I can, I must, I will!

Ambika Shaligram
Sunday, 21 January 2018

Are you among the ones who don’t make New Year resolutions, simply because you can’t follow them through? It’s time to change your mindset. Ambika Shaligram speaks to a few people who will inspire you to pull up your socks

Week three, month one, year 2018 — have the alarm bells started ringing yet? For those of you who have made their New Year resolutions, that is. This is the period when the enthusiasm, energy to do something new, to stick to it for the next 11 months, peters through. This might be a familiar story for most of us, but as they say, every rule has an exception.

Here are a few people who have, despite their challenges, succeeded with the goals they had set — not just for New Year’s but for life. They went through periods when they felt less motivated, low, unable to figure out the way ahead, but eventually saw light at the end of the tunnel.

From soil to plate
A little over a year ago, Tanya Kane and Surabhi Ganguly started The Wagabond Chefs, which serves delicious organic food. Interestingly, neither of them are trained chefs. But they do have an interesting story about how they got involved with organic process of cooking, supporting farmers, and living a natural, healthy life.

“Over the years, Tanya and I developed liking for cooking. We developed our styles independently by using natural ingredients. We didn’t have additives in our food so that it looks or tastes a certain way. Since then all the ingredients in our kitchen were replaced with organic ones. In the one year of conceiving our brand, curating an organic food market, we have taken many small steps and we can say that, in 2018,  many choices of ours, will be organic,” explains Ganguly.

The duo serve international food made using locally available produce to appeal to people here. This is an attempt to introduce people to different permutations and combinations of cooking vegetables and herbs. “We believe that everything can taste good. So if you don’t like a certain vegetable, don’t label it ‘bad’. Try eating it in another form,” she adds.

In the process, they have had to cross some hurdles like finding the right people to source their ingredients. So Ganguly and Kane started a monthly farmers’ market in June last year.

“We have tied up with farmers and local producers — people who make biscuits and cheese etc — to create a platform where consumers can buy all these products under a single roof, on a regular basis,” says Ganguly.

In this journey of going organic, the duo have addressed health, environmental and welfare angles. “Before starting our venture, we read up on natural ways of producing and cooking. For example, we learnt that sour dough bread takes about 30 hours to ferment, as opposed to the bread which makes use of commercial yeast. These facts make you connect to age-old methods of cooking. You realise the nutritional benefits, and that food tastes much better. It takes time but you get hooked to this life! From soil to plate, is the way to go,” she quips.

C for...
In March 2014, Ankita Dhanesha made it to the state cricket team. It was a dream come true for the girl who was playing the sport since her school days. But soon came a hiccup — with a capital C. “I was detected with second stage of brain tumour. That shattered me and my family. However, I was lucky that it got detected early and I was treated, so that the cancer cells didn’t multiply,” says the 24-year-old Mumbai resident.

In that phase of extensive medication, Dhanesha had no choice, but to take a break from cricket and eventually give up the sport altogether. “The extensive medication used to drain me. I couldn’t have survived on the field. I had to retire from competitive cricket. Plus, I also suffered from side effects of drugs. I got very moody, irritable and then lost out on friends,” says she.

Those who had seen her struggle to leave a mark in the cricketing world and later her fight with the tumour, urged Dhanesha to write. “My family and people who knew me closely said I should pen down my struggles; they said it could help someone who was in a similar state. So from 2016, I started writing. I wasn’t an organised writer; I just poured out my thoughts, my frustration in my notes. Last month (December 2017), I started blogging, writing in a more organised fashion, making chapters etc. So far, I have uploaded five chapters/posts and I hope to put all my experiences in a book, by the end of this year,” adds she.

After having recovered completely from brain tumour, Dhanesha now has her hopes pinned on sportspersons from her school. “I am joining my school as a part-time cricket coach from next week. I am going to train kids in the sport,” says the gritty girl, who now believes in the adage that ‘tough times don’t last, tough people do’.

On Wheels
When he was in school, Makarand Govekar would ride a cycle for fun. When he got into college, which was located on a hillock in Panvel, Govekar would ride his cycle purely for thrill. “It was a steep ascent and I had a basic model of cycle — with no gears. It was quite a task, but one that I enjoyed very much,” says he.

Now, it’s his preferred choice to keep up his stamina levels. “I work for a technology startup. It is important to be fit and active because the work life at a startup is extremely challenging and demands the best of you. So in 2014, I started cycling for fitness. I used to ride for 25 to 30 km on week days and 100 plus km on weekends with a few of my friends,” adds Govekar.

Today, he also goes for long rides, for about 200 to 300 km. “I like to pamper myself by going on these rides. They also help me become a better endurance rider,” he explains.

Besides cycling, the 37-year-old also made changes to his lifestyle, like cutting down on caffeine and reducing his intake of junk food like pizza and cheese burgers. However, Govekar also admits that sustaining it for four years has been difficult, especially when project deadlines loom up.

“The biggest challenge was to ride consistently on a daily basis. I managed it for a year and a half. Later the consistency suffered because I had to meet project deadlines and attend customer meetings. Now, I try to finish a 20-km ride every day,” Govekar says, adding that he now wishes to become a Super Randonneur (SR) by completing 200, 300, 400 and 600 km in one calendar year.

Going beyond academics!
Keeping in tune with her philosophy and education, Dr Neha Chandan hands out toothbrushes to underprivileged people she meets at traffic signals. “I don’t believe in just studying for a degree and then earning my livelihood from it. My degree has to be of some use to people. As a country, we are inadequately equipped to deal with hygiene. The least I can do is to raise some awareness and provide solutions to it. So for almost a year now, I have been stocking a box full of toothbrushes and toothpastes in my car. I hand them out to underprivileged kids and their parents at traffic signals,” says the consultant pediatric dentist.

Chandan confesses that she isn’t sure if those children are actually using the toothbrushes. So this year, she had made a plan to concretise her initiative, with another like-minded doctor friend, Dr Ketakee Asnani, a periodontist.

“We are working with a local NGO and explaining oral hygiene to kids aged 2-8 years, who are studying in the NGO-run school. We have made animation films in the regional language on the use of toothpaste and brush. Plus, we have already held our first dental camp at Dr Asnani’s clinic, examined the kids, administered treatment, written to their parents, seeking permission for further treatment, if necessary. This year, we hope to reach out to more kids, hold more camps and spread the word,” she adds.

Mindful Eating
One look at the slim and petite Asawari Amlekar tells us that she doesn’t need to take up a dieting programme. But she did. Not to reduce those pounds, but to increase her vitality, and stamina. “I started following Rujuta Diwekar’s eating programme mentioned in her book — Women and the Weightloss Tamasha — from August 2014. Two months later, I started feeling better from within. I was less emotional. A five-kg weight loss happened about six months later. My skin started glowing. I was feeling more alive,” says Amlekar, who works with a government agency. 
This was the beginning of her association with mindful eating and fitness. “When I was working in Mumbai, I joined a gym; to keep pace with the hectic life that the city demanded. That was the first time I joined a gym and did weight training for upper and lower body, cardio, yoga etc. I worked out for five days a week. I was 90 per cent consistent with my diet and exercise regime. In the second year, due to some personal issues, my consistency suffered. Now, I am more or less on track, with a few cheat days thrown in,” she adds.

After shifting to Bengaluru early last year, Amlekar’s gym routine suffered. “We live a little away from the city, so there is no good gym nearby. But having experienced how exercise helped me through upheavals in my personal life, I was determined to follow some fitness routine. So I do breathing exercises and Surya Namaskars in the morning. I have also managed to stick to mindful eating,” she explains.

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