Monday, November 27, 2017

Ortho Viral Fever

`Ortho Viral Fever' (OVF), declared the young doctor at Emergency in the hospital, almost gleefully at first - as if he had succeeded in a scientific discovery after torturous research.  And then, when he realised it was far from a Eureka moment for anyone else there,  he modulated the voice to just sound triumphant, shorn of the intense happiness one sensed in the previous declaration.  Considering the fact that the patient was a young girl of thirteen or so without any earlier history of bone related problems, we were surprised about the `ortho' connotation and waited for the excited doctor to cool down and formulate his explanation.  Eventually he did that and told us that OVF meant very high fever for 4-5 days, accompanied by body pain.  Then the fever subsides but the body pain, with particular reference to aches at the joints, persists for anything between two weeks to four months, depending on the level of affinity the pain develops for one's body.  Hence the inclusion of `ortho' in the name of the fever.  Many of those in the Emergency room that day cluck-clucked or shook our heads in disbelief in sympathy for the kid, but forgot all about it after an hour.  Until OVF decided to descend on us in our household - one by one, in some vague order, which we are yet to decipher.

Initially the blasted OVF just starts with high fever for a few days.  Of course, accompanied by severe body pain.  We realised that the doctors in the hospital called this Dolo650 fever, because that seemed to be the fixed prescription, on which there was astoundingly rare unanimity among the doctors.  That itself is some kind of a record engineered by this disease, since usually no two doctors agree - neither on the diagnosis nor on the prescription!  For the record, this author is not recommending anyone starts on that tablet without checking with a real doctor, who might just confirm that prescription.  The body seems to constantly receive external heating directly from a thermal or hydel source and the fever is high enough for one to end up bleary-eyed, thirsty and weak after 2 days.  When you enjoy some marginal success in moving from the bed, you really do not know where you are going  -- to the bathroom or kitchen (because you have lost a significant part of your steering capabilities), until you get unusally kind words of direction from the loving wife (she is eminently qualified because she went through the whole process a couple of weeks before I did).  And then, you find that you cannot move back to the bed because all the energy you had, has been expended in that 20-step sojourn.  So, you wait, pretty much like the astronaut who has just completed an exhausting space-walk, waits to enter the International Space Station.  You feel very flaky too, because you have no memory of walking to your temporary parking space five minutes earlier.

The doctors make it clear that OVF is probably just the staging area for one to get Dengue and/or Chikungunya.  So, as is customary with hospitals, they insist you be tested for all these and few more things in one sweep.  I am sure everyone has this experience of going to get a small bruise treated and returning home wondering whether it was leukemia or HIV or cerebral hemorrhage or something more serious.  Until the 33 tests done by the hospital all indicate it is just a bruise.  Likewise, after the plethora of tests (all those that hospital is equipped to do), you are declared a victim of mere OVF --without any likelihood of being upgraded to Dengue or Chikungunya-- by the medical staff, who just cannot mask their terrible disappointment.  So, here is a disease which sets you back by a few thousand rupees in the `testing' phase but costs you less than hundred rupees for the actual treatment because it is Dolo650 all the way and nothing else.  I guess this compounds the confusion of the already delirious patient as to whether be happy about the latter or complain about the former.

The patient is advised to drink a lot of fluids.  The obvious reason given is to avoid dehydration, but given the fact that everything the patient attempts to consume tastes like paper (no, this author assures he has never eaten that but making the aforesaid statement purely on hearsay) and seems to involve forcing things through a much narrower gap where the throat used to exist, fluids make better sense.  Water, especially, since as we all learnt during school, it is tasteless anyway -- Aristotle said so! The one single part of the body which completely forgets its function during the period of OVF is the tongue.  While one can feel its physical presence at the appointed place, it is like some absolutely useless spare part added to an automobile, God knows why.  You hurriedly go through this phase in life --struggling with anxiety and fear -- so that you can reassure yourself that this eminent part of the body will regain its functionality  eventually!  And, it does, God bless!!

