The Only True Reason to be a Vegetarian – here goes!

Food offered to God first before eating

I have been a vegetarian all my life. It started off for religious reasons (I am a Tamil Brahmin), but while there were no strict checks made on our diet by our parents (in fact, we were encouraged to eat omelettes when we dined out, and take the cod liver oil capsules daily to improve our health), being a staunch vegetarian was somehow an implicit and unwritten (and unmentioned) code of conduct in our family.

As I grew up, and I had the freedom to experiment with alternate diets, I really did not do so. I am not sure if I can attribute it to my religion or my conventional upbringing; it was more a deep conviction that it was wrong. If you had asked me then, I would not probably been able to spell out why it was wrong. In my mind, I associated being vegetarian as one of the basic tenets and rules by which I want to live my life; religion was just an easy way of explaining it away!

In my earlier blog, I explored popular reasons to become a vegetarian. Today, after four plus decades of practicing vegetarianism in spite of countless opportunities to be otherwise, hours of online research and talking to people, I know exactly why one should be a vegetarian. So here goes.

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The Only True Reason to be a Vegetarian

Albert Einstein Quote about Vegetarianism

Here are three popular reasons why we adopt a vegetarian diet. Go through them…and then I will tell you the only reason why you should become a vegetarian!

REASON 1: Being a vegetarian is healthier for your body 

Even as a junkie I stayed true [to vegetarianism] – ‘I shall have heroin, but I shan’t have a hamburger.’ What a sexy little paradox.Russell Brand

Vegetables are a must on a diet. I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread, and pumpkin pie. ― Jim Davis

This is probably the number one reason most people take to a vegetarian diet – to lose weight, to become healthier, to reduce cholesterol and so on. They equate a vegetarian diet as healthier than the non-vegetarian one.

HERE COMES THE VEGETARIAN DIET CAVEAT:

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Never thought sports would teach my daughters these FIVE life lessons. Seriously!

I love Table Tennis

Both my daughters, Anaga (16) and Ananya (12), are avid table tennis players. They love the game, take it as seriously as possible and try to never miss a practice session or a tournament. Well, at least most of the time :-). Of course, I would not classify them as top notch players, but they do their best and that is the most I can ask of them.

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Our annual pilgrimage to Amrita Preventative Wellness Center

Last week was our annual pilgrimage to Amrita Hospital’s Preventative Wellness Center for our routine check-up. Those of you who hate visiting hospitals, sick or not, will find Amrita’s Wellness Center a pleasure. I hope that at the end of this blog that you are not only encouraged to have your annual check-up, but also insist on Amrita for it.

My husband and I have been going to Amrita since 2006 for our annual executive check-up.  We missed 2009, which means we now have 6 visits under our belt, and therefore qualifies us to recommend it wholeheartedly. The biggest surprise this year was that Amrita had shifted their entire wellness practice center into a new building, all departments in a single floor. No more rushing around to different departments on different floors, no more waiting for the rest of the people in our batch to complete a test before going to the next one, and more importantly, no more sitting next to patients who may have active viruses waiting to use you as their next host. Instead we entered a completely clean, efficient, and healthy environment that came close to that of a 4-star hotel.

For Rs 4200 per person, we get a complete check up that includes Chest X Ray, Ultrasound, TMT, ECG, Urine, Stool, and Sugar test, BMI and weight check, Pulmonary fitness, and two interactions with the General Physician (at the beginning of the day around 8 AM, and towards the end (around 3 PM or so), who will advise you based on your test results. And did I mention a vegetarian breakfast and lunch buffet while you wait around for your test results to come in?

Instead of getting into absolute details (their website does that!), here are the Top Five things I observed (and reflected on) when we were there from 8 AM to 3 PM.

  1. No matter how educated and informed we are, preventative health care is not ingrained in our mental make-up. We prefer to hold off visiting the hospital until we are really sick, dying, or unconscious!
  2. I watched both young and old alike walking around stiffly with stool samples and urine containers! They were so embarrassed – shifty eyes, looking anywhere except at these ‘objects of repulsion’, and rushing to get rid of it. Imagine how the lab technicians must feel when analyzing it! Thank God for such angels..
  3. Keralites have a highly developed sense of personal hygiene, but as this wise senior next to us remarked, we are pretty bad when it comes to social hygiene. We saw people dump their plastic bottles into huge green containers that had “BIO-WASTE ONLY” written all over it, strew toilet paper all over the floor even when there were trash cans in every nook and corner, and mess up the cafeteria with food waste.
  4. All of us are paranoid when it comes to our health. And it only gets worse as we grow older. Even though both Mukund and I knew there was nothing wrong and we are relatively healthy, until Dr. Sivakumar went through the entire list of reports and remarked that all was fine, we were in a state of tension alright!
  5. For a country that has given the world the Bhagavad Gita with highly advanced theories of reincarnation, karma, and the infinite nature of our soul, we  absolutely hate talking about death. And incredibly uncomfortable (and terrified) when that subject comes up.

