Monday, September 28, 2009

Resurrection over the weekend -Thiruvannamalai, Part I

Ooty's been done to death. You know each of the 36 hairpin bends - between Bandipur and Ooty - like the back of .. ok make that the leather trimming on the steering wheel. Masinagudi, Bandipur ,Nagarhole,Munnar, Kodaikanal leaves you with the feeling of once is enough.For your next weekend break try Thiruvannamalai. It offers you everything you want your weekend break to have. A long short drive from Bangalore. 200 kms in a maximum of 4 hours.Great roads, for most parts. Pristine countryside. One of the country's most spiritual (not necessarily religious,mind you!) destinations. Pool,spa.. wah!

For starters, take Hosur road. Curse if you must, since the road till about 7 km beyond electronics city is in shambles, in stretches, due to work on the elevated highway project. This is of course after you have navigated the crowded roads till Total Mall. Then step on the gas till you reach The Renaissance ( now Sarovar Portico) in Hosur. This is just after the first flyover you encounter just before reaching Hosur. This is the best place for breakfast/meal till you reach your destination (buffet breakfast Rs.200/head). The other breakfast alternatives are Ananda Bhavan in the Bharat Petroleum filling station (beyond Sarovar Portico) - if you like your Dosa served with Speed 93 fumes instead of chutney - or the Coffee Day in the HP premises where the queue for sandwiches is longer than the one for gas.

Irrespective of whether you have had Dosa with Speed fumes or sandwiches after an interminable wait set your heading for Krishnagiri followed by Uttangarai & Chengam before you reach your destination - Thiruvannamalai. Except for about a total of 50 kms of not so great roads ( small potholes but nothing like the unsoldered stretch before Electronics City) you can zip,zap,zoom.

If you have had a fill at Hosur - neither your car nor you will need a refill till you reach Thiruvannamalai. However, do provide a stimulus package to the local economy by patronising sellers of strung jasmine buds and tender coconuts who you will encounter on the way especially after Uttangarai. If nothing else,it make their day and will also augment your good karma.

Oh! do make the necessary arrangements for accommodation before you leave. Try for the free accomodation at the Ramana Maharshi Asharam ( or stay at the Sparsa Resort .Sparsa (Ph:04175-236911) is a great place.Worth the Rs.4,000 for a double.

Accomodation at the ashram will lead to purity of the mind - and who knows even self realization. Sparsa resort too does not allow smoking and alcohol. Though, of course, it has a spa and a pool if you don't just have spirituality on your mind.

More later...

Monday, September 14, 2009

Announcement for Jet Airways crew

"Good morning ladies & gentlemen.This is an announcement from the passenger cabin. Crew may please pay attention. Passengers of Jet Airways welcome aboard the crew on 9W-allflights. As you have cleared the air about the turbulence you caused,the seat belt sign has switched off. However, for your own safety and for the safety and comfort of the ground crew of Jet Airways, you are requested stay fastened to your current negotiated position till the company reaches cruising altitude.More information on your heading will be announced in the next quarterly result. On account of your Karma,passengers of Jet Airways will do everything possible to increase your PLF. In the meanwhile, please do not sit back ,relax or switch on the autopilot - you have a long way to go re-earn our trust."

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Casa Deep Woods - Not quite Phantom's home

The previous day, there was no plan for a weekend break. A Google search for an Environment Education project for my son took me to triggering thoughts of a weekend getaway. Cut to It offered a Casa Deep Woods, Masinagudi, package for 2 nights. Ten clicks later I was done with the booking – subject to an offline confirmation. In recessionary times, I reckoned, the confirmation was only a formality and decided to proceed without the confirmation – which was expected the next day.
The best thing about an extended weekend getaway, by car, is that your holiday begins when you want it. A little earlier or a little later than what you may have planned. In my case, this weekend holiday began on the 5th June at 5 am. Hurtling through the roads of Bengaluru at 80 kmph, I stepped on the gas on the City Market flyover and in minutes I was past Jnana Bharati , Kengeri beyond Ramanagaram and well enroute Mysore. Even at 100 kmph the engine purred, as if enjoying this part of the 250 kilometers drive.

