Team activity – learning the play of words and art of story building with a fun riddle

We had a very interesting team activity today using a riddle I heard a long time ago and have often played with friends. Recently on, one such occasion I realized that this should be done within a project team as it has so many aspects to it that we can learn from.

 Rules of the game:

  1. Riddle to be shared with everyone and then we form 2 teams using. One of “MASTERS” and another of “DETECTIVES”
  2. DETECTIVES will try to solve the riddle by building a story using pointers from the riddle
  3. MASTERS will be given the full story and will then “light the way” for detectives, by answering as Yes, No, May be, Vague.

May Be and Vague are important !! May be means the MASTERS don’t know the answer but the question seems related to the plot. Vague again means they don’t know the answer, but the line of thought of DETECTIVES needs to be aborted. It’s not leading to the solution

  1. I played the role of moderator, dropping clues when required for Detectives and discussing Masters’ reply for tricky questions
  2. Since when I play this with friends it stretches over days, this activity was time boxed to 45 min, even if the riddle is un-solved. Last 10 min to discuss the experience

 Takeaways from it:

  1. Lateral thinking – the solving of problems by an indirect and creative approach, typically through viewing the problem in a new and unusual light
  2. Realizing the importance of art of ‘concise speaking’ using Precision Q&A
  3. Art of building story – Detective are given very little information and to create a story from that, to cling on to the key words was a great challenge and great learning
  4. Organization of thoughts – Detectives need to separate the thoughts which can lead to the solution and from those ideas that are not going with the story
  5. Play of words – 2 seemingly similar questions can have different answers – ‘Is the incidence related to the taste of food’ and ‘Incidence took place because food tasted good (or bad)’ – Have different answers
  6. Being a Master or guide is not as easy as it seems. For almost every question the masters had to consult either each other or the moderator. At one point – “Master Shifu” defended that we go with a ‘technically wrong’ answer just so he could lead the Detectives to the right path!
  7. Art of listening – Both teams needed to listen to what is being asked and what is being answered intently, else there is a good chance of making mistake
  8. Coordination and consensus building – Important for both teams!

 You might now wonder about the riddle but I will not detail it out. In case anyone reading this wants to experience it themselves, I could risk ruining it for them. Interested in playing this with your team? Message me and I will happily share the riddle / story with you

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Whose fault is it anyway?

CrossMichaela Cross has described her experiences in India (username as RoseChasm).
India: The Story You Don’t Want to Hear

CNN put this on their main site – here 

Michaela Cross, an American student at the University of Chicago, has written a powerful account of her study abroad trip to India last year, during which she says she experienced relentless sexual harassment, groping and worse.

Many people commented on the story sympathizing with her.
Janelle K. Eagle  also narrated her story after reading Michaela’s account.

I sympathize with them too. Being an Indian woman I know how hard it is to not only travel alone, but sometimes even to be at ease at your own home.

Ironically I live in army cantonment,  which consists of folks who fight for the mother land. But when I venture out on the mall road for my jogging, I am faced with many stares. Covered from neck to toe, wearing loose clothes and long t-shirt also doesn’t act as deterrent. I understand the stare of surprise / curiosity, since it is not very common in India for women to go jogging. But every woman knows the difference between that stare and the uncomfortable ones. Since this is cantt, I can question the guy, even get him scolded, but how long will I do that? Every time I run, do I spend my time on this? Or ignore them and enjoy my run?

Of course most of the “starers”, come from uneducated or less educated background. The strength of these men, lie in the fact that, they have nothing to lose. Nothing at all. If the news of his misbehavior spreads, then no one will think ill of him. It will be assumed that it was the girl’s/ woman’s fault.

While living in a posh multi-storey building, I was once cleaning my car – dressed from neck to toe, long t-shirt, loose clothes – goes without saying! The boy who does it, didn’t turn up, so I decided to do the job. The ‘security’ guards of 2-3 buildings thought it was show time for them. I scolded them and in foul mood returned to my flat. My flat mate (another girl) told me – ‘why did you have to clean the car yourself’.

