Emotional Turmoil!

While writing two blogs about my friend Prakash regarding the major catastrophic event he and his family had gone through, I never realised the emotional turmoil I was going through. My endeavour while writing is always to make the least number of errors, both grammatical and factual. For this purpose, I had to refer to the book written by Kavita about the event, a few times. Every time I skimmed the book, the reading process did some more churning in my mind, as I read a few paragraphs. The pictures of what the family had gone through kept floating before me.  

Today’s blog came up as I read a news item in today’s newspapers, which rekindled the old memories and reminded me of the story of another friend. This story is again very touching! This friend of mine was a friend from my Bombay days. We were neighbours, he was one-year senior to me. As was typical of those days, we spent evenings playing tennis ball cricket on their terrace. He came from an upper-middle-class family, had a well-appointed home, went to a convent school. These things of course never came in between our friendship; honestly, I never realised his financial situation in those days. His father was our family doctor, so when the doctor was at home, we would be a little under pressure! The friend was ever smiling, but he was not what can be called as a mixing type.  

As so happens, we lost touch around the time when I was in tenth grade. A few years later, I moved for my engineering course to Pune. One of my classmates had also moved to join the medical curriculum at Armed Forces Medical College (AFMC) in Pune. Once when we went there to meet my classmate, I bumped into this old friend, who was also learning to become a doctor. Our friendship was renewed, and we kept in touch intermittently.

As our education was getting completed, I heard that he got engaged to his classmate. I was so happy for him. Then came the news, later, that they had broken off! Later on, our friend went to England and settled there. Another 45 years passed as we again had lost touch. Once I was scanning the Facebook and searched for my friend and lo! There he was! I sent him a private message. I, of course, called him by the nickname from childhood. I shared my email id with him.  

A couple of weeks later, I received an email from him and was I happy! He said, “Pramod, it’s sheer luck that I got your message on Facebook; I was about to close my account on Facebook.” Then he gave details.  

He became a surgeon and lived in Northern England all his life. It appears that he did not travel much to India. He did quite well financially. He did not marry, he never explained hence I never asked. Then he was reminiscent about Bombay days. Our school days full of tennis ball cricket in the evenings. When it became dark, we would chat about everything in the world, until we were called home. Our email exchange continued sporadically, and we became comfortable with each other.  

Then in one of the emails, I shared with him how I went through Cancer treatment, end of 2013! Since he was a doctor, I shared with him as many medical details as possible. His reply was very positive and helped me to understand some more things from a medical perspective. I was surprised by his in-depth knowledge about cancer. He was a surgeon, but he was not an Onco Surgeon. From his next mail, I understood the background about his depth of knowledge. He had also suffered cancer of the throat region and had gone through massive doses of chemotherapy. Then he revealed a piece of very shocking information.

He wrote, “Pramod, after taking treatments for a few months, one of my doctor colleagues (who was my Onco surgeon) had a “doctor to doctor” talk with me. He said that the chances of my surviving beyond six weeks were remote. Why don’t you inform your family?” From what I knew, he did not have much contact with his family.  But he also wrote, “At the end of one month, a procedure was done. Suddenly after that procedure, my health started improving. The doctors have now removed me from the critical list and my current status at this time is “managing cancer”. I may require chemo once in a while as sustenance dose.” 

Well, this is not the story! The story started after this, at least for me! He once informed me that he was coming down to Pune for his medical college reunion. I was thrilled, and I said that we should meet. I told him, “Taj Blue Diamond will be the convenient hotel for you!” He said, “Pramod, there is one issue that I have not shared with you. When I was told that my days were numbered to six weeks, I got my lawyer and liquidated my fixed assets quickly, and I had substantial liquid money too! I organised and distributed 90% of assets to charities. Kept about 10% for unseen expenses, if required, after my death. Now with my health improving, I am seriously short of funds, but luckily, I have a pension! So, I am managing somehow. I came to know about this reunion and decided to attend, probably my first and the last one! So, staying at Taj is out of the question!” 

I thought, Oh, my god! How has this happened? He had many expenses, but luckily his most medical costs were covered under British Medical System. But overall, he was going through tough times. Other than his pension, he had no income. What turn can life take!  As he was past retirement age and in ill health, he could not work again.

This story again put me in severe turmoil, my mind was churning, and I did not know how to handle this. There was no way I could pay for his stay in Pune, he just would have refused.  

There is another twist to the story. I knew the dates for my friend’s stay in Pune. He had said that he would call me when he came to Pune. He did call, but somehow, I missed the call. During that period there were many phone calls to me from unknown numbers. So, I wrote him an email. He wrote back to me saying that he was sad that we missed out on meeting each other in Pune. He was back in England.  

After this episode, the frequency of our communication has dwindled down to a trickle; this has nothing to do with missing each other in Pune. My last couple of emails have remained unanswered. I must find out about our friend, and I hope that he is doing alright.

