Let the New Year be a time to make a brand new change… Positive thinking, better eating habits, keeping one’s temper in check, and taking care of our home and health are all matters that are important to us. Here, Rita Date introduces you to seven women who’ve resolved to make 2009 better for themselves and their families, and how they plan on “keeping their resolutions”

FAMILY
‘I’m determined to be more giving and more patient with my children. I plan my day so I’m less tired, which puts me in a better frame of mind’

‘I want to have better control over my temper when I’m dealing with the children,’ says Vinita Ram (39), mother of two, a 12-year-old daughter and an 11-year-old son in (Pune). An incident that occurred seven years ago made her change her life’s priorities: Her daughter had a life-threatening situation where her asthma had become so severe, she’d literally stopped breathing. Vinita was forced to run with her daughter in her arms to get to the emergency room as her car was stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic en route to the hospital. She made it to the hospital in the nick of time. Today, her daughter Chitra is a thriving teenager, and Vinita has God to thank for her survival… Since then, Vinita realised that nothing was more important than life itself, and that the smaller things should be treated as negligible. However, over time, this valuable lesson was lost along the way, and she felt her temper beginning to get the better part of her while she was with her two small children.

‘Fatigue is the biggest culprit. I typically lose my temper because I am tired, not because the occasion warrants it. I know it’s pretty unfair to my family, especially my little ones, since I don’t always react to something they have done, so it’s not always their behaviour that they can control or modify,’ she says looking back.

Vinita, a talented graphic designer who is a former COO of a large design firm, eagerly anticipates the coming year. During her past one-year sabbatical, she made it a point to spend extra time with the children. ‘Last year, I was fortunate enough to take a break. The time I was able to spend with my children made me realise what I’d been missing, and I was determined to make the most of this opportunity. I think because I am less tired now, I’m determined to be more giving and patient, and this’ll make it easier for me to make my resolution stick.’

Now work begins again as Vinita has already has started a venture of her own. But this time has made some guidelines for herself regarding work and meetings, so she can limit them to reasonable hours, and still actively contribute and manage without over extending herself. Having her own company will give her better control over working hours.

For the coming year she plans to actively implement a few techniques to keep her patience in check. When she envisages a potential flare-up, she consciously does not saying anything or doing anything in the heat of the moment, and gives herself a time-out for at least ten minutes – that helps her maintain her composure.

‘Remembering something fun that I have done with the children or my pets works as well; it takes the rage out of you so quickly! I will also keep a copy of this article with me as a reminder!’ she says.

So what’s the best way to keep this resolve life-long? Dr Bhooshan Shukla, psychotherapist and child psychologist at Ruby Hall Hospital, Pune says that although anger-control techniques can work, a more proactive approach is beneficial for long-term control over one’s emotions.

Sometimes it’s as simple as being aware of oneself: ‘We should be aware of our emotional state at all times. This will help us realise when we’re angry, so that we don’t give a knee-jerk reaction to every provoking incident. Another suggestion is to accept this anger as part of our behavioural life. We can’t always control our emotions, but we can control our actions,’ says Dr Shukla.

BEAUTY
‘There’s a lot to my beauty regime to remember, but I want to make that extra effort’

Deepa Nath (43, Hyderabad) is an artist who specialises in portraits of little girls. After a hectic year with two major exhibitions, it dawned on Deepa that she was neglecting her appearance, especially her skin. ‘I need to take proper care of my skin; otherwise it tends to break out in acne. Only those who have suffered acne know how terrible it feels. Natural remedies work best, but they’re time-consuming. So I tend to cut corners, and this comes back to haunt me,’ she says.

With two teenage children active on the international tennis circuit, Deepa is frequently on the road touring with them at various tennis tournaments. She has two more exhibitions planned for this coming year, but this time she doesn’t want to use her busy schedule as an excuse for neglecting good skin care.
‘Over-the-counter products dry my skin, so I like to experiment with homemade products. Recently I found one that this really works, but I need to make sure I use it regularly,’ she says. Deepa uses a powder made out of oatmeal and almonds. Take both ingredients in equal proportions and blend them in a mixer. Make a paste with rosewater, apply all over the face and wash if off once it’s dry. ‘Any upcoming pimples simply disappear with this formula… Of course I also try and drink as much water as I can, wash my face just with water, and dab it, not rub it with a towel… There’s a lot to remember! I need to make this effort when I am travelling as well. My skin takes a beating during the weeks leading up to my exhibitions and while travelling. So I have to take my special facepack with me, along with everything I need. It’s a process, but this coming year I want to make that extra effort.”

