'Indians don't talk about sex - so I help them'

Lifestyle Desk, Barta24.com
Photo: Collected

Photo: Collected

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Many Indian schools provide no sex education, leaving it to parents to talk to their children about sex and relationships. But often they are unsure what to say, sex coach Pallavi Barnwal tells the BBC's Megha Mohan.

Looking back, my conservative Indian upbringing was actually the perfect grounding for someone who would end up as a sex coach.

The earliest influence on me, although I didn't realise it at the time, was my parents' own relationship.

There were rumours about my parents' marriage for years. When I was around eight years old, I started getting questions about it. At parties, if I was separated from my family, an infantry of breathless aunties would corner me for an interrogation.

"Do your parents still share a room?"

"Have you heard any arguments?"

"Do you ever see a man visiting?"

I would be standing by a dessert table, about to spoon a scoop of ice cream into a bowl, or wandering through a garden looking for other children to play with and before I knew it, I'd be surrounded by excited women I barely knew, asking questions to which I definitely did not know the answer.

Years later, after my own divorce, my mother told me the full story. Early in my parents' marriage, before my brother and I were born, my mother felt a deep attraction to a man that turned into a physical affair. Within weeks guilt set in and she ended it. But in Indian communities, there are eyes and mouths everywhere. Over time, rumours reached my father.

It took my father 10 years, and two children, to finally ask her about it.

He promised her that any answer would not affect their relationship, but after years of murmurs he had to know. She told him everything. It was less about sex and more about intimacy, she said. It had happened at a time before they had started a family, when their marriage hadn't yet found its groove.

As soon as she stopped talking she noticed an immediate chill in the room. My father had instantly withdrawn. My mother's confirmation of a story he had suspected for years immediately severed any trust between them and their relationship rapidly decomposed.

This showed me very clearly that our inability to properly talk about sex and intimacy could break down families.

My family is from the state of Bihar in eastern India. It's one of the most populous, and largest regions in the country, bordering Nepal and with the river Ganges slicing through its plains. I had a conservative childhood. As with a lot of families, sex was not a subject that was openly discussed. My parents didn't hold hands or embrace, but then I don't remember seeing any couples in our community being physically affectionate either.

My first exposure to anything to do with sex came when I was 14.

Bored one afternoon, I went fishing through a pile of books in my father's cupboard when a thin pamphlet stacked between his novels and history books fell out. It contained several detailed short stories about a secret world where men and women explored each other's bodies. This book was definitely not literature, it was naughtier than that. One story was about a curious young girl who drilled a hole into a wall so she could watch a married couple she knew in bed. I had to look up the meaning of a Hindi word I had never heard before, chumban, which means a passionate French kiss.

I had so many questions but there was no-one to talk to.

My friends and I had never discussed anything close to this.

Engrossed in the book, it took several moments to come back to the present and hear my mother's voice calling me from another room.

At this time, in the late 1990s, I didn't know that I hadn't done anything wrong, that many children over the world had begun to learn about intimacy at this age, mostly in school. In Belgium, children are taught about sex as young as seven. But India isn't a place where sex is a mandatory part of the school curriculum. In fact, it wasn't until 2018 that India's Ministry of Health and Family Welfare released sexual education guidelines for schools. More than a dozen states out of 29 have chosen not to implement them. According to The Times of India, more than half of girls in rural India are unaware of menstruation or what causes it.

Source: BBC 

What Countries Have the Best Healthcare in the World?

News Desk, Barta24.com
What Countries Have the Best Healthcare in the World?

What Countries Have the Best Healthcare in the World?

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CEOWorld Magazine's Health Care Index is a statistical analysis of the overall quality of the health care system, including health care infrastructure; health care professionals (doctors, nursing staff, and other health workers) competencies; cost; quality medicine availability, and government readiness.

Each country is given a score for each of the above factors and then a total score out of 100. According to this index, the ten countries with the best healthcare in 2021 are:

1. South Korea, 2. Taiwan, 3. Denmark, 4. Austria, 5. Japan, 6. Australia, 7. France, 8. Spain, 9. Belgium, and 10. United Kingdom.

Meanwhile, with a score of 95 out of 100, Malaysia ranks 1st in the Health Care category of the 'International Living Annual Global Retirement Index in 2019'. Medical care in the Southeast Asian gem is simply world class with a modern and sophisticated infrastructure.

There are 13 hospitals accredited by world-class JCI in the Malaysia and almost all doctors speak English fluently. In fact, most of the Malaysian doctors received training in the United Kingdom, the United States or Australia, so communication is impeccable. It is no wonder that Malaysia is a popular tourist destination.

South Asia or Southern Asia, is the southern region of the Asian continent and is a popular destination for expats and global nomads as many of the countries have booming economies. In most parts of South Asia, there’s a limit in the local medical facilities.