I am still very uneasy! Emotional turmoil continues!

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Prakash Nirgudkar, the ever smiling Buddha! Part II

This is the part two of the saga my friend Prakash Nirgudkar went through. The link for the Part I is below. 

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2018/12/21/prakash-nirgudkar-the-ever-smiling-buddha-part-i/

Pensive Prakash

PakyaPhoto2

What is destiny? What is the definition of destiny? Prakash’s story is what destiny is all about. Destiny took Prakash through a journey which he may never have imagined when he left Pune for the trek in September 2012. At the same time the doctors, the family members were all the time hoping against hope that Prakash will overcome this illness. It was Kavita’s destiny that she was to win the impossible battle. It was the doctor’s destiny that they were supposed to cure a most difficult case. The destiny to me is crossing of destinies of various people, some of your dear ones and some unknown to you!

Prakash is made of different stuff is now taken. On a personal level, I feel that Prakash is nothing less than Havaldar Abdul Hamid, Captain Batra who fought the war for our country and won the battle against all odds! They were honoured with Paramveer Chakra! Prakash is nothing less than that. Prakash’s family background is very normal with various professionals, including him, who did well in professional life. But from where did this special trait blossom out? I am sure it was hidden in him all the time and but he never had to face such a tough situation in life where his indomitable spirit was tested to the limit.  

Healthy, hale and hearty Prakash left Pune in September 2012 but when he came back to Pune, was taken straight to a hospital for further treatment fighting the toughest battle of his life! Pune doctors had the advantage of knowing details of what Delhi doctors had done. They took over seamlessly. But life for Kavita and Nandita continued to remain tough as there were continuous ups and downs. The only advantage was that they were in their own city Pune. Going home was distant as Prakash was far from normalcy. Every day and sometimes night would come up with a different twist in the story. Kavita had decided to stay with Prakash in the hospital, would go home very rarely. Homefront was managed by young Nandita. 

The first aim of the treatment was to remove the infection completely and increase Prakash’s strength! Any procedure or surgery was accompanied by extremely severe bouts of pain. This was accompanied by strong Anti-biotics and painkillers! Trauma took him one step backwards after every surgery but Prakash is the epitome of a person who appears to have reached Nirvana. Of course, he must have felt the pain but how he could bear it without showing any emotions is one thing even Kavita may not be able to explain. This is one aspect of the human attribute which is always difficult for me to understand. Where is this power hidden? How does it come out? Where is the trigger for that? Natural human tendency is to squirm when in pain, and howl when in extreme pain. Pakya, tell me one of these days how you managed that! I feel that this is internal training and gift from HIM! 

Two major things that had remained to be done were curing the toe injury and rebuilding of the right hand. For me, it was simple, “rebuilding of hand”! But what did it involve? Since the arm was in a fully exposed state, to rebuild it in a step by step manner was an ordeal! Planning the surgery also must have been tough because things look different on paper! Doctors had decided to rebuild his right arm after the infection was gone. They decided to do the skin grafting by removing the skin from the thigh and groin area. This was an extremely delicate procedure handled skillfully by the Pune Doctors. The family and Prakash had to undergo the same pain and trauma during every surgery. 

In between, Prakash was allowed to go home. Taking Prakash home was also a major event. The complete home had to be cleaned and thoroughly disinfected as Prakash’s immunity was very low. But I am sure going home after the great trauma must have helped the spirits of the family!  

Such major health events, being treated over a long period of time has its own problems. At one stage the doctor who had performed all the surgeries in Pune was on a holiday for about three weeks. Prakash started having issues with his toe injury during this period. Kavita took a decision to see another doctor; he was competent. But doubts started creeping up if the decision to see another doctor was correct. Since the main doctor was away for a long duration there was no choice. Minor surgery on the toe bone was done, successfully.  

 

There remained many such complex issues and had to be tackled. It is simply unimaginable how Prakash and Kavita handled these repetitive but new issues. I am sure that the whole family was always operated on reserve energy because it was always a small period of peace, followed by something or the other which caused and took them into a vicious circle of operation/procedure, followed by a couple of days of anxiety, followed by the dressing of the wound.  This is like running a marathon, one after another, with almost no break! 

The last and the most complex part of the saga was the final stage of the restoration of Prakash’s right hand. He was in better health and was responding quite well to procedures. In the last major operation, after completing the surgery, his hand was stitched to his stomach; it was held in that position for about 25 days. This would help proper assimilation of the graft with the whole body! Being around in such a position for 25 days is something impossible to visualize. After the hand was stitched, putting Prakash in bed from the gurney also became a complex procedure!  

It is now almost five years! Those who do not know what Prakash had gone through, would never know that he has come back from the brink of death if they meet him. He is now busy doing normal things in life and takes life as it comes. (Narmada Parikrama trek was one such activity! That is Prakash for you!) Kavita and Nandita also have gone through a major stressful period in life! But I am told that ladies handle the stressful situation much better than men. They are more expressive and men generally go into a shell during extreme stress! Finally, Nirgudkar family is back to normal life. 

