March 17, 2018

From Hari to Hawkings: The politics of 'Chinese Whispers'

If I were to advocate a particular theory all my life, and some ignorant bubblehead, after my demise, declared that I proclaimed something absolutely contrary to it, what would I do?  Well, practically, nothing! Because the dead, unfortunately, cannot defend themselves (the likely reason why that someone would be abusing the opportunity). But if I was vested any semblance of power by the cosmic universe, I would use it all to haunt that opportunistic manipulator for the rest of my time, making his days as miserable as possible.
But enough said about me, and my wannabe afterlife  shenanigans.
Let's talk about what really happened, and the reason for my preposterous consideration.

It has just been a couple of days since renowned physicist Stephen Hawkings passed away, and the pseudo-intellectual political poltergeists in India have already started cashing out on promote their one major agenda, (no points for guessing), religion!

Now we all know that India has this way of turning everything into a religious matter. Be it the beef ban, clubbing scene for women, Darwinism theory of evolution, or the opportunity to juice up whatever little mileage that can be got from a dead scientist, who has been a legendary inspiration to millions around the globe, a politically charged Mind in India will find a way to make sure it all bottoms down its advantage using religion as a crutch.

So what happened was this. At the 105th edition of the Indian Science Congress, we heard the minister of science and technology, Dr Harsh Vardhan, eulogise the great scientist in an unique manner; by mentioning a rare nugget of his contribution to the field of science religion.

Dr Vardhan went ahead to announce that Hawkings had emphatically said on record that our Vedas might have a theory superior to Einsteins e=mc^2, equation of relativity.

When the media in the audience enquired about the source of his statement, the minister did what any self respecting Indian politician would do. He dodged the bullet by asking  the media to do their homework themselves.

However, it was soon enough that the Twitterati did their homework, and realised that this teacher was going dramatically out of syllabus. In fact, not just that, he was following some misguided textbook to quote.

And so like any self respecting social-media addict would do, they decided to unleash their wrath on Twitter.
However, when a religious brigade starts, there are always people waiting to jump on. Some to start a fire and some to douse it.
There are rationalists and loyalists. Those who will defend without reason, and those who may reason but not defend. The Twitter wars never stop. And the public statement in question will be forgotten only when another outrageous statement takes its place. Which, by the way things are going, will not be too long away.
The source of the statement made by the minister, however, turned out to be a fan page by a man named Hari using the handle 'Stephen Hawking'.
Now cmon, falling for something like that! Aww...the Internet is definitely killing our grey cells, isn't it?

Imagine what the great scientist sitting somewhere amidst the stars in a parallel universe, must be thinking of this conundrum down here?
I'd read somewhere that Hawkings, known for his wit, had a high standard of humour, and if someone cracked a poor joke, he would express his disapproval by rolling his wheelchair over their foot.

If only he were alive today, we all know who would have been dancing around with a major limp...

March 02, 2018

From Holi to Hooliganism: the ugly side to a glorious festival

Top post on IndiBlogger, the biggest community of Indian Bloggers

Long long ago, the festival of Holi was started to herald the end of winter and welcome the beginning of Spring. However, with time, this occasion, also known as the festival of colours, this day that supposedly celebrated the triumph of good over evil, gradually changed meaning.
Cut to present day, the essence of Holi is almost lost in all its entirety, and it won't be wrong to say that a modern day ho(o)li-ganism has begun to replace it.

Mythology has many interesting interpretations of why we celebrate Holi. One is the fate of  Holika, Hiranyakashyapu's sister and Prahalad's paternal aunt, who was supposedly resistant to fire, was reduced to ashes when she tried to kill her nephew Prahalad, thus marking the end of evil and starting the custom of burning the 'Holika'--the auspicious fire, on the night before the festival.
Another legend talks about the blue skinned Lord Krishna sulking about Radha being fairer than him, and his mother Yashoda pacifying  him with the idea that he could colour Radha's face with colors of Holi to match his, thus commemorating the love between Radha and Krishna even more.
Still another popular legend speaks about the God of love, Kama, disrupting Shiva's meditation by shooting a love arrow. Angered by the disturbance, Shiva opens his third eye this destroying Kama. It is only later that Goddess Parvati convinces Shiva that it was her orders that Kama was obeying that Shiva brings him back to life. It is said that Holi is a reminder of the sacrifice that the God of love had made.
Honestly, all these legends not just made up good folklore, but more importantly imbibed lessons of love, respect and bonhomie to the celebration.

