keeps the family together and happy. With time many turn into these vicious and angry monsters that they are capable of potent toxicity that can break families apart and sow hatred. What causes that change? What goes wrong? Their treatment? Inclusion or exclusion from family decisions? Expectation to serve continously with great criticism and not enough reward? Not having a voice, seat at the table and general respect? Theses have been written on the subject but you get the general idea. The same DILs become MILs, the same nieces become aunts and keep the cycle of abuse on. The generational curses just dont break. Funnily enough we see these behaviours getting repeated at workplaces where many women dont want to work with female bosses.

Most of us who are reading this piece, I, who is writing it, how can we be sure we won’t turn into someone who will enforce gender stereotypes when we have a choice to not do so? What can we do today to ensure there is a high possibility we dont do so? Whoever you are, I can give few tips to ensure you play a positive role in lifting women up, uplifting the society thus:-

  • Be a Feminist:- unapologetically so. There is much bad press about feminism that women are embarassed or scared to call themselves feminist with the fear of backlash. Feminism isnt burning bras or putting men down anymore. Its about supporting choices women make, not being judgemental and celebrating women’s successes – be it baking a cake or buying a house, being a mother or being a gypsy, being a homemaker or being a soldier at the front. Or both. Or nothing. Feminism isnt anti men and noone should be shamed for being a feminist
  • Mentor a woman:– whatever your profession, education, society, culture, choices be – there are always girls and women around you who you can help teach something new. Be it a technical or domestic skill or a mindset shift or something new. Find a mentee every year and help them with a skill that will make them better in life. There is no better way to grow and feel fulfilled than teach, guide or mentor someone. Leadership isnt always done from the corner office of an MNC or a seat of parliament, we all can lead this way from we are
  • Do not Retire:- This advice is generic and may not suit those with conditions forcing them to retire but if you have a choice, keep doing something. Keep being useful and meaningful to yourself and society. People who have a purpose in life stay happy and healthy for much longer till they are alive. Life doesnt end at 65, it begins then. Women who keep themselves constructively engaged find lesser reasons to give into their subconscious conditioing of finding it harder to trust fellow women and be unhappy as a result.
  • Love yourself and keep learning:- Give yourself time, make yourself a priority, be your best friend and admirer, keep learning something new, travel and open your mind. When you strive to become the best version of yourself, the process gives you a lot of liberation of mind to love others more than judge them. Unhappiness drives us to create misery. Our inner ha[ppiness doesnt always depend on a prince charming as the social conditioning would have us think. Independent women in fact make better partners than co dependent ones.
  • Keep good company:- The biggest mistake we make is deprioritsing our network to priorities that take overlike home, work, partner, children, family. Keep a good circle and make time for it. We become the average of five people that we spend time with. Find men and women to be friends who are ambitious, kind, well travelled and curious to learn. Talk to people about ideas than other people. Opinions are the lowest form of judgement. Avoid people and friends who’s priorities in life are not the same as yours, who dont want to learn or become better. Speaking ill of others doesnt add anything to your life. People who find it cathartic are fooling themselves. Its so much more invigorating to create, ideate and build than rant. Women are creators through their being. Channelise that energy to create, invent and discover all you can.
  • Celebrate and Praise often and generously:- Give a shout out to fellow women more frequently and be generous with your praise. Women play multiple roles in life and do not get enough praise that they deserve. We need to be each others cheerleaders before we can expect the world to do the same for us. If you praise another woman, you dont become smaller – if anything that raises you more.
  • Community – build and participate:- We all know there is unity in strength. Women need to unite than be divided. We need communities, support groups where women can feel involved, safe and validated. Reach out and build one where there is a need. Participate where you find your calling. Give back to other women in need through your guidance when you rise. Support charities that help women through vounteering and other ways. Let’s build each other up.

Women around the world celebrate this wonderful day today. I dont believe women are better than men or vice versa. Women just need equal opportunities and treatment, fair game and no stereotyping. We can expect, teach and enable the next generation to be better but its also great to watch ourselves. Are we prepping ourselves for a more equal world tomorrow? A question worth asking ourselves. What will you do differently untill the next women’s day?

Using planned leaves for a Lockdown Holiday – Good idea or a mistake?

When we announced right at mid march that employees in our workplace are recommended to work from home looking at covid outbreak starting in India, it didn’t feel real or long term. Like with any change, there was a denial of the changing world and situation and we took time to come to terms with what is the ‘new normal’. Now more than two months later, even if lockdown opens tomorrow and government doesn’t extend it, how willing would you be to go on and about your normal life is an aware and educated person, wherever you are in the world? Like for a lot of us, a big part of denial for me also meant, I cancelled my upcoming holiday for April immediately and like with everyone else, had it in the back of my head to ‘save’ my holidays for later, just because I am working from home. The reality of how intense work is when you are stuck at home and the effort you need to put in to connect with others and make yourself understood hadn’t hit me yet! And because everyone else is working from home, practically tied to their devices with emails, the email loops are neverending – its like playing catch with your colleagues – but virtually from respective homes. Add to that the chores with no helpers around and educating children and keeping them busy as a primary carer and you have a perfect case of third degree, day after day.