Prakash, I consider myself lucky and proud that we met many moons back and became friends! I am sure we will continue to meet and share the life’s experiences and stories, and remember our COEP days, of course I am talking of Metallurgy! In case, any one of you want to get in touch with Prakash, do write to me!

This blog cannot be complete without the slide below. 

Pakya4

Hats Off!

I read an article about a song and dance program held in Cipla Center of Palliative Care, in Pune. The article was written by the lady who was the main performer. She knew that this centre gives palliative care for Cancer probably terminal patients. The program was for the entertainment of these patients. She was apprehensive as she had never done this before. She was wondering how these patients will accept her program. The program was to create the joyous atmosphere in these patient’s lives. She reached the venue and the hall started filling up with patients. Some walking in, carrying their own drips, some coming in the wheelchairs. Then a few beds were brought in. The lady was awed by what was happening and she did not know what to expect. Patients were brought in to the arena on gurneys and transferred to their beds!

The program started and the rhythm picked up! Some of the patients started blowing whistles, as is the tradition in Tamasha songs. People started clapping and shouting. The peak of the show was when one of the lady patients, lying on an inclined bed started moving to the rhythm. She was very ill. She was wearing a Saree. In her bed, she did some sensuous movements using Pallu of her Saree! What courage? What attitude?

Here was a lady, very sick. Maybe terminally sick and I am sure she knew it! But she was not only enjoying the moment but her attitude must have given encouragement to other patients. It is such people who make this world a great place to be in! These people are the beacons of society. The lady did what was unthinkable though at the back of her mind she must have known that these were her last months on the earth. How do such people have the courage to look death in the face? Yamraj must have thought after tracking her activity, why not keep this lady on this earth for a longer time and make earth a better place! I am writing this based on the article written by the performer. I do not know anything about the lady but I feel like getting up and to go and give the lady a hug! Hats Off Mam!

Hatsoff2

We have read about historical accounts where people have reacted bravely knowing that their action would result in an imminent death for them. The battle of Sinhagad fort during Shivaji’s time is the classic case. Tanaji and his cousin Suryaji attacked at night and climbed the treacherous fort using ropes. In the battle, Tanaji died and Suryaji took over. The soldiers panicked and started to run back towards the ropes. Tanaji’s uncle Shelar mama cut the ropes. Soldiers had no option but to come back and fight. Marathas won that battle. Shelar mama took the action of cutting the ropes thereby he took a grave risk where his own life was also in danger. He knew that they could lose and that he would surely get killed. But he was not afraid of this eventuality. He took this decision knowing the grave risk to him. Such people make the armies that win the battles. Picture of Sinhgad Fort below.

Sinhagad

There was the similar battle of Pavan Khind. Shivaji Maharaj was trapped on Panhala fort and decided to try and escape to Vishalgad. But his escape was found by the enemy quickly. They started hot pursuit to capture Shivaji. Baji Prabhu Deshpande suggested to Shivaji to move further and waited at Pavan Khind which was a narrow pass. He fought with a small army and fought the enemy till Shivaji reached Vishalgad. When Shivaji reached Vishalgad he ordered two gunshots to be fired as a signal of safe arrival, to Baji Prabhu. Baji Prabhu though was severely hurt fought valiantly till he heard the signal. His death was imminent but still, he volunteered to save Shivaji. Painting depicting Pavan Khind battle.

PawanKhind

Next is one example which gives me goose pimples, even thinking about it! This is about a friend of mine Prakash. He is a happy guy but I never knew that he was made of steel! Rather his mind was made of steel, his body was not! He has been trekking and used to travel all over India. After completing one of his treks, he was returning to Delhi to fly back to Pune. After the episode, he remembered that there was some scratch mark on his right hand which started the episode. He ignored it as he thought that it was a scratch due to something pointed from a bush.

As he reached near Delhi, he started feeling very uneasy. Within a matter of hours, he realized that skin on his right-hand was looking different. It looked very harsh and gangrenous. His hand looked shocking to the naked eye. He reached Delhi and went straight to the airport and wanted to travel back to Pune. Airline staff correctly refused to take him on the flight. He spoke with home and within a short period of time things got organized. He immediately rushed to a major hospital where some family friends also arrived. Luckily the correct treatment in ICU was started immediately. His family travelled immediately to Delhi but I am sure that nobody was prepared to the saga that was to unravel!

