30 and Learning has moved!!

Not too long ago, 30 and Learning blog celebrated its first anniversary. To keep the forward momentum and the process of learning going, 30 and Learning now has its own address on the web:

Along with a YouTube vlog!

I was hoping that this site will automatically get mapped to the new address but looks like that didn’t happen. I am hoping that everyone who has supported me this past year will continue to support me in this new endeavor as well.

Thank you for all the love and giving me the courage to take these steps forward!



US Immigration: Even Hillary and Trump don’t get it


A message for the Presidential candidates: the problems of immigration go well beyond the issue of illegal immigration. With no caps on certain kinds of visas, and excessive and redundant vetting processes for the same group of people, Homeland Security budget and resources are being wasted, workload is overwhelming, and frankly, unnecessary; hard working people remain stuck in limbo for decades while problems at the borders continue to remain. Two approaches, both extreme and flawed in their own way, yet neither truly comprehensive or groundbreaking… And the reason? Because people don’t understand the full scope of the issue. People like me don’t speak up because we have too much to lose. But I lost it all once already and I survived. So I am talking, and hoping that one day my message will be heard by America.


Weeks 2 and 3: Here comes the plateau!!



Why do I have photo of food here? Because it is time to finally fine tune the diet as I have hit the dreaded PLATEAU!

Already? You say. Well, yes and allow me to explain why. Maintaining a near 7000-calorie deficit for 3 weeks is not easy. Like I said in an earlier post, with this style of weight loss, at first the body will simply react to the change and shed pounds quickly, but slowly it will start getting adjusted to the new conditions and the resulting weight-loss will be less drastic. In order to do this, the body starts to slow down its metabolism in an effort to align its energy requirement with the nourishment it is receiving. Ultimately, the evolutionary instinct kicks in and the body goes into what is called the starvation mode.

Our hunting-gathering, nomadic ancestors did not have a steady supply of food. Possibly, they went through periods when they did not catch any game, or were crossing through a desert and didn’t have access to plant-based foods. In order to cope with these situations, the body developed the starvation mode wherein it slows down its metabolic rate to the point where it is only sustaining the vital functions in order to stay alive. We may have come a long way from that lifestyle but the body hasn’t forgotten how and when to turn on the starvation mode. Once the body registers such a crisis we hit what we call the weight-loss plateau- when we cannot lose even an ounce of weight despite our most Herculean efforts. Depending on how much energy reserves, aka fat, your body has, this process can take anywhere from two to several weeks. I did not have that much to lose to begin with, so I plateaued in 3 weeks. This is the reason I did not post any updates last week because I did not have anything to report.

So a drastic calorie deficit isn’t going to work for me any longer. In order to start seeing results again, I must up my food intake. It may sound counter-intuitive but as I explained above, starving can only take you so far on your road to fitness. But I don’t want this increase in diet to be mindless. Typically, the recommended ratio of fat to protein to carb is something like 20%, 20-30% and 50-60% respectively. This is more or less what I was consuming during my initial 3 weeks. When I am focusing on building muscle and cutting carbs, I strive for 30/40/30. Since this is where I want to end up in few weeks, I am going to increase my calories in such a way that my carbs come down a little and protein goes up.

Based on my MyPlate data from yesterday, I had consumed little over 1,000 calories 30% of which came from fat, 30% from protein and 40% from carbs. I am going to continue this for sometime and see if anything changes. Ultimately, I am going to reduce carbs further to 30% and up protein to 40%- but I will let you know when that time comes.

A lot of people are unsure about how to reduce carbs and increase protein, especially without compromising on taste. I am a big foodie and I definitely cannot eat plain grilled chicken breast for every single meal. I am not a serious body builder, maybe for those who are that is the only way. But I have managed to come up with some recipes that are packed with protein and are still super yummy. Below is one such recipe (pictured above) and it is really quite simple- chicken tortilla soup.


1 can diced tomatoes

1 cup chopped onions

1 cup chopped peppers

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

16 oz chicken breast

Taco seasoning and salt to taste

Sharp cheddar cheese, cilantro and whole wheat tortilla for topping


  1. Sautee onions and peppers in 1 tbsp oil. Set aside
  2. Rub chicken breasts with salt and hint of paprika. Braise and set aside
  3. In a slow cooker, add sauteed vegetables and beans. Place the chicken breasts next and pour a can of diced tomatoes on top. Add some water or chicken stock to make sure the chicken is completely submerged. Add taco seasoning, some salt, cover and let it cook on high for 2-3 hours 

NOTE: taste the taco seasoning to check how much salt is already in there before adding any extra

Once the stew cools down to room temperature, use a fork to shred the chicken. Check for seasoning and adjust as necessary. I added half a teaspoon of sugar to bring out all the flavors.

