Monday, January 31, 2011

Tiger Sighting at Kaziranga!!

Yesterday was one of the most exciting days of my life! And I'm not saying that just because it sounds good. I think it will be one of the days I remember for the rest of my life. For I saw a tiger in the wild! Now, I can already hear some of you saying - what's the big deal?!! Well, I would have been in your company till yesterday. Though I hold animals in great respect, and have developed a deep and lasting love for the 2 dogs we have had as pets, I am not what you would call an animal-lover. I used to be a obligate non-vegetarian (though now, circumstances have forced an embrace of vegetarianism - the circumstances being that if we have to eat meat, we have to go to the market, buy it, clean it and cook it - a process that is just a little too much for us at the moment!!) and while I am (in principle) against the concept of animals in cages, the occasional trip to the zoo and the circus still holds some charm. But it was always a take-it-or-leave-it feeling, as was watching animals in the wild. A subtle cynicism which could not understand what all the fuss was about! After all, everyone has seen a tiger, either on TV or in the zoo!

Which was why, when Amy suggested we go to the Kaziranga National Park on our trip to Tezpur, I did not exactly whoop with delight. Had I had my 'druthers, I would've preferred to curl up in bed with one of the many great books that line the shelves of our friends home! But having learnt the hard way that Amy is nearly always right(!!), I did not make too much of protest when I was dragged out of bed at the unearthly hour of 4 am (having not slept much for 4 days and having just completed a 6 hour drive) to make the hour-and-a-half trip to Kaziranga. It is a wonder that we reached there safely considering how dangerously close my mind was hovering to the sweet land of dreams!

Once we reached there, we were taken to the elephant loading point. As is nearly always the case in India, it pays to have contacts. One of the doctors in the hospital had put us in touch with the person in the ticket office and whether it was this or just another indication of God smiling on us, we got to ride on the largest elephant. He was a beautiful specimen of his species. Tall and majestic, yet gentle and lumbering, his eyes somehow reminded me of the gentleness that comes from great strength. We (Amy and I, Ashita and the children - more about them in another post) settled ourselves rather uncomfortably in the rickety contraption attached to our elephant's back and we were off.

Now all this was not new to me. I have been to 4 national parks in India and had 1 elephant safari. Each time, there was great excitement before it started and great disappointment by the end. Of course, we would boast that we had seen monkeys and deer and buffalo, but then, the monkeys are a dime a dozen in every populated place; deer, while beautiful are not exactly the most interesting animals; and we had a sinking feeling every time, that the buffalo were probably of the domesticated variety and were in the forest just for grazing!! The greatest injustice I believe was that every time, the park keepers would swear they had seen a tiger the day before!! And on one elephant safari, the mahout had the audacity to show us a cave and say it was the tigers den!! He obviously had a very low impression of our grey cells! So this time, while I had shaken off the shackles of my sleep, I was in no way expecting anything much. I did not realise that I was just beginning one of the most thrilling hours of my life!

Just about 10 minutes into our rolling walk into the jungle, we happened upon our first rhino. It was a majestic sight all right. And very easy to appreciate from the safe confines of our perch on the gentle giant! And then the parade began. It was as if, there was a ringmaster carefully stage-managing the events that unfolded. First we saw a mother rhino with her baby. When we had reached to within 10 feet of her (with the mahout fortunately disregarding the commands of the ladies to desist!), she snorted loudly and led her baby away from our intruding eyes. Kaziranga certainly proved it has the world's largest number of one-horned rhinos. They were everywhere. We even saw another mother with her baby at the end of our trip. And of course, there were the ubiquitous deer - in Kaziranga it is the hog deer and beautiful they are. And wild boar - though they looked just like the pigs we see running around near canals to me!!

And the majestic wild buffalo. Now I know that the ones we saw on earlier trips were the domesticated variety! The wild species are truly in a different class. The shining muscles. the long horns, the obvious aggression - here was another awe-inspiring beast of nature. The mahout said that just the previous week, a park ranger had been killed in a buffalo attack. I hope that is just what they say to all visitors to interest them though I can well imagine that animal being more than capable of it.

Of course, I have left the best for last. We were nearing the end of our safari and were just getting back onto the path (from the jungle) when the mahout spotted a wild buffalo in a nearby thicket. So he turned our elephant around and we tried to get closer. A difficult proposition thanks to the thick undergrowth. And then I saw him - the king of the jungle, the largest cat that walks this earth today, hidden in the tall grass, stalking the unsuspecting buffalo. And with that all my cynicism vanished forever. I guess I am not skilled enough in the art of wordcraft to be able to explain exactly what I felt. Suffice to say that the feeling of exhilaration still remains with me as I remember that moment. To see this magnificent creature in all his glory away from the confines of the idiot-box or a cage was enough to tear away the walls of pseudo-sophistication that I had erected around my heart and allow me to enjoy a moment of simple joy for once. And I will treasure that memory, probably forever.

The big fellow suddenly realised that he and the buffalo were not alone. He petulantly turned and then made off through the undergrowth. He passed just in front of our elephant and we had a full frontal glimpse of him before he disappeared in the undergrowth. Our mahout raised the alarm and tried to follow him and get the other elephants in the vicinity to triangulate him, but without much success. We had a last glimpse of him again as he climbed up on the road and vanished into the marshlands on the other side. But we had seen enough to fill our hearts with pleasure and wonder. No zoo creature could have ever competed with the splendour of this true king of the jungle. And my life has been somehow enriched by that chance encounter.

Linkorama 31/1/11

Back to work and I am on duty this week. Which is not good news for the blog! I should probably put up a poll - will Arpit manage to discipline himself to write regularly this week or not!! Today's links are varied.

THE IIT-ian WITH A DIFFERENCE: Every year, hundreds of India's brightest minds pass out of IIT and join big companies. Here is the inspiring story of Naga Naresh Karuturi, whose parents both cannot read and write. As if that was not enough of baggage to carry for a brilliant young man, he had an accident in childhood and thanks to the medical profession, lost both his legs. It is terrible to hear how, thanks to the negligence of the doctors, just a few scratches turned into gangrene. But it is inspiring to see how his severe physical difficulties never prevented him from aspiring to and reaching his goals - which were higher than most of us who are able-bodied. One of the inspiring stories for our times. I look to hear more from Naresh in the years to come. (HT:Venkybala).

CHINA IS ONE STEP AHEAD: Recently, there has been some heat generated by the piece played by Chinese pianist Lang Lang at the reception hosted by Barack Obama for Hu Jintao (hope you know who they are!!). This smart-alec played a song from a famous Chinese movie about the Korean War which runs down Americans, their army and is regularly used for anti-American propoganda byr the Chinese Communist Party! Here is a letter by one of the leaders of the Chinese democratic movement-in-exile, Wang Jingsheng.

APPLE'S NEXT GADGET - iBANK: This article talks of a new gadget that may be a reality in the near future. One which allows you to use your Apple device as a credit card! I got the gist, but didn't really understand the details!) (HT: Challies)

THE SLICK LIMERICK BATTLE: I don't know if you can get to this facebook page, but if you can, you will find a really interesting limerick battle going on. Some amazing creativity (as well as some junk!!) can be found. (Yours truly got a few words in edgewise, somewhere in the middle!). If any of you are interested in joining in/ can't get access, please let me know and I will try to ease things out! If you don't have a facebook id, while I can't help you, I certainly do admire you!!

