Best TV Advert in Ages

Recently, I witnessed the best TV advert I’ve seen in a long while. Unfortunately, despite several online searches to locate the ad., I’ve failed to find a link. (If I ever manage to find it I’ll reissue this post. And if you find it, please pass it my way.).

Nevertheless, the reason I’m posting a quickie on the subject of an advert is because it promotes – in brilliant visuals that cut right to the heart of the issue – the plight of people who find themselves outside the mainstream of sexual and gender identities (and yes that is a whole lot more people than “the only gay in the village” of the Little Britain British TV series…).

Even though the TV was on mute, the ad. grabbed my attention on a shuffle through the living room. My first reaction was that it was promoting an upcoming movie, but what got me curious was the less-flashy editing; lingering shots, various inter-related storylines, moments of painful naivety and poignancy held on screen for full impact. The ad. was a tender yet gut-punch portrayal of the ongoing awfulness that transgendered people face very day, all highlighted in clear and cogent visuals.

Overall the ad. had a positive message. The ending shot included a face composed of vertical slices of four transgender-identified people with the slogan “I am Transgender. I am Human” and looked to be advertising an Indian counselling service for transgender-identifying people.

About fucking time! Still, the ad. moved me for both the suffering and beauty shown in the ad.

I applaud the advert makers, the counselling service, the Indian government for funding, and the actors for sharing those stories and visuals. Because we all need to remember that freedom of honest self-expression allows us all to be free, creative, whole – individually and as a compassionate, caring, successful society.

💕 💙  Love, compassion, kindness 💜 for people of all shades, shapes and colours of being as we each seek our own paths through the sometimes awesome, sometimes crazed maze of life 💛 💚

LGBTQ FlagTransgender Flag

Image credits:
Transgender Symbol
LGBTQ FlagBy Guanaco and subsequent editors – SVG source (version of 17:56, 30 Sep 2011), Public Domain,
Transgender FlagThe Transgender Pride flag was created by American trans woman Monica Helms in 1999

Final Panchakarma Update – and on to other things…

Bugger! Damn! That coffee thing? A big fat no-no. Noooooooo!!! 😱 😞

As you know, at times through the #Panchakarma programme aspects of it were a bit fraught, the most significant of which was the whole diet/what-the-hell-to-eat thing. I had hoped for (in truth expected) clear, unambiguous dietary guidance from the professional, in this case Dr A. Despite our attempts to gain that guidance, both me and my #Panchakarma Comrade never got the clarity we wanted.

That said, for various reasons I’m glad I did my treatment with Dr A, but she was not my first choice. My first choice was another female doctor (I’ll call her Dr M-Taj). Back in 2013 (when I foolishly thought I could train-up for a 100km charity walk) I’d had a couple of leg massages from her. She’d been calm, thorough and communicative and I’d liked her, so it was she I was searching for this January. Although I didn’t find her, but Dr A instead, such is the magic of things I shan’t knock that outcome.

Nevertheless, a few weeks ago, just after having a rare opportunity for a one-to-one chat with #Panchakarma Comrade over a fresh carrot juice each (which we later discovered are not allowed during a panchakarma programme – grrrr!) I happened to see a sign for Dr M-Taj’s clinic and her local Ayurvedic retreat centre. WTF! Not only had I discovered her hoarding, worse still that sign was on a short and narrow lane I go up and down at least once a week. Bugger! Blast! Fiddlesticks!!

(In my defence – of being blind to her sign up until that point – there’s a lot going on along that street; Kashmiri-run shops selling jewellery, silk scarves, signing bowls, rugs, knick-knacks and various other trinkets, with tunics, dresses and trousers fluttering from awnings and roadside clothes rails; on entering the lane on the right is one of my regular grocery stops – so that’s a wave and a “hello” as I pass; on the left is the milking station with a gathering of cows each afternoon; there are also a couple of restaurants and a small temple off to the right with a large billboard out front. All in, I tend to let the scenery wash over me as I pass up and down. Also, a lot of folk along that lane are eager for business and as I don’t want to give false hope I tend not to make much eye-contact but rather just plough straight ahead on my bicycle or the back of Mr D’s motorbike. And yet another thing in my defence – coz, you know, I’m kind of feeling shamefaced at not noticing earlier – Dr M-Taj’s sign is not at eye-level and is tucked in next to one of those awnings strewn with tunics and tops of various colours. Which just goes to show, don’t it, that even in such a pedestrian location there can be all sorts of new things to notice – if you go slow enough of course. OK, my protestations for being a numbskull over.)

So because I was, and still am, keen to get a handle on the diet aspect of my health I figured a consultation with Dr M-Taj would be a good idea. After a bit of faffing with timings and whatnot, finally on a baking hot 7 March Mr D and I motored over to her retreat – a few kilometres west of town. The Ashok Tree is a lovely ashram setting that serves as both an Ayurvedic treatment centre (residential or non-residential) and a retreat centre. On site there are two, three-storeyed guest houses, a large yoga/meditation hall, a dining area serving scrumptious food, and a building housing the doctor’s clinical area. Also on the ashram land is a small nursery school run as a charity for the local community. A wonderful serene atmosphere and probably a great place to undergo a residential #Panchakarma programme. Maybe next time!

In the meantime, however, I had a nutritional consultation with Dr M-Taj and got the low-down on the kind of approach to take on a new and improved regular diet. As Dr M-Taj pointed out, maintaining a good diet post-treatment is vital to ensure the detox benefits keep on rolling. Which is the point, no? Make sure I don’t lapse back into bad habits – like that bloody coffee thing.