When ready to eat, sprinkle some cilantro and cheddar cheese on top (I add about 2 tbsp) and set under the broiler until the cheese melts. Chop half of the whole wheat tortilla into pieces and toast in a frying pan with very little olive oil. And there you have it, some flavorful and healthy tortilla soup!

Since I am not cutting carbs right now, I allow myself to have the whole wheat tortilla with the soup. But when I do, I will simply increase the amount of chicken in the recipe, reduce the amount of beans and take away the tortilla- as simple as that!

Below is the nutritional info for the soup (sans cheese and tortilla) based on the above list of ingredients. I portioned the soup into 6 servings. If you do it differently, simple take below values, multiply them by 6 and divide by the number of portions you make.

Total calories………225

Fat (in gm)…………….3

Carbs (in gm)………..19

Protein (in gm)……..23

As you can see, this soup is already full of protein and most of the carbs come from beans which isn’t all sugar but a whole lot of fiber! So this one is a definite winner on all counts. Additionally, soups make an excellent meal during colder weather, and this one is just perfect with the slight heat from the taco seasoning. Hope you will give it a try and enjoy this yummy goodness 🙂

I will report back on my success in the coming weeks.

Until then, stay fit!



US Immigration: I don’t get it!

Part 1 of a look at US immigration vs UK’s immigration because the latter are clear about what they want. US seems to be wasting its time and resources on meaningless rules instead of putting them to good use. And in the process, it is depriving its immigrant population of their human rights. An American once told me that if I am looking for ethical treatment I should just leave the US- is that America’s message to the rest of the world? 

Below is a transcript to the video:

The NY NJ bombing- I am sure everyone has their own opinion on the event and the suspect who is in custody. Reading about his background what most affected me was a report that alleged that the suspect’s father was opposed to his son’s “Americanization”. Now, this family was admitted as refugees and granted US citizenship by the government. So what I don’t understand is that how can one want to be an American, then become an American and resent being Americanized?

Clearly, the system is not working and the plethora of rules that are in place are either not enough, or as I feel, are excessive and ineffective. But I’m not here to point fingers, I just want to understand why all of this has made my life so painfully complicated. When I say ‘my life’ I am not literally talking about myself but about many others like me who are trying to legally immigrate to the US and are not opposed to being Americanized, in case we aren’t already.

I will not repeat the platitudes about US and immigrants. Despite its history, a country has the right to be for or against immigration. It is plainly obvious to me that the US is against immigration but why don’t they make rules that clearly send that message escapes me. I think it is fair to say that the US and the UK are two countries at par with each other, and since the Brexit vote it won’t be entirely unfair to say that the British don’t want immigrants. And yet, their rules are more straightforward and, more importantly, more humane than those of US immigration. I want to compare some of these rules to highlight not just how it is making lives complicated for those us who want to do the right thing, but also how the US government is wasting its budget on redundant and bogged down procedures instead of using it for border protection.

I don’t have any stats but speaking strictly from experience, most immigrants come to the US as students. Granted, a student visa is not an immigrant intent visa- that is to say that when you come here as a student, you don’t intend to settle down. You plan to get your education and go back to your country. But that is not always true. When I came here as a student, I wasn’t entirely sure if I wanted to stay or go back. Anyway, when you come as a student you don’t get exposed to the normal life, so to speak, and it is not then that one decides whether he/she wants to stay or leave. Now in the UK, a student has only 3 months after graduation to find employment or leave the country. Additionally, if they find a job, they convert to a work visa, a Tier 2 visa. But in the US, a student can get up to 3 years for “optional practical training” after graduation and during this time they are still on a student visa. Essentially, you have 3 full years to not just start a job but to start a life without even getting a work visa. Now in those 3 years one can definitely decide that they want to settle down here.

From the government’s point of view, if you know a student visa is your biggest source of immigration, why wouldn’t you cap it? Or take away the option of letting people stay on for 3 additional years after graduation. Forget the impact it will have on the volume of people coming in, but can you imagine the time it will free up when the officers don’t have to review all this extra paperwork? This is exactly the kind of disconnect that I don’t understand- saying one thing and then going out and doing something completely different.

