Indian TripBy Dr Joe & Partha Mukherjee

Recently I went on a journey of personal development to India. The trip was planned just a few weeks in advance.

Whilst there, I met a remarkable guy with a strong grip on healthy living.  This guy has kindly agreed to share some of his tips with you all. More on that in the 2nd half of this article.

Let’s talk generics first…

Visa obtained, tickets bought, accommodation and planned subsistence sorted out on the Indian side and boom I found myself in India 3 weeks later.

Never been to the Eastern Hemisphere of the globe before. So, this was an entirely new experience for me.

That I enjoyed the trip was an understatement. It was great and I’m glad I made the trip even though I was only there for 8 days.

My host was Dr Sudip Basu. He is the Medical Director and Consultant Gynaecologist of the Srishti Clinic. His clinic majors in infertility.

It was a nice idea to see how medical practice is undertaken in other places from where I normally work. I had known Dr Basu previously when he worked in South Wales, UK, where he did most of his postgraduate Obstetrics & Gynaecology training, subsequently subspecialising in fertility gynaecology.

His clinic currently based in Kolkata, in terms of size, does not compare with the monstrous corporate hospitals scattered all over India at the moment.

But don’t let that fool you.

srishti clinic reception

Dr Basu has and is still achieving phenomenal success rates in Assisted Reproduction, in particular, IVF in his small practice in Kolkata, India. I was amazed at what he was achieving despite the size of his clinic currently.

Dr Basu plans to expand his practice shortly obviously because, his IVF success rates are so good, he is attracting clients not only from within India, but also from neighbouring Bangladesh.

And this is happening through mainly word of mouth advertisement of prior patents recommending him.

What also struck me was the fact that he introduced transparency into his practice. Something that most doctors certainly in the field of assisted reproduction do shy away from.

He records the process of egg retrieval and embryo transfer on a disc which he hands over to the woman and her husband after each procedure.

This way, they can actually see the entire process for themselves whether it was successful or not. No hidden agenda. No funny games. No surprises. It’s all there, laid bare.

You as a patient know what happened, how it happened and indeed what to expect in the coming months. That’s why his patient retention rate is super high.

Not a surprise therefore why his practice is growing phenomenally in such a short time. Dr Basu has stuck with UK standards in an environment where cutting corners to cut costs is rife, amongst other things.

He does turn down couples whom he thinks the chances of IVF conception is too low to be worth the couple’s time, effort, money and emotional investment, advising them to seek other alternatives.

Below is a picture of Dr Basu and his clinic staff after close of business on the weekend of festival of colours in India.

Srishti Clinic Kolkata

I should stress that this piece is not advertisement for Dr Basu, but a short report of what I genuinely observed whilst over there in Kolkata.

I do however encourage any couple in and around India with fertility issues to at least pay him a visit and have a consultation with him. It won’t hurt your chances!

Hopefully what I have said here will be vindicated. I sure do think it will.

I saw this sign in one of the loos (bathroom to my American friends) and it made me smile being a man and I thought it might put a smile on your face too. Why? Because men notoriously over-estimate length, don’t they?

loo etiquettes


Now on to other things on my trip.

Dr Basu wanted me to have an all-round experience of coming to India. He arranged for a friend to take me places in Kolkata.

The friend’s name is Partha Mukherjee. He is now a mutual friend of ours.

Partha works as a journalist. He is a true West Bengal folk who grew up in the countryside of West Bengal. Partha’s dad used to work as a Senior Administrator in the Forestry Department of India.

As you would expect by the nature of the job Partha’s dad did, he spent all of his childhood in the countryside which in the 70s was far from developed.

Growing up with nature all around him, Partha still loves the great outdoors.

The smell of the meadow, the smell of the flowers, the aroma of the woods, the rustling noise of the wind, the early morning tweets of the birds, the morning dew dropping off the leaves, the gentle noise of the running stream or rivers…all of that still gives Partha a huge dose of satisfaction and pleasure today, he tells me.

So, even though he now works in the city, his feet still remain firmly planted in the countryside and he does not apologise for it. Neither should he in any case.

My conversation with Partha when he took me around Kolkata was breath-taking. We talked about a lot of stuff. From politics to history to culture to food to geography and the environment. It was fascinating and I learnt a lot in the time we spent together.

