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Christmas Tears

>> Tuesday, December 21, 2010

 "The rulers of this world are seldom friendly to the cause of God.”
J. C. Ryle

I was planning to write a simple Christmas greeting to my blogger friends. Then I came across this story, a story we forget in the middle of all the joy of Christmas. This was part of a sermon from the Keep Believing Ministries.

" This is the story of the man who tried to kill Christmas. It is strange and bizarre and doesn’t seem like it should be in the Bible. It doesn’t seem like we should read it during the Christmas season. It doesn’t sound right amid all the Christmas carols. It doesn’t look right surrounded by sparkling lights and candy canes. It takes all the joy away and leaves only sadness.

No, this is a story we would just as soon forget. It’s a story about the boys of Bethlehem. It’s a story about murder in the manger. History has labeled this event the Slaughter of the Innocents. It’s part of the Christmas story, tucked away toward the end of Matthew.
When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi. Then what was said through the prophet Jeremiah was fulfilled: ‘‘A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more” (Matthew 2:16-18) "

This is part of the scandal of Christmas. Whenever choirs do Christmas concerts, they don’t sing about this part of the story. No Christmas carols mention this tragic event. Yet it happened one night in Bethlehem. What Herod did to those baby boys is just as real as Mary giving birth to Jesus.Mary rejoicing, Rachel weeping. Christmas joy, Christmas tears—all wrapped up together.

Why is this shocking story recorded in the Bible? It must be true because the Bible records it as a sober historical fact, and it must be important or Matthew wouldn’t have mentioned, and that means there must be something here we need to think about. There are times in the Bible when you read something and it is so amazing or so unexpected or in this case so heartbreakingly cruel you ought to stop and ask, “What’s going on here?”
As we look at these verses we are struck with an enormous sense of evil. In fact it’s hard to find the right words to describe the act— barbaric, despicable, hideous, inhuman, and unspeakably cruel. It is an act worthy of Stalin, Hitler or Saddam Hussein .

A few years ago I had seen a column about an event that took place when the Nazi Adolph Eichmann—who helped plan the systematic destruction of millions of Jews and others in the Holocaust—was put on trial in Israel. A Jewish man by the name of Yehiel Dinur had survived the concentration camps and had testified against Eichmann (when he was tried in absentia) at the Nuremburg trials after World War II. Years later the Israeli Special Forces captured Eichmann in a daring raid in Argentina returned him to Israel to stand trial for his crimes. Dinur attended the 1961 trial as a witness. When he saw Eichmann in the courtroom Dinur began to sob uncontrollably. Soon he fainted and fell to the floor. Why? Was it hatred? Fear? Horrid memories? Speaking in an interview  on a TV show sometime later, Dinur explained that during the war he had feared Eichmann because he saw him as someone fundamentally different than he was. But now, seeing him stripped of all his Nazi glory, Dinur saw Eichmann for what he really was—just an ordinary man. “I was afraid about myself,” Dinur explained, “I saw that I am capable to do this. I am … exactly like he.” That is why he collapsed on the floor !

The truth can be summarized  in six terrifying words: “Eichmann is in all of us.”

This is in fact the central truth about human nature. Sin is in us—not just the temptation to sin, not just the propensity to sin, but sin itself dwells in us. We don’t like to hear this truth, which is why we don’t like to think about stories like the slaughter of the infants of Bethlehem. They force us to confront the truth about who we really are.

Christmas is a time for all to share and care. So let's not remain confined to our petty selves. Let us welcome with outstretched arms those unfortunate ones who have no one to fall back upon. Christmas is a good time; a kind, forgiving, generous, pleasant time; a time when men and women can open their hearts freely, forget the past , forgive each other and welcome the New Year with peaceful hearts.

Wishing you all the timeless treasures of Christmas…the warmth of home, the love of family and the company of good friends. Have a blessed Christmas!


Come,let us weep

>> Thursday, December 16, 2010

I get very emotional when I watch some movies. I often weep…more than in the movies. It is as if, I am waiting for reasons to weep. I cry when I feel happy and also when I feel sad. A good movie, a great film, a birthday card, I weep. Like Graham in ‘The Holiday’ says

“I am a great weeper”

Many animals yelp or cry out when they're in pain. But as far as scientists can tell, we humans seem to be the only species that shed tears for emotional reasons. Scientists who study evolution say crying probably conferred some benefit and did something to advance our species … because it's stayed with us. Tears can play an important role in communication, and the extraordinary thing is that tears don't just sms our state of mind to others…they can also evoke strong emotions in the people who witness them. Tears help reveal the truth. And that's because along with the tears, we've evolved a very special ability to interpret them.

