Donation Culture!

 

donate1Since time immemorial people have been donating for various causes. Some people have been wealthyprosperous to average persons like you and me. But many people who themselves are monetarily challenged have also been donating. Causes for each individual and organisations have been different. I would prefer to use a phrase sharing of resources for the monetarily challenged people.  

I had written a blog previously about Donation Culture.

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

The largest of the donor known to us has been Bill Gates. Through his foundation Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation he has donated the US $ 60/ billion or maybe even more. When asked by someone about his still being in the top five wealthiest people in the world, he replied, “Maybe I am not donating enough money!” Warren Buffet and many superrich people have been donating funds for the causes they believe. Recently, the Titanic actor Leonardo Decaprio donated the US $ 30/ million to help douse the fires that have erupted in the Amazon River jungle.  

The list will go on and on, but I have one grouse. Why do people advertise what they donate? I have nothing against Bill Gates because along with donations, he personally and with his team ensures that funds are utilised efficiently. He is giving his management expertise along with the money. The team working on these projects get paid by Gate’s foundation. In case you are not aware, he donates money mainly for the eradication of diseases like AIDS, Malaria; he does this by sending expert doctors and scientists to these areas. He also negotiates and convinces pharmaceutical companies to keep their profits to reasonable levels for the medicines they buy, and not at the normal extravagant levels. By negotiations, he ensures that the money he donates reaches more people.  

I have been observing over a period the trend of donating money during national calamities like floods and earthquake people enthusiastically give by way of money and material. But do we have to advertise this by posing for photographs, while handing over the donations? Every day, I see in the newspapers individuals or group of people being photographed while handing over the money to authorities. Is there any need to publicise this?  

There are reasons to donate. You donate to charity, donate for a specific causeGiving culture is very important in our life, it boosts our morale, and it makes one feel good. It introduces children to donation culture, the importance of donation. Nobody wants to live on charity, but the circumstance in some cases force people to live on charity. Some are born in deprived family, where parents may be uneducated, sick or may have some other cause which leads them to opt to live on charity. Some people simply don’t want to take efforts of doing any work and would rather live on charity. But my judgement tells me that there would be very few people in this world who would prefer to live on charity.  

In India, the donation culture is started and pushed forward by the Marwari community. They are a business community, and there are many moneyed families. They have been donating to hospitals, the food kitchens for needy on round the year basis.  

The Sikh community has a superb method of “giving”. Sikhs perform Kar Seva; it means that people offer physical services in Gurudwaras, like cleaning, sweeping, cooking, and whatever work is available. Such services are provided by the poorest of the poor and the richest of the rich. You may find a Managing Director of a company and a peon from that company sweeping floors at the Gurudwara at the same time. The basic theory behind this is that in front of Him, everybody is equal. Another system in Gurudwaras is Langar. Food is provided to all those who want to avail of the facility, irrespective of one’s social status. Jaya and I were lucky to have langar food at the Harmandir saheb in Amritsar!  

Birla family has donated crores of rupees to build beautiful Mandirs at various places in India. Unfortunately, these Mandir’s are not called Ram Mandir but Birla Mandir! I can understand a plaque being mounted, or a board hung, giving the names of large donors. But naming the structure, especially a Mandir, in the donors name does not suit my tastes.  

There is another tendency that is cropping up these days. During the calamities, thousands of people donate material, money or services. I am pleased and proud of this gesture. But every day in newspapers, photographs of families, members of organisations handing over the cheques to authorities are displayedI feel that it is incorrect to display one’s good deeds. Are you doing it for publicity? Are you donating to show off? Do you want the whole world to know that you have given funds to a cause? I don’t think it is essential. Why can such acts not be done discreetly? For someone Rs 200/ or 2000/ maybe a large sum but to me, it need not be publicised.   

Do the soldiers in the rescue operation publicise their photos, every day? Do the disaster relief team members advertise their deeds? They know that they must take over rescue operations in the time of disasters. In the same vein, it is the responsibility of people to support the way they want to, discreetly. What do you gain by printing your photos, other than a boost to your ego?  