Impeccably dressed and always smiling, Razia Lulla, (61) an English voice and diction trainer and grandmother of two in (Pune), is the epitome of beauty. She seems to be on the right track as far as maintaining herself is concerned, but asked whether she has a beauty resolution for the New Year, she says, ‘Of course there are always improvements to be made, and better care to be taken every year. My skin is extremely dry and I often forget to keep it moisturised. I would like to make sure I make that extra effort this coming year.’

Razia’s beautician advises her to use a night cream, but Razia says she can’t sleep properly when she applies any cream at night. Since Razia moved from Mumbai to Pune several years ago, she’s noticed her skin getting drier every year. Pune’s dry weather doesn’t agree with her and she’s tried to counteract the damage by drinking more water.

‘This year I want to make it a point to moisturise my face more often, even at night. I want to try different night creams to see if they don’t affect my sleep. This is important for me, and I’ll be making a conscious effort,’ she says. ‘Allergic reactions to the cream may hinder sleep,” states dermatologist Pumori Saokar. “Sometimes the allergic reaction is very subtle and cannot be detected easily. Unknown stress also causes sleeplessness. I suggest Razia to experiment with other brands of creams.”

The one habit that she’s consistently tried to develop over the years is increasing her intake of fruit. ‘Fruit helps the skin but I don’t exactly relish it – sweetmeats and desserts are my real weakness. I am planning to try different recipes with fruit this year. Smoothies and lassis are both things I like, so I’ll just add more fresh fruit to them,’ says Razia.

HEALTH
‘I don’t want the small things in life to bog me down. I’m learning to think positive’

Sonali Nambiar is a professor of French and a trainer in soft skills (in Pune). ‘Next September I turn 40. After marriage and children, I feel I’ve really let myself go, so this year I want to make lifestyle changes for better health,’ she says.

Sonali and husband Sunil have always had an active social life, with social engagements nearly every night. ‘Now we’ve cut our socialising down to once a week, but those late nights really took their toll on me. Getting up after a late night, packing the children off to school and getting to work on time – all of this was an uphill task. There was no time to exercise or eat properly.’

Sonali’s already made a few adjustments to her lifestyle, but for the coming year she wants any changes to be permanent and lifelong. ‘I want to get stronger, leaner and fitter; I want to do it slowly, without fad dieting and erratic exercising. In the past, I made resolutions to get thinner but for 2009, I just want to get fitter and healthier. I already feel more confident about being able to achieve my goals,’ she says excitedly.

Moushumi Kuvawala (37, Pune) would like to think positively this coming year, so that she feels calmer and at peace with herself. Remember Richard Carlson’s book Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff – And it’s All Small Stuff? ‘I don’t want my day to get bogged down with smaller issues that are really just inconsequential and shouldn’t be bothering me,’ she says. A happier life, on a day-to-day basis is her goal.

Moushumi, with her limitless energy, rarely sits still. A physical therapist by profession, she runs her own multi-specialty therapy centre with alternative therapies that include reflexology, yoga and psychological counselling. She also runs an antique store along with a partner. ‘I’ve learned that life’s small stresses can lead to greater physiological problems – I see this happening with my patients every day. If you ask somebody if they are stressed, they’ll deny it: Just because they don’t have a major issue such a family bereavement or financial troubles doesn’t mean that they are immune to stress. It’s usually the smaller things of day-to-day living that add to one’s stress levels,’ she says. ‘Managing the house, making sure that everything is working properly, trying to be a “good” mother – these are all examples of life’s daily pressures.’

Attending and arranging lectures on positive thinking, reading books and visiting certain websites on the Internet on the subject have all helped Moushumi. This year, she would like to incorporate what she has learned in her research into her daily life. And how does she plan to do this? ‘I want to be a bit more detached about things; for example, if the Aqua-guard machine needs to be fixed and the person does not show up, I’ll try to follow up patiently with the person and in the meantime buy bottled water. This is really not an issue to stress over, but I think managing these small things does get us down,’ she says.

Dr Shukla believes that Moushumi is taking the steps in the right direction: She’s thinking more positively, but he emphasises the need to recognise our emotional state at all times to help us cope during all types of situations. ‘If there’s a pattern of negativity, then this pattern should be addressed. You can read books and articles to help you resolve one issue at a time, but overall introspection is more helpful,’ says Shukla.

