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MARCH 2014

NEWS TO REALLY WORRY ABOUT Everyday habits that pose awful health risks



How Beautiful Are You? Make Yourself Theft-Proof Amit Chandra’s Joy of Giving

Editor’s Note Health-Worries vs. the Truth Scientists routinely study things like radiation from cellphones or nerve damage caused by pesticides in farm produce. And journalists like to report those, while ignoring obvious hazards that arise from using a cellphone while driving, or from not eating enough vegetables. So, while our newspapers showcase politics on the front page or sports on the back one (news that’s unmemorable or entertaining and unlikely to cause any permanent worry—see our cover photo), it’s the inside pages that are really designed to scare you from vegetables, the cellphone or the toilet seat, loaded, as they say, with poisons, radiation or germs. Get the facts straight from our cover story (page 52) and trash some common irrational fears. I recently got to know Dr Farhad Dalal, a UK-based psychotherapist, at a guesthouse we were both staying at in Surat. Dalal spent his childhood in India and returns every year. He is deeply concerned by the unkind manner in which servants are treated—social discrimination is a subject on which he’s also written a book. “It’s one thing that embarrasses me in India,” he said, and went on to give me many first-hand anecdotes. “Why don’t you write that for Reader’s Digest?” I suggested, and so he started working on his “In My Opinion” piece (page 44) at the guesthouse itself. I’m sure his article will get you thinking. Digest readers often request me to ‘friend’ them on Facebook and I never refuse. Indeed, our readers account for hundreds of my Facebook friends. Among them is N.K. Sareen of New Delhi, who regularly posted his fine portraits of various personalities. One day I sent him a note asking if we could meet when I was in Delhi last year. The result of our meeting is the picture-story on page 118. We also have an article on how perceptions of beauty evolved through the ages, around the world (page 62). And our “Inspiration” section (page 128) features a born giver, Amit Chandra of Mumbai. He also advises us about how to become part of a massdonation movement for the country’s good. 8


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Contents March 2014


What Worrywarts Should Really Worry About!* Some things you need to watch, besides the headlines. TE RESA DUMA IN LOOKING GOOD


How Beautiful Are You?* Beholding beauty is in the eye of the culture. SH EIL A SIVAN AN D


Eat Your Way to Beauty How what’s on your plate shows up on your body. E L I S A B E T H H U S S E N D Ö R F E R REAL-LIFE DRAMA


Kidnapped by Terrorists Tired, hungry and alone, this teenager endured months of captivity. SUSAN SVRLUG A, FROM T H E WA SH IN GTON P O ST


Whale Rising! New data suggests these massive mammals have their own consciousness and culture. J EFF WARREN RD CLASSIC

102 A Picture of Grief A reporter takes a tough decision, one that stays with him. JA M E S ALEXAN DER TH OM


Falling for Cuba Love to dance? Come to the land where salsa runs in the blood. JAMES VLAHOS, FROM NAT IO NAL GEOGRAPHIC TRAVELER

Make Yourself

112 Theft Proof*

Keep burglars, bag snatchers and other crooks at bay. ELLIE ROSE PHOTOGRAPHY

118 The Master Eye of

N.K. Sareen

A senior press photographer’s “other works”—timeless portraits. MOHA N SIVA NAN D


128 Amit Chandra and the

Joy of Giving*

This money manager is showing the way to philanthropy. CUCKOO PAUL, FROM FORBES INDIA


148 Life Is a Choice A brutal attack left her blind and disfigured—but that was only her journey’s beginning. ROBERT KIENER

*On the cover






8 20 26 34 36

Editor’s Note React Letters from readers. Here & Now + Books Laughter! It’s the best medicine. Mind Your pain could be mental, not physical.

39 Word Power Test your vocabulary. 42 Quirks OMG! The internet is killing the language.

44 The need for kindness.

166 Foods that harm and heal.

44 In My Opinion 48

How well do you treat those who serve you? Up Close Michael J. Fox on facing Parkinson’s.

80 Life’s Like That 82 Outrageous! Throwing away food that could feed millions.

85 117 140 142 144

Humour in Uniform Quotable Quotes @Work All in a day’s work. Mednews To your future health. Look Twice The colour run.

161 164 167 168 170 171 172

Health Food You Home Work Challenge Studio MA NU PAR E KH

Total number of pages in this issue of Reader’s Digest, including covers: 174





VOL 55 NO 3. MARCH 2014

Editor-at-Large Mohan Sivanand

Editor-in-Chief Aroon Purie

Research Director Padmavathi Subramanian

Chief Executive Officer Ashish Bagga Group Synergy & Creative Officer Kalli Purie

Art Director Shirley Khaitan Research Editor & Magazine Coordinator Mamta Sharma Senior Designer Anto Tharakan Contributing Editors Aarti Narang, Deven Kanal, Snigdha Hasan, Aditya Sharma

The Indian Reader’s Digest is published by: Living Media India Limited (Regd. Office: 9K-Block, Connaught Circus, New Delhi) under a licence granted by the Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., proprietor of the Reader’s Digest trademark.


Chief GM D.V.S. Rama Rao

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Head (North) Subhashis Roy Mumbai: Senior GM (West) Jitendra Lad Kolkata: Senior GM Kaustav Chatterjee Bangalore: GM Shailender Nehru Chennai: GM Velu Balasubramaniam

BUSINESS Head CRM / CMS & Senior GM Vikas Malhotra Chief Manager, Operations G.L. Ravik Kumar Marketing Managers Kunal Bag, Anuradha Rana Production Dhanad V. Patil, Anuj Kumar Jamdegni


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© 2014 Reader’s Digest Association (re Reader’s Digest editorial material). © 2014 Living Media India Ltd. (re Living Media editorial material). All rights reserved throughout the world. Reproduction in any manner, in whole or part, in English or other languages, prohibited. Published & Printed by Ashish Bagga on behalf of Living Media India Limited. Editor: Mohan Sivanand (responsible for selection of news). Printed at Thomson Press India Limited, 18-35 Milestone, Delhi-Mathura Road, Faridabad-121 007 (Haryana) and at A-9, Industrial Complex, Maraimalai Nagar, District Kancheepuram-603 209 (Tamil Nadu). Published at K-9, Connaught Circus, New Delhi-110 001.





Money Wise Investing regularly is wise and those who do not invest—it’s their vice. [“Work Now on Your Financial Goals” and accompanying articles, January] Otherwise, today’s riches may not sustain tomorrow. S a m p a t K u m a r , Hyderabad

Although a woman may be earning well, she trusts the opinion and advice of her male counterparts. That may be because of faith or convenience or the fact that men use a lot of financialworld lingo. Women have a great instinct for saving money, but they may not be risk-takers and may miss out on big returns.

Though school students are already overburdened, market and financial education can effectively be imparted from Class 9 to 11. How to distribute the load over the school years will be a big challenge for planners, but society will benefit from this value-added burden. R. C. Sharm a, retired principal, Hyderabad

P i y u sh V a r d h i n i, via e-mail

I concur with your opinion [Editor’s Note, January] that there is a need for early education in money management and investment. But a major factor driving many investment scams is human greed more than the lack of financial literacy. How will education address this innate attribute of human behaviour? S a n d e e p Jo s hi, Alibag, Mah

An engineer, I could manage on a take-home salary of `50,000 after 20

33 years of service. My retirement benefits could not buy even a small flat in our city. But an investment in real estate saved me. Recently, my son started working on a salary of `30,000, but it hurts when he ignores my advice and spends lavishly. There is indeed a great need for investment education. Rajara m A l va, Bengaluru

The Mentor Leena Gandhi-Tewari’s selfless service for underprivileged girls READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014

[The Mentor, Heroes, January], teaching them dance and other skills is indeed inspiring. It would be worthwhile to report on such work more often. P . C . S o ck ey , Buldhana, Mah Sure, don’t miss the article about Amit Chandra on page 128 here. —Eds

Opportunity Knocks “Just a Taxi Ride” [January] was an overwhelming story. Opportunities come in a most casual way and it is up to us to make the best of them and pursue our goals notwithstanding any hurdles that might come too. Sh a nti Isra ni, Mumbai

Anorexia for Others?

Eternal Waste

There’s nothing wrong in wanting to be beautiful and attractive to certain people [Dying to Be Thin, January] but it’s also important to recognize that you don’t owe thinness or beauty to anyone. It isn’t some rent you pay for being female. You don’t exist for other people’s viewing pleasure. A n k i t a C h a tter je e, via e-mail

We have the right to choose our MPs, after which our chosen candidate is free to act on his own [Outrageous! January]. We must make MPs accountable for every minute wasted in the House because that affects the country’s growth.

For that bit of invaluable advice, Ms Ankita Chatterjee gets the Best Letter Prize.

Invaluable Diaries In her story [Burning the Memories, January], the writer describes her act of burning her well-preserved diaries as good riddance and a method of escape from her near and dear ones. I’d beg to differ. The best way to get over any hurt or insecurity is to accept that it happened. Why can’t we develop a feeling of trust and humanness with others by being honest and letting them know that we as human beings were imperfect? Those years of pain and anger should have been preserved for comparison; those diaries should have been a symbol of strength. M o h i m a G h o sh, Ambernath, Mah 22

A sh ish Trived i, via e-mail

Despite not transacting any fruitful business, our elected representatives get their full emoluments at the cost of tax payers. The common man is fed up. The “no work, no pay” rule should be made applicable also to them. Su rinder Sh arma , Pragpur, HP

It is indeed a sad commentary that the current houses of Parliament largely comprise nondescript and self-centred politicians who have little to contribute in shaping the nation’s future. They make a mockery of Parliament. Given that, citizens have a special responsibility to vote only for dignified, educated, patriotic and cultured persons, irrespective of their political affiliations in the coming general election. Kelath G opak uma r Menon, Thrissur READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014

Key to Happiness I refer to the part about anger in “What Happens When...” [January]. Anger fogs our wisdom. The key to remain cheerful is to live in the present and not recall bitter past events. We should wake up with good feelings for everyone. This will generate positive vibrations from within us that will spread around the home and among people around us. Before bedtime, we should forgive others so that we don’t wake up with any sorrow or frustration. N i k h il Shar m a, Jaipur

Avoid Grumpy It is sad to see a noted comedian and broadcaster, Arthur Smith, propound “seeing the cup half empty.” [In My Opinion, December] The more ready we are towards sad, negative things, more sad, negative things will happen in our lives so much so that a “pleasant surprise” becomes so rare, it’s neither pleasant nor a surprise. In this imperfect world, one thing or the other will have gone wrong and some dream of ours will have remained unfulfilled. So we conclude that we are unhappy. Instead, think of all we have and the good we have done to others (as exemplified in RD’s Kindness of Strangers), and we can find that we are happy. V is hn u , Mysore

Lesson Learnt My otherwise intelligent father had been an innocent victim to a scam in 1998, in a project involving resorts and spas where he lost a huge 24

amount [Confessions of a Con Artist, January]. He unfortunately fell into a trap of words laid by a conman. A great financial lesson for him, he has been citing this to guide us, his now grown-up children, towards wise money management. D r Naheeda h A .K., Kozhikode, Kerala

My husband was one of the people scammed by “Jim.” Your article was encouraging to us; now we can take comfort in knowing we were scammed by a true professional! We learnt a painful financial lesson that will stay with us forever. Marie Edw a rd s, California

Brain Exercise My way of exercising my memory [You Must Remember This, December] is a game of hearts on the internet. It is simpler than chess and quick, but requires a good memory about what cards have gone before and who’s discarded what. I’m getting ever better results, which means that I am remembering more. Ma_gorza ta M., Poland

The author of the best letter, chosen by the editors, will receive a prize: The Reader’s Digest book The Truth About History priced at `899. opinions to the Editorial address, Z(noPost or e-mail: attachments please). Include your phone number and address. All letters will be fact-checked and edited for clarity. READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014

M A R C H 2 0 1 4




Tokusatsu There’s no doubt cinematic CGI (computer-generated imagery) can be astounding. It convincingly sent Sandra Bullock into space (Gravity), put a tiger in a lifeboat (Life of Pi) and destroyed half of North America (too many to mention). But before there was CGI there was tokusatsu—Japanese for “special filming”—a way of creating special effects on set. Its trademarks are instantly identifiable in classic Japanese monster movies of the 1950s and ’60s such as Godzilla: an actor in a rubber creature-suit lays waste to a miniature cityscape, thereby creating the effect of a giant creature rampaging over normal-sized buildings. In its day it was cutting-edge, now it looks, well, cheesy. There are only two companies in Japan still using tokusatsu, making cheap kids’ TV shows including Power Rangers, and even they are bowing to the inevitable and adding CGI. Cheesy or not, there’s a sweet simplicity to tokusatsu that we’ll miss. 26

Special effects: from Godzilla’s rubber monster suits and model trains to Gravity’s digitally enhanced outer space sets.


For Real?

Anti-Spy Typewriters It sounds a bit like an anachronistic Austin Powers joke, but in fact Indian diplomats and Russian communications officers have returned to using typewriters rather than computers in an effort to safeguard their secrets. Last year, Jaimini Bhagwati, then Indian High Commissioner in London, told the Times of India that following the revelations by whistleblower Edward Snowden about the US National Security Agency’s eavesdropping, staff had been ordered to return to the machines once thought obsolete. “Top-secret cables are never conveyed through the internet or machines with cable connections. External hard drives with tremendous amount of

Top secret:

data storage Will low-tech capacity are easy to typewriters access. Therefore, outwit top-secret cables cyber-spies? are written on the typewriter which can’t be tracked,” he said. Previously a source told Russia’s Izvestiya newspaper that the Kremlin had adopted a similar practice.

Social Vocab


Once upon a time people used to say “I think I’ll let that call go through to the answering machine” or, “Turn the TV off, let’s go out for a walk.” Now so potent is the siren song of electronic devices including smartphones, we need a clinical-sounding phrase for the weighty decision to turn away from them for a while. The Oxford English Dictionary recently added the term to its lexicon. READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014

(G U Y ) G E T T Y I M AG E S ; T H I N K S TO CK

Digital Detox:


Who Knew?

Monumental Cleaning Daredevil moves and high-powered tools keep these world wonders looking spiffy

Lincoln Memorial

Big Ben CLEANED: Every five years or so workers scale the 96-metre-tall clock to scrub its four timepieces, each containing 312 pieces of opal glass. And time doesn’t stop: Workers dodge the moving minute and hour hands, which measure nearly four and three metres long, respectively! The next scheduled cleaning is in 2016.

Statue of Liberty CLEANED: Minimally Lady Liberty has dodged bath time for a while now—curators haven’t cleaned her exterior in years because infrequent cleaning aids in her preservation. The inside gets scrubbed frequently, however, which is how the statue developed “birthmarks”—an acidic solution leaked through the inside wall and stained her cheek in 1986.

Eiffel Tower CLEANED: Annually It takes 10,000 doses of cleaning product, four tonnes of cleaning rags, and 25,000 trash bags to polish the Parisian landmark.

Acropolis Hill Sculptures CLEANED: Daily In 2008, scientists set out to find the safest way to swab the 2500-year-old marble statues. After testing 40 methods, they determined the winning technique was a combination of infrared lasers and ultraviolet rays. But the cleaning can be a dangerous job: Restorers wear goggles and operate the lasers for only two hours a day. Kel l i Fitzpatric k



F R O M L E F T: O D D A N D E R S E N / G E T T Y I M A G E S ; G E T T Y I M A G E S

CLEANED: Twice a year Honest Abe gets blasted with a powerful pressure washer, and then National Park Service workers use massive makeshift cotton swabs to clean bugs and bird droppings from his ears.


Here&Now A Taste of Dystopian Fiction

A dystopia is defined as a community or society, usually fictional, which is in some important way undesirable or frightening. It’s the opposite of Utopia. A dystopian society may look perfect on the surface and trick you into thinking it is Utopia. Yet, here is something infinitely fascinating about the world as we know it crumbling and rising again. It gives hope and reminds us that humans have always prevailed; that we have a way of adapting to situations. Dystopian literature, while not a new concept, is a popular genre these days in young adult fiction for its imaginative social commentary. For me, the love of dystopian fiction started with the release of The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. Its protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, lives in Panem, 32

a nation divided into 12 districts. Each district has to serve the nation in areas like mining or irrigation. Panem’s headquarters is the Capitol, a highly advanced city with no poverty. The hunger games is an event held annually to entertain the nation, where a boy and a girl, aged between 12 and 18 from each district, are selected by a ‘lottery’ and forced to compete in a televised battle to death. Winning not only means that one among the 24 gets to stay alive, but it also secures food for everyone in his or her district for a year while the other districts struggle to survive on their limited food supply. The characterization and story line are so strong that the book isn’t easily forgettable. That led me to read James Dashner’s The Maze Runner. In it,

Thomas wakes up in a box-like structure with no memory of how he got there or what his last name is. He surfaces into a place called the Glade, filled with 50 boys. The Glade is a closed structure with no way out and a maze outside its walls. Every day eight ‘runners’ run through the maze trying to find a way out of its ever-changing walls and trying their best to survive the Grievers, monsters that are half flesh, half metal. It turns out that the point of it all is to experiment on the people in the Glade. While, for me, this book didn’t resonate as deep as The Hunger Games did, it is still a good, suspensefilled book. Searching for more dystopian fiction, I found Delirium by Lauren Oliver. In it, Lena Haloway lives in a world where love is



considered a disease and the root of all problems. A surgical cure for “amor deliria nervosa” is mandatory for citizens over 18. Music, art, books and all forms of entertainment are predetermined and monitored, so they don’t trigger the disease in the “uncured.” Romeo and Juliet is no more a beautiful yet tragic love story but a cautionary tale. Soon Lena meets Alex and finds herself doing something forbidden: falling in love. It is horrifying to imagine a world where love is illegal and deemed dangerous, so everyone goes through a procedure to numb all feelings. Lauren Oliver is a skilled writer whose words flow like poetry. Meanwhile, Legend by Marie Lu is the story of June and Day, two teens whose lives are poles apart. June is a prodigy, born into an elite family whose future lies with the Republic’s military. Day, on the other hand, was born in the slums and is the READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014

country’s most wanted criminal. The Republic, a part of what was once the United States, is now perpetually at war with its neighbours and being in the military is the highest form of honour. The divide between the rich and the poor is deep, and while the affluent get vaccines against the plague, the poor do not. June’s brother is killed and the Republic blames Day for it. Soon June sets out to find Day and bring him back to the Republic to avenge her brother. Living in the slums, June sees her world from the other side of the street and the grass isn’t as green as it seems. Soon she’s embroiled in a web of conspiracies, secrets and deceit. The characters, rather than the story, are the ones who lift this book. While all these books are fairly new, it would be a great injustice to not mention V for Vendetta, a controversial graphic novel written by Alan Moore and illustrated by

David Lloyd, published in the 1980s. It is set in a future totalitarian England where the Norsefire party rules by instilling fear in its citizens. It is now a world of corrupt officials, oppression, concentration camps, conspiracies and, last but not the least, a vigilante called V in a Guy Fawkes mask. V is more than an anarchist fighting against tyranny—anonymous, he is an idea, a thought. He is every one of us who dares to fight against oppression, and a symbol of unity. The story has now become an inspiration and the Guy Fawkes mask a symbol of protest and revolt against corruption. There are no mythical creatures or hostile alien species in these books. There are no perfect people either. There are only flawed humans, the merciless things they do to one another, their hubris and their hopes. „ 33

:)Laughter! THE BEST


which elicits not a peep. A day later, he finds the parrot on the floor of its cage, dying. Summoning up its last breath, the bird whispers, “Don’t they have any food at that pet store?” Luc il l e A rnel l

A dog goes to the post

office to send a telegram. The post office assistant says, “Well, OK. It’s five words on lonely man buys a parrot for a line, `15 per line.” companionship. After a day, The dog says, “OK, cool. Write the parrot hasn’t uttered a word, this down: ‘Woof woof woof, so the man goes back to the woof woof woof woof, pet store and buys it a woof. Woof woof mirror. Nothing. The Can you woof woof woof next day, he brings read that car’s woof ’.” home a little ladnumber plate from here?” The assistant der. Polly is still asked my instructor today. says, “You’ve mute, so the fol“Yes!” I replied, “ Now can got room to lowing day, he you please open the parachute!” round it up with gives it a swing, From the internet




I L L U S T R AT I O N B Y V I N S / T E X T B Y M . S .

“... Welcome to Jolly Mixie Service. Press 1 if your mixie is working, press 2 if you are satisfied with your Jolly Mixie ... ... You have not pressed your desired option, but your call is important to us, so press 3 to listen to mixietunes again.”

