Thursday, December 11, 2008

Amid security concerns, the first test between England and India gets underway. WE applaud the English team for expressing its solidarity with India and what better way to do so but come and play. Sports has stood for the best of human spirits and so it is now. It wasn't an easy task to decide to come and play here. It isn't easy to concentrate on the game when you are worried about your personal safety.And hence the decision must be applauded. We Indians appreciate it.
Having said that, it is the first time since his retirement that India has taken to the field without Ganguly. It will be interesting to find out how team India fills the void left by his departure. There are many talented youngsters who now have to adorn the baton and prove their mettle.Ganguly has always been in the thick of controversies. A man paradoxically accused of not trying to become a part pf the team while he was a junior and yet the complete team man when he became the skipper. Personally, he wasn't my favorite but I couldn't dislike him. On his day he could demolish the best of bowlers as well as any other batsman. His off side game was sheer poetry. He was such that he could single handedly change the complexion of the game despite his weakness to meddle with the balls pitched short or those flying outside the off stump. My favorite innings has to be the one he played against the Lankans in the world cup held at England at a rain interrupted match. He rose to become one of the four pillars of the Indian top order, with his batting prowess keeping abreast with controversies that plagued him like a shadow. Probably one of the most criticised batsman in the history of the game, he was also the one who steadied the boat of Indian cricket when it was threatening to sink under the rogue wave of the match fixing scandal. Those were the times when in spite of a Sachin Tendulkar on whom the team depended completely, the team still did not quite believe it could beat the best. He has the best captaincy record and he backed his team to the hilt. He laid the foundation of a strong team that believed in its abilities. And the youngsters like Dhoni can now build it up further. These are exciting times.
He was also the captain during its most memorable wins, The Eden Gardens test against the then invincible Aussies led by The great all rounder, Steve Waugh. The Finals of the 83' World Cup when the Formidable West Indies had to bite the dust in front of the underdogs from India was probably the proudest an Indian Cricket lover has felt. But I was too young at that time. I can relate much better to Dhoni's young guns winning the Twenty-20 world cup. But for me the ultimate cricketing moment or rather sporting moment has to be winning the Eden test after following on. In fact, the story is so inspiring that I am planning to get the score sheet laminated! Its an allegory to "Never say die". Memories of that win instills a confidence that no matter how bad the going or how dire the situation, its just a matter of applying one self and sticking on. The dream innings by VVS overshadowed the contributions of the other team members like Dravid, Harbhajan and Tendulkar (with the bowl). It was truly a team effort. This is the legacy that has to be taken care of by any aspiring cricketer. I cannot imagine a team without Laxman, Dravid and Sachin. And yet a day will come when these names will be missing from the score board. Lately few names have promised a great deal. While there are quite a few contenders for the one day format, The test team beyond the seniors still looks weak. I have lot of expectations from the likes of Gambhir, Rohit Sharma and Raina. Few others have flattered to deceive. Many youngsters are knocking on the selectors' door with fine performances in the domestic season. And yet we forget one thing. The senior players have passed the acid test by winning matches for India abroad. All four have done just that over the years. Irrespective of what form they are in today, they have taken on the best of bowling attacks all over the world and prospered. Most of Laxmans best Innings have come against Aussies and in Australia. Dravid and Tendulkar have held the innings together in adverse batting conditions far away from home. And there lies the crux of the matter. It is one thing to make runs in India. The real test of character is how the youngsters will fare in alien conditions. As a reminder let me mention Wasim Jaffer. Jaffer hit a superb double ton against Pakistan playing in India. The innings was such a delight that it was reminiscent of Laxman's elan. And yet when he went to Asutralia, he just couldn't play. The point I am trying to make here is that lets not try and replace the seniors until the young guns have proved their prowess with the willow at grounds outside the country. Lets treat the seniors with more respect. Lets not hurry with phasing them out lest their departure leaves the team weak and tottering. We have the ability to become the best test team in the world. We are at the threshold of establishing ourselves at the top of the world. Lets not step backwards with poor and shortsighted selections. Often we talk about people only to criticize them. And "the good is oft interred with the bones". In the end let me mention, what Dilip Vengsarkar did as a selector was hugely commendable. A selector is usually caught between the hard place and the rock. A job that is thankless. Forgotten when the sun is shining, his is usually the first head to roll when the teams performs badly. And yet pushing for the team that he believed in under all sorts of opposition, a part of the credit for Team India's recent success must go to Vengsarkar. Lets hope that Kris Shrikanth follows suit and India shines.