The next thing I don’t understand- why is a migrant worker owned by an employer? In the UK, the employer issues a certificate of sponsorship which the applicant takes to the government, along with other documents, and applies for a work visa for himself or herself. Not the case here in the US; here, the employer applies for the worker. Now I fully support the idea of job advertisement and salary verification. The government must ensure that its citizens are not at any disadvantage. So the employer must advertise the said position and prove that it interviewed domestic as well as foreign candidates but picked a foreign candidate because he or she was a better fit. They should also prove that they will pay this person the same salary and benefits that they would have paid a citizen. But the employer’s role should end there. After this the person should be free to take these documents supplied by the employer and apply for a work visa independently.

Because what happens in the US is that since the employer owns a person’s visa they can withdraw it at any time, without any notice, without any discussion. So let’s say that if my employer terminates me today, the government expects me to leave the country tomorrow. What if I have a home, well, I can abandon it for all they care. If I have kids in school, too bad, they just have to drop out and repeat the year elsewhere. In the UK, if an employer terminates the employment, they notify the government who then review the case and give the person 60 days to either find new employment or leave the country. And note that the 60 days don’t start from the time the person was let go but from the time the government reaches a decision.

So then does the US hate its tax paying immigrants so very much that it will turn them into an employer’s property and leave them open to harassment and abuse? Or does the government think that employers are the epitome of morality and would never abuse this power? Because seriously, it can happen to a migrant worker that he or she walks into his manager’s office and the manager says undress for me or I will fire you. Perhaps the government thinks that we should walk around with wires on our person all the time because how else can we prove what is said to us behind closed doors? And we are obviously not given any time to say our side if an employer decides to abruptly terminate us. Manager’s word is final, notice period is not mandatory and the employer does not have the burden to prove why they revoked a visa prior to its expiry date.

Trust me, if a terrorist wanted to enter the US, he or she will definitely not follow this route. But in its misplaced efforts to tighten its grip on immigrants, the government has wrongfully turned the lot of us into economic slaves. Being owned by an employer does nothing to ensure that the person will not commit any crimes. So what is the point of this rule?

To conclude this part, if the US does in fact want to put an end to immigration, it needs to start at the source. Exploiting migrant workers is not the way to go about it. We are the hard working, tax paying, honest lot. In the next part, I would like to look at other aspects of immigration and continue the discussion whether these rules are more disruptive or beneficial.

Week 1: Weight Loss Basics


This is my second post in the series of fitness routine and includes an update on my progress and the basics of weight loss…

Starting with progress, I will be honest, I am too embarrassed to share my ‘BEFORE’ picture on its own! So it will have to wait until I have a progress picture to go with it :D. But in my first week, I have lost 2 lbs and now am down to 108 lbs. I haven’t bothered checking my body composition because I just want to lose weight right now.

Now the basics of weight loss. We all already know that in order to lose weight, we need to create a calorie deficit. As long as calories-in is less calories-out, there will be a calorie deficit and the body will be forced to use its reserves. Most of us also know that in order to lose 1 lb we need to create a deficit of 3500 calories. Spread it over a 7-day week, and that’s 500 calories a day if you want to lose weight at the rate of a pound per week. Anything over 2 lbs/week can be seriously dangerous and, I can assure you, that such weight loss will not be permanent. In my last post I mentioned that I had lost 10 lbs in 10 days, but bear in mind that I wasn’t drinking water or other fluids during that time either. I would say, a glass a day was probably the most water I got during those 10 days. So not only was I losing weight from stored fat and muscles, I was also getting dehydrated.

Another thing to consider is that the body does not strictly follow such linear math. Weight loss, in my experience, is more like a log curve- you tend lose a lot of weight initially but with time that rate keeps declining and ultimately hits the infamous plateau! So although a 7000-calorie deficit might help you lose 2 lbs in week 1, depending on how much weight you have to lose, it may not be the same in, say, week 6. So stay patient. More on that when we, I mean, I get there!

In terms of work out I am doing the basic stuff. I joined a 3-week boot camp class (Fit Body Boot Camp) that involves some serious high intensity cardio and strength training. I am going to stay away from weight training right now. Even for the strength training portion of the class, I go light on weights. So when my instructor tells us to do squats, I stick with body weight instead of picking up a dumbbell. The simple reason for this is that I am not giving my body enough nourishment to really reap the benefit of lifting heavy weights. Lifting heavy weights causes micro tears in the muscles, hence the soreness afterwards, and it is in the process of repairing that these muscles become bigger, stronger. But in order to repair, the body needs copious amounts of protein that I cannot supply when I am trying to create a deficit. So stay away from those weights for now. We will have plenty of serious lifting to do later!