But the most distinct feature of OVF is that the joint pain that afflicts the patient for a disproportionately longer time, compared to the fever that seemed to introduce it to the body in the first place.  Two things happen with the joints -- one, all of them like ankles, knees, elbows, shoulders uniformly pain jointly and severally; two, those joints which already had a diagnosed problem, like one somewhat arthritic knee or one partially frozen shoulder, are blessed with special, incremental pain.  As if, the bacteria knew uncannily where exactly the chinks in your armour are and direct themselves to be residents of such places to increase the pain value.  One also is able to generally come to be re-acquainted with many joints and bones one had forgotten as a child.  So, as a pure journey of self-discovery, I would rank OVF higher than most other meditative or yogic experiences -- primarily because the latter are not so easy to attain and require sublime mental adjustments!

So, here I am, after three good weeks, still struggling to climb stairs and lift somewhat heavy substances.  My dear wife points out I have developed a unique style of climbing up/down the stairs, with the knees kept wider apart than usual and a resultant wide-angled movement so that a beholder would not, at first sight, know whether I am moving up/down or sideways.  I live in the hope that eventually, after a couple of months, I would revert to my original style.  But that seems very far off, at this juncture.


Friday, October 6, 2017

Worry, That Staple!

'How can you be so indifferent?  After all, this is a bosom friend of yours, right'?  My very-distraught-dear wife demanded, arched eyebrows and arms akimbo as the situation demanded. She was being eloquently emotional in her criticism of my refusal to be unduly stressed about a bothersome situation a friend had inserted himself into.  One must hasten to add that her accusation was not that I did not empathize with the friend - she didn't suggest that at all.  Actually, both she and I had spent enormous time and effort to help the family in whatever way we could and had also committed to further assistance, as required.  My wife was actually haranguing me that I should be more worried about the friend than I seemingly appeared to be. Now, that flummoxed me. I have never been able to figure out how, my long-distance worrying about him from thousands of miles away, was going to please him or ease his plight.  Unless, of course, he was the truly sadistic type who wants everyone to suffer with him. And, that is the crux of the matter!

Worry is that sizzling (because of ongoing combustion) and shining (because constant use keeps it well burnished)  pot which every family has in a special corner of the home,  It is ceaselessly boiling with all kinds of unhealthy ingredients added each passing day by the various constituents.  Now, if each household boasts of its own share of patients with hypertension, diabetes and the like -- age being no bar for the early acquisition of these ailments -- we all know why.  Our own over-worked doctors would vouch for this.  Questionable lifestyles and habits apart, one major common denominator in all such cases is the tendency to worry all the time about everything in and out of sight.  Mothers think their motherhood will be questioned if they stop worrying about something/anything at all, even during toilet breaks.  Actually, may be that space provides privacy to even shed a few tears to water that plant of festering worry.  Those furrows on the foreheads of mothers, ploughed by stress, are no less symbolic than the stigmata.  Fathers are probably marginally less prone to worrying, but are emotionally flogged into joining the bandwagon to avoid being labelled `irresponsible'.  While I am not willing to be drawn and quartered for this, I am making bold to venture a guess that women (especially if they are in a group) worry more than men. Now, please don't ask for meta data analysis to support that.

A few years back, I caught my father and his good friend, stricken by some unseen bug and staring ahead vacantly, an indication they were not all there.  Last seen and heard, they were passionately discussing the state of cricket in India and for the life of me, I could not figure what would have propelled them from there to that orbit of despondency. I decided to let them be and went out for a while and when I returned, there was no perceptible change in the sombre atmosphere.  So, I decided to investigate.  The two gentlemen danced around the periphery a bit but came clean after a few blandishments. My father's friend sheepishly confessed that they were heart-broken with worry by the prospect of India potentially losing to Zimbabwe in a test match by 2 runs in the last possible over, in about five years' time.  Whether the cause would be India's abject deterioration or Zimbabwe's upward climb in cricket, he could not coherently clarify but I was so flabbergasted I left with in a daze. What a thing to worry about!!

