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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Sleep quality 'improves with age'

Couple asleep

The belief that older people tend to suffer worse sleep may be false - in fact the reverse may be true, according to US researchers.
A telephone survey of more than 150,000 adults suggested that, apart from a blip in your 40s, sleep quality gets better with age.
Those in their 80s reported the best sleep, says the study in Sleep journal.
A UK sleep researcher said while poor health could affect sleep, it was a "myth" that age alone was a factor.
While universities have equipment which can measure sleep duration and disturbance in study volunteers, this does not always match the volunteer's own opinion on their night's rest.
The research, conducted by the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology at the University of Pennsylvania, instead focused on asking large numbers of randomly selected people about their sleep.
They were also asked about their race, income, education, mood and general health.
While being depressed or having health problems was linked to poor sleep quality, once the researchers had adjusted the results to compensate for this, a distinct pattern emerged.
Instead, they found that complaints about poor sleep quality fell as age rose, with the lowest number of complaints coming from the over-70s.
Middle age blip The only exception to this trend was middle age, where sleep quality was poorer.
Dr Michael Grandner said the original reason for setting up the study was to confirm the precise opposite - that sleep quality declined in old age.
He said: "These results force us to re-think what we know about sleep in older people - men and women."
He suggested that it was possible that older people were sleeping worse, but simply felt better about it.
"Even if sleep among older Americans is actually worse than in younger adults, feelings about it still improve with age."
Professor Derk-Jan Dijk, Professor of Sleep and Physiology and Director of the Surrey Sleep Research Centre, said the study was "interesting".
He said: "We have got to get away from all these myths about ageing - many people are very content with their sleep."
However, he said that asking people for their subjective opinion about sleep patterns could produce answers that were dependent on their mood at the time.
"If you are angry because your boss didn't give you a pay rise, your perception of sleep quality may be very different from someone who is feeling generally content."

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Cure hangover with yoga

Ardha Matsyendrasana

Sit with one knee bent on the ground, now place the other leg across it
With the opposite arm, lock the knee from outside and grasp the foot
Keep other arm behind the back, twist the spine and look back
Hold for 10-30 seconds, breathing normally
Repeat on the other side

Bhungasana and Parvatasana 1&2

Lie down on your stomach
Keep your palms next to your chest
Inhale, arch up
Now, exhale lifting your hips upwards while pressing your head downwards
Your knees should be straight. Repeat this five times breathing correctly


Sit on your heels
Make a fist with both hands keeping the thumb inside
Put your fists on the navel
Inhale deeply. Now exhale completely while bending forward
Hold your posture as long as you can
Do this posture for three times breathing correctly

Kunjal Kriya

Drink six glasses of lukewarm water with one teaspoon of salt per litre. Drink the water very fast.
When the stomach is full, the urge to vomit will occur automatically. Bend forward 90 degrees.
Open the mouth and place the middle and index fingers of the right hand as far back on the tongue as possible and press gently.
The water will gush out from the stomach. Any alcohol remaining in the stomach will come out. Do this kriya before sleeping and after waking up in the morning.


When you begin with Kunjal and follow up with these postures and then the breathing, you will feel as fresh as a daisy! There will be no adverse effect of the alcohol on your body. The postures will help improve blood flow; the breathing techniques will help to oxygenate the blood, thus expanding the blood vessels. The alcohol will quickly be eliminated as a result.

What happens when I get a mouth ulcer?


Those irritating sores in your mouth can be easily avoided.

What's that?
Your mouth hurts and it's not because of excessive speaking. "Ulcers have multiple causes ranging from stress to the big C," says Dr S K Thakur, consultant gastroenterology, Moolchand Medcity, New Delhi. Identify it: A red patch that develops a yellowish centre causing a fair amount of pain, especially during eating and drinking. Think of it as a mouth zit, but don't try to burst it! Besides the inside of your cheeks, you can also get ulcers on your tongue, palate and lips.

Are they contagious?
"Ulcers are of two kinds: Apthous ulcers are not contagious. But cold sores around the lips caused by herpes simplex are.

