I was in Delhi for just 30 hours this week Thursday to Friday.
My wife had warned me to cancel the trip and return home from Mumbai, but I had to go to Delhi for official work. She instructed me to stay at the hotel and apply eye drops every couple of hours (as I had recently gone through an eye surgery).
While I was in Mumbai earlier this week, I saw frightening news on pollution levels in Delhi. The pollution index crossed 700 which is considered absolutely unsafe for everyone, and I saw a doctor stating that Delhi might have to consider a public evacuation of its inhabitants. Delhi overtook Beijing to become the most highly polluted city in the world.
So, I was surprised to see many foreigners (mostly Westerners and Japanese) happily going out of the airport premises without a protective mask. Only one in ten people were wearing a mask, some were closing their mouths and noses with their handkerchiefs. I had my office colleagues with me, and it was embarrassing to witness the situation in the capital city of the country in front of them. We could not see the buildings on the other side of the highway, it was that bad. A thick smog has shrouded all of Delhi, and the government had closed all schools for the week, and was even trying to close all offices.
I did not venture out except for dinner time, and also kept applying the eye drops though I could feel some irritation in the eyes. It surprised me that there were so many folks walking on the roads as though nothing has changed. It amazes me how Indians continue to treat even an emergency situation with utter nonchalance. I saw that the security guards and other staff in the hotel were not wearing any protective masks, and there I saw the failure of the hotel management in protecting its own employees. The idea seems to be “so what” – if we lose a few staff, Delhi can always provide more people to fill the jobs at the lowest levels – utter disregard for the health and safety of staff members.
It continues to be a public health emergency situation in Delhi. And, as usual, the politicians on all sides were hitting at others and laying the blame elsewhere, and I could not see any actions being taken to address the situation on a war footing. While the root causes will take time to fix, it is imperative that the government spends its time, efforts and resources on removing the smog, for example, by spraying water all over the city from helicopters. India has the resources, but lacks the sense of emergency and purpose, and also political will to take drastic measures. Till the time that India starts to really care about population healthcare and human development, situations like these will go with the government of the day taking half-baked and half-hearted measures. India has one of the highest economic growth rates in the world, but that hardly matters when people are seriously affected like in this situation.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the Particulate Matter (PM) is the most critical pollutant affecting most people. Please carefully read the fact sheet that the WHO has provided at its website – I am linking it here Ambient (outdoor) air quality and health. The mean figures for PM10 (for particulate matter with diameter of 10 Microns or less) are: 20 for annual and 50 for 24-hour mean. With Delhi’s figure crossing 700, you can imagine the health problems that are going to be caused due to this smog hanging over Delhi. This means that there are billions and billions of these 10 Micron (or less) diameter particles which are floating around in Delhi at this moment, and these are being inhaled by Delhi’s citizens every second – with the underprivileged people in the streets affected the most. There are labourers and children who sleep on the roads in Delhi. The richer folks can afford expensive air purifiers, but the poor cannot. These instances continue in India with no redressal.
Who can we blame?
Is it the current government or the past government(s)? Is it the bureaucracy?
Well, it does not matter. One day people are going to die on the streets of Delhi. And, tourists and businesses will start to shun the city. Unless the government takes expeditious action now, and also stops this phenomenon repeating itself at the start of the winter season every year.
Delhi can now be called a gas chamber, one which needs to be cleansed and allowed to breathe.
Let us pray for the inhabitants of Delhi and not for its politicians.
11th November 2017
I have continuously worn eye glasses for 45 years. The spectacle is part of my life as much as any part of my body – sometimes (forgetfully though), I have even taken a shower with my glasses on. Clearly, I had come to consider that my eye glasses are an integral part of my being, and respect it as much, all these years.
So, imagine my plight without eyeglasses for the past few days! Really miserable!! Especially when the eye doctor instructed me not to read anything – whether newspaper or smartphone – for the next few days, after my cataract surgery. Yes, I had my first ever surgery of any kind last week on one of my eyes at the Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC). I will have surgery on the other eye next week. The difficult phase of life between the first and second eye surgeries is characterized by one eye being able to see long distance, and the other one unable to do so. It is a kind of funny situation as I walk around with one eye blurred, and not being able to wear my favourite spectacle frame. So, now I have no eye glasses, and that appears to be a situation when a man has no clothes!
