Monday, February 22, 2010


B.P are his initials. His expanded name is Badri Prasad. I called him BP as visits to me caused some anxiety and raised my blood pressure! He did not mind me calling him BP and the name stuck. It must have been twenty odd years since BP became my patient. During these long years BP must have seen me some five hundred times. Every practice has a percentage of patients who have no real disease [or we have not found any] but have plenty of symptoms.

Twenty years back, when he came for the first time it was for radiating chest pain. The history was so typical that I thought he must be having a heart attack and told him to get admitted under the care of a cardiologist. BP was unmoved; he slowly took out a folder and placed it in front of me. In side I found reports of every available test for heart disease available in the city at that point of time. All tests were normal but BP continued to have pain. I then said it could be something wrong with his neck which could be causing the pain. He took out another folder and gave it to me. It had all the reports pertaining to his neck. There was another folder which had investigations pertaining to his liver, stomach and gall bladder. All were normal. I asked him what medications he was taking. He showed me a list of seven medications and none really required. I told him so and asked him to stop all of them and see what happens.

He came a week later and said he felt much better and wanted to get his BP checked. After getting his BP checked he would not leave. He requested me to feel his abdomen as he was feeling queasy. That done he most reluctantly took my leave with the parting threat that if things are not alright he would soon be back.

Things can never be alright all the time. Many minor ailments we are privy to, are self limiting and we don’t go to the doctor. BP did. In the course of time it became a habit and after due examination I would say,’ you are OK’ and he would go till next time which was not far away. My worry was in the midst of this normal would I be missing something serious? [Every physician’s nightmare]. Another problem was his habit of consulting all kinds of doctors and then reporting back to me to find out if he can follow the advice given. More often than not I said in the negative and he would ask why. This entailed often laborious [to me] explanation. He would go but would leave behind a lurking doubt in my mind what if the opinion given by another doctor was right!
Now you begin to understand why I would become anxious with his visits. You are justified in wondering why I put up with him and not refuse to see him. Times without number I must have told him, ’BP, you are wasting your money and time, I cannot help you, please stop coming to see me’ His reply was ‘it is my time and my money, why are you bothered’! This unhappy state of affairs continued till fate intervened to solve the problem once and for all.

BP died some time ago due to septicemia [virulent infection] unrelated to his myriad complaints. He was 75. What were my feelings on hearing of his death? Mixed. Relief that I do not have to suffer him and that a troubled life ended and some sorrow that I would not see this familiar figure with his huge bundle of medical records. I confess relief more than sorrow.

Tendulkar's dive

Yesterday, India won the one dayer against South Africa by one run! It was cliffhanger of a match when the South African’s needed only 10 runs of the last six balls to win. The combative medium pacer Praveen Kumar who has the ability to swing the ball both ways was trusted with the ball by the Captain M S Dhoni to bowl the final over of six balls. The first ball was placed for a single. None runs to win with five balls to go. The second ball was runless. The third ball was dispatched for a four. Five to get and three balls to go. Fourth ball was bowled and the batsman swept pulled the ball which sped towards the boundary. All appeared lost when Tendulkar, who was fielding deep, ran some thirty yards and flung his 37 years old body at the ball and stopped the ball crossing the ropes thus conceding three but saving one run. Two balls remaining and Kumar in his anxiety to avoid the bat bowled a wide ball with the visitors needing only two runs to win. The next ball was flicked towards the leg side and the batsmen ran a single and attempted the second. The not very accurate throw from the deep was gathered and the stumps were put down by the captain wicket keeper MSD with the batsman short. India won the match by one run!

Had Tendulkar played safe and not dived risking serious injury India would either have tied the match or in all probability lost this thriller of a match. It was an extra ordinary feat considering he has been plagued by injury issues throughout his carrier and no one would have blamed him had he not dived like he did on the rough and hard outfield risking serious injury. But Tendu dived and won the match for the country!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Rosy Pastor

Englishmen whiled away their spare time in pre independent India pursuing many productive activities. One of them was watching birds and trees and naming them. This was a major contribution to our knowledge of plant and birdlife around us. Amongst the others was the production of a delightful community of mixed blood called Anglo Indians. Rosy Pastor is the name given to a bird [size of a common Myna] which has a rose colored front with a black hooded head and has a peculiar habit of looking down [appears to do so]. Imagine a Pastor [priest] with his rich robes castigating you for some mischief you have done and You have the Rosy Pastor. What an apt name!

