Thursday, May 14, 2015

Bone marrow registry

Bone marrow is the fluidy substance present in side the bones.This is an important organ which produces blood cells and is home for stem cells. Stem cells are the progenitor cells of all the cells that are present in our body and have the capacity to transform into any cell. Though present in small numbers in the normal marrow they can proliferate as the need arises. For many sufferers from life threatening conditions like leukemia [blood cancer] the only hope is to get these cells from a compatible donor. The compatibility is determined by a process called tissue matching or HLA matching. Unlike blood group testing, HLA typing involves lot of sophistication and is therefore expensive.

So,how will the sufferer find a donor whose HLA type matches with his HLA? Here in lies the major problem of enlisting the donor and this enlistment is called bone marrow registry. It is estimated that to get one match one needs to have 20,000 donors registered. An intending donor who wants to donate his bone marrow need not apprehend that his bone marrow will be taken out. Neither at the time of registration nor at the time of transplant will one will put a needle into his bone. What is done is that at the time of registration a sample of his blood[5ml] or his saliva/buccal swab] is taken and his HLA is typed. When it is found that his HLA type matches with that of one who is in need, he will be called to donate. Even at this time, which may come once in his life time or not at all,he will be given some injections to mobilize the stem cells from his bone to his blood and these cells are harvested by a specialized machine by a process called pheresis. He will have spend a day in the institution and there by saving a life or giving the recipient a prolonged disease free life.
In countries like China, Germany and the US,there are established registries with large number of donors and getting a match is not very difficult. But in our country there are very few registries with very small numbers of donors

Keeping this dire need in mind, and the knowledge of many young lives being lost[an estimated 50,000 deaths every year], Bangalore medical college alumni association has launched a massive donor registration programme. The cost of HLA typing which normally costs more that 10,000 Rs is being offset by the funds raised by the alumni and the details as to how and what of the whole process can be got from visiting the dedicated website bonemarrow

I request all of you who read my blog to spread the word around and involve in this noble cause

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Many years ago, I was a trustee of Bangalore Hospice Trust which runs a hospice for the terminally ill cancer patients. Fund raising is an important and needed activity of the trust. Even now it is so. There used to be an yearly exhibition of art and hospice would get material from donors for sale which included many paintings, some known and  some unknown. One such painting, on 4by4 canvass depicting the two Rajasthani men was on display. The trustees decided to sell it for Rs 20,000. During the three days of show it went unsold and went back to its place in one of the rooms.Next year too the same story repeated. In the third year the chief trustee decided to bring the price down to Rs  15000 and expected it to be sold. Two days went by and no sale. That is when I made the offer of Rs 10,000 which is all I could afford. The last day and the last minute went by and no one bid for it and the painting became mine! Since then it has occupied a pride of place in my sitting room and many a uncomfortable guest has asked me the origins of this painting. But who is the painter? There is the name of the painter called Arohi Singh in the corner? Who is she?

These two men have entertained my friends, relatives and I,all these years and the money spent on this has really been worth it

Friday, May 8, 2015

Appreciation of music

You should have an ear for music or he has an ear for music. What these phrases mean? do they mean that you have a special aptitude to appreciate music. Yes, that is what they mean. What is this special aptitude? Does it need training or is it instinctive?

In bygone days [I believe even now in some], south Indian bramhin families would get their children, girls in particular, trained in classical karnatic music.This had two purposes.One is that the parents genuinely believed that these girls achieve proficiency in music that it adds value to their future lives and the other more practical belief that it is a value addition in the marriage market!

Be that as may, let us get back to the assumption that training makes one appreciate music much better than one when is not trained.It is true that some training helps in recognition of the nuances such as the voice,rhythm, cadence, construction etc.If one such listener concentrates too much on these aspects there is fear of his losing the essence of the music. Take for example the singing of late Gangubai, Her voice is shrill and manly and a person who determines the singing by the melody would think her music below par. But she succeeded in touching the very depths of your heart by the sheer quality and exuberance and that is the secret of many great singers. They went to ones heart and brain has little to say.