A Saudi prince goes to America to study. A month later, he e-mails his father: “New York is wonderful, but I’m ashamed to go to school in my gold Mercedes because all my teachers travel by subway.” A few minutes later, his dad writes back: “Stop embarrassing us. Go and get yourself a subway too!”

an extra ‘woof’ if you like?” The dog replies, “Don’t be stupid. Then it wouldn’t make sense.” To n y Ab b o tt

One Age Fits All A woman was shopping for something to wear to her 50th high school reunion when a group of teenage girls came into the same shop to try on dresses for their school formal. “Gross,” complained one girl loudly to her friends, “this dress makes me look 40 years old.” “May I have it?” called out the woman. “That’s just what I’m looking for!” Fe licity Ro o n ey READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014

It would be kinda embarrassing trying to explain what an appetizer is to someone from a starving country. “Yeah, the appetizer. That’s the food we eat before we have our food … No, no, you’re thinking of dessert. That’s food we eat after we have our food.” Jim Ga ffigan

A police officer pulled over a guy for weaving across two lanes of traffic. He walked up to the driver’s window and asked, “You drinkin’?” The driver said, “You buyin’?” We will pay for your Laughter anecdote. Post it to the Editorial address or e-mail:



Pain: It May Just Be in Your Mind One reason why getting rid of it may be easier than you thought effects. Later, Geeta also consulted several spine specialists and other medical practitioners including a neurologist, chiropractor and an



y patient, whom I’ll call Geeta*, was set to leave on vacation, but that day she awoke with a sudden, piercing back pain. Instead of the holiday resort, she landed up in a local hospital. The MRI scan of her spine was normal. An orthopedic surgeon suggested she rest in bed for a few days and follow that with physiotherapy. The exercises hurt too, and while the pain subsided considerably, there was a lot of residual stiffness and discomfort. At the office she could not sit for more than a few hours. Over the next few months she lived on a cocktail of painkillers—and antacids to counteract their side *All names have been changed to protect identities.



acupuncturist with hardly any improvement. Then, one day a friend sent her a copy of Dr John Sarno’s book, Healing Back Pain. “When I was at college in the US, I too had a chronic back pain and I recovered completely,” the friend told Geeta. That night Geeta began reading the book and, with her doctor’s help, started applying Dr Sarno’s method. She was surprised to find that her pain soon disappeared! There has been an explosion in the number of people suffering from chronic pain; headaches, neck and backaches. Other common causes of pain include tendonitis and fasciitis, an inflammation of the connective tissue surrounding muscles, blood vessels and nerves. In a fairly large number of cases these are “psychogenic” disorders, caused or made worse by stress or even by unconscious psychological issues. Unfortunately this is often not recognized at the outset, leading to delays, needless suffering and avoidable medication or surgery. Years ago, Dr Sarno, a rehabilitation physician, noticed that many people whose X-ray images were suggestive of disk problems had no pain. When he carefully reviewed his back pain patients, he found that in a large number their pain was psychogenic and not physical. In most cases he attributed this Dr Dayal Mirchandani, MD, is a Mumbaibased consulting psychiatrist and author. READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014

pain to unconscious anger and rage, with the pain serving the function of distracting this emotion. His method focuses on frequently reminding oneself that it is a mind-brain problem, and patients are made to emotionally examine themselves by a process of therapeutic self-expressive writing. While there is no data on the efficacy of the Sarno method, many seem to have been helped by it. Some have started online forums that even teach the method. There are other mindbody methods that I have written about in an earlier “Mind” column such as the mindfulness-based stress reduction [Reader’s Digest September 2013], developed by Dr Jon Kabat Zinn of the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, that have been scientifically researched and also found to be effective. In my own practice, I find hypnosis to be the most practical technique to help people with all types of pain. It works both with pain due to psychological issues and with pain due to physical disorders such as cancer, burns or pain resulting from medical procedures. Hypnosis has a long history of use in medicine. In the mid 1800s, just before the discovery of chemical anesthesia, Dr James Esdaile, a Scottish surgeon in Calcutta, operated painlessly on over 200 patients under hypnosis with very few 37

fatalities at a time when 30 to 40 percent of patients died as a consequence of surgery. With the development of chemical anesthesia, hypnoanesthesia—the reduction of pain using hypnosis—went out of vogue. Yet, in the last few years it is making a comeback as research shows it to be more effective— among both adults and children—in reducing distress, pain and even the duration and cost of painful medical procedures. Apart from relieving pain, in many cases, it also helps healing. It can be used with imagery and mindfulness techniques to enhance its effectiveness. (Whatever method you use, self-hypnosis or the Sarno, do so only under the supervision of a qualified allopathic medical practitioner.) Take Rajan, a 35-year-old executive, who’d suffered from occa-

sional migraine headaches for years. Now at a senior level in his organization, each time he hit a stressful patch of work he would be laid up for a few days with disabling headaches, making matters worse at work. A neurologist had tried several potent medications, including antidepressants, to prevent his migraines, and finally prescribed methysergide, a drug whose use has been suspended in most countries due to its dangerous side effects. While the medicine helped Rajan, he got scared on reading about the side effects. Moreover, the medicine he needed was imported and really expensive. A friend recommended hypnotherapy and Rajan went for it. In three months’ time, his migraine headaches were under control. One year on he has not had a single attack!

R E A L LY R AC Y Every industry is a world unto itself, with its own particular rites, rituals and news to keep track of. That’s why every industry has a trade magazine. Here are some of the strangest to an outsider... š;b[lWjehMehbZ šEd_edMehbZ šFWha_d]JeZWo š8[[\JeZWo šMWij[7][ š9^W_dIjeh[Age šF_f[b_d[hÁi>Wbbof Fame News š?dj[hdWj_edWbIWdZm_Y^and Snack News šC_iiekh_HkhWb_ij šM[Xi_j[CW]Wp_d[ Arika Okrent via Mental Floss




Which Word Describes You? Whatever your personality type, you’ll win friends and influence people with a good vocabulary. See which of these words related to character you can define—and perhaps which defines you—and then analyze the next page for answers.

1. craven ('kray-ven)


adj.—A: reckless.

B: fussy. C: cowardly. 2. picaresque (pi-kah'resk) adj.—A: like a daring rascal. B: goodlooking on camera. C: standoffish. 3. recluse ('reh-kloos) n.—A: group leader. B: hermit. C: problem solver. 4. narcissist ('nar-sihsist) n.—A: generous giver. B: self-absorbed sort. C: analytical type. 5. ingratiate (in-'grayshee-ate) v.—A: eat impulsively. B: attempt to control. C: try to gain favour. 6. acolyte ('a-koh-lite) n.—A: follower.

B: braggart. C: daredevil. 7. bon vivant (bonvee-'von) n.— A: good listener. B: trusted ally. C: lover of fine dining. 8. sanguine ('san-gwin) adj.—A: optimistic. B: melancholy. C: shy. 9. choleric ('ko-leh-rik) adj.—A: logical. B: health-conscious. C: hot-tempered. 10. congenial (kon'gee-nial) adj.—A: unreliable. B: given to gossip. C: friendly. 11. bloviate ('blo-veeate) v.—A: get angry. B: rant pompously. C: commit petty crimes.

12. venal ('vee-nal) adj.—A: virtuous. B: corruptible. C: interfering. 13. bumptious ('bumpshus) adj.—A: pushy. B: countrified. C: roly-poly.


14. altruistic ('al-tru-

Charm and charisma are similarly attractive traits. Charm comes from the Latin carmen, meaning “song,” and is related to chant: A charmer magically enchants you. Charisma is even stronger; it comes from the Greek charis, meaning “grace”—a divine blessing, like a gift from the gods.

B: kind to others. C: quick to change. 15. bohemian (bo-'heemee-n) adj.—A: macho guy. B: nonconformist. C: picker of arguments.


istik) adj.—A: honest.


Answers 1. craven—[C] cowardly. How craven to dump your beau via a text message! 2. picaresque—[A] like a daring rascal. Shankar thinks wearing a cape makes him look more picaresque. 3. recluse—[B] hermit. You’ve never heard of Viswanathan Anand? You must be a recluse. 4. narcissist—[B] self-absorbed sort. What a narcissist, telling me every boring detail of his day! 5. ingratiate—[C] try to gain favour. To ingratiate herself with the pageant judges, Rosalyn kept winking at them. 6. acolyte—[A] follower. No, I’m not with the band. I’m just one of the acolytes. 7. bon vivant—[C] lover of fine dining.

SUPERIORITY COMPLEX Someone with a supercilious air is stuck-up. In Latin, super is “above” and cilium is “eyelash,” with “eyebrow” being supercilium—and when an ancient Roman asserted superiority, it was with an arched eyebrow, a gesture familiar enough today. A haughty person is high or acts like it (being height-y). 40

If you need me, I’ll be at the wine tasting with the other bon vivants. 8. sanguine—[A] optimistic. After a month of lessons, I feel sanguine about passing the driving test. 9. choleric—[C] hot-tempered. The choleric judge pounded his gavel so hard that it broke. 10. congenial—[C] friendly. The bowler and the umpire seem too congenial to me. 11. bloviate—[B] rant pompously. To host a talk-show, it helps if you can bloviate on command. 12. venal—[B] corruptible. It’s clear from the state of the country that our elected leaders are a bunch of venal crooks. 13. bumptious—[A] pushy. Tina only joined the choir because her bumptious mom nagged her into it. 14. altruistic—[B] kind to others. Piranhas are never described as altruistic. 15. bohemian—[B] nonconformist. Sunny’s bohemian friends introduced him to edgy performance art.

VOCABULARY RATINGS O 9 and below: Icebreaker O 10–12: Good mixer O 13–15: Life of the party To play an interactive version of Word Zdownload Power on your iPad or Kindle Fire, the Reader’s Digest app. READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014

Shortcut to Hell

How the internet destroyed the English language B Y D A V I D Y E E Ofrom The Walrus Laughs


That event, I think, marked the beginning of the end. The frequent question “a/s/l?” was my first lesson in internet shorthand. From this point, you could see the divisions starting to form. Some would type “age/sex/ location” in a blatant affront to the “a/s/l” enthusiasts. I was one of the former, clinging to the last vestiges of proper syntax and encouraging others to do the same. But I may as well have been writing in hieroglyphs or iambic pentameter. As chat progressed, “though” became “tho,” “you,” “u.” I typed more slowly than anyone else because I still actually used all the letters that came with a word. It felt weird not to. Like assembling furniture using only one quarter of the screws: it’s faster to put together, but I wouldn’t put my crystal bust of David Hasselhoff on it. Fast-forward a decade and change, and we’ve got Twitter. There’s even





hen the internet started, its purpose was clear: porn. Okay, that might not be true. I’m pretty sure its purpose was communication. I can be relatively confident about my knowledge of computers and the internet because I’m Chinese. And if The Goonies taught me anything, it’s that we Asian people are at the forefront of all that is technological. Or we could also be ninjas. I remember getting my first e-mail address, over a 14.4k modem, and sharing it with all of my friends. Writing e-mails was fascinating. Within minutes my incredibly important missives travelled, literally, tens of kilometres to my friends’ homes—slightly faster than driving over and telling them myself. A revolution in convenience. Before long, I discovered BBS— bulletin board system—chat rooms.





a bunch of companion services that will shorten what you’ve written. I used one of them to see what would happen to Charles Dickens. It turned this: “…we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.” …into this: We’d evrythng bef. us, We’d nthng bef. us, we were all going drct to hvn, we were all going drct the other way—in shrt, the prd was so far like the pr. prd, that some of its nsst athrts insstd on its being rcvd, for good or for evil, in the sprl. dgr of cmprsn only. While I applaud their optimism at “superlative” being credibly shortened to “sprl.,” it’s a stretch to assume anyone would

recognize the above as English. That’s really my point here: the internet ruined the English language. About a decade ago, the Japanese government formed a subcommittee to protect the integrity of its language against English influence. I don’t know how it works, but I want one. I want a committee to protect English from the internet. I miss apostrophes in appropriate places and the word “like” being used solely for comparisons, similes or expressions of affection. I miss people knowing that “whose” is a word, even if they don’t know when to use it. I want my language back. And if I don’t get it, if we continue sliding down this illiterate slope toward certain anarchy, I will be very, very :(. Does chat or internet language worry Zthing you? Is it harming language? Or is anyfine, as long as you communicate? Write to the Editorial address or e-mail:








They’re Also Human Who Stand and Serve Can we remain so selfish and unkind to servants?


s one who lives abroad, to make any comment on middle-class Indian life could be risky. When I speak my mind, I’m often told that I do not understand what it’s like to live in India. But isn’t it possible for me—as one who makes annual visits to my family in India—to understand and yet disagree? Let’s consider the sensitive subject of The Servant, without whom nothing much would function in most middle- and upper-class Indian households. In the UK, where I live, I too employ a cleaner for three hours a week. So this isn’t about whether or not one should have servants; it’s about the attitude to the servant. Nor is this about extreme horror stories like that young maid in New Delhi, who was locked in a flat by her employers who went abroad for days. Instead, I speak of the everyday norms witnessed in the homes of good, decent people.


I was 10 years old and it was my first few days at a boarding school in Nainital. There, I accidentally bumped into another child in the



playground, and said sorry. My peers laughed and mocked me for apologizing to a servant’s child. Recently, when an acquaintance heard this story he exclaimed, “But these were children! We adults are not like that.” The frailty of that defence is revealed when we ask, “But how did the children come by these attitudes in the first place?” They could only have absorbed them from the conventions of their families as expressed by the adults they respect. Nevertheless that defence also serves as a reminder that not every Indian lives by these sorts of values. The other day, in Mumbai, I was in the back seat of a car, being given a lift by a friend, who sat in the front passenger seat. On peeling an orange, my friend offered the first segments to the person seated next to him, his driver. First, this vignette demonstrates that not all Indians share the same disparaging attitude towards the so-called serving classes. But, second, is it not curious that I found myself struck by this simple gesture? I think I was struck by it precisely because it stood out from the norm. Here was a courtesy of the kind that one extends to an equal—which was also my ‘mistake’ in the playground decades ago. Given that the conventions of Farhad Dalal, PhD, is an India-born psychotherapist based in Devon, UK. His books include Thought Paralysis: The Virtues of Discrimination. For more about the book, visit: READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014

my family home were (and are) no doubt similar to those of my peers at the boarding school, how was it that I found myself at odds with them? Maybe I committed that faux pas because I did not see who I had bumped into and my uttering “sorry” was an automatic one—I’m not so sure now. So I cannot claim any moral superiority for myself. These examples show that the attitudes between and also within households are not uniform. Tied into these attitudes towards servants is another similar attitude towards anything manual—menial tasks, as they are called. I was about 16 and staying in another family’s home. The father of the household asked me to accompany him to his car, which was covered with a plastic weather protector. He also called out to the servant girl. He asked her to lift the cover over a part of the bonnet up, and then proceeded to ask my advice about a scratch in the paintwork. The thing that sticks in my mind is the fact that he thought that it was beneath him to lift the cover himself, and he must have also felt that he ought not to insult me by asking me to do it. There we were, man and boy, in discussion; and there was the servant girl, quietly doing what she was bid, when she was bid. To my mind the function of many of these conventions is actually to reinforce the distinction between master and servant, and 45

this invariably involves the exercise of power, which makes the employer feel bigger in relation to the servant, and crucially, better than them. Power is continually being exercised in all kinds of ways. The servant is habitually called from one room to another to fetch and carry, to do this and to do that, as though the people doing the calling were handicapped. In a psychological sense, the householder has indeed become disabled. To sit and boss someone around feeds the ego, and is addictive. This becomes their main daily occupation. In some Indian households the routine work of the matriarch is to follow the servant around, scolding continually to make sure she does her work properly. By the end of the day the matriarch is herself exhausted by this onerous responsibility. It was late one morning in a family home after everyone had showered. As you might expect, some fallen hair had collected on the shower drain. Seeing this, a member of the family went to the kitchen, called the servant out, walked her to the bathroom, pointed to the hair, and told her to pick it up. The way this was done was not only the exercise of power (and a waste of time and energy), it was to me an exercise in humiliation—a way of keeping them in their place. Another little drama took place entirely non-verbally: an elderly man finished eating an apple and 46

beckoned his servant. She came forward warily. He thrust his chewed apple core into her hand, and waved her away. To have his spittle-coated apple core in her hand was (to put it mildly) distasteful to her. Although upset, she could say nothing. Mostly, such activity of daily insult and humiliation of servants is not so crude. But it is so integral a part of the communication pattern that it is not even thought of as insult. This is most clearly evident in the tone of voice with which the serving classes (waiter, porter, driver or maid) are spoken to: mostly in the imperative. (Do this now! Fetch that! Turn that down!) Mostly, they are shouted at in the same way as to working animals or troublesome children.


n his great work Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Paulo Freire describes the attitude of the oppressor towards the oppressed in Latin America almost a hundred years ago. When I first read it, I was astonished to find almost exactly the same attitudes that were familiar to me as a boy growing up in India. The belief: They are dirty, greedy, untrustworthy, stupid, selfish and thoughtless. We find the same theses recurring in other parts of the world in all eras. This was also what many British colonialists thought of the Indian. Today, racists everywhere continue to speak of people they happen to hate in exactly these terms (White to Black, Hindu to


Muslim, Protestant to Catholic, Serb to Bosnian, and vice versa). The less powerful are stigmatized by the more powerful. The stigmatized are thought of as not quite human, and therefore falling outside the orbit of the moral code applicable to human beings. Rather shockingly, contemporary Indian attitudes towards the servant are much like those of Whites towards Blacks in the former apartheid South Africa; in both, servant and Black are not quite human. The middle class Indian cannot even begin to countenance the notion that their experience of “the servant” is in part ideologically driven. But put this same middle class Indian in Britain today, and they will be quick to feel slighted and offended when they themselves are the object of exactly these attitudes.


he servant’s position is a paradoxical one. While servants are at the centre of domestic life, necessary and critical to it, he or she is always Other. Consider this. It is not an uncommon practice that on entering the home, servants are required to immediately wash their hands (nothing untoward in that, you might say). However, I have noticed that in many households they are required to use the soap especially set aside for them: the “servant soap.” There is also, often enough, a cup and plate set aside for the servant. Why? “Because you don’t know where READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014

they have been and what sort of germs they are bringing in.” But curiously this selfsame (potentially germ-carrying) servant is also the one who cooks the family’s meals and is even trusted with the care of the family’s infant. Therein lies the paradox. In speaking in this way, I do not wish to fall into the opposite error of romanticizing and idealizing the serving classes as somehow being better people. They are not better people, they are just people. Some servants lie and cheat; but so do “we” (corruption is rife at all levels of society). Some servants are lazy; but then so are many of us. Some servants steal; but so do the masters (what else would you call the commonplace practice of hiding income from the taxman?). To my mind servants deserve, at the very least, to be treated with dignity and courtesy. I was struck when a friend of mine spoke of her childhood in Germany in the 1950s. The family employed a live-in maid who helped look after the children and did much of the housework. But here is the thing: at meal times she sat at the dinner table, was a part of the conversation, and ate the same food as the family, with the family. Can you imagine the same taking place in your household? If not, why not? Do you agree with the author? Having Zyour read this, would you need to change attitude towards those who serve you? Write or e-mail your own views to


Up Cl se The Unstoppable Michael J. Fox The actor’s Parkinson’s disease has advanced but his resolve is steady B Y D A V I D H O C H M A N Ofrom AARP The Magazine


echnically, Michael J. Fox is not supposed to be enjoying himself as much as he is these days. When he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at age 30, his doctors told him he had 10 more years to work, tops. That was 22 years ago. “The implication was that I was going to be in an invalid state,” Fox says. The actor’s illness has advanced— during a conversation in his New York City office, Fox’s hands tremble and his shoulders seesaw up and down—but his resolve is steady. “There’s an idea I came across a few years ago that I love,” he says. “My happiness grows in direct proportion [to] my acceptance and in inverse proportion to my expectations. If I can accept the truth of ‘This is what I’m facing— not what can I expect but what I am 48

experiencing now’—then I have all this freedom to do other things.”

For Fox, acceptance translates into a positive outlook. Indeed, he has a whole dark-humour repertoire. As he jokes, who needs an electric toothbrush when you have a vibrating hand? His golf game—yes, Fox still plays—suffers more from comic indignity than anything else. “People say, ‘Stay still over the ball.’ I’m, like, ‘Yeah, screw you’.” In his new television comedy series, The Michael J. Fox Show, he plays a New York anchorman, husband and father of three whose family and career are shaken up by Parkinson’s. That’s not to suggest that the disease is one big thighslapper. Fox and his wife, actress Tracy Pollan, 53, and their four children— Sam, 24, twins Aquinnah and READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014

Schuyler, 19, and Esmé, 12—face daily challenges. “Sometimes the kids will need their dad’s help and he’ll say, ‘I’m not feeling great right now’,” says Pollan. “But the first thing he does is go back to the kids when he’s feeling good. It teaches them patience and empathy.”


Fox was born in Edmonton, Canada, on 9 June 1961, the fourth of five children. Too small to live out his dream of becoming a competitive hockey player, he turned to acting, and at 16 earned a part in a sitcom called Leo and Me. In 1982, he landed the role of Alex P. Keaton on the TV show Family Ties, which ran for seven seasons. Fox parlayed his success into a hit movie career, with classics like the Back to the Future trilogy. A slide into drinking, carousing and overspending followed. “By 21, I was earning six figures a week,” he says. “It was nuts.” In 1985 he met Pollan and they married in 1988. With Tracy’s encouragement, Fox quit drinking in 1992, which prompted a new outlook on his success. “You’re not just a lottery winner,” says Fox. “You have to respect the work you do and others do and how you got there.”

The actor has responded extremely well to medication and has no need for physical therapy. “I’m always aware that there are others READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014


who don’t feel so good and can’t express themselves the way I can,” Fox says. “That’s no small factor in the way I’ve been able to deal with this.” Researchers do not know what causes dopamine-producing brain cells to degenerate and trigger Parkinson’s symptoms like trembling, slowness and rigidity. Genetics and environmental factors, like exposure to pesticides and metals, can play a role, although the connection is unclear. Since 2000, the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research has funded $375 million in research,

and supported hundreds of scientists in more than 20 countries and 60 clinical studies.

Fox is looking ahead to new adventures: Visiting the Egyptian pyramids is on his list. Above all, he’s trying not to take himself too seriously. “If I’m at events and I’m clapping,” he says, “my mind will say, ‘Stop,’ but I just keep going. Tracy says, ‘You’re always the last one clapping.’ It’s not out of appreciation—it’s out of disintegration. You have to laugh at that.”


