Friday, August 10, 2018

Children’s Blocked Nose - Do’s & Don'ts

The monsoon season is here, and with the beautiful weather also comes the season of flu. With schools starting for my toddler, I know that it also means the frequent bouts of cold and cough will make an entry into my home. As they’re under 5, their immune system is still developing and catching different viruses is common at this age. Kids cannot express their discomfort when they’re Ill. A thermometer will help with knowing the temperature – but a toddler won’t be able to tell if they’re having a headache or feeling tired or if they’re having a blocked nose. It’s a mother’s experience and instinct that helps. Here is what to do (and not) when your toddler has a blocked nose:
Look for the first signs –
Babies are obligatory nose breathers. Meaning, they don’t know how to really use their mouth to breathe if their nasal passage is blocked. If they have a blocked nose while feeding/drinking milk out of a bottle, it may get very uncomfortable for them. Less oxygen going to the brain means impacting their early-age development as well. Hence, when you see signs of discomfort like keeping the mouth open while sleeping, being cranky, not eating or drinking their milk – they may have a blocked nose. If they have a temperature too, take them to the paediatrician. 
Hydration –
Make sure they get a lot of liquids, at room temperature and warm, to soothe and heal their throat faster. Water, clear soups, room temperature juices are some options. Remaining hydrated helps thin out the mucus and remove it from their system easily. This, of course, applies to adults as well. If they are being cranky, keep them hydrated, at regular intervals. You can use a straw or fancy glass to make it attractive.
Nasal spray/drops (consult your paediatrician before using the product) – 
To help the child sleep better, a nasal spray/drops that is made specially for babies/toddlers could be used. Opt for a nasal decongestant in an easy drop form, like Nasivion® Baby Nose Drops 0.01% for babies below 1 year. Its active ingredient Oxymetazoline is well tolerable on the nose and provides upto 12 hours of easy breathing. It unblocks the nose to help your baby play and learn in a more enjoyable way. Up to the age of 4 weeks, instil 1 drop of the solution into each nostril 2-3 times per day. From the 5th week of life until the age of 1 year, instil 1-2 drops into each nostril 2-3 times per day or as directed by the physician.
For children aged between 1 to 6 years, you could opt for Nasivion® Child Nose Drops 0.025%. Instil 1-2 drops into each nostril 2-3 times per day or as directed by the physician/paediatrician.
Avoid the air-conditioner –
ACs tend to dry up and remove moisture from the area – which will only trouble and irritate the baby/toddler more. Humidity in the air helps the baby breathe better and removes mucus. If you stay in a place where the climate is dry, then you should try using a vaporizer/humidifier in the kid’s room.
Avoid sending them to playgroup/school –
This is obvious; but let them get plenty of rest and avoid sending them to school where they won’t get rest and may infect other children too. They may get bored at home, specially the toddlers, so keep them engaged, play some games with them, read those stories and allow a little extra screen time. Keep the noise low and lights dim. Like adults, while having cold even kids are very irritable and they may not know what is irritating them.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Eleventh Hour by S.Hussain Zaidi

I finished reading this book in 2 days straight. That is how gripping and thrilling it is! Just my kind of novel - crime, thriller with some emotions and a lot of twists and turns! I am a sucker for such books, and Eleventh Hour turned out to be just like that! I wonder why I haven't read other books yet!

Situated years after the 9/11 Mumbai attacks that nor me, nor any other Mumbaikar will ever forget...the book and the characters take you through on-the-edge ride towards another attack in the waiting. I won't tell a lot about the story, you can read the summary below, but Vikrant's chemistry with his mentor Misra and the character Daniel are just awesome! I could imagine the story as a movie in my mind, infact this so could be a Bollywood movie (if done well). Can't wait to read Mr.Zaidi's previous books. A must read!

New Delhi, 2017. It is nine years since the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai and the wounds have still not healed. Especially not for Superintendent of Police Vikrant Singh, who ends up landing a slap on the High Commissioner of Pakistan’s face when he meets him at an event. Meanwhile, in Bhopal, five members of the Indian Mujahideen, arrested by Vikrant, break out of the Central Jail. Vikrant, suspended for the diplomatic disaster, is unofficially asked to assist the team tracking the escaped terrorists. In another part of the country, a retired tycoon, a heartbroken ex-soldier and a young woman dealing with demons of her own embark on a journey of self-discovery aboard a cruise liner from Mumbai to Lakshadweep. Fate, however, has other plans, and the cruise liner is hijacked. Racy and riveting, this is Hussain Zaidi at his best.