You see, the general attitude is, when something bad happens towards a girl, people (this includes other women) don’t blame the guy. They say – what was she doing  travelling on her own, what was she doing dressed like that, what was she doing riding in the bus so late in the night, what was she doing jogging on the road  – so on. I am amazed… Is it so hard to see, that you are pointing at the victim.

There would not be a single woman in India who did not grow up learning things to guard herself. If this, then this, else this. We know all the tricks, we can smell trouble before it occurs and can steer our way out of it. It’s a veil we’ve learnt to put on. Not that this veil is fool proof, but it helps prevent bigger tragedies. But isn’t it sad, that there is a need to do this? Its in our blood now, we do it sub consciously, without giving it a thought.

Even when accompanied with my husband I’ve had men staring. And I try to distract him, so that he doesn’t see them, else there will be a street fight.

As Michaela Cross said in her account,

There was no way to prepare for the eyes, the eyes that every day stared with such entitlement at my body, with no change of expression whether I met their gaze or not. Walking to the fruit seller’s or the tailor’s I got stares so sharp that they sliced away bits of me piece by piece

Its an awful feeling. Most of my friends have learnt to ignore this, but I am still filled with anger and resentment. This is something I cannot get accustomed to, no matter what.

I have slapped men groping at me in darkness of cinema halls, I’ve screamed at cab driver’s for staring in the rear view mirror, I’ve seen my hubby beating men on the streets for passing sleazy remarks – but this was always accompanied with the fear of the backlash. I’ve felt terrorized at the thought that what if this guy tries to get back at me. Such is the state of affairs of justice, especially for crime against women.

Even now, writing this, I can hear the whispers – ‘Screamed at cab driver? – couldn’t she travel by car?; Groping in cinema hall – what kind of theater did she go to? ; Stares in army cantt? I wonder if they don’t have a gymnasium there …

Favorite Quotes!

Give and it will be given to you.. for the measure you give will be the measure you get back
You give but little when you give your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give
– Kahlil Gibran

Meditate without expectations – One day, suddenly, you will find a window opens, and a fresh breeze with new rays has filled your heart.
Be thankful for what is happening, but don’t ask for more – and more will be coming
– Osho

In order to live free and happily, you must sacrifice boredom. It is not always an easy sacrifice
– Richard Bach

Your obligation in any lifetime is to be true to yourself.
Being true to anyone or anything else is not only impossible, but the mark of a fake messiah.
– Richard Bach

Here is a test to find whether your mission on earth is finished. If you are alive – it isn’t
– Richard Bach

You don’t love someone for their looks, or their clothes, or for their fancy car, but because they sing a song only you can hear
– Oscar Wilde

Being Silent is a great way to let someone know they did something wrong
– Unknown

Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will
– Mahatma Gandhi

It is a law of nature that the skin of races living near the equator should be black.
And if we believe that there must be beauty in everything fashioned by nature, we would not only steer clear of all narrow and one-sided conceptions of beauty, but we in India would be free from the improper sense of shame and dislike which we feel for our own complexion if it is anything but fair.
– Mahatma Gandhi – In his book “Satyagrah in South Africa”

Coconut shell lamp

Coconut Shell LampVery easy to make this one! I love South Indian cuisine, so naturally I have an abundance of brown coconut shells. I have 16 of them hanging in my garden, as of today. 😀

1. Break the brown coconut with a light knock at the center, else it will break unevenly. The real work in this DIY project is just to ensure that you smoothly break it in 2 halves. Remove the coconut flesh and water. Keep aside for eating raw, or for making chutney.

2. Take the half that is deeper and tie a rope around the bottom of the half. You need this to be able to tie ropes on it, for hanging the lamp.

3. Further cut 3 or 4 ropes as per required length and tie with the rope tied in Step 2.

4. Place a little mud in the shell and keep a tea light in it.

Thatz it!

Scrumptilicious! Shahi Toast

I love “Shahi Toast” since the time I first tasted it. Simple to make, so the best dessert for a lazy day has to be this one!