In conclusion, I feel of knowledge of music when complimented by instinct will make one appreciate music much better than knowledge alone. In this a person who has no knowledge but has instinct is better off!

Salman and after

I don't go to movies especially the Hindi movies which are mostly song and dance gibberish. Most are far removed from reality and are huge commercial successes. This success is like the success of the ongoing IPL matches.The success in terms of gate attendance,TV viewership,money made by the advertisement for mostly useless products, reflect the taste and trends of modern India.So is with cinema. The status of the bollywood actors and actresses too reflect this taste, The huge popularity of Salman Khan is one such example.

This man, some thirteen years ago, while drunk, ran over the footpath and killed one and injured many.Adding insult to injury, he ran away from the scene.He has money and clout and he used this and kept the case going on all these years in the lower court. The lower court 3 days ago, announced him guilty and awarded him 5 years in jail.

You might have thought that justice is done at last.Wait, he got bail from the higher court in super quick time and one of the best legal brains, who commands lot of respect in the legal spheres, Mr Harish Salve represented him!

A horde of admirers, both from the cinema and politics, made a dutiful pilgrimage to this actor's home.Watching the scene on television, I had the surrealistic feeling of watching people paying homage to a great war hero!

What do you call this? Mass sycophancy,hysteria,misplaced loyalty?

All this drama goes to show that this country there are two laws.One for the wealthy and another for the poor

I am very disappointed with Mr Salve.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Appreciation of art

How does one do it?  When one views a painting , picture, fresco or a photograph what appeals to him? Does this appeal makes him feel happy, sad,
excited or leaves him with no feelings?

If it is sadness then is it worth having it always? If it elation, happiness then one may be inclined to have it. Then what in that painting or picture which evokes these feelings?
Is it the intricacy and the effort, the colours, the object chosen that is the cause? Or is it something else? In abstract painting there is no apparent design or method but they succeed in eliciting these emotions.
In abstracts one probably sees the painter trying to convey athought or meaning to the person who is viewing. This thought is the one that evokes the feeling which makes one to appreciate it
I have a print of a painting by Mario Miranda of Hobo in tattered  dress with a drooping cigarette in the mouth standing forlorn in abusy street corner. It's infinitely sad and the painter has succeeded in his purpose
 I have another, this one real, of abstract colours arranged in squares with meameaningless lines and circles giving the impression of attemped script.The colours used dark  red to yellow and brown. What is the emotio n?
Freedom? Peace or may be both. It occupies a place where I can have an easy and frequent look

I have another of two Rajasthani men sitting on a pavement. One has a disapproving look and another has a questioning one. This painting is on a wall in my sitting room and often draws attention of my visitors. What emotions that come up on viewing this painting? Curiosity, feelings of insecurity, peace, fun. most of these have been experienced on looking at this. My own feeling is that one of peace at what I am as they must be!

How I acquired this painting I will tell you in my next post

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The sand pipers

Image result for sandpiper bird picture

Each year since the past ten odd years I welcomed with pleasure a single pair of this bird each year from January to May. I carried a pair of binoculars with me when ever I went golfing those days and despite that it took me several days before I could for certain identify this bird as spotted sandpiper and not the common sandpiper. They went missing [or I missed seeing them] since last two years and when I saw them once again a week ago it was like meeting some long last friends.

Sand pipers are migratory birds and known to fly from one continent to the other. The pair who come to my golf course probably come from Europe or northern China. The characteristic brown top and white bottom and the bobbing head and tail are characteristics and so are the feeding habits. Usually found near the edge of the ponds and lakes and even on sea shores, this class of birds seem to be in no danger of extinction.

I was and still one happy man after I saw them hale and hearty, though I found it hard to explain this to my fellow golfers!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Image result for golden oriole facts Golden oriole

There was a time, some ten odd years ago, when my golf course was next to a wooded area and not surrounded by concrete jungle as it is now. Golden oriole was frequently seen and heard in those days.The sightings have become rare and I saw one some two weeks back perched high on a tree.

I was walking below  a canopy of medium sized trees yesterday and I heard the distinct song of the bird.Looking up I saw him. Startled [ rest of bird and animal life avoids humans justifiably so], he took off in yellow blur.

