Waking up in the morning

Recently I was reading Dr A P J Abdul Kalam’s autobiography in which he says that his father used to wake up everyday at 4 o’ clock in the morning. Though his father was not a very educated man, he was the breadwinner of a very big family. And in those days most people were early risers.

This reminded me of my own grandfather who also used to wake up at 4 in the morning. Likewise he would engage in agricultural activities, prayers and other work. He always seemed so busy, buzzing around like a bee.

Image from Pixabay

When my cousins and me were children, we used to spend a lot of vacations together. I used to be so excited for vacations. Even though we never used to talk over the phone otherwise, when we got together we would fill each other in about all that passed during the year. School stories, crushes, college sweethearts, projects, tuitions and more were our usual topics.

We had so much to talk about that we would sit late into the night. Raiding the kitchen at midnight for snacks, pickles and more. Sleeping in the hall,on the floor, everyone just talking till midnight or else huddled together under blankets watching horror movies.

The only problem with this was that my grandfather woke up at 4 a.m and would be doing his usual rituals around the house and right in the middle were we children trying hard to sleep. We had no intention of waking up anytime my grandfather considered appropriate.

After 7 my grandfather would start losing his patience and proceed to scold us in loud noises. We lazyheads would toss and turn trying hard not to let go of precious sleep that has ensnared us. Some of us would scatter to various bedrooms dragging our drooping eyelids and pillows to sleep some more.

But most of us would be awake by 8. Anyone who had the misfortune of waking up when my grandfather is present in the room would be subjected to an hour-long advice session about the benefits of waking up early and other important life lessons that my grandfather thought we thoroughly lacked.

We in our half-asleep state would nod and agree to everything he said. When any aunt or uncle appeared on the scene, we would desperately make eyes at them to save us. But they would mostly walk away with a sly smile.

I still don’t wake up early most mornings. But his words have stayed with me. In a world of uncertainty, I find that there is something so special about people who do things like waking up early day in and day out, their whole lives.

Do you wake up super early in the morning? What time do you usually wake up? Are you a morning person or a night person? Do tell me in the comments below.

Sunbathing is good for your health

When was the last time you spent some time in the sun??

Recently, I started sunbathing in the mornings. Merely 15 -20 minutes every day. And those 15 minutes in the sun changed my whole day.

I was feeling a little down and depressed recently becoming quieter and irritable. I began sunbathing randomly, as my father is a big advocate for it.

Image by Terri Cnudde from Pixabay

On the first day itself, I started noticing that my mood improved. I was not irritable anymore. I had more energy and a positive outlook. I don’t know if ALL of these changes are because of that, but studies do concur that sunbathing improves your mood.

Since it worked wonders for me, I thought I should share its benefits with everyone here. Maybe it will encourage you to spend some time in the sun and consequently bring some sunshine into your life. 🌞

6 Benefits of Sunbathing

  1. Improves sleep

Spending time in the sun is said to improve the quality of your sleep. Personally, for me, I believe I am able to sleep much better nowadays because of it. For a variety of reasons, I was not sleeping well before. I would wake up in the middle of the night and find it very hard to go back to sleep. However, now even if I wake up in the night, I immediately fall asleep.

2. Fights depression

Being in the sun will definitely lift your mood. It is supposed to trigger serotonin ( the happy hormones) in your body. This one I can vouch for. The immediate change I noticed in me after my sessions of sunbathing was an improvement in my mood. I was feeling down and felt like I did not have the energy to do anything. However, I feel much better overall and I feel happier after it.

3. Free vitamin D

Like all other vitamins, D is also a pretty important one. Vitamin D helps in Calcium and phosphate production in the body, which in turn means better bones, teeth and muscles. And who doesn’t want that!!! Moreover, the best thing is, it’s completely free!! No fancy tablets, fancy diet, expensive exotic fruit required. Just soak up that morning sunlight in the comfort of your home.

4. Especially Good during Pregnancy

Of course, if vitamin D is so great, it would be good for pregnant ladies since they are growing a life inside them. Pregnant women go through a whole assortment of emotions and changes. From feeling bloated one day to having lots of energy the next, from feeling emotional to blissful the next. Coping with all the changes, feeling out of control, unprepared and scared. This is in addition to all the physical changes that your body goes through.

Soaking up a little vitamin D everyday is said to help avoid preterm labour. It can also improve blood circulation in the body and keep away that jaundice like yellow tinge so many newborn babies have at birth. It will also help improve your mood and your general health. So all would-be-mommas out there, remember to soak up some vitamin D.