1. Cut the edges of the bread and cut each piece in triangles.

2. Deep fry it in oil or ghee or butter

3. Boil some milk on low heat for 10 min. Add scented or plain cardamom powder to it.

4. Add sugar as per taste.

5. Place the fried toasts in a dish – pour milk

6. Keep turning – so that all the breads soak properly….Let it cool for an hour or so and enjoy!! (I sprinkled some crushed almonds too)

Gandhi The Man

How many of us know that Gandhi didn’t celebrate 15th August 1947. He spent the day fasting and praying.

Most of us don’t know the great person that Gandhi was. Its sad, very sad for me that we call him father of the nation, we call him Mahatma, we hang his photo in every office, yet probably even 10% of the Indian population doesn’t know ‘Gandhi – The MAN!’

A Himalayan miscalculation by those who could not have imagined the carnage and butchering that would follow.  The joy of Independence was dulled by the saga of partition. The folks of my generation and later  mostly remember this day as an event to celebrate, but I am sure the older people who in their youth witnessed the sad event, can’t help but shudder a little too.

Blaming this tragedy on Gandhi is in my opinion, not only childish but also goes on to show how little people know about him and the freedom struggle. He was 77 years old at that time. He was in prison from 1942 and was released on 6 May 1944 because of his failing health and necessary surgery. He came out of detention to an altered political scene—the Muslim League for example, which a few years earlier had appeared marginal, “now occupied the centre of the political stage”.

Sitting in the comfort of the home, eating all the possible delicacies, using all possible comforts life has to offer – people throw an ill meaning one liner on the internet…. Ridiculous!

I am no lawyer and am not writing this blog to defend  this great man. He would not have wanted anyone to that either.  “My life is my message – he says”. I believe it to be true to the last letter.

My idea is to summarize a few things I’ve read about the Mahatma. Some in his own words and some noted by those who knew him.

From being a vegetarian by birth (though he did indulge in non-veg while in school), he switched to being vegetarian by choice in London. He even promoted being vegetarian by joining and supporting various communities.

In London where he was studying to become barrister, he even attempted to learn French and elocution, Dancing and Violin.  But soon realized that was not he had come to London for and re-directed himself to his actual ‘calling’.

He was on an everlasting mission on self improvisation. He explored various religions, read their holy books and learnt from all. It appealed to him greatly, that renunciation was the highest form of religion. During his time in South Africa “Bhagwat Gita” became his infallible guide of conduct. It became his dictionary of daily reference and remained so until last.

From Gita – words like aparigraha (nonpossession) and samabhava (equability) gripped him. And from there started his real transformation. From selling off his personal possessions, to not keeping gifts and gold amounting to thousands of Rs (of that time), to cleaning toilets of his guests(no flush at that time), to eating simple food – list is long and the readers these days don’t have the patience.

He was always on some kind of diet – he started by cutting down his meals, then to give up tea, spices, milk and ultimately grains. He once went on diet of raw groundnuts, bananas, dates, lemons, and olive oil. Later he took up a fruit diet. This was changed to only 5 fruits diet and finally only those 5, that were cheapest in the market. The last addition he did, after he realized that when he stayed as guest at his friends place they fussed over his fruit diet and procured the most expensive fruits for him.

As a student he managed his funds very carefully and kept that habit forever.  Later on when he handled public funds amounting to lakhs – instead of outstanding debts he always had surplus balance in respect of all the movements he led. He wanted the youth to learn from this habit and always take care of their finances.

…To be Continued

For further Reading:

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Running

In every living being rests a soul. Our body is a temple where this soul resides. It is our duty to worship and cleanse the soul and keep this temple and its soul in good health. Body means – body as a whole and not just the skin. We shouldn’t forget the other vital organs – heart, liver, kidneys, stomach, limbs, etc.

Generous and kind thoughts, simple living, moderate eating, regular exercise, meditation and proper sleep are some things you can do towards achieving this goal.

I consider Running to also be a form of worship. In this blog I want to write down my thoughts on running, how I do it and what it helps me achieve.  I have not learnt any of this under any trainer and everything in this blog is my experiment with running.

