Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Domestic Violence and the Bharatiya Nari

 A woman patient was referred this morning from the casualty/emergency department for pain on the face and jaws. Before speaking to the patient it is customary to read up on the name, age and other details from the case notes written by the emergency doctor who had checked her in. There was a small red marking on her case notes, in the top left corner, a question mark with the words “MLC” written beside it. Which meant in doc-speak – “Be Alert” possible medico-legal case, with all the attendant complications to follow. And no wonder the others had deftly passed on this patient to me to deal with. A medico-legal case for your information involves any injury to a patient obtained through violence and the doctor attending should be ready to go to a court and give evidence of the actual injuries and sufferings of the patient. As we are all aware, this evidence business is not a one-time only thing in Indian courts, every time the case gets called to the court but also gets postponed the doctor has to be at the court again and again, neglecting all his other work. Now for a dozen medico-legal patients, think about how much time the doctor has to spend in court every month. Hence most doctors try to avoid getting involved in such patients.

Anyway this patient had ended up in front of me and I had to get on with it. So as I examined her and asked her what happened she told me the pain in the cheeks and jaws, especially around her jaw joint (the tempro-mandibular joint which connects the lower jaw to the upper jaw in front of the ears) was there ever since her husband had slapped her last night. And there I had my cue. So I asked her, if she was planning to give a police complaint against her husband for hitting her, under the domestic violence act. She shook her head and said vehemently and with noticeable pride that she had no intention of blaming her husband for anything and there was no chance of getting the police involved in what was now amicably settled between them. But it was my duty to have asked for the clarification and I had done my duty.

So having got that statement from her, I went on to examine her and found that she had no fracture of the jaw bones or joint but on the contrary her ear drum had burst on that side. When I mentioned this fact to her she said so proudly (and with a laugh) that her husband was so strong he had burst her ear with just one blow. So then I asked her why? Why he had struck her? Was it a regular thing? For this time she had been lucky, there was no major damage to her but the next time she could even end up dead if struck with such force in the wrong area of the face or head. But she didn’t answer my questions then, so I went on to order investigations and talk about treatment options. And finally when she was leaving with the prescription she volunteered the information that she was already taking medicines for infertility and she wanted to know if any of these medicines will interfere with those other drugs. When I asked her how long she was being treated for infertility she said five years and that’s the reason this quarrel happened. Her husband had said something about her not having a child all these years and she had retorted that the fault might not be on her side and she if he really wanted a child that bad, she would go sleep with someone, get pregnant and give her husband that child. And that’s when he had slapped her. After saying this, she took her prescription and left.

Later, when I was in the canteen and had some free time to think over the day’s events, I pondered over this strange drama. Why was that woman so proud of him, of his strength and of his violent behavior? Do some women get their kicks from being punched and thrown around? Is that at all possible? Or was she acting before me?  The woman had looked educated and was probably financially independent and could support herself without her husband. But she still hung on to him despite getting blows for her patience. This was contrary to all the media reports we read about educated and financially independent women not being victims of domestic violence and only the sole wage earning lower classes getting away with this sort of behavior. And she didn’t even have kids to worry about spoiling their future due to any action she took on her husband.

And as she said the infertility could be due to any number of causes on both sides. And none of which reasons excused the husband from hitting her violently. But she was actually proud of him in front of me, defending his right to hit her, refusing to give a police complaint, even thought the risk of a bigger injury in the near future was threatening. Did she love him that much? Or what was she thinking? I am merely a writer of medicines and I don’t have the answers to these complicated questions. Hell I don’t even have the answers to some of my own questions about what goes on in a woman’s mind (considering my distinct lack of success so far with the fairer sex). So I offer no expert analysis here. But maybe you my readers can help me with understanding this Bharatiya Nari's devotion to her abusive husband and why she keeps on clinging to him despite the risk to her life. I hope at least the female readers of my blog can explain the why to me. Do enlighten me....