Male oriole is an orange yellow and black bird with a thin black eye patch. It is very beautiful bird. Though locally migrant, they seem to travel quite widely and given the migrant character of the species, golden oriole spends winter in the extreme north of the country.

The song is a fluty short whistle, just like that of the bulbul but a bit more prolonged.Once heard one cannot forget to recall as I did yesterday, could identify the bird even before I saw it.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Yekshagana [contd]

I another incident a charecter was supposed to die after getting pierced by an arrow. Despite getting hit he holds on and refuses to do the heart rending act of death. The adversary  and the narrator both plead with him to end his death act. The character tells,' he owes me ten rupees, unless I get it I will not die' The audience roars with laughter. The issue gets amicably settled and he completes his death act!

I have given these two incidents, as they stuck me as very funny. But actual play is very seriously done and the humor part generally is a part of the story. The incidents told by me are extremely rare.

Where and when this art form develop? As most of the song, talk and narration is in Kannada  and the performance is mostly in Thulu speaking country, my guess is that it must have come down from the hilly region of western ghats and given the enterprising nature of the Canara people it flourished there.There are written evidence that it existed in the 15th century and the singing style appears to be neither Karnatic nor Hindustani. Probably predates both, in which case it must have been before the 10th century. My ears detect a distinct resemblance to Hindustani classical music and my hunch therefore that it must have come from the northern regions of present day Karnataka and southern Maharashtra.

So much for the guessing.

These plays are now available on You tube

Saturday, April 18, 2015


This is a popular song, dance form of story telling theater prevalent in the coastal districts of Karnataka and nothern part of western ghats. The performances in the bygone years used to start at dusk and end at dawn,I have vivid memories of these whole night performances in my childhood.The stories are generally drawn from the epics with many added local asides.

The characters are generally played by home grown artists so are the musicians and their instruments.The main instrument is the chande. The sound produced by this drum is a shrill repetitive rather violent one designed to herald the beginning of the show and also to keep the audience alert.The other is maddale, a less violent drum and there are pipes. The main singer narrator is called Bhagavath and this man is again a home grown pundit and can when situation arises turn the epic he is narrating to goings on in the neighborhood,state or the country

The characters dress in great splendor with elaborate head gear and bright blown up costumes. The sound, the elaborate singing narrator, the characters who dance sing and also converse is so entertaining that hardly any one leaves the arena till the end.Usually held in a field with a make shift stage with the audience mostly squatting on the floor covered with matting.

Some incidents I should recall. In one play the chief character was Bhima, one of the five Pandava brothers.He was to make his appearance to counter  Dushyasana the Kaurava who was to pull the saree of Draupadi to shame the Pandava chief Dharmaraja. The saree pulling Dushyasana had already danced the sequence thrice.The character playing Draupadi [ a man] was also ready to get rid of his/her saree. But where is Bhima?. He was to have come an hour ago! By now the tired Bhagavatar sent some men to get Bhima from his house. These emissaries found Bhima lying down dead drunk.Thinking a drunk Bhima is better than no Bhima they half dragged and half carried him to the venue. Dressed him hastily and pushed him on to the stage. By now most in the audience knew what was happening and were eager to see what would happen next.

Seeing his adversaries in a pitiable state, Dushyasana admonishes him,'hey Bhima, you are supposed to protect this woman, who is waiting for you since one hour and has exhausted a packet of my bidis, where have you been, what has happened to your power? are you afraid of me and that is why you got drunk or words to this effect. This insult suddenly wakes up the man and his Bhima like character comes to the fore. He shouts loudly,' who are you to doubt my power, my capacity to drink, I can drink one bucket and show you' So saying he jumps and makes an appropriate dance. Dushyasana character is not the one to leave him alone. He asks where is your weapon [club, favorite of Bhima] how can I fight you unarmed, it is against my warrior dharma. Confused, Bhima looks around for his club which was duly brought and given to him and the normal story continues from then on.

I will narrate another similar incident in the next post.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The great Indian Thamasha

Called IPL is back to torture the likes of me.As most sports channels are connected one way or the other with this thamasha, either I have to watch some other equally uninteresting sports channel or listen to Arnav Goswamy screaming his head off.