5. It helps fight several diseases

Spending some time daily in the morning sun helps your body fight a number of diseases like diabetes, blood pressure and skin problems. My father also claims that it has improved aches and sores in his body ( not completely sure about the authenticity of that). But here in Kerala ( the land of Ayurveda) many older people will suggest some time in the sun and applying Tulsi leaves for most common skin ailments.

6. Improves your immunity

Along with improving your mood, fighting diseases and all the other benefits of vitamin D, it also improves your immunity. If you make sunbathing a daily practice, you will notice that you get colds, infections, allergies less often than before. It is indeed the power of the sun.

I hope this post will prompt you to make sunbathing part of your daily routine. If it is already a part of your life, do let me know what changes you have noticed in yourself.

How women’s freedom still is limited

I am sure around the world women in general have to face a lot more than men because of their gender. In some parts of the world it’s worse. Why I don’t know.

How did women find themselves in this situation ?? Are there no history books detailing how women became secondary subjects in almost all cultures around the world?

Image from Pixabay

In the animal kingdom we usually find that the females are the ones with more authority. Then why is the situation reversed with the more evolved humans? It is intriguing.

The only answer I can think of with my limited knowledge is that they ventured into the world less than men owing to their physical limitations. This coupled with a number of other factors have landed women in their present predicament.

In Kerala where I reside, the plight of women is not much better. The highly educated men and women of Kerala (Kerala has 90+ literacy rate) are still bogged down by age old customs, conventions and not-at-all progressing mindset.

In short, high education has done nothing to improve a lot of people’s mindset regarding this. I admit that change is definitely there in some pockets of society. For example the youth, the highly educated, the expatriates and people who are willing to open their minds a little bit more.

I am glad that I was blessed with parents both with a good education and with a little openness. It’s not much but it’s a start. I was taught to think critically, to have an opinion, to have freedom, to not be concerned too much about what society will say. I dread to think who I would have been if not for these simple freedoms.

It might be difficult for men to fathom how women go on and on about this subject when they see women occupying positions, having jobs- generally going on about their lives as men do.

But let me tell you it’s not easy when you have to do ten more things just because you are a woman. Modern women in today’s society seem to be burdened with both old and new practices.

Women are expected to be independent, have a job, be highly educated, be well dressed but at the same time should marry at 25, have children by 28, take care of the household, cook, clean, take care of children, their education and if parents are living with you, take care of them too!!

And many women do all of this quite well. But it’s sad that when women are ambitious in their career and delay marriage for a few years then society will judge them. If they are married, managing your home and kids, don’t work then also society will judge them.

I say let women be. Let them be whatever they want to be. Let them be professionals, entrepreneurs, travelers, mothers, caregivers, single, married, living alone, independent or whatever they want to be. And the only thing we ask of others is not to be judgemental. Let women enjoy their journey to freedom.

Memorable Train Journeys of My Life

Image from Pixabay

My family used to visit our native place at least two times a year, sometimes more. Mostly for festivals. Almost always these journeys are by train. As a child I loved looking out the window, the wind in my face, watching the train ahead in curves and staring at the landscape. The journey usually took almost 6 hours by train. With nothing else to do, I spend my time alternating between reading, listening to music and looking out the window.

It was somehow very difficult to find that “right book” to read during train journeys. It takes a very particular recipe to engage me amid all the mayhem happening on Indian trains. Books that I have found quite enjoyable otherwise became hard to read during these journeys. I just don’t know why. There are only a handful of books I truly enjoyed reading and that held my interest in all those years I travelled by train.

Since books that I brought along with me were more of a hit-and-miss scenario, my next favourite pastime was to be glued to the window, staring at the fast-changing landscape. Since we took these journeys frequently, after a while, I began noticing houses, buildings, and areas that struck me. I remember the little yellow house right next to the bright blue house. I remember that big house whose architecture I liked. I remember the playground, sometimes filled with boisterous children playing cricket, or sometimes empty. I remember the slums, makeshift houses with clothes drying on long lines.

As time passed, I also began noticing changes in the landscape. Some new buildings and houses cropped up. Some paddy fields became barren lands for grazing cows. Some ponds shrank in size and became dumpsters filled with plastic and other waste. During monsoons, low-lying areas flooded with water, forcing some to abandon their homes. Yet a few remained at home, watching with growing trepidation as the water reached their doorsteps. I could see the worry etched on their faces as they stood on their doorstep in the morning with their usual cup of beverage.

