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January 30, 2017

Why it does or doesn't matter to you?

Last Sunday was great for Tennis lovers. After many years, two legends, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, were facing each other for the title of Australian Open Men's singles. All Most of us were glued to our television sets for more than three and a half hours and watched Federer win the title in an epic five setter match. No no, I am not going to write about the game, I am no expert of the game. I am not even going to write about the players, for there is nothing new I can add to the thousands of words written about these two great players. 

When the match started I promised my husband that I would buy him dinner if Federer won. As the match progressed my shouts for Federer became louder and louder whenever he won a point. When he missed scoring a point my 'Ohhs and Aahs' were of the same volume. I was so involved cheering, keeping my fingers crossed all through the fourth set that a casual question by my husband didn't register at that time. Seeing me so engrossed in the match and (I think) observing my slightly vicious statements towards Nadal (hope he misses to pick this one, has a double fault etc etc), he casually asked me 'Why Federer? Why not Nadal?'. (I must add here that he was watching this without a care as to who wins, just enjoying the game). 

I told him the first thing that came to my mind - Both are legends, both deserve to win, I do not know either of them personally but only through pictures and articles. But I like Federer better (and in my mind I had all the reasons - he has a more gracious body language, charming smile and I have never read a bad article about him, he deserves it more). Also because if you are rooting for a particular person for any reason (game, looks, may be what you have read about them, watched in play more often...), you are more involved in the game. Sometimes there is not even a valid reason for choosing one over the other, but just... I always have a favorite (mostly the underdog, but that is a story for another day). Unashamedly I admit I take sides. I prefer one over the other and the reasons vary from person to person. 

This way I make it more interesting for myself. If I did not care who won then the fifty percent chance of being more happy when my chosen person won wouldn't be there. And I also know I risk the same for feeling sad if the reverse happened! But I want to take that risk. For me almost all people/things that I haven't invested in emotionally mean nothing to me. I do not like to be a fence sitter and deny myself to feel extreme emotions. This is true for me in many spheres of life not only in sports.

Do you prefer one over the other? Why?

And think equally hard if it doesn't matter to you who loses or wins? Why?

P.S. - Yes, I owe my husband a dinner. And I am glad for it, for I won, or that is how I feel :)

January 19, 2017

Just Put on Your Shoes...

Last week I completed my third half marathon in Mumbai. My timing has improved, I suffered no injury not even a cramp and my body took much less time to recover than the previous years. I can't deny it made me happy but still the happiness was not absolute. My timing of course could do with a lot of improvement, my stamina needs to go up even more but these were not the cause of lack of accomplishment that I should have felt. It was the regret of starting this meditative routine so late in life, on the wrong side of fifties.
My running buddies are mostly in their twenties or thirties with a few in their forties and only a couple from my age group. They run faster, better and their achievements are way ahead of mine. Sometimes I wish to turn the clock back and start with them on an equal footing, right from when I was their age. To push myself more, to train as hard they do and to try and catch up to their timings. 

A part of my Running Group - RunOn
While this activity brings so much joy for me now, it also always reminds me of the time I have lost. Years (rather decades) ago when I was their age, there was no concept of fitness much less any structured activity to take part in. The maximum and the only exercise one got was by looking after the home and kids. One couldn't even find half an hour where something or someone didn't need your attention (am sure my peers would agree). And if you were ever lucky to get a bit of time the thought of doing just nothing took over any grand plans of wearing shoes and going for a walk (running was still not for common people)! Though now, I consider myself luckier than many others as I have a wonderful group of supportive friends who share the same passion even though much late in life. I now feel more comfortable in my running shoes than in my stilettos. 

I am also glad to see the change in attitude 'looking after yourself''. Young people are so committed to their love for running that they even sacrifice nights of drinking, smoking and eating out with their friends. They plan their outings so that they can do their long runs on weekends. New moms and dads (even in my group) are making sure they take sometime out for fitness, sometimes they even bring the little ones in prams. It is so endearing to see parents bring their little ones (on holidays and weekends) with them for cycling or exercises. Believe me when I say that this is one thing they will always be grateful for, many years from now.

Go, find like-minded people, get a pair of shoes (yes, that's all you need) and the willingness to put them on everyday, make/join a group or just go out alone, CHANGE YOUR LIFE.

