Sunday, April 20, 2008

Golfing in hell

Story is told of two persons who had committed equal number of sins on earth. When they died, going by their record, they both deserved to go to hell. But one was sent to heaven and the other was shown the way to hell. Naturally the hell bound fellow objected to this discrimination. He was told that the other man who was sent to heaven was a golfer and had already been through hell on earth every time he played golf!

But looking at my fellow golfers I often wonder how many of them really deserve to go to heaven. Take for example the conscious grave diggers. I am surprised at the furor created in the press some years ago when Shivsainiks [members of a political organization with linguistic and cultural bias] in their misplaced sense of patriotism dug up the Ferozshah Kotla cricket ground. This is located in the national capital of New Delhi where cricket matches are held. This kind of digging on a much larger scale goes on in hundreds of golf courses. To see pock marked fairways and pitted greens, thanks to unrepaired divots and pitch marks is nothing unusual. While the Shivsainiks were hauled to jail for doing what they thought was a patriotic act, golfers continue to labor digging up mini graves all over our golf courses.

Adding to this, there are gentlemen who believe that the fairway is the ideal place to throw away their empty cigarette packets and cigarette buts and the empty obnoxious sachets that once contained tobacco chew. I am forever surprised that despite having a caddy and enough storage space in their bags, these gentlemen [?] indulge in messing up our beautiful fairways.

Then there are slow torture specialists. These are those who come to the golf course, more for their leisurely constitutional rather than a game of golf. Surely, a leisurely walk in the sylvan surroundings is highly advisable and may even be therapeutic, but my objection is to their taking five hours to walk the 6000 yards when behind them are guys like me who want to do it in three hours!

One venerable group, all of them 70 plus and happily [for them] retired from active life, play regularly on our course. Even caddies hesitate to carry your bags when this foursome is ahead of you. To add to their slow play, they are won’t to get into heated arguments, during the course of which they quite often forget what the argument was all about. Playing behind them one day, I was a mute witness to a long and heated argument and met one of them walking back in a huff. I couldn’t help asking him what the argument was all about. He stopped and thought for a while but try as he did he couldn’t recollect the reason why. He suggested I ask the threesome ahead and satisfy my curiosity, but, he declared, he would not play with these characters ever again! True to character and his short memory, the inseparable four ball were in place the next appointed day as though nothing had happened on the previous occasion!

On another occasion an exasperated golfer went up to them asked them to speed up the game. He was ticked off true and proper. When he reached their age he was warned, he would probably take twice as much time and may not even be able to play the game. An irrelevant reply, but enough to silence the upstart. We at the time of writing don’t know how to handle this group. If you have any sure cure suggestions to make this foursome play faster with out unduly hurting them too much please let the writer know.

There are other golfers who think the golf course is the ideal place to have a picnic of sorts. Our club in its wisdom has provided kiosks at two places and this encourages these. There are foursomes who spend time here leisurely imbibing biscuits and beverages and discussing the weighty affairs of the world. One foursome has taken to sitting on the bench after finishing their repast and is galvanized into sudden activity as soon as they sight the following foursome leaving the putting green. On reaching the tee one is likely to see one of them teeing the ball with the club in one hand and a cup of steaming coffee in the other. No doubt the disposable cup will be thrown on the fairway causing further annoyance to the group following. As it happens at two places on the course and you can imagine the hold ups this causes on a busy week end. Instead of the suffered wait, most of us have also taken to having the not always welcome breaks.

Our club has recently set up number of toilets around the course. You may wonder why when we have a club house which has more number of toilets than rooms. But when you consider the number of golfers afflicted with weak bladders, who ever so frequently water the trees around the course and was a sight for the sore eyes, this additional provision of toilets is thus welcome. But has contributed to the delay.

Particularly offending are the golfer’s conversation at decibel levels loud enough to heard through out the course. Especially annoying are their celebratory shouts after sinking a put. While I appreciate their pleasure in sinking a long put or difficult put. I don’t believe it is a worthy enough achievement to deserve such high decibel woops. Besides I have on several occasions missed certain puts after getting jolted by these joyous exclamations on the adjacent green. Unfortunately let me remind these insensitive revelers, that golf rules don’t permit one to take the put again.

You may wonder why, despite all this irritation, I continue to torture my self every week end on the golf course. Well it is one way of reserving my heavenly berth.

