Fathers Day

June 15th, 2013

Fathers Day,  a day set aside to honor and acknowledge fathers. It is a joyous occasion to celebrate fathers. Yet this day sometimes sparks sadness for those who do not have dads  that are active in their lives.  This may be due to death, divorce, abandonment or other reasons. It may also be a hard day for dads, if children are estranged and no longer in their lives.   Such occasions usually spark feelings of sadness and regret. It is a bittersweet day for many.

There are also many fathers  who may not be biological fathers, but fathers nevertheless for the time  and care they provide to children. I believe that a supportive, caring individual who makes a difference in a child’s life, in the absence of a biological dad, is a father in the true sense of the word.

For those who mourn the loss of a father on this father’s day, I am sure your fathers would want you to be joyous and not sad. Try and think of the good times you had with your dad and talk about that. If you want to honor his memory,  visit a senior citizen who may be yearning companionship, or a child in need of a loving family. Make the best of the day.

My father passed away many years ago.  I wish to honor his memory with this article.


My Father:  Rughunandhen Sewpal:   26th September 1906-13th August 1989

My father was the eldest of 8 children.  He grew up in Stanger, Kwa Zulu Natal, South Africa on a sugar cane farm. His grandfather had who had been an indentured laborer from India, came to South Africa in the 1860’s.  After serving his indentureship, and working for white farmers, he managed to save money, purchased land, built a school and provided for the less privileged in the community. This school still exists in Nonoti, and the land was distributed to his descendants. 

My father was a school principal. He began his teaching career at the age of 14, when he was in standard 4.  We were told that since he was one of the smarter students, he was asked to teach the lower grades, while he continued to be a student as well.

My father was not a perfect man and he had his share of family upheavals and conflicts. These differences eventually resulted in my father leaving Stanger and donating land that he had inherited, to the community, to build a school in Lot 14, Stanger. He settled in Durban, beginning, a new life with his wife, my mother, and his children. Years later the family did re-connect, and we all enjoy a great relationship with the extended family.

When he was around 50 years old he became deeply religious and tried to spread the Hindu religion far and wide, by delivering talks, slide shows and volunteering hours of his time to the spiritual organization. He also supported this organization financially for many years.

There were also other interesting characteristics about my father.  What I remember most about him was his wonderful sense of humor. Although my father passed away in 1989, for my siblings and me, this facet of his personality, stands out the most.  He was sort of lackadaisical about discipline, strong in some areas and none in others. His daughters were not allowed to have short hair styles, wear pants or shorts.  Yet we could read comics or books that many parents objected too. In fact my father himself used to read comics.

He was an avid story teller and often told us stories that were really funny and often related to someone who had to pee very badly or had to crap urgently, the circumstances around that and what happened afterwards. They were always hilarious.

My younger brother and I were also told that we had “big fathers” who were very wealthy and had huge farms. We were told these tales separately, with details of the adventures of these big fathers. We always listened intently. 

He did a similar thing, when he was much older, with 2 of his grand children, my brother’s sons.  When they asked where this person lived, he would point with his hands, and say, “over there.”  A few years back when I asked my nephews about their big father, Haria, they laughingly said, while pointing, “He lives over there.”  The “there” was sort of stretched to indicate it was far away.

When we recall these big father stories these days, my brother and I both said that in our minds, as children, we accepted this as reality and had visualized this vast land that belonged to our respective big fathers. I don’t think my father realized that we children took all of that literally.

Another thing that I remember was his clever response to me.  When I was in high school, I really wanted short hair, and thought I had the perfect argument for making my case. I told him that the prime minister of India, at the time, Indira Ghandi had short hair; therefore I could have short hair as well. Without a moment’s hesitation, he told me that when I am prime minister, then I can have short hair as well.  I could not respond to that.

When I was in the first and second grade, I used to attend the Manor Gardens School in Cato Manor where my father was principal. A few years later, my younger brother did the same.  Both of us recall that when we arrived home after school, the other siblings asked for sweets or some kind of treats from him.  He never had any. But he told them, that all the shops were burned and he could not buy any.

