Mishaps Along The Road To Beautification


I am overweight, 5’5”, and haven’t been able to tame my hair since the past 23 years. Not a favorable description for a young girl. But that’s the reality of my life.

The ugly duckling never turned into a swan. Fat, slim, short, tall, fair, dark, ugly, beautiful; I’d never really invested much thought in physical attributes. A person may have drop dead gorgeous looks and consider himself a boon to womankind; but if he doesn’t have a pleasing personality, a good sense of humor, and most importantly if I’m able to see the back of his head when I look into his eyes, I won’t give him a second glance. Character, personality, intellect, wit; that’s what interests me more.

And then I started hearing comments from my peers and family. There were few kids in school who used to tease me always because I didn’t have that peaches and cream complexion, had very short hair and was reed thin back then. In my family too, I used to hear random comments and comparisons with the good looking cousins. I’d had enough.

I know I can’t turn into a beauty overnight. But some serious damage control had to be done…but I was completely clueless about where to start.

1. Clothes, I decided. The only colors in my wardrobe then were black (98%), white (1%) and blue (1%). High time I introduced some more color to my clothes collection. But I don’t know the first thing about clothes design, color matching, embroidery, different clothing materials. And so many choices! Guys have it so easy; just shirts, tees and pants. Here’s a sample: In November, I was wondering what to wear for my brother’s wedding and my Bhabhi suggested, “Buy an Anarkali dress”. Right. But what on earth was that! Flashes of the movie Mughal-e-azam came to me. I had to call up few friends to find out what it was, and they were all aghast at my negligible knowledge of fashion! Too complicated, I tell you; especially coordinating the different pieces. What goes well with Harem pants, tees or kurtis, or are the pants out of trend already?

I decided not to fuss about clothes trends anymore and wear what I feel comfortable in.I started taking care that I wear simple yet tasteful clothes and make myself as presentable as I could.

2. Shoes. Shoes. Shoes. Own about 20 pairs now, and slowly adding to the list.

3. Accessories: No improvement on that field yet. I hate jewellery, but I’d started wearing a pendant bearing the letter “M” since past few years. Simple yet elegant. Non fussy. Just the way I like things to be. I have a few Esprit watches and bags. That completes the collection.

4. Make up was and is still a no-no. I feel awkward wearing make up. It is too much of a bother; applying lipstick, mascara, foundation and what not in the never ending list of options women have.

A couple of years back I started reading the occasional Cosmo and was amazed at the collection of cosmetics available. I have this fetish for moisturizers: body butter, lotion, body cream, face moisturizer, tinted moisturizer, night cream, day cream, winter cream; I started hoarding all of them. I say hoarding because an average bottle lasts me a year. As for applying lipstick, I swallow it within an hour of application. I get raccoon eyes with eyeliner and mascara, even the water-proof ones.

One of my most painful memories is of waxing. I quit after that first attempt. Depilatory creams were a pain free yet messy boon. I haven’t got used to even threading my eyebrows because of my low pain tolerance, and roam around with bushy eyebrows most of the time.

But now I try to remain loyal to the routine of cleansing, applying sunscreen, moisturizing, and short cuticle-free nails. Four basic steps in my road to beautification.

5. Perfumes: A fruity, citrusy note.

6. Hair cut at a proper beauty salon rather than the neighborhood ‘Aunty‘ who had been giving me and my sister haircuts at home since a long time.

7. Bright red nail polish, I find them irresistible. Short nails with rounded tips and bright cheery red nail polish painted on them is one pretty sight.

8. Black mascara: that’s the only piece of make up I wear and try not to get raccoon eyes.

After years of neglecting the way I look, I am on the road to beautification to look somewhat presentable. I can’t change my physical attributes but the least I can do is be confident enough to face the world and that confidence is boosted by wearing the right clothes(not necessarily branded expensive ones), having a sensible non fussy hairstyle, and proper accessories. I’m making the effort despite laziness and enjoying it too!

Being A Girl

I’m no hardcore, bra burning feminist. All I want is never to be discriminated just because I’m a girl. Women have made gradual but tremendous progress in all walks of life. They are on equal footing with men. And might I say that’s setting the standards a little low! Still got a long way to go. Especially in my country, where female feticide is an open secret. Women are yet to find their rightful place by breaking the barrier of domesticity, embracing education and following their dreams. And not just in the rural areas. Even in the urban society, uber modern lifestyles notwithstanding, women have to make compromises in their careers, education or family life at some point or the other. A woman breaking into the top of the male dominated corporate world is still so rare that it makes news headlines for a week. Even in the field of medicine, that I’d opted for as a career, women faces discrimination on the basis of their sex. The ratio of male to female surgeons is still high. There are still a section of patients who prefer a “capable, responsible male” doctor to a female doctor any day. Even during clinical rotations I’ve noticed patients calling the female medical students or doctors as “sister” (think “nurse”). The thought of a female doctor still doesn’t cross their minds. I’ve felt irritation, discomfort and finally resignation at these comments.

