Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 5, Issue 53, Tuesday February 03, 2009



Special Feature

Healthy living

Doctors Saw Huat Seong and Timothy Lee are in Dhaka to offer health advice in the form of lectures at Lake Shore Hotel on January 31. Before the event, they addressed a press conference at Westin Dhaka, during which they offered advice on issues of their respective fields.

Dr. Saw Huat Seong, Senior Consultant Cardio thoracic surgeon at Mount Elizabeth Hospital in Singapore, has been coming to Bangladesh for twenty-five years. He believes that lifestyle is a major factor in determining whether someone contracts heart disease. “I am a big proponent of lifestyle modifications. There are various risk factors to consider when talking about heart disease. Bangladeshis suffer most from lack of exercise. Rich people are driven to their offices, they are driven everywhere, and there is no tradition of exercise.

“One thing most Bangladeshis are averse to is morning exercise routines. I don't know why, but most of you do not want to get up early in the morning and exert yourselves. One thing that is advantageous about morning exercise is that the ground is cool early in the morning. In the evening, all of the heat that the earth has accumulated from the sun is radiated to the atmosphere, and this has the effect of wear out those who exercise during that time. Another advantage is, in the early morning, we have some time to ourselves, while later we become busy, which in turn gives us excuses to evade exercise,” he said.

Diet is also very important, according to Dr. Seong. “Most people in south Asia take three big meals a day, which is unhealthy. There is a theory, and I think it is a good theory, that says that people should eat in smaller quantities throughout the day. This is particularly effective in combating diabetes.”

Dr. Timothy Lee, a Consultant Neurosurgeon at Gleneagles Hospital in Singapore will deliver his lecture on neck and lower back pains. “Neck and lower back pains are largely degenerative phenomena that get worse with age. 95 percent of patients do not need surgery, and for them the main objective should be to manage the pain by taking certain preventive measures.

“A common misconception is that the pain will be helped if you turn your head from side to side and make the cracking sound that is made when we crack our knuckles. While this may provide short term relief, it is harmful in the long run. These pains happen because of bones grinding against each other, therefore turning your head from side to side will eventually be harmful,” Lee said.

“Hyper extending the neck, like we do when looking upwards is harmful as it places stress on the neck. A possible way to lessen the effect of degeneration is to do exercises that build up muscles in the neck to provide support,” he added and went on to demonstrate the exercise which involves placing a hand on each of the four sides of the head (front, back, left, right) and pushing against it, without changing head position.

“Also, the position in which we sleep is important as we spend about six to eight hours a day in that position. The best sleeping position in this regard is to sleep on your back as that is the natural position. A crucial thing to remember is that there has to be cushioning under the neck, so as to avoid stress. Often, people sleep with just their heads on the pillow without support for the neck. The same applies to the lower back. Some think that it will help back pain if they sleep on a hard surface. That is wrong because our backs are naturally curved, and to avoid stress we must sleep on a mattress that supports our backs,” he said.

Some forms of exercise are harmful to the lower back. “Sit-ups, and any form of exercise that involves bending forward places stress on the lower back and aggravates back pain. Bending backwards builds muscles which support the region, and that is helpful in the long run.”

The importances of our lifestyles come through in both the doctors' words. As Bangladeshis, we are prone to heart disease, and therefore it is up to us to be proactive and make the necessary lifestyle changes to prevent it. Similarly, with neck and lower back problems, problems that come with the territory of being human, we have to act from an early age to lessen the impact of degeneration. Health is an often undervalued part of our lives, but it is up to us to ensure through proper lifestyle choices that we do not suffer too much in our old age.


For the love of food

By Kaniska Chakraborty

A Himalayan saga

LET me begin like Snoopy does for his never finished books it was a very cold day. I kid you not. I can't even begin to tell you how cold it felt for the two flatlanders caught in the mountain breeze. Okay. Rewind. Play.

Work beckoned me to the Himalayan state of Nepal. Nepal of much fame, Nepal of Mount Everest, Tenzing Norgay, Annapurna, Kailash, Pashupatinath, palaces, funky cafes, Thamel…I could go on and on. But one thing I cannot tell you is why in heaven's name I had not visited Nepal as yet.

I am from Calcutta. Royal Nepal Airlines had daily flights to Kathmandu. Most of my family and friends had been there. God knows I have heard enough stories about the wonderful cosmopolitan feel of Thamel and the crisp mountain air and the smiling Nepali.

And so, here I was, on my first visit to Nepal. Excited as a schoolboy. I was going for some serious work and thankfully, had a dear colleague for company. Bless her for she had taken the onus of ensuring that the work would be of top-drawer quality. I was there to ensure the operation ran smoothly.

Off we were to the mountains. About half an hour after the flight took off, I just happened to look out of the window. Snow capped jagged peaks greeted me. Reflection of the sun on the peaks sent out a warm welcome.

So did the immigration officer at Tribhuvan airport. Armed with his cheery “Welcome to Nepal”, we stepped out of the cold airport to the arrival area. And came face to face with the first moment of panic.

I was told that there would be someone with a placard reassuringly bearing our names. I saw not one placard with any of our names. Resigned, as I was approaching one of the many tourist taxi operators to negotiate a deal, I spotted this one lad slowly unfolding a crumpled piece of paper. Magically, that carried my name, albeit in a different spelling.