If you are going to work out at home, like I will once the 3 weeks are over, I will do HIIT 2-3 times a week and other types of cardio for remaining 1-2 days.

HIIT, High Intensity Interval Training, is all the rage these days but honestly, if you can get 40-minute worth of work done in 20, why wouldn’t you go for it! But if you are new, ease your way into it. I have an elliptical at home so here is what I do:

2 minutes of warm up at a medium pace – able to talk

1.5 minutes of medium-high pace – able to talk but feeling slightly out of breath

30 seconds of as-high-as-I-can-go pace – don’t ask me to do anything, I just want these 30 seconds to be over! This is the high intensity interval.

Repeat this 2-minute set of medium-high and intense pace intervals up to but no more than 10 times. Cool down for 5 minutes.

You can really turn any cardio workout into a HIIT session, just follow the basic idea of medium-high pace for 1-2 minutes and high intensity pace for 20-30 seconds, and repeat for a total workout lasting 15-20 minutes, maybe 30.

That is that about work out during week 1 up until we hit our desired weight. Now on to food. The important thing to remember is that although we have to eat less it does not mean we have to compromise on nutrition. Simply make each calorie count. What I have in the picture above are some of my staples these days. I LOVE LOVE LOVE bread! But I also like to avoid grains and processed foods as much as possible. So protein bread is a blessing for me. Each slice has 10 gms of protein which is pretty good for a bread. Coconut water is a natural electrolyte and a great go-to drink post workout. Another great drink is kombucha- I love that stuff. I even make my own. I will cover that is another post but if you haven’t tried it yet, I’d say do it! And finally there are the all-organic RX bars- yummy with the sweet and salt but they come in other flavors as well. I’ve heard blueberry is really good too. Besides these items, other products that I am consuming these days include a protein smoothie, oatmeal, 1 or 2 fruit a day, lots of veggies, and nuts for snacking if I feel uncontrollably hungry. I am eating some chicken but I find it easier to control calories when I eat things that are already packaged and portion-controlled, like an RX bar.

Using any calorie counter, I use Livestrong’s MyPlate app, determine your daily calorie requirement based on your lifestyle. Remember to do this for maintenance level. If you select your target as “lose a pound per week” or such, the calculator will automatically factor in the deficit needed. I prefer to do that myself. Mine was little over 1250. Again, using MyPlate, I estimated that I was consuming about 850 calories a day. For the life of me, I cannot find where my HRM is so I estimated that I must be burning about 500 calories per session of boot camp. Now let’s do some math!

Calories needed       : 1250

Calories consumed :(850)

Deficit                         : 400

Calories burned       : 500

Total deficit               : 900

So that is about a 1000 calorie daily deficit. But there are rest days and days when I end up going out for dinner. We all have those days. All I can say is that do your best to compensate and stagger these days. So don’t eat out on your rest day. If you eat out, work out extra the following day. If you know in advance that you are going to be dining out, adjust calories in advance, and try to watch what you order. But hey, life is too short to give up on good food, so just do your best!

That is all about week 1. I will be back with more updates on my progress and maybe some healthy recipes.

Stay fit!






Jumpstarting a Fitness Routine


And I am back! I have to say that for a fleeting moment I did wonder if I had, in fact, become more popular through my absence. Or perhaps I was being watched (still am!). There is no way to tell, all I have are dozens of “new view” notifications for my blog page, but regardless, it is gratifying to know that I haven’t been entirely forgotten. I have never felt the need to watch someone, or worry about what is being said about me when I am not listening. I have faith in myself and a clear conscience, and other people’s opinion of me, as hurtful as may be at times, does not alter the way I see myself. I expect the same in return so I am going to assume that I have suddenly been ‘discovered’! So thank you, my new readers, and I hope you will stick around 🙂

But leaving all that aside and sticking with the theme of how I see myself, and as the title and featured image have already given away, this post is about fitness. Yes, fitness, one of the three things I wanted to write about when I decided to reinvent this blog. But back then I did not know where to start. I felt like I was already on a path and it did not make sense to start at some arbitrary point midway. But things are different now. Now I have regressed and am back at the beginning. So as I restart my journey, and hopefully, make it to the end this time, I want to document it, and perhaps help anyone else who would like to travel alongside.