Human emotion and psyche is a complex and mysterious thing. That's one reason I never try to criticize anyone for tearing up...all of us have varying triggers that elicit joy, despair, sadness, elation. There's nothing more complex than the human brain. We cry when we're happy...we cry when we're sad.

When I settle down sometimes to watch a movie, my wife asks me what the theme is, and then would warn me, ‘Now, if it is for you to cry, find someone else to sit with!

It is winter time here, the best time of the year for me. All the rest of the year, it is scorching heat here. I love it when it is cold and chilly. It is Christmas time and I thought this movie “The Holiday” suited the mood. And as usual, I wept at many scenes. Not out of sadness, but out of happiness.

It’s not a classic romantic comedy by any standards, but it still makes you smile more often than you want to admit. The story centers on two women: Iris (Kate Winslet), a British newspaper columnist hopelessly in love with a man about to marry someone else, and Amanda (Cameron Diaz), a highly successful Los Angeles career woman who just broke up with her latest cheating boyfriend. “The Holiday” is a tale of two women, two houses, and two love interests in two different countries.

Two couples meet and fall in love and you cheer them on. You sincerely wish the broken hearts got mended. The whole movie is love and broken hearts, but turns around positive. Right down to the two little girls who play Jude Law's children.. they steal the show and you would love them, pure innocence in their giggles. The music is sheer delight, there are lovely piano pieces.
"It was Shakespeare who also said "love is blind". Now that is something I know to be true. For some quite inexplicably, love fades; for others love is simply lost. But then of course love can also be found, even if just for the night. And then, there's another kind of love: the cruelest kind. The one that almost kills its victims. Its called unrequited love. Of that I am an expert!”

I was reminded of Padmarajan, when he said” unrequited love is an  aching pain in your heart”

“Most love stories are about people who fall in love with each other. But what about the rest of us? What about our stories, those of us who fall in love alone? We are the victims of the one sided affair. We are the cursed of the loved ones. We are the unloved ones, the walking wounded. The handicapped without the advantage of a great parking space! Yes, you are looking at one such individual. These years that I have been in love have been the darkest days of my life. All because I've been cursed by being in love with someone who does not and will not love me back.”

There are skillfully crafted moments of refreshing comedy as well as heartening scenes of blossoming romance.

I am off this weekend and planning to see some more movies, and weep.



>> Friday, December 10, 2010

Balachandran’s blog on his trip to Germany took me down the memory lanes.

It was way back in 1986 that I went to Germany for training on Ultrasound. The procedure was just coming up in India and many hospitals didn’t have the device. It was my first time abroad and I had the usual anxieties. Trier is a small town at the banks of the Moselle river.Quite honestly I didn’t know anything about Trier till I reached the place. This town has one heck of a long history behind it. It was founded by the Romans as “Augusta Treveorum” in 16 BC. Over 2000 years of history! Without doubt, it is Germany’s oldest city. Trier also boasts one of the most colorful markets in Europe with its outstanding ensemble of historical buildings.

Trier Hospital

Porta Nigra.The Roman Gate

Just after I reached, the winter started, and along with it, snow fall. The temperature was minus 10. I would spend the evenings at the hospital guest house; sipping the fine liquor the director had gifted me, watching the flecks of snow forming sheets of white carpet all around. Trier is close to Luxemberg and incidentally, is the birth place of Karl Marx. The hospital was run by monks of the Barmherzigen order.( Krankenhaus der Barmherzigen Bruder ,Trier Bruderhaus) My introduction letter had mentioned that I was working as a consultant in a big hospital in India (Elsewhere in the world, you have to put up many years of experience to become a consultant. It is common practice in India to place the title “Consultant”, just after someone finished a post graduate degree or even diploma!)
Prof. Yamus was one of the pioneers in the field of Ultrasound. I met him at his office. I knocked at his door and entered and started off with the usual” Good morning, Sir”.
And he replied, “My name is Yamus, not Sir.” Obviously, he had no idea what this sir business meant.
There is no sir business elsewhere, unless it is some kind of honor conferred up on you .Everyone in the department, from the attendant to the director called him just Mr.Yamus.  He was in his fifties at that time. Having used to calling everyone at the Medical College sir, sir, it was new experience to me. They gave me all the respect a consultant deserved. At one time Yamus mentioned, “I am surprised, at this young age you could become a consultant”. He had no idea that “consultant” was a self declared title in India. When I was leaving the hospital, he took me to his personal library, and said, “Thomas, take any book you find useful”.

