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!

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Anatomy of Blog writing!

I publish my blogs on Facebook. Today, I posted the blog “How well do we travel?

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2019/03/07/how-well-do-we-travel/

My son’s friend Utkarsh “Coxy” Jain wrote a comment, “How do you find topics? Maybe you can write a blog on that. 😃😃” I wrote, ”Sure, good idea”! So here goes “The anatomy of blog writing”.

Let me first tell you how I chose the subject, “How Well do we travel?” I was chatting with my friend Vijay, and he said that he is travelling to Darjeeling for a holiday on Sunday. We had gone to Darjeeling in December 2002 and had one full day of snow. Full day snowfall had happened after 30 years in Darjeeling. We had to buy warm clothes, and our bill was Rs.1420/ I asked the guy for a discount, and he said days are tough etc. I gave him Rs.1500/, and he returned Rs.100/. I told me, “Since days are bad you keep the hundred rupees, thank you.” The owner looked at me and then gave me Rs.300/ back. Vijay said, “ Pramod, you must be having a lot of similar stories so why not share.” Then my hard disc started whirring and “How Well do we travel?” was born.

Practice “Maketh” the man perfect is a proverb that fits my activity! I am by no means a prolific writer; I started writing blogs several years back as a hobby; it continues now as a serious hobby. My initial captive audience of Jaya, Sachin and Priya would praise me (but only once in a while). It is friends like you Utkarsh, who encourage me to write more. My favourite subject in school was algebra! The reason for this was that I was not required to write any sentence or essay in that paper. I used to envy prolific writers in my class. But now I realise that I was a good storyteller. After our game of cricket in Cross Maidan in Bombay, we used to share jokes and stories. My friend Veera was our idol. He had so many anecdotes to tell (There was no Google in those days.)

But now I have the advantage of Google, so I read and read all the time. I read whatever I find interesting. I do some serious reading, but I am not yet converting such things into blogs. Maybe I should start the equivalent of Dummies series of blogs.

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

I will select a few blogs where I distinctly remember how that blog was born.

I had read articles by a young lady from Nashik about how she ventured into Nude Painting. I was highly impressed, and I checked with my dear friend Sudhakar from Nashik about her. A couple of months later, I was reading a poem by Dyanapeeth award-winning poet, Kedarnath Singh. Yes, I read some Hindi poems these days (using Google for understanding words and their meanings), बारीषमे एक स्त्री! The way he had described a woman’s body drenched in the rain is something you must read! At the same time, Sudhakar sent me details about the girl Manasi along with her photos. The combination of these two events touched the right chords in my mind. In the next hour, my blog was ready.

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

Some blogs can be called inspirational. I get broad ideas in my mind, and words flow. Some are waiting to be written, but I prefer to know as many facts as possible on the subject. Once I get the details blog flows out.

Prakash Nirgudkar, my college mate, had gone through a significant life-threatening event, and it is amazing how he and family handled it. I knew details about the incident by chatting with him. But the details were not sufficient. Once he called me and asked if I had read the book written by Kavita, his wife about the incident. I had not. I got a link from him, and I read the book in one sitting. I got the details needed for my blog which was waiting to be written. Here is a link for that blog. It has part II also.

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

A few months back a friend lost his 42-year-old son due to a heart attack. The son had a history and was being treated for the issue. He used to exercise under medical guidance. When he died, he was 100 meters from the Emergency area of the hospital, but nothing could be done to save him. A month later another friend lost his 35-year-old niece too, of a heart attack. She had no history. She was in the prime of her life; she had got married a couple of years back. My friend and his family were devastated. I spoke to my friend on the phone for about 15 minutes; he lives in California. I have not yet dared to talk to my other friend who lost his son. These are the vagaries of life. After I spoke with my friend, the blog came out on paper!

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2019/02/14/coping-with-death/

Our life is full of running around, and we are always in haste. We hardly observe what is happening in our surroundings. But if we look at the world through a child’s eyes and at their pace, we see everything differently. I had been taking my granddaughter Rhea to a Mandir when she was around 2 ½ years old. Our 100 meters journey was always made at a leisurely pace. I observed so many things, and I was wondering why I have been missing such simple pleasures of life. Last week my friend Vijay called me and said, “Pramod, after a long time I sat in my balcony looking at the setting Sun. I have realised how much I was missing it.” With this comment. I remembered one of my blogs about do nothing holiday. My trips to Mandir are captured in the blog link I am sharing with you; it is an old blog which I wrote in 2016.

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

I want to share the story of this blog with you as the words flowed like a waterfall when I started writing. On WA group, Sudhakar had shared his painting that was of a semi-nude lady. Our group is of my batchmates; there was a discussion about should such porn be shared on the group? I said, “Porn? To me it is art!” On the same day Manasi, the painter from Nashik gave a presentation of her artwork in Pune. I attended it. Here was 30-year-old lady discussing nude paintings where the models were she and her elder sister. Her elder sister had accompanied her to the programme. Manasi was casually explaining her struggles and thoughts because for her it was art, where the subject was nude women. Never in the discussion and display, anybody felt that it was porn. You will appreciate the blog after reading it.

https://panvalkarpramod.wordpress.com/2018/11/26/what-is-porn/

Friends, blog writing, is my hobby, but it has become passion too! Without your reading the blog, comments and discussions, I would never improve further. I am also taking the help of a software called Grammarly to improve my English, and I hope it will start reflecting over a period. I was pleasantly surprised when Grammarly informed me that my writing volume is at 99 percentiles among all their customers. I hope I can write more and more on different subjects. Happy reading!

Diet! Don’t repair, if it ain’t broken!