FORM – IV Place of Publication: New Delhi Periodicity of its Publication: Monthly Printer’s Name: Ashish Bagga Nationality: Indian Address: K-9, Connaught Circus, New Delhi – 110 001 Publisher’s Name: Ashish Bagga Nationality: Indian Address: K-9, Connaught Circus, New Delhi – 110 001 Editor’s Name: Mohan Sivanand Nationality: Indian Address: K – 9, Connaught Circus, New Delhi – 110 001 Names and Addresses of individuals who own the newspaper and partners or shareholders holding more than one percent of the total capital: Owner: M/s. Living Media India Limited, K – 9, Connaught Circus, New Delhi – 110 001. Shareholders holding more than one percent of the total capital of the owner company: 1. Mr. Aroon Purie, 6, Palam Marg, Vasant Vihar, New Delhi – 110 057. 2. Mrs. Rekha Purie, 6, Palam Marg, Vasant Vihar, New Delhi – 110 057. 3. Mr. Ankoor Purie, 6, Palam Marg, Vasant Vihar, New Delhi – 110 057. 4. The All India Investment Corporation Private Limited, K – 9, Connaught Circus, New Delhi – 110 001. 5. World Media Private Limited, K - 9, Connaught Circus, New Delhi – 110 001. 6. IGH Holdings Private Limited, 1st Floor,Industry House, 159 Churchgate Reclamation, Mumbai- 400020 I, Ashish Bagga, hereby declare that the particulars given above are true to the best of my knowledge and belief. Date: 1st March, 2014


Sd/Ashish Bagga Signature of Publisher READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014






Scary medical headlines grab all the attention, but these everyday habits may be more likely to harm you PHOTOGRAPHS BY DAN SAELINGER


You almost can’t watch or read the news without stumbling on some alarming health crisis. You know the stories—flesh-eating bacteria lying in wait, the latest pandemic that sends you scrambling to google its symptoms, or the pesticide report that puts the words cabbage and toxic in the same sound bite. These headlines get your attention, but sometimes the reality is a little less sensational. In actual fact, more common, mundane issues pose greater threats to your well-being. Let’s give six media-hyped health scares a dose of perspective. READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014



PHONING OR TEXTING WHILE DRIVING Fact: Over the past few years, some studies have suggested a possible link between cellphone use and an increased risk of specific types of brain tumours. Cellphones emit radiation, after all, and radiation can cause cancer. But the operative words here are suggested and possible, and the results are far from conclusive. Many more recent studies express skepticism. Although the World Health Organization added cellphone radiation to its list of possible carcinogens in 2011, that list also includes items such as pickled vegetables. The WHO’s threshold for a possible carcinogen is pretty low, says Dr Richard Besser, chief health and medical editor for ABC News. He points out one important distinction: There are different kinds of radiation, which do different things. Ionizing radiation (which includes X-rays and some UV rays) damages DNA and may cause cancer. But cellphones emit non-ionizing radiation, which does not damage DNA, explains Dr Besser, who wrote Tell Me the Truth, Doctor. What experts agree on: Given the increasingly young age at which people start using cellphones, we need more 54

research on long-term risks. However, there is ample evidence that cellphones do pose an immediate threat of a different kind: endangering drivers and passengers. Consider this: Sending or reading an SMS can take your eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, akin to driving the length of a football field at 88 kmph—blind. And you’re 23 times more likely to crash if you text while driving. “Studies show that driving while texting is equivalent to driving drunk,” says Dr Besser. “It’s tempting to pick up that phone when you hear an incoming text message. The smartest move: Turn off your phone before you get in the car, or put it in the glove compartment.” [Studies

P R O P ST Y L I ST: B I RT E V O N K A M P E N ; H A I R A N D M A K E U P : A U ST I E E C K L E Y


P H O T O / I L L U S T R AT I O N C R E D I T

also show that talking on a cellphone while driving is also very risky—even if you use a hands-free device, since your mind is somewhere else!] H EA LT H FE AR


IMPROPER FOOD HANDLING AT HOME In the USA, a brand of prepackaged salad greens was linked to an eruption of Cyclospora, a rare parasite that can trigger weeks of explosive diarrhea. And certain chopped onions were yanked from store shelves for possible Listeria contamination. Food recalls and foodborne-disease outbreaks generate big headlines (and in this case, we support spreading awareness). But most instances of food poisoning are not part of these widely covered incidents. In 2009 and 2010, for example, US federal officials documented only about 30,000 outbreaklinked illnesses, while an average of tens of millions of people get sick from contaminated food every year. Translation: The odds of big, news-making outbreaks affecting you are relatively slim. More likely to make your stomach churn are disease-spreading habits in places like restaurants, cafeterias, and even your own kitchen. Many cases of foodborne illness result from improper food handling at home, according to a paper published by Elizabeth Scott, co-director 56

of the Simmons Center for Hygiene and Health in Home and Community in Boston. Some ways we slip up: Most people aren’t diligent about hand washing before handling food, even though this may eliminate nearly half of all cases of food poisoning. Not thoroughly rinsing produce under running water can expose you to germs on its surface. (A recent US government study found that leafy vegetables account for nearly half of foodborneillness cases.) Sponges and dishrags are breeding grounds for bacteria, but many people wait until the sponges fall apart before replacing them. And most people say they wash raw poultry before cooking it, even though food safety experts recommend not to. The practice spreads germs around your sink and counters; cooking poultry to the proper temperature will kill any pathogens. HEALT H FEAR


CONTRIBUTING TO ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANCE You may not have heard about MRSA: Short for “methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus,” it’s an infection caused by a strain of staph bacteria that’s become resistant to common antibiotics. And if you haven’t also heard about a newer family of germs on the rise called CRE s (carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae), you will soon. “These superbugs are resistant to our biggest READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014

and best drugs and may become resistant to all antibiotics,” says Dr Aaron Milstone, an infectious disease specialist at Johns Hopkins Hospital. The death rate for patients with serious infections treated in hospitals is about twice that for patients with infections caused by non-resistant bacteria. That said, we do still have antibiotics to treat most superbugs, says Dr Milstone. You may have read about instances in which people contracted MRSA while out and about in their community, but such cases are not common; the risk of infection is still much higher in a hospital setting, when you’re having surgery, for example, or receiving a medical device like a catheter. “The risk of severe disease from these bugs is also greater when patients are weak from another condition or have a compromised immune system,” says Dr Milstone. What’s more, there’s a lot you can do to protect yourself from superbugs, says Dr Kristin Englund, an infectious disease specialist at the Cleveland Clinic, USA—including frequently washing hands, covering wounds well, and getting vaccinated against certain bacteria (such as pneumococcus, which can cause infections like pneumonia). These precautions have helped reduce the rate of resistant infections. On the other hand, you’re only going to accelerate the development and spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria if, like many people, you misuse antibiotics. They are the most commonly 58

prescribed medications, sometimes unnecessarily, or are not the best option. Some are sold without a prescription too. Every time you use an antibiotic, you give bacteria in your body a chance to evolve and outsmart the medicine. Taking an antibiotic to eliminate a virus, which it is unable to do, or not taking an antibiotic for its full course worsens the problem. The bacteria can then grow and even share resistance, so the next time you need that particular antibiotic, it may not work as well, explains Dr Englund. If you have overused or misused amoxicillin, for example, a common urinary tract infection may now need stronger meds or a combination of treatments. HEALT H FEAR


NOT EATING ENOUGH FRUITS AND VEGGIES We’re all aware of the bad stuff about pesticides—that certain studies have linked them to nerve damage, cancer, birth defects, and other health problems. But before you stop eating apples (named the most-contaminated in the USA last year) or think twice about buying greens, consider this reassuring statement from Carl Winter, director of the FoodSafe Program and Cooperative Extension and a food toxicologist at the University of California: “We are all exposed to small amounts of pesticides in our produce, but it’s typically at levels one million times lower than even amounts that READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014


don’t cause any noticeable effects in lab animals exposed to pesticides every day of their lives,” he explains. Eating organics may lower exposure but won’t fully eliminate it. But if fears of pesticides prevent you from eating plants, that’s a real concern. Compelling evidence shows that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and certain cancers; it can also help manage your weight, improve brain function, and literally add years to your life. One new study that followed more than 71,000 Swedes for 13 years found that those who ate at least three servings of vegetables per day lived almost three years longer than people who reported not eating vegetables. Regardless of whether you consume conventional, organic, local, or imported, aim for two cups of fruit and two-and-a-half cups of vegetables daily, and choose from a wide variety. “While eating produce may seem hazardous to some, not eating it is always fatal,” says Winter. H EA LT H FE AR


CATCHING A DISEASE FROM YOUR HANDS Some people squat, others perch, some may hover, a few contort— anything not to let their rear end

touch a public toilet. Their biggest fear? Contracting a sexually transmitted disease. But experts say there’s never been a documented case of gonorrhea, chlamydia, HIV, or other STD that was spread by a toilet seat. That’s not to say that toilets aren’t teeming with icky bugs. When researchers from the University of Colorado tested 12 public bathrooms, they found gut microbes on seats and toilet handles, as well as skin-associated staph bacteria on faucets, fecal-borne bacteria on the handles of bathroom exits, and a whole mess of organisms on floors. Now, that may gross you out, but the reality is you’re more likely to pick up those bugs on your hands than on your behind. When an unwashed hand touches your eyes, nose, or mouth, germs gain entry and make you sick. So scrub those hands, and do it right. Researchers who discreetly observed about 3700 people after they used public toilets in a US college town found that only 5 percent washed their hands long enough to kill germs, about 10 percent didn’t wash their hands at all, and almost 23 percent didn’t use soap. The correct way: Lather up with soap, and rub your hands together for at least 20 seconds (the amount of time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice), making sure to clean the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.

The face of a child can say it all, especially the mouth part. 60


Jack Handey

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Beautiful Are You?

Ideals of beauty vary across cultures. They’re often an indicator of status. And never before could you do so much to look young and lovely

When American author Pearl S. Buck lived in China, a child of missionaries, she was convinced she was ugly. The Chinese pitied her blonde hair, blue eyes, long nose and “big” feet, all completely alien to the ideal of beauty in early 20th-century China, when the cruel practice of binding baby girls’ feet so that they grew no larger than a teacup still existed. Such “lotus feet” were a status symbol: wealthy women did not need to work, or even walk much. 62

In India, while a pink and white complexion is much envied, light eyes and blonde hair are not. Grey, green or even lighter brown eyes are mocked as “cat eyes,” probably because they could indicate a mixed heritage. My own daughter was born with straight brown hair, and visitors would observe that it was a pity she didn’t inherit my jet black curls. The things different cultures adopt to preserve ideals of beauty can be shocking. European aristocrats used READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014



Concepts of beauty: Plump and softly-rounded shapes were once pretty.



to highlight their veins with a blue pencil or wear black velvet patches on their faces to emphasize the transparency of their skin. In Japan, women once dyed their teeth lacquer black. The stain was supposed to protect their teeth from decay, show off the whiteness of painted faces and was as routine as wearing lipstick today. The Karo of Ethiopia create a pattern of scars all over their torso by cutting their skins. In Nigeria, certain tribes still overfeed young girls till they attain a desirable level of excess fat. The Maori of New Zealand tattoo their lips and faces— all ways to ensure that a girl is most attractive in the traditional manner. Indeed, ideals of beauty are invariably intertwined with concepts of status, and trends were sometimes dictated by royalty. Powdered wigs and curled hair were worn throughout the western world, since Marie Antoinette had blonde curls. The French slavishly imitated court fashion. Peter the Great of Russia returned from a tour of Western Europe determined to remodel the way his people dressed and looked. When his boyars, the landed gentry, protested against having to shave off their trademark beards, he imposed a hefty beard tax.

Fairest of All Complexions had to be as white as possible since, it was assumed, a tan was the mark of a peasant. Unfortunately, the heavy white make up and touches of rouge used to achieve the desired paleness often had disastrous 66

consequences because these facepaints contained toxins like lead or mercury. Kitty Fisher, an 18th-century English courtesan, died young of lead poisoning, but the trend persisted. Natural skin lighteners like lemon juice and buttermilk as well as less drastic methods, like shielding oneself from the sun and wearing certain colours that flatter the complexion, have always been the safer option. Hats, parasols and gloves shielded faces and hands from the sun. Evening dresses revealed more shoulder and bosom, and the translucent whiteness of these was also celebrated in poetry and song. One notable exception must be the Shakespearean sonnets to his mysterious “Dark Lady,” which went against the fashion of the time. In the old age black was not counted fair / Or if it were, it bore not beauty’s name He boasts that his beloved’s “raven” eyes and hair like “black wires” suit her and appreciates that she does not try to lighten herself with “art’s false borrowed face,” namely cosmetics. But Shakespeare was unique in his thinking. Even centuries later we read in Tolstoy, Ibsen or Balzac of girls in Europe and America washing their faces in milk cream or rainwater or morning dew or using their grandmother’s jealously guarded recipes to keep their skins like porcelain. Make up was something “nice girls” didn’t use, though they were not above reddening their lips and cheeks with crushed fruit and flowers. The idea READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014

was that you don’t “gild the lily,” and painted faces indicated questionable morals. Old ingredients like beeswax, honey, rosewater, witch hazel and rosemary (a key component of a celebrated face tonic called Hungary Water) are enjoying a sudden spurt of popularity today.

When Dark Is Beautiful Meanwhile, white isn’t best any more. In Western societies, a tanned brown skin is taking precedence over whiteness as a standard. Black and brown-

skinned. But generally, in countries where caste and colonialism reigned and a spectrum of skin colours exists, fairer shades are still prized. Skin lightening products, sun blocks and pale make up are unabashedly promoted, because culturally it is not wrong to accept that being fair is the fairest of them all. Thus families advertise openly for fair brides, perhaps also hoping that future generations would inherit this trait. Expectant mothers are routinely fed saffron, turmeric, and even a touch of pure gold

Complexions had to be as white as possible—a tan was the mark of a peasant. skinned women are winning top beauty contests. Suntan now indicates wealth, sport and leisure, and bronzing lotions and artificial tanning salons flourish so that people can flaunt that “just back from a holiday” look. Many legendary beauties wielded tremendous power or caused great strife. Take Helen of Troy, Cleopatra, or Sita and Draupadi from the two great Indian epics. We have no real idea of their faces, although it was said that Cleopatra was not conventionally beautiful but fascinated through her dazzling wit and charm. Draupadi was often referred by another name, Krishna (the dark one) because she was dusky, an anomaly in the beautiful princess ideal. Different standards applied to gods in any case. Parvati, Lord Krishna and other deities too are dark READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014

leaf in milk in the hope that their babies turn out fair, although there’s no scientific basis for all this. This followed the old law of correspondences or sympathetic magic—white foods like coconut water, peeled almonds, milk and yoghurt would impart that colour to the unborn child. Needless to say, this does not work, considering that two people I know, whose mothers tried all these methods, ended up attractive but really dark.”. Avoiding the sun isn’t just for preserving white skin these days. Now that we know ultraviolet rays cause skin cancer (especially if you are fair) and that sunbathing and tanning salons speed up aging and wrinkles, there seem to be valid reasons to use sunscreens and stay out of strong sunlight. Monks and nuns in enclosed 67

M U S É E D ’ O R S AY, PA R I S , 1 8 9 1

Artist Paul Gauguin repeatedly portrayed the dark-skinned beauties of Tahiti.

orders tend to have unlined skin well into old age. But it’s sunlight that helps the body synthesize vitamin D, often called the “sunshine vitamin.” Avoiding the sun is causing vitamin D deficiency in epidemic proportions among urban Indians, who thereby risk bonesoftening diseases as they age.

Fat or Thin? Likewise, where once being pleasantly plump showed that a woman was well fed and hence of status, now the ideal veers to slender toned figures, indicating that the wealthy have access to quality food and the time and means to workout or play games. Fat bodies 68

mean overindulgence in junk food, ignorance and maybe belonging to a lower economic class. Not too long ago, abundant food was only available to the privileged, so the poorer sections in many societies still prefer to look plump. Art offers ample proof that being plump was once pretty. Softly rounded shapes were once preferable to bony angular ones. The celebrated Venus de Milo and Botticelli’s or Ravi Varma’s bountiful painted beauties have far too much flesh by today’s stern standards. Even Marilyn Monroe, the object of much male fantasy, had an hourglass figure. A curvaceous gajagamini—she who walks like an elephant, swaying READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014

her ample hips—was actually a compliment in ancient India. Rich or not, food and feasting are still the way to reward, celebrate and comfort, and so two current generations of Indians are battling obesity.

Staying Young & Eligible Now, more than ever, the emphasis is on looking as young as possible. Staying slender, colouring grey hair—every trick of art and artifice can yield amazing results if you have time and the money. Humans are programmed to see youthfulness as beautiful and desirable because they are—often subconsciously—looking for partners who are potential child bearers. So the world over, fresh smooth skins, sparkling eyes, straight teeth and long lush hair are common signs of beauty, indicating good health and femininity.

Measuring Beauty One recent study came up with a “golden ratio” which calculated length against width of the face, distances between the eyes, the mouth and the edge of the face and other markers of symmetry and announced that the face that came closest to the preferred proportions is a perfect beauty. The study cites the head of Queen Nefertiti, certain Grecian statues and Renaissance paintings as classic examples of the golden ratio. Simply put, the length of the face has to be about 1.5 times the width, the length of the nose should equal the length of an ear and the width of an eye should READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014

be equal to the distance between the eyes on a perfect face, among other markers. Researchers claim that a face that people automatically find beautiful follows the golden ratio. There are traditional measures of beauty as well. Hair was cultivated to be long enough to sit on. Only widows or invalids had to shave or keep their hair short. In Kerala, there is a saying that if the teeth are perfect, you are mid–way to being completely beautiful. Lips could be reddened by frequent use of paan (betel leaves) in certain states. While a lot of time was spent on beauty care and homemade recipes, make up was not traditional, except for the eyes, which were outlined in kohl and kajal, made with soot derived from herbs, ghee and sweet oils, meant to soothe as well as improve eyesight. In aristocratic households, making kohl was a ritual, produced in enough quantity to supply the entire zenana—the women’s quarters—and collected in silver vessels. There used to be a fine powder made of pure silver called afshaan, which was dusted lightly on the skin and hair to give it a gleam for a special occasion. It is still available in the bazaars of old Hyderabad where wedding items are exclusively sold. Surma, originally powdered from real seed pearls, had added healing properties. While, in the past, quality was rigidly maintained for these traditional products by using the best ingredients in one’s own home, what is available to buy these days is likely to be adulterated 69

with inferior, toxic substances. Lead poisoning from surma, for instance, has been widely reported. However, today’s branded kajal and kohl eyeliners and pencils are safe and easy to use.

Rooted in Tradition Solah shringaar or the 16 adornments indicate the ways a Hindu bride was to be decorated from head to toe. Some of these have become popular among women of all religions. Flowers in the hair, bangles in red or green glass, gold, shell, lac or horn (depending on the region), mehndi or henna designs on hands and feet, sindoor powder in the hair parting and certain pieces of jewellery like the bichua (toe ring), mangalsutra (wedding necklace) and nath (nose ring) were the outward symbols of a bride. The bindi in the centre of the forehead is recognized worldwide as the mark of an Indian woman, although vermilion is reserved for married ladies and is traditionally red kumkum powder applied accurately with the finger tip. An old saying goes, “If I do not wear red on my forehead, how will I please my husband?” Others would wear black tikkas or a jewel on the spot that is said to represent the mystical third eye. Nowadays they are available in easy stick-on designs of every colour. Gold, silver, copper, iron and other metals were not worn simply for adornment, but as a way the body could absorb tiny amounts of these beneficial metals. Even the precise points on the ears and nose which 70

were pierced coincided with acupuncture points for healing. There was a science as well as an art to this as our grandmothers and traditional physicians well knew. In olden days, precious stones were thought to either benefit or harm and an expert would decide which ones were suitable and where they ought to be worn—similar to the practice of using amulets against the “evil eye.” There were even rules about the kind of flower to be offered to different deities, the ones to be used in wedding garlands or worn in the hair. Fascinating as it sounds, few people observe all of it these days. Some traditions are still followed, like married women wearing silver toe rings on the second toe of each foot. The scriptures say that silver rings worn on the second toes absorb earth energies and conduct them directly to the womb, balancing a woman’s monthly cycles and helping her conceive. There is no proof that any of this works but it is interesting to know the beliefs behind common beauty practices. Movie stars and models are the gold standard of beauty against which women measure themselves now, and their influence is powerful. But there are widely circulated video clips that show how normal girls are airbrushed, colourized, and photoshopped to match an ad’s requirements. Her legs are lengthened, cheekbones defined, waist reduced… until she attains an impossible ideal. Jane Fonda, whose exercise videos had generations of women sweating it out to achieve her READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014

slender dimensions, confessed much later that she had resorted to plastic surgery to achieve her perfect-10 target. Anorexia is therefore a relatively modern problem, with thousands of frustrated young women as well as men starving themselves to the bone to feel beautiful.

Reversing Trends Meanwhile, more rounded figures are gradually getting to be acceptable once again. Nandini Bhalla, India

Hema Malini and Vyjayanthimala made them the most popular pin-up girls of their respective decades. Those who were dusky or not conventionally beautiful like Smita Patil and Deepti Naval were generally seen in off-beat cinema, art films or the stage, and were award-worthy actresses, but never stars of big Bollywood blockbusters. Nandini Bhalla however notes a new trend towards “interesting” and unconventional looks finding a niche in mainstream cinema. “What was

Anti-aging products have overtaken whitening ones as the new bestsellers in India. editor of Cosmopolitan, cites Dove, for instance, which uses regular healthy young women to promote their products. “Racially, Indian women have a different shape. We are softly rounded, with hips and bosoms, and therefore have to really beat ourselves up to achieve the leggy androgynous look favoured by Western models,” she explains. “Thin is still in, but there has been a return to curves as well, following current trends in the West towards more womanly and natural shapes.” Indian actresses used to have a dolllike prettiness. Rewind to the 1960s or ’70s and we find that the “classic” Indian look as seen in calendar goddesses appealed most to the general masses. The “perfect” face, fair complexion, and large eyes of Madhubala, READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014

once seen as an imperfection is now highlighted as a defining look,” she observes, “Actors wish to be unique, not clones of a certain type.” Therefore we now have a girl like Kalki Koechlin, with a quirky charm that’s entirely her own, but certainly her jolie laide (French for “pretty plainness”) looks would have had no takers in the film industry 50 years ago.

Modern Attitudes What has changed in the Indian beauty scenario is an increasing awareness of beauty care and the time and effort invested in looking a certain way. A couple of generations ago, a dab of cold cream would have been the extent of skin care, although they did have regular body massages, hair oiling and other traditional ayurvedic 71

or unani rituals. Once a woman was married and a mother, she didn’t really care whether she put on weight, had greying hair and wrinkles or looked matronly. This attitude has totally turned around, with women well into their sixties going to parlours, spas and gyms and keeping themselves toned and trim. “Letting oneself go is no longer an option,” says Nandini firmly, “I would advise girls to begin a basic skincare routine early and stick with it.” Earlier, life used to be more relaxed and women didn’t have to deal with the stresses of juggling work and home, late nights, environmental stresses like traffic and pollution, processed foods, and probably social drinking and smoking. A more innocent lifestyle meant that they didn’t need a stringent beauty regime. “My mother never interfered with her face and used the bare minimum in cosmetics, and her skin stayed smooth and fresh, but hers was a different generation,” says Nandini. In the past five years, anti-aging products have overtaken whitening ones as the new bestsellers in India. Turning back the clock, erasing lines, age spots, dark circles and ensuring a glowing young skin—these are promises that have ensnared the beauty market. Dr Anil Kumar Murarka, a senior New Delhi-based consultant in plastic, esthetic and reconstructive surgery, has seen a significant change

in the demographic of his clientele over the years. “When I began my practice about 20 years ago, surgery for purely cosmetic purposes was an elite preserve,” he remembers. “Now people from all walks of life are confident about asking for procedures. They are more aware and open about going in for something to enhance their looks.” It’s not just the middle-aged who seem to be turning to surgery. Sophisticated make up and “anti–aging” products are popular even with girls in their early twenties. Similarly, unrealistic expectations and self esteem issues have resulted in young girls turning to surgical as well as non-surgical interventions. Dermal fillers, botox and chemical peels are becoming as common as getting braces or contact lenses. “Liposuction is the most requested procedure here, reducing both general and localized pockets of fat,” says Dr Murarka. “It is followed closely by procedures like rhinoplasty (nose jobs) and breast enhancement. If someone makes an unrealistic demand, such as wanting to look like a popular celebrity, we do counsel them to rethink before taking a drastic decision.” But with so much emphasis on image and appearance in the media and social communities, both men and women are turning to every possible aid to reinvent themselves.