None of us questioned this. I knew that I did not see any shops that were burned and my brother reports thinking this as well. He used this excuse all the time and even my siblings, who expected the treats, did not question this.

He was also an expert at organizing arranged marriages because he knew the community so well. Our house was often the venue for prospective brides and grooms to meet and do the traditional serving of tea, giving the couple an opportunity to view each other.  A cousin, whose marriage was arranged this way, celebrated her 50th anniversary in January 2013, acknowledging my father as the person responsible for her marriage. Unfortunately none of his children met their spouses in this style.

My father was special to us. I wish we had asked more questions, but we also grew up in a time when children were seen and not heard. I hope to record some of his stories so that future generations will remember his comedic side.

He will always be remembered with love.

Wishing all fathers everywhere a great Fathers Day.

Bad Shopping Experience

November 5th, 2011

Shopping at Roopam

I recently learned that a new Indian clothing store, Roopam,  had opened in Sacramento. I was excited about this as the nearest Indian clothing store was 2 hours away in Berkeley. I had also shopped at the Berkeley Roopam,  store and did like the inventory.

As it was a few days before Diwali, I decided to shop at this new store. It was a 40 minute drive from my home, a bit of a distance in itself. I bought gifts of clothing for my daughter-in-law, son and husband. As I was not quite sure if the sizes would work, I checked with the store manager if I could exchange the items, should there be a problem. He made a note on the garments that they were possible exchanges. They do have a sign, right near the cash register, that says, all sales are final, no exchanges or returns.

Now this is what I find very difficult to accept.

I had this experience in an Indian clothing store in Berkeley.  On that occasion, I was not aware that returns would not be accepted. When I did go to return an item, I was told that it is not their policy to accept returns or offer a refund. After much discussion, they agreed to let me choose other items to the value of the item I was returning.

But coming back to Roopam.  As it happens, the dress did not fit my daughter in law. The outfit did not fit my son and my husband just did not like the style that I had chosen and wanted me to buy something for myself instead.

So I go along to Roopam. The store manager was not there and a store assistant, obviously in a higher rank than the other sales associates comes to help me. I tell her my story.  She then gets a call on her cell phone. So I just stand there, while she chats. I try to get someone else to help, but I am told that she is the person who will help.

So I wait.  No apology for keeping me waiting. The first outfit for my son is exchanged for a bigger size.  I am then told that there are no more dresses in a larger size in that style & color available. I am asked to choose from other dresses in that price range. As I am not happy with the other dresses, I take a chance and ask if they will give me a cash refund. I am told that, that  is not possible and I am shown the notices, that no returns are accepted.

So I look at other dresses. The “chief assistant,” gets another call. So I wait again. The other lady did try to help, by showing me other items, but as she did not know prices etc. I had to wait for the “chief assistant.”

She showed me a dress that was $20 dollar more than the dress that I had purchased. I liked it. I agreed to buy this one and told her that it was not a problem,  as I would use the money from the other outfit, (my husband’s),  that also needed to be exchanged.

The “chief assistant”  looked at me, aghast!!  That outfit I was told,  cannot be used to supplement the cost of the dress. That is from the men’s section and I can only exchange that for an outfit from the men’s section. I was also told, that strictly, I am only allowed to get a larger size, not even to get another item from the men’s section.

I was also told that the dress that I had brought in had nothing to indicate that it was eligible for exchange. It was from the goodness of her heart she was doing me a favor. She did not have to exchange anything.

I told her that I was really surprised by their rigid return policy and said that most department stores are open to returns and it did not have to be from the same section. Cash refunds or credits to the card, were given with no hassles.

I also asked about considering the customer.  If they were more flexible I would most certainly shop there again, but this rigid style actually deters me from ever coming there again.

The “chief assistant” was not concerned about this. She said that at other stores, things are purchased at full price, so therefore they are open to returns and that is not the case with them.

That of course is totally untrue. I buy things on sale all the time and if I have to exchange the item, I never have a problem. In fact,  the dress that I was now returning was marked down by $10, since I bought it a week ago. So it is not as if they are selling at dirt cheap prices.

