Friday, 23 May 2014

The Surgical Pursuit of Beauty

Have you ever wondered what the world would look like if everyone looked alike???
Well... have a look at the contestants. This will give you a fair idea.

Miss Korea 2013 contestants- Spot the difference!

I have been reading about this a lot these days... not that I deliberately read about plastic surgery, it just is all over. Celebrities who have undergone the knife to improve (or sometimes botch) their looks and bodies or denying any apparent procedure at all are always making news. Every page has before-and-after pics of them pointing differences (as if that was necessary).

Having lived in Thailand, I was aware of the Thai fascination for western looks and colour. You could tell by the number of whitening lotions that graced the shelves of retail stores and the use of heavy make-up and diet pills to achieve the desired look; a slim figure, light eyes, skin and hair, slim nose and oval/heart shaped face. But I guess it's a pan south east Asian trend now.

If we talk about numbers, definitely US tops the chart, but if we consider rates relative to population, South Korea leaves everyone way behind. The reason is the underlying conviction that beautiful people are wired for success and attract all things better in life. For most South Koreans surgery is a passport to finding a better and high paying job, husband from the high echelons of society or merely being accepted and treated better in the society. A bizarre yet a painful truth for most SE Asian cultures. Japan too is in the race coming up with outlandish products as cheap substitutes for surgery as not everyone may be able to afford it. The senior market (men and women hitting mid-life crisis) around the world is also growing by leaps and bounds, sometimes for clinical reasons and sometimes behind the smokescreen of boosting ones fragile self esteem. Surgery is so rampant now that countries like Korea and Thailand are heavily cashing on their medical tourism and why not?

Nose Shaper: to be worn 20 mins/day for effective results

A double eyelid creater

Humans are visual beings. Agreed. They are attracted to all things beautiful. Agreed. Yet it is sad to see how the concept of beauty is narrowing down to one single checklist. I am not personally against surgical procedures to enhance looks but I wouldn't trade my features for a set standard in beauty.

Our world is full of diversity. Every living creature has its own identity. The beauty of our world lies in it's differences, not uniformity. The point is that diversity begets the possibility of an adventure of stumbling upon something new and beautiful in its own way. The fascination of different yet beautiful people and cultures makes our human experience worthwhile. The absence of this fascination would only turn us into robots with no zeal and longing for the magic of the unseen and unexpected... What would be the point? It's all the same.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

A Lesson in Grooming

I was in my early twenties and it was 2009, the recession. Just finishing college, I was trying to make the best of an opportunity as a PR I was lucky enough to find. Since it was a small company, we strived hard to maintain a media presence. For one such event, a press conference, I was incessantly networking with the most influential in the art world of Bangkok.

As a PR this was my big day. I was a student with a student's wardrobe (if you know what I mean...) and no make-up barring a lip gloss. To prepare, I shopped for a perfect (or that's what I thought...) pair of grey trousers, a nice black top and a blazer to finish the look. The next morning, satisfied with my look, I started for the venue where my employer had already reached and was giving finishing touches to the set up. I knew she'd be happy and surprised by my professional turnout and boy oh boy, surprised she was.

What happened at the press conference is a distant memory. Everything was over in no time. How I packed up and came home remains a mystery to me; I have no memory of it. All I remembered was the reaction and comment of my employer. I remember her looking up at me, smile deserting her face, her scuttle towards me and her callous pull at my arm. I remember her, telling me that I make her look bad. Why couldn't I spend some time on myself? Why didn't I wear a skirt? (weird but's a Thai thing) For God's sake... I was the PRO!!! I represent her in the media... Why didn't I groom myself? Why couldn't I look my best?

Another look in the mirror and a different perspective cleared the haze. I wasn't my best. I looked like a timid person with low self esteem. I didn't love myself enough to groom myself. How would anyone entrust a dismal being with the image of their company? The thought stuck with me.

No, I wasn't fired but realised that dressing and grooming are the most pronounced forms of self expression. How one presents oneself is a subtle display of ones personality traits, positive and negative.They are the giveaways of our deepest feelings and misgivings. Whether you are complacent or a go-getter, it will be reflected in the way you dress and groom. It is a subconsciously acknowledged fact that people who dress and groom well exude confidence, have high self esteem and climb the success ladder faster than those who don't. They have a sense of self efficacy and self-sufficiency. And it's not just professional success that makes grooming important. People who take care of themselves are better caretakers too. Confident people are able to maintain healthy relationships as they can voice their opinion and hold a regard for others simultaneously. Confident people trust themselves and therefore are capable of trusting others.