The South Asian region made up of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka is commonly referred to as the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).

The basic demography affecting healthcare for the majority of these South Asian countries is quite similar. Most South Asian nations face serious healthcare issues, medical aid affordability and accessibility challenges being chief among them. The availability of qualified doctors, hospitals, trained manpower, infrastructures and logistic suppirts are big challenges.


Asia’s 10 Best Restaurants

Lifestyle Desk, Barta24.com
Asia’s 10 Best Restaurants

Asia’s 10 Best Restaurants

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From authentic Thai to European inspired recipes with an Asian twist, these restaurants excel at delivering culinary encounters that aren’t easily forgotten.

As the hospitality industry continues to bounce back from the restrictions of the last two years, Asia’s best chefs and restaurant owners look forward to sharing their hyper-seasonal creations with the global food community once again.

Since launching 10 years ago, Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants – sponsored by S.Pellegrino and Acqua Panna – recently unveiled its prestigious list for 2022. With Japan in the lead, closely followed by Thailand and Singapore, boasting the most entries, this year’s winner was Tokyo’s Den.

In previous years Den, conceived by chef Zaiyu Hasegawa, ranked consistently high as Japan’s voted best restaurant every year since 2018. Renowned for its playfulness, Hasegawa’s dishes are a perfect marriage of contemporary meets traditional Japanese cuisine, of which the Dentucky Fried Chicken is a prime example.

Chefs, restaurateurs, industry VIPs and the media were brought together across three different events in Bangkok, Macau and Tokyo to celebrate the top 50 chefs in Asia.

“In its 10th year, Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants proudly continues the tradition of rewarding culinary excellence and guiding diners to the most unique gastronomic experiences across the continent,” explains William Drew, Director of Content for Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants.

Get ready as we take you behind the scenes of the top culinary destinations in Asia and examine the philosophies and experiences underpinning the success of each chef.

1. Den, Tokyo

While growing up, Owner and Chef at Den, Zaiyu Hasegawa became fascinated by traditional Japanese cuisine. As a geisha his mum would bring home Bento for him from the ryotei (fine dining restaurant) where she worked.

While Hasegawa’s career began in one of these exclusive restaurants, Den’s philosophy is more of an elevated expression of Japanese home cooking. While the menu coincides with the changing seasons, the restaurant is renowned for its chicken wings, signature salad, snow crab tofu glazed with mizore sauce and donabe-gohan – rice heated in an earthen pot and paired with wagyu beef or seafood.

“Thanks to the support of producers, the vegetables we use are grown without pesticides or chemical fertilisers. Our specialty salad expresses our connection to farmers and is a fun way for diners to see what came out of the garden,” Hasegawa says.

In 2019 Den was also recognised for its heart-warming hospitality, earning the Art of Hospitality Award at The World’s 50 Best Restaurants.

2. Sorn, Bangkok

Sorn’s Head Chef Supaksorn Jongsiri became deeply inspired by southern Thai cuisine from his grandmother. His menu today is not only bursting with flavour and encompasses the cultural diversity of the South, but each dish is served at the right temperature – introducing a unique element to Thai cuisine.

If you’re lucky enough to secure a reservation at Sorn you can expect a one-of-a-kind service you’d be hard-pressed to find elsewhere. Staff are specially trained to delight guests with stories of Jongsiri’s vision and memories that inform each dish.

Combining the most highly-prized parts of a crab and coated in crab roe paste, Kan Chu Piang – gems on crab stick – is arguably a winning dish whose flavour is enhanced by piquant orange chilli sauce.

3. Florilège, Tokyo

If you’re looking for an experience that goes beyond the everyday Florilège is likely to pique your interest. With innovative French cuisine openly prepared for all eyes to see, Chef Hiroyasu Kawate provides a rare encounter for guests who desire a more transparent sensory experience.

With ingredients sourced locally and seasonally, Kawate’s dishes are imbued with a distinct Japanese quality. The restaurant specialises in preparing meals with sophisticated techniques that are served in Japanese style plates and bowls.

4. Le Du, Bangkok

A seemingly French name, Le Du in fact derived from the Thai word for ‘season’. Thitid Tassanakajohn, a master chef and restaurant empire builder co-founded the restaurant around the concept of regional Thai cooking with a French twist.

Trained in the US, Tassanakajohn’s menu showcases the finest local and seasonal ingredients, which are combined with modern cooking techniques. Le Du’s wines are sourced from around the globe and are carefully selected by Tassanakajohn who’s also a certified sommelier.

While Le Du’s menu is constantly changing, there is one dish Khao kluk kapi – river prawn paired with brown rice risotto and shrimp paste – that is synonymous with the restaurant and what it stands for.