Nearly 10 per cent of the population gets them," says Dr Arun K Goel, a senior oncology consultant at Galaxy Cancer Institute and Pushpanjali Crosslay Hospital. Minor symptoms are fever, loss of appetite or skin rash. In extreme cases, there can be multiple joint involvement with pain and swelling.

What are the causes?
Most malignant ulcers have a history of tobacco consumption, especially chewing paan-"as mouth resistance drops and elasticity of oral mucosa comes down," says Dr Chanchal Pal, ENT, Moolchand Medcity.

"Most ulcers are due to a deficiency of vitamin B complex, constipation and irregular diet." Dr Goel adds hormonal imbalances, food allergies, stress and lack of sleep to the list. Drop your girl home early sometimes to catch some much-needed shuteye.

Should i worry?
Usually ulcers heal over a short period of time, say our board of experts. A common home remedy is a dab of glycerine on the affected area. If your ulcer insists on making your mouth its permanent home, it could be malignant. "Cancerous ulcers do not heal and tend to increase in size and pain," says Dr Goel. "Since cancer of the oral cavity is a common problem in India, people as well treating doctors need to be aware that cancer can be the cause of the ulcer," he adds.

How can i make it go away?
Man up and bear the pain for a few days, as ulcers will self-heal but the agony is not worth enduring. Why suffer when the cure is easily available with overthe-counter drugs like analgesics and gels.

"Also, avoid spicy food for a few days, up your vitamin intake and try salt water rinses," says Dr Goel. Eating papaya helps. "In severe cases, ulcers may require a biopsy for final diagnosis and steroid therapy," adds Dr Thakur.

Seven deadly signs


When Jay Mehra, MD, met Mudit Arora at a restaurant at Bandra in Mumbai, alarm bells immediately rang with the general practitioner. Noticing Mudit's particularly "fleshy" hand, Jay suspected he had a brain tumour (the condition causes soft tissue deposits in the hands). The diagnosis was confirmed and the tumour successfully removed.

All thanks to a handshake. The lesson is that however innocuous your symptoms, they could be a life-saving early warning. Follow this DIY guide to spot problems before it's too late.

Back pain... It could be a kidney stone
You feel a sharp pain between your ribs and hip, but "because it's often inconsistent, you may put it down to excessive lifting at first," says BUPAUK's assistant medical director Sneh Khemka, MD. It may spell worse news than a postponed date with the barbell, though. "One in 10 men get kidney stones," says Khemka.

"Untreated, they can block urine flow, making your kidney swell. The pain can eventually become so severe it's been described as the closest a man can get to childbirth," says Khemka. Which is a little too much "empathy" for any man to experience.

Act now: "If the pain returns or moves into your groin, see your doctor immediately," says Khemka. Treatment varies from non-invasive sound waves to having a tube inserted somewhere sensitive. You can keep stones at bay with 45 minutes cardio three times a week, according to a research in Medical News Today. "You should also drink 2.5 litres of water a day to prevent stones," says Khemka.

Pain in your foot... It could be a slipped disc

Assuming it's not caused by dropping a dumbbell on your foot, "a herniated or prolapsed disc can produce sharp foot pain," says Dr PK Dave, HOD, orthopaedic, Rockland Hospital, New Delhi.

"Pain is usually worse in the morning and aggravated by sitting. It's commonly missed as a disc problem because there's no back pain." But it won't go away. "Unchecked it will put increasing pressure on the sciatic nerve, which can lead to loss of bladder function and invalidity."

Act now: "Lie on your stomach and do 10 gentle cobra poses (arching your back up and slowly straightening your arms, but keeping your hips on the floor)," says Dr Dave. If the pain eases, you probably have a slipped disc since these extensions relieve the pressure. "Do cobra poses every hour until you can get to a physio."

Bad breath... It could be lung disease
Don't just blame last night's garlic. Bad breath could signal a host of problems Tic-Tacs won't fix. "Lung disease, asthma and cystic fibrosis all cause highly acidic breath," says University of Virginia researcher John Hunt, MD.

