Theme reveal post – Blogchatter A2Z-challenge 2020

This is my third year at the A2Z challenge / Blogchatter A2Z challenge. The first year was thrilling. I wrote on the theme ‘A dollop of Bengal’. I followed it up with my debut Detective Thriller ‘Deal of Death’ that is available on Amazon here. The second-year was a little hectic because my son started school in mid-April. I wrote on parenting with a dash of humor.

This year, I was in a dilemma whether to go ahead with the challenge or drop the idea. I am into my fourth month of an MFA creative writing course and currently, I’m juggling three fiction classes there. At one point, I almost thought of giving up this challenge because I was already writing 4000 words on a weekly average.

But the excitement of participation didn’t take long to rub one me. I started hunting for themes. Blogchatter gave me some great advice. All I knew was that I couldn’t write beyond 100 words per day. So, after ransacking my brains, I realized that I am going to go ahead with the theme ‘Laugh in the time of Corona’.

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Considering the anxiety that all of us are going through, I wanted to speak about anything other than the deadly virus that seems to have brought our lives to a standstill. So, I will talk about Indian stand-up comics on the net, shows that promote humor in the form of a stand-up special or through YouTube channel. As we grapple with the pandemic engulfing our existence, this is my way of dealing with stress.

So, hop on as I start preparing this joyride beginning on April 1st, 2020. Subscribe to my blog to stay updated. You can also follow me on FB/Twitter/IG @soniasmusings.

In the meanwhile, stay safe, stay indoors and don’t forget to wash/sanitize your hands.

Preservative-free vaccines for a healthier future

In an era of the internet and global exposure, an individual has multiple means of assessing the available options to fathom the consequences of their choices. When my son was born, both my husband and I wanted to check every aspect of the mandatory vaccines that were to be injected once he reached the milestones in life. It was our pediatrician who enlightened us with an in-depth analysis of the need for vaccination in children. But there was a nagging feeling about the side-effects of preservatives in vaccines after we came to know about mercury being one of its components. We carried out a detailed check about the need for preservatives in vaccines before going for a detailed discussion with the pediatrician.

From the available sources, we understood that preservatives were compounds that killed or prevented the growth of microorganisms like fungus and bacteria. In case the vaccine was accidentally contaminated due to repeated needle puncture of multi-dose vials, the preservatives prevented microbial growth. Thimerosal, (approx 50% mercury by weight), has one of the most widely used preservatives in vaccines.

In 1998, there was a study in Britain where a Doctor claimed about the MMR vaccine causing autism in children. Thimerosal was one such ingredient that was considered to be responsible for this hazard. This study led to such an uproar than many parents shunned vaccines. The results were proved to be incorrect due to the small sample size and various other conditions not taken into consideration for a conclusive deduction. Eventually, the FDA, CDC, National Institutes of Health (NIH), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), and National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine had to declare the usage of Thimerosal in vaccines as safe to eradicate the fear and bring the vaccination process back on track.

Yet, one cannot deny the fact that mercury is known for its toxicity. While there is no conclusive proof for its harmful effects as a preservative, no study has also proved for certain that it is safe. This is what makes the case of preservative-free vaccines stronger.

In the last few years, Thimerosal has been removed from most of the vaccines used in developed countries. However, it is still used in vaccines meant for developing countries. While the lack of awareness is one of the reasons, the fact that vaccines are sold to developing countries in multi-dose vials at a lower cost-per-dose also makes them a preferred choice. It is assumed that single-dose vials of vaccines (preservative-free) are not economical for developing countries, both in terms of the cost of vaccines per unit and cold chain requirements. But these assumptions might not be based on the actual scenarios in these countries.

Multi-dose vials have the added advantage of occupying less cold-storage space per dose. This aspect is overshadowed by a shocking percentage of vaccine wastage. Single-dose vials become more appealing and effective in terms of simplifying inventory logistics and vaccine tracking. In a developing country like India, one of the strongest reasons for switching to single-dose vials in the future could be the process of cost-effective manufacturing of these ampoules which makes them affordable.

Based on our discussion, the pediatrician agreed to our choice of a preservative-free vaccine. It took us an additional week to comply with the vaccination schedule but we decided to stick by our conviction of a healthy future for our son. While the findings of research-based studies related to the effects of mercury in vaccines have been vague and full of conflicts, we consider it advisable to be better safe than sorry. Hence, if the option of a preservative-free vaccine is available for a child, it is always recommended to consult with the pediatrician and opt for the same.