This story I wrote many years ago which got published in journal devoted to golf.

On sparrows and urban life

My friend Dr SRJ in addition to being a good physician is a well known wild life photographer. His knowledge of flora and fauna is much deeper than mine. But I write on what I see around me and he doesn’t. He has commented [read his comments] on the disappearance of the sparrow from urban Bangalore. The health or otherwise of our delicate environment is often judged by the presence or absence of some forms of life. Sparrow is one such example. Sparrow and Crow are two birds who lived with humans in perfect harmony. Why then the crow has multiplied and sparrow has almost disappeared?

Here are some interesting phenomena which are linked to our changing lifestyle.

Years ago this city had many beautiful tile roofed homes [some relics can still be found in some old localities]. City also had hedges instead of cemented compounds. These were ideal nesting sites and it was very common to see hundreds of sparrows living in close proximity, unafraid and friendly. They survived mostly on grains. People those days carried grains in hessian [jute] bags and spillage was common. They also had this habit of spreading grains on mats on the verandahs to dry. Concrete has replaced the tiled roof and plastic the porous hessian.

In some pockets of the city, like Shivajinagar and Lakhmipuram I have seen sparrows still surviving!

Crow multiplied because it thrives on garbage which the fastidious sparrow cannot stomach!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Foreign medicine

Many years ago, there was a popular quack [qualified] in my neighborhood. He was known as German doctor. He came to be known by this name because his wife was German. How this made him a popular doctor, don’t ask me. He exploited all the beliefs of patients to his advantage. One belief that exists even to this day is that medication given by the injection form is better than given orally. Most doctors sooner or later will accept the patient’s belief and come to believe in it themselves!

This German doctor would ask the patient to choose between desi and foreign make. He would subtly suggest that the desi one is cheaper but of dubious value [those days with some justification] where as the foreign one is powerful but expensive. Needless to say the patients chose the powerful one. As I was very reluctant to inject when it was not warranted, I soon developed my own reputation as a no injection doctor! As education in matters related to medicine spread, patients of the type who knew the truth or who were afraid of the injections began drifting towards me. One of these was the German wife of this doctor. She came to me with severe menorrhagia [excessive bleeding during menstruation] that her husband could not stop with his powerful injections. I had to urgently hospitalize her and after stabilization get a hysterectomy [removal of uterus] done. She became my friend and patient and in the course of time her husband too became one and would send an occasional patient to me. Interestingly, I found him to quite knowledgeable despite the questionable methods he used to keep his patients happy.


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Celebration of life

Baisaki, Ugadi, Vishu you call it by any name, is an important festival for Indians all over the country. This day is celebrated as the day of beginning of new life and the mother earth is thanked for her bounty. This day also heralds spring and a new and hopeful beginning. This is also the birthing season for most avian life and budding season for plant life. I see this all around and this fascinates me.

Sardar Kushvant Singh writes about a tree which he planted in his back yard growing big and huge with a canopy of leaves under which he relaxes and enjoys it beauty. I observe a young pepal tree undergoing the seasonal change. A few weeks ago it started sprouting new leaves of light lemon yellow colour. These came to acquire a kind of light brown color and now have turned into a flamboyant greenish yellow and soon will be glorious dark green. All this happens in a matter of few weeks. I watch with fascination the early morning sun reflecting these colours and the tree acquires a rare beauty. Indians have worshipped the peepal tree [Ashwath] [Ficus relegeosa] from ancient times and there is no village where this tree doesn’t occupy a central place in the scheme of things. The embankment built around it acts as a meeting place and social club for the villagers and the huge crown of leaves give the much needed shade in the scorching summer sun. The abundant fruits common to all ficus tree is heaven for birds. These trees live for centuries and the other famous ficus tree Ala [Banyan][Ficus Bengaleses] grows huge and broad and lives for centuries. There are two around Bangalore who are grand patriarchs and I feel, in their presence, a sense of revered awe. The one located in Swami Nithyanand’s ashram [Dhyanpeetam] of Mysore road beyond Bidadi is reputed to be more than 600 years old.
My favorite Ficus tree remains the common Goni mara or [ficus Mysorensis]. This too grows huge but not that huge as the peepal , has some arboreal roots [I have never seen one touching and implanted on the ground like you see with Banyan] and has closely placed branches and leaves so the tree is more compact than the others with hardly any space in between. It bears enormous quantities of fruits, initially coloured yellow and when ripe a kind of orange red. It is a sort of Mecca for birds during fruiting season. These are common trees planted on either side of roads and also grow in the wooded areas. Now if you are lucky to see this tree, it looks from a distance like a green crown [leaves] studded with orange and red [fruits]