I used to have breakfast at the hospital canteen (it was free for me !  ) I always noticed a graceful looking elderly man in his sixties who would come to the canteen at the same time. It was winter time and he would come immaculately dressed, and would take time in removing his hat, coat and muffler and hang them at the proper hangers, and would then take a table for his breakfast. Whoever would come there, he would offer a polite  “Guten Morgen”. I thought he was one of the senior professors or so at the hospital. One day while at lunch, I asked a colleague, in which department this gentleman worked and she said “Aah..,Mr. Merckel, he is our cleaner”.
This is how they are different and that is why I think they are better people.. They haven’t made a class difference. They respect mutually. And every job is given the respect it deserves. I would say, the cleaner is one of the most important persons in the hospital. Without him, the hospital would become a junk yard of fragmented organs and remains. But, would everyone take it? If not treat them as equals, at least we can stop insulting and abusing them for no reasons.

Over years we have accumulated so much of unhealthy practices we are proud of. We have been taught to respect elders and teachers, it is good as well, but that shouldn't just boil down to calling them Sir. These days students have no hesitation to f...the teachers after calling them  Sir,Sir.

And talking about   f…ing business, I learned that it was, after all, not such a bad term, from one of my colleagues whom I respect most. He would say “Aah … fuck” when ever something goes wrong in the ward. If he sees a patient deteriorating, or a bad lab result, he would  say “Ooh..Shit or.. ..Fuck”.To me,it was just a sign of his commitment to his patients, and there was no easier way to express the desperation.

He was one of the honest and disciplined persons I have ever worked with. He set good examples for me in profession and I have learned from him. Coming from him, I knew he meant no obscenity. But in India, we don’t talk about that business. It is not allowed to f…, leave alone talking about it in public. These are things we are supposed to carry in our perverted minds. We really mean fuck when we say that!
(I didn’t mean to write a blog on f….But it so happened and just came. Honestly I don’t think there is anything obscene in the word, it is the way we use it. After all, we hear it a hundred times in any English movie)



Down Dark Alleys

>> Thursday, December 2, 2010

The weekly news roundup was  full of the  scam and of the unholy nexus between our media, politicians and corporate mafias. It was hard to believe many young, apparently innocuous looking women reporters were at the helm of the dirty games. In the middle of all this, was this news item which caught my attention.

India will soon have its first law to deal exclusively with child sexual abuse cases. The provisional draft of the bill, titled ‘Sexual Offences Against Children Bill, 2010', seeks to substitute the word ‘rape' with technical terms and cover several forms of abuse of both boys and girls, which now remain grey areas in the absence of a specific legislation. The proposed legislation calls for setting up of special courts, special prosecutors and child friendly courts. The information was given to the media by the Union Minister for law,  Veerappa Moili, last week.

At present, cases of sexual offences against children are being tried under the Indian Penal Code, which does not take into consideration the age of the victim. With such offences attracting only such sections that deal with rape, unnatural offences and outraging the modesty of a woman, many sexual offences against children, especially those against boys, were not getting a focused trial, it was felt.

It is a long-hidden issue that India is finally beginning to wrestle with. The scale of abuse, according to a  National study, is far worse than anybody had thought. (Ministry of Women and Child Development : "Study on Child Abuse: India 2007) It reports that 69 per cent of all Indian children are victims of physical, mental or emotional abuse, with New Delhi’s children facing an astounding abuse rate of 83.12 percent.

The survey, which involved interviews with 12,447 children, also highlighted that, it is usually family members (89 percent) who perpetrate such crimes and that more boys face physical abuse (72.61) than girls (65 per cent). Overall, Indian children were found to be victims of a slew of sexual crimes … rape, sodomy, exposure to pornographic material, fondling, forcible kissing and sexual advances, among others. The study also noted that child sexual abuse in India begins as early as five, ratchets up dramatically during pre-pubescence and peaks at 12 to 16 years. Ironically, 71 per cent of sexual assault cases in India go unreported.

This means, the chances are, every other child you see on the road is a victim to some kind of sexual abuse. Hard to believe?

India is home to more than 375 million children, comprising nearly 40 percent of our population,  the  largest number of minors in any country in the world. Despite its ethos of non-violence, tolerance, spirituality and a new emerging  trillion-dollar economy, India hosts the world's largest number of sexually abused children, at a far higher rate than any other country. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), one in every four girls and one in every seven boys in the world are sexually abused, hardly encouraging, but still far below India’s totals.