As the covid infection situation still keeps getting worse, I was at my breaking point few days back and was having an inner fight of dragging myself from weekend to weekend and pushing the idea of a ‘leave’ at the back of my head. And what were weekends, but a time to catch up on weekly chores and spend time with the family – all very short and over in a breath. Not long or restful enough, for me anyway to be back fresh and ready on a Monday.

And thats when I humbled myself and seriously considered planning that pending holiday and exploring what a holiday stuck at home would look like in lockdown? Will it be a good idea or an utter waste of my accrued paid leave, that I might actually need if the worst happened and I caught the bug? But mental health is important too, and for that reason I started planning what my lockdown holiday might look like

My Ground Rules

I had set few rules in the beginning based on which I planned a relatively shorter break of four days:

  • There will be a tech detox in these days. No office mails or messenger will be on or checked out of temptation. There will be no browsing of social media, news, netflix et al or digital video content consumption of any kind
  • I started prepping my family to understand that a day off on a working day didnt mean, I owe this time to other chores. Other than helping my 5 years old with his tech setup for online class and homework completion, I didn’t assume additional work that wouldnt have been fun. Thankfully my helper was back, who take care of basic cooking and cleaning. Even chores that I picked were what my mind directed me to do – cleaning the closet, rearranging my room etc.
  • I will try to be quiet, listen to my mind and body and act accordingly. If my body or mind asked for sleep, I’ll give as much as needed with no guilt. I ate mindfully – cooked, baked and wrote a lot more. Listened to my favorite soothing music, walked in the garden and read a simple happy book. And I did end up sleeping an awful lot, surprisingly
  • By the end of the holiday, my mind and body felt strangely calmer. I was surprised at how much turmoil and tiredness I had without realising, and it felt cathartic to give myself that break. It was like being in calm waters after weathering a storm.

What I can tell you was that as someone who was having trouble getting up for days together well past the 9 AM mark, I could wake up refreshed early on, ready to take on the days ahead. I’d again stopped getting irritated and annoyed at my child, family and colleagues and could bring more warmth, comfort, understanding and empathy back in my communication. It refreshed me to deal with the days ahead with positivty for a while now. Until the next lockdown holiday I believe.

I can now share with you, that a working day during lockdown and a holiday during a workday/week are two extremely different experiences in the same surrondings, provided the holiday is planned well. One just needs to acknowledge the holiday, and give the attention and care to planning as you would to a holiday where you’d spent money on hotel bookings and travel tickets. Yes, everyone’s surroundings will be different and so would what holiday means to them. But the trick is in opening your mind to what you like to do unwind and chill and create that reality in your current circumstances. For some it may very well mean a movie marathon or warm baths, others might just like wine and cheese, for some it may mean putting headphones on to escape the crowded reality they live in, while for some it may very well mean video calls with family and friends and so on to counter their lonely existence from the past few months. But the three tips I can give you for a successful lockdown holiday is – unplug from what is disturbing and gives you anxiety (news and social media and work, most importantly), spend some calm time just with yourself, and pamper your body and mind with sleep and healthy food.

A lockdown holiday is not just possible, it can soothe you from the pressures that you yourself arent aware, you are dealing with. Good emotional and mental health leads to a good quality of life holistically as well. Do share your own experiences of having taken leaves during lockdown and whether it was a good idea. I’d love to know.

MY QUARANTINED FAMILY: Not so different from yours – Guest Blog by Dr Srishti Shrivastava

Dr Srishti Shrivastava is a dentist who has dreamt of being a doctor before she learnt to brush her own teeth! She’s one of the rare few people who’ve had a childhood romance with their profession; who are rooted and yet free – and that’s because she has an innate friendship with books. Srishti is a witty magician with words as you will see below. You can drop a comment or mail me if you’d like to read more from her or give her any feedback – I’ll be sure to pass it on. Read on…

MY QUARANTINED FAMILY: Not so different from yours

‘Quarantine’ and ‘Lockdown’ are just fancy words. Believe me when I tell you we have all been through this when we were rebellious teenagers in a traditional Indian family. Maybe you don’t remember because it was a long time ago. Let me refresh your teen memory. My over-rationalising brain came up with it and I hope you observe the similarities between your family and the current situations as well as I intend them to.

