Saturday, 29 July 2017

An Ambivalent Journey as a Writer

Growing up, as an introvert can be a disadvantage in many ways but at the same time has helped shape my career. After all, it was poetry that kick-started my journey in the written word. It was the only way that I was able to channelize my emotions and express them. This was the starting point of my poetic journey. The first time I ever wrote a poem was when I was in 9th standard and it was for a competition. I remember how it meant so much for me at that time that I do something with my life. Of course it was just an online competition, so I began to write and within no time had my submission sent in. It was only later on that I got to know that this poem had been selected in an international poetry contest where I came as a semi-finalist. This was in 2002.

A morbid poem, most of my poems had themes of recluse, loneliness and dark thoughts; but that’s what triggered my writing in the first place. For without any deep emotion I wouldn't have been able to write anything at all. After all, it is so rightly said that poetry is a spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings that takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility. Sometimes writing can be a therapy for us, when we can’t voice out how we feel. 

Thus my journey into poetry began as I started to pour my heart out through words. I filled pages and pages with verses that came to my head. I even took part in national contests to which I surprisingly began to mark my spot in the poetic life. I received a merit award in an all India poetry contest in 2003 – Kshitj Kalashri Award and was also nominated as poet of the year by the International Society of Poets in 2004. 

In school I was the winner of creative writing in 2001, which was a big achievement for me, since I was pretty weak in my studies. See, this is the magic that poetry has behind it – I could really find solace in writing and really express myself. A book was published of a small collection of my poetries when I was just 17 years old under Tulika Publishers.  

However, I was drawn towards psychology and already had it planned in my head that I would establish a career in this field. So, I continued my studies in college –pursuing this field, which led to my completion of a Bachelor of Arts with psychology majors. Studies were tough and I was caught in two mindsets at the end of it, a deep loathing towards studies but a desire to pursue psychology. At the same time I had to also make use of my abilities, leveraging them to the best of my ability.   

I spent the next couple of years trying to find some sort of meaning to my life while also engaging in different corporate jobs. I even did a short one-year postgraduate diploma in communications to hone my skills in the field of print media, which was my forte, and area of profession.

For me, writing was the most comforting way I could express myself. I never had the intention to write so that I could become a published author. I just had emotions, a whole bunch of feelings exploding beneath me, which needed to come out. Words were the only way they could be released and it was my heart, which bled on paper. 

It is really hard to fit in writing when our lives are taken up by a lot of other activities. One thing is for certain; writing does come around whatever your circumstance is, especially when you have turned to this form of expression in the past. Slowly though, my poetic skill was weakening and more and more attention was being paid to my profession. I couldn't have it both ways, or at least I didn't know how to balance them both out at that time.

My career involved wearing a number of different hats; which were all quite unalike each other. Doing a job was more about finding what I was capable of doing, rather than what I was passionate about. From a job at an NGO, I quickly found myself merely losing focus of what I actually wanted to do. By that time I had worked in a print company, completed a post graduate diploma in communication, worked at a digital wing of a television channel, at an IT company and also a digital advertising agency. 

I had literally spent 10 years of my life trying to find a way to survive with a job, but nothing worked. That brings me to present times, where I am just a freelancer, working at my convenience and pursuing hobbies that fulfil and add meaning to my life. Poetry at this point of time was at the lowest. Most of my effort went in obtaining a job rather than working on whether I was really happy doing the job. Maybe I have gained a lot of experience in the whole process but once thing was for sure and that was that I was not happy in those jobs.   

After a long period of ten years (of not writing any poetry) and having a fair share of experience in the corporate field I began to once again take interest in the field.  Of course, this wasn't easy because writing can be painfully tough even if you have written in the past. The funny thing was that I was a writer of every kind, having done SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) content, social media content, web content and content for other platforms and projects.