If I could do raising my kids again, I would also give this discipline (and joy) to my children! Catch them young, as they say...
But it can also be said (from my own experience) - It is never too late :)

January 10, 2017

Forget Taimur. Talk about my name.

For the last few weeks so much has been said about the name of a baby boy of a celebrity couple. I am not going to comment about that. Not because I don't have anything to say about the foolishness of the whole thing. But because I know parents have the choice of naming their new born with what appeals to them (for whatever reason). 

I mean look at my name. Binty. I have no idea what my parents were thinking when they named me, asking them has revealed no  better. I am a Punjabi, so a pet-name type name is expected but usually a formal name is also given (which of course no one ever knows). But in my case it was just this one name that has seen me through school, college and other formal platforms. My name has been the source of lots of fun (for my students who called me Bhindi, I know dear children and it is okay), disbelief (Really!, Are you sure?), ridicule (what a silly name!). Also the fact my brother and sister have lovely beautiful names with meaning didn't help at all! Many times I wished I had a more common name like Ritu, Seema or even Anu! It has not been easy to answer the following questions all my life, like even till yesterday!

  • Is this your real name?
  • Is it on your degree and passport?
  • Is it Vinanti or Vinti or Biniti (which has some meaning)?
  • On phone I invariably have to spell it.
  • I have been called Bunty, Minty, Bindi and dont ask how but Pinky and Dimpy also!
  • Never heard it before, so unusual!(and that leads to the next very important question)
  • What does it mean? 
Now when I was much younger I checked in the languages I know but still found no meaning for my name. So there I was, stuck with a name with no meaning. Time passed by and I somehow made peace with my name. 
When my daughters grew up the world of Google was well established and one day on Internet they found out by sheer chance that Binty in Swahili and Arabic means... hold your breath... 'daughter'. (

Accidentally finding this beautiful meaning for name after five decades of my existence should have been a cause for big cheer, but I realized that it didn't matter to me any more... whether it had a meaning or not, I was still the same person. My parents were also totally unaffected by this big revelation, as they had kept my name because they liked the sound of it. And confidentially let me tell you somewhere in all these years I started to like the uniqueness of it. Many people remember it not because I have to repeat it but because it is different.

So even if you come across a person that you do not like socially or politically, STAY OUT OF IT! Because it really is none of your business, it is always between the parents and the person.

December 14, 2015

Stay Aware, Stay Healthy

Two years ago on this day I had no care in the world. I went to watch a fantastic play by Naseeruddin Shah in Pune. It got over late and my husband and I stopped by Pune Club to catch a quick drink and dinner. A glass of rum and Coke with some grilled fish. Reached home around midnight and went to sleep. After an hour or so I felt uneasy and rushed to the bathroom to throw up. And throw up several more times. Easily blaming either the food or the drink, I kept trying all kinds of things like saunf, ajwain, electrol, lime water and waited for the feeling to subside. But it just won't go away even though there was nothing left to throw up. Both of us thought it to be food poisoning at the worst.

Around 5 am I managed to doze off, and got up after a few minutes. I tried to call out to my husband who also had slept after an exhausting night but no voice would come out. I just couldn't talk or even say out his name. I tugged at the sheet and hit the bed with my hand to get his attention. At the same time my right arm went totally numb and lifeless and my face had a mild contortion. Realising that these symptoms were were not normal, my husband and my wonderful neighbours immediately rushed me to the hospital nearby. I passed out in the elevator and when I woke up hours later I was informed about the stroke. I didn't believe the diagnosis as I had no blood pressure or cholesterol issues, was healthy and active, in fact had taken up running a few days earlier. But there it was - Transient Ischemic Attack.

I recovered well and am lucky to have no obvious signs of it. My speech is fine. I run regularly, slow and steady though. Some people who meet me for the first time are also surprised to hear about it! The stroke though has left me changed in some ways.

Every single night I think of it when I go to sleep. What if I can't get up in the morning? What if it happens again? What will I do if it happens when I am alone at home? Whom will I call? Who will take me to the hospital? What if it leaves me incapacitated? Will I have another one or just fear this all my life? It is not the fear of death but the fear of being immobilised that scares me. I never have rum and fish together, thinking may be it was this combination that triggered the stroke.

