Thursday, December 30, 2010

Dr.Binayak Sen and the Naxal struggle

the%20good%20doctor The case of the good doctor
As I recover from one of the most stressful Christmases of my life (thanks to all the sick patients in the ward), I know there is not way I can complain, especially since, on Christmas Eve, a court sentenced Dr. Binayak Sen to life imprisonment for the crime of 'sedition'. The good doctor, whose academic credentials, personal integrity and devotion to the poor have all been vociferously covered in every communication medium over the last few days, now spends Christmas and New Year in solitary confinement in a prison, where he had earlier, already spent 2 years awaiting charges. It seemed for a time that the Free Binayak Sen campaign had succeeded in gaining justice, but now everything is back to square one and things look even more bleak than before.

In all the reporting on the trial and its aftermath, it has been encouraging to note that there has been no discordant voice - one and all have denounced this travesty of justice as an act of vengeance by a government whose unlawful actions against the poor people have been showed up by this tireless warrior. It seems impossible that in a country where some of the greatest thieves this world has ever known not only thrive but are elected as our leaders, the voice of a man whose only crime was to love the poor and whose only desire was to see that they got their due, has been cruelly silenced by a verdict which defies every law of common sense known to man. It is I guess, one of the great ironies of our beloved nation, right up there with the fact that some of the world's richest men come from a land where the majority of people struggle for daily sustenance.

The story of Binayak Sen and his struggle, while far removed from the comfort of my life, does however, sound a resonance with an inner movement that was awakened in me many years ago. The 2 years I spent in Jharkhand, where, at that time, a very similar struggle to the one going on in Chattisgarh raged, left some long-lasting impressions on my young mind. My first year was spent learning the ropes of a junior doctor in a mission hospital, managing the labour room, doing Caesarians and involving myself fully in patient care. But early in my second year, I was given the opportunity to join the community health team, which gave me a new understanding of the ground realities of the area.

When I left for Jharkhand, I had no idea at all of the Naxal movement and no clue that I was going to work in one of their strongholds. My parents did not say much - it was only later that I learnt of their trepidation as they put me on the train. During my first year, I began to see the abject poverty of the local people which made healthcare the least of their concerns. But it was only in my second year, when I began to visit their homes and understand the stories of their lives that I realised the desperate state they had been left in by many decades of feudalistic injustice by the rich landlords. And I began to understand the basic ideology of the Naxal movement - to return the land and its riches to the local people who, in their simplicity and innocence, had been throughly bespoiled by those with power, who were, in general from other places. And as the injustice of it all began to trouble my idealistic mind, I began to identify more and more strongly with the Naxal struggle and agree with its basic ideology. However, while I sympathised with the struggle, I was totally against the methods - which, at that time mainly involved the indiscriminate killing of policemen, in different raids. The closest police outpost to the hospital was about 20 kilometres away, about halfway to the district headquarters. After a series of raids with much loss to life and limb, the police were forced to withdraw and the outpost remained unmanned for most of my second year!

As I became closer to the people and they began to trust me, I began to meet some of the 'party' leaders and have short conversations with them. I began to dream of becoming the 'party' doctor, which would give me access to the highest levels of leadership and thus a chance to reason with them about the violent nature of their struggle. I began to hope that love and a strong development agenda of the hospital team would slowly bring a change in the outlook of some of these men, who for the most part, I felt, were misguided and confused about the direction of their struggle. Of course, these remained just dreams, as for a variety of other reasons, it became clear that the time had come for me to leave and I suddenly dropped everything and relocated.

But as I reflect on Binayak Sen and the charges for which he has been sentenced to a life in prison, I realise that in a small way, I too am guilty of crimes similar to what he has been charged with. Guilty of the crime of being friendly with the poor people who are struggling against many decades of injustice, knowing all the while that some of them were involved in armed struggle against the government. Guilty of the crime of condemning a government system which is corrupt to the very roots. A system where no government official has ever been seen in a village for many, many years. A system where every statistic is cooked up in the comfortable confines of government offices. And where every government scheme is 'successfully implemented', which only means that the money has found its way into the bank accounts of the right people and the reports have been meticulously dreamt up and typed.

The truth of the matter will take many, many pages to fully describe. The plight of the people can only be imagined, even by me, who spent much time with them. And the story will go on, and on. For there are very few Binayak Sens left in this world. Very few who are willing to take up the cause of the poor at their own risk and loss. Our lounges and coffee parlours are filled with educated intellectuals who decry the injustice meted out to this man. In fact, there has supposedly been more support from the Indian diaspora for Dr. Sen than from this country. But for all the outcry, there are few of us who are willing to take it to the next level. To look at ourselves and see what role we have to play in the great Indian dichotomy. For many of us are surely playing a role, by acts of commission or omission, in keeping the poor, poor while we ourselves enjoy wealth and riches. I am ashamed to think that even after being exposed to the harsh reality of it all, I still have nothing much to offer except empty words. My selfish desire to protect what is mine and safeguard my future prevents me from taking any meaningful action. For after all, that is what mankind is programmed genetically to do - survive... And, as far as possible, in the greatest comfort. My only hope is to follow more closely in the footsteps of my Saviour. For only then is it possible to love without counting the cost, to fight without heeding the wounds, to toil without asking for rest, to labour without asking for any reward. And I pray that as I seek to be faithful to His call, He will strengthen me in the areas where I am weak. But till the day when injustice is no more and all men are truly equal, let us pray for the voices of conscience that we have among us - the Binayak Sens of this world. And hope that their struggles will be short-lived. That their spirits will hold up under the constant stress. And their reward will be consummate to their work.

To sign a petition to the President of India, asking for justice for Dr. Sen, please click here.

Linkorama 30/12/10

It's been a long time and I'm sure you knew a Linkorama was coming! Actually there's enough for 2 or 3, but I will restrain myself! Have a blessed New Year everyone - in case I get too busy to post again this year!!

MORE ON DR. BINAYAK SEN: For more details and links on Dr. Sen, check out Andi Eicher's post on the good doctor. Also Andi posted an apology for long silence, which I echo!!

ANOTHER GOOD DOCTOR: The glory days of the missionary surgeon are all but over. But Dr. Richard Branson has achieved much more than most of us could ever dream over the course of a lifetime of work in Kenya. Another man for whom the call of God overcame the call of comfort.....

THE SISTINE CHAPEL: For those of you who have always wanted to see what the Sistine Chapel looked like, this site gives a panoramic view of Michelangelo's masterpiece just on the click of a mouse. Check it out!