Unfortunately, over the ages, we have not just forgotten these stories regaled to us but also developed a crude and rabid mob mentality bordering on sadism and an uncouth sexist attitude.
Nowadays every community gathering has transformed into a potential space for hazardous activities. Be it communal disharmony, sexual misconduct or violence, we are living in increasingly unsafe times. To top it all, Holi is a festival that with its open culture of smearing strangers with colour under the pretext of celebration, proves to only be the proverbial match in the gas station.
Women and young girls are easy targets. The recent case of India's renowned singer, Papon, smearing an eleven year contestant's face with color and kissing her full front-face, has been a reason of controversy. Although the contestants family tried to douse the flames with some well rehearsed lines, the question remains. 'If a popular singer can dare to do this on Camera and get away with it, why wouldn't hooligans on streets dare to do the same?'
. In addition, Bollywood is largely responsible for this kind of brutish behavior. Holi song sequences often show an intoxicated hero, rubbing colour on his reluctant lady love, despite her disapproval for the same. All ends well on Holi, with the  hesitance being interpreted as 1) either the woman is a tease and no means yes 2) she magically realises she has always been in love after the colour-rub.
Of course, the intoxicated excuse always comes in handy. After all, 'Bura na maano, Holi hai,' no?
Well, No! That may work in reel-life. But it's definitely not going to work in reality. People are going to be offended with offensive acts, be it Holi or otherwise. And no dictum in the world is going to change that fact.

I recently read about a girl attacked with a semen filled balloon on Holi day. While I wouldn't argue with the validity of that claim, I dread to think what kind of deranged mentality would resort to such cheap and disgusting tricks.
If Holi has become all about this sickening power-play between the sexes, how different would it be from the infamous 'Gedi' culture of Chandigarh? Are we in the garb of religion and culture trying to keep that kind of retarded chauvinism rampant all over India instead of trying to destroy it?

Another reason I'm extremely against this festival is the effect it has on animals. Toxic chemicals and paints are equally (if not more) harmful to animals than to humans, but who cares? I see people drenching these mute unsuspecting victims with colour only to record their reaction on their phones and pass it on to their Whatsapp contact groups.
Somewhere in some parallel dog universe, I fervently hope they are doing the same to you.

Then there is the constant brouhaha about our water bodies being constantly polluted. We hear it in the news, watch documentaries made on the topic, discuss it at length in the face of epidemics or calamity, and then go back to leading our normal lives...until disaster strikes again. The brouhaha always stops at just that...being brouhaha. No action is ever taken against it. Add to it the air and noise pollution caused by the deafening music and drum-besting by the local 'gulaal' gang in every locality, not just disturbing the peace of the neighbourhood but also causing the tiny hearts of hapless animals to flutter with shock.

Now all those who are mumbling 'kill joy' under your breath, don't get me wrong.
I do not have anything against the festival. In fact, I'm all for the gujiya and thandai kind of celebration. In fact, I respect anything that revolves around a cheerful vibe and good food. But what I am dead against is the pulling in of non-consenting individuals (be it person or animal) into your idea of a good time.
So instead of gifting your children pichkaris this Holi, I'd say introduce them to colors on the canvas. Guide them to make art instead. Show them the magic of books and the myriad colours reading can add to life.

It is a known fact that irrational flinging of balloons from terraces cause majority of accidents today. Educate them of their responsibilities as future citizens of our country. Make them proud of our heritage. Lead by example.

And above all, teach them the meaning and importance of consent...
Because that is the most valuable lesson you can ever teach them. For Holi and for life.

Here's praying today blesses us with true colors of compassion, wisdom and serenity. Love and happiness to one and all.