"And the more acidic the breath, the more severe the condition." US Dental Association data found that while 90 per cent of cases of bad breath were down to hygiene and gums, the other 10 per cent were linked to systematic infections like lung disease, abscesses, and even liver failure.

Act now: Rule out likely causes: dry mouth, sinus infection, gum disease and smoking by visiting your dentist. "They can also spot signs of mouth cancer, if there is any, that is," says Mumbai-based Dr Sandesh M Mayekar, aesthetic and cosmetic dentist. "Early detection increases your survival chances from 50-90 per cent," Dr Mayekar says.

If the dentist suspects your breath may have a "deeper" cause-like lung disease- they'll refer you to your GP who'll send you for tests to measure its acidity. And if you get the all clear, direct yourself to the nearest Tic-Tac retailer.

Diarrhoea... It could be an overactive thyroid
The tear-jerking tryst with your U-bend is bad enough, but one in 50 of us will suffer the very worst of this hormonal malfunction. Left untreated, the form that most commonly affects young men-Graves' disease-can debilitate muscles and make your hair drop out. It can also lead to severe vision problems. Symptoms include severe bouts of diarrhoea along with dramatic weight loss despite having a healthy appetite.

Act now: Maybe those oysters didn't taste right, but if the diarrhoea lasts several days, coupled with poor sleep or intolerance of heat, it's likely you have a thyroid problem. So see your general physician for blood tests.

Erectile dysfunction... It could be Parkinson's
As if going soft wasn't already hard to swallow, Harvard research recently found that men who reported erectile dysfunction were almost four times more likely to develop Parkinson's disease later in life.

Act now: There's no known way to prevent the disease, though recent research by US neurologists at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota suggests that developing drugs which mimic a protective gene variation could be the key. Don't start panicking already, though. While around a few million men will experience impotence, Parkinson's disease may not be the only culprit. It is more likely to be caused by stress, smoking, alcohol, or injury than Parkinson's disease.

Neck/Shoulder pain... It could be Lyme disease
Aching joints curtailing your gym session? Throbbing headache? Had some al fresco summer loving? Maybe it was just a very good night, but may be you haven't noticed a pencil-point size tick that's latched onto you.

"It's very difficult to spot, so many cases of Lyme disease are only reported when serious symptoms set in," explains David Owen, MD, who specialises in researching the disease. Most of us tend to ignore neck pain thinking it's a mere result of sleeping bad. If you're one of them, you could face meningitis, facial palsy and severe arthritis. So next time you feel the pain in your neck, check thoroughly.

Act now: Along with headaches and muscular aches, look for red lesions. "If you get a bite, avoid squeezing a tick's body and cleanse any skin break with antiseptic," says Owen. "It's difficult to diagnose, so if possible save the tick in a container labelled with date and location, which will help your doctor." Treatment comes in the form of antibiotics.

Leg pain... It could be heart disease
"Leg pain when you're walking or running is a common symptom of cardiovascular disease," says Dr Atul Mathur, director, interventional cardiology at the Escorts Heart Centre, New Delhi.

"Leg pain can be due to orthopaedic problems too. But the narrowing of your spinal cord can choke your arteries. If the pain stops when you stop walking or running, but gets worse when carrying weight, or walking fast, then it's probably an early warning that you're at high risk for heart attack or stroke as the arteries supplying the lower limbs narrow," says Dr Mathur.

Act now: If you're getting leg aches and, particularly, if your father or anyone in the family had heart problems, have your doctor check your cholesterol and blood pressure. You may be referred for an ankle brachial index to measure blood pressure in your legs.

The hard cell


Here's something you won't hear too often on these pages: Think small. Your body's tiniest building blocks-your cells -hold the secret to long life and great health. They are ultimately responsible for everything: Your movement, memories, immune response, even your breathing. If they work, so does everything else. When they fail, it brings on ageing, disease and, eventually, death. Here is the definitive guide to micromanaging your health and putting the inevitable on hold.

1. Charge your body's energy network
Cells are like laptops: They're only as good as their battery life. The miniature AAs inside your cells, called mitochondria, form your body's power grid. They keep everything running, from the neurons that file away memories to the immune cells sent to the front line when you pick up a cold. Treat them right, and research from McMaster University in Canada says you'll boost their performance by 56 per cent. Here's how to do it...