The good part of the experience, is of course, the ability of the rectified eye to see long distance, and suddenly everything appears to be crystal sharp. I was sitting on the living room sofa, after a few hours of surgery, and was a bit startled to be able to read everything at a distance of more than 10 feet, even small letters on an equipment or a box. It was never the case before, and even with glasses it has always been tough to discern characters from a distance of more than ten feet, unless these are somewhat big. The other eye of course refuses to cooperate, as it is yet to be rectified.
I read about laser-assisted cataract surgery, and can only wonder how far things have progressed in medical technology. In fact, my doctor also commented on this point – that technology has taken us far ahead, but we still use files to write comments on. I remarked it is just a question of time when almost everything in life will be automated (coming from a technology company!).
In a nutshell, I have not been reading my emails and WhatsApp messages for the past couple of days, and this is a blessing in disguise, I should say. I have been able to think about substantive matters of existential importance (which always happens to all of us when we get out of a hospital), and that line of thinking throws up new areas to discuss and of course, blog!
Lots of eye drops go into the operated eye every few hours, and this is part of the recovery process. I am going through that now, and it will continue all through October (4 weeks for each operated eye). The guidance and service at the SNEC has been excellent, though it is a government facility. I got a friend’s strong referral for a senior consultant at SNEC, and that is how I landed there. The professionalism and strict adherence to procedures and processes are what distinguish such institutions.
OK, I will have to stop writing further as my wife is frowning, and asking me why I am violating the code of conduct. Will report later on how life is going to be transformed without my favourite eye glasses.
In the meanwhile, have a good weekend, and a good week ahead,
01 October 2017
I have been walking almost every day even before Fitbit arrived a couple of years ago. I probably walked some 8,000 steps or so every morning without counting the steps, always wanting to measure and walk for atleast 2.5 KMs every early morning.
This had been going on for a long time.
But then, Fitbit arrived. And, many other copy cats also arrived. The Apple Health app arrived recently (may be some six months ago, cannot recall). More advanced measuring devices in the form of watches arrived in the market, but Fitbit retained its first mover hold on the market. That is what I think even today, though I am tempted by few other devices which I will talk about soon.
I started using Fitbit only very recently – from October 2016 onwards. I became a very loyal follower of the Fitbit revolution. I set a target of 8,500 steps for a typical day but then I was doing somewhere around 14,000 steps per day, the intent being to reach close to 100,000 steps for a typical week. Then, I marginally increased the weekly target to 105,000 steps which translated to an average of 15,000 steps per day. I thought this will be a good goal to achieve every day and every week, and it was going on for several weeks in this fashion. When I fall behind during a particular day, I always made up the very next day, and in the worst case, during the ensuing weekend, so that the total could always reach the weekly target. I found it difficult to reach the daily target especially when I travelled, as I do not like going to hotel gyms and running on the treadmill due to potential knee problems, so I was forced to walk within my hotel room and the hotel corridors, and sometimes on the road in front of the hotel, all the time looking at my smartphone to ensure that there was a reasonable “performance”. Ha Ha Ha !!!
I formed a group of like-minded folks on the Fitbit community (some 12 guys in the group, which I am trying to expand now), and loved when the app allowed me to “cheer”, “taunt” or message any specific guy. While things were progressing well, one of my colleagues talked to me about “setting” a new weekly target. I thought, may be 125,000 steps will be good, but then he suggested 150,000 steps which translated to more than 21,000 steps per day which was a 40% increase over what I was then doing every day!
I accepted the new goal, and then achieved the figure every day and for every week I achieved the total of 150,000 steps. Please note that the weekly figure is a cumulative figure for the past 7 days, which means you have to perform well every day – no excuse. This has been going on for the past few weeks, but then my colleague said he wanted to increase the target to 190,000 steps.
I said “no” to that new target, I told him it would be unreasonable and taxing on the body. He went ahead anyway, I have not seen him achieve that new figure on any day yet (for the previous 7 days as a cumulative total), but then he did achieve cumulative figures like 175,000 steps for a couple of days. He always maintained his total well above 160,000 steps – almost 23,000 steps a day!
