Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A never ending story...

Kidney scams are nothing new in India. In January 1995 a kidney scandal came up and there was tremendous public and media outcry causing the Indian Congress to pass a legislation banning kidney trade. On January 15, 1995 Customs officers in Delhi uncovered a “Kidney tour” racket in which donors were enticed to go abroad for removal and subsequent transplant of their kidneys. Hundreds of donors were believed to have gone on such tours. Then a series of other such scams were discovered, one of which was in a rehabilitation colony (Villivakkam) for leprosy patients near Madras and then one in Bangalore which the kidneys of nearly 1,000 unsuspecting people had been removed in a leading city hospital by prominent doctors.

I believe one cannot run such a smooth operation without the knowledge of the higher ups. Right now the king pin of the current operation has vanished from India. A person who is operating 5 different accounts with 2 major hospitals in his name can provide a way out of India very easily. And yes he will return once the media and the public have something more juicier to chew upon. The laws we have established is not for the unsuspecting poor, who will be cheated again and most of them even without their knowledge. After all, living with one kidney is much easier than living on an empty stomach.

I am not sure how this can ever be stopped with rising kidney demands from all over the world. Even in Kuwait one constantly sees requests for kidneys in the daily’s. For the kidney patient, if he is rich enough, getting a kidney will be the best he can do with his money. He may not think twice about the poor donor.

As for India, our cultural and religious beliefs still prevent us from letting us donate our kidneys upon death. This itself can take care of a part of the demand for those kidney patients from India.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Cuba Mukundan

While we were in Kerala, we tried our best to watch the movie, “Arabi Katha” but couldn’t catch it in any of the nearest theatres. Well Kuwait will definitely bring it we thought. We waited patiently without succumbing to the CD guys’s endless offers of good print etc, etc. but to our disappointment due to some dispute going on, no more Malayalam movies are being shown in the Kuwait Cinema halls. Finally we bought a pirated CD (forgive us!) and a worthless camera print too.

Nevertheless the movie is too good. Srinivas can really bring any character to the screen. I am sure there is no living communist similar to the one portrayed by Srinivas as Cuba Mukundan. There are many touching moments too. It is hilarious when Mukundan refuses to serve a bottle of Cococola while remembering the strike that he made back in GOC, refusing to work on a LAPTOP for the same reason etc. And when he is harassed by the Paki Supervisor he raises his fist on reflex but suddenly realizes that he is not in Kerala but in Dubai and instead runs to the toilet and completes his protest in style “Inquilab Sindabad”! Srinivas also reminds those "ever ready to strike at the drop of a hat" comrades back in GOC that there is more to life, specially when one is forced to work in a place like Dubai. Life in the Gulf for the majority is potrayed with no exaggeration.

I guess one may find the likes of Cuba Mukundan among those communist that still work among the lower cadres but once they taste power and money, they lose their will power. But it is surprising to note that people still support those leaders. I guess it is because of their undying love for the party and not wanting to smear the party image. The crooks are still surviving for this reason alone. And those who protest openly are banished from the parties for one reason or the other. If you take a look at the current communist party in Kerala, one can find only Achumama who can come at least a bit close to Cuba Mukundan.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Ken Follet

Finished reading The Key to Rebecca by Ken Follet. It is many years since I read the “Eye of the needle” by the same author. But Ken can really get one glued on to the book until it is finished. I like this too. And now I am onto his book “Jackdaws”.

Actually I came across this author once again when I read “The Pillars of Earth” but unfortunately it was an e-book and was only the first volume. I tried my best to find the second one but couldn’t. It left me real frustrated since it was too good. It felt like someone taking away half a cup of the tea that you were enjoying. I will surely look for this title the next time I am in India. But if any of my readers can give me an e-version... that would be like winning a lottery!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Guillain-Barre Syndrome

FIL can now walk much better. Acutally he is very lucky that he was diagnosed quickly. As I wrote earlier it all started with tingling sensation on his legs and later general weakness in his legs. This is when the doctor told him that it was due to lack of calcium. His blood was gven for testing and he started using the walker to walk around. It was only when he fell down even with the walker that the seriousness of the situation was realized. He was immediately hospitalised and was in the ICU, under observation. Dr. Madhusudan was not available but the junior doctors were able to have consultations over the phone. They decided not to wait but go ahead with the treatment and this was the best decision. By then he was losing the sensation on his hands too.