Here’s a bit of what she told me:
Coffee – big fat no. Toxic. Poisons the plasma. Bungs up the joints. Crap! Double crap. I still love my coffee…..!!! 😱
White flour and anything made with it – another big fat no. Basically our intestines get bunged up with the stuff and the build up gets harder and harder to shift (or is that shit?!).
Garlic and onions – not recommended because they create extreme reactions in the body (I’m going to investigate that a bit further – it’s tough eating out and avoiding them).
Mushrooms – avoid. Can be toxic in the body. Quite frankly, again, fuck! I eat a lot of mushrooms. Especially here in India where the limited variety of veg can be frustrating. And I always thought mushrooms were a good source of vegetable protein. Bang goes that idea then 😞
– Other than that, stick to the usual criteria – fresh, whole, unprocessed, or rather lightly-processed foods.
– She also mentioned the macro & micro aspects of diet: macro is the carbs, protein and fat that are essential for survival – wholegrains, pulses & lentils (non-veg can be chicken or fish), good oils; micro is the good but less essential requirements of vegetables and fruit.
– Generally aim for a tridoshic balance with food – that means incorporating food combinations and cooking styles to satisfy all three dosha. For example, bananas apparently are mucous-forming. To balance that out eat with salt and pepper. Sounds disgusting no? Actually it’s not a bad combo with an added dash of lemon juice and sprinkle of cinnamon. And no mucous to boot!
– Dr M-Taj also recommended a Vitamin C fruit-and-juice fast one day a week (which I’ve not tried yet as I’ve been crazy busy since I saw her.)
– A new thing on the menu and which I’ve only tried once is kitchari. I’d already discovered that kitchari is not the same as kedgeree – which in the UK is a dish of rice, peas and smoked kippers but which I think comes from the original kitchari of rice, dal, veg and various health-boosting spices with lots of water all cooked in the one pot. Apparently kitchari is a good all-round Ayurvedic dish because it hits all the dosha requirements whilst also being easy to digest and, rightly so, is classed as comfort food. Mmmmmm.

#Panchakarma Comrade also went to visit Dr M-Taj for the very same reason. We’ve since had a chance to compare notes – and commiserate!

Speaking of #Panchakarma Comrade. Just before our respective visits to Dr M-Taj she came to my house for a visit. The first non-Indian visitor for Mr D and me. We had afternoon tea that was in fact good coffee (made by yours truly) and a couple of chapati. Yep, those chapatis are definitely a firm feature of my food intake these days. It was great fun giving #Panchakarma Comrade a tour of my Indian home and letting her sample my chapatis. And of course, as all good guests do, she was gracious with her comments on all she saw and tasted 😉

Living Room

The Bijou Pad – Tiruvannamalai, India

Because #Panchakarma Comrade had been finding the increasing heat of Tiru too much she decided to head north. As I write she is ensconced in a sweet-looking hotel room, with very necessary heater, wrapped in all her clothes and enjoying tea at its source. She’s in Darjeeling! Definitely a contrast with here. Anyways, as she was starting out her journey north by taking a taxi to Chennai I hitched a lift.

The Monday night just gone #Panchakarma Comrade and I had fun in Chennai shopping and eating. The following day, after breakfast and before I got to the reason for being in Chennai – a flying visit to see a friend – I walked from the hotel to the beach. Just wanted a glimpse and sniff of ocean air. After a twenty-five minute trot fending off several offers from auto-rickshaw drivers (and not just for the fare, two wanted to chat as they puttered alongside my pavement-pounding), I got beachside. Right next to a striding Gandhi replete with a crow on his crown.

Gandhi & Crow

Gandhi, replete with crow on crown – Marina Beach, Chennai, India

Marina Beach in Chennai is not only one of the longest beaches in the world, it’s also wide. I had to do that slushy, swivelling, mushy excuse for a walk across sand littered with debris and bits of broken glass to get to the ocean’s edge, but it was worth it. I sniffed salty air, my tootsies got an ocean soaking, and I got to view the familiar location of many a Tamil movie scene.

Ocean-Soaked Feet

Ocean-soaked feet – Bay of Bengal, Chennai, India


2017.03.20 - Marina Beach boats

Marina Beach, Chennai, India – oft-used setting for Tamil Movies

On the walk back I felt buoyed by all those ocean ions and also got the chance to make a quick stop at the local Waitrose. Yes! A Waitrose in Chennai!! Who’d have thought? (Unfortunately it was a banal and sad excuse for our UK version.)

Chennai Waitrose

Waitrose Supermarket, Mylapore, Chennai, India

Then at noon I met with the lovely woman who runs the Chennai Writers’ Circle and hosts a year-long short-story writing challenge which I did last year (anyone interested, let me know and I’ll pass on her details – highly recommend doing it if you’re into writing short stories). I’ve been wanting to meet up with her since last April! Bonkers!! Finally made it. We mooched around a bookshop together where she gave me great recommendations and then we had lunch. I saw a new part of Chennai and also got to meet her mum. Following a full day it was time for my return to Tiru on one of the least reassuring types of vehicles – a state-run bus. Last year we passed a bus that looked as though it had nose-dived into the road from the overhead bridge – the front axle must have snapped because the front wheels were behind the bus and looking like a pair of lost sheep wondering where the rest of the herd was. I have never, ever, not in all the years I’ve been travelling to and visiting India, seen a state-run bus that was anything other than a mess – dirty, dusty, rusty (really fucking rusty), cranky, noisy. God knows when they last put any new buses on the road. That said, mission to see my mate? Accomplished. Woohoo!! 🎉 🎉

Now back in Tiru I’m mildly depressed at the thought I’ve only three weeks left before I return to Chennai for a flight back to Britain. And that means I’ve got shit-loads to do, one of which is to do a spot of job-hunting. There is other news too, but I won’t be sharing that publicly just yet.

