Reinvent your virtual life

The World Wide Web is a fast-changing, fast-moving space. Forget plain old email, Twitter and Facebook; now your online life is also shaped by the kind of apps you use (or don’t use). If you’re not in touch with what’s the latest in the world of app stores and on the Net, you will soon be left behind. We bring updates on some of the current trends in the online world.

Tag yourself geographically

Why you should: Status messages about what’s on your mind and what’s new are so last year. The burning question for social networking this year is where all you have been and where you are right now. Check-in or location-based apps are the latest way to interact with your connections—friends, family, colleagues—by telling them about your favourite places and where you are now in the city or outside it. If you think it’s a brag through a bot, especially if you are the jet-setting type, you’re probably right. It’s a fun one though.

How it works: The technology at the heart of these apps is called geolocation, which uses your GPS-enabled smartphone to locate your physical being. From there on, depending on the app you use and your preferences, these apps find out the nearby restaurants or hang-outs your online friends have been to and recommended, or the interesting people you might want to meet. They remotely check you in at clubs, bars and restaurants in live time and automatically share every place you have been to on your social networks such as Twitter and Facebook. You can do virtual check-ins at bars, restaurants, cafés, parks, offices, and pretty much any place else. There are around 6,000 apps to choose from in the market today, with the popular ones being Foursquare, Gowalla, BrightKite and Facebook Places. Of course, you do need to remember to turn off the app in case you’re not where your boss or spouse think you are.

What you pay: Zilch. Most of these applications are free. In fact, frequent a place enough and you might even get some freebies from them as a thanks. Foursquare, for example, has a massive list of places all over the world that offer special discounts and free drinks to regulars or to anyone who has registered a certain number of check-ins at their site.

To read the complete story please click here.

My first graphic novel with Campfire

Just discovered my debut novel’s cover on the Campfire website. Here’s a sneak into what the beautiful book, illustrated by Rajesh N, will look like. I am so, so excited about it!

Krishna, Defender of Dharma


The best part is that you can PRE-ORDER the book now! It costs Rs 195 and delivery worldwide is free! Click here to pre-order!

The problem I have with Census 2011

The Census lady just visited my house in Delhi with her long list of questions. With every question, I felt more and more disconnected with our government’s thinking and also angry. In their need to compartmentalize our beautifully diverse population, the government is killing our multiplicity—or wants to. You will be forcefully put in one compartment or the other and sadly have no choice about the matter. Here’s what five minutes of interacting with the census lady told me. Be prepared for a mental onslaught when the Census probe comes knocking by your door!

  1. The census begins by asking you who is the HEAD of the family section—which of course is assumed to be a man. I wonder what happens in the household with only women? All the other people living in the house are made relatives of the said ‘Head’ of the family. How can a government which is talking about Women equality and creating bills and laws to protect its women be so patriarchal in its forms? I always had a problem with the forms which asked Father/Husband only – as if a woman cannot exist alone. Always made by a male babu of course.
  2. The next question is RELIGION with six choices – Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Christian, Jain and Buddhist. If you don’t have a religion, I am sorry but you cannot exist for our dear government.

    Boxed in by your caste
  3. The major issue which a lot of us coffee-house argumentative so-called-intellectuals have been talking about since months is the fact that we don’t want to give out our CASTE. We always hoped (without any action of course) that the government will be sensible enough to give us a choice of NO CASTE. That’s the third question and no, before you ask me, you don’t have a choice of saying NO CASTE. If you say so, the census lady will simply have to put one you depending on your mother tongue. You have to belong to a CASTE else you simply don’t exist for the votes that the government in power needs.

After these three initial questions, I was too emotional (and too scared) to read more of the census questions. It’s unfortunate when you start to see our government deliberately chopping our diverse society into cubes of castes. Our freedom fighters and social reformers must be turning in their graves. This is their nightmare come true.

My photo exhibits in BlrQueerFilmFest

Quite unexpected I must say! I saw a call for entries to the Bangalore Queer Film Festival and send in a photograph I took on recent roadtrip. It’s from Ajanta caves (yes, yes a blog on the travel experience coming soon!) and was my first experience of the spectacularness that is Ajanta. So I open my email on Sunday and I see an acceptance email from them!

Yes, my photograph will be exhibited during the Bangalore Queer Film Festival 2011 in Alliance Francaise to be held February end. Will post the photographs of my photograph (yes, vain I know but I am exhilarated!) soon 🙂

Unshackle the idiot box

The latest gadget in your home to open up to apps is the oldest one. Your television set is all set to get more interactive and smarter with Internet connectivity and browsable apps. Shweta Taneja

Google TV, for instance, allows you to browse the Internet, search videos and, yes, download apps via the comfort of your remote control. A lot of brands, in fact, offer Internet integration with TV. Sony has introduced its Internet Bravia’s Internet Video application in its high-end NX and EX series, Samsung offers Internet@TV in the latest LED 7000 and 8000 series, while Panasonic offers Internet integration in its TV with Viera Cast technology. Since the technology is relatively new, be prepared for hiccups.