I was left with no alternate but to exchange the dress for another color in the same price range. I did not return my husband’s oufit as I decided he should go there himself and try it on and decide on a style he wanted. So,  we most likely will do one more trip to this store.  But I will certainly not shop there again. Very sad as I would have been a frequent customer.

Does anyone know why Indian stores have this rigid attitude to exchanges, returns and a lack of consideration for their customers?

Keeping “Bag” Lunches Safe

October 19th, 2010

I believe that taking one’s own lunch to work is a really good idea. This way, you choose the ingredients for your lunch, you are aware of how the food was prepared and how much of oils etc. was used. You know that it is fresh and wholesome.

Another huge advantage is that you will be saving money. The ingredients that are used to make one set of sandwiches can be used for several sandwiches. These include, bread, tomatoes, gherkins, jalapenos, cheese and so forth. You can add to savings by carrying your own water and soft drinks and not be from vending machines.
When I saw this article that follows,  I thought it had very useful information to ensure that the food you carry to work remains fresh and wholesome.

Do check it out.

Safe Food Handling

Keeping “Bag” Lunches Safe

Whether it’s off to school or work we go, millions of Americans carry “bag” lunches. Food brought from home can be kept safe if it is first handled and cooked safely. Then, perishable food must be kept cold while commuting via bus, bicycle, on foot, in a car, or on the subway. After arriving at school or work, perishable food must be kept cold until lunchtime.

Why keep food cold? Harmful bacteria multiply rapidly in the “Danger Zone” — the temperatures between 40 and 140 °F. So, perishable food transported without an ice source won’t stay safe long. Here are safe handling recommendations to prevent food-borne illness from “bag” lunches.

Begin with Safe Food

Perishable food, such as raw or cooked meat and poultry, must be kept cold or frozen at the store and at home. Eggs should be purchased cold at the store and kept cold at home. In between, transport perishable food as fast as possible when no ice source is available. At the destination, it must be kept cold. Food should not be left out at room temperature more than 2 hours (1 hour if the temperature is above 90 °F).

Prepackaged combos that contain luncheon meats along with crackers, cheese, and condiments must also be kept refrigerated. This includes luncheon meats and smoked ham which are cured or contain preservatives.

Keep Everything Clean

Wash your hands before you prepare or eat food. Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and countertops with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item and before you go on to the next item. A solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach in 1 gallon of water may be used to sanitize surfaces and utensils. Keep family pets away from kitchen counters.

Don’t Cross-Contaminate

Harmful bacteria can spread throughout the kitchen and get onto cutting boards, utensils, and countertops. Always use a clean cutting board. When using a cutting board for food that will not be cooked, such as bread, lettuce, and tomatoes, be sure to wash the board after using it to cut raw meat and poultry. Use one cutting board for fresh produce and a separate one for meat and poultry.

At lunchtime, discard all used food packaging and paper bags. Do not reuse packaging because it could contaminate other food and cause foodborne illness.

Packing Lunches

Pack just the amount of perishable food that can be eaten at lunch. That way, there won’t be a problem about the storage or safety of leftovers.

It’s fine to prepare the food the night before and store the packed lunch in the refrigerator. Freezing sandwiches helps them stay cold. However, for best quality, don’t freeze sandwiches containing mayonnaise, lettuce, or tomatoes. Add these later.

Insulated, soft-sided lunch boxes or bags are best for keeping food cold, but metal or plastic lunch boxes and paper bags can also be used. If using paper lunch bags, create layers by double bagging to help insulate the food. An ice source should be packed with perishable food in any type of lunch bag or box.

Keeping Cold Lunches Cold

Prepare cooked food, such as turkey, ham, chicken, and vegetable or pasta salads, ahead of time to allow for thorough chilling in the refrigerator. Divide large amounts of food into shallow containers for fast chilling and easier use. Keep cooked food refrigerated until time to leave home.

To keep lunches cold away from home, include a small frozen gel pack or frozen juice box. Of course, if there’s a refrigerator available, store perishable items there upon arrival.

Some food is safe without a cold source. Items that don’t require refrigeration include whole fruits and vegetables, hard cheese, canned meat and fish, chips, breads, crackers, peanut butter, jelly, mustard, and pickles.