One exciting act I have started noticing in recent times. A group of motorcycle mechanics from the Aurangabad area shut their shop for 15 days and went to the worst flood-affected areas of Sangli. They stayed put in that area for about two weeks and serviced the vehicles which could not even start as these were under floodwater for a long time. They did this work for fifteen days, free of cost! What magnanimity? Don’t forget that the mechanics earn their bread on the day to day work they get in their shops.  

There have other groups who have also offered their services free. Some of these are doctors and nursesI always say that I do not bother about political affinities. But I must praise the volunteers of the RSS who rush to spots the moment they realise the need for support. Let us not forget that these people are like you and me. They are clerks, engineers, accountants, and maybe even vegetable vendors too! But they all come under the umbrella of RSS and take the lion’s share in helping people irrespective of the caste and creed!  

I would like to share two interesting news items. During Kerala floods, the UAE government had offered a massive amount of funds to India. It is because a large number of Keralites work in UAE. But the Indian Government politely declined the aid after thanking the UAE government, saying, “We have enough funds!” 

There is always a grouse that private organisations do not do much during disaster situations. Walmart has proven everybody wrong. When there was severe flooding in New Orleans, after the storm Katrina, for the first few hours, everything was paralysed. Before US government agencies could organise rescue operations, Walmart gave instructions to their New Orleans office to use whatever was needed from their stock in New Orleans, including small boats, to be allowed to be used for rescue. For the first two full days, only Walmart team were doing the rescue operations!  

Disasters will come and go, people will help, but I hope day by day the tendency to self-publicise will come down.  

 

 

 

 

 

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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!

Quack5

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!

What to do with galloping Technology?

Exponential

The curve above is representative of how technology is developing at a breakneck speed. The title is neither a rhetorical question nor a controversial statement. This thought came to my mind while I was reading about the galloping speed of progress in many areas the humans are making. In the movie “Back to the Future” (1985) the person goes back to the year 1955 using a time machine. The differences he sees are interesting but not surprising. There was nothing exceptionally different or path-breaking in those 30 years. Had the movie been produced in 2015, the time machine would have taken the person to 1985, with 30-year logic. That change would have been exceptional for the person to guess!  What is the meaning of life with no PC’s, no Cell phones, no Internet, no WA, no FB? The person would not believe that life only 30 years back was so different.  

Just imagine that a human being was transported from 12000 years back, pre-farming era, to the year 1500. The cities, the carriageways, farming equipment would be such a big change that this person suddenly exposed to so many changes, might die of shock. A person from the year 1500, will be reasonably shocked to be taken to the year 1750 but he won’t die! How much change can human mind accept and absorb at a time? The rate of change is really galloping in the recent past. Change from the year 1500 to the year 1750 and the change from 1750 to 2015 cannot be compared. Change of scene that we see in the year 2015 compared to the year 1985 is really vast. But the human mind will not be able to accept changes from 1750 to 2015, the person could also simply die! It initially took 12000 plus years for such deadly changes to occur but later it took only 250 plus years for similar deadly changes. We can call such changes as “Deadly Change” (DC).

This comparison tells us that the rate of change is dependent on how advanced the society is at that time, it is the datum level that is important. For obvious reasons, we see terrific changes happening in the Bay area in the USA. We know that such change was happening in the area of Electronics, Computers and the Internet; but along with these changes, it appears that this area may also surge ahead in Car manufacturing as indicated by Tesla! We really don’t know where Apple and Google are the car domain but one thing is sure, they have technical wherewithal, passion and money. All changes are not DC type but the rate of change is galloping.  

If such changes have happened in the first 18 years of 21st century itself, what is lying ahead, we simply do not know. The changes that happened between the year 2000 to the year 2015 could get squeezed to seven years between the year 2015 and year 2022! Enormous changes can happen initially in 7 seven years, then in 3 years and then one year and then one month and then one day! Friends you may think that Pramod is dreaming and writing a fictional scenario of how things will change. But I get a feeling that changes that are going to happen in future will take an exponential curve.

The curve shown above displays the rapid speed at which things are moving.

