Saturday, February 26, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Women and the Weight Loss Tamasha

Thanks to Liberty Books for the review copy

Published in Daily Times / Saturday, February 26, 2011
Under the Title: A Play-book for Losers
Reviewed By: Afrah Jamal
Author: Rujuta Diwekar

Master: “You are free to eat.”

Po: “Am I?”

Master: “Are you?” —
Dialogue from Kung Fu Panda (2008)

Po, the Kung Fu Panda, doubted his mentor/master much like readers will doubt a nutritionist guru when she hands over an exclusive pass to eat and, yet, maintain a strategic advantage in the fight against fat.

They need not.

A thriving industry feeds off of ignorance about weight-related issues. And when health and happiness become collateral damage in the mad dash for the finish line, it is time to alter the game plan.

‘Nutritionist to the stars’ Rujuta makes this lonely trek to the promised land a joyful experience where food is not the enemy, and learning the art of making better judgment calls is on the menu. Since she labels the struggle with weight loss a tamasha (spectacle) at the very outset, readers know this session will be unlike any other.

Most of her advice is subcontinent-specific and, as the title suggests, women-centric. The rest is good old-fashioned common sense combined with conventional wisdom offered on an unconventional platter. In it are strategies customised to fit desperate women of all shapes and sizes from their teens to adulthood and beyond, only this time without reckless disregard for the stealthy changes that occur throughout a person’s life-cycle or social pressures that dictate the course of their journey.

She will propose a plan where deprivation and starvation are unwelcome, that has room for minor violations and shows ways to avoid major ones. “It is perfectly normal to eat more on some days and less on others,” she announces, adding that, “a meal plan is a guideline not a law that cannot be broken.” In this (curious) scenario, weighing machines do not exist — “they are never accurate and are bad indicators of health, fitness and beauty” — working out for more than an hour is not recommended and carbs can sit on the same table without triggering alarm bells.

She is persuasive, entertaining, creative and compassionate; what is more, she understands the mysterious forces that govern the lives of modern day women and factors in the million little things that threaten to knock them out of orbit. Her book takes both physical and cultural limitations into account when it walks them through the complex maze of family, career and commitments, elevating this from a simple lesson in weight loss to a crash course in life.

It puts a stop to bad habits like maniacally counting calories, seeking dangerous short cuts to fitness-ville or attempting to score nutritional value out of fat free/low fat substitutes. Suddenly, health takes precedence and weight loss is simply an interesting side effect. A vital shift of perspective that removes the focus from losing weight and puts it on re-gaining mastery over one’s life makes all the difference.

The way the obstacle course has been set up, there are different sets of hurdles positioned at unexpected junctures. Her research is designed to convince those confounded by weight-related issues, enamoured by new fangled diet/fitness trends or haunted by health problems to take a moment for self-evaluation. She writes up citations for bad behaviour brought on by social conditioning, misinformation or poor judgment to prevent the next person becoming a cautionary tale.

Here the target is improving physical/mental/emotional health. This much-needed intervention takes real life examples, actual diet recalls/evaluations allowing readers to take the initiative and devise personal recalls “based on current lifestyle and challenges.” Once inside, they find four strategies of well-being dealing with food, workout, sleep and relationships that leave them enlightened, empowered and inspired.

There is happy news that “the body alters the moment eating and exercise habits change,” indisputable facts like “sleep cannot be compensated for on weekends,” sad truths< that “walking does not qualify as an exercise unless it is progressive” and helpful tips such as “anything more than a 60 minute workout leads to a loss in muscle tissue, lower metabolic rate and less fat burning capability.

She has an interesting theory about how the past can come back to haunt us, in a good way. She asserts that “those with a history of keeping fit find getting back to original fitness levels that much easier,” adding that “detraining occurs within three weeks so going without exercise for longer is not recommended.

Even when one is sceptical about certain recommendations (adding ghee to the diet), one cannot argue with the logic that drives her arguments. Readers will find themselves not only relating to the people featured in these pages but also eager to embark on a new journey and embrace a better lifestyle. Rujuta’s book may have been endorsed by a celebrity figure but the roadmap will guide anyone who chooses to listen to their destination of choice.

And leave them free to eat!

Westland; Pp 420; Rs 395

Images Courtesy of: http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Goodfood/PublishingImages/eatwell%20plate%20377%20sized.jpg

http://www.123rf.com/photo_12483512_athletic-gym-gymnasium-fitness-exercise-training-workout.html

Saturday, February 12, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Kasab, The Face of 26/11

Thanks to Liberty Books for the review copy

Thanks to the Writer for the lovely emails despite the 'scathing review'

Published in Daily Times / Saturday, February 12, 2011

Reviewed by Afrah Jamal

Author: Rommel Rodrigues

November 26, 2008 was India’s 9/11 — or so they say. It was the day 10 gunmen held one city hostage for over 60 hours. A day that sent accusations flying across the border, and the fear of something deadlier being traded saw the international community scrambling for cover. India was breaking news for days. Pakistan also made headlines around that time but not for the same reasons.

They caught the perpetrator. Ajmal Kasab is exhibit A in the case against the country of his birth. What little is known about Kasab (the name literally means butcher), beyond his nationality (Pakistani) and vocation (deadly pawn) comes from a hastily complied sketch leaked to the media in the early days of the attack. The rest came from following the trail of breadcrumbs, obligingly left behind, that led to Pakistan — a nation viewed as both the donor and recipient of terror.