Read the complete story here.

Idiot has no Idea

Do you think of yourself as a dud? Well Idea’s adverts will definitely make you feel like one. Though I don’t really want to talk about those silly ads with the overrated lazy boy-with-the-Bachchan-spoon, the compellingly dumb acts done by all the extras (the actors who would be called Foils to the Bachchan act in the ad) who represent the ‘harried customer’, push me to write this.

In other words, the customer whom they are trying to sell these ads, to use a mild term, are complete idiots. Here’s a case-by-case vent of what I term the ‘Idiot VS Idea’ ads.

Idea 1: Bimbette meets Bachchan

This ad has an independent, smart girl who’s holding a phone bill in her hand, reading it and STILL wondering where she’s spending more. The implication: The said woman does not understand what plan she has and what’s wrong with it.

Idea 2: Subah se call!


This one has this dumb colleague (don’t we all?) who is trying a number is morning, but cannot get up and just walk out where network might be better. Of course our Bachpan hero comes to rescue.

Oh, well. Can’t stand to see these ads even to write my blog. Vent over. Phew.

Exploring Lepakshi

Recently visited a small temple town – Lepakshi in Andhra Pradesh. It’s about 120kms from Bangalore further onwards from the Airport. A mammoth Nandi greets you as soon as the town begins. It’s one of the biggest monolithic Nandi in the world. Other than that, the most thing in this beautiful centuries old temple is the humongous Shivalinga and Sheshnaag which is carved out at one end of a monolith.
Also, I think the king making it was either short of cash or smart. Most of the natural monolithic formations in the area are used either as walls or footpath.
Must see if you are in Bangalore! It’s a beautiful day trip but take your picnic. No nice food places on the way (except for wine makers).

A Word’s Journey

An older poem from my other blog (which I will be deleting most probably!)

A Word’s Journey

Hesitant
She resides
On a quivering, moist lip.

From the broken, beating, dying heart
To the boiling cortex lobe
Through an ignited stimuli,
To the barking voice box.

She came with lightening-speed
Grabbing on-edge, electric nerves
An angry flash from the larynx
Tornado-speed to the brink
Of the quivering, moist lip.

She hung, desperately
Wanting to break free
Fly like a free raven;
Not become an Albatross.

But gripped she was
Against her will,
Plastered to the skin
By a remnant of good sense.

So she tumbled back
Into the empty sinewy depths,
Endless cycles and nothingness
An eternal past tense.

(c) Shweta Taneja, August 2009

Bylanes of Old Agra

Afternoon Siesta
Gutka gluttons
Nights of desire
Shave on streets
Allah for afternoon
Knitting in technicolor
Old-age tenants
Flowing juices
Hostel for pigeons
View from the top
Broken dreams
Colourful starts
In anticipation
Barati’s bane
Where’s the postman?

Express Workouts

Bid your flabby body goodbye. Our celebrity fitness experts create 10- to 15-minute workouts with one aim in mind: a fab body for you in 2011. By Shweta Taneja

“All you need is 15-20 minutes of any hot and sweaty exercise to keep yourself fit,” says Delhi-based Reebok fitness trainer Nisha Varma. If it is tough for you to work out during the week, “make up on weekends with a 45-minute session of walking, jogging, swimming, cycling or dancing”.

Our fitness experts understand that many of you can’t take an hour out of your busy schedules every day, so they have created made-to-order workouts which will take less than 20 minutes a day to get you into a fab shape. “The idea is to be regular at the regime you pick up and do it every day,” says Mumbai-based yoga expert Tonia Clark, who believes a lot can be achieved if you make sure you exercise for at least 15 minutes early in the morning daily. “You can easily get a total body workout, body stretch as well as peace of mind,” she says. Here’s what you can do.

YOUR 2011 RESOLUTION: Tone arms, shoulders and strengthen neck muscles

OUR EXPERT: Nisha Varma, a Reebok master trainer and fitness expert based in Delhi who has authored ‘Yoga for Back Problems’ and ‘Yoga at the Work Place’, says simple strength training two days a week can tone up arms and shoulders.

WHAT SHE SAYS

You won’t see a significant difference in your body but yes, the chicken wings will disappear. You will need a pair of dumb-bells of a weight that is a challenge for you (should be at least 1kg).

HER WORKOUT

•Bicep curls: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and hold one dumb-bell in either hand. Lift the dumb-bell towards your shoulders as you exhale. Lower it slowly to starting position as you exhale. Make sure you maintain the correct posture through the full range of movement. Alternate hands and do one set of 20 reps.

•Triceps extension: Stand with legs shoulder-width apart, belly in and shoulders pulled back and down. Hold the rod of one dumb-bell with both hands and lift it behind your shoulders in the middle of your upper back. Your elbows point towards the ceiling, arms are close to ears and the dumb-bell is resting between your shoulder blades. Exhale, lifting the dumb-bell towards the ceiling. Lower the arms slowly as you inhale. Do one set of 20 reps.