Recently a friend went through the depressing hospital circuit with age-related issues, got diagnosed with problems which are par for the course for his age but got home without any apparent, serious damage. While we were all relieved and happy, the subject continued to luxuriously wallow in frothing and comforting self-pity.  He shut down routine operations, went monkish, ate sparingly, spoke seldom, sniffled and moaned endlessly -- causing untold agony to the family. When all sympathy for his erstwhile medical status dried up completely, in justification of his behaviour, he summed up his worry thus: `I wonder why I got these ailments?  How did I deserve that'?  As if he was part of some specially chosen tribe of God, exempt by right from normal human infirmities. As if he would have been happier if the rest of the family got afflicted instead.  This worry seems to be the life-force that keeps him going today.  A very sorry state of affairs.

Some other outrageous worries this author has come across:

-- A grandmother worrying about Trump needling Kim Jong Un into launching nuclear weapons. That is bad enough in itself; but this sheer idiocy gets compounded,  if the latter was to get confused about the co-ordinates and send that missile to Mylapore in Madras.

-- A lone individual, sitting alone in a chauffeur-driven car in messy traffic, worrying about most cars having a single occupant and why people are not sensible enough to share rides.

-- Someone in Asansol looking up at the evening sky and worrying about if and when that blasted, disintegrating Russian satellite plunging towards Vladivastok would change direction and shake him out of slumber

-- An inveterate worrier in his mid 60s being stressed sick about losing his contract job as and when the inimical combination of Artificial Intelligence and Augmented Reality would invade in his small world.

But this one should take the cake and all the baking paraphernalia too.  Some decades back, when my mother was sitting alone in a very pensive mood, I asked her what her worry was -- now that all her children were married well, settled down in life with nice families, holding decent jobs, the entire brood in good health.  Without batting an eyelid she said `My worry is that at this rate, there will be nothing left to worry about'!! Beat that!


Saturday, August 19, 2017

Relentless Advice Givers (RAGs)

Most of us would have encountered these specimens of the species frequently in our lives - the Relentless Advice Givers (RAGs). Some of us are probably purblind, so can be excused for not identifying them for what they are appropriately.  Others choose to ignore because they believe such characters are par for the course. And the worst part is that all of us periodically succumb to this irritating if not offensive tendency to assume an advisory position; even when no one sought our counsel, so long as we are certain that the counter-party is not violent enough to throw acid in our face in retaliation. Offering unsolicited advice, even to a complete stranger, comes naturally to human beings of all hues and it does take a Herculean effort to keep that impulsive urge under constant control.

One very attractive attribute of the RAG role is that it requires very little expertise or qualification.  So long as one has existed in this world - in whatever limited capacity - for long enough, one is egregiously entitled to plunge into this pastime (because no one will pay for such advice, considering it is unsolicited and mostly useless).  Longevity seems to bestow some invisible thrust to the least sociable of people and push them into this activity.  Recently, when this author went looking for his roots in his village (diligently done once in a couple of years to assuage that lumpy feeling of guilt), he met an old class mate.  This shy chap has retired, having served a lifetime in a local bank and having never ventured too far from his home pasture.  This post owes its birth to this worthy individual.

Obviously in what is a well crunched routine, post-breakfast, he assumes his perch outside his home, almost on the street and watches some eighty percent of the daily activities of all his busier neighbours.  What amuses one is the unfailing regularity with which he spoke to anyone who attempted to pass him either way. To one, it was `Did you tell your grand daughter not to go to USA for higher studies? Singapore is the best'. To the next, `I hear that doctor you have selected for your wife's knee operation is not good. Go to MPK hospital'. To a youngster who seemed intentionally speeding past on a cycle to avoid a verbal assault, the RAG expertly accelerated his own delivery speed to catch up before the former faded away. `You should avoid that nefarious group of boys, otherwise you are going to be ruined for ever', he hollered belligerently, in what seemed a continuing one-way communication.

In the next hour they were together, the author noticed that this RAG had advice to offer in fields afar as what NASA should do next (this to the automobile mechanic in the village), how they should prevent sea erosion in some of those Polynesian islands (this to a poor farmer, who probably hadn't had adequate water for his crops one mile away) and why the local temple should not perform the next round of festivals at that time.  And, barring one forlorn individual who, it turned out, was deaf and thought the author had said something to him and demanded clarification with a `What?', no one even looked askance at the RAG.  They all hurried away as if he/she/it wanted to avoid the pestilence.  It was a futile monologue all the way, but unsurprisingly had no adverse effect on the RAG.  Another superlative attribute of the species, `never take rejection to heart'.