Image from Pixabay

The train would pass through all of these changing scenes, unaffected by any of these. Unaffected by rains, floods or diminishing paddy fields. Not caring about the local children’s cricket playground being empty or full. Speeding through new constructions replacing the old. Quickly leaving the uncleaned pond filled with algae behind that used to be a shiny pond a few years ago

At the end of my journey when we reach home, I forget about all of these scenes only to be reminded again on my next train journey.

Sadly, I also realise that no children now will look long enough at those houses or playgrounds or ponds to remember them. They are probably glued to their devices. Heads down, scrolling through or engrossed in some film with their headphones. They would not know the people around them, coming from different walks of life to share that short journey together. They would not notice the landscapes changing or that brief glimpse into people’s lives as the train whizzes past.

Check out my other posts here

It’s Raining and My mood Depends on the weather- https://salmagundisite.wordpress.com/2022/06/11/its-raining/

Why I don’t watch Korean dramas anymore- https://salmagundisite.wordpress.com/2022/05/30/why-i-dont-watch-korean-dramas-anymore/

It’s raining and my mood depends on the weather!!

It’s raining here in Kerala.. Was it supposed to rain so much in May? No!! It was supposed to be summer and what keralites have got instead is the pitter patter rain all day. No sunlight whatsoever. Is this the climate change we all dreaded creeping up on us? Is mother earth playing tricks on us, mixing up all our previous expectations and bringing us the unexpected.

It seems to be the case anyway. No clothes are dry, no walking barefoot on floors is possible anymore. You have to summon extra determination to get out of warm cosy beds. You crave hot tea or coffee and snacks to keep you insulated against the cold. On top of all this your mood slowly deteriorates as the rain increases in strength. It seems the state of your mind is directly proportional to the weather outside, it is only natural.

On top of this, there are no mangoes, no jackfruit because the sunlight essential for all those trees to flower and fruit during this time never came. Sun was perpetually shy and hidden behind rain clouds so how are these trees supposed to flower and fruit?? Where are my delicious mangoes that I love so much?? And everywhere there is a dearth of jackfruit. It’s not like when they were in plenty people ate it all.. Because how can one possibly eat all those fruits? They just don’t grow in countable numbers.

The few jackfruit that survived into adulthood.

Monsoons have officially started in June. Cloudy days are back after a few days of sunlight. It’s strange how I never noticed the severity of monsoon as a kid. The school reopening time usually coincides with the start of monsoons and hence as a kid you never have the time to dwell on the weather in between all the chaos of starting school after a 2 month long vacation. Only as you get older you start to dwell on the bad weather, the inconvenience of reaching the office partially drenched, the headache of having no dry clothes whatsoever, the struggle of getting out of bed! As a kid you don’t have to worry about any of these unpleasant things. You just enjoy the rain without a care in the world for clothes, health, floors, work or any of those things that suck the fun out of everything.

Someone taking refuge from the rain 🌧️

Why I don’t watch Korean dramas anymore

Okay, like everybody else, I too have watched Korean dramas. It would be better to say that I watched toooo many Korean dramas. They were interesting, with exciting plotlines, beautiful people, beautiful settings, romantic, classy and what every teenager needed… Oh!! Thinking about those makes me drool.. BUT this was many years ago… approx 5-7 years ago. Granted that I have grown up from that dreamy-eyed teenager to a more mature, (or so I would like to believe) somewhat boring ( totally true), garden-variety adult, whose dreams of romance, of prince charming swooping me off my feet have crashed and burned, hit with a good dose of REALITY. However, inside this outer shell of a married, settled lady, (I still cry a little when random kids call me “aunty”, the audacityyy, Can’t they tell I am still young at heart????) is the old me who enjoys silly romances and funny, quirky plotlines.

Image from PIxabay

Hence, after taking a break from the Korean drama scene (as I got busy with work and life), I ventured back. I searched in google for suggestions and found a popular Korean drama. ( I won’t be naming which one for fear of pissing off any fans) But alas!!! To my disappointment, the drama was so full of clichés that I could smell the plotline from a mile away. Creativity and decent storylines were utterly missing, replaced with a rehashing of the same stuff I had seen years ago, only with “whiter” ( For lack of a better word I am using whiter!!! To me, the actors looked sheet-white, WTH happened to them??? Did they peel off their outer skin or something??) looking actors. All the shots also seem somewhat brighter, with bright colours (mostly shades of pink, turquoise and blue. Have anybody noticed that or am I just being too critical??) Rose furniture, rose wallpaper, turquoise and blue all around. It is like they collectively decided that everything will be extra pretty, from the actors to the setting to props. Even toothbrushes in these dramas are “cute”.