TIGER ATTACK: SPOILER ALERT!!!!! Today's main post is going to be about the tiger we saw at Kaziranga. That is of course, if my night rounds are problem-free enough for me to actually get back in time to do some writing! I am glad what happened in this video did not happen during our trip! Though it may have been the same tiger - we were in the same park and I think in the same vicinity as well!! Fortunately the injured man survived with just the loss of some fingers. But what a majestic leap it was! (2:47 onwards)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Umiam Lake

The drive to Tezpur was beautiful as ever and this time, to our surprise the road was quite good for the majority of the journey. That is a first on this route! We had planned a leisurely drive, stopping at regular intervals with a picnic on the way and made our first stop at Umiam lake, on the outskirts of Shillong. It was then I realised that our camera battery was completely dead! I did take some snaps on my 1mp cell phone which are below, but they do not do justice to the beautiful scene. It was a moment of great peace and serenity. But then I often get this feeling thanks to the amazing natural beauty of Meghalaya, the queen of hill stations.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Linkorama 29/1/11

We had a great (though tiring for me!) drive to Tezpur and a warm welcome here by Ashita and kids. Dinner with Koshy, Lydia and Joel. It's great to be with friends like this! Our conversation flowed late into the night though we were all tired and though we have to get up really early to keep our date with the rhinos of Kaziranga! Writing a post now would require a superhuman effort, which I think is beyond me so it's only links today.

FACEBOOK FRIENDS MAY NOT BE TRUE ONES: Here is the shocking story of Simone Back who posted about her upcoming suicide only to find that her friends did not believe her and in fact, even taunted her. And some of those friends actually lived close to her house. If only they had got up off their computers and gone to check on her, she may have been alive today....

ELECTRONIC PICKPOCETTING: In years to come as paper money begins to disappear in favour of the card variety (credit and debit!), thieves will still find innovative ways to get at our money. This may be one of them. All those with credit cards really need to see this.

TREE OF LIFE: Here is an article with some pictures of the 'tree of life', a tree in Bahrain that is making everyone break their head as to how it still survives! (HT:Challies)

IDEAL JOB?: This job where you are paid to play with Lego bricks the whole day is right up there on the list! (HT: Bib Christ)

TRICK SHOT SPECIALIST: Some of these shots are just unbelievable. Must watch, even for non sports fans for it's amazing final shot. (HT: Vit Z)

Light-hearted marriage tips

In celebration of completing two years of happily married life, we are planning a weekend away starting tomorrow (ie. today!). We are going to Tezpur, where we hope to have a 'rest cure' in fast forward with Drs. Deepak and Ashita Singh, Koshy and Lydia George and their wonderful children. If we are rested enough by day 1, we hope to make some new friends (of the animal variety) at the Kaziranga national park, not far from Tezpur. And make it back in time for work on Monday morning. Looks like it will be a thoroughly restful weekend! In view of the long drive ahead tomorrow, I have been given strict instructions to sleep early. Fortunately, as Amy is on duty in the hospital, I can stretch the terms of my sentence a little bit to write this! And reflect a little on the wonderful time we have had over the last 2 years here in Shillong.

I will leave the majority of my 'reflections' for a more detailed post (yet another of those promised posts that may never actually turn up on the blog!!), but in keeping with the lighter theme proposed by some of you, I will put down a few insights I have gleaned after 2 years of the marriage experiment.

A COUPLE THAT PRAYS TOGETHER STAYS TOGETHER: Family prayer was an important part of the day in both our houses over our childhood years. So we assumed that this would be an easy routine we could slip into. But there's many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip and in our case the slip has been our diametrically opposite biological clocks! While Amy is fresh as a daisy from 6 or earlier in the morning (I am not too sure of the exact time for reasons that will soon be made clear), I continue to follow the old routine established in my Men's Hostel days, when the time to get out (or rather, jump out!) of bed was on hearing the horn of the bus that would take us to the hospital. Gathering all essential items in hand, a quick leap from the balcony to the ground would get me to the bus just as it pulled out. Then there were 2-3 minutes to hastily throw on the remaining items of clothing before the bus reached the women's hostel. I must say (with some pride) that the routine had a 100% success rate for me. Not so for one of my friends. This poor soul (attempting to follow the same routine one day), realised to his dismay just as the bus neared the dreaded Paradise Lost (Women's Hostel, which some high-thinking feminine spirit had decided to christen Paradise on Earth!) that he had left his shirt behind. A frantic call to the driver later, he was making the lonely walk back to the hostel clad in his white singlet vest!

But, as usual, I digress. It seems that 5 years in Men's Hostel (or Mansion of the Gods as some equally high thinking masculine spirit had named it) were enough to override 18 years of strict 9 pm bedtimes that I had grown up with and the (bad)habit stuck. So when Amy has her quiet time in the morning, I am also very quiet - only a bleep (pager) could wake me! And similarly, when my mind begins to shake of its lethargy at around 11 pm, Amy is already keeping an appointment in the kingdom of dreams. So prayer when we woke up or went to sleep was out of the question.

Over the last 2 years, we have made numerous experiments with different times for family prayer. At breakfast seemed good, but always ended up being an extremely rushed affair, as yours truly persisted in emerging from the covers at the last possible moment. At dinner, worked for some time, till the work became busy and I began to come home to find Amy already keeping the afore-mentioned appointment. We even tried getting together at lunch, but being a surgeon makes for extremely irregular lunch breaks, so that was a short-lived experiment. We finally reverted back to the morning, just before breakfast. Of course, this is still a work in progress and there are still major issues to work out especially the one where one participant falls asleep during proceedings. But we are getting there and I believe (and hope!) that God understands our weaknesses. But the point is that thanks to both of us having a faith of our own, our marriage has become yet another expression of that faith - where God is at the centre of all our actions and decisions. And this I believe is the key to a happy marriage

LEARNING THE MOST IMPORTANT WORD IN MARRIAGE: All you married couples out there know what it is. 5 letters that make everything alright (for the most part!). Sorry. (A disclaimer here - Amy and me never fight, we only have intense moments of fellowship every now and again!) Very early I learned that I have an important choice to make in every 'intense moment of fellowship' - does Arpit want to be right, or does Arpit want to be happy! Once I make the right decision, everything moves swimmingly! Of course, with my slightly (some say hugely!) eccentric bent of mind, it is an amazing thing that Amy actually puts up with all I throw at her. I remember the time when I was convinced that starting a KFC joint in Shillong was not only a perfectly workable idea but also the best way to make the money that was required to run the many poor-targeted projects that I often dream off! And that was probably one of the least hare-brained of my wild schemes (of which I will say no more, for fear of irredeemable embarrassment!). Amy, being the stable and sincere person that she is, makes extreme adjustments for this streak of craziness, but I must admit there are times when even her boundless patience is severely tried! And sorry is the best way to make things right. Not just lip-service, but a heartfelt apology. It's a time-tested (over 2 years and counting) success story!