What’s #YourCareQuotient? How much do you understand your child when it comes to sleep patterns, feeding, and vaccination? Take the easy, interactive quiz that guides you and get the childcare guide now.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the blog content are independent and unbiased views of solely the blogger. This is a part of the public awareness initiative supported by Sanofi Pasteur India. Sanofi Pasteur bears no responsibility for the content of the blog. One should consult their healthcare provider for any health-related information.

References –

https://www.fda.gov/vaccines-blood-biologics/safety-availability-biologics/thimerosal-and-vaccines

https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/patient-ed/conversations/downloads/vacsafe-thimerosal-color-office.pdf

https://vaccineindia.org/article/thiomersal

https://ijme.in/articles/commentary-controversies-surrounding-mercury-in-vaccines-autism-denial-as-impediment-to-universal-immunisation/?galley=html

Looking back at A2Z challenge 2019

For the last five days, I have had conflicting emotions. On one hand, I was relieved that the crazy month of April was over and I didn’t have to work at odd hours to schedule my posts. On the other hand, I missed reading and interacting with fellow bloggers who have now become a part of my extended virtual family. To spare myself the state of confusion, all that I have sincerely done since 2nd May is to catch up on my sleep. Today morning, when I saw the link for a reflection post, I jumped in to share my experience of an eventful A2Z challenge this year.

#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary Reflections badge#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary Reflections badge

After my first successful Blogchatter A2Z challenge last year, I had written about my experience through a post filled with learnings, gratitude, and nostalgia. Last year, I had no plans in place. I was undecided on the theme until it was time to reveal it. Not a single post was based on predecided topics or written in advance (I didn’t even know that there was an option called schedule). This year I had decided to be a bit more organized in my approach since I had been waiting for the A2Z challenge for months together. I wanted to have a theme ready, wished to sort out the topics of the posts and even considered writing a few of them in advance. But old habits die hard. The plan to plan my posts stayed only in a state of planning as I dashed towards my usual last-minute execution mode.

When I started thinking about a theme two nights before the day of the theme-reveal post, I considered all the possible categories that I write about. Unfortunately, nothing seemed interesting. It was Sr. T’s idea that I write about the most relevant situation in my life at that moment which was all about Tuneer’s school admissions. I didn’t want to make the articles sound boring or coated with advice. In fact, I am the kind of flawed mother who would perfectly fit into that category of clueless parents seeing advice from the experts. So I thought of turning my harrowing experiences into humorous ones. All that I was worried about was how to stretch a topic so narrow into creating twenty-six posts. Yet whenever I sat down to write my post of the day, the fun element in reminiscing those memories helped the words flow effortlessly into a draft.

Survivor badge
Survivor badge

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Y for Yin and Yang

The dictionary meaning of Yin and Yang stands as two complementary forces that come into play to balance and create something bigger and better. When I began writing this school admission series, I had mentioned the protagonist as my 3.6 yr old son Tuneer along with Sr. T and me as the supporting cast. Through the last twenty-four posts, I have written about our experiences and emotions related to this phase. Today’s post is dedicated to those who bring equilibrium to Tuneer’s life filling it with joy, love, affection and protect him from those who might be the reasons for stress and undue pressure (yeah me!).  Introducing his lifelines –

Tuneer with his family - paternal grandma, paternal grandpa, father, maternal grandpa and mother (l to r)
Tuneer with his family on his 2nd birthday – paternal grandma, paternal grandpa, father, maternal grandpa, and mother (L to R)

1. Babai aka his father

I have an exclusive post dedicated to this man and his adorable equation with the kid. Yet I need to reiterate the fact that the boy had the maximum escapade from my scoldings because of his father. According to him, there’s nothing that the boy could do wrong. It didn’t matter if the boy refused to answer any question, showed no interest in picking up English or denied his knowledge about my name. His standard reply to any exasperated statement of mine went as “But he’s such a sweet boy”. The apple of his eye is getting so sweet every day (read naughty) that I’ve started fearing for our enhanced blood sugar level (read stress).

2. Dadai aka his paternal grandfather

Until Tuneer was born, I had always been a favorite of my father-in-law. He was more supportive of my decisions than those that were taken by his son. Equations changed between us the day he became a grandfather. His unconditional support towards his only grandson exceeds all limits. He refuses to listen to anything against the ‘innocent’ child. He was the toughest to convince about the interview preparation. As per him, any school that considered English speaking skills to be a selection criterion for nursery admissions deserves to be trashed by every single parent. According to him the fact that Tuneer could answer his name and recite a rhyme should have convinced every interviewer about his intelligence level. No amount of argument could convince him otherwise.

