Friday, December 5, 2008

How to Write Your PhD Thesis

For a long time I needed to figure out the perfect way to write my PhD thesis.
It was a long way and lots of time was wasted on trials and errors.
This led me to write a course work were I have jotted down in a organised manner about all the information I acquired for writing my thesis.
I am greatful to Chillifreeze for offering me the marketing platform for the coursework: 'How to write your PhD thesis?'
I have tried to ctagorize the course work in several chapters where each of the important topics or questions any PhD student faces during the process of thesis writing has been discussed.
Several references are provided for how to do the referencing properly, planning and proper way of graphic presentations.
Have a look at it and I hope you will like it.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Save time in the kitchen

Most Indian women give a lot of importance to the kitchen. But many a times spending time in the kitchen can turn into drudgery. For example, Kavya feels confused most of the time about the menu for her family. Her father-in-law is diabetic and her mother-in-law has severe gastric problems. Her children need energy rich food and also like more junk food over healthy balanced meals. Her husband enjoys eating spicy food most of the times. Kavya is a working woman and is always trying to juggle a smart menu to save her some time Is this sounding familiar to you? If it is, then here are some smart tips to strike a balance between likes and dislikes of different members of the family on and save some precious time in the kitchen.

Plan your week: Take some time in the weekend to talk with others in the family and prepare an approximate menu for the whole week like Monday - dal-chawal(lentil soup and rice), Friday - pizza etc. Shop the basic ingredients for the whole weeks cooking and buy the greens twice a week while returning from work or delegate this to someone else.

Keep good stocks: Do try to keep a good stock of different kinds of rice, flour, lentils, noodles, pickles, poppadums (Spicy wafer) and sauces. This will allow you to be flexible if you have to prepare something on the last minute or if some unexpected guests arrives during dinner time.

Delegate kitchen work: Instead of trying to do everything on your own delegate different tasks to other members of the family like swap the role of a cook with your husband or mother-in-law. Take help in cutting vegetables and vice-versa. Ask and help your children to prepare simple items like salad, raita (salad with yogurt), pan cake, tea or omelettes. This kind of involvement will also increase their interest in eating specially those who are picky eaters. They can also help in serving.

Make two out of one: Try to cook at least two portions of meals at a time. Use one and freeze the other for later use. While preparing mixed vegetables, keep some sliced vegetables in refrigerator to make vegetable soup or vegetable noodles or vegetable fried rice on the next day. Boiled potatoes and eggs can be used to make egg curry on one day and egg sandwich for breakfast next day.

Store and stack properly: Coriander leaves can be cut and frozen into ice cube boxes in freezer and can be used for long time afterwards. Khichdi (lentil and rice mix) or soups prepared especially for babies can also be used twice or more if frozen properly in air tight containers. All the spices for seasoning can be kept in one rack to save time in searching. Separate racks or labeled containers for different lentils, oils, spices, batter and biscuits can save a huge time in searching.

Combination and compromises: Instead of cooking special dishes for each of the family member encourage them to agree upon a single menu which every body likes. Dedicate one day to each member of the family when his or her favorite dish will be cooked. Grand parents and parents can tell different stories about some traditional family foods (how they are grown and processed etc.) to the children to encourage them to know about their own roots and find interest in eating traditional Indian dishes.

Calendar, scissors and cookbook: Keep a calendar preferably in the kitchen or in the dining space to write the shopping days, menus or other important things. Keep a scissors in a specific drawer of the kitchen to cut the packed food items and also the herbs like coriander, mint or basil to add flavor to your cooking. Always keep a notebook or a file to collect the recipes liked by all the members of the families and also to note all those successful experimental recipes which you have created on your own.

Modern kitchen gadgets: Mixer-grinders-juicers, roti-makers, electric kettles, electric rice cookers, hand mixers, microwave oven and sandwich makers are some of the popular kitchen gadgets which are easy to use and maintain. They can prove very useful especially if you don't have any maid's help around. A little planning and firmness can save you lots of time and energy in the kitchen. It will also encourage all the members of the family to be more involved in the process of cooking and enjoy family meals.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Time Management

I was always a very spontaneous person with not much intention for pre-planning or time management. Although I could overcome school and university pressure with my non planned nature due to lots of family support but living far away from parents and relatives in a distant foreign land for years with a child to look after, a demanding job to work upon and lots of house chores and social events to be attended I have unknowingly started depending on some effective time management skills. While juggling through the busy days these tips provide me some silent and secure moments of my own.

1. Dairy: Keeping a small diary containing all important phone numbers from, work colleagues, close friends, Doctors, School, Baby sitter, nearby takeaways and restaurants, and taxi depot and so on. This helps to contact with the baby sitter on getting late at work or to make an appointment with the doctor during emergency, saves a lot time on searching and reduces stress.