But then, I reasoned that consistency and body comfort are more important in this exercise. Consistency means the ability to achieve the figure of around 21,000 steps a day every day, and then a cumulative total of 150,000 steps every day for the past 7 days, in an orderly fashion without negative deviation. I achieved the figures every day for the past 3 weeks or so in a consistent fashion.
“Body Comfort” means an assessment of whether one’s body, especially the legs, calves, ankles, thigh muscles, etc., are able to perform without any discernible pain. Though I did not have any pain for 9 out of 10 days, I did have occasional muscle pain just above the knees and I was able to address the same by resorting to “pain relieving patch” from Hisamitsu Pharma of Japan (the brand is “SALONPAS 30 HOT”, which was very effective). I do not need it anymore, as I have no pain for the past 10 days or so, but I keep this stuff at home, just in case……..
So, on both counts – “performance consistency” and “body comfort” aspects – I decided that my own best performance would not exceed the above figures, irrespective of other Fitbit group users’ performance. I also devised a mechanism of achieving the daily figures in an easy manner – before 8 AM every day, I would reach 10,000 steps; before 2 PM, I would do another 5,000 steps by doing several things – like doing most of my phone calls by walking around a conference room, walking a fairly decent distance to reach the lunch place and walking back, etc., The balance of 6,000 steps I would do anytime between 6 and 10 PM, probably around home area. In the back of my mind, the Fitbit challenge always exists every day, that I need to drive myself to achieve my targets for the day – a daily stepping figure of 21,000 steps and a daily cumulative total of 150,000 steps for the previous 7 days.
I also noticed that I was averaging between 14 and 15 KMs of walking everyday, that translated to a weekly total of close to 100 KMs and a monthly total of 400 KMs. Imagine, I could achieve somewhere in the region of 4,500 KMs in a typical year just by walking around!!!
Amazing, isn’t it? But more work is required in terms of developing strong muscles, and I will write about the same in a subsequent post.
In the meanwhile, “keep walking” with a performance target that you could consistently achieve while enjoying body comfort.
8th January 2017
It has been just about two weeks since I started wearing a Fitbit Alta device on my wrist in my quest to measure my walking performance.
I have seen an amazing change in my otherwise staid walking behaviour. For the record, I walk for about 2.1 KMs every morning (Fitbit measures this distance and also says that I walk for around 3,000 steps) of the working week, and almost 5 to 6 KMs for the weekend morning. So, I approximately walk around 21 to 22 KMs every week.
My challenge has been on setting a target for the number of steps. Initially, I set 7,500 then increased it to 8,500. I realized one day that this figure is not good enough as the American Heart Association says the average number of steps a person needs to walk everyday should be around 10,000 steps. I kept looking at that message from Fitbit for a few days, and then decided to increase the target to 10,000 steps.
It was easy to achieve between 6,000 and 7,000 steps during the period from waking up till returning home in the evening from office. However, I found that I am not that great a walker in the evenings, and could barely ratchet up another 1,000 to 1,500 steps in the evenings. This resulted in couple of behavioural changes.
I started walking within the office more than I usually do. I started walking more often to get a glass of water, for example. That might add some 300 steps. I also started pacing around a large room or meeting area or pantry when I got a call, or I had to make a call to someone. I found that this added a substantial amount of steps, sometimes in excess of 2,000 steps – instead of sitting and taking calls or making calls, I started walking every time. Together with the water trips in the office, I was easily able to add a minimum of 3,000 steps a day, which took my average walking measure close to 9,000 / 9,500 steps.
The balance was easy to make up by walking around the house in the evenings, pacing while taking calls in the evenings, etc., So, I started doing above 11,000 steps a day. I saw this kind of improvement in just about couple of weeks after starting to wear Fitbit.
The other important and somewhat compelling reason for wearing Fitbit was the comparative measurement of other folks who are connected to oneself and using Fitbit. I was able to see how I was doing compared to a few of my friends and colleagues. As it happened, several of my friends and colleagues were veterans of Fitbits, and have collected many badges on the way. They were clearly above 80,000 steps during any preceding week, while I was barely making it to 70,000 steps. This gave additional push to my behavioural change, and I have just started thinking of adding more steps to my daily rigamarole.