Lastly, beauty attracts beauty. While we all have different perceptions of beauty; to me it simply means being at your best. I can write and write about grooming and turn this article into a thesis and I'm tempted to include a gamut of topics about grooming here, but some other time.... :)

Monday, 12 May 2014

Avocado: The Superfruit

I love avocados. Particularly its creamy texture and the delicate and rich aftertaste. It is one of the superfruits with contain something of everything and has numerous health benefits. It will take me a day to write about its goodness and nutrient content, believe me there are loads. But for starters, let me pen down the 3 basic reasons you need more avocados in your diet; its fiber content, number of vitamins and minerals in it and fat. Don't freak out, this fat is exactly what you need; monosaturated. 

Here are some health benefits to keep you motivated:
  1. This tops my list. You can put avocado to use as a facial mask (this mask works!)for cleansing, moisturizing or as sunscreen. 
  2. Avocados reduce LDL in the body and increase HDL. Therefore, they keep cholesterol in check and keep the heart healthy.
  3. They contain lutein, a carotenoid which are antioxioxidants.
  4. It makes you lose weight. Yes! It contains soluble fibre which slows digestion of carbohydrates. So, have your avocados and you won't be feeling hungry anytime soon.
  5. A friend of all Mommas-to-be. It contains folate which boosts healthy growth of the unborn baby.
  6. They contain vitamins Bs, K, and E. What more can you ask for?
  7. They have all the minerals. I cant even list them down.
  8. They are awesome to taste.
They mostly grow in tropical climate with little care. But you are elsewhere, do not worry. These countries produce a lot of avocado and share it (export) with others too :). 

Some people take time to develop the taste for avocado. Its a bit too rich to be eaten as is. So, here is a simple recipe you can use to make an avocado spread. It tastes great with some wholemeal bread, nachos and pretty much anything you'd like to take it with.This is a lovely recipe for breakfast or snacks and takes just about 5 minutes.

  1. Avocado: 1 ripe (you can increase the quantity as you like and relatively increase other ingredients)
  2. Garlic pods: 2-3
  3. Lemon Juice: 1 tbsp
  4. Chillies: 1-2 (medium spicy); You can always adjust this according to your taste.
  5. Parsley or cilantro: 1 tbsp (too much will overpower the flavour of the avocado)
  6. Olive Oil: 1 tbsp
  7. Canola Oil: 1 tbsp
  8. Pepper: 1/4 tsp (preferably crushed)
  9. Salt: to taste
  10. A good blender (very important)

  1. Cut the avocado lengthwise in half. One of the halves will have a seed. Remove it by simply scooping it out.
  2. With a teaspoon, scoop out the fruit (you will only be able to do this with a ripe one) in a blending jar. 
  3. To avocado, add chopped garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, parsley/cilantro, pepper, salt together and blend until a paste forms.
  4. Slowly trickle canola oil while still blending.
  5. Stop when the texture is smooth and creamy.
  6. Garnish with a sprig of parsley and serve with wholemeal bread toasts or use as spread in a sandwich, that's pretty much your take.
Keep everything ready before pitting the avocado. If kept in the open for too long, the flesh will oxidize and turn brown, not very appetizing to look at.  If at all you had to attend to your baby who wants to pee after you've cut the avocados, here's the trick. Squirt some lemon juice on them. This will stop oxidization until you're back.

Friday, 9 May 2014

If You Lie and You Know It...

Do you have a problem too?
People lie. They lie all the time and time and again I've had the opportunity to meet with liars. What happens in their heads and why they don't even consider the slightest possibility of 'what if she knows the truth?' has always been ridiculously amusing to me. Either out of kindness or just deriving pleasure listening to them or my inability, I've never confronted people but it always compels me to think about the reasons that trigger such behaviour.