Keeping Hot Lunches Hot

Use an insulated container to keep food like soup, chili, and stew hot. Fill the container with boiling water, let stand for a few minutes, empty, and then put in the piping hot food. Keep the insulated container closed until lunchtime to keep the food hot — 140 °F or above.

Microwave Cooking/Reheating

When using the microwave oven to reheat lunches, cover food to hold in moisture and promote safe, even heating. Reheat leftovers to at least 165 °F. Food should be steaming hot. Cook frozen convenience meals according to package instructions.

My Gripe with Supermarket Shoppers

October 19th, 2010

My Gripe has to do with shoppers who do not return the carts/trolleys back to the carts parking bay after they have unloaded their cars. I have seen many shoppers shove the carts onto whatever is closest to their cars. It is often pushed against the curbs of little islands that have lovely flowers growing in them. Now they are blocked with these carts. Often they are just abandoned anywhere in the parking lot.

A few days ago as I drove into a parking bay, I saw a cart right in the middle of a parking spot for cars. I thought how ridiculous this was. On my return I saw a man actually taking his cart back to the same spot, now making it 2 carts in a parking bay for cars!!
The best part about this particular location was that there were parking bays for carts in two locations about 6 yards on either side of this man’s car I could not believe the disregard that there is for returning carts to their proper places.

I decided to do my good deed for the day. After I had returned my car to the parking area, I also removed the offending cart back to the cart park. While I was taking the second cart, a supermarket employee had arrived to take all carts back to the store and took the cart from me. I told her that I am always surprised at the careless manner in which the carts are left by the customers. She laughed pleasantly, and said that people are too lazy.

This carelessness has also causes damage to cars, as carts on the loose, move, and they are known to hit into cars and cause scratches and bumps. Returning the carts should be seen as an opportunity to walk a few steps and get the benefit of exercise.
Does anyone else have this gripe?


May 9th, 2010

A day meant to celebrate mothers all over the world. Many mothers receive flowers, gifts, cards and messages of love and appreciation. Mothers are treated to breakfast, lunch and other treats as they bask in the attention lavished to them on this day.

For some children, a day like Mothers Day is difficult day when they have lost a parent. If a father has died or is absent due to divorce or separation, and is no longer part of the celebration of that day, Mothers day is never the same again. The celebration that day is always tempered with loss as well.

Children also face a different Mothers Day when they lose a mother to death, or other circumstances, including the intervention of child protection services and are separated from their mother. Such a day brings back memories of good times as well as the bad. It can be a relief, being removed from a place of danger, yet to others the loss of a mother, no matter what the circumstances is painful, sad and upsetting.

These children seek answers. Hopefully the children are with adults, sensitive to their emotions and can assure them that they are children worthy of love and attention and it was poor choices on the part of the adult that lead to their separation. They are not to blame.

For many mothers, there is a tinge of sadness, regret and disappointment when a child does not visit or acknowledge the parent anymore. The majority of mothers have every good intention to love and care for their children, but unfortunately, through ignorance and a lack of understanding some mothers inadvertently harm or hurt that their children.

For children too, taking such a stance to willfully cut themselves off must be hard, but see this either as punishment or a way to free themselves of more of the same pain and disappointment.
It is my wish that on this Mothers Day that mothers and children work towards strengthening their bonds, forgive and start afresh.

For those facing the loss of a parent gone forever, I hope that the memories of good times sustains them and for them to know that a loved one will not want his/her family to be sad. The best way to honor that parent is to make the very best of that day, trying not to dwell in sadness, but lift your spirits and celebrate Mothers Day.


March 15th, 2010

A Quick Supper I Planned

While making a salad for my husbands lunch, I thought of saving time by quickly cooking a dish for supper. Most of the ingredients to make a tomato chutney  were right there in front of me.  It included onions &  tomatoes.  It did not make much sense to put all these things away, I reasoned,  and later bring them all out to cook this dish. I just needed more tomatoes, green chilies, oil and garlic.

