Monday, July 30, 2018

The only time I write nowadays

Photo courtesy: The Huffington Post
The other day I had to write a few sentences. I mean actually write with pen and paper; not type on a computer.

I was shocked to realise; one, how difficult it has become to write; and two, the handwriting -- which, long back when I was in school and college, was reasonably good -- had become so horrible that the words, when written fast, are illegible, looking more like a mass of shapeless, undulating lines.

I wound my memory clock back to find out when was the last time I wrote at least half a page of something. Those were the days before email and personal computers.

It was in 1999, I got my first email ID, a Hotmail address. Till then, I used to write letters to my friends. Once email came, letter writing completely stopped; except to one very good friend.

I began working on a computer word processor for the first time in my office in 1989. But I got my first computer at home only 10 years later.

With computers at home and office, writing gradually came to a grinding halt.

The only time I write now is a letter of three to four pages to Henry, a friend who lives in England. He is also the only person who writes a letter to me. He is in his early 70s, and not at all computer savvy. He doesn't even have one. Nor does he have an email ID.

The reply to his last letter is long due. I have consciously decided not to type out the letter. Because it will look formal, lacking personal touch.

It is not easy to write. But the effort is worth it. I must write slowly, lest what I write become illegible.

Let me stop typing out this blog post and publish it. Then, I will take an A4 paper and pen, and start writing my letter to Henry.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

‘I don’t have time’

Photo credit: Titan
In an office I worked previously, many years ago, there was a colleague, who was once told to do a particular task by his boss.

Here’s how their conversation went:

Colleague: I am sorry, I won’t be able to do it.

Boss: Why?

Colleague: Because I don’t have time.

Boss: You can’t say you don’t have time. …

Colleague: I am not kidding. I simply don’t have time for what you are asking me to do.

Boss: Then who will do it?

Colleague: I am sure you will find someone else who will have the time to do it.

Boss: Tell me … do you have time to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner? Do you find time to watch a movie? Do you find time to have a shower? Do you get time to chat with your friends? 

If you say you don’t have time, how do you expect someone else to have time, since all of us have the same amount of 24 hours a day.

Don’t tell me you don’t have time. Tell me, the task I gave you is not a priority for you. If it is a priority for you, you will surely find time to do it.

Colleague: I get what you mean. But what I am trying to tell you is precisely that. I have more important commitments; so I won’t be able to do what you are asking me to do.

Boss: I know! I was just kidding!

The topic of their conversation shifted to something else; and someone else ended up doing that task.

When we say: “I don’t have time,” that can sound a bit insensitive and curt. It could also indicate a disinterest in the task we have to do. The boss is right in saying if there is some inclination to do it, we would surely find some time.

If there is genuinely no time, it is better to phrase it this way: “I am too tied up with other equally important work, so I won’t be able to do it within the specified time.”

After this, I always check myself before blurting out, “I have no time.” (Unless of course I am telling someone very close to or in an informal context.)

The most recent occasion was when a friend asked me: “You were so feverishly blogging - one post a day - in April, what happened now?”

I told him, ‘I don’t have time.” (Since he was a close friend of mine.)

His immediate retort: There is no challenge now. That would be more accurate!

(He was referring to the A to Z Challenge, in April, just in case you are wondering what he meant by 'challenge'.)

Friday, July 13, 2018

An eventful fortnight around the world

If one were to look across the world, the past fortnight has been unusually eventful. 


Photo courtesy: BBC
Nothing of this sort has happened any time in the recent past. Amazing story of human endurance and resilience. On the 23rd of June, 12 members of a junior football team in Thailand and their coach enter a 10-km long complexly structured cave, which has, among other things, narrow passages and a permanent stream inside. As bad luck would have it, unrelenting rains ensue. Advancing waters drive the team inside in search of drier areas. Only on July 2, a team of British divers find them stuck deep inside the cave. On 8th, a rescue mission is launched. In four batches, all are brought out; the last one on 10th. There will surely be a film made on this.


Photo courtesy: BBC
I just couldn’t believe that as many as 200 people have lost their lives (over a few days) in torrential rains and consequent flooding in western Japan, the worst weather-related disaster in 36 years. The fact that it has happened in a developed nation which has good infrastructure and technological tools to predict such catastrophic weather changes, makes it all the more striking.


Photo courtesy: BBC
David Cameroon while electioneering in 2016 says if elected to power he will hold a referendum on Britain’s continuance in the European Union. And, see what has followed. Cameron wins; is reminded of the referendum; orders it; and to his surprise, Britain votes to leave the EU. The mess that followed hasn’t cleared still. A new low was reached when on July 8, Brexit Secretary David Davis quit and on the following day Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson quit, saying PM Theresa May is diluting the earlier Brexit promises. She has narrowly fended off a leadership challenge. 