I have been running regularly for more than 2 years now and have never felt any of the things below to harm me in any way. I can run for around 5 kms in 35 to 40 min. I am quite happy with this. The benefits are numerous and side effects none.

If you feel this is a long blog or are in a hurry, I suggest that you take a print out or save it for later. As it would be better to read it with a bit of patience. I sincerely feel you’ll benefit from it. If nothing then at-least it will be a good read and surely thought provoking!

Even if you don’t run, read this, a day will come when you start running and you will remember the words in this blog retrospectively.

Enjoy….

Apart from keeping me fit, running is also like meditation to me.  Though I have practiced Yog also fairly regularly, I still feel that the peace and calm that a good run can give me is hard to beat. It silences the constant, mindless chatter and once I finish running I can ‘hear’ silence. Its like somebody just muted a loud TV.

 In a movie, I once saw an ad film being made on ‘running shoes’. They created a beautiful idea. It was on the lines that, road is some place you can be yourself. It doesn’t judge you on your clothes, on your makeup or anything else. Be yourself, be you!

I couldn’t have agreed more.

Running always is a great test of my will. Five minutes before running my heart starts pounding. My body starts feeling heavy and every inch of me, tries to resist being put to this seemingly strenuous task. I have to refresh the memories of “post run” euphoria and keep coaxing myself.

First five min into the run, I feel a lot of fatigue and feel like I cannot go on.  I feel the need to stop and gasp for air. This is the time I need to focus hard on my breathing. Only doing this can sail me through. And once the body is warmed up and breathing is in rhythm, it just seems so natural. Now I can enjoy the nature around me and in between check my posture.

I feel everything around us is a source of cosmic  energy. Sometimes when I feel tired, I request for some energy from nature, from trees. Whether its simply placebo effect or not – but it does energize me.

After 15 min or so, its time to go on boost mode. I run full throttle for 200 -300 meters. This is the most pleasurable part and the MOST taxing. Even better, if there is an incline!

Now it is the time for lower half of the body to take over. I’ve never read about this, but discovered it gradually. It makes running easier and effortless. This I do by contracting few muscles in the lower half of the body and then let the thighs do the running. It gives me so much more energy that I don’t even need to swing my arms. My arms can hang loosely on the sides and focus is completely on the lower half. I’ve never heard of anyone else do it, nor have I verified its pros n cons with any expert. So I’d suggest reader to follow this only if they are comfortable doing so and it feels right when you do so. See ‘Running from abs’ below for more details.

I can continue this way till the finish line . This phase is quite effortless – and everything is in auto mode. My breathing, my posture, my strides. Sometimes I chant ‘namokar mantra’ in between and sometimes I start writing in my mind. I am bombarded with ideas. The sad thing is that I don’t make any effort to come home and jot them down and they are lost back to the mysterious place that they come from. But sometimes I am wise enough to note them and all  thoughts in this blog is also written on my run – from inception to this final version!

Just few hundred meters before finishing I run full throttle – this is called ‘last josh’ in army slang. So I do last josh, where every muscle in the body runs and gives up. Then its cool down jog for another minute or two and done!

On stopping I feel blood rush to my cheeks and palms. When I come home and hubby is around, he pecks my sweaty cheek and calls me a tomato.

Few details I’d like to go in.

Posture:

  1. Posture is important aspect – Hips tucked in, abs contracted slightly, arms swinging by the side (not criss-crossing in front of you).
  2. I try to use as less swing as possible and save the swing for fast running and incline running only.
  3. Incorrect posture can strain your lower back and neck. In fact from many people I’ve heard complaints of pain in these area post any exercise. The culprit is not the exercise you did, but incorrect posture.
  4. Consciously keep your neck tucked in line with the spine and slightly tuck in the hips while contracting your abdomen muscles. This helps remove any strain from my lower back and I feel that this makes a great difference.