2. Strategic Scheduling: Having a wall calendar with day to day spacing where the important activities like conferences, appointment with doctors, examinations, invitations, and birthdays are filled out for the whole family in the beginning of the month. Detailed time scheduling for each day are then done on weekly basis. This allows everybody to know about each other schedules and helps all the members of the family to effectively coordinate with each other. Additionally personal dairy/Online calendar (e.g. Google Calendar) can also be used by each family member to enter all the activities.

3. ‘To do’ list: Hanging a shopping list on the wall of the kitchen and filling it up over the week saves a lot of time thinking about what grocery and other essential items we need to buy during weekend shopping. Similarly a ‘To do’ list on the office table for the whole day or before the beginning of a new project prevents lots of stress and confusion at work. Same approach can be taken for children’s daily activities chart containing small symbols (for small children) of their activities so that they can understand.

4. Selectively Procrastinate or Prioritize: Follow the rule of 80:20 (or Pareto’s principle) i.e. if thought carefully over our daily work schedule we will find that 20% of our daily work schedule is most important and can give us 80% of value , satisfaction or earnings. Over the weekdays it is not necessary to go for shopping or vacuum cleaning every day or clean the closet or to chat with the neighbor or friends on phone for long hours.

5. Separate office and home: During working hours trying to concentrate on office duties and keeping a fixed time of 30 minutes for personal mails, social networking, telephoning home or to husband provides a sense of responsibility fulfillment and same approach at home helps to wipe of the guilty of not being there for long hours.

6. Delegate: It is most difficult task but very effective for time management. At work try to delegate some works to your subordinates or colleagues instead of looking after about all the details of a given project. Ignore being perfectionist and avoid being critical for small mistakes. At home also cooking, cleaning, and dusting, when done together allows a lot of family time for sharing thoughts, jokes and laughter.

7. Cooking two meals at a time: Always try to cook little extra to use it twice or two prepare some thing else form the leftover. For example while cutting various vegetables to cook mixed vegetable curry keeping some sliced vegetable in deep freeze can be useful to make vegetable Chow mein for next days evening snacks. While preparing boneless chili chicken, a portion of marinated chicken can be kept and can be baked later as chicken nuggets by sprinkling some flour, crushed cornflakes and peanuts on them. Left over mutton kebabs can be sliced into small pieces and mixed with cucumber, tomato, onions and olives as a filling for pita bread or mutton roll.

8. Using waiting time: Keeping a magazine or interesting book of short stories in hand bag can provide real good time while sitting in the waiting room of the dentist or other doctor or while traveling in train.

9. Using weekends: Few hours of a weekend can be used for arranging the clothes needed for the whole week by all the family members. This saves a lot of time in the morning rush hours. Children above 4 will have fun in choosing their own clothes, socks and other accessories. Some extra meals can be prepared and freezed for weekly dinners. Dry snacks like nuts, biscuits or crackers can be arranged in small boxes to be used as snacks for children/parents at school/office.

10. Proper organization: Using properly named and labeled file management system for office cupboards and computer saves lots of searching time. It is necessary to take back ups of computer data in regular intervals to avoid harassment from any accident or data loss. At home also organizing and keeping specific place for all items saves lots of time in hurry. Like shoes always in shoe rack, mobile phones, keys, cards in special place. Library books/ CDs or DVDs once read, heard or seen should be kept in a special bag or place. Medicines should always be in the medicine cabinet and out of reach from children. Craft and art material needed by children can be kept in particular container and should be used only at writing/craft table. Tea and breakfast arrangements in a separate place can save a lot of time searching things in the morning.

11. Non perfectionism: Sometimes (especially after finishing a deadline or a big task or during holidays) it is essential to let go all the pressure, stress and time management strategies just to attain relaxation. It is essential to regain energy for the next schedule by spending sometime in utter laziness. It is alright if amidst of our 24/7 work schedule we don’t feel like cooking sometimes or once in a while if we don’t run after our children if they don’t brush their teeth after dinner.
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Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Let’s learn form our toddlers

We as parents think that we are raising and teaching our babies/toddlers. But if we sit for a while, watch their activities closely we will notice some strengths of their character. They are spontaneous, free from the thoughts of self-criticism and guilt, unafraid of screening their emotions and ignorance. Let’s learn from them to improve our state of mind too.

When they do something they do it right

When they make a tower of building blocks, bake a mud cake or scribble on a piece of paper, they dive into their world of activity with full concentration, fantasy and passion. We on the other hand believe in multitasking. We keep speaking to a friend over the phone, watch T.V. and try to make a project plan for the next day at work. Finally we develop a series of incomplete work along with a sense of dissatisfaction.