PRACTICAL WAYS TO SURPRISE YOUR WIFE: Since I am blessed with a wife who is not too easy to surprise, I am always looking for articles like this one!

DHONI AND THE TOSS: I have generally kept my cricket addiction away from the blog, but I had to post this article as it always amazes me how the captain who turns everything to gold has such difficulty with the toss!!

12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS: One of the many interesting takes on this well-known carol - will restrain myself to just one this time!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve!!

The most exciting night of the year for me is here!! I wonder why Christmas Eve beats the night before my birthday (and for that matter, even Amy's - sorry darling!!), New Year's Eve and every other night of the year hands down for anticipation.... I guess in some part it is because of the presents we used to receive as children on Christmas, for some years in proper Christmas stockings.... But then, I get presents on my birthday as well and the excitement on that night in no way matches this. Perhaps it is the fact that the whole world is celebrating... Here in the hospital it is carol rounds, when all the staff take a walk through the locality (in the freezing cold!!) and then through the wards, singing carols, reading the Bible and praying. But then, the whole world celebrates New Year's Eve even more. Perhaps it is an acquired emotion programmed by many years of Christmas celebrations in church and at home. But then, other days are celebrated more or less similarly, like Easter or the New Year and they don't seem to strike as much of a thrill into my heart as Christmas Eve does....

So what makes Christmas Eve so special. Why is it that every year for as long as I can remember, this is the night of the year when I go to sleep with maximum expectancy? Even tonight, with the ward full of sick patients including a 7 day old neonate in the ICU after surgery last night (hopefully more on him later!!), the usual tension and gloom that would accompany such a situation are absent.. Why is it that so many Christmas Eve's are so memorable - the initial ones spent with grandparents in Kerala - where my grandfather would light a bonfire and we would sing carols round the fire, the one spent in the UK at the home of dear friends who gave us the experience of a typical English Christmas, the ones after we came back, when we replicated some of those traditions, last year when Amy and I shared our first Christmas together with dear friends Koshy, Lydia, Joel and Aunty, even the ones I have spent working, especially the one during my internship, when my registrar, for some reason started his night rounds at 11:45pm and went on till 3 am - spending most of that time laughing and chatting with all his contemporaries who were also awake and not realising that the Christmas joy of his eager-to-please intern was somewhat dampened. Why is it that there are more traditions associated with Christmas Eve in my mind than any other day - the quiet reading of the Christmas story by my father from both the gospels, my mothers attempts to hide the presents till the next morning (which often failed!!), the joyful feelings and thoughts that are the last remembrances before my eyes close in sleep.

What is so special about Christmas Eve that brings this heightened sense of anticipation and excitement. Surely it must be the subconscious realisation that that whole of my existence is somewhat meaningless without the event that occurred that Christmas day 2000 years ago. The understanding that the incarnation of the Almighty God is the defining event that has shaped this world and has changed my life. And the excitement that tomorrow I may be given a new understanding of this mystery - that will be different from all I have thought or understood before. And that will be new again the next year and the next. What a wonderful joy to experience the excitement of Christmas Eve in the knowledge that the birth of the Christ Child in the darkness of my heart is the renewing and life-giving event that makes each Christmas more meaningful and special than the year before. I guess that's why Christmas Eve is the best night of the year for me....

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Berlin Patient - first man cured of HIV

I was planning to get back to blogging only after Christmas, what with all the activities going on here, but this was too important to postpone. When very tight for time like now (when I have turned on the computer today for the first time in 3 days!), there are only 2 or 3 blogs I visit. Andi Eicher's is one of them. And as I scrolled down through what I had missed over the last few days, I saw this link to an article in Blood, which reports the first documented case of a patient being cured of HIV. Yes, you read that right!! Of course, you may have read that in your local newspaper, but being a reader of our paper from the first letter to the last, I am sure, this has not yet been reported in ours. And having been out of an academic setting for some time, I obviously missed this when the initial study was reported last year. This article tells in greater detail the story of Timothy Ray Brown, a 44 year old American living in Germany, who was known as the 'Berlin patient' till he came forward with his story recently.
Diagnosed to have acute myeloid leukemia while living with HIV, he was given a bone marrow transplant as treatment for the leukemia. But the doctors gave him an added bonus. They found a donor whose blood had a defect in the gene which encodes the CCR5 receptor on the CD4 cell, which is responsible for the entry of HIV into the cell. People with this genetic defect have been know to be resistant to HIV. After the first transplant, the doctors stopped his anti-retroviral treatment. Thirteen months later he had a relapse of his leukemia and required another transplant. Now, 3 and a half years after his first treatment, his CD4 counts have returned to normal and HIV is undetectable in his plasma and blood cells. As Andi noted, this may not be the Nobel-Prize winning cure for HIV, primarily because, there are so many factors that fell into place for Mr. Brown, which may be difficult to replicate in other patients. What is more, the prohibitive costs of all the treatment Mr. Brown went through mean that even if replicatable, this will probably be available only to a small percentage of people living with HIV. But even so, it is a great step forward, reason to celebrate and surely a reason to dash off a post, however tired I may be!!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

When doctors just don't care

Yesterday was a late night. And a sad one for me. For I came face to face with some of the shortcomings of my chosen and beloved profession. And I was unable to understand it at all. We finished our list of operations quite late and just as I was leaving to go home, there was a call from the emergency saying a 4 month old baby had just come in with features of intussusception. This is a condition where one part of the intestine telescopes into the adjoining part and is a medical emergency. When I saw the baby, he was dehydrated and in septicaemic shock and we (the nurses and I) spent the next two hours resuscitating him before we took him to the operation theatre. There after we opened the abdomen, we found that that the terminal portion of the small bowel and the first part of the large bowel were gangrenous due to the intussussception (looking something like the picture below) and we had to resect them - what in medical terms is a right hemicolectomy. A major operation even for a healthy adult, let alone a sick little baby. Due to his poor condition, we shifted him to the Intensive Care Unit with the breathing tube in his lungs and knowing that his recovery or deterioration were not in our hands.

But though it was a tiring day and I was totally spent by the time I rolled into bed, that was not the reason for my heaviness of heart. Rather, it was a state of shock at the callousness of the medical professionals who had been managing (or mismanaging) this baby. For as is often the situation, we were the last resort that the baby's poor parents had turned to. The symptoms had first started 5 days ago and unlike many medical problems that are difficult to diagnose, this baby had classical textbook description symptoms - bouts of crying, red currant jelly stools and a mass that could be felt in the abdomen. The first hospital the baby was admitted in, kept him for 3 days on medication. The investigation that would have clinched the diagnosis, an ultrasound, was not done. The baby was then referred to a higher centre, one that has the most modern facilities and is supposedly equipped to handle even the most complicated problems (for obvious reasons, the names of these centres have to remain unknown). Here, after a days procrastination, the ultrasound was done, but by then it was already evening time. The parents were told to take the baby somewhere else as there was no surgeon who could operate the baby. And so, the parents landed up in our emergency, with the baby on his last legs.