About the Author
S. Hussain Zaidi is a veteran of investigative, crime and terror reporting. His previous books include Black Friday, Mafia Queens of Mumbai, Dongri to Dubai, Byculla to Bangkok and Mumbai Avengers, some of which have been adapted into Bollywood films. Hussain Zaidi lives with his family in Mumbai.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

What's new on Netflix! #StreamTeam

Hello readers! As you are aware, more than TV, we watch online streaming shows and being part of Netflix India's #StreamTeam, I want to share the latest updates and shows that have got me excited!

1. Smart Download -

Currently rolled out for android devices, now when you're watching a show/series, the next episode will automatically download using WiFi while you're watching the previous one. Not only that, it will also delete watched episode on it's own! Watch the video to know more:

2. New profile character avatars -

Earlier, all the account profiles had to be selected from a limited set of avatars which were kinda boring. Now you can select your profile DP/avatar from your favourite Netflix shows like Stranger Things, Lost In Space, Series of unfortunate events and more! Here is how my account looks like -

3. New shows - 

While we wait patiently for our fav shows to come with new seasons, there are so many new offerrings being added week on week, month on month! For adults, who are okay with violence and mature content - Sacred Games (based on a book) is a must watch! Featuring Saif Ali Khan and Nawazzudin Sidiqui. There also are new shows for preschoolers - Treehouse Detectives, Harvey Street Kids, The epic tales of Captain Underpants, Boss Baby - Back in Business and more! A lot of new chick-flicks and rom-coms that I saw and liked - Set It Up, Kissing Booth, Ali's Wedding, I feel pretty and more. Also, if you're into cooking shows like I am, Nailed It is back with a Season 2, and there is another cool dessert show called Sugar Rush which has Zumbo as a judge again (From Zumbo's Just Desserts). The monsoons and staying indoors got a lot more fun with the plethora of shows and movies to choose from!

4. Giveaway and free month of Netflix!

Did you know that your first month of Netflix is free? Yess! Netflix allows you to fill in your details and try Netflix for free for a month! And if you don't like it (which is like next to impossible due to the amount of content there is) you can discontinue your subscription, and if you do love it you can continue and be charged from the 2nd month onwards! So if you haven't seen somethng you heard rave reviews about, here is a chance to watch for free!

Last but NOT the least! I am giving away a supercool Netflix goodie bag which will have some cool stuff to ONE lucky winner. What do you have to do? SIMPLE. Just comment here with your favourite Netflix show and why do you love it. (Open for residents of India only). All the best!

Monday, July 9, 2018

Teaching failure to kids for the best

I remember when I was a kid and I would see a new toy or book or anything else that caught my fancy, and I asked my parents to buy it for me, their answer would almost always be NO. Then maybe on pleading, negotiating, insisting or even throwing a tantrum - I would once in a blue moon get what I wanted. One would think that the parents didn't want to spoil the child or waste money on useless things. But it is soo much deeper than that.

While we're under our parents shade and guidance, we feel confident, positive about life and that nothing can ever go wrong. But when kids start getting exposed to the outside world.. Right from school days, to independently commuting to school/college/tutions/classes and later doing grown up things like getting a job or going for higher education - reality hits.

Life isn't all that easy, people aren't always good or kind. There are obstacles, you won't always get what you want and things may sometimes look bleak. Back then because we were already used to not always getting what we want, we would be alright. Forget or get over it or find a way to earn it. 

But today, we as parents of this generation with most probably a single child, give our kids whatever they want - out of guilt for not spending enough time with them or because of impatience and not wanting them to throw a fit or create a scene or even because we want to give them everything because we can afford it. How wrong are we!

With all the recent (and not so recent) suicides committed by children due to failing an exam or being lonely or not meeting their own expectations I can only try to figure where are we as parents going wrong.

And the answer lies right in front of us. Not spending quality time with the kids (going shopping to the mall or going for movies etc hardly counts). Giving them a gadget too early in life whilst being on another gadget ourself giving excuses to self that it's important work or it's necessary to finish this right now at night.. Not teaching them that failure is as probable as success.. That sometimes you have to settle for not getting what you want. Be it a toy or school of choice or a vocation of choice.

I am guilty of doing this too. Mostly out of being worn out and tired all the time. But every time the news or viral video of another soul ending it's own self comes to my eyes, it's like a bolt of shock. It's like ice cold water hitting my face asking me to finally wake up from whatever deluded world I'm living in where I think it'll all be fine without me doing good much.