He was diagnosed with Necrotizing Fasciitis (Flesh-Eating Bacteria)! One of the rarest things that can happen to humans. The death rate in such cases is as high as 30%. He was lucky to be in Delhi where excellent doctors and facilities were available. The link below gives details of this condition.

https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/necrotizing-fasciitis-flesh-eating-bacteria#2

During the treatment, most of the flesh from his right arm, about 3 to 4 inches from shoulder, had to be removed and bones were totally exposed. Doctors could arrest the progress of the attack. What happened was simply horrible. A normal person would have been extremely nervous, could have gone into depression. But not our Pakya. He and his family took it in a very positive way. Just guess how much time it took for the arm to get to almost normal? About 4 years maybe more! His arm was rebuilt stage by stage with plastic surgeries. I am sure you will agree with me that Pakya is made of steel! I will just share one detail which will show Prakash’s grit and determination. During the final rebuilding phase of his hand, his right hand was stitched, yes stitched to the stomach for a couple of weeks so that proper skin grafting could take place!

What makes such people so strong? We read a lot of war stories where kids in their early 20’s show valour that will make any society proud! What gives them the inner strength? Since Prakash is a friend from college days, I know him quite well. But I never thought that he would have such a steely determination. This strait is only in a very few people and I consider it is my luck and honour that Pakya is my friend! Hats Off Buddy!

Hatsoff1

 

Man and the Machine!

I read about a flight that was required to land in the Hudson River in New York. US Airways Flight 1549 was an Airbus A320-214 which, in the climb out after takeoff from New York City’s LaGuardia Airport on January 15, 2009, struck a flock of Canadian geese, just northeast of the George Washington Bridge and consequently, lost all engine power. Unable to reach an airport, pilots Chesley Sullenberger and Jeffrey Skiles glided the plane to a ditching in the Hudson River off Midtown Manhattan. All 155 people aboard were rescued by nearby boats and there were few serious injuries.

This is the animation video of the incident. While reading about the incident and after watching the video and the video clip from the movie Sully (2016), questions came to my mind how far can a machine (based on AI- Artificial Intelligence-) take over human jobs and are they good enough to interpret the tricky situations. In this case, the incident occurred at the height of 2800 feet which is considered very low to handle such incidents. The pilots showed fantastic skills and managed to land in the Hudson River in very chilly conditions.

When various parameters were analyzed by different agencies, they used data from the black box and created simulations based on the data retrieved. Initially, they concluded that there may have been a pilot error because the auto simulations proved that the pilots should have acted differently and could have landed on either of the two airports which were in the vicinity. Both these airports had cleared the flight for emergency landing. But the pilot declared that he could not make it to the airports. Then data was loaded on simulators and two pilots “flew” the aeroplane, based on data captured. About 13 such pairs “flew” the plane on the simulator. Seven pairs could not reach the airport.

But when the pilot Sully was being interviewed, he said that he did not agree with the findings because the findings were applied to the situation, immediately instructed the pilot to turn towards the airport. But when the actual bird hits happened, the pilots were stunned and by rough estimate did not react for 35 seconds. The plane ultimately landed in the river 218 seconds after the bird hit. Out of this, 218 seconds 35 seconds were lost in the pilots recovering from the shock. Another important aspect was that the procedure stipulated by the plane manufacturer Airbus had written it with the assumption that the flying height would be 33000 feet at such times. At this height, humans have enough time to react. But at 2800 feet height, time left to react was less than four minutes before either landing or crashing. When 35 seconds of “no action”  time were considered in the simulation tests, the results matched with the pilots’ actions in deciding that not enough time was left for them to go back to any of the airports. Both pilots were honoured by many authorities for their heroic efforts which saved all 155 lives. See this interesting clip below, from the Movie “Sully” based on the incident with Tom Hank in the lead road.

Now the question comes to mind who is better Man or Machine? Would machine have required 35 seconds of reaction time? Maybe no. But unless this real-life situation was available in the database for the AI system, how would a machine have reacted? The pilot could see that there was the river Hudson around, which he thought would have become a spot for “soft landing”. At any other place in New York or New Jersey, the aeroplane would have simply crashed into buildings and maybe exploded. Would an AI system have known at the time of the incident, the option for a soft landing? Another question that comes to mind is how many combinations would be required to be present in AI database, for the system to understand that combination of 2800 feet height, time remaining of (218-35=) 183 seconds, wide enough river Hudson being around and there were no taller buildings in the path etc, etc. By analyzing hundreds of such options, the AI system would have arrived at a conclusion, what would be the “safest” option to save lives and the aircraft. At least in this case, with the current level of technology, the human decision was a superior decision.

The way humans react, their mind thinks out of the box! AI system decides only based on what data is available with it. The human mind applies its thoughts and extrapolates to arrive at the correct conclusion. It automatically does the risk analysis and tries to take the best possible decision under the circumstances. How far AI systems will be able to extrapolate, it is difficult for us to judge. 50 years hence, who knows?