Time and again over the last two years, since I left the cosy cocoon of CMC, Vellore, I have been confronted with the dirty underbelly of medical practice in our country. Where medical professionals blatantly disregard the most basic principles of medical ethics for personal gain or due to ignorance or just because of rank laziness. This little baby boy with a potentially life-threatening problem was treated with useless medicines for 3 days, obviously without a diagnosis being made. It is a sad reality that many of our doctors are not well trained enough to identify and treat properly even common medical emergencies. And then there is the even worse scenario of a referral hospital refusing to operate a patient and giving the flimsy excuse of the absence of a surgeon when everyone knows very well that there are a large number of surgeons trained in reputed colleges there. The real reason for referring the patient was obviously the reluctance of the particular doctors to spend a part of their evening or night in the operation theatre.

As I hear more and more stories of medical incompetence, ignorance, negligence and malpractice, I begin to fear for the medical profession in our country. The supposed watchdog of medical practice in the country, the Medical Council of India, was itself recently embroiled in a scandal that saw huge amounts of money changing hands in order to accredit new medical colleges. (That may have been a blessing in disguise though, for I hear now that new and upright people have taken over the functioning of the MCI and some many positive changes are being made). Our medical colleges often charge astronomical fees and donations that make the primary goal of many doctors to make as much money as they possibly can in as little time! (Our strongest similarity to our political class!!) And the government system in many places is filled with doctors who are either too lazy to do the expected amount of work or too busy with their private practices to have much time to spare!! And with all this laziness and profiteering, medical education is given the last seat on the bus, which means that not only are our doctors of the future poorly trained, but all that they have to emulate is the same laziness and profiteering. And so the cycle is perpetuated.

I do not know what lies ahead. But I do know that there are a few notable exceptions. Among institutions as well as individuals. And it is they who keep the flag of the vocation of medicine flying in spite of all that seeks to corrupt it. May this breed never die. As for me, while I was deeply saddened by the callousness and incompetence that had adversely affected the life of this little boy (had the condition been operated on in the beginning, it is likely that the bowel would have been viable and no resection would have been required), I knew there was much to be thankful for. Especially for the help that I received from my colleagues here. The nurses who quickly and competently assisted with the resuscitation and investigations allowing us to get to the theatre at the earliest possible. The paediatrician who advised me on the right dosages of the antibiotics, IV fluids and blood required. The anaesthetist who expertly brought the baby in its weakened state through this major operation. The other surgeon (on holiday) who gave me moral support on the phone. For family who upheld me and the baby in prayer through the night. And most of all for the knowledge that there was a good God in whose hands the health of this baby lay. So all we could do was to quickly and carefully do what we had been trained to do and then rest in the knowledge that healing comes only from God.

Please do pray for this little fellow as he slowly recovers. There are still may things that can go wrong before he actually goes home, but by the grace of God, he now looks as if he may make it in spite of all the efforts of the medical profession otherwise.

UPDATE: Thank you for all your prayers. By the grace of God, this little boy went home fine.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Now thank we all our God

The various stressors of life were beginning to get to me. When I came home from work after a long day of difficult operations, all I wanted to do was jump into bed, curl up and go to sleep. Amy was on night duty, which added to my feelings of discouragement and frustration. And to top it all, my allergies, which have been playing up a lot over the last few days, were at their zenith! All my 'difficulties' played like a stuck record over and over in my head and I called off one of the practices so that I could stay at home and moan. When I found that the heater, which had been threatening to give up the ghost ever since we came back, had finally done so, I felt there could be no one as miserable as I...!! It was certainly not a terrible day, not even close to it. But I guess my psyche loves a good moan once in a while and today I really felt like one!!!

But it was not to be. Having been very irregular with my reading, there is a huge backlog of stuff waiting for me every day when I open my internet reader. And today, I thought I would glance through one or two of them before I dozed off. With Amy at work, there was no necessity to get dinner and I was in no mood to even heat up something from the fridge. But the first article I read brought me back to my senses double-quick! It was a short article on the virtue of gratitude and it contained the moving story of Martin Rinkart, who wrote the well-beloved hymn, Now Thank We All Our God. Rinkart was a pastor who served in the walled town of Eilenberg, Saxony, which was a refuge for political and military fugitives during the Thirty Years War. Not only did this cause various armies to ransack it three times, but the overcrowding brought on a deadly epidemic of the Black Plague in 1637. Rinkart found himself the sole pastor remaining after one ran away and he buried two on the same day. The next few months were times of unspeakable hardship as Rinkart conducted upto 50 funerals every day and about 4500 in one year. Amazingly, it was during this time that he found the strength and inspiration to write these beautiful words.

Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in Whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.

O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and bless├Ęd peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed;
And free us from all ills, in this world and the next!

All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given;
The Son and Him Who reigns with Them in highest Heaven;
The one eternal God, whom earth and Heaven adore;
For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.

By the time I had finished reading the article, I was a chastened man. Ashamed of my pettiness and ingratitude for all I had received. Penitent of my sin of allowing the minute inconveniences of life to crowd out the big picture of God's mercy and faithfulness. As I reflected on the many stories of people of God for whom peace and contentment came from within and were independent of circumstances, I found my contrite soul beginning to sing again. And gratitude for my life and for the timely reminder to count my blessings welled up within me... Oh that this lesson will not be easily forgotten....

Linkorama 13/12/10

Amy is not a great fan of Linkoramas, so I have been holding back on them!! But today she's on duty, so I'll slip one in and hope she doesn't mind! Mainly because I want to share two other great articles I read today as well as a cool video.

A PASTOR'S GREATEST REGRET: This could be a regret for all of us, not just pastors, if we're not careful. How much time do we actually spend with our families/children? And when we do spend time with them, are we really present to them or are we present only physically.... Read this short but important article here.

THE REBEL JESUS: This article has some connection to my post on Saturday. And con't worry, it's not as controversial as the title suggests!! Just a good way to prepare our thoughts for the season.