The Honourable Prime Minister, my father, the head of the family:

He holds the primary power, moral authority and social privileges. He expects a great deal from us kids so that we’ll rise to the occasion. When I know that he thinks a lot of me, I respond well and reciprocate. He does not threaten me when I am not cooperating; instead he takes away my dear to heart privileges. He decides the time when I am required to get back home (the recent 7 PM curfew).

The Medical fraternity, My Mom:

We all know it is our mother who we need the most when we feel sick. She is the one who takes care of our family. She constantly makes sure that we are healthy and have a good immunity.  One of her biggest challenges is the fact that there is hardly any lunch break and vacation time. Her main concern is the health and welfare of the family for which she keeps coming up with her own strategies.

The Police Force, my strict brother:

The police force is my brother, standing in the sun to protect me, sometimes scolding me if I don’t follow father’s rules but let’s me go if I tell him I have mother’s permission (health issues). He irritates me because of his overprotective nature but I know it’s for my own good.

The sanitation department is my cleanliness freak sister:

Most of what she does could be described as mundane and repetitive, they are rarely measurable but they matter a lot. It takes 4 hours for her to clean and 4 minutes for me to trash it all. But without her help, Mom’s task will never end and our place would be a great niche for pathogens.

 These are some of the memories I have of my family when I was in my adolescence and I will forever be grateful to them for protecting me at the most vulnerable phase of my life. If it hadn’t been for all those times that they didn’t give into my stubborn wishes, I wouldn’t have been the person I am today. This makes me wonder about all the restrictions put upon us, no matter how frustrating they may seem today, will lead to a better and a safe future. Because this indeed is the most vulnerable phase of our country and the whole world..

‘Family is a circle of strength and love, every crisis faced together makes this circle stronger’

How I plan my workday during Corona

I haven’t had a work from home this long in my life, neither have most of us. Even those who do work from home for a living may not have witnessed the other factors attached to it that are there these days – complete lack of social life, no place to go out to after work, homeschooling children and lack of many services available on normal days.

It’s been more than four weeks that I have stepped out of home or met anyone but my family and few next door neighbours. People have been pushed to two extremes while working. There are those isolating with other people – spouses, roommates, families etc and are looking forward to get some distance from them once the lockdown ends. Those isolating all alone craving for some in person human interaction – I am not in this category, but believe this is a trickier one to handle. It can be difficult to differentiate between work and home and life can become really monotonous – I am going to share some tips and tricks which have ensured, this lockdown has not overwhelmed me too badly. There are good and bad days, but these tips from people who are making it work, me included are sure to make prolonged WFH during isolation more bearable, daresay, even enjoyable for you

  • Dress up for work. Make the effort to take an early bath, put on nice clothes, do your hair and put on some makeup(if you do put on makeup), fragrance and accessorise – it will make you feel a whole lot better and make changing into pajamas at the end of work day all that much better. My go to is a bright lipstick and bandanas
  • Have a start and finish time for work, and force yourself to cut off from office calls and emails beyond a point. It’s so much more difficult to do it while being stuck at home, but resist the temptation to open your laptop when you have nothing else to do. If you must do something in non office time, pick up something to read or learn
  • Play a sport. If you are alone – dance, do yoga or anything that works for you – that makes you move. The goal isn’t to lose weight. The goal is to keep your limbs moving and healthy
  • Ok, this will sound counterintuitive – but have a routine. Mothers are told to keep babies and young children on routine to calm their restlessness and to channelise their energy. For some reason, this nugget from child psychology also works on us humans in dark times. A routine and its predictability gives a sense of familiarity in an unpredictable world and calms stress and anxiety. A routine doesn’t have to mean monotony – it has to mean well spaced out and consistent daily activities
  • Have a workspace. Even if it means a tiny space you create on your bed while working. Put a pen/notebook, some water and a nice picture or book or visual next to you to self – motivate. Maintain your ‘workspace’ during ‘worktime’ by keeping it mess free and food free as much as possible
  • Block some time out for strategic pieces of your goals, so you aren’t just reacting to work but responding to it
  • Neither overwhelm yourself with meetings, nor avoid them altogether. Make effort to be seen and then decide when you want to put the video off
  • A lot of my colleagues are avoiding taking leaves – thinking they will be wasting them as a leave simply means one is still stuck at home. I have taken physical rest and mental health days to make up for troubled sleeping and just to get some ‘do nothing’ time and it has worked wonders. The importance of taking a break on a working day during these times is underrated
  • When you talk to colleagues in similar situations, as you speak about how different it is from usual working – speak about what you are grateful for in your life and what you find positive. Positive affirmations are good for our mind as well as they beget positivity. Avoid negative talk and if someone is only indulging in that, avoid talking to them if they refuse to change. If you cant avoid them, practice breathing and meditation after speaking to them. 😉
  • Make time for self pampering AND for a creative pursuit that you either want to learn or practice -that can be cathartic for you!
  • Lastly, nice stationary, visual boards and ambient music put me in a mood to work like a boss!