So I quickly braised the curry and went about clearing the table .  I decided to turn the temperature on high and then switch it off before I left the kitchen for other tasks.   I continued with other tasks which took me to another part of the house,  and of course completely forgot about my curry on the stove.

About half hour later after I got a strong smell, I dashed to the kitchen and found the contents all burned and a terrible smell in the kitchen.  So much for my saving time!

Well,  the good thing is that,  thanks,  that I have a good sense of smell.  It was a good thing that there was nothing nearby, like  dishcloth that could have caught on fire.  The loss was  a small pot of curry and my time. It could  have been worse.

Lesson Learned.

Pay attention to an activity.  Remember to be mindful.  It is good advise to do put everything one has into one task and complete before moving the next one.

March 14th, 2010

A Vegetarian Diet

According the United States Department of Agriculture a vegetarian Diet can meet the requirements for nutrients. The key is to consume a variety of foods and the right amount of foods to meet your calorie needs.

Follow the food group recommendations for your age, sex, and activity level to get the right amount of food and the variety of foods needed for nutrient adequacy. Nutrients that vegetarians may need to focus on include

  • protein,
  • iron
  • calcium,
  • zinc
  • vitamin B12

Nutrients that Vegetarians should focus on


have  many important functions in the body and are  essential for growth and maintenance. Protein needs can easily be met by eating a variety of plant-based foods. Combining different protein sources in the same meal is not necessary. Sources of protein for vegetarians include beans, nuts, nut butters, peas, and soy products (tofu, tempeh, veggie burgers). Milk products and eggs are also good protein sources for lacto-ovo vegetarians


functions primarily as a carrier of oxygen in the blood. Iron sources for vegetarians include iron-fortified breakfast cereals, spinach, kidney beans, black-eyed peas, lentils, turnip greens, molasses, whole wheat breads, peas, and some dried fruits (dried apricots, prunes, raisins).


is used for building bones and teeth and in maintaining bone strength. Sources of calcium for vegetarians include fortified breakfast cereals, soy products (tofu, soy-based beverages), calcium-fortified orange juice, and some dark green leafy vegetables (collard greens, turnip greens, bok choy, mustard greens). Milk products are excellent calcium sources for lacto vegetarians.


is necessary for many biochemical reactions and also helps the immune system function properly. Sources of zinc for vegetarians include many types of beans (white beans, kidney beans, and chickpeas), zinc-fortified breakfast cereals, wheat germ, and pumpkin seeds. Milk products are a zinc source for lacto vegetarians.

Vitamin B12

is found in animal products and some fortified foods. Sources of vitamin B12 for vegetarians include milk products, eggs, and foods that have been fortified with vitamin B12. These include breakfast cereals, soy-based beverages, veggie burgers, and nutritional yeast.

Tips for Vegetarians

  • Build meals around protein sources that are naturally low in fat, such as beans, lentils, and rice. Don’t overload meals with high-fat cheeses to replace the meat.
  • Calcium-fortified soy-based beverages can provide calcium in amounts similar to milk. They are usually low in fat and do not contain cholesterol.
  • Many foods that typically contain meat or poultry can be made vegetarian. This can increase vegetable intake and cut saturated fat and cholesterol intake. Consider:
  • pasta primavera or pasta with marinara or pesto sauce
  • veggie pizza
  • vegetable lasagna
  • tofu-vegetable stir fry
  • vegetable lo mein
  • vegetable kabobs
  • bean burritos or tacos
  • A variety of vegetarian products look (and may taste) like their non-vegetarian counterparts, but are usually lower in saturated fat and contain no cholesterol.
    • For breakfast, try soy-based sausage patties or links.
    • Rather than hamburgers, try veggie burgers. A variety of kinds are available, made with soy beans, vegetables, and/or rice.
    • Add vegetarian meat substitutes to soups and stews to boost protein without adding saturated fat or cholesterol. These include tempeh (cultured soybeans with a chewy texture), tofu, or wheat gluten (seitan).
    • For barbecues, try veggie or garden burgers, soy hot dogs, marinated tofu or tempeh, and veggie kabobs.
    • Make bean burgers, lentil burgers, or pita halves with falafel (spicy ground chick pea patties).
    • Some restaurants offer soy options (texturized vegetable protein) as a substitute for meat, and soy cheese as a substitute for regular cheese.
  • Most restaurants can accommodate vegetarian modifications to menu items by substituting meatless sauces, omitting meat from stir-fries, and adding vegetables or pasta in place of meat. These substitutions are more likely to be available at restaurants that make food to order.
  • Many Asian and Indian restaurants offer a varied selection of vegetarian dishes.