Maybe his countryside upbringing is what spurred him into developing a passion for Bengalese Heritage. Like I said previously, he works as a journalist but in his spare time, he writes a blog about Bengalese heritage and the physical structures that shaped the heritage.

You can reach his blog here.

In the course of our conversation, I had to ask him a question when we went for dinner at the Sheraz restaurant of Kolkata to round up the tour.

What prompted my question was the physical shape he was in. Partha was sporting a slim body and a flat belly and he was middle aged. Something that is rare for most middle-aged men unless they were health-conscious.

Partha had to be. He learnt a hard lesson from what happened unfortunately to his dad on the health front. Details of that would be spared here.

Staying slim, looking trim and healthy in middle age does not happen by accident. You have to adopt certain habits for that to happen especially as you get older.

This achievement was even more extraordinary given the fact that Partha works as a journalist where being on the road for the most part means healthy eating habits can be quite challenging.

And the Bengal part of India in particular is known for their sweet tooth. That again adds another layer of kudos for anyone in the region who manages to maintain a healthy BMI.

Seriously, West Bengal is awash with sweet confectionaries and the diet has lots of refined carbs. Let’s not mention the fact that West Bengal and probably the whole of India has also been invaded by Western Fast Food outlets. That’s a given.

Obesity rates and type 2 diabetes rates are on the up in India, just like China and it’s not hard to see why.

I should also mention for the sake of balance, that the Indian diet and in particular West Bengal diet also has a good chunk of low glycaemic foods too and they consume lots of fruits and vegetables, which I highly recommend.

> I sampled a lot of the Indian foods on offer, the names of many I cannot remember. I do however remember Iddly, Roti, Chapatti, Luchi, Bhapaa Aloo, Baigun Bhajja, Chor Chori, Momu. Those of us in the West are already familiar with Biryani, Masala, Tandoori, Bhuna etc.

I enjoyed a lot of the culinary experience. It’s nice to visit the homeland and eat the real Indian food and compare with what is served back in the UK.

In the light of the multitude of refined and unrefined carbs on offer along with the oily culinaries, I wanted to know how Partha, my friend, has managed to keep his weight down all these years.

Partha says:

> “My weight has only changed just a little since my high school days and my friends and work colleagues always wonder how I stayed slim after all these years”

Now something like that is always music to my ears. This blog is about healthy living and his strategies for weight maintenance certainly made my ears to perk up.

As he started talking, he was ticking a lot of excellent boxes for healthy living for me.

I could paraphrase him but I felt, he being a journalist, should put in print on this page, how he does it.

So, I asked him if he doesn’t mind sharing his weight management ideas with my readers and he kindly agreed.

…and here he is.

Over to you, Partha. Tell the world and in particular, your Indian folks, how you have remained slim for over 2 decades

How Partha Stayed Slim for over 2 decades

Well, I am 44 years of age at the time of writing. My height is 5 feet 8 inches and I am around 62 Kgs. I can recall, 20 years back when we were stepping into the new millennium, when I weighed less. Yes, had an absolutely flat tummy in those days, I can clearly recall.

Nowadays, my tummy is still relatively flat compared to many folks of similar age to mine. I envy myself actually. I have not gained much weight in the last 20 years.

I do not have a pot belly like most of my friends and colleagues. How?

Well, I love eating but I do not eat much.

I have also been fortunate not have high blood sugar, high blood pressure, cholesterol problems or any other major illness. Perhaps I am lucky enough as I do not have a family history of diabetes.

Not my parents, not my grandparents and as far as I know, not my maternal grandparents. Perhaps genes do play a role in the genesis of these diseases. I should mention though that my father died at a relatively young age from a disease caused by lifestyle.

I learnt my lesson there and then.

Supplied by BMI Calculator UK

How have I maintained my weight and stayed slim after all these years?

>> I do follow a sensible routine for food.

>> I avoid red meat (do not eat Beef, only Mutton twice or thrice in a year). I like Chicken but only two or three days a month.

>> Love eating Fish (especially sweet water fish as very common and popular in my State of West Bengal) just like most Bengalese in lunch and dinner four/ five days in a week.

>> I eat Egg once in a week either in lunch or dinner and we try to add some veg meals in our diet too.

>> I eat plain boiled rice in my lunch and dinner with Daal (lentil etc) and one locally available seasonal vegetable curry, sometimes one piece of fried Brinjal and fish curry/ Chicken curry/ Egg curry.