Worse, child abuse is one of the least documented violations in the country,  records author Grace Poore in the book, The Children We Sacrifice, which deals with the wide prevalence of child sexual abuse in India.
The reasons are manifold. In India, much like the rest of Asia, children are expected to respect and obey authority figures such as teachers, religious guides, and principals and not question their actions. Rebellion is perceived as a sign of a bad upbringing. This sensibility perpetuates a culture of abuse by encouraging sexual predators.

Also, Indian adults often exercise a very  tight hold over their children,  demanding  complete and unquestioned  obedience. A culture of silence and shame  also  swirls  around cases of sexual violence against children. Unsurprisingly,  the  notion  of  shame is the single largest culprit in perpetuating sexual violence against India’s children.

Apart from the legal dimension, child sexual abuse has serious psychological and emotional elements. Worldwide  surveys point out that such  abuse  negatively impacts  a child’s physical, emotional  and  mental well-being, leading to severe behavioral and psychiatric disorders. Suicidal tendencies and drug abuse are common long-term effects.

A   WHO  survey  also points out that there is an unambiguous behavioral and  emotional pattern  in  the abused. Usually the  child  hardly  talks about the incident. And, even if he or she does, no one takes  it seriously. That in turn  triggers feelings of self doubt and guilt, exacerbating  the child’s feeling that  it is his or her fault. As the child matures, compulsive   behavior reinforces this guilt.  Small wonder, that  many adult sexual problems, according to  psychoanalysts, trace their  roots to childhood abuse.

Where,  then, does the solution lie? Educating and enlightening kids about such issues, helping them  distinguish  between “good” and “bad” touch, is a partial answer. Children also ought to be  made  aware of impulsive decisions they may make under pressure from teachers, bullies and abusers. Sex education in schools is also productive. The Netherlands, a country  where teenage  pregnancy rates plummeted  from 60 per cent to about 25 per cent through aggressive sex information campaigns in schools, is an example. But attempts to introduce sex education in to our curriculum has faced strong objections from many quarters.

With child sexual abuse attracting so much scrutiny and public debate, the government has the added impetus to adopt strong and unequivocal measures to contain such crimes. For a country with nearly 40 per cent of its populace comprised of children, such measures are overdue.


A time to be good

>> Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I was  watching a press conference of JSS leader, Smt. K. R. Gouriamma  the other day.She couldn't get up from the chair without help,neither could she talk clearly because of her tremor.She was all against her party members in that  her party would join neither the left wing or the right in the upcoming elections. Her supporters tried to make her reach a compromise,but she refused to yield,and insisted the right wing had personally insulted her.

Like a musical chair,they have all changed parties and alliances.Now that the elections are on the way, be prepared for more shows.

He says jayalalitha is corrupt!

For Karunanidhi, the Tamil interest comes only after the clan interest.One is negotiable, the other is not. The tantrums of DMK’s Karunanidhi over his ‘kids’ Azhagiri, Stalin and others was witnessed silently by the rest of the nation. He is stuck to the wheel chair and wears his dark glasses all the time,so it is hard to know if he can see a thing.

In Kerala, Karunakaran, the doddering father-fighter, has already ceased to be even comical; he has become incomprehensible as power-lust is accompanied by senescence. In the north we have all the types, ranging from the most accomplished performer of social justice to the avenging diva of dalit salvation.

Lalu Prasad Yadav, currently one of the most trusted loyalists in the Sonia durbar, may play the subaltern jester for electoral effect.  Mayawati has all the paranoia of the supreme leader who detests questions and invents enemies, and she too, like Lalu of the Bihar days, has turned the romance of social justice into a reign of terror and fear in the name of the dispossessed.
Dewe Gouda,the Ex PM, sleeps most of the time.When he is awake,he still tries to keep the interests of his clan.He was our only PM who could eat and talk at the same time.Even Gods cannot wake him up.!

Gods cannot wake him up!
No,not from circus!

I remember having heard ,a pack of lions if led by a mule will be as ineffective and sterile as the leader itself. Compounding the conundrum, this mule is destined to steer a bunch of hyenas instead of lions. That makes things worse, doesn't it?

"The leader  can now remeber only two things about the 2G scam. Rahul 'G' and Sonia 'G' ".At least, it shows he has some memory left. The list could go on and on. 

India is the only democracy where there is a stark contrast between the average age of the citizens and that of politicians at the helm. While 70 per cent of India’s population is below 40 years of age, 80 per cent of India’s politicians are over 70 years.There is, a case for fixing the retirement age for occupying party posts and constitutional positions. First, a person’s ability to judge and respond quickly degenerates with age. There is also the the overall lack of fitness, higher prevalence of serious diseases relating to heart, kidney, lungs, brain, and so on. In the Indian context, older leaders carry two serious disadvantages. Leaders, over the years, become more and more greedy and second, they carry a lot of baggage and most cannot move around. Greed among Indians is in their genes.A time has come to change the rules of the game in Indian politics for an emerging India, aspiring to become part of the developed world. Indian politicians need to be generous and they should look at role models elsewhere.

