Belt tighteners

Need help burning that festive season flab, but watching your shrinking budget even more closely than your ever-expanding waistline? That excuse won’t do any longer with these cheap-and-cheerful fitness trackers…

You’ll find my comparison of the Mi Band fitness tracker and the Google Fit app in the January 2015 issue of Stuff India. Want the TLDR version? They’re both pretty good but the Mi Band wins by a hair’s breadth!

Low-cost fitness trackers reviewed

“…Let’s just say a fitness tracker’s a bit like that expensive DSLR you got on your last birthday. Sure, it does open up a whole new world of exciting photography, but do you actually make use of it? Odds are that instead of making you the next Henri Cartier-Bresson, the DSLR sits unloved, its soul dying a bit each time it’s dragged out to take party snaps and then locked up again.

That’s the story of a fitness tracker. In all likelihood, once you
get past the initial spurt of enthusiasm, you’ll end up ignoring
it like a 6am alarm on a Sunday morning. That’s why you can’t go
wrong trying out either the Mi Band, which is cheaper than a night
on the town, or the Google Fit app,which doesn’t cost you a dime….”

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Running to the hills in a ‘lil Datsun

One of the best things about Stuff magazine is the breathtaking variety of er, stuff, you get to review. Nope, it’s not just phones and gaming gear that floats our gadgety boat, but a helluva lot more. But what’s my favourite? The chance to travel. Like that time when the folks over at Datsun decided to take us up to Rishikesh to drive their new Go+ MPV…

Datsun Go+ drive to Rishikesh - Stuff India Magazine

“…Weekend Warrior
Delhi’s infamous fog has us thinking we’re stuck in a horror movie, so
when Datsun asks us if we’d like to drive the new Go+ MPV around
Rishikesh, we don’t think twice. Heading out of Dehradun, we’re impressed by the Go+, with its 1.2-litre engine making up in torquey-ness what it lacks in capacity. Yup, powering up steep climbs is surprisingly easy for this little car, with not many gear changes required…

Rallying round for the picnic basket
Sliding the Go+ around in a dry river bed makes our day. What makes it even better is our picnic spot, hidden in a corner of the Rajaji National Park. But more than the pakoras, we loved the drive down here. In fact, I think we’ve struck upon the formula for happiness: A torquey engine, a suspension that can take a beating, and a dirt track, far, far away from civilisation. Bliss indeed…

…Temple Town
Sunrise and silence at the Triveni Ghat, with only a few worshippers (and cows) around. It’s also time for us to head back and we gotta say we’ve had fun. The Go+ drives better than you’d expect, and while it’s just not spacious enough to seat 7, you can pack enough stuff for a long vacation. Too bad the interiors are disappointingly spartan. Verdict? The Go+ isn’t really an MPV, but does make a decent hatchback for anyone who can’t resist the lure of the open road….”

Diggin’ up the Weekend, or, I build the Lego Technic Volvo Loader

Love tech and gadgets? Then you’ll love Stuff India Magazine. Packed with the coolest tech this side of an alien space station, it’s a must-read for anyone who can’t wait for the future to just get here already.  Yup, it’s the coolest job in the world and I get to play with all sorts of amazing kit. And back in November I spent a weekend building an awesome Lego Technic kit – the L350 Volvo loader. Take a look, hope you enjoy reading about it as much as I did building it. And when yer done, head over to Stuff.tv/in for more of the best gear around!

VSLegoStuffMag

 

“… Firing on all cylinders
Elapsed Time: 06:45
The going seems to have gotten easier. How much easier? A lot – it was at least an hour ago that I last contemplated running away to join a Himalayan monastery. In Technic terms, that’s pretty good. But all that’s behind me as with the engine block installed, the set seems over halfway built. The pistons look rather neat all lined up in the engine, but I’ve found something else that’s just as amazing:  Running your hand through a stonking big pile of Lego has to be one of the most soothing experiences this side of a spa vacation…

… Dig, baby, dig!
Elapsed Time: 10:30
Can’t find a very critical brick that’s the last one left of its type. My heart sinks as I ponder the futility of life. Wait, found it! If there ever was a time to dance a merry jig, this is it. The relief I feel is akin to that of a diver’s upon encountering a shark that somehow turns out to be a vegetarian. The final section is probably the hardest – assembling the boom arms, fitting the actuators, and affixing the bucket can be quite tricky and requires a decent bit of dexterity and patience. But we’re finally done! Time to snap on the giant wheels, pop some batteries into the remote, and then it’s off to the front lawn for a spot of earthmover mayhem….

