Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Happiness Program

The basic tenet of  what is taught in "Art of Living" is that - Every emotion has a corresponding rhythm in the breath and that regulating the breath can help elevate the individual and help relieve personal suffering. I had attended my first Art of Living class in Chennai almost 15 years back and for the 2 weeks that I practised the art and science of breath religiously - I felt energized, happy, stress-free...and then life came load, releases, management issues, work trips, dinners/lunches, a baby, illness in the family...think of an excuse, I probably gave it ALL to myself in my head and it worked. 

When I went for the Diwali Mela this year and S handed me a flyer for an "Happiness Program - Art of Living Course" at Oracle I was intrigued. I wanted to try with high intentions and zero expectations I started the AOL course yesterday - two days in I am so glad I did. Let me start of with some caveats :

  • I am content with status quo
  • I believe I have everything that makes me happy in the present moment available to me already
  • I don't believe emotions are good or bad...I believe happiness is a choice that I make for myself
The reason I wanted to put these caveats out here, is I want to emphasize that you don't need to be in a place of pain, trauma, depression, distress to need to (or want to!) go to programs such as this one. It could just be you open to new thoughts, willing to be re-energized, be given a new tool to enhance your health and wellness....

A key part of the AOL program is this breathing technique called the Sudarshan Kriya and this breathing technique has a multitude of researched benefits. I have tried to list a few below - 
  1. Increases Deep Sleep > 200%
  2. Production of Well Being Hormones (Prolactin) > 50%
  3. Reduce Stress > 50%
  4. Reduce Depression > 70%
  5. Increases Mental Focus & Immunity
  6. Reduces Cholesterol & Blood Pressure
The first day after I did Sudarshan Kriya - I had severe headache and I had my sinus flare up and then my mother reminded me that the Kriya actively works on your body to flush out the toxins and this flush out manifests itself in different symptoms for the participants...the key is to ensure that you are consistent and accountable around your practice. I will definitely do a couple more blog posts on AOL, mostly to keep myself honest and accountable. I will talk about physical and mental changes that I am observing as the practice progresses - it will be a public online journal of sorts.

Here is the one thing that struck me as oddly strange this week during practice was apart from the two teachers who were Oracle Employees and me (from Oracle) - the two other participants were non-Oracle folks. I understand that we are all engrossed in the busyness of life but when such an opportunity presents itself to us it's sad that we focus on making excuses to ourselves and others. We are reluctant to invest the time and energy into ourselves...which I think is a very tactical approach vs. taking the long play approach of "if I don't take care of myself, I am the one who will suffer in the long run". I do see a lot of healthy and happy folks BUT at the same time I see people who are stressed, unhappy and not really focused on taking care of themselves. I would say Give yourself the permission to be Happy and Well. Attend one AOL session and see where the journey takes you.

I think there is another session of AOL happening on Dec 18th...reach out to the teachers.   In the words of Sri Sri - “But joy is never tomorrow; it is always now.” My "now" includes my first Kriya Home Practice early in the AM tomorrow...what does your "now"include.

Monday, October 16, 2017


"#metoo - whether it was close at home or outside on that public bus (where the older "gentleman" copped a feel) or at work where you are told "you will get promoted after you come back from maternity" and yet life makes you stronger and more resilient - you take the learning and pass it along to your next generation. You teach your young man to cook, clean and help but more importantly to empathize with and respect women. That for me is true progress" 
#Metoo Campaign - is just a "tip of the iceberg" - 9 out of every woman I have talked to at work or personally has a gender discrimination or harassment (or both) story to share.  There is a monumental amount of work to be done in confronting this climate of  gender discrimination and harrassment—one in which women are belittled and undermined and abused and sometimes pushed out of their industries altogether. But uncovering the colossal scale of the problem and having women speak up is revolutionary in its own right.

In anticipation of  a "bright future" where equality is not just a buzz word but something we consciously add into our psyche AND   Diwali I made one of my favorite desserts with a healthy twist - "Sakkarai Pongal" with a blend of quinoa and brown rice. This recipe is definitely not a #metoo but one of it's kind - easy to make, healthy and an acquired taste (my family loves it!). The ghee used in this recipe was also made in my Instant Pot ( I use Organic Valley  butter).