Now we hear from many regarding this syndrome and there were unlucky ones who were not diagnosed soon enough. There was one person (50 yrs old) who was supposed to leave Kuwait for good to enjoy his retired life. It started with his hands and he did the usual treatments available but soon he was confined to the wheel chair and he left Kuwait in a wheel chair. By the time he was diagnosed the disease had taken its toll and he died.

This illness can occur at any age and it usually starts of with a normal cold or fever.


The whole world is talking about Tata and the cheapest car.

Below is an excerpt from an interview with the man behind all this rufus..

What do you think this will signal within the country and what is the confidence that it will give others, like what happened with acquisitions. Once you acquired Corus, everybody thought they could go out and do the same. Do you think in terms of innovation this will mark a watershed in India?

I don't want to in any way sound professorial, but what I think this does indicate is that when you set a bunch of young Indian engineers a goal that most people around the world think is not possible, it is significant that they are able to achieve it. One of the things I would like to say on record is that people may well criticise Tata Motors, or me, for adding congestion, but how about giving recognition to the bunch of young engineers who did something everyone thought was not possible?

Why not accept that India did something and young Indian engineers have done something that even people elsewhere in the world thought could not be done? So if there is a lesson from this it is that we can do other things also that the world thinks can't be done. And why don't we stand up and applaud those young guys who did it? I did not do it, Ravi did not do it, these young guys did it!

He does deserve the applause from one and all. It all started with his desire to provide an affordable car to the Indian masses, although he doesnt deny his business objective too. But his concern is genuine. It is no wonder that millions trust this business house and will continue doing so.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

50 people who could save the planet

Stranded polar bears, melting glaciers, dried-out rivers and flooding on a horrific scale - these were the iconic images of 2007. So who is most able to stop this destruction to our world? A Guardian panel, taking nominations from key environmental figures, met to compile a list of our ultimate green heroes
You can see the full list of people and their activities in ...

I picked up the 5 Indians who are in the list and they are;

Madhav Subrmanian

Madhav Subrmanian is the next generation's face of conservation, a 12-year-old Indian boy who goes round Mumbai collecting money for tiger conservation. With his friends Kirat Singh, Sahir Doshi and Suraj Bishnoi, he set up Kids For Tigers which works in hundreds of schools. He writes poems, sings on the streets, sells merchandise and has collected Rs500,000 (£6,500) in two years. Conservation awareness is growing in middle-class India, largely through young activists like him.

Rajendra Singh
Water conservationist

In 1984 Dr Rajendra Singh, now 49, was working in the semi-desert Indian state of Rajastan. He planned to set up health clinics in the rural villages, but was shocked when he went to a place called Gopalpura. "This area was devastated and people were fleeing, leaving their children, women and older people behind," Singh says. "It was then an old man told me that they needed neither medicines nor food. He said all they needed was water.
"It moved me so much and I started finding out ways to help. But the region was arid, all the rivers were dry and the land was parched. The only source of water was rainwater, but that was scarce and there was not nearly enough for all the needs of the region."
A mix of modern technology and villagers simply neglecting traditional ways of conserving water had led to an ecological disaster. Singh found that the villages no longer used small earth dams - or johads - to collect surface water but instead now relied on "modern" tube wells. As they bored their wells deeper and deeper into the ground and sucked out ever more underground water, so the water table had dropped alarmingly and ever deeper wells were required.
Lower water levels meant that the wells were not full, the forests and trees were dying off, and erosion was worsening. It was a vicious circle. With less irrigation water, farming declined and men migrated to cities for work. Women and children then had to spend up to 10 hours a day fetching firewood and water, and the shrinking labour force sapped people's will to maintain the old johads. The whole region faced disaster.
Singh and his colleagues began digging out an old johad pond in Gopalpura. Seven months later, it was, almost miraculously, nearly five feet full of water. And once the rains eventually came, not only did it fill to the brim, but a nearby long-dry well began flowing again. The following year, the village joined in to rebuild a second dam, and by 1996 Gopalpurans had recreated nine johads that between them held millions of litres of water. Meanwhile, the groundwater level had risen to 6.7m, up from an average of 14m below the ground. The village wells were full again.
"It was only due to political reasons that the [johad] system fell apart," Singh says. "We worked for four years in Gopalpura and slowly a huge area turned green. People came back, they started farming again and the visual impact was so impressive that people from adjoining areas started calling us for help."
Singh is now known as the Rain Man of Rajastan, having brought water back to more than 1,000 villages and got water to flow again in all five major rivers in Rajastan. He has so far helped to build more than 8,600 johads and other structures to collect water for the dry seasons. The forest cover has increased by a third because the water table has risen, and antelope and leopard have returned to the region. It has also been one of the cheapest regenerations of a region ever known - in Rajastan, villages have been brought back to life sometimes for just a few hundred pounds, far less than the cost of the single borehole that almost destroyed them.
"See the earth like a bank," Singh says. "If you make regular deposits of water, you'll always have some to withdraw. If you are just taking, you will have nothing in your account."
Erratic rains and longer droughts are becoming more frequent around the world with changing weather patterns and climate change, and the lessons taught by Singh in Rajastan are now being applied all over India and Africa. In the next 30 years, water "harvesting" is expected to become an essential way to save water everywhere from England to Uganda and Arizona. In south-east England, there is barely enough rainfall now, let alone for the expected population within 20 years. Procedures likely to be introduced will include gadgets that ensure you can't leave a running tap, baths that hold less water, gutters that collect water, systems for using waste water for gardens. "It's the same principle everywhere, but we all have to learn it," Singh says.