I was watching NDTV the other day that featured a report on the capture of the terrorist, Abdul Amir Qasab, the only one who was captured alive. The significance of that is yet to surface fully. India will no dubt benefit from his confessions to take the war on terror to its logical conclusion. The report featured the three brave police men who were behind the capture, one of whom, Tukaram Umbale, perished in his efforts. I was drawn to tears when I heard how he singlehandedly rushed out to confront the terrorist/s knowing only too well that the chances of escaping alive was an impossibility. And yet he did just that and "was shot five times in the stomach, but he held on to Qasab until others could reach him." We owe that man and his selflessness a great deal. I salute his courage.
I wanted to find out more about the incident and the man himself but the only thing I could "google" out was the same report text at the NDTV site. And I was left unsatisfied. The report hasn't done justice to the incident or to the bravery of the officer. While so much coverage was reserved for the higher officers who lost their lives, including Major Sandeep of the NSG, the lowly ranked cops have been hardly mentioned. And I feel that it is utterly unfair. People are shown paying homage to the senior officers but no one remembers the others. You cannot measure bravery by the rank of the martyr.
I also feel sad that these cops fought against the dreaded, highly trained terrorists with a lone rifle and lathis. Let not our security forces fight the terrorists with only bravery. Lets not take their courage for granted. Lets give them a chance to do their job with dedication and yet make sure they come back to their families at the end of the day. Its often the bravest of the brave that die and are decorated with gallantry awards. But the awards cannot replace the men.
Also to be remembered are the civilians who died in the attacks. Innocent lives snuffed out before time while they went about their lives not troubling anybody. The value of human life reduced to dust. Time, the faithful healer lets us cope with tragedies and yet dulls the pain to acceptance and finally helps forget them. We must not let that happen.
We must build a memorial so we never forget these attacks on our sovereignity, so the flame of anger and the determination to fight against the pestilence of terrorism burns eternally with a brightness that doesnt diminishes with the passage of time. Let the memorial remind us of all the brave officers and civilians who have lost their lives to terrorism all across the country. Let it remind us of every drop of blood that was shed to sully the sacred soil of our nation.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Pregnancy diary – The Ten Commandments

I had a relatively easy time being pregnant and also an easy delivery. God be blessed. You cannot escape the pains of labor but it makes life easy when it doesn't last long. A pregnant woman is the most advised person on earth. And when you are hormonally not on your best behavior and when you are supposed to be staying as calm as you can for the benefit of the child growing within you, any unsolicited piece of advice rubs your nerves the wrong way. And sad but true most of them rather than helping you cause you to become more anxious. If you can listen to them with out letting that affect you its a battle won towards the victory of your peace of mind.

Here are few pointers based on my experience

1. Eating:
Has anyone told you that you must eat for two? I only followed my body's cue. On days I ate well and on other days hardly. I followed my appetite. If you have a hearty one eat well by all means and get in more healthy food avoiding junk. I used to feel hungrier during dinner as compared to lunch. In fact I never had a voracious appetite that pregnant woman are often associated with. Have snacks in between meals. Don't go hungry. Eating fruits is better than gulping sweets when you have the sweet craving. In Indian tradition the pregnant woman starts to have little bit of butter in the fifth month. Its certainly a good idea because that is when constipation and piles strike. But avoid too much butter or unhealthy fats. Avocado and oily fish are a good source of healthy fat. Oily fish is particularly recommended during the last trimester since it is believed to aid the baby’s growing nervous system and brain development. I couldn’t because I developed an aversion for fish during my pregnancy. Avoid shark as it has high levels of mercury. Eat lots of greens and yellow veggies. Drumstick leaves cleaned and cooked in little bit of oil, seasoning and salt is particularly savory and an excellent source of calcium. Apart from these, regularly have the folic acid /Iron/Calcium supplements. Avoid medication. Consult you doctor in case you fall sick. Avoid meeting people who may be laid down and sick. Its a good idea that family members you come in contact with also take care not to contract any communicable disease.
2. Drinking:
Drink lots of water. Doctors recommend about 2 litres a day. But not in one go!!! Drink lots of milk. People might tell you that if you drink more milk baby will become too big. I drank three glasses of milk along with lot of water and other fluids. (Avoid tea or coffee) My baby was 2.8 kilos! Only, I might add. The size of the baby will most probably depend on how you were when you were born. Those who were small babies are more likely to have small babies. Another advantage is that usually the size of the baby is proportional to the size of your hips. So whatever the size of the baby you should be able to deliver her or him without too much of a problem. Besides at the last months check up the doctor will give you a good idea about the size the baby is likely to be. So you can prepare accordingly. Now the reason you should drink milk is because the baby will need lot of calcium for its developing bones and connective tissues. And if the food intake falls short, then the calcium is usually absorbed from the maternal bones. The same is true even when you are breastfeeding. This is why most women end up with osteoporosis as they grow older particularly after more than one child. Include a calcium rich diet beginning with your pregnancy and it is a good idea to continue it life long. Other calcium rich food includes green leafy vegetables. These incidentally are also good for your bowels.