TAKE TIME TO MAKE TIME, FOCUSSED TIME: Having been a bachelor for more than 30 years, I had gotten used to my personal mind space. Blessed (or cursed, depending on how you look at it), with a vivid (and wild) imagination and prone to Walter Mitty style flights of fancy, it was (and is) a learning experience for me to understand that my mind space is no longer solely my own. It is easy to spend time with Amy if that just means that she is in the same room. It is not so easy to spend time where my whole mind is focussed on what she is saying or what we are doing together. Of course, Amy, being the astute person that she is, is quick to notice when my mind wanders off into its whimsical reveries. And so far, she merely draws me back into reality with a smile, though I know I am pushing my luck. Given our busy schedule (and our diurnal variations!), we hardly get to spend an hour or so a day together, often less. In those times, I have realised that the best thing I can do is devote my time completely to her. Not having a TV helps, as does posting the blog after she sleeps. Going on weekend getaways is another step with this goal in mind. Of course, once God throws children into the mix, we will have to make a greater effort to find focussed time for each other, but this is another lesson these 2 years of marriage have taught me. Spending time with Amy means actually not doing anything else, outwardly or inwardly. (A variation on this theme is the six-second kiss)

The creative juice is all but spent and the tired mind does not help! So that's all for today. Hopefully someday, there will be a part 2. For all you married folk, I'm sure you know all this like the back of your hand. For all you unmarried ones, get married! I certainly recommend it!! Especially if you find a spouse like Amy!!

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Sign Post - Zoos

In keeping with the theme of day - lighter stuff, here are some funny signs from hither and tither. I got the zoo theme and some of the pics from this post by Ivman.

The number of stories every year of people who go too close to animal enclosures have made some zoo keepers come up with innovative ways to encourage people to keep a safe distance!
picture of funny zoo signpicture of funny zoo sign

Then of course, every self respecting zoo has to prevent it's over-enthusiastic visitors from believing they are the only source of nourishment for the 'poor things'! Basically - don't feed the animals!!
zoo signs
zoo signs

The other thing to watch out for with animals (or birds) around is of course their big jobs! Anyone who has taken a walk down the bombing corridor in CMC, Vellore will tell you the same thing!
zoo signs
zoo signs
picture of funny zoo sign

And finally, what every zoo-keeper desperately tries to make us humans understand - Leave the animals alone! Just look. Don't bother them. In the first picture however, the zookeeper seems to have mistaken a lion for a tiger. The last picture comes from our small local zoo in Shillong! Yes, Shillong has a zoo! Bring your kids!
zoo signs
zoo signs

Linkorama 28/1/11

I think I should write my posts in the middle of the night - yesterday's post seems to have tickled quite a few people! And I thought it was just some gas! Interesting observation - all the responses so far have come from ladies! Wonder why....

BIBLE READING PLAN UPDATE: Jon Acuff brags about his success rate so far in this hilarious post. I must confess, I am now an embarrassing number of days behind! But we are taking a weekend retreat/holiday when I hope to catch up! Hope some of you at least can boast of an average of 100 in this regard!

WHAT NOT TO DO IN A SHOPPING MALL: This is for all you men out there who are looking for an excuse to get out of shopping! This letter has at least 7 good ideas! It may or may not be true, but it sure is hilarious! (HT:22 Words)

WHAT'S HAPPENED TO MY HANDWRITING: A sad but true occurrence in our modern world! By the way, my name has only 1 T!! (HT: Vit Z)

CHRISTIAN TALK SHOW HOST: Definitely unchristian-like behaviour, I deem. But hilarious all the same. I love the way the co-host tries to salvage the situation!

The journey of a blog post

Heeding some advice I have received, I will desist from my usual, heavy, pessimistic stuff today! Also, it's rather late and I am rather tired and so something lighter will have to do (using rather twice in the same sentence is an indication of my state of mind!). I have been thinking of writing the story of a blog post for some time now, so here goes! It is, surprisingly, not so straightforward as it seems. The first problem is the eternal question - what should I write about?!! Surprising as it may sound, thinking of something at least somewhat original every few days is not exactly a piece of cake. I seriously applaud the daily bloggers who manage to maintain the standard as well as focus of their blogs. As you can see, mine ranges far and wide!! Mainly because I just start writing on the first thing that pops into my head and keep going from there (before any of you alert readers think I am contradicting myself, this post is an exception!!). I remember thinking when I began writing that I would never run out as there was so much in the universe to write about, now I am wondering where it has all disappeared!

Once the topic has taken shape in the mind, moving it onto the screen is the next step. This is easier said than done as there are many hurdles that contrive to obstruct smooth progress of the idea from brain to bytes. The first is the cold. Blogging in Shillong in the winter is not a very pleasant thing. As, in order to do it, one has to get out from under the covers. Here I must make a rather shamefaced confession. Our normal routine after coming back from work (whatever the time is) is to change as quickly as possible and then dive under the blankets in the bedroom. The house is really too cold to do anything else. Once under, it just seems wrong to get out into the cold again. The only reason to leave after that is to get dinner (which we have found is tastiest when eaten in bed!!). The unfortunate person whose turn it is to get it, invariably postpones this terrible event for as long as possible, leading to situations when the fear of the cold manages to overcome the pangs of hunger and we 'fast' for the night! And to make matters more interesting, our microwave has decided to give up the ghost meaning that food from the fridge can never be part of our evening menu! The end result of our routine is that our bed has come to represent a warm island in the sea of cold around us. As a result of which we have adjusted most of our activities of daily living to revolve around the bed! There are 2 bedside tables overflowing with books, medicines, snacks, empty plates and an assortment of other things whose purpose I am yet to fathom.

But I digress. When the cold set in, I realised that getting out from under the covers to blog was not compatible with a happy life and so we now have a chair next to the bed which holds the computer. Which has made things easier. But on the coldest days, it is still difficult to begin to write as this eventually involves raising at least the upper half of your body out of the blankets. And as I mentioned this is not exactly compatible with a happy life!

The next step of the blog post writing is the mood adjustment. Often a post will be halfway through before I realise that my mood is not conducive to writing on the particular topic. Many are the times I have read what I have written, wondered who would ever consider even glancing through such unmitigated nonsense and in a fit of fury delete the whole thing. (This is in grave danger of happening to this post as well!!) And if the thoughts stop flowing, it's time to quit. For once I am stuck, however long I ruminate and cogitate, it is unlikely I will ever be able to continue - such are the vagaries of my mind. Many are the unfinished posts languishing in the 'post graveyard' that is my dashboard.

Once the cold has been taken care of and the mind freed of encumberances, the next obstacle to successful blog writing emerges. Web distractions. Mail before posts is a prioritisation I have maintained ever since I started, mainly to see which posts (if any) have comments!! And being a regular reader of a few other blogs, there is always the temptation to have a quick look and see what's going on out there. Of course, it's never a quick look! And as happened today, a perfectly good idea for a post will have to be postponed in favour of some pure gas like this, due to the lateness of the hour caused by unmonitored browsing.

