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New flavours in the kitchen

Are we going overboard when it comes to giving food choices to children?

Watch any channel on the television and you are likely to be bombarded with numerous food options for breakfast, lunch and dinner or even for after-school-hours snack time for children. These advertisements make you wonder if children have become fussy over the years or are we making them accustomed to new menus on the plate everyday.

Undoubtedly regular cooking has become more experimental and innovative than one could have imagined even a few years ago. Being a chef is cool and if you are a mom who can present innovative and fancy food frequently, it seems to up your cool quotient. Young children are getting used to a new cuisine every week. There are multiple options being showcased on television, food blogs, cookbooks, specialised classes in neighbourhoods and even available as key ingredients for menus on the shelves of supermarkets.

Walk to a supermarket and one is bound to be greeted with chocolate syrups to make milk more tastier to various forms of pastas, varieties of noodles to specialised cereals in mind-boggling flavours and not to forget series of special fruits and veggies that are sourced across shores to make a dish that none knew when we were young. But when the choices are overwhelming for someone who cooks regularly for families and for kids, is there a need to control how much we cook or is it time to enjoy the multitude of food options?

Says Nirguna Suresh, mom to two young daughters, “I have been brought up in a health-conscious environment by my parents and since the time I have become a mother, it has been like a natural action for me to give my kids a host of healthy options. I personally do not feel it is overdoing my activity as this suits my family perfectly fine. This does not mean that I buy instant foods or packaged foods. There is variety for my children even a noodle or pasta has wholesome nutritious accompaniments. Moreover when as parents we can afford variety, what is the need to hold back on the options we give to children?”

While there are moms who feel being experimental in cooking is a matter of choice, on the other hand there is a tendency towards instant food and dining out.

Marketers view children as emerging consumers. Pester power and a disposable income leads to culinary experiments.

Says Vidhya Ramasubramanian, a nutritionist and a mother of a five-year-old, “I have met a few mothers, who are quite obsessed with every meal having to be nutritious and they over feed their child. As long as you can balance out on how much to cook including buying special ingredients with your regular food, it is fine. Have a blend of food options including simple menus featured on your weekly menu list.”

For Smitha Anand Rao, a mother to two kids and an architect, “I have one child who is a picky eater and the other who is really casual about food like me. Generally, I keep my cooking priority simple and believe in presenting fresh food. However, I do allow for a few easy options in my kitchen, considering the practical constraints my life. It is after all about choices and I am clear on not being a super-mom.”

In the age of consumerism, perhaps it is on to the parents how one can present healthy choices and yet not forget that being simple and plain is fun and acceptable too, even when it comes to food.

An offer you can refuse

Beware of the reduced price shopping syndrome or you will end up with stuff you don’t really need

Have you noticed how you buy stuff you don’t really need thanks to sale and discount ads?

Welcome to the world of impulse shopping where gullible shoppers repeatedly fall for offers. Even supermarkets have discounts tied to specific days.

Preeti S, a homemaker says: “In the last two months, I have bought several things to revamp my wardrobe and ended up with a few unnecessary home décor items thanks to an offer.

Vishal Parashar, a college student says, “Peer pressure ensures that we buy clothes, shoes and mobile accessories often.

Sometimes I buy high-end branded clothing when it is on sale. I find everyone doing it.

Moreover it’s a nice feeling to be seen in good clothes.”

Vishal admits he spends a large percentage of his pocket money on clothes at these discounted stores and so needs to spend at least a fortnight every two months with practically no money to compensate his sudden expenditure.

Malls and branded stores are super accessible these days given that every locality has them, which also contributes to impulse buys.

However, the easiest way to deal with the lure of discounts would be to say no and move on.

A few tips for the next time you go shopping

? Carry a fixed amount of cash when you go to a mall rather than a card

? The next time you see a tempting offer, work out whether you really need to have that outfit or implement.

? Analyze your needs against your wants

? With plenty of options available, browse a few stores and online before taking the plunge.