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A recollection of experiences of the Blogchatter E-book carnival 2018

Exactly a year ago, I was concentrating on writing my second last post in the A2Z challenge when the reminder mail from Blogchatter arrived in my inbox about signing up for the Blogchatter e-book carnival. I wasn’t sure if I had the time or skills to convert my posts to a book. That is why I was one of the last ones to sign up for the e-book. Little did I know that it would turn out to be one of the best decisions in my writing career.

As the days progressed, I realized that the book based on the theme ‘A Dollop of Bengal’ from my A2Z challenge posts needed more information, detailed research and better structure that looked quite difficult in the limited time period. With just a few days left for submission, I realized that the only way out would be to bow out of the carnival. But Blogchatter turned out to be a perfect example of what a sense of belonging to the blogging fraternity can lead to. Just six days before the date of submission, I sat down motivated by my fellow bloggers, to write my first ever detective thriller ‘Deal of Death’ introducing Raya Ray.

Deal of Death_Sonia Chatterjee
Deal of Death_Sonia Chatterjee

Post submission, I executed all my marketing knowledge for the next few days to create an interesting trailer for the book launch and a video on the book reading. Through social media promotions, I had managed to create such a hype about my book that it led to 80 downloads hours before the book could be officially launched on 22nd May. Deal of Death went on to become the first book to run out of stock despite getting restocked twice within a week of launch. Encouraging reviews and positive feedback helped me establish my identity as a writer. Two months later, Blogchatter gave the authors an option to take the book to a different platform and most of my fellow authors went ahead and published it on Amazon.

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X for X’Mas Season 2018

As we race towards the finishing line of the A2Z challenge now, I thought of touching upon a different topic related to the admission frenzy. I have often spoken about my anxiety and stress related to the process in the initial days,  especially when Tuneer faced a problem of the language or before his first interview. While Sr. T seemed unfazed on the surface, I am quite sure that I had successfully managed to pass on a bundle of my worries to him. Tuneer was trying to balance his preschool life while riding on the roller coaster wave of admissions. Just before the winter break arrived, all three of us were physically and mentally exhausted beyond the limit (kind of what most of the A2Z participants feel now).

By the time the holidays started, the kid had already faced two interviews and one rejection. We were sure that the only thing that could lift our spirits up was a family holiday. In the X post of my last year’s A2Z challenge, I had written about the way all of Kolkata comes together to celebrate Christmas in a grand way. X’mas, as the city still prefers to call Christmas is about midnight mass at St. Paul’s Cathedral, eating cake from Nahoum’s, trying out street food delicacies on Park Street and visiting Bow Barracks on December 25th. We have done all of these for the past two years and it wasn’t meant to be any different this time as well. But a desperate need for a mini break landed us at my in-laws’ house in Berhampore this December end.

The much needed break after a strenuous phase of interviews
The much-needed break at Berhampore after a strenuous phase of interviews

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W for 5Ws and 1H

During one of our classes in B-school, I was introduced to the concept of 5Ws and 1H. While creating a blue draft of an entrepreneurial idea, we had to come up with a solution to the questions related to why, when, where, who, what and how. I was so fascinated by this streamlined process of questioning that any conversation related to the most inane of things had me asking queries in the format of 5W and 1H.

For instance, when the college canteen had managed to churn out yet another bland meal on yet another regular day, I walked up to the canteen manager and thought of bringing a direction to my pattern of questioning. So I asked,

“Who prepared this food?”

“Why is the canteen food always tasteless?”

“When was the last time that you served a meal that didn’t deserve to be trashed?”

“What will make you feel that it is essential to serve an edible meal?”

“Where do you see yourself next year, if the quality doesn’t improve and we refuse to let the management renew your contract?”

“How many more complaints do you need to take an action?”

The man was too stunned to even consider a reply. Before I could unleash another layer of 5W and 1H on him, my friends had dragged me away from the canteen. Needless to say, the canteen served an equally bland meal the next day. Just that the man at the counter went missing after spotting me entering the canteen.

This went on for a few more days before I found my next subject of interest in the form of SWOT (strength, weakness, opportunity, threat) analysis. Life eventually moved on from those classrooms to office boardrooms. The questions turned more relevant and job oriented.

It was only after Tuneer started talking that I was reminded of 5W and 1H once again. From blabbering gibberish to uttering first monosyllables and then broken sentences, the boy picked up communication very fast. Like I have mentioned in one of my previous posts, this verbose nature was reserved only for the house. For the world outside these four walls, he was a very shy and quiet child.

Where is the counter serving pooris?
Where is my plate of pooris?

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