The next step is usually the easiest - typing out the post. This does not take too long. But as soon as the typing is over comes the inevitable feeling of inadequacy. This can't be good enough.... Who'd want to read this..... It is then that I turn in desperation to my wife, who by now is always fast asleep (blest as we are with two exactly opposite routines - she is ready for bed just when I enter my most productive hours!). Waking her from sleep sounds cruel, but at that point of time, is a total necessity. I could not dream of publishing the post without her approval. And neither will my intense nature allow me to postpone publishing till the morrow. So with tender endearments I proceed to arouse the sleeping beauty. It is a measure of my sweetheart's immense patience and forbearance and (hopefully) her love for me that I have been allowed to continue this routine for nearly 6 months without being thrown out of house and home!!

Once approval is granted (though sometimes she cannot even remember the topic in the morning!) comes the struggle to publish. Being blessed with a homozygous dominant perfection gene, the number of revisions for each post can range from 2 to 22 or even more depending on the lateness of the hour. With each proof reading new errors crop up and I feel unfulfilled until I have everything down to a T. It is usually during this time that the internet plays up as well and makes publishing a long, drawn-out and irritating affair. I have sometimes had to postpone publishing a post to the morrow for fear that in my tiredness and irritability at the unhelpful and unkind internet, I will waste a good topic with some bad writing or editing.

But finally, the post is done. It goes up on the page and the wait begins for a comment. But, as most of you bloggers out there know, the accomplishment of having finished the post overrides all the prior inconveniences. And the feeling of creating something original and interesting so inspires, that I actually start the whole process again the next day!

UPDATE: Thanks to the anonymous reader who pointed out the (now corrected) typo - it was an hilarious coincidence, I agree!
UPDATE2: The reader is now identified - it's Black Mamba!!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Linkorama 27/1/11

TWIN BOYS MURDERED IN AUSTRALIA: A wave of shock and outrage has passed through the blogosphere with the news that twin boys were murdered in the womb in Australia after in-vitro fertilisation as the parents wanted a girl baby after having 3 boys. The pro-choice movement is strangely silent as they grope for a good response to this news. It is a bit ironical for us Indians, though, where exactly the opposite thing happens - it's the little girls who are murdered by doctors and parents who want a boy.

ISN'T THIS ABORTION: Another story doing the rounds on the pro-life blogs was that of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, a family practitioner in Philadelphia who conducted thousands of abortions over 20 years of practices. He has been arrested and charged with murder. His crime - delivering preterm babies alive and then killing them by cutting the spinal cord instead of the usual method of dismembering them in the womb thus killing them before birth. I find it difficult to believe that otherwise logical people can ever say this is different from abortion.......

INTERVIEW WITH BILLY GRAHAM: The best known evengelist of the 20th century talks about his life, aging, and his regrets for getting involved with politicians in this interview with Christianity Today.

DEATH OF FACEBOOK: This blogger predicts the death of facebook just like all other previous social networking endeavours. Not in the near future anyway considering these figures! (HT: Challies)

FUNNY OR NOT - YOU DECIDE: I usually do not post this sort of stuff, but this one was too innovative to leave out. I thought it was funny, but if there are any out there who are offended, I do apologise. (HT: Vit Z)

Google rocks

I realised that posting infographics at the end of a linkorama makes the post huge and unwieldy. So this one gets a post to itself. Anyway, I thought it was well deserved for an organisation that is slowly becoming the most important organiser and distributer of our world's information (challenged of course by facebook). (HT: Royal Pingdom)
Google infographic

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Republic Day musings

Happy 62nd Republic Day, everyone! Another national event. Another holiday. In fact, truth be told, it is likely that the only way the 26th of January affects our life is that we get a holiday! (Although we somehow managed to have a full OT list today!!) For most of us, (including yours truly), there is hardly any 'patriotic feeling' or excitement about this day. We just enjoy the holiday and go back to life as usual. When we were children, there was great excitement about watching the parade on the neighbour's TV. But today, even that is rather passé given the vast variety of more interesting stuff that is available for our viewing pleasure! It is likely that if there were no holiday, Republic Day every year would pass by without anyone even realising it had come and gone. Rather like the birthday of some distant family member that you remember only if someone actually reminds you. Isn't it strange that in a country of a billion people, we can muster up so little patriotic fervor on one of the two days that we celebrate our country's liberation from colonialism. And the little excitement that we somehow force out pales in comparison with the wild jubilation of some friends from other parts of the world on their national holidays. Why is it that Indians seem to remember their nationalism only when watching cricket?!!

It is an anachronism that most Indians find it difficult to be proud of our country except when it comes to sporting achievement. For a nation blessed with so much natural, economic and human resources, it is a mystery that we are still considered among the 'developing nations'. Where for every rich and educated Indian, there are 2-3 others who are at the other end of the spectrum. Where (as a friend quoted on facebook) basic necessities (onions), comfort (petrol) and luxury (beer) sell for the same amount of money (Rs. 65). Where health care that is promised freely to all, is actually sold at astronimical amounts only to those who can afford it. And where, in true capitalistic fashion, the rich become richer and the poor..... well, are forgotten, to say the least.

I am sure that 62 years ago, when our founding fathers celebrated the implementation of our socialistic and poor-friendly Constitution, their dream for our nation 62 years down the line would have been a lot different from the reality today. Yes, I know 'India Shining' is a reality in some parts of our country and there is a lot to be grateful for and even proud of. Driving around our nation's capital, or travelling in it's metro are experiences that certainly make me feel good to be an Indian. But even in our capital, there is a huge dirty underbelly. And once you leave Delhi, the size of that underbelly just gets bigger and bigger. And in some places I have worked in, one can hardly see anything worth being proud of - it is just one big underbelly. And the underbelly is generally pushed under the carpet and forgotten. By the world, by our leaders and most unfortunately, by each of us. We are too busy with our own pursuit of happiness to worry about the sadness and deprivation around us.

It is ironical indeed that the occasion we celebrate today is the implementation of our Constitution. For that is the one institution that is under the greatest threat. Not just by the 543 jokers who have spent the last session of parliament collecting their salaries for doing nothing. But by the stranglehold that the devil of corruption has on the carotids of our nation. Starting from those 543 jokers (give or take a few) and reaching down to the lowest minion on the government payroll (again, give or take a few), making money on the side is considered not just a right, but a duty. And so the well-written government programmes and schemes eventually become a farce. And the proof of the pudding is the fact that even the so-called last bastions in South India have been shown up in their true colours in the last few months. The darkness is deepening and the few beacons of light have been dimmed.

In these circumstances it is sometimes difficult to 'celebrate' Republic Day. Our nation has great things to offer to the world (and not just in the sporting arena), but until we put our house in order our triumphs will all be empty. For if even one person dies because of starvation, or extremes of climate, or treatable disease, it means that however loudly we may shout about our progress, however vociferously we may argue for our acceptance into the Security Council of the UN, however proud we may feel about our diaspora, we have miles to go in our attempt to establish a democratic, secular, socialist state. And though we may hide the truth for a time, it is sure to come back and haunt us.

