Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

13
May
14

Travelling Gluten Free in India!


Coastal Karnataka beach

Coastal Karnataka beach

So you have a corporate job in India and you have to travel for work, or you just love to travel for leisure or you are a parent whose child is Celiac, but you dread travel because of gluten trouble? Well, let see how you can work around that.

The very mention of ‘travel’ used to psyche me particularly when I was a newly diagnosed Celiac. I was clueless what to do and these questions haunted me – what should I tell people, Will I get anything to eat, will they understand ?!

Well,I figured with time if I planned well ahead – I would not have a problem.

Other than the usual booking tickets, do a little research and find out more about the place you are travelling to.

If it is a City in India, then it will be a lot easier, A tourist spot might be a challenge!

First of all take things with you which have a longer shelf life, so that if you’re stranded at an airport, bus/train gets delayed or your car is acting up , you know you have food.

1. Pack small pouches of nuts – Walnuts, Almonds, Raisins, Cashew or any other nuts you have handy. It is a handy power food and is packed with nutrition. Walnut is the healthiest of the lot, Raisins are high in sugar but a couple of them here and there are not to worry about, do not go overboard though.

2. Carry gluten free cereal like Soulfull or Post or anything available because you know you can at least have breakfast without a problem. If you are lactose intolerant carry small packets of soy milk or any other milk which stays. Pick up rice thins or krispbread, cookies/biscuits or if you are lucky some long life bread. Always great to have in an emergency situation when you cannot have anything else around.

I tend to make my own bread and cookies/biscuits and carry it along nowadays you do get them ready off the shelf in most metro cities or if you live in places where access to them are limited you can always order on http://www.foodbury.com, http://www.zotezo.com, wheafree.com plan and order a little ahead, so it reaches before your trip . Remember when all else is not there, Fruits will always ensure you do not unnecessarily stay hungry.

The good part of travelling in South India you will get lot of options like Idli/Dosa/Vada which is all gluten free naturally! Just need to check with the hotel or restaurant if they add rava to the batter and tell them not to make the dosa on the same tava as a rava dosa. Sometimes, the best thing to do is just ask, most of the times they will oblige or they won’t but no harm in asking in the first place. ( Sometimes the comments are so epic, you would want to go #facepalm but I will leave that for another blog post;)

3. If you are on work – Almost all Hotels in India or offices have rice on their lunch menu. If you are at a Conference at a Hotel – Ask to speak to the Chef, most of them will guide you through what is safe, but please mention little bit of wheat/maida is a NO NO! Because many restaurants thicken their gravies to cater to a large numbers.

4. You can keep a couple of packaged ready to eat foods with you . MTR has a couple of ready to eat foods which are naturally gluten free like the rice based products, as when enquired they did say it was gluten free and I have used a couple without a problem.

5. The best bet is to stay in a serviced apartment, where you can fix your own meals.

6. If you plan to stay with a friend/relative, call them up ahead and tell them you would be bringing some stuff and would it be ok if you cooked ? or brief them about what you can have and cannot. Doing this will avoid panic among your hosts and by doing so you will not be offending them.

7. Staying in a Hotel, call ahead, tell them about your condition, some will agree to make sure you get something to eat, others also migh might allow you to use their kitchen.
Some Hotels/Resorts allow you to bring your own induction cook top and food, especially if you mention you are a parent with Celiac Kids.

8. In big cities, know where stores like Foodhall, Nature’s Basket, Dorabji’s(Pune), Gourmet West in Westside stores or such Organic/Gourmet stores are as you can always get stuff from there instead of lugging it around.

With regard to tourist destinations – Goa has 2 supermarkets – Newton’s and Orchard which has ready-made flours and gluten free products.
Most of the 5 star Hotels make gluten free bread everyday. The German bakery and couple of other places make some good gluten free stuff too.
Goan food except for the sausages is also mostly gluten free and of course a great holiday destination.

Hotels/Resorts in Hill stations tend to be allergen aware than most city restaurants, one of the reasons could be the huge number of Foreign tourists visiting these places.

Keep important medication with you like antihistamine or anything else you usually carry and also an important report from your doctor which says you are Celiac, why because in case anything untoward happens it will help getting you immediate proper attention.

If you are travelling abroad, call 24 hours before hand and book a gluten free meal with your airways. Many airlines serve fish for gluten free meals so if you are vegetarian specify you want a gluten free vegetarian meal. Pretty much follow the same pointers and it tends to be much easier travelling abroad gluten free. UK, US, Australia, parts of Europe are free from food haven for Indian Celiacs, Hong Kong too. The Gulf countries have stores which sell gluten free products. African food again is high on natural gluten free ingredients, so yes generally you should be ok.