 I was filled with emotions, turmoil, anxiety and apprehension of what the future would hold for me. I felt helpless and vulnerable to the world. Voices kept chattering back and forth in my mind and I couldn't control it. There were times when my mind felt it was home to a, drunken monkey that kept chattering, flinging from branches and jumping around. It was stressful, as I couldn't calm the monkey mind down if I didn't write. 

As I have expressed in one of my poems, The Unobstructed Faucet, “Slow down, life, you’re going too fast”, I need to catch up! You’re going to fast”. First, it's a drip; then it's a drop; the faucet gets loose all over again. Pitter, patter, splitter, splatter – the water falls all around.” 

I attended my first poetry event in the beginning of 2017 just to get my poetic skills back on track. At that time I was a bit anxious not because of my poetry but because I would be performing in front of other people. This opened doors to my participation in many other poetry events as well; but in today’s times there is a growing trend in the field of poetry that is taking over the written word and that is the spoken word. 

Thus, I have been jointly working on both my written word while also trying to work on improving my confidence, voice modulation and recitation. So now I have realised there can be no real separation between written word and spoken word, i.e. poetry and spoken word.  There are plenty of experts in this field, many whom are extremely talented in this field. It can be very difficult to perform/read or even recite your poetry when you cannot even match the talent of another person, but growth has to be healthy.

Writing is a lonely job. Reflection and solitude are two of its important hallmarks. Being the reserved person that I am, I love to spend a lot of time on my own and that's exactly what is required of writers. As soon as I get words out onto the paper I feel energetic and alive. Although extroverts may be fantastic writers and I do not in any way discredit that, I just see what works best with my personality and temperament. 

Writing, in any form requires a lot of thought and balance of emotions. Whether poetry or prose, I continue to work on my writing. There is no particular end to when you can say that it has been perfected and it will always remain a journey of its own.                           

When Emotions Explode

When emotions take the better of you
Where are you supposed to run?

How can you hide, when there are no more walls?
To escape from, to lie low, to withdraw from everyone

Who do you turn to when you break down and fall?
Are your tears important to anyone at all?

Anger, hatred, sorrow, jealousy and joy
Emotions, so transient- they’re hard to employ.  

When emotions take the better of you,
Whom do you even trust?

Faith and belief in others can be a delusion 
That can take you in circles – around and around, until you find yourself losing focus 

That's when you know you got to pick yourself up, 
There’s plenty to change – if only you notice!

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Tips to Reduce Cholesterol Levels

High cholesterol levels  (also known as hypercholesterolemia) are known to be common problems with age and are one of the major reasons for causing health problems such as strokes, heart attacks and diabetes. High levels in the body can severely damage organs in the body.

Food choices, exercise and even weight control are some ways by which you can lower your cholesterol levels. There are also medications that can be prescribed to help lower your cholesterol levels, but such a solution should be your last resort! 

This is because these medications will upset the body’s natural coping style which may lead to future health problems. Some of the safe ways by which you can lower your cholesterol levels include:  

1)     Consume ‘heart-healthy’ foods! Heart-healthy foods that are rich in nutrients, fibres and healthy fats. In short, they promote good health for your heart. It is important to follow a balanced diet that has plenty of whole grains, nuts, vegetables and legumes.

High-calorie foods, nutrient-poor foods and beverages should be avoided. In such diets, it is important to choose healthy (good) fats over the bad (unhealthy) ones. This will only help raise your HDL (high-density lipoproteins) levels and lower your LDL (low-density lipoproteins).

2)     Eliminate trans fats from your diet:  Trans fats are known for increasing the bad cholesterol (LDL) levels in the body, and even lowering the HDL (good cholesterol) levels. It is important to prevent this by avoiding any food substances that contain them.

3)     Include Omega-3 fatty acids in your diet: Known to be a type of polyunsaturated fat, omega-3 fatty acids are synonymous with cholesterol reduction. Omega-3 acids are of three different types: icosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). EPA and DHA. 