Training: Interval work boosts PGC-1, a protein in your mitochondria, which makes them more efficient. The Canadian study recommends cardio at 100 per cent exertion for 60 seconds followed by active recovery for 75 seconds. Repeat eight times per session and try to work in six sessions over two weeks. This makes you 13 per cent fi tter and your fat burning 36 per cent more efficient. So hit the treadmill hard and fast.

Fuel: Mitochondria launch your body's counterstrike when it's invaded by a virus-anything from a stomach bug to hepatitis. Eat two boiled or poached eggs a day in order to boost your immunity. They will provide your RDA of selenium, an essential chemical building block that helps the mitochondria kick off your immune response. Don't like eggs? Try cheese melted on whole-wheat toast for an evening snack.

2. De-stress your DNA
Stress wears down your cells. "Chronic stress can take years off your life, and this happens at the cellular level," says Elissa Epel, a psychologist at the University of California. Her research found that if you cut the effects of anxiety, the cellular reward amounts to 10 extra years of healthy micro-machines.

Training: Secure that extra decade with endurance training. An hour of running, cycling or swimming reverses the effects of stress on the body by preserving the chromosomes that house your genetic code, in every cell in your body. A study at the University of Applied Sciences in Saarbrucken, Germany, found that the effect is most pronounced when you hit a heart rate of 60-70 per cent of your maximum.

Fuel: A mid-morning cuppa does more than power you through your 10.30 meeting. Research in the British Journal of Nutrition found that men who drink three cups of tea a day clock up an extra five years. It cuts the stress hormone cortisol, which causes wear and tear on cells. Lemonade has also been shown to reduce the physical effects of stress-ensuring that good things come from your small packages.

3. Your tiny life-extenders
Excluding New Delhi auto drivers and your nagging girlfriend, your lifespan is largely controlled by what's going on inside your cells. Research from King's College London shows you can slow the ageing process right down if you look after your telomeres.

These tiny caps of DNA protect your chromosomes from decline, just like the plastic caps on the ends of your shoe laces. Keep them healthy and "the difference corresponds to nine years of ageing," says study author Lynn Cherkas. Better start thinking of ways to annoy the great-grandchildren.

Training: Doing less than 30 minutes' cardio a day buys you time by preserving those tiny caps. Try a 20-minute circuit of squats, lunges, hip raises, pressups and crunches, rotating every 10 repetitions. This increases your levels of telomerase, an enzyme that extends the working life of your precious cells.

Fuel: High-melatonin oats and cherries protect your cells by helping you sleep. Research in Respiratory Medicine shows a lack of sleep wears away your telomeres. A multi-vitamin each day will also do the trick.

4. Keep your heart ticking
Heart disease, one of the biggest killers among Indian men, can be explained-and prevented -by events taking place at the microscopic level. Like the rest of your body, the cells in your heart regenerate over time.

"At the age of 50, 55 per cent of the heart's cells remain from the time around birth and 45 per cent have been generated later," says Bruce Buchholz, a researcher at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in the United Kingdom. When the cells don't regenerate properly, it can lead to 'myocardial damage'-which can lead to a heart attack. Here's how to keep the beat...

Training: Try heavygoing hypertrophy, where you lift up to 80 per cent of your single-rep max for 5-8 reps. A study in Clinical Medicine and Research found this beefs up the width in your heart cells, making the tissue in your heart thicker and better able to pump blood around the body.

Fuel: Protein from a post-workout chicken stir-fry with green vegetables fortifies your cells' outer shells. University of Iowa research found that stronger cell membranes in heart tissue reduces the risk of heart attack. Where's that takeaway menu?

Confront your addiction

border=0Some of us know our limits. Others don't. But even fewer know why addiction happens in the first place. The seeds of the disease-happy hours, one-night stands, risky wagers-define masculinity itself. Are you man enough to look at your worst habits?