In the US, the 13th Constitutional amendment set term limits for the offices of the President and governors. This ensures that the leaders are not for life and the same leaders are not hanging around, whenever the party comes back to power. In the UK and other parts of Europe (except Italy), well established conventions have ensured that the defeated leaders do not come back in the next elections. Same for Australia, New Zealand and Canada, where sometimes leaders in the leading parties have come and gone at such speed that it is difficult to even remember their names.

Hindu philosophy divides human life span into four time periods. A 75-year-old, in his Vanprastha period (last stage) belongs to no one and is expected to leave family matters and devote himself entirely to serving God . But that rarely happens in Indian politics.

Isn't it time for a change?


Shooting Stars

>> Friday, November 26, 2010

Preeja at the finish

That evening as I settled down to watch the first day of athletics events on television, two young Indian girls stepped on to the tracks. The 60,000 strong crowd of mostly Chinese roared for the local favorites as the women set off in quest of the 10,000 m gold.

The tiny looking Indian girls gamely held on to the leading bunch lap after lap giving  a glimmer of hope. The two athletes - Preeja Sreedharan and Kavita Raut - were not the favorites to win. Kavita had won a bronze at the Commonwealth Games in the same event while Preeja disappointed. As the track official sounded the bell for the last lap, the Indian girls took off, as if from a sling shot, leaving others in their wake. Never before had I seen anything like this.

The girls made it look so easy from distance. Preeja and Kavita, who finished first and second, even jogged a victory lap.

While Indian fans ( I don’t even know if there are many) lap up the achievements of the Indian women, what many may not know is that both these athletes had won a bigger battle to get to the Asian Games arena. Both of them had to beat poverty and its associated hurdles to win laurels for our country.

Preeja's father died when she was very young and her older brother dropped out of school to become a carpenter's apprentice. Her mother worked in neighbors’ homes to feed the family. Preeja caught the eye of her athletics coach while in school in Kerala's Idukki district. Due to her athletic prowess, she got help to finish her degree and a job with the Railways followed.
With the Rs10 lakhs won by Preeja at the Chennai marathon in 2008, the family has bought a small plot of land in Palghat where they are building a house.

Kavita's story is no different.

She belongs to a poor family in the adivasi belt of Trimapkeswar near Nasik. She has four brothers and says she chose running as it could be done barefooted and without spending any money. Kavita is now employed with Oil and Natural Gas Corporation.

I was waiting anxiously for their return to the tracks for the 5000 m race today. Preeja looked confident. She was the smallest of the lot and the least assuming. It was charm to see her in sprint. There was a rare grace in her movements. She appeared an angel on  wings.

The close-up shots showed a very different and distressing part of the competition. It is not an easy game. The amount of stress, effort,fear and anxiety on their faces brought tears to my eyes. They put every iota of energy left in them in to their feet. I was relieved when I saw Preeja winning the race. Kavita won the bronze.
And just a short while after this, our girls won the 400 m relay race as well.

When time permits try to have a look at the finishing moments of an athletics sprint . You will find all emotions possible on those faces. It is simply not easy at all. I wouldn’t dare to compare it with any other event.
It is a reward less field with not much of accolades or glory. And for that matter, not even money or stardom. They don’t get invited to the parties of film stars or politicians, and are soon forgotten.

Cricket is the national obsession in India. Its stars dominate the headlines and devour almost all the sponsorship deals. All other games and sports are submerged under this game, if you can call it so. Historically, the government offered little help to the athletes, and corporations were reluctant to sponsor those who competed in obscure sports. This reality lead many athletes to a common destination: jobs with the Indian railway or police. Most of the women athletes finally settle down with any ordinary job to make their livelihood. It is not surprising that we do not produce as many men athletes as women.

India, which ranks behind only China in population with more than 1.1 billion people, could never get a gold medal in Olympics, till Bindra won it at the air rifle shooting competition at the Beijing Olympics.

Preeja Sreedharan with the gold medal

This prompts an ever-persistent question. Why do we continually fail to produce elite athletes on the international stage? We are getting recognition as a growing economy. But is that just enough?


Mostly Martha

>> Friday, November 19, 2010

"Some people still kill a lobster
by throwing it in boiling water.
But by now everyone should know
that for the animal
it is the most agonizing death,
because it takes so long for it to die.
The best way to kill a lobster
is with a well placed stab in the neck.
It's the quickest".