Breakfast at Barista. The Bangalore-Mysore expressway is dotted with branded and unbranded eateries. You can have Dosa’s or Danish pastries. After an English Breakfast topped up with Mysore Coffee, we ignited the engine for the next leg. Since the journey is as important as the destination, I let the engine relax. Even at the relaxed pace, Maddur and Srirangapatanam were soon behind us. The ring road let us by-pass Mysore and put us on track to Masinagudi. The progress was slower on this leg. Narrower roads, great in parts and dug-up in other parts. I too was in no hurry – though I was looking forward to the stretch that went through the Bandipur and Mudumalai sanctuaries, the former in Karnataka and the latter in Tamil Nadu. The stretch between Bandipur and Mudumalai is through the Tiger and Elephant reserve. Elephants blocking the roads, especially in the early hours is not uncommon. The Bandipur check-post gate signaled that we were entering the reserve forest. The drive through the lush green forest and rain swept roads was exhilarating. With the windows rolled down, the blast of fresh air on the face was invigorating.
The Mudumalai forest check-post indicated the end of the reserve forest but the terrain continued to be lush green. Casa Deep Woods was only a short distance away. A few kilometers on this stretch we saw the first signboard to the resort. A turn into a narrow freshly laid road left the route to Ooty behind us. Lush green on both sides and the misty mountains ahead. Perhaps, Phantom’s Deep Woods was similar. I was now in a hurry to get there – though the goats, cows and sheep ambling on the road were in no hurry to clear the way. Honking in such a peaceful environ would shatter the tranquility of the place. A mental request and a gentle nudge with the bumper worked.

Finally! Casa Deep Woods. The parking was full – recession be dammed! I did not have a confirmation of my booking, yet. I remembered Ralph Waldo Emerson“ if you desire something badly the universe conspires to make it happen”. I hoped this would work to confirm my reservation. At this point, I desired nothing more. The universe did conspire to make it happen. Ravi Kumar, at the resort, confirmed this and escorted us to our cottage on a cobblestone pathway between densely wooded areas. Finally!
The rooms were very clean but basic. No TV. Mobile signal only if the wind blew your way. The almost alien to Bengaluru, chirping of birds and crickets, the occasional scream of the monkeys sailed through the quiet atmosphere. I did not miss the blare of television – my son did and went to the common room for the lone TV - with a satellite dish connection - for those who could not do without their daily fix.
Lunch was a good spread. Some vegetables came from the local farms and did taste nice and different from the usual fare. A Kabab by the bonfire before dinner was served at 9 pm. Talented guests sang and the not so talented took a swig from their hip flasks and enjoyed the songs before dispersing for dinner.

Ooty, from Masinagudi, was only about 40 kms away – via the famous 36 hair-pin bends route. 70 kms away via the longer route which is broader and more navigable. It didn’t feel good being so close to Ooty but not going there. Let’s go, we decided. 36 hair-pin bends and missing-a-brush-with-the—other- vehicle- by- a-whisker-later we were in Ooty after driving through blinding rain. The car and you need to be in good shape to make it to Ooty via this route. It amazes me how some old trucks, with their engines groaning and belching, make it to Ooty through this route. If you find one of these contraptions, ahead of you, on this route - keep distance. If it does not make it across the hair pin bend the vehicle will slide back before making the next attempt to take the bend. The wait will make you go around the bend!

Ooty is dotted with Eucalyptus trees. The Eucalyptus perfume cures you of a cold as my great-grandma used to say. Within minutes of being in Ooty I could breathe better with my nostrils clearing up. Since we all wanted to experience the Nilgiris Mountain Railway, I drove straight to the Ooty railway station. This train service is now a heritage rail service. However, this experience was not to be as the incoming train was delayed for an unknown duration due to heavy rains. With this desire unfulfilled, I drove into the very colonial Taj Savoy for lunch.

This leisurely lunch was filling and made me long for a snooze. Not wanting to take the sharp route while less than fully alert I took the longer and more driver friendly route back to Masinagudi via the Pykara dam. On the way back, we decided to take the Tiger safari at the Mudumalai which is available from 3 to 6.30 pm and 7 to 9am. The queue at the ticket counter was longer than a queue at a multiplex showing a blockbuster. We decided to try our luck the next morning. The ticket counter opened at 7am. We got our tickets by reaching the place at 6.15 am. It’s a 20 minutes drive from Casa Deep Woods to the safari . The safari itself was uneventful. Almost a letdown. No tigers. The Elephants, Bisons, Peacocks and the Deer ignored us in their own home. Back to Casa Deep Woods. After breakfast we bid adieu to the hospitable people managing this facility.