While most of Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in fish and shellfish (i.e. EPA & DHA), omega-3 fatty acids can also be found in flaxseeds, chiaseeds, hemp seeds and walnuts (i.e. plant sources- ALA) . Besides this, there are supplements such as fish oil, krill oil, flaxseed oil and algal oil that provide omega-3 fatty acids.

4)     Increase Soluble Fibre in Diet: Fibre plays a very important role in your diet. It is a complex carbohydrate, which cannot be broken down by the body and can be found in fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, cereals, nuts and even legumes such as lentils, dried beans and peas.

Fibres are known to be of two types: - soluble and insoluble, although most foods contain both. 

 Insoluble fibre is known to speed up the movement of food through the intestines and even promote regularity. It can be found in whole-wheat grain foods such as many vegetables,  whole-grain foods such as wheat bran and even fruits with their skin on.

On the other hand, soluble fibre which is known as vicous fibre dissolves when mixed with water, turning it into a gel-like substance that slows down the entire movement of food through the small intestine. 

Some of the foods that are sources of soluble fibre include peas, oats, apples and citrus fruits. Plenty of studies have shown that soluble fibre helps to lower cholesterol. This is because it reduces the amount of bile that is re-absorbed in the intestines. Some foods rich in soluble fibre are oatmeal and oat bran.

5)     Include magnesium-rich foods in your diet: A mineral crucial for the functioning of the body, magnesium helps the body to function properly, help the immune system, keeps the bones strong and the heart rhythm steady. Foods that are high in magnesium are known to help prevent health problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and different types of  cancer. 
        It is an anti-inflammatory agent that helps to reduce cholesterol levels as well. This is because it increases the HDL levels in the body. Some important foods you should includein your diet include spinach, almonds, avacado, black beans, figs, bananas, beet greens and pumpkin seeds.

6)     Exercise Regularly: There is nothing that can beat the magic of exercising. Your body begins to produce chemicals in the body known as endorphons and Enzymes are also created, lowering the LDL levels in the body. In fact, by exercising your body starts to expel LDL from the body. It is very important to combine aerobic (cardio) and resistance training. This can also help in fat loss, weight loss and even cardiorespiratory fitness. This should ideally be 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous/intense workouts, three to four times a week. So, if you havent started exercising yet,  There’s no perfect time. You just have to start.


Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Difference between Cholesterol & Triglycerides

Fats, aren’t they public enemy number one? What are they exactly?

For many, many years fats have been believed to be the reason for weight gain, clogging up of blood vessels, increasing your risk at diseases such as breast or bowl cancer or even heart ailments. However, this is not the entire truth, is it?

Fats are complex and they are one of the three main macronutrients; along with proteins and carbohydrates that are required for your diet. However, not all fats are the same and have a negative effect on your health. Your body does require a certain amount of fats in the body to function.

Two of the most commonly associated terms that have been associated with fats are Cholesterol & Triglycerides. Are these two the same and what is the main difference between them? While both are fatty substances (lipids) that are present in our bloodstream, triglycerides are the fats whereas cholesterol is NOT.

Triglycerides are the subgroup o f lipids and are the main constituent of body fat. There are different kinds of fats, the saturated  (bad/unhealthy) fats, unsaturated fats (healthy) fats, cis fat, omega fatty acids and trans fat.     

Triglycerides are fats that we get directly from the foods we eat. This means that we externally rely on food substances to create triglycerides.

They get their name from their structure, i.e. the liver builds them from raw elements of fatty acids and glucose. While they can be stored in the liver, they can also be even sent to other parts of the body to be stored intramuscularly.

However, high amounts of triglycerides in the body can be harmful. This happens when excessive calories are consumed. The extra calories automatically get converted into triglycerides, which are stored in fat cells.  They usually come from eating excessive amounts of carbohydrates and fats from your diet.

