Zzz! Sound sleep was a major challenge for Indian adults during lockdown

The article was carried in all editions of The Free Press Journal on April https://www.freepressjournal.in/health/world-health-day-2021-indians-grapple-with-new-sleep-challenges

23% women in Mumbai are prone to anaemia while 27% men are predisposed to diabetes, reveals Indus Health Plus Survey

World Health Day: The study’s overall sample size in Maharashtra was 21,500 people while that for Mumbai was 2,978. These people underwent preventive health check-ups between October 2019 and February 2021.

Mumbai, April 7, 2021: On the occasion of World Health Day, Indus Health Plus Survey revealed that people in Maharashtra are susceptible to diabetes (27%), Vitamin B12 Deficiency (23%), dyslipidemia (17%), obesity (13%) followed by heart diseases (10%) and anaemia (10%). The key non-modifiable risk factor is the genetic makeup of an individual favoured by environmental, age, gender, stress and physiology, metabolism, which increases the onset and progression of lifestyle diseases. 

The study’s overall sample size was 21,500 people who underwent preventive health check-ups between October 2019 and February 2021. From Mumbai, the total sample size was 2,978 people. It was observed that the Mumbaikars are predisposed to diabetes (25%), dyslipidemia (18%), Vitamin B12 deficiency (16%), obesity (15%), followed by anaemia (14%) and heart diseases (12%). 

Amol Naikawadi, JMD, and Preventive Healthcare Specialist, Indus Health Plus, says, “Diabetes and cardiovascular diseases are prevalent in India. These diseases tend to impact people in the most productive years of their lives and result in social and economic consequences. Another important aspect is that comorbid conditions such as diabetes, obesity, and heart diseases are high-risk conditions for COVID-19. Hence, proper management to keep them in control is vital, especially in this situation.” 

Measures to boost immunity

  • Get enough sleep
  • Eat more healthy fats and whole plant food
  • Stay hydrated
  • Take a probiotic supplement
  • Limit added sugars
  • Engage in moderate exercise
  • Manage stress
  • Maintain good hygiene
  • Avoid smoking and alcohol
  • Don’t consume excessive saturated fats

The trend report highlights that women are prone to anaemia (23%) and dyslipidemia (20%) compared to men. Men are at higher risk of diabetes (27%), Vitamin B12 deficiency (21%)and heart ailments (14%). 

The data gives us an insight into individual health needs to be taken very seriously. Health means physical, social, mental wellbeing with absence from diseases. Therefore, ensure regular health check-ups and follow-ups, personalized diet and lifestyle goals need to be set and followed, and strong immunity to protect from diseases. 

“While exposure to the SARS-Cov-2 virus remains the most decisive factor determining the chances of getting COVID-19, other possible factors may influence the response to infection. These risk factors include reduced immunity, presence of existing comorbidities, and age. The genetic variants can influence the response to COVID-19 by regulating the immune function that can make an individual less or more vulnerable than others. Therefore people must understand the value of prevention and continue to invest in timely and routine examination to monitor comorbidities and keep them at bay,” adds Naikawadi. 

The main focus of people should be on wellness and prevention of lifestyle diseases and to create a culture of healthy living among the younger generation. The best way to minimize the cost of treating lifestyle diseases is to invest in preventive healthcare, which accounts for a fraction of the money spent on corrective steps.

CATEGORYNo. of MEN: 1436 No. of WOMEN: 1542 Total: 2978
In %In %In %
ANAEMIA5%23%14%
DIABETES – F BSL27%23%25%
DYSLIPIDEMIA – TOTAL CHOLESTEROL16%20%18%
HEART PROBLEM – CT CORONARY ANGIOGRAPHY14%9%12%
OBESITY16%13%15%
VITAMIN B 1221%12%16%

You are cordially invited to attend the wedding of dugwell and banyan tree

King Sri Krishnadevaraya wanted to organise the wedding of his royal well to find his wise advisor Tenali Rama, but a well is also wedded off in a colourful custom prevalent in Bihar and Jharkhand. 

The last you would have heard of a well’s wedding was in the folklore of Tenali Rama. Once upon a time, it had so happened that King Sri Krishnadevaraya and his wise advisor Tenali Rama had a spat over some trivial issue, following which the King banished him from the royal court. After this episode, Tenali Rama left the kingdom and moved to a nondescript village. Soon, the King realised that Tenali Rama was, in fact, correct, and he was keen to have him back in his court. But his special advisor was nowhere to be found. To look for him, the King had to use his wits. An announcement was made saying that the King had organised the royal well’s wedding in his capital Vijayanagar on the full moon night, and the village panchayats in his kingdom were cordially invited to attend the same with their wells in tow. The King wouldn’t tolerate any defiance, and if the villagers failed to bring their wells along for the wedding, they would be penalised 100 gold coins. The harried villagers sought Tenali Rama’s advice. He suggested that they meet the King the following day and tell him that the village wells would attend the wedding for sure, but only if the royal well comes and invites them personally. The King knew that it could be only his witty courtier Tenali Rama, who could give the villagers this suggestion to outwit the King’s proposed well’s wedding plan, and well, eventually both won the battle of wits in equal measure.  

Taking a leaf out of this folklore, a quaint neighbourhood — Vikas Nagar — in Ward no 8 of the Barh subdivision of Patna district organised a wedding of its well with great pomp and show on November 28, 2019.

Sharmila Kumari, Vikas Mitra of Ward no 8, Barh.
Read more here: https://en.gaonconnection.com/well-wedding-jharkhand-bihar-water/

Dealing with COVID stress is not a child’s play

Dr Jesal Sheth tells how parents can chip in and help their children bust it.