So as I reflect upon 62 years as a republic, I know that there is so much to be grateful for. But there is so much more to be done. And if my beloved country has to embrace it's true stature and destiny in the world, I have to play my part. For if I look to others to get the job done, I will be failing in my duty for mere laziness or selfishness. And only if I am playing my part fully, in the great script of our country's progress, will I be able to celebrate Republic Day with a clear conscience and a free mind. And that is something I really wish to do. For there is much worth celebrating in this wonderful land. Jai Hind!

Republic Day Linkorama 26/1/11

PRESIDENT PATIL'S REPUBLIC DAY SPEECH: Mrs. Pratibha Patil has not been as bad a president as some would have had us believe she would be when she started. In her Republic Day Eve address, she addressed most of the topics that desperately need to be addressed by our leaders - the price rise, corruption, eradication of poverty, food production and distribution and, surprise, surprise, one of my pet topics - ragging!

MY FAVOURITE TAGORE POEM: Mrs. Patil's speechwriters made sure she said all the right things. But they can't compare with the beauty of this well-known favourite from Tagore - my prayer for my nation this Republic Day. (Did you know he had a house in Shillong?!)

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

SHOWCASING INDIA'S MILITARY MIGHT: Being a pacifist at heart, I am often confused about the necessity of our huge defense budget when there are more pressing needs at hand. But Republic Day is the day we honour our fallen heroes who have died defending our nation and who are remembered at the start of the parade when the Prime Minister lays a wreath at Amar Jawan Jothi and 2 minutes of silence is observed. The highlight this year was the participation of the indigenously built Tejas Light Combat Aircraft for the first time in a Republic day Parade. Here is the programme for the parade as well as a few pictures.

Check out the mustaches!
The Tejas Trainer
And of course, the Daredevils
The daredevil stunts of motorcycle riders, during the full dress rehearsal for the Republic Day Parade-2011, in New Delhi on January 23, 2011

THE DAREDEVILS: The Daredevil motorcycle team of the Army(of Guinness book fame) have enthralled us for many years on Republic Day and are easily my favourite part of the parade. I'm sure my brother will love the fact that they drive Bullets! This is a link to some more pictures of their exploits this year and here is a video that tells their story in brief.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

For I am gentle and humble of heart

Recently, one of my friends who is planning to emigrate to the US told me that the reason he was going was because he was tired of working in situations where the other members of the team did not conform to the high standards of patient care that he himself believed in. He much preferred to work in a situation where every member of the team took pride in his or her job and hence fulfilled it to the best of his or her ability. While I did argue with him on that point and I know there are hardly any places on earth with perfect working conditions, I understood what he was saying. Often, we are faced with situations where other members of the team appear to have a different set of standards. In medical practice, this is often more because of ignorance rather than indifference, though not always so.

Those who know me well, know that keeping my cool in the face of ignorance or incompetence is not my specialty. And over the last few weeks, as the patient load increases and with it the stress for all the staff, I have come face to face with a number of situations where small mistakes have been made in the functioning of our team. While, for the most part, I have tided over the crises without too much increase of my blood pressure, there have been at least 2 occasions when my temper has got the better of me. Now usually, I would go on without too much concern or introspection, for after all, it was in the interest of good patient care that my hackles were raised. But that was till I went to church last Sunday.

Last Sunday, Amy was asked to sing in the main English church here in Shillong. She gave a stirring rendition of 'Where there is faith' by All4Him. I had goose bumps by the time she finished and the preacher said in his sermon that it was the first time he had heard clapping in the church after a special number! But gratifying as that was, that is not the point of this post! The pastor obviously did not have a very high impression of doctors. He even said that he knew some doctors who deserved to be beaten up! Hardly surprising given the morass our profession is in at the moment in this country. So he made it a point to deliver a lot of his sermon directly at me, which was easy as I was sitting in the front row of the church!

And one of his points hit home hard - Be gentle, doctor, he said, pointing directly at me. Be humble of heart. Coming as it did right on the heels of one of my flare-ups, I was squirming in my seat. Gentleness is one of the traits that my character has extremely minuscule quantities of, if at all. But as I look at the men of God I know, starting with my father, I can see that gentleness is one of the common characters that they share. In the world of today, aggressiveness and ambition are highly desirable qualities. It is often more likely that you will get what you want by raising your voice than by being gentle. But the challenge is to transcend human pettiness to reach a level where my gentleness is not misconstrued as a sign of weakness, but rather, of deep inner strength. And every time I display my petulance, I not only weaken my witness, but also diminish my effectiveness. Being gentle - how easy it sounds. But this world and my heart are not used to it......

"Nothing is so strong as gentleness. Nothing is so gentle as real strength." — Ralph W.Sockman

"I choose gentleness... Nothing is won by force. I choose to be gentle. If I raise my voice may it be only in praise. If I clench my fist, may it be only in prayer. If I make a demand, may it be only of myself. " — Max Lucado

Linkorama 25/1/11

Long time since my last linko - so some old links! And as they gather dust in my bookmarks, I often forget the original source.... Please forgive me!!

SUB-ZERO TEMPERATURES IN SHILLONG: We have been in the midst of a cold-wave for the last week or so. Apparently there is an air-trough of some sort over us, which is causing the low temperatures. Cold as it is, we are really thankful to God for warm clothes and the excellent heater which keeps us warm - there must be many out there who are suffering in this weather.

A TESTAMENT TO GOD'S FAITHFULNESS: A beautiful post from an old friend whom I reconnected with on the blogosphere! Read through her refreshing (and popular) blog.

THE MILLENIALS: We've all heard of the Baby Boomers. Now there's a new demographic group who are promising to play an important role in shaping the new century. This post talks about the Millenials and their particular characteristics.

CRAZY DRUMMER: One of the funniest drum videos I have seen. The drummer is in another world altogether. Someone said he was fighting Ninjas!!

FACEBOOK INFOGRAPHIC: Every now and again, new facebook stats come up. Here are some interesting facts on the FB phenomenon.
Obsessed with Facebook

Discipline is not so easy!

Off the internet for more than a week! Not voluntarily, I may add - though that would have been a great accomplishment! When I began this blog in earnest, I always thought it would not be too difficult to write regularly. Since Amy is an early sleeper and dozes off just when my most productive hours begin (isn't it amazing how many families have this same interesting situation!), I thought it would not be too difficult to put down something at least once in 2 or 3 days. Of course, I had not figured in the possibility that the mind sometimes just refuses to follow a discipline at extremes of tiredness. And also, there will be times when my mind is just not in a state to put down something even mildly interesting thanks to the lowness of mood that is a part and parcel of life on earth. So as I recover from both the tiredness of a week on duty as well as the depression that comes when what I preach is not reflected in what I practice (more on this later), I remind myself that discipline is something that does not come naturally to me. And it is in times of stress and tiredness that discipline is important, not when all is hunky-dory! Of course, as the time I spend at work increases, I may have to re-prioritise my time spent on the blog. But till then, if there is no post for more than 4 -5 days, it is likely that I am in need of prayer and I do request the few of you who read this blog to uphold me at those times......