Book review: The fragile thread of hope

Book Title: The Fragile Thread of Hope: A gripping emotional inspirational fiction

Author: Pankaj Giri

Format: Kindle (available in e-book)

'The fragile thread of hope' by Pankaj Giri had been in my TBR list since quite some time now. But truth be told, I'd plain forgotten about it. Had that not been the case, I'd have read and reviewed it earlier.
It was thanks to the author Pankaj Giri who recently mentioned it to me in a Facebook thread that I instantly picked it up from Amazon, guilt ridden for my failing memory.

'The fragile thread of hope' is a wonderfully spun story around the theme of family relationships, love, loss and hope. Set in the beautiful town of Gangtok, it transports you to North-East India, introducing you to different nuances in the tradition, culture, and language of Sikkim, and most importantly to Fiona and Soham.

Living lives that unknown to each other, and yet strangely connected, we see them journey through their own perils, struggling through the recurring themes of death and depression. Alike yet different in their own ways, they finally find a common thread that holds them together---the fragile thread of hope.
The author has etched his characters meticulously and with great finesse. Although Soham and Fiona form the crux of the story, you cannot help but give your heart out to Vikram, Soham's older brother, who plays a short yet vital role in the story.

The cover design is intriguing and rates high in abstract value. The language is free-flowing with an impressive vocabulary blending seamlessly in above-average story telling.
Ample use of metaphors renders the story a poetic quality but also renders a pall of gloom. Frankly, I lost count of the points where I actually had to put the book down to take in a deep breath, because I was too heart-broken to carry on. But the author should take this as a compliment.

The only issue I had with the story was the spiritual element, which I found to be too jarring (for fiction) at times.

The story has a predictable conclusion, but by the time you are nearing the end, you are almost wishing the pieces to fit in the expected manner.
I guess that is the strength of good storytelling---you know how the story is going to end but you are still looking forward to it.

To sum up, 'The fragile thread of hope' did not disappoint at all.
I think there is a lot of hope for the author in the literary world, and it's definitely not fragile.

Personal rating: 
4 out of 5 for the plot.
5 out of 5 for the writing.

January 24, 2018

Are you healthy-E-nough?

As a doctor, I often am hounded by extended family and friends asking for tips to good health. However, today, with the world resorting to drastic changes in lifestyle, the answer to this question is becoming increasingly difficult. With hardly any time for a well-balanced nutritious diet and exercise, we deprive ourselves in areas that really matter. We prioritize all else over health. Today, children are turning increasingly addicted to all kinds of junk food. Adults are having a tough time balancing work and personal life. And hence, we inadvertently end up making some bad choices.
It is no wonder, therefore, that there has been a sudden rise in lifestyle diseases like diabetes, hypertension etc.

As for me, I have to shamelessly confess, I have been making a lot of bad choices myself. Neglecting my health had been one of them. So come 2018, I resolved to change that as best as I could.

Years of making mighty resolutions and breaking them by the third day of the new year has taught me to make achievable goals, and so I have decided to keep it real this time...take things slowly.
Accordingly, I have now started putting into personal practice a healthy routine by making necessary modifications in my negligent behavior.

That brings me to what I'm going to discuss today---the importance of vitamin E in daily health routine (as known from textbook, patient, and personal experience. So trust me on this!)

So let's start at the beginning:

What is Vitamin E and why is it needed?

Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin. It has important anti-oxidant properties that protect the cells from damage caused by free radicals. 

So what are free radicals then?

Free radicals are compounds formed by the body during conversion of food to energy. They are also caused due to smoking, alcohol, environmental pollutants, and a variety of other unavoidable processes.  An increase in free radicals causes harmful tissue damage. 

Vitamin E fights the free radicals and hence aids in preventing cell destruction and ageing.

In addition Vitamin E plays a significant role in -

      1. Skin: 
  • Vitamin E plays a role in the skin's antioxidant defences. 
  •  It protects the skin against harmful ultra violet raysthat have carcinogenic potential
  •  Decreases wrinkles
  •  Makes skin soft, supple and moisturized.
  •  Protects against sun burns
  • Promotes collagen, maintains elasticity and thus rejuvenates the skin making it appear glowing and healthy.