? Try and postpone your decision for a few days and review whether you really need the purchase.

Published on September 9th 2014

Breakfast in speed up mode

With busy schedules dictating food habits, it seems that instant food mixes and batters are here to stay.

One cannot ignore the Deepika Padukone starrer commercial that talks about her two-week challenge for a slim waist for an upcoming wedding season, thanks to her choice of diet- a bowl of cereal. In the times of enormous marketing for global foods and breakfast options with breads, cereals and smoothies, we might have become diet conscious or ready to try an increased menu for variety, but we have not yet given up on traditional menus.

The time-constrained urban Indian consumer has started adopting quicker fixes for preparing traditional cuisines. Many urban Indians pick up a pack of ready-to-use batter meant to cook idlis or dosas when they are out shopping. It is not just instant idli or dosa batters that are making way to our kitchens.

Even traditional rice recipes that were earlier manually ground at home involving multiple ingredients have changed to instant rice recipes and masala powders available in convenient pouches. Convenience and non-fussy efforts in kitchens are bringing about a change in the traditional south Indian palatte.<

Ten years ago, it was not uncommon to find a heavy grinding stone in the kitchen or a bride using a traditional coconut scraper . Today with modern kitchen equipments, from food processors to easy-to-use swanky looking coconut scrapers, These items have started to become obsolete in urban areas. Ashwini Nath, a customer service executive says, “Nothing beats the convenience and variety of instant batter that can be churned anytime to make a good south Indian breakfast. There are days when I do end up making sandwiches for breakfast. The availability of read to use batters and breakfast mixes ensures that you can cook a nice meal in quick time.

”“When we were young, preparation of a meal involved a lot of time and effort. There were no distractions and it was an accepted practice for women to grind at home, pound the masalas and ensure that every meal is prepared . Today it is the time of instant results for everything in life, so how can cuisines be left out?,” quips Saraswathi Rao, a sixty year old home-maker.

Published in the Hindu Metro Plus, Bangalore on June 13th 2014-

Follow the paper trail

Spell it outIt is not just ink and paper but a whole lot of memoriesPhoto: T. Singaravelou

Spell it outIt is not just ink and paper but a whole lot of memories-Photo: T. Singaravelou

Authored by Reshma Krishnamurthy Sharma

Electronic reading devices or hard bound books—the jury is still out on this one

“Sonali, we are going to a library today”, says Harshini Bharadwaj, a mother to her seven-year-old, trying to induce some excitement into the planned outing for the evening. The young one looks a trifle irritated as she thinks momma is a bit outdated. There are stories to be read on gadgets like the iPad. And they are readily available to her thanks to her dad’s involvement in digital tools.

Apart from digital tools, there is always telly and kids are glued to it with Chhota Bheem and Ben10. So are there parents, trying to keep the tradition of reading from a book?

Ashish Verma, a graphic artist and a parent says: “When you hand out a digital device like a flashy smart phone to children even before they turn one, it is natural that they will be attracted to it and want to watch content rather than read it. Unless parents make conscious efforts right from the beginning to read from books, it is not going to appear exciting for the children.”

On the other hand, there are those who feel digital is the way forward, considering how much content is digitised these days.

And keeping children away from technology is not particularly helpful. To those, the argument is there is more to books than just a reading tool.

Varsha P says: “I have been a voracious reader since my teens. It’s an amazing feeling to be surrounded by books in a library or a bookstore or for that matter to hold on to a book in your hand. While I do encourage my daughter to use the laptop, I do not think books will cease to be anytime soon. Don’t we like to read a newspaper, watch a news clip on television, read a forward joke on the phone? So in my opinion children can read from new devices, but the charm of a book cannot be ignored and I do hope children and parents understand this point.”

According to Kavya Hegde, marketing manager of Just Books, a library chain, “Reading from a regular book and reading from a digital device can be complementary.

Both can co-exist, in fact over 60 per cent of our readers are mothers who want to introduce their child to the world of books end up taking a book themselves too. We feel there are a lot of parents who want to let their children cherish the reading experience from a hard-bound book.”