WOMBS FOR RENT: I read this sometime back and thought I would share it when I got a chance. It's the story of the surrogacy business in Anand, Gujarat. Thought I'm sure the author was trying to be impartial, she ends up obviously conveying what she feels about this whole idea. Read it and see if you agree with me!

A COOL PRESENTATION: Goodbye powerpoint. This may be how classes are taken in the future! It also has some interesting information on global health and wealth.


(HT: TC)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Christmas in Shillong

The most exciting time of the year in Shillong is around Christmas. For months before December, there is a growing buzz that culminates in the flurry of activity around the 25th. Nearly throughout the year we (being outsiders) are asked by all and sundry if we will be in Shillong for Christmas and are exuberantly congratulated when we say we will be. And once December arrives, the whole town sort of changes gear. Beautiful decorations are put up in vantage points all over the city. Shops stay open a little later to allow for all the Christmas shopping. Offices run on skeleton staff as people take leave for the yearly house-cleaning and painting. And everywhere there are posters announcing concerts and other celebratory events.

In the hospital too, there is a change of gear. As Christmas nears, the number of patients gradually dwindles and the staff move into holiday mode. A badminton court is set up in the parking lot and every evening there are a surprisingly large number of people who brave the biting cold to put in serious practice for the tournament that comes up around Christmas. The staff recreation room is opened up and a carrom tournament begins with whole families showing up armed with refreshments and wood for the fire to cheer their favourites. And of course, there is the slew of musical activities.

Music is in the blood of the people of Meghalaya. Nowhere else have I heard singing as effortlessly beautiful as here. Nowhere else have I witnessed sundry people break into spontaneous four-part harmony at any opportunity. It appears that every single person is gifted with not only an intuitive ear for music but also a beautiful voice to sing with! The success of the Shillong Chamber Choir was a fitting tribute to the strong musical heritage of the state. And Christmas is the time when this heritage is put on display through a variety of activities throughout the state and also in the hospital. Starting from the 17th, there is a programme every evening till the 25th! And so, I find myself stretched really thin between work and the various practices! Not to mention the blog!!

The piece de resistance this year is the concert by the nursing school students on the 21st. Every time we have a programme in the hospital it is a given that the students will perform a special number. And every time they do perform it is to the amazement of all, at the rich harmony that is produced by the perfect blending of their voices. And for this concert, there are no less than 19 songs, many of them extremely difficult jazz and blues numbers. When I was told about the concert on the phone, I happily agreed to play, but now that I have heard the songs, I am wondering if that was such a good idea after all - each song will take me a day or two to master and I obviously don't have sufficient days!! And the last thing I want is to spoil the top-notch singing with some second-rate accompaniment!! So if my blog posts get infrequent again, you will know what I am doing!!

But today as I was listening to the wonderful singing of the students on one of them most difficult numbers, I suddenly realised that in all the struggle of trying to play the right chords in the right sequence, I had no idea what the song was even about! And I was convicted of the common mistake that so many of us make during this season. The mistake of letting the activities crowd out the meaning of the season. The mistake of allowing the fun, excitement and performances to overshadow the reason for all of it. The mistake that Herod and most of the people of Israel made that first Christmas. The mistake of missing the birth of Jesus Christ into this world. And going on as if nothing had changed.

The advent of Jesus into this world was 2000 years ago. Will there be an advent of the Saviour into my life and yours this Christmas season.... Into the life of the students.... The life of the hospital.... Or will this Christmas pass by like so many others in the past - with no difference to us or our way of life........

Friday, December 10, 2010

Angels

Coming back to work after nearly a month and a half off has been rather like a baptism by fire as the other surgeon (who had been alone for all this time!) has taken leave. Dr. Lurstep Wanshnong, who has been my friend and mentor for the last 2 years here has gone to visit family in Manipur and I am experiencing in a small way all the stress he must have carried for the last month or so. (Of course, the Christmas season is the leanest time of the year in our hospital and so I guess, the best time to be alone!!). But be that as it may, running a theatre with 7 cases in a day after a month of predominantly being seated certainly takes its toll and I now have exquisitely painful knowledge of every muscle and its movement in my body!!

Speaking of Dr. Lurstep, I must say that working with him has been one of the greatest blessings of my time here in Shillong. When we were first asked to work here, it was because there were no full-time surgeons here. So I was quite surprised when we arrived to find Lurstep, who had joined a few days before me. And looking back over these two years, I realise how much I have grown both professionally as well as personally through his influence. Though much more experienced than me, he has always treated me better than I deserve, even with respect. He has held my hand for procedures I had never even seen before and given me full freedom to innovate some new procedures of my own. His humility and generosity have often surprised me as they go completely against the norm of surgical hierarchy. And during our long hours in the operation theatre, we have had wide ranging conversations on life and faith that have helped shape some of my own previously immature ideas. Had I been alone here, it is possible that these 2 years may not have been such a blessing to me, especially professionally. But God put His angel here to inspire, encourage and sharpen me and for that I will always be grateful.

I was thinking of angels because of an experience I had today. A patient had come from a far-away village complaining he had a fish-bone stuck in his throat. Our ENT surgeon is also on leave and so he was sent to me. As I examined him in the OPD, I had a feeling this was more of an upper-storey problem as he said the fish bone moved around every day! I took him to the operation theatre (more to satisfy him than anything!) and had a look into his throat with a laryngoscope, but could see no bone. I cheerfully reassured him and wrote up some placebos and was just packing him off when my dear wife popped in to say hi. I laughingly told her the story and was just leaving when she called me back. There was a huge lymph node in his neck that I had completely missed! The classical mistake we are always warned of, but I had forgotten! The red-herring symptom hiding a more sinister problem. As I did a more detailed examination and aspirated his gland for our pathologist to look at, I was silently saying a heartfelt prayer of thanks. Had not God sent His angel out of the blue (it is not often that I have the joy of my wife's presence in the OT - she is rather too busy for that!!) to point out my mistake, the poor man would have gone home and the possible cancer that was lurking somewhere inside would have progressed unhindered for who knows how long.