So, how can I jump from this topic of regular health check-ups to theories on spirituality and dying? Because they are all inter-linked. You can either be proactive about your physical health and ensure you follow the basics (eat right, exercise regularly, and have annual check-ups) or resign yourselves to FATE (no matter what I do, I cannot fight my genes and my karma), but end of the day, our spiritual make-up defines our physical health.

Here’s to health and well-being in the New Year and beyond – spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically. Cheers!

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Are we running for our life?

If I’d known I was going to live so long, I’d have taken better care of myself.  ~Leon Eldred

Yesterday, September 26, was World Heart Day. I decided to do my bit by taking part in the Kochi Marathon.  Since I am fond of living, I decided to stick to the safe 4 Km run instead of the main event – the 21 km mini-marathon.

Though I registered early, I was still worried about how well the run would be organized. If Delhi can goof up, why not my small home-town Kochi? So I got up well ahead of time, stretched my sleepy muscles and headed for the grounds by 6:30 AM on sunday morning. An amazing feat considering that the last time I woke up this early on a Sunday was when my 12-year-old was a colicky infant…

I was in for a very pleasant surprise though. When I walked in, there were millions, sorry thousands, sorry hundreds of energetic men and women ready to do their bit for their Heart. What was even more surprising was that the event started on time.

The first batch to be flagged off were the mini-marathoners – fit athletes, mostly cadets from the Southern Naval Command. Ladies, sight for sore eyes indeed! If nothing else, waking up early was worth it for this breath-taking view alone!

Ahem. Moving on, I found out that individual women were clubbed with senior citizens and children under 15. While my friend was grumbling about this “ranking” I was grateful since it meant I would not be the last one at the finish line. But let me tell you this, I was no match (not even close) for the bubbly children and the even bubblier and competitive senior citizens who almost crushed me in their haste to get going. 

Imagine my horror as I found out that the ambulance (crawling at snail’s pace) was always right behind me. To heck with cramps – I picked up my pace and started leaving the ambulance behind when this senior citizen bounded past me. Adding insult to injury, he turned and waved to me and said, “Come on, buck up!”

I drew satisfaction from the fact that at least my 79-year old dad was way behind me. Ha, that should teach him for making fun of my walking habits all these years. (He walks 5-6 kms everyday from 5 AM to 6 AM. Without fail. Ever since I can remember).

The last stretch was over this beautiful, old drawbridge (Venduruthy Bridge) that connects mainland Kochi to the Wellingdon Island and the Southern Naval Command center. I have gone on this bridge thousands of times, but this was the first time I was running (well, crawling!) over it. As the sun rose on another beautiful day, construction workers banged on the new train track coming over the bridge, the fishermen were  returning from the sea after their early morning fishing session, and the world looked beautiful. I completely stopped in awe when I saw this white-beaked eagle swoop down to the waters and carry away a wriggling, pink fish. This is what they mean by poetry in motion.

I waddled in through the finish line exactly 7 minutes before my dad (who had his quadruple by-pass surgery 4 years ago) sauntered in. I nearly had my first heart attack! While he chatted with his friends and exchanged time/duration/speed statistics, I ran towards the snack counter and downed a couple of gallons of lemonade. Luckily for me, everyone else seemed to prefer water!

As I said goodbye to my fellow-runners, we promised to do more for our hearts. And our health. A retired teacher (who ran the 4 kms) dropped us back to the grounds so my dad and I could pick up our cars. As I waved good bye to my dad and limped back to my car, I prayed for everyone to have a healthier and a nicer heart in the coming years.

So what did I learn from the race yesterday? Apart from the fact that you can never underestimate a senior citizen’s zest for life? Apart from the fact that there is something about being with a group of like-minded that energizes you instantly?

As I watched the laborers race to catch the bus so they could reach their work place (on a Sunday), this is what I learnt. While I am one of the lucky few who gets to run for their hearts, there are still millions out there in this world who HAVE TO RUN (or fly or swim) for their lives. My measly 4 km walk is dedicated to their health.

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New Year, New You and New Me

I am sure you have made your New Year Resolutions and have probably broken a few already. As I was pondering on my Resolutions, I decided to categorize them into 2 main categories. (Project Management skills die hard!). So here goes my resolutions for the new year and I hope you will adopt them too.