Photo courtesy: CNBC
US President Donald Trump, in his mission to make America Great Again, has been complaining to everyone in the world that America is being wronged in global trade, and that the US is losing while everyone else is gaining. (Let us not get into a discussion on that here.) One of his measures to right the past wrongs is to impose heavy duties on imports of many goods from China. Thus, on July 5, US tariffs on $34 billion worth of Chinese goods kicked off. The impact of that will be long-drawn out and felt across the world.


Photo courtesy: The Hindu
Surprises are common in sports. But not the way it has happened during the ongoing World Cup football in Russia. Predictions of who will win and lose, have gone horribly wrong. For the first time ever, the semifinals were played without top teams like Brazil, Germany, Argentina, Spain, Uruguay etc. We will now have a final between France and Croatia on Sunday.

2018 FIFA World Cup (Wikipedia)


Photo courtesy: BBC
Not just World Cup Football, Wimbledon too had surprises. For the first time ever, none of the top-10 seeded players reached the quarterfinals in the women’s section. Arguably the best player, Serena is there, but she is seeded 25. Today she is playing the final against Angelique Kerber.


So many other important / interesting events might have happened across the world. Have I left out anything?

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Should we take vitamin supplements?

Photo credit: Medical News Today
During conversations with family members and friends, whenever the topic of vitamins comes in, invariably the issue of supplements also crops up. There is always one group which says that there is no harm in having supplements, and there is the other group which argues that there is no need to.


Vitamins are needed for metabolism (the process in our body that involves breakdown of food and absorption of nutrients for our growth and energy).

Our body does not produce it (unlike dogs that can synthesize enough vitamin C). So we need to get it from food or from vitamin tablets.

If our body doesn't have enough amount of vitamins it can result in medical conditions.


There are 13 vitamins, each needed in different amounts for different reasons.

Some vitamins dissolve in water, some in fat.

Water-soluble ones are: all B vitamins and vitamin C.

Fat-soluble ones are: A, D, E and K.

Fat-soluble vitamins can stay in the body: they get stored in the fatty tissues for use later.

Water-soluble vitamins don't stay in the body: they go out via urine.


Vegetables and meat have different vitamins in different quantities. So, if we have a well-balanced, varied diet we will get all the required vitamins in the required quantites.

Usually we take it for granted that the food we eat has enough vitamins, and there is nothing to worry. Only when some medical condition surfaces, our physician would say that there are symptoms of deficiency.

Vitamins are sensitive to heat and water. Cooking reduces the amount of vitamins. Water-soluble ones get lost in water, and fat-soluble ones in oil.


We can get our vitamins from syrups and tablets. We need to take them when we have a medical deficiency of vitamins or in cases like pregnancy when our body does need enhanced levels of vitamins. Doctors will recommend the dosage.


Anything cooked in high temperature or for too long will have less vitamins.

It is lost in water and oil. One way to salvage a bit of it is to consume the water that has been used for cooking. That is why some people suggest to cook in less water and not to drain away the water after cooking.

Cooking in microwave might be better than boiling from the vitamin standpoint.

Raw vegetables are good, but run the risk of presence of pollutants and lack of hygiene.


Supplements are not substitutes for the vitamins that we get through food.

 They can just make up any shortfall if any. So, our primary source of vitamins has to be food. But since while cooking lot of vitamins get lost, there is a case for having supplements.

Without any lab tests or visible symptoms one can't conclude that there is a deficiency and therefore a need for supplements.

Excess of fat-soluble vitamins can turn toxic, and therefore harmful, since they get stored in the body.

We tend to fall short of water-soluble vitamins since they don't stay in the body. Also, vitamins like C easily get lost while cooking. So, if at all one is looking at supplements, then it's water solubles ones that need replenishing.

All said and done, vitamin supplements are not a guarantor of good health. They are not magic pills.


We need vitamins in small quantities. But we need them always. This table in the WebMD website lists out the required and maximum dosage for vitamins and minerals.

It would advisable to consult a doctor on how much of supplement we should take and in what frequency.


As advised by my physician, I do have vitamin and mineral supplements, of low dosage, at wide intervals, just to make up for any possible deficiency.


Vitamins: What are they and what do they do?

Nutritional Effects of Food Processing

Cooking and Vitamin and Mineral Loss

Studies Show Little Benefit in Supplements

Which Supplements, if Any, May Be Worth Your Money

The Claim: Microwave Ovens Kill Nutrients in Food

Vitamins and Minerals: How Much Should You Take?