With just over two weeks since the #Panchakarma programme finished, what can I usefully report?
😞  The hair-fall is still a concerning issue.
😞  My flesh is not as firm as it was during the early part of the programme.
😞  For the first 10 days after the end of the programme I was constipated, but I’m not surprised. After 21 consecutive enemas acting like a hand snaking up my arse and grabbing a handful, I’m guessing my body needed time to readjust. Along with the lack of enemas is the fact the temperature has gone up which probably means my skin is doing the bulk of the waste elimination now (and yes, I am drinking bucket-loads of water…!). In the end it took up until I got back from Chennai this week for my daily motions to return to normal!!
😍  But – and this is the important bit – the awful, daily, energy-robbing, life-draining, dull-but-definite discomfort in my lower abdomen has gone. And that’s crucial. That’s what I needed. That was what was killing me – incredibly slowly, but very definitely squeezing the life out of my life. Every aspect of me was affected and afflicted. I feel freer in my body and in my mind, in my emotions and even in my personality.

So after all the labours of undergoing a #Panchakarma programme I endorse the process. Even though there were elements that needed to be handled more professionally and with better communication, I’ve come out the other side with the key health issue addressed. And I’m really fucking grateful. If I hadn’t taken the course, me and my life would have continued to be fucked. I’d have been dragging myself through endless days of failure upon failure, grudge upon drudge, disappointment upon dismay. The failure is still there, but at least I’ve got some energy to face and deal with what comes. As the slogan on one of my T-shirts says, “I’ve worked too hard to quit now.” You’ll have gathered by now I enjoy a proper bit of profanity, so I shall rephrase that to “I’ve worked too goddamn fucking hard to quit!”

Got #Panchakarma questions? Fire away. I’ll give answers from a novice perspective, answers that can help you ask a professional the better questions. Otherwise, knock yourself out – detox, clean out, find something that works for you, make it healthy.

White Flower Burst

And so it goes. And so goes love.
Health and Peace out beautiful people, wherever you are 😍  💚 😍

Flying Cats and Naked Neighbours

So, this morning I’ve had flying cats and the Naked Neighbour faffing with his hose.

Ever since we moved into this house we’ve had feline visitors. The first came as a young adult begging for some of the supper Mr D had just delivered to me from the nearest night-time fast food restaurant (fast food in south India means parotta or dosa with accompanying chutneys and what-not). Now and again the cat would come and we’d feed her our leftovers or some milk and biscuits (coz back then I always had biscuits in the house :-o). Then a couple of years ago she got knocked-up and came to see us more often, along with her three kittens when they were old enough. Likewise when she got knocked up again last year she spent a lot of her pregnancy on our porch. Unlike the first litter though, where I think only one kitten survived, this year all four of her kittens are doing well and are also frequent visitors. Unfortunately Mum cat has given up visiting us; the last few times she did she was always hissing at her kids; probably miffed she’d introduced them so now unable to enjoy our porch and hospitality in peace. But she’s a smart cat, I’m sure she’s found other benefactors. The other reason this last litter is doing so well is down to the Naked Neighbour (but I’ll come back to him in a moment).

Anyways, that flying cat thing, which might be the first kitten that’s now a full-grown tom, brutish and terrorising the kittens. A few nights ago one of the littlest girl kittens (I call her Barbie) was in her favourite spot on the windowsill by the kitchen. I was doing last things before bed when I heard a strange whooshing noise. I went outside to investigate. Big tom cat had Barbie cornered. I gave chase – me shuffling, cat galloping. When I got back to the porch Barbie was cowering by the front door. About to coax her away I smelt the distinct aroma of fresh pooh. She’d been so terrified that her bowels and bladder had both evacuated on the windowsill. Poor girl. She even stayed close as I shovelled the shit away and sloshed the sill and wall down. She desperately wanted to stay with me and I had a hard time encouraging her to let me get in the house and keep her outside.

So this morning when I heard low, growly meowing I once more went shuffling in my flip-flops from the porch towards the noise at the back steps. Just as I reached where the steps come down from the roof a streak of fur scurried down the stairs, past the railings, flew off the end of the walkway through the air, all legs and claws outstretched, for about 10 feet, bounced off the side of the neighbour’s wall down to the shrubby ground below and sped away as if Federer had just used him as a tennis ball. The image of a cat with everything extended, including his ears, leaping through the air in blind faith is seared into my mind. I’m hoping he won’t be back again in a hurry.

The Naked Neighbour
Thankfully, what’s not seared into my mind in any way, harmful or otherwise, is the sight of my Naked Neighbour, with or without his new hose. Seemingly he had to leave his last place due to his predilection for nakedness. Before I gave him the moniker Naked Neighbour, Mr D and I called him Canadian Swami. He’s typical of some of the older non-Indian fellas who live here – when not naked he’s usually dressed in a saffron dohti (with or without underwear I suppose) and with his long grey hair tied on the top of his head, his navel-length beard kept in order in three places by hair elastics. Mostly it’s just me that witnesses the occasional unintended flash of bare butt or genitals because of where my office is at the back of the house. The window overlooks the back of the neighbour’s house which has a small studio apartment and a large porch on the roof – that’s where Naked Neighbour lives. Apart from enjoying life unencumbered by clothes, he also seems to love plants. The large porch is filled with potted plants and shrubs. Hence the naked hose faffing this morning. Looks like he’s hoping to make tending his bushes easier 😉 Can’t say’s I blame him – he has got a helluva lot of plants.

2017.03.11 - Neighbours House

The Naked Neighbour’s Home

I’ll post another more panchakarma-related update soon. So wherever you are, perhaps indulge in enjoying your own nakedness now and again, but maybe not around any playful kittens…

Post-Panchakarma – business as usual, mostly…

Mmmmm, coffee. Morning coffee. Mmmmm. No worries, before I indulged I still started my day with hot lemon water, fresh watermelon and a small portion of masala yoghurt*.

And the watermelon tasted all the sweeter for being a gift from one of Dr A’s harem. She’d brought it from her village and was happy for anyone to have it. Being as it was my last day that meant I was the only one allowed fruit. Lucky me. Dr A also gave me the remainder of my smoking medicine – that’s it next to the watermelon. I’ll be honest, I’ve not yet used it on my own – I hated doing that smoke decongesting part each morning (Dr A forgot one time and the hope that she’d forget again lived on, despite that never happening) – but I’ll have a go soon. Also on my last day I got another special treat.