New Delhi, April 1, 2021: The COVID19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown generated a lot of fear and stress across all age groups. Children usually thrive under predictable conditions, but the pandemic’s disruption greatly impacted them physically and emotionally. Online schooling, social isolation, lack of interactions with their friends, lack of physical sports and parental angst have aggravated their mental and emotional wellbeing. Children and adolscents have developed fear, anxiety, depression, and boredom. While most parents were involved in dealing with the pandemic’s uncertainty and putting all efforts to keep their family safe and sustainable, the emotional needss and mental health of children were somehow ignored.

THE IMPACT OF THE PANDEMIC ON CHILDREN: The pandemic has changed the way children typically grow, learn, play, behave, interact, and manage emotions. Children have been observed to have conduct problems, peer problems, externalizing problems, and general psychological distress. When compared with children who did not exercise, children with psychical activity had lower hyperactivity-inattention and less prosocial behavior problems.

Moreover, from a more emotional perspective, they have a lot going around in their head, and the biggest worry for them is whether or not they will see their friends in school or get sick. The combined effect between lifestyle changes and psychosocial stress caused by home confinement perhaps aggravates children’s behavioural problems.

In the long run, this can lead to an emotional breakdown among children, and the same may lead to these children resisting to return to school post-lockdown. This can happen primarily because children have lost their pre-lockdown routines and the loss of touch with their peers and mentors. In addition to this, the lockdown-related constraints can have a long-term negative effect on their overall psychological wellbeing.

SO, HOW DO WE TACKLE THIS? Here’s how you can help children cope with COVID-related stress;

  • Address fears: Anxiety and emotional depression can be tackled by parents to some extent by addressing fears of children, talking about problems and possible solutions from the child’s perspective.
  • Spend time with grandparents: Children who have grandparents can spend some quality time with them, listen to stories and tell them stories. Talking to them will help.
  • Follow a routine: Parents can maintain some routines even if confined at home. It is always good if parents and children can plan some activities together. Parents should also plan their children’s tasks one at a time, involve them in various home activities, educate them about following hygiene habits and social distancing.
  • Play games: Engage in indoor play and creative activities. In addition to these activities, children can be advised to be involved in household chores and understand their social responsibilities.
  • Organise virtual play dates: To keep them in touch with friends and classmates, plan a virtual party and playdates.
  • Discuss issues: Parents should pay more attention to the emotional wellbeing of the child. Keep emphasizing COVID19 measures like wearing a mask, social distancing, and frequent hand washing, as the pandemic is not over yet. Also, children should be encouraged to socialize with their friends and classmates through digital forums under the parent’s supervision.

(Dr Jesal Sheth is Senior Consultant-Paediatrician, Fortis Hospital, Mulund; Cover image by Tumisu from Pixabay

Are your hair and skin ready to beat the heat?

Dr Kiran Godse lists tips and tricks to keep them healthy in coming summer months. 

New Delhi, March 31, 2021: A year of COVID19 lockdown has kept most of us indoors but gradually we are stepping out as offices, schools, public transports, etc., are slowing opening up and life is limping back to normalcy. Summer is right here, staring at us. Are your skin and hair ready to beat the heat?

SKIN DURING SUMMER: When summers approach, temperatures rise and so does the humidity level. Humidity brings in a lot of changes in our skin and hair behavior. Our skin becomes sweaty, oily, develops acne flare ups, blackheads, whiteheads, and is prone to fungal infections, heat boils, body odors etc. Even our hair becomes frizzy with an oily scalp, dandruff, etc.

SO HOW TO TACKLE SKIN PROBLEMS DURING SUMMER? For having a healthy skin during these hard summer days, few tips can be helpful.

  • Cleanse your skin well with a gentle cleanser-twice daily is optimal. In case your body becomes excessively sweaty or one suffers from body odors, bathing twice daily will be helpful.
  • Make sure to dry your skin well before layering clothes, preferably even use some dusting powder, since it helps absorb excess moisture and thus, prevents fungal infections, heat boils or prickly heat issues.
  • Using a sunscreen is crucial, especially for those who suffer from hyperpigmentation and sun sensitivity.
  • Wearing closed footwear for a prolonged period can give rise to fungal infections and soft corns in the web spaces, so using dusting powder on the foot before wearing socks or shoes, aids in keeping your feet dry and clean.

CARING FOR YOUR HAIR DURING SUMMER? During summers, while it is necessary to care for your skin, it is equally important to take good care of your hair.

  • Cleansing hair at least twice a week is optimal. For those suffering from an itchy or dandruff prone scalp, using an anti-dandruff shampoo regularly keeps dandruff at bay.
  • Oiling your hair shouldn’t be done frequently as it can lead to heat boils on scalp with acne flare ups on the forehead and trunk. Just a teaspoon of oil an hour before hair wash, once a week, is adequate. In case the above steps don’t help your skin, consult a dermatologist.

BEWARE OF THE STEROIDS THAT MAY DAMAGE YOUR SKIN: Avoid taking drugs or applying over-the-counter-creams recommended by friends or the pharmacist, since majority of them contain steroids which may worsen your skin condition.

  • Avoid using topical steroid creams sold over the counter to treat fungal infections
  • Keep your body well hydrated! Drink lots of water, juices and eat plenty of fruits rich in Vitamin C.