When Rommel puts himself in the shoes of the lone survivor of the death squad for a walk down memory lane, it is not for the view but the forlorn hope of finding skeletons in his neighbour’s closet. Using a wide angled camera, he pans into neighbouring Pakistan, the village where Kasab was born, the streets he traversed, the contacts he made, the secret dreams of handling weapons he harboured and the moment when he graduated from petty thief to hardened jihadist.

This excursion into Kasab-land is to understand what goes into the making of a “deranged fidayeen jihadi”. It is clear that had he not been reeled in by the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT), Kasab’s criminal tendencies would have found another outlet — albeit a less dramatic one. The writer collates the evidence, piecing together the life of a murderer from the cradle to the (court assigned?) grave to give readers their first inkling of the violent elements that operate below their nation’s radar.

The incredibly detailed recreation of life in a terror boot camp run by the LeT and its ilk (some masquerading as relief centres) claims to give an unimpaired view of the breeding grounds of home grown terror. He has padded his research with stories of disenfranchised youth, driven by poverty into the arms of waiting jihadist organisations.

Rommel has a vivid imagination. His interpretation of events turns a monster’s life around to serve as a springboard to launch an inquiry into the phenomenon of cross-border terrorism. But he proceeds to take several swipes at Pakistan without subjecting India to the same scrutiny. Meticulously researched though the book may appear to be, it begs the question: what is the true source of the author’s intel? Which part is pure speculation and which is grounded in fact?

In an interview given to Mid Day, the writer claims that second-hand information has been validated by experts and sources, yet the lack of footnotes/references is troubling. Which is why, at times, this reads like fiction based on a cocktail of facts and a liberal dose of speculation that stops short of breaking new ground.

The book follows the official script, challenging Pakistan’s defence of the ‘non-state actor’ and implicitly questioning its claims of independent terrorists misusing territory by first introducing retired army officers on the LeT’s premises and later placing serving ones at the scene. But his own description of events that point to contempt harboured by “the army of the privileged holy warriors” (as the radicals like to call themselves) for leaders and the military alike does not support such an alliance.

While the world tuned in to a long drawn out stand off and what appeared to be a lack of adequate response despite an advance warning by the CIA, the writer takes a more scenic route wilfully ignoring the law enforcement’s ineffectiveness and using RAW’s supposedly exceptional intelligence work to cover up their Blue Water Navy’s unexceptional role in countering terror.

Kasab, The Face of 26/11 claims to have surprising insight into its neighbour’s contribution to extremism but not when it comes to the state of its own homeland security. It sets out to establish the humane treatment meted out to the captured prisoner in a handy narrative, which serves to vindicate the Indian justice system. Human Rights Watch would love that part. And, when it talks of 576 incarcerated Indian fishermen, it suffers from a sudden onset of amnesia, forgetting their Pakistani counterparts languishing in Indian jails, some for decades.

The horror is magnified, as is the menace, and this insider look will stoke the paranoia. The book ends abruptly, a bit like the journey of the principal character. This nifty piece of detective work gives Kasab a plausible back-story but fails to account for the forces at play that allowed them to fearlessly wander the streets of India unchallenged without triggering red flags all over. In about 10 days the perpetrator will be sentenced by Indian courts. The book is just one more nail in Kasab’s pre-ordered coffin.

Penguin; Pp 276; Rs 595

Image Courtesy of: http://db2.stb.s-msn.com/i/9A/D7EBAB67CE6981EB56567FEEC4AEDD.jpg

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Links to Posts about PAK Armed Forces (Mostly PAF)

Book Review: Cutting Edge PAF

WOMEN in the PAF: AN ENSEMBLE CAST by Afrah Jamal - Appeared in HILAL (Pakistan Armed Forces Magazine) Feb 2010

PAF: Both Sides of the COIN Published In HILAL(Military Mag) Jan 2010

INTERVIEW: What makes a Fighter Ace?

Book Review: Three Presidents and an Aide - Life, Power and Politics by Ambassador Arshad Sami Khan SJ Appeared in Daily Times 9 Jan 2010

EVENT: It Happened This Morning..

VIEW: You can’t handle the truth?

Book Review: Milestones in a Political Journey By M Asghar Khan PUBLISHED IN DAILY TIMES 23 JAN 2010

Sajad Haider Saved my Life - i think. UNPUBLISHED (so far)

Book Review: FLIGHT OF THE FALCON Story of a Fighter Pilot by S. Sajad Haider PUBLISHED In Daily Times 16 Jan 2010

VIEW: A BASE FOR AN EYE (PUBLISHED IN GEO NEWS BLOG)

VIEW: SPOOKS in the Dog House (Published in SHE Magazine June 2011)

VIEW: An Inconvenient Truth — According To A Little Bird

VIEW: Faisal Shahzad — the (un)true back story

VIEW: No More Sitting Ducks - Taking a Chapter from the 1980s Playbook

Book Review: Dairies of Field Marshal Ayub Khan

VIEW: From Keeping Scores to Settling Them

VIEW: Swat Deal - Profitable Merger or Hostile Takeover?

BOOK REVIEW:Inside the Pakistan Army: A Woman’s Experience on the Frontline of the War on Terror

VIEW: Coups - bloody, medium, rare

VIEW: Shakeel Afridi:The Friendly Neighborhood Informer

Behold a Pale Drone,& Hell(Fire) Followed with it...