However, cholesterol cannot be mistaken as fat. Unlike triglycerides, cholesterol comes from two direct sources- your body and from external food sources.
Cholesterol is a waxy, fax-like substance that can be found in all of the cells of the body. Cholesterol is a lipid but not a fat and is made by the liver. Cholesterol is considered to be a builder inside the body, i.e. required to make hormones, substances to digest your food and even vitamin D. Cholesterol is known for playing a crucial role in building sex hormones, stress hormones,

Cholesterol travels in the body in packages called lipoproteins which are made up of fat (lipid) on the inside and protein on the outside. There are two types of lipoproteins that carry cholesterol throughout the body and they include low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL).

Triglycerides can be burned off to create energy that is required by the body. On the other hand cholesterol is used for different bodily functions such as producing hormones or aiding in digestion, etc.

The amount of fat consumed by the body affects the cholesterol levels in the body; whereas the number of calories that are consumed effect the triglycerides level.  

It is easy to find out both your triglycerides and calorie level through a simple blood test. While the normal range for triglycerides is below 150, your LDL should not be less than 100. As for HDL, the higher the level, the better it is.    

In the next blog, find out how to reduce your cholesterol levels.   

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Triglycerides & Why They Matter so Much

Is weight the only factor you should be paying attention to if you want to be healthy?

The answer is yes, but ONLY to an extent! There are many other contributing factors towards good health such as whether you are overweight or underweight, obese, your BMI (Body Mass Index), heart rate, blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar (glucose levels) and even your triglycerides levels!  If you are one of those who are really struggling hard to lose weight, you may want to strain yourself a bit further!   

Losing weight is a long struggle and requires immense amounts of dedication, hard work and persistence. Even if you have temporarily lost weight, it does not even lead to permanent weight loss.

This is because your body wants to remain the same and it is going to work hard to get back to that weight! All the hormones and gut bacteria inside the body get changed once you are overweight and that in turn changes the intensity of cravings for food and even your satiety levels, i.e. how much food it once took you to feel full.

While cholesterol gets a lot of the attention when it comes to ‘body fat’ there is also another lipid or fat particle in the blood that is known as a triglyceride, which can cause severe health problems.  This is mainly the case when the triglycerides level is high. Triglycerides are known for playing an important role in maintaining good heart health as well as the overall health of the body.

How do triglycerides get inside the body?

There are two ways in which triglycerides can enter the bloodstream. It can either be:

·      Directly through the fats that are eaten as a part of the diet
·      They can be created inside the body from the carbohydrates that are consumed

Read more to find out the difference between triglycerides and cholesterol. 


Thursday, 6 July 2017

Limits Make Things Too Small – Inaugural Event

The Panel of Limits Make Things Too Small
(Menka Shivdasani, Amole Gupte, Karina Pandya, Kaushik M Oza)

Being a writer and poet has always had me interested in attending poetry and literary events. This year, as I reconnected with poetry after many years I felt a sudden desire to organise a literary event of my own.

It was, I can say good fortune that this year, I got exposed to the spoken word community and poetry circuit in the city. For this opened up the doors to the formation of my own literary community known by the name of Limits Make Things Too Small. I didn't just want this literary group to be any group; I wanted to define it, have a meaning for which it stands out. 

This name has been taken from the title of my poetry book that has been published and formed the theme of the event – overcoming obstacles and limitations in our life. Of course this was also the name of a poem that I had also written as well!   

However, as easy as it may have been pictured in my mind organising and hosting an event is extremely stressful, especially when it’s your first time! Right from planning, coordination and multitasking, I don’t think I could have done any of this had it not been for the amount of teamwork that I had. 

I roped in celebrated personalities to be apart of this event such as film-maker-Amole Gupte, Poet & Author, Menka Shivdasani, Film Critic and Journalist – Mayank Shekhar and Advertising legend, Gerson De Cunha to be the star guests of the evening. It was important for me that everyone who attended this event, budding writers, experts, bloggers, comedians, and artists absorbed something meaningful.  

