Why Fasting During Navratri Is A Good Thing

So navratri gets over today and my battle with the family to ensure that they stay vegetarian during these 9 days also ends today. It’s a twice yearly battle, that I am happy to report, I seem to be winning…

But why am I such a stickler for this rule? In my parents’ home, I grew up with a strong religious belief in devi mata and thanks to that, today, I manage to draw a lot of strength from her energies – to keep going through tough times (everyone faces them right!). She is my anchor; she helps me find answers to my issues simply by ensuring that I focus on them positively when I pray to her. And it works for me! Science says the same right: look ‘within’ to find solutions. And pure praying (minus distractions) is just a way of channeling our internal strength constructively. That’s the mechanism God has worked out I feel, to help-us help-ourselves. Besides, optimism (that there is someone looking out for you) always helps!

So obviously navratri has a huge significance in my life and is a time for me to reaffirm my belief, values and conviction in higher power. Here I have no shame in accepting that it’s all about me; it’s a selfish relationship that I have with God – I am the gainer all the way.

Now coming to the reason for this post: my reasons for following the food rituals (I fast for two days (earlier it was all days) and turn strict vegetarian for the entire duration) are two pronged. They do have a religious basis, after all I am conditioned so, but I also believe that they have a solid scientific rationale behind them, and are completely logical.

I feel:

A. This process helps one become more aware of what one eats as we are forced to ‘look’ at food and think before deciding what to eat (or not). We all need to do this every now and then. It also serves as a welcome break from the kind of eat and run lifestyles we all tend to live these days. Plus it’s a refresher course in self discipline. Telling ourselves: no you can’t eat this (and sticking to it) is a good exercise. It helps wake up our rusty and jaded willpower too.

B. Fasting helps rest and unburden the body (and its systems), lets it heal, refresh and refurbish from within and thus help cleanse it too (a natural detox if you please!).

C. Also have you noticed that both the Navratras come during season change: from winter to summer and again when the air just begins to get nippy – and our immunity is at a low. Which is why avoiding processed food, meat, going gluten free (no grains), salt free, and having lots of fruits and vegetables actually helps our bodies pass this trying time (physiologically) with ease. Smart eh!

So do it for whatever reason – follow the logic, or tie it up to religious connotations, but this is one break I feel which can do all of us good. That’s why I am glad I am able to enforce it in my home (at least till now).

Kavita Devgan is a Nutritionist, Weight Management Consultant and Health Writer based in Delhi. She contributes to the column Kavita’s Korner every Wednesday for this blog.

Follow her on Twitter here: @kavitadevgan

Is your diet high in nutrients?

We all eat the same things broadly… potatoes, oranges, carrots, salmon, chicken, eggplant, bread… in varying proportions of course. But do we all manage the same kind of nutrients and goodness out of the same set of ingredients? Maybe not! Some people manage to derive more goodness out of their food, and the reasons are pretty simple actually. Have listed three main ones; go though and see which of these are you following already, and which you’d like to.

Pretty Platters

Try to keep your palate happy. Because when you eat tasteless food, or stuff that is not appealing to the eye (we eat with our eyes too), then the nutrients absorbed from the food are less. No, I am not making this up, there are enough studies that show this, and there is sound science behind this. Basically our digestive system gets revved up when we begin to eat something that our brain anticipates enjoying, and nutrients are better absorbed. So keep heart, you’ll absorb more antioxidants from a pretty looking colorful fruit salad compared to say something like an insipid, limp, boiled cabbage dish. So pay attention to aesthetics too as far as food is concerned.

Fruits and Veggies

Speaking of fruits and colour, it is important to know that it is not a cliche, but is in fact a fact – that a diet that is ‘very rich’ in fruits and vegetables is our best known bet for preventing almost all chronic diseases. By very rich I mean simply following the 5-a-day rule, and make it varied, meaning add as many different colors as possible. It is not a tall order, but still doesn’t get done (ask yourself?), ‘coz we are always way too busy, or simply uninterested to incorporate them enough in our diet. But it’s time to change that. Science has moved way beyond the macro nutrients – protein, fats, carbohydrates… and now it is well known, that the anti-disorders’ cocktail of ingredients – the phytochemicals and antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables, actually call the shot as far as our health status is concerned.