THINGS TO DO TO SAFEGUARD YOUR SKIN & HAIR WHILE STEPPING OUT: While stepping out, one must ensure that a generous coat of a broad spectrum sunscreen is used. Reapplication of the same every 2-3 hourly is necessary to avail adequate sun protection, especially if one is constantly out in the sun. Also it is not necessary to apply sunscreen under your mask, as it may cause irritation and acne flare-ups since the occlusion inside the mask damages skin barrier and makes skin more prone to irritation. Apart from using a sunscreen, wearing protective clothing helps. Light colored loose cotton garments should be preferred to avoid any excessive sweating and friction.

Wishing you all ‘happy summer skin days’!

(Dr Kiran Godse is Consultant, Dermatology & Cosmetology, Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi-A Fortis Network Hospital)

(Cover Image by silviarita from Pixabay

Stomach full of memories

Food can evoke memories, create a sense of belonging and define a person’s story. Dubai-based Prakash Dadlani takes a gastronomic trip down memory lane to relive all things sweet and nice about Sindhi cuisine.         

I was approached by one of my friends to share my thoughts and memories on Sindhi cuisine. Normally, I would have said no, but this time around, I tried to scuttle my way out of it by saying that I am not a foodie because that is what my daughter believes, and for obvious reasons. I show no excitement for food, and that earns her ire. She will happily give me a pasting (in words) if I do not react to her mother’s yummy food, which I normally don’t.

After having said no to my friend, I started pondering that am I actually not a foodie? Then who is not a foodie? I believe everyone is, albeit with varying degrees. I am privileged to be blessed with two amazing women who are wonderful cooks, and thanks to their culinary skills that I always have had the yummiest food served with love. Be it, my mother first, and now my wife, I must admit both have been a blessing. I can’t thank them enough. I am guilty of taking them for granted, though.

Since my friend’s request was to share memories, I had second thoughts. Nostalgia gives me a kick and brings a smile to my face. So I thought, why not pen my memories around Sindhi cuisine.

A majority of my life has been spent in metropolis cities that are melting pot of varied cultures. As you know, Sindhi’s aren’t a vast populace, so its food culture remains mainly under wraps. I had spent my childhood on the outskirts of Mumbai (then Bombay) in a place called Ulhasnagar, where I was born and did most of my primary schooling. Ulhasnagar was one of the refugee centres at the time of partition, and so it is dominated by Sindhis, who migrated from undivided India in 1947.

My earliest memory of Sindhi food was the breakfast item called Daal or Chola Dhabal (Pav). There would be enterprising people out with their carts with about three aluminium handis placed on a charcoal burner on the streets. One handi used to have cooked chana daal, another one chickpeas (super soft, treated with tea powder to give it a dark colour) and the third handi had moong daal. He would also have containers with finely cut onions, chutney, pickle and coriander leaves as condiments as per his clientele’s taste. He would have many ladis of pav (it was called dhabal – double roti in Bambaiya). It was the most filling breakfast for us on Sunday mornings.

Pav with either daal or chola or mixed. And this yummy delicacy cost just for 25 paise back in the early 70s. Yes, yes, 25 paise! Unbelievable, isn’t it. My parents sent me with a rupee note (it was a note back then) to get the daal-chola-dhabal for the entire family. And so was the popularity of this that you would find all neighbourhood lining up for this breakfast.

Check this video to see how popular this item was for Sindhis. It is not as widely available now, but the memories are so fresh in my mind.

Two other Sindhi delicacies that have retained their popularity are Daal-Pakwan and Koki. These are widely available in metropolitan cities (we get them in Dubai too) and are very popular amongst other communities. The drill for Daal-Pakwan is the same – handis with the same ingredients. The pav is replaced by deep-fried layers of dough made of maida and is deep fried. On the other hand, Koki is like a paratha but with onions and spices mixed with dough and roasted on tawa on low flame. It is served best with yoghurt. Both, Daal-Pakwan and Koki are mainly breakfast items but are quite filling.

Another lesser-known Sindhi food is lotus stem or Kamal Kakdi. We call it bhee. It’s a Sindhi delicacy and is not easily available in the market. It’s priced more than other vegetables. Cleaning and cooking it is a task. And you must know how to relish it.

My friend asked me why do Sindhis add potato to all vegetables. Well, I don’t have an answer to it. What I know is that we are fond of eating a good quantity of bhajis (veggies) at every meal. To increase the amount of the vegetables, you add potato to it as a universal add along. In fact, potato in black pepper and cardamom curry is a popular dish during the big Ekadashi called Gyars in Sindhi.

Another potato delicacy of Sindhis is called Aloo-Tuk; a simple dish that goes perfect with Daal-Chawal. Potato would feel left out, so we add brinjal for the company. And it reminds me of another Sindhi breakfast delicacy called Seyun-Patata (sweet vermicelli with Aloo-Tuk).

Another breakfast delicacy in our home (me and my brother’s favourite) is Seyal Mani. It is made of leftover chappatis cooked with garlic, onion and tomato. Such was the craze for this delicacy that my brother would tell mom to make more chappatis for dinner to have leftover chappatis for the following day. This dish doesn’t taste the same with freshly made chappatis. When I moved to Muscat for a job, I came across this dish called Kuttu Paratha. Similar, but nowhere close to the yummy ‘Seyal Mani’ that my mother used to prepare.

In the Sindhi festival called Thadri, you are not supposed to light stove/gas and have to consume cold food. Delicacies are thus made the previous day and consumed the whole day of Thadri. It’s a much-deserved rest day for ladies and family would have fun by playing cards and other games while relishing Thadri special food.

