Are you stupid? 

My favourite Magazine was and is MAD! Who can forget the Crow Vs Crow stories? I always remember the Spy Vs Spy series. What a satirical humour it had! MAD would have stories on life in general, and one must read their political satires at least once in a lifetime. It is still alive in its new Avatar https://www.madmagazine.com/but the print copy can be available only by specific methods! I am SAD like in MAD!  

I remember a perfect caricature “story” from this magazine. A skinny and very dead man is lying on the ground. A goon is standing above him with a smoking gun. A typical stupid character asks the goon, “What is happening?” The goon replies, “He was underweight; that is why pumping lead into him!” My friends, this is stupidity. Definition of stupidity is not as stupid as you might think! After searching on the net, I came across one of the best definitions of stupidity. Stupidity is overlooking or dismissing conspicuously crucial information!  

I have read a book by Dr Atul Gawande. He is a practising surgeon in the Boston area and has written a brilliant book called “Checklist Manifesto”! Please read this exciting and intelligent book. According to him, the checklist concept started in the aviation industry and later on spread in other areas. It is about how to create and read the checklist to avoid stupid mistakes. World’s worst aviation accident occurred on the Tenerife islands. Two jumbo jets rammed into each other on the ground. One was travelling very fast as ATC had cleared it for take-off, and the other one was rolling towards the take-off area. The pilot of the second aircraft was busy reading the checklist as it was going slowly! Six hundred people died in that accident. Now I need not say why I liked the definition of stupidity! 

There are different kinds of stupidities in the worldthese can be scientific stupidity, military stupidity, literary stupidity, and so on. Example of military stupidity depends on the result. A group of soldiers may act when they know that they will never succeed in achieving the target. If they reach the goal, the act is called bravado; otherwise, it is stupidity!  

But there are many reasons why people behave in such a manner. There are two areas where you are made stupid. First is the act of a magician. His acts are such that he misdirects your attention and does his act in such a way that we feel that he is a magician. Such actions are for entertainment purpose. The other ones are frauds, cons or hoaxes. The people do these acts with the intention of cheating and are designed as malicious acts. Today’s so-called online scams are about the stupidity of the people. When people are robbed of their money by such actions, people realise how stupid they were. A professional in Pune paid Rs Sixty-five lacs (Six and half million) to register and create an online profile on a dating site. 

By now you must have realised stupid persons are not idiots. They are people like you and me. During one of the conferences, a lady got up and asked a question, “It may be a stupid question…” The speaker was a smart guy. He said with a smile, “Questions are never stupid, but people are! Please go ahead with your question.” 

What are the factors that lead to stupidity? First is being outside your typical environment or changing your routines — such circumstances lead to missing out on things which are easily known.  We behave in a different manner when we are in a group. The third is being in the presence of an expert or if you, yourself, are an expert. Fourth is doing any task that requires intense focus; the focusing activity can lead to odd situations. The fifth is the information overload that can lead to missing important information: six, physical or emotional stress, fatigue. If you have worked continuously for a long time, you might overlook essential signalsSometimes we work overnight on some project. You take a break for a couple of hours, take a quick nap. You wrongly feel that you are fresh again. It is the beginning of making mistakes. Rushing or “false” sense of urgency can lead us to make mistakes.  

Do not forget that in real life, more than one such situations always exist. If we are not careful about them, we tend to make blunders. Our favourite modern gadget, the cell phone, is a cause many such mistakes where lives are lost, we make accidents. It can lead to injuries and deaths. How many times have you heard people dying while crossing the road and simultaneously talking on a cell phone? The latest fad in India is to take selfies while standing at the edge of a valley. People have died showing themselves standing on the seashore to share live feed with friends- and suddenly a huge wave comes and takes you with it.  

How many horror stories we hear from the medical field? A patient gets operated on the left eye instead of the right eye. I will share one story shared by Dr Gawande in his book. Before any surgery, a hospital operation theatre would make a checklist. In one specific surgery, an antibiotic injection was required to be given 1 ½ hour before the surgery. The surgery was likely to cause a massive infection. The start time was nine a. m. On that particular day, the operations were getting delayed. Nine a. m. surgery got postponed to 10.30 a. m. The nurse did not keep track of the delay, and she gave the injection at 7.30. By the time the surgery started, it was three hours instead of a 1 ½ hours gap. The operation took three hours instead of two hours. By the time the patient was brought into the recovery room, the effect of the antibiotic had already tapered off. In the evening, the patient had a high fever, went into rigours. Nobody could find out what went wrong. The doctors checked the checklist, and everything was in order. Since it was an emergency, all were under stress. The nurse had done double duty on that day. She was physically and mentally tired. On rechecking everything, they found the reason. Antibiotic was given three hours before the surgery instead of 1½ hour. The patient went into septicemia and died!  

How many such stories do we know? Many patients do not come out of the operation theatre; they are killed inside by stupid mistakes.  