With a little bit of planning and the Willingness to Ask and Explain, you will not have a problem . Do not let sneaky gluten come in your way.

And if you are visiting Bangalore, just let me know, will help with necessary information!

02
Apr
14

Does the Government want people like us to Leave the Country or Die?!


 

 

You must have noticed off late in India that you are not seeing too many imported or even Indian brands of Gluten Free/other allergen free products on the Supermarket shelves.

Many of those products are a succour for many of us Celiacs and others who have major medical food intolerances. It is easy to have a packet of Schar or Orgran goodies while we are on the road or even in a business meeting or at work.

You may ask why is every store out of stock ? This is why

No gluten free products can now be imported to India without the product being approved from Product Approval Department of FSSAI . Unfortunately this is a long and tedious process with some herculean standards. While I am impressed they have raised their standards, why cannot they make this a systematic easy process. Products worth crores  are lying at the ports because they are not yet cleared . Who is losing out?

Celiacs like me, People with Allergies and Gluten sensitivity, Gluten Free Manufacturers and all Importers.

Now what about  gluten free products made in India  and sourced too ?

 FSSAI  raised the jurisdiction of licensing, Ok!   it made licensing compulsory if one was a Gluten Free manufacturer and then apply for central licensing. Which is great because only people who really want to help people with such products will stick around!

Well, it does not stop there…

FSSAI has now come about saying you need to approve every product which is manufactured. I am told by manufacturers that it comes to about INR 1 Lakh to get one product approved !! And if you want to declare a natural gluten free product that also you cannot because you need it to be approved or well it is illegal. They are thwarting innovation and creating chaos. I mean, come on do you know why people need those products in the first place. If you want a Draft Policy law makers and officials let us know …people like me have spend years researching standards for years and studied how other countries put all these food policies into place. 

Few companies in India are doing it the right way especially Wheafree where every product is tested in the lab. Some of us stopped relying on imported products to work with grains sourced in India and to also support Indian Gluten Free manufacturers?

What can a Celiac and Baker like me do? Will the companies have to shut down? What is our future, we need safe food as Celiacs!

If any of you know Government officials or FSSAI please do something about this. ” Highlight our problem…Let us live’ it is not like it is not challenging enough now:(

 

06
Mar
14

Leaving on a Jetplane Cover


I finally graduated from my Western Vocal course at Nathaniel School of Music. I did this song and was backed by my awesome classmates who learnt other instruments. I also had the privilege of hosting the concert. Here is a write up about it in Deccan Herald as well.

http://www.deccanherald.com/content/389539/a-blend-originals-covers.html

14
Feb
14

An Unconference like No Other! – #TGP2014


I saw a Tweet in December about The Goa Project and once I saw the website, I made up my mind – I had to go! I live in Bangalore and here all the conferences are for techies and the Unconferences are nothing but people wearing casual clothes instead of formals! I think the part for Misfits, Rebels and The Crazy Ones – just caught my attention:) .

So I immediately booked a slot in December and did all my bookings well in advance..yea I plan ahead!

It was perfect because my friend lived in the NOFRA base.

I had proposed a topic but I guess not many understood what it meant, I kind of knew it isn’t going to get into the program. Then of course , because of being Celiac , I needed to make sure I could have food which was gluten free at the venue. Kavita G. – The Social ‘Society’ Track manager made sure she got Neena Jhanjee in the loop and Nisha – the owner obliged. Then Kavita calls me late on Monday or something and asks me if I could speak of course profusely apologizing for a last minute notice. I was like ‘Its my life’ I can speak about it anytime, anywhere..No problem! Only thing was I didn’t do a ppt because I just did not get time to sit down and do one for TGP.

 

I decided to make it on 7th morning because I was too tired on 6th! There is something about Goa I guess, you just fall in love with it everytime. The sun being out just pepped me up from my otherwise tired self. I drove my friend’s car to the venue and I was all ready.

 

Image

Once the First keynote started my heart went – ‘Yaaay’ I did the right thing by coming here! Whether it was Kalyan Varma, The Young Mountaineer, Ms Sharan – the graceful Femina Ex Editor or Pawan Kumar of Lucia –  all of them were inspiring. Some reassured me of what I did and the kind of work I did. I have dealt with Lot of Horrible things in 2013 so I kind of was so happy that I came out of the storm too and did not slouch but said  ‘Hello Life, I intend to live you fully’.

Got to spend more time with folks from Bangalore which rarely happens otherwise – Nandita Iyer, Annalise, Meenakshi, Sindhu.  Yes met the lovely Ansoo Gupta – finally met her after our numerous chats and calls.