I will share another example from the Aviation field. The incident is known as “Gimli Glider”, this happened in 1983 and the plane was Boeing 767 used by Air Canada. There were series of errors in the measurement of fuel, manual, gauges, dip stick, at every stage. There was a transition going on from the FPS system to MKS system in Canada at that time. One thing led to another ending in the incident. See the link below.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gimli_Glider

Incident is too technical to be explained here. But the end result was all the fuel tanks were suddenly empty, half way to the destination. We can say that all these errors and complications probably could have been avoided by AI. Yes and no both because AI stuff takes time to “learn everything”! After many such incidents, AI would become “an expert” in this area. But what happened later is where human intervention will show us the limitations of AI over human intelligence. When the pilots felt some issue, they decided to do an emergency landing at Winnipeg. But when they realized that there was zero fuel, the copilot and the pilot started thinking fast. The pilot was a gliding expert and he calculated that the plane could glide 16 times the height at which the plane was flying. The copilot was from that area, and he had worked on a Royal Canadian Air Force Station in the area. He judged the parameters and decided to land at that Ex-air force station at Gimli. Only problem was that both the pilots and air traffic controllers were not aware that the station had become a racing track. But it was only because of the knowledge of the pilots and the way they applied it sensibly, the plane ultimately landed safely with no major injuries to anyone on the flight as well as on ground.

This brings out the same question, AI or Humans who are better? This discussion is going to go on forever but AI systems will become better and better but nobody really knows what is stored in the Human brain and what the humans will retrieve from their brain, is going to be really difficult to judge. But we should not forget one thing, humans are the ones who are creating an AI system!

I read somewhere about the movie Sully! The copilot  Skiles is asked in the end what you would have done differently if the same incident were to occur! He smiles and says, “I would make sure that we landed in Hudson River in July and not as we did in January!”

Misogyny!

Misogyny

 

Misogyny is the hatred of, contempt for, or prejudice against women or girls. Misogyny is manifest in numerous ways, including social exclusion, sex discrimination, hostility, androcentrism, patriarchy, male privilege, belittling of women, violence against women, and sexual objectification. Misogyny can be found within sacred texts of religions, mythologies. Why this thought process exists is very simple to judge. Nature has created humans as males and females; females have been given a very important job of giving birth to children. The science of childbearing and giving birth has made the male and female bodies differently, with women’s bodies between certain age are made ready to conceive. In the initial phase of history, the marriages took place even before the girl’s body was ready to conceive and both husband wife hardly knew anything about the birds and the bees.

Over a period, the so-called legal age for marriage went on increasing and now it is theoretically minimum 18 years for girls. The monthly cycles of women, created different thought process in the initial phase of history, but it seems not much has changed even today. The women are supposed to be impure in that phase of their monthly cycle. Many women have difficulty handling menstruation both physically and mentally. Handling this aspect on a practical basis was also very difficult, even 70 years back,  due to lack of knowledge and lack of proven clean methods to handle periods. This led to calling women impure, weak and what have you! Also, during pregnancy and childbirth, women needed to take it easy or sometimes rest, completely! This led to calling and looking at women as weak and inferior individuals. Probably if a male is made to give birth to a child, then he would know who is weak!

I read a news item in today’s Pune newspaper that in a crowded public place, a guy tried to misbehave with a woman. When he was caught and taken to the police station, he said, “Oh, I thought she was a whore!” This is purely a misogynist statement. This is our society’s behaviour with women! Reading the M J Akbar and Sabarimala stories, this is the type of reaction we are getting from men and some women too! These are so-called strong women who think women should have retaliated there and then instead of being crybabies and complaining years after the MeToo event took place.

Many are surprised with the way people from the advanced, highly educated  Kerala are behaving against the Supreme Court Verdict on Sabarimala, not allowing all ladies (including those of menstruating age between 10&50) to visit Ayyappa Mandir. Kerala is the most literate state in India with the literacy rate of 110% (it is jokingly said that 10% are monkeys from Kerala which are also literate!). Many including women have stopped the ladies from entering the Mandir. I am sure most of you are not aware of Kerala’s poor history in sticking to so-called traditions.

The Channar Lahala or Channar revolt, also called Maru Marakkal Samaram, refers to the fight from 1813 to 1859 of Nadar climber women in Travancore kingdom for the right to wear upper-body clothes to cover their breasts. I will not go into too many details but it was a tradition in those days of baring of the chest and shoulders in front of people of higher status and was considered a sign of respect, by both males and females. Only Nair community ladies were allowed to wear blouses but Nadar community, from so-called lower caste, were not allowed to wear them. Uneasy with social status, many Nadars embraced Christianity and started wearing long clothes. Nadar women later started wearing blouses, similar to Nair community. This led to Channar revolt which went on for 40 plus years though British rulers and Royalty from Travancore tried to force this issue.

We are all aware that the humans started with wearing loin cloth made from tree leaves. But the concepts of civil behaviour started evolving too. Wearing clothes was part of this evolution. The Kerala region has been way ahead of other parts of India in literacy and education, from the beginning. But religion and castes superseded the normal thought process in the brain of Keralites too, and the result was Channar Revolt! It was logical that Nadar women should have been allowed to wear blouses.

