Thursday, December 25, 2008

Ushering in the new year 09

Bit of thanks giving.

For having kept my senses as fresh as in the year that went by,
That I continue to appreciate the twitter of the warbler and the song of the bulbul,
The scent of the jasmine and the beauty of the rose,
The ability to wonder at the strength of the twig that holds the 25kg jackfruit hanging free,
The divine dance of the stars on the moonlit sky,
The ability to analyze, collate and come to a conclusion and not entirely rely on serendipity,
To my small family who have not taken me amiss for finding time to pursue my interests and not for them,
To my small circle of friends and a larger circle of patients who have kept me going for another year,
And to all of you [more than 4700] at the last count, who have read and are reading my blog and thus keeping an old man’s spirits high!

Now to wish all of you

A year that will bring more joy and less sorrow,
More fulfilment and less frustration,
More peace and less disturbance,
More contentment and less desire,
More pleasure to give than to receive,
And find meaning in the wonderful world and the cosmic universe that you and I are part of.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Craving for recognition

Someone held a spoon with a lemon on with his teeth for 47hrs and 55 seconds and has entered the Guiney’s book of records, said the daily. The mad feller went through the ordeal just get into some record book by doing this weird act is a fact that doesn’t surprise me because, I see several such mad acts committed by people around me. This craving is near total amongst us humans and is probably inherent in our psyche. If by own merit one cannot achieve this recognition then one will buy it, seems to the modern Indian credo. Some examples.

Kishendas Banwarilal is my patient and friend of many years. Banwari, as he is popularly called is a very successful business man. He belongs to a community who are well known for their business acumen and many have dominated the commercial scene of the country and one can even see them in the world scene [Laxmi Mittal for one]. On day Banwari came to my clinic with his daughter’s wedding invitation in hand. He said after the preliminaries, that I must attend the wedding which was taking place in far away Jaipur. He extended the invitation to my wife also. Seeing the obvious reluctance on my face he said, ‘doctor, you don’t worry, I will take care of the money that you are going to lose by not practicing for three days. I will also buy both of you business class tickets and fly you back’. He was serious when he said this. I had to decline the invitation despite the incentives he offered.

Banwari met with me after the gala wedding. I asked him how much he spent on the wedding. He said,’ Rs 5,000,000 [5 crores]’. The floral decorations alone cost him 500,000 [5 lakhs]! Even Rajasthan government ministers attended the wedding, he said proudly. When I said what a colossal waste of money, he replied that, unless he did that how would his community know he has succeeded and how else would his daughter get the respect from her husband’s family?
‘So, when your son gets married you will expect the prospective girl’s parents to spend an equal amount’, I asked. ‘No, more, because the cost will be more as one has to keep pace with inflation!
Banwari is not a bad man. On the contrary he is a very good fun loving helpful person, but the illness of getting the recognition from his community drove him to this irrational act [for me, that is]

C.S. Reddy is a small time contractor and politician in this locality. With some difficulty he became the member of a local club. Every year the club holds elections and elects a committee to manage the affairs of the club. The elected member is given various responsibilities. One gets to run the kitchen and another sports section and yet another bar and the like. These members in turn form what are called as subcommittees consisting of their cronies to help them. C.S.Reddy’s friend who got elected got the bar section of the club to run. C.S worked overtime to influence his friend to get him on the subcommittee. When once he was on the subcommittee he went round telling everyone he knew, about this tremendous achievement. I was one of the recipients of this information and my congratulations were warmly received. A month later I got an ornate invitation card kept inside an equally ornate envelope. This was the invitation for the marriage of C.S Reddy’s sister’s son. The envelope, in one corner had this legend. With compliments from: Mr. C.S. Reddy, member bar subcommittee, HAL Club! Needless to say I did not know the groom’s nor the bride’s parents. Reddy took it upon himself to invite the two thousand odd members of the club to his niece’s wedding!

I came across a letter head of a gentleman who went one step further. The top of the page had his name and among equally mundane accomplishments was that he was ex member of the city club!