These are the ones that repair, energize and help ward off unwanted invaders in the body. Also try to span the entire spectrum (of colours), as the broader the range of colours you eat, the greater the health benefits will be. Plus it is important not to discard the peels as many (most) of these phytochemicals are concentrated right there. Discarding the peel means shortchanging the nutrients derived from the food. And you wouldn’t want that. Right!

Big Bites

Also when we cook, it is important not to chop the vegetables in very small pieces. In fact having them as near ‘whole’ as possible is a great idea. US’s Agricultural Research Service has found that potatoes retain 50 per cent more potassium when cooked whole than when they are chopped, and another study has shown that cooked whole carrots retain 25 per cent more of the cancer-fighting compounds. Ditto for other vegetables too. Another important thing to do is to not leave the vegetables in water for too long after cutting; most of the electrolytes leach out. Ideally wash and then chop and cook right away.

Incorporate these simple changes – we need all the nutrition we can garner to stay fit in these trying times.

Kavita Devgan is a Nutritionist, Weight Management Consultant and Health Writer based in Delhi. She contributes to the column Kavita’s Korner every Wednesday for this blog.

Follow her on Twitter here: @kavitadevgan

Choosing To Be A Vegan – It’s Personal!

After my last post on meat ban, a reader wrote in saying that she’s a vegan and that she is not missing any nutrients because of that. She runs a vegan bakery and on exploring her blog I found some really ingenious ways to make vegan food enjoyable (banana rajgira pancakes anyone?). I tried out some of the wonderful recipes she has listed there and had a full fledged vegan cookout at home that evening. So thanks, dear reader.

Coincidentally in the same week Australian celeb chef Renae Smith of 2014 MasterChef fame was also in my city (Delhi) for a cook out (she specializes in vegan and vegetarian cooking) at Dusit Devarana. We got chatting and she shared that she had turned vegan only about a year back and was now spreading information and goodness about this way of life – as it has benefited her immensely. But she also added that while it worked for her, being a vegan needs a lot of thought and effort investment, and of course easy access to good quality produce too. So her advice was: before taking the leap make sure it fits in with your circumstance and situation.

Ditto my thoughts! I too believe that while veganism is a good way to eat and live, it is important to understand its ethos right. It does not ‘just’ mean excluding certain foods, in fact it is more about ensuring that you eat enough of the right stuff to make sure that all dietary requirements are met adequately. As sometimes let’s be honest, it can be a stretch (a vegan excludes  a lot of produce – meat, seafood, eggs, dairy).

Protein thankfully is no longer a huge problem as judicious combinations can help one score all the essential amino acids, but some nutrients like vitamin B 12 (keeps the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy), creatine (helps increase muscle mass and endurance), carnosine (this amino acid helps prevent a range of diseases like diabetes, cataracts, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinsons), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), iron (non-heme type that we get from veg sources is not that easily absorbed in the body) and vitamin K2 (helps transport calcium into our bones) can prove quite elusive, so one must make sure one gets them or their alternatives in somehow. There are ways of course, for example carnosine can be formed in the body from the amino acids histidine and beta-alanine, so it is important to eat foods rich in these. Apples, corn, mushrooms, bananas are rich in histidine, so is rye. For beta-alanine one can incorporate soy flour in daily diet. Similarly to ensure enough vitamin A one must include A rich foods in much larger quantities to score enough. So basically information is the key.

Secondly, one shouldn’t just wake up some morning and decide to turn magically vegan. It takes work, effort and understanding. And please don’t fall in the trap of excluding animal produce and replacing it pronto with junk or way too much soya. Keep the balance of foods right at all times.

Finally, I am sharing a wonderful vegan recipe that I learnt from Renae, which I am sure everyone including the non vegans too will enjoy immensely. I did!

Vegan Apple & Strawberry Cider Crumble

Heat oven to 180c.

Peel 4-5 apples and chop into chunks (around 3-4cm). Pour 100 gm castor sugar over the apples and cover them with 1/2 bottle of cider. Bring to a simmer over a medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Apples should just soften but still have a slight crunch.

Meanwhile, make the crumble: place 50 gm oats, 50 gm shredded coconut, 100 gm brown sugar, 100 gm flour and 1 tsp cinnamon in a bowl and rub 100 gm butter through with your fingertips until the mixture resembles bread crumbs and holds together when pressed.