Here's my quick and easy recipe for Sakkarai Pongal -

 Sakkarai Pongal ( to bright futures)


  1. 1/2 Cup Quinoa/Brown Rice Blend,  1/2 Cup Moong Dal (toasted)
  2. 1/2 Cup Powdered Jaggery ( I used 1/4 cup jaggery and 2 tsp Stevia)
  3. 2 tablespoons ghee ( use more or less, based on your preference)
  4. Cashews and Raisins, Crushed Elaichi Powder (Cardamom)
  1. Put your Instant Pot in Saute Mode -  heat the ghee and fry the cashews and raisins golden brown. Remove and set the fried cashews and raisins aside
  2. Now to the same pan add the toasted quinoa/brown rice blend and moong dal (or this might be a good time to toast it :-) )
  3. Add two and a 1/4 cups of water and set on "Rice Mode" - natural release
  4. When you open your instant pot you will see that the Pongal has a semi-watery consistency. That is perfect !!! I add the powdered jaggery and mix it into this mixture thoroughly ( I don't make the jaggery water mix separately...if you have the time and the inclination please feel free to do that additional step). 
  5. I then add the crushed cardamom powder, raisins and cashews
  6. Enjoy with your family !!!
Happy Diwali!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Troublesome Thursdays!

Fate is like a strange, unpopular restaurant, filled with odd waiters who bring you things you never asked for and don't always like.                                                                                              --Lemony Snicket
Thursdays are always a drag for me NOT starts off at a crazy pace for the week - at work, the school lunch run, the hundred other little things that need to be completed. My Thursday started of with a "series of unfortunate events"...the racoons getting into our garbage and having a midnight party...which means you are on your hands and knees picking up garbage first thing in the morning (yeah! yeah! I would rather you picture me in an LBD with perfectly coiffed hair and a moisturized made up face ;-) ), the HOA gardner blowing all the leaves on to my clean porch (what!) and my son losing the binder that had an important paper he had to return to hour into the morning and I am ready to jump into bed and pull the comforter over my head and will the day away...

Then slowly things right themselves out and I have the chai made, a load of laundry running, the son's hot chocolate is on the table, the instant pot did it's magic with my 15 minute sambar on the side and my son's  lunch box was a yes on the checkbox and soon I was off to work and with hours of work down my belt...yup! all is right in my world now and I am ready to face the rest of the day. And while I take a quick walk after lunch, this beautiful view is what I get to see "every single day at work" for that I feel #gratitude

I am excited for this week to be over and the next one to begin - I will be attending the GraceHopper Conference in Orlando ( Thanks MC for making this a reality for me :)) and I can't wait to hear all those amazing women in tech share their ideas.

15 Minute Sambar

You need :
  • Chopped Onion (1/2), Chopped Garlic (3-4 Pods), Chopped Tomato (1)
  • Frozen Vegetables Bag from Whole Foods (Carrots, Peas and Beans - 1/2)
  • 1 cup Toor Dal (soaked in hot water)
  • Aachi Sambar Masala (Indian Store)
  • Imli Pichku ( pouch of tamarind )
  • Other items : Turmeric Powder, Hing, Whole Mustard, Curry Leaves, Ghee
Steps :

  1. Turn the IP to Saute Mode -  Add in 1/2 spoon ghee, add the hing, now splutter the mustard seeds and curry leaves. 
  2. Add the Chopped Onions and Garlic and brown it in the instant pot.
  3. Once onions are browned, add the turmeric, aachi sambar powder, chopped tomatoes, frozen veggies and soaked dal. Add 2.5 cups of water, more if you like your sambar a watery consistency
  4. Give it a whirl, add salt to taste and the tamarid paste
  5. High Pressure 7-10 minutes (depending on how mushy you want your sambar - I tend to go longer) - No Release
Once done - enjoy a bowl  by itself, its delicious, my dinner usually is a big bowl of Sambar and a cup of greek yogurt. It's really filling.

Tips & Tricks : 

  1. Double the Quantity and save some for the next day! I always do and it tastes better
  2. Pack Quinoa and Sambar for a quick hot lunch for your kids (add a dollop of ghee, they need it)
  3. Add a cup of Quinoa and an extra cup and half of water - it's an easy version of BesiBelaBhaat

How has your Thursday been going...:)

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Pitru Paksha & the recipe for the mother of all Dals

"The smallest act of kindness is worth more than the grandest intentions"

