Thursday, March 16, 2006

It's March Madness, Baby!

March is my favorite sports month. I am not a big sports fan but like college basketball. And the best part of that is the tournament that takes place in March every year. The March Madness this year started today and so I thought I would write something about it (can’t write a whole lot as I will miss the games then :-)).

A committee picks the 64/65 teams that play in this tournament and there is always a debate over some teams that got in and the rankings of some teams. Finally resigning to the fact that I can’t possibly agree with the committee on the whole bracket, I have told myself (which I needed to be reminded of sometimes) that the ranking does not matter in the end. A team that can win will win, regardless of whether it is ranked #4 or #9.

Here are some things I like most about this tournament. There are always upsets and it is so heartening to see the underdogs win. These kids (oh man, that makes me feel old!) give their all to win and that is their only objective for the forty minutes of the game. Yes, there are contracts to sign and money to make but those come after the games.

The other interesting thing is to watch the courtside demeanor of the coaches. There are some coaches who would be yelling at their players even when their team has a comfortable lead and then there are some who won’t be saying much even when the game is within a few points. The theatrics can’t be scripted to be this dramatic.

I have been filling out brackets for the last few years just for the thrill of it. And it makes the tournament more exciting to keep track of my teams – the ones I have going to the Final Four. I have to say that I got lucky last year and won the office pool and that was an easily earned few hundred dollars. This is sheer luck as there were other people who knew much more about the teams and the sport than I did. But then that is the beauty of any sport, isn’t it? One can’t say that this is the better team and hence this team will win, as there is always the possibility that the underdog could play better and win. It is 50-50 chance for either team.

Some years ago, the tournament brackets were filled on paper and the pool coordinator would be checking them after each round and posting the results. But now, lots of sites have pools that can be managed online and this makes it so very convenient to participate in pools with friends (regardless of where they are).

For anybody that is interested, here is (one of) my brackets for this year’s tournament.

Root for my teams, if you haven’t filled out a bracket :-)

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Eating Healthy

Just like a lot of people, I would like to lose a few pounds and get in shape. But this is one of the hardest things to do. If not, why would there be a zillion commercials and products related to weight loss. The thing that I find very interesting in these weight loss commercials are the before and after pictures. The before picture is of someone very fat (of course) and sad whereas the after picture is of someone extremely attractive and joyful. These before and after pictures crack me up whenever I see them.

I am trying to "eat healthy" these days by watching what I eat. While I was trying to pick a way to lose weight, I read about the different diets. Atkins was out of the question as it does not allow carbohydrates. How can I survive with no rice and bread? Finally it dawned on me that it is the calories that I should watch for. So now I try to limit the number of calories and especially the ones from fat, to keep it simple. Of course, then they say there are some good fats and some bad fats and that one should eat less fat but still eat good fat. And that makes the whole thing very confusing. Of course, I give in once in a while. How can one resist when they bring the dessert tray to your table after the entree? But so far, it seems to be working somewhat - could be better but could be worse as well!

Of course, when I go to India, all bets are off. The justification is that the next chance will be a year or two away and so I have to eat all of my favorites. Here is how a typical day goes in India. Wake up and have coffee and some breakfast. Then we go shopping and the first place we see is a fast food place and so we have to try out that latest snack they have. We do that and then go to a store that we planned on going and then we stop by a juice shop to drink something. Then we go to a couple of other stores and then stop by a restaurant (mostly Saravana Bhavan) for lunch. Then we go to a few more stores and then stop by another restaurant for a light snack and to pick up something for the ones at home. Then we head home. There we have tea and some more snacks. Then it is time for dinner, which may sometimes be preceded by a snack as well. After dinner, we eat some fruits before going to bed. Yes, there is some exaggeration involved here, but you get the idea. Inspite of all this, I do not gain weight in India as there is a lot of walking involved, I think.

I noticed several health conscious efforts going on in India as well. But the Ananda Bhavans and Hot Chips don't help them in anyway. But that is where all the good things are! So Enjoy, but in moderation.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Blank Noise Project

Blank Noise Project is an endeavor by a few people in India to recognize eve teasing as a sexual crime and make it unacceptable. It is a very laudable effort as this is not a topic that is discussed openly in India, let alone protested against.

Here are my two cents on sexual harassment in the Indian context.

Just like most girls growing up in Chennai, I have been subject to sexual harassment - the groping, the rubbing, the pressing etc., mainly in crowded buses, but also on the streets and inside some houses as well (curiously Blank Noise does not have a group in Chennai, which is one of the four biggest cities in India). In spite of these happening very long ago and my being more mature and open now, I am not ready to talk about the details for various reasons.

Here are some things that I think could be done to alleviate this issue.

1. Raise awareness among young girls that this is a common problem and that it is not their fault that they have to go through this. Encourage them to talk about it with anybody they feel comfortable with. Impress upon them to retaliate. I attended a self defense course a few years ago where they told me that the best offense against a guy is twist-grab-pull (you know what), and I wish I had thought of that then and had the guts to implement it (you got to give it to them where it hurts). At the least, raise a shout so that they would be too embarrassed and move away.

2. Introduce a sex education class in schools so that everybody is aware at a young age what it is all about so that they don't covet it secretly. Hopefully, this will also encourage open dialogue about sex and related matters. It is a normal thing and everybody is doing it, and so what is wrong in talking about it?

3. Make it a crime, as this hurts the woman - both emotionally and physically. Publish stories and photos in the media so that those guys know that they are being watched.

Yes, all of these are easier said than done, and much easier said online and from outside India. But for my part, when I go to India, I wear what I want to wear (in spite of the stares I get on the roads) and vocally admonish when some stranger touches me. However from now on, I will be more conscious of this around me, and raise a voice even when I see it happening to somebody else.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Things I can Learn from Kutti

For those who don't know, Kutti is our pet dog. Here she is (can't miss an opportunity to show her, can I?).

I keep thinking that there is a lot to be learnt from her. If I could, I would write a book called "All I Really Need to Learn, I Learnt from Kutti". But since that is a tall task, here are some things that I think are impressive. Now, if only I could actually apply them!

1. Always express love: She always shows her affection towards me, either by wagging her tail (sometimes really really fast), or by licking my face or by just collapsing when I pet her.

2. Be ready to play: No matter what time of the day (or night) it is, she will be ready to play (mostly fetch). This seems like an excellent way to keep oneself active and healthy. Sometimes, for no particular reason (that I can think of), she would run and run around the yard and that gives her the much needed aerobic exercise.

3. Live in the present: She has no memory of what happened just a few minutes ago but is always living at that moment. Of course, she remembers some big things. One time, we scolded her for jumping on us while eating pasta (it is hard enough as it is!) and so from then on, she knows not to do that while we are eating. But then, everytime the vacuum cleaner or blender goes on, she just goes crazy and starts chasing her own tail.

4. Never hold a grudge: This is an extension of the previous one. Even if we leave her alone for 12 hours (it does not matter whether it is 2 or 12 hours), she would be waiting by the door when we get in the house, and express the same kind of welcome.

5. Show happiness: We tend to not express our happiness sometimes, but she will always show it by wagging her tail (is the speed of tail wagging directly proportional to the happiness level, the engineer in me can't help wondering?!).

Of course, there are a few things like not to lick and sniff everything that she can learn from me, but I don't think she would. I think we would all be better off if we learnt some things from dogs. And I truly hope there are dogs in heaven, if there is one.