Drain the apples (drink the left over cider) and put them in an oven-proof dish.  Sprinkle over 1 cup frozen berries (any). Cover the apples and berries with the crumble topping. Put the crumble in the oven for 20-30 minutes, or until golden brown and bubbling.

Kavita Devgan is a Nutritionist, Weight Management Consultant and Health Writer based in Delhi. She will be contributing to the column Kavita’s Korner every Wednesday for this blog.
Follow her on Twitter here: @kavitadevgan

12 Must Have Foods in the Refrigerator

Looking for an easy recipe for good health and long life? It can’t get any simpler than this – just stock your fridge right!  I believe that, to make sure our table brims over with delicious foods that taste good and are super healthy too, it is important to stock right, particularly what we keep handy in our refrigerator. This is my 12 must stick in your fridge list. It’s simple and uncomplicated, but you’d be surprised how often we miss out on these.

1. Milk

Skim or low-fat milk should always be within reach. It’s a great source of calcium and when added to cereal, makes for a quick and healthy breakfast.

Note: Lactose intolerant? Not to worry. There are plenty of other great calcium sources that you can stock, including soy milk, calcium-fortified orange juice, dried figs and sesame seeds.

2. Green vegetables

Get a load of these. Add a couple of servings of cabbage, broccoli or spinach to your daily menu and you’ll go a long way towards lowering your risk for many forms of cancer, crunch for crunch. Cruciferous vegetables (including cauliflower) are laden with cancer-fighting substances and antioxidants.

3. Orange veggies

Orange and yellow vegetables are powerhouses of beta-carotene, tomatoes abound in lycopene (an important antioxidant) and carrots are one of nature’s best sources of vitamin A (they also taste great in soups and stews, as well as raw). These are richest in disease-fighting antioxidants.

4. Assorted fruits

An almost zero-preparation snack when guests stop by! Popular favourites are grapes, papaya, apples, bananas and oranges. Choose any seasonal fruit you like – all fruits have something or the other going for them.

5. Eggs

Necessary ingredients for many baked goods, a protein-packed breakfast item or a gourmet dinner treat in the form of an omelette or rice-based stir-fry, eggs are versatile and perfectly healthy if you don’t have a cholesterol problem. Scramble, bake, poach, hard- or soft-boil them all on their own, or add some of the other stuff found in your fridge to cook them in a myriad other forms (crepes, egg rolls, French toast…). Eggs are an excellent source of protein, iron and phosphorus (good for teeth and bones).

6. Yoghurt

Perfect for making fruit smoothies, layering with fresh fruit and granola, or just spooning up as a snack – it’s one of the healthiest quick-meal options around. Stock up on plain or flavoured varieties – but stick to unsweetened.

7. Fresh lemons

Umpteen uses again: Perk up a glass of iced water with a fresh slice or use lemon juice as a low-fat salad dressing. As for nutrient value, they contain vitamin C, iron and protein.

8. Low-fat cheese

If you have low-fat cheese in the fridge and whole-wheat pasta (or bread) in the cupboard, you will always have the makings of a healthy meal in a jiffy. Feta anyone!

9. Fresh ginger

Store unwrapped in the fridge. Perfect for marinades and spicing up last-minute stir-fries.

10. Fresh herbs

A little sprig of leaves can add plenty of flavour to a meal without racking up calories. A simple lentil (masoor dal) soup simmered with seasonings of tejpatta (bay leaf), finely chopped sage and marjoram is not just low in fat but brimming with rich flavour and health. Spice up grilled chicken with fresh tarragon or rosemary – and you won’t even miss the heavy sauces. The best news of course is that most herbs and spices are super healthy.

Tip – to keep fresh herbs fresh longer, keep them in a cup of water, like cut flowers. Or for longer periods, freeze them in your ice tray with water – just add a cube when cooking soups or curries, and still looks fresh and pretty.

11. Cold cuts

Okay, they may not necessarily be the healthiest foods out there, but you may enjoy a homemade ham or turkey sandwich every now and then. Definitely a better bet than takeaways or order-in junk.

12. Salad dressing

This list already includes ingredients for several salads, so now you need something to spice them up. If buying bottled, check labels for quantity of fat per serving, and go for low-calorie, low-fat ones but ideally just stock up a homemade ones as that way you can ensure low sodium, sugars and other highly processed ingredients.