This complete lack of response did not faze the RAG and there was no stemming the flow of dollops of advice for the entire period.  In between various streams, the author managed a few words edge-ways and wanted to know how he of such a few words during younger days turned into such a prolific, almost formidable, advisor. The answer was very elucidating.  The friend said `I am bored, not having anything better to do.  Nobody anyway hears or listens to me when I speak to them.  So I decided to take this avuncular role and offload all my thoughts on them, not caring whether they take them or leave them'.  And inexplicably he deliberately refrained from offering a single advice in his only area of expertise -- banking or finance -- to anyone.  He demystified me on that count with `Oh, I am not knowledgeable enough on that subject and anyway, it is boring'.

The ironical aspect of such RAGs is that not one would have taken similar advice from any one else.  They are such strong personalities that they can sustain giving all the way without taking anything.  What is even more galling is that many of them cannot and obviously do not even follow their own advice.  Take that obese auntie who is advising the young girl on how to lose two kilograms in ten days, when actually she herself can lose more than that during one meal!!  Or that profligate uncle, subsisting with a small monthly allowance from his kind nephew, advising someone on how to financially secure his future!!  This list can go on and some of these specimens, when rebuked, brazenly even seek to arrogate authority to themselves by assuming the mantle of someone who has erred and has never learnt!

We cannot leave the politicians out of this, can we?  Like anything else, politicians have no memory of their own past and have a lot of time for superficial, unwanted advising.  On the subject of Kashmir, recently a Congress leader who stands severely discredited by his own partymen, advised that the current government's policies in Kashmir are all wrong and misdirected. Apparently he wanted every government to follow what Congress did for 60 years and failed miserably.  And another leader, very junior but aspiring to be very senior suddenly, who will remain unnamed and has not even got enough credit till now for him to be discredited ever, has some advice to avert the kind of disaster that consumed the lives of babies in hospital recently.  If only we, as a country, had made some progress annually in the area of public health, education and other social sectors in the last 60 years!!

My dear wife is vigorously nodding her head in agreement.  She has sworn not to open her mouth for a while, lest what falls out is seen as advice.  Why? Probably because she recognizes usually it is? I am not saying anything.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Expert Advice On Eating

Forty five years ago our own fledgling doctor, my brother, was just learning his ropes in the medical college.  Since he was the first one in our extended family to be studying medicine, he had already become a de facto specialist on many subjects related to health.  I vividly recall that evening when he returned from his college, armed with the important edict that coconut oil and sesame seed oil were downright unhealthy and should be banished from the household forthwith.  As usual, elders in the house feverishly harked back down memory lane, had hushed pow-wows with relatives far and wide and arrived at the conclusion that those oils were being used as cooking media for at least four generations.  So, they had a justifiable counter, tinged in rebellion, as to how they could be unhealthy just because some upstart doctor (actually not even that) says so.

But, new-found knowledge freshly minted at western research institutions, supported by esoteric scientific research difficult to question, was not to be denied. After a brief struggle, one cooking tradition quietly died a little-mourned death and we lost the flavour of those oils for ever. Interestingly, those hard-balls in Kerala who never budged and continued to use coconut oil through the decades, had the last and good, boisterous laugh, when a few years back global research elevated coconut oil to a position of primacy for its goodness.  I believe some 1500 studies have proved that coconut oil is one of the healthiest foods on this planet!!

So, how is it that something which was considered harmful to health four decades back has suddenly become manna from heaven? Research, as the answer does not cut it, because even if it is dynamic and continuous, how does one rely on research which turns age-old beliefs and traditionally proven theories on their heads at a whim? The primary reason for the callous dismissal of those oils from the kitchens was cholesterol related and ironically both those oils are considered to be extremely good from a cholesterol and heart's health perspective now.  So, there may be something to the conspiracy theory that some vested interests with investments in hectares of land planted with sunflowers and the like were responsible. And how well they did for a few decades!!