As they say, karoge yaad toh har baat yaad aayegi. The gastronomic trip has left me nostalgic and I food and those times. There are so many more Sindhi dishes viz. Sai Bhaji, Bhuga Chawal, Sindhi Kadhi, Tayri, and the list goes on and on. I now realise that if I start recounting and writing about all the Sindhi dishes, I will need to write a book.

Last but not least, the most popular Sindhi delicacy is and will forever remain – papad. It is believed that Papad is originally a Sindhi item and was adapted by various other communities, and Lijjat made it a household name in India. No meal would be complete without papad, and hence a Sindhi household would have papad as the first item on their grocery list. Papad making is a tedious exercise, and many Sindhi ladies used to make papads and pickles as business to cater to the heavy demand.

The most popular Sindhi delicacy is the all-time favourite papad. It is believed that a Papad is a Sindhi item and was adapted by other communities in India. No meal in a Sindhi household is complete without papad, and it is the first item on their grocery list. Paniwari Khatair or water pickle is another Sindhi speciality. It is made of turnips and doesn’t contain a drop of oil. 

So am I a foodie? I think I am now with all these memories gushing in. I just realised that Sindhis do have a long list of delicacies. My wife will surely hate me for placing a request for Seyal Mani and Gyars Patata, and I must thank my friend for making me revisit these lovely food memories. 

Jai Jhulelal!

(Cover image by Ritesh Uttamchandani)

Flavours of Sindhustan

The article was published in Sunday magazine of The New Indian Express and The Sunday Standard in their edition dated March 28, 2021.
https://www.newindianexpress.com/lifestyle/food/2021/mar/28/flavours-of-sindhustan-a-look-into-sindhi-cuisine-and-the-kadhi-2281629.amp

The sweet taste of success 

Ritesh, Shirley and Sonia | Mumbai

Uttamchandani sibling trio – Ritesh, Shirley and Sonia.

Mumbai-based Uttamchandani sibling trio – Ritesh, Shirley and Sonia – had a rather sweet initiation into the home-grown food business with Sev Mithai or Singharji Mithai and Mohanthal, both traditional Sindhi desserts during the lockdown months. Ritesh was keen that Shirley become a home chef and start her business because the siblings were known for their Sindhi food among their friends and acquaintances. “It was always a super hit with everyone during the get-togethers but I was quite wary of log kya kahenge, especially the traditional Sindhis,” recounts Shirley.

Starting point

Ritesh wanted to share Sev Barfi with his friends on his birthday, and it was then that the idea first emerged. “It was around Ritesh’s birthday on July 30, 2020, that this idea first came up for discussion among us after one of his friends requested for it. We were thrilled to bits about the concept as we had received encouraging reviews from our friends to our food pop-ups. So we started the home delivery of mithais,” says Shirley. The trio was wary of people’s reaction, especially from the traditional Sindhis, but the sweet taste tickled their taste buds too, apart from finding favour among the non-Sindhis.

Sev Barfi.

“The response that we got was unbelievable! I was making big thals of Sev Barfi every day, not once or twice but even thrice. Every single person loved this flavourful sweet,” says Shirley. It tickled the taste buds of even the non-Sindhis. “Some of them were kind enough to heap praises by saying that it is better than Tharu’s at Bandra and Jhama Sweets at Chembur. Well, being even compared to these legendary sweet shops itself was a huge compliment,” says Sonia, adding, “Also, because we are using elaichi (cardamom) and kesar (saffron) generously.”

On the menu  

Since then, their business has grown manifold, and they have had several additions to the menu, including traditional Sindhi foods such as Daal-Pakwan-Aloo Tikki, Sindhi Kadhi-rice-aalo tuk, Kokis, sanha pakoras, Sindhi mitha lolas, gajar ka halwa, Kaju barfi, seyal machi (fish), bhee alu,etc.

The culinary skill among the Uttamchandani siblings is hereditary. “My parents were wonderful cooks. Papa used to make finger-licking kadhi teevan (mutton) and fish till about he was 80. He always insisted on moderate use of spices so that the taste of vegetables retain its flavour. My mother used to cook amazing food. Her nieces and nephews settled abroad used to come and visit us because she used to pamper them with yummy chole kokis, sanha pakoras and mitha lolas and carrot and onion pickles made in Sindhi style,” says Sonia with a tinge of nostalgia.

Market wise

Sonia highlights how most of the upmarket eating places don’t have even Sindhi food added to their menu like south Indian, Punjabi or even Chinese, and that’s sad.

Ritesh attributes the rising popularity of Sindhi food among non-Sindhis to curiosity. “Over the years, our food culture has been influenced by other cuisines, and it has travelled to different parts of the world. It bodes well because, unlike the generation before mine that thinks it is diluting our culinary delights. I believe it is assimilation. Each Sindhi household has modified the dishes a bit, and still there’s a lot that remains the same,” he says. The Sev Mithai uses Sev as the main ingredient, and Sev is also used in the Kachchi dish, Sev Tamatar. Even Maharashtrians use Sev, so there are similarities, yet all the Sev dishes are different.

Their speciality is jaggery-based Sev Mithai. “Jaggery and milk are quite tricky to handle together but it’s Ritesh’s creative mind and the courage to experiment that has made this mithai a possibility and a success with those who don’t want to consume processed sugar. And this food experiment helped us even to make jaggery-based Mohanthal, which feels much lighter than the sugar version,” explains Shirley. Uttamchandani siblings have added orange-flavoured Sev Barfi as their next experiment. 

Big takeaway

“Food has made possible such beautiful connections. People whom I have never met have become good friends of ours now. I am glad that our offerings have found a home in each of our client’s palate and plate,” chirps in Shirley, who can’t imagine how all of it started and how our food and sweets have so far reached more than 300 homes! “The connections that we have made are simply priceless. It is everyone’s love and God’s grace that has kept us motivated,” add Uttamchandanis.