It has yet to be proven that intelligence has any survival value. Arthur C. Clarke




Eat Your Way to


True beauty comes from within, goes the old saying. There’s something to this, experts say. What then should be on your plate? BY ELISABETH HUSSENDÖRFER Cleopatra preferred to bathe in goat’s milk for her complexion’s sake and today women still turn to cosmetics first to preserve their beauty. Good quality creams, masks, lotions can of course accomplish something. Meanwhile, the skin also wants to be cared for, cleaned and nourished from within. It is also important not to stick to one food or micronutrient. Our body counts on numerous vitamins, minerals and other ingredients, and 74

these elements should play harmoniously together. On what nutrients does beauty then precisely depend?

Natural cell protection with vitamin E If there is a beauty vitamin, it’s E. It protects the body READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014



oil. Anyone who wants to keep his body cells fit need not be afraid of fatty food. If you nibble only at raw food, don’t be surprised if you develop unhealthy looking skin.

Carotenoids in the fight against wrinkles

most effectively from free radicals, which arise through ultra-violet rays, stress and environmental toxins. Free radicals are oxygen atoms, which have lost an electron through metabolism reactions. In the effort to “steal” the electron elsewhere in the organism, the free radicals damage cells and so hasten the body’s aging process. Sufficient Vitamin E in the cells blocks the boldest raids. Ideal for protection and beauty effect is a combination of Vitamin E plus unsaturated fats. The latter make the cell walls supple and ease the transport of foodstuffs, explains one expert. Above all wheat germ, flax and sunflower oil as well as nuts and avocados offer this combination. Nutritionists recommend 11 to 12 milligrams of Vitamin E per day for women, 12 to 14mg for men. These amounts you can get with, for example, about 50 grams of almonds or a teaspoon of wheat-germ 76

Too much sun is skin-aging factor Number One. What many don’t know is that with good nutrition you can also guard against wrinkles and skin damage—with carotenoids, for example, as found in tomatoes, mangoes and carrots. Tests have shown that a big glass of carrot juice or one to two tablespoons of tomato marrow a day, taken pure or as sauce, can help to build up sun protection of factor 4. That may not seem like much at first, yet with this 75 percent of all UVB rays can be intercepted. For those who don’t like either carrot juice or tomato marrow, tea is a good alternative. Green tea above all contains ingredients that have been credited with cell-protecting qualities for a long time. It could in fact be demonstrated in tests that these tea-polyphenols lessen the harm done by UV-rays to skin cells and genetic material. You need to take at least two or three cups a day.

Zinc speeds up the body’s own healing If the skin is frequently reddened, and tends towards impurities, or the body repeatedly has to fight with itchy spots and tears at the corners of the mouth, this is an indication that READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014

you may be deficient in the trace element zinc, which speeds up the healing processes. As the human body metabolizes zinc from animal foods like meat better than plant products like corn, many vegetarians suffer from zinc deficiency. Competitive athletes, diabetics and regular sauna bathers are also endangered, for they lose large quantities of mineral ingredients through sweat. Possible indications of a zinc deficiency, besides frequent inflammations, can also be white spots on the nails or hair loss. If you notice any of these, you should see to an increased intake of zinc. The recommendation is 10mg for men and 7mg for women per day. Good zinc sources are beef and oysters. As an alternative, for vegetarians, there are zinc preparations with

zinc orotate or zinc histidine. Talk to your doctor.

B Vitamins keep skin and hair young The B vitamins are the managers of metabolism. Upon them depends, among other things, how much time our body cells need to renew and repair themselves. They are found abundantly in wheat germ, oat flakes and bananas. Brewer’s yeast is a real Vitamin B bomb. Reaching for the beer glass does not make you better-looking, however, for the active substance is usually filtered out of the barley juice to make it last longer. Instead take of the “left-over product,” which is available as tablets, flakes or powder. The vital ingredients contained in the brewer’s yeast promote the regeneration of cells as well as the

Vitamins From the Package Anyone who takes five servings of fresh fruit and vegetables a day is optimally provided with vitamins and mineral elements. It is also a fact, however, that the circumstances of our lives do not always allow for ideal nutrition. In particular life situations, as perhaps during pregnancy or under

heavy stress and certain body illnesses the need for particular micro-nutrients rises considerably. Then it is harder to eat adequately. Anyone who fears not being adequately provided with individual vitamins and mineral ingredients can call today on a wide range of nutritional supplements. The

formation of keratin, a protein that is the main component of hair, skin and fingernails. Brewer’s yeast contributes to naturally attractive hair, skin and fingernails.

Phytohormones strengthen the connective tissue With increasing age the body produces fewer collagen fibres, which as a component of the connective tissue provide for a supple skin. Phytohormones in the food can retard this process somewhat. Soya has a high content of these ingredients, which are similar to the female sex hormone estrogen and also carry the name phytoestrogen. Significant amounts of phytohormones are also found in linseed, leafy vegetables and hops, something dermatologists know. Especially for women during and after menopause phytoestrogens are a blessing, for many have problems with dry skin and inflamed mucous membranes. The expert therefore advises regular consumption of natu78

quantities stated in the dosage recommendations on the packages follow medical guidelines. So it is important to know that taking more is not the same as healthier. Some vitamins and mineral ingredients in quantities too large also have unwanted effects. So go by the dosage recommendations.

ral soya products like tofu and soya sprouts or shredded soya. An important mechanism of the relaxant herb valerian is also based on phytohormones. Pharmacists at the University of Bonn, Germany, discovered the probable cause of its relaxing effect: “A molecule from the group of lignans, which attaches itself to certain nerve-cell receptors in the brain, and thereby triggers a chain reaction with a calming effect,” says Professor Christa Müller, who took part in the study. Not least is our outer beauty connected with a harmonious inner life. A sleepless night cannot be concealed with make-up. Inner unrest and defeat are literally written in our faces. What relaxes us makes us attractive.

Silicon prevents troublesome orange peel skin For the sake of your connective tissue, you should absolutely include silicon in your meal plan. This vital ingredient tightens the skin, as it entangles READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014

the collagen fibres more effectively with one another. Millet containing silicon appears to be a particularly promising weapon against cellulite, the orange peel skin much feared by women. Meanwhile, scientific indications that the age-old corn prevents this phenomenon, which is harmless but seen as a beauty stain. It is important you take whole-grain millet, as silicon lies primarily in the outer layers of the grain. Peeled millet is very bright, so look out for a darker colour. Boiled in milk and refined with fruit and honey, a delicious sweet dish is yours to conjure up.

Water gives the body a new freshness Did you know that a fluid deficiency leads to wrinkled skin and dull hair? Our body comprises 60 to 80 percent water. The cells need an optimal watering; otherwise the skin will appear slack, dry and chapped. Every day we lose about 2.5 litres, which we have to replenish in our bodies not only by drinking but also by eating. Don’t reach just for the water bottle

therefore, but also for ample fresh vegetables, salads and fruits. Thus your body will have not only the fluids it needs, but at the same time important mineral elements and vitamins. All of it together makes you look better—guaranteed!

DEEP INSIGHT How much can you say about a new logo? Here’s Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer (and there’s plenty more of this): “We didn’t want to have any straight lines, [which] don’t exist in the human form and are extremely rare in nature, so the human touch in the logo is that all the lines and forms all have at least a slight curve… we preferred letters that had thicker and thinner strokes, conveying the subjective and editorial nature of some of what we do… our last move was to tilt the exclamation point by nine degrees, just to add a bit of whimsy.” READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014


Life! LI




watch it, she told me she’d erased it. “Why did you do that?” I asked, astonished. “There didn’t seem much point,” she replied. “One of the men got knocked out in the first round.” Steph an Bryn

A letter recently arrived for my grandfather, inviting him to enter a competition to win a “How romantic…a Getaway Spa Weekend” new car. “Imagine the surprise on your neighbours’ faces as you drive up in your hen my mother’s breakfast new car,” it enthused. upma repeatedly failed to My mother wrote a note back, meet Dad’s exacting standards, he saying it would indeed come as a sat her down and explained the surprise as her father had never fundamentals: the importance of the learnt to drive and we’d buried him right amount of water, the timing, six months ago. and how his mother used to dish out A nn Wil son great upma in 15 minutes flat. It worked for us anyway. Since After a rough day spent corralling then, we’ve been having good, my rowdy kids, I’d had enough. steaming-hot upma every Saturday “I think I’m going to sell them,” morning. Only the cook has I hissed to my sister. changed—Dad has to “You’re crazy,” make it. C h a i t r a R a o , she said. As the music Manipal, Karnataka “For thinking swelled during a recent of selling wedding reception, my them?” I asked my wife hopelessly romantic husband “For thinking to record a big squeezed my hand, leaned in, and someone would boxing match on said, “You are better-looking than buy them.” TV. But when I half the women here.” got home to Sh eri Muel l er Marle n e Bam b rick




My parents were trying to console Susie, whose dog Skipper had recently died. “You know, it’s not so bad,” Mum said. “Skipper’s probably up in heaven right now, having a grand old time with God.” Susie suddenly stopped crying and asked, “What would God want with a dead dog?” Adam Bar n es

It was only then that I noticed the look of surprise on his face. He explained that he’d only handed me the drink to demonstrate that the nearby pub was serving short measures, and he wanted to complain about the situation. James Ol dc orn

My husband and I couldn’t decide which jacket to buy our granddaughter, so we asked the young salesman. “If you were buying a jacket for your girlfriend,” I said, “what would you get?” “A bulletproof one,” he said. “I’m married.” Joh n Ca nuteson

My friend John kindly volunteered to take his niece to the beach for a treat. They had a great time on childfriendly rides and enjoyed ice cream and snacks. As they were about to leave, the little one looked up at the “I’d like to discuss something with mega ride and said, “Uncle, can we you,” my husband told our ninego on that, please?” year-old son. He was about to launch “No, sorry,” replied John. into The Talk. “You’ll have to grow another foot “What is it?” asked Michael. before they’ll let you go on that ride.” “We’re going to talk about girls.” She paused for a moment, then “What about girls?” said, “But, Uncle John, I have two “Well, we’re going to talk about feet already!” how girls get pregnant.” Co lin Bo wes “But, Dad,” said Michael, “I’m a boy!” As a young police constable on the Ca rol Wil son beat, I was told to carry out point duty at a busy road junction followI caught my son Luca with his felt ing the failure of the traffic lights. pens and my kitchen towels—he was After two miserable hours directhalfway through drawing on each ing traffic in sub-zero temperatures, one. I was greatly relieved when a man When I asked him why, he reemerged from a nearby pub, walked torted that I was always moaning briskly towards me and offered me a that I couldn’t afford the patterned glass of brandy. ones, so he’d thought he’d surprise Making sure my sergeant was me. Joanna A itc h nowhere in sight, I thanked my Your anecdote in “Life!” could be worth benefactor and quickly gulped down `1000. Post it to the Editorial address or the contents of the glass. e-mail:






on’t waste food’ is a basic lesson from every mother to her child. In fact, Western moms often got that point across by adding, “... and you better think of the starving millions in India.” Behind that story of acute poverty is an equally sorry one: India, the world’s second largest producer of fruits and vegetables, throws away about `13,300 crore worth of produce annually. If you also add grain to that, the total yearly wastage is worth `44,000 crore. Poor harvesting and storage methods account for 20 million tonnes of wasted wheat alone. Enough to feed tens of millions! We lose about 18 to 40% of farm


B A N D E E P S I N G H / W W W. I N D I AT O D A Y I M A G E S . C O M

Open storage of wheat bags in a government godown in Punjab. Sun, rain and rodents, all contribute.

produce due to lack of chilled storage and transportation facilities. Tim Fox, head of energy and environment at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, UK, which did one of two recent studies on global food wastage, estimates that by improving facilities and thereby curbing losses India could add $100 billion (`6.2 lakh crore) to our economy. A lot of food is actually wasted in our homes too, says the report, partly because retailers employ several methods to make you buy more than you need. So next time you see that big discount on any food item, or a ‘buy-one-get-one-free’ offer, make sure you really need it before buying. „ READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014




hen my husband was commanding a Gorkha battalion, we had an orderly named Ram Bahadur. One fateful day my husband invited some of his friends for breakfast without giving me much notice. I quickly prepared some food, putting the main dish on the gas stove in a pressure cooker. Since I “Scheduling mishap, Mr Wickham. Your 3pm and had to get dressed to your 15:00 hours are both here.” receive our guests, I called Ram, who had no experience in the kitchen, and instructed him to lieutenant with a Computer Training stand near the stove and switch it course was nominated to be the off on hearing the whistle. Returninstructor. ing later, I found the gas still At the beginning of the first class, burning and the dish completely she explained how the keyboard burnt. “Why didn’t you switch off worked, the difference between the the gas?” I asked Ram in a fit of rage. on/off and reset buttons, and after“I was alert all along,” he replied, wards she asked the students to turn “but Madam, you never blew any on the computers. After she had whistle.” been teaching for about half an hour U r v a sh i M arwaha, Gurgaon the numerous ways of working with directory trees, she suggested an Ten years ago, at the quarters where exercise to the class and asked if anyI served in the military, they began one had questions. An arm raised at to computerize the various sections. the back of the class and everyone Since very few people knew how heard: “My Second-Lieutenant, this to work with a computer, the is all very well, but which button commander decided to proceed turns on the computer? Is it this one with a mini-training session for all here on the TV?” personnel at the quarters. A secondPied a d e Coel h o READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014





Real-Life Drama

Kevin Lunsmann endured five months of captivity in a Philippine jungle.




Ofrom the Washington Post

The nightmares

It was 2011, and Kevin was 14. He and his mother, Gerfa, were visiting family on Tictabon Island in the southern Philippines, near where Gerfa had grown up. Kevin had spent two weeks snorkelling and swimming in the clear blue water, eating food cooked with fresh coconut, teaching his cousins a few words of English, and trying to learn a little Samal, his cousins’ language. Gerfa had moved to the United States as a teenager when an older sister married an American naval officer, but she loved to visit her family. She’d saved money from her work as a lab technician so that she and Kevin could make the trip. She knew 88

The Filipino police mobilized a day after Kevin and Gerfa were abducted.

the region was troubled—scarred by decades of poverty and violence from Islamic separatists—and that foreign tourists were targets. But she thought they would be safe visiting her Muslim family. On 11 July, Kevin went to bed looking forward to the flight back to the US the next day. He missed his dad, he missed his friends, and it was almost time to register for high school. He was ready to go home.

“WAKE UP !” It was still dark when Kevin heard his mother shouting at him to run. She had awoken early and had spotted a dozen silhouettes running towards their hut. READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014


still come sometimes, yanking Kevin Lunsmann back. He forgets he is safe in his own bedroom, guitar leaning against the wall, cats curled up asleep, in his family’s little yellow ranch house. He forgets his classes at Brookville High School, football games with his friends, all the normal routines of a typical teenager. In his nightmares, he’s back in the Philippines, hungry and afraid, a prisoner of Islamic terrorists.

Kevin and Gerfa bolted towards the beach but were stopped by a bright light shining in their eyes. Through the glare they could make out men in camouflage fatigues. In their hands the men held assault rifles, which were pointed at Gerfa and Kevin. The men ordered Gerfa, Kevin, and Kevin’s 21-year-old cousin into one of three speedboats. The boat pushed through the mangroves and sped off. When the sun rose, Gerfa saw that one of the men held a grenade.



to slice a path through the jungle. They hiked through the night, exhausted, sore. At midday, they stopped in the midst of a jungle so thick they couldn’t see the sun. There was a camp there, sticks holding up tarpaulin, and more men in uniform. A commander who spoke the language Gerfa understands told her his group was fighting for an Islamic state and that she and Kevin would be killed unless her husband paid the ransom: $100 million. “Even the Philippine government doesn’t have that much money,” Gerfa replied. Ten million, he countered. She pointed to a tiny patch of night sky just visible through the leaves overhead and said, “If you can get that star, my husband can get $10 million.”

After several hours, a mountainous, densely forested island loomed large on the horizon. More uniformed men met them on the beach. Gerfa tried to ask questions, but they didn’t speak the same language. All day, Kevin and his mom trembled on the sand at gunpoint. They could see children playing on the beach, splashing in the water, and laughing. “I was wondering how much longer we would be alive,” Kevin says. When night came, they marched towards the mountains. Kevin was wearing just the shorts he had slept in, and his mom was in her pyjamas. The three hostages walked barefoot, stumbling and falling in the mud, following the men in fatigues, who used machetes The hostages were taken from Tictabon Island to Basilan Island. READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014


THE CALL In Lynchburg, his US hometown, Kevin’s dad, 50-year-old Heiko Lunsmann, was at his job as a maintenance man in a nursing home when his sister-in-law called. She’d just heard from her family in the Philippines that Gerfa and Kevin had been kidnapped. At first he didn’t believe it. Then he panicked. And then he got the confirmation call from the FBI. They were taking over the investigation and would be Heiko’s roommates for the foreseeable future as they moved into the family’s house. The next day, the phone rang again. This time, the accent was Filipino. Heiko could hardly understand the man, and the man could hardly understand Heiko’s heavily Germanaccented English. But Heiko understood this: It was a ransom demand.

Once, exhausted by fear and rage, he broke from the cautious negotiations and blurted out to the kidnappers that he couldn’t possibly raise millions of dollars. “I’m not Mel Gibson! I don’t live in Hollywood!” he shouted. “I’m a maintenance man. I change lightbulbs and unplug toilets!” Weeks went by, and American officials became convinced that Gerfa and Kevin had been seized by the Abu Sayyaf, a Filipino terrorist organization. The group is known for kidnappings, bombings—including an explosion on a Filipino ferry in 2004 that killed 116 people—and executions.

CAPTIVITY Deep in the jungle, Kevin was living with his mother and cousin in a fiveby-six-foot makeshift cage made of sticks. At five-eight, Kevin was too tall to stand up inside. At midday, the prisoners were given meagre portions of pancakes or rice soup, and in the evening, one plate of rice for the three of them. Sometimes they didn’t know what they were eating, but they were so hungry, they didn’t care. Gerfa and Kevin both got sick: Kevin after eating what looked like goat brains or intestines, Gerfa after eating something shiny and hard, most likely goat hooves. To pass the time, they watched the militants make bombs and clean their guns. They watched the animals around them in the jungle: monkeys and rats and birds and frogs. Gerfa

As mother and son trembled, they could hear children laughing and playing on the beach. From then on, Heiko lived in dread of the calls, terrified he would say the wrong thing and further endanger his wife and son. Some days he would get two or three calls; sometimes days would go by in silence. Sometimes Gerfa would be put on the phone. Sometimes he could hear Kevin and Gerfa crying out in pain. 90



shooed away the frogs, worried that poisonous snakes might slither after them into their cage, but she loved to watch them from a distance as they roamed about the jungle. “It was a constant reminder of how it is to be free,” she says. Because the militants wouldn’t use names—they called Kevin “the boy” and Gerfa “the infidel”— and never revealed their own, the captives assigned names to them. Gerfa chose names of parasites: “The first one I called Enterobius vermicularis—pinworm.” Another, Falciparum, or malaria. Another was Entamoeba, which causes dysentery. Days after a new hostage was dragged into camp, Kevin, Gerfa, Kevin, surrounded by Filipino soldiers, and Kevin’s cousin were forced celebrates his escape with some edible food. to march again. They finally collapsed in a windowless wooden room, Gerfa was forced down the mounthe same size as their cage and buzz- tain to a river and onto a boat. As they ing with mosquitoes. A week later, pushed off, she thought, They will they heard heavy gunfire off in the dump my body in the ocean. After an distance. Gerfa, piecing together her hour or two, the boat docked. captors’ words, realized that the fire“You’re free,” the militants said. A fight had been government soldiers ransom had been paid. storming the other camp and that the She stumbled towards houses, other hostage had been rescued. She pounding on doors, pleading for help couldn’t stop thinking about it. They until she found someone who could had come so close to freedom. understand her. At a police station, she sat alone in an office past midnight, unFREEDOM FOR ONE til two FBI agents arrived. When they Two-and-a-half months went by, then called her by her name, she burst into one day the terrorists told Gerfa she tears. “I felt safe.” Heiko was at home when Gerfa would be freed. She and Kevin tried to share their last meal together, but fear called. Both of them were crying, relieved that she was free but furious robbed them of their appetite. READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014


“It was time,” Kevin says. “I couldn’t stay there any longer.” It had been five months.

that Kevin hadn’t been released after some of the money had been paid. Gerfa refused to return home without her son. She stayed in Manila to negotiate with the terrorists. Heiko tried to raise more ransom money. He liquidated the family’s assets and withdrew all the money from their retirement accounts. There was an urgency to his actions: The terrorists said if they didn’t receive more money within days, they would cut off Kevin’s head.

ALONE After Gerfa left, time slowed for Kevin. “The days just went longer and longer.” And then about a month after his mom had left, the militants took his cousin away. Was he freed? Killed? Kevin had no idea. 92

And then he caught a break. One day, Kevin noticed that there was only one guard nearby. “It was time,” he says. “I couldn’t stay there any longer.” He had been a hostage almost five months. When the guard went upstairs, Kevin crept through the door into the next room. When he heard the guard’s footsteps returning, he bolted. Kevin ran quickly and silently away from the huts, straight to the river, where trees would help hide him. He was shaking with fear, and his legs were rubbery, weak from being confined for so long. In the river, he struggled in the deep, fast current that moved against him. He kept falling, slipping on the pink rubber flip-flops his captors had given him. But he never stopped moving. READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014


Two years after their ordeal, Kevin and Gerfa can smile again.

