Tuesday, October 06, 2015

2 lessons I learnt on behavior change

Last night, I had prepared white rice for my 4 year old and broken wheat for myself for dinner. The accompaniments were rasam and carrot curry. D had little rice and was curious to know what's inside the pressure cooker. She has a fascination of pressure cookers just like me :-) I said "that's broken wheat for amma". She said she wanted to taste it and so I offered her a spoonful of it. She loved it and then finished almost the entire cup with rasam and curd. After finishing her dinner, she said, "mumma, this is yummy. Tomorrow, I want buckwheat". Don't be surprised yet.

During the weekend, I had prepared ragi idlis and regular rice idlis for breakfast. While I was feeding her ragi idlis, she asked "mumma, are these kambu idlis?". (Kambu means pearl millet / bajra)

This is the effect of our reading ritual. Every night before going to bed, we go through pictures in the book "aaraam thinai" and that's how she knows the names of other grains.

My in-laws were visiting me last week and I had offered them a choice of ragi idlis and regular idlis. Without a second thought, they replied, "we are fine with regular idlis". The fact they are both diabetic and have hypertension didn't motivate them to choose the healthier option. Given that they are used to eating rice idlis for so many years, they are scared to do the switch at this age. They didn't even want to try a piece while my 4 year old was happily eating her ragi idlis. It's a different story that they got hungry soon and were munching on bread toast with diabetic jam (sugar-free jam).

On reflecting upon these incidents, I learnt a few lessons on behavior creation and behavior change. Nothing earth shattering here, but plain old common-sense.

1) It's much easier to create a new behavior in children. Whether you want them to eat healthy, be responsible towards nature, care for others etc, start as early as you can. On a related note, children like to emulate what their parents do. So if you exhibit positive qualities in front of them, they will reflect the same.  My motivation to eat healthy and remain fitter has become stronger now, as I see how my daughter is trying to follow me.
2) It's a tougher ask to change deep-rooted behavior. Even if there is a genuine reason to change a not-so-good behavior, the resistance is high and people prefer status-quo. As the years pass by, the beliefs get so strong that even if there is a scientific proof about a belief being wrong, people do not want to change them. For instance, a strong belief that's no longer true => Cow's milk being the "only healthy" food for a child for getting calcium and protein.

If there are certain behaviors in yourself that you want to change, start NOW. Don't wait for the right moment / right time / right place / right situation. As time passes by, the resistance to change will be so high that you wouldn't want to take even a small step towards it.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Why we don't want to throw lavish birthday parties?

D turned 4 a few days back. From the beginning of 2015, hubby and I decided to keep the birthday party simple. The main influencing factor was how the previous birthday (3rd) turned out. We had decided to host a birthday party. Booked the small party hall in our apartment, invited a few common friends, apartment neighbors and kids that D usually meets in the play area. Ordered birthday cake, snacks (pizza and soft drinks), bought personalized return gifts and other party goodies. Took a lot of our time, energy and effort to get things arranged.

On the D-day (it was a Sunday), friends kept dropping out one after another through messages/SMS. During the party, very few invited kids turned up. Many of their parents didn't even bother informing us that they wouldn't be able to come. With the few kids who turned up, we conducted the party. After the party got over, we requested the security guards to take the remaining cake and other food items (which were quite a lot).

Hubby and I had a long discussion about this whole party - the wastage of food, expenditure and most importantly, the callous attitude of certain people who didn't even have the courtesy to inform that they are dropping out / won't be able to make it.

This year, the party was very simple. We arranged a simple cake cutting celebration in the evening at home, with D's grandparents and her close friends. The food was cake, chips and home baked muffins. Hubby and my dad decorated our living room with some balloons and a couple of birthday banners. It was a simple and cozy event. As a family, we felt happy and D also had her share of fun.

After eating the cake, a 6 year old kid asked "Aunty, I'm going home. Give me my return gift". I replied, "There's no return gift, dear. This is a different kind of a party". I could sense her disappointment but I'm not going to feel guilty about it.

The expectation of kids around these birthday parties is seriously a cause of concern. The party has to be in a hall/playarea/mall/pizza outlet and there needs to be some events, games, a caricaturist / a tattoo maker, chocolates, lots of snacks (read: junk food) and return gifts.

It's becoming like a transaction oriented event where the kids compare the return gifts they got from different parties. There's no innocence or fun anymore. Introducing such materialistic expectations at such a young age will certainly do more harm in the future.

We have decided to continue the same kind of birthday party for D unless she demands something else. And for the few parties that she's been invited to, we give the gift to the child and politely excuse ourselves.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

உனக்கென்று சில மணித்துளிகள்

பயம் என்னும் திரையை விலக்கலாம்
ஓடுதலின் வேகத்தை குறைக்கலாம்

பூக்களின் வாசத்தை நுகர
அணில்களின் செல்ல சிணுங்களை ரசிக்க
தூரத்தில் ஒலிக்கும் கோவில் மணியை எண்ண
மழைத்தூறலின் தாளத்தை கேட்க
உன் மூச்சின் ஏற்ற இறக்கங்களை உணர  
நேரத்தை கொஞ்சம் ஒத்திவைக்க