A recent comment by the former President, Abdul Kalam endorsed the view on reading from regular books when he said there should be a library in each house with a minimum of 10 books, to encourage children to read. He also urged parents to take steps to increase the collection every now and then. The verdict seems to indicate – get ready to embrace the digital form, but do not ignore the traditional form of storytelling or reading.

Reading from a regular book and reading from a digital device can be complementary. Both can co-exist

Published in the Hindu Metro Plus on July 2nd 2014.

Yogurt recipes

So many optionsMaybe a smoothie…?

Curd is one of those must-haves in Indian kitchens. You can whip it into a thick lassi or a fruit smoothie or even make the traditional buttermilk or majjige as a quick trick to beat the heat. Here are three curd based recipes



Fresh curd: 1 to 2 cups

Sugar: 5 to 7 teaspoons

Water: Half cup

Cold milk: 1 cup

Cardamom powder: One fourth tea spoon

Almonds: 5-7 sliced

A pinch of saffron strands (for garnishing)


Pour curd, water, milk, cardamom powder and sugar in a blender and make it into a smooth liquid for about 20 to 30 seconds. Do not go overboard as you may get butter floating which is not required.

Serve lassi in tall glasses

Add saffron strands for garnishing. You can also add a few sliced almonds as an option for garnishing.

Note-Lassi can be made thicker by increasing the quantity of curd and sugar.



Chopped bananas: 1 cup

Chopped apples (peeled): 1 cup

Fresh curd: 1 cup (Most smoothies are made from yogurt. Curd can be used if yogurt is not readily available).

Milk/ water: half cup

Sugar: three tea spoons

Ice cubes two to five (optional) for garnishing effect or while blending the entire mixture.


Add all ingredients in a blender and blend till the mixture is smooth and frothy.

Pour the smoothie in glasses and serve immediately.

Garnish the glass with a slice of apple.




Curd: 1to 2 cups

Water: 4 cups

Salt: as required

A few lemon drops (optional)

To grind

Green chillies: 2

Chopped/ grated ginger: Half tea spoon


Oil: 1 tea spoon

Mustard seeds: half tea spoon

Curry leaves: half tea spoon

Asafoetida: a pinch


In a bowl add curd, water, salt and whisk the curd using a hand held whisk until you get a diluted liquid. Grind chillies, ginger and curry leaves and add to the buttermilk.

Dilute the buttermilk with water and lemon drops according to your desired taste and consistency.

In a pan, pour oil, add mustard seeds, asafoetida and a few curry leaves. Add this to the buttermilk.

You can strain the mixture if you desire.

Garnish the buttermilk with a few coriander leaves. Refrigerate for one to two hours for the flavours to blend well.

Serve in tall steel glasses or in small earthen tumblers for the authentic desi look to the drink.

In case you want to reduce the spicy flavour to give it to children, avoid chillies.

Bottoms up

Here are a few tips to get children to drink more water


After every snack, give the child water to drink. Photo: K. Ramesh Babu

There are several mums who complain about their children not eating enough fruits and veggies. And then there are children who do not like to drink water, which is not such a good thing.

Sreemathy Venkatraman, a clinical dietician and nutritionist says: “The main reason for this is that children have not been habituated to drink more water. Children prefer aerated drinks but these drinks have loads of sugar and sometimes caffeine too.”

Sreemathy suggests giving children water stored in mud pots as it is flavourful and cool. Dr. Prakash Vemgal, consultant paediatrician says, “Educating children on the benefits of drinking water results in better consumption.

There is also a cultural shift in the society’s preference to juices and sugar loaded drinks which need to be minimized. One can try simple techniques like offering filtered rather than boiled water. Keep a chart of the daily water intake and try to increase it by being an example yourself.

After every snack, give the child water to drink.” Here are some more ways to get your child to drink more water

Cartoon cups

Most moms probably are trying this already. A cup or a sipper that has your child’s favourite cartoon character on it might just make water a little more attractive.