5. The Chairman, Hong Kong

The Chairman was the first restaurant in Hong Kong to earn the prestigious title of The Best Restaurant in Asia, and for good reason. While the menu is contemporary, tradition and seasonal fresh ingredients play an important role in continuing the legacy of Cantonese cuisine.

Rare delicacies from southern China, including 20-year-old pickled lemon, sugar-roasted chrysanthemum and mini water crabs are procured from the most remote villages in China.

A favourite is undoubtedly the steamed flowery crab served with Chinese wine, clam juice and flat rice noodles.

6. La Chime, Osaka

La Cime, meaning summit in French, sets the bar high when it comes to delivering classic cuisine expressed through modern cooking techniques. Its star chef Yusuke Takada began his culinary career in Lyon and later worked in Osaka and Paris.

Our childhood memories can be one of the greatest sources of inspiration and for Takada the small island in southern Japan in which he grew up informs his recipes today.

With a flair for rare flavour combinations, Takada’s angler fish liver is served with persimmon and green onion, and for vegetarians the sea cucumber paired with turnip and starflower is a must.

7. Sühring, Bangkok

Nestled in a serene setting in the heart of Bangkok, the Sühring brothers Thomas and Mathias established a restaurant that is more akin to a house with several dining spaces to choose from.

With a wealth of international experience under their belt, the duo embarked on a fresh re-interpretation of traditional German gastronomy prepared to the standard of haute cuisine. With an array of fresh produce and seafood on their doorstep, the pair include crayfish, blue lobster and butternut squash on the menu.

Guests can expect a relaxed yet sophisticated encounter in a 1970s villa complete with a lush garden and open kitchen to observe the chefs bringing their creations to life.

8. Odette, Singapore

This year Odette, located in Singapore’s National Gallery, once again ranked high in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list, as it has done in the past few years. As the recipient of the highly coveted Gin Mare Art of Hospitality Award, this year Odette has proven itself as the ultimate destination to enjoy modern French cuisine in an artistic setting infused with genuine hospitality.

“I owe everything that I am to my family, especially my grandmother, Odette. She showed me how the most remarkable dishes can come from the purest ingredients and taught me the importance of adding that ‘little something’ to create dishes that excite the palate and fill the heart,” explains Julien Royer, Chef and Owner of Odette.

Boutique producers around the world supply the finest ingredients to bring signature dishes – Normandy brown crab and pepper-crusted pigeon – to life with attention to seasonality and terroir.

9. Neighborhood, Hong Kong

A hidden laneway teeming with markets, local bars and antique shops is an unusual setting in which to establish a gourmet restaurant. Although fully booked, Chef and Owner David Lai doesn’t rely on a polished website or instagram account to entice people into tasting his simple French cooking.

Lai worked in exclusive high-end restaurants in both Hong Kong and San Francisco before adopting the ‘slow food’ philosophy of Alice Waters that he came across while completing his studies in California.

At Neighborhood lamb sourced from the Pyrenees, local seafood and wild game can be found on the specials menu, which always reflect the current season.

10. Nusara, Bangkok

Chef Thitid Tassanakajohn, of Le Du, pays homage to his grandmother Nusara with a menu that re-visits family recipes.

From the 12-course tasting menu the spicy squid salad and wok-fried wagyu beef topped with basil lead into the heartier crab curry served in a betel leaf.

While the second floor seats 10 in a room that has an intimate atmosphere from another era, the ground floor is home to a chic bar serving beverages that have Tassanakajohn’s stamp of approval, as a certified sommelier.


'Half a Million Indians are still dying from TB Every Year'

Lifestyle Desk, Barta24.com
photo: collected

photo: collected

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"India planned to eliminate TB by 2025, but it’s estimated half a million Indians are still dying from it every year", says two researches, Rajib Dasgupta of Jawaharlal Nehru University and Jens Seeberg of Aarhus University.

According to their survey-based research findings, in India in 2021, an estimated 504,000 people died from tuberculosis ( TB). That’s almost one per minute. More than a quarter of the estimated TB cases worldwide are in India.

In 2018, the UN committed to end the TB epidemic globally by 2030. The “End TB” strategy sought to reduce TB incidence by 80%, deaths by 90%, and eliminate catastrophic costs for TB-affected households. India announced it would try to eliminate TB in India by 2025, five years ahead of the UN’s target.

However, the first TB survey since the 1950s was recently conducted, and it found rates in the Indian community are much higher than anticipated.

When India gained independence in 1947, there were about half a million TB deaths annually and an estimated 2.5 million Indians suffered from active tuberculosis.