While growing up, I never gave much thought to where a girl child stands in today’s Indian society. My sister and I were unduly pampered and loved by the whole extended family and girls predominated among the huge number of cousins. All the neighborhood kids of my age were boys and I was the pampered one amongst them too. We were spoilt rotten while growing up. But even in this protected environment, few recent incidents made me take a hard, unbiased look at my own family. The significance of being a girl in my family. There had never been any objection to any woman from our family in terms of career; except in case of my mother. My mother used to keep very frail health in her youth and suffered from a lot of ailments. So my father made her discontinue her job and stay in the comforts of home. I find it unfair that she wasn’t allowed to voice her opinion in this aspect. And I’ve seen that in the marriages in my family, the men always had the final word. There weren’t any conflicts or quarrels as such, but little decisions like the choice of holiday destination, whether to get a pet or not, what to watch on television etc.

I was born seven years after my parents’ marriage and at that time being childless for more than five years into a marriage was a troubling issue. Neighbors had the audacity to suggest to my grandmother about my father’s remarriage. And I was aghast to know later that few of my relatives even considered it as a sensible idea. But my father put his foot down and wisely the others shut up. But it made me think how inconsiderate they were towards my mother; her feelings weren’t given any thought. There had also been one specific instance of an uncle of mine feeling very disappointed at the birth of a girl child for the second time. But now the same person goes out of his way to ensure that his daughters get the best of everything. Makes me wonder about that latent feeling of discontent in him that surfaced once during the birth of his second daughter. It was very brief and didn’t occur ever again, but why did that feeling had to arise in the first place?

I wondered at times whether my father too felt so. He had always been so proud of my sister and me. There was this one instance when his boss had commented that he felt sorry for my father because he had no sons and he’s up for a lonely time once he’s retired from work, and his daughters are married. That insensitive comment that was completely unjustified and totally uncalled for angered my father so much that he lashed out at his boss. Things had turned out that bad. Our family had gone to Delhi a couple of months ago and during the train journey, the person sitting next to my father asked him whether he had any sons. When my father answered no, the man (who by the way was a top official at a bank in Kolkata) actually sighed and looked sympathetically at my father. He went on to say that he had been blessed with two sons, who were currently unemployed but thinking of starting a business venture soon. But for him it was no big deal; they are boys and they will always find out a way to survive and take care of their parents. He again re-formed his face to evoke sympathy for my father. My father replied his eldest daughter is a doctor and the next daughter is a college topper; and he’s quite proud of both his daughters. That comment was worth saying just to see the look on that man’s face.

Why do educated people still think it’s a loss when a girl child is born? Why do parents feel that they wouldn’t have anyone to fall back on once their daughters are married off? I was proud of the way my father has tackled the insensitive comments he had heard over the years just because he doesn’t have a son. I don’t know what miracle a son would have achieved that his daughters couldn’t.

All the children of my father’s colleagues and friends are in their late twenties or early thirties, well-settled in life and providing for their parents post retirement. His friends proudly boast of the security and comfort they enjoy in this late phase of life because of their sons. I’m still a student working towards a post-graduate degree; studying medicine takes awfully long and the returns aren’t good till the specializations are over. Moreover I’m the youngest among all the children of my father’s friends, owing to my parents’ late marriage and my birth seven years into their marriage. I wonder at times whether my father too has regrets deep down about not having a son. I know he loves my sister and me an amount that lacks words to describe, but I feel very disturbed at times that I’m not yet able to do the things for him that sons of his colleagues had done. I know I can do them after few years, once my studies are over. But because of a certain section of the society, there is this indirect pressure to prove that his daughter can do the same things that a son might have done.

Has anyone out there have ever felt the same?

Exam Phobia

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?


Exams, who?

Exams are knocking on the door and I’m blogging!!

I had been the eternal procrastinator till recently. I kept on delaying tasks till the day it’s time that I HAVE to take action to complete the task in time. It’s not that I don’t do a good job out of the task in hand. I do. Always. But I need a push in the direction. And that comes from procrastination. I only feel that adrenaline charge only when I know that I’ve very less time on hand. Otherwise, I can’t bring myself to do the task. This happens only when it comes to studies! I’m a good student. But I lack the motivation at times. My short attention span doesn’t help either. And all the above traits spell disaster for my studies! It almost ruined me a couple of times. But now I’ve started taking action against this self- destructive trait.