Okay, It’s just too much. I just can’t take this much good-looking. It dissociates me from reality. Once in a while, at least, I need to see normal looking people, settings and props. I admit that I have not watched all the dramas released from Korea in past years, nor am I claiming to be. There are undoubtedly some gems to which none of this criticism applies. But what I have watched as “highest-rated” or “most popular” or “most liked” has been more or less of a similar nature. I think that the image of the “perfect life” – perfect face, figure, social status, fancy cars and these fairly tale tropes- rich guy- poor girl or vice versa, kiss under street light, piggyback rides, the powerless female, all problem-solving, dragging girl by the hand- male lead, and other clichés are too saturated for it to be enjoyable anymore. While the production value and cinematography have certainly improved, nevertheless without substance these dramas may not be able to survive much longer (Just my opinion)

All the characters have perfect hair and makeup all the time!! They might be in the middle of a zombie apocalypse and still the makeup will be flawless and not a hair will be out of place. Their dress will be immaculate, ironed, torn just at the right places to be sexy or cute. It’s things like these that pisses me off. The smaller details!! These are important. When the character is broke or homeless, it’s only a natural deduction that he or she might not be able to afford pretty furniture and other household items. Or is that too much to ask? Or are there only pretty things in Korea? NO un-pretty thing is allowed to cross the border?? (Please excuse my mindless ranting at this point)

What things do you love / not love about Korean dramas??

Book Review- Last Day – Luanna Rice

Do you know any friend, relative or acquaintance who starts telling an interesting story but bogs it down with too many details?? They just talk and talk in excruciating detail about all the unnecessary things that the formerly interested you now just wants to throw something at them and tell them to come to the point.😵‍💫

That’s exactly how I felt reading Last Day by Luanna Rice. I liked the storyline, the characters were solid, the setting was interesting. I would say, I was even invested in it. I wanted to find out who murdered Beth. The process of investigation also seemed to progress naturally. Detective Conor Reid’s almost near stalking obsession with the Woodward sisters – Beth and Kate, comes handy in the investigation.

Conor was involved with the family previously during an investigation of a tragedy that hit them during the sister’ childhood- the accidental murder of their mother orchestrated by their father and theft of the famous painting, Moonlight. BUT the novel is too long, with too many descriptions, too many unnecessary details that do not contribute to the progress of the central story. 😮‍💨

In a murder mystery you would rather focus on solving the case than go into everyday details of each character’s life. The prime suspect and husband, Paul, seemed like an ideal candidate for the murder, until the very end. For a plot twist in the end, the most unlikely character, who didn’t even have a strong enough motive, the best friend, was forced to take up the heavy mantle.

Overall, I would have liked it much better if it was shorter, crisper and had a better ending.

The pressures of being a teenager

The other day I was talking to my cousin who is on the cusp of writing the board exams. He is generally a very talented and hard working student, and has performed well in his previous exams. But talking to him gave me anxiety. Partly because it reminded me of the time I myself was a student writing the board exams and partly because of his situation. He was lamenting about his inability to concentrate as exams draw near.

Why is that as exams draw near students are so inundated with worry that they find themselves with a devil may care attitude?? So what if I fail this exam, I can write it next time!! So what if I get less marks, my future is not dependent on these stupid marks anyway!! Soo many what ifs !!! And even though they may ask themselves these questions they know they have to study. And this continues on in a loop – the desire to study and the desire to throw it all away.

Image from Pixabay

While stressing about exams can be beneficial to an extent, and mostly helps one prepare better. When it gets overwhelming however, stress can become quite debilitating. Teenagers are put under a lot of unwanted pressure. Exam pressure, peer pressure, the burden of taking life altering decisions, anxiety from social media, pressure from parents and teachers to perform well and much more.

Every parent wants their children to perform well academically and believes that it will pave the way for a better future. Their own concerns about their children’s future is transferred to their hapless wards who have their own set of worries keeping them awake at night.

I was thinking that my cousin would have performed much better if he was not burdened with these unwanted worries.

What worries have you faced/ are you facing during exam times?

The ‘Chai Coven’

The Indians like the British, are avid tea drinkers. Every occasion in India calls for tea. Be it casual meetings or important occasions. Hot days, cold days, rainy days, it doesn’t matter, tea is imperative. And with tea comes interesting conversations, chitchat and gossip.

Image from Pixabay

Most Indians drink tea to kickstart their day. It is usually the first and only beverage offered when guests come over. Evenings are seldom complete without a cup of hot tea and snacks. Breaks in the workplace usually involve going out to the nearest tea stall for a cuppa. Since the British made it a staple, no other beverage has been able to compete with the popularity of tea in the country.