We are driving on highway. The radio is going full blast, and your friend calls you to check if you have taken the right exit. At the same time, your friend sitting next to you asks you the same question about the exit. The first thing we should not do is not to pick up the phone. The second thing would have been to put the radio offtry and stop where we are allowed stopping. Then maybe check your GPS or call your friend. Multitasking is difficult even when we are sitting in our home or office. Trying to multitask at 100 km speed is not at all easy. We are driving at 100 km speed, and radio waves are going into your ear. Then you are trying to speak on cell phone plus listening to what your friend in the car is asking you.  

I need not elaborate on what can happen; we become overconfident. We are acting the way the pilot of the jumbo jet acted. People in a rush forget their passport at the security check. Some people forget stuff like musical instruments worth millions of dollars in trains, on the flights. I had forgotten a pouch containing a camera and some cash in a wellknown hotel lobby in Santa Clara. I realised after about twenty minutes. I rushed back, but it was gone.  

The importance of looking for crucial information need not be emphasised; it is necessary to pay attention to it. It’s conspicuous like it’s right in front of your nose and yet you either overlook it or you dismiss it. How not to be stupid, what are the causes of human error? Most stupidity is ignored or swept under the rug if the consequences are not severe. So, friends, let us not be stupid; it can cost heavily!  

 

 

 

A stitch in time!

A stitch in time saves nine! The wellknown idiom tells us that if we act on something in time, it saves many future issues. It is right in every field of life, especially about our health. Some people are lucky that they do not have any serious medical problemthroughout their lifebut others are not so lucky. The luck plays some role in this, but many times it is procrastination that comes in the way, and we delay the actionSuch acts can cause lifelong damage or even death 

But then it is human nature. Another important aspect is what type of treatment should one take. People try Allopathy, Homeopathy, Ayurved, or some other kind including going to the sadhus in the belief that they will cure you.

It is an individual choice! Though we know the effects of delay, we keep on continuing the same mistakes. 

Jaya and I usually act fast if we find some abnormal symptoms, but that does not mean that we rush to the doctor’s clinic the moment we sneezeSome families have less knowledge about medical things, in general. It can cause delays and difficulties.  

More than a decade backI was diagnosed with hernia. The doctor said that surgery is the only option, earlier the better. He asked when I can find time for the surgery. I said, “Tomorrow morning. Do I get admitted tonight or early tomorrow morning?” He smiled and said, I am already booked for the next two days. Why don’t we do it on Friday?”  

In Nov 2013, I had a bad throat, and my voice changed. I went and saw my ENT doctor. He suggested the usual medicines, gargling in the first week. In the second, he gave me antibiotics. In the third week, he thought that he had no other option but to try steroidsWhen steroids also did not work, he suggested that I get stroboscopy done. I did it on the first of December, and it was concluded that there was a small growth on my vocal cord. The doctor said that there is a 99% chance it is a cancerous growth. Within one week, biopsy was donePatho results confirmed cancer. Within one week of confirmation, the treatment for cancer was started, which included 34 radiations besides immunotherapy! By god’s grace and also because of immediate action, I came out of cancer. I could have easily delayed by going for second opinion, third opinion, and so on. But we took a family decision to start the treatment as early as possible.  

I want to tell you one important aspect. The delay in meeting the doctors is also done by some people who are doctors themselves. will tell you a story about someone  who is a doctor. That friend was having weakness and continuous indications that something was wrong. The friend was getting tired after walking about twothree hundred steps. Another close friend was regularly following up and prodding the friend to see a specialist. Somehow the procrastination was coming in the way. Finally, the friend reached the doctors clinic. After checking, the specialist doctor said, “You need to go to a hospital right awayDon’t even go home. Call your husband and tell him to come to the hospital. I need to start your treatment right away.” After eight days of treatment, the patient went homeIt took almost six months for that friend to come back to normalI met the specialist doctor last week at a function. She said, “If your friend had delayed coming to me by a couple of days, there was a possibility that your friend could have been paralysed below the neck! How that friend of mine, who is a doctordid not understand the seriousness?  

Jaya recently underwent cataract surgery for both her eyes. She is perfectly healthy now. A relative of ours had come to meet her during that period. He had also gone through cataract surgery about one and a half years back. During the discussion, it came out that he cannot read the newspaper except the large headlines. I said cataract surgery is supposed to cure all these issues and he must recheck and take one more opinion. I coaxed him to see Jaya’s surgeon. We went, and my relative was checked. The surgeon found a significant flaw which was in his right eye after cataract surgery. The surgeon advised him to meet the topnotch expert in that field for further action. Now my relative will have corrective surgery. 

In both cases mentioned above, the patients are of my age. With the current improvement of longevity, both are likely to be around for say the next ten years. Imagine being paralysed for ten years. Think of being blind for the next ten years! Why do people not think of going to the doctor on time? What do you achieve by delaying the meeting and treatment? Such delays can land you into serious trouble, and the quality of life could be drastically reduced 

As against this, I had a friend who got a heart attack more than twentyfive years back. He was in a hospital where they did not even check his cholesterol! His financial condition was not so good. I referred him to my nephew, who is an excellent physician. Open heart surgery was financially not possible. My nephew told him that it is possible to get better with medicines which may be needed to be taken lifelong. The friend followed the instructions to the T, and he changed his lifestyle as per the doctor’s instructions. He was a big smoker; he stopped it. He is still following the guidance and well and hearty.  