I have made resolutions on TWO fronts only – Hope & Health. Under each category I made 3 resolutions making it a total of 6 resolutions I plan on making or breaking this Year!

Hope –

  1. Read the Bhagavad Gita Everyday. By doing so I HOPE to draw from the Wisdom and Experience of all ages which should instruct me on how to live my today
  2. Drop my baggage. Jiggi Vasudev (of Isha Yoga) asks – Will you watch a boring movie or a sad book again and again? Then why would you relive your sad or bad memories at the drop of a hat?  I HOPE to carry forward happy memories everyday and drop those that burden me
  3. Laugh More.

Health –

  1. Will not wake up early! – Yes, NOT WAKE UP EARLY – Waking up early is a habit I have not acquired and do not plan to acquire starting tomorrow morning.  I will wake up when I want and if need be, will drive my daughter to school when she misses the school bus. So there!
  2. Will not DIET anymore – From now on I will only watch my diet, not DIET. A whole different way of looking at something you are going to do all your life. Incidentally the word DIET refers to what is eaten in a particular culture/region as in Indian Diet or Mediterranean Diet and not to removing all good taste and flavor from your food. Nor will I beat myself up for having literally inhaled “Death By Chocolate” as I watched Federer beat Pete Sampras’ record for the highest Grand Slam Singles Titles during last year’s Wimbledon Finals. It was worth every crumb.
  3. Will not watch TV anymore –  Except for Tennis and Indian Cricket of course. Every other show/program falls under the category of “crap”. At last count I have 142 channels on my TV. None of them have added even a modicum of knowledge or happiness to my life. Sorry Mr. President, Yes, you can fool all the people all the time. TV channels do it 24X7X365 ad nauseum

Sorry – did I vent too much? Am done. Now to “walk the talk”.

Wishing you all a 2010 filled with Health, Hope, and Happiness.

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Get your daily dose of health and happiness

  How many of us read our Gita or the Koran or the Bible daily? How many of us place implicit faith in these time-tested books instead of turning outward for solutions? I recently attended the Gita Jayanthi function organized by ISKCON Kochi and was stunned by the simplicity of Bhakthi Vinod Swami Maharaj’s message – read the Gita everyday. If not an entire page, at least a line. If not a line, at least a word. Leave religion, and its myriad confusions and misinterpretations alone. Get into spirituality. Get into yourself.

 I still remember the fiasco over Varun Gandhi and his reference to the Bhagavad Gita. And Priyanka Gandhi’s rejoinder to it – if he has really read the Gita, he would not have spoken like this. For someone like me who is against politics and all politicians, this sentence conveys simply the power of the written word, especially if it is from our God.

 In summary, read your Gita. Or your Koran or Bible or the Granth. It does not matter which, but do read. Then start thinking how you want to apply the highest ideals laid out by your God into your life. Let the swamis and the preachers talk. And pontificate. You read. And think. And live your life the way your God wants you to – with love, patience and simplicity.

Come on – let’s get healthy and happy every day of our life.

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Take a morning walk with me

Since I claim to be a health freak, I try to walk as often as I can. Seeing myself in the mirror every morning is enough to motivate anyone to get out there and burn some calories, so I head out once the kids are safely on their way to school.

So most weekday mornings, if you live in Kadavanthara in Kochi, KERALA (yes, God’s Own Country), you can see me power walk around 8 AM. For those of you who think walking is a safe and enjoyable routine, I beg to differ. Read on to find out why…

Walking in India is more hazardous than being a Christian Missionary in Taliban Afghanistan. If I can dodge the herd of cows as they amble past me, the fighting street dogs take over. One morning I had the dual pleasure of being chased by an angry bull and a snarling dog. Once you get past the four-legged animals, you run into the lady drivers who are learning to drive. Certainly not for the weak-hearted. As the instructor hurls abuse and curses at his students who can barely figure out left from right and the brake from the accelarator, I start praying and quickly start a jog that would put Usain Bolt to shame.

Hold on, my walk is not done yet. The neighboring construction workers start walking in and start staring at me as if they have never ever seen a human being. Some of the braver ones start humming old Malayalam songs from movies. Do these roadside Casanovas really think humming a tune created 40 years ago would melt our heart and turn us into instant admirers? Really?

Past the four legged and the two legged animals, I come now to the most dangerous part of my walk. These old men who are sitting and smoking beedis suddenly jump up and have this instant urge to pee as I walk past by. Enough said about that!

So why don’t you just go to the gym, pointed out my friend. Nah, too lame! For sheer adrenalin surges and adventure, give me a morning walk in India any day….

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