  1. The rate of change can be represented up to the year 2000 by the slope at value –1 on X axis! What we are going to get in future will be slope after that! The high growth slope at +1 value is due to Microsoft, Google, Facebook coming in the picture during that time period between years 2000 and 2005. 
  2. Our historical perspective has been up to –1 value so we keep on thinking and expecting that the change will always be gradual and slow!  
  3. We are “Old people” of the gone era and I am talking of people in 50’s too! We are stubborn and we say that change can happen only so fast! How can change happen exponentially?  

But something is already happening in the background; you, me and the general public think that AI is something that is shown in Sci-Fi movies. It is for graduate students to take up the projects as a requirement, it is not real life! When we talk of AI, we always think of Robots; Robots are containers for AI stuff. AI is the brain and Robots is the body. When we talk of AI, we always think of computers but do not forget that another area which is making progress in leaps and bounds is biotechnology. The progress in this area is the result of tremendous progress made in the last 30 years; along with this terrific progress is made in the medical field too! These technologies are going to be the drivers of rapid change.

All this lead leads to a question of how much is the shelf life of technology? To me, some will evolve slowly and the concept will continue for a long time. For example, aeroplanes. Aeroplanes have been there for more than hundred years, only major has been jet engine! But no other path-breaking stuff is visualized. The telephone also has been around for a similar time but this technology has also changed slowly. The change now is faster after cell phones arrived on the scene. But now cell phone is really evolving in a different animal, fast! It is getting converted into a personal tool which might do everything for you, from phones to camera, to photo repository, to the music system, to chat system, to a chequebook and a bank! This change has really happened fast in the last 15 years and what form and shape it will take, only God knows. 

Biotechnology and medical fields are progressing rapidly! Last hundred years have seen some major breakthroughs in reining in epidemics. People dying in hundreds of thousands or in millions due to illnesses,  was a norm, in old days! There was plague, there was black death. The systems and the doctors just could not contain them and the way was you die or you run away elsewhere! Medicines and cures were, more prayer and faith-based than science-based. Last fifty years have seen the dramatic change in this scenario; when AIDs became rampant, doctors found basic details about it, in 2 years and now they know that it is an Auto Immune thing and per se is not as dangerous as it looks. A person with AIDs dies with other infections! Had AIDs appeared 500 years back, half the then population of the world could have been wiped out. Ebola came but was reasonably well controlled, quickly!  

This speed is good for humans but technology changes in day to day stuff can be difficult to handle with galloping speed. We have seen in front of our eyes, pagers come and go, so did fax! Cameras with the film are a history and music pieces can be composed in two different continents and a song gets created in the third continent.  

Some of these changes, humans will handle well and others can be tough to absorb. The working population will have to get themselves reskilled every ten years (am I too optimistic?) or perish. You can’t become a banker and a chartered accountant and work lifelong in the same career. Block Chain technology may eliminate such concepts! Experts may make a lot of money by the time they are 40 and may want to retire! And do what? Some young friends of ours are already contemplating this scenario.

Average Deepak or a John did not have face Cancer or Heart Attack because he never lived that long. With better products, diagnostics tools,  and cures, better solutions from biotechnology, the lifespan of Deepak and John is increasing rapidly. With better cures, these dangerous diseases are also more controllable and many times curable. Now more people die of old age instead of dying due to illnesses.  

Friends, I am very positive that humans will find a way to handle these galloping changes but some thoughts and concepts will change on their heads! Don’t be surprised if you meet a banker friend of yours after ten years and find him growing organic farms or has become potter of beautiful ceramics! We always find our path, some find it quickly, some find it late and some don’t find at all! Darwin’s theory of “Survival of the fittest” is one thing that will never change!  

 

 

 

Cancer Survivors!

Eminent cancer specialist and Padma Vibhushan awardee, Dr V Shanta has admonished the managing director of Punjab National Bank for misusing the word “cancer” in the context of the recent banking scam. In a letter to PNB managing director and chief executive officer Sunil Mehta, Dr Shanta shared her “outrage” at the scam being equated with cancer. “Corruption is a crime and something to be ashamed of; cancer is not,” wrote the Magsaysay award-winner, a pioneer in the field of cancer care.

