Thursday, August 13, 2015

Home remedies for treating cold/cough in children

Disclaimer: I'm neither a doctor nor a nutritionist. The tips below are based on my experience whenever my 3.5 year old daughter catches cold/cough. So use them at your own discretion. If the body temperature is very high or the child looks very weak, do consult your doctor first.

I find the below tips to be very effective during the initial stages when my daughter had started to sneeze 4-5 times or when she has watery eyes/running nose.

1) Warm water - Ensure the child keeps sipping a glass of warm water. This will keep him/her hydrated.

2) Coconut oil with camphor - Before putting the child to bed, follow this procedure. Mix a pinch of camphor in 2 tsp of pure coconut oil. Warm this mixture for 5-7 seconds. Massage this oil on your child's chest and back. The congestion will ease and he/she will be able to sleep better.

3) Tulsi-ginger extract - Pluck fresh tulsi leaves from your balcony/garden (Highly recommend you have a tulsi (holy basil) plant at home for these emergencies). In a mortar and pestle, add finely chopped ginger and a tsp of water. Mash it well. Then add tulsi leaves and mash them with little more water until the water turns dark green. Strain the extract. Add 1-2 tsp of honey and give immediately. This works wonders and the congestion/running nose comes under control.

4) Pepper-Jeera rasam - The appetite would be less whenever my daughter is not well. During those days, I make this rasam and give it with rice. The pepper feels soothing to her throat and she is able to eat atleast a serving of rasam rice without a fuss.

5) Pongal / Kichdi - For a main meal, serve either pongal/kichdi with a good pinch of turmeric powder and pepper powder. Both turmeric and pepper helps the body to fight the germs.

6) Turmeric milk - My daughter doesn't drink milk, so this tip doesn't help me much. But if your child has no issues, give a small cup of warm milk with a pinch of turmeric powder, black pepper powder and palm sugar.

7) Vicks Vaporub - Before bed, apply a small layer of Vicks on the child's feet and make him/her wear socks. This helps to give a good night's sleep. I have heard that Vicks should be avoided for young children but using a little bit doesn't do any harm. This is my opinion, feel free to avoid it if you are very concerned.  

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Book Review - Nalam 360 by Dr. Sivaraman

Ever since I read his two books (aaraam thinai - volume 1 and 2) last year, I have become a big fan of Dr. Sivaraman. His ideologies, beliefs and principles resonate with me completely that I google him often to explore more about his work :-) That's how I came across his other books published by Vikatan publications. I searched far and wide in Bangalore but couldn't get them. Amazon and Flipkart have shipping charges that are almost the same as the cost of the books. During my last visit to Chennai, I made a trip to Vikatan office and bought his other books along with a few more interesting ones.

Nalam 360 is a series of articles that he has written focused on various ailments, ranging from allergies, migraine, thyroid, blood pressure, diabetes, obesity etc. In his usual style of being informative, witty and thought-provoking, he has written about the causes of each ailment and how it can be treated/controlled using traditional medicines and eating practices that have been followed by our forefathers/foremothers.

We have become a generation of instant gratification and instant relief from any pain. Popping pills for minor ailments like headache or fever have become a second nature. We don't take the time to think about why our body is sending these signals. Dr.Sivaraman reiterates on the basics like eating right, proper exercise, sleeping on time, keeping the mind at peace and slowing down. Some of our traditional Indian practices when it comes to food are so amazing that the quote "food is medicine" is the need of the hour.

5 key take-aways from this book

- The mother's body can detect any infection in her baby using the saliva when he/she drinks milk from the mother's breast. Then the required antibodies are produced in the mother's milk and the baby gets them during the next feed. What an amazing response mechanism nature has given! Not possible in the days of bottle feed and pumped breast milk.
- Foods that taste bitter (kasappu and thuvarppu) are great immunity boosters. He recommends regular intake of gooseberry, green tea, holy basil, fenugreek seeds etc
- Black pepper helps to fight allergy-causing foreign particles in the body and can be so helpful to combat sinusitis allergy
- The best way to fight migraine is to include ginger regularly in the diet
- In a 24 hour duration, around 1 to 1.25 litres of saliva is secreted in our tongue that helps to break down carbohydrates and starts the digestion process. Most of the common ailments like headache, acidity, food reflux, heart burn etc all have an underlying cause which is improper digestion. Concentrating on eating without distraction, chewing the food nicely and not gobbling up etc will help saliva do its work properly, thereby preventing indigestion.