Also, if you're a blogger/influencer reading this - we spoil our kids further with all the freebies/special invites and other privileges. We need to be careful and make them feel they have earned the privilege or else later in life reality will hit hard and how!

Next time my toddler asks me for something I'll say No, not today. He'll cry, he'll yell and be angry. I'll let him. I'll calmly try to explain to him that he cannot get every thing he lays his eyes on and has to earn things by doing tasks. It will be difficult. It will be frustrating. I may even want to pull my hair when he shrieks and cries, but I will try to remind myself the greater picture I am trying to create. I'll keep my phone and other gadgets away when I'm home. If he asks for the iPad or phone I'll tell him it's at office. Sorry if I don't reply to your messages people, I'm sorry if I cannot do the work at hand on priority. I'm sure you will understand.

P.S. - I wrote and published this from phone while in commute so please excuse any grammar/spelling mistakes.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

A Royal Weekend with Volkswagen Passat at Fort Jadhavgadh

It was my parent’s 30thwedding anniversary last weekend and I wanted to make it special and memorable for them. At the same time we just had the weekend to us as with busy work schedules no one could take a holiday. I was exploring resorts & hotels around Mumbai – Lonavala, Khandala, Karjat, Pune, Alibaug, but any hotel is a typical food + pool + room kinda stay and I wanted something different for the occasion.

I had been wanting to go to Fort Jadhavgadh, which is a little ahead of Pune since long, but because it is expensive and also that it’s far we never ended up going. But I really wanted to go and finally booked 2 royal tents (chhavanis) for the occasion. FYI, they don’t mention anywhere that the tents are a little bit of a walk from the main fort. So if you have anyone who has physical issues, trouble walking – please go for the rooms/suites and not the tent. I would have myself opted for the rooms if I knew. My parents were a little tired at the end of the trip with all the walking.

Google maps showed that the destination was 3 hours away from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai – but in actual it took us 5+ hours to reach thanks to the weather and traffic! Thank god that we had the comfort of a luxurious car so that we weren’t tired at all upon reaching Fort Jadhavgadh, or else the whole trip would’ve been spoilt.

Saviour of the day was Volkwagen Passat that was given to me for the weekend! The 8thgeneration Passat with park assist, hold-assist, 9 airbags, sensors, a surround sound speaker with multiple tweeters and a lottt of other lifestyle features and a sun-roof made the travel comfortable, royal and fun!

A head-turner model with interiors that are as stylish as the exteriors! I absolutely loved the wooden finish on the dashboard, details like sunglasses holder, 360 degree camera view of what is there outside the car, a multi-function steering wheel which gives all the controls right on the steering wheel and a boot that opens from the foot via sensor! And opening the sun-roof and enjoying the pleasant breeze was just amazing – even my young at heart parents enjoyed that. Though getting up there is not very comfortable.

We reached and checked-in around 3.30-4pm (they welcome you in a royal way with tutari and a tika). Please remember to carry ID proof for everyone. My mom didn’t have hers (forgot it in the photocopy machine at home and doesn’t carry PAN card), because the manager didn’t let us go to our tents till that was sorted. (Yes, we were on the road for hours, conveyed that to the manager, but he was adamant to have ALL the IDs, we had already given the other four). We were shown to our rooms and given the list of activities available as a brochure, but here was another issue. We assumed all the activities were available all the time, but they had specific timings which we didn’t ask and the hotel staff did not tell us. So pottery, mehndi, bullock ride, trek etc all only once at a specific time – not knowing of the same we missed it all. So please make sure you ask the staff to tell you what time is what. Oh and you will see a lot of bugs and creatures - I had a blast showing them to my toddler, as you don't get to see them in the city. Caterpillars, butterflies, frogs, chameleons, snails etc of all shapes and sizes! I heard that you even spot rabbits, deers and foxes if you go for the morning trek.

Apart from that, the fort is MAGNIFICENT. In full glory, very well preserved with all the underground tunnels and verandahs.. It was lush green and stone and the weather was beautiful (not raining but very cloudy and windy making it perfect). There are huge sprawling lawns of green grass for you to rest, play or do anything. There are some swings and a hammock for you to laze around or you can just lie down on the grass. They have games like football, badminton, lagori, cricket etc equipment lying for you to use. My mom and dad teamed up with other guests and played lagori, my mom had a lot of fun remembering her childhood days! We decided to next take a dip in the temperature controlled pool – but even after it being temperature controlled, it was cold due to the cold breeze outside and height, so thought adults are okay, you need to be careful with the kids. My toddler’s lips started turning blue in 15-20 minutes and we had to get him out of the pool. There also is supposed to be a poolside bar called Kund, but couldn’t see any bar in open, but they do serve drinks if you order. We chilled with some chilled beer. There is a really old tree right in the middle of the pool and hence the pool has a shade all the time, so you can even come in the afternoon without worrying much about getting tanned.