What about cholesterol itself?  Something which saw the demise of a few traditional items of food, kept a lot of doctors in practice and made for flourishing business in some pharmaceutical companies has itself been called into question now.  In 2015 the US Government decided to withdraw many of its warnings about cholesterol, sending shivers of disappointment down the spines of generations of people who were sadistically deprived of their desired quota of fried and rich foods in their prime years.

Under the circumstances, how does anyone decide what is good to eat?  One cannot go by what nutritional oracles or other food experts wave their flags for, because they are dime a dozen and have a few hundred opinions among themselves, which are usually contradictory -- sometime ridiculously so.  Moreover, they do not appear to value their own opinions seriously enough to stick to them for long.  Flip-flops are not uncommon.  All those individuals seeking quick reduction in weight and willing to empty their pockets on that count, will stand testimony to the fact that nothing but starvation helps and gradually that is what the so-called experts lead you by your nose to!

Take for example, my dear wife's theory that rice is fattening - period, based on a number of proclamations put out by the expert community.  My bleating remonstration that my grandmother lived healthily for 92 years and my own father for 91 and both were primarily rice eaters, fell on very deaf ears.  Obviously not proof enough.  Brown rice was better than white, was another theory floated probably by people who wanted to get back at White Supremacists with vengeance, with whatever they could lay their hands on - even if they happen to be a few grains of rice!  But, as in the case of cholesterol, the theory that the excess starch in white rice might lead to diabetes seems to have been demolished recently.  The funny thing is no one seems to care any more - those who wanted to eat white rice continue to and those who threw it out of their windows kept it out.

Olive oil is better than other oils, ran another fad.  I have stared in disbelief in friends' homes where their idlis and dosas are eaten with chilly powder mixed with olive oil, (can there be a greater anathema?) instead of sesame oil, as is customary. Pakoras are being friend in olive oil in households to bless them with incremental sanctity.  Dr Devi Shetty, the well-known cardiologist nailed all these theories by saying simply `All oils are equally bad'.  But nutritionists, backed by olive oil importers, have continued to prop up the commodity.

The list is endless.  Ghee was taboo till recently.  Now it seems to have acquired a desirable gloss, just because some western scientists have blessed it.  Jury is still out as to whether milk and yogurt are good or bad.  Tomatoes are hailed as a great food item generally, but some reports have indicted it for possible deleterious side effects. Wheat, which provides sustenance in  multiple forms to millions around the world has come under the stick recently.  Expert opinion has it that there are some serious reasons for completely shutting out wheat from our food and the anti-gluten brigade just adds its voice to this cacophony.  So, brown or white, bread is to be shunned.

Where does one go for information on what to eat?  If you go by the various opinions voiced by experts around you, you cannot eat anything in peace.  What you have for breakfast, recommended by one set, may become the absolutely wrong thing to consume by lunch time.  That is the proven reality.

As my father always said, eat everything in moderation!  That should do the trick.

Friday, May 26, 2017

We Need Our CD Player, Please!

Two separate incidents within a month showed my dear wife and myself how technological advances with reference to music-listening can be an irritant or a major hindrance, depending on how desperate one is.  The pain experienced by us had a multiplier effect because all we were trying to do was to maintain status quo and listen to our music the way we have always done for the past 30 years.  And we were made to feel very guilty in that process.

First, our Bose Lifestyle system - CD Player and speakers with a sub-whoofer, which was a couple of decades old but was fully functional, decided to fade away suddenly.  Right in the middle of a song, it figured it had lived its life and had to call it a day; so went out with a `whoosh' -- no other notice of the impending disaster or indication of an ailment, let alone a terminal one.  We went to the experts, the Bose guys, who took less than ten minutes to confirm the system's demise - "You have to junk the whole lot, sir; there is no way we can repair this because parts are not available" was their diagnosis.  The look accompanying that fateful declaration was akin to what one would have had if one was looking at a picture of a Tyrannosaurus Rex or Diplodocus!  Without batting an eyelid or caring for the sea of remorse in which we were floating, they promptly busied themselves with attempting a fresh sale to us.  Pretty much like a marriage broker trying to induce interest in a second liaison in someone who was holding the ashes of his/her erstwhile partner.  We decided to carry the system back as if it were on a ventilator and needed some out-of-the-box solution from a conventional Jugaad specialist.  But that excursion also yielded no encouraging result.  That was the moment of realisation in us that the music system that lilted through the best part of our lives was history - gone!