My estimate is that 85,000 steps in any one week is a very good figure to achieve for most folks (average of 12,000 steps a day). During the weekend day, I am also trying to ensure that I walk for over 6 KMs at the minimum. There is enough motivation to do so, given the nature trails in Singapore. I get into issues only when I travel, as I have to replicate the steps measure over a treadmill in a gym which is not exactly equivalent to open air brisk walking.
Overall, Fitbit is a good gadget addition to the list of gadgets we all end up with. May be I should go in for the latest device which also has heartbeat. I noticed that the Health app in my iPhone is not exactly producing the same as the Fitbit figures (the app produces far lower numbers as compared to Fitbit numbers). I am going to check out the latest Fitbit device or any other device which can give me more parameters.
Walking makes one feel good (I am sure running also does that). Walk more and eat less is my new motto.
23rd October 2016
Even if I eat a little food, I feel full in the stomach. Such is the situation for several years now. I did food analysis, consulted doctors, talked to friends, researched on the internet, and what not. No use. The moment I complete even a small meal, I felt like bloated. This was lousy feeling to say the least.
However, I noticed one thing. If I just eat cooked vegetables (without rice), I felt good and not so full. Increasingly, I went for baby kai lan, greens, bean sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, some potato, bitter gourd, etc., with some little rice topped with chicken gravy. It resulted in good feeling after the meal. I strongly believe that “good feeling” is a critical ingredient for success in everything one does, so I shifted my food habits.
In case I went to an Indian restaurant (as against the Chinese food described above), I prefer to eat dosas – such as plain dosas or masala dosas. The lunch should never consist of heavy Indian meal with rice and a variety of other stuff. If I went to an Italian restaurant, I take some penne pasta with chicken (since there is not much choice for an anti-carb person).
In between meals, I take some nuts (almonds, cashews, walnuts, pistachios) and tea. The tea is a good anti-oxidant. Plant nuts are excellent for general good health. Sometimes, I take yoghurt with fruits on top of it (like grapes, blueberries, et al). Again, this is a wonderful component in one’s food composition.
In all of the above, I tried to eliminate white rice as much as possible. The past couple of weeks of “no rice” has produced excellent body response to my dietary changes. I have been challenged many a time by folks at home as to my antipathy towards taking rice, and it has been difficult to explain matters of health to regular family folks who do not subscribe to dietary restrictions or changes which they think are weird to start with.
However, if you overcome these challenges and adopt a “no rice” food regimen, I guarantee that you would see the improvement in just a few days. You would feel “light”, energetic, active, and cheerful. I am not joking, just try it for a week and then tell me if I am correct. I know for sure that Indians cannot stay away from rice for too long. But, I am determined to carry on with my new food regimen for as long as possible despite objections from family members who think I am crazy.
At the end of the day, I feel good with myself, and that, I believe is very important. I don’t wish to feel bloated and heavy. I want to feel good. I wish to feel active and energetic all the time. I don’t want to fade out however, so I watch my movements carefully and keep myself hydrated and ingested with some nuts or fruits most of the time.
I am observing the results, and will wait for a month before declaring success.
Worth trying out for all of us, I guess.
9th October 2016
I debated about how I should name this blog post. Should it have been “Toilets, Hygiene and Health”? Or, should it just be “The Indian Toilet Situation”?
There was a recent case in South India (Tamil Nadu State) when a girl child aged 9 years died due to kidney troubles caused by holding off nature’s call for whole days at school. The school spared only 10 minutes for recess between classes and they had just 10 toilets for some 400 students. Girls are disadvantaged when there is not enough time to cater to nature’s call (as do boys but at least they have urinals though no one knows their situation). When the concerned girl complained of pains, doctors diagnosed problems with her kidneys.
Such situations are not uncommon in India where public toilets are in very short supply. The most disheartening thing is that young boys and girls in schools who are the future generation, suffer in a most humiliating manner when they cannot even get access or time to fulfil their most pressing need from a physiological point of view. Government and school administrations should be embarrassed.
Despite the call of the current Indian Prime Minister to build more toilets, there has been no perceptible improvement on the ground. India operates on a federal structure which means that it is not necessary that a State Government should heed the call of the Central Government. The only way is persuasion or defeating the ruling party at the next hustings.