After several hours, he dashed up a steep hill to see where he was, then turned in the direction of the ocean. His goal: get off the island. Night fell with a full moon. Kevin found an empty hut and hid in it for a brief, tense rest. Looking around, he found a pair of boots. He pulled them onto his blackened, torn feet and took off again. He scrambled up and down hills and mountains, getting closer to the coast. A few times, he saw people farming, but he stayed away, scared that they might be supporters of the militants. Then towards nightfall the next day, he was spotted crossing a plantation. A farmer called out to him. Kevin started to run, but the man had a gun. “What are you doing here?” he demanded. Exhausted and terrified, Kevin told him the truth. Kevin warily followed the man back

to his house, where the farmer told him he’d called police. Could he be trusted? He could just as easily have informed the militants. Then Kevin heard it. A whoop whoop sound. The sound of a helicopter.

COMING HOME In Lynchburg, Heiko was delivering holiday turkeys to employees of a company on 10 December when he got the call telling him that Kevin was free. Heiko hadn’t even considered celebrating Christmas, but with Gerfa, Kevin, and Kevin’s cousin—who had been released—all safe, Heiko that afternoon bought $100 worth of ornaments, put up a tree, and stacked gifts all around. Kevin, who nearly lost his life at the hands of terrorists half a world away from where he grew up, would come home to a house blazing with Christmas lights.


REGISTERING A COMPLAINT Life at the sharp end of customer service can be tough, as this true story at illustrates. A customer is paying for her order at the cash counter. Manager: “Will that be debit or credit card?” Customer: “Debit.” Manager: “Would you like to leave a tip?” Customer: “HOW DARE YOU! If I wanted to leave a tip, I’d have left it on the table. That’s so rude of you to ask!” Manager: “No, madam, that’s not what I mean. The computer is asking if you want to leave a tip.” Customer: “Oh, so computers talk now, huh? Just like how the roof talks. And the floors too. You’re just full of it! READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014


There’s surprising news in the latest research on whales, and it’s changing how we think about them BY JEFF WARREN



Sperm whale and snorkeller in Dominica, Caribbean.

P EHAODTEOR ’: S©DJI G OENSAT G ErTeTaYd e r s d i g e s t . c o . i n R T H MA AN R CBHI R2 D 0 1/ 4


ot three metres from where I’m standing on the starboard side of the sailboat, six very large female sperm whales are doing something few humans have ever witnessed. The captain of our 12-metre cutter is biologist Hal Whitehead of Canada’s Dalhousie University, one of the pre-eminent experts on sperm whales. It’s mid-afternoon on a sunny day in Mexico’s Gulf of California, a 1000kilometre-long body of water famous for its biodiversity. The gulf’s strong tides create a cool upwelling of nutrients that support countless species of marine life, including that fierce mass of tentacles known as the Humboldt squid. Sperm whales hunt these squid year-round—they dive kilometres under the surface, pinpoint the squid with their sonar and snap them into their large, toothy grins. For the past five days, Whitehead and four crew members—including two PhD students named Armando Manolo Álvarez Torres and Catalina Gomez—have been shadowing the sperm whales. They track their underwater echolocation pings on the hydrophone by night, and observe and photograph the animals by day. By watching who spends time with whom doing what, he can extract insights 96

about their social structure. Until now, the whale behaviour on display during our trip has been pretty basic: They disappeared into the deep and hunted. A bushy waterspout announced their return to the surface. Family units of half a dozen or so bobbed at the surface of the water, reoxygenating their blood and preparing for the next dive. But on rare occasions the whales did something else: They socialized, squirming all over one another like aquatic ferrets. One of the whales rolls onto her side—we can see the pink of her jaw, surprisingly slight and narrow against her large proboscis. Another whale rolls over her, twisting as she moves, while a third pokes her nose vertically out of the water before undulating sharply, bunching her back as she slides down and into the other bodies. Gomez shoots photo after photo while another crew member furiously fills out the behavioural log in the day’s workbook. Whitehead calls such socializing

Each clan is unique in almost every way: feeding, migration patterns, child-care preferences, rates of reproduction. Sperm whales also speak different dialects. READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014


Sperm-whale researcher Hal Whitehead listens for whales on a hydrophone.

the “bonding glue” for sperm-whale society. But we’re also being shown a window into his most astonishing proposition: Sperm whales have distinct cultures. Each clan, he argues, is unique in almost every way: feeding, migration patterns, child-care preferences, rates of reproduction. Sperm whales also speak different dialects. In addition to their echolocation clicks, they produce unique sequences of clicks called “codas,” which change from clan to clan—think of the variations, say, between Sicilian and Venetian—and are likely a declaration of group identity. “These aren’t genetic differences,” says Whitehead. “They’re learnt.” What distinguishes whales—along with chimps, elephants and perhaps READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014

some birds—is that the things they learn persist through time. They seem to be passed down from generation to generation until they form part of the distinct identity of the clan. Whitehead’s evidence tells us that if humans break up a group of sperm whales or killer whales or dolphins, we are destroying not just a population of animals; we are also destroying a unique dialect, a hunting strategy, a social tradition—an ancient, living culture.

Cetacean Nation When Whitehead and his colleague Luke Rendall published their findings in 2001, a few scientific commentators were critical, calling the claims of culture “weak” and “overblown.” 97

Others found the evidence convincing, piecing it together with new research into cetacean cognition that continued through the decade. It all came to a head in February 2012 in Vancouver, at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science—the world’s largest gathering of scientists. A small group of scientists and ethicists presented The Declaration of Rights for Cetaceans. “We affirm,” reads the declaration, “that all cetaceans as persons have the right to life, liberty and well-being.” They have the right, the non-binding declaration continues, not to be slaughtered, not to be held in captivity, not to be owned or exploited or removed from their environment. The non-binding declaration sparked international coverage, most of it positive, some critical and some quizzical. “The important thing,” says one of the authors, US-based Emory University neurobiologist Lori Marino, “is that people are taking it seriously.” The real test will be whether the group can get the project endorsed legally. The key claim is that whales and dolphins are entitled to that privileged human status known as personhood. “Humans are considered persons because they have a certain set of characteristics,” says Marino. “They are self-aware, intelligent, complex, autonomous, cultured and so on. If we accept that definition, then the latest science is telling us that cetaceans also qualify. They are, therefore, nonhuman persons.” 98

Some of the critics of the declaration say that in order for an animal to have rights, it must be part of a social contract, something impossible between animals and humans. Marino says there are other ways to look at it. “We don’t expect human infants to have responsibilities,” she says, “yet we still consider them people.” Ultimately, Marino argues, the declaration becomes pretty hard to dismiss if you stick with basic rights— the right not to be killed and tortured and confined, the right to live free in their natural environment.

Recognition of whale personhood would make it far more difficult to slaughter them. Crossover Moment Whales, it seems, are having their civilrights moment. But is the science behind the declaration’s claims sound? With the rise of whaling in the 18th and 19th centuries, hundreds of thousands of whales were “harvested” a year, leading to a crash in their global numbers. The population of blue whales in the South Seas, for example, went from 350,000 at the turn of the 20th century to just over 2000 today. Sperm whale population is thought to have dropped from over a million to a third of that. By the middle of the 20th century, biologists began to show up at meetREADER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014

hundred remaining. According to Marino, a recognition of whale personhood and rights could pressure the IWC to close the remaining loopholes and make it far more difficult for any country to slaughter cetaceans. For 50 years the idea of whale consciousness has waited for a crossover moment—to go from a fringe belief passionately held by the few to an idea accepted by many. A number of cetacean researchers—declaration in hand—believe that moment has finally come.


Sperm whales belong to small, matrilineal groups that assemble into clans.

ings of the newly established International Whaling Commission (IWC), warning that whales were on the brink of extinction. In 1986, a moratorium on commercial whaling was passed, respected by all member countries in the IWC except Norway, Iceland and Japan, who take advantage of loopholes in the IWC treaty in order to hunt thousands of whales a year. Today, seven of the 13 species of great whales remain endangered, and several populations—the Western Northern Pacific grey whale, the Western North Atlantic whale, and the Antarctic blue whale—have only a few READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014

Game Changer

The most game-changing research may be the reappraisal of the whale brain currently under way. Marino has spent 20 years studying the whale brain’s structure and evolution, and found that it’s not only large (it’s second only to a human’s in its brain-to-body ratio) but also contains many braided cell structures and areas of dense connectivity. The term for this is “convoluted”—the cortex folds in on itself to increase its surface area inside the skull, thus giving the brain its ridged appearance (the brains of less intelligent animals are much smoother). The most intriguing part of the whale brain for Marino is the limbic system, which, in mammals, handles the processing of emotions. In some 99

respects, she found this part of the whale brain is actually more convoluted than our own. In fact it’s so large it erupts into the cortex in the form of an extra paralimbic lobe. The location of the lobe suggests it is involved in a unique mash-up between emotional and cognitive thinking, perhaps some mix of social communication and self-awareness that we do not understand. “Whales are arguably the most socially connected, communicative and coordinated mammals on the planet, including humans,” says Marino. “Killer whales, for instance, do not kill or even seriously harm one another in the wild, despite the fact that there is competition for prey and mates and there are disagreements. Their social rules prohibit real violence, and they seem to have worked out a way to peacefully manage the partitioning of resources among different groups.”

Connected Two of the whales have suddenly become curious about us. Torres, intent 100

on recording the codas, unspooled a long hydrophone into the water. The whales begin echolocating furiously on the blue cable, which trails behind the boat. I can feel the echolocation pings roll through the hull below me as I pull in the line, concerned the whales might bite the cord, as happened on Whitehead’s last trip. One of the whales follows the hydrophone in. I feel as if I’m fishing for giants. Finally, she pivots onto her side and fixes me with a large watery eye before rolling back to her family. Whitehead, Marino and a few other whale scientists believe that echolocation—which Whitehead calls the “world’s most powerful imaging device”—might play a central role in whales’ social sophistication. It is possible that the faculty is used like an ultrasound to see inside bodies. “The sonar system may see, in great detail, the internal organs of all the other members of the group,” says Whitehead. “So there’s no hiding what one has eaten, whether one’s sexually READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014

G E R A D S O U R Y/ O X F O R D S C I E N T I F I C / G E T T Y

According to reports, watching whales will soon become more profitable than killing them.

receptive, whether one’s pregnant, whether one’s sick. Presumably, this changes social life a lot.” It doesn’t stop there. An enormous amount of information is contained in the body: accelerated beating of the heart, tightness in the diaphragm, tension in the muscles—all of these registers of information may well be processed by the whale’s huge associative cortexes at lightning-fast speed. And not in isolation—most astounding of all is the possibility that all of this may be shared. There is evidence to suggest that dolphins and sperm whales can “eavesdrop” on another’s returning echoes, an ability akin to seeing through another’s eyes. Thus a group of widely dispersed whales may in some sense be part of a single sensory loop, sensitive to every twitch and shudder in the wide phenomenal world.

For all the exotic otherness of the whale mind, there are elements that we can relate to: the sperm whales’ need for physical intimacy, to their loyalty to one another, to their curiosity. The science suggests other shared

qualities: a capacity for culture, communication and creative problem solving. When we compare our minds to theirs, there’s always something distinct and something shared; this ratio simply shifts in relation to the species in question. So the common core we share with a bacterium is far narrower than that we share with a whale, which in turn is perhaps narrower than that we share with our close cousin the chimp. The true promise of the Cetacean Nation will only be realized to the extent that we, as a species, can recognize we’re surrounded by a rainbow of exotic cultures and narratives. We’re invited to be participating members in the community of nature, connected as though by invisible lines of echolocation to all these other “persons” on our planetary home. As for the sperm whales, it’s enough, for now, just to watch them. Gradually, they stop playing and begin to drift away from the boat. Then, as if cued by some invisible signal, they roll their broad backs and salute the air with their chiselled flukes. Six clear watermarks float in their wake.

TELLING IT ALL Drivers on the London Underground usually stick to simple announcements, but sometimes they go off track—as documented at “Ladies and gentlemen, do you want the good news first or the bad news? The good news is that last Friday was my birthday and I hit the town and had a great time. The bad news is that there’s a points failure somewhere between Stratford and East Ham, which means we probably won’t reach our destination.” READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014


RD Classic

On the scene of a tragic accident, I faced a decision that would stick with me for the rest of my life



t was early in the spring about 15 years ago—a day of pale sunlight and trees just beginning to bud. I was a young police reporter, driving to a scene I didn’t want to see. A man, the police dispatcher’s broadcast said, had accidentally backed his pickup truck over his baby granddaughter in the driveway of the family home. It was a fatality. As I parked among police cars and TV news cruisers, I saw a stocky, white-haired man in cotton work clothes standing near a pickup truck.

James Alexander Thom is now an acclaimed writer of historical fiction. For more, visit


Cameras were trained on him, and reporters were sticking microphones in his face. Looking totally bewildered, he was trying to answer their questions. Mostly he was only moving his lips, blinking, and choking up. After a while, the reporters gave up and followed the police into the small white house. I can still picture that devastated old man looking down at the place in the driveway where the child had been. Beside the house was a freshly spaded flower bed and nearby a pile of dark, rich earth. “I was just backing up there to spread that good dirt,” he said to me, though I had not asked him anything. “I didn’t even know she was outdoors.” He stretched his hand towards the flower bed, then let it flop to his side. He lapsed back into his thoughts, and I, like a good reporter, went into the house to find someone who could provide a recent photo of the toddler. A few minutes later, with a threeby-five studio portrait of the cherubic child tucked in my pocket, I went


© 2 0 1 3 D A N P A G E / T H E I S P O T. C O M

A Picture of Grief

towards the kitchen, where the police had said the body was. I had brought a camera with me—the bulky Speed Graphic that used to be the newspaper reporter’s trademark. Everybody had drifted back out of the house together—family, police, reporters, and photographers. Entering the kitchen, I came upon this scene: On a Formica-topped table, backlighted by a frilly curtained window, lay the tiny body, wrapped in a clean white sheet. Sitting on a chair beside the table, in profile to me and unaware of my presence, was the baby’s grandfather, looking uncomprehendingly at the swaddled corpse. The house was quiet. A clock ticked. As I watched, the grandfather slowly leaned forward, curved his arms like parentheses around the little form, and then pressed his face to the shroud and remained motionless. In that hushed moment, I recognized the makings of a prizewinning news photograph. I appraised the light, adjusted the lens setting and distance, locked a bulb in the flashgun, raised the camera, and composed the scene in the viewfinder. Every element of the picture was perfect: the grandfather in his plain work clothes, his white hair backlighted by sunshine, the child’s form wrapped in the sheet, the atmosphere of the simple home suggested by

black iron trivets and World’s Fair souvenir plates on the walls flanking the window. Outside the police could be seen inspecting the fatal rear wheel of the pickup, while the child’s mother and father leaned in each other’s arms. I don’t know how many seconds I stood there, unable to snap that shutter. I was keenly aware of the powerful storytelling value that photo would have, and my professional conscience told me to take it. Yet I couldn’t make my hand fire that flashbulb and intrude on the poor man’s island of grief. At length, I lowered the camera and crept away, shaken with doubt about my suitability for the journalistic profession. Of course, I never told the city editor or any fellow reporters about that missed opportunity for a perfect news picture. Every day, on the newscasts and in the papers, we see pictures of people in extreme conditions of grief and despair. Human suffering has become a spectator sport. And sometimes, as I’m watching news, I remember that This story was day. first published in I still feel right a 1976 Reader’s about what I did. „ Digest.

In that hushed moment, I recognized the makings of a prizewinning news photograph. L L L



This dance reflects Cuban life: it’s passionate, colourful, sexy.

If you like to dance salsa, then go to the place where it really comes alive 104






The trumpet player spears a final high note. The dancers twirl to a stop, acknowledge the applause, then slip off. I approach. “Where did you learn to dance like that?” “At the Tropicana,” Asmara Núñez says, naming the legendary Havana nightclub. Yoel Letan Pena shrugs and points to his upturned wrist. “Sangre,” he says. Dancing is in his blood. Salsa is in my blood, too, though I have no known ancestors from south of the 35th parallel. I first experienced salsa’s electrifying charge in my 20s when I was a waiter at a Caribbean nightclub, and have dabbled with the dance ever since, taking lessons and hitting clubs. Salsa dancing makes me happier than almost anything else, so it followed that I should do it more, do it better—and do it in a place where the dance really comes alive. Everything I had heard pointed to Cuba, where many of the music’s key stylistic ingredients developed in the first half of the 20th century. The plan: My wife, Anne, and I would follow the music, take dance lessons, and hit the 106

best clubs in the colonial cities of Havana, Cienfuegos, and Trinidad. Salsa, to be sure, is one facet of this complex land. But the music—intense, sorrowful, celebratory, laced with complex improvisations—is an ideal vehicle for helping newcomers begin to understand Cuba. At Café Taberna, the band launches into its final set. Before I can say anything, Asmara Núñez pulls me onto the dance floor, where we’re joined by Yoel Letan and Anne. I listen for the intermittent pulse of the bass, felt more than heard beneath the blasting horns and clattering drums. The rhythm works its way up from my feet, loosening my hips, then my arms. I sweep Asmara past me, twirl her twice, then spin myself as the intoxicating grip of the music takes hold.

Horse hooves clatter on cobblestones. A carriage veers to the curb, and a well-dressed man and woman dismount. Smiling, they set off down an alley of Habana Vieja—Old Havana—at night. READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014

P H O T O, P R E V I O U S S P R E A D : © N AT I O N A L G E O G R A P H I C

wo dancers whirl onto the dance floor. The man whips through a triple turn, then drops to his knees. His partner’s skirt spins into a blur as her legs slice the air. A seven-piece salsa band blazes away. Parked in the audience at Café Taberna, a nightclub in Havana, Cuba, I’m bursting with the urge to jump up and dance.


Havana has thouands of crumbling old buildings; just a few have been restored.

“They look like they know where they’re going,” Anne says. “Let’s follow them.” We enter the alley, threading between facades of colonial palaces. Havana has thousands of historically significant buildings, but only a hundred or so have been restored under a multimillion-dollar, public-private campaign. What we wander past are crumbling relics. Then the alley ends, and we emerge, astonished, onto a plaza filled with diners sitting at outdoor tables; waiters ferrying trays of grilled pork and frosty glasses of mojitos, the island’s signature mix of white rum, mint, sugar, and lime. Under the bell towers of a Gothic church, a salsa band plays on a red-carpeted stage.

Spotlights glint off trumpet bells. Hands blur over conga drums. Beside the band two dancers twirl expertly. I turn to Anne. “Let’s get a table.” Stumbling upon great live music, as we’ve done tonight at Plaza de la Catedral, is common in Cuba. With average monthly salaries of $20, few Cubans tote iPods. Instead, they produce their own daily sound track, with gusto. In the first hour of our first morning in Havana, we’d come across a trovador, or folksinger, strumming his guitar on a patio, and two trombonists exchanging snippets of song on a sidewalk. None was performing for an audience or putting out a tip jar. They seemed to be celebrating what it feels like to wake up on a sunny morning on a tropical island. The following day we explore Calle



Step forward, then back. Left foot, right foot, left; right foot, left foot, right. Quick-quick-slow is the 108

Above: Yacht Club and Marina in Cienfuegos, on the south coast. Right: entertaining passersby on a sidewalk in the small town of Trinidad.

rhythm, and you don’t want to rush. ¡Más despacio, por favor! Rushing is ruinous. Yoel Letan, the dancer from Café Taberna, stands inches from my right ear. It’s eleven in the morning and we’re squeezed into the loft above Café Taberna. No air-conditioning, mind-fogging heat. “1-2-3, 1-2-3,” he counts, the words sounding like a mantra—one I’m currently violating, apparently, though I’m not sure how. I learnt the basic steps years ago, so my feet are moving the way they should. The problem is how I’m moving. “Suave, suave,” Yoel says. Soft, soft. “Loosen up, my friend.” Anne is getting her own lesson from Asmara, and though neither of us earn READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014


Mercaderes, one of countless stone lanes crisscrossing Old Havana. Past tree-shaded Plaza de Armas—one of the island’s first public squares—we come to a three-storey mansion. I peer through the front door; a structure this stately must be a museum or hotel. Instead I glimpse a room crowded with furniture, people, and laundry. To be Cuban, you could argue, is to be expert at living among incongruities. Cubans still line up for subsidized food rations, yet everyone has basic health care. The majority of citizens haven’t been allowed to buy real estate or cars, yet the mansions lining the Malecón, their paint peeling and timbers rotting, would be worth millions of dollars apiece almost anywhere else if renovated.

plaudits from the teachers, we feel lucky they agreed to instruct us. Havana is stuffed with brilliant salsa dancers, but they generally don’t have websites that allow arranging lessons from abroad. Ten minutes of instruction pass before I satisfy Yoel. He then pairs me with Asmara while he salsas with Anne. He teaches us the dile que no— “tell him no”—a passing move in which leader and partner swap places, followed by a succession of turns. The final move has us spin each other, our combined arms whirling like eggbeaters overhead, a move so complicated that I can pull it off only when I don’t think about what I’m doing. We finish the dance, and Yoel finally gives an encouraging little nod. “Impresivo,” he says.

an apartment where Lili’s son, Rajadel, a guitarist, has been rehearsing with his band. When I ask about Cuban music, he mentions danzón, a 19thcentury folk music and dance that influenced salsa, then beats out drumming patterns on his thighs from religious Santería rituals introduced to Cuba by African slaves, explaining how they were incorporated into Cuban song. “We like to mix in rock and hip-hop and make it sound more modern. The style is called timba.” Life in Cuba is a tug of war between modern and traditional, the pace of change slowed to a crawl by commu-

© N AT I O N A L G E O G R A P H I C

“Are you a musician?” asks Lili Robinson. “My son is too! I’m so glad to meet you.” Petite and energetic, Robinson runs the casa particular— Bed & Breakfast—where we’re staying in Cienfuegos, a city on the south coast. She plops our bags in our bedroom. “Okay,” she says conspiratorially. “What are we going to do?” I say I want to visit the village where Benny Moré, one of Cuba’s most famous singers, was born in 1919. Robinson dismisses the idea. “There’s nothing to see there,” she says. Why look at the dusty relics of a long-dead singer, she asks, when I could hang out with a real Cuban musician today? Robinson scoots me out the front door. A few blocks away we duck into READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014

nist ideology and economic reality. The bus ride from Havana to Cienfuegos had taken Anne and me past abandoned farmlands with no signs of commerce. Billboards, lonely and few, depicted Cuba’s revered freedom fighters—José Martí, Che Guevara, and Fidel Castro—accompanied by slogans like “¡Viva la revolución!” Traffic was almost nonexistent. Cuba has changed since its 1959 109

communist revolution, of course, but in a city like Cienfuegos, which I wander around after visiting Rajadel, the evolution isn’t always obvious. Unlike the island’s other colonial towns, which feature heavy baroque Spanishcolonial architecture, the buildings in Cienfuegos—which was settled by French immigrants in the early 1800s— are airy and refined. I stroll past colonnaded mansions painted in pastels and reach the tranquil, crescent-shaped shore of Cienfuegos Bay. I now understood why singer Benny Moré proclaimed Cienfuegos “la ciudad que más me gusta a mí”—the city I like the most. A day later and 80 kilometres east, I’m riding a horse in what some consider the prettiest small colonial town in Cuba, Trinidad, a place of palmfronded squares and high, white church steeples bunched on a hillside overlooking the glittering Caribbean Sea. My riding guide, Julio Muñoz, trots ahead on a cobblestone lane be110

tween colourfully painted residences. Salsa music blasts from a home on the town’s outskirts, reminding me that improvisation is what people need in Cuba, especially if they want to be entrepreneurs. Muñoz has done everything from engineering to wedding photography. He currently runs Casa Colonial Muñoz, a guesthouse in Trinidad, and recently started a horseback guiding business. We branch off onto a trail climbing a canyon into the Escambray Mountains. As the hilltops around us go golden with the setting sun, Muñoz tells me that, much as musicians like Rajadel are tweaking the conventions of salsa, Cuba’s current president, Raúl Castro, is experimenting with free-market reforms. The state is the largest employer in Cuba, but weeks before we’d arrived, the government announced plans to expand private employment. Muñoz could for the first time legally hire an employee to help him and his READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014


The Escambray Mountains form the backdrop for Trinidad’s San Francisco church steeple.

wife run their guesthouse. “The greatest resource of Cuba is its people,” he says after we dismount and take a swim beneath a waterfall. “They just need the freedom to do what they want and realize their potential.”