Monday, January 17, 2011

How much is a doctor worth

Recently, one of my friends who is the Medical Superintendent of a mission hospital asked me the question that is debated at some point in every medical circle - how much should a doctor be paid? The more I reflect upon this question, the harder it is to answer! And having heard many opinions on the topic especially in the operating theatre lounge at Vellore, I know that there is no clear answer to the question. As far as I have understood from all the discussions I have had with different groups, the vast majority of doctors (at least in India) believe they are getting paid too little and I am sure that any view I express here to the contrary will not be taken kindly, especially as the majority of my readers are doctors in India!! But it is an area of great interest for me, as after all, working in a mission hospital will mean at some point becoming involved in these sort of discussions and I realise it is important to have some idea at least of the ground realities involved.

Now the first observation I have to make is one that I feel everyone will agree with. In a Utopian society, all men are equal and the nature of their work does not place them higher or lower on the social or financial scale. So in this ideal world, all men have their needs taken care of and the janitor knows his work is as important as the CEO. Thus there is camaraderie and justice for all and there is no major distinction between the 'biggest' and the 'smallest' person in the hospital - they are both valued for their work and both carry out their particular responsibilities to the best of their ability. Unfortunately, our country has been doggedly moving in exactly the opposite direction for so long that this ideal society will never be a reality until the New Jerusalem comes.

But there are a few places that seem to approach this ideal society. My limited knowledge leads me to believe that the Aurobindo ashram is one such place. But more interesting is the example of the Christian Fellowship Hospital, Oddanchatram. Here, even today, there is not a huge difference between the highest and the lowest salaries paid to employees of the hospital. There are 90 odd doctors working there, many of whom have made lifetime commitments. And some of my friends who work there are more than happy with their life, although their remuneration is about a quarter (or less!) of what they would get anywhere else! I am sure there will be discordant voices, but this is my general impression after spending a week there last year. And Christian Medical College, Vellore, itself had a similar policy till recently, when it was deemed impossible to retain doctors on those salaries.

But for the most part, doctors believe they should be on the higher end of the pay-scale and are unhappy when they are not. There are many reasons for this. The first argument is that a doctor spends more years in training than most other professions. This is true of course, and is my response to any young person asking me about my profession. It's just great to be a doctor provided you have the patience to struggle through a training period that lasts for 10 years or more. And of course, after your undergraduate studies, there is the huge hurdle of the post-graduate exams to cross. Unless you were born with a golden spoon, or are part of a community that has special reservations in the various colleges, admission into a medical undergraduate or postgraduate course is not really an easy thing. And often, when huge amounts of money change hands in the process of gaining admission to a course (and sometimes, even in the process of passing the exams to leave the same course!) there is a subconscious feeling that some payback is due. And so, every opportunity to make money is grabbed, often forgetting the greater issues at stake.

And what are these greater issues? In my mind (and as I say this I know there will be differences of opinion, for which I apologise!), the greatest issue that should engage the mind and heart of a medical professional is this - Is the purpose of spending so many years of my life in training to be a doctor just so that I can bank huge amounts of money and live a comfortable life? Or is there a greater purpose? Can I use the gift of my training and skills to change the lives of people who have nowhere else to go? There are many ways to do this. One is through groundbreaking research that will bring new knowledge into a particular disease process and its treatment. Another is by innovative utilisation of new technology that will bring diagnostic and therapeutic benefit in a particular field. These forms of medical involvement often call for skills and mental capability that are given only to few. Most of us have to find more of a 'mundane' way to utilise our skills and knowledge. And for most of us, that involves practice of medicine in the area we are trained in, to the best of our ability.

So here is the next question - where should I practice my skill? Am I like a commodity that is to be sold to the highest bidder? Or can I make a decision based on my understanding of where my services will be most worthwhile.... And work in an 'area of need'. Now, with the commercialisation of medicine and the huge investment being pumped into the health sector, new corporate hospitals are a dime a dozen. It is very easy to find a job that pays a 6-figure monthly salary as long as you have some basic skills and are good at public relations. But the problem with all our doctors clamouring for these jobs is that there are so few left to work where the need actually is. You see, the private hospitals cater mainly to the cream of our population. And they have all options open to them. It is the poor who have no options. And so very few doctors and health care systems in place to take care of them. Of course, our government health system is one of the best in the world on paper, but we all know that what is on paper is hardly what is the reality. And so, as is expected in a capitalistic society, the poor get marginalised even when it comes to health....

So that brings me back to the initial question - how much is a doctor worth? I guess, the figure is astronomical, considering the training and the effort involved. But that does not mean he or she needs to be paid as much. For the whole purpose of choosing to be make a difference means that something has to give somewhere. And the moment a doctor decides to work in a particular place without looking at the salary, his or her work takes on a new dimension. And the doctor will find the strange satisfaction that comes when our work is solely for the benefit of others and there are no strings attached. Of course, our needs have to be met, but in today's world, I do not think there is any place where the salary is so low that a doctor needs to struggle for existence. (As compared to the days when monthly packages were in the low 3-figures!).

So, my answer to the question - how much is a doctor is worth, is - priceless. But if you ask me how much he or she should be paid, my answer would be - it does not matter. So long as we are not begging for my daily bread, I believe there is great joy and satisfaction in knowing that our work is for a higher purpose than money. Of course, we may not have a mansion to live in, drive an expensive car or take holidays in the Bahamas. But our lives will begin to approach the abundance of joy that everyone erroneously seems to believe comes from huge amounts of money. Of course, money does bring many material things and with them, a form of happiness. And most of us are satisfied with this form of happiness, thus missing the even greater joy and satisfaction that can come when money is no longer in the picture. A joy that is independent of materialism. A satisfaction that is deeper than anything money can buy.

We need more people who can model this lifestyle for us right from our days in medical colleges. For in today's world, the majority of our doctors are seeking success solely from a monetary perspective. There is little or no interest in defining 'success' in any other way. And in this system, doctors will slowly lose their position of respect in society. For they become nothing more than vultures, seeking to profit from the suffering and (and sometimes, death) of others.......

(This is a rather long post, but, believe it or not, I have more to say on the subject!! Part 2 will follow sometime!!)

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Linkorama 16/1/11

When I was 7 or 8 years old, my parents read us a Patricia St. John book about a child whose father was a missionary doctor and my fascination with missionaries began. Today's links all have a missionary connection - sometimes the things I read make me want to up and away to some jungle right now!! Fortunately, I have a sane wife who reminds me that serving God can happen right now, even where I am..... Something I often tend to forget.....

MARTYRED IN CHINA: Tim Challies tells the moving but little-known story of John and Betty Stam, who were martyred in China in the early part of this century. We all know the story of the 5 martyrs in Ecuador, but there must be so many more who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the service of their Lord whom we have not heard of. Surely their mansions in heaven will be no less glorious..... Here are Part 1 and Part 2 of the story of the Stams.