It is time for the people who pay taxes to demand proper hygiene and toilet infrastructure services from the government and public schools and public office buildings. It is the government which has to serve the needs of the people, rather than the other way around. The argument that there are not enough receipts against needed expenses won’t fly as the budgeting process is flawed if it cannot cater to the fundamental needs of the citizens.
According to Centre for Water Resources & Management, India, only 47% of India’s population have access to toilet facilities. And only 36% of these toilets have septic tanks. Given that there are a number of toilet innovations from a variety of private companies in India, it is imperative for the government to buy and install these toilet facilities according to a set formula for population access in both rural and urban areas. While the government now collects a cess related to this program, it is difficult to see the results.
Enter the private corporations of India. Even if the top 50 listed companies of India direct 50% of their CSR budgets towards toilet building (which the government can match Rupee for Rupee), India’s toilet problem can be solved in flat 12 months. Eco and Bio toilets are available today at prices ranging from INR 18,000 to INR 30,000 and the prices will come down if demand is established.
I do not know what we are waiting for. But I do know that children, their personal hygiene and health are getting affected every day in schools, and we have to do something very urgently on a war-footing to solve this problem. Many of us have some discretionary monies available for charity, why don’t we contribute to this magnanimous purpose instead of other kinds of donations? It is proven that if the donor can see and feel the result of his/her donation, he or she will contribute more and continuously.
Time to change the toilet situation in India. Let us follow Prime Minister Modi’s vision but not the slow-moving government machinery. Let us leverage India’s phenomenal private enterprise to solve this problem.
28th August 2016
It is difficult to convince people close to you to go for a walk every day, especially if you push them to walk early in the day. Folks are tired, want to get up late, or just do not feel like having the energy to get up and go for a walk.
I keep emphasizing the huge health benefits of going for a walk consistently every day, even if it is just for 30 minutes every morning. The best time to go for a walk is during the early hours of the day – say even before 5 AM. Keep doing this regularly – may be take off for just a day from the schedule in between – and you will get to know why doctors and health professionals keep insisting on the benefits of walking. This means you go for a 30-minutes walk at least for 5 out of 7 days of the week, preferably on all days if possible.
You can sense the positivity and general feeling of good sense that encompasses you when you do this day and day out. You are energetic, you are focused, you are positive – these are the characteristics that you need for success in whichever endeavour that you undertake in life.
I go for a walk very early in the morning (this means I go for my night sleep early as well) – there is no gain without some kind of sacrifice ! Consistently and steadfastly following the same schedule helps a lot – it drives discipline and commitment. I never felt lazy getting up early, except when it is raining – I usually tend to thank the rains and catch up another 30 minutes of sleep ! But on most other days, I do kick myself out of the bed and go for my usual walk.
During weekends, I do at least one hour of walking. The brisk walking makes me sweat, sometimes profusely as the weather in Singapore is humid even at 6 AM. I try to get back by 7 AM, it helps to unwind and have a cup of steaming hot coffee while looking at the news. After an hour of cooling down, I go for the shower and feel very refreshed to tackle the challenges of the day. Rarely do I go to the gym, except for some weightlifting. I no longer run on the treadmill, after having read about the injuries it can cause.
I would suggest to all my friends and my blog readers to go for regular, daily walk (or running) every day of the week, and then go for longer walks during the weekends. This would help resolve most of the health problems that one faes. Especially during old age, it becomes an issue – no one to help if something happens during your walk, your inability to cope with knee pain or ankle pain, the strain that you feels after a few hundred metres of breathless walk, and so on and so forth.
However, if one attends to the problem of old age issues by walking rigorously during the thirties and forties, he or she will find that life after sixties becomes far easier to contend with. Of course, one has to drink warm water – lots of it. And, not cold water. People differ on this aspect. Just half hour before going to sleep, drink one cup of warm water – see the magic after a few weeks. You will feel fresh right throught the day.
In a nutshell, walking is the best exercise a man can do. More brisk walking will help. But it is not necessary to go for a very long walk. Just 30 minutes of walk will help a lot. Just be consistent. Try not to change your routine. Follow your heart here, not the brain only.
Enjoy your walk, every day ! You will see the results very soon !!