Today's Featured Essays

The Flamboyant Gulmohar

As kids in school we knew them simply as “May Flowers”. Bordering the playground fronting our school building were these unremarkable, nondescript trees that all at once burst into flames of scarlet splendour every summer vacation. In the peak summer heat of May (which didn’t seem to affect us too much back then anyway), we’d stand for brief respite in the shade of the Gulmohar trees, a carpet of fallen flowers at our feet, in anticipation of the ball being passed to us during our endless games of hockey or football or even aba dubi (a rather vicious variant of dodgeball, played with a tennis ball). Continue reading The Flamboyant Gulmohar

Progress Report - Revival

PROGRESS REPORT :: REVIVAL :: Decade Six scheduled to commence on 25 Jun 2010

End of Decade Five (April 8): 78.8 kgs

Today (June 18): 79.5 kgs

Weight loss: –700 grams


The first five decades of 100 for 100 were a breeze. At the end of the Decade Five, on April 8th, I’d lost 5500 grams and weighed 78.8 kilos. Everything was working out far better than I’d ever expected. And then things all went pear-shaped. Blame it on the break in Goa, the sweltering heat in Bombay during the month of May, rhythm blues, or sun spots. It’s not that I totally copped out; I tried doing all that I’d been doing for the first fifty days, but I just couldn’t get back into the groove on return from Goa. As the momentum waned I started falling behind on the target and then all else began to fall apart too.

But I haven’t given up. I’m reviving 100 for 100 from June 26, and the next five decades will be completed by August 15. That’s India’s Independence Day; for me it will signify Freedom From Fat! From the 78.8 kilos I was on April 8, I’ve inched up to 79.5 in the interim. So I have some extra work to do if I’m to achieve my original target of 10 kilos and come down to 74.3.

The last two months haven’t been a complete washout. I’ve really learned a lot about fitness and exercise and foods. And now, I will be adding pranayama to my repertoire. Do check out the posts covering fats, as they are the outcome of considerable reading and research, and contain a lot of interesting and useful information – the ones I’m referring to are I Shan’t Get No Saturation, Coconut Oil and Pure Ghee: Good or Bad? and  The ABC of Omega-3 and Omega-6. Also don’t miss Fibre Factor, Salt Tolerance and Understanding Alcohol.

And finally, my latest weapon, pranayama, is described in Pranayama for Weight Loss.

[The Progress Reports for Decade One, Decade Two, Decade Three, Decade Four and Decade Five are here.]

Pranayama for weight loss

Anyone who has ever attempted to lose a substantial amount of weight, quickly learns the importance of a multi-pronged approach and the value of filling one’s armoury with a multitude of weapons to blast that blubber away.

Tweaking of the diet, walking, calisthenics, a bit of jogging and other aerobic means are all important components of the fat-burning game plan. Given the criticality of “aerobic” in the overall strategy, why not then cut to the chase and rope in the very act of breathing into the arsenal! Continue reading Pranayama for weight loss

The ABC of Omega-3 and Omega-6

If you do a just a cursory search of the body of research on fats in nutrition and their effects on human health – even if it’s only of the subset of research that’s published or referred to on the Internet – what immediately strikes you is the lack of consensus on what’s good and what’s bad. While it’s generally accepted among established medical institutions that saturated fats are not so good for cardiovascular health and that unsaturated fats are better, there are enough factors (and permutations and combinations of them), brought out by innumerable conflicting studies, that confound the situation immensely, making you wonder if the oils and fats you consume are beneficial or harmful. [After extensive reading, I documented some of my conclusions in the earlier posts titled I Shan’t Get No Saturation and Coconut Oil and Pure Ghee: Good or Bad?] Continue reading The ABC of Omega-3 and Omega-6

Suddenly, Squirrels and Sparrows

Even as the city of Bombay gets increasingly uninhabitable with every passing day for decent, civilised folk, there are other species that seem to thrive in the pollution, overcrowding, filth, garbage and grime. Crows, rodents and pigeons are three of them, and as their numbers inexorably escalate, the figures are as good a benchmark as any to indicate the inexorable degeneration into death of what was once a truly great city of the world.

But there are other species of animals and birds whose sudden appearance or return might indicate that despite everything, there’s hope for this damned city after all. Continue reading Suddenly, Squirrels and Sparrows

Coconut Oil and Pure Ghee: Good or Bad?

Is coconut oil as a cooking medium good or bad from a health perspective? Almost every Western medical source will tell you that tropical vegetable oils such as palm oil and coconut oil are bad because they are essentially saturated fats – coconut oil, for instance, is made up of 90 percent saturated fat. It is an established fact that saturated fats are bad because they increase the total cholesterol levels in the blood by raising LDL (“bad” cholesterol).

Yet, millions of people in southern India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and other many tropical regions have been using coconut in all its forms prominently in their cooking for centuries, with, apparently, no significant ill-effects. Continue reading Coconut Oil and Pure Ghee: Good or Bad?