At some point, all of us have lied in one way or the other. There are various degrees of lying from plain harmless white or 'prosocial' lies to pathological lying. White lies is a more diplomatic way of communicating a feeling, perspective or impression. People often use white lies to:
  1. Avoid hurting people or out of concern
  2. Avoid conflicts
  3. Express something in a harmless way or
  4. Avoid refusing to something
Researches reveal that humans learn to lie at a very early age. There are 3 levels of lying in the developmental model of lying:
  1. Primary; Ages 2-4: Harmless white lies to coverup a breach of rules.
  2. Secondary; Ages 4-6: Appeals to the listener's reasoning.
  3. Tertiary; Ages 7 and above: Well constructed with follow up statements. 
Also, family is the first school and lying can also develop as a habit when a child sees his/her parents/guardians lie in everyday life. Even small white lies like calling in sick can send out wrong messages to a child's straightforward way of thinking. Parents should also check the way they respond to minor transgressions at home as children are most likely to fib when they fear your response.

But what about those for whom lying is a habit? Many people gradually get to the stage when they lie about almost everything, whereas some are wired to lie. Mostly, lying is not inherited but there is strong evidence of genetic connection when it comes to 'pseudologia fantastica' or compulsive/pathological lying. There are symptoms associated with compulsive lying and such people if not treated may turn into sociopaths and even resort to drugs. People lie outrageously for many reasons and often there are underlying psychological issues.

Low Self Esteem and Inferiority Complex
Low self esteem is one of the major driving forces for lying. People want to feel good about themselves, want to be accepted and often lie to portray themselves as likable to the listener. Self acceptance issues may trigger lying to portray oneself in a better light. The higher the frequency of a lie, the more it reinforces self image. A liar forms a world around himself where he sees and believes himself as he would like to be seen or be accepted. There is often a lot of compulsion over people to lie to be able to feel equal to their counterparts.

Fear is also a major contributor to developing a lying habit. Feeling vulnerable is human nature and we often lie when we feel threatened by something or someone.

Protect Self Image 
We do not act as we are expected to in every situation. Our virtuous moral system sets up these expectations not taking our human nature into account. Therefore, people resort to lying about their take, actions and reactions on situations where they were expected to act a certain way and they did not. And all this effort is to protect their self image in front of others and more importantly, themselves.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Save the right way, Spend in the right place

Moving to a new country half way across the globe was stressful for us as a couple. Both of us were jobless and knew that by the time either of us would find employment, most of our savings would be over. By God's grace, my husband found work after a month and a half. We moved to a new city and the idea was to save money wherever we can and to spend it in the right place. Here are a few things we did to achieve our goal.

Some home cooked Pad Kapao Kai, Kai dao... I so love Thai food....
1. Home cook food
Both of us like to spend time in the kitchen and cooking together so instead of buying processed food which is a much easier (and unhealthy) option, we settled on getting raw material and cooking food which would pamper our taste buds. Believe me, you can save hundreds and still wont have to compromise on food.

2. Buy from the right place
This required a little research and traveling. There are about 4-5 major retails stores in Australia and all have different prices for different stuff. Check their websites or go to their stores to see what suits you. You can also explore local butcheries and grocers who actually sell fresh stuff for way less than that sold in stores. It may not be clad in fancy looking packs but who cares....

3. Cheaper doesn't  mean low quality
All retail stores have their own personal brands and they always sell for a dollar or two less than the  other brands on the shelves. Exploring retail generic brands for a myriad of cooking and baking products (even bath utilities and almost everything....) is also a practical option.

Our kitchen garden in its nascent stage
4. Plant a kitchen garden
We had some low maintenance outdoor space where we have planted a little kitchen garden. We still need to reap its wholesome benefit and I'm hoping it turns out as what we imagined.

Telephone/Mobile/Internet Plans
1. The word is research. Carefully plot out your needs and go for the right plan. Always look for offers. For example, we got an internet connection at a normal rate but here's a catch, we also got an IP phone with it which enables us to call overseas for FREE!!!
2. If you are not much of a caller like me, buy long duration plans instead of monthly's

Utilities (Gas, Electricity and Water)
If you are planning to stay in a rented accommodation for a longer period, say 24 months, look for long term contracts which usually have discounted rates.

Save where you can...
1. Switch off electronics when not in use
2. Try to make use of natural lighting as much as possible
3. Wash laundry in bulk... don't put the washing machine on for a pair of jeans
4. Chalk out a budget for everything... and stick to it

I hope you find these tips useful and applicable. I got to spend all I had saved on new clothes and hair styler.... that sure made the whole effort worthwhile.