We had dinner at Chhajja – all day dining. Instead of sitting inside, we preferred the outdoor sitting which was more peaceful and dim, with nature’s sounds of crickets, frogs and bats the only thing to hear. On display as décor were utensils and ornamental décor from the royal times centuries ago. The food was really nice – we had the Fort Jadhavgadh special kanda bhajiya, paneer handi and dal tadka with assorted breads. Quantity is very nice and it was a wonderful hot meal.

We had a surprise for the parents with balloons, a home-made cake, flowers, greeting card etc so we asked them not to go to sleep. They loved the surprise and we took some pictures, wishes them and called it a night because we wanted to get up early. The morning weather was absolutely beautiful. We decided to take a stroll around and took some pictures. You should do the audio tour, and you will cover all the places of the fort, so you can take pictures everywhere you go. We then headed for the buffet breakfast at Aangan – the courtyard café. The spread and variety was nice – cereals, baked items, south Indian, Maharashtrian cuisine, eggs, filter coffee and more. But because it was crowded the service was a little slow. They mention that they get live counter orders to your table, but in that chaos they never came to our table, so you might as well stand and wait for your order at the live counter – or else come really early and have your breakfast.

We then completed our check-out procedures, and then chilled a bit in the garden area. There is a 300 year old temple which you can visit. There is also a small kid’s garden next to it. Infact if you’re not in a hurry, you could stay around till late afternoon and head back. We started back for Mumbai at around 1.30pm (Mom wanted to apply the mehndi which happens at 1pm) and halted at Sunny Da Dhaba for a very late lunch and reached home by night because of the traffic situation again.

The audio system in the Volkswagen Passat was so amazing, we played high-bass and intensity songs on the way back and I felt I was sitting in a moving music concert! We were 3 people and a toddler on the back seat but it did not feel cramped up at all due to the massiveness of the car’s size. Also, the boot size is really huge too, it can take all the luggage you would have as a big family with kids quite easily. That’s a major plus too. Everyone around were staring at the car which only tells you how beautiful it looks. Thank you Volkswagen for making our parent’s special day even more memorable. My dad now officially has this car on his wishlist! If you guys are looking at going to Fort Jadhavgadh, I suggest going for 2 nights so that it’s worth the travel and so that you can do all the activities they have. Don’t forget to book rooms and ask for activity timings in advance though! You can opt for their special packages which include meals – I think that will turn out as a better deal.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

How to book a tatkal ticket from IRCTC.

Please note : this is based on recent personal experiences trying to book train tickets via the IRCTC portal.

So you have an unplanned travel ahead and cannot / won't shell out money for expensive flight tickets. Tatkal train tickets is the option for you, but if you're trying to get lucky with tatkal tickets, the probably and chance game is like that of winning a contest. So all the best!

  1. The route: Chances of scoring tatkal tickets on a popular route eg. Mumbai to Delhi is much better than getting it for an unpopular route for instance Panvel to Gwalior. Because less trains / less frequent trains hence more competition for you.
  2. Internet Connection: Your Lan / broadband / wifi/ Hotspot better be strong enough to survive the way till the end. If your takes more than a couple of seconds to load, you will fail.
  3. Typing skills: now it's best to have a master passenger list saved in advance, but u still have to type a few things like to and from stations, enter dates etc.. Payment card details and more. So u better do ur typing test and be good at operating/navigating the laptop/computer!
  4. 10am alarm! Now even if u login before, u may have to relogin again and the server becomes really really slow. I almost feel that it's a conspiracy where you won't be able to login because no captcha image or login error or server not responding (all of this happened with me). So be ready to bang your head with the keyboard in sheer frustration. (Timing for non-AC tickets is different. 11am)
  5. No surety:  By God's grace and some luck if you enter all details and find availability in the train of your choice, there are good chances that by the time you make the payment what you've booked are tqwl tickets or tatkal waiting list tickets, the chances of confirmation of which is really really slim. As the general quota waiting list is given preference first. So basically, full popat. 
  6. Why the app? There is an IRCTC mobile app that works faster, but once you enter details it sends you to log-in to your desktop-like IRCTC account (from the phone). What logic?
  7. Success! Maybe after trying for 2-3 days you will finally hit jackpot and get confirmed tatkal tickets. And if you can have a fundraiser organized for your travel, you could book premium tatkal tickets. Still cheaper than last minute flights but way too expensive for train travel (double the cost of a tatkal Tkt and equal to flight if you had booked it months in advance!)