Capital Affair

Archana Manwani

Archana Manwani in the Capital loved to host non-Sindhi friends for lunches and dinners. “It was their encouragement that led to this food business. I take orders 24 hours prior because I prepare my food with specially sourced ingredients, be it vegetables or spices,” she says, adding that she learned traditional ways of cooking from her grandmother and mother-in-law.

Manwani, who is registered on mother’s food app, Sindhinama, and runs her business through a Facebook page, is quite keen to promote Sindhi cuisine among Delhiites.

“I approached Director of Tourism, Delhi Government, to allot a stall in Dilli Haat for promotion of Sindhi cuisine. We got no response from him even after two reminders.”

The FSSAI licensed home chef explains how Sindhi food is distinct in its typical preparation of food in sehal style (pan fried onion and tomatoes with vegetables like bhindi, baingan tinda, gobhi, etc). “Spices like jeera, sarson, khaskhas, amchoor, anardana and imli are quite common in our food,” she says. 

Her special Sindhi dishes include:  

Besni Bhaji: chickpea floor tillkis made in onions and khas khas deep fried and then sehal style. 

Methi Meha Muthdiya: A traditional sindhi dish muthdiya made of wheat flour and steamed and the cooked with methi leaves and tinda. 

Sai Bhaji/Bhuga Chawar/Took Patata; Kadhi Chawar;  Sehal Bhaji Dhodho.  

On special occasions, it is Dal Pakwan, Tikki Dabal Chola, and Seyoo Patata. 

Sindhi home chef Archana Manwani.

Mother’s Delight

Poonam Shahani

Giving a rundown of how she got into the business, Mumbai-based home chef Poonam Shahani, who runs Mamma’s Cucina, says, “I used to cook for my family and friends of my children. Their compliments made me realise how so many of these dishes have never even been tried before. I started to realise that not many people are aware of what Sindhi food entails. And there’s a dearth of places that serve Sindhi food unless you visit one of the Sindhi camp areas in Mumbai.”


“Sindhi culture is getting lost somewhere. The younger generations don’t know how to cook Sindhi food. For the younger Sindhis, this food is like a piece of old memory served with love and platter. The flavour of my foods is clean and simple. I avoid using too much oil or ghee and customise spices according to a person’s taste. It reminds them of home and home-cooked food. The response has been great among non-Sindhis too! There is a Parsi man here who orders mutton and paya curry almost every other day.”

Sindhi food has a hint of Muslim influences, when it comes to our biryanis and mutton curries. This is because Muslim Sindhis and Hindu Sindhis lived together in pre-partition Sindh. In non-veg, the food in demand include Sindhi Mutton Basar Mein, Sayal Tewaran, Photewaro or Elaichi Kaare Mirchi Mein Mutton, Sindhi Paaya, Sindhi Mutton, Peas Keema, Sayal Green Masala Mein Machi while in veg, it is Sindhi Kadhi, Aaloo Took, Saibhaji, Toor Khati Daal, Dahi Curry, Bhi Aaloo Makwana ji Bhaji, Sindhi Veg Briyani Koki, and Daal Pakwan.


“I think it’s a mix of things. We use many vegetables that are nother otherwise found in other cuisines. We have a sabzi made of lotus stem called bhee aloo. We use drumsticks in Sindhi kadhi. We also use a technique to allow food to cook in its own juices called teewan. Teewan is essentially a gravy made of tomatoes, onions and spices. We make rice with it (seyal teewan), bread (seyal dabroti), roti (seyal mani) and mutton. We also prepare mutton curry with pepper and cardamom called Fote Bhugi Mutton,” says Shahani.

Mumbai-based home chef Poonam Shahani.

Chef Satyajit Kotwal of Satyajit’s Kitchen

Apart from having a unique flavour of its own, Sindhi food has an unmistakable mark of dynasties like Arabs and Mughal. The koftas biryanis and meat curries got infused into Sindhi cuisine during that time.

It’s different

They have a popular way of cooking Daagh, Seyal, Saye Masaley Main, and Dhaas, unique to their own culture. The distinction that sets it apart from other cuisines lies in cooking, which includes slow cooking technique, layering of herbs and spices with the right combination of sweet and savoury taste.

Chef’s favourite  

Under vegetarian, my favourite would include Dhaas vegetables which are stuffed vegetables; it could be okra, apple gourds, capsicum, etc. Another one is Daagh which is a Sindhi curry prepared with brown onions. Seyal is another veg Sindhi breakfast prepared from leftover bread or rotis in a spicy or tangy curry-like gravy. Sindhi Kadhi is a unique and special dish prepared on festive occasions. It consists of a thick spicy gravy made from chickpea flour, unlike buttermilk, usually used for kadi preparation along with seasonal vegetables. Drinks that are famous with the Sindhis include thadal (made from almonds and poppy seeds), Khirni (hot drink made with milk, flavours of cardamoms and saffron), sharbat which is made from rose petals or sandalwood.

In non-veg, Bhuna Mutton is a famous Sindhi main course meal. Popular Sindhi biryanis and meat curries have a mix of flavor from the Arabs and Mughals. Pallo Machi is another popular Sindhi delicacy; it is Hilsa fish prepared with numerous cooking methods. It can be deep fried and garnished with local spices, can be cooked with onions and potatoes into a traditional fish meal or barbequed.