Rosy pastors [I don’t like the new name of Rosy Starling] breed and live in Eastern Europe and migrate to India during the months of September to March. 15 years ago I used to see thousands of them. On one occasion, during the fruiting season, the orange berries of the ficus tree were completely hidden from view by the avidly feeding Rosy Pastors. In the early 1930s a bird watcher observed ‘the sky went dark when a flock of rosy pastors flew by’ such was their number. This has decreased so much that I did not see any last year and thought I would not see them this year too. But I was in for a delightfully surprising experience.

I went golfing the other day to a golf course located some distance away in a semi rural set up. While I was about to putt on one of the greens, I heard the unmistakable chirp of the Rosy Pastor. Looking up I saw a row of these Pastors resplendent in their rose colored front with blackish hoods raised, chirping [praying I thought] for my putt to drop into the hole. There were at least thirty of them sitting on the silk cotton tree branches all looking in the same direction. It took some pressure from my partners to make me leave that spot. The putt of course was missed what with me imagining a row of red fronted and black hooded priests perched on the tree branch in supplication. You can’t putt with this kind of funny images disturbing you. The missed putt was worth the sight nevertheless.

Some of you must have heard of the names Brahmany and Pariah kite. The Britisher who thus named the two widely seen kites must have been well versed with the caste system and the looks of different castes of the country. The colorful white and russet brown kite was named Brahmany [Brahmin] and the rugged dark grey kite the Pariah, though both raptors live on the dead and rotting flesh!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Sir Garfield Sobers

Garry Sobers as he was popularly known played international cricket representing West Indies for a period of twenty years from 1954 to 74. He was probably the most naturally gifted cricketer ever to have played the game. Coached players play the game by the rules. Players to whom the game comes naturally do it differently and Sir Garry was one of them. Many rate Sir Donald Bradman and our own Sachin Tendulkar among the best who have played cricket but my choice goes to this West Indian from the island of Barbados as the greatest of them all. Do I have reasons to rate him higher than the other two? Yes, many. Sobers was ambidextrous, though he preferred to bowl and bat left handed as it gave him a natural advantage. He scored 360 odd runs in one test match, a record which stood for many years. He bowled leg spin, off spin, medium pace and fast. He could also swing the ball very late. He excelled as a fielder both close in and out field. They said he could also keep wickets! Those who were fortunate to watch him action told that they have never seen the likes of him. He was a five in one all-rounder and enjoyed himself as only a West Indian could.

There are many stories attributed to Sobers. One of them was that he spent a whole night partying and one did not expect him to be on the field next morning. To everyone’s surprise he was there on the field cold sober! West Indian cricketers are exciting to watch. They seem to have the ability to transmit their joy to the viewers. They play their cricket like no others do. Very few of them like to defend. For them the ball is bowled at them to be hit. Hit hey did and in the bargain many times they do get out cheaply. Despite this trait they have produced some all time greats, the latest of them, Brian Lara.

In 1974 the West Indian team visited Bangalore and the present Chinnaswamy stadium was under construction and the stands were made up of Bamboo! I remember one shot vividly. I don’t know who the fast bowler was but the Batsman was Alwn Kallicharan. He went down on his knee and hook pulled the ball out of the stadium. They were like that. They made shots which were not seen before.

Sobers once hit six sixes in an over in a first class match which was done again many years later by our own Ravi Shastri and more by recently by Yuvaraj Singh. Remember that Sobers played his cricket in the pre helmet days!

Sir Garry took to serious golf after he quit cricket. Like many ex cricketers [our own Kapil dev and Roger Binny] he too excelled in the game. Being ambidextrous he played both right and left handed. His handicap during his best days was 1 left handed and 2 right handed!

Sobers is now 75 and lives in his home country and takes active interest in promoting cricket in the West Indies.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

My Stroke of Insight

Just finished reading this remarkable book. The author is a neuroscientist, Jill Bolte Taylor who suffered a hemorrhagic stroke when she was thirty seven and the book is the story of her recovery. If it was one of those rehab stories I would not have thought fit to write about it. It is much more than that. During the process of recovery she discovers the nature and location of human mind and the many facets of I consciousness. The intricate interplay of the right and the left cerebral hemispheres and what happens when one dominates the other are very well brought out. More than that, it gives some very valid and acceptable explanations of our relation with life, death and the larger universe that we are part of. A must read for bigots, believers, atheists and agnostics.

Those of us who have valued and enjoyed the immense beauty of our existence, this book gives a fresh evidence why it is so.

Most corrupt country

Surely, India ranks at the top. There was a news report of an Indian Administrative Service officer [these are the blue eyed boys of the government service] getting caught with a mind boggling amount of ill gotten money, 300,000,000,000 Rupees! The story found a tiny place in our newspapers. The same news papers carried full page news with photographs of the scion of our political royal family taking a train ride in the city of Mumbai. We have degenerated so much that we now accept and even appreciate the corrupt!