It's a simple story. My friend turned into a cat. He turned a corner and disappeared. The white colonnade multiplied manifold, the crows spread their menacing wings. And I found myself waiting for the bus that would take me. Somewhere.

I had just found my freedom, the sprawling campus was full of possibilities. The grass was always greener on this side. Literally. It was love at first puff. It made the days bearable and my nights fantastic. Everything was larger than life. We utilised lecture time. I tried writing.

Ravi made crazy sketches. Vishal penned lyrics, which he later hummed along with his guitar, as we sat on the pavement in front of our favourite dhaba. Sunny wasn't particularly good at anything, but he always thought of the craziest things to do, and sponsored our most expensive adventures.

The music throbbed in my temples, and lights blinded me. I was thrilled to be liberated from the mundane, there was so much to do. Even going to the movies became a mind-blowing experience. And this was way before 3-D. Parties started at sundown, and never ended. I resented the restrictions at the hostel, and moved out to live with one of my girlfriends. But that's a love story.

Short, dim days

At some point, I started running out of breath, as though I was on a treadmill that was too fast for me. I was surprised at myself. Tired of having fun? Back-to-back marijuana joints didn't give me even half as much fun as that first joint had. On some days, attending the party was more like a social commitment. On some days, I wanted to close my eyes and rewind, to slow down.

But after a day of trying to focus on lectures, a comrade would leisurely lay out the cigarette paper, fill it with the good stuff, and seal my fate. Meanwhile, I was struggling to attain passing marks. I received a stern warning from my folks, who were financing my bohemian lifestyle. The message was clear: if I didn't shape up, I would have to come home. That shook me up a little. I wanted to write.

The struggle
I made a compromise: study during the week, party only on the weekends. The week was a real drag, but I managed to squeeze in few drags too. The weekend was screaming out to spill over into Thursday and Monday! I was just getting by. But some of my friends weren't.

Lost friends

Ravi eventually dropped out of the graduation course and went on to do graphic design. We got together now and then, and he always made the best reefers. His job was way too cool. His timings were flexible, and he could get by with his great concepts. I wasn't so lucky. I had to actually work for a living, which, I realised was expensive, even without the ganja. And writing didn't pay. But a few years down the line, things changed. Ravi dropped in at odd hours. Sometimes he needed money. Mostly, he was between jobs. He was talented, but somewhere he had lost it.

Too much fun
It seems there is actually no such a thing as too much fun. Studies reveal that the survival mechanism in the human brain involves a very delicate neurochemical equilibrium. Normally, our system is first motivated to do something, like hunt or have sex, and then we are rewarded with a feeling of pleasure. This feeling is very well-achieved artificially by means of alcohol, gambling and a whole range of psychotropic drugs. First you want it, then you get it. The space between wanting and getting is crucial for this system. Once overtaxed by excessive pleasure, it starts becoming a torture.

Men who pause
But it doesn't just end here. Like I said, there were many girls who smoked up almost as much. But most of them are well-settled into their careers today, and two of them got married and had babies. As it turns out, we have been dealt bad card here. We are physically better equipped to absorb the impact of alcohol and most drugs, and that should be an advantage, right? Wrong.

Findings show that the aggregate impact from alcohol and other addictions is much higher in men. According to a study in the American Journal of Psychiatry, the brain's frontal lobes, responsible for decision-making, is active in female drug users who are trying to quit, but the opposite happens to the male brain. In short, when we are tempted, our decision-making system shuts down, and we follow the impulse.

A clean-up act
It doesn't take a genius to figure out that an addicted man becomes a lonely man. His social support system dwindles rapidly. I bowed out of Ravi's invitations more than once, feeling guilty for letting a friend down. It takes a lot to tell yourself that you need help.

I have known people that have cleaned up overnight. But more than that, I have known people who have taken the support of friends and family. One push from the system can set the right triggers in place, and before you know it, you might be getting your kicks from lifting iron instead of a bottle.

-John Sarkar

The first hit

All it took for me was an adventurous girlfriend to begin my 20-year love affair with nicotine.

