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.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Mother's Day Celebrations at Le Meridien Goa

Mothers day all my life has been a day I pamper my mom. Get her fresh flowers she likes, make a greeting or buy one if I'm keeping busy, spend the day with her and the sort. Only after I had my baby 3 years ago did I realize what being a mother really is. And my respect for my own mother only increased ten folds.

This mothers day, I was in for a surprise when Le Meridien invited me along with my son and husband to spend mothers day weekend at their Goa property - about which I have written here. In this blog I am going to talk about how they made our stay very special!

1. High-tea by the pool -

The awesome culinary wizards at Le Meridien Goa, Calangute set up high tea by the pool side, and the presentation was simply unique! All the food items broken down to their raw ingredients and presented - so that kids can know what's in the food they're eating. The samosas and chocochip cookie were the highlight for me. They were also sweet enough to send some to the room for the husband who was not feeling too well.

2. Dinner at Jazz & Grill -

Jazz & Grills is Le Meridien's and Goa's first "whiskey bar". The restaurant transforms you to another place with it's stage for live performances with the big screen, comfortable seating on two levels and a bar where you can sit if you prefer that. The decor has guitars and everything music too. We had our special set menu here and had such a great time with the great staff, awesome drinks and food! 

There was falafel in pita pockets, chicken burger, cottage cheese in thai green marinade, zatar spiced fish fingers. Also a special egg-bhurji that chef Saurav Chattoraj - that was the highlight for me. For drinks we had bourbon based drinks - one infused with honey another with apricots, both just amazing!

For the kids there was french fries, roasted papad and juices - which kept them happy too!

3. Mothers Day brunch at Latest Recipe -

Latest recipe is Le Meridien Goa, Calangute's buffet restaurant and that is where we had our Mother's Day brunch. A wide spread to choose from - I went for their recommended soup of the day - khau suey - had that twice, also tried other things from the spread and then jumped to dessert - the stawberry pavlova was just amazing - light and fluffy. Kings beer was relished along with the food.

There was a special activity set-up for kids where they could paint a Mother's Day card for mommies or have something painted on their face or hands. There were also lots of candies on display - jujubes, marshmallows and more - and the kids had a crazy time binging on them!

4. Goan thali dinner at Latest Recipe -

For the second day dinner we experienced local goan delicacies, again at Latest Recipe - but this was a thali. Lot's of unique vegetables and curries, served with pav and breads and also the local dessert - bibinca. We also tried the chicken zacuti gravy which was amazing too. Again, with Kings beer, the goan local beer.

5. Eclair making activity at Longitude 73 -

Every Le Meridien hotel has a signature dessert - The Eclair. And for each local hotel, they choose a third flavor (apart from Chocolate / Vanilla) that is known for it's local flavours. For Goa, it was mango and feni flavoured Eclair. Now just eating the dessert is so vanilla (pun intended), so they made us make our own eclair! It looks very easy, but isn't that easy. You have to make holes in the pastry to pipe in the cream all the way through - this is a real challenge. After that you decorate with cream, chocolate pieces and other garnishing and voila! Amazing and tasty!

I felt absolutely pampered over the Mother's day weekend, and the kiddo felt quite special too! It was definitely a stay to remember - and we made some new friends too! Kaavya, our awesome host for the weekend, Kuheli, Pawan and their son Shreysht with whom my son Panav absolutely had a blast! Also Ruchi and husband and her adorable daughter Ivanka.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

5 summer drinks for a cooling and healthy summer for kids.

Summer is at its peak and there is no surprise that we don’t feel like eating the usual roti sabzi dal rice anymore. It’s a fact that appetite can decrease and even more so for kids.

My little one also has become even more fussy and isn’t eating some of the things he earlier was. So it is vital that he stays hydrated and full and gets the required minerals and vitamins in form of liquid at least (not that it makes up for the solids). Here are some healthy summer drinks, after all we don’t want to feed our little ones flavoured, artificial stuff like colas or tetra packed treats.

1. Watermelon juice

Watermelons are quite in-season during the summers –atleast in Mumbai. So I make the most of it! Being a water content fruit – it can be had as is, but also is a great option and easy to make juice out of. Just make sure to remove the seeds or else if those get mixed in the processor the juice can taste bitter. I add a dash of salt, pepper and sugar to it to make it taste even better. You can add pieces of watermelon if kids like it (I used to love it as a kid and still do), or let that be.