3. Exercising:
Exercise regularly. Few pregnant people I know of including myself have had a shorter labor and we owe it to our strict exercise regimen. The easiest of exercises is a half an hour walk. I started walking after my first trimester and continued with total comfort till the eve of my daughter’s birth. People who saw me walk thought either I was walking too fast or I wasn’t fast enough. Don’t listen to all that. The key to remember is that while exercising, do not over strain. And start gradually including a warm up and cool down. On any day if I felt over tired or felt cramping, I would stop immediately. Drink a glass of water or juice say half an hour before the walk. And drink two glasses after the walk. Stop when you feel you can walk some more. I actually built up my session to 40 min from half an hour. Closer to your due date, remember not to exert too much in case labor begins. You will need to conserve your energy. Go for casual strolls. Walking alone might prove boring and you might want to give up if you don't enjoy it. Walk with your partner or parent or a friend. And don’t try to walk at their pace. Instead make your own. If you prefer walking alone like I did, this might be a good time to memorize poems/songs you always wanted to. Or you can concentrate on your breathing. If its not too tiring you can sing and be assured that your little one will hear you from the 5th month onwards you could sing nursery rhymes. Who knows your baby might be able to remember them after she is born! You can even talk to your little one. She or he will love hearing your voice. Above all stay cheerful. Swimming is supposed to be a great exercise. But make sure you don’t enter unfamiliar waters. You should feel confident entering the waters. I personally never indulged in it but if you are a regular swimmer then there is no reason to discontinue. As always check with your doc. Regular exercise keeps your BP normal, you are less likely to get gestational diabetes and it also helps you get back in shape faster. Although finding time to exercise postpartum is the most difficult obstacle!!!
I also practiced yoga. I am a staunch believer in yoga and have been practicing few basic asanas for a long time. So it was easy for me to move on to asanas that were beneficial during pregnancy. I did these, first thing in the morning. I also included relaxation breathing. And yes. Its a good idea if you get into an exercising regimen when you start planning to have a baby. It will be easier for you to continue them right into your pregnancy.
4. Breathing:
Heavy breathing is not recommended during pregnancy. For one, particularly in the third trimester, as the uterus grows and pushes against your diaphragm you will find it difficult to breathe. Casual breathing and meditation are extremely good though. These reduce stress and anxiety and help calm you. During the last trimester you can practice labor breathing. It will help you prepare for labor and child birth. You may refer to Lamaze or any other breathing technique. The point to remember is that if you don't practice correct breathing technique, then you are less likely to be able to calm yourself breathing during the final onslaught.
5. Posture:
Avoid sitting for too long. Its bad for your back and can lead to piles. If you are working and sitting is all you do the whole day sit straight and keep your knees below your hip level. Make sure you get up and walk for few minutes every half an hour. As the weight of the uterus grows, you might end up with edema and leg cramps. Relax your legs every now and then. Lying down for a few minutes is a good idea particularly when you feel tired. After the 36th week, spend more time with your pelvis above your knees while sitting. Squatting and mopping the floor is a good exercise to prevent breech delivery.
6. Hygiene.
Urinary track infection is very common in pregnancy. You can prevent it by drinking lots of water and keeping yourself scrupulously dry. Wipe yourself from front to back. Its a good idea to use toilet paper regularly. Carry tissues when you travel. With the uterus pushing against your bladder you will feel like urinating more often. More so in the first and the third trimester. Don’t attempt to hold it in and relieve yourself whenever you feel the urge.
7. Clothes:
Wear what is comfortable. Your husband’s shirt on loose pajamas makes excellent maternity clothes! Try lounge pants from HANES. I find them extremely comfortable even in hot weather. You can go shopping for some stylish clothes line available for would be mothers but remember you won’t need them after few months. I recommend wearing bright clothes. It will pep you up. Many people I know resorted to gloomy looking gowns, and looked depressed. You can buy skirts and wraparounds as you can wear these later too. Buying few loose kurtas/tops is a good investment because you will be wearing these for a long time after delivery too. It will be some time before you start reducing weight. You can perhaps buy front open kurtas so you can use them during your feeding days. It is recommended that you expose your stomach to daylight every now and then. It is purported to be good for the growing fetus.
8. Get informed.
The more you find out about what is going to happen, the less will be your anxiety. It will help you prepare for different stages of labor and you will also know important things to look out for. Some times your doctor (gynecologists are usually very busy) might miss out on few things. If you know what to ask the doctor you are more likely to get all the information you will need. I also read on child care apart from light reading. You won't get too much time to read after your little bundle of joy is born. There is a plethora of information on the net from everything about pregnancy to child care. Reading about other women’s' experiences also helps immensely.