Dr A’s clinic premises are much in need of some house repairs and maintenance. She’s only been in the building the past three months, so clearly the lack of love is down to the current owners. That said, they’ve finally got on with the job of doing some work on the place (but only because Dr A is footing most if not all of the bill). The areas needing urgent work are the toilets/wetrooms. As mentioned in an earlier post, when I was doing that purge thing, the toilet was a lot less than lovely. So my treat yesterday happened post-enema when I got to inaugurate Dr A’s newest toilet bowl! Now that’s a first for me – an enema excretion leading to a toilet inauguration.

Anyways, back to that coffee, the one poison I’ve not given up, and other foods. Thankfully, one small cup of the hot brown stuff is enough now. I no longer need a whole pot. What I was more concerned about was the other crap I’d been shoving down my gullet in the name of nutrition. Namely low-value carbohydrates in the form of white flour products – bread, biscuits, tortilla wraps, parotta – as well as cheese and paneer. Being almost exclusively vegetarian in India means I’ve tended to add more dairy to my diet. Hence those bastard fat bubbles. Anyhoo, Dr A’s dietary recommendations are simple enough – no white flour, no nightshade vegetables** and drastically reduce the quantity of cheese, paneer and butter (yoghurt and ghee are OK). Does that mean I won’t ever eat any of those foods again? No! Will I pass up the opportunity to have a nibble on a small slice of full-fat gorgonzola, or sweet brie? Again No! Will I shun a dip into a bag of chips  (that’s fat french fries to my North American friends) from my favourite local fish n’ chip shop in south London? Abso-bloomin’-lutely not!

So maybe you’re wondering what the heck I got up to on my first day post-Panchakarma. Did I laze around? Did I get extra cuddle time in bed with Mr D? Or did I bounce out of bed with excitement and enthusiasm for a new day that came with knowing I’d regained some fresh freedom?

Yes – I luxuriated in getting up later than normal, then crawling back to bed with a book.
Yes – I grabbed my extra morning cuddles.
Yes – I enthusiastically set about starting on a spring clean of my house (the bathroom is now the cleanest its been in weeks).
No – I did not bounce out of bed, but I was thrilled, excited and gratified to have my days and my time back.

As I write, the day is well-started even though its not yet 8am and despite the greyness of the sky this morning. It’s a Saturday. The kids are off school and hanging out nearby, their voices raised in play and games – I think I hear the thud of ball on cricket bat. And although I’m not missing rushing out the house for my early Panchakarma start, I’m kind of missing the cycle ride along our neighbourhood lane when daylight has been but a dirty smudge across the lower part of the sky. At one end of the lane is a milking spot. Cows are led there each morning and evening for milking. A milk broker sits nearby. He collects milk from the cow owners and doles it out, for payment, from those without their own cows, each person walking away with a small, metal, lidded milk pail swinging from their hands. For a city chick like me, simple morning sights like that fill my heart with a soft peace and a quiet bliss.

And so, away from enemas and powerful rub-a-dub-dubs, life goes on – the chores, chucking things off the To Do lists, the cuddles and laughter, and the integration of all I’ve been through this past month.

I’ll be back with a few more updates as and when they happen – possibly a photo too (which’ll probably be disappointing in its banality, but I’ll have a go anyway).

For now wishing you, in amongst the regular maelstrom of life, your own moments of soft peace, quiet bliss and a bundle of fun too.

* yoghurt (curd) masala – basically yoghurt mixed with any combination of flavourings you like; mine was with salt, turmeric, freshly-ground black pepper, cumin, cinnamon, ground jaggery (palm sugar), and a drop of water; goes well with a chapati 😉

** nightshade vegetables include potatoes, aubergine (eggplant), tomatoes, regular peppers/capsicum & chilli peppers (the following links give more detailed information, but it seems the delicious potato, when green and sprouty, is potentially the most lethal) (the author seems to have tried to back-up the information with scientific research) (a fairly full list of nightshade-inclusive foods) (a counter-argument for those who like a balanced view on things)


Day 29 & 30 of Panchakarma – acts of love and kindness

These early starts are proving a bit of a killer. I’m cream crackered mid-morning. I won’t be surprised come Friday morning when I just stay in bed, enjoy a wonderful lie in, laze around and snuggle up to Mr D. That’s the kind of colour and form coming into view now I’m only two days away from completion. Two days until freedom! Sweet.

Food and Love
However, the weariness is not just from clinic attendances, but also that darn pre-menstrual thing. Got the tell-tale spots too. So on Monday night when I was at that stage of feeling too tired to eat I nearly caved when Mr D suggested he’d head out and go forage for his supper. Not happy with that idea given he’s also in need of good food, I said I’d cook a simple supper for him. I said, “It’s an act of love and kindness. It’ll be my pleasure.” I made a quick but delicious dinner of nothing I could eat. But guess what? I did. That’s how come I know it was delicious. Food prepared and cooked with love – makes all the difference no?

Then yesterday while lying on the massage table I started imagining what I’d do for that night’s supper. When Mr D came to collect me he asked Dr A if I was allowed biscuits. She said no problem. Confession – I had a ragi biscuit yesterday! Then I though that was what he was on about, but when I got back home I discovered that all my cogitations about what to cook where cancelled out. On the stove was not one but two pots of beautifully cooked veg. To put that into context – in the eight years Mr D and I have been together (during which he has obviously performed many acts of love and kindness) he has never cooked us a meal. Ever! To come home to freshly cooked food on a day when I was feeling knackered – an awesome act of kindness that went straight to my heart.