Isn't it true about human relationships too?
I saw this movie last week and loved it.It is a German movie, but has English sub titles.There is something compelling about the movie.It's about a workaholic chef who has to force herself out of her fixation and get a life.


The Art of Giving

>> Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tata’s donation of US $ 50 million to Harvard has become a matter of heated discussion.

Even by the standards of American philanthropy, the Tata donation is significant. And he isn’t the only Indian to be pouring money into Harvard. In May this year, the family of Infosys founder NR Narayana Murthy decided to give US$5.2 million for creating the Murthy Classical Library of India(which will, among other things, have 100 books from Indian languages translated into English). The Mahindra Group has donated $10 million to the Harvard Humanities Centre.

The Tatas, the Murthys and the Mahindras have favoured Harvard in different ways and for different reasons, but this raises a question: why are they more favourably inclined to a Harvard than, say, an IIM or any other Indian Institution. One answer is that they have been associated with these institutions in some way. But, equally, it seems that they are less sure about how useful their contributions to Indian institutions would be. The Harvards of the world emphasise excellence over every other ideal. The same cannot be said for our politician -controlled institutions.

Tata is the most generous overseas donor to Harvard Business School to date.

According to both American and Indian intellectuals, humility and integrity are the two distinctive traits of a man considered nearly as powerful as the greatest political leaders in India. For instance, the Tata Group billionaire refuses to let others carry his bag for him.

“Tata’s gift not only reflects the businessman’s relationship with the program as an alum, but also his role as a global leader and citizen. He cares about his country, his company, and his employees,” Nitin Nohria , Dean, Harvard Business School says. “And no organization in the world has a greater commitment to integrity and doing things ‘right.’”

The company is itself controlled by a collection of non-profit, charitable trusts, to which two-thirds of the profit of these companies contributes. This collection of trusts sponsors free cancer hospitals and education through grants and scholarships.

This is a company that has a very solid reputation for doing good” So, this single donation, is it a matter for discussion?

“There are millions of Indians living under poverty line and can afford only one meal a day. There are hundreds of thousands of school children in Indian villages who do not have access to basic education. There are no school buildings to conduct classes. Infrastructure in towns and villages is nonexistent. So many Indians do not have access to basic healthcare. Farmers are committing suicide because of poverty. The list of these disasters goes on in India. That somebody with wealth gives the money to somebody who really does not need it is a shameful act. It is just to have a name among elitist, rich and powerful”. Arguments go on and on. I had given the answer to all these. Two thirds of the Tata profits are handed over to charitable trusts for humanitarian causes.

India is economically doing well. I don't think Indians have been so rich and have their wealth recognized internationally before. They have never been known globally for philanthropy like some western billionaires. So yes, may be, this is going to be their rat race to be recognized in that manner.

They earned the money fair and square and have full freedom to spend it exactly how they want. A business is ethically obligated to conduct business fairly without unfair practices, illegal activities or fraud. They are not ethically obliged to give back at all. Social ethics? Yes we can examine the role of business from a social ethics perspective. But then, he is doing more than anyone else, isn’t he?

It is his money, his right of spending.


A Dangerous Business

>> Tuesday, November 9, 2010

There was this disturbing news in yesterday’s daily which prompted me to write this.

A couple was undergoing treatment for infertility for the last few years, and finally conceived. Everyone was happy,  the patient,her husband, the doctor, and the whole family. The doctor then prescribed a medication for the safe continuation of the pregnancy. She was asked to take one tablet daily for a month. About a week after taking the medicines, the patient started feeling unwell. At the end of the course of medications, she attended the doctor for review, and he gave another  prescription to continue the same medication for a further two weeks. She couldn’t continue the medications because of severe side effects and was admitted to the hospital. It was then they found that the woman was taking a wrong medication all along. She was supposed to take a hormone to sustain the pregnancy, but received a medication to induce abortion!!And the strangest thing is that the wrong medicine, which should have induced an abortion in few days, was ineffective, even in its proposed function. The drug was also capable of inducing malformations and birth defects in the baby, and so the pregnancy had to be terminated.

This was really disturbing news to me. Further reading into the matter revealed that the prescription was grossly illegible and the pharmacist mistook it for another medicine.