These are some tips and tricks that I am practising – some on my own, other by watching other positive people around me. There could be many more and I would love to hear what you are doing to keep yourself positively engaged.

Lastly, some of the startup’s founded during 2008-2009 recession as I have been told are Slack, WhatsApp, Airbnb, Uber, Pinterest, Square and Venmo. Some of the greatest scientific discoveries were made during pandemics of last centuries. Can you create your own masterpiece (a music, a food, a dance, a song recitation, a poetry, a painting) or anything that would be your medal that will leave you with good memories of these times for the rest of your life?

My Desk..

Do you want to stay financially strong after corona? Do these five things starting today.

There is grim news related to financial situation in the world every time I open google news, new channels on TV or on social media. We know that it will become even worse as billions remain in lockdown. There is a legitimate fear of survival that people are generally going through.

Chances are, your investments have seen a devaluation, if you are a business owner, your work is stalled/slow and you have started to dip in your savings. If you have a job, you are worried about lack of growth, more work stress, paycuts and job loss. If you have loans and liabilities, vulnerable family members without medical insurance – all these things are causing stress and anxiety. I am also afraid that we will see increasing emotional distress and possibly suicides related to money, hunger related deaths, malnourishment et al in time to come.

In times like these, India is a vulnerable country with a huge population and lot of poverty. While this year we will see a retraction in growth in decades, projections for next year are better as compared to other economies. However this growth will not happen automatically – it warrants all of us to collectively act towards it. We are all worried about what will personally happen to us. But the solution to financial strength is a whole community taking steps that will save the individuals. Very much the way lockdown worked. All are shut to ensure individuals are safe and well.

A lot of countries are are already encouraging their citizens to take prudent steps to ensure their country prospers but we Indians do not have a huge sense of supporting local or swadeshi. Our inner need to get things cheap is so high that collectively we buy Chinese goods, hail imported stuff and thus hurt our own GDP and thus earning capacity in return. I am no financial or economics expert but I do remember the story of a village that was in draught. On a shaman’s advice the king said to his subjects that if all citizens put a pot of milk in the local pond as offering to God, God will be pleased and it will rain. The citizens were selfish and petty and all of them thought, since everyone else is going to put milk in the pond, why don’t I just put a pot of water to save money. No one will notice and it wouldn’t matter. In the morning, the pond was full of water and barely any milk since everyone cheated. There were no rains either. This is a great analogy on us Indians. How we want to behave exceptionally individually with an expectation that others will make up for us. And thus we end up losing the game. Perhaps, this one time we need to do few things individually and not cheat, so that this can lead to a stronger economy and thus a better chance of survival and growth. Here are few things I suggest we all do once lockdown ends for at least a year to strengthen the economy, create jobs and bring money to the country

  • Retain habits of prudence – This lockdown is making sure that we do not eat out often, shop for junk a bit less and do not spend unnecessarily. Perhaps retaining one good financial habit of not wasting money will go a long way in ensuring that the hard earned money is there when we need it
  • Buy Local – Farming and weaving is the work done most in the country. For a year, lets not go back to the fast fashion of foreign chains and try and support handlooms, local artists and artisans, local food chains and local food in our pantries. Let’s check for the made in India label and buy India made products for home and otherwise. There was great logic in ‘khadi’ and ‘swadeshi’ movement from the independence era – it strengthens economy and takes poverty away for ALL. If we don’t practice this even now, there isn’t much hope for us as people.
  • Travel Local – On holidays, lets go to local destinations -support hotels, tourist based businesses etc for India. Luckily we area big country with a spectrum of travel options. If people from smaller countries of Europe can decide to travel local to support local economy, why cant we Indians?
  • Invest Local – Direct your investment towards manufacturing sector in India, agriculture, core businesses and up and coming projects. The more we inject in our economy collectively, the better results it will give us individually
  • Learn something new – A lot of institutes right now are offering free programs. Enrol for something that can be a skill for you. May be learn a core life skill like farming or carpentry or weaving. Transform yourself so your skills are valuable in the new world and can help your get business or job opportunities. Upskilling is always useful

When you read these asks, do not think about whether someone else will do it or not. Dont worry that ‘What if I am the only one and it still doesnt do anything for the Indian economy?’ If a handful of us do this, it will create an impact, if more people join even better. And none of these things will have you losing out on any part of your life. Let’s start thinking smart if we want a better future for our children and to see India turn around to be world’s global superpower like Japan became post WWII.

What are your tips and tricks for strengthening individual financial safety post corona? Ensuring survival?