I have written earlier how this IPL has killed the gentlemanly game in its body and spirit.Except in England and to some extent Australia test cricket is dead as evidenced by the near empty stands everywhere else.

The one dayer is at least tolerable with some scope for exhibiting ones cricketing talent,But twenty twenty cricket [read IPL] is sheer murder of innocent bowlers and mad exhibition of mad hitting.It is better to watch the sham wrestling channel wwf if one wants grass titillation.

The why do people go in such numbers to watch this game. Urban India is full of young men and women who have come to money and are looking for avenues to spend. The other is marketing the products by the advertisers. It is not just the actual numbers who take the trouble of going to the venue to watch, but a vast number of other stupid Indians who watch the matches on television. According to one estimate given the dependence on the bureaucracy and police the actual tickets available is just 50% of the total number of tickets.The rest is given away as compliments to the above mentioned class. Persons like me whom I call true lovers of cricket and who are members of the association, don't go to watch as evidenced by the empty member's stands.

The pre match build up by the likes of Sidhu who seem to conduct some kind of orchestra involving skimpily clad dancing girls is nauseating to say the least. Then why do people not boycott this ugly spectacle which eats up four hours of valuable time in the evening and night?

I have a theory to explain this phenomenon. Most urban Indians are bored stiff and don't know what to do when once they are home. You watch the numerous advertisements during, before and after the match? They are either for cars,motorbikes,junk food products, smart phones, aerated drinks, garments and the like. Mostly useless but when promoted by the likes of Dhoni, the Khans,Bacchan and the like, our impressionable [I used the word earlier stupid] and moneyed young men and women actually buy these mostly useless products [in real practical life]

Going out to a movie theater, or a music concert or even to a friend or relative's house has become an impossibility due to the bad roads and traffic. Given all this, the vast numbers both male and female are held captive in front of their respective idiot boxes and every one has a good time.

Hell with the great game of cricket when money means everything to nearly every one!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Arvind Kejriwal, Bhushans, Shanthi and Prashant

When Kejriwal entered the political scene of the country with the launch of the Aam Admi party and its spectacular show in the Delhi elections, made me for a moment very happy.I imagined a scene where this party will spread all over the country and we would enter a different, cleaner and more people friendly era of governance.

Then came the reality. Arvind followed the  same methods of the other political parties to win.His selection process too involved winnability as the most important factor when he selected his candidates much to the displeasure of Bhushans. End became more important than the means and ethics took second place to power. It came as no surprise that there was deep rooted descent in the rank and file of the party led by Shanthi and Prashanth Bhushan.

Prashanth and Sahnthi Bhushan are few of the remaining, who take up moral and ethical issues and fight long and often frustrating legal battles in the interest of the common people. Shanthi Bhushan, now in his eighties has been at it from the days of our first prime minster. Common Cause is an organisation raised and sustained mainly by their efforts.They have much more authority to speak on ethics in public life than Kejriwal. But Arvind has that unexplained charisma which makes aam admi blind to the reality, as it happened in the case of Jawharlal Nehru and more recently the present PM Narendra Modi.

It makes supporters of Aam Admi party like me feel very sad with these developments. It reminds me of the JP movement the brief and aborted Janata party rule

Another party headed by Bhushan? Tough decision as they, the father and son are not politicians, in the sense of even and honest Kejriwal can be.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Image result for copper pod tree pictures

Copper pod Tree [Peltophorum pterocarpum]

This is an ornamental flowering tree to be found in abundance in urban India. When allowed to grow with out impedance, it will grow to 50 ft and above,The crown is semicircular and when covered with the abundant brilliant flowers it is a magnificent sight This is the flowering time and till early may if one keeps ones eyes open one can see this and enjoy.

Native to Sri lanka, Indonesia,Malay peninsula, the tree must have traveled west wards or northwards and has become native to India or was there already.One can safely say it is indigenous. The name copper pod is because of the seed bearing pods, when immature, have rusty red colour resembling that of copper. There is another name for this tree called rusty shield bearer, the flowers resembling a shield [ even on very close inspection I failed to detect any resemblance of the crinkly petalled flowers to that of a shield]. Mr Negginhal writes why in Pondicherry it is called Service tree, is because it provides shades to the graves of Aurobindo and Mother!