Jumped into the car and set off for the hotel which was exotic enough to be called d'l'Annapurna! A name with a French twist. I was already beginning to like it! Work was scheduled to start the next day. We had the evening to ourselves to explore the area around the hotel.

We mostly saw closed shops and dark streets. Two problems, we were informed of. Makar Sankranti is a big festival in Nepal and shops remain closed for that. The other was vicious bouts of power cuts up to sixteen hours a day. Spotted a casino within our hotel compound and both of us made a mental note to pay a visit.

Woke up next morning and started to feel the chill. Apparently, by some divine interference, Makar Sankranti is always greeted by very cold wind. For the two city slickers who were carrying fashionable cotton pullovers and branded lightweight jackets, well, you can imagine. No wonder we were spotting a lot of people huddled in ungainly large jackets, which looked like makeshift tents.

Battling through the wind, we reached our destination, which was all of a five-minute walk. We were required to sit in a cold room with almost no sunlight and observe a group of teenagers talk about their favourite soft drink. We asked for coffee. Got it about half an hour later. Held the steaming mugs close to ourselves and somehow fended the cold.

By lunch, the cold became too much to bear. We were literally shivering. And to make matters worse, there was no food in sight. The hungry stomach loudly protested and we quickly took to the street to find sustenance.

Just around the corner, we found this café. Rather, the café found us. We simply followed a heavenly aroma of fresh coffee, which wafted out of the door.

I could not understand the meaning of the name, Café Olla. But the smell of coffee was too much to resist.

We walked in and quickly ordered food. Momo and thukpa. We were from Calcutta and very used to momos. Besides, it seemed to be the right thing to order in Nepal.

Steaming coffee came first and thank goodness for that! With the warmth of the coffee settled in and shivering arrested, we were given two very large platters of momos.

They looked nothing like what we get in Calcutta. Instead of the familiar half moon shaped dumplings with thick flour coating, we got artistically shaped things. Edges carefully crimped, skin translucent so you can see the moist inside. They were arranged around two bowls of sauces. One was the familiar chilli garlic. The other was interesting. Of bright ochre hue, it smelled of ginger and green chillies.

At the same time, two large bowls came filled with our thukpa. Again, not the standard fare. Bright white broad noodles with visibly crisp sprouts, shredded yellow omelettes and clean, green vegetables. With discernible pieces of chicken, it looked a complete meal by itself.

The momos exploded inside the mouth. Juicy, spicy, warm, soft, they were momos made in heaven. You could actually taste the chicken and the ginger and the garlic and the cilantro and the chillies- clearly and separately.

The thukpa lived up to its visual promise. The broth was redolent of fresh green ingredients and simmering with omelette strips. The broad noodles were succulent after soaking up the broth. Crunchy vegetables and tasty chicken pieces provided the perfect punctuation marks.

Warm and full, we stepped out of the café to face the bitter cold wind one more time. But this time, it did not seem to be so unfriendly, so cold. Armed with the cosy warmth of momos and thukpa and good coffee, we even found the time and energy to
stop by a lady selling strawberries on the street.

But that story is for another day.

Under A Different Sky

By Iffat Nawaz

The ride after my own heart

IN a calm Dhaka winter afternoon I had stopped writing and began riding rickshaws. Not for fun, no I don't do that anymore; this is as real as Obama and Biden. For me, finding a rickhshawalla who will take pity on me to take me to my desired location has become a big factor of achieving freedom in Dhaka city, where sometimes dependency is the only way towards independency.

I hop into random ones. I don't look at their faces, their age, what they are wearing. I feel colour blind, blind to all that's happening around me. The beggars begging to people in cars stopped at traffic lights, and not me because I am in a rickshaw, therefore not as high up in the economic ladder; makes me feel pleasantly invisible. Invisible between all the stares, all the impersonal remarks, just another person in a rickhshaw balancing a handbag, the aanchal of her sari or positioning of her orna while holding on to the side of the rickshaw for whatever safety it offers.

Two feet stuck to the bar that leads up the seat of the rickshawalla, he moves at a constant pace. His breaths match the wrinkles on my forehead. I stare at the back of his neck, his chest, his back, parallel to my heart. The centre of his back talks to me, it tells me stories; the stains on his shirt tell me to look away yet I can't. I keep staring, the colours of the shirt changes, the rickhshawalla changes; they breathe, cough loudly, spit out mucus, and they sweat. I only see the back of their bodies, going up and down, muscles, bones, hard work and occasional curse words thrown at each other.

I don't look at the sky anymore. Because I ride rickshaws I only look at what's in front, what's next to me, what's around, not what's above. The sky doesn't seem as blue here, it feels as unknown as my own voice. I trust the sky will remain on top; I trust that the road under my rickshaw will take me to where I want to go, and the rickhshawalla won't find out I am lost without him. He will not find out that I depend on him with my life, for him not to cheat me; for him not to take me in alleys where hijackers wait, for him to ride fast enough so I can make my appointments on time and carefully enough so I don't die in the process; no he should never find out. He will only know there is a little purse inside a bigger one that carries changes of ten and twenty takas to pay his bill.

Everyday now, still far from spring, my heart wants to leap out of my body and find ignored corners in streets, in calm Dhaka winter afternoons, right after I started riding rickshaws and stopped writing.



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