Getting an excellent doctor is also part of luck, (not all doctors are competent!) but reaching them on time, and following their advice is what we must do. There is no point postponing that inevitable visit if it is neededAnother important point that comes into picture is people ask that question why me? Why so and so disease happened to me? Never ask that question because there is no answer to it. 

Along with this, there is one essential point. Which pathy to follow is an individual choice. But out of all pathy’s, Allopathy is the only pathy in which a massive amount of money is spent on research. So, there is a possibility that it might cure you better and fast. There are some diseases like jaundice which have no medicine in Allopathy. Only Ayurvedic medicine called Liv 52 works. But the overall experience of life suggests that there are some illnesses like heart attack, major kidney issues, cancer are handled efficiently by Allopathy. Strong allopathic treatment also is not able to cure such ailments. So, in such cases, it is not a good idea to go for trial and error. One should avoid another pathy’s in such cases. Side effects of allopathy are going to be part of life, but getting better is a priority, is it not?  

I will end this with a story about a hypochondriac! In my office, I had a person working with me for almost 18 years. He is still less than 40. Since the last ten years he keeps on feeling that he is unwell, sometimes would feel feverish. Sometimes he would feel chest pain, then once a while there would be fear that he might die. My nephew used to treat him. Occasionally he would check his BP, once in a while he would take his ECG. Sometimes his blood pressure was found slightly on the higher side, so BP medicine was prescribed. In last one year, he had four such anxiety/panic attacks. During his last attack, he had chest pain, and his shirt was thoroughly wet due to sweating. So, he was kept in a hospital for a couple of days. All test results were excellent, and he came out of the hospital fresh! My nephew then called me (during this episode, I was in Canada) and suggested that it is time to take him for psychiatric treatment. I have coordinated that for him, and he has had one session. According to the psychiatrist, except for some anxiety and low feeling, there is nothing wrong with him. I sincerely hope this helps him.  

Now my friends, especially those in the Golden phase of life, don’t procrastinate about that ‘dreaded” visit to the doctor. A cat has nine lives; we have only one!  

 

 

 

 

Gopal Mansion!

You will wonder what Gopal Mansion is? The plain answer is that this is the building in which I lived since I was in fourth grade till I finished First Year Science, the first year after S S C, at Elphinstone College at Bombay in 1966. A couple of things happened yesterday.

My granddaughter Rhea saw a family photograph taken in the flat in 1960. She started asking me all sorts of questions about the home — family photo from Gopal Mansion. I am the youngest in the family!

Optimized-Mumbai_60.jpg

How many rooms were there in the home? How many washrooms were there? Where did I sleep? Where did I study? (I hid the secret from her that I never studied!) I went into a nostalgic trip while explaining to her many things. She was not surprised that there was a lift (elevator) in the building. She thinks that all buildings always have lifts! Gopal Mansion had six floors; we lived on the ground floor!

After our discussion during breakfast on the subject, I accidentally got into touch with a friend from Gopal Mansion. Sunil and I got in touch with each other after almost 50 years, thanks to Facebook. Sunil is elder to me by five years. He is a doctor and still practices as General Physician at Lilavati Hospital in Bombay. We spoke for more than half an hour and tried to update each other. We remembered the old friends, Shrikant, Satish, Vitthal and many others. He updated me about certain friends whose whereabouts were known to him, and I also did the same. Was it a trip down the memory lane? I was very happy to remember the old days, so was Sunil. We have now decided to meet when we both go back to India. He is with his daughter in Atlanta, in the US!

But this is not about the nostalgic trip that I had yesterday! It is about something else, but I will come to that in a little while. We had a watchman called Mahadu, who would not let us play cricket in the building; we broke many window panes. I remember how we deceived him and sometimes played in the afternoon. Azad Maidan and Cross Maidan were a two-minute walk from the building, and we used to play Cricket round the year and football in monsoons! During Dassara time, we used to go to the grounds to watch Ramlila on Azad Maidan; but the real reason for us to go there was to spy on young couples who spent some time on the ground, in the dark! At one of the gates of Gopal Mansion was a Ragda Pattice vendor! We were never allowed to eat there. But we used to envy the people who ate there.

Okay, enough nostalgia and let me come to the real subject of the blog. My niece used to live near Gopal Mansion, and when we stayed with her, I always used to go to Gopal Mansion. The last time I remember having been there was in 2012. The building had seen the glorious days of about 25 families living there, and many like me had spent the childhood there. In 2012, I saw that nobody lived there. For old time’s sake, I went inside to see but felt very sad to see a structure where nobody lived for many years.

I had never imagined that Gopal Mansion would be used for some impressive work by anyone. At some stage, the building was purchased by a charitable trust, Shivkishan Mindaram Charitable trust!

https://www.gopalmansion.com/index.php

GM3

The facility at the Gopal Mansion near the Metro Cinema was inaugurated in 2018 and offers rooms on a first-come, first-served basis to the needy. The south Mumbai facility is being run by the Shivkishan Mindaram Damani Charitable Trust that Damani’s family owns.

