Scrolling Notification

When I get time, I read or listen to music. If any is left, I blog!

Saturday, 26 November 2011

It Happens This Way Too

Ten years have gone by, yet the incident refuses to fade away from memory.

I had left my job, an act most of my friends felt was impulsive. As a Profit Centre Head, I was doing well, but my relationship with the boss was strained. Not wanting to put up with the daily routine of blind arguments, I resigned. The notice period was drawing to an end; no other job offer was also at hand. Naturally, I was beginning to get desperate.

Then, one morning, a 'situations vacant' advertisement in the newspaper caught my attention. The profile was a close match, and the location ideal. It was too good an opportunity to ignore.  Hoping for some 'tips', I telephoned a long time acquaintance, a placement agent. He said, “I don't think you fit the bill. They prefer MBAs with an MNC background. Don't waste your time.” My wife, however disagreed, “Go by your instinct. You're not going to lose anything.”

By Monday, my CV was ready. It had to be weighed and stamps affixed. The General Post Office seemed to be the best bet. So carrying the envelope, I boarded a suburban train. As usual it was packed, but en-route, I was lucky to get a window seat. As the cool breeze hit me, I slipped into nap. The train seemed to have reached its destination sooner than expected. I got down. The crowd of office-goers took me out of the foyer and on to the main road. All of a sudden I noticed that the envelope was not with me.

I turned around and rushed back to the platform. The train was still there. A thorough search of the bogey in which I travelled turned out to be fruitless. I thought, maybe while getting down, the envelope had fallen on the tracks. I waited impatiently for the train to pull away. It was not there on the tracks either.

The logical thing to do was to go home, make a new CV, and mail it the next day. But I was crestfallen. Losing the original seemed to be a bad omen. I gave up.

Three weeks later, I got a letter. It referred to my application, and invited me for a meeting with the company's Managing Director. I was surprised. How did the letter, which went missing, reach its destination? There was only one explanation. Someone who travelled with me that day had found the envelope. He might have asked around, and eventually carried it with him. Realising the importance from the job reference code on the envelope, he must have bought the required stamps and mailed it.

I tried to recall the faces of my co-commuters on that day. Who could have been so kind and helpful as to go through that extra trouble for apparently no benefit or reward? Why did he not contact me in spite of seeing my address on the envelope? To this day, I have no answer.
My meeting went on as scheduled, and within a month, I landed the job.  That lucky break evoked memories of the film 'The Sound of Music', where Maria tells Captain Von Trapp:
“... when the Lord closes a door,  
somewhere he opens a window.”

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

It Doesn't Happen Every Day

… usually not even once in a lifetime.  Yet, every one of us on this earth, at one time or another long to experience the strange phenomenon called 'miracle'.

The reason to harp on the topic is a news report that I came across recently about an incredible incident.  It set me thinking.   How does a miracle happen?  Why does it happen to only a select few?

I remembered the inspirational best-seller 'The Power of Positive Thinking' (1952) by Norman Vincent Peale who also wrote 'The Art of Living' (1937).  To many who read the book, 'Positive Thinking' became a synonym for the power of one's mind.
Look at the room you are in.  The windows are open and the room is bright with sunlight.  Now close the windows, and you will find darkness everywhere.  Your mind is like that room – an open and shut case, and very much a matter of your own choice!  If you have a mind, bright with hope and happiness, you could be in for a pleasant surprise.  But we generally ignore and sometimes even scoff at it as a far-fetched suggestion.  Bernard Berenson, the art historian once said, 'Miracles happen to only those who believe in them.'  Both Laura and Linzi believed, and the miracle did happen.
In January 2011, Laura Binder, 32, was diagnosed with Cancer of the breast.  Within weeks, the Cancer had spread to the liver.  Laura said, ‘I was heartbroken.  I had a Mastectomy operation, but it had spread to my liver already.   The doctors told that it couldn’t be treated and that they would give me some Chemotherapy, which could hopefully buy me some more time.'

But Laura's nine-year-old daughter Linzi refused to give up.  Every day for the next seven months while Laura was undergoing Chemotherapy, Linzi would send her small notes telling how much she loved her and wanted her back healthy and alive.

Laura said, ‘I would look forward to getting her letters each day.  It brightened everything up for me.  To read them was inspiring.  I was exhausted from the chemotherapy, but her letters gave me the strength to fight on.’

In September. Laura underwent tests again.  The results were astounding.   There was no trace of the tumour that was spreading for the last seven months.  Her doctors were mystified and said: ‘Positive thinking provides an incentive to get better.  It’s amazing how things like this can happen.  There is no explanation for it.’