Don’t repair, if it ain’t broken! This is a statement that needs to be uttered many times in our life! Internet and Google Baba have made it easy for people to understand the stuff and get information about almost anything. This also makes human race suddenly “smart and intelligent”! Selecting people for Nobel prizes is going to be tough in future as there are millions of people who seem be experts on almost all the subjects under the Sun!  

 

maharashtrian-full-meal

This thought came to my mind as I took part in a discussion on a WhatsApp group. Except me probably most knew a lot more on the subject of dieting! Majority had experience of 2 to 6 months on the subject. They said the diet A is a fantastic diet and works wonders. There were of course some hidden gems who did not take part in the discussion. I am not talking about any specific diet, its pros and cons! Its advantages and disadvantages! But above image which shows typical Maharashtrian square meal, if followed regularly, will ensure that no special dieting is required. We are a group of people around the age of 70. Some of us are thin and few others are plump, but only two are obese; some are fit and others are not so fit! I don’t know the actual figures but my assumption is that at least 50% from our group have some medical issue or the other, or maybe they have a history of some major health problem from the past. My judgment is that 10 to15% are lucky enough to have remained successfully free of major health issues.  

There are health experts or maybe the diet experts. Some are doctors and most are non-doctors. From what I read, majority of these are not from medical background. I had my basic question during the discussion. Who should diet? What is the age at which we should start this new regime? Under whose guidance should we start the diet? Suppose someone has diabetes issue, then should that person follow a diet which says that you must eat every 8 hours and the eating time should be not more than 55 minutes at a time? Suppose one is required to take diabetes medication three to four times a day, then it is an obvious no no! To me a majority from the group will be ineligible. Then why is it that people want to start something new, which can have effect on their health directly? Is it only for weight loss? Or is it for something else too? Is this something about novelty because people have too much time on hand? The people who have started this diet, to my knowledge, did not appear to have any weight issue.  My worry is that at our age, our body looks fit and may have dormant problems, waiting to happen hence we should be careful when start something new, and unproven method. It is claimed that a diet eliminates diabetes tablets. What is the issue if you are required to take a couple of tablets a day? Heavens are not going to fall on you!

As against this some people seriously need to do something about their weight, classic case was that of Anant Ambani. He lost 108 kgs in 18 months by natural process. https://www.indiatimes.com/health/buzz/here-s-the-secret-behind-anant-ambani-s-stunning-weight-loss-253270.html 

Of course, later on a well-known diet expert was declared to be his advisor, which was untrue. I am sure Anant must have followed a very strict regimen under medical guidance. His was a classic case where drastic things were needed under medical guidance.  

We need to understand something. Doctors are also people like you and me; they are also likely to make errors. Dieticians are not our regular doctors; how will they know about individual medical issues and about our body? I will give you an example of how tricky the situation is. I came to know about a person who had a medical issue, called vertigo. He is elder to me by about six years and lives abroad. When the vertigo attack comes, the person feels blank, dizzy, faint and gets vomiting bout for about ½ hour. Tablet prescribed to him can then be taken, once he stabilizes. I asked a question to known doctors in Pune, most said that he should stop driving, a couple of them said, no comments! But the treating doctors have told him to continue driving! (60 miles an hour?) If there is so much difference of opinion among the doctors on a serious health condition, should we start something new, as yet unproven, at the age of 70?  

To my understanding, at the age of around 70 our body has taken a lot of beating; under Indian conditions all this group is “driving on reserve tank”, using two-wheeler terminology. Average life expectancy in India is 65 years! Why not enjoy bonus life unless someone’s idea of enjoying life is going on a diet, as yet unproven! Try not to become a guinea pig, nobody is forcing you. During the discussion on WhatsApp group, a friend Sudhakar said, he feels pangs of hunger in the early morning phase. Then why? Why not enjoy your early morning chai, omelet, or fruit or whatever you eat. I am not aware if he has any specific health issue. I am sure that he is smart enough and won’t start something different if he has some health issues.  

I am aware of another diet being strongly followed in Pune. It is does not talk about timings for eating food, it says eat moderately every 2/3 hours. But the diet suggested by that expert is very much different than what we normally eat and drink! It starts with a smoothie made up of Pudina and different condiments. It suggests Jowar bread instead of Wheat bread and so on! Now at this stage of life, our eating habits are so much entrenched in us, that the followers of this diet, talk only about diet when they meet; they miss their “normal” food so much. Their socialization has come to zero. For eight hour wala diet, the socialization must have been  drastically cut down because if you are invited at different time, than your meal time,  for a drink and/or food, what do you do? Your hosts will not know that you have skipped the meal,  if there is a large crowd present for the party, but if you are invited in a small group/individually or during an office business meeting or during holiday travel how do you handle it!

There are other aspects also. Some of these people, charge you for treatment,  latest famous treatment is based on videos on internet. No consultation fee, no direct interaction with the expert- correct me if I am wrong! Another person, charges Rs.1.5/ lacs for a 5-day session in a Darjeeling resort. About others charge, I do not know. It’s about your need for a treatment, or about how much proven it is. Or maybe the expensive treatments give you bragging rights!

It reminds me of a famous fish treatment in Hyderabad; it is said that it cured asthma. What is done is that a family, who did this social work free, had a recipe for a potion! This potion they would stuff inside some small fish. This fish was supposed to be gulped (more pushed down your throat) and not chewed. I met a friend of mine after quite a few years. I was trying to fix up a time for dinner with him. But he said that he to go to Hyderabad for this treatment. He was quite gung ho and said that it was helping him to cure his asthma. I said, “How do you know it is helping you?” He said, “Oh! I go to Hyderabad every year for the treatment!” Every year? 

Something fishy!