MODERN DAY MISSIONARY: I came across this blog of a missionary with the Africa Inland Mission through this story of a pastor in southern Sudan whose life is a true story of transformation. We all know of the unrest going on in East Africa, but I guess there are too many things going on in our own lives to really get involved. The number are unbelievable - 1 million dead in Rwanda, 2 million in Sudan, 5 million in Congo..... And these are just the conservative estimates. Not to mention the millions more scarred for life through loss of loved ones, belongings, homes...... Let us prayerfully uphold these fellow human-beings.... And be always open and ready to a call to be of practical service to them.....(HT:TC)

MISSION WHERE YOU ARE: Here is the story of a couple in Houston who have been feeding 60-120 homeless people for the last year or so. It is an inspiration to me, as I am again reminded that mission starts right from home and there are many people needing help in every place on this planet - whether in the deepest jungle or in the poshest city. Of course, this couple has come up against some official roadblocks (aren't we familiar with those in India!), but that does not retract from the example they are showing of being open to God's call to serve wherever you are and whatever you do. (Btw, the husband is a rapper...!) (HT: TC)

MY FAVOURITE MISSIONARY STORY: Well, one of my top 3 at least! The story of the first missionary doctor to leave the shores of the America. To go through estrangement from your family for your decision. The death of your only daughter soon after you land in the foreign land. The loss of your next two children to disease. Sending your first two children who survive back home for their studies on a ship in the care of the captain at the tender ages of 8 and 6! Making your first trip back home after 23 years (having never planned to return in the first place!). It is a true story of the call of God being greater than any human consideration. And the results are there for all to see. All his 9 children came back to India to serve as missionaries. In total, 42 members of 4 generations of the family devoted more than 1100 combined years of service to this land. Their contributions include the Madras Christian College, Voorhees College, many schools and medical institutes, the formation and growth of the Arcot church and, most importantly for me, the foundation of Christian Medical College, Vellore. The story of Dr. John Scudder and his descendants is an inspiration for us all.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Brisbane floods

The Brisbane floods have been much on our minds and in the news for the last few days. What a terrible thing to happen to one of the most prosperous cities in the world. We pray for all those who have been seriously affected by the floods and hope that the clean-up will not be as time-consuming or costly as expected. Here is a report of the floods when they were at their worst. This is a video showing the city from the air and here are some pictures of residents beginning to put back together what remains of their lives and homes.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Linkorama 13/1/11

For some reason, todays links are a little depressogenic, perhaps reflecting my mood....

SALMAN TASHEER'S SONS SPEAK ABOUT THEIR FATHER'S MURDER: The sad story of the killing of Salman Taseer has been on blogs and news articles. I came across articles written by two of his sons on their father's death - his Indian son, Aatish and one in Pakistan, Sherhbano.

THE DEATH OF A HUSBAND: This is one of the few blog posts I have read that brought tears to my eyes. How difficult to lose your young husband to the flu 2 days before Christmas. And to write about it in such a moving way...... (HT:TC)

LOOSE CHANGE TO LOOSEN CHAINS: On a happier note, I came across the story of Zac Hunter, a modern day abolitionist (Thanks Pradeep). At the age of 12, he heard about the 27 million slaves in the world and decided to do something about it. It started by looking through his house for loose change he could give. He took the idea to his school from where it slowly spread. The organisation, Loose change to loosen chains was the result. An amazing story of a boy who is making a difference. His latest blog post gives his perspective of the problem. Reminded me of Lila Rose.... What am I doing.....

OUR WORLD'S POPULATION: Today's video from National Geographic tell the story of the 7 billion people on our planet. (HT:TC)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The miracle we have been waiting for

One of the greatest challenges of working in a small hospital is the outdated understanding most places have of the role of aggressive resuscitation of sick patients. Our hospital is no different. And the reason is obvious. For many years, it has been noticed by all the staff that once a patient started gasping, he or she invariably died! Subconsciously, the words 'patient gasping' come to signify impending death. And that subconsciously guides the aggressiveness of resuscitation that was offered (which, for the most part, is minimal).

This was the same in my hospital in Jharkhand. In those days (listen to me sounding like an old sage!!), there was no intercom. And so, if the nurses in the ward wanted to contact any of the doctors, the age-old 'copy' system applied. (Copy, as in a small notebook.) It was a well-oiled system. The first step was of course, that the patient started gasping. The second step was that the nurse on duty had to notice that the patient was gasping. This was not always as easy as it sounds, as at night, there was an acute shortage of nurses and one nurse would be managing 2 or 3 wards! So if the nurse happened to be in another ward, it depended on the relative of the patient to alert her to the situation. This was not always possible as the relative was usually under the bed of the patient, soundly asleep! But the moment the relative (usually female) identified the patient was taking his or her last few breaths, the whole hospital would then be alerted to the situation. For a loud wailing would ring through the corridors as the relative rushed to inform the other relatives who were waiting outside of the impending doom.

It was usually at this stage that the effective information mechanism (earlier termed the 'copy' system) rolled into action. The 2 or 3 nursed on duty would gather in the ward of the sick patient and chalk out the strategy. The junior-most would be dispatched to find the on-call chowkidar. This was not always an easy task, as this personality would have found himself a cosy place to spend the night in dreamless slumber (often the result of liquid intoxicants!). The other sister(s) would then proceed to write the dreaded words in the 'copy' - 'patient gasping'. When the grumpy chowkidar had finally been feretted out he was then handed the copy and sent to find the doctor. As some of the chowkidars (which, by the way, means guard) were well past their prime and most had far too much association with the bottle than was good for them, the best effort they could muster up even in a situation of such extreme emergency was hardly more than a walk. So they would peacefully meander through the campus to the doctor's residence with the precious 'copy' in their hand! In most cases, even if the doctor charged at full pelt back to the ward (and there were some who even used bicycles!), the patient had long gone to meet his or her Maker. In fact, some of the doctors would not even bother rushing to the ward as they felt it was pointless. Better to go slowly and declare the patient rather than have to wait in the ward till the actual point of death!

Thanks to some young and aggressive consultants, over the two years I was in Jharkhand had many discussions and arguments with the people involved about the need for aggressive resuscitation. Slowly, the wards began to have resuscitation trolleys and nurses began to anticipate problems rather than send namesake 'patient gasping' summons. And technology lent a helping hand - the intercom arrived which drastically reduced the response time of the doctors. And I remember very clearly at least 4 patients who arrested, were intubated and actually lived to tell the tale. Well worth the many hundreds of times we rushed to the ward to intubate a patient who finally succumbed to his or her illness.

Here in Shillong, things were nowhere as bad as they were in Jharkhand. But the aggressive attitude that is called for in acute resuscitation was still not a normal response to a sick patient among the hospital staff. Though things improved over time and the age-old ventilator began to be used, we were still waiting for the first miracle to happen - a patient who had arrested being revived after intubation. It was obvious that unless this happened, the subconscious feeling of the inevitability of death once the patient started gasping would always remain.