Jockin Arputham
Urban activist

Jockin Arputham, 60, has lived in a slum outside Mumbai since 1963. As president of the National Slum Dwellers Association and Slum Dwellers International, he is rallying the world's poorest city dwellers to improve their environment. Urban squalor is one of the biggest problems of the age, and by 2030 the number of slum dwellers is projected to reach two billion - a recipe for poverty, disease and political instability. Arputham has pioneered a way to help the poor negotiate with city authorities to secure land ownership - the greatest barrier to improving slums. Dozens of other new urban groups are working in 70 countries and hundreds of thousands of people have benefited. Global urbanisation is inevitable, and these new federations will have more and more ecological influence.

Bija Devi
Farm manager

Bija Devi saves seeds for future generations. She already has in her "bank" 1,342 types of cereals, pulses, fruits and vegetables, though she has no idea of their scientific names. She has worked as a farmer since the age of seven, never went to school and has never heard the words "wheat" or "turnip". Yet she now heads a worldwide movement of women trying to rescue and conserve crops and plants that are being pushed to extinction in the rush to modernise farming. And in so doing she is helping rejuvenate Indian culture.
Apart from collecting and storing seeds from all over the country, Devi is teaching farmers, distributing seeds and experimenting with them. It's called the Navdanya (Nine Seeds) movement because it was inspired by a southern Indian custom of planting nine seeds in a pot on the first day of the year. Women would take the pots to the river nine days later to compare and exchange seeds so that each family could plant the best seeds, thus optimising food supplies.
Today, Devi has farmers queueing up for seeds at her project's base, a 40-acre farm in the foothills of the Himalayas in Dehradun. When she started 14 years ago, with ecologist Vandana Shiva, she had to plead with the farmers to accept that ecological security was of fundamental importance, and that there were advantages to sowing older, indigenous seeds rather than the newer, high-yielding "hybrid" or GM seeds. These give larger crops but require considerable input of pesticides and fertilisers, and more water.
Women are responsible for sowing, harvesting and storing food, while it is up to the men to prepare the soil. "There was no tangible benefit for them in using our seeds," Devi says. "But over time they realised how the soil was retaining its fertility, how the crop was free from diseases and pests. Now they come to us on their own."
She now has 380 varieties of rice seeds alone. There are something like 200,000 people benefiting from 34 similar community seed banks set up in 13 states across the country. The banks are seen as an insurance against changing conditions, such as climate, new pests or consumer demand. People who receive the seeds pay nothing for them, and in return pledge to continue to save and share them. "Indiscriminate use of chemicals has harmed the soil to an enormous extent," Devi says, "but we can still restore fertility and conserve water if we act now."
The work is backed by Dr Debal Deb, an ecologist who has established the only gene bank of indigenous rice in India. The Green Revolution was environmentally disastrous in India, he says: "In the 80s, the drastic erosion of the genetic diversity of rice and other crops was irreversible. Thousands of rice varieties no longer exist in the farms where they evolved over centuries. They are extinct for good and not even accessed in the national and international gene banks." This, he says, translates into a threat to the country's food security.
Collecting seeds from a large and diverse country such as India is no easy task. "I depend on the traditional knowledge of the farmers and go to different corners in the region in search of new varieties," Devi says. "The farmers explain the qualities of a particular strain and how to cultivate them. We then collect the seed, cultivate it on an experimental basis and note down the results. If it is satisfactory, we distribute it among the other farmers. We also need to sow the seeds regularly to continue with the strain. Today, traditional knowledge is almost lost in the euphoria over new varieties."