In 1948, a TB vaccination program commenced. The BCG vaccine protects against the most severe forms of TB, such as TB meningitis in children, but it doesn’t protect against TB in adults.
India’s first national survey of TB, conducted from 1955 to 1958, found on average four of every 1,000 people in India had TB.

The National Tuberculosis Institute was established in 1959 and an interdisciplinary group of epidemiologists, tuberculosis specialists, microbiologists, biostatisticians, sociologists, public health nurses and X-ray engineers conducted a series of research studies that culminated in the National Tuberculosis Programme in 1963. The key strategy of the program was to use chemotherapy to treat TB.

The results of the most recent national TB survey in India (2019–21) have just been released, and found just over three people per 1,000 had active TB cases. This is not a great improvement on the last survey from the 1950s (four per 1,000) and much higher than the WHO’s 2020 estimate of 1.8 per 1,000.

The highest prevalence was in Delhi, at over five per 1,000. Groups with higher prevalence included the elderly, malnourished, smokers, those with alcohol dependence and diabetics.
Despite the plan to eliminate catastrophic costs due to TB, an estimated 7-32% of TB sufferers and 68% of TB sufferers whose infection is resistant to frontline antibiotics experienced catastrophic costs. Catastrophic costs are said to be incurred when the total costs of treatment exceeds 20% of the annual household income.

Mmeanwhile, the total number of TB patients recorded dropped by 25% in 2020, then rose 19% in 2021. This probably indicates TB diagnoses were lost in 2020 during the COVID outbreak. Given hospitals were overwhelmed by COVID cases, people with TB symptoms would have been less able to get care, or would have been hesitant about going to hospital for fear of catching COVID. Even the National Institute of Tuberculosis and Respiratory Diseases (NITRD) was converted into a designated COVID Care Centre in May 2021.


Healthiest Cities in the World

Lifestyle Desk. Barta24.com
Healthiest Cities in the World.

Healthiest Cities in the World.

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With more than 103 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 spread across the world, health is at the forefront of everyone’s minds, perhaps more than ever. While it’s known that the US has been the hardest hit by the pandemic, the healthiest cities in the world have been revealed.

A new study by money.co.uk has uncovered the healthiest places on Earth to live in 2021. The experts ranked each city by life expectancy, financial toll on being healthy, air pollution, obesity rates, safety and sunlight hours to determine which destination has the best lifestyle. However, the study did not account for COVID-19 cases.

Spain was named the healthiest country in the world. One of the contributing factors was its Mediterranean diet, which is high in omega-3, fats and protein, as well as its social meal times and walking as a popular mode of transport.

On the other end of the scale, the US was listed as one of the least healthy countries on the planet. Obesity ratings land the nation at 153 out of 166 countries, which ultimately lowers average life expectancy.

“The most prevalent difference between countries like Spain and Japan to the US is the relationship towards food,” the study states. “Many of the healthiest countries on our index have a greater respect towards food, and treat meal times as a chance to create a social and loving environment. It is these cultural differences that hugely determine whether a country leads a healthy or unhealthy lifestyle.” List of world’s healthiest cities:


Known as being the city of art and science, Valencia is the healthiest city on Earth, according to the new study.

The Spanish city has an idyllic climate and easygoing lifestyle, but it’s the country’s iconic paella dish that truly shines as one of its secrets to good health – representing a nutritional mix of fresh produce that’s low in fat and high in omega-3 and fish protein.

2. Madrid

The second city on the list is the Spanish capital. Home to two world-famous football clubs, Madrid has a high standard of living and is considered a major financial hub for the nation.

3. Lisbon

Portugal’s capital is the third healthiest city in the world for 2021. Famed for its old city’s pastel-coloured buildings and hilly, coastal scenery, Lisbon fared well in comparison to other destinations.

4. Vienna

Shaped by the likes of Mozart and Beethoven, Austria’s capital is not only beautiful but one of the healthiest cities to call home.

5. Canberra

Dubbed Lonely Planet’s third best city in the world in 2018, the capital of Australia has once again taken out a top spot – this time as the fifth healthiest city. It also has the lowest pollution level of all top 10 locations.

6. Tel Aviv-Yafo

In sixth position, Israel’s cultural hub is also one of the best for health and wellbeing.

7. Tokyo

With the lowest obesity rate in the world and the highest life expectancy, it’s little surprise the Japanese capital made it in the top 10.

8. The Hague

Tucked on the North Sea coast, the gothic-style Dutch city was ranked the eighth healthiest place on Earth.

9. Ljubljana

Slovenia’s capital – and also its largest city – ranks as the cheapest place to buy a kilogram of apples among the top 10 cities.

19. Zurich

The only Swiss city to make the top 10, Zurich is one of the safest places in the world. In fact, it ranks in the top five cities with low crime rates globally.