Different methods of Sindhi food preparations:

Sindhi foods are simple, and the flavour of vegetables is retained due to the minimum use of spices. Most common type of Sindhi cooking is Daag Mein, which is onion-tomato-based-curries. This method brings out the sweetness of caramelised onions to provide a balanced flavour to the curries. Another way of cooking is called Seyal where the amount of onions are added more than that of vegetables. The sliced or diced onions are cooked till translucent. 

Saye Masale Mein is a Sindhi way of food preparation where a lot of coriander leaves are used along with garlic, ginger and green chillies and are cooked with grated tomatoes and spices. This mixture is basically used as a base in many Sindhi preparations. 

Another popular method of Sindhi cooking is Daas, where whole vegetables like apple gourds, bitter gourds or capsicum are stuffed with a mixture of grated onion and Sindhi pesto and cooked till tender.

Chef Satyajit Kotwal.

Chef Sanjeev Kapoor

1) What is the influence of other cuisines on Sindhi food?

Sindhi cuisine is a result of many influences. Since Balochistan touches the border of Sindh, and so does Punjab, there is bound to be an immigration of ideas. Pre-partition played a crucial role in shaping Sindhi cuisine. This cuisine also has some impact on the Mughals, Arabs, and Turks since all these dynasties ruled the Sindh province once. As Sindh was once part of India, Indian cuisine also has a significant influence on it.

2) What sets Sindhi cuisine apart from others? Is it their way of using vegetables, spices, or their way of cooking?

I feel it’s an amalgamation of both! They have a unique style of cooking and have their favourites when it comes to the addition of masalas. They like to play with the base of their dishes. Their most classic recipes either have a tomato or onion base or a ginger-garlicky with a heavy dose of spiciness. Yes! Sindhis like their food spicy. But, not all their food is fiery, there’s an array of sweets, snacks, and breads too in this wonderful cuisine to pick from. When it comes to vegetables, leafy greens like spinach (palak), fenugreek leaves (methi) & dill (savaa), and others like ladyfingers (bhindi), potatoes (aloo) & drumsticks (seeng) are extensively used. Apart from this, accompaniments are also imperative in a typical Sindhi meal. Dishes such as fried potatoes or fried bhindi, papads, dahi, sweet boondi, etc., are the most common ones.

3) What are the items that are your favourite?  

My favourite food is Dal Pakwan but not forget their simple sabzi like bhindi bashar or the yummy sai bhaji… dishes like koki n lola feature on my breakfast menu some days. Another classic item that I love and will have soon during Holi is Gheeyar.

4) How is Sindhi Kadhi different from other Kadhis?

Sindhi Kadhi is so flavorful which is made using tomatoes and some besan but what I like the most is the veggies that go in it, gavar and bhindi. The element of dahi is missing in a Sindhi kadhi.

Chef Sanjeev Kapoor.

Hues of Holi

The article was published in The Free Press Journal edition dated March 28, 2001. https://www.freepressjournal.in/weekend/holi-2021-a-virtual-tour-of-holi-hotspots

On a mission to milch the silage business in India

Three passionate agripreneurs from Hyderabad started SAGO Speciality Feeds in 2019 to build a fodder ecosystem among the dairy industry for feeding the dairy animals, thus driving increased milk yields. The production activity, they say, is directly beneficial and profitable to the farming community, dairy farmers, livestock and also the consumers.  

New Delhi, March 26, 2021: Started in 2019, Hyderabad-based AgriTech startup — SAGO Speciality Feeds — is aiming to contribute to the dairy sector and the corn industry in India by making end-to-end mechanised corn-based silage with quality nutrients. By doing this, the company founded by three passionate agripreneurs, is promoting extensive cultivation of high-yielding biomass corn hybrids, suitable for livestock feed and sensitising the farming community to be a part of forage production – a high priority agricultural activity. The high-quality corn silage produced at SAGO’s Banswara, Rajasthan, plant helps build a fodder ecosystem among the dairy industry for feeding the dairy animals, thus driving increased milk yields. 

In an exclusive conversation, one of its founders, Chandrasekhar Singh, takes us through his entrepreneurial journey in the Agri sector and talks at length about his passion project, its flagship brand of corn silage — CornvitaTM, and why giving cattle the right nutrition matters to him and his company. He says, “it is because this activity is directly beneficial and profitable to the farming community at large, the dairy farmers, the livestock and also the consumers at the end.” SAGO’s hardwork has been suitably rewarded — it is the only company in Rajasthan to make corn silage this season. Read on: 

Q: Please take us through your entrepreneurial journey, from NABARD to Sago Feeds; how has it been so far? 

Appearing for competitive examinations was a routine affair during my college days, and by the age of 22, I had three offers in government service to choose from, and I opted for NABARD, that too, before completing my graduation. It was a great pride for my parents as I joined the government service at a young age and in our hometown. Everything was smooth and happy, and in no time, I completed 29 years of service. I had the honour of serving NABARD for 27 years in Hyderabad and two years in Mumbai. Many-a-times, I felt like everything was moving in a formatted manner with not many challenges coming my way.  

I always dreamt of being an entrepreneur, especially in the agricultural sector. It took almost four years of research and firming up the plan, and I finally decided to take the big leap. I quit my job at NABARD, and I was relieved on February 28, 2019; I registered my company on March 6, 2019.   

Adding to my thoughts and strength was my nephew Saikiran, who was then working as a Quality Engineer in the US after completing his MS in Automobile Engineering. He quit his job and switched careers. We were joined by my son Anurag, who was working for Amazon. Today, three of us have come together from different professional backgrounds and skillsets from the same family to work on SAGO.