Many years ago, I used to work for the local branch of our national medical association. The president was a well known physician of the city. We had to get some material printed and he recommended that we get it done from the printer who does his jobs. I duly went to meet with this man in his office cum press. When he came to know that I was an emissary from the doctor he was all over me with his enthusiasm and showed me several examples of his work. One of them was our president’s own letter head. The degrees this physician had ran to almost two lines! Of these only two were degrees which needed an examination to pass. All others were awards or ones that were bought for a fee. The degrees and diplomas ran like this. M.B.B.S., M.R.C.P, F.R.C.P., F.I.C.S, M IACS, FIACS, FCCP and the list ran on and on. But what drew my attention was a degree which read F.U.C.K [UK] tucked in between these many citations. Quite intrigued, when I went back, I asked him what is this special degree that he has been awarded and which was the institution in the UK? He was taken aback and wanted to have a look at the letter head in his office. To his horror all of them carried this honorary degree awarded to him by his faithful printer which our worthy doctor had failed to notice. What happened after wards is another matter but for years after I kept teasing him about this special honor received from UK. This craze for the addition of many real or otherwise honours seems once again, an attempt at getting recognition.

But there are some who want to achieve not for fame but for the sake of a purpose. You can place sports persons, adventurers, social workers in this class. They do the job for the pleasure of it and if they also get the recognition so be it. There of course are some who deserve to be recognized but go about doing their job without bothering about recognition [late Dr Achaya, TNA Perumal: see birds and others]

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Late Dr.K.T.Achaya

India today, 22nd Dec 08, under the caption currying flavor carried a review of a book called the illustrated foods of India written by Dr.K.T.Achaya. The reviewer, I felt has not done justice to the personality of late Dr Achaya.

Dr.K.T.Achaya was a remarkable person in more ways than one. By training he was a chemical engineer who branched out to become one of the foremost authorities on oilseeds. So much so he published several monographs on how ancient Indians extracted and processed the oil out of oilseeds. He had to consult several books, visit many temples, study pali and Sanskrit and he did most of this after his retirement. He was a serious student of Indian cuisine and made in depth study of how the foods are preserved and prepared in different parts of the country [your food and you, national book trust of India].His A historical dictionary of India [Oxford India paperbacks] is a must read for anyone interested in the origin and migration of many items of food that we take for granted. To give you a few examples. The chili that you are very fond of is not indigenous but brought India probably by the Portuguese from South America. Even the popular potato has the same origins. The story of our food is the fascinating account of various Indian foods and how they came to be cooked the way it is now and the different utensils that were in use to prepare the foods and how these evolved[universities press].His every day Indian foods [national book trust. India] is a storehouse of definition, preparation, processing and storing of popular foods of different parts of the country. So much for his talent as a food technologist, writer and researcher on Indian foods.

Now let me come to some other aspect of Dr Achaya. He was a connoisseur of classical music both Indian and western and had a collection of records which he would lovingly play on his old record player. His knowledge of musicians and their lives would hold me fascinated. He was also a very knowledgeable amateur Botanist and could name the plant if you took a pod or a flower or the branch of a tree. When I was with him, once a lady from Kerala visited him with a round green fruit and wanted to know what it was. Achaya spent next ten minutes telling her about the fruit, its uses, where it is grown and the whole works. He was also an art lover and on the walls of his flat hung paintings from many famous painters in the original.

This man from Coorg never lived there. He spent early part of his life in Madras and later abroad and after his return at Bombay and Hyderabad. He settled in Bangalore with his sister and brother in law. His brother in law was a famous Lt General [I forget he name] and his sister Sitha was a famous doctor and before her retirement was principal of Lady Hardinge medical college, Delhi. That was fifteen to twenty years ago and that was when I came in contact with him initially as his doctor and later as his friend.

Dr Achaya remained a bachelor. He was dogged by diabetes and heart disease, both of which he bore with rare equanimity. It was a privilege for me to be associated with him and look after him in the last years of his life.


Babu Rajendrn and I have been friends for over 40 years. We have grown old together and lately our reminiscences include the problems we face and occasionally the pleasure of growing old. On Some occasions we get in to hilarious situations and he told this story over a glass of beer one forenoon recently.