Even as were in mourning, a friend who is blessed with the technological brilliance to make a business of cobbling up music systems from scratch, enthusiastically came on the scene.  He went into a rhapsody about all the contraptions he could bless us with, to enrich our listening experience.  He was almost delirious talking of brands, pieces of equipment, degrees of acoustic fidelity etc.  While most of the content of his delivery flew some thirty thousand feet above our head -- fortunately, without causing any bodily harm, I must confess -- we did comprehend that our way of listening to music had become antediluvian.  My wife made a valiant attempt to gently steer this friend towards telling us if we could stay with a basic, good CD player.  But to him that idea was simply anathema and he continued to rave, rant and froth around his mouth about hi-fidelity speakers in each room connected by Bluetooth with a slick digital platform, which played all music through a remote.  Even after we banished him from our home, we saw him walking to his car, furiously indulging in a monologue about the virtues of the music he could help us listen to.

Our primary worry was what to do with all the CDs and the priceless music we have accumulated over the years.  The mind boggling thought that we had to transfer all that music to some new gadget was a still-born because it was throttled without ceremony, by my wife.  She was adamant she just wanted another CD player, nothing more, nothing less.  She just could not level with the process of using a remote and a panel to identify a song to play; and said so in a tone which resonated with finality and brooked no resistance.  She reasoned that she knew her CDs well, with our superbly indexed storage and where to locate a song in a specific CD.  So, we went back to Bose and got a simple, glitzier CD Player!  And, all was well with the world and God was in his heaven!  So, we thought.

Within a couple of weeks, disaster struck again and the Panasonic CD Player/Radio which provided non-stop entertainment in the kitchen (almost like a tea-shop) decided to go kaput, in sympathy with the Bose, probably.  The earlier context was easier to handle because Bose replacement was the only solution we were looking at. Now, it got a bit more complicated because we did not require a Bose replacement, so the laborious search began forthwith for a suitable system.  When my sustained on-line forays did not throw many alternatives, we thought it was best to source something from an electronic store.  Our many jaunts through multiple shops confirmed our suspicion, vague to begin with but growing by the minute, that what we were looking for belonged to some long forgotten era.  We located one Philips CD/Radio, which was so anaemic that we were certain it could be carbon-dated to the same time our Bose was manufactured, some twenty years back.  The salesman mumbled there was only one brand, one model and what I was holding was the last specimen.  We could get a discount of 30% if we wanted to take it because it was the display piece.   He looked sympathetically at us and soothingly conveyed the clincher - "Nobody buys these things any more".  But we sensed that he wanted to be rid of that piece and move on in life, to some other less moribund, more exciting section of the store!

We decided it was beneath our dignity to take the last piece of the last model or the last brand and walked out, holding our heads high.  The kitchen is still without a CD/Radio and our housekeeper is very unhappy.  I, for one, can vouch that the quality of food coming out of that kitchen is not the same! 

Friday, April 21, 2017

What Do Women Want?

Disclaimer, especially, to all the women of the world: No offence meant. Laugh this one also off!
Before even the mildest of the woman-power advocates jump up in a chorus of objections, let this clarification be humbly submitted that the original title was indeed `What Do People Want'?  But, once the blog was completed and looked set, it was pretty obvious that most of the situations involved women demonstrating either, ahem, ambivalence or inconsistency about their current intent, future direction or past decisions.  This author realises, above all, that men are no geniuses in these matters, but being embodiment of laziness and inertia, they present such a scarce body of public evidence for an author to raise the same question about them with any authority.

Women are seen as intuitively better wired to be taking charge of problems, which are palpable in their eyes and mostly imagined in the perception of men; and earnestly looking for immediate solutions, which are badly needed from women's view-point and absolutely redundant because there is nothing to solve, in the eyes of men.  These God-given traits logically make for easier conclusions with women as protagonists, since men's imprint in such matters is seldom visible to the naked eye. This, it should also be clear to readers, is probably due to the fact that the male of the species generally just wants to be left alone to idle; not to be dragged into doing anything, if that is possible, so that they can really enjoy their limbo! Most men also spitefully imagine that what women want most is to throw some serious spanner into this specific machinery of the menfolk and jump-start them to do something - anything for that matter, like forcing them to stand up or move their limbs a bit.  Under the circumstances, this author made a judicious decision to leave `What Do Men Want?' for a future essay, hoping that time will provide incremental fodder, even on this flimsy subject.

