Thursday, May 12, 2016

A way for happiness

Acclaimed psychological researcher Raj Raghunathan, in his book If You’re So smart Why Aren’t you Happy?, speaks about bringing happiness in your life. Sapna Sarfare finds out how… 

Raj Raghunathan
It is not always that success and happiness mean the same thing. Behind every successful person, there might be a unhappy person waiting for something to bring a smile to his existence. Many ask question regarding what can make a happy & fulfilling life and what are its true determinants.
Here’s where acclaimed psychological researcher Raj Raghunathan comes in the picture with his new book on finding answers for happiness for all. The well-researched book, If You’re So smart Why Aren’t you Happy?, reveals the path to finding true success of love, importance and control which will bring in lasting happiness. The book is published by publishing giant Penguin Random House UK.
A popular blogger for Psychology Today, Raj Raghunathan happens to be an Associate Professor at the University of Texas McCombs Scholl of Business. He received the Best MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) 2015 for his free online course – A Life of Happiness and Fulfillment.

How would you really define this book? Is it a self-help book or there is something more to the book?
It’s a scientifically-based book that addresses one of life’s big questions: What are the determinants of a happy and fulfilling life? In doing so, it arrives at a set of recommendations that are relatively easy to implement, but eventually lead to a set of deep-rooted changes. If you want to call that a self-help book, I (Raj Raghunathan) am totally fine with it. But it’s important to note that this book is based entirely on scientific findings - and is not faith-based.

Your book is the outcome of your interactions with successful; friends who were unhappy. What were the specific pointers that made you think a book is a good way to help others with similar problems?
I wouldn’t really say that the book is the outcome of my interactions with friends who are successful and still unhappy. I would say that observing the unhappiness of smart-and-successful people (me included) motivated me to explore the topic further. 
The book emerged organically from this exploration. I first started teaching a course on the topic, and then started blogging about some of the course content on Psychology Today. I then taught an online course on the topic - a course that was rated the Best MOOC of 2015. I finally took all of the content and experience and synthesized it in the book.

How are the book’s contents aid the readers in realising issues and getting a solution by themselves?
The book is written in a “user friendly” way. That is, despite being based on science, it does not use jargon. I also weave in many personal anecdotes & stories to help the reader better relate to the material. Finally, I have many exercises that I recommend to the reader. The reader can do these exercises on my website ( Doing these exercises will help the reader assimilate the concepts in the book better and see for him or her that it’s possible to put in place a recipe that leads to happiness and fulfillment. 

Is the book really for anybody who wants to find the true meaning of happiness?
It’s a book for anybody who is a “serious seeker” – someone who is deeply interested in figuring out the answer to the question, “what are the determinants of a happy and fulfilling life?” I feel that almost everyone – even if some does not realize it - is interested in the question. Some believe that they already know what it takes to lead such a life. Even these people will find the book interesting (because it covers a lot of science that they may not be aware of) – providing they are open-minded. 

How do you balance teaching marketing and helping people seek happiness? They are so different topics from each other from my point of view.
Ultimately, the aim of any business is (or should be) to improve the welfare of the customers. (Even if a firm wants to make a profit, it can only do so by improving the welfare of customers.) What better way to do this than by understanding what makes the happy and trying to improve their emotional well-being? After all, isn’t that what we all ultimately seek? 
So, I really don’t see any conflict between teaching marketing and teaching happiness. I would say they are complementary topics, even if this doesn’t seem apparent at first. 

How have the readers responded as yet? Any interesting stories to share
It's early days yet, but I have already had a few readers write back to me. They find the fact that I have so many resources available: the online course, my website, and the book (which, by the way, is available in e-book and audio versions as well), to be very helpful. A few of them are doing all three at once! 

Lastly, do share one tip for happiness whether successful or not.
Ultimately, you can’t really sustain a state of happiness unless you feel a sense of abundance – that is, that you have everything you need in life and more. Of course, it’s difficult for those living in conditions of scarcity (e.g., war or poverty struck zones) to feel this sense of abundance, but the rest of us can feel this way. And all of the exercises in the book are, in one way or another, aimed at nurturing this sense of abundance. 
One simple (but powerful) exercise is to maintain a gratitude journal. Just make a note of three good things that happened to you each day. They needn’t be anything big. Even little things like, ‘a stranger smiled at me’ or ‘I found a rupee on the road’ will do. You’d be surprised at how big an effect this has on your happiness if you do it for even just 2 weeks. 