He had been to Commercial Street on an errand. Going to commercial street which is the shopping hub of the city is no longer a pleasant outing as it used to be thirty years ago. Then we would find ample parking, do our shopping, doodle over a cup of coffee and find our way back home at a leisurely pace. Now going there, a short 4 kms away, takes 45 minutes of crawling in the traffic. Having reached there, finding a parking place close by is another major hassle. So you start the journey with a nervous heart and even before the venture you are ill at ease. So Babu was very happy and thrilled to find parking and having done that went on his errand. After finishing, he reached the place he had parked the car and found it missing!

Panic stricken, he looked for the parking attendant who was no where to be seen. What is the next step? Naturally, to go to the police. He went to the nearby police station to lodge a complaint. To the policeman at the reception this must have been one of the many cases he handles and probably one of low priority at that. He took his time which raised the heckles of my friend. Ultimately a constable was detailed to accompany and see the place where the vehicle was last seen. An agitated Babu and a cool policeman walked towards the place the car had been parked. They met the parking attendant on the way. The policeman naturally was angry with the attendant whose responsibility it was to look after the parked cars. The attendant asked whose car had been stolen. The policeman said this man’s, pointing to Babu. 'Saar, his car is here,' he showed Babu his car, which was very much there!

What happened was that Babu had, on that day, taken his son’s car leaving behind his own car. What he was looking for was his old faithful!

Much relieved and thanking the duo for having caused needless trouble, he got into the car. But he could not help overhear the parking attendant telling the Policeman, ‘bloody old mad man’ [Pythakaran].

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


At the customs and entry counter of an international airport.
Official, ‘this passport looks fake’
Terrorist,’ yes’.
Official,’ that will be twenty thousand rupees’
Terrorist,’ last time you took ten thousand’
Official,’ last time the laws were less stringent’
Terrorist pays twenty thousand.
Official starts looking at the baggage and finds a sackful of grenades. He asks what these are.
Terrorist, ‘they are hand grenades’
Official, ‘you will have to pay one thousand each’ after some haggling they agree for Rs 500 each
Official, ‘what is this’
Terrorist,’ that is a Kalashnikov rifle’
Official,’ that is an expensive contraband, you have to pay Rs 100,000’
After a brief haggle they agree for Rs 75000.
The terrorist starts walking away. A thought strikes the custom official. He calls the terrorist back and asks,’ what are using these for? ‘Why, to kill you Indians’ replies the terrorist.
In that case, says the official, we have to stick to the original price, I cannot give you any concessions.

[The author has given vent to his imagination]

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Loyalty and truth

Jiddu Krishnamurthy, the famous philosopher, said in an interview that even nationalism is wrong. What he meant was that to feel attached to one’s country and feel patriotic in contrast to feeling that one is a citizen of this world or one of the life forms in the universe is wrong. By this definition all of us can be accused of terrible wrong doing. This is applicable to us Indians more than any one else. Here one’s loyalty begins with his own self first. Then comes his immediate family and then his extended family and then his caste and then his community and then his religion and last his country. Add to this his loyalty to the village, town, district, state, the country comes last. Then comes language. The worst kind of loyalty next only to religion in one’s love for one’s language. Sometimes the inability to learn or the lack of interest in other languages is directly attributable to this excessive attachment.

If one is attached to so many and the country comes last in her or his attachment, what are his concerns for the health and well being of the world? None seems to be bothered about becoming citizens of this world. The deep rooted division amongst us based on the many schisms [isms] described above has kept us separate from one another and has clouded our thinking and is a great impediment to intellectual progress and realization of the truth.

The truth as I see it is that this life and this planet are like bubbles of air. One will burst and die. Another bubble will form and it will also burst. This cycle will go on and on with no beginning and no end. That is the truth. You and I when we are alive, foolishly quarrel and constantly try one-upmanship.

Ridiculous, is it not?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Power of prayer or serindipity?

Among the many positive attributes of my friend Gnandev Kamath, is his ability to tell a story. What follows is a real life incident which occurred recently in which he was involved.