Last time I was sober, man I felt bad/ Worst hangover that I ever had/ It took six hamburgers and scotch all night/Nicotine for breakfast just to put me right/ 'Cause if you wanna run cool/... you got to run/ On heavy, heavy fuel... Dire Straits.

Heavy fuel it's been for me. Call me a Knopfler fan or his victim, I went 22 years before my first cigarette. Since that first time when this concoction of carcinogens wafted into my unsuspecting lungs, it's been more than a decade spent huffing, living with a perpetually sore throat… and yes, I still cannot perfect those loops.

A heady rush

This is not about quitting. This is about that first time I got hooked. I knew I was messing around, but every time my lungs took the hit, the ground seemed to rush up at me in compensation…it felt much better than all the highs I had known till then. Smoking, at that age, didn't seem like a big risk. Like every boy my age who didn't like commitments, I too fooled myself into thinking I will keep it short. Or so I thought.

The tutor
"Let the smoke flow smoothly into your lungs…inhale deeply to avoid coughing." She had recently broken off with my best friend and was with me on rebound. I didn't want her to say I too was a loser. It tasted like hell; I couldn't stop coughing. "Don't worry," she reassured me. "The first few drags are never pleasant. Take smaller puff s." And then it happened: The rush, that heady, euphoric tingling feeling… and I was hooked. "Be careful," my tutor warned, "don't let the smoke get into your nose. You are not ready for it yet." My friends say I am a quick learner and I didn't disappoint her on this one either.

Late but not never
Why did I start at all? I don't know. Perhaps to look cool. Yeah right! I am only 20 years too late to ask myself "What if". I was impetuous, no doubt, but the nicotine seemed to help me reorder my priorities more easily than anything else. Why did I do it? Blame it on youthful precociousness and the profundity with which it paints even the mundane with a brilliant future. Like Mark Twain said, since then, I have realised quitting smoking is the easiest thing I ever did…I ought to know because I have only done it a thousand times!

-Bobby John Varkey


As a food addict, There's only one thing I found difficult to swallow: The truth.

You think, Surely that's not . . . And, Yes, it is. And, Oh, God! And, What time is it, anyway? Your denial skills allow you to respond to the moment of horror, make the necessary mental readjustment, block out the horror, and carry right on walking. As a fat guy, you become adept at denial on many levels. You always carry in your head at least two versions of what you look like, ranging from trim to slightly overweight. The real you-the engorged belly, the treble chin, the moon face-gets buried.

The moment

I was in denial about something else, too- the very fact that I was a compulsive overeater. There I'd be, at my fattest, cruising along the sidewalk toward the golden arches of a McDonald's. Still, there I'd go, walking toward the arches, fully intending not to walk under the arches. Smelling the oil, the meat, the buns. Fully intending not to wait in line and order some fries. And then, click. Something would happen. I'd turn. I'd duck under the arches. I'd stand in line. This is the exact moment of denial. The moment you tend to ignore.

Food for thought
As you gaze at the golden arches, you may believe you're still in possession of judicial powers. But you're not. At this stage, you have only executive powers. Your status as the master of your own destiny is entirely ceremonial. And then you step inside the binge, and, for a brief moment, it's a wonderful place to be. Inside the binge, you are outside of yourself. Here, objects are sharper, more clearly defined. Your hunger is bigger; the objects of your hunger look smaller. Inside the binge, you are pure appetite-pure aspiration. Nothing else. You have created a time zone more present than the present.

Blocking out reality
Meanwhile, where's the real world-the world of being fat, the world of lumbering, of ugliness? You've banished it. It doesn't exist. It has been denied. Can there be yet another level of denial? Of course. Eventually, I went into therapy to talk about why I liked to overeat, or rather to talk about why I overate despite hating myself for doing it. This emerged: I was overeating in order to deny difficult emotions. I'd been doing this since I was a kid. I realised that the compulsive cycle- stepping into a binge, having a binge, feeling guilty about the binge, embarking on another binge-was a technique my mind had dreamed up to distract me from my darker thoughts.