Kolam Kindness
With regards my Panchakarma Comrade – she’s back on form, her splodge of difficulty not exactly passed, but more manageable. She’s also been keen on having Dr A have a kolam outside her clinic. A kolam (also known as a rangoli) is a design of powder created fresh each morning at the entrance to a person’s home or business. Frequently just white powder is used, sometimes a ruddy-brown powder is added as well, then other times they’re a fab splash of colour. Traditionally the powder was rice flour, but now most people use rock powder. Kolams are good-luck and welcoming symbols and the designs vary from simple dots and interlinking lines to all sorts of fancy stuff. With Panchakarma Comrade in refreshed and ebullient spirits, a couple of days ago she insisted Dr A have one outside the clinic. Dr A duly instructed one of the harem to set about doing that very thing. First up was the ritualistic prepping of the intended kolam area by sweeping and washing the space down, then it was out with a bowl of rice flour (no rock powder available) and on with making the kolam. As you can see from on of the photos, my Panchakarma Comrade was happy with the outcome.



Monkey Care
Not long after leaving the clinic yesterday with Mr D we passed some monkeys perched on the top of a concrete wall. Because it’s a fairly narrow and pot-holed lane we were going slow enough for Mr D to spot that one of the monkeys had just given birth. We stopped. Signs of fresh birth matted the hair of the mother’s backside. Her new-born baby clung to her chest. The monkeys beside them were tending to the mother with so much care and kindness. Although I hated to intrude – as well as being worried we might get attacked for being so close – seeing the exhausted mother, the tiny baby monkey and their attendants like that, right next to the road in full view, felt like an amazing gift of natural kindness.



So despite not much to report on the Panchakarma front – bar the rising excitement that it’ll be over very, very, very soon – there’s been magic and beauty and kindness a plenty. I’m also taking the image of that new life as a symbol of fresh life flowing in me too. And no matter what else I say, no matter how tired or moaning I get, because of that fresh flow I continue to be really bloody grateful.

To all you lovelies everywhere – wishing you your own magic, beauty and acts of love and kindness.

Day 2 of Panchakarma – still fasting

Last night, by the time I had supper the gap between meals had been more than six hours. As a perennial grazer that’s a pretty good achievement. Dinner was more runny rice, only this time I managed to eat most of the large bowl Dr A offered me. She explained I’d not been hungry enough at lunchtime because my body was still assimilating the morning’s medicine.

Day 2 of Panchakarma has been more or less a repeat of yesterday. I got it together to cycle over to Dr A’s clinic for 7am where she took my pulses and doled out the medicine. More warmed ghee with herbs but with less of a gag reflux.

While I was slurping the medicine I had a brief chat with the woman nearing the end of her own Panchakarma programme. I asked her what she thought about it all. She explained she was feeling lighter, in all sorts of ways, as well as having chucked out a load of toxicity from her body. Note: This woman is fine of face and figure. She’s got great, symmetrical bone structure. There’s no excess fat. And her skin glows. I realise I won’t ever look as fabulous as she does, but the glowing skin, the lighter feeling, that seems possible and what I’m going for. Slimmer would definitely be wonderful too – you saw that photo of me didn’t you?

Back home today I’ve been experiencing a different type of internal ghost. This one is hanging out in my mouth. Often, along with the morning coffee I have a ragi biscuit (or two!). Ragi, or Finger Millet, is a grain that originates from Africa but is widely used in Southern India. The biscuits are made locally. In the UK the nearest thing we might get to a ragi biscuit in terms of texture is shortbread. There is a similarity with the grittiness – quality and colourwise they are very different (see photo). And it was the grittiness of the ragi biscuit I could feel, and crave, in my mouth. Did I resist? Of course, I resisted! I’ve also had to resist lying down. However, my eyelids are less resistant – even as I type. You’ll have to forgive me if this danf;kdag;kjadg’laj’d happens 😉

Apart from a restricted dietary intake, there are various activities on the currently-forbidden list during this part of the Panchakarma programme. One of those restricted activities is (quoting Dr A) “playing with water” and generally getting wet. (And for anyone with a smutty mind like mine, yes that does mean no slippery sex for now.) On a more prosaic note: if it rains I’m to get an auto-rickshaw so I’m covered; I’m not to do any laundry, which I do by hand and most days; and today I’m also not allowed to shower. Fortunately the weather is cool enough I’m not desperate for a shower the way I would be if we were in summer, nor am I going to be in either polite or impolite company – other than Mr D (no sex anyways) and the doctor of course.

With this being only Day 2 of Panchakarma you wouldn’t be surprised there are no new changes. There bulbous belly is still evident but, given the lack of food, feels less tight. An unexpected development is that I’ve felt the need to brush my teeth more and Mr D mooted last night that my breath smelled different. The headache seems constant, but more as a brain freeze than real ache.

Currently the time is around 3pm and all I’ve had today, Day 2 of Panchakarma, is the medicine and hot water – and the ragi biscuit ghost in my mouth. I’m considering waiting it out until dinner time. Fasting is no bad thing generally and as I’m not yet feeling famished I figure I might as well wait. Let’s see if that turns out to have been a smart strategy or not.

For now, wishing you food joy wherever you are.

Day 1 of Panchakarma

This morning at around 6:45am I cycled over to meet with Dr A for my first day of Panchakarma. Day 1 of Panchakarma is the preparation period that leads up to the main procedures and is basically a detox phase to prepare the body for what’s to come.

After taking my pulses Dr A brought out a regular mug of hot water and a small, glass mug, half full of a yellowish liquid. She handed me the glass mug. I sipped. The liquid was warm and oily and was in fact ghee (clarified butter) with herbs mixed in. I noted a slight after taste. I sipped again. This time not just an after taste, but the first hint of a gag reflex. Uh oh, my gullet was already not liking this. I put my mind elsewhere, finished the concoction and took a slurp of hot water. I continued slurping and managed to keep the concoction down while Dr A advised me about what to do and not for the day. I’m guessing her advice is based on general Pancharkarma principles as well as the individual she’s working with.