Learnt so much more about sound, taking pictures, Art – The Lovely Priyanka Patel was so awesome. Paras and Rakhi had such lovely things to share that always interested me. Such fun to facilitate Kanan Dhru’s session! Thanks Kavita for asking me about in the first place. From food, to law, to geekery to just those lovely conversations with Nayana, Raghava, Edwin, Vinay, Neena, Nisha, Reshmi, Aarohi, PK, Priyashmitha, Shwetha, Shilpa, Alicia and our Photographer man – Vijay Varadan – who made me do full bollywood tree hugging and Siddharth Manoharan clicking away. Guys photo pleased to be sending soon:) I am sure I spoke to so many of you sorry if I missed your names.

Here’s me Talking about “A Foodie’s Struggle with Food’ Photo Credit : Alicia Dsouza

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It was lovely speaking,though I was emotionally drained after it. When you talk about the not so good things that happened to you once I guess anyone goes through it.

My cookies got over..and everyone at TGP shared and cared so more people could taste a little bit except for Vijay Anand who claimed to feel bad that he would eat the only cookies I could eat and all..some jazz like that;) I am sending some to the Chennai patanam soon Vijay!

Now I love music and being a vocalist (v small time) I totally was floored by Indicus. What a voice Anuraag has, soulful singing! Karan Sajnani another guy I respect so much, Shireesh and chota Karan too! Respect and Full fan I am now.

To get on the flight and see more TGPers – rode back with Sumeet, Sanket and Ishaan.

When you get back home and a Fellow TGPer and speaker sends you this note, it just totally makes your day!

“Hey Jeeva,

It was great to meet you and see how you have managed to convert a very difficult life event (your health crisis) into such a great initiative. I think that your own positive attitude and perseverance are amazing – and the key reason why I anticipate a lot of success for you in the future.
 
Big fan

 

Karan

PS: Thanks for the cookies! “
 
I feel Hangover from the Magic of Beautiful people and the entire experience at TGP 2014. I am Sooooo Looking forward to 2015! Thank you Volunteers for all that you did. Have to mention Neena and Nisha who worked together to get me safe food throughout the event. It was so easy and the only event thus far I have not had any problems with food!
 
Thank you Vijay, Uday and Sumeet for making The Goa Project!

 

 

04
Feb
14

How to Cater to Special Diets at any Corporate Event!


Have you ever wondered what you would do if You cannot eat anything at a Day or 3 day Conference?

Well, most of you would say get ‘Packed Lunch’ others would say ‘Talk to the Chef’ !

What if you had to wake up at 4 am to make the packed lunch, snack and dinner? What if the Chef is busy and says Sir/Ma’am I cannot ensure you the food without cross contamination from ingredients you are allergic to!

What if then you are asked to Pay up because the organisers let you have a meal but then expect you to pay for it and not warn of that before?!

Well, all of the Above has happened to me.

Precisely the reason this blog post! I have organised National and International events from Aero India to MNC summits as a employee of a National Industry Organisation and this what I have taken away from the experience as one who organised and now one who attends conferences frequently!

1. When you send in an Registration Form – ask if there are any special diet needs!
2. If they mark yes, ask them what and is it life threatening! If you cannot do the needful tell them to come prepared and slash their fee. Why? Because other than tea and coffee they are not touching the food at the Hotel or Venue.

3. Always have a room or a bed in case of medical emergencies. You are telling me you assume there won’t be any?! Come on the Young Indian is most unhealthy especially the Techie – Trust me, I know their lifestyle.

4. Have a Doctor on call. Yes, I have fainted at a conference, once I choked and was breathless. Earlier one I was an employee so was well taken care off by my Boss and Colleagues! The latter I was a delegate – Clueless organisers did not know what to do, the hero here for me was the cleaning staff and the Banquet Manager of the Hotel.

Result: Left the conference, never came back. Lost out on money and the opportunity to meet some of the speakers- precisely the reason I signed up for it and paid the full fee.

Managing Events is a Front facing Customer Service experience. Be Courteous, Be Ready to Listen, Know Your Program Schedule or keep one with you HARD copy with you at all times, Know All Emergency Numbers and Know your Fellow Event Managers!

It will be Smooth Sailing!

gluten-free

I am looking forward to The Goa Project 2014, been promised I will get Gluten Free Food. Let’s see how it goes, I am optimistic and the quick responses to help I received! Super Impressed by the TGP 2014 team.

24
Jan
14

My Story featured on YourStory.com


My Story featured on YourStory.com

I do not think I would have bothered to write my story to this detail atleast! I spent an afternoon sipping chai and telling my story to this team who thought I had an inspiring to tell and they wanted me to share it with the world!

 

Thanks to Abhash Kumar of Gyan Labs and YourStory.com

10
Dec
13

Back By Popular Demand: Citrus Olive Oil Cake!


Back By Popular Demand: Citrus Olive Oil Cake!. A Fabulous recipe, can’t wait to try it!