>> Typically, I avoid desserts at the end of the lunch/ dinner.

> On the weekdays, I prefer to have a heavy breakfast early at around 8.30 am to 9.30 am in the morning.

>> For breakfast, I eat boiled rice with a spoonful of butter, a boiled Egg/ fish curry. It helped me to keep nice and energetic till 3.30 pm/ 4.00 pm in the afternoon.

>> For lunch, I do take one of two piece of Roti/ Chapatti/ Puri with a vegetable curry sometimes at around 4 pm in the hectic weekdays.

>> For dinner, I eat much less than lunch.

>> I avoid potatoes and vegetables that grow below the earth like Potatoes, Carrots, Beetroots etc at night. The reason is their high carbohydrate and thus sugar content. So, I only have them occasionally for dinner.

>> Love eating Chicken Biryanis and Kebabs & Tandoors but I restrict myself to consume all these not more than once in a month.

>> After taking Biryanis for the next couple of days I take a full glass of sweet lime juice/ orange juices/ Pineapple juices. Got a good result!! Yes, it helps me to reduce the fat.

>> I love eating seasonal fruits. I eat one Orange on almost every day throughout the winter. I like Bananas but restrict myself to have it one/ two in a week as it does have a carbohydrate content.

>> I love eating ripe and juicy fruits in the summer months. Love eating nice sweet ripe Mangoes, love Watermelons, Pineapples and Guavas. Apples are little expensive here but will eat apples when I can afford it.

> Bengalese do have a sweet tooth and I am no exception. Yes, I love sweet especially dairy products. Bengal is well known for its exotic locally made dairy products. I love eating these but not much.

>> I used to eat one sweet potato every day, but have recently changed this habit and limited my sweet potato consumption. By limiting Potatoes, I restrict my carb consumption.

>> I do not smoke and I do not drink. Do not love having Tea or Coffee either. Do not consume soft drinks like Coke, Pepsi etc.

>> Rather I prefer to have freshly crushed fruit juices or Coconut water which is available throughout the year in India (other than the hill stations obviously).

eco park kolkata

Dr Joe’s Footnotes

As you can tell, Partha does live a fairly disciplined lifestyle. I know some of you might say what he does is somewhat restrictive but the tips he is sharing here are not prescriptive.

I am not saying you have to do everything he says here.

> What you can do however is pick one or two things he does and incorporate that into your own lifestyle.

For instance, you will notice that, Partha has a heavy breakfast, a lighter lunch and an even lighter dinner.

One way of achieving this is to add a bit of fat to your breakfast. Partha uses butter.

The fat ensures you don’t feel hungry by midday and can keep you going till 4pm. Even then, you don’t feel hungry enough at 4pm to “eat a horse”. Your hunger level will be such that a small amount of lunch will be satisfying enough.

> Partha is subscribing to the tenet of having “Breakfast like a King, Lunch like a Queen and Dinner like a Pauper”.

Doing this works like a charm. You gradually taper your calorie consumption by reducing your meal portions as the day wears on. A very good strategy and it works!

In particular, eating less heavy carbs in the evenings. Most people do the exact opposite and that’s why we are getting fatter as we age.

> Consume more calories when you are very active during the day and consume even fewer calories at night when you are least active. Makes sense?

It also goes without saying that avoiding refined carbs and empty calories is another strategy that Partha has incorporated into his life. Staying away from sweet drinks like Coca cola and Pepsi.

Yes, he eats sweet fruits like Mango, Pineapple, Watermelon, Apples and these fruits have natural sugars too, but that’s okay.

I actually encourage fruit consumption and in the grand scheme of things where Partha has a grip on his overall calorie intake daily, the calorie he gets from the fruits means nothing really, especially as he is quite active.

Besides, fruits provide much more than calories. Fruits have phytonutrients, micronutrients which our bodies need. So, you get a whole lot more when you consume fruits.

One more thing, Partha, just like most Bengalese does admit to having a sweet tooth, but he does not over-indulge. He manages to control it by limiting how often he eats these sweet confectionaries.

Yes, I know we are supposed to enjoy life with these sweet treats, but you can reduce the frequency to once or twice a week. That way you are having your cake and eating it. How cool is that!

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Suggested further reading:
5 Things You Can Do Today To Reduce Your Weight Without Hitting The Gym