They are all around us. the angels who enrich our lives, who bring out the best in us, who lead us on the right way. They are often unsung, for our ego often prevents us from acknowledging them. Sometimes, we even fail to perceive their vital role. For man has made independence a virtue and forgotten that it is in interdependence that we find our greatest strength. My life is full of angels - the sweet lady who comes for an hour every morning to help with the dishes and the clothes, the young boy who found out we had come back and started bringing the newspaper again even without our asking, the kind OPD lady who translates for me without ever complaining why I have not yet learnt Khasi after 2 years here, the staff of the hospital who smile with real joy when they see me (I must confess there are also some whose faces convey that their feelings on seeing me are not necessarily joy!!), the team who makes our Friday Fellowship so special by their effort and involvement..... These are just few of the angels in my everyday life. I am so grateful that my precious wife reminded me of them by her simple act of keen observation today..... I pray that I will not forget them so easily again.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Travelling

It feels great to be back home in Shillong after nearly 2 months on the road. I have literally criss-crossed the country and would have reached all four corners in the last month had our trip to Jalna (where my brother and his wife work at the Jalna mission hospital) not been cancelled at the last moment!! Travelling is not one of my favourite activities, although I seem to do a lot of it! And in the last month I have run the gamut of travelling options - from the second-class compartment of a train to the comfort of a plane, from a Volvo overnight bus to the local Tamil Nadu rust-buckets that masquerade as public transport, from the hair-raising auto-rickshaw rides on Vellore's death traps (read roads!) to the peaceful scooter rides along the beautiful beaches of Goa. And of course, the memorable 5 hours of bone-shaking on a truck that was bearing some of my parent's possessions to their new home in Pondicherry. It still amazes me how the driver managed to hit the bulls-eye of nearly every pothole on the way! And any of you who have travelled from Arni to Villipuram will know that in some parts, it is 80% pothole and 20% road!!

There have been some scary moments. Being dragged out of an auto and shoved around by a driver who towered high above me and probably weighed twice as much as me, asking the unkempt gentleman who was occupying my berth in the train (which had 18 people in a coupe meant for 8) if he would kindly allow me to get up there as well, waking up from sound slumber to see smoke billowing out of the hood of the taxi we were travelling in as our Khasi friend had forgotten to pour water in the radiator and stopping in the heart of Naxal territory in Jharkhand when we saw a man lying on the side of the road beside his overturned motorbike, not knowing if it was really an accident or just a trap were all occassions when fervent prayers went up and happy results ensued. Praise be to God!

But this time, unlike my usual solo travels, I have had some great company. My precious family were with me on many of the trips and the drive to Pondicherry where (probably for the first time), 6 people packed into my dad's car (that is meant for 4 and can take 5 at a squeeze) will remain one of the memorable events of these 2 months. The trip to Nav Jeevan Hospital was also memorable, for the intellectual conversations on the forward journey and the uplifting interaction with children on the way back (from Ranchi). And the train journey back from Ranchi, when my neighbour told me the story of his life that had started in the jungles of Jharkhand and had already reached a corporate guest house in Moonar, where he was the cook - all in the space of 26 years.

But from the comfort of my bedroom in Shillong, looking back at all the wonderful experiences I have had and the beautiful places I have seen over the last 2 months, I can truly say, that there's no place like home... And thank God that wherever I may roam, I have somewhere and someone to come back to, unlike many of my brothers and sisters who walk this planet. Thank You for all Your blessings Lord. May I never take them for granted.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Goodbye Santosh

Friends and family bid farewell to the mortal remains of Santosh Benjamin two days ago. Jennifer had been discharged from the hospital and was present at the funeral. Friends and family paid tributes to the memory of one who has so obviously been a great blessing to all who knew him. Farewell Santosh. You will be missed back here. But we know you are in a better place and that comforts us.... The newspaper report of the funeral service and some of the tributes paid by Jennifer and others is here.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Has Manmohan missed the boat

Six years ago, a momentous event took place in the history of our nation. We are still struggling to understand the reason why Sonia Gandhi plucked one Mr. Manmohan Singh out of relative obscurity to make him the leader of the largest democracy in the world. Agreed he had a red-lettered history. Losing his mother at an early age had not deterred him from academic excellence which had brought him honours from the Mecca of world education - Oxbridge. A steady rise up the ranks of Indian bureaucracy had seen him ascend to the Governorship of the Reserve Bank in the early 1980s and from there to be Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission. But it was the masterstroke of P.V. Narasimha Rao in 1991 to buck the tradition of political Finance minister appointments and hand him the reins of an economy that was plunging into bankruptcy. His ambitious and unprecedented reforms paved the way for India's emergence as an economic powerhouse and cemented Manmohan's place in Indian history.

But all this had certainly not prepared the country for its first apolitical Prime Minister. So when Sonia Gandhi silenced all her detractors in one fell swoop by entrusting the government to Mr. Singh, the whole country was bemused. The opposition parties, whose main election plank was Sonia's origins were thrown into a disarray that they never fully recovered from throughout Manmohan's first term in office. Of course, there were questions on everyone's mind. Could this fine, upstanding man, who only fault was that he had never won an election, lead this great nation with all its potential and yet, all its contradictions. Many a great man and woman had been felled by this giant. But amidst the consternation, there was general rejoicing. The appointment of a technocrat as the head of the country with the fourth largest purchasing power in the world was hailed by the media and the common man alike. And the icing on the cake was, as the BBC put it, that he 'enjoyed massive popular support, not least because he was seen by many as a clean politician untouched by the taint of corruption that has run through many Indian administrations'.

In the light of the unfolding events of the last few months, Mr. Singh can no longer hide behind his reputation. In the past, through every scam and every scandal, not even his most vitriolic foes would even think of pointing a finger at him. But today, it is the Supreme Court that has passed judgement. And the people and their representatives in the opposition are at last asking for an explanation. As possibly the greatest thefts in the history of mankind were being played out under his nose, why did he remain silent? How could he allow the perpetrators to get away with the wanton rape of our country's exchequer? How could do nothing as Mr. Kalmadi and Mr. Raja committed these crimes with impunity? How could he allow a host of government spokespersons to yell shallow defenses for these crimes till they were hoarse, while knowing all the time that there was some truth to the accusations? How could he allow a reputation built over a lifetime of selfless service be washed away by colleagues with no scruples or integrity? And worst of all, how could he betray the trust of the Indian people who looked to him and his government to clean out the Augean stables of corruption, not fill them?

Mr. Manmohan Singh had everything going for him. With good governance, he could have cemented the position of his party at the helm of Indian affairs for some time to come. But it seems that our great country of contradictions has taken another victim. The opposition has something to shout about. And the people may not find it easy to forgive. And just like that, our dreams of an India where governance and integrity go hand in hand may have to be put off by a few generations.