Right now, I am never tired of feasting my eyes with sight of these trees all around me in the area where I live and on the golf course where wise men of yesteryears have planted large number of these.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Strength in numbers
When we got Independence, I was a preschool boy but remember those heady days. Nehru was our super hero and could do no wrong.We couldn't follow why Gandhi was in mourning and was fasting. Now most of us know why. The woolly headed prime minster was the first disaster the country had to suffer.It is still fresh in my memory, when in the early fifties, the late J.R.D Tata told him to implement family planning, our PM'S response was,'our strength is in our numbers'.At that time immaterial of what caste, community or religion one belonged,he or she would obey the diktat of Nehru.Such was his influence and power on the Indian people. But he failed to implement family planning in earnest and our numbers grew and grew.To feed the growing population, more and more land was cleared, to house them more wood was cut more minerals were extracted and the net result, we are facing and ecological disaster.

Is there any worry among the politicians and the bureaucrats of this country? They seem to believe that Young India[more than 70% of the population is below 30] is the ageing world's salvation. One technocrat, who became a software billionaire and later even became the head of huge central project of giving an unique ID for all Indians, wrote in his book that Young India is the future of the world or words to that extent. He ended up getting defeated in the general elections is a different matter.
What doe our new and popular PM Mr Narendra Modi think? He too is harping on our young India to be the future of this world and makes repeated mention of this in his speeches to the resounding cheers of his mostly young audience.

Now let us see what is the reality. This 70% below 30 years population to be of any use, should be fed, clothed,housed,schooled and trained.Even then it is not possible to employ all of them in our country.In reality we cannot even provide basic required nutrition to most of this population. Malnutrition is so rampant that in many states the men and women appear like pygmies.Our primary health facilities are virtually non existent and money is spent in building swank tertiary care facilities. Large part of our rural debt burden is due to money spent on health care provided by private health care workers as people prefer a private quack to the PHC[Primary health center],if there is one with in easy access. Our basic education,let alone professional [any profession] education and training is in shambles. Government,instead of playing a key role in the fields of education and health seem to be withdrawing in favor of private players leading to this disastrous situation

So, we are stuck with a young population of illiterate or semilterate, ill or not trained,malnourished young population.What is going to happen to this population?  How long this ill and hungry population keep quiet?

Our present PM reminds me of Nehru.He too was well dressed and liked to to talk to his people. People fell over each other to touch him.I see the same phenomenon now.

Now you know why I didn't write for these two years. I only end up writing like this.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Image result for lantana plant in indiaImage result for congress grass

How and where to forage for common gorse

Plant Invaders

The picture on the top left is that of ragweed. The ragweed seeds got into Indian subcontinent, as the popular belief goes, along with the massive wheat imports that this country was forced to do to avoid famine, during the times of Nehru. This noxious plant is endemic to the US and Canada and has found a safe heaven in India. As there is no natural enemy it has grown unbridled all across the country.Where ever there is vacant land you will surely find this plant. This unsolicited American gift, is popularly called congress grass! Very aptly named considering the damage congress party has caused to this country over the past 60 years
Ragweed is very poisonous plant and during flowering season, slews millions of spores in to the air. These plant particles when inhaled produce severe allergy in the nose and lungs.When skin comes into contact it causes itchy dermatitis.
Many years ago, in my area, there was a lot of unbuilt area and there was profuse growth of this weed. So was the incidence of nasal and lung allergy. Over the years most of the land has been built up and the weed disappeared from the locality and the incidence of allergy came down drastically!
This is not the only harm this weed does. It has replaced fodder grass in many places and thus is a pest for cattle and even herbivore wild life.
Is there no use at all? There is. It can be cut and used as green manure and for bio gas generation!