Accessibility matters

Ensure you place a mug of water with a bottle or a glass with water somewhere where your child can reach easily. Every time he finishes it, be prompt to refill the glass and remind him to have another glass in an hour’s time.

Limit the options

Don’t stock beverages like colas or sweetened drinks at home. Even if you want to offer sweetened beverages once in a while, try and dilute the liquid with parts of water.

Read a story

Find a story that features a story of a character like ‘Potter the otter-A tale about water’. Or create a short, colourful self-made storybook that has a character who is healthy and wise as he has lots of water.

Be an example

Children learn by seeing adult behaviour. Make sure you have water at regular intervals and encourage the child to do so with you.

Make a game

Children of four and above can have a game of pouring water from a small pitcher to small glasses or paper cups and set a target of finishing at least five cups in one day.

If getting your child to drink more water is still a daunting task, then increase their fluid intake with fruit juices without sugar, tender coconut, soups, seasonal fruits like watermelons and muskmelons and beverages like buttermilk or nimbu paani.

Working at a good time


TRENDS Office spaces have morphed from dull and boring to cool and funky

Work environments today are very different from the dull, dreary grey spaces of yore. Today’s offices speak a different language. They are going all out to provide things to keep the workforce engaged. Amenities such as great cuisine and ambience, gyms and more are all contributing to the fun quotient at work.

Some companies even mention the cool stuff they have on their websites. Intel Bangalore has massage chairs and a shoe shine service apart from many recreational facilities. Smriti Goel, HR Manager, Intel South Asia says: “There is life beyond work. Companies need to recognize this fact and keep its employees happy to get the best out of them.”

Year-end company bashes, music performances by celebrity singers, reality and comedy shows are popular with young people. Apart from entertainment options, organisations invest in well-designed swimming pools, gyms, lounges and cafeterias as well.

Cisco’s Bangalore office has a lot of facilities for its employees. There are game rooms with a snooker zone and a music room with different sections for western and Indian music as well as Karaoke facilities. There is even a box office area where employees can watch films of their choice or use the space to put up performances. The relaxation lounges with recliners and massage chairs is ideal for some rest and rejuvenation.

Shwetha M., working as an analyst with a FMCG company says, “As I spend most of my time either commuting or in office, I expect my organization to keep me happy apart from the monetary terms. Emotional well-being is a great reason for me to be in an organization and fun activities at work or recreational facilities keep me energised.”

Vibrant environments, bright colours and lively interiors are intended to add to the happiness quotient. And thanks to some of these initiatives, coming to work is not such a chore.

The answers might be out there

Trends Bringing up children is not rocket science. However given the all-knowing Internet is just a click away, parents are checking online resources for answers and reassurance, writes RESHMA KRISHNAMURTHY SHARMA

Keep it simpleWith some help from family, friends and the netPhoto: Sandeep saxena

Until a few years ago, parenting was considered a natural progression of motherhood. Parents, didn’t have to look too far for advice about how to bring up their children—as it was readily available from parents and friendly-neighbourhood aunties.

However, now with nuclear families becoming the norm rather than exception, parents are increasingly relying on advice online or from books. Mums-to-be go on an overdrive to gather information as soon as they get to know they are pregnant. This continues into the parenting phase as well where it is shared with fathers too.

Parents have a host of options from books, videos and websites provide information for the initial years of parenting, and information-hungry parents are waiting to devour it. If these are not enough, there are parenting workshops conducted by pre-schools and maternity hospitals. So has parenting become tougher over the years?

Says Swati Popat Vats, a parenting expert and head of a pre-school chain, “Parenting has changed in the last few years. There are many reasons including nuclear families, working moms and single-parent families.People require support in their day-to-day parenting decisions. Thanks to the internet, parents are on facebook, google and other websites. Conflicting advice leads to a lot of confusion. Parents need to be guided on guilt-free and instinctive parenting. Not to forget, earlier a dedicated member of the family was focused on bringing up the children whereas today parenting is a part of the many duties that parents perform.”