Laura added: 'I was scared that I was going to die and leave my daughters without a mother.  But Linzi refused to give up on me.   She was determined I was going to get better.  And her wonderful letters helped a miracle happen.’
That is the Power of Positive Thinking. It does wonders. It helps even miracles happen! Hence, no matter what, just don't give up. 
"Reality is the mirror of your thoughts. 
Choose well what you put in front of the mirror."
- Remez Sasson

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Cooking Oil and Aching Hearts

Walk into any mall or departmental store.  You want to purchase cooking oil.  What you come across is mind boggling!  It is not the brands, but the variety of oil on the racks that foxes you: Coconut, Groundnut, Mustard, Olive, Rice Bran, Safflower, Sesame, Soy bean, Sunflower...  Each one sports a luring label: 'Total Protection for Your Heart', 'Fight Cholesterol', 'Shed Excess Weight'.... You are confused: 'Which one should I buy?  How safe would it be?'

The first thing to know is, each type of cooking oil differs in characteristics from the other.

Composition:
This depends on the method of extraction. Take for example Refined oil. When treated with chemicals to refine, the oil loses its flavour, colour, odour and suspended particles. The Unrefined oil extracted through cold pressing, however, loses only undissolved substances. Its original bio-active compounds, flavours and vitamins remain untouched.

Smoke Point:
Equally significant is how much and how long you heat the oil while cooking. Beyond a certain temperature, the oil begins to break down, affecting both its flavour and nutritional values. Consider the much hyped Olive oil. At room temperature, extra-virgin Olive oil is green and loaded with vitamins and antioxidants. But as you heat, these components are 'smoked out'. That the Olive oil is thermally stable, because it is highly mono-saturated, is a fallacious theory.

Fatty Acids:
Between Saturated and Unsaturated fatty acids, the former is more harmful, because it is not easily digestible. The Unsaturated fatty acids are of two types: Mono unsaturated Fatty Acid (MUFA) and Poly- unsaturated Fatty Acid (PUFA). MUFA is healthy, PUFA supposedly isn't.

Hydrogenation:
To ensure longer shelf life and increased temperature stability, the manufacturers of cooking oils resort to 'Hydrogenation'. This process, in which hydrogen is added to the oil, produces Transfats. Being PUFA rich, Transfats have a negative impact on your health.

Cholesterol:
Cholesterol, Triglyceride, and Lipoprotein are nothing but different forms of essential fats. Cholesterol helps in building cell membranes and supporting digestion. Most of what is required of it comes from the liver. We also get it from meat, poultry and dairy products that we eat.

Fat is fuel for the body. Depending on your physical activity, the body uses these fats as required. The surplus is converted in the form of Triglycerides and stored in the cells.  This meets the body's additional demands.

All such fats (lipids) have to be transported to various parts of the body. Being insoluble, the fats combine with certain proteins in the blood to achieve mobility. The compound thus formed, is called Lipoproteins.

The Lipoproteins are classified amongst others, as High Density Lipoprotein (HDL), Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL), Intermediate Density Lipoprotein (IDL) and Very Low Density Lipoprotein (VLDL). For the sake of brevity, let us assume that anything other than HDL is LDL.

Watch Your Lipids:
The HDL acts as main transporter for the lipids. The LDL helps in the process, but goes on depositing extra fats onto the inner walls of blood vessels. Gradually it accumulates, causing the vessels to thicken and narrow, and hampering the flow of oxygen-rich blood. If it happens in the coronary artery, your heart is affected. If the arteries on either side of your neck get clogged, lack of blood in the brain causes a stroke. If the blood flow to your limbs, pelvis or kidneys slows down, you face other fatal ailments.

Even as the LDL goes about damaging your health, the HDL extracts the deposits from the vessel walls and carries it back to the liver for processing and eventual expulsion from the body as waste. That is why you hear a lot about the 'Total Cholesterol to HDL' ratio, or the 'good HDL to bad LDL' ratios.  The HDL level shall be ideally higher than the LDL.

Be Safe, Be Healthy
  • Cooking oils do not contain Cholesterol. They only promote the formation of Cholesterol in the body. However, they do contain Transfats, because of Hydrogenation. Hence, traditional oils could perhaps be a better option. If you choose Unrefined oils, use it only for light sautéing, not for frying.
  • Use at least three different types of oils for Sautéing, Shallow frying, and Deep-frying. Do not mix them.
  • Avoid heating and using the same oil again and again. When you re-heat, 'smoke point' of the oil drops. It turns rancid and starts releasing cancer causing components.
    "Had I known I was going to live so long,
    I would have taken better care of myself."
    - Mickey Mantle
     * Do not take my word for everything. Seek expert advice in case of doubts.*