India needs you Mr. Singh. Where else can we turn to find someone of your calibre and stature. But your silence has confused even your most ardent supporters. And we need to know the truth. So, will you come clean, Mr. Singh? Will you spell out the details of all that has taken place? Will you explain to us, your people, how these audacious crimes escaped your notice? And if they did not, will you apologise for having been silent for the sake of party and power? Will you ask forgiveness of the people you have betrayed? For therein may lie your salvation.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Tributes to Santosh Benjamin

Throughout the world, family and friends mourn the passing of Santosh. One of his church members alerted me to some tributes to Santosh printed in the local paper (here and here). The secretary of his church paid him a moving tribute - We can never replace him but only learn from his example as a devoted husband; a proud father; a loving son; a respected Elder; an inspiring worship leader; a talented musician; a gifted preacher; a conscientious worker; an unassuming servant; a willing helper; a faithful follower of Jesus; a much loved and sorely missed Christian friend and brother. Let us continue to uphold Jennifer, the children and the extended family in prayer.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

What is my response - Lessons from Sunitha Krishnan

I had a long chat today with a friend on some of the stuff I have been writing about recently. The question we were discussing was whether in today's world, it was possible to practically apply idealistic principles. From the time we are born most of us undergo a subtle indoctrination by the world that surrounds us that teaches us that money, possessions, power and comfort are the principal avenues for happiness. And since the pursuit of these virtues requires us to be motivated, driven and often selfish, caring for others, especially those on the margins, is called 'idealistic' and is deemed to difficult for 'normal' human beings. This is a question that I have wrestled with a lot recently - is it foolhardy to make risky decisions that benefit others but do not seem to have any personal benefit? My friend suggested a similar thought. Altruism and service are for the Mother Teresas of this world. Not for you and me.....

As I was thinking about this, I watched again an old TED video of Dr. Sunitha Krishnan, which is doing the rounds on facebook. I have been following her blog, so hearing her speak about what she does was a moving experience. And it gave me an answer to my question. Here was an ordinary woman, whose simplicity and passion are obvious, who is at the heart of an 'idealistic' crusade that any normal person would steer clear of. And her call to the technological and business bigwigs seated in the room was simple - don't just sit in the comfort of the air-conditioned hall and discuss these issues. Don't look for excuses to justify why you cannot respond to these issues. You don't need to be a Mother Teresa or a Mahatma Gandhi. In your limited circle, find at least one way you can respond.

The cry rings out loud and clear. In every place on earth, there is injustice. In every corner, there is someone who needs a helping hand. And in our country, the needs are so obvious that they do not need to be repeated. Do I have a response to that cry? It is a sobering thought. Time and tide wait for no man. And here I am, struggling to understand what my response can be.... I need Your wisdom and guidance, Oh Lord....

Sad news

Santosh Benjamin went to be with Jesus on Sunday. With sorrow we remember the family and uphold them. Please continue to pray for Jennifer who is being gradually weaned off the ventilator.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Please continue to pray

Please continue to remember Jennifer and Santosh Benjamin in your prayers. Jennifer is stable now though still in the ICU. Santosh is critically ill.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Daydreaming on Children's Day

Yesterday, India celebrated Children's day and the papers this morning were filled with pictures and articles of competitions and activities organised for children by various groups. It was a good way to remember our first Prime Minister and also to celebrate the joy that children bring to our lives and community. I remember at school, Childrens Day was the day of the fancy dress competition followed by the rest of the day off (which was the best part!). So this morning as I read through the newspapers, my mind took off on a train of thought starting from the fun days of my own childhood and then moving on to the uplifting joy some of the dear children I had interacted with recently had brought to me. How wonderful childhood is. And how special for children to be brought up in a home where God is given the central place.....

And that would have been the end of my remembrance of Childrens Day, but for 2 gentle reminders that came during the day. The first was when I watched the movie August Rush. Having set for myself a strict schedule during this time (which I am often unable to follow!), I had not watched a movie for a long time and was complaining as such to my mother. So she in her kindness, rustled up this movie from a friend and by coincidence I watched it today. It is the moving story of a young boy who is separated from his parents at birth and grows up in an orphanage. Running away from there at around 12, he settles into a life on the street with a group of other children who play music in parks to enrich the pockets of the 'Wizard'. As all good movies should, this one has a fairytale ending, but for me, it was a clear reminder of the one-sidedness of my morning's daydream. The childhood I had and that most of the children I know have is by no means a universal reality. For some, childhood is a story of abandonment, loneliness and despair....

And when I began my computer time for the day, the first article that caught my eye was this one, a story of the children who do not have the luxury of a holiday on Children's Day. The ones who will not take part in any fancy dress or painting competition. The ones who spend Children's Day working for their daily bread, just like every other day of the year. Doing menial labour, often in conditions unfit even for an adult.

I did not do too much more reading today. I had a darker daydream to match the thunder and rain outside. As my mind saw the children to whom life has dealt a different hand than mine. The boy in the dhabha who clears away the plates. The girl on the road selling jasmine flowers. The boy at the traffic signal who wants to wipe your windscreen. The girl at the railway station begging for alms. The boy in the cracker factory slaving away in inhuman conditions. The girl sold to a madam at the age of 12.... Sold to a life of unimaginable trauma.

We live in a country where these little ones are everywhere. And yet, I find it so easy to forget them. To push them to the back of my mind, from where they will find it difficult to trouble me with their memory. Rather, I rationalise. I say that I, with so little time and resources, can do nothing. And so I assuage my guilt.

Dear Lord, I am guilty. Forgive me. And show me how I can show Your love in some small way to these dear little ones. Whom You love as much as You love me

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A prayer for friends

I received some terrible news today. Of an accident that has left 2 of my friends in a serious condition in the UK. They have suffered severe internal injuries due to smoke inhalation in a fire at their home. Please remember Jennifer and Santosh Benjamin in your prayers. They are both in ICU and Santosh especially is very ill. The news report of the incident is here. Another of my younger friends has been diagnosed with metastatic cancer. We specially remember our dear ones and ask God for His favour.....

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Quo Vadis, Doctor, Quo Vadis?

The young lady was brought to the small hospital in Jharkhand gasping for breath 2 hours after she had been bitten by a snake. She was quickly intubated and given the life-saving Anti-snake venom antitoxin. For the next 2 days, the junior doctor manually ventilated her round the clock as she slowly recovered. Her hand that had received the bite developed fasciitis and required a debridement. But after a week, she was ready to go home. Her bill, after heavy discounting came to Rs. 1500, mainly for the medicines that needed to be replaced. After a day, the husband brought in the money to pay the bill. Out of interest, the doctor asked him how he found the money. He said he had taken a loan from the moneylender. And the interest – Rs.10 for every Rs.100, every month. 120% annual interest. The young doctor was horrified – that was a life sentence. With the enthusiasm and altruism of youth, he offered to pay the money which could be returned to him if and when possible. But the farmer was resolute. He said it was actually a good bargain. He would never be able to repay the loan, but he would be able to work on the moneylender’s farm for the rest of his life and be sure of at least a meal a day. And when his young son was little older, he too could work and this way, his family would be secure…… For the sake of a medical bill he signed away his family into a lifetime of bonded labour.