The rates for stay and food are very much affordable.

  1. Breakfast 30
  2. Lunch Thaali 75
  3. Dinner Thaali  75
  4. Rooms at   800

Gopal Mansion today!

Radhakishan Damani, the promoter of DMart, has created a facility at “Gopal Mansion” near “Metro Cinema Queens Road Mumbai” containing 53 rooms for stay of the family of patients undergoing treatment in Mumbai. It was inaugurated on 15th March 2018. It’s very nicely done.

In India, we have the concept of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) for the corporates. The corporates are mandated to spend some % of their profits on society for needy persons or causes. Many companies do various things and decide as per their company policy. Damanis have created a permanent facility that helps people who have to come to Bombay for medical treatment. In the distance of about 10 to 12 km from Gopal Mansion, there many medical facilities, including Tata Cancer Hospital.

Along with patients, the family members are also required to stay in Mumbai for support. There has been a significant need for some affordable clean, and neat facilities. The trust has done a great job by creating this permanent facility, which will be used by people when they are required to come to Mumbai for treatment!

Many people have a lot of money, but this is the first time I remember an organisation that has created such a facility permanently! I hope more and more people do these activities.

I had written a blog sometime back, “Let’s all become Bill Gates”!

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2018/01/12/let-us-all-become-bill-gates/

In the blog I have suggested that those who have money, which can be shared with the society for the betterment of the society, should do it. We all have it in us, but in some families for unknown reasons, such culture has never started. You can be the first person in your family to start the trend; it is not the amount but thought that is important. By performing such acts, you may change someone’s life for good!

To my understanding, to be a good human being, you need to have humility, empathy, and a little bit of extra money! Extra money is helpful, but I have known people who have been helping the society in various ways in spite of their needs not being completed.

I am grateful for the friends and people that came into my life in Gopal Mansion. We have become family with one of the neighbours and still are in regular touch with each other. All our friends have generally done well in life. Shreekant is a famous psychiatrist in Thane. (I hope I never need his professional services) Many others became good professionals.

Nostalgia has brought back many names. Mario, Iqbal, Ajit, where are you guys? I have lost a few friends as they died in the last ten years, like Avi, Dilip and Satish! Gopal Mansion was like a big family, and I consider myself lucky to know that it got converted into a place which is going to support needy people who are required to come to Mumbai for medical treatment for a long period!

It feels as if Gopal Mansion has also grown with me, and my thoughts are matching with what Gopal Mansion will be used for, in the future!

The beauty of the golden period!

Why do humans want to live longer? The logic is, more the merrier! The thought is that the more you’ll enjoy life, you keep on living longer. By doing this, you make friends, know more people, build a network, and so on. It means you have more friends later on in life, which means you’ll enjoy life more when you’re older too. When you enjoy life, you want to live longer. It is probably too unrealistic to think of your death, especially when you are alive and healthy. 

If a question is asked to people how long would they like to live, their answers will be dependent on their attitude towards life and the age at which the question is asked. It will also be dependent on the people’s area of work. Currently, a lot of research is going on any many startups, run by young peopleto increase life expectancy in many different ways. These people must be thinking in terms of unlimited life span. Older people in the same startups may talk of increasing the life expectancy by a decade or two, more than the current average.  

When in school, we were always told that humans lived to the age of 100. But in reality, we never saw such older people. The oldest person I knew in those days was my grandfather; he died at the age of 89, but by then, my age was 25. So, I had lived some life and knew that 100 was a hypothetical age. I rarely saw people as old as my grandfather. But in those days, even seeing people in their 7th decade was a rarityOn averagemen died within a few years of retirement at the age of 58! But I remember having seen many women who were in their 7th decade, though many of them did not look healthy.  

Another myth has been that when the expectancy is 60, we start thinking that as soon as someone becomes 60, he or she dies in the next few days. In real life, it does not happen that way. But statistics is a tricky and funny science! When we calculate life expectancy, the early deaths are also consideredthe percentage of deaths during childbirth was comparatively quite high in olden timesSuch deaths reduced the average life expectancy by sizable numbers.  

I was trying to look at the real-life situation as the average life expectancy started going up, with better hygiene, better medicine; increase in the number of people world over started getting enough food, starvation did come down. Discovery of Sulpha and Penicillin avoided many deaths. In the last fifty years, computer-based drug development and imaging technology have helped the doctors save even more lives. Early cancer detection helped reduced deaths due to cancer.  

What and how we think can be compared with knowledge! A little knowledge at young age makes one arrogant, be bit more reasonable, and finally, age makes you humble. Youthful arrogance mellows into affable modesty as one grows old and it finally sublimates into self-effacing humility.  I think that the following statement is appropriate. “Now, with age, sitting against the silhouette of a setting sun, I ruminate and introspect. I look at my whole life from a deeper perspective.” 

I read one beautiful passage about old age, and I am giving it below verbatim!  