Today I am to drink plenty of warm-to-hot water. But, unlike my usual practice, I’m not allowed to cool the water down with cold water, but rather just let it cool naturally to a quaffable temperature. Also not allowed is day-time sleeping. When I told Mr D about that his first response was, “But you don’t sleep in the day.” Obviously, perverse as my nature tends to be, today I really bloody want to!

Around 11am, and because I was feeling too fragile for Indian traffic, Mr D dropped me at Dr A’s clinic for food. First things first, she felt my pulses. She said, “You’re not hungry yet”. Bugger, clearly my pulses do not lie. Shan’t be able to pull a fast one with Dr A then. In truth I agreed with her.

What had spurred me to return to Dr A for lunchtime food was my behaviour at home, that and the fact I’ve normally had some kind of breakfast by 10am. All morning I seemed to have an internal ghost attempting to go about it’s usual habits of grazing. I felt an energy in my hand, without my hand or arm actually moving, drawn to the biscuit barrel. I passed the fridge and almost reached out to pull the door open. I explained this to Dr A. “Your mind is hungry, but not you.” Ya see – those blasted food habits are not just about the food, but have become a physiological expression. All that reaching out and grabbing the nearest thing, the body swerves towards the kitchen, the mindless munching.

Nevertheless, and despite this only being day 1, I wasn’t ready for food so Dr A and I sat on her porch chatting for a while. Around an hour later we went inside and she gave me lunch. That was a runny, soup-like mixture of white rice, ginger, garlic, turmeric, cumin seeds and some other spice. Something else to slurp, which I dutifully did until I was too full to finish what was left. I’ve come away with a food box of the remaining runny soup in case I get hungry, properly hungry, possibly around 4pm. My next visit is scheduled for 7pm.

In the meantime I’m still fighting off the urge either to crawl on to the sofa in front of the TV or go to bed with a book. I’ve also got a slight headache shifting in and out – a bit like the unpleasant (and unusual) chemical smell occasionally wafting in the direction of my office just now. So I’s off for more hot water and something else to distract me from sleep and chocolate and coffee and…


my favourite biscuit barrel – always full…!


The Start of a New Discovery

 Initiating an Exploration into Ayurvedic Medicine and My Own Body

Yesterday I went in search of an Ayurvedic practitioner and thankfully, I think, found one. I’m hoping the start of a new discovery will lead to a life-enhancing outcome. Perhaps a life-long adventure too.

Why did I go on such a search?

Because I’m feeling like shit. Physically and mentally.

I’ve not been in great shape for a few years. Went through a terrible time with my menses for a while. They were heavier, and lasted longer, than an overactive and destructive volcanic eruption – and as messy and devastating. Think about it. When there’s a heavy and sustained loss of blood for a couple of years, where’s it coming from? From my bone marrow is where. Before I reached the final resolution with a second, small operation – to remove the troublesome intra-uterine fibroids at fault – I needed two mega doses of iron, given intravenously, before they would do the op. That resolving operation was about three and a half years ago. Recovery from all of which has taken time. Too long. In the process of recovering I seem to have slipped into sluggishness and apathy – on all sorts of levels. However, this past year in particular I’ve been experiencing near-constant abdomen discomfort, bloated daily, and a lot of lethargy.

Due to whatever fucked-up reason, this time round I just don’t seem to be able to get it together to do what I know can and will work. The result – I keep feeling shit. Every day. All day. Feeling shitty and fucked-up is NOT good. Ever. Feeling shitty and fucked-up when trying to motor through creative output, to be a fully-involved person in an intimate relationship, to keep kicking-arse is NOT good. Ever. So, what to do? What the hell to do? That is what I have been asking myself. Something has to give.

For a while the key questions running around my head, like growing kittens in search of milky nipples, have been:
– What is it I really need to do?
– How I can do that?

– I need to lose weight and find healthier ways of living. Not just for the aesthetics, but more importantly for my health and wellness.
– I need to be more active too, for the same reasons.
– I need to readjust my dietary intake to support all that.

I’ve been here before, getting help with my health. In this way, what I’m about to start is a new discovery because of the method, rather than the intention.

A short bit of back-peddling/backstory:
In case you didn’t already know, I’m in India. In particular a small town in Tamil Nadu (I’ve written about this elsewhere). I love here. Apart from being with Mr D, there was something about the place when I first visited back in 2007 that grabbed me and held me in a firm embrace of love and compassion and kindness. I happily fall into that embrace every time I return. The natural consequence of my staying in India is that when I consider seeking out help with this persistent problem I want something, someone, local. So naturally that had to be Ayurvedic Medicine. (If you want the low-down on Ayurvedic Medicine there is plenty online.)

During the ruminations about my persistent problems I happened to tune into a TV programme last Sunday during which a celebrated Indian health and lifestyle guru* spoke cogently and emphatically about the need to, sometimes, detox the body. Apparently he’s had excellent success with his detox programmes for cancer patients, as well as helping people with weight loss and improved health generally. From the manner in which he spoke, and the specifics, I believe him. His chat and obvious knowledge on the subject of health convinced me – I need to detox.

Clearly I could just do this at home. The guru chap already gave a few pointers. Simple stuff. But I’ve never been great at detoxing. Let’s face it, retoxing is always way more fun and easier. Given my brain fog and entrenched lethargy, how the hell was I going to get a start on detoxing? I figured it was time to get help.

While out and about a few days ago I took a detour and saw an advertising hoarding outside a suburban house: Ayurvedic treatments for all kinds of illnesses and health issues. Yesterday I met the owner of that hoarding, Dr A. I liked her from the off. Female (preferable given my complaints), direct, forthright, approachable. I told her I needed an outside agency, someone other than me, to help me shift my shit.