Smoke. Sweat. Pink and green strobe lights slash through fogmachine mist. Crushed between gyrating bodies, I’m trying to squeeze forward to a stage. Club music pounds my chest like a mallet. On stage, three women dance in unison in wickedly short skirts. Havana has many venues for listening politely to Cuban classics. Casa de la Música, the site of a final-night blowout for Anne and me, isn’t one of them. You come here to hear Cuba’s top salsa bands play loud music into the night. You come to dance to music that reflects modern Cuban life, passionate, colourful, sexy. The dancers finish their number. A master of ceremonies steps forward and announces the headlining act as if it were a goal in World Cup football. “Charangaaa Habaneraaa!” An army of musicians—singers, trumpeters, keyboard players, and more percus-

sionists than I can count—pours onto the stage. All are dressed in white. And all, as soon as the first song kicks off, begin stepping side to side in a choreographed routine. Sabor, the trait aficionados say defines great salsa, translates literally as “flavour,” or “spice.” The true definition is elusive, something felt rather than understood. I’m certainly feeling it tonight. I want to try my new dance skills. With Anne’s blessing, I invite a Cuban woman to join me. I take her hand and we weave our way out to the dance floor. I take my partner’s right hand with my left and put my arm around the small of her back. I count carefully, remembering my lessons, and sweep her past me with a dile que no. “You dance salsa!” she exclaims. A new song begins in the thumping, modern timba style. Trumpets sear my ears and conga drums reverberate in my gut. The air thickens with heat as bodies press in from all sides. Soon, I am no longer thinking. I’m just dancing, turning, as much a part of the music as the players on the stage. This, without a doubt, is sabor. It feels like a spray of lighter fluid on the fires of my soul.

F R A N - LY S P E A K I N G Quips by author Fran Lebowitz, labelled by some as a modern-day Dorothy Parker: O In real life, I assure you, there is no such thing as algebra. O I believe in talking behind people’s backs. That way, they hear it more than once. O Great people talk about ideas, average people talk about things, and small people talk about wine. READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014


These practical tips from experts can keep you safe from burglars, bag snatchers and other thieves

How to Make Yourself Theft Proof BY ELLIE ROSE



Repel the Robbers


According to the Indian National Crime Records Bureau, 27,343 cases of robberies were reported in 2012, a big 27 percent increase since 2001. Meanwhile, chain-snatching has also recently been on the rise. Here’s how you can avoid being part of that trend.


O Zip-up money belts are great for keeping valuables safe when you’re out and about, but you can’t get much in them. However, backpack or underarm bags with wide mouths can be made more secure by sewing Velcro all the way around their openings. “It’ll make a noise when anyone tries to open it,” explains Professor Lorraine Gamman, director of the Design Against Crime (DAC) research centre in London, which creates innovative theft-reducing products and advises various police forces on crime-reduction strategies. O Dramatic chain or bag snatches, performed by thugs who run or ride past, have hit the headlines. It’s easier for such thieves if you’re distracted as they approach, so wait for a while to use your mobile after you get off a train or bus, so you’re not trying to do two things at once. O Don’t make it easy for thieves by keeping all your valuables in one place on your person. Keep your credit card in one pocket, cash in another, keys in your bag…and don’t take all your cards out with you, if possible. O Use camouflage. A design student at DAC conceived of PowerPizza (available at, a laptop bag that looks like a pizza box. “He designed it as a joke, but it’s sold over 15,000 units,” says Gamman. “Another student designed a case that looks like a newspaper.” Get imaginative and think of your own special concealment. And never use a laptop bag!


“The crimes we read about in books are the most devious. But most crime is utterly mundane.”

O It might sound mad, but sew a pocket into your underwear—it’s the last place the robber will expect. “I’ve always meant to design a bra with pockets, but I haven’t got round to it yet,” says Gamman. O Have a system so you don’t have to rely only on always being vigilant. A classic bag-theft technique is to try to kick it out from where you’ve placed it, say under a restaurant table. Remember to loop the strap round a chair leg or keep your foot on it, or, better still, use a cable lock or a portable bag hook. O Blend in to the area you’re in, says Simon Hall, BBC crime correspondent and author of The TV Detective crime novels. If you’re a Rolex-wearing banker visiting a bad neighbourhood, hide it somehow. Expensive jewellery can be easily concealed. If you’re going to a nightclub and you’re wearing a diamond ring, turn the jewel so it’s facing the inside of your palm and only the slim gold part is on show. O Shield your ATM PIN. One of DAC’s students used a zoom lens to capture four PINs in the street outside the college in only an hour. “Thieves use cameras too,” notes Gamman.

Keeping your home a castle There were 92,892 cases of burglaries (break-ins are treated seperately from


other robberies) reported in India in 2012. But there are simple, inexpensive ways to avoid this upsetting, disruptive crime. O Be honest: are there any glaring omissions in your usual security routine? Try sticking Post-it notes on the inside of your door to remind you to carry out basic checks when you go out or settle in for the night. O Think like a criminal. “The crimes we read about in books are the most devious known to man—they sell books,” says Simon Hall. “But most crime is utterly mundane.” Usually, criminals need cash (for drugs, drink and food) and are looking for a quick buck. So, says Hall, pretend you’re a burglar for half an hour. Check out other properties near your house. How many could you get into easily? How many have open windows? Compare them with your own house. If you can make your home seem securer than others nearby, it’ll seem much less attractive to thieves. O Window locks with removable keys are far better than catch-type fastenings. “Burglars want to break a window, then reach in and open it before climbing through, rather than crawling through the smashed window itself,” says Hall. O Install an alarm system (thieves can spot a dummy alarm box, often from the fake name) and security lights that are too high for the burglar to smash. If you have a garden gate, keep


it shut; leaving it ajar sends the signal that you’re sloppy about security. O It might sound silly, but a few wellplaced cacti—under windows, say— could create an unattractive hassle for thieves. But don’t install barbed wire or other dangerous defences; it implies your home is worth robbing. O Watch what you say on social media. Says Hall, “If you write on Facebook, ‘I’m really excited to go out of town,’ you’re saying, ‘Dear crooks, this house will be empty for three weeks.’ There are criminals who monitor such websites—often those with previous convictions who want to [minimize] risk.” O If you haven’t got a safe, get imaginative about where you keep your valuables. “A burglar won’t want to spend too much time in your house,” READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014

says Hall. “I happen to collect vinyl LP records. Say I had a lot of currency notes—if I put them in a few of the sleeves of the 500 records in my rack, do you think a burglar would find something like that?” O Because crooks are lazy, they’ll strike in the same place twice if they know it’s vulnerable. Daisy Darby, 27, an exhibitions assistant, was burgled at her rented apartment—the culprit got in through an unlocked window and nabbed some iPods. When the police came round to take prints, they noticed there was already evidence of fingerprints on top of a wardrobe the landlord had provided. If there’s a history of burglary in your neighbourhood, think about vulnerable spots in your security. Check all your spare sets of keys after a break-in. If any are


missing, change your locks. O Some of the most attractive items to burglars are expensive laptops, smartphones and tablet computers. But Apple products come with technology that allows them to be tracked from other computers—you can buy similar software for some other brands. Ask the vendor. O If you have an expensive bicycle invest in a lock—D-locks perform the best in tests, although it’s good to use a combination of a D-lock and a chain, since thieves may only be carrying tools appropriate for breaking one of the two. Using a couple of locks also prevents thieves from rotating the cycle until the lock or bike breaks. O Secure your bike to an immovable post (not a drainpipe or anything weak, which can be moved or broken) in a location that’s in plain sight, and don’t park it in the same place every day. With each of your two locks, capture as much of the bike frame, wheel and securing post as possible. Make sure you don’t leave a big gap between the lock and the bike; this space can be used to insert a lever. Don’t leave your

lock resting on the ground, where it can be easily sledgehammered or chiselled. Face the lock towards the ground, so it can’t simply be turned upwards and picked. O Make your bicycle less attractive to thieves. Avoid fancy accessories you can do without. O If you leave your bike locked up and come back to find the tyre punctured, move it straight away. It’s likely that an off-duty thief has spotted your bike and punctured the tyre to buy time to get his tools while you go to find someone who can repair the tyre.

TAKING ALL PRECAUTIONS While working for Grampian Fire and Rescue Service, Scotland, I overheard the following exchange: “We must make sure, in the interests of safety, that all cycle paths are clearly marked.” “Shouldn’t we just lock them up?” “Who?” “The psychopaths that you’re talking about.” Brian Whyte 116


Quotable Quotes My biggest regret—and I regret it every day, yet I don’t do anything about it—is that I’ve never kept a Ba rba ra Wal ters diary. Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us—and, sometimes, they win. Steph en King Even when I’m playing someone named Fat Amy, I’m all about confidence and attitude. Rebel Wil son

You don’t cross the street without risk. So whaddaya gonna do, stay home?

Kurt Brow ning

If you retain nothing else, always remember the most important rule of beauty, which is: Who cares?


Tina Fey

“I think being able to age gracefully is a very important talent. It is too late for me.” C l i n t E a st w o o d on “Today,” NBC News


Study after study has documented that when women have the opportunity to start businesses, own land, [and] receive credit … entire Hil l ary Cl inton economies expand. What is happening is climate change—period. And as my highschool maths teacher Howard David used to say, ‘When you are in a hole, Da vid Mil l er stop digging.’ 117

The Master Eye of

N.K. Sareen Finding his official assignments unexciting, he created lasting portraits for his own satisfaction BY MOHAN SIVANAND PHOTOGRAPHY BY N.K. SAREEN

Satyajit Ray would be attending a movie symposium in Bombay, photojournalist Narendra Kumar Sareen travelled to the city from his New Delhi home. Young Sareen had long yearned to photograph Ray. It’s July 1978, and there are no TV cameras in the Bombay auditorium; there’s just another photographer, hired by the organizers. Sareen, his 35-mm camera in hand, looks around for India’s most Photojournalist N.K. Sareen.




Tipped off by a source who’d told him that

Photography “Indira Gandhi was out of power and had even been jailed briefly in 1977. After that she remained reclusive, yet couldn’t avoid party colleagues. She had a good face and expressive eyes. Here, at a party meeting, she looked totally exhausted—and just right for this contrasted shot that suggests an ambivalent state, one of troubles and subtle determination.”



Sareen was seated next to Satyajit Ray when he shot this at a film symposium in Bombay. This is just one of several much-published pictures of Ray that Sareen shot from his chair that day.




“Maneka Gandhi (right) had lost her husband in 1980 and later left her matrimonial home. She looked down and out. Maneka was once a model, but I didn’t find her to be as beautiful as I’d imagined. There are people who always photograph extremely well, and here was one.”


UK-based music composer and producer Biddu Appaiah (bottom, right). “I was at a recording studio for some other work and happened to spot Biddu there. He had just produced a few hit songs at the time. I liked his chains and his hat and his looks. He was talking to somebody but suddenly stopped and became very pensive. I grabbed the moment.”


“I was shooting for a journalist who was interviewing writer Anita Desai (bottom, left). I admired her expressive face. Here my task was easier, since the journalist did all the talking and I was not important. I had to capture her in a reflective mood, which also brought out the quiet and soft-spoken Anita Desai.”

celebrated film director but can’t find him. What if he isn’t coming at all? Sareen starts to worry even as he mentally composes a number of frames with Ray’s imposing form in it. Sareen stands near the stage waiting for Ray to give a speech. But he’s shooed away by members of the audience. He moves to another spot, only to be told he’s still blocking the view. Frustrated, he finally occupies one of the two remaining empty chairs in the middle of the front row, hoping to get some shots of Ray when he comes on stage to give his speech. This way, Sareen reckoned, he wouldn’t return READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014



After an assigned magazine job at the actor’s Mumbai home, Sareen requested Amitabh Bachchan (left) for a private portrait session. To his surprise, the actor took him to his private den, a room with very little light. “Amitabh is also known to be a well-read man,” says Sareen. “So I made him hold a large book. I chose pages that had a lot of white to reflect some light on to one side of his face.”



Smita Patil (above) was a little-known Marathi newsreader when Sareen took this photo. “A magazine editor introduced this dusky girl with very expressive eyes and face, then trying to become a movie actress. I went to her home to shoot this.”

Mallika Sarabhai (top, right) at an indoor film shoot. “I happened to be there with a film journalist. When she got up to do her hair I secretly grabbed a moment that revealed both her lovely face and figure.”


home dejected and empty-handed. Moments later, a tall man walks in and occupies the other empty chair next to Sareen’s. Sareen is dumbfounded—it’s Ray! He quietly switches lenses and clicks away, capturing what would become the most published, most iconic Ray portrait ever. Another job well done. “Every picture of yours is worth a thousand words,” I said to Sareen in New Delhi recently as we flipped through his many portraits on a computer screen. “You may say so,” he replied, “but I like to obtain them without saying a single word. I’d have loved it if I could be invisible while shooting a portrait, since it’s hard to get people out of their

“I wanted some photos of Subramanian Swamy and gave him a call,” recalls Sareen, who was working for a magazine in Delhi. “Swamy asked me where my office was and then said, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll come there. When should I come?’ I asked him to come early, before my colleagues arrived. We were alone and he soon got talking, making characteristic Swamy gestures and expressions.”




Ornithologist Sálim Ali at home (right). “I had liked his famous book on Indian birds and wanted to meet him. I called him up and went over to his house. He was so gentle, he didn’t even ask me why I wanted his photos. He was so soft; I could barely hear what he spoke. But here was a slight, very darkskinned man whose face reflected little light. After trying some unsuccessful indoor shots, I asked him to sit on a cane chair in a balcony. Finally, I caught his focused gaze. He must have spotted a bird outside.”


masks.” Satyajit Ray, for instance, was so engrossed in the symposium speech that day, Sareen is almost certain he never noticed him, and if Ray ever did, “then someone like him would have known he had to let me do my job.” Sareen started as a student of art, having admired the works of Rembrandt and wishing he’d learn to paint like the Dutch master. But after he was given a simple Agfa Click III camera and getting his first portraits of a 16-year-old girl—“the pretty sister of a friend”—published in a Hindi magazine, he was emboldened to quit art school and embark on a career in photography. Sareen worked on the staff of a few leading newsmagazines including

This photo of Shammi Kapoor (bottom, right) was shot when the actordirector went to Delhi for the premiere of Manoranjan, the 1974 film he’d just released. “He looked worried and totally engrossed in his own business, all the time talking about the film, even on the phone.”

Jagjivan Ram, soon after he left the Congress in 1977 and joined the new Janata Party. “I shot this at his home. He looked shattered. Look at his face. He didn’t know what to do.”






Khushwant Singh (right) as editor of The Illustrated Weekly of India. Now defunct, it became India’s most prominent magazine during Singh’s nine-year tenure until 1979. “I didn’t want to go through Singh’s secretary, who might have asked me too many questions and not given me an appointment. But I learnt that Singh came in very early to work. So I called him up and introduced myself. Although he’d never heard about


me, he invited me right away for a breakfast of vada and chutney the next day at his office, where I found him seated at a small desk. Khushwant Singh was calm, friendly and thoughtful, and that’s the person I captured here. He published my first photo-feature in The Illustrated Weekly of India.” V

“Can you see?” Sareen teases. “M.F. Husain is behind bars, but he really never went to jail or anything. I spotted Husain (bottom) at an international film festival when there were cases pending against the artist in various courts and many people thought he’d go to jail. At one point he was standing next to the bars of a gate and that’s when I got the idea! Later, at a function, he was happy to autograph a print for me.”

One of the few journalistic shots Sareen is proud of (bottom, right) is his historic 1983-surrender photo of Phoolan Devi, known as the Bandit Queen, before Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Arjun Singh. “I had travelled all night from Delhi to grab the right moment early that morning and was lucky to get there in time. But what was harder for me was to believe that this simple, frail woman could be a dacoit. See how meek she looks. A movie has been made about her and books written. Even today, her story surprises me.”


r e a d e r s d i g e s t . c o9./i1n3

India Today and The Week, but every time he went for a regular assignment and finished the job, he would continue or go back later to shoot portraits for his own pleasure. He’d habitually quit every regular job after a few months and go back to doing only what interested him. “I wanted to do what I wanted to do, and not what they, the editors, wanted,” he says. He enjoys the challenge of effectively using light and shade, “inspired by Rembrandt,” as Sareen, who turns 70 this month, explains. “Will you now retire?” I ask. “Why should you or I ever retire? We’re journalists!” Sareen laughs. Indeed, every one of this selection of Sareen’s portraits, created over the past 35 years, has a story. „ READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014



Amit Chandra Joy of Giving and the

This busy managing director is a prolific donor of his money and his time. He also promotes philanthropy in a very big way BY CUCKOO PAUL Ofrom Forbes India

There was hardly a dry eye in the audience when the boys from Patna’s Shoshit Samadhan Kendra school took the stage. Their transformation was dramatic, their confidence absolute. The lines from Shakespeare’s Macbeth were delivered just right, in perfect English. And when the children left the stage to thunderous applause, it was not just for their acting talent. The children belonged to Bihar’s 128

most exploited and deprived community, the Musahars (rat-eaters). Comprising mainly landless and even bonded labourers, the community’s literacy is below three percent. Their condition bordering on subhuman, they’re described as mahadalits. Shoshit Samadhan Kendra, a residential school with about 320 students, was started in 2007 by Shoshit Seva Sangh, an NGO that was set up READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014




in 2005 to provide quality education to Musahar children, thereby helping them break out of their vicious, soulcrushing circle of poverty. Among the audience at the school that day was Amit Chandra, the managing director of asset management company Bain Capital, and his wife Archana. Two years earlier, a friend had introduced the couple to Jyoti Sinha, a retired Indian Police Service officer who had started the NGO. The Patna school has since become one of the core causes supported by the Chandras—who are also the parents of a nine-year-old girl—with both their time and money.

Amit Chandra, 45, is among India’s most prolific donors. He gives away more than 75 percent of his annual earnings to causes of his choice. More significantly, he has, through his actions, emerged as a credible voice promoting philanthropy among entrepreneurs and professionals. He leads fund-raisers, events and auctions where others can get involved. He has also helped define new ways to channel organized giving. The basis for doing good was laid early in Chandra’s life. Growing up in Mumbai, his father was a Navy engineer and his mother came from a family of educationists. He watched his older sister helping their unlettered milkman learn the alphabet. “She would teach him daily after coming home from school until, one day, the milkman was actually able to read,”

Chandra recalls. Some of his other triggers include introspection during a Vipassana course, and reading Chuck Feeney’s biography The Billionaire Who Wasn’t, the story of the Irish-American co-founder of duty free chain DFS. Feeney, one of the greatest and most mysterious philanthropists of our day, quietly transferred almost all of his fortune to a charitable foundation. Thus, Chandra says, the growth in his philanthropic activity has been gradual. Ironically, that journey began in a period most people would rather associate with Mammon. In the bull run of the 1990s, stock-market scamster Harshad Mehta and the budding Indian financial industry were the poster boys of optimism. Young Chandra was then already in the thick of things at DSP Merrill Lynch, the leading investment bank. He later worked as a relationship manager for some of India’s biggest corporations. “Banking is mostly about money and power. Over the years, I had built up a lot of connections in the corporate world,” he says. Chandra’s boss at the time was the hard-nosed DSP founder Hemendra Kothari, who came from a family of stockbrokers that has long been involved in charitable work. Kothari remembers Chandra as a bright banker “who was willing to donate money, even at an early age when people prefer to save for themselves.” Chandra had asked Kothari if the company would be willing to give





Amit Chandra’s wife Archana, who is joint honorary administrative director of Mumbai’s Jai Vakeel School for children in need of special care, remains an integral part of Amit’s philanthropic journey.

away 0.1 percent of its profits for charitable causes. Kothari said he was okay with it, as long as revenue targets were met. The markets were on a roll and DSP Merrill Lynch did more than well with its targets. After Chandra and his colleagues got the green signal they needed, they invited NGOs to make presentations about their work, so that the most deserving ones could be chosen. “The process introduced me to two of the most fantastic people I know. They have, over the years, helped shape my philosophy in the social sector,” says Chandra. “They are Shaheen Mistri, who founded the Akanksha Foundation and now heads Teach For India, and Venkat Krishnan, founder of GiveIndia.” As they got more involved in various causes, Amit and Archana Chandra began giving away a larger READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014

portion of their own income every year. Meanwhile, over a decade, their approach also changed.

