Mar 29, 2021

Nestle Koko Krunch Breakfast cereal review

 For the past few days, whenever I open a Youtube video, the default ad that's being shown is the Nestle Koko Krunch breakfast cereal. Given the success of Kelloggs Chocos and Soulfull ragi bites in the urban markets of India, many brands are vying for a slice of the growing pie.

When a brand claims that it is tasty, delicious, kid-favorite, yummy etc, I have no qualms whatsoever. But the moment a processed "breakfast cereal" brand talks about health and nutrition, we need to be a little more vigilant. 

Let's first look at the messages being conveyed in these short 20-sec ads:
  • Is your child eager to grow? Highlights that the product contains Calcium + Vitamin D
  • Why are whole grains good for your kids? Highlights that tproduct contains Wheat, rice, jowar and oats, which help fill your child's tummy
  • Is your child low on energy in the morning? Highlights that the product has Vitamins B2, B3 and B6 that help release energy from food

The ad also indicates the presence of the following:
4 grains
Vitamin D and B
Iron and Calcium

As always, let's not blindly trust these claims. Let's understand the nutrition labels.

  • Whole wheat atta and rice flour contributes to 36% whereas jowar flour and oat flour contributes to only 11.4%
  • For a 30gm serving size, the Total Sugars value is mentioned as 7.2 gm (close to 2 tsp of sugar)
  • For a brand that highlights "whole grain" so much in their promotions, there is hardly any fibre present - 1.2 gm in a 30 gm serving size
  • Presence of maltodextrin (mentioned twice) is a concern. It is a cheap carrier ingredient with an extremely high glycemic index.

Regarding synthetic vitamins and minerals, I'd rather prefer to consume real, natural food sources and let my digestive system extract the required vitamins and minerals. 

As parents, let's take the time to research about packaged foods we buy for our kids. Let's give atleast the same priority (if not more) towards their foods intake as much as we give towards their education and extracurricular activities.

The brand promises on retaining the crunch after adding milk and doesn't tend to get soggy (In fine print, it says crunchiness lasts approx 4 minutes after warm milk is poured on the product). Seriously, is this the product differentiator? Did their market study suggest that parents expect crunchy breakfast cereal for their kids rather than soggy ones? 

Our kids don't need packaged, processed, sugar-laden breakfast cereals - crunchy or soggy .

Mar 27, 2021

Book Review - Search Inside Yourself by Chade-Meng Tan

 Yet another example of how the Universe brings in the right information at the right time. Once I started trusting this powerful principle, I'm just amazed at the sheer number of coincidences and serendipitous events.

This month, I had enrolled in a couple of courses on "The Buddhist path of training the mind" conducted by Ven.Drolma in association with Tushita Meditation Centre

While the course was progressing, I was shopping for my next book to read from my bookshelf. Yes, there are loads of books yet to be read and I decided to shop from my home first before I look elsewhere.

I spotted this book "Search inside yourself" in a corner and I couldn't recollect when I had bought it. I later realized that K had purchased it many years back but yet to read it himself🙂

The title of the book piqued my interest and I started reading it one night. Frankly speaking, I just couldn't bear the tiny font size of the print. A book with such powerful messages needs a BIGGER font. I hope the publishers have corrected it in the subsequent editions (the one I have is the 2013 edition).

How is this book connected with the courses I enrolled in, you might ask? Even if you didn't, let me answer🙂

This book explains the importance of mindfulness in daily life, meditations, self-awareness, dealing with triggers, etc. As I was reading chapter after chapter, it felt like a perfect supplementary reading material to my meditation course.

The author who calls himself the "jolly good fellow" working for Google has brought in a lot of interesting, easy-to-understand perspectives on the nature of our mind and emotional intelligence. His writing style is quite humorous, relatable and well-structured. Each topic is substantiated with a meditation practice/ exercise prompt.

He first talks about the intra-personal aspects of emotional intelligence. Understanding ourselves through mindfulness, training our attention, self-awareness and emotional mastery lead to self-confidence. I especially loved the section on mindful conversations. 

"Our attention is the most valuable gift we can give to others. When we give our full attention to somebody, for that moment, the only thing in the world we care about is that person, nothing else matters because nothing else is strong within our field of consciousness"

On self-regulation, the author mentions letting go of two things - grasping and aversion. I heard the same from Ven.Drolma in her class. I just can't stop thinking about how the Universe tried to reinforce the message to me through this book. 
"Grasping is when the mind desperately holds onto something and refuses to let it go. Aversion is when the mind desperately keeps something away and refuses to let it come"

He then moves onto the inter-personal aspects of emotional intelligence - empathy, compassion and goodness. The last few chapters focus more on applications of these aspects in the context of work and professional interactions. The topic on Mindful Emailing should be a MUST READ for all professionals. Such relevant insights!

I got so excited to read about the meditation practices I learned during my class - Loving-kindness and Tonglen.

I'll stop right there as I just can't stop myself from raving about this book and the perfect timing of this read. When you read matters as much as what you read.

Do pick up this book if you are also interested to search inside yourself for answers....and make sure the font size is readable.