Well, after nearly 2 years, it has finally happened. A 72 year old man came to us 10 days ago with a 5-day old gastric perforation. We operated him and his abdominal problem was settling. But his chest just got worse and worse. A smoker with more than 80 pack years (Packs smoked per day x years as a smoker) behind him, even aggressive chest physiotherapy including suctioning the thick black secretions from the trachea every few hours (all you smokers out there, beware!) did not prevent him from gradually developing respiratory failure and arresting. Fortunately Amy was in the ward when it happened and resuscitated him. And today, after 4 days on the endotracheal tube, he was extubated. Of course, we don't know if he will make it to his home yet - he still remains extremely weak. But there is much joy in our hearts for after all this time, we can finally show that it is worthwhile to aggressively resuscitate patients, at least for the sake of the 1 person who will make it. And we thank God for his miracle in the life of this sweet old man.

P.S. - Sorry for this long post - wasn't planning on it..... it just kept going!!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

God's provision in the face of corruption

Last Sunday we went to Guwahati. It seems that all my run-ins with corruption happen there! After completing our business(!), we were on our way back when I made a wrong turn. Just as I was making the turn, I heard a policeman whistling away and running after us - I had just turned into a one-way street. Of course, there was nary a sign to warn unsuspecting visitors like us. It was the beginning of a 20 minute long ordeal. The policemen and his 2 associates made it quite clear that paying a fine was the only way I was going to escape going to court. I made it quite clear that I was paying nothing without seeing a receipt, which of course served to irritate them even further. The fact that I from South India (which was obvious from the number plate on my car) only worsened matters. I have no clue how affairs may have turned out had it not been for a friend who was travelling with us who made an impassioned plea for leniency as she had to return to Shillong for night duty.... The policemen then vented his frustration on me by verbally assaulting me with a few choice phrases at the top of his lungs, but more importantly, let us go! For once, it was truly a case of 'sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!' I was so relieved to be let off that even if he had insulted every living (and dead!) relative of mine, I would still have quietly walked away!

I learnt 2 lessons that day. The first was that in situations like this, the challenge is not just about not paying the bribe. The challenge is to bring in the Kingdom value of 'peace that passes understanding', which is independent of circumstance, into the situation. If Paul and Silas could sing and praise from behind the bars of a prison, why could I not know that my situation was always in control, when all that I was faced with was a piddly bribe! I could have saved myself much anguish had I remained calm during the whole episode and who knows, I may have been able to be a silent witness in the situation. Instead, I only served to irritate the policemen and receive a volley of insult that I could very well have done without! This whole business of building the Kingdom of God in my heart is really rather difficult!

My second lesson was of God's provision in difficult circumstances. Had it not been for my friend (who was only travelling with us by chance) who was able to interact with the policeman and induce him to let us off, I may have had to attend a court hearing in Guwahati sometime this week! So, difficult experience though it was, I came away thanking God for friends and for His perfect provisions. And I pray that my faith will grow to the stage when one day, I too, will be able to sing behind prison bars....

Monday, January 10, 2011

Linkorama 10/1/11

WEEKLY ABORTION STAT: Did you know that in 2009, 39% of pregnancies in New York City ended in abortion? And in some parts of the city nearly one out of every 2 children conceived was murdered in the womb.... A sobering statistic and possibly a sign of things to come..... (HT: JT)

HOW ARE YOU DOING WITH YOUR BIBLE READING PLAN: A few of you (ok, three of you!!) wrote to tell me you had started a Bible-reading plan after reading the link I had posted. (Thanks so much for your feedback - its what keeps this blog going.) As for me, I have had some minor setbacks to my own plan, though none that are irreparable!! So if your New Year Resolutions are hitting rough weather already, take a quick look at this entertaining post with some pointers on how to stay on track!

FUN VIDEO: Today's fun video is from a sport I am just about beginning to understand. But the amazing trick play is clear even to an American football illiterate! I'm sure there's a sermon illustration in here somewhere!! (HT: DB)

FUN INFOGRAPHIC: This is pointless, but funny! I've been saving it up for a rainy day! Enjoy. (HT:Z)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Maggi and the joy of cooking

I guess one of the biggest changes in me after nearly 2 years of marriage is that I now know what the inside of the kitchen looks like! Having spent 30 years living like a king and never wondering how food seemed to magically appear on the table at meal times and then clear itself up in time for next one, I had only a very vague idea of the workings of the home food factory. But as as all my friends loved to tell me during the many years I remained a bachelor while they made rapid progress (though some used to term it regress!) in marriage and family life, things change after marriage!! Of course, Amy was more than happy to slip quietly into the role of primary meal-maker and looking back, I guess I should have left it like that! But being the calculative Malayali that I am, I decided that cooking was a great way to gain brownie points to make up for all my wild ideas and the trouble they generally get me into! So, one fateful day, a few months into our marriage, I made the grand announcement that, starting from then, I would be in-charge of all culinary activities. Oh, what a moment of foolishness......

In the months that have since gone by, I realised that the scheme has completely backfired! Far from gaining brownie points as I had hoped, I have been losing them as I slowly woke up to the reality that cooking at the end (or the beginning) of a busy day at work is a singularly difficult occupation. Of course, on the (few) days that everything goes well, we finish early and I am not on call, it is possible to run to the shop, pick up some exciting stuff, rummage through the library of cookbooks that I have collected (ranging from The Foolproof cookbook for idiots like me to the gourmet Khana Khazana by the famous Sanjeev Kapur) and concoct a meal that does not insult the palate. But on most days, this amount of time and energy is a huge luxury and desperate measures are called for. And it is on those days that my status as family provider is seriously called into question!

In my previous post on the topic, I had described some of my shortcuts to quick and easy meals. But what does one do when there is neither time nor energy even for one of those. At the end of the day, in a town where everything (including restaurants) closes by 8 pm, staring at an empty fridge at 10 pm is one of the most depressing events of life! Amy being a woman not only of great patience, but also wisdom and sagacity, realised soon enough that my great promises of putting food on the table on a regular basis were a bit of truth bundled together with a lot of hot air. So after a few occasions of Kurkure/Aloo Bhujia/digestive biscuit and water meals, she began to come up with alternate solutions.

The most long-lasting of these was Maggi. Even now I feel like a nitwit for not having thought of that! Though it is a little embarrassing to cart large numbers of Maggi cartons home with us every time we go shopping, it has been a godsend to our eating adventures. And the best part of cooking Maggi is that not only is it quick, but it can be made in a number of different ways. Over the last 6 months or so, I have used every single ingredient in the kitchen in one combination or another as the variety of our menu (ie. things other than Maggi!) slowly regressed. Sometimes (especially when we were hungry!), these combinations were spot on. Of course, they were unrepeatable as by the next day I had totally forgotten the combination. But on many days, the offerings were discoloured, sticky blobs of matter, that could barely be identified as having originated in a Maggi packet.

But amazingly, through all this gastronomic torture, Amy has been most encouraging and supportive. Only rarely, when there has been an especially bad end result, does she pretend to not be hungry! On most occassions, she greets these disasters with great enthusiasm and makes me feel that I am Sanjeev Kapoor himself! And so I doggedly press on, in the hope that one day, my offerings to her palate will reach the standards she so richly deserves. Until that time, my best bet is to buy some shares in Maggi, for judging by our level of consumption, it is bound to be a worthwhile investment!