At the hospital where I work, we have faced similar problems many times,and still do. Some doctors appear to be decided they will write only illegible notesand prescriptions. Even when relaxed and comfortable, some of them appear to become frantically busy when they write prescriptions. The result is an illegible tangle of lines. The pharmacists sit scratching their heads and ultimately call the doctor himself for help. Many times we had patients who were brought unconscious after taking Diamicron ( a tablet for diabetes) instead of Diovan ( medicine for BP),and also life threatening bleeding problems after taking wrong dose of warfarin ( a blood thinner used in heart disease).I have often wondered why some doctors write this way. Even those who have reasonably good handwriting, fails to make legible prescriptions. This, I would say is a fatal negligence. The time of secrecy in prescriptions is a long forgotten story. Doctors should be aware that they are answerable for such  negligence and could be held responsible.

A Texas cardiologist was probably the first doctor held liable for a fatal medication mix-up caused by this long time problem of bad handwriting. A jury in Odessa, Texas, ordered Ramachandra Kolluru to pay $450,000 to the family of Ramon Vasquez, who died after a pharmacist misread Kolluru's writing. The 42-year-old heart patient was given the wrong medication at eight times the recommended dosage. Two weeks later, he was dead from an apparent heart attack.

The victim's widow, Teresa Vasquez, says she sued to prompt doctors and pharmacists to be more careful. If the doctors don't change their writing, then it could happen to me again with my kids or even me,'' she says. Now, ''doctors might change, and it might not ever happen again to anybody. We had no complaint about his (Kolluru's) care. In fact, he is a good doctor”

The case points to a growing danger as medications become more numerous and their names more similar. Such cases go unanswered in India, probably because patients do not know they have the rights to complain about this. In the case I had mentioned, the family opted not to complain, and prayed doctors to be more careful.

From prescriptions to physician signatures, and from progress notes to referral letters, bad handwriting is a concern in every aspect of patient care. Pharmacists must be able to read medication orders, nurses must be able to determine whom to ask if they have a question about an order, and other physicians must be able to extract information efficiently from patient charts. In a 1986 study from the New England Journal of Medicine, out of 50 outpatient progress notes, 16% of all words were illegible. Only14% of the 50 outpatient progress notes had legible signature. Poor handwriting by physicians is riskier than poor handwriting by other professionals.

There are simple solutions to a dangerous problem. Many of the doctors can write legible prescriptions, if they take care. An assistant with good handwriting in the physician’s clinic could write the prescription as directed by the physician, then have the physician sign it. The drawback to this being that someone must pay the salary of the prescription writer.

The capability of pharmacists to decipher illegible calligraphy is known as to be almost proverbial. But then, we have another problem. Most of our pharmacies do not have qualified pharmacists. They get the pharmacy licence on someone’s name, but employ salesgirls or boys on low salary who probably have only school education. And on top of all this, more than 30% of all medicines sold are supposed to be fake medicines. Frightening combination, isn’t it?

can you read?
a good example

Bad writing is more like bad manners than
bad features: it is unpleasant to the
beholder, like an ugly face, but, unlike it, is
easily corrigible.
- E.W. Playfair


Today’s news

>> Saturday, November 6, 2010

Malayala Manorama 3, Nov 2010.


“Raped by Policemen after arrest”

“A girl, who was arrested at Ernakulam on charges of theft, was raped by four policemen, before producing her before the Magistrate. The human rights commission has ordered an enquiry. The young woman, who is pregnant, opened her grievance to  Mr Natarajan of the Human rights commission, who had made a surprise visit to the jail.

Doctors confirmed that the girl was 17 weeks pregnant. The girl alleged that the police men were responsible for her pregnancy. She was working as a home nurse at a house in Ernakulam, and was arrested on charges of theft on the 10th of June. The police then took her to a house at Vellore where she was kept for five days before being taken to the sub jail. Four police men raped her repeatedly there.”


“Blind man arrested for molesting blind woman”.

Thampanoor police today arrested David (29) of Merckinston Estate, on charges of rape.

He had brought the blind woman to a lodge in Trivandrum, doped her and then raped her. He had offered to marry her and then disappeared on the wedding day. The man was subsequently arrested on the complaint of the girl.

It was said, there are many cases pending on the criminal at various police stations.


“The main culprit of the molestation case of the housewife arrested”

The man had taken  nude pictures of the housewife through an air hole in her toilet. Manikantan 32, of Girija Bhavan, Adoor was arrested yesterday. There was a series of molestations after the video recording. Manikantan gave the video to his friend who threatened the woman and raped her. When he repeatedly approached her, the woman had gone to the police for help. Her husband is away, employed abroad. The police offered to help her to get the memory card back and took a bribe of 5000 rupees from her and then molested her. By this time, another friend of Manikantan approached the woman saying that he has the memory card and  raped her as well. The police is on the lookout for the four criminals including the policeman.


“Criminals on motor bike escaped after snatching the gold chains from three women on the road. One of the criminals was later caught by the local residents and handed over to the police”.