I Shan't Get No Saturation

While it is always a good idea to remain within shouting distance of the recommended ideal weight for your body type and height, don’t get fooled into believing that slim ‘n’ trim necessarily corresponds to fit and healthy. You could resemble that stick figure loving etched by Caveman Caravaggio in his prehistoric cave all those years ago, and yet have copious amounts of cholesterol sloshing around in your bloodstream, clogging up your arteries, until you suddenly drop dead one fine day in May as a consequence of the blockages.

Not too long ago, nutritionists believed that fats in the diet needed to be minimised or, in some extreme cases even eliminated, for optimum heart health. Subsequent research revealed that this approach was incorrect, counterproductive and potentially even dangerous. Fats come in several shapes and sizes, some of which are desirable and can actually enhance cardiovascular health. In the bloodstream, fats and cholesterol move around as minute protein-covered particles called lipoproteins. Depending on their size, density and structure they may be of various types; the important ones are LDL (low density lipoprotein, which carries cholesterol from the liver to the rest of the body), HDL (high density lipoprotein), and triglycerides. Continue reading I Shan’t Get No Saturation

Progress Report - The Lost Decades


Start of Decade: 78.8 kgs

End of Decade: 79.1 kgs

Weight loss: -300 grams


The Goa trip I talked about in my last Progress Report turned out to be disastrous for 100 for 100. Not because I pigged out or lazed around all day (I didn’t!), but rather, because it was impossible to stick to the crucial walking routine or implement the subtle tweaks in diet that I had been following for the past Five Decades. Further, the sketchy Internet access in the beautiful but remote village of Carona that I was staying at, put paid to any noble intentions I had of updating this site during my Goa sojourn.

But I am still absolutely determined to achieve the original goal of losing 10 kilos, which is the key contention of 100 for 100 – guess I’m taking the clause “without suffering or grief” a little too seriously, though :-)

So here’s the deal:

  • I’m going to consider the previous fifteen-day period as an unfortunate but unintended hiatus from 100 for 100 and write it off as The Lost Decade-And-A-Half.
  • I’m going to recommence the programme in all its glory with the Sixth Decade starting from April 26.
  • As a confirmation of my renewed sincerity, I’d like to report that I did the Big Walk yesterday, and completed all 16 km of it without any negative after-effects.
  • I have decided to double my walking routine from here on, doing 110 km each decade. My walking speed has increased, and, being lighter now, it’s much easier to complete the designated distance than it was at the start of 100 for 100
  • I have a backlog of posts to complete. These include “I Shan’t Get No Saturation”, “Suddenly, Squirrels and Sparrows” and “The ABC of Omega”. I promise to put all these up next week.

My apologies to all those who have been closely following this blog and awaiting the results of Decade Six. Please don’t give up on me! Check back regularly in the coming weeks and I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

[The Progress Reports for Decade One, Decade Two, Decade Three, Decade Four and Decade Five are here.]

Progress Report – Decade Five

PROGRESS REPORT :: DECADE FIVE :: 27 Mar 2010 – 8 Apr 2010

Start of Decade: 79.9 kgs

End of Decade: 78.8 kgs

Weight loss: 1100 grams


No need to rub your eyes and look again to see whether you’ve read it right — Decade Five was in fact 13 days long! One day more because of the Easter holiday I’d declared, and two more above that because of a knee injury that kept me immobile. I might be accused of resorting to a bit of smoke and mirrors here, but if I can’t walk because of injury, there’s no question of 100 for 100. As simple as that.

Overall, the walking has been working like a charm. When I conceptualised 100 for 100, I was quite sure that walking would be the key component, and the last 50 days has endorsed that belief beyond question. I haven’t made any great adjustments to diet — apart from the simple things I’ve already discussed — so there’s no feeling of deprivation of any sort (very important for me!).

I’ve gradually increased the walking component to 90 minutes and the pace has quickened a bit too. To vary things, I’ve started jogging a little, perhaps about 10 to 15 percent of the walking stint, but never for more than 200 metres at a stretch. As I get lighter, I should probably be able to do short bursts of running to keep the heart-rate in the optimum fat-burning zone. I can’t afford to be too ambitious here, because of the risk of injury. In fact I think my knee injury was caused by the jarring resulting from a couple of mislaid steps while suddenly quickening the pace of the jog last Thursday.

I’ve been in the process of putting together quite a bit of stuff on fats, calisthenics, heart-rate, parks, etc. Hopefully I will be able to write it all up and post it to 100 for 100 while sipping urak on the beaches of Goa next week.

Urak? Beaches of Goa? So is this going to be the end of 100 for 100 as we’ve known it these past five Decades then? Check back regularly to find out!

[The Progress Reports for Decade One, Decade Two, Decade Three and Decade Four are here.]

Salt Tolerance

Does excessive consumption of salt result in elevated blood pressure? And conversely, can reduction in salt intake lower one’s blood pressure?

Most of us who read popular newspapers and magazines regularly would generally answer “Aye” to both the above questions. I thought so too, until I did a bit of reading and background research on the subject. As it turns out, the salty debate is still raging amongst researchers and nutritionists, and there is no definitive answer yet. In fact, many experts aver that salt has a limited impact on raising or lowering of blood pressure in the normal, healthy population (except in certain individuals who have high “salt-sensitivity”). Continue reading Salt Tolerance