I have been fitness conscious since my early teens but I have never stuck to an exercise routine consistently. Consequently, my body type was always changing as well although I never went to any extremes. I was never really pudgy and I was never skinny either. But then couple of years ago I got pill-induced dysphagia. In simple words, a pill got stuck in my esophagus because I didn’t take it with enough water and caused a lesion leading to difficulty in swallowing. I remember waking up one night with severe pain in my chest. I wondered if I was having a heart attack, didn’t know what else to make of it and frankly, unless you’ve had one, how are you supposed to know what exactly a heart attack pain feels like. I tried drinking some water but the pain spiked as I tried to swallow it. So that was the start. Fast forward to the end of no eating and minimal drinking, and one trip to the ER in between to get an IV of fluids, I had lost 10 lbs in 10 days and at a mere 93 lbs, I was, for the first time ever, skinny.

Eventually, I started working out and eating carefully and gained back the 10 lbs while maintaining the same body fat percentage. It took me close to 18 months to get there, although it wasn’t a continuous process. I had several periods of break in between where I was either not working out consistently, or not eating right, or both. Since August of this year, I haven’t followed a workout routine and was a total pig while I was in India. As a result now I am 110 lbs and 19% body fat. It is not bad, but it is a far cry from the 15% BF athletic body type that I was striving toward. Hence, in a way this is a fresh start and a perfect beginning for this series.

I wish I had better pictures but back then I didn’t know I was going to write this post. Still, if you look closely, my arm looks rather skinny in the first picture, and I am pretty pleased with the way my abdomen looks in the second. If I had continued with my diet and workout plan, I could have dropped another tedious percentage of body fat and revealed some abs definition! Oh well, this time I know how to get there so at least it won’t be as difficult. But before I set a target, I want to do some math, love me some math!

For below calculations: weight in lbs * BF% = fat in lbs

                                            weight in lbs – fat in lbs = muscle in lbs


Weight in lbs                  Fat in lbs                 Muscle in lbs

93                                         15                                 78                    @ 16% BF

103                                       16.5                              86.5                @ 16% BF

Gain                                   +1.5                              +8.5



110                                        21                                  89                  @ 19% BF



105                                        16                                  89                  @ 15% BF


Before I go further, a disclaimer, this is not a scientific method, this is my own personal way of breaking down weight loss into some sort of a science, not the same as science. I like numbers, that’s just how I make sense of things, you are free to come up with your own method.

Moving on, what the first set of numbers tells me: attain the desired body fat percent first, even if it means losing some muscle in the process, and then add back muscle and proportionate amount of fat to maintain the percent.

Looking at my current stats and my target, I might be doing fine in the muscle department but it is all hidden under a layer of fat. So my goal, ultimately, is to lose 5 lbs of fat only, however, that is not possible. In order to lose the fat, I am going to have to create a calorie deficit, which also means compromising on my protein consumption, read: losing muscle. It also means focusing on cardio instead of weight training. Lastly, 105 lbs is just an arbitrary value I picked up based on how I looked at 103 lbs. At 103 lbs, I wanted to lose another %age point in body fat content. I could have either selectively lost fat (-1), less likely, or have reduced some fat (-0.5) and increased some muscle (+2.5), more likely, hence a net gain of 2 lbs. I might reset this target as I begin approaching it based on how I look and feel.

Like I said before, it is not possible to selectively lose or gain fat only, so if I want to end up at 105 lbs with the desired body composition, I will try to go below it first and build my way up to it. My aim in the coming weeks: cardio, lots of it, and reduced calorie intake until my total weight drops below 105 lbs. At that point, I will recheck my body composition and take it from there.

This is my introductory post to this series. In the next post, I will get into the specifics of this first deficit phase, like what I eat, what workouts I do and some meaningful BEFORE pictures 😉

PS: I am a shortie (5’2″) so these weights are within a healthy range for me. Make sure to check your BMI to find the appropriate weight range for yourself. Note that body composition ratios vary for men and women.

Happy Staying Fit!!



Talk immigration? Or should someone have to die for a story to be heard?

Unless there is destruction, nothing seems to capture the attention of people these days. Someone carries out one act of destruction and it is all over the news- local, national, even worldwide, as long as there is enough casualty. It seems that the attention that a story will get is directly proportional to the number of lives it claims. There are millions of people out there doing good deeds every single day and yet that is not what dominates the conversation- the goodness of humankind that hasn’t yet perished. And there are others who are simply asking for a change, like me. But no one wants to hear a truth that doesn’t make them hate a group of people.