It is the beauty of the final phase of human life. One gets an altogether new perspective, looking back at the variety of events and experiences in life. Life can only be judged in its totality when it reaches its logical end. Like icing on the cake, the advanced years make one more understanding and pragmatic. During one’s youth, there’s often an irrational and romantic fascination for cutting short one’s life, which’s called “intellectual harakiri” or the “James Dean Syndrome,” after the Hollywood heart-throb, who acted in the cult movie, ‘Rebel without a cause’ and died very young. It is a passing phase. 

In the golden phase of our lives, we can look at life and death with equanimity. When you are not afraid to discuss death, including your own, you can enjoy your golden phase. Create a so-called bucket list but honestly to me it is not essential. Basically, do what you want, but never got the opportunity to do it in your busy life 

The beauty of this phase is most of your family responsibilities are over, and you can give time to whatever you want to do. I have a friend whose passion right through young days has been Hindi movie songs, starting from the year 1935 songsHe initially had records, then the tapes. Later he got these songs converted into CD’s, and now the songs are stored on one-drive! Everybody does not want to go to see the midnight sun or go to the Rocky mountains! Each has his or her own list of what they want to do.  

We have a tradition of burning Ravan (the evil) with arrows during Dassara! It is the battle between good and evil. But in this golden phase, if given a choice, this group of people will talk to Ravan and help him mend his evil ways instead of burning him.  

I am giving below two different quotes. 

Youth1

 “Youth is the most beautiful thing in this world—and what a pity that it has to be wasted on children!” It is a famous quote by George Bernard Shaw!  

 I also read recently another quote, “Wisdom is wasted on the old.” 

What do both these statements mean and how can we interpret them? Youth have new way of thinking and many ideas, but they are most of the times a bit immature, and the ideas do not get implemented properly. If older men could get such brilliant ideas, they would enjoy and execute them well.  

On the other side, older people do not get new and brilliant ideas because of their wisdom; they become overcautious in everything and are not willing to think out of the box. So wisdom gets wasted because they continue with their old ways and kill innovation. To me, this is applicable while you are working. Once you are in your golden phase, you have already acquired your wisdom, but you can think out of the box and do what you want. You can start taking risksYou can start learning to paint or sing. At most, what will happen? You will fail in both but who cares? You wanted to do something and did it! 

You know that you have little time left with you or maybe more extended time with physical difficulties that can accompany old age. Till that time have fun!  

I met a friend of mine after a long time. Both his children were married and settled. Instead of saying that his responsibilities are over, he used a Marathi term. “I have now become बेजबाबदार– irresponsible in English!” It was an absolutely hilarious way of saying that his responsibilities are now over! So become बेजबाबदार and do what you want! The golden phase is HIS gift to you!  

 

 

  

Feeling lonely?

Am I feeling lonely? Am I feeling sad? Am I a person looking for sympathy? Am I full of negativity? These and many such questions have been coming to my mind since last evening. Another doubt that also came in my mind is, do I deserve this? Such thoughts came into my mind and then suddenly during the day, today,  I read a couple of beautiful stories. Today we went out to Nikhil and Priya’s friend’s home for breakfast; ended up into an excellent affair which turned the food event from breakfast to brunch to lunch. Jaya and I had met them only the second time.  

Love1

We could see optimism in these four young people added to it was the joy of Rhea, my granddaughter’s banter and frolics. Suddenly the Doubtful Thomas from my mind went for a toss, and original Pramod re-entered,  after the famous Canadian Siesta! What made this change? Why the initial trauma which is not the normal Pramod?  

On our WhatsApp group on the previous day, an event had taken place. Except for a very few friend’s, nobody knows the real story. An old batchmate, who lives in California had joined back after a couple of years of gap. Even at that time, he had left the group in a huff due to disagreement. He has been undergoing chemotherapy for some time, and currently, he has fifteen manageable days in any month and fifteen bad days after chemotherapy. I will not delve into details of what happened (the group is 70 years plus batchmates of COEP 71, the famous engineering college in Pune) because those are unimportant.  

It was the acts of people, sometimes actual act and sometimes knowingly remaining silent that caused the episode. I realised that it is the act of silence or behaving with less empathy and love must have caused pain to the friends themselves, other than the affected friendI am not even discussing the main actor in this event. Some were magnanimous and openly declared their remorse, whereas others did not. When we behave abnormally, I am sure our blood pressure goes up. Possibly our blood sugar levels also shoot up for a temporary period. The event that occurred was so immaterial that it is not even worth discussion.  

What brought me back to normality? There were a couple of stories I read which told me that everything is all right with this world — the first story I am sharing verbatim. 

Story 1 

The first time I met Mayor Pete, I was working in the ER, very shortly after finishing my residency and moving back to South Bend. I was caring for a little Somali boy who had nearly hanged himself. We had no Arabic translator immediately available that could help me talk with his mother, and we were working on getting one of the phone translation services when a young man in a suit showed up and just started translating. I assumed the hospital had found and sent down an official translator because translators at the hospital where I did my residency training always wore suits. The boy was gravely ill, and I did not bother to ask who the new translator was, but he spent about an hour with the mother and I, just helping me talk with her about his treatment and his prognosis. Then he followed her and her son up to the ICU when the boy was admitted. During the whole event, he never mentioned who he was or said anything to take the focus away from caring for this little boy and his family. 