        2. Hair
  • Helps in restoring the shine and lustre
  • Strengthens the hair
  • Prevents hair fall
       3. Serves as an anti-coagulant

       4. Reduces muscle soreness and leg  cramps 
Vitamin E has also proven to have beneficial effects in conditions like

      5. Diabetes

      6. Eye disorders-  helps improve vision deficits and conditions like retinopathy, cataract, and age related macular degeneration. 

      7. Cadiomyopathy and heart illnesses

      8. Cancers

     9. Hormonal imbalance, PMS etc

In addition to all the above benefits, Vitamin E helps in strengthening the immune system and protects the body against bacteria and viruses.

Being a Diabetologist, most of my patients come to me with secondary complaints of aching muscles, tiredness, and neuralgic symptoms, and an introduction of Vitamin E supplements like Evion for supervised time periods has shown tremendous improvement. Peripheral neuropathy is one of the most feared complications of Diabetes, and Vitamin E can help reverse changes if deleted early. It also helps reduce balance cholesterol imbalance.
However, one has to be careful not to continue it for prolonged periods especially if on other Vitamin K and anti-platelet medication.

Vitamin E can cause drug interaction with the following medication:
  • Cyclosporine
  • Niacin
  • Oral contraceptive pills
  • Warfarin
Hence caution should be exercised in these cases. 
Also, since it is fat-soluble, excess of it can result in a condition called Hypervitaminosis. So I always make it a point to advice my patients not to continue it for prolonged periods. 

The daily recommended dietary allowance for Vitamin E in adults is 15 mgs, (should not exceed the upper permissible limit of 1000 IU/day) and can be obtained from 

dietary sources of the vitamin such as --
  • Lettuce
  • Pumpkin
  • Almonds
  • Sweet potato
  • Fruits like mango, kiwi, raspberry, cranberry, apricots, black currents
  • Avocado
  • Spinach
  • Collards
  • Asparagus
  • Soya bean
  • Vegetable and nut seed oils
  • Olive, sunflower, corn and soyabean oil (rich in tocopherols)
  • Palm oil, barley, rice bran (contains tocofrienols)
  • Egg yolk
  • Margarine

However, if you see signs of Vitamin E deficiency, together with low blood levels, it is advisable to consult your doctor and start on Vitamin E supplements.

As for me, I mostly rely on dietary sources for consumption. However, not so long ago, my blood work showed low levels of the vitamin. I was having symptoms of tiredness, sore muscle, and hair loss. 

It was then that I resorted to #Evion, a brand name for Vitamin E that I had been prescribing to my patients since the last so many years now. There comes a time in every doctor's life that he has to take a dose of his own medicine (literally) and I was confident about Evion. 
As expected, I started showing improvement within a month's time. I observed reduction in hair fall, and my skin had become soft and supple. I was also feeling more active and energetic and was convinced of the improvement my patients felt with Evion supplements.

Since then, I have been using Vitamin E in my moisturizing routine and hair oil massage. And needless to say, I am happy with the results.

MERCK is a trusted pharma company and a pioneer brand of Vitamin E products since 1978. IT has not just launched Evion (in multiple dose strengths like 200, 600, 400) but has also recently come up with a skin cream hat has  has also come up with a skin cream containing Vitamin E and aloe vera, both of which have moisturizing and skin protecting qualities. You no longer need to prick and squeeze Evion capsules for your hair and skin masks. Just buy the cream instead. 

For more information, check here 

Packaged in an aluminium laminated peel-off foil Evion 400 costs only Rs 22.35 for a pack of ten capsules. The Evion skin cream comes in a 60 gms tube pack and is priced at Rs 144 only. Economical, safe, and packed with benefits, I think this is a great deal to attain lustrous hair and healthy skin, the tell-tale signs of a healthy and happy life.

With that, I guess, I've said E-nough.