Founders of SAGO — (from left to right) Chandrasekhar, Saikiran and Anurag.

What is the story behind this name?

As we all three belong to the same family, we thought of launching a brand which is close to all of us. After all the brain-storming sessions, we finalised SA-GO, which is coined from the names of my mother (SA-thyavathi) and my father (GO-pal Singh). We launched our company SAGO Speciality Feeds (2019), and CORNVITA is our flagship brand of corn silage.  

Why did you choose cattle feed? What research went behind choosing it? What is the market standing of cattle feed? Do people invest in buying good cattle feed?    

Dairy was something that fascinated me, especially the feed sector. After a detailed study, I felt tremendous potential and dearth for dairy feed in India.

India has been the leading producer and consumer of dairy products since 1998, with sustained growth in the availability of milk and milk products. Dairy activities form an essential part of the rural Indian economy and serve as an important source of employment and income for the people.   

India also has the largest bovine population in the world. However, per animal milk production is significantly low as compared to the other major dairy producers. Moreover, India’s dairy produce is consumed domestically, with the majority of it being sold as fluid milk. On account of this, the Indian dairy industry holds tremendous potential for value-addition and overall development. According to the latest IMARC Group report, titled “Dairy Industry in India 2021 Edition: Market Size, Growth, Prices, Segments, Cooperatives, Private Dairies, Procurement and Distribution”, the dairy market in India reached a value of INR 11,360 billion in 2020.

Poor nutrition and lack of proper feed management are the reasons for low milk yield. The non-availability of green fodder during summers and reliable production in monsoon are the biggest challenges today. Corn Silage is one such fodder supplements that address these challenges. Silage is not only delicious and more palatable for the cattle but also has the right amount of proteins, carbohydrates and acidity that ensures a healthier gut and improves overall health and fertility.

Silage is a fermented, high-moisture, stored green fodder fed to cattle, sheep and other ruminants; it can also be used as a biofuel feedstock for anaerobic digesters. It doesn’t contain any synthetic additives or chemicals. Silage also reduces the volume of feed as it is highly compressed, thereby decreasing the overall cost of feed and meeting the nutritional requirement. With its relatively high energy content, corn silage is also well adapted for low-cost rations for fattening cattle.

Silage is a fermented, high-moisture, stored green fodder fed to cattle, sheep and other ruminants.
Silage can also be used as a biofuel feedstock for anaerobic digesters. It doesn’t contain any synthetic additives or chemicals.

CornvitaTM has an ideal balance of proteins, carbohydrates and several amino-acids. As silage is pre-digested food, cattle do not find it necessary to ruminate. As a result, ease of digestion increases, thereby improving the overall health of cattle’s gut. As proteins now can easily get digested and metabolised, the quantity of milk improves along with an increase in fat and SNF percentages.

We observed that most of the dairy entrepreneurs (small and big) lack the knowledge of the feeding system and guidance from experts. They lack the technical support and exposure to the best practices of feeding cattle. Most of the small farmers aim at the most economical way of feeding their animals without knowing the merits or demerits of the feed. But once they are enlightened with the results of using silage and balancing with other feeds, there is a tremendous shift in their approach and opt for silage.  

What goes behind the scenes of producing silage, from start to finish? 

The process of silage production is exciting and challenging. It needs meticulous planning and monitored at every stage. Growing maize crop for silage is highly beneficial for the cultivating farmers with higher yield and higher price per acre plus an additional season every year as the crop is harvested on the 80th day instead of 120 days. 

We travelled extensively by road in Gujarat and Rajasthan to identify corn growing belts. Simultaneously, we also had a good number of meetings with large dairies with whom we could collaborate for sales. We could also meet a large group of farmers and FPOs from remote areas of Udaipur, Rajsamand, Chittorgarh, Bikaner, Barmer, Pratapgarh and Bhilwara districts.

Your plant is based in Rajasthan. Why did you choose Banswara? 

Banswara district in Rajasthan is strategically located close to the border and close to three other states — Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. The rich soil and weather conditions are suitable for maize cultivation and added to this, the district is blessed with Mahi river with round the year water availability. Moreover, Gujarat and Rajasthan have the biggest dairies in India also have the largest cattle population. During our initial visits, we had to drive through hundreds of kilometres of maize fields. Also, it was easy to discuss with farmers who are already into maize cultivation.

How is the team at Sago Feeds structured? What is the supply chain like; please explain? 

SAGO Speciality Feeds has bloomed from within a single-family. We all share responsibilities depending on our skill sets. I take care of the operations, management and planning.

My nephew Saikiran has experience in manufacturing and supply chain. He drives overall strategic vision and direction.

My son Anurag heads product development and marketing. He holds the experience of leading several life-science research projects, digital marketing and has worked for Amazon in the last mile analytics and quality team.

Silage production is directly beneficial and profitable to the farming community at large, the dairy farmers, the livestock and also the consumers at the end.

Who are the primary beneficiaries? How do you market and sell your products? How has been the response so far?

Our activity is something that is directly beneficial and profitable to the farming community at large, the dairy farmers, the livestock and also the consumers at the end.

Marketing and sales are challenging at the beginning. It is difficult to reach the dairy farmers and convince them about the benefits of silage. We usually give them a demonstration of our product and sometimes give them samples to use. Even humans have a reluctance to anything new, and the same is the case with animals. But once they are used to this feed, it is a cyclic action, and there is always continuous demand. Seeing is always believing, and when the farmers witness the results for themselves with higher milk production within 6-8 days and higher Fat & SNF percentage, they tend to shift to this feed.