Big, fat truth
What I learned about my addictions was that it wasn't exactly burgers, or booze, or marijuana, or, during the periods when I lost weight, random sexual encounters that I craved, so much as craving itself. Addiction is about wanting to be hungry, about the need to be unsatisfied. This, it turned out, was the truth that, for the longest time, I sought to deny.

-William Leith

Hitting bottom

At what point does sex become a drug? The day it tears your life apart.

When he hit rock bottom it was shoulder-first. Someone was yanking his arm and dragging him towards a dark blue van waiting nearby. He didn't try to resist.

From Kolkata's famous red light district Sonagachi, Anand was taken to the nearest police station, and locked up for the night. Unaware, his mother fell asleep while waiting for him at the dinner table.

Strange but true
He was 18, all set to get into Kolkata's best college. Snehe Shmita, the hottest girl in his class, was his. They'd gone out for a date, and after dropping her home, he felt a familiar obsession stirring. He stopped a rickshaw and got in. The cheap neon lights in the dingy North Kolkata bylanes hit him like fireflies. The women were waiting.

Dangerous pastime
Anand couldn't stop thinking about women. As a kid he had wet dreams about his teachers. He tried his luck with the maids in his house and was thrashed by his mother, more than once. It didn't work. At his friends' parties, he would try to hit on any woman, regardless of consequences and physical attractiveness. Slowly, he earned a reputation. Despite a loving and attractive girlfriend, Anand would drool at the mere thought of visiting brothels. His friends knew by then that Anand was a sex addict.

Living on a prayer
After every escapade, Anand would be so relieved about getting away with it that he would punish himself. He'd go to a temple. "I won't smoke anymore. I will never cheat on Snehe Shmita again," he would pray.

Dying hard
Today, Anand is a happy man. He is a VP at a well-known KPO, is married to Snehe Shmita, and the two of them have an apartment at a swanky Kolkata neighbourhood. He even manages to go to the gym. But once in a while, Anand will take a detour on his way back home from work, and drive towards where the old neon lights still burn bright-like fireflies.

-John Sarkar


I wanted to get clean, but smart money gagged me and made my life hell.

First try and I struck gold. All the spoils came my way too quick and easy. After three consecutive victories and neatly stacked `1000 bills stashed in my big fat wallet, I was up for a fantastic ego massage and a good night's sleep. This was the first time I ever played 'Teen Patti' and boy oh boy, dead chuffed I was. What's the term for this? Beginners luck, eh?

Riding on hope

From that day on, this addiction lasted another three years. Days and nights were devoured practising cards with family, friends and whosoever was even remotely interested in gambling (even the night watchman wasn't spared). I was happy, my friends were hospitable, professional life was booming, I was paying my monthly bills on time, father was comfortable and the morning tea tasted as crisp as a newly-wed wife.

Life was perfect. Though in due course I won and lost a great deal, it was never as perennially stressful as it became in the years to come. I realised, it's not the game that grabs you by the collar but the sheer kick of hope it creates. That explains why I kept coming back for more. After a brief hiatus, I was back on the table hustling with my hard-earned money.

Sledge hammered

When the bets were placed, Rs 20,000 for a blind, I became extremely nervous and edgy. Riding on luck I hoped to put up a good show. I was wrong. I lost five games in a row. Gambling is tricky business and you end up losing more than you win. The ratio is often skewed 3:1. Three times you lose, one time you win. I was bleeding heavy.

Soon, my Breitling, my imported Scotch whiskies and for god's sake, even my car, went on the line. Debts piled up and tension was on an all time high. Coming back home or meeting friends wasn't a pleasant feeling any more. The morning tea tasted like left-over wine, professional life took a beating, taunts from relatives and friends became commonplace and all this coupled with social ostracisation and the imminent possibility of losing my job due to non-performance turned me into a nervous wreck.

Turning point
The turning point in my life was when one day an epiphany struck me on my way back home from office. I decided to seek professional help. Slowly, this made my life more manageable and stress-free. Though I've still not given up gambling, (I play with a group of close friends on special occasions), I've resisted the temptation of wantonly betting away a fortune, and my life. And all this taught me one important lesson. Hope is good, but restraint is better.

-Abhimanyu Chakravorty