We are constantly fed fear and negativity by media and leaders alike, and then that same fear and negativity is used to sell us more fear and negativity. This constant cycle is perpetuating the prevalence of hatred because that is what fear does. We fear that what we don’t understand and we hate that what we fear. Instead of understanding the root cause of an issue and trying to eliminate that, we conveniently find scapegoats and go after them. “Terrorism is a problem“, they say, “Let’s ban an entire religion from the US“. Seriously? Haven’t you heard of the Inquisitions? Did people not act in the name of a religion then to execute barbaric acts? But there was more good than there was evil, and eventually, it triumphed. Similarly, don’t you think there are enough good people in every other religion too? Why don’t we consider joining forces with them to bring about a revolution instead of blaming them for the acts of another? We cannot eliminate hatred with hatred- eye for an eye sounds glorious but it is neither noble nor effective.

I am not a religious person. If Humanity were a religion that is the label I would have proudly worn but I am glad it is not so because organized religion leads to greed for power. So while I believe in the simple things like treat others the way you’d like to be treated, or live and let live, or never hurt anyone, I will not impose my beliefs on another, and I will not see people as the religion that they practice. My mission is not to revolutionize how we perceive religion. My mission is something much simpler- I want people to be AWARE, in this case, about immigration in the US.

I am quite tired of the same rhetoric when it comes to immigration- illegal immigrants. People on one side of the spectrum want to build walls, evacuate all those who are within those walls, and then build one final wall to seal everyone out. Do they really think they can survive in today’s world economy by living in isolation on this grand, heavily-protected island of theirs?

On the other hand, there are people who want to welcome everyone and grandfather many more and make everyone a citizen. Now, that is charitable but really, excessive charity is self-destructive.

So yes, we need to find a happy medium but you know why it is impossible to do so? Because we are not even considering the entire immigrant population when we are having these discussions. We are really only talking about people seeking asylum and refuge, and those that simply take it without asking by crossing borders illegally. Immigrants, like myself, are never part of any conversation. There is, of course, one person who wants to stamp Green Cards on to graduate degrees- now that is one obtuse idea if I ever heard one! Doesn’t anyone have any idea how many people come here to attend school on an annual basis? If all those people were given Green Cards, imagine how many more will start coming in and how many jobs will go to ‘foreigners‘ instead of the American people. Universities will not turn away international students because of the hefty tuition that they pay. I am sure that is not a stance American immigration wants to take because that would mean a radical shift in its policy, from closed-door to open-door, wide open door!

We need a more meaningful conversation about legal immigration in this country and it is my aim to start this discussion. I will not do anything extreme to get people’s attention. I can only hope that people would want to hear a sound argument to develop their own views. For too long they have been led into believing that immigration only means one thing, and that it is bad. But that is not all that there is to immigration. If talent is allowed to come in, as it should be, it should also be given some protection. If employers are made sponsors then they should be responsible to sponsor more than just a one-way flight ticket. Right now, the employers have way too much control over the immigrant workforce without any accountability for their actions, and that is a perfect breeding ground for exploitation and abuse.

It is impossible to put an end to immigration, not just in the US but globally. There are expat Americans living and working in other countries too. But a country can be wise in choosing who it allows to stay, and a country can be ethical in how it treats those who are welcomed here. The process of employment-based immigration is so long and complicated, if Homeland Security just simplified that, I am sure it would have enough surplus to enforce better border security. Those who come here legally get scrutinized repeatedly and excessively and are still deprived of their basic rights. Those who come here illegally have provisions to appeal for mercy. I don’t see the logic and how it is ultimately benefiting the economy.

I have no views on illegal immigration. It is not something I condone but I also think that on a humanitarian level, we have a certain responsibility towards those who are less fortunate. But I do have strong views on legal immigration. Those who have paid their dues deserve to be treated with dignity and that is not happening. What’s worse is that no one is even aware of it and people like me are silently disappearing each day. With my videos I aim to highlight the flaws of American immigration system through simple short stories. Through my memoir (order here) I want to share what specifically happened to me and allow the people to decide for themselves whether it was right or wrong. This is all that I can do.



My Punishment for Loving America – “Go Back”


In response to today’s One Word Promt ‘Punishment

We have all experienced punishment in life. We have all been punished by parents, teachers, siblings, colleagues, even friends and partners. Some of us have been punished by the law too. And in moments of utter despair, we have even felt punished by life itself.

I have never believed in punishment. I don’t think punishment teaches a person the value of doing the right thing, it simply instills fear of a certain consequence, thereby devaluing doing the wrong thing. So in comparison doing the right still becomes better but in absolute terms its value remains unchanged. The world cannot become a better place unless all people value the right things in absolutely high regard.