Bunker Roy

Bunker Roy, 62, set up the Barefoot College in India, the only school in the world known to be open only to people without any formal education. Roy's idea is that India and Africa are full of people with skills, traditional knowledge and practical resourcefulness who are not recognised as engineers, architects or water experts but who can bring more to communities than governments or big businesses. The college trains the poor to combine local knowledge with new green technologies : 15,000 people have learned to become "barefoot" water and solar engineers, architects and teachers. It has helped hundreds of communities across India - and now in seven other countries - install water supplies and solar voltaic lighting systems, develop bicycles that can cross rivers and design buildings that collect every drop of water.

Rise up Pakistan

Suddenly we see it everywhere. In the various editorials, in blogs, during discussions. The care and concern for our neighbouring country. 50 and more years have widened the gap between the two countries specially in the economic front. But the culture and the mentality of its people have not changed. They still treat each other as the long lost brother separated by a fence which they would love to tear down if it was possible. Though their ego sometimes does not let them admit freely, they still care for each other.

But for some Indians is this show of concern out of their selfishness? After all, a stable Pakistan will do only good to India. Trouble with them will spell only trouble in many ways to India too.

It is not as though democracy is the best weapon, but it is the only good one for the moment. The Pakistani’s need to strive towards achieving a democratic government which can keep the army and the extremists bridled. It should also show the world that it can manage its affairs without outside interference. But for this to happen they better start finding a good leader to start with.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

"Love your Christian neighbor as yourself."

The latest from the distressed community really shows that there are some in urgent need of counselling.

But if this remains as just a wish it is fine but if they are planning for an “edayalekanam” and instructions to strictly abide then it is time they had a thorough check up.

Now let me examine myself as a parent. Will I choose a school of my own community or does it matter at all. I think personally for me and hubby the first priority would be quality education at affordable price no matter who runs the school. Now if I studied in a school run by the minority community, it was because it was the only one around the place I grew up. But then I cannot speak for my parents but I don’t think it ever mattered to them. After all, a school is a place where you acquire knowledge and learn to live with the rest of the world, irrespective of their caste, creed, colour and above all RELIGION. The devil sent manna for our politicians and some religious leaders. If one needs to teach them religion, one has special schools and your own home too. This responsibility should not rest with the schools.
I can very well relate with the SFI activist who changed the well known verse thus...
"Love your Christian neighbor as yourself."
Anyway I can never understand some religious leaders who seem to have lost it all. But I would be happy if the faithful doesn’t follow suit but show some sense.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Guillain-Barre syndrome

My FIL was suffering from Guillain-Barre syndrome which is an uncommon inflammatory disorder in which your body's immune system attacks your nerves, typically causing severe weakness and numbness that usually starts in your extremities and quickly worsens. Eventually your whole body can become paralyzed, even the muscles used for breathing.
There's no cure for Guillain-Barre syndrome. But two treatments have been shown to speed the recovery from and reduce the severity of the disorder:

Plasmapheresis. This treatment — also known as plasma exchange — is a type of "blood cleansing" in which damaging antibodies are removed from your blood. Plasmapheresis consists of removing the liquid portion of your blood (plasma) and separating it from the actual blood cells. The blood cells are then put back into your body, which manufactures more plasma to make up for what was removed. It's not clear why this treatment works, but scientists believe that plasmapheresis rids plasma of certain antibodies that contribute to the immune system attack on the peripheral nerves.

Intravenous immunoglobulin. Immunoglobulin contains healthy antibodies from blood donors. High doses of immunoglobulin can block the damaging antibodies that may contribute to Guillain-Barre syndrome.

FIL was given the second one and it brought back the use of his hands and the sensation to his legs. He was discharged on 1st December and by God’s grace was able to greet the new year from his home. Hubby and his brother took turns to look after him but his brother had to leave early. A wheel chair, a walker etc has been purchased and we were lucky to get a good home nurse too.

Pray that his recovery is complete by the physiotherapy.

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