Today was the end of "Pitru Paksha" - according to Hindu beliefs, the souls of our three preceding generations reside in Pitru-Loka, which is considered to be a realm between heaven and earth. This realm is led by the god of death, Yama. It is believed that when a person from the next generation dies, the first generation is taken to heaven bringing them closer to God. Only the last three generations in Pitru-Loka are given shradha rites.
According to Hindu scriptures, during the Mahabharata, when Karna died his soul was taken to heaven where he was offered lots of gold and jewels. However, Karna was looking for food to eat and asked Indra, who is considered as the lord of heaven, the reason for serving gold as food. That's when Indra told Karna that he donated gold all his life, but never donated food to his ancestors during Shradh. Realising what Indra claimed, Karna answered that he never knew who his ancestors were, so he couldn't donate anything in their memory. However, Karna was given a chance to amend his mistake and was permitted to return to earth for 15 days, so that he could perform shradh rites and donate food and water in their memory. This 15-day period was then named as Pitru Paksha. It is believed that the more you feed the poor the more it will reach your ancestors and they bless you.
We celebrated Pitru Paksha in our own unique way by offering sandwiches to a few homeless people - don't know how they felt about the sandwiches...but  I felt amazing.

At home my mother made Dalma and offered it to the Gods and our ancestors and after a semi-fasting day I got to eat a HOT steaming bowl of Dalma...some kind of magic that was. Dalma is a dish that is  an quintessential Oriya dish made with lentils.
Dalma : the mother of dal

What you need?
  • Roasted Moong Dal ( 1 cup) - wash and keep soaked in water for 20 minutes
  • Medium Pieces of Cut Vegetables (2-3 cups) : Brinjal/EggPlant, Sweet Potato, Banana, Beans, Cauliflower, Carrot, 
  • 2 Cut Tomatoes
  • Masala - Panch Phoron (Mustard, Kala Jeera, Fennel, Cumin, Fenugreek) , Turmeric, Ginger, Green Chillies, Hing, Jeera, Red Chillies
  • Ghee, Sugar/Salt
Dalma Recipe 
  1. Dry Roast cumin seeds and red chilies and grind to a powder
  2. Turn the Instant Pot to saute mode and add 1 tbsp of ghee, put hing, splutter the panch phoron, crushed ginger and green chillies (add bay leaf optional).
  3. Add the cut vegetables and tomatoes. Then add turmeric, salt 
  4. Add the soaked moong dal
  5. Manual High Pressure 5-7 minutes (no release)
  6. Garnish with the roasted jeera/chilly powder to taste and cilantro (optional).  Squeeze lemon juice and  enjoy with a bowl of quinoa or as I did by itself.
What did you do for Pitru Paksha today?

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Don’t turn away, Give today!

“I’ve found the best way of tackling steepish hills is not to look for the top but to focus on my feet”

We are a 12 people strong HeartFit team. Our team has been thinking of innovative ways to get folks to donate to our cause and Rosh on our team has a BRILLIANT idea - he is offering the following
"He will do an amazing caricature of you  for a $25 donation to his heart walk account . Send Rosh  a picture with what activity you would like to associate to the caricature. So he can do a pencil/pen cartoon and deliver it on the day of heart walk.Here is a digital cartoon he has done for reference  on Instagram...and here's one that he did of me today (and yes! I happily donated again to the walk :) )

What do you have to lose? You are donating $25 to a cause to build Heart Health and Stroke Awareness and you have an AMAZING caricature of yourself made by this awesome dude. WIN-WIN !!!

Need more motivation  on why we walk and give- watch the video below -

Please donate to our cause on our Team Page @ HeartFit

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

DREAMers United...

                                                 "I had a dream
                      I had a dream that we were ... a generation to behold 

                Writing fires with our words ... Instead of useless smoke that blurs"

I watched a really powerful movie over the weekend - "Hidden Figures", the messages in the movie struck a chord in me - a society that aims to deny opportunity to any of its members shoots itself in the foot. The task is to exhume and examine the struggles of our past, to move beyond hidden hate, find talent wherever it may exist and, together, reach for the stars.

Brings me to current day and the very real problem of the revocation of the DACA by our erstwhile President. Being a first generation immigrant, I understand the hardships firsthand of making a spot for yourself in a new country, slowly settling in and "sort of" fitting in and getting comfortable. My son being born in this country was not his choice but a part of the adult's decision making as I was trying to explain the implications of the revocation of DACA to K2, he exclaimed - but it's not their fault, this is so unfair. If a 10 yr old is able to understand the implications of this action, why is a grown up 71 yr old  who is responsible for the well-being of this entire country not able to make the right choice ...boils down to one thing...he doesn't believe in equal rights for all...almost feels like we are going back a century into the times when it was ok to have segregation between races...

As I ponder these potentially flammable topics on a very hot day ( the Bay Area has been touching 110 degrees in temperature this week...), we cool down with some scrumptious Dahi Vada.