Right and wrong can also be subjective, and something that was considered wrong until yesterday may become right today, like same sex marriage. In my opinion, as long as an action doesn’t cause any harm to others and does not deprive them of their rights, it can be considered right. If a person chooses to marry another person of same sex, she or he is not hurting anyone nor is this person taking away someone else’s rights. People have a freedom to have their own opinion but they don’t have the freedom to enforce their opinion on others. So if they are offended by an action that goes against their belief, the action itself or its owner cannot be condemned for the offense.

I moved to America nine years ago and in so doing, I did not hurt anyone or deprive them of their freedom or rights. I lived here legally for those nine year, again, never getting in anyone’s way. But did I have the same rights and freedom in return? No. I have been forcibly turned into an illegal immigrant now who is too poor to live here and too poor to go back. Everything I worked hard to achieve has been taken away from me. I called this place home throughout my adult life but today I don’t know where to go or who to turn to. And what, you may ask, have I been punished for?

Immigrants, as Mr. Trump would have you believe are lowlifes who commit crimes. Perhaps I was one such immigrant. But no, I wasn’t. I came here legally, I went to a university, I am a graduate and a certified Project Management Professional, and a volunteer with local charities- I am an honorable person. I am being punished for filing a discrimination complaint against an unscrupulous employer. My trial is next month but I am not even allowed to stay to attend that. But I plan to stay anyway. It will not matter if I win, because the goverment will still consider me illegal. But at least I will go back with some sense of faith in America. If not in its immigration system, at least in it judiciary system.

That is my punishment.

If you would like to know more about my story, or would like to support me by sharing my story, please consider getting a copy of my memoir, Foreinger, from Amazon (here). I don’t want America to hate immigrants without knowing the whole truth. I want people to know just how we suffer for wanting to love this country. I will go back but please don’t let me disappear.



Meditation, Peace and Intuition: Part 1


Peace is not a far-fetched state of existence, and intuition is not a mystical superpower. We look for peace outside, we look for signs outside, when in reality, all the answers lie within our own minds and hearts.

Someone asked me yesterday if I was losing my sleep over everything that’s been going on in my life lately. “Not at all“, I said, “On the contrary, I’ve been sleeping quite peacefully“. The other person exclaimed, “Taken up boozing or any other addiction, have ya!“. “Not really but you can say it is a kind of addiction- it is wellness- I work out and I meditate.

Before I talk about the how-to of meditation (part 2), I want to highlight the real, tangible benefits of the practice and how they can potentially change a person’s life.

1. Meditation and Peace

I am not talking about world peace here, although I do believe that if everyone in this world was at peace with themselves, they wouldn’t go around fighting and imposing their own way of living and thinking on others. Insecurity begets fear and fear begets contempt. When we find peace within, we rise above our insecurities. We learn to face that which we fear instead of shunning it. We learn to respect and coexist with differing views because we don’t see them as threat anymore. Our faith is founded in reason, and we don’t worry about it collapsing just because the rest of the world doesn’t believe in the same things as we do. We don’t worry about majority, or confirming, we are content to be who we are.

But all that sounds too grand and glorious. In simple terms, when you find peace within, you won’t worry about what other people will say. You understand your strengths and your weaknesses, and you do the best with what you’ve been given. You don’t waste your time worrying about things which are beyond your control or influence. In this world of ever-increasing competition, it is almost impossible for a person to not feel the pressure to excel. So unless you take conscious steps and make guided efforts to seek some quiet time dedicated to reflection and introspection, peace can be unattainable. Ten minutes a day is all it takes to lay the foundation for a  calm mind. It may take a while to get there, but once you’re there you will find yourself to be so much more productive than what you once were. You are more efficient because you are focussed on what matters and what you can control. Everything else is noise, and you realize that any time you spend worrying about this ‘noise’ is time you’ve lost not doing something you actually control. And ultimately, when you know that you haven’t wasted any time you can sleep peacefully.

2. Meditation and Intuition

A lot of people think of intuition as a psychic ability, a power to foretell events that are yet to happen, or a gift to see the future. Intuition is none of that, not the kind that I’m talking about at least. Intuition is simply being aware of your instinct, or the ‘gut feeling’. Instincts are not supernatural. They are very much scientific and evolutionary in nature. Our brains have evolved to pick up cues from our surroundings and constantly scan them for known patterns. Some of this cognition happens at a conscious level but there is a lot more that happens at a subconscious level. So as it is picking up these cues, the brain is also comparing them against all the information it has gathered through centuries of evolution. There are somethings that we just know. You don’t have to tell a baby that violence is bad for it to start crying when it hears loud, angry speech. The infant brain already knows what danger sounds like. But as we grow older and get sucked into the chaos of adult life, we don’t listen to our brain the way a child does. We analyze and analyze and analyze until we’ve driven ourselves crazy.