So, if you think you may travel later, even if there is a remote hunch - I would suggest you to book tickets and bear the nominal cancelation charges if you don't go. It's cheaper than the tatkal surcharge and fares. And I get sweaty palms and a racing heartbeat every time I try to book tatkal tickets - the pressure and anxiety of getting one for the family members I tell you! So if it's a life and death situation, I suggest you go to a known agent.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Top 5 online tools to ease parental woes!

Technology has influenced every single aspect of modern life in the 21st century. It is almost impossible to think of life without technology in a device-driven world where the screen holds infinite power.

While parents may not entirely be happy with navigating the tricky by-products of technology like managing their childs’ screen time, most also acknowledge the way technology has positvely impacted their lives.

From helping with their child’s education to aiding parents to seek advice about the quandaries of parenting, technology is there for everything. It has helped organise things and schedules, save time, and answer essentially any question related to parenting (or otherwise). In moderation, the right tech tools can arm parents with curcial information, save time and money and, of course, give them a well-deserved break.

Here’s a lowdown on some of the best tech tools that have made life much easier for parents and have almost managed to change the parenting game.

1. For safe online usage

YouTube Kids:
If there is one place where kids universally love watching videos, it is YouTube. YouTube launched the app YouTube Kids three years ago to give kids around the world a platform to access videos that are enriching, engaging and which entertained them while teaching them new things. Last month, in a bid to give parents more control, YouTube Kids announced three new features around the content available in the app. The new features include ‘Collections’ that will allow parents to choose only the channel collection and subjects they want their kids to view. The ‘Parent Approved Content’ feature empowers parents to handpick every video and channel available to their child in the app while an improved ‘Search-off’ control ensures more contained experience. This way, parents can monitor what the children are watching in their absence.

2. For Finding reliable tutors & keeping a tab on children’s study schedules
Ed-tech or technology in education has created a major evolution in the field of education. One such tool is that has created tutoring space by facilitating parents’ search for a reliable tutor. GuruQ stands out as India's largest tutor community platform where one can pick quality-certified and user-rated tutors. It is a one of its kind digital integrated platform connecting tutors and students and addresses the need for a single, simplified and cohesive ed-tech solution that provides online and offline tutoring. Parents can use the platform to pick reliable ‘GuruQ Certified’ tutor options for primary, secondary, higher secondary and undergraduate courses. GuruQ’s unique dashboard reassures parents as it allows their wards to save valuable study time by managing timetables, schedule classes and assess self-progress. Its biggest plus is that students have the convenience of choosing whether they want to take the customised package sessions online or offline. Parents can also get a complete report on how the child is coping academically with just a click.

3. For child health and managing immunization schedules

Immunize India:
While everything else follows, it is the health of children that always bothers and worries parents. Often, it’s a tough task to keep a track of immunisation schedules for children. This is where platforms that tell parents when a vaccine is scheduled, give information on its efficacy etc and indicate the compulsory and optional ones are welcome. The Immunize India app is a straight forward app from the Indian Academy of Pediatrics (IAP) that follows the IAP’s vaccination calendar. All parents need to do is feed in the name of the child and date of birth after which they will receive three sets of email and push notifications in the week that the vaccination is due. The app is available in 12 languages and takes the child through from 0-12 years.

4. For managing kids mobile screen time

It’s a routine scene in most households where children are stuck to mobile devices even if it’s time to eat a meal. An app called the DinnerTime app is a simple solution that helps parents who want to give their kids time-outs from their phones and tablets especially during meals or sleep hours. This is a parental-only app which lets parents connect the mobile device which the child is using to their own device. Once that is done, it allows parents to lock the child's device from their own for a 30-minute, 1-hour, or 2-hour break for dinner. The Bed Time break lets parents set a start and an end time when the device is locked for lights out. Lastly, the Take a Break feature lets parents start and stop a break without a predetermined time limit.

5. For keeping a tab on your child’s whereabouts

Find My Kids – Footprints:
For parents worried about their children’s safety, location tracking devices can be of help. Find My Kids uses GPS in real time to help parents keep track of and automatically locate where the child goes with his phone. Location info is never shared with anyone else beyond those who have permission to see it, and data is saved for later review. But giving a child a smartphone isn't always an option. Even then, technology can still come to the rescue with options such as Letstrack by a UK-based startup that sells location tracking based devices.