We made yogurt for the first time in the IP :

  1. Phase 1 - Heat the Milk, 2% Organic Milk 1/2 Gallon (make sure vent is in sealing)
  2. Phase 2 - Cool the milk ( ~ 35-40 minutes)
  3. Phase 3 - Add the Starter - I added the Nanak Yogurt, tastes the closest to Indian Dahi
  4. Phase 4 - Set the Dahi - Press the Yogurt button and let the IP  do it's magic
We made a super simple Dahi Vada with "Deep's Vada"...we don't fry in my this is the work-around ;-)

As I enjoyed the Dahi Vadas on a hot day, the words of Martin Luther King rang loud and clear in my mind - Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. So I am asking myself the question - what am I going to do about it?

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Bridging the Gender Gap

“Too often women overestimate the risks and underestimate themselves. Only by doing the very things we’re afraid of can we come to realize how little reason we ever had to fear. The only way to build confidence and courage is by acting with it.”

A creature of habit - I got up this morning at 6.45 AM. I jump into the morning "school run" routine. I heat up the water for the morning chai, start the pressure cooker for a choley subzi , heat up my son's AM hot chocolate and start emptying the dishwasher. I am like a "robot on auto-pilot" packing my son's lunch box with snacks and drinks, waiting for the choley to get done so that I can pack it in his thermos. I am done with most of the activities around 7.30 AM and sit down with my cup of chai (after I have poured out a cup for my mother and K1) and my customary handful of peanuts to check on urgent emails that need a quick response. As I was in the middle of a work email, suddenly the pressure cooker whistles and I instruct K2 aka my general boy friday - my son to switch off the pressure cooker and my husband to get a bag of Annie's cookies from the garage. My mother suddenly comments - Come On you are doing nothing...just ordering them around - how do you get your exercise - BollyX? 
That was the proverbial matador waving a red cloth before the bull - of course! I lost it !!! But the reality is this is not just my mother's  (Note : I said mother not MIL) attitude...this is the attitude of most women my mother's generation from our part of the globe - the expectation that a woman/girl should seamlessly don multiple hats while the men can rest and relax (on the merit of the fact that they were born men !!!).  Seriously - if women can't be a support system for women (especially your own mother) who else will be?
Anyway enough said about my gender gap travails and lets talk about the above-mentioned Choley/Channa Masala that is honestly a life-saver in my meal plans because it's so simple.


What you Need?

Bhuna Masala - I make this by the truckload and freeze it ( I make enough to last me 1-2 months). I take a little bit of oil (about 1/2 tsp) and add jeera and turmeric - then I add grated ginger ( 1 huge knob) and garlic ( one entire one) and let it cook with 6 Red Onions till the onions brown, then I add 6 large tomatoes or 8 medium tomatoes and cook for 10 minutes, the more you cook the better the bhuna masala tastes. When it has cooled down a bit I grind the masala in my Blendetec and store in small mason jars in my freezer for use as and when needed. This makes my normal day to day cooking way uncomplicated. And if we are honest here, I am no cooking diva - just someone who loves eating and loves eating healthy. I used the Bhuna Masala from my freezer today.

Choley Masala - I use Roopak's Pindi Chana Masala - I swear by this one - but I am sure you have your favorite brand, go ahead and use that

Canned Organic Garbanzo Beans  (from Trader Joe's) - no preservatives in this only sea-salt. I wash and rinse the chickpeas out to control how much salt goes into the dish.

Ketchup,  Cilantro, Cinnamon Powder (optional)

In your Pressure Cooker or Instant Pot - first Saute the Bhuna Masala (no oil for me) but if you are so inclined with a bit of oil. Use one large table spoon of bhuna masala per can of choley. Then add the Chana Masala - everyone has their formula - I add a large teaspoon per can of Choley. I cook for a while and then add the choley. In the Instant Pot I cook the Choley for 5 minutes high pressure, NR. On the pressure cooker I cook it for 2 whistles, QR. Add salt to taste. I add some ketchup (don't ask me why, it kicks the taste up a notch) and then sprinkle cinnamon  to taste and Cilantro (if I have it).

I usually make 3 cans worth of choley and it lasts us two meals - honestly it tastes better the next day with just a side of toast. I am enjoying a quiet lunch at my desk of Channa Masala and a banana as I write this blog post

I will leave you with the thought that - the way I am countering this gender gap is I am bringing up a boy who appreciates working women, who empathizes with the efforts we put into keeping our work lives & personal lives running smoothly. More importantly I am bringing up a boy who can  COOK a killer Channa Masala.