9. Keep busy:
Other than reading, you can listen to music. It will help you stay cheerful. Research shows that babies can start hearing from the 5th month onwards. Good soothing music particularly classical music does seem to be good for the baby’s development. But I also listened to some favorite rock numbers! Anything that will put you in a good mood. I used to dance to the music much to my mothers concern! I also spent my time stitching baby vests and nappies and also simple stuffed toys like stars and cubes out of scrap clothes. Let your imagination run wild! You can watch good programs on TV. But mind your posture. Practice breathing or kegel exercises while you watch TV. Discovery Channel hosts “Woman’s Hour “at 12:00 Noon. These are informative and fun. If you are religious, praying can help soothe and relax you. Else just sit and meditate. Devote some time daily for this. Avoid unpleasant or distressing environment.
10. Plan ahead.
Keep a list of important phone numbers handy in case of an emergency. Discuss it with your family members so there is no last minute confusion or panic. Closer to your due date make a list of things you will need during your hospital stay and immediately after delivery. Planning will reduce anxiety especially if the baby is early. My little one arrived 3 weeks early. And when I had to rush to the hospital because my water broke, I referred the list I prepared while packing my bag. You can keep your bag ready close to the due date. Remember to pack at least two maternity gowns with opening in the front to facilitate feeding, maternity inner wear, clean towels and sanitary napkins apart from your toiletry. You might also need a good dress to go home in ideally which facilitates feeding. Its quite likely that you will be feeding your baby while going home! At home/hospital, gowns are better postpartum. For the baby you will need towels with hoods, cloth wraps, vests and clean nappies. Buy them before hand and wash and dry them before using. For about a week, babies pass Meconium which is a sticky black/green liquid. Use old cotton clothes for nappies and make sure these are clean. Its not easy to wash these Meconium stains. You might have to discard the nappies. In cold weather you might need infant socks and caps too. Take some snacks and juice to have during labor. Carry books and magazines to read in case labor is delayed and music player to relax you. Carry a list of phone numbers of people to call with the good news. Discuss the birthing plan with your doctor before hand. It is a good idea to speak to her/him about the hospital procedures. Insist that the baby be given to you for feeding soon after birth. Some hospitals don’t enforce it. Other things you might need are socks for yourself in case it gets cold, a hand fan if its warm, 1 or 2 old cotton saris/clothes, a cloth to act as drapes in case the hospital room windows don’t have curtains (babies are best kept in dark interiors), bed sheets, comfortable slippers, a hot water bottle or alternatively a cold pack to relieve back pain during labor etc. Don’t forget to take a camera to take those 'first pictures' of your baby!

Apart from my personal experience the points I have mentioned are also based on information I have picked up from reading few good books and from the net. The book called “What to expect when you are expecting” by Arlene Eisenberg and Heidi Murkoff and published by Workman Publishing, was a constant companion throughout my pregnancy. It was purchased because of the strong references satisfied couples gave about the book and now that I have referred to it myself I am happy to say that the book has lived up to its expectations! Pun unintended. It has almost everything you need to know and more. And its easy to refer to. I also read/am still referring to the book, The Handbook of Natural Baby and Childcare by Kim Davies. It covers almost everything about child care and is easy to refer to. Plus there are some delightful baby pictures to see! Its not possible to mention all the pregnancy and baby care web sites I browsed through but special mention to
A parting piece of advice. Enjoy your pregnancy. This might be the only time you will be carrying. Savor the kicks when they come, the ultrasound scan that give you a peek at your baby and all the pampering you will be subjected to. Take care of yourself and stay happy. This is the only time you will have your baby all to yourself. Relish it.
My baby reminds me of Don Quixote. Much like the great man wielding his sword at the wind mills, my girl has taken to the ceiling fan. While the Dutchman saw them as foes, the fan is a constant source of fascination for my girl. Particularly when at slow speeds, the blades are visible and there is a shallow hum. She instantly looks at the ceiling and smiles in pleasure. Many a times they hold a conversation, the fan and my girl, to which I am not privy, not unlike too lost chums meeting after a long time. My girl has started rolling on to her tummy but still spends a lot of her playtime lying on her back and I have to admit it that in that position, there is not much of a view but of the old faithful ceiling fan rotating in fair weather or foul. People with Air Conditioning are missing something. SO the big advantage is that I don’t need a mobile entertainer for my girl. She has a very interactive session with the fan often raising her voice in glee. There are times when I on either switching off the fan to a stop or increasing it to top speed ( when the blades no longer appear separate) have been greeted with a long whine of protest from my daughter!!! I have even sought the fans help at times when my daughter refuses to lie down preferring to be carried. The fan acts as the perfect distraction so poor mommy can stretch her back after carrying 12 pounds of pink flesh with a fascinating smile, on her shoulder and arms!