FOOD
‘I want to make healthy Continental meals as a matter of habit, not just on special occasions’

Jaai Sardesai (39, Pune) is a stay-at-home mom who enjoys cooking and trying out new recipes. In 2009, she would like to find recipes to make healthier foods. ‘We’re all getting older – heart disease and diabetes can occur at any point, so it’s important to watch what we eat. I also want to set a good example for my children. They should also learn about proper nutrition and healthy eating,’ she says.

Jaai wants to make a special effort to cook healthy Continental meals and snacks since her children will enjoy this, and she finds that they’re always clamouring for something other than the usual subzi-roti. ‘If I don’t cook different kinds of foods at home, then the children want to eat out, something I want to prevent.’

Armed with the requisite collection of cookbooks, she is has the necessary tools to begin whipping up her healthy creations. Although she’s experimented with healthy recipes in the past, this year she aims to be more regular. Instead of just making different foods occasionally, Jaai would like to put in the effort to try new, healthy dishes at least twice a week.

‘I’d like to learn a few more healthy cooking tips as well. I’ve already begun: For example, in the white sauce used for pastas and baked dishes, I use wheatflour instead of maida, and cow milk instead of buffalo milk. I feel that these small things make a great difference, without affecting the taste!’

Nutritionist Manisha Angal (Nutritionist, Pune) says that Jaai is on track and the small changes have definitely made an impact. Eating a low-fat diet to maintain a healthy weight is important for long-term health and the most important thing to remember when making any meal healthy is to use more protein in the form of white meat, skimmed-milk paneer or sprouts. ‘More protein, a moderate amount of carbohydrates and a little bit of fat should be kept in mind as the best combination for healthier eating,’ Manisha says.

In addition, for sauces, even roasting the wheatflour without using any oil or butter will make for a tasty sauce. Nuts, dry fruits, green leafy vegetables, and sesame seeds are items that should be incorporated in dishes to make them healthier. Raw foods such as salads are a great source of vitamins, and easy to make, given the variety of continental salad recipes available in books and on the Net.

HOME
‘I want my home to speak for all my experiences, travels and creations – by making wall displays for all my bric-a-brac!’

Judging by the interiors of Sonali Khandekar’s house in (Pune) one would think she was an interior designer, not the successful orthodontist she is. Planning, designing and upgrading the interiors of her home are her passions, and she’s turned this home into a veritable haven. Her dental clinic is attached to the house, which means that she spends a lot of time on the premises.

With her ongoing home-improvement projects, what is it about the coming year that will be special for Sonali? She quickly replies with a sonnet: “Off the tables to greater heights, de-clutter the tables and liven up the walls… let each wall speak a tale!”

Sonali has a passion for a number of things in life: home décor, artefacts, travel and meeting people. Every nook and corner of her home is testimony to her zeal for aesthetics in her life. Each room or space says something when you enter or leave. The home that speaks a thousand words is a reservoir of the various items that she’s collected over the years – whether during travels, received as gifts or created by her. ‘I have a fair amount of pieces that I want around me, to take me back me to the memories associated with them. The most appropriate place I could think of to display them seemed to be my table-tops,’ she says.

With a house full of large, open spaces, a courtyard and big window awnings, ample dust enters and collects inside the house – so cleaning and dusting becomes a real problem. Also, adding pieces of furniture to accommodate the memorabilia was also a challenge. ‘I took a break to reflect, looked around me, and found my answer right there… the walls!’

While her house is large and doesn’t look cluttered, Sonali wanted to imagine bare, minimalistic furniture at the ground level. Moreover, she wanted to look up at a wall and be able to read the story the artefact told about her experiences. ‘Why just hang up pictures when you can have cabinets or curios on walls as well… Let each wall be an eclectic mix that tells its own tale… let them bear testimony to my spirit and carry on for longer than I do… let them live to tell, years after I do,’ she says poetically.

‘All the pieces in Sonali’s home give it character and life, and she should definitely show them off. Glass cabinets are a quick fix for displays, but many times, the artefact gets hidden,’ says architect Aparna Phadke. Aparna suggests open shelves on the walls for displaying showpieces, and the use of light-coloured wallpaper and soft lighting to highlight any wall displays.

The coming year, there are plans to hang a couple of small cabinets on the wall as well as some of her art collection. This home-improvement project is a time-consuming one, but one but Sonali is determined to finish soon.

Published in Good Housekeeping January 2009