Kavita Devgan is a Nutritionist, Weight Management Consultant and Health Writer based in Delhi. She will be contributing to the column Kavita’s Korner every Wednesday for this blog.
Follow her on Twitter here: @kavitadevgan

Kavita’s Korner – Salads: A Melange of All Things Good

What comes to your mind when I say salad? Tomatoes, onions, cucumber and lettuce maybe… with nimbu and chaat masala…

But limiting the salad bowl to just these is – to use a strong word – blasphemy. Specially when there are so ‘many’ ways to prepare and enjoy this underrated dish.

My eyes actually opened up during my travels… far away from the regular kachumbar (a couple of ho hum veggies grated and mixed up) that I was used to eating at home, I discovered fresh possibilities, and quickly also learnt that eating a salad is the best way to sample the local produce (in its best form) of a country. During a trip to California I ate at a restaurant where you could make your own salad under 5 dollars. Did I have a ball there? Yes, totally! Then on a trip to Italy I tasted greens I never even knew existed on the face of this earth and woke up to the fact that lettuce doesn’t just have to mean just iceberg lettuce. There I also saw an interesting appliance called salad spinner, which ensures that the dressing gets coated uniformly over the whole lot. Haven’t seen that in India yet, but luckily now there are a lot more options and varieties of ready-to-eat salads available here, compared to say even 5 years earlier. That’s probably because more and more people are switching to healthier foods – and salads are definitely a good way to do that.

And why not? ‘Coz…

  • A nice wholesome salad is a perfect vehicle to sneak in additional nutrients (vitamins, minerals and trace minerals) easily.
  • It is a great way of ingesting a plate full load of antioxidants, which help keep a check on free radicals and thus keep lifestyle disorders at bay (diabetes, heart disease, arthritis), and prevent aging too.
  • Most of us fail miserably in meeting our daily requirement for fibre, which is essential to keep our gut in good shape. A decent sized salad a day can single handedly correct this imbalance.
  • A smart salad can serve as a one pot meal and give you a brilliant mix of essential nutrients (carbohydrates, protein and good fats).
  • It is of course a great way to cut calories from a meal without compromising on satiety.
  • A salad is possibly the easiest dish to put together and eat too; perfect even as a working lunch actually (no messy hands). It’s the best way to clean up the refrigerator and the best part is that anyone can make a salad.

Here’s how I make it fun and healthier…

  • Add at least one source of protein; boiled egg, tofu, cheese, lean cuts of some meat (chicken, fish, prawns) and tofu.
  • Try to add one unusual ingredient every time: I love alfalfa and wheatgrass sprouts.
  • Experiment with greens; try nutrient dense arugula (called “rucola” in Italy and “rocket” in Britain), baby spinach (you don’t even need to blanch these), bitter salad greens radicchio (add a lovely twist to the salad), watercress sprigs (contains enough vitamin K to get you through the day) and if you are feeling particularly adventurous maybe even some unusual ones like Japanese purple mustard.
  • I love to add a fruit too every time: orange segments, sliced strawberry/apple, pomegranate seeds, mango cubes…
  • Always add a bit of oil (olive, sesame) in the dressing; the fat soluble vitamins (A,D, E and K) need some fat to get properly absorbed in the body.
  • Add both crunch and a good dose of Mono unsaturated fats and omega 3 via nuts (walnuts, almonds) and seeds (sesame, sunflower).
  • Finally I dump chaat masala and sprinkle some herbs; a different one every time.

Kavita Devgan is a Nutritionist, Weight Management Consultant and Health Writer based in Delhi. She will be contributing to the column Kavita’s Korner every Wednesday for this blog.
Follow her on Twitter here: @kavitadevgan

Kavita’s Korner – Get Herby and Add Some Spice to Your Life!

Tell me how often have you eaten a dish of a regional cuisine (say Konkani) or at an international cuisine restaurant (Peruvian maybe), totally loved it and then wrecked your brain for hours trying to pin point exactly what made the dish exceptional. Chances are it’s a special herb or a spice. These potent potions with nuanced sweet-sharp flavors help ground the food they are added to, make it extraordinary – and boost its health-o-meter too. Yes, they are that special. Time to get to know them better, and learn to use them liberally and smartly.