Recently while travelling to Madras from Bangalore by the airport bus + turbo-prop plane combo (the bus seemed to cover 60% of the distance and the plane 40% - at least it looked that way), there was this hassled, young mother boarding the bus.  She was with one unhappy-almost-militant toddler tugging violently at her clothes and a wriggling infant on hand, struggling to balance the kids and a cabin bag.  There was indeed a man with her and one could reasonably surmise it was her husband because he was trying to look at all the others in the bus, certainly impelled by the humanitarian desire to help (anyone else, except his own wife and children).  A lady who was seated, got up and offered her seat to the harried young mother and her brood.   Even as I was appreciative of the yielder of the seat for her graciousness, the young mother reacted as if someone had stepped, with pin-point-accuracy, on her little toe.  May be, the idea of taking a seat offered by another woman, not much older than herself, did not appeal to her?? Because it showed she is a bit more vulnerable than the other lady?? Whatever the reason, she glowered at her good-Samaritan husband, barked him into the vacant seat and dumped the kids and the bag on him, all in one sweep a la Virat Kohli pouncing on a rapidly advancing cricket ball.  Then she stood very erect next to the other lady, as if she wanted to drive home a point (whatever that was), to the utter bemusement of those around. Of course, the husband was pretty pleased that he assumed a position he likes second-best (lateral would have been better), despite carrying all the baggage, including children.

What came flooding back into memory in this context was another scene from another similar airport bus. A techie-nerd (not all of them are that, let me state for the record), completely lost in his own world, blessed with a pair of unseeing eyes - no he was not blind - was occupying a seat.  An older lady was dangling by the strap above because she was too short, right beside him.  A younger accompanying lady was looking to evacuate someone and procure a seat, understandably.  She saw this techie and gently, with a smile, signalled to him to yield the seat.  The techie was probably close to attaining the software-solution-equivalent of nirvana in his mind, did not see the girl nor heard anything.  The embarrassed girl tried again, less gently, but to no avail. She then let out one bloody scream asking the guy to get up and boy, did he hear that!! Not only that seat, but a few more including the driver's, fell vacant in a jiffy!! And both the ladies occupied the seats, with the younger lady displaying dissatisfaction at the utter lack of energy of the men around her in terms of movements - justifiably so!

There is this husband and wife team, which should be the delight of any satirist. The husband seldom attempts anything more prolific than monosyllabic conversation within the confines of home, plainly because he has reached a state of self-awareness in which he knows he is not equipped to defend himself from the resultant reactions of the lady.  The lady's mouth is very rarely closed - she is either eating or talking or sucking in a deep breath in between those two activities. Most of the time, the subject matter of the virulent monologue is the husband's 'nincompoop' ways, catalogued with phenomenal precision as for content, right from the day after the marriage.  The perceptive reader may question why not from the same day!  All the revelries and rituals of the day prevented any form of real observation or extended communication on the wedding day, the author understands.

But when they are outside home in the midst of others, they want to pretend that both are very normal conversationalists, with extreme sensitivity to equal opportunity etc, even though the ground situation is an ill-kept secret.  The problem with this is that the husband woefully lacks practice and is like a two-left-footed dancer.  He cannot put tongue to palate without causing the wife to bristle and retort snidely.  Yet, he is not allowed to be quiet because she does not want the home-scenario to play out in public and paint a portrait of her as someone she exactly IS!  When a close friend noticed this terrible dilemma and spoke to the husband sympathetically for thirty seconds, the wife came hurtling like a bulldozer, keen to find out what all that phus-phus between the men was about!