What I actually told her was I feel stuck. My whole body feels stuck. I feel stagnant, almost on hold. Definitely not girl interrupted – that passed by a long while back – more like woman halted. Even though I’ve been feeling this way for a few years, more recently the sense that this stagnation is not just physical but affecting all of me has grown.
Here’s a list of my physical issues:

  • Bloated belly – almost constantly
  • Aching joints
  • Sluggish colon activity – too often constipated
  • Dry skin
  • Hair loss and thinning
  • Painful joints
  • Overweight with – because of the bloated belly – a girth-to-hip ratio tipping me towards diabetes, heart problems and the like

My other issues include:

  • Brain fog
  • Erratic energies, but mostly lethargy
  • Unfocused in my activities

With a smidgeon of info about Ayurvedic medicine I already knew that one of the treatments might be an enema. I told her I was not keen on having one. She wanted to know more. I explained I’d already had colonic irrigation, twice some years back. While the irrigation itself was mildly unpleasant – warm water gushing past my anus and up my rectum was an odd experience – the fact of the cost with no obvious positive outcome (coupled with a lackadaisical practitioner of that fine art!) meant I was not enthusiastic about going through something similar.

Dr A sent me away with the agreement that I would return the next morning, before breakfast, when she would make a diagnosis by taking my pulses. After the pulse diagnosis she would make her recommendations.

That diagnosis took place this morning. In Dr A’s consulting room she sat me down, placed her fingers on my left wrist and took my pulse.
“Fire,” she muttered after only a few moments.
Given all I know about my body and personality type, that one-word assessment was not a surprise. But I was surprised when she gave her diagnosis – all of my key elements (doshas or humours) are out of balance. That ain’t good. No wonder I feel so crappy. Her diagnosis confirms what I thought – I am fucked-up. She reckons she can reverse my shittiness.

Following her pulse assessment she went on to explain the proposed programme. Now that was not just a surprise but a bloody shock.

Panchakarma is a detoxification procedure that involves a variety of processes and lasts for between 30-45 days. Thirty days! Holy shit. And, less holy but more shit – enemas too. Crappolla.

We chatted some more. Dr A. gave an overview of the procedures involved in panchakarma, said she’d prepare a full outline when I start. At that point I hadn’t yet agreed I would start  – but I was aware that something in me felt drawn to doing her detox. She left me for a while to go and attend to another client who was coming to the last few days of her own panchakarma programme. I mulled over what Dr A had just told me.

Although we hadn’t yet discussed it, cost was definitely going to be a consideration. Could I afford to undergo such an intensive programme? Could I afford not to, whatever the cost? Clearly doing a panchakarma in India was going to be cheaper than if I did something similar in London. That was a worthy factor. Also a factor is that I have the time to do this. No need to try and fit the programme around a full time job. No need to worry about how to juggle work, commuting, and other commitments. But could I afford it?

She told me the cost. Higher than I expected. But understandably so given the procedures and herbal medicines involved, the – gulp – enemas and food too. She made me a coffee and we chatted some more.

When I left her some 50 minutes later I had a small batch of tablets and she had my agreement that I would undergo the programme. The start of a new discovery has begun.

I’ve also decided using my blog to document my experiences during the process might be fun as well as interesting for anyone thinking about taking Ayurvedic treatments, or undergoing panchakarma in particular. I’ll try to post daily.

Today, as one means of assessment, I have taken a few body measurements. No weight recorded as I’ve no weighing scales. I’ll take these same measurements at the end of the programme. Here’s the awful truth:
Bust 102 cm/40 inches
Waist 93 cm/36.5 inches
Hips 103 cm/40.5 inches
Right Upper arm – 33.5 cm/13 inches
Left Upper arm – 35 cm/13.5 inches
Right Thigh – 64 cm/25 inches
Left Thigh – 62.5 cm/24.5 inches
Right Knee – 43.5 cm/17 inches
Left Knee – 42.5 cm/16.5 inches
At a height of 156 cm/5 feet 1 inch all of those measurements mean I’s fat! Clearly I’m hoping there’ll be a reduction in all these figures, including my own, along with all the other intended improvements.

So tomorrow morning at 7am is my start on a new discovery, but just a start. I know that these next 30+ days are only a beginning. After the panchakarma is complete I’ll need to keep on implementing better lifestyle choices. Here’s to my starting a new discovery that supports all the health improvements I’m aiming for – because right now I need them more than ever.

If you have any questions as I go through this process, please throw them my way.

For now, let me leave you with this quote (taken from Dr A’s panchakarma info sheet):
The doshas, the dhatus, digestive fire and excretion, when balanced (along with) a happy soul, senses and mind, then the person is called healthy. —— Vaghbhata ——
(Sama dosha sama dhatu samaagni malakriyah. Prasanna atmendriyamanah swastah ityabhideeyate.)

And this (gruesome) image:


I hope I look better than this come March…

* see Luke Coutinho website for details

Writers and Politics – Why Do We Bother?

I recently submitted a response to one of Jason Howell‘s questions. Apparently he was  inundated with good responses so he sweetly rejected my offering – I’m choosing to post my (edited) response myself.

Here are his questions:
Q1: What role do you feel fiction writers are called to play in terms of affecting the political weather, this moment? (including poets, essayists, in general or yourself in particular)
Q2: Does writing seem politically pointless?
Q3: Or do you feel called to action?
Q4: Is there an urge to write in service of amplifying a particular voice or agenda?
Q5: Is there an urge to write to try and diagnose the confusion overall—respecting even the “villains”?

Here’s my response:
First off – can writers truly affect the political weather? Well, yes they can, but, more crucially, do they? I feel Jason’s questions almost suggest the effect writers have on the political weather is slight, something akin to a flock of birds taking off from a lake – the water is disturbed, but only momentarily. However, what’s necessary to note is that during political discourse when we voters get to hear, literally, the politicians spouting on about what they will deliver when they are in power, behind these politicians are writers. Which means, in effect, writers are affecting the political weather, they are the workers who craft the words the politicians read and we hear.