Mar 13, 2021

Being gentle with your habits

 I started tracking habits in my journal from 2019. I had written a detailed post on how I do the same. Do check it out if you haven't seen it.

Though I knew the benefits of habit tracking, I wasn't being consistent at it. For some months, I was following it diligently. For some months, I completely stopped writing them down. For some weeks, though the habits were planned, I didn't follow through. 

Many experts suggest that we identify ONE single habit and focus only on that for the next 21 days. Personally, for me, it sounds quite boring to just focus on ONE. I prefer to work on multiple habits at the same time. 

Over the past few months, I wasn't quite keeping track of my habits as diligently as I wanted them to be. I restarted my habit journaling from Mar 1st. Here's a snapshot of the past 12 days.

  • The habits I listed down was a mix of old and new - a few I've been practicing for many months, a few I'm kickstarting new and a few I'm restarting. This way, it feels balanced and achievable.
  • I didn't precisely define the tangibility of a few habits. This was intentional as I'm restarting the tracker after 5 months. For eg, a morning walk gets checked whether I walk for 15 minutes or 30 minutes. Fruits intake gets checked whether I eat a single banana or a bowl of watermelon.
  • As I'm taking up a course in the morning hours, many of the habits that I usually accomplish during that time went for a toss. Not going to feel bad about it. I don't have Hermione's time turner to do multiple things at the same time :-)
  • There were certain habits that I was consistent at and a few others in which I didn't make much progress. The purpose of the tracker is to give me some clarity and not to make me feel guilty. Now that I have the data from the past 12 days, I can plan out the habits for the next 12 days that are more realistic.

Many times, we give up on habit tracking when we don't see a checkmark against every habit. Our focus shouldn't be checking off every habit. Rather, we should use the habit tracker as a way to understand whether we are setting realistic habits, where we are falling off, what could be the reasons and how to correct them. When we are gentle with ourselves, we can use habit tracking as a supporting friend and a guide to navigating our daily routines.

Mar 11, 2021

Book review - Practical Yoga Psychology by Dr. Rishi Vivekananda

First book review of 2021 and the 3rd book that I finished reading in 2021.

I've decided to talk about books/courses ONLY after I have finished reading/completing them (unless and until if someone explicitly asks me this question "What are you currently reading?" )

I realised that talking about something that I have just started doesn't help anyone (neither me nor others reading about it). Let me complete or reach a stage (say, 21 days or 48 days) in order to have understood a little bit or gathered a little depth before talking about a new initiative (book/habit/course etc) on social media.

Let's dive into the book review.

Information comes to us at the right time. This statement keeps reinforcing through my experiences over and over again. I randomly picked up this book without any expectations. Little did I knew that I would get a lot of clarity on topics I have been meaning to learn about
  • Formation of our unique personality through our perceptions, memory, thought, emotions and behaviour
  • Chakras and their significance
  • Gunas (Satvik, Rajasic and Tamasic) and their connection to our personality
  • Different streams of Yoga and the associated lifestyle practices (Raja Yoga - yamas and niyamas, Karma Yoga, Bhakthi Yoga, Gnana Yoga)

This is a dense read, it needs a lot of focus and attention to absorb the material and cannot be skimmed through. The author has explained in detail on how Yoga can help us in our journey of evolvement. Yoga is generally misconstrued only at the asana practices level but Yoga plays a much bigger role in our mind, our personality and the journey towards self-awareness. 

The chapter on Koshas (the five sheaths) was super fascinating to read. Lot of aha moments while reading the personality chapter where the author linked the respective chakras along with their levels of gunas to get a deeper analysis of evolvement of our personality. 

Every chapter had so many insights and realizations that I had underlined quite a few passages. A few favorite lines listed below:
"Perception is the process whereby a person's sensory stimuli are translated into organized experiences that have personal meaning for him or her."


"All knowledge is available at some level of consciousness and we only need to tune into this level for it to become available to us."


"Real security is a quality of the universe, not of our little human endeavours"


"The whole cosmos is a vast network of communication, and that every word and every thought reverberates throughout the whole"


"If I am not the doer, and I am unattached to the outcome of the process, and anyway I realize it is 'all in good hands', how can I have a problem?"

If these topics are of interest to you, do pick up this book and take your time to read and digest the material at a slower pace.

Mar 5, 2021

Top 10 favorite songs of Harris Jayaraj

Is music a part of your daily routine? 

Music plays such a positive role in our mental well-being. Be it singing, playing a musical instrument, or just listening, there are multiple benefits that music offers. Yet sometimes we do tend to deprioritize what we like to do when we feel overwhelmed with the demands of our daily grind.

It's been 5 months since I played any music on my phone or iPod. As I prefer to listen to music through speakers and not use headphones/earphones, I couldn't get a space for myself where I can play music while doing chores or relaxing. 

I started to feel the void created by the lack of music in my days and so I intentionally added "Listen to music" in my habit tracker for March. For the past four days, I have been playing my favourite songs on Spotify and I could easily sense what I had been missing.

What surprised me the most was that I didn't play my usual ARR or Illayaraaja albums. For some reason, it has been the music of Harris Jayaraj (HJ) that I keep gravitating to over the past few days. 