With this type of thought process, it is not surprising that in the whole of India Misogyny has been the common trait. The basic difference in Me Too and Sabarimala is that at the heart of the matter, is the question of the body. In Sabarimala Case, the celibate body of the lord counterpointed against the “impure” body of the menstruating woman. In Me Too, the sexually entitled body of the male (any male) over the sexually vulnerable and dis-empowered body of the female (any female).

Underlying both conditions is a deep-rooted misogyny, casual in Me Too and customary on the part of Sabarimala. Yet both are two sides of the same patriarchal coin, and both betray such a profound contempt for — or fear of — the female body that they have to either punish it by casting it out or control it by subjugating it.

What these two phenomena have done? Sabarimala has openly said, let us continue with a different kind of untouchability, to hell with the constitution. What MeToo has done is that it has brought out in open, what has been happening for a very long time and one of the dirtiest open secret; some people are already saying that it is an elitist movement but in India the elite and the maid servants are so close on a day to day basis, that this movement will also spread in non-elite strata, thanks to the elite ladies who are leading this revolution.

What MeToo in M J Akbar and other’s case, and the Supreme Court verdict on Sabarimala have done is to unshackle the troublesome business of female sexuality from patriarchal control. MeToo has called male sexual predators to account not simply by naming and shaming, but by refusing to succumb. By not ceding control over their bodies. By rejecting them and registering their revulsion. The Supreme Court verdict, similarly, has called out a discriminatory practice based on a sexual taboo — an unspoken endorsement of different untouchability — and simultaneously challenged male primacy in the matter of worship.

Friends, this sudden loss of power at the hands of women in one instance, and via a judgment on the other, has hit patriarchal privilege bandwagon in an unexpected — and unwelcome — ways. What causes resentment is that it is female sexuality, under patriarchal control all these years, that has upset the apple-cart. The fact that it cannot be used to justify discrimination/untouchability under a different garb, even in a place of worship. In future, it cannot be abused at will and with impunity. The fact that women will no longer fall in line, and or remain silent.

Misogynists of the world, be careful and warned in the future! The ladies brigade and the Indian constitution are now slowly waking up! As far as Kerala is concerned, Sabarimala is only one month and it is early days, compared 40 year plus war of Channar Lahala!

Mahabharata, real-life guide!

DassaraMy friend Sudhakar and I appear to have some telepathy connection! I just started writing this blog about Mahabharata and at the same time he shared the above painting on our friends’  WA group! I am assuming that this painting is a gift to me; hence I have borrowed the painting as a perfect fit for the blog!

I had read Mahabharata while in school, then maybe I saw a few episodes on the famous serial in 90’s on TV. Later on, when I started reading about it at random, I realized that all the stories, all narrations are our real-life stories! I am not going to write about Mahabharata as scholarly treaties as I am a common man and trying to understand its meaning. While I was reading Mahabharata, I felt that it is written as a Metaphor and the idea is to explain to common people, tough and a dry subject in the manner to make it interesting.

I will be jumping from some references from Gita and some from Mahabharat. I feel that Vyasa told the stories as a dialogue between Krishna and Arjuna, the war was described by Sanjaya to Dhritarashtra; Sanjaya could telepathically witness the war, as if by “live streaming”. These are typical good versus bad stories; these are Metaphors teaching us about of life. What I have observed is that we accept some of the stories as Gospel and modify others suitably. Some of the concepts we simply dump. It appears that Vyasa was a storyteller par excellence! Had these concepts been told only as poetry or prose, maybe it would not have become so famous, it would not have reached the general public. Upanishads are not read by the general public but by scholars and experts because of this reason.

In Hinduism, we say “Ahimsa Paramo Dharma!” With this background how could Krishna tell Arjuna to bear his arms and kill his own family and gurus! But the actual verse is a two-line verse.

Ahimsa paramo dharma

Dharma himsa tathaiva cha

Means

Nonviolence is the ultimate Dharma

So, too, is violence in service of the Dharma

This means that to preserve dharma (righteousness), to eradicate adharma, a person can resort to violence if non-violent methods fail. Krishna tried his best to avoid a war. But Duryodhana wanted a war so that he could kill all of the Pandavas, thus the war became unavoidable. Arjuna is a Kshatriya (Warrior) and it would be impossible for him to run away from his karmic debt and become and an ascetic. If he ran away from this war, he would have been forced to run away to the Himalayas and fight a war for food and shelter and even for his women.