When they are angry they just show it

Ask them not to mess around in the kitchen, not to open the fridge, not to eat so many chocolates and they scream, shout and get angry. After expressing all the negative emotions they are set for the next activity on their list.

When our bosses expect us to finish those piles of work within a day, when mother–in-law always has a word of criticism in whatever we do, when our husbands keep on watching cricket all day long, we too want to shout but we cannot; the result - a number of days of our lives are lost under depression and negative feelings.

When they don’t want to talk they don’t talk

Ask them to say ‘hello’ to your colleague they will not do so. They will hide when your neighbour tries to kiss their chubby cheeks. They will frown if somebody tries to talk to them, if they do not find it interesting.

All of us sometimes do not want to talk with those friends who boast about themselves or with those who are our friends only in our good times. But whenever they call us, we do talk, we do listen and then we complain of getting no time to do what we want.

When they learn something new they are so happy and proud

They are so proud and happy when they learn to make a new five piece puzzle or draw a circle. They literally start jumping on one foot. They show it to everybody and keep on showing until they get a pat or hear a ‘wow’, from us.
When we finish a project we have a mixed feeling of happiness with a sting of perhaps we could have done it better. We buy new curtains for the living room that look very pretty but we scrutinize the expenses as closely as we can. We never feel a complete sense pride and satisfaction of whatever good we do.

They are not shy of asking questions

When children do not know something, they simply ask. Why there are no small letters for writing 1, 2, 3? Why birds do not have hands? Why everyday is not Sunday? Why can’t we eat dessert as the main dish? They feel proud of learning and they feel it is very important to know the answers to all the questions.

We on the other hand feel shy. We are afraid that people will laugh at us. We keep our questions within and stop ourselves from learning so many new things which we would love to know.

Let’s learn from our young ones to do our on-hand job with full concentration and passion. Let us be able to easily get our negative feelings out, to prioritise our needs and to say no to some tasks, to forbid ourselves from hearing all those unnecessary critical comments, to feel a sense of utter pride about every success of our life, to believe in ourselves and ask a question whenever we have one.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Ten tips for NRI parents visiting Europe

Children working and living abroad is a common phenomena in the lives of today’s Indian parents. They feel thrilled whenever they are asked by their children to visit them but somehow it takes them many years to accept the invitation. The negative notion of being old, long plane journeys, cold weather, and unknown land always comes in between their strong will to see the places where their children are living. When it is the question of visiting children living in Europe, fear for an unknown language (except in U.K) is another negative add-on. Here are few tips which can provide a comfort level to the NRI parents who are planning to visit Europe especially for the first time.

Break the inertia
Think about the 100 watt brilliance that used to glow in your children’s face when you went to watch them doing a stage performance or receiving a prize in school or college annual functions. You will find it much easier now to come out of all kinds of negative feelings and take the decision of traveling to your children. Isn’t it a great that you have the golden opportunity to visit a continent which is rich in history, natural beauty and variety?

Collect Information
The process of going to European countries is a bit different from going to USA. Every European country has different regulations for providing tourist visas or visas against invitation. To apply for visa against invitation is the best option for you when you are going to visit your children residing in Europe. Unfortunately most of the travel agents in India don’t have very clear idea about preparing this kind of visas. The best way is to discuss with your children about all the essential official proceedings to get a travel visa. You can also get information by phoning, mailing or going to the embassy of that country which you are going to visit. In general Europe can be divided into two zones;
a) Schengen countries- The countries fall in this group are Germany, Austria, Belgium, France, Luxembourg, Holland, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, and Norway. If you are going to visit any of these countries then apply for Schengen visa and you can travel all these countries without further official hassle.
b) Non Schengen countries- Visa’s for visiting UK, Switzerland and east European countries like Bulgaria, Slovakia, Slovenia etc are needed to be done from the embassies of the respective countries situated in India.

Choose the right time
Europe is at its best from the month of April to September. Weather is perfect. It is green and flowery all around. Days are longer, all tourist places are open and mountain railways are functioning where you can get snow too.

Consult your Doctor and make a good medical insurance
If you are having a chronic problem like high blood pressure, Diabetes or osteoporoses then bring enough medication along with the prescription. Do get a good medical insurance either from India or ask your children to get it done from the country they are living which will cover the costs doctor’s visit and any emergency situation. Medical treatments are very expensive in Europe and can cost huge if good medical insurances are not made.