S. Ramadorai, vice-chairman of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), has known Chandra ever since he’d advised TCS on a major acquisition in 2003. The two stayed in touch even after Chandra joined Bain Capital in 2008. After retiring from an active role in TCS, Ramadorai too began work on a variety of social initiatives. One of the projects that he and his wife Mala were passionate about was a super-speciality pediatric hospital in Mumbai, where treatment would be affordable for the poor. Though the Ramadorais had located a defunct city hospital site that could be revived, the project had not taken off in the absence of major donors. Chandra became aware of this 131

‘We Need a Mass Movement to Promote Giving’ Reader’s Digest spoke to Amit Chandra about his views on Indians as givers and what can be done to improve our score. Reader’s Digest: There’s the World Giving Index, a measure of how people in different nations give back to society. India ranks 93rd among 135 countries there, lower even than our neighbours like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. Why is that? Amit Chandra: It’s quite perplexing, given our belief that Indians culturally are a very giving people. My own observation is that the

index is telling us the truth. However, within that statistic are two important facts —first, the poor are more generous than the rich, if you take into consideration giving as a percentage of income or net worth. Second, a big part of giving among Indians is to religious causes, and that overall does not effectively generate benefits to society. RD: Do people give a lot for religious causes because of a belief that God will give it back to them in a bigger way, which may not happen if you helped your neighbour instead?

through a speech made by the noted cardiac surgeon and philanthropist Dr Devi Shetty at a 2012 function. “What happened subsequently was amazing,’’ says Ramadorai. The Chandras were interested and did a thorough evaluation of the project. They went through the project plan, met the partners, Dr Shetty’s Narayana Hrudayalaya and the Society for Rehabilitation of Crippled Children, and asked some tough questions. Once the Chandras were convinced, they came on board as principal donors and started to raise money. Among those they roped in as a donor was Chandra’s former boss, Kothari. 132

AC: Quite possible. I am very religious but believe that most religions preach serving humanity as the path to serve God. However, religions have been interpreted by the masses through the eyes of the guardians of these religions. So, many of them over the years have encouraged giving to religion as a way to propagate their control and influence. Further, there is a filter effect: even where religious institutions are doing good work in education, for instance, that end cause is secondary to the religious institution itself. So when you give

The `85-crore project achieved financial closure in December 2013, and construction is expected to start soon. When completed, it will be the country’s largest children’s hospital. The hospital is an example of the kind of philanthropy Chandra has been practising: It isn’t just about writing cheques; there is more focus on outcomes. Chandra’s background in the financial sector shows through in his attitude towards not-for-profit activities. His vocabulary, the way he operates and the “portfolio” approach—investing in multiple businesses and tracking their progress—to social initiatives READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014

directly to social causes that are simply focused on education, there is a lot more impact. RD: Given your work and position, you find it easier to get very rich businessmen to donate. But they are relatively few in number. What about getting the millions of ordinary middle class people also to give? AC: That is exactly what we are doing through GiveIndia [an NGO that helps donors fund good causes]. I think giving back should be the responsibility of people from every strata of society, although the rich have, in my view, both a higher

responsibility and opportunity. There’s great power in the masses, especially at the middle of the pyramid, and energizing them to be more engaged with society will have an incredible impact in building our society and nation. At GiveIndia, where I serve on the board, a large part of what we do is work with relatively smaller donors. We have channelled donations from more than 200,000 people. Over 90 percent of them are entry- and middle-level executives and small donors from across the world. Over 30,000 of them donate small amounts directly from their salaries

are offshoots of his professional life. “I am shameless about pestering people when it comes to getting them involved. Very often, they respond and, sometimes, they don’t,” Chandra says. “We have a network of friends looking for good projects. In some ways, it is like looking for good companies to invest in.” Among the people he has approached often, over the years, is the noted stock market investor Rakesh Jhunjhunwala of Mumbai. In 2012, Chandra learnt that Jyoti Sinha’s team at the Shoshit Seva Sangh was looking to build another school in Patna to accommodate 500 students. After he became a key donor READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014

every month, through a ‘payroll giving program’ that we run in partnership with many of India’s leading corporates. Donations can also be sent through the internet, making it easy for you to make a thoughtful contribution, even if it’s just a few hundred rupees you wish to give. I think that small donation cheque you write should be the first step in building a bridge between you and society. We need a mass giving movement in place, and so these small steps are very important and must be encouraged. Interviewed by

Moh an Siva na nd

for the project, he reached out to others who could contribute. Now, six Mumbai families, including the Jhunjhunwalas, support the project. The premises, spread over 90,000 square feet, will open this year.

Over time, Chandra’s

activities have become more structured. He has, therefore, defined his portfolio such that about 70 percent of his time and money is spent on a few core projects such as GiveIndia, Akanksha, Shoshit Seva Sangh and the children’s hospital. Chandra sits on the boards of some charitable organizations, dealing with them almost like a 133

private equity investor. They send him monthly reviews and quarterly updates, and he plans site visits and interventions when needed. Chandra believes that for organizations to become scalable, they have to prove that they are on track. Chandra says a good project brings him “more joy than a multi-bagger financial investment.” Wife Archana puts it more elegantly, saying they have always got far more than they have given. Ask Amit Chandra which has been his best social investment to date, one that has “returned the most,” and his answer is the Joy of Giving week. The idea of celebrating a week (2nd CHALLENGE ANSWERS SEE PAGE 171

Number Roulette Number Roulette X = 64. 17 - 3 + 6 = 20, 81 - 6 + 8 = 83, 116 - 6 + 10 = 120, 64 - 10 + 1 = 5 Collision Course The pink ball shoots off at 8000kmph and the orange ball stops motionless, dead in its tracks. (In real life the speed would be less than 8000kmph due to energy lost during the collision. Roll Over Take the first dice, the 6, as an example. Because opposite faces always add up to 7, you know that 1 is on the opposite face. Therefore, the four numbers that are a quarter-turn away from the 6 are 2,3,4 and 5. Similarly for the other two dice. Therefore the only options are: (2,3,4, or 5) x (1,2,5 or 6) (1,3,4 or 6)=11 By considering each combination in turn, we find that there are two solutions as follows:

to 8th October) every year, as a time focused on philanthropy, has caught on all over the country; it has spawned innumerable events in schools, companies and in the social media. It was Venkat’s idea and Chandra was among those who seeded and funded it. Everyone believes that the rich in India do not give away enough— something even the rich agree on. As industrialist Ajay Piramal says, “The wealthy have to give much more, and do much more.’’ To lead the way, in a sense, Chandra has become less private about his philanthropy than he was a few years ago, although the tendency is still to look down upon those who talk about their own charity work. “One reason he’s open is to try and motivate others to give more,” Piramal explains.

Chandra says he has always been inspired by stories of philanthropy. In fact, the one magazine he waits for is the annual Forbes issue that extensively covers philanthropists. “It lists people who have given away very material parts of their wealth. If you look at the data on India, we pale in comparison,” says Chandra. “For long, we hid behind a veil, treating giving as a private activity. The truth is that it would probably shame people if we really knew how little they were giving relative to their wealth.” Learn more about GiveIndia and help create a mass philanthropic movement. Visit or e-mail:




@Work A L L I N A DAY ’ S WO R K

At my friend Father Allen’s church, the bells are rung thrice a day but some naughty kid was playing the fool and ringing them anytime. One day, Fr Allen, who is menacingly well built, noticed the culprit and ran after the young boy till he reached his house where he came face to face with the terrified lad’s family. They looked on, expecting some fiery words from the priest’s mouth, but Fr Allen remained composed. “If you want to ring the bell,” he told the boy, “come and do “Well or Ditch?” “No, ditchwater is fine,” it at the appropriate time.” Then, walking away, he added, “We’ll pay you for your service.” e’ve all heard of “doctor’s Since then, the bells did not ring out prescription,” the old term of time again. for bad handwriting. During my post-graduate days at medical Fr Feroz Fernand es, Pilar, Goa college, my professor asked me to prepare some notes. Wanting to As a flight attendant, I wear a impress him, I put a lot of effort into watch with two faces: one set for my submission, but when days the time in our departure city, and passed without any feedback, I the other set for our destination city. approached him. One day, a passenger asked me “Sir,” I asked politely, “How for the time. Looking at my watch, was my write-up?” I told her, “It’s 9:41 in “Niranjan,” he Chicago and 5:41 in replied, “Your Honolulu.” I recently ran into handwriting was Intrigued, she an old student of mine, good.” asked, “Is the who said, “I always liked you. watch available Dr N i r a n j a n You never had favourites. You Agarwalla, for other cities?” were mean to everyone.”


Sambalpur, Odisha


L o is Hen r y READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014

Pam Tatrea u


Feel like you could “just eat up” a newborn? Scientists recently monitored the brains of 30 women as they sniffed newborns’ undershirts; half had recently given birth, and half never had. As the women smelled the newborn scent, all their brains showed activity in the pleasure centre—the area that lights up after you, say, eat chocolate or play the slot machines—but the new mums’ brains lit up more than those of the childless women. This mental hard wiring may strengthen the mother-child bond by rewarding moms for their caregiving.

Doc, Are Your Hands Clean? One third of patients surveyed at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, USA, said they didn’t see doctors wash their hands, even though the practice is a major way to control infections in healthcare settings. But nearly two thirds of those patients didn’t challenge the doctor about it. Too shy to speak up? Say something like “I’m embarrassed to ask you this, but would you mind cleaning your hands before you begin?” 142

Is Your Glass Making You Drunk? The type of wineglass you sip from and how you pour vino may affect how much you imbibe. When researchers observed drinkers during happy hour, they found that people poured about 12 percent more if they used a wide-mouthed glass rather than a narrower one and if they held the glass instead of setting it down. Such factors affect our perception of volume.

Better Cancer Treatment For Obese Patients As many as 40 percent of obese cancer patients get suboptimal levels of chemotherapy, according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). This may partly explain why they are less likely to survive than those who are not obese. New ASCO guidelines advise doctors to calculate most chemotherapy dosages based on an individual’s weight instead of an average dose. To ensure that you, or a family member, gets sufficient treatment, ask your doctor if he prescribes in accordance with weight-based dosing. READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014


Why We Love a Baby’s Smell

A Safer Shot for Back Pain Epidural steroids are a common way to relieve back pain, even though the drugs may raise the risk of osteoporosis and raise blood sugar. Now Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine researchers have discovered that it may not be just the steroids that are responsible for soothing achy backs but some other component, like saline solution. Saline may help flush inflammatory chemicals, providing pain relief. After researchers reviewed 43 studies involving more than 3600 patients, they found that steroids in the epidurals were responsible for less than half of the short-term painrelieving effects. This suggests that patients may reduce pain with lower doses of steroids.

Ending “Just in Case” Antibiotics A new blood test may help doctors easily determine whether a sick patient has a viral or a bacterial infection, which may reduce the

number of antibiotic prescriptions that are improperly ordered for viruses. The test, developed by researchers at the Duke University, USA, identifies which genes have been activated by a patient’s immune system to fight off an infection; certain genes are specific only to viruses. The test could be available in three years.

Boost Broccoli’s CancerFighting Prowess Cruciferous veggies like broccoli are a good source of sulforaphane, a compound with anticancer properties. It forms in the presence of a certain enzyme called myrosinase. But many common methods of cooking broccoli, such as boiling and microwaving, destroy myrosinase. University of Illinois researchers have found that eating other foods that contain myrosinase— such as radishes, wasabi, and rocket—with your broccoli increases the cancer-fighting compound. So have a rocket salad with that broc for a healthier meal.

SEEING RED Twenty-four years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, two men explain why Communism declined: z You can’t get good Chinese takeaway in China, and Cuban cigars are rationed in Cuba. That’s all you need to know about communism. P.J. O’Rourke, satirist

z Communism doesn’t work because people like to own stuff. Frank Zappa, musician READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014











Not exactly Holi. Around 12,000 people experienced the latest worldwide sporting craze called the Colour Run here in Braga, Portugal, on 15 June 2013. Runners wore white clothes and were doused in different hues of powder after each kilometre, culminating in a “rainbow finish” festival (previous pages: in Sydney, Australia, in February 2013). Ready to participate ?





Carmen Tarleton survived the brutal attack, but her painful journey was just beginning


is a

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You cannot cry. The soft-spoken trauma surgeon did his best to choose his words carefully but the facts were grim. “Carmen was attacked and burned over 80 percent of her body with industrial lye,” he told Kess, her mother and her brother, who sat with her in the ICU’s waiting room. “Hers is one of the most severe burn cases I have ever seen.” As the burn unit’s nurses and hospital orderlies hurried by, Watkins continued. Carmen had been blinded in both eyes. The lye, a caustic chemical that is poisonous and corrosive, had burned off her eyelids, her left ear and part of her nose. It had eaten away most of her face. The family was speechless. None could fully comprehend what Dr Watkins was telling them. Much of it was too horrific. Suddenly, Kess half rose from her seat and asked, “Do I need to go in there and say goodbye to my sister? Is this what you are saying?” The veteran surgeon answered softly, “The chances of her surviving are not very high.” 150

JUST A DAY EARLIER, on 10 June 2007, Carmen Blandin Tarleton, a 39-yearold nurse and mother of two girls, Liza, 14, and Hannah 12, had been sound asleep in her home in the US state of Vermont. Around 2:30am she was awakened by a loud crash that shook the sturdy, white house. It’s an earthquake! she thought as she got up to investigate. Groggy, she opened her bedroom door and saw a man dressed all in black in her living room. Terrified, she told him, “Take whatever you want!” But the figure lunged at her. In a flash she recognized it was her estranged second husband, Herb Rodgers. He punched her hard in the face, knocking her to the floor. “Herb!” she screamed as she fell down. “It’s me, Carmen! What are you doing?” He grabbed the baseball bat he had brought with him and began beating her with it. She raised her left arm to block the blows and heard it crack. Pain shot through her body like an electric shock. Rodgers kept beating READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014


Not yet, not here. You need to concentrate. You need to be strong. As Kesstan (“Kess”) Blandin sat in the family waiting room outside the Intensive Care Burn Unit on the seventh floor of Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, she leaned forward in her chair to listen to Dr James Watkins, her sister’s surgeon. She knew she needed to hear every word.

her until she was unconscious. He tied her hands behind her back and dragged her into another bedroom where she regained consciousness long enough to yell to her daughters, “Call the police!” Rodgers again beat her mercilessly with the bat. She was helpless. He grabbed her throat, and choked her. She lost consciousness. Moments later Carmen awoke. She was lying in a battered heap on the floor and looked up to see Rodgers return with a dish detergent bottle in his hand. As he squeezed its contents over her, she thought, He’s going to set me on fire! Somehow she managed to shout through her pain, “Please!” Rodgers squirted the clear thick gel all over Carmen, into her eyes, onto her face, hair, arms, chest, legs and back. It was industrial-strength lye and immediately began burning off her skin, turning her fair complexion to mottled dark brown, then black, as it etched its way through tissue and

into her bones. Her skin, on fire, soon felt like it was burning from the inside out. Then, a loud shout from outside the house: “This is the Vermont State Police! Come out with your hands up!” Rodgers surrendered and was handcuffed. Carmen was in agony, begging her daughters to help her into the tub and shower her with cold water. An ambulance soon rushed her to a nearby hospital and she was then transferred to Brigham and Women’s Hospital, two hours away in Boston. She was blind, battered, terribly disfigured but still alive. Barely. BEFORE KESS, Joan and Donny could see Carmen in her ICU Burn Unit room, they had to put on gowns, hairnets, masks and gloves. Burn victims, because they have lost their skin that normally protects us from infections, are especially vulnerable. Of the Carmen (right) with Kess, in 1998.

Reader ’s Digest X X /12


patients that survive a burn, anywhere from one-half to three-quarters later die from infection. As a precaution, Carmen’s room, like some others in the hospital’s ICU Burn Unit, was pressurized to minimize the infiltration of outside infectious particles. Carmen’s medical team had told the family that she had been placed in a medically induced coma by powerful drugs known as amnesiacs. She could be in a coma for up to four months while she underwent skin grafts and other surgeries. However, her doctors had temporarily “lightened” her dosage in the hope that she might be able to respond to her visiting family. Kess walked into Carmen’s room, followed by her mother, then her brother. They saw a small woman lying still in the hospital bed. She had a tracheostomy with a tube down her throat. She was hooked up to a ventilator that was breathing for her and was tethered to a bank of blinking and whirring high-tech monitors. She was bundled like a mummy in white bandages except for her horribly swollen face and her hands. Her face was so disfigured and blackened it was unrecognizable; it was as if her skin had been flayed off. Joan was horrified but also confused. She told Donny, “This isn’t Carmen.” We’ve got the wrong room, she thought. Where’s Carmen? It wasn’t until Kess recognized Carmen’s hands, which had not been burned, and her crooked front tooth that she realized this was her sister. She felt like she’d been punched in 152

the solar plexus. Kess took a deep breath, walked to the right side of the bed and gently took Carmen’s left hand in hers. Then she bent down and whispered into her one remaining ear, “Carmen, it’s Kess and Mom and Donny.” She paused a moment and added, “We are here for you.” Kess felt her sister grab her hand and saw her legs begin to move. She blinked back tears and looked at her mother and brother who were now also talking to Carmen. Somehow, she thought as she held Carmen’s hand even tighter, we will all get through this. SNOW WHITE. That’s how Kess began thinking of her sister as she watched her lying in her hospital bed, ‘asleep’ in a deep medically induced coma. Kess had moved into an apartment in Boston to be near Carmen and had visited her every day since first seeing her a month ago. Against all odds, Carmen had survived, lying motionless and unaware of the team of surgeons and nurses that monitored her vital signs, dressed and cleaned her wounds and wheeled her into surgery for 38 skin graft operations. During her daily visits Kess would talk and read to her sister. Although she knew there was little chance Carmen could hear anything, it helped her pass the time. And, she thought, perhaps the words could somehow seep into her consciousness. She read widely, from Buddhist READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014

writings and poetry and hundreds of cards and letters people sent. From a collection of the poet Rainer Maria Rilke, she read: Extinguish my eyes, I’ll go on seeing you. Seal my ears, I’ll go on hearing you. And without feet I can make my way to you. Without a mouth I can swear your name. Break off my arms, I’ll take hold of you with my heart as with a hand. Stop my heart, and my brain will start to beat. And if you consume my brain with fire,

Near the end of September, more than three months after she had been attacked, Carmen ‘woke up’ from her coma. She had defied all the odds. Still blind, but sensing that her sister was with her, she called out to Kess, “I know I’ve been gone awhile. What is it, July?” “It’s September 23rd, Carm,” said Kess. As she listened to her sister’s voice, she recalled a powerful dream she had when she was unconscious. In it the word ‘LIFE’ flashed on a large screen followed by the words, ‘IS’ and ‘A’ and ‘CHOICE.’ “Life is a choice,” she had repeated

Her face was so disfigured and blackened, it was unrecognizable; it was as if her skin had been flayed off. I’ll feel you burn in every drop of my blood. One month into her coma, Carmen’s blood pressure dropped dangerously low and wouldn’t respond to medication. Her doctors called in Joan and Kess to explain that there was ‘a good chance’ Carmen wouldn’t make it. “You don’t know Carmen,” Joan told the doctors. She recalled how Carmen ‘had to be the best’ at everything she had tried; from learning the piano, to playing tennis to skiing. “She’s always been a competitor and a fighter,” said her mother, “and she has two daughters to live for.” READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014

in her dream. Carmen was back. But her journey, full of new choices, twists and turns was just beginning. THE PAIN WAS EXCRUCIATING. Carmen had been back living in her Vermont home for several months and had to have her dressings changed every two days—a painful endurance test that lasted about two hours. Kess tried her best to gingerly remove Carmen’s bandages but the open wounds, especially those on her head and back that had not yet healed, were ultra-sensitive. Carmen couldn’t help 153

but scream in the shower when any water touched her open wounds or when a dressing pulled off bits of tender raw skin. Remembering her own nursing days and how difficult it had been to cope with patients in such pain, she tried her best to stay silent. She especially didn’t want her daughters or her mother, who were all living with her, to hear her screams. Joan couldn’t bear to see her daughter suffer. When Carmen screamed as Kess changed her dressings, she’d retreat to the garage, out of earshot, for a cigarette and a cry. The pain was searing; sometimes it felt as if someone were burning her alive. “I’m so sorry, Kess,” Carmen said as she broke down in tears during one session. “But the pain is just so horrible.” There were also little victories. 154

Carmen began seeing a therapist. After several months at home, she had the courage to walk into the bedroom where Herb had beaten her. He was now in jail, awaiting trial. A year after her attack she received a corneal transplant and with it the hope that she would finally be freed from her prison of blindness. She agreed to an interview with the Associated Press, the world’s largest newsgathering organization. When friends and strangers told her they had been inspired by her story, she wondered if she should keep telling it. “Maybe I can help people,” she told her mother. “The better I feel, the happier people seem to get.” Letters poured in from around the world. Neighbours brought her cooked dinners. Someone sent her a cheque for $1000. She remembered something her father had told her eight years READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014


Looking at her unscarred hands with Kess, two years after the attack.

earlier, “I never wanted to change the world but I know you do.” Maybe she had found her calling. Excited that a local television station was about to broadcast a report on Carmen, the family gathered in her living room to watch the evening news. The news anchor introduced the segment and added, “Warning. These images are graphic and may be disturbing to some viewers. Viewer discretion is advised.” Carmen felt as if she’d been violated

regular weekly checkups, skin grafts or other procedures at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Kess was leading Carmen by the arm down the aisle to use the restroom. Suddenly a four or five-year old girl sitting at the rear with her father began crying when she saw Carmen. “Daddy, Daddy!” the small girl whimpered. “Make him go away. He’s scaring me.” Although she could not see the girl, Carmen spoke in her direction: “It’s

“I’m so sorry, Kess,” Carmen said as she broke down in tears. “But the pain is just so horrible.” again. “Oh my God! They are talking about me,” she shouted. Then, quieter, she asked, “They’re talking about me?” Neither Carmen’s daughters, Kess, nor her mother said anything. But Carmen was devastated. As Joan had seen her do so often, she lightly touched her face, feeling rough scar tissue, her damaged nose and lips, her missing ear. How horrible do I look? wondered Carmen. The next day she asked her mother, “What do I look like?” Joan hesitated then said, “I can’t put it into words.” Kess was a little more forthcoming. “Well, Carm. You’re scarred. I don’t know what else to say.” On a bus into Boston for one of her READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014

okay, honey. You don’t have to be scared. I’m a mommy.” A moment later Kess told her, “Carm, never mind, she can’t hear you.” “What do you mean?” asked Carmen. “Her father has moved her out of the way.” ALTHOUGH HER FIRST corneal transplant had failed, Carmen had the same operation in her right eye. Less than two weeks later, nearly two years after her attack, she was brushing her teeth when she noticed the sink’s gleaming silver faucet. “No! It’s impossible,” she told herself. “I can see!” She had been praying to be able to see again, to look at her daughters, Kess, her mother. Finally, her prison 155

doors had swung open. She could see Hannah’s graceful smile, Liza’s wavy hair and Kess’s deep brown eyes. “You are so beautiful,” she told each of them. It was time to answer the question she had agonized over: “What do I look like?” When she was alone she went into her bathroom and locked the door. She raised a small hand mirror to her face. As she looked at the disfigured, scarred face that stared back at her, she moaned softly, “Oh God. Where am I? Where is Carmen?”

despair. Then, while listening to a self-help book, she heard a message about forgiveness. Forgiveness isn’t something we do for others, noted one writer, we do it for ourselves. It was as if a curtain had lifted. Carmen realized that hating Herb for what he had done would only continue to damage her. He had been sentenced to 30-70 years in prison; this was no longer about him. More importantly, forgiveness was a powerful message that she could speak about to others.