Someone will say that is it not a matter of semantics? How does it matter if corruption is called cancer?  The meaning of cancer is “a disease caused by an uncontrolled division of abnormal cells in a part of the body”. With advent of technology and improvements in treatments for cancer,  humanity is fighting its war against cancer; now people discuss cancer openly. Others need to be very sensitive to what they say and how they say it.  

Probably in olden days, only cure for cancer was to remove the cancerous growth by surgery and hope for the best. Now, cancer gets detected much earlier than what it used to be. With better medicines and improved treatments available, prognosis can be much better than what it used to be. Cancer was a dreaded “C” word and was treated as a dangerous disease. Hence those who overcame cancer have been called “Cancer Survivor”. Anyone who overcomes a tough situation is a survivor, so why not heart attack survivor, why not stroke survivor? Maybe because in case of cancer, the cure rate 25/30 years back was very low. Hence someone who did not die of cancer was called “Cancer survivor”.  Friends cancer is still a difficult disease to manage but the society is slowly changing its mind set and facing it upfront!

This has changed for better during last 10/15 years, cancer detection has improved than before because of the awareness and imaging technology progress. I strongly feel that term “Cancer Survivor” needs to change. The term feels like a stigma; it is as if that person did something wrong and survived. I went through cancer treatment in 2013 end, 2014 beginning. When asked about the same, I don’t call myself “Cancer Survivor”. I tell people that I was treated for vocal cord cancer! This is a positive way of explaining things. People undergo bypass surgeries, people undergo brain surgeries. People have gone through bone marrow replacements. You don’t call them survivors! Whenever such “operations/procedures” are done, you start on a positive note by saying that the patient has undergone so and so operation; you don’t call the patient a survivor. The term “Survivor” smells of a defeatist thinking. 

Dr. Shanta has rightly communicated to PNB Managing director that what happened in the bank was corruption and/or a criminal act. Having cancer and going through its treatment is abnormal body process which some of us have to unfortunately undergo. There is a vast difference in these two events. The use of the word cancer is not right with reference to the fraud, because what happened in bank is crime and having cancer is not a crime, it is nothing to be shameful about. For that matter having any disease is not a shameful matter. Consider the case of AIDS! In initial phase of Aids occurrence, there was stigma attached to the person having Aids because of lack of knowledge. One can get aids because sexual relations with people who have this disease or maybe due to complex sexual behavior. One can also get it during blood transfusion, a mother can give this disease to her child during birth. Arthur Ashe, the tennis legend caught it during blood transfusion. All these acts are not criminal acts, there is nothing to be ashamed of having Aids!  

Human race should be proud of people who go through cancer treatment, tackle it in a very positive manner. I have friends who are being treated for cancer for ten to 20 years. They are setting an example that tough things in life can be handled, one can fight back. Yes, there will be some of these valiant people who may not make it. But these people’s cancer can never be compared with bank scams, corruption and all such ills in the society. It is insulting to compare disease fighters, maybe unknowingly, with corrupt practices prevalent in the society.  

This type of thought process will bring people out of closets, they will discuss things openly. Some of them can become torch bearers of a movement to guide people to handle so called “hidden” diseases in open. Their experience can create positivity and maybe people will start taking things in stride. We handle many aspects of life in a similar way; someone has financial set back, take it in stride fight it back. Some persons can have issues in love life, they overcome it and move on! Life is always full of pluses and minuses, supporting people to handle tough calls better will help them to take things on the chin and will help them to move on!  

So, friends, call your cancer, heart disease, stroke “corruption” within your body, about which we need not be ashamed of, it is not amoral, it is not illegal. This “corruption” in the body needs to be weeded out. In our gardens we do weed out the plants which affect the growth of plants and shrubs that we want to keep. Is it not a similar thought process? Change thinking, help each other. Remove corruption from your body and society; we don’t need to remove cancer!  Dr, Shanta ji, thank you very much for showing us the right direction.