Amole Gupte opens the event

The first step of my process was to find a suitable venue where I could host this event. I decided to host the event at the prestigious library and heritage structure-the David Sassoon Library & Reading Room. It seemed like the perfect place, with its d├ęcor and art like ambience. The best part was the amount of support that I got from my venue partners and the enthusiasm that they showed towards this event.    

As emails exchanged, I patiently waited for a date so that I could really get the event work started. When I got the news that May 13th was the date selected for the event I was overjoyed and immediately began my work. 

As it was my inaugural event, I wanted it to be a large-scale event so I decided to also have an open-mike performance as well with a predefined list of 20 performers. More importantly, this event had popular and trending poets whose work had even caught attention in the media and reached millions of views. In addition to this, I had mugs and key chains with the logo of Limits Make Things Too Small created for the event. I also had to make a special standee for the event. 

The line-up for the open included:

Special Talks:

                        I.         Amole Gupte
                      II.         Menka Shivdasani
                    III.         Mayank Shekhar
                    IV.         Gerson Da Cunha
Welcome Notes by
Karina Pandya Founder -Limits Make Things Too Small   
Kaushik M Oza -(VP David Sassoon Library
Menka Shivdasani



1.     Aranya Johar
2.     Aishwarya Geete
3.     Rakesh Tiwari
4.     Hussain Haidry
5.     Sudeep Pagedar
6.     Simar Singh
7.     Kunal Jhawar
8.     Ramneek Singh
9.     Darshan Rajpurohit
10.  Mohammad Sadriwala
11.  Zoran Saher
12.  Neeraj Pandey
13.  Jackie Thakker
14.  Faizan Faizz
15.  Ababil Hussain
16.  Karthikey Sehgal
17.  Zoheb Khan
18.  Apoorva Arya
19.  Anjali Bhushan

Supporters: I also thank Dwijal Mehta, Sunny Chandel, Kunal Jhawar and several others who supported the event.   

Stall: A special stall was put up by Story Mirror was also put up at the event. Story Mirror is an Indian based online story portal, allowing people to freely read, write and even submit their poems, stories, short stories,  lyrics, real life incidents etc.

The entire event was FREE and open to the public and was featured in the Hindu newspaper. Details of the event was also made available on many websites such as Mera events, Events Brite, Youth Ki Awaaz, Meet Up and of course Facebook. Zoran Saher, one of the guest speakers from the event also helped to promote the event through his posts on Instagram and Twitter.  On the day of the event, there were all sorts of people who had come to attend. In fact, a talented photographer -Ashwathi Pillai really was able to capture the humanity of different moments of the event through her lens. Mark Benjamin of Culture Machine and his team were also there to scout for some talent. 

Being the host for the evening, I opened the event expressing a lot of gratitude towards the venue partners who were extremely instrumental in encouraging me to make this event possible. I then addressed the surprisingly large crowd with a speech about how we all fall into situations and get trapped by our limited beliefs and past experiences. It is very important to overcome these self-imposed hallucinatory limitations that we place upon ourselves. I also spoke about how poetry was an outlet for me to express my emotions and shape my career.   

Menka Shivdasani shared many insights about poetry and recited her poem Crystal. Her words resonated well in the crowd and her performance was seamless and energetic. Her words from her speech were deep in meaning and sensitive and she highlighted the importance of writing poetry and writing. 

Amole Gupte, one of the most popular film makers of movies like Taare Zameen Par, Stanley Ka Dabba and also known for his memorable performance in Kaminey as an actor spoke about how important it is to overcome personal challenges and limitations. He even shared some insight about the work about his upcoming film, Sniff and his journey as an actor and director.   

Mayank Shekhar, who is one of the foremost film critic in India. Also an author, he read excerpts from his recently published book “Name Place Animal Thing”. The audience was in splits as he covered his experience some prominent film personalities like Salman Khan.

Mayank Shekhar

Gerson Da Cunha

Special Thanks: To Ashwathi Pillai for capturing the pics for this event!