About an hour later, he came down from the ICU and shook my hand before he left. I asked him how long he had been a translator with the hospital, and he very casually replied, “I don’t work for the hospital, I’m Mayor Pete.” He shook my hand and left without another word. He had come and done what he needed to do and was on his way, either home or back to work. 

I learned later that he had simply heard over the police scanner that we needed an Arabic translator at the hospital for this tragic situation and just wanted to help. In addition to studying at Harvard, being a Rhodes scholar, working as a McKenzie consultant, he spoke fluent Arabic and worked for Navy intelligence in the Middle East. He is a pretty amazing guy, has done incredible work here in South Bend, and will do great things for the country I hope.” 

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Story 2 

I only read about this event so, I am describing it in my wordsA lady in her early seventies was detected with Alzheimer. There have been sad stories about people with Alzheimer. She was lucky to have husband, a very caring person. The disease was following the typical path. Once their young maid did a few dance steps when they were listening to an old song. The husband noticed his wife’s shining eyesHe saw this and signalled to the maid to continue with the steps. In those ten minutes, it appeared as if the wife went into a trance; she was in her own different world. The loving husband realised that the wife’s musical traits had woken up. He experimented with her favourite old Hindi songs, and it worked. They changed the home atmosphere and made everything musical. Their children lived in different cities and used to come whenever they could make it, to meet their mother. The progress of the disease had slowed down. Then they found accidentally that the lady liked to use crayons. A family with a young child had come to meet them. The lady enjoyed his crayons and did some painting. 

Along with old Hindi songs, crayons and drawing books, some colourful posters of butterflies, birds and trees were put everywhere. Alzheimer almost forgot the lady’s address. But life is never rosy. After a few good years, it’s speed increasedand the lady started going down again. But with the alert act by the husband who was also eighty plus, the family had good five years, in spite of Alzheimer. Was it only alertness? Or was it love? Was it empathy? He had his heart in the right place and wanted his wife to be a little more cheerful for as many years as possible. 

Do you show love and empathy only if the person is related to you? To me, friends are the second family to everybody. Age does not play any role. I can be friends with a six-month-old baby or six-year-old boy! I love to interact with 30-year-olds and fifty-year-old. My friends from school and college times are, of course, 70 plus. Those who are in reasonably good health feel as if they are fifty. But I find that most have their heart in the right place.  

When the world can be so lovely, who is bothered about the nitty-gritty of life? I may sound like a preacher, talking of love and empathy all the time; but that is what we should have in this world full of abundant heartless behaviour. With the heart in the right place, humans automatically are graceful and soft in the way, they react to any situation.  

Are there any online courses available that teach you how to behave with empathy and love? Are there any procedures available that bring your heart in the right place? Harsh behaviour and reactions are the cause of your bad experiences at your different stages of life. Simply remember that we are all born the same way, and we are also going to die the same way. We are on a voyage or a cruise, so why not make the best use of the same? Make it enjoyable instead of having self-inflicted wounds. Just take a look below the skin of any person, we are all the same!  

Read this when you have time! 

https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/get-involved/world-alzheimers-day 

Quackery! The Modern-Day Phenomenon?

 

Quack2Quackery is a dishonest practice and claims to have specialised knowledge and skill in some field, typically medicine. The World is full quacks for a long time. Along with quackery, we should also combine the word sucker- sucker is a gullible or easily deceived person. Quacks and Suckers are joined at birth. Because there are suckers, we have quacks.

Till about a hundred years back, medicine was not developed by today’s standards. The doctors in those days would merely manage patients rather than curing them. Hence, the doctors were not considered as deities, as some of them appear today. Yes! With modern drugs, diagnostics methods and improved surgical procedures and knowledge, good doctors are like gods, who bring patients back from jaws of death.

Ok, I am not saying that this pathy or that pathy is good! I am talking of many individuals, who though not doctors, claim to cure you of cancer, of diabetes; some promise pregnancy to women who find it a complicated and unachievable process. The latest fad is the dieting industry. Somehow, I am not comfortable with the dieticians who are not doctors by basic training. Similarly, we see trainers in the gym, who have a bit of knowledge about gyming but should not be guiding people with medical issues.

Why do people fall prey to such people and practises? There are several reasons. Some of the quacks are marketing experts with excellent body language and oratory. On top of this, they glibly say things or don’t say things. Consider the case of Mukesh Ambani’s son. He had a significant health issue, and his weight was uncontrollable. Some time back, he moved to the USA for a couple of years, and a whole team of doctors guided the dieticians, trainers and the team to help Junior Ambani to come back to normal. He has come back to normal, but to me, the main reason for success was Ambani’s will and determination. There has been a rumour going on for some time on WhatsApp that he was cured by a celebrity dietician from Mumbai. The dietician has never denied the story! Why would she?

The same dietician offers annual wellness group retreat in Darjeeling. It is a seven-day program of which two are travel days; for balance five days the charges are Rs.2.1/ lacs. You need to reach Bagdogra on your own. As the saying goes, a sucker is born every minute. I am okay even if she charges Rs 5/ lacs for the program but what wellness will you get in five days. It’s a holiday under the garb of a wellness program.