2. Chocolate/Vanilla flavoured Enfagrow A+

Fussy eaters require other sources of nutrition. I know that because mine is the most fussy when it comes to food and hence giving him supplements has already been vital for me. Enfagrow is the World's No 1 in Children's Nutrition Brand. It contains Triple Health Guard a unique blend of DHA, prebiotics and various important micronutrients that supports your child’s ability to fight off infections in 3 ways, viz. supports Respiratory health, Gut health and resistance to other common infections. Available in Chocolate or Vanilla flavours. Travelling with a toddler and fulfilling their milk requirements can be quite a task – and Enfagrow A+ being a milk powder itself makes it so much easier – just need to add pre-boiled warm water and it’s ready! Available of Grofers: 

3.  Banana/Mango shake

The healthiest, filling option in getting kids to consume both milk and banana! I remember growing up having this in the morning or evenings. Add some sugar if required, with one banana and chilled milk and blend! And also the best of the summer season – king of fruits – Mangoes to make some yummy mango milkshake! Add smaller pieces of bananas/mangoes so that there aren’t any lumps remaining finally. Kid’s absolutely love it!  

4. Aam panna (kairi ka paani)

Raw mangoes or kairi not only give us tasty pickles and chutneys but also make a great raw, healthy drink – aam panna! This one takes a little more time to prepare as you need to boil the raw mangoes before mashing the pulp and diluting in water. But it’s worth it – add some sugar, salt and black pepper and enjoy the tangy drink with your kids!

5.  Shikanji / Lemonade / Nimbu paani

When nothing else at home, there always is good old nimbu paani! The best way to say goodbye to dehydration. Lemon juice, sugar and a pinch of rock salt mixed with chilled water! You can also store some lemon juice in a bottle so that it’s even faster to make this thirst quenching drink when kids come home thirsty after playing in the sun! You can have them help you make this as well and set-up a lemonade stall. So much fun!

Hope you liked all the different options, try them all so that the kids are not bored and have a variety! Happy summers!

Friday, May 25, 2018

Mommy Makeover – tête-à-tête with Dr.Sameer KARKHANIS

Before I dive into the conversation I had a few days ago with Dr.Sameer Kharkhanis – a leading cosmetic surgeon from Mumbai; let me clarify that I think pregnancies are beautiful. Being a mother myself, I know how much an expecting mother’s body goes through during and after the pregnancy. We go through a lot physically, emotionally and in every other way to bring that new person into our lives.

Pregnancy can leave you with a body that you don’t recognize anymore. Not fitting into pre-pregnancy clothes, loosing self-confidence, hair fall, wondering if your partner is still as attracted to you with all those stretch marks and loose skin – If you’re a mother too, you will definitely related to this. Exercise, proper diet and a happy state of mind can certainly help you lose the pregnancy weight and inches and maybe even go back to your pre-pregnancy clothes. But there are certain issues like sagging breasts, post-pregnancy abdominal pouch, fat deposits, stretch marks, and hernia in abdominal area making it protruding as if one is still pregnant – these need special medical attention and the answer is Mommy Makeover.

What is a Mommy Makaeover? I asked Dr.Sameer Kharkhanis when I met him at Currae Hospital, Thane –
A mommy makeover is a combination / series of aesthetic surgical procedures that restore the before-pregnancy appearance, typically (more popularly) focusing on the breasts and abdomen. So it’s cost effective because you don’t get admitted multiple times, and the results are long term and you can see a drastic change in your appearance! For eg. A breast uplift, tummy tuck and liposuction process can make you look and feel younger, more confident and positive – which will reflect on your kid and family too!

When is it a good time for a mommy makeover?
One should be fairly certain that they are done having children (if you get pregnant after having these surgeries done, then your appearance would change again). At the earliest, it is best done 9-12 months post-delivery and there is no age bar.
You will need to plan and take 2 weeks off work and have family support to look after your children/home. After that, you can return to desk work.

What are some myths related to cosmetic surgeries?
Though these surgeries are invasive, they are totally safe and do not cause any problem. Dr. Kharkhanis went on to tell how there are so many myths related to cosmetic surgeries and not a lot of information from credible sources to tell what the facts are.  For instance – breast implants now come in COHESIVE gel form WHICH DOES NOT LEAK INTO THE SURROUNDING BREAST TISSUE with time – as popularly rumoured. One can even breastfeed after getting a breast implant.

How much a Mommy Makeover would typically cost?
Depending on the problem areas treated together, typically a package would be from around 2.5L to 3.5L + 18% GST.

I personally know women in my family who have a stomach hernia post-delivery and lost self-confidence for life, such a makeover can be such a boon for the person! Women today are independent, earn well and can take such decisions for their selves. Also, many job fields require man or woman to have a certain external appearance. For eg. If you’re an actor or air hostess or a gym-trainer – it’s not that you would never have kids, right? Or have to sacrifice your career for that matter?

I feel once you’re done with your family planning and are ready to get your old self back, a Mommy Makeover is a great way to get that confidence and body back! Of-course, exercise and a good diet has to always be there – there is no alternate for that either. To know more about the services offered at Center for cosmetic and reconstructive surgery do visit their website.

If there are any questions you’d like to ask them, do comment away or contact them on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram.