Photosynthesis- Earth's Life Support System

According to the geological history, photosynthesis is thought have occurred roughly 3.5 billion years ago.

Dead Zone

Death of fisheries due to uncontrolled algal growth leads to 'dead zones'. U.S. waters have the largest dead zones off the Mississippi delta.

Gingko: a not-so-safe herbal medicine for Epilepsy

Scientific evidences show that G. biloba may increase the risk of seizures in people with epilepsy.

The Science behind weight loss

You can add 20-plus great years to your life by making simple lifestyle changes.

Dealing with public toddler tantrumms

Tips which will help you lower down the frequency of such mortifying episodes.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Paying kids for chores- a big YES or a fat NO?



While I was sitting leisurely in a park one afternoon, I overheard this interesting conversation between a mother and her son-

"Honey, can you please pick up the bottle for your little sister?"

"Sure, Mom, how much will you pay me?"

"We will see later. Please pick the teether as well, sweetie"

"Of course, for a loonie."

"These boys, I tell you, drive me loony." She gave me an embarrassed smile and went away with her baby in a stroller and her 6- year old boy.

The first thought that struck me was- this is a typical case of allowance system for chores! I kept pondering- Is it right to give allowance to kids? Is it OK to attach compensation with house chores? What is a good age to start? If I don't, will I be different from other "much aware" parents? What is a good amount? If, I pay on the conservative side, will I be a scrooge for my kids? And, if I pay more, will I be turning them into brats?

Once you become a parent, there is a lot of dilemma around a child's upbringing and the right approach that will help them leverage life skills. Obviously, you don't want to set the wrong precedents which might look fancy at the start (when they are young), but will be equally difficult to handle in later years when they grow up and start maneuvering us around the set rules.

Compensating your kids for chores is perhaps the biggest point of contention and has raised a lot of eyebrows in the parenting world. While some vouch for it, others are totally against it! Some parents believe in the paying mechanism to nurture a sense of responsibility and financial budgeting in their kids, another set of parents postulate giving money without any ‘strings attached’, while the third set of parents give credence to not paying at all. It is difficult to decide which path will teach them the value of hard-earned money and not lead them to getting things served in a platter. The debate is unending.

 Recently, I met two mothers who raise their kids’ on two totally different allowance philosophies: one says it is a must-do while the other condemns the thought, shaking her head left to right.

Yes, I pay my kids for house chores-

“You know, there comes an age when children start coveting stuff- for a small girl, it might be a Barbie doll she saw with her friend in the park and for a teenager, a new video game in the market. These are the times when they would look for an extra form of income to cater to those needs. I always pay my 7-year old daughter for the chores she does. It helps her understand the consequences of her actions regarding work. It is simple- you don’t do your assigned work, you don’t get paid!

My daughter has realized the concept that minimal work will earn her minimal resources. Also, it is very appeasing to see how my little darling learns to budget her finances, while also gaining a sense of appreciation for how much things cost. This system works perfectly in our household. Parents do need to teach their kids the importance of financial responsibility and that money needs to be earned, rather than it being a weekly affair.”

No, I do not pay my kids for house chores-

“We have always maintained in our house that the whole family is a single entity- we work as a team. Nobody throws a buck if my husband or I lay the table or clear the trash, then why should the kids be paid for the same? At the end of the day, all members in the family should be treated equal and therefore, disparity in house chores is also a no-no! (obviously, there are some chores which are age-bound). Children should be cognizant of the fact that money is never the driving force to help the family. I always tell them that the whole family contributes and works together- not because we are being paid, but because it’s part of being a family.

However, both our boys do receive a monthly allowance, but it is not contingent on chores. We have set a fixed monthly amount based on their age, and they get it on the first day of every month. Now, it is for them to decide- whether they want to spend or save it (if yes, then how much), but if they decide to spend the whole money on the first day, they do not get it for the remaining 29 days. This gives them a sense of managing their allowance so that it at least takes them through to the start of next month.”

My Take-

There is nothing as right or wrong; whatever system you decide to adopt in your household, it is important to remember that the whole idea of parenting is to prepare our kids for the “real world”, to teach them that money needs to be earned. It is important for them to realize that every desire cannot be fulfilled instantly and also, that the feeling of giving to those in need is very satisfying. In reality, one is not paid for cleaning the cat’s litter or filling the water bottles. On the contrary, they will be paid for their skill sets- management skills, salesman skills or handyman skills.

Therefore, kids should acknowledge and respect the fact that they are part of the family and simple household chores need to be done by all. So, tasks like making the bed, clearing the toys in the room, or cleaning the dishes should not be accounted for.

However, it is perfectly fine to pay children for tasks that require more effort/time. One could prepare a list of ‘mutually agreed tasks’ that will be compensated if done and stick it in a common area. The list might include tasks like mowing the garden, washing the windows, or babysitting. For smaller kids, you can make it more fun by collecting stars for all the good-work done and evaluating the total stars at the end of the week. The child can chose to monetize the stars in return of a toy/ treat or can collect more for a bigger gift.

There are five pillars to incredulous money management skills: Basic maths (to count your money), saving (benefits of delayed gratification), budgeting (admeasuring your money for different purposes), accounting (to keep of track of your money) and goal-setting (for special targets). There is no harm in awarding children with allowances, as long as the intent is to teach them how to handle money responsibly. The way your children got the money is not important; that will not make them money smart, but how they handle their money when they have it with them, is what matters.

Age-appropriate discussions with your children about household finances will also increase such skills. Times are gone when money-talk with kids was optional. Curiosities around family finances were either diverted or were answered in a manner so that the kids lost interest. In today’s era, when teenagers are deciding their colleges or study loan, the need to have conversations revolving around money, matters. As parents, this is the best act of protection and parental guidance that we can commit to our children so that when time comes, they are well equipped to handle and henceforth take worthy decisions.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Barbie Effect- if looks could KILL



"Mom, I don’t have a Barbie pink skin tone. Am I not pretty?"

It was alarming. My daughter is 'fairly fair’, even though I have more of an Asian brown hue. While we have never discussed anything even remotely related to skin tones, it looked like the subject of colourism had finally found its way into the mother-daughter conversation.

Given that I have always maintained that all colours are beautiful, I had to gauge where this was coming from! When I further broached the topic with her, I learnt that Barbie was her role model - the way this doll styled, groomed, looked like and the things she possessed - basically, anything and everything Barbie did was therefore bound to be 'perfect' in my child’s mind. I realized that I had to urgently talk her out of this, before her tiny brain got muddled with such social discriminations.

I explained to her that it was of far greater importance to be a nice person, than to look like a Barbie. I also pointed out that the women she loved dearly (her younger sister, her best friend, me) were also all of different skin tones, and questioned her whether she would ever compromise on those relations because they were not 'pink'? "Absolutely Not!", she said, deliberated for a moment, probably evaluating in her little mind whether I made sense, and then to my satisfaction, left the doll beside me and ran away.

However, after this little banter, I ended up mulling over my own childhood, when my parents also used to – probably unwittingly – impress upon me the fact that I was dark complexioned. I was not allowed to play in the sun, my mother diligently used to make different face packs for me, and my clothes were shopped to suit my skin tone. Somewhere down the line, I even became extremely conscious and started having self-deprecating doubts about my beauty. So much so, that I sadly grew less apprehensive to phrases like "you're pretty, only if you were a bit lighter, you would have rocked". As if such statements would possibly mellow down their intra-racial bigotry!

Thankfully, I never had a Barbie or it could have been worse! As I grew up, my friends, my peers and later my husband, also instilled in me the confidence that these things didn’t really matter.

All that said however, the fact remains that our society has promoted the concept of colourism in a multitude of ways, for almost an antebellum period of time. And the negative emotional impact of it has been such that it is no more an issue or a problem, but has become a disease.

What is colourism?

Colourism, or skin tone stratification, as it is often referred to, is arguably a remnant of slavery. It is a result of 'pigmentocracy' – discrimination of wealth and social status on the basis of skin colour. In the days of yore, preferential treatment was given to lighter skin while their darker counterparts were associated with poverty, backwardness and field work.

Colourism should however not be confused with racism. It is determined by multiple factors, including ancestry, even though skin colour is a contributing factor to differentiate racial features.

How is skin colour determined in babies?

As Maurice Cherry said, “skin colour is primarily determined by melanin presence, an inherited trait”. Of course, this can change over time because of environmental conditions such as exposure to sun or skin sensitivity. Another misconception stems from what possibly Adisa Nicholson suggested - that skin colour is determined by one gene, which can actually be misleading. Skin colour is in fact an example of polygenic inheritance, which implies that multiple genes collectively influence phenotypic expression of the trait. There are actually several different genes that regulate a variety of processes of melanin production. Therefore, there is no one gene that can determine skin colour, and even much less whether someone is a "black or white". 

Infact, a child’s complexion will be an intermediate combination of all the possible light skin colour genes of one parent and all the relatively darker skin colour genes of the other parent. Potency of the genes will further determine the variation in shade of several off-springs of one set of parents.

The Barbie effect

Approximately, a 3-11 years old girl owns at least 10 Barbies and spends hours pampering and dolling her with makeup and dresses. My two daughters, aged 6+ and 4, also have 7-8 Barbies. They colour her hair, straightening and curling them and at times, also enact and play as one themselves.

Barbie is a synonym of perfection! She has the perfect body, perfect skin, perfect hair and perfect life. Girls start associating these things with happiness and it then becomes a vicious cycle; one that leads to low self-esteem, health disorders and unjustifiable expenses. Even the somewhat unrelated eating dis-order pandemic of our modern world can be attributed to this social conditioning. It is estimated that about 8 million people in the United States alone suffer from it, of which 85-90% are females. Interestingly, 80% of these females are less than 20 years old and many of them have also accepted that they bought into this concept of a perfect skinny look at the age of 4-6 years, around the same time when these little girls get their first Barbie doll.

It pains me to read such data, to realize that our children are clawed into such frivolous issues, to know that our small girls and boys may not feel beautiful and confident because of their brownish hues. It angers me to see that skin bleaching products constitute a multi-billion dollar industry, that marketing of beauty products uses colour discrimination to sell itself – shamelessly screaming at us to transform into unrealistic versions of ourselves, further perpetuating our anxiety about our looks.

We urgently need to educate our younger generation (both boys and girls) about this detrimental impact of media and advertising in their formative years, so that they are no longer adversely influenced by such mis-directed messaging.

When I became a parent, I also realized soon enough that we have to lead by example. Children learn less by what we say and more from how we behave in front of them. Do remember that even without us realizing, our children’s eyes are always upon us. We are grooming them through our every word and action, every moment. Do often talk to your child, challenging the definition of 'beauty' that this society sub-consciously portrays during the impressionable age. But just as often and more, also appreciate not only the looks of people that you find attractive, but also glorify the beauty of their actions and behaviour. This will hopefully also instil a sense of self-appreciation and self-worth in your child. Demonstrate to your child, the greater importance of inner beauty over outer appearances, soul over skin, spirit over body.

I read this quote somewhere and I not only love it for its succinctness, but also because it so well summarizes my own ethos on the topic – "The colour of your skin is not a cross you bear. It is beautiful."


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Science behind Weight Loss

If flipping the calendar to a new year (or counting off another birthday) makes you anxious, stop fighting ‘Father Time’ and start working with him. You can add 20-plus great years to your life by making simple lifestyle changes. It is quite evident and proven that the lifespan of animals can be increased by reducing the calories by an average of 30-40%. Studies reveal the health benefits of exercising, including reducing the risk of dreadful diseases such as diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular diseases.


How does body break down fat

There is chemistry behind how exercising and dieting helps in burning fat. Our body needs energy to perform certain actions. If you are not eating, there is little insulin in blood. This results in demand of energy which must be fulfilled from internal stores of complex carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Glucose is the primary source of energy and some cells, such as brain cells can only derive energy from glucose.


The first line of defence is breaking down glycogen (or carbohydrates) into glucose, a process called glycogenolysis. Then, fats are broken down, into glycerol and fatty acids (lypolysis). Fatty acids can further be directly used to get energy, or can be converted into glucose again (gluconeogenesis).The rate at which you consume food (and store energy), and the rate at which you burn this energy determines your body weight. However, the number of fat cells only get smaller (their number remains the same), even when the body is breaking down fat.

Ways to get those calories moving-

Journaling:

This is the most powerful tool to a successful weight loss regime. Maintaining a diary where you write your daily food intake is a smart way to acknowledging your weight loss mission. Research shows that people who write down what they have eaten tend to exercise more. Popping in a doughnut or some fried chips sometimes becomes less enticing, once you know you have to write it down.

Yoga: The new age fitness mantra

Quite contradictory to what the above statement reflects, Yoga is an ancient Indian philosophy whose benefits are being re-discovered again. The principles of Yoga are timeless, holding true as much in today's time as it did centuries ago. The three main aspects of yoga, or “unite”, as it literally means, are:

1. Asanas or poses- The various yogic poses that give your body flexibility, strengthen muscles and eve reduce fat build-up.

2. Pranayama or breathing- Pranayama can be called the singular most important aspect of yoga, as they are means to purify the subtle energies flowing through the body.

3. Meditation- Mediation is a means to still the mind's restlessness- an invaluable tool in managing stress and anxiety.


Eat power foods

A daily handful of dark chocolate and almonds, plus fruits, vegetables, garlic, fish, and even a glass of wine can increase a woman’s life by 4.8 years (6.6 for men), according to research in the British Medical Journal. The foods are rich in antioxidants, anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, fibre, and other nutrients that can lower your heart disease risk by 76 percent. The age gains also come from a 22 percent drop in breast-cancer risk linked to consuming less fat and fewer calories as you eat more fruit, veggies, and whole grains, the WHI found.

Get frisky

Adds 3 to 8 years
Having sex two to three times a week can boost your longevity by halving your risk for heart disease and stroke. The trick: Intercourse burns about 200 calories- the same as running for 30 minutes. And it may lower your blood pressure (which offers a 2- to 3-year gain), help you sleep better, boost your immunity, and release heart-protective hormones. Oh, and if the sex is part of a happy marriage, census research shows you’ll get another 5 years.








More to explore-

http://www.scientificamerican.com/podcast/episode/eat-exercise-and-be-merry-08-11-24/
http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/eat-less-to-live-longer/
http://www.weightandwellness.com/resources/articles-and-videos/weight-management-metabolism/the-science-of-weight-loss-and-real-food/

Monday, July 13, 2015

Five tips on dealing with public toddler tantrums



Finding oneself in a full-blown tantrum, and in a public place, is the worst nightmare a parent often dreads. If you do have a howling child, don’t feel embarrassed though. Unlike what you may think, your child does not understand your humiliation and does not intend to embarrass you in public. You might get some dirty and judgemental looks, but do also keep in mind that the onlookers are either not yet a parent of a toddler or they themselves have gone through (and forgotten) the phase. Patience is a virtue. Your mantra in such situations is to stay calm. 

If you still haven’t witnessed one, you might be wondering what a tantrum is? Tantrum can be characterized as any volatile act of a kid, such as, a very animated and emotional outburst, often accompanied by a stubborn and unruly behaviour, and uncontrollable or shrill howling, and very often for unreasonable demands placed on the parent. 

Every child is bound to throw tantrums at some point, in her growing years. One may almost call it a prerequisite. However, there are some ways which will help you lower down the frequency of such mortifying episodes.


1. Set expectations - Setting ground rules is the key. If you are heading for a long day, either for shopping or for socialising, doing a prep talk before the trip goes a long way. Explain to her the reason for the excursion. Knowing the ‘things’ on which you may be cornered and being prepared with a diffuser in mind, will not only result in a happy child but also a much happier you.


2. Handle it before it hits - If you are a smart parent, you will grab the ball before it hits the post. Try to keep a tab on the reasons why the child gets cranky. More often than not, frustration is the main factor for the start of any meltdown. Ensure that your packet of joy is well fed and rested before you start. Keep a few snacks and drinks in hand and offer them to her at frequent intervals.


3. Stand your ground - Always remember who the parent is! If you are clear in your mind as to what all things are non-negotiable, your conviction will actually be surprisingly contagious. Don’t get confused / frightened by an outburst and be then led into succumbing to unreasonable demands. Children, be it any age, do get ‘enlightened’ very easily about what tactics work and next time, they might come out with a better, modified version of their act.




4. Distraction - The task may appear difficult, but believe it or not, a child’s attention span is comparatively fleeting. Keep a bag full of goodies (preferably those that she may not have seen in a long time) and let her wander through the magic box. You might want to do a happy dance after successful distraction from the anticipated lobbying for a new toy.

5. Enough attention and encouragement - Be generous with what every child needs the most from a parent. Many a times, the reason behind a tantrum is nothing more than just trying to grab your undivided time and attention. A small whimper might blow into an unproportioned screaming only because you did not stop to hear her story and was busy trying to read through the cosmetic label instead. Timely encouragements and appreciation for as simple a task as keeping the teddy back in the aisle rack will encourage her to do more such actions. At the end of the day, everyone needs a pat for a good job done.


Regardless of all the frustration and weariness that ensues after a tiring day at work, never forget to give your toddler lots of hugs and appreciation. Also keep in mind that this phase too shall pass. As your child learns to better understand to tackle her emotions, she will also get much better and more expressive with her feelings.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Cuddles for Cancer


Cancer can mean different things to different people, depending on their experiences in dealing with the disease and how closely and personally have they seen their loved ones suffer on a day to day basis. What is however always common is that this is almost invariably a family struggle, and not just for the patient detected with cancer.


Cancer has become a dreaded word in today’s age and society. You talk to almost anyone, and they will also know of an acquaintance who would have gone through the harrowing experience of having either survived or, more often, succumbed to the disease.

While it can be heart-wrenching for anyone when the doctor declares the ‘c’ word, one can only imagine how much more numbing it can be when it involves children. Yes, kids do have cancer!

Check out a recent interview that I did with Purnota, the founder of CUDDLES FOUNDATION...