Read my stories in Outlook Traveller Getaways’ Karnataka Travel Guide

Pick up a copy of Outlook Traveller Getaways’ Karnataka Travel Guide to read my stories on the rich and varied experience this ancient land offers. Here’s an excerpt from my article on Carnatic Music; to read more, head to your nearest bookstore:

VaibhavOutlookCarnatic

“…The unmatched complexity of Carnatic music stands testament to its rich cultural underpinnings. This near-ethereal form of art could only have sprung from a society that valued the guru-shishya parampara, carrying forward the hard work of poets, composers and artistes from the years gone by. Energetic and soulful, Carnatic music is the sound of our ancient civilisation, distilled down to its purest form….

…It was around the 12th or 13th centuries that India’s music traditions, regarded by purists as a divine gift from the heavens, began to evolve into two distinct schools, with a clean break happening some time between the publication of the Sangita Ratnakara (mid-13th century) and the Sangita Sara (late-14th century)….

…In north India, the arrival of Persian and Islamic influences led, eventually, to what’s now called Hindustani classical. But south of the Vindhyas, it was the Vaishnava Bhakti traditions (such as the Haridasas) that held sway, and under the patronage of kings and emperors, eventually evolved into the highly complex style of Carnatic music….

…Like all traditions must if they are to survive, Carnatic too has moved with the times, keeping its essence intact, while incorporating new elements. Many musicians have expanded their repertoire, putting their classical training to use in jazz, fusion, pop and rock, and taking classical music to new audiences: There’s Lakshminarayana Subramaniam, who’s recorded with the likes of Yehudi Menuhin and Herbie Hancock, and performed with the New York Philharmonic. His brother, Lakshminarayana Shankar, famous for his work in fusion, can name John McLaughlin, Frank Zappa, Lou Reed, and many, many more global stars as collaborators. Then, there are Nithyasree Mahadevan and Sudha Ragunathan, who’ve made their mark in fusion and cinema….

…Carnatic lives on, stronger than ever, sometimes flying the standard of tradition, and sometimes welcoming new influences.”

Catch my stories in Outlook Traveller Getaways’ Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh Guide…

Catch my stories in Outlook Traveller Getaways’ Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh Guide… These are just a few excerpts, and if you want to read more about this gorgeous land, head to your nearest bookstore!

Mamer-Naranag – Riverside Tranquil

VaibhavOutlookJKMamer

“On the face of it, Mamer seems an unlikely destination. Most travellers who cross this sleepy little town dismiss it as a mere highway stop, a place to stretch your legs and perhaps wolf down some pakoras before hitting the road again. Cars whiz past, heading east on NH1D, hoping to make it to Sonamarg before trucks clog up the highway. Tired motorists heading west look eagerly to arriving at Srinagar. No one gives Mamer a second look. But scratch below the surface, and this little gem of a place begins to shine in an altogether different light. There are idyllic village paths to tread, river banks to sit on and watch the world go by, verdant forests that tower over you, and for the heritage lover, the ancient temples of Naranag, located in a pristine, sun-soaked valley not far away. And if that’s too tame, Mamer has some high excitement to offer indeed — rafting on the Sind River…”

Sonamarg – The Gold Rush

VaibhavOutlookJKSonamarg

“Any place with the moniker ‘Meadow of Gold’ has a reputation  to live up to. Luckily, Sonamarg, with its exquisite high altitude valley that packs it all in — rolling hills, craggy peaks, rushing streams, a glacier, a trout-filled river, and miles-upon-miles of pine trees — seems to do so. Even by the high standards set by the many beautiful spots in the Vale of Kashmir, Sonamarg manages to stand tall as a veritable goldmine for the nature lover.