There are times when the Phantom leaves the jungle and walks the streets of the town as an ordinary man. I knew how Phantom must have felt leaving the jungle. I too felt a twinge of regret leaving the jungle so soon.

The familiar concrete jungle beckoned.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Swine Flu Trap and Other Simple Remedies

A blood pressure reading of 170/110 mmHg is considered high. It was actually alarming enough for my family doctor to recommend putting me, immediately, on a course of Beta Blockers. At the age of 23, I was, however, reckless enough to ignore the doctor’s advice till I had tried alternatives to a life-long course of medicines.

Subsequently, in just a few months and without any medication, my blood pressure was a normal 120/80 mmHg.

Like Hypertension, Diabetes too is difficult to control. Yet, there are ways to bring uncontrolled blood sugar to an even keel without life-long allopathic treatment. My wife has tried these with excellent results and without any side effects.

The market size for acne controlling products is estimated to be about Rs.65 crores per annum. How much of your income has contributed to this, without commensurate benefits? If you consider a Rs. 65 crores market large, you have got to know that the market for weight control, which consists of health clubs and gyms, exceeds Rs. 1,500 crores per annum. Have you paid for a gym membership, aiming for fitness, without having made good use of it because of paucity of time?

From times immemorial, good health systems like Yoga, Ayruveda, Acupressure and Mudras (hand symbols) have been available for prevention and treatment of ill-health as well as for general well being. These systems of medicines and treatment do not need any equipment. In the time that it takes one to reach a gym and return, one can complete these exercises. However, learning a Yoga Asana (body postures used in yoga) or Pranayama techniques is not as easy as popping a pill. But then, even beer has an acquired taste.

Here are some simple Yoga Asanas, Pranayama (controlled breathing) methods, Acupressure techniques, Home Remedies and Mudras which, if followed with regularity, can lead to a cure from nagging illnesses and also lead general well being.

Hypertension:If your blood pressure is greater than 120/80 mmHg, you may be suffering from Hypertension. It is necessary to, first, rule out secondary hypertension - say a kidney disease leading to hypertension. Treatment for essential hypertension (hypertension which cannot be traced to a specific ailment) is being discussed here. Hypertension has deleterious effects on the human body which includes kidney failure. The following exercises can control hypertension without the use of drugs.

Kapalbhati Pranayama :
Sit in comfortable crossed leg position with the back straight or on a chair. Hands must rest on the knees. The face must be relaxed. Inhale deeply through both nostrils expanding the abdomen and exhale with the forceful contraction of abdominal muscles. That is, pull in the abdomen by quickly contracting the abdominal muscles while exhaling through the nose. The air is pushed out of lungs by the contraction of the diaphragm. After exhalation, inhale again. However, this inhalation should not involve any effort. Just relax and the lungs should automatically expand and fill with air. After completing 15 quick exhalation and natural inhalations, inhale and exhale deeply. This is one round. One can start the practice of Kapalbhati Pranayama with 3 such rounds. For detailed visual explanation of Kapalbhati, you may refer to a video on Kapalbhati on youtube.

A clove of raw garlic, every day, on an empty stomach will help in reducing hypertension. The beneficial effects of garlic are not only well documented in Ayurveda but modern science also acknowledges its goodness in controlling Hypertension. 50 ml of raw Bottle Gourd juice each morning, before breakfast, also helps in keeping hypertension under control.

There are several Acupressure points for controlling Hypertension. The two points which I have found very effective are located on top of the skull and next to the inner ankle bone protrusion on both feet. Press and release the Acupressure point on the top of the head with your forefinger. This has to be done in a rhythmic motion. In order to do this, inhale while applying pressure on the point and exhale while releasing the pressure. Only gentle pressure needs to be applied. After you complete the point on the head repeat the action next to the inner ankle bone on both feet. 30 seconds of this on each Acupressure point is adequate. Do not do this within 2 hours before or after a meal.