The picture of the plant with beautiful flowers is Lantana. As records go this invader came to India some 200 years ago and has become endemic through out the country. Especially so in our nature and wildlife sanctuaries.Like ragweed this plant too has no natural enemies and has grown all over, where ever there is vacant land. Its growth is particularly worrying as it replaces grass and thus deprives fodder for herbivores.If the population of small animals is in danger, the others like leopard and tiger too will find survival difficult.Those of you who have driven in the Mudumalai and Ooty hill roads cannot but fail to see this plant's rampant growth on either side of the road.
Is the plant entirely useless? Attempts are being made to use this in furniture making with some success. Butt the harm this plant is doing to our ecosystem is far more than than the good!

The plant at the bottom with spike full of thorns is Gorse. I have seen this plant only above 4000ft elevation in south India. But my hunch is that it is present all over the country above this height. This is gift by the English expat [could be Irish/Scot]. The man must have have missed this familiar plant native to his country that he brought it and planted as e hedge. The hedge didn't remain so, and can now be found all over. Full of thorns with dense small leaves, the gorse bush doesn't allow one to get across and many a golfer in the Ooty hill course thinks it better to abandon the ball rather than look for it in these bushes.
In its native country, they have found many uses for this including making wine!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Image result for caesalpinia pulcherrima

Caesalpina Phulcherima

Couple of years ago, I came across a close up photograph of a Sun bird perched on the branch of this flowering shrub.The commonplace ornamental shrub is found in most gardens and one of them is next to my bedroom window.It attracts lots of insect life [bees in particular] and provides a good perch for birds. I have placed pails of water and many birds [including the violent crow] come for a drink and after quenching their thirst spend time on the branches of this tree/shrub. I have watched with pleasure, Sun birds, Warblers,Bulbuls not to speak of Pigeons and Crows. An occasional visitor is a Kite.

I asked around the name and even wrote to the author of the photograph but couldn't get its name. My interest waned and the matter rested there.

Some years later,my friend and fellow golfer,Roger Binny wanted to plant this shrub in his farm and wanted me to collect the seeds or grow some saplings and give him.He too wanted to know the name!

The one person whom I should have asked earlier, but didn't was my wife! She said,' I don't know the English name but in Kannada it is called Ratnagandhi. At last I had a name. Further search showed it to belonging to the family caecalpinacae and the botanical name of the tree is Caesalpina Phulcherima. A tree native to the tropics possibly imported from either south america or Barbados to India. It has the distinction of being the national flower of Barbados.

There is another native name for it. Meese Hoovu. Literal meaning: Moustache flower.Very apt discription, if one looks at it from close quarters.

The saplings that I gave Roger are now full grown flowering shrubs at his farm.

A jacaranda tree in full bloom
Blog Silence
There are several reasons why I have been tardy in my posts in the last two years. Is it boredom? not really as I am still pretty active. Is it the environment? Possible. Not the physical environment. Though the city has gone to dogs with increasing pollution,population, horrendous vehicular traffic and clogged roads etc,it still has very good climate considering other cities. The problem I faced and still facing is the political,professional and social environment around me.This has been steadily deteriorating and the recent events have made it worse.Each time I sit to write I end up with negative thoughts and give up.Who wants to read sob stories?

More of this in the next post

Lapses in memory
As I age, like others of my age,I too have some difficulty in recalling names.When that happens my mind remains disturbed till I mange to recall.This generally happens with in a few minutes or as it happened the other day,in few hours. As you are aware by my earlier postings, my interest in birds and plants. While at my golf course, I saw these trees with deep blue flowers.The flowers were  allover the tree as to make the whole tree look deep blue and the floor was littered and looked as though covered with a blue carpet. Now what is the name of this familiar tree? My recall centre in the brain doesn't respond. Finished the round of golf and for two hours part of my brain was occupied in trying to recall the name. Asked my fellow golfers whose knowledge of trees is any way poor and I don't blame them for not knowing. Then we sat over the usual after golf beer. Suddenly I got the name!Jacaranda! to my great relief and the beer tasted extra good! Jacaranda like many other ornamental flowering trees is a common sight in Bangalore and is again not an indigenous tree.
The question is, has beer any thing to do with my ability to recall? Should try next time when I get stuck.