Because of our ardent love for tea, we Indians have come up with a variety of interesting combinations of the drink. From the very famous ‘masala chai’ to lemon tea, black tea, white tea, milk tea, green tea, ginger tea, cardamom tea and much more. From Kashmir to Kanyakumari there are numerous distinct ways in which Indians consume tea. Tea stalls are ubiquitous on Indian streets. Language, customs, cuisine, dress, rituals, festivals may differ from state to state in India, but one thing that’s common is tea stalls dotting every corner of every street.

Image from YouGov India

For the Chinese and the Japanese, tea ceremonies are almost a meditative event. People sit down in silence in order to fully enjoy the beverage and the surroundings. The importance given to tea in Japanese and Chinese customs is reflected in the elaborate customs surrounding it. Initially widely used in medicine in these cultures, tea still continues to be held in great regard and grows in popularity.  Part of the credit for Japan’s famous slim population is accorded to their widespread practice of tea drinking.

In contrast to that, Indian tea covens are a boisterous affair. Everyone talks over each other, sharing funny and not so funny stories, gossip, laughter, serious discussions and much more are in motion. Try going near a tea stall, and you probably won’t be able to hear yourself over the noise. Inviting someone to join for tea is as good as inviting them into your circle. Once you have shared a cup of tea, there is an unspoken understanding between you.

My relationship with tea can be traced back to several generations. My mother is such a religious tea drinker that she claims to be plagued with headaches if she goes a day without her favourite tea. My grandmother’s love for tea is so famous that visitors often remember her for the ready cup of tea she offers. As soon as guests enter the house she hurries to get ‘chaya’ and snacks ready. And only when the guests have a hot steaming cup in their hands will she finally sit down to talk. Even now when she is unable to walk on her own, she insists that everyone who comes to the house be given her signature ‘chaya’.

Though my family’s love for tea seems to be almost genetically inherited, I find that most of my generation has not taken as strong a liking to tea as the previous ones have. Many have strayed to become coffee drinkers, some drink it only occasionally and others have become teetotalers with respect to chai. (Alas not in the literal sense of the word, to ‘that’ drink they have apparently taken a liking)

Some like me don’t consider tea a necessity and drink it only occasionally. The ‘chai coven’ as I would like to call it, usually revolves around a hot cup during mornings, evenings or work breaks. Conversations about anything and everything under the sun naturally follows. I have never seen a familiar group of people drinking tea silently. There is always something to talk about, always something to share. Tea breaks like these bring people and families together for some time each day. The importance of such simple daily customs and the time shared cannot be measured and neither can it be replaced.

Image from Pixabay

For occasional and non-occasional chai drinkers, tea-drinking signifies a break in the humdrum of the day. The small break(s) and conversations that follow are what I consider the most interesting thing about chai. Even for people who are at home all day, like my father who is retired, tea time marks a time for the family to gather in the verandah and talk. Chai somehow lures all of us outside, from our own little, isolated caves where we dwell all day, to converse and wind down. These conversations can range anywhere from heated political discussions to office politics and casual chit-chat.

People who don’t drink tea (like my husband) are naturally shut out from these rituals around tea. But the other day I saw that even he who hates tea with a vengeance accepting a half cup from my mom and sitting down in our little round table conference.  In a workplace, it is an unwritten rule that if you don’t drink tea you won’t be invited to the next visit to the nearby tea stall and thus miss out on the latest gossip. For someone who loves conversations, tea time is exactly my kind of time, when people sit down, unwind, forget all their other troubles and engage in conversation.

The cat that walked in…

I have never bought a cat. But I have had many, many cats as pets throughout my childhood and adult life. They have all just walked into my life uninvited and been a part of my journey. Somehow here in these parts buying a cat from a pet store is pretty uncommon. This combined with the fact that there is a common saying cats are good luck is generally been in favour of the cat community.

Recently too we found a small kitten. It had walked in or was left here by someone. Since I have a dog now, cats don’t come into the property so valiantly. They tiptoe around the boundary in search of food. And our dog’s favorite past time is to chase away any cat who has dared to come into the compound or even sit on top of the wall.

Togo looks very respectfully at the cat while the cat is all ferocious.

But since this was a small kitten, my dog did not seem as hell bent to chase it away as he usually is. They were slowly becoming acquainted with each other when suddenly one day the cat disappeared. We have no clue where it went and I wish it would have stayed. Togo (my dog) would at last have had a feline friend.