Arjuna, the main character in Mahabharata is the best fighter in the world. The world in those days started and ended with Bharat Khand. Obviously, people in those times did not have knowledge about the existence of the world beyond, not that there much happening beyond. Arjuna should replace the modern world word, Casanova. Whenever he travelled alone for a duration, he would marry some Rajkanya or the other. It is very interesting that after the marriage and pregnancy (it was always predicted to be a boy!) he would tell his latest bride that he has a mission to complete; now she live with their  Putra and his memories. Surprisingly those were the accepted norms, in those days! There were some interesting episodes too! Once he had broken a vow of not disturbing, any brother who was in privacy with Draupadi. He took one-year vanavas as a punishment. Dharmaraja was with Draupadi at that time. He tried to convince Arjuna that he had broken the vow because of some urgent work. But Arjuna stuck to his words. Arjuna met beautiful Chitrangada near the Ganga river and both fell in love with each other. Chitrangada asked him to marry her. But Arjuna convinced her that since he was in penance and celibacy, he could not marry her. Chitrangada was smarter and more convincing. She argued that his penance and celibacy was about Draupadi so he could always marry her! Wow, she would have the top leading lawyer at the Supreme Court today! So another son for Arjuna and left behind wife later….

I feel that the Mahabharata war was not a war of relatives or relatives killing of relatives. Instead, it is a symbolic war between good and bad, right or wrong which happens within us all the time. The actors are symbols of various things in life. Arjuna symbolizes individual or the immortal soul within the body, Lord Krishna symbolizes the God, Kurukshetra is the field of action or our day to day life, five white horses of Arjuna’s chariot symbolize the five senses, Pandavas are positive spirits and Kauravas are negative destructive thoughts.

To me, Bhagwad Gita and Mahabharata merge into each other at the same time they remain separate entities. As we know that Bhagwad Gita was the conversation between Krishna and Arjuna, when Arjuna gets depressed when he sees his grandfather, his guru, his relatives with whom he has to fight. This war shows the conflicting view of how the deceptions and tricks were used during the war. But for most of the times, it was fought in a just manner.

On the 18th day of the war Drushtadyumna, Shikhandi and many other warriors were killed by Ashwathama while they were sleeping at night. This was generally not done during the war in those days. Was Ashwathama’s attack vengeance or trickery? There is a story that all Upapandavas (Pandvasa five sons from Draupadi) were also killed on that night. What is the significance of that story? Why the rules were suddenly broken on that day? As I have said earlier, the war and the whole Mahabharata, depict our day to day lives where we are generally honest but suitably cheat! This is human nature.

I will share one interesting episode from this saga. Krishna was the strategist and advisor par excellence. Before the war he had given his Yadav army to Kauravas and stayed as the advisor or maybe the right word is a schemer, to Pandavas. He is shown as a cunning personality. In Arjuna’s battle with Jayadrath, he helps Arjuna to achieve his goal by cunning. Arjuna had vowed to kill Jayadrath on a day to avenge the death of Abhimanyu; failing which he would commit suicide! Dronacharya and Kauravas tried  their best to hide Jayadrath. Suddenly the sky darkens and it is almost sunset. It was supposedly done by Krishna by hiding the Sun behind his Sudarshan Chakra. In one version, the Sun appears to be set because of the eclipse and came out when the eclipse was over! When Jayadrath comes out to see Arjuna’s imminent death, suddenly the Sun becomes bright. Krishna tells Arjuna to kill him. He also tells Arjuna to ensure that Jayadrath’s head falls in his father’s lap. Jayadrath’s father being a sage had given him a boon that whoever was responsible to make Jayadrath’s head fall on the ground will die instantaneously, with his head broken. The father gets up when the head falls in his lap and the head falls down on the ground, the father dies instantly. Thus, Krishna avoids sure death of Arjuna due to the boon. Narration shows that Krishna was the schemer and had terrific knowledge. Till he had shown Arjuna that he was an avatar of the god, even Arjuna thought Krishna was a human and a good friend. To me it becomes tricky to understand if Krishna’s knowledge was because he was God or he had acquired the same as a human being?

You may have a question why Pramod is delving in this subject of Mahabharata and Bhagwad Gita? My maturity is helping me to understand the real meaning of life, real life, warts and all! I found the stories fascinating. The stories and sequences are absolutely real life. We can relate to them as if something we have heard, observed, maybe went through in real life. Some of the points become complex, some disputable and some outright mended to create interesting stuff. I am sure that all storytellers and especially those in Bollywood treat these as Gospel (Gita is Hindu Gospel anyway!) They give further twists and turns and create a highly marketable products! Maybe you will get some more from me on the subject in future too!

Blogging is a big deal! Nah…

Today on my engineering college WhatsApp group, a close friend Vijay, shared a blog about his journey to Sri Lanka! Vijay is an accomplished photographer; I am hoping to get his guidance in photography, at some stage. There was a discussion on the group about what a blog is! Of course, friends pulled my leg too, which is the norm among our group, when discussion veers towards blogging!

A blog is defined as a regularly updated website or web page, typically one run by an individual or small group, that is written in an informal or conversational style. I started blogging way back in 2011 with a few blogs in the first year, 2nd and 3rd years were also not very productive. In those days there was huge audience of three people, all from family and hence captive! Jaya, my son Sachin and my daughter Priya. They were all told to appreciate my blogs! In mid 2014, after my illness in the first part of the year, I suddenly became more productive and since last year I write 10 to 15 blogs in a month!