Good shoes, Spectacles, hair dyes and proper clothing
Unlike in India no rickshaws or auto services are available in Europe to travel short distances. You need to walk a lot in the tourist places, shopping malls and market squares and good pairs of covered shoes are must. Spectacles are very expensive here so it is better to have two of them for your visit. The typical black hair color is not common amongst Europeans and so it is difficult to get hair dye of that color so either be adventurous and get a blond look or bring your own stock of black hair dye. Proper warm clothing is an essential to bring even if you are traveling in summer because summer in Europe is very much like winter in India. Mothers please don’t bring all those heavily embroidered silk saris which you wear in special occasions in India. Easy to wash light silks or synthetic saris are all right and for a change consider packing some nice fitting salwar suits. Don’t increase the weight of your luggage by putting huge amount of food items which can be taken away at the custom checking in airport.

Be alert but not nervous
Yes, it is an emotional time when you are going abroad for the first time. The hustle and bustle of International airport, late night travel schedule, the long process of check-in and getting boarding cards may make you nervous and tired. Just try to be calm and follow the signboards properly and listen to the announcements carefully. Don’t feel shy to ask for any information to the airport personnel. After everything is over buy a cup of Tee/Coffee and relish the feeling that after few hours you will be in Europe. Carry your mobile phone if possible and be little alert about occurrence of any strange situations.

Be prepare for a different lifestyle
The way and style of living in Europe is quite different from that of India. To simplify the household chores there are many machines but no maids. Offer a helping hand to your children with their daily activities and child care. Don’t ever convert the prices of food items into Indian rupees; you will never be able to eat anything then. Understand the rigorous working schedule of your children and try not to complain against it. Make a backup plan for the free times you will get when your children and grandchildren will be away for their work / school. Revive your long lost hobbies like painting, preparing handicrafts, gardening or accomplish the dream of writing an autobiography or a children’s story book. Learn new things like using internet, photography or a new language. Public transport in Europe is excellent and you can always try to explore the local region, its cuisine, culture and people. A basic knowledge of local language and local map will prove an extreme help to you.

Express your views while planning the trips
There are plenty of tourist attractions in Europe. In order to optimize between time, money and physical strengths of each family member it needs a very good planning when you take a tour in Europe. Give a list of priorities of what you will like to visit in Europe that will help them in their planning. Do tell them your physical limits so that once you are off no body feels burdened.

Switzerland is not the only place to visit in Europe
Bollywood has carved a dream world called Switzerland in the mind of Indians. It is a beautiful country of Europe and no doubt on it but it is not all of Europe. There are many places in Europe which are as beautiful and far less expensive. Once you are in Europe do enjoy the flavor of villages, small rivers, churches and palaces along with great cities like Paris, Berlin or London.

Stop being parents for a while
You are doing the job of being parent for so long now. For the period of your visit to your children just be friends with them. Forget those strict rules and restrictions you always posed on your child and also stop treating them like 5 year old children. Try to understand their views and opinions even if you find them far different from yours. Become a part of their life and you will never feel how the time flew during your stay in Europe.
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Tantrum busters for your little ones

Rena had a long and tiring day at office, traffic was horrible on her way back to home and then at last when she reached home she found that her two year old little son is in his worst mood and the baby sitter is completely bewildered about what to do.
Sweta is a homemaker; she gets completely frustrated sometimes to control all the tantrums of her one and half year old daughter.
Toddlers, they are like sunshine in the family with their innocent smiles, small walking steps and broken sentences but these tiny tots can also sometimes behave like thunder storm crying, yelling and shouting at everyone around.
In the children of age between twelve months and three years almost can feel just like us but the only difference is that they does not know how to control those feeling. Instead of shouting or giving punishment or getting depressed on a yelling child just take completely opposite approach to cool them down and see how you are also feeling much better. Here are some tips to calm down your angry little one.

Hide and seek
When your child is demanding for a third chocolate bar and you cannot divert his mind then just be quiet for few seconds and hide yourself behind the curtains/ doors and ask him to search you and you will see how he will wipe his eyes and will start searching you.

Pillow war
You had a very bad day at office, you left office quite frustrated. You came home and you found that your tiny one is really tired after whole day of separation and is shouting out of frustration. This is the best moment to play pillow war. Before starting the war be sure that both of you eat something together and then go to the bed and start! Throw pillows at each other, roll on the bed, laugh loudly, cuddle your child tightly and soon you will see the vapors of both of your frustrations near the ceiling.

Comedy of errors
Sometimes just bend down to the level of your crying child and point at her hand and say “Oh my god what happened to your legs” and see how she gets confused and then starts laughing! Repeat this with all other body parts until all her tears dries.

Indigenous bowling
It is a Sunday morning. You have invited some guest in the evening and for this reason both of you are busy. Your child on the other hand is moving behind you demanding some attention from you. Come on take a break from the continuous house chores and have some real fun with your child. Arrange some empty plastic bottles of cold drinks/ water in a row and then bring the big ball of your child and start. Throw the ball to the arranged bottles just like in bowling places. See how your junior gets busy with this game.
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