First up, it is important to understand the difference (yes they are different) between herbs and spices. Herbs (basil, oregano, mint, thyme, rosemary, parsley etc) come from the leafy and green part of the plant, and spices (mustard, coriander, turmeric, cinnamon, black pepper etc) from root, stem, bulb, bark or seeds. So, their usage and what they add to food tends to be different too.

Plus, I seriously believe that it’s about time we all moved beyond just garam masala, cumin and mint. There are two ways I feel we can do this. Firstly we must open up to unusual, exotic and unfamiliar herbs or spices. Every country, every region has their own secret pinches we can borrow: chimichurri (from Argentina), romesco (from Spain), mole verde (from Mexico), dukka (from Egypt), quatre épices (from France), berbere (from Ethiopia), sambal oelek (from Indonesia), kalonji from West Bengal, halim which is called garden cress in english and aliv in marathi and many-many more. One tip is to pick up an interesting spice/herb when traveling to a different country or even a different state. Come back, read a bit about it, maybe talk to people in-the-know and then try to incorporate in your cooking. Slowly the spices and herbs counter in your pantry will swell, your masala dabba will expand, and your food will also become – Swell! I am practicing what I am preaching here: am warming up to kalpasi these days, the mystery spice from Tamil Nadu (called dagad phool in Maharashtra and pathar ka pool in Uttar Pradesh) and trying to merge it with chicken.

Need some ideas? Allspice, the famous import west indies, which is a major ingredient in their jerk seasoning, is actually perfect to perk up grilled chicken or fish. so why stick to familiar rosemary only? like wise caraway, a bittersweet spice from north africa (particularly tunisia where it is part of harissa, a spice mix) and north and central europe, can add an interesting flavour to tomato sauce for your pasta, or even the egg sandwich. and cinnamon we are all familiar with, but how about cassia from assam and burma, which is similar but more piquant; try adding it to desserts for a stronger kick.

Secondly, we can begin using the same old spices and herbs differently. Basically get experimental. Have you ever had turmeric-spiked mashed potatoes? Try it, they pair up brilliantly. Similarly curry leaves work well in dishes outside the South Indian and Maharashtrian cuisine too. Add to bottle guard, taste it and you’ll know what I mean. Just imagine… and then give it a try. Some of the pairings might just surprise you.

Finally why should we bother about spices and herbs? What do they bring to the table? Lots actually!

Well, for starters they stimulate all the senses and open up tastes that are unusual and utterly fabulous.They have been used for their medicinal properties since ancient times; Ayurveda swears by them, as so does ancient Chinese medicine. They are rich in antioxidants, and are a perfect route to add taste, flavor and zest to low-fat or low-sodium diets. Even to regular diets.

Kavita Devgan is a Nutritionist, Weight Management Consultant and Health Writer based in Delhi. She will be contributing to the column Kavita’s Korner every Wednesday for this blog.
Follow her on Twitter here: @kavitadevgan

Kavita’s Korner – Farm Fresh Goodness

Recently I read a lovely blog post detailing how the blogger grew a banana tree in her home, her trials and tribulations and the sweet fruit (pun intended) the family finally tasted after all the effort. Nice! A close friend of mine makes sure she gets up early enough ‘every’ Sunday to go to the farmers market and spends a good couple of hours there; says this weekly trip not just helps stock up, but also rejuvenates her. A colleague frets about her balcony herb garden like people do for their pets when going away on a vacation. And my mom’s bags are ‘always’ full of seeds for vegetables that she wants to try growing at home. Never mind if they are too exotic or delicate for the extreme weather condition of her part of the world: central India, but she gets them, labors over them and often succeeds. I have tasted her successes. And they taste sweet.

Produce fresh from a farm, big or small (in the suburbs or a balcony garden) tastes different, tastes more wholesome, if you know what I mean. I can still taste the farm fresh breakfast I had in the pleasant November chill two years ago at a small cafe in Jackson City, a small town about an hour away from Sacramento, the capital city of arguably the most beautiful state in USA: California. As I was writing this post, recalling the name of the cafe took some mind bending (finally remembered that it was called Rosebud Cafe), but my taste buds clearly, still, remember the vegetarian meal I had there – a wholesome platter of vegetables (bell pepper, tomato, onions) atop golden brown hash browns, topped further by semi hard jack cheese with an extremely piquant salsa served on the side. The cafe followed the Farm to Fork concept and was a family run affair.