From the balcony of my house I get a clear view of a Sapota [Chicku] tree growing in the backyard of my neighbor’s home. This tree bears fruit and the owner finds it difficult to pick the fruits in the upper branches, much to my delight. There is a family of squirrels that guard the fruits against birds who try and get at them. The bird that makes the most attempts and succeeds occasionally is the green barbet! It is great fun to watch the squirrel family trying to shoo the barbets away only to find them settling on another branch. The other bird that bothers the squirrel family is the parakeet. This noisy bird when it comes to feed sends the squirrels into a nervous tizzy. Parakeets are not fastidious feeders like the barbets. Their policy is eat one and destroy ten. Such extravagant, wasteful and noisy characters. Their performance reminds me of the needless and noisy extravaganza of a wedding feast!

The only visitor who cares a damn to what the squirrels think is the jungle crow. This magnificent bird is a fearless omnivore who believes in the dictum, ‘if there is anything edible I will eat it and enjoy doing so’. I once sat on a char and watched two jungle crows fighting over pieces of insipid papad which I kept throwing at them. It is a sight to see these big birds balancing on tiny branches and getting at the fruits with the squirrel family loudly protesting from a distance!

Copper pod in full bloom

Copper pod, rusty shield bearer [ Peltrophorum pterocarpum ] is a common avenue tree in full bloom now. I t is a large well leafed tree and bears tons of orange yellow flowers arranged in clusters. From a distance the tree appears aflame with orange interspersed with green. The flower has five thin wrinkled petals beautifully arranged in a circle around a central bunch of stamens [?]. With hundreds and thousands of these flowers the whole tree looks remarkably beautiful. Right now if you take a walk or drive on double road that connects 100ft road up to ESI hospital, Indiranagar, you will see on either side of the road a profusion of this tree.This stretch the road can be appropriately named as copper pod avenue! Should be done before they name it Hanumanthappa road!

Monday, April 7, 2008

Your own medicine


They sit in front of me day in and day out with faces that tell their own story. Some are blank, some sad, some vacant, some simply stare and some worried but rarely do I see a happy and contented face. They listen to what I say, rarely with attention, which I think I deserve. I make this out by their expression. The wandering mind has a face on which inattention is writ large. There are some who keep saying ‘hu hu or tch tch, achha achha,okay okay' when I am talking, as though to encourage me to continue talking.

These expressions of ‘encouragement’ often irritate me but I try not to get distracted. But when these are expressions, which some times I can make out are made to hide inattention and or indifference I tend to get upset and try and get them back to the subject of consultation.

When a patient is paying for my time it is his business to try and not waste it, by not listening to what I say and it is my business to try and make him to listen and understand. Both these don’t happen often. Even after so many years of experience I find this somewhat worrying. It is extremely difficult to make an uneducated elderly lady to understand the intricacies of thyroid malfunction and over and above insist hat she should take a pill every day of her life. The expression is often as though I am asking her to commit a sort of slow death! This mixed with complete incomprehension would depress any one, don’t you think?

But what took the cake was a recent incident when a patient who was explaining his problems taking his own sweet time in doing so, stopped abruptly midway and asked me, ‘ doc, are you with me so far?’. That stopped me dead on my tracks. Are the roles being reversed? Do my patients feel the same way as I do when they are looking at my mug?

These are very disturbing thoughts.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Killing a city

Locate it far away from a water source and at a height of 3000 ft above sea level. Pump water from a river, 100 kilometers away, up a gradient of 2000 ft. You have uncertain power for the pumps and not enough water in the river. You allow this ill planned and ill located city to expand in all directions and it is nearly 50 km from one end to the other. You choke the roads with so many vehicles that there is fear of impending gridlock. You breathe in foul air and drink infected water and live in an environment guaranteed to cause mental and physical disease. This is what we are doing to this city of Bangalore.

Dismal is the mood when I see the traffic flow,
With watering nose and smarting eyes
I watch the wretched human, in this
jungle of concrete and moving metal,
numbing my mind and depressing my spirit,
This urban sprawl we call progress!