Grandparents are not completely ruled out of the proceedings. Says Lavanya Raghuram, a HR professional and mother of an eight-year-old Puja, “There are enough issues to be tackled right from toddler age to pre-teens and way beyond regarding children. Once in a while, I go to a websites or internet forums and talk to friends or colleagues who have children of a similar age. My parents are just a phone call away and I take their advice occasionally as they do not belong to this generation.”

Rashmi Patel, an entrepreneur and a mom of a two-year-old begs to differ. “I think parenting is a personal discovery for every individual. Though I have read a lot of pregnancy books, I go by instinct on handling every-day issues with my child.”

Swati says: “Materialistic parenting is a growing trend across the country in urban sectors. Many parents think they can substitute their time and attention with toys and gifts. Also incorrect lifestyle habits, too much focus on keeping the child busy and lack of physical exercise is adding to the burden. Earlier children had it much easier as they had references of uniform standards and practices. Today, with parents raising children in multiple value-based environments; it is making things difficult for children to conform to a particular lifestyle or habit.”

Psychiatrist Dr. Yesheswini Kamaraju says, “Children today are exposed to a great deal more of technology. Parents need to be in tune with this as well. Unlike the earlier authoritative style, today the focus is on communication, regardless of the age of the child. Parents, can go by inherent parenting rules unless an issue comes up where a reference is required and there are enough available.” Parenting has undergone tremendous changes. But change is about progress and the sooner one adapts to the changes, the better it is for all concerned.

The article has appeared in the Hindu Metro Plus in Bangalore edition on June 11th 2013 . Link to the original write-up is here-



On the food path

Trends Food has become an all encompassing presence, television and otherwise. Kids to parents, everyone’s plunged into cooking, finds RESHMA KRISHNAMURTHY SHARMA

Eyes on the jobStarting youngPhoto: R. Ravindran

From being a hobby to a profession and even an obsession for some, cooking is finding many takers in recent times for varied reasons. Adding to the popularity is the rise in cookery shows on television; hosted by people who make the experience look super cool with ample seasonings of humour, exotic locales and ingredients.

Some of these shows are hosted by well-known personalities and noted celebrities to add the glamour quotient. Even game contests have entered this domain where reality shows like theMasterChef series are making the young and the adults experiment with food.

Food has always been an important part of our lives and while there are enough dine-out opportunities or ready to eat fast-food joints, those who really love food feel nothing is more satisfying than trying a dish in one’s kitchen.

Says Manish Gaur, Director of Training at Institute of Baking & Cake Art: “Kitchens have turned out to be innovative spaces that have received a huge makeover in the last few years. Undoubtedly, shows like MasterChef have encouraged aspiring youngsters and homemakers to love and experiment with food. We have a short term course of three days that is very popular with the young between eight and 15 years of age, and this year we do have a lot of queries for it.”

Varun Satish, all of nine years says, “Cooking is a very satisfying feeling. I am in a happy state when I create a good dish.” An avid watcher of all the cookery shows on TV, he says he likes trying out Chinese and Italian cuisines. His dad, Satish, says though Varun aspires to be an engineer, given the time he spends in kitchens he might turn to be an excellent chef.

With traditional stereotype gender roles getting equalised in urban societies, cooking is no longer only a woman’s domain. It is becoming a life skill that is encouraged by parents. Summer camps offer cooking classes as well as cooking without fire. These camps have parents cooking with their children with mom and child days being very popular.

Globalisation, exposure to recipes on internet and TV, availability of a range of cook books and travel has made everyone interested in a variety of cuisines. With the kitchens turning into the centre of activity, the space is no longer dark and dinghy. Rather with modern, time saving gadgets and a bright, airy feel, the kitchen has been reinstated as the heart of the home. Shruti Singhal who is planning to start an exclusive cooking club for the young sums up saying, “Cooking creates a happy state of mind. Awareness on this subject through various mediums, has got young people interested in it. In a health conscious society, good food and a variety of tastes is appealing. If it is in one’s hands to create something good and wholesome, it is a win-win situation.”