Mom (Mary Pulskamp) ran the show, one son was the chef, while her husband and two of their other children managed the farm which was only 15 minutes away. So basically every single vegetable I had on that day was sourced from just about 5 kms away. Wow! As I ate all that goodness, I had a long chat with Mary. She told me that the family had been farming for pleasure and relaxation and selling the produce to locals for past seven years. But about a year ago, both she and her husband realized that they were the happiest when on the farm, so they took early retirement from their jobs and opened this cafe. “Now our happiness has doubled as we are serving our farm’s goodness to so many people,” she told me.

I remember writing about the cafe extensively (I was way too enamored) when I came back, and now am forever on a lookout for similar fresh food experiences. They appeal to the nutritionist in me too, as they don’t just taste good, but are pretty good for us too. If we go by research, or even apply just common sense, Farm to Fork is the way to go to net maximum nutrients. Far better than the freezer burned or the pesticides laden vegetables the vendors ply us with. But well… as buying a farm doesn’t really seem to be on the cards at least for me as of now, maybe I’ll just take cue from my colleagues’ herb garden, and also begin accompanying my friend to the Sunday Farmers Market… and Mom next time I’ll borrow some of those exotic seeds from you and have a go at them too.

I really think this idea of farm to table is total brilliantness. It takes the food from ordinary to extraordinary. It satisfies, feeds, nourishes and delights far, far more. And doesn’t really take that much to replicate! Just awareness and willingness. Every small beginning counts. And the payback is huge.

Kavita Devgan is a Nutritionist, Weight Management Consultant and Health Writer based in Delhi. She will be contributing to the column Kavita’s Korner every Wednesday for this blog.
Follow her on Twitter here: @kavitadevgan

Kavita’s Korner – A Pinch of Health and a Dollop of Yum!

I pondered over what I should write about in Kavita’s Korner for quite a bit. And as I mulled, two things became clear: this will be read by people who don’t just love food but connect to it on a deeper level, and by people who love to have fun with their food.

So I have decided to stick to the ‘Food + Fun’ equation, tempered liberally with Health and Mindfulness. Another conscious resolve is: no preaching and teaching! I’ll just amble along, learn and improvise on the go… and hopefully share posts that showcase dynamic, gorgeous good-for-us ingredients and dishes. Along the way we’ll visit some old food memories too, but again the aim will not be to toe the line, but to map our own ‘spanking new’ food rituals and traditions. The basic idea is to use food as a means to chart out a healthier-happier living for all of us.

I believe that eating right is the best way to live fully. A good meal feeds more than the body, and dinner table is where our heart actually resides. So here, expect a tastier, fresher take on health, and ramblings about…

  • How I believe food should be treated, created, consumed and relished.
  • What food does for us and what it actually can!
  • What not to do with it.
  • How to harness the power of mind for maxing out the food we eat.

And of course as I can’t really undo who I am, and what I believe in, so there will be a sprinkling (a healthy dose) of info about maxing the health quotient of what we eat too.

Coming to health… I know it is tough taking a health decision today. One minute something is the flavour of the month, and the subject of every dinner party conversation, Facebook post and tweet, and the next minute it’s branded an irresponsible health risk. More the avenues of information, more the confusion! So right at the onset – in this first post – lets recall and reaffirm two sacred rules that I believe never go wrong:

Moderation wins! If you keep everything in moderation – you just can’t go wrong, whatever the research says or unsays. Look at it like this – even cholesterol is essential (sex hormones are made in the body by cholesterol). The fact of the matter is nothing is bad per se; it’s only bad in excess… and that holds true even for omega-3 – the latest ‘ail-all’ super antioxidant.

Instead of choking on facts (all are facts till the next study rubbishes them), respect foods (all foods). Stay in the know always, but don’t blindly give all food alerts the green light. Instead develop a gut to eat right – by instinct.

And finally like I read somewhere – Blast it and don’t simply follow the sheep. Fly. Make your own, informed choices.

Kavita Devgan is a Nutritionist, Weight Management Consultant and Health Writer based in Delhi. She will be contributing to the column Kavita’s Korner every Wednesday for this blog.
Follow her on Twitter here: @kavitadevgan