In the dead of winter in Pune when the temperature is around 6 /7 deg C, a Yoga Guru used to have free Yoga camp. People would go there in hordes and attend it for ¾ days. I am okay with this because this Guru never claimed anything, did not charge any money. He was encouraging people to follow Yoga. I checked with a few friends who used to attend the program; they never did Yoga ever through the year! But at least they were not cheated.

Then there is a story of asthma cure in Hyderabad. A family from Hyderabad many years back declared that the GOD had told them that they should offer a particular asthma cure to the general public, free. The family supposedly had a secret potion, a paste, which they would put in the mouth of a tiny fish. The fish was then pushed through the patient’s throat. Again, since it was free and there were no side effects, I don’t care. But I met a friend who was singing paeans of the treatment. He said that he had been going for the procedure every year. I asked him, “If the magic cure is supposed to cure asthma, why do you go every year?” He is still upset with me.

When people have some severe body condition, the quacks try to take disadvantage of the situation. They play with their emotions. They make them follow the incorrect path. The person with difficulties falls prey to glib talks and methods. We read stories of women who go in desperation to some Gurus, as these women cannot get pregnant. The Gurus take advantage and convince the women to sleep with them or sometimes forcefully sleep with them. If the Gurus are lucky, then the women become pregnant. The Gurus become more famous and get more and more women who take “treatment’ from them. Women, obviously, don’t share the rape part with anybody!

Sometimes, some of the quacks advertise miracle treatment on cancer, hypertension, and what have you! Even modern allopathy treatments are not able to cure many of the ailments. But these quacks have a cure for everything. But the suckers go to these quacks, try out stuff for a year or maybe two with no results. In the meanwhile, the body condition has worsened. Some people die! There was a news item of a patient who was taking treatment on piles, from a “doctor”. After a year he got so fed up, the patient went to the “clinic” and stabbed the doctor to death!

Today the medical skills available are unbelievable. After knee replacement, the patient is asked to try walking a few steps within 24 hours. After bypass surgery, the patient is asked to walk on a staircase in a matter of days. When such skills and expertise is available, why people go to quacks? When a doctor suggests to you, about diet, I am okay with it because she will know the effects as well as side effects of the same. But the problem is that some non-doctors make tall claims. These claims are like Ponzi schemes in the finance market. Double your money in next six months. The quacks talk of curing Cancers and Aids; they speak of patients who reduced 50 kgs in two months, and so on. Now there are bariatric surgeries available which help in lowering weights drastically. Why not try these instead of going for a Ponzi scheme? I have no issues about people offering pricey plans at resorts. There are suckers, so why not? But from what I understand, their treatments are not risky, and they do not make tall claims.

I will share an exciting story; not all mass cure schemes are frauds. Near Rishikesh, in Northern India, a “Doctor” was running a mass clinic where thousands of people went every day to be treated for Epilepsy. He would charge them nominally. A team was sent by the Indian Medical Association to check the claims made by the “Doctor”. The Doctor met the team, and he explained his working.

First and foremost, he was a medical doctor who was trained at a renowned Institute in India. He realised that not all epilepsy patients needed modern-day drugs. So he started a drug manufacturing unit. The drugs manufactured were from the era of 1950-60. These drugs had come out of patent issues. He gave these drugs to all the patients. Around 60 % of patients got cured with these drugs. Placebos cure ten to fifteen % of patients, is a proven fact. So at least 70% of his patients got cured. According to me this a good record when we consider hundreds of patients, he was checking every day!

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Friends, by all means, try alternate methods of cure! Homoeopathy, Ayurved do cure various ailments but remember, they are no cure-alls. But Allopathy has the maximum chance of curing complicated diseases. So, don’t play around when you have severe health conditions to handle. For Jaundice, there is only Ayurvedic cure, so similarly, Allopathy is the treatment of severe diseases. Don’t experiment! Go to dieticians for weight control by all means. But if you weigh 124 Kgs, get yourself treated under medical guidance. One can always try alternative medicine along with the primary treatment! But don’t get driven by Chelation treatment for heart conditions, Magnetic Band treatment for joint issues. These are unproven, and the chances are that these clinics are run by people who are not supposed to handle such difficult cases! One more important thing, to avoid minor side effects of Allopathic drugs, don’t go to quacks. You will be worse off!

Stuttering Longevity! When to shut the tap?

A couple of years back, I had written a blog titled “Longevity bane or boon!” The link for the blog is given below.  In a couple of years, our thought processes change, situations change, more information becomes available. The present blog can be considered as an addendum to the old blog.

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2017/08/02/longevity-bane-or-boon/

Last fifty to seventy years have seen life expectancy go up and up and up! Obvious reasons for this are better medical treatment, higher incomes allowing families to afford treatments for managing illnesses. Add to this better diagnostics and a better understanding of the diseases. Life has become interesting; knowledge about exercise and diets is also improving. All this has led to improved longevity.