Breathing and strides:

  1. As a rule I breathe with nose only and keep my mouth closed for most of the time except when I run in full throttle. With mouth breathing I find it hard to maintain a breathing rhythm and also sometimes it causes my sides of the stomach to ache.
  1. Long step or Short Step? When I sync my breathing with my strides then it best to take long steps. On incline too I take long steps. I breathe in 3 times, breathe out 3 times, then breathe in 2 times and breathe out 2 times – 3-3-2-2. Repeat.
  2. Syncing breathing with strides is also a reason why I don’t listen to music. The beat confuses me and breaks my rhythm. Anyway I have so much going on, that there is hardly any time to listen to music. It also defeats my idea of using it as a meditation technique.

Running from abs:

Here’s what I do:

  1. Contract muscles in the pelvic floor like we do in ‘Mool bandh’  in yog asan.  In lay man language it means contracting your muscles in a way that you  do when you really need to ‘go’ and there is no washroom around 🙂
  2. Contract abdomen muscles and tuck in your hips.  It also involves slightly lifting your pelvis a bit.
  3. Let the entire air you breathe go in your lungs. Its like you don’t want even a slight bubble of air in your stomach.
  4. Focus on your thighs and hips. You will feel them in control. They’ll run for you. Your upper half can relax.
  5. Unlike in yog asan where you have to release the mool bandh, while running you release it sub-consciously. So focus on regaining it every now and then.

While writing, it seems too much to do. But when I do it, it is quite easy and simple.

Incline:

  1. This is difficult but very effective in toning the entire body. Thumb rule is to bend forward. I have seen some people running on treadmill with maximum incline, holding the front rails and bending backward!
  2.  By not doing 2 most vital things of incline run, I don’t know what they achieve and if they don’t end up with some side effects.
  3. Bend forward and take swing with your arms. Run faster than normal speed, take long strides.
  4. I love this part of the run. There is a track in Pune which has about 20 meters of stretch with steep incline. When I run there I reserve all my energy for this stretch and run here with a burst. Fast and long strides, arms in full swing from shoulders, body bent forward, abs contracted, steps as light as possible. Wow! Hubby says I like look like mountain goat on a prowl in this mode 🙂

General tips:

  1. Eating before work out vs empty stomach: Empty stomach – I’d advice not to exercise or run if you are constipated or immediately after a meal. Wait at-least 2 hrs after a light meal and 4 hours after a heavy meal. If you do work out first thing in the morning then its best. In my case I am hungry within 5 min of waking up, as I usually have light dinner. So I eat a small banana or half of it or a 4-5 nuts or a slice of any fruit or half cup of milk, as per availability and wait for 15-20 min before starting. I have water before I eat anything and after eating – small sips and only when thirsty.
  1. Eating after work out – It must be a mix of carbohydrates and proteins. A banana with curd or milk would do. There are many options – fruits, nuts (almonds, walnut, groundnut), slice of toasted bread and cheese etc . If you are in hurry take 4-5nuts and 1 cup milk.
  2. Bottom line is that you must eat post work out – if you can’t find the right combination, just eat something. And yes you just need a little, not an entire meal. Mind the serving. We are not trying to tax the stomach.
  3. Cool down after the run. This is important. My legs ache if I don’t cool down properly.
  4. While running keep a vigil on your posture. Abs contracted, hips tucked in, knees pointed right. Neck, arms and shoulders placed correctly. You need to re-evaluate every now and then. Just doing it in the beginning will not help.
  5. No jerk – keep movement smooth.
  6. I generally carry a tissue while running for nose run. It is a good test to find out if you are running hard enough. If there is no nose run, you aren’t pushing yourself enough! It doesn’t depend on weather – even in peak of summers you will have nose run if you run at a decent speed and breathe from nose.

 Factors that have influenced my fitness related thoughts:

  1. Hubby, who is well trained in this field since his days in NDA (National Defense Academy)
  2. Rujuta Diwekar’s ‘Don’t lose your mind, lose your weight’ – (I wish she had named this novel ‘Gut feeling’ as she originally intended’)
  3. Yog practice – (learnt from different teachers)
  4. Bipasha’s ‘Love yourself’ – fitness CD.
  5. My own experiments

Quote Unquote:

“It’s very hard in the beginning to understand that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners. Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit.” – George Sheehan

Chettinad Curry

Chettinad cuisine is the cuisine of the Chettinad region of Tamil Nadu state in South India. Coconut milk adds a unique flavor unknown to my palette. If you love this region’s food, Chettinad curry is a must try recipe.