Exams for me mean the ultimate fear. I always have less time, get only a little revision done, and hate memorizing, more in favor of getting the right concepts. And during the days of examinations, you won’t recognize me. I move around like a zombie. I get panic attacks. I have sleepless nights in a row, completing my revision. And after the nightmare is over, I sleep soundly for two days in a row at least. And when the results come in, I always attain reasonably good marks, in the top 10-15 students of my entire batch of 150 students. And then the regret sets in that I got good marks by studying so late, I would have done far better if only I had followed a proper study schedule like the rest of the students.

Exams bring out the worst in me. If you ask me a question during the course of a normal conversation, I would answer really well. But if you ask me the same question at a viva voce, I would blank out for a few seconds before answering. My poor stress management skills and procrastination habit cause havoc during exam time.

And so I’ve taken action against this. It’s not a miracle cure out of this bad habit but ensures that you slowly but surely get out of it. I’ve devised my own method for it after reading up on the topic. It’s working for me.

Here they are:
1. Self- analyze and think why you are procrastinating. For me it’s the short attention span and the boredom that sets in after a time. And it’s always hard for me to bring myself to study the topics I find very boring. So, that was my problem.

2. Make a firm resolution to overcome this habit and let your close ones know about it so that they can bring you back in case you slacken your pace. Think of the consequences, the *** you go through during exams because of last minute preparation. Write them down and stick on the wall next to your study table so that you can watch it frequently. It scares the *** out of me…and I go back to my books.

3. Find out the time you work best. Your most productive period. And do a major part of your studying during that time. For me it is in between 10pm to 7am. I study best during that time.

4. Work out a flexible, reasonable schedule. Allot time for unexpected delays. And stick to it. How? Read on. Instead of writing “7-10 pm- Biochemistry, 11-2 am- Physiology”; write “Biochemistry (3hrs), Physiology (3hrs)”. That way you can adjust the time all throughout the day. Waiting for the bus? Squeeze in 15 mins of Biochemistry now. You have 2 hours forty five minutes to allot to the subject in the rest of the day. Work out your own schedule.

5. Read alternatively tough subjects and easy subjects. I read the easy ones first. I know many people advise the opposite. But this is what works for me. It gives me a satisfaction of one task being completed…and moving on to the next task. Crossing off items from your study schedule…brings in the enthusiasm to work on the tough subjects.

6. Have a comfortable study area, but not so comfortable that you doze off. I had the bad habit of studying on my bed. I don’t do that any more. My study table is always organized in a way that I have all the books, references, notes at an easy reach. And keep a bright study lamp, water, alarm clock at hand…in case you want to take a power nap for fifteen minutes or so. Sprinkle some water on your face when you have to get rid of the sleepiness.

7. Take a break of 5 minutes every one hour. Not more than that. I go to my sister’s room, catch the news headlines, make myself a cup of green tea or just close my eyes and rest during those five minute breaks.

8. Don’t miss sleep and don’t skip meals. Very vital. I used to go without sleep and had little food during the whole day and just kept studying for almost 21-22 hours straight to make up for lack of early preparation. I fell ill before exams due to neglecting my health and missed my exams twice till date! And had to re-appear after a month. No more messing around with my health anymore.

9. Devise your own study techniques. I hate highlighting texts. So I make tiny summary notes of a single page…all the keywords, important information on a post it note and stick it on the page. That way before exams all I’ve to do is go through those tiny notes…instead of scanning the whole page. And since I’m a visual learner; that is I memorize stuff by visualizing them in my mind, these important information in my own handwriting and in colorful post it is easy to visualize. Moreover, I depend on mnemonics and weird word association. For e.g.:
“Complications of meningitis…Subdural effusion, Ventriculitis, Visual field defect, Hydrocephalus, Brain abscess, peripheral circulatory collapse, DIC, SIADH. So, I make a mnemonic by taking the first letter of each word… ‘(VS) 2 PHD B’…And I expand it to ‘2’ Visiting Surgeons (that is VS), who had ‘PhD’s too, were lying in ‘B’ed due to meningitis. ”. Complicated, I know. But that’s the visualization that works for me. I also create mind maps with a central keyword and branch out in all directions. Say…Meningitis is the keyword in centre; and I branch out about definition, types, epidemiology, transmission, pathogenesis, organisms, stages, pathology, clinical features, diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis in one single page. That way I have a topic well mapped out for a visual learner like me, help in quick revision and builds concept because you can co-relate and link it to other topics.