But with that comes the gold rush. In winter, Sonamarg lies covered under a blanket of snow, but come summer, thousands of tourists descend upon this small town, which is also the last major supply halt for troops bound for Kargil, Drass and the battlefields beyond, and for truckers ferrying supplies to Leh. And then, in summer comes the stream of devotees heading to the holy Amarnath Cave, placing further strain on the ecology of this beautiful valley. But even amidst the crowds of tourists, taxis and ponywallahs, and the black clouds of diesel from the trucks on the Srinagar-Leh Highway, it’s possible to snatch moments of tranquillity. On arriving you could be tired, jaded, and wondering what possessed you to come here, but a split second later, all doubts will be gone, when the clear, blue skies and gorgeous mountain vistas reveal themselves, the sun glancing off the peaks, casting a golden glow across the valley…”

Manasbal – Where the Lotus Blooms

VaibhavOutlookJKManasbal

“A lovely lake close to Srinagar, Manasbal has always played second fiddle to its more famous brethren. The origins of its name can be traced back to it being a pilgrimage destination for those who couldn’t make the arduous trip to Manasarovar Lake in Tibet. The Mughals did build a royal garden here, but it’s eclipsed by the gardens they built in Srinagar and Achabal. Even today, Manasbal lives in the shadow of Kashmir’s more famous lakes, Dal and Wular, a short drive away. For Manasbal, this proximity has resulted in a twilight of sorts. Not many people know of it, and unjustifiably so. For while Manasbal might lack the tourist trappings of Srinagar or the wild allure of Wular, it possesses a charm of its own. It’s a friendly, quiet, non-touristy place that offers a respite from the crowds at the more popular destinations. And it does have its own claims to fame — at 13 metres, it’s perhaps the deepest lake in Kashmir. Manasbal is a major stopover for migratory birds, and best of all, in the months of July and August, the lotus blooms in abundance, covering the periphery of the lake in an almost ethereal glow…”

Yusmarg – In the Footsteps of Jesus

VaibhavOutlookJKYusmarg

“There are a couple of legends surrounding the origins of Yusmarg’s name. The more prosaic one hints at ‘Yusmarg’ being a corruption of ‘Roosmarg’, or ‘meadow of the musk deer’. The more interesting one comes from a belief that Jesus Christ spent some of his ‘lost’ years in India, and passed through Yusmarg, earning it the name ‘Meadow of Jesus’. Given that Yusmarg’s an excellent base for treks, it’s a lot more fun to believe it was named after someone who’s said to have walked on water…”

Get Organised! Or, clean up the clutter in your life!

My article on productivity and cleaning up the clutter in your life was carried by Life Positive magazine in their June 2013 issue:

Keep stress at bay and increase your productivity by organising your life

It might be a cliché to say that modern-day lifestyles are full of stress, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Caught between the competing demands of home and work, we often overreach ourselves and get overwhelmed by all that we ‘need’ to do. Many of fall prey to this at one point or another: We find ourselves drowning under a pile of responsibilities that just keep on increasing, and soon, missed deadlines and broken commitments become a common occurrence. This isn’t just a recipe for stress and worry – let it fester too long and it’ll become a ticket to chaos, confusion, and inefficiency.

Taking the time out to simplify and organise your life might seem to be yet another of those tasks competing for your limited time. However, putting in the effort to come up with a streamlined workflow will pay off dividends in the long term. Let’s take a look at where to start cleaning up the clutter from your life:

Continue reading Get Organised! Or, clean up the clutter in your life!

Off to Dreamland, aka Sleep Tight!

My article on the importance of a good night’s sleep was published by Life Positive in their January 2013 issue:

Punishing schedules and packed timetables can play havoc with our sleep. We might ignore this, but this has serious consequences for our well-being

If there’s one thing we hated as kids, it was being told to go to bed. It’s funny how most of us can easily look back to a time when we’d actually rebel against sleeping. Unfortunately, as the years go by and the responsibilities pile on, the reverse becomes true – we’d like to get more sleep, but there’s work to be done and places to be.

Packed schedules and stressful lifestyles have contributed to what’s often considered an epidemic of insomnia. We spend most of the day working, come back home, turn on the TV, and drift off to an uneasy sleep, waking up the next day feeling tired and groggy. There’s also a reverse effect at work here –Some of us look at sleep as ‘something for the weak’ and pride ourselves on needing just a couple of hours each night.

What we don’t realise is that a lack of sleep – or rather, a lack of quality sleep – has a deleterious effect on our systems. You might look at sleep as ‘resting’ time for your body but that would be understating it quite a bit. Sleep’s more than just giving ourselves a break – it’s necessary for your mental, physical, and emotional well-being.

Continue reading Off to Dreamland, aka Sleep Tight!

Ramblings, rants, and more.

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