“Theft from the premises of the District Court”( What a wonderful location! )

The theft occurred in the high security building of the District Court here, where very important documents and evidences related to various cases including murder cases are kept safe. The thieves removed all the batteries of the computers in the court .Around 60 batteries of the UPS were also stolen. Police has started an enquiry.


“Arrested for taking Nude Pictures”

Two persons were arrested on charges of taking nude pictures of tourists. They targeted the tourists who were apparently threatened and took their nude photos and later blackmailed them. They also took nude pictures of the men with some women accomplices, for use for blackmail later.


“Good news for Musli Power users”

The manufacturers of Musli Power is organising a family meeting of all those who got conceived after using Musli Power extra!! All those who got “power” after using Musli Power should apply with their photograph and their proof of purchase, Dr K C George ( supplier, turned doctor cum inventor) announced today. The company will sponsor the education of the Musli power children including “professional courses”, he said.

The company has grown in to a multimillion business in last few years.

This is a sample of a day’s news from God’s own country.

Kerala is the only 100% literate state in India. And full of self acclaimed moralists.
(The statements in brackets are my own).


What is in a name?

>> Saturday, October 30, 2010


Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday said that he would ask RBI to take a look at the demand for establishing Islamic banking in India .He was responding to a query on the subject at a press conference he addressed along with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak. He said the pressure was mounting on the RBI  for such an establishment.The statement is significant as it comes in the backdrop of the RBI governor D Subbarao’s statement that Islamic banking cannot be allowed within the current rules of the RBI. “With the present set Banking Regulation Act, Islamic banking just cannot take place as many of the banking principles in place are based on interest payments. However, Islamic banking is possible through a separate legislation,” He said.

It must be recalled that the Kerala High Court had recently asked Kerala’s CPM controlled state government to keep away from a new company that was registered under the Sharia laws of banking. Former Union Minister Subramaniam Swamy had petitioned the court against the Kerala State Industrial Development Corporation taking the lead to start an Islamic bank with private players ( Mostly NRI businessmen). Some leading NRI investors had approached Minister Elamarom Kareem who quickly agreed to the proposal and soon KSIDC came out with the investment offer. The bank would not pay any interest to customers, but only “ profit”, while a Sharia board would decide what sort of investments it would make..

In his PIL, Mr Swamy had said that public money was being appropriated for favouring a particular religion in a secular country, as KSIDC, an arm of the state, offered to take 11% stake in the bank.

A section of “liberal” opinion within the country is backing the idea. Jurists like VR Krishna Iyer are of the view that Islamic banking, that prohibits levying of interest, are humanistic in nature. ( He often swims against the current) M D Nalappat ( Madhavikkutty turned Kamala Suraiya’s son) wrote an article supporting Islamic Banking during the International Seminar on Islamic Banking. http://www.isifk.com/mdnalappa/

Islamic finance is based on the generation of assets which are structured to be Islamic law or Sharia-compliant. The sharia bans usury or the charging of interest ( riba) on money lent to others. The issue then is to find alternative routes to ensuring a margin between the cost of funds and the return they earn to cover intermediation costs and make a profit.Whatever, methods to generate profits are indirectly methods to circumvent  Sharia laws.  It is against Islam to take "interest", but can accept "profit" from investment.

Having said this, one must also remember that the world’s leading financial hubs all have Islamic Banking Centres. London, Zurich and New York are the leading Islamic Banking centres, but the major fund holders are Iran and Saudi Arabia. The Islamic banking market continues to flourish around the world with current estimates suggesting that assets managed by Islamic banks are in excess of $700 billion (predominately concentrated in the Middle East)  and expected to cross a  trillion by 2013. It is likely that if India opens up Islamic Banking, funds would flow in, considering the fact that we have ideal investment conditions and a large Muslim population.

A curious project is said to have been undertaken in England, that is the establishmen of a  " Roman Catholic Bank".The name of the bank would be "Anglo Universal Bank" and the aim would be "protection and developementof Catholic Banking interests through out the world"!

Other religions are likely to follow the suit.

There is apprehension among many Indians on the prospects of Islamic Banking. There are fears that it would further ignite the ongoing religious issues, and that funds could be diverted to religious establishments for anti national interests. Islamic Banks will be governed by Sharia Councils,and not the government.

It is time that our policy makers think seriously about matters of national interest before blabbering in public. Singh obviously has some difficulty to speak and walks around like a mechanised robot, and when he speaks, sounds as if Sonia Ji is speaking.

Illustration by: DinarStandard.com


The Daily Puppy

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