AUTHOR: Raj Raghunathan
PUBLISHER: Penguin Random House UK
GENRE: Self-help, Personal Development & Psychology
LANGUAGE: English 
PRICE: Rs 499
PAGES: 352 

Photo Credit for Raj Raghunathan's Photo:

Saturday, May 7, 2016

It’s all Italiano!

Going to Prego, The Westin Pune Koregaon Park’s Italian restaurant is a must with its new chef Eraldo Collazzo. Sapna Sarfare checks the place and comes out all pleased.

It’s Italian cuisine reloaded at the much-loved and acclaimed Prego, the Italian fine dining restaurant at The Westin Pune, Koregaon Park. While their Italian specialties have always been attracted foodies from all around Pune, they were in search of a new head chef to lead its troop for a few months. And the wait got over with renowned Chef Eraldo Collazzo who has take over as the new Italian chef at Prego. His 38 years experience from all around the globe serving celebs & commoners alike will come in handy here. From May 5th 2016, his new and well-researched menu will be served to all hungry and interested Punekars visiting The Westin.

At a sneak preview, I got a hang of what will surprise everyone. It’s going to something different from the last chef as Chef Eraldo is more about going all natural with ingredients, a touch of authenticity and a twist. I found that out with the simplicity of the food he served at the preview. And you will love this touch. Originally, from Rome, the food from that region can be seen here. You will find chef’s signature dishes like Spaghetti Sofia Loren, Big Bang Seafood Salad, Cacio e Pepe to name a few.  

Freshly Baked Breads

First, we were served two types of freshly-baked breads typical to the region – the rye bread and Focaccia which just had us reaching out to it every time. The breads combined with some salsa (quite surprising) made our taste buds go wild.

Insalata Itaca

We then tried the Amuse Bouche that was tempura zucchini with balsamic sauce, which was light and delectable thanks to its easy flavours. What made me go crazy was a perfect salad for summers consisting of watermelon, feta cheese and mango. The combination amazed with me as I realised how easily they complimented each other. The Insalata Itaca which was a salad made of lettuce, feta cheese, olive, onion, pepper and sundried tomatoes was another winner thanks to it light dressing and good combination. Cheese lovers will go made over the Burrata Cheese with Tomatoes, which combined a dollop of Mozzarella cheese over tomatoes and just perfected the simple taste. The other previewers and I were won over by the amazing salads while we sipped on assorted drinks. I loved being served the 5-year-old red wine that was light enough to appreciate the rest of the meal.

Chef Eraldo Collazzo
We shifted to the main course, which began with the Penne Norma, which combined aubergine, basil tomato sauce, and mozzarella, was likable. The prominent basil tomato sauce surprisingly did not overwhelm the other flavours especially the bite size pieces of aubergine. Mozzarella cheese was sprinkled with ease but it was not too cheesy. I personally rated the Salmon Pasta as one of the winning recipes from the kitchens of Chef Eraldo. I loved the delicate flavours of salmon combined with the pasta and sauce which melted in your mouth. Chicken lovers would like the Pollo Genova that is chicken fillet in sweet basil pesto, pine nut and served with salad and potato wedges. The fillet was well-made and again, the basil pesto with pine nuts gave the chicken delicate flavour. Though the Beetroot and Parmesan Sauce Risotto (beetroot risotto topped with extra aged parmesan sauce) tasted decent, some might be bothered with its too simple taste and al dente nature. A word of truth – that is how risotto is cooked in Italy. I personally found it overshadowed by other well-made delicacies. That’s unfortunate.

Panna Cotta
The icing over an excellent meal was the Panna Cotta containing sambuca scent and berry coulis. The berries flavoured the panna cotta well but were not too sweet. You just want to drown in its taste.

I personally found Chef Eraldo Collazzo’s food to be simple yet full of taste and true to his belief that authentic food should be natural and speak of the region. Though some delicacies won our votes big time over others, I found it hard to reject anything per say. Now Punekars get a chance to check the new chef’s magic at Prego, The Westin Pune Koregaon Park.

Venue: Prego, The Westin Pune Koregaon Park, 84/36, N Main Rd, Koregaon Park Annexe, Pune
Timings: 6:30 PM to 11:30 PM 
Contact: 020 67210060