Are Bath Toys Safe

March 4th, 2010

All kids enjoy bath time in the tub and  playing with their favorite plastic toys.  Well this could be a source of bacteria which can lead to serious health problems. This is particularly a problem when the toys have holes in them.

The water collects in the toy and although it is squeezed out at the end of the bath, not all the water escapes.  This  moist environment promotes the growth of bacteria.  When children suck onto the toys they are taking in the filth from the innards of the toys. Tests done on toys that were thought to be safe showed E.coli and other bacteria.It is recommended that if toys are used, do not get those with holes. Do   watch the clip below. This was featured in the Today show on 03/03 /2010.


My Gardening Venture

March 1st, 2010

My Latest Attempt at Gardening

Over the years I have tried my hand at planting seeds and cultivating a garden with very moderate success.  I always marvel at those who create beautiful flower and vegetable gardens. I imagine how rewarding it must make them feel to see the magnificent blooms and beautiful fresh vegetables.  I hope to get that feeling this time.

My late mother was,  and my sister is an excellent gardener. Their plants thrive and bloom. My mother used to supply the local grocery store with produce from her garden.  I have had more success with flowers than vegetables.

I remember the time I had a very nice bloom of Zinnias. But the tomatoes I produce look sick and undernourished. I realize that gardening takes a lot of effort and as with anything, one has to put in that effort to achieve good results.

Well today, I cleared a small patch, removed the weeds, flattened the soil, and planted a few vegetable seeds and plants.  I will monitor the progress that I make with this new venture.

Flexibility of Food Patterns for Varied Food Preferences

February 11th, 2010

The USDA Food Guide and the DASH Eating Plan are flexible to permit food choices based on individual and cultural food preferences, cost, and availability. Both can also accommodate varied types of cuisines and special needs due to common food allergies.  Two adaptations of the USDA Food Guide and the DASH Eating Plan are:

Vegetarian Choices

Vegetarians of all types can achieve recommended nutrient intakes through careful selection of foods.

These individuals should give special attention to their intakes of protein, iron, and vitamin B12, as well as calcium and vitamin D if avoiding milk products.

In addition, vegetarians could select only nuts, seeds, and legumes from the meat and beans group, or they could include eggs if so desired.

At the 2,000-calorie level, they could choose about 1.5 ounces of nuts and 2/3 cup legumes instead of 5.5 ounces of meat, poultry, and/or fish. One egg, ½ ounce of nuts, or ¼ cup of legumes is considered equivalent to 1 ounce of meat, poultry, or fish in the USDA Food Guide.

Substitutions for Milk and Milk Products

Since milk and milk products provide more than 70 percent of the calcium consumed by Americans, guidance on other choices of dietary calcium is needed for those who do not consume the recommended amount of milk products.

Milk product consumption has been associated with overall diet quality and adequacy of intake of many nutrients, including calcium, potassium, magnesium, zinc, iron, riboflavin, vitamin A, folate, and vitamin D.

People may avoid milk products because of allergies, cultural practices, taste, or other reasons. Those who avoid all milk products need to choose rich sources of the nutrients provided by milk, including potassium, vitamin A, and magnesium in addition to calcium and vitamin D.

Those who avoid milk because of its lactose content may obtain all the nutrients provided by the milk group by using lactose-reduced or low-lactose milk products, taking small servings of milk several times a day, taking the enzyme lactase before consuming milk products, or eating other calcium-rich foods.

Some vegetarian calcium enriched foods include, soya products  like tofu, & soya milk. Vegetables, like spinach, kale,  several kinds of nuts, artichokes,oats, bulgur and some cereals also contain calcium.