This is a true story. It is no one-off event. It is repeated nearly every day in the villages of our country, where decades of suppression and government apathy have created a feudal system that would be unthinkable in a modern, educated society. A system that has bled the poor to feed the rich. A system that has sparked the rise of a violent movement that, according to our home minister, is the greatest threat to our national integrity. A system that is due, at least in some degree, to the corruption and avarice of those whose vocation it is to serve – our doctors.

A survey by Transparency International found that after the police, healthcare was the most corrupt service sector in India with a quarter of the respondents having paid bribes to access health services. The key culprits were, not surprisingly, the doctors (77%). We have all read in great detail of the unbelievable corruption that has claimed (for the time being, at least), the head of the chief regulatory body of Indian doctors. But then, he was arrested for corruption in 2001 and came back, winning the MCI election again. The astronomical amounts that buy undergraduate and post-graduate seats in the medical colleges of our country only rise every year. India is the world’s biggest bazaar for human organs. And every new government initiative in health care is quickly and confidently hijacked by our doctors to work for their monetary benefit. In short, our health system has fine-tuned itself to greatly benefit one group of people – the doctors.

And this is no secret. Every patient who goes to a doctor goes with mixed emotions. There is always hope – that the doctor will find the cause of the problem and treat it. But there is also fear – of the possibly unnecessary investigations, procedures and medicines that the doctor will order, knowing that every stroke of his or her pen is directly translated to some personal perk or benefit. The rich have no problem with this system. As with every form of corruption, it is the poor who suffer. Official statistics indicate that about 20,000 farmers have committed suicide since 1997 with poverty being the root cause in most cases. And the World Bank has estimated that one-fourth of all patients admitted to a hospital in India are pushed into poverty by this ‘catastrophic’ medical event. Studies done in random villages of Rajasthan, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh found health-care expenditure being the cause for falling into poverty in 55%, 85% and 77% of respondents respectively. Health care for the poor in India has become a double-edged sword. Not having it is a denial of one’s rights, but having it is detrimental to the well-being of the household – the ‘medical poverty trap’. And often, health costs are driven steadily upwards by the constant search of health care professionals for higher profits and a better life, a situation that is easily exploited by health care companies and pharmaceuticals. The Hippocratic Oath often becomes a big hypocrisy.

Hippocrates refusing gifts of Artaxerxes the king

In today’s world, there are 2 forces that drive our doctors. The more common one is the monetary drive, where decisions of health practice are driven by the higher salary, cut or perk. The more acceptable one is the drive for excellence, be it professional or academic. But there is a third drive – that is often forgotten. In our dedication to either monetary gain or professional advancement (or both), we often subdue the drive that should be given primary importance by anyone who has sworn the Hippocratic Oath – the drive of service. But service is often pushed to the back of our mind during our medical education and practice. The number of doctors even from Christian medical colleges who serve in ‘areas of need’ are so few and far between.

When Nero was burning the Jews at stake in full view of the whole population, including the distinguished leaders of all the conquered kingdoms, when Hitler was exterminating the Jews with implicit knowledge of the Christian church and the educated population of Germany, it was the silence of those who knew better that allowed them to perpetuate these abominations against humanity. And today, many of us doctors participate in a system that is designed to make us richer and the poor, poorer. When Peter was running away from probable crucifixion in Rome at the height of Nero’s persecution, an apocryphal story tells that just outside the city, he met Jesus walking back to Rome to take Peter’s place. And the question he was asked is the one we are asked today – Quo Vadis, Petros, Quo Vadis? Whither goest thou, Peter?

Quo Vadis, doctor? Our country desperately needs more health professionals who will respond to the need and heed the cry of the millions of Indians who suffer under the yoke that the medical system places on them. Men and women of character, who have the courage of conviction to stand against the tide and make a difference like Dr. AK Tharien, Drs. Raj and Mabel Arole, Drs. Abhay and Rani Bang and so many others. The issues are not always so simplistic, but we need to make a start somewhere. Individual decisions need to be made until, over time, we reach the ‘tipping point’ when the flow of health care service will turn from being doctor-centric to patient-centric. It sounds impossible given the present situation, but that day will surely come. And it could start with you and me.

A young doctor stood at the bedside of a patient. This man had survived a major emergency operation in spite of a host of complications. He and his young daughter were extremely grateful to the doctor, but were pleading for a reduction in his bill. The young man took the plea to his boss, but was refused. The next day, the patient was gone, bill paid. Nine months later, the doctor saw his patient again. He had come for the birth of his daughter’s first child. The doctor was confused, remembering the beautiful young girl who had begged for a bill reduction. ‘But I thought she was unmarried,’ he said. ‘She is,’ replied the man, with a bowed head. ‘I sold her virginity to pay my bill.’

This is a true story. Quo Vadis, doctor? Quo Vadis?

References

[1] Sanjay Kumar. ‘Healthcare is among the most corrupt services in India.’ BMJ 2003; 326 : 10 doi: 10.1136/bmj.326.7379.10/c (Published 4 January 2003)
[2] Peters , DH, Yazbeck , AS , Sharma, RR, Ramana, GNV, Pritchett, LH and Wagstaff, A (2002), 'Better Health Systems for India 's Poor. Findings, Analysis and Options', Washington DC, The World Bank
[3] Krishna , A (2003a), 'Falling into Poverty: Other Side of Poverty Reduction', Economic and Political Weekly , February
[4] Krishna, A, Kapila, M, Porwal, M, and Singh, V (2003b), 'Falling into Poverty in a High-Growth State: Escaping Poverty and Becoming Poor in Gujarat Villages',Economic and Political Weekly , December 6, pp 5171-5179
[5] Krishna , A, Kapila, M, Pathak, S, Porwal, M, Singh, K, and Singh, V (2004), 'Falling into Poverty in Villages of Andhra Pradesh: Why Poverty Avoidance Policies are Needed', Economic and Political Weekly , July 17, pp 3249-3256
[6] Whitehead , M, Dahlgren, G, and Evans T (2001), 'Equity and Health Sector Reforms: Can Low-income Countries Escape the Medical Poverty Trap?', The Lancet , Vol 358, September, 833-36
[7] Malcolm Gladwell. ‘The Tipping Point’. Abacus, 2000.