My right side is a bit slow and it takes me longer to type with my right hand. My right arm feels heavier and different (from the left arm) to touch. Also I end up making more mistakes and have to spellcheck everything. I love reading and could read for hours before. Now my retention span has become shorter and takes me much longer to finish a book. I forget things, even important ones. I have become more emotional and it takes very little to make me cry (may be age). How I would love to train well and run fast but I can't do so! But I have to make sure that I am not overdoing it or stressing my body even a bit over it. So slowly and steadily I have learnt to make my peace with completing a half marathon without bothering about the timings.

Most of you who know me for long already know all about it. And this not why I am writing this post. I am writing this because stroke doesn't happen to people with a defined profile. Healthy people which no previous family history or signs can be affected by it. Awareness is important as is immediate medical help. So if you think that an ache or symptom however innocuous is out of the ordinary, get help.

Learn to listen to your body. 

February 4, 2015

Keep your Children Safe...

I am an educator. I work with children daily. I talk/listen/share views with them on many topics. And I also talk to them about their personal safety. It shocks me that hardly a handful of parents talk to them about ALL their body parts and hardly any give them the 'sex talk'. 
It really is the time to change that. And start early. Sometimes 'a little later' is too late! You can read this poem to them or with them to make a start in keeping our children safe :)

(Thanks to ECA India for making the poem available for everyone concerned.)

September 4, 2014

I Am a Teacher.

In times when you are judged by the company you work for, the position you hold, the number of people who report to you and by the money you make, I am a misfit.

I am a Teacher. Yes only a teacher.

I have never earned enough from this job to be able to run my home or had the benefits that come with a corporate job. I have also been told ‘ You could have been successful in a nine-to-five job, what a waste of your talent’, ‘Teaching, oh that’s an easy job with not much to do’, ‘How could you spend so much time in a class full of kids’ and many other things.

I could have continued working in advertising or the hospitality industry, where I worked earlier in my career and made more money and name but a quick turn of events landed me in a classroom of fifty six year old kids.

My first day was a disaster! A student fell down and got injured and I forgot to check on him. The students were smart and naughty enough to sense my discomfort and won’t be quiet. It seemed impossible to reach out to all fifty of them at once. By the end of the day with hoarse throat, swollen feet I was ready to quit. But I went back. And back again. And spent the last 22 years with schools and children of various age groups across many cities in various capacities.

 In India, unlike in many other countries where teachers are not given their due when people in top jobs/positions understate the work I do, I look up and say ‘Hey how many of your colleagues from two decades ago remember you?’
‘Have you ever experienced the joy of being introduced to person’s family as one of the biggest influences on them?’
‘Has anyone ever told you that what they are today is because of you?’
‘Has your work shaped minds and hearts together?’
‘How often have you been invited to major life events of people you haven’t met in almost last fifteen years?’
‘Is their role multifaceted enough to include being a resource provider, curriculum specialist, organizer, assessor, learning facilitator, participant, mentor, catalyst for change all at the same time?’

I thank each and every student of mine for making me stronger, forcing me to strive harder in class, to constantly update my skills, encouraging me to try and do new things in class and forming a strong bond for life which goes much beyond the clich├ęd student-teacher relationship.

June 1, 2014

Are you stressed?

Some Symptoms of Stress

Thoughts (Cognitive)
Physical Symptoms
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Fear
  • Moodiness
  • Embarrassment
  • Jumpy
  • Depressed
  • Hostile/Angry
  • Frustrated
  • Self-criticism
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty in making decisions
  • Forgetfulness
  • Mental disorganization
  • Preoccupation with the future ("what if...")
  • Repetitive Thoughts
  • Fear of Failure
  • Tight muscles
  • Cold or sweaty hands
  • Headaches
  • Back of neck tension
  • Tense shoulders
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Stomach distress
  • More colds and infections
  • Fatigue
  • Rapid breathing
  • Pounding heart
  • Trembling
  • Dry mouth
  • Sore or tired eyes
  • Heart or chest pain
  • Oily skin; acne
  • Butterflies in stomach
  • Stuttering
  • Other speaking difficulties
  • Crying
  • Acting impulsively
  • Nervous laughter
  • "Snapping" at others
  • Teeth grinding
  • Jaw clenching
  • Increased smoking
  • Alcohol or drug use
  • Being prone to more accidents
  • Increased appetite
  • Decreased appetite
  • Frequent urination

(If you tick your own reactions, you can get an idea of your personal responses to stress. This can help you recognise signs of stress coming on, in the future.)