After all, the proof of  the pudding...

December 23, 2017

Book review: 'Padmavati - the queen tells her story'

It is December, the season where wishes are granted in mysterious ways. It was just the other day that I was cribbing about the deferred release of Sanjay Lila Bhansali's movie 'Padmavati' because of the row created by the Karni Sena.
Having read about the legendary queen of Chittor in my childhood ('Amar Chitra katha' phase) I had been earnestly looking forward to see how it would roll out on the big screen.
However, I wasn't disappointed for long. Thanks to Readomania and Sutapa Basu for coming up with this beautiful rendition  of the glorious legend. It seems like this heartpiercing  tale with all its vivid imagery is going to stay etched in my memory for a very long time.

    Book title: Padmavati: The queen tells her story.
  • Paperback: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Readomania 
  • Published in: December 2017
  • Language: English
  • Author: Sutapa Basu

'Padmavati---the queen tells her story' is a fictional account of the extraordinary journey of an extraordinary queen.
Introduced in modern times, the author has incorporated a contemporary element to this age-old folklore. Mrunalini Roy, a journalist for a national daily is researching the life of Rani Padmavati for which she travels to Chittorgarh. This is where she meets Uma, a village girl who lures her into listening to the story with the promise of leading her to Padma-Wali, an autobiographical document on old parchment that is written by the queen herself.

As Uma narrates the story enroute, we are transported to the lovely kingdom of Singhaldweep with all its blooming details.

"An oval emerald, snugly nestling in tiers of frothy white lace, floated in the crushed silk of turquoise seas. It was the enchanted island of Singhaldweep, off the eastern coast of Bharatdesh. A land that entices you into such a magical spell that you wonder how you existed without experiencing such a paradise."

A few pages down and one cannot help but notice the stark difference between Singhaldweep and Mewar (where Princess Padmini moves after marrying Ratan Singh). The difference is made evident by Ginni's (a talking Hiraman parrot) description of the rocky and sandy desert land of Mewar;
Ginni describes Mewar (Is it never pleasant here? What a land! During the day, hot winds howl and blow sand through the palaces while at night the stone walls are chilled by icy breezes. How I wish I was back in Singhaldweep!)

The book provides a window into the soulful and heart-wrenching journey through the life of the legendary queen Padmini, who is well acclaimed not just for her beauty but also for her strong character, skills at warfare, and astute wisdom.
With a talking parrot, Ginni, and her childhood friend, Ambika, as companion and confidante, and a kind and compassionate husband whom she barely knows but soon grows to respect and love unconditionally, the young queen bravely battles against the plots and plans that are schemed against her, both by family and foe.
But will her unparalleled beauty and elegance prove to be a curse for the young queen?
As Rani Padmavati faces and fights her destiny, she makes one final decision---she documents her story until the end; a story that transcends all boundaries of friendship, love, and honor.

The book has an attractive cover, although I felt it could have been a tad more innovative. The use of Mewari, Singha, and Urdu words gives the story a colloquial appropriateness, that is well translated by a helpful glossary in the last few pages.The narration is carefully detailed yet crisp and suggests meticulous research on the topic. Intermittent dialogue and interspersed poetry add the necessary creative zing, turning a piece of historical fiction into a riveting page turner. The scheming nature of the crafty Raghav Chetna and the treacherous lust-ridden Alauddin Khalji leaves you feeling sorry for the virtuous Rani Padmini who finds herself at their mercy time and again. But the undaunted queen refuses to bend.
How then does she change the course of her fate? Despite being fully aware that Padmavati is just a fictional figure, what is it that makes one ponder on whether there could be a semblance of reality amidst all the literary devices? Is it just extraordinary story telling, or is there really a fine line between truth and myth, between history and historical fiction? I guess it all depends on what you want to believe in. For now, let's just believe in good literature and our love for reading.

The end caught me by surprise, and no, I'm not talking about the obvious here. That is not the end. There is a story within the story. (Read the book to find out. You can order your copy here.)