Ingredients:

For The Chettinad Masala
1 tbsp poppy seeds (khus-khus)
2 tbsp broken cashewnuts (kaju)
1 tbsp oil
1/2 cup freshly grated coconut
1 tsp coriander (dhania) seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
1 whole dry red chilli , broken into pieces
3 cardamoms
1 tsp fennel seeds (saunf)
2 to 3 cloves (laung / lavang)
25 mm (1″) piece cinnamon (dalchini)

Other Ingredients
3 tomatoes
1 medium size cauliflower
3/4 cup green peas
3/4 cup french beans , cut diagonally
3 tbsp oil
1/2 cup chopped onions
6 cloves garlic (lehsun)
25 mm (1”) piece ginger (adrak)
salt to taste
1/2 tsp turmeric powder (haldi)
1/2 tsp chilli powder
4 to 5 curry leaves (kadi patta)
2 cups coconut milk (nariyal ka doodh)

Method

For the chettinad masala
1. Heat 1/2 cup of water and soak the poppy seeds and cashewnuts in it for 5 minutes.
2. Heat 1 tbsp oil and add all the remaining Masala ingredients. Stir for 2 minutes. Let it cool.
3. Once cooled, add the cashewnuts, poppy seeds along with water and blend in a mixer to a smooth paste. Keep aside.

Main Dish:
1. Wash the cauliflower florets and soak in hot water for 5 min. I always do this to ensure its completely clean.
2. Optionally you can boil other veggies too. I don’t, as I like to maintain the crunchiness.
3. Heat oil and add onions, garlic and ginger. Stir till they turn golden brown.
4. Add chopped tomatoes, salt, turmeric powder and chilli powder. Cook till oil leaves the sides. (You can peel the tomatoes, but I don’t mind it)
5. Add the ground paste and curry leaves – cook for 2 minutes.
6. Add the vegetables and coconut milk – cook for 2 minutes.
7. Add a little water if it is too dry.
8. Switch off flame and keep it covered with lid, for the veggies to cook a bit and the flavours to seep in.

God

Isn’t God a simple way of putting in your faith onto something?

I was watching Derren Brown and the episode covered the fact that how some people are lucky while others aren’t. He wanted to show that this was simply a matter of seizing opportunity and having a firm belief.

Now seizing opportunity is a choice we make almost everyday. The choice we make also depends on our past experiences and the lessons we derive from them. I don’t want to focus on this aspect.

Firm belief – this is what I find enticing.

May be some of us find it easier to put their belief on something else rather than on ourselves. Like believing in luck, believing in God, following a ritual etc. All these acts, is a way of putting your belief in something else.

Lets see this by an example –

  1. “I know I’ll win this game” – Faith in one self.
  2. “May the best man win” – (Somewhere in between. I can’t decide where to put this.)
  3. “Let God decide who wins” – Putting faith in something else

 Now A might seem over confident to some or simply dynamic and confident to others. C might seem under confident and probably even hypocrite to some or humble and devoted to others. Its just a matter of perspective and of course what you think of ABC will also depend on your own belief system.

 Lets try another example –

  1. “I can do better than him. Let me do this”
  2. “I can give it a try”
  3. “I don’t think I can do any better, but I’ll do it if you insist”

I’ve ordered them exactly as above so will not explain them individually. Can you see the similarity too?

Does A think he is powerful enough and C thinks – I can’t be that good, but yes this God, or this lucky statue surely has more powers.

Or is it that A is forgetting humility?

For me I’ll say – even when I know I can do good, I’d feel scared of saying it out loud even in my mind, lest I offend “someone”. Even if I feel like A I’ll act like B or C.

I am certainly not saying that anyone of ABC is superior or better. I am struck by the idea that atheist or not, we are all the same. The only thing that differentiates is on whom or what you place this faith or firm belief.