That said, as a diverse group writers are generally interested in rational and open discourse about what constitutes good governance. For example, prior to the UK’s recent EU referendum, many writers added their voices to the Remain group. Their cogent and creative pleas were drowned out by the populist rhetoric of post-truth politics. I should imagine the situation was replicated in the USA. Likewise in India, where  Modi and his many cronies seem intent on increasing their despotic tendencies, any dissenting voices are lambasted as unpatriotic and, similar to anti-Trump campaigners in the USA, targeted with death threats. Seemingly there is a growing reliance on lies to drown out rational discourse whether from writers or the many others across all the interested parties.

Perhaps as the increase in post-truth and fake news politics ascends, the need for rational-thinking writers to write about the truth behind the lies becomes greater, more urgent, more necessary. Perhaps. Because no matter how savvy you are with words no amount of writing will budge an unwilling person from their prejudices and bigotry – those attitudes are massive ego trips and require a very different tack to break them down to something more compassionate.

Nevertheless the urge to write – whether poet, essayist, reporter – is an endless call to action where the output can be many and varied and, depending on the writer’s perspective, borderless and without restriction. Therefore why not attempt to amplify a particular viewpoint? Why not try to unravel the confusion of political game-playing? Why not discover what villainy really is and who is being the villain?

For centuries writers have done just that and many been persecuted because of it, whether voicing a simple opinion or pointing to harsh truths. Writers, in all their various guises, have frequently been vilified as villains precisely because they have used words in response to atrocities, human rights abuses, vile and hateful regimes and political activities. Today’s writers are no less called upon to express their thoughts about these things, and we should do so because eventually when enough voices keep expressing the same truths the noise from the villains just might be revealed for what they are – divisive and destructive.

Now, as ever, adding words with the aim of expressing the truths that define our humanity and raise our individual and collective consciousness and kindness (rather than any kind of villainy) continues to be important. The urge to write about our current political situations will always remain. Thankfully good writers can expertly express the thoughts and feelings, the perspectives and real truths we all need to be reminded of during these times of fake news and post-truths because they can write about what must be said, what can be said and what others wish they could say. After all truth, rather than lies, even in fiction, is at the heart of good writing.

P.S. My header image is of the Gandhi statue on the beachfront at Puducherry, India – I have a notion that Gandhi was not only a politician, or a cotton spinner, but also a writer.

Responses to a Demonetisation Short Story – can you guess what they might have been?

As previously mentioned, I’ve been taking part in a short-story writing challenge this year. One of the December stories, and surprisingly only one, had the ongoing demonetisation fiasco as part of its theme.

The story was a simple one. A man takes his last ₹1,000 note to market to buy a longed-for item. To his dismay, his is informed that his ₹1,000 note is no longer acceptable. He is emotionally crushed by confusion and disappointment at this news. But later, along with a group of others, he is serendipitously gifted lots of newly-minted ₹2,000 notes. The story is a fun read and, pardon or not the pun, right on the money in terms of being bang up-to-date. The story line even ends on a happy note (a rare thing in the short story world – short-form writers tend to be joyful realists).

However, out of the critiquing round, can you guess what was the most consistent response?
Was it that the characters were not well drawn?
Was it that the setting was not well described?
Was it lack of a good plot?
Was it that the sudden appearance of new ₹2,000 notes was unbelievable?

OK, suspense over. The consensus was that given the story has an upbeat ending, in amongst the₹2,000 notes there should be plenty of ₹100.

I think this tells us something about people’s true reactions to the demonetisation debacle – which continues unabated – despite Modi’s ascertion that all would be well for everyone by 30th December. Sadly, with only a few days remaining, we still have no sight of the necessary and much needed ₹500 notes or even access to larger daily ATM withdrawal amounts.

Now remember, the story ended on a happy note, yet several of those critiquing the story wanted an additional hit of realism added to the ending. Here’s why.

Much as those ₹2,000 notes would have been welcome, cash is cash is cash after all (hear that Modi and all), those darn ₹2,00o notes are difficult to deal with; many people and businesses cannot constantly give away their precious ₹100 notes as change to every customer. Nor are there enough ₹10 or ₹20 notes to make up that short fall. All in, every day people are continuing to struggle. For some, farmers and labourers in particular, they are facing starvation for themselves and their families, employers can no longer employ workers, or they use workers but can’t pay them. There is much strife and much fudging of the truth around this. For example, propaganda abounds about villages that have gone cashless. IN TRUTH these villages are not cashless, they are poor, have low internet connectivity and regular power outages daily. IN TRUTH cashless educators have simply been to the village and inducted some of the villagers about the processes around being cashless. Giving advice and training about how to process cashless payments is far from being truly cashless, a state which I feel most villagers would decline if they were offered the choice.

Here I am going to do a ‘I told you so’ mini-rant given I expressed this belief back in November  – the ongoing push towards a cashless society was the true motivation behind Modi’s demonetisation drive, and not the hounding of black money dealers he originally declared. Because anyone with even an ounce of savvy about how corporations and governments are behaving can see that being cashless means the populace at large become more visible to an ever-increasingly despotic and authoritarian notion of governance.

As things stand, we in India are only a few days away from Modi’s earlier assertion that things will return to normal by year end. Given the images of long ATM queues, lack of useful change at shops and businesses, and the long, long wait for new ₹500 notes to appear, me thinks ‘normal’ is still some weeks off.

Fortunately, Mr D and I are currently blessed to have minimal needs as well as the opportunity to withdraw cash from a bank branch other than SBI: we’re not hungry; our bills are minimal; we plod on. I’m still hankering after getting certain tasks and jobs I have on my To Do List attended to, but for now they are still deferred until there is cash to fulfil them – clearly that’s a minor worry. For now I am on a Modi-imposed belt-tightening drive. The skipping is helping too.

But back to that short story. I’m truly hoping the writer is even now doing her last round of edits and getting it sent out. The timeliness of the plot line and the wonderful twist at the end are a winner!

Happy Holidays Everyone