(The edited version of this article was published in Current Medical Issues (hence the references!), the journal of the Continuing Medical Education department at CME, Vellore this month - my mother's farewell issue. She has done a wonderful job of revamping and editing the journal since 2003 and has begun the process to get it indexed)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Is India rich or poor?

UN HUMAN DEVELOPMENT REPORT 2010: The UNHDR 2010 was released on the 4th of November. Where does India stand? On the Human Development Index, we occupy the 119th spot (out of 169). There has been an improvement of one solitary position (!!) over the last 5 years. We rank below our neighbours, Pakistan and Bangladesh in education (average time spent in school is 4.4 years compared to Pakistan - 4.9) and health (life expectancy 64 versus 67 in Pakistan and Bangladesh). But India has secured the 10th position in the area of improvement of the income index!! In a nation where there are 421 poor people in just eight states, more than the 26 poorest African nations combined - 410 million. We also score 122nd among 138 countries in gender inequality. Generally not a good report card......

2 HINDUSTANS: So how can our income, GDP and economy be going up when there are so many poor people? The mystery man of Indian politics, Rahul Gandhi (or as Lalloo and Sharad Yadav call him - baccha/babua!!), made an interesting observation in an impromptu speech to the AICC meet. 'There are two Hindustans -- one is growing very fast and the other is for the poor (which is in crisis).... We have to connect and unite the two.' He has been doing some interesting things over the last few years, like riding a local train in Mumbai, regularly breaking his security cordon to meet poor people, secretly riding a second-class compartment from Gorakhpur to Maharashtra (with a visit to the unreserved compartment on the way) and meeting students in colleges over the country encouraging them to join politics. It seems he has done some research before making this observation.

WHERE THE MONEY IS GOING: The 2008 Swiss Bank Association report had an interesting finding. The country which has 1/3rd of the global poor also has the maximum amount of money stashed in Swiss bank accounts!! Nearly 2 trillion dollars of it! A large percentage of which must be black...The top 5 stashers are
India ---- $1891 billion
Russia----- $610 billion
China ----- $213 billion
UK ----- $210 billion
Ukraine---- $140 billion
Rest of the world ----$300 billion

AND WHAT'S LEFT GOES TO...: Certainly not the poor!! It seems that a lot of money goes to the world's superpower - Obamaland!! India is now the second fastest growing investor in the United States after the United Arab Emirates!! As for the 42% of Indians below the international poverty line, let's just forget about them for the moment, shall we......

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Adarsh Society Scam - So what's new?

At the risk of sounding cynical, I really think this latest ruckus is just much ado about nothing new. So some politicians and bureaucrats decided they needed new houses in the heart of our financial capital. So they went about doing it in the same way that most politicians and bureaucrats get anything that they want. Blatantly use the government machinery. Just like our brothers in the CWG Organising Committee. Who made enough money to feed the next three generations through this one event!! But corruption is a character which has run through our veins since Independence and before. Every Indian who needs something done in any area of life is likely to have been exposed to it in some form or the other. So what makes the crimes of the CWGOC and Mumbai's finest worse than the usual steady corruption that goes on throughout our country? What makes the press and the public rise up in protest at something that is a way of life in this great nation of ours? What Lakshman Rekha has been crossed that has given strength to the protests and will allow (hopefully) the culprits to be brought to book?

The tentacles of corruption insinuate themselves into every aspect of life in this land but the Adarsh Society Scam has insulted the basic decency of the nation by touching a raw nerve of our country. The culprits have swindled the families of the Kargil martyrs. The heroes who have given their lives to protect our nation's integrity have been bespoiled. And so blatantly! Imagine the reckless dishonesty that can subvert justice in such a public matter with such impunity. So there is public outcry and the chance that the culprits will be brought to book. And in the case of the CWGOC, it was the dignity of our country that was affronted. When the astronomical scale of organised corruption shocked the world and shamed the nation.

But the root of the problem still remains. These branches that have become so obvious because of their blatant scale and because they have struck at the sensibilities of our nation are but the tip of the iceberg. Corruption has grown deep into our nation's soul and uprooting it will mean a loss of even some of the good things. And what is worse, it will cause great pain to the ones who make it their mission to strike at the root of the tree. Nearly every major corruption scandal in the past has ended with the prime culprits either escaping scot-free or serving small jail terms and often returning to their public offices as powerful as ever. And more often than not, the whistle-blowers and the honest men and women who agreed to testify to the truth have been traumatised by the proceedings and their aftermath and in some cases even killed.

And the huge scandals which break every now and then are but the periferal branches. The trunk and root lies with you and me. The corruption that starts with every small bribe we pay to the ticket collector on the train, the clerk in the transport office, the passport officer, the land bureaucrat, the policeman and every small-time government servant on whom we depend for so many of our activities. I remember the story of my friend in a mission hospital in Uttar Pradesh. The hospital refused to pay the officer in the Electricity Board a bribe. He promptly cut the electricity and for about 3 months in the peak of summer, the hospital managed with a few hours of electricity from the generator every day. After 3 months of daily prayer for respite, the officer was transferred and electricity restored. That is the price we will have to pay for taking a stand. It will not be easy and will certainly cost us something. But in the long run, there will be a 'tipping point' reached - when corruption will at last be seen by the majority for the evil that it is. But until that point it is for the individuals with courage to stand against the tide. Scams like the Adarsh Society will keep popping up. Thousands more will remain unheard of. But the root of corruption can be weeded out only by individuals. Like you and me.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Linkorama 1/11/10

THE DRIVERLESS CAR: Google is progressing rapidly from being just your favourite search engine. It's latest innovation that has been buzzing round the blogosphere is an automatic car - that's automatically driven! It has already been tested with good results over 140,000 miles on busy roads. Click on the pic to enlarge. (HT: SMMJ)


WHAT HAPPENS AT AN ATHEISTS CONFERENCE:
We have a new religion folks - if the main criterion for a religion is that there be a difference of opinion!! When 370 aethist leaders got together, they could not decide whether they should be 'fundamental' or 'liberal'! Sounds familiar?! To Christians?! (HT:IM)

FOR THE MATHEMATICALLY INCLINED: An interesting problem I came across - any takers with the solution? For the least math inclined, 8x8=64 and 13x5=65
picture of math puzzle

COMPETETIVE ADVERTISING: An interesting sequence of ads that reminds me of the Cola Wars of the 90s. Their order of appearance was from below upwards when Jet changed their uniforms! (HT: Freakonomics)