One of the sources of comfort is Predictability. HJ's songs have a predictable pattern but I have no complaints. I enjoy his melodies so much that even if he repeats the same pattern for another 10 years, I would still love to listen to them. The clear tracks, emphasis on the clarity of lyrics, foot-tapping interludes, and the right choice of singers make his songs pleasant to the ears.

Right from Minnale to Dhruva Natchathiram, I love many of his creations that I like to revisit them often. Yes, we all need that source of COMFORT and PREDICTABILITY, not just in our choice of music albums but also in our food preferences (kichdi for a few, thayir saadham for a few, rajma chawal for a few) and our entertainment choices (umpteenth time FRIENDS binge-watching on Netflix, anyone?).

Here are my top 10 favorites of Harris Jayaraj in no particular order (extremely challenging to pick just 10, but let me try)

(1) Oru Manam from Dhruva Natchathiram

I casually stumbled upon this single a few days back and I'm hooked onto it. Classic HJ! Such a feel-good romantic song. 

(2) Unakkene venum sollu / Idhayathai edho onru from Yennai Arindhal

Two songs, different singers, different lyrics, different moods, one tune - both are so soothing and bring out the mood so beautifully. 

(3) Ennai Saaithaalae from Endrendrum Punnagai

I'm yet to watch this movie, but I have watched this song so many times on Youtube. One of the rare romantic songs where I'm in love with picturization. Love the tune and the lyrics as well.

(4) Uyire en uyire from Thotti Jaya

No idea when this movie was released, but this song has been on my playlist for many years. I love the effortless transition from Anuradha Sriram's voice to Bombay Jeyashree's. Yet another melody with the right singers.

(5) Mun andhi chaaral nee from 7aum arivu

A soothing romantic number. And simple, beautiful lyrics. Enough said!

(6) Ennai pandhaada pirandhavale from Ullam Ketkumae

It is very rare for a song to be present in both K's and my playlists as our musical tastes are so different. One such rare song is this romantic melody. Srinivas had sung it so beautifully. 

(7) Uyirile from Vettaiyaadu Vilaiyaadu

A simple duet with a touch of melancholy. The clarity of the lyrics elevates the beauty of this song.

(8) Mundhinam paarthane from Vaaranam Aayiram

When this album was released, I went gaga over this song. It was such a beautiful retro picturization. And what a dialogue at the beginning of the song! 

(9) Ivan yaaro from Minnale

While the whole world was in love with Vaseegara when the album was released, my favorite has always been Ivan yaaro. Such a feel-good number!

(10) Gulmohar malare from Majunu

Ah! this song brings back memories of the SS music days! My brother and I used to be hooked onto this channel back in 2001-02 after we return from college. Yet another sweet, pleasing song. Hariharan's voice modulations give a nice touch to the song that flows like a breeze.

Bonus numbers that didn't make it to the top 10 

(1) Aagaya suriyanai from Samurai

(2) Oru maalai from Ghajni

(3) All songs from Lesa Lesa - this album gave me the required comfort when I felt seasick while going for a weekend sailing trip in SFO back in 2003. While it was freezing cold outside and shaky inside the sailboat, all I did was listen to Lesa Lesa cassette in repeat mode. Yes, good old cassette days!

Are you a fan of Harris Jayaraj albums? What are your favorite songs? What do you like about his work? Share in the comments below.

Mar 1, 2021

Are you willing?

When we are willing to eat ice-cream, we would eat it, despite having diabetes. When we are not willing to eat sweet potatoes or yellow pumpkin, we will not eat them and cite diabetes as the reason.

When we are willing to go for a walk, we will go for it, despite feeling tired. When we are not willing to go for a walk, we will not go for it, and cite tiredness as the reason.

Many times, we force ourselves into doing something which we don't enjoy, just because we are expecting certain outcomes. There are also times when we are willingly indulging in habits/actions which we know aren't good for our health.

I realize that every little action we do (or don't do) related to our lifestyle dwells on our willingness. Willingness stems from "wanting" or "enjoying" the process. 

We start "wanting" or "enjoying" the process, when these four criteria are met
  • When we have the right information that is convincing and logical
  • When the process is easy to follow or implement
  • When we experience tiny wins
  • When the experience with alternatives isn't good enough
To give an example, I planned to make upma for breakfast this morning. Instead of the usual rava upma, I made foxtail millet upma along with coconut chutney. 

I enjoyed the millet upma because
  • I'm aware of the health benefits of millets. I have gathered enough information on millets and their importance in our diet and our ecology
  • I always stock up millets, so it was easy to make. I have made millet based upma multiple times and I knew the recipe
  • I have always found eating millets to be satiating. Including millets have improved my health in multiple ways
  • Rava upma increases acidity and bloating in me. Though it tastes good, I don't like the after-effects
For someone else, they may not be WILLING to switch from the usual rava upma to millet upma. 

It takes time for the four criteria to be met. So if you find yourself struggling to make the change, give yourself enough time and consciously work towards understanding what these four criteria means to you.

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