Currently, we have committed demands from Banas Dairy, Gujarat, and Parag Dairy, Maharashtra, Miraj and Bhilwara Dairy, Rajasthan and many others around our location. We have continuous supplies to Palanpur, Mehsana, Anand, in Gujarat, Rajsamand, Udaipur, Pratapgarh in Rajasthan and Indore, Bhopal, Dewas in Madhya Pradesh, Nasik and Ahmednagar in Maharashtra. We have also started supplies to places as far as Chhattisgarh and Telangana. We keep getting enquiries from places like Karnataka and North East. This itself shows the huge demand and also dearth of the product.

Incidentally, we are the only company that made corn silage this season in Rajasthan. The response is so huge that we have nearly 10,000 MT of demand on hand, but we have only 3,100 MT of material to supply.    

We travelled extensively at regular intervals within Gujarat and Rajasthan, including the border districts like Bikaner in Rajasthan and Kutch in Gujarat. Farmers are excited to use the product, which is beneficial for them. After all our meetings across the states, we felt most of the farmers are still ignorant of the latest developments, technology, science and are not aware of the best practices of feeding their animals. Incidentally, Banas Dairy, Gujarat, is collaborating with us to train and sensitise the farmers on the use and making of silage in Gujarat.

What were the major challenges in your entrepreneurial journey? How did you overcome them?

Switching my career — from being a Government servant to becoming an entrepreneur — was a 360⁰ shift in my thought process. I could really experience the transition of this journey and I can say these two are poles apart from one another. Earning money was not my prime goal but building a system that is consistent and sustainable was. Meeting farmers from across the states and being one among them was always an enriching experience. Our success can only be measured with our reach, growth and prosperity of the farmers.  

Reaching farmers and sensitising them about our activity was a difficult task. Not everyone is inclined towards this shift in the cultivation of corn crop and a shift from the age-old feeding system to their cattle. Initially, we started our supplies at a few of the big dairies, their feedback made all the difference and that made a beginning in our supplies.  

Who are the other players in this market? 

Punjab and Haryana are the leaders in India’s silage production, with nearly 1.5 lakh MT of production every year. There are 4-5 big companies all based in Punjab, which cater to most states’ needs. There are 3-4 other companies scattered in Karnataka, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, which are into silage production.  

What are your plans for SAGO? 

After completing three production cycles in three different states, we now plan to replicate the process in different places to cater to a particular zone, cutting down the transportation costs. We plan to set up small pockets/points wherein we can stock the material for supplies to the nearby places. We hope to start our activities closer to  Odisha/Chhattishgarh for the eastern states, Indore/Bhopal for the central parts and then continue at Rajasthan to cater to the needs of Gujarat and Maharashtra.

Silage conventionally is seen as a premium feed by dairy farmers. The present challenge of handling and wastage of the product makes the purchase feasible only for large dairy farmers to purchase. We are re-working our strategies and challenging the status quo to make our product available to every dairy farmer across the country. Not just that, we also have plans to start a few initiations in the food sector soon.

(Text by Shillpi A Singh and images sourced from SAGO)

Now, a vet for your pet is just a click away

The one-of-its-kind service by Practo will provide 24*7 remote consultations by licensed veterinarians for pets healthcare needs.

New Delhi, March 24, 2021: In a bid to create equitable healthcare access for all, Practo, India’s leading integrated healthcare company has launched veterinary telemedicine service on its platform. Teaming with licensed veterinarians across the country, the company will be offering 24*7 online consultation services for pets.

With more than 20 million households with pets in India, and a growth of over 40% in the adoption of puppies and cats  amid a work-from-home setting, this service will help pet owners get medical help for their furry friends from the comfort of their homes. They can easily talk to veterinarians regarding concerns that do not require a physical examination or warrant an emergency visit to the clinic.

Launched as a pilot project last month, Practo recorded nearly two lakh search queries from pet parents. Buoyed by the positive response, the speciality was launched officially as a part of the company’s telemedicine services. Most of the veterinary queries revolved around diet management for pets, medication for fleas and ticks, food allergies among pets, and behavioral problems among pets. Queries came in from more than 40 cities with Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Delhi NCR, and Mumbai topping the list.

Commenting on the new initiative, Siddhartha Nihalani, VP – Product, Practo, said, “Our foray into virtual veterinary care aligns with our larger vision of improving access to quality healthcare. With many people taking care of pets for the first time during the Coronavirus-induced lockdown, and several others anxious about visiting a clinic amid this pandemic, we want to enable them with a convenient yet reliable solution.”

Online veterinary consultations become even more convenient once the work from home situation ends, as pet parents can consult online whenever they have concerns without skipping work. This includes getting a second opinion for certain procedures, obtaining treatment or diet recommendations, asking follow-up questions, and seeking advice on behavioural issues – all in real-time and without exposing themselves to any risk.

Dr Daisy Rani, a veterinarian from Chennai with 25 years of experience, said, “Helping people to take care of their pets is the best part of being a veterinarian. Being able to do that in a way that is convenient for pet parents, especially during a pandemic like this, is a truly rewarding experience. I am glad that a company like Practo is going the extra mile for the well-being of pets by adding veterinary services as a part of its telemedicine platform.”

With Practo’s veterinary telemedicine service, pet parents can connect with a verified veterinarian via audio or video call or even text messages – anytime, anywhere – in just 60 seconds. Not only is this convenient, but also crucial to get timely advice on common but potentially harmful ailments. The service will be available both on Practo’s app as well as the website. To consult a veterinary doctor online, click here.

(Cover Image by Charlotte Govaert from Pixabay)