Why did I start blogging? Honestly, I do not know but probably it might have something to do with my being comfortable using computers. I bought my first PC in the year 1989, at home! During my school and college days, I was never a part of elocution competitions, singing, art or magazine stuff. I was busy in sports! Only thing I used do was a bit of logistics, behind the drama stage. I have never been a good photographer nor a painter, basically I am not an art and literature person! One thing I used to like since those days was chatting with friends, lot of gupshup, more of time pass which we enjoyed during engineering college hostel days. I used to be in a gang which would celebrate end of term with a bit of drinking alcohol; I and another friend (both non-drinkers) would be policemen to handle them when gang went our dinner after drinks! Maybe, I was a sponge all these years absorbing experiences, stories and anecdotes during the journey. Maybe this is helping me in blogging. Another thing I picked up on the way during professional years was creating good documents and writing mails which perfectly depicted my thoughts.

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2011/02/07/random-thoughts/

This is my first blog written on 7th February 2011. When I went through it, I could see the rawness in me. There were three major spelling errors which I have corrected. (I am ashamed!) But other than that, I have not done any changes. Now I see that I had not even done formatting! It was really written randomly as per the title of the blog. Why I am writing this is because I feel that many of my friends are more talented than me and can be more productive and enrich their own and others lives by blogging. Sudhakar is a painter and writer par excellence, Vijay is a fantastic photographer, Pravin is a good singer, Shriniwas and Shashi have great flair for solving complex puzzles along with Shrikant and Sudhakar. I am sure many others have talents which are not known to others. There are some social workers in the group doing a great job, there are story writers like Kishor! Hey come on guys write something about your expertise, how you achieve end results, how you prepare and all such things. Write about your experiences.

Slowly I meandered towards blogs about human behaviour and relationships. This is my favourite topic for blogging. Sometimes I write about technical things but I make sure that it is not a technical document; my blogs are also read by non -technical people.

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2016/01/19/dance-of-civilization/

This is my most favorite blog written on 19th January 2016. For me this was a path breaking blog which was ready in my mind the moment I thought what I should write. This happens to me in some blogs and my blog is ready in an hour and half! For some reason there is clarity of thoughts, the beginning and end is also ready. You must have observed that in my blogs there are always some anecdotes but, in this blog, it is full of small stories in the form of observations. About 30% of my blogs are written this way. Appropriate thoughts and the stories that I have absorbed over a period, somehow are accessed instantly from my hard disc in the mind.

Later, I have written blogs based on personalities, some based on poems or songs, some are based on real life events. Some were just based on a sentence I had read somewhere! It appears that over a period I improved my skills into expanding my thoughts from something small into a blog.

My favourite blog on personalities is of course the one on Shashi Kapoor when he passed away! He was in commercial films but never looked comfortable. He had the looks, charisma and family background with him!  But he was more humane than many other stars!

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2017/12/07/shashi-kapoor-the-british-punjabi/

Most favourite or all time favourite blog that my friends have liked is

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2017/07/12/paranormal-behavior-or-angat-yene-or-devi-ana/

It is miles ahead of all other blogs for number of views. This was written from a personal experience of someone from family, who had this effect on her during a religious function in the family. I had heard about this aspect and I had assumed that this happens to people I don’t know! But that it was real was proved when the lady came out of the trance, she was totally drenched in sweat!

Another blog that is dear to my heart is  Brave Art!

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2018/06/08/brave-art/

It is about a young girl, maybe 26/27 years old, from Nasik who dared to break the social norms and did nude paintings of self! I was reading a poem by Kedarnath Singhji when my friend Sudhakar shared all details about Mansi and her background! I combined the brave girl’s act with the poem that I was reading on the subject of woman’s nudity! Both subjects have gelled beautifully to create a satisfactory blog.

From 21 views in the first year, I have already crossed a figure of 10,500 in the year 2018. Let me tell you this helps! I am not writing for praise only,  but the comments made by friends, telephonic discussions add to my enthusiasm!  I have 65 regular followers and they are from different countries. India, US, Australia, Canada and UK are the countries where I have friends so it is no surprise that my viewers are from these countries. But I get surprised when there are sometimes viewers from non-English speaking countries like Germany, Hungary whereas Ireland, Hongkong is also a surprise to me.

Only reason I have written this blog is to tell people the real inside story! When we were younger such technology did not exist. Friends, make use of technology, don’t go by what I have written about blogs. Read on the net and interpret the meaning of blogs in your own way but start playing with it. Another important aspect is that writing a blog is your own product whereas pushing forwards on WA/FB is like service industry, sharing someone else’s work. I prefer own product, anytime! There are always hidden gems in the society, they only need a bit of cut and polish! You could be one of them! Don’t forget we all have a lot of stories and anecdotes to share, it’s a matter of pulling them out at the right time!