When you meditate and learn to be at peace with yourself, you also learn to trust yourself. It is this trust that helps you become more cognizant of your instincts and gives you the confidence to follow them. Too often people choose to ignore their instinct because they can’t find a rational explanation for the feeling. What if they followed it and things went wrong? What will people say? An enlightened person realizes two things: 1. You can only control your action, consequence is noise, 2. What people say doesn’t matter, if something does go wrong it can always be fixed.

Now obviously, you can’t expect your brain to shout out the winning combination for lottery. But you can turn to your instincts when meeting someone new- if you listen closely your brain will tell you whether or not that person can be trusted.

Meditation is not a fad, and its benefits are not makebelieve. I strongly encourage everyone to give it an honest try. In the next part I will share the simple steps I follow during my daily practice. All you need is a quiet room, and an open mind 🙂

Be well!




Depression, the final chapter: A survival story


When I decided to do it, I was down on my knees, crying like I’ve never cried before or since in life, begging for a sign that I could live. I loved my life once, I never had it all, but I always had enough. I had great hopes for the future, I wanted to live to see it, but the pain of living had become so unbearable that I didn’t think I could take another breath without my chest exploding from pain… I was going to kill myself to end this suffering.

Clearly I didn’t do it. What saved me was my cat’s innocent eyes. They came to me as a reminder of my promises. I had to live.


Suicide is not something people like to talk about freely. Religions condemn it, society considers it a weakness, a mistake, a tragedy. Tragedy it is, mistake it may be, but having been so close to the edge and having walked back, I can tell you it’s not a weakness. Weakness is what stopped me from doing it- I was overcome with it when I saw my little Milo.

Talking to people about these thoughts is the last thing I wanted to do. I knew exactly what everyone was going to say. But they couldn’t understand just exactly what it was that I was going through. When you’re that close to the edge, others can only take you back few steps temporarily, until you start inching closer again. What you need is to turn your back towards the precipice and start walking in the other direction, towards healing. But how can you do so when you can’t even see clearly?

Before I proceed, if you’re in need of help urgently, please call the suicide prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255, or someone close to you. This post is based on my personal experience and does not offer professional or medical advice. It simply shares ways to avoid suicidal thoughts that helped me during my struggle, it is not qualified counseling.

If you’re finding yourself struggling with such thoughts, first of all, speak to someone you trust. All of the steps from my previous two posts on depression are still valid (Depression 101, Depression 201). But sometimes depression can sneak up on you like it did on me. I was mildly depressed until I lost my job. But once that happened, it was like the rug was pulled from under me and I couldn’t find my balance. I kept spiraling down until I was too close to hitting the bottom. I went from mildly depressed to this final stage within days. I only crossed the second stage during my recovery.

So how to avoid these thoughts? And not just avoid them once but toss them away for good. Try these two things:

Step 1: Give yourself a reason and keep it in front of you at all times

Your family, your friends, your pets, your garden… It could be anything. In the moments when you do think clearly, make a list of these ‘reasons’ and keep them close. Put pictures around the house if you can’t physically have them. My cats are my reason and my biggest responsibility, and they’re always around. I know no matter how bad things get, I will endure anything to keep them safe. I promised to give them a healthy, happy life and I will never break that promise. Promise yourself you will not abandon anyone or anything that depends on you and loves you.

Step 2: Remember that your death will be in vain 

Harsh as it may sound, it’s true. Most often suicidal thoughts stem from events brought on my external triggers. You were hurt, mistreated, abused, it’s what someone else did. Or you incurred huge losses, lost a job, lost someone dear, these are things you couldn’t control. First of all, your death will not undo anything, it will only add more grief to the lives of those left behind. Secondly, even if the perpetrator that caused you the suffering felt remorse, you wouldn’t know it. You won’t be there to watch him/her apologize. So what’s the point then? Sure, your suffering might end, but it will end eventually if you live too- nothing lasts forever. At least in the latter case you have a possibility of great things happening.

Take that chance. Survive this crisis and live. Turn all the hurt that you’ve got inside into something meaningful. Start volunteering, share your story, or write like I’m doing. In the coming weeks I will write about all the wonderful things that have happened to me since my recovery. Although depression is a morbid topic to pick for the first series of my revamped blog, it is the most fitting considering this is truly where my journey began. It only gets better from here on, I promise 🙂

Be well,