The article was published in the Hindu Metro Plus on April 9th 2013.

On the airwaves for change

Radio ga gaShamantha and her team of RJs

People Sarathi Jhalak, a community radio station in rural Bangalore, is seeing a steady increase in its listener base. Shamantha D.S., who started the station, walks RESHMA KRISHNAMURTHY SHARMA through the success story

It’s hard not to get affected by Shamantha D.S’s exuberance. Sarathi Jhalak, a community radio station in rural Bangalore at Anugondanahalli, in Hoskote taluk has seen a steady increase in its listener’s base since last August, thanks to Shamantha’s efforts.

Unlike the skyscraper views of most radio stations in Bangalore or the hi-tech ambience, Sarathi Jhalak which is aired on 90.4 FM has a view of tomato fields and cabbage gardens and a bare look room with basic equipment.

Simplicity seems to be the main reason for the station’s rising popularity. The listeners from the villages nearby want content that talks their language and highlight issues that affect them. Doing the balancing act between being a regular station and a community radio station has been a challenge for Sarathi Jhalak.

What was started as an all-woman station is now also employing men as RJs, for program supervision and content programming. Ranging from programs that target the student community and women,, the RJ’s of 90.4 FM say their chosen part-time career has been an eye-opener for everyone.

“On an average we are on air for about 16 hours a day from Monday to Saturday with Kannada anchoring and songs of folk to classical music and film songs from Kannada, Telugu and Hindi films to cater to this region’s audience tastes,” says Shamantha.

The dynamic young woman has been into radio journalism as well as other streams of media careers says starting the radio station through her NGO, Sarathi has been the high point of her career. Shamantha is excited and believes the community radio station has the potential to make a difference in the lives of people in Anugondanahalli and nearby areas. The RJs of Sarathi Jhalak come from very varied backgrounds. They all hail from Anugondanahalli and continue with their day jobs of beautician, driver and counsellor at a hospital. They allocate a few hours to radio out of passion, admitting they had not expected such a response that has turned them into mini celebrities!

Shamantha admits it has not been easy. “I am thankful to government agencies such as BSNL, BESCOM and BECIL who supported us with technical know-how for a radio station including telephone lines and assisted us with relevant technical knowledge to run the station smoothly.

Of course we were all very anxious for the first month as we didn’t know whether we had plunged into the right thing. Today we are happy we are part of a radio station that many villages have made their companion.” She adds that her radio experience at AIR and guidance by key people from AIR has helped her set up the station.

When asked about taking a backseat after being in the forefront as a RJ, and filmmaker, Shamantha demands, “Isn’t seeing a team running a station a greater responsibility? I do go on air sometimes but I feel happy when I see my RJs who were novices and have now turned out to be polished professionals. The listeners’ response in the form of text messages (250 in two hours) and hordes of letters is proof of the adulation we receive.”

After a pause she adds, “Once a boy was lost and we were able to reunite him with his parents within a few hours thanks to the alertness of another listener and our phone lines being open. It is incidents like this or our program Manasina Mathu where youngsters talk of their worries and concerns on air and that make us realize that it’s not only urbanites who are stressed out.”

Shamantha reserves her visits to the station to once or twice a week and has handed the day-to-day management to the RJs and program director. Shamantha who is continuing to dabble in filmmaking and developmental journalism sums up saying, “Sarathi Jhalak has offered insights on the needs of villagers. For instance the need for old age homes in villages, as most youngsters are in cities on work. Issues like this can be addressed and their needs can be taken care of by organisations. We have a long way to go to extendour reach. We are now able to reach only nearby villages and we are hoping our radio reaches more listeners. Finally, along with regular entertainment programs, if we are able to address the needs of the rural folk, that would be Sarathi’s biggest achievement.”

The article was published in the Hindu Metro Plus on April 30th 2013.