10. And to get me going through the task when boredom sets in, I take small steps like scanning the whole chapter first in a few minutes, go through old questions, then I know the important things to look for in the chapter. And if I feel lazy, I force myself to go through with it for just one more page. And then when I complete it, just one more page again. That way I keep myself from procrastinating. One page at a time. I also keep a notepad handy to write down doubts, or any random thing that comes to my mind. That way I know I won’t lose the idea and I’ll have time to think about it in my leisure time. I won’t spend time thinking about it during studies then.

11. If I’ve an important chore in hand and I am not able to concentrate on my studies, I take a break to do that chore promptly, so that I can come back to my studies without any other thought in mind.

12. I give myself rewards at the end of crossing off topics from my study schedule. Something that I enjoy doing and look forward to. It used to be getting back to my favorite novel or watching a movie. But now it is blogging! 🙂 I finish off my duties soon so that I know I’ll be doing something very enjoyable at the end of it all.

13. I question a lot. Why? How? What? When? Every topic I read and I find myself opening up a lot of references and linking topics and this active learning registers far better in my mind. Not a strategy to follow just before exam. That’s the time for only revision.

14. I break my total time allotment in 4 sections. If I allow four hours to a topic…I won’t read it at a single go. I will try to complete it in 2 hours that is half the time…the less time makes it impossible for me to just while away my time. And allot half an hour revision the next day. And one hour of revision a week after. And half an hour just before exams. It works for me. Revision is the key unless you’ve a photographic memory.

15. Explain the topic to yourself; if you can, you are well prepared. Pretend you are the examiner and ask yourself questions. That has reduced my anxiety during viva. And another trick smile and give a slow, unhurried reply giving you adequate time to think during such examinations.

I started working on my study habits only recently. And I know it’s tough to get rid of a bad habit, procrastination mainly; but I’m able to stop procrastinating after following the above techniques. Hope these study techniques help you too.

Comfort Foods

I’ve always been a fussy eater. I am a vegetarian. But I hate green, leafy veggies. I avoid them like the plague. And I occasionally eat prawns. I hate dairy products except for butter and ice cream. If I set out to list the food items I can eat without wrinkling up my nose…the list won’t even cross the hundredth mark. I don’t eat stuff that I’ve already decided would taste “yuck” just by the look or smell of it. And refuse to even taste it. But I’m forced to do so at times by my father who would drive himself up the wall seeing me play around with the food (something I must have decided to be “yuck” earlier) and counting seconds till it’d be appropriate for me to leave the dining table. He has made it his mission in life to shovel nutritious, wholesome food down my throat even if that meant running around the house with a salad plate in hand, chasing me the whole day. It has become a game for us now. If he’s stubborn…I’m no less. I don’t do this to irritate him. I’ve a very narrow range of food items I prefer, and I’m happy eating that simple fare daily. But it’s a tough for everyone at home to accept that. They too have a reason apart from worrying about the lack of nutritious food in my diet. My fussy food habits create a lot of problem when we visit someone’s home. My relatives and close friends know by now what are the basic dishes I love eating…and I get them whenever I visit their homes. It’s the new acquaintances I dread visiting. I hardly stay for meal times…often bringing up some excuse or the other to go home. I still remember the day I visited a friend of mine whose mother served four different varieties of green, leafy veggies for lunch and a thick, creamy glass of ‘lassi’ as an after dinner drink. Time stood still that day for me as I painfully gulped down the food. The food was tasty for everyone present…I know. My friend’s mother is a good cook…I even know that. But how do I explain to them my eating habits? And now that I’ve grown up that has become a major issue in my life. If I find myself in a situation where the food I prefer is not available for a considerable amount of time and I risk starving myself…I eat whatever is available then. But I can’t continue it once I get back home.

It’s not that I ever regretted my lack of interest in tasting new dishes. I am happy with my choice of few simple dishes…everyday fare in most homes. They are way too simple…almost boring. But these items have etched very fond memories in my mind. And that’s what I want to share with you today.

1.My earliest food associated memory that I still fondly recall would be “orange ice-cubes”. My mother used to fill the ice-cube tray with orange juice…and by the time I’m home after hours of playing out in the sun…I would have those “orange ice cubes” waiting for me!

2.Coffee. I’ve a nagging doubt that I’ve more caffeine running in my veins than blood. The pleasure of waking up to a hot, steaming cup of coffee beats everything. Just the smell of it…that rich aroma…is so comforting for me. It makes the job a lot easier when I stay up late to study for exams. Just writing about it makes me crave for another cup of coffee now. A caffeine addict? Not yet. But on the verge of becoming one. Need desperate control measures soon.