Personal rating: 4.0 out of 5

About the author: Author, poet, editor, and ardent bibliophile, are just some of the feathers in Sutapa Basu's hat. She is a prolific writer and has several published short stories and poems to her credit. Her debit novel 'Dangle', a psychological thriller, was published by Readomania in 2016. This is her second novel.

(The views in the above review are entirely mine, and are not subject to obligation of any sort.)

August 08, 2017


You never realize when or how it slips in. But by the time it makes itself evident, it's almost always too late. It has embroiled itself into your life, made its way through the labyrinth of your thoughts, and depending on how it shapes, is destined to liberate or destroy you. You attempt to ignore it, perhaps even succeed for a while. But then it comes right back, gnawing at your neurons, demanding your attention, distracting you off the imperative in your life until you allow it to hold you by the hand and lead the way. Even then it is seldom satisfied. It does not rest until it has consumed you completely. You are tempted to give in. Tempted to see where it will take you. But you resist. Moments of incertitude and self-doubt begin to creep in. Should you or shouldn't you?

Eventually you learn. It teaches you to channelize, focus, and finally surrender. Fighting it is futile. It's not leaving, and that only means it's meant to stay.

You cannot kill an idea once it has made a home in your head!

July 31, 2017

Z for 'Zig zag zindagi'

Life, as we all know, is like that troublesome virus that keeps changing its morphology and hence makes it impossible to nail a cure for. In fact, so vain are its complexities and idiosyncrasies that we are often left befuddled, with mouth agape, trying to make sense of the curveballs it (life, not the virus) keeps throwing at us.

Back when I was young and naive, I used to believe that in the 'no-regrets' philosophy. You know that theory which says you shouldn't regret anything that once made you smile blah blah...
Well, now I'm older and wiser. And like most mature people believe that what you believe in when you are young and naive is a load of crap.
Of course, you have regrets. And sometimes you regret things that once made your addled brain happy too. But that doesn't mean you stop making mistakes...nah! You just keep making new ones. You keep regretting them. And you keep learning from them. That's the way the cookie crumbles.

You see, that's the thing about regrets and realisations. They usually happen only (and I mean ONLY) in hindsight. By this I mean that when they happens, the clock has already ticked by, the circle is complete, the chapter is over, and the deal is sealed. Things attain clarity only when you are not desperately seeking for the haze to clear. And all you can do then is shrug your shoulders, fake a wan smile, and say 'C'est la vie'.
Because that's what life is all about anyway, isn't it? It's never a straight curve on the time versus progress graph. It's a zig-zag...a roller coaster ride with surprise ups and downs. You remember the game of snakes and ladders you used to play as kids, wherein you could never be sure what the throw of the dice would bring you? Well, isn't life pretty much like that? A series of unfathomable situations with puzzling choices for solutions, with the only way of surviving the chaos is to go with the flow.

However, all this is easier said than done. When push comes to shove, you tend to get clingy, desperate, hopeful, even obstinate. You try to tighten our grip over what you think is yours and reach out for more...
And somewhere amidst all this mess, you tend to lose out on what is most important...the here and now.

Your present, however fleeting it may be, is the only thing that is certain. And you tend to give up on it in the pursuit of an elusive tomorrow.

You get too busy chasing butterflies when you can stop and smell the flowers...

Z for 'Zig zag zindagi' is the twenty-sixth post in the 'A-Z Series' of posts, a chain of scribbles by me on topics starting with each alphabet of the English language. Read back and forth for the other posts, and please feel free to contribute your thoughts on the subject.

With this post, I finally complete the A-Z series of posts. I have been guilty of neglecting my blog for a while now. But I promise that is going to change start August. So watch this space for a lot more frequent updates in the days to come. 

April 05, 2017

Y for 'YOLO'

5 th April / 12:48am

You Only Live Once- and thank heavens for that. I wouldn't be able to handle my life another time over...

Y for 'YOLO' is the twenty-fifth post in the 'A-Z Series' of posts, a chain of scribbles by me on topics starting with each alphabet of the English language. Read back and forth for the other posts, and please feel free to contribute your thoughts on the subject.