There was a wedding in the family and the relatives from far and wide had gathered. As it happens everywhere, weddings and deaths will get the maximum number of relatives to come and meet with each other. One is to celebrate a life giving event and another to pay respects to a life which has departed. The former is a joyous occasion and thus much more attractive.

Gnandev’s niece was one of them who had come from Bombay with her Jewelry box. The advise that she not carry her jewelry and make do with borrowed ones from her many close relations was not heeded to. Which self respecting young woman likes to be seen in borrowed jewelry? My sympathies are all with her for bringing her jewelry with her at some risk.

Bombay is next door to us SKites [South Kanarites, Mangalorians, Mangus, Coastal Cracks]. There are hundreds of buses which ply daily from Bombay to Mangalore and the flight connections are better than from Bangalore. The Bombay party which included this young woman duly arrived in the city and from there they travelled to udipi where the wedding was to take place. The day before the wedding is the day of fun where the women have the maximum opportunity to display their person and if that is not worth it, then at least their jewelry. As our young lady in question had both, one can understand her anxiety to be ready for the evening function. She stayed in her relative’s house and at the appointed time she travelled to the venue. When she reached the venue she found her jewelry box, her hand bag with her cell phone were all missing. She had forgotten the whole lot in the auto rickshaw in which she had travelled!
All hell broke loose and the lady was inconsolable. The reasons were many. The lost opportunity, loss of jewellery worth nearly three lakhs and the ignominy of being branded as forgetful woman for the rest of her life! All these and many more added to her grief. The promise of the gathered relatives that they will all contribute and make good her lost jewelry was not well received. The only option was to go to the police. She of course did not remember auto’s number and could vaguely describe the driver.

Before going to the police why not try the cell phone which she had left behind in the auto and may be the driver will respond. Normally the first act of a thief is to remove the SIM card and throw it away. When they rang the number there was ringing tone and this reassured them to some extent. Continued tries however did not elicit any response and they were now worried that the cell phone’s batteries would die and then they would be in deeper trouble.

At this moment a thought occurred to Gnandev.He requested the assembly to close their eyes and pray silently for five minutes wishing for the recovery. Five minutes elapsed and Gnandev made a final call to the cell number before going to the police.

The phone rang only twice before it was picked up. The voice at the other end said that the jewel box, hand bag and the cell phone were with him and he would return and give all these back to the owner. It would take him some time as he was 30 kms away. It took some convincing to get him to stay home and wait for Gnandev to go there and fetch the lost and found articles. When Gnandev reached the driver’s place he found it to be in a poor locality and the anxious driver was waiting to give it all back. They found that he belonged to goldsmith’s community and knew the exact value of the jewelry in the box. Not one piece was missing. He was wondering and thinking of ways to reach the owner when he heard the cell phone call!

When they wanted to publicize his honesty he would have none of that. It took a lot of pressure to persuade him to accept a cash gift.

It was pretty late when they went back to the hotel where the evening’s party was on. The thanks giving revelry went on till the wee hours of the next day.

It is because we still have a few of these men and women [First class of humans] still present in this country, we are surviving.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Why is Indian governament weak?

Across the board of class, caste, community, creed and religion Indians come under three classes

Class 1. Honest, efficient, hard working, helpful and noncorrupt.

Class 2. Honest but can become dishonest, can become inefficient, can become lazy and can become corrupt.

Class 3. Dishonest, inefficient, lazy, unhelpful and corrupt.

Since independence, 60 years ago, there is a steady flight of class 1 out of this country. Class 2 has also gone out but a considerable number have joined private sector. Class 3 has been given all incentives to join government service and become politicians and they have done so. And the result is what we are seeing and experiencing.

Sleep cure

An Indian politician went to his doctor and requested a prescription for sleeping pills to last for six months. The curious doctor asked him why he needed this supply. The politician explained. ‘Recently I had to change my bed which had the stuffing of currency notes. I slept very well on that. I had to take the stuffing out to distribute the notes to my party workers and voters during the recent elections. Now that I have won, it will take six months to make a similar bed’.