She looked at the face that stared back at her in the mirror and moaned, “Oh God. Where am I? Where is Carmen?” She thought of the little girl on the bus, the television news warning, her family’s hesitancy to tell her what she looked like, and broke down crying. As if fate hadn’t been harsh enough, she lost her regained eyesight after only four months. She was blind again. Doctors said there was hope they could restore some sight in her left eye, but the right was too damaged. She sank into a deep depression. As she wrote, “Every time I heard my kids laugh, I ached to see their smiles. A car horn reminded me that I would never again drive to the grocery store, let alone drop my girls off at college one day. The litany of lost things was endless.” For months, Carmen was lost in 156

She thought back to her dream where she had seen the sign, “Life is a choice.” And she remembered her father telling her he knew she had always wanted to change the world. She could start on her own small corner of the world. Carmen began speaking to Rotary Clubs, churches, women’s groups; almost anyone who asked. She summoned up the courage to appear on “The Doctors,” a US television show about medical issues. The more she spread her message, the more comfortable she felt with herself. One day, while she was shopping for a new cellphone with Joan, a little boy broke off from his mother’s grip and ran over to Carmen. READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014

Marinda Righter holds

“What’s with your face?” he a photowrong of her mother, askeddonor her. Cheryl DenelliRighter,still at a blind, hospital Carmen, bent down and press conference. told him, “I was burned, honey.” “Oh. Does it hurt?” “Sometimes,” said Carmen. He smiled at her and said, “Well, I hope you get better.” She began collecting her thoughts for a book. Thanks to another corneal transplant, she regained limited vision in her left eye. Though still technically blind, she could now use a magnifier to read. Almost every week she and Kess would take the bus to Boston for consultations, more skin graft surgeries and treatments for infections. During the three years since her attack she had undergone more than 50 operations. She was still in almost constant pain, and took a cocktail of drugs to lessen the horrible burning sensation. In December 2011, Carmen’s lead plastic surgeon and head of the burn centre and plastic surgery transplantation at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Dr Bohdan Pomahac, called with a proposition. Would she, he asked, be interested in being considered for a full-face transplant? As he spoke, Carmen lightly ran her fingers over her scarred face, pausing to feel her caved-in nose and her battered lips that never closed properly and left her drooling constantly. “You’d have eyelids, a full nose and your quality of life would improve,” said Dr Pomahac. There would be months of testing and psychological consultations, he READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014

explained. And of course, there could be no guarantee a donor could be found. He said that because Carmen had so many operations that required large blood transfusions, her bodily defences might not be strong enough to fight off the rejection that normally occurs with transplants. “I just want you to think about it, Carmen,” said the skilled surgeon, who had just completed one of the world’s few full face transplants on a Texas man. “I know it’s a lot to grasp.” A new face, thought Carmen after hanging up. I could smile again. Maybe I could even kiss someone! AFTER SCORES OF PHYSICAL and psychological exams, Carmen was approved for a full facial transplant. However it wasn’t until 11:30pm on 13 February 2013, more than a year after Dr Pomahac had first asked her if she would consider a transplant, that she got the call she had been waiting for. “Carmen, I know you have been waiting a long time,” said Dr Pomahac, “but we may have a donor.” Carmen cradled her cellphone to her one good ear and listened as the surgeon continued, “But we have a couple of issues.” He explained that the donor was about nine years older than Carmen and there may be some rejection. If Carmen’s body rejected the donor face completely, it would have to be removed and surgeons would have to reconstruct Carmen’s face. It was a major risk but as the surgeon, whose first name in Czech 157

means “gift given by God,” explained, “We may not find a better match.” At 5 o’clock the next morning Carmen was wheeled into the Brigham and Women’s Hospital operating room where more than 30 surgeons, nurses, technicians and attendants awaited her. Five hours earlier Pomahac and a second team of surgeons at University of Massachusetts Medical Center had begun carefully removing the face from a woman who had died just a day earlier from a stroke. They stripped away the donor’s skin, taking care to painstakingly dissect the tiny arteries, veins, muscles, nerves, fat and bones Carmen would need. Once they had removed the face they flushed the blood out of it and replaced it with cold preserving solution. It then looked like a lifeless grey, ashen mask. 158

They packed it on ice and rushed it via an ambulance to Brigham and Women’s Hospital, 62 kilometres away. While Dr Pomahac had been removing the donor face, a team of surgeons had been readying Carmen for the transplant. Guided by 3-D diagrams of Carmen’s facial structure, they gingerly stripped her face of damaged skin, muscle and nerves to make way for the new tissue. It would take almost 15 hours for Dr Pomahac and his team to complete Carmen’s face transplant. Using high-powered microscopes, surgeons delicately connected the nerves, blood vessels and muscles of the donor face to Carmen’s. It was exacting work and the surgeons made hundreds of tiny, precise stitches under their microscopes. READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014

L I G H T C H A S E R P H O T O G R A P H Y / J K I E LY J R

Marinda Righter holds a photo of her mother, donor Cheryl Denelli-Righter, at a press conference.

Because face transplants demand so much concentration, there’s rarely any chatter among the surgeons, nurses or technicians in the operating theatre; with one exception. Moments after Pomahac and his team positioned the donor face over Carmen’s face and stitched together the external carotid artery on the right side of the face and a facial artery on the left, there was an audible gasp from some members of the operating team. Several of the team muttered “Wow!” as they watched Carmen’s new face gradually change colour from ashen grey to bright pink, starting from its right side to the nose, then to the left cheek and finally up to the forehead as the blood flowed into it. As Pomohac would later explain, “It is a profound moment. The face literally comes alive before our eyes.” TEN WEEKS AFTER her surgery Carmen was ready to reveal her new face to the world at a press conference with Dr Pomohac and his medical team. But first there was someone she had to meet. Ever since she awoke from surgery she had frequently ‘talked’ to her new face, thanking her mystery donor and her family for their generous, lifechanging gift. Because donations are usually made anonymously, Carmen never expected to know whose face she had received. But tonight in the library of Brigham and Women’s Hospital she would meet the daughter of that donor. What could she say to her, she wondered. How could she ever thank the family? READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014

Marinda Righter, 30, who had offered her mother Cheryl DenelliRighter’s face for donation, was equally nervous. Organ donation officials had told her she would likely not recognize her mother’s face if she met Carmen. They explained it would have changed greatly after it was attached to Carmen’s bone structure. Still, she thought as she prepared to meet Carmen, Can I handle this? Even before she entered the hospital library, when she saw Carmen through a window, Marinda recognized the face of the 56-year-old mother she had lost to a sudden, massive stroke less than three months ago. Overcome with emotion, she rushed into the room and hugged Carmen. Both women started crying. Brushing back her tears and still hugging Carmen, Marinda looked closer at her face and noticed her mother’s freckles and the two small age spots she used to jokingly complain about. “Can I touch your face?” she asked Carmen and then lightly ran her hand over her freckles. “And I have this little mole right here,” said Carmen, pointing to her cheek. “Oh my God,” said Marinda, “Yes. I know that mole!” The next day at the press conference, Marinda turned to Carmen and said, “I get to feel my mother’s skin again. I get to see my mother’s freckles. And through you, I get to see my mother live on. This is truly a blessing.” 159

Posing for a photo at her home in Vermont

“BLESSINGS” ARE SOMETHING Carmen Tarleton talks about frequently these days. Ever since her book Overcome: Burned, Blinded and Blessed was published, she has devoted her life to spreading her message of forgiveness and perseverance. Sitting in her small Thetford, Vermont, apartment that looks out on lush green, cow-dotted pastures and wearing a T-shirt that boldly proclaims, Vulnerability is Sexy, she explains: “I am blessed because I’ve overcome challenges in my life and I’ve moved on. I want to be an example to people that horrible things may happen to you but you can get beyond them and come to a new place in your life.” She pauses and after a small chuckle adds, “You know, it’s like that dream I had years ago: ‘Life is a choice.’ And I chose life.” 160

After more than 55 surgeries Carmen’s medical prognosis is good. Her face transplant has dramatically lessened her pain, yet she must still take more than a dozen different medicines daily, including powerful immunosupressants to stave off rejection. Although she is still legally blind, the sight in her left eye is good enough that she can read with the help of a magnifier. Each month she gains more feeling and control in her face and her speech steadily improves. She lives close to her sister Kess, her mother Joan and her two children, Liza and Hannah, who now attend college. And Carmen has a new man in her life, music teacher Sheldon Stein, whom she met a few months before the transplant. Carmen’s website is „ READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014

L E S LY E D A V I S / T H E N E W Y O R K T I M E S / R E D U X

Carmen and friend Nanci Stein last August at a bluegrass festival campground.

Health page 161

Food page 164


page 167

Home page 168

Work page 170


Bone Health: Knowledge Is Power



fter age 50, bone fractures are fairly common in women and although less so in men, it’s still a concern. But many times, people don’t take steps to halt future fractures until it’s too late. People “in the know” about the possibility of future fractures and the benefits of preventive treatment were more likely to get help than people who didn’t understand their risk, according to researchers at St Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, Canada. They describe people as often needing to have an “Aha! moment” to realize their fracture was related to their bone health. “It seems that the patient’s awareness is currently central to the process, to even getting the discussion started,” says Dorcas E. Beaton, lead author of the study. Ways to begin the conversation? Ask your doctor about getting a bone density test, and what the test can reveal. Or inquire about what preventive care is best for you, such as vitamin supplementation, medicines or exercises to build bone strength.


[[2R]] 161


3 Ways to Attack Your Heart Risk BY JOEL K. KAHN, MD



AVOID THE THREE D’S: DELAY, DENIAL, AND DEATH An artery that is only 50 percent blocked can become fully obstructed in a matter of hours, leading to a serious heart attack. That’s why I tell my patients to never ignore worrisome symptoms such as chest 162

pressure, shortness of breath, or sudden fatigue. These may be signs of a forthcoming heart attack. If you’re concerned, get checked as soon as possible.


WATCH YOUR BLOOD SUGAR Contrary to what most of my patients think, not all “bad” LDL cholesterol is equally harmful. The latest research shows it is more damaging when it is modified by oxygen or glucose. Tests that directly measure these modified LDLs aren’t widely available, but doctors can follow this simple secret to get an estimate: The higher your blood sugar, the higher your modified LDL cholesterol levels. Ask your doctor about including an HgbA1C blood sugar test in your next check-up. READER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014


GET THE RIGHT TESTS Basic imaging tests, such as electrocardiograms and stress tests, detect only large, old heart attacks or the worst blockages (more than 70 percent narrowed). Only advanced imaging tests, such as coronary artery calcium scans or carotid artery intima-media thickness (CIMT) ultrasounds, find early signs of silent atherosclerosis. I recommend them to high-risk people: those with type 2 diabetes, abnormal cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, a family history of heart disease, or a personal history of smoking. If a test detects mildly clogged arteries, your doctor may recommend things like daily aspirin or other meds, a cholesterollowering plant-based diet, vitamin K², and exercise and stress management to reverse the damage.


Tiffin Tussle

Make the school snack box healthful yet something your child looks forward to, says nutritionist Meeta Lall


or many mums, it’s an everyday thought: Will my child eat the tiffin I have packed, pass it on to friends or simply junk it? The school tiffin is important. It provides energy to stay active and concentrate at school. It must also satisfy a growling stomach. So the mother wants her child to eat all of it, while the child may view it as something being forced upon him, a meal that strongly contrasts with his taste for fast food. That’s why the tiffin is often brought back uneaten, or had with great reluctance. To put together a snack that is healthful, one that your child will like, bear these in mind: z List the foods your child loves. Pack these—but choose the healthier versions. For example, replace the regular refined flour (maida) base in a pizza with a whole wheat base, add lots of finely-chopped >>

Look for a tiffin box that: z Keeps the food safe without getting spoiled for up to 4 to 5 hours. z Is colourful and attractive. 164

z Isn’t too large. It is

better to give two small ones than one large box. z Has space for a napkin and spoon. z Is airtight and does not open or leak in the

schoolbag. z Has separate compartments that allow for different foods to be packed without getting mixed. z Is easy to open and handle.




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RDFood veggies for the topping and finish with a limited amount of low-fat cheese. Try similar healthy variations with burgers and kathi rolls. z Consider variety. Involve the child in deciding what he would like to have the next day. z Appearance is important. Make the tiffin interesting by including colourful veggies. Cut sandwiches in different ways, and make staror heart-shaped tikkis. z Kids like to finish their tiffin in a hurry. Avoid frills—just send one wholesome dish, which can be eaten easily and quickly. z Avoid foods that are messy, mushy, sticky or too dry. z Prepare fresh food in the morning for the tiffin. It’s best to avoid foods that spoil easily or were cooked the previous night. z Avoid strong-smelling foods such as salami, cold cuts, sausages—they may also spoil fast. z Remember, the food should be palatable even cold. z Pack in a whole fruit too. Children can get very hungry after school, so if there is a fruit sitting in their bag, they are likely to have it on the way home. z For added nutrition, slip a handful of almonds, pistachios, walnuts, or peanuts in a bag and into the child’s pocket.

Eat to Beat: Muscle Cramps Power through your next walk with foods that ease soreness and fuel a speedy recovery Ofrom Foods That Harm, Foods That Heal 

Foods That Heal The key: Eat foods that contain potassium, a mineral that helps your body break down carbohydrates and build muscle. A daily serving of a high-potassium food—a handful of dried fruits; a glass of tomato juice, citrus juice, or milk; a slice of melon, an orange, or a banana—can help banish leg cramps and prevent their recurrence. Drink a lot of water too: It maintains circulation and helps flush cramp-causing waste products from your muscles. Foods That Harm Caffeine, usually found in coffee, tea, and soda, can contribute to cramps by constricting your blood vessels and decreasing circulation in muscles. Switch to decaf, herbal tea, or water.

Meeta Lall is a Delhi-based nutrition and health researcher. She is the author of The Power of N: Nutrition in Our Times (Rupa & Co).




Buying a Hair Dryer?


t wasn’t until around 1920 that handheld hair dryers began to come on stream. If you’re buying a new one now do not overlook the following features.

Performance? For household (as opposed to professional) use, output range of 1400-2000 Watts can be adequate.


ity buildup while protecting the hair from excessively drying out.

Cool air mode?

The combination of temperature and two speed settings makes it easy to select the desired drying level.

Generally, a separate switch controls this function, which turns off the heating element, helping to fix a sculpted hairdo.

Heat element?


The ceramic heating cores can best deliver the even temperature needed for drying without the risk of overheating; what’s more, they outlast traditional metal coil elements.

The removable, easy-to-clean filter —especially in stainless steel—can extend lifespan.

Weight? For easy, painless maneuverability go for a model that will not weigh more than 500 grams.

Noise level? © SHUTTERSTOCK


šD[l[hki[W^W_h dryer near water. You risk electrocution. š:edÁjki[j^[Zho[h if you have applied any hair medication, as for treating lice.

Avoid the overly loud models: try to stay under 70dB—even though manufacturers may not display noise levels in the user manuals.

Ionization? This advanced technology helps to neutralize harmful static electricREADER’S DIGEST MARCH 2014

Diffuser? These nozzle attachments are most useful when sculpting a hairdo. It is ideal if you can snap a brush styler on the hairdryer.

Cable? A 1.5 to 2-metre cord is necessary for convenient use; an automatically retractable cable could be an additional plus.

Hanging ring? A feature of seemingly minor significance, but one that in practice often proves to be useful and convenient. 167



For the Birds BY K AT H E R I N E L A I D L AW

WHERE TO STAY The best gardens are the densest ones, so embrace nature’s mess! Plant at different heights to create layers and lure a variety of visitors; tangles of vines, hedges and trees will appeal to winged shelter seekers. To up the ante, invest in a birdhouse. Make sure it’s well ventilated, and the perch isn’t located under the entrance hole (that way, eggs will be protected from intruders). Fill the house with bits of cotton, wool, lint and feathers to kick-start the nesting process. Humans like high-thread-count bedding, and so do birds.

WHERE TO BATHE The most sought-after tubs aren’t of the claw-foot variety: they’re shallow, with rocks or pieces of driftwood acting as safe landing strips, 168


( I L L U S T R AT I O N S ) S H U T T E R S T O C K ; ( I C O N S ) T H E N O U N P R OJ E C T

Want to attract the avian set? Start thinking like them

and sloping sides so the chirpers can wade. Place baths in open areas to allow birds to spot wily neighbourhood felines before they get too close. And be a good host—scrub the facilities down with a strong-bristled brush (but no chemicals) and replace the water once a week.

WHERE TO EAT When stocking up for your flock, pick food that will appeal to a large cross-section of birds. Peanuts are a favourite with parakeets and doves. Pearl millet (bajra) will attract sparrows and doves. Try out other grains and learn by trial and error. Keep seeds fresh by storing them in a cool, dry place, and don’t hoard—they will spoil. Remember that presentation really is everything. Being able to see the food will attract hungry throngs enticed by the sight of others chowing down (everyone loves a trendy eatery). Make sure your feeder accommodates about a dozen birds.

STARTER PETS Animals can be a great way to teach children responsibility, but it’s crucial to be realistic. If you’re keen on bringing an animal into your home and you’ve designed a plan for its proper care, here are some options: Fish First-time owners should consider getting cold-water fish—no tank heater required. They should research which breeds of fish get along in the same tank, and be aware of life expectancies—some breeds of goldfish can live up to 20 years. Rabbits Though bunnies may seem like a cute and manageable option, they can live up to a decade and require an amount of care similar to that of a dog or cat. They have specific dietary and veterinary needs, and often don’t behave well around small children. Each year, thousands of former Easter bunnies are abandoned in the wild when families tire of them. Guinea pigs These rodents make affectionate starter pets. Their cages must be cleaned daily, and they require grooming and chew toys to keep their ever growing teeth in check. Once they’re used to handling, guinea pigs need daily exercise in a small room without cracks or holes for escape. They love company, but if you get two, make sure they’re the same sex or they’ll breed. Birds Fond of a fixed schedule, birds require feeding at the same time each day, cages cleaned daily and disinfected weekly. Birds clean themselves by bathing in shallow dishes of water and thrive in cages big enough to stretch their wings and fly short distances.




Easing Back Into Work After a Vacation BY DEENA WAISBERG

Book an extra day off If you are travelling abroad and returning with jet lag, take an extra day to get set up again at home (buy groceries, do laundry) and to adjust to your time zone. “Go to bed at your normal bedtime. Don’t go to bed at 4pm, because then you’ll be waking up at 4am,” advises Julia James, a Canada-based life coach and author of The MiniRetreat Solution.

Discourage e-mails and voice mails Leave an e-mail and a voice-mail message stating that you won’t be checking messages during your vacation and advising 170

people to follow up with you after you return, if necessary. “This avoids an accumulation of messages,” James says.

Leave your desk tidy Organize your workspace so you won’t be overwhelmed by a mess upon your return. Adjust your attitude You may not be thrilled to get back to the grind, but find something to look forward to on your return, whether it’s seeing a colleague you like or the chance to tackle an interesting project.

Stay in vacation mode for a while Bring in holiday photos and display them on your desk. “When you look at the photos, they have a relaxing effect, and you feel more energized and can get back to work again,” James explains. And if you still find yourself missing your time off, start planning your next vacation.



Let’s face it. People often dread returning to the office after a relaxing vacation. The e-mails, meetings and deadlines are enough to make anyone feel stressed. Here’s how to make the transition less painful:

Challenge! Challenge yourself by solving these puzzles and mind stretchers, then check your answers on page 134.




3 6

Number Roulette LEVEL 2

A number, represented by x, is missing from the outer rim of this wheel of fortune. Which number is x? (Start at the arrow.)

10 10

6 1 8 6



55 20

I L L U S T R AT I O N S : R O B E R T R A N K I N

Collision Course LEVEL 1 A pink metal ball is suspended freely in outer space. It is completely motionless. An orange metal ball approaches it on a direct collision course at 8000kmph. What happens when the orange ball hits the pink ball? (The orange and pink balls are of the same mass.)


Roll Over


A sum has been made from the upper faces of three six-sided dice—but it doesn’t make sense. To make it work, you must roll each dice over in any direction, by a quarter turn. How many solutions are there and what are they? (It’s easier if you write down your work.) 171


Manu Parekh has been fascinated by Banaras—Varanasi—ever since he visited the holy city 24 years ago. He has returned several times to paint its myriad moods. “People of various communities come here with different feelings—fear, faith, hope—making for a wonderful spiritual experience,” he says. In this work, one of a series, Parekh has captured a dusk-time silhouette, “when the city comes aglow with man-made lights in the temples and God-made light in the sky.” The 74-year-old Delhi-based artist trained at Mumbai’s Sir J.J. School of Art. Among Parekh’s several accolades is his Padma Shri.




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