There are many more such interesting insights on Indian spices, grains and food practices that we can learn from this short book. I have been incorporating many such ideas in my cooking and hoping to spread the message as much as I could. Would love to connect with readers who share interests in these traditional food practices. Do write to me.

Friday, August 07, 2015

Sometimes, convenience and discounts don't matter

Ever since the new vegetable shop opened up near my home (around 500 mtrs), I go there once a week and procure fresh vegetables. In the days of discounts and online grocery shopping, I spend atleast 30 minutes every week for this visit and maybe, pay a little more too. Traffic outside my apartment is terrible. With no footpaths or pavements, it is a challenge to walk and get to the other side of the road.

I asked myself - "If it has so many hassles, then why do I prefer to spend time on this activity?"

1) It gives me a reason to step outside my home
2) I walk to the shop and carry home a bag of atleast 3-4 kgs of veggies, providing me an opportunity for a little more physical activity in a day
3) The sight and feel of fresh veggies and greens give me a high
4) I can select the good quality ones from the bad, which I cannot do if I shop from online grocery stores. Invariably, there will be 2-3 rotten or unripe ones in a 1 kg bag of tomatoes
5) It gives me an opportunity to converse with the shopkeeper, someone who is outside my friends and family circle.
6) I carry a single large jute bag where he dumps all veggies together. Compare that to online grocery stores where each vegetable is wrapped in a separate plastic bag or box
7) He plays Tamil film/devotional music from the 60s, 70s and 80s, triggering a sense of nostalgia! :-)

If I analyze these reasons, it boils down to two underlying themes:
- experience of shopping and
- personal values


These can trump over the umpteen discounts and offers. I'm sure people who love to shop for clothes, shoes or jewelry would echo similar feelings.

How often do you prioritize the "experience" of purchasing a product/service over discounts and convenience? I'm curious to know!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Book Review - There's something about you by Yashodhara Lal

It has been a while since I read fiction. I love fiction novels which have a light-hearted but gripping story plot with funny and witty one-liners. And it makes it even better when there is a female protagonist with a regular girl-next-door image. Yashodhara Lal's new book "There's something about you" scores on all these parameters. I haven't read her earlier books, so I'm not sure about her writing style.

Though the book is marketed as "the romance novel of the year", I would categorize it as a novel based on relationships - relationships with parents, with friends, with colleagues, with others in the society and most importantly, with oneself. The story plot deals with every such relationships, the complexities, the told and the un-told feelings. At a few places, it makes you want to pause and think about your own relationships in contrast with the protagonist Trish's relationships.

Trish is a bundle of different characters etched together - cynical but caring, low on self-esteem but dares to venture into the unknown. She is someone who you can easily relate to. I wouldn't want to reveal more on the story as I fear I might end up spoiling the experience.

At times, though you can predict the storyline, it doesn't hamper the flow, thanks to interesting dialogues and the choice of right words. For example, Trish's responses as Amy are too good, that one wishes to read more such letters. The predicament that she goes through while responding to a serious letter is well thought out. We face such moral dilemmas often and can empathize with Trish and her feelings.

I also loved how the author has interlaced the principle of being in "FLOW' to identify one's purpose, which Trish discovers it towards the end. I have been doing the Coursera course on happiness and the same principle is elaborated in detail in Week 2 material.
"…I think I've finally just hit the sweet spot with my work. I'm doing something I enjoy, pays me a decent amount, is good for me and gets to spread happiness and help other people too! So it energizes me more than it takes it out of me. It's like I'm in some sort of flow"
Perfect for a relaxed weekend afternoon read, "There's something about you" would make you want to pause and think about what's unique about yourself.  Loved it and now I'm planning to check out the author's earlier books.

P.S. The book was sent to me by Flipkart as part of their "bloggers initiative". The review is my honest and unbiased feedback on the book.

Friday, July 03, 2015

The comeback

steel plates and glass bottles
cloth bags cottony crisp

tender greens and herbs
plucked from the window sill

fresh hot breakfast from the kitchen
prepared with care and love

a walk to the vegetable shop
fresh veggies in a jute bag

conversations with real people
face-to-face in no hurry

the clock takes its own sweet time
to cross the hours and days

lifestyle simple unhurried
moments to pause and reflect

neighborhood well known
and in perfect harmony

sharing and interacting
caring and giving

every living being
our closely knit family

respect and love
natural state of mind

Ruminating on the simple and beautiful lifestyle of 80s. Wishing this makes a comeback in general while I take conscious steps towards such a lifestyle for myself and my family.