But everything in life always has two sides. The sides are good and evil, rosy and dark. Like the pros and cons, we have a positive way of looking at things and a negative way of looking at things. One important aspect of humans is emotions. The human brain is supposedly more advanced than that of most species, and it is seemingly flexible in thinking. Hence we look at death and maybe death like situation, in a different way.

Are we practical in our thinking? Are we pragmatic in our thinking? In most cases, the answer is no! In the last couple of months, three persons known to me, between the age of 67 to 75, died “suddenly”! The 75-year old person was leading a bonus life as he had escaped the death a few years back, miraculously. Another person did die “suddenly” as we knew her quite well and know the details. She had normal health issues which never indicated she is passing shortly. Then there was one more “sudden” death! We never knew his “real” health situation, but he looked quite unwell about ten days back. I am talking about my neighbours from the condo where I lived for 35 years of my life! Out of the three, two looked normal, moved around or travelled unattended. They attended our society meetings and took part in the proceedings.

My point is would their close ones, or they have a preferred death after they got into full assist mode? Knowing them, I do not think they would have liked to live a life where they were dependent on someone else all the time. Am I talking of euthanasia? Yes and No! What is the point in being around in this world when you do not and cannot contribute anything? By contribution, I do not mean writing some stories or treaties. But live life with minimum assistance. No harm in taking help but if you need help like we help babies to grow, then it is not worth it. I may be a little blunt, and you may think I am crude and rude! But I am not, I am pragmatic! Would an “intelligent” human being like to live like a stuttering engine? Would someone splutter all the time and love to continue living? I don’t think so!

Sometimes, it is the near and dear ones who take decisions leading to such situations. Emotions take precedence over pragmatism. Medical practitioners take Hippocratic oath when they complete their degree. I am giving below the definition of Hippocratic oath!

The Hippocratic Oath is a symbol of a collective moral and ethical promise from doctors united in a singular purpose to bring healing to their patients. It is named after Hippocrates, a Greek physician who was born in 460 BC.

This oath ensures that the doctors try their best to save the life of the patient who has come to them for the treatment. The oath in today’s times becomes a double-edged tool. Many times it so happens that patient is taken in for condition A and then condition B evolves. Since doctors are under the Hippocratic Oath, they try different drugs, procedures and support systems to keep the patient alive. At this point, the moral dilemma starts. How much intervention should be done to keep the patient alive? What aspects should be pondered until the decisions are taken? Doctor’s Hippocratic Oath is on one side, the family’s moral conflict and trauma are on the other side! These two conflicting thoughts clash. In real life, they don’t clash. The family tries to decide in such a way that life is not lost, though it is hanging by a single thread!

I remember an incident many years back shared by a doctor with me. A friend called him early morning for advice. The person’s father was in a hospital, all of 88 years of age. He was kept alive by use of a ventilator for a month. Hippocratic Oath and commercial side of the hospital wanted to continue the treatment. The prognosis was weak, and doctors had said that without ventilator the patient would die in 24 hours. The emotional turmoil of the family was not allowing practical decision. The friend finally decided to remove the ventilator. The old man died in 12 hours. The friend was caught in an emotional whirlpool for a lifetime, thinking “I am responsible for the death”!

What is the right age to allow someone to die without intervention? How does one know that the health condition is irreversible? How to know when to let go?  These questions arise, and they need to be answered. Else one may see a top-notch professional, a top-class cricketer or a dashing prime minister of a nation being kept alive in a condition which is traumatic even to know!

Discussion brings one to the good old question of who should look after whom? In the ordinary course of time, parents look after the children once they are born. They are looked after until the child becomes independent. When does a child become independent? Do we have an answer for that? When life expectancy was low, humans would support their children for almost 35 to 40 % of the child’s life span. In other species, this support could be there for about 10 to 15% of their life span. Is this an advantage or a disadvantage? To me, it is more emotional. Because of low life expectancy, the children did not have to look after their parents. Nowadays it is common to have “children” who are 50 and parents around 80. Is it children’s responsibility to look after their parents? This thought goes against the basic thinking of how we want our children to be!

Yesterday at a mall, Rhea and I were going to an escalator. I jokingly told her that I am not very confident about using the escalator. She “taught” me how to do it! That is how she has been brought up. I had a similar anecdote with my grandson Suyash. He was 2 ½ years old. I was seeing him for the first time;  we went to the escalator he simply said, “I want to go up”!  He did.

Confidence with which the children and grandchildren are brought up, the things we teach them are done for a specific reason. We want them to try to do better than what we have achieved in our lives. We want them to become better persons; we want them to become global citizens with no limits. Then we become 80, do we want them to come where ever we are living, to support us? In India, systems for handling old people are still evolving. Society will find a way of doing these things. What is the point in restricting the career path of children so that they can look after us in our old age? The same question again, what is old age? When does one reach that age?

In conclusion, I can say that each individual handles life in a certain way. There can be hired support or system support. But it is not correct or mandatory for near and dear ones to give up everything whatever they are doing, to help parents in old age. The simple reason for this is we don’t know how long the help will be needed. But I am quite sure that the near and dear ones will shed a tear or two when one is gone; they do not need to feel guilty for not being around.