Due to the offensive ways of over-weening, macho men, some women take umbrage at even the simplest of compliments or statements nowadays.  Sexist or condescending or patronizing, they say - the complimenter may have some ulterior motive.  Surely some of them do and perhaps this happens more often when the complimenter is not known well to the complimentee.  If a guy does not say something complimentary in some circumstances, he becomes a boor, brute.  This author would suggest a Supreme-Court-compiled list of compliments, approved by a thirteen-judge-bench (if they do not have enough spare judges for this, the government should appoint more forthwith; it can resume the fight with the Collegium later) that can be used in all situations.  Such a list should also mandate where the man should look while delivering the compliment, so that the woman does not misinterpret it, the look,  as leering or malignant in any other way. So what is required here is a complete move away from the natural to the artificially well-structured, dictated lines and at least the women may be happy.

When my dear wife saw what I was writing, she said I must include one item without fail - the utterly basic desire of women to walk around the streets, without feeling that ocular molestation has already begun and physical one is soon to follow.  And this should be possible, even in the dead of night, even when the woman is alone, even if she is sozzled and even if she chooses to be in an area known to be infested by animals masquerading as men. This author completely agrees with this Utopian vision and we should all work towards that.  But as of now, we are nowhere near that kind of ideal situation and women know that.  So, isn't it necessary for a woman to exercise sound judgement in this matter?  What is the idea behind willfully inserting one's hand into a snake-pit and wailing that one is bitten?  Yes, we can always beat that snake to death, but what about the damage done to you?  Can you wash it away?

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Child Is The Father Of Man

Readers will realise that the tone of this post is very different.  For a reason.  This was written for another website called Stillness Project.  It is reproduced here.

Decades ago, when we lived in Hong Kong, I used to see an advertisement for some housing project on TV every evening. Because we neither had the desire nor the resources to buy property in Hong Kong, swan-like, we disdainfully ignored the salient features of the project, but were captivated by the tagline on the commercial — `Let us leave our planet in a better state than what we found it in’. At that time, people were still perfecting the art and science of destroying the earth, so there was no great furore yet about ecological degradation of the earth, caused by man’s greed compounded by stupidity. But what one did not realize then was that tagline represented the initial alarm bells which had started ringing, about the damage being inflicted on our environment in the name of development.

I wish all the saner elements in the world had got together at that time and dinned that singularly important message into the kids growing up at that time – much more aggressively. May be, we would not be staring at the disastrous scenario we are mired in today – what with the reduced green cover meaning highly erratic rainfall, ending up in unpredictable cycles of droughts and floods all the over the world; enormous green-house gases heating up the entire planet so much that temperatures have gone up everywhere by a few degrees (including our own Bangalore, where for the first time in living memory, we recently experienced temperatures nudging up to 40 C); arctic ice is melting and glaciers all over the world are retreating alarmingly.

Simply stated, the previous generations – meaning, we — did not do a good job of maintaining the intricate balance on the earth and now, our children and grand children are paying for that dearly. We were so engrossed in churning out great quantities of gadgets for our own convenience, indiscriminately focusing on the so-called life-changing technological developments that we omitted to lead by example when it came to tending to mother Earth. Alas, on the contrary, we actively engaged in destroying our own planet and our children, who cannot be blamed for seldom holding parents as role models, thrived in our foot-steps in actively pursuing that suicidal mission of destruction.

Now that the damage to earth is becoming more apparent and we are ourselves suffering the consequences, it is gratifying to see that children are asking the inevitable questions as to what we were thinking. But because of the precedent we have set up showing the wrong way, we owe it to the world to also wean our progeny from all those terrible practices prevailing in the name of development.

Today, many of the ecologically driven initiatives in big cities are supported vociferously in no small measure by school children, if you notice. We see youngsters involved in planting saplings in the same places from where rapacious men had felled mammoth trees for some factory or highway. They are refusing to even buy fire crackers for celebrations because of their awareness of the damage they could cause, while grown-ups are still merrily engaged in that pernicious activity. Generally children today are far more intelligent in their use of water or other resources, being a lot more concerned about preserving our planet. It is for the elders to do much more and join the youngsters in making decisions which would help in keeping Earth in good shape.

Wordsworth said `child is the father of man’ and in this context particularly, children can probably take the lead and restore the planet to good health. But, for that the oldies have to work with the children!! That’s the least we can do, after being an active part of the `destructive’ generation.