•Shoulder front raise: Hold a dumb-bell in each hand. Stand with legs shoulder-width apart. Lift both arms forward till shoulder level as you exhale and lower the arms as you inhale. Do not drop the arms suddenly. Do one set of 20 reps.

•Shoulder lateral raise: Hold a dumb-bell in each hand. Lift both arms to the side of your body till shoulder level. Inhale as you lift and exhale as you lower the weights.

•Finish the session with shoulder rotations forward and back eight times each.

A WORD OF CAUTION

Warm-up is a must before any exercise programme. You also need appropriate shoes and apparel. Before you begin, get a basic medical check-up.

YOUR 2011 RESOLUTION: I want to strengthen my heart

OUR EXPERT: Vesna Jacob, a Pilates expert based in Delhi who runs Hypoxis, a wellness clinic.

WHAT SHE SAYS

There are many ways to improve your cardiac health. Walking, jogging, running or hopping are some of them. But if you haven’t done cardio for a while, you will need to start small. Skipping rope is the most fun as well as effective way to tone up the entire body. Build up your stamina by starting slow and sticking to the routine regularly. You can increase the number of sets (maximum, four) per session as you build your stamina.

HER WORKOUT

• Start with a couple of minutes of good warm-up and stretching. This will make sure that you don’t strain or pull your muscles.

•Stage 1: Keep an even tempo of skipping throughout the workout, and finish off at a faster pace. Do this for cycles of 5 minutes.

•Stage 2: A couple of weeks into this regimen, change this to interval training: Follow a 30-second fast and 60-second slower skipping rhythm in cycles of 5 minutes.

•Stage 3: The next stage is to do 30 seconds fast, 30 seconds slow, and then 60 seconds fast, 30 seconds slow, and so on for cycles of 5 minutes.

A WORD OF CAUTION

If you have to gasp for air or feel dizzy, or experience any chest pain, you need to stop immediately and have yourself checked by a doctor.

YOUR 2011 RESOLUTION: Lose the beer belly

OUR EXPERT: Manish Tiwari, who teaches yoga to celebs such as Katrina Kaif and Sridevi, at his gym Cosmic Fusion, Bandra, Mumbai.

WHAT HE SAYS

A beer belly is a direct result of the excessive sugar in your diet. Ideally cut down on the consumption of beer. In case you still feel like having beer, remember to have darker beer as that’s richer in nutrients and antioxidants and has lesser sugar content.

HIS WORKOUT

•Shalabhasana: Lie flat on your stomach with your legs together, hands by the side of the body. Now raise your arms, chest, head and legs simultaneously, and hold for about 2-5 seconds. Then lower. This engages your abs fully.

•Setubandhasana: Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and your feet apart. Place your arms flat on your side, and lift your hips and back off the floor while leaving your head, shoulders and feet on the floor. Hold for about 5-10 seconds and do 10-15 reps. This burns your belly fat.

•Yoga crunches: Finally finish off with some yoga crunches. Lie down on your back, put your hands behind your head to support your back and using your abdominal muscles, push your legs up towards the ceiling, lifting your buttocks about 2-3 inches off the ground. Do 15-20 reps about three times a week.

A WORD OF CAUTION

Be careful when doing these poses if you don’t have any earlier yoga experience. You could injure yourself. Go slow on each one and keep breathing normally.

YOUR 2011 RESOLUTION: A speedy total body workout

OUR EXPERT: Tonia Clark, a yoga expert from Canada who is based in Mumbai and has worked on a DVD with Lara Dutta called ‘Yoga Recovery and Rejuvenation’.

WHAT SHE SAYS

Start with a Surya Namaskar or Sun Salutation, which is a full body warm-up of 12 asanas. Do five to start with and follow with the workout listed below. This will cleanse your body, give you a nice stretch and soothe your mind.

HER WORKOUT

•Vrikshasana: Shift the weight to the left leg. Lift your right foot above the left knee, pushing the sole of the right foot into the left thigh. Bring your hands into prayer position. Shoulders relaxed, jaw soft and gaze fixed on one point, inhale and raise arms up to the sky. Hold the pose for at least five full cycles of breath.

•Pawanmuktasana: Lie on your back, legs straight out. Bend your right knee into your chest and hug your thigh, holding it with your arms. Pull the knee towards the right shoulder, keeping the left leg active. Feel a pinch in the right hip crease. This will open up the hips, cleanse your digestive system and eliminate toxins.

•Shavasana: Lie on your back with your legs straight and apart, your feet relaxed. Place your arms alongside your body, a little away, palms facing up. Roll your shoulder blades in towards each other. Close your eyes and just be still, breathing deeply and relaxing.

A WORD OF CAUTION

First train with a yoga teacher.

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