3.Buttered toast dipped in dal. This had been my evening snack for years as far as I can remember. With a gap of two years in the middle…when I shifted to hostel where the rule was “maggi noodles” for lunch or dinner. Mostly out of laziness after a long day at the college hospital.

4.Come rainy days and there are a few things that I look forward to…Pakoras dipped in imli chutney, roasted corn, samosas, and hot jalebis.

5.POTATOES!! Bake them, roast them, fry them, mash them…cook them any way you want…And I’ll love them. That explains the extra flab around my tummy. Aloo(potato) parathas on Sunday mornings, roti and aloo ki sabzi a couple nights a week, mashed potatoes with chopped chilies and onions eaten along with rice…have been part of my every day diet always. And aloo chops. There was this shop in my hometown where I ate the best aloo chops ever. It was triangular in shape, about 2 inches thick, no stuffing, just plain boiled potato fried in little oil and few select spices and an amazing chutney go with it. Unfortunately the shop closed down a few years earlier…And I knew I’d never taste the chops that I was so fond of ever again. My mother knows these are the select few dishes I really love eating…So she prepares them without fail since so many years. Waking up on a Sunday morning and knowing what exactly would be laid on the breakfast table…two aloo parathas, mango pickle and chole…the taste rarely varying all these years. And that’s why I find it so comforting.

6.I love tea. No milk, no sugar. And the biscuits from the local bakery. Salty ones preferably. I love orange cream biscuits too…Licking off the orange cream in between first and then eating the biscuits.

7.Prawns. Only exception to my vegetarian diet. When I was about ten years old, I used to catch prawns for dinner myself. There’s a huge pond on the backyard of my home where I spent my childhood years. On Sundays and holidays…I used to carry a wide bamboo basket with some bread crumbs in it and kneeling down on the edge of the pond would dip the basket in the water. And wait. Without making the slightest movement. And soon enough I would see tiny prawns swimming into the trap to eat the bread crumbs. And I triumphantly ran into the kitchen with the catch of the day, handed it over to my mother to cook for dinner later that night and asking her to cook them as spicier and crispier as possible.

8.Ice creams. Love vanilla and chocolate flavors. Hate strawberry and butter-scotch flavors. During my school days, my mother used to hand me and my sister money to get one ice cream each on our way back from school. Once every week. Always on Thursdays. My sister would excitedly wake me up to remind me it’s Thursday and we would spend a good half an hour on the way to school debating which flavour of ice cream to buy that day. We weren’t allowed to have aerated colas. But we didn’t protest. For us the mango drink “Frooti” ruled! As it did for most of the kids growing up in the nineties.

9.There was this food stall run by an old man outside the primary school I attended. He used to sell a lot of snacks…paani puris, chole bhature, aloo chops etc. But it was the chole along with the spicy chutney that I was interested in. Some days I used to carry an extra tiffin box with me to school…a small round steel dabba. And bring back home the chole to eat for lunch.

10.And now onto what has been my staple diet all these years. It’s rice and masoor dal. Simple dal- chawal. I crave for nothing more. The other items to go with it vary…but not too much. It’s either stuffed capsicums, soybean curry or mashed potatoes. That’s it. I’ve ate this for lunch and dinner every single day since the past 20 years almost. Since the time I was capable of voicing my opinion about what I’d like to eat. Every single day. And I never got bored. I still look forward to it after a busy day in college or hospital, or after coming back from a trip. I associate it with “home”. I associate it with my ‘mother’, who by now has perfected the art of making these days just the way I like them.

Going through the list you must have guessed why parents panicked over the kind of foods I loved. My parents used to force me to eat spinach saying it’s good for the eyesight and I would end up with thick glasses by the time I’m 20 if I carried on with my unhealthy diet. But within a couple of years, everyone in my family started wearing glasses for poor eyesight. I still have perfect vision. That’s why I don’t fuss about my unhealthy diet. I know I don’t eat most of those healthy foods. But I was growing up well. So the nutritional requirements of my body had been met. I must be eating at least something right. If not everything! I recently turned 23…still staying with my parents because I attend college here. I know in a year from now…I’d have to leave home for further studies. And I would have leave behind my comfort foods. The sense of security I feel coming back home each day…knowing my mother would be at home…and has kept my favorite dishes ready to eat. I know once I leave home…my fussy eating habits would stand no chance in the hectic pace of life that I’d be thrown into. Maybe I’d be eating a spinach sandwich for breakfast a year from now! But as of now I savour these comfort foods…And I will always savour the memories.