கைபேசியின் கூவல்கள் காத்திருக்கட்டும்
முகநூலின் தகவல் ரேகைகள் ஓடிக்கொண்டிருக்கட்டும்
வாழ்க்கை ஓட்டம் ஆமையாக சில மணித்துளிகள் மாறட்டும்

கண்கள் நோக்கி முழுமையாக உள்வாங்கும்
உரையாடல்கள் வேண்டும்
காதுகள் கவனமாக கேட்கும்
பொறுமைகள் வேண்டும்

எதுவும் உன்னை விட்டு போய்விடாது
உனக்கென்று சில மணித்துளிகள் ஒதுக்கினால்

Monday, September 21, 2015

Review: Bharathi Baskar's books

I should thank YouTube for introducing me to Mrs.Bharathi Baskar's works. On one of the bored Saturday afternoons, I stumbled upon her talks given at an Engineering college orientation programme as part of my YouTube recommendations. If you can understand Tamil, I highly recommend the two videos. My hubby who doesn't watch much of Tamil programmes loved them too.

Later I realized that she is one of the prominent speakers in various pattimandrams (debate shows). For me, pattimandrams remind me of my childhood when TV channels would play them on festival days at 10 AM. The elders in my family would be glued to them while we (kids) would be happily munching on some sweets or taking a nap. I was never a fan of such debates in growing-up years.

Anyway, coming to the topic, Mrs.Bharathi's speeches are multi-dimensional - humorous, contemporary, thought-provoking, passionate and most importantly, she knows exactly how to connect well with an audience. I have been listening to many of her talks and I've become a big fan of her. During my last trip to Chennai, I made a visit to Vikatan publisher's office and picked up a bunch of books written by Dr.Sivaraman, Nammalvar and Bharathi Baskar.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading her two books - Nee Nathi Pola Odikondiru and Siragai Viri!Para ; both have the same characteristics as that of her powerful speeches.

Nee nadhi pola odikkondiru is a collection of essays focused on women-centric issues at home, work and society. Her examples and anecdotes from her personal life make this book an interesting page-turner. She touches upon various issues such as lost friendships in women's lives, expectations from family, lack of appreciation, importance of personal care, taking ownership of finances etc. My most favorite example in this book is where she compares fridge and a ladies handbag and how we stuff so much into each of them :-) She applies the same logic to the various thoughts we dump into our minds and how they spoil our health, relationships and well-being.

It's a pleasure to read how she links each issue to that of a flowing river. So poetic and mesmerizing! Reminds me of the beautiful song - nadhiye, nadhiye from the movie rhythm.

Siragai viri para is a one-of-a-kind book where the author connects present challenges of the society with examples from mythology, literature, spirituality, religion and history. I felt like I was going back in time to my Tamil and History lessons from school. In one of the chapters, she talks about the story of Manuneedhi Chozhan and the cow and stresses on the leadership qualities and fair justice. It felt so good to rehear this story after a long time that I have started to narrate it to my 3-year old. The author's interest and knowledge across various subjects and her knack of beautifully stringing them together is very inspiring.

I'm so grateful to YouTube for a good recommendation that led me to hear, learn and get inspired by Bharathi Baskar and her works.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Why I decided not to be a Pavlov's dog

I came across this concept in my Science textbook in 9th or 10th grade. And for some reason I still remember it even after so many years. Ivan Pavlov observed how his dog would salivate when he would ring a bell and bring food for the dog. As days passed by, the dog would salivate just by hearing the sound of the bell in anticipation of the food. This observation led to his research on classical conditioning theory.  It gives good insights into how a conditioned stimulus can lead to a conditioned response.

We all experience this often in our day-to-day lives. Our smartphones have transformed us into Pavlov's dog. You hear a notification, vibration or even a blinking LED, your hands automatically reach out for your phone to check what's new. Mobile app makers understand this phenomenon and ensure their first and foremost user engagement strategy is "Notifications". They personalize these messages, make them variable, interesting, whacky and what not.

I started to realize that I was getting distracted a lot with these triggers and was not able to focus hard. It could be due to FOMO (fear of missing out) or seeking novelty but I decided to take some conscious steps to get back my focus.
Focus is THE precious asset these days, more than time, physical energy or money.
I went through the list of all the apps on my phone. As a first step, I uninstalled all the shopping ones. I'm not an avid shopper and the notifications - "25% discount on shoes" and "fabulous offers on branded clothes" are irrelevant to me.

Then I looked at the health and fitness apps that I installed long time back but still keep bugging me to track my food and water intake everyday. Got rid of them.

The remaining were the toughest ones - social networking apps like Facebook and Twitter. My most used ones. I disabled the notification sound and vibration first. But the LED light was bothering me. I finally disabled that too. FB started troubling me with notifications about a random person posting something on a FB group that I follow. (Seriously, FB?) The tweet below proved I wasn't alone in this assault.

Twitter is not too far behind either. It keeps notifying me on how 3 of the people I'm following have tweeted about a certain hashtag.Or how 2 of them started following someone.

I finally said "Enough is enough" and uninstalled both these apps. It's been more than 3 weeks now and the number of times I access my phone have gone down tremendously. I still use these products on the web but I control when I want to access them and not the other way around.

Are you feeling like a Pavlov's dog? Do try out some of these steps and see the difference it can bring to your productivity and your life in general.