Diabetes: A Fasting blood sugar result - 12 to 14 hours after a meal - of over 100 mg/dl or 140 mg/dl at 2 hours after eating indicates abnormalities in the body's ability to regulate sugar. Oral anti-hyperglycemic drugs are first-line drug treatments under Allopathy. Insulin may eventually be needed. However, a combination of the following may help in the control of diabetes without the use of drugs.

Dietary Control: Complete abstinence from all forms of food which have refined sugar. This includes chocolates, tea or coffee (with sugar) ice-cream, health drinks (with added sugar) and other similar food. Fruits, not fruit juices, are allowed. Restrict consumption of polished rice and other simple carbohydrates. Eat Bran, Barley, Maize, Oats, and Brown Rice. As far as possible, try to avoid even sugar substitutes.

Exercise: Obesity is dangerous for a diabetic. Exercises like cycling, walking, skipping are needed to bring your weight to the normal range, if you are overweight. A height weight calculator is available on

Pranayama: Practice Kapalbhati for 10 minutes a day as described above. In addition, do Anulom Vilom pranayama for 15 minutes a day. The practice of Anulom Vilom Pranayama involves blocking your right nostril with thumb and breathing in from left. Next, open right nostril and close left nostril with the ring finger and breathe out from right nostril. Then breathe in from right nostril followed by closing the right nostril and opening the left and breathe out and so on. There are many short video clippings on Anulom Viyom available on youtube. Watch one of these carefully before starting on any Pranayama. Pranayama is like a pneumatic drill. If performed incorrectly it may cause harm.

Acupressure: Diabetes is caused due to the inadequate production of insulin in the body. It is possible to re-activate the Pancreas by pressing the Acupressure point for the Pancreas for 30 seconds twice a day. Press the Acupressure point with the thumb of the other hand in a pumping action. That is, apply pressure on the Acupressure point with your thumb and release the pressure in quick succession. Do this first on the right hand and then repeat for the left hand. Do not do this for more than 30 seconds in each palm. Do not do this more than twice a day. There are many Acupressure points for activating the Pancreas. Many of these points are described in detail on various internet sites. One of these sites is A good book on the subject will explain the finer point of Acupressure in greater detail.

Obesity:Obesity, if not caused by a hormonal imbalance, can be reversed. Practice Kapalbhati for 15 minutes, twice day. I am almost certain that there will be visible weight loss in 45 days of your practice of Kapalbhati. Of course, regular exercise and moderation in diet are equally important.

Migraine:Allopathy has no known cure for Migraine. Homeopathy has known cures for Migraine. However, a combination of Pranayama and Acupressure, I am fairly sure, will give you the pleasure of living life without the head-splitting, life disrupting aches. Practice Kapalbhati and Anulom Vilom pranayama, each for 10 minutes a day. In addition, apply the Acupressure technique, as described above, to the point on the inner toe nail as shown below.

Swine flu:Swine flu has made people scared of even and ordinary flu and cold. Mudras are finger postures which can help in curing several illnesses ranging from the common cold to Hypertension and Diabetes. The Linga Mudra is effective in making the body resistant to colds, coughs and chest infection by generating heat in the body. It clears the chest of accumulated phlegm. Just five minutes a day in Linga mudra will keep you resistant to colds or cure it if you get infected. To practice Linga mudra, join both the palms and lock the facing fingers together, keeping one thumb upright. The upright thumb must be encircled by the other thumb and the index finger. Due to the heat generating properties of this Mudra, it is advised that this not be practiced for more than five minutes a day. It is also recommended that one drinks eight glasses of water each day while practicing this Mudra.

Yoga, Acupressure, Mudras, Pranayama are ancient techniques. Their efficacy has been established by their practitioners over hundreds of years. Undoubtedly, modern medical science has made immense progress over the last 5 decades. However, modern medicine is driven by commercial considerations. Medicines are effective but often unnecessary. A bout of common cold lasts for 7 days if left untreated and 1 week if treated! The body is a self-repairing machine. It breaks down because it is often pushed to the brink due to our unhealthy habits which stresses it beyond its ability.

It takes less than 30 minutes a day of Pranayama, notably Kapalbhati and Anulom Viyom, to be fit and keep most ailments at bay.

Note: This article is written based on the author’s experiences with Pranayama, Yoga, Accupressure and Home Remedies. All systems of treatment mentioned here must be learnt under the guidance of an expert in the field. This article is not a substitute for expert medical advice