Monday, November 26, 2012

Oh!! Those Greeks…

 Have you heard of this quotation “whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make to go mad”? It’s an explanation for the word “Hubris” from the old Greek Classics. Likewise, “Beware of Greeks bearing gifts,” is another favorite quotation of mine from the Homerian classic, The Iliad, where all wars are attributed to the fickleness of a woman’s mind. If you are now scratching your head and wondering why I am inflicting this kind of alpha, beta, pi variation of torture on you, it’s not just to show off my passing familiarity with Greek classics. It’s because woman and war are uppermost on my mind, right now at this late night or early morning (depending on your view) time when I am writing this post, having attended a get-together earlier today. And who better to quote on those two topics of woman and war, than those ancient Hellenic warriors and philosophers of yore?

Given all their recent economic trauma from the Euro-troubles, the Greeks are looked on disdainfully in modern times, by people who have forgotten their past glories. They may not be good with their economics. But they were magnificent when it came to literature, war and philosophy. Anyway to come back to the Greeks, not only did they produce gems like the Iliad and the Odyssey, they also left us with a view of the gods and fate that is far, far different from what later religions have tried to make us believe. The rise of Christianity in Europe and its widespread acceptance in just a few centuries of its founding stamped out all the old beliefs and religions, painting them as paganism. But some of the old sayings do ring true when viewed dispassionately.

God does not play dice with the fate of mankind said the towering intellect of the twentieth century Einstein. But those Greeks had a different view of the gods. An earthier view, so to say. They spoke of the gods as eternally bored immortals with all the capriciousness of a bored child. Consider, the Iliad, where Queen Helen makes a split second decision to cheat on her loving husband with the playboy Paris. The result, thousands dead, Troy sacked and an entire civilization wiped out. Now is that a sign of the gods playing dice or merely the fickleness of a single woman who chose temporary gratification over long term consequences? Can you hold just one woman responsible for the deaths of heroes like Hector and Achilles and for the exile of Aeneas from his beloved country? 

Or consider the Odyssey. The hero Odysseus, after much suffering in the Trojan wars, is just a day’s journey away from his home, when some of his men inadvertently hunt down a beast which is on a protected isle of a god, who then decides to take revenge by sending the hero away on a ten year long exile from his own land wandering the seas endlessly. Talk about proportionality in punishment. If that doesn’t speak of the mindless acts of gods what does?

 Or take the story of Hercules for instance. The greatest hero of old times successfully completes his twelve tasks which no mortal has ever done before. And what do the gods do? They drive him insane temporarily, make him kill his wife and children by his own hands and then bring him back to sanity to show him the enormity of what he has done, again driving him mad with grief and rage. If that’s not cruelty by the gods what is?

The point I am trying to make is that all the random acts which play havoc with our lives and which believers are at a disadvantage to defend against atheists, can be simply explained by the Greek philosophy of mad gods who play dice with us. Some things just happen. Things which can never be explained rationally. Like falling in love with the wrong person. And instead of looking for complicated philosophic reasons like the heart and its vagaries, it’s better to look for alternate explanations like a mad god who decided to have a little fun suddenly. That’s another way of looking at all the unexpected mysteries of life, the strange paths that life takes on a sudden turn.

And on that note, I would also like to add that it’s difficult for people to be in a common group of friends when someone else is also there who has turned one down earlier. The heart which is on the mend little by little suddenly gets exposed to all the old feelings which flow back in a rush of memories laying bare the old wounds. It’s like scratching at the healing scab of a wound and making the blood flow again. Not something I would recommend. And that’s when I remind myself of the word “Stoic”; a word invented by those Greeks, who knew a thing or two about facing pain. If you don’t know it, the word stoic denotes an otherworldly unconcern for pain amidst suffering. So things have to be endured sometimes for the sake of appearances and when a bunch of good friends have a get together and invite you, it would look churlish to refuse to go just to protect the healing heart from further injuries. So the memories have to be faced in person and the pain has to be endured afresh, all the while under an “I don’t give a damn anymore” kind of external facade and putting on a cheerful, bubbly act to prevent others guessing the truth. Very exhausting that is. Hiding under a pretense of joy.

So to conclude, O you Greek gods, stop interfering in the affairs of men. Go away. Go play other games. And Pallas Athena, Goddess of wisdom, may you grant me the strength to face my trials and tribulations wisely. To conquer my enemies. And to have the last laugh. Hail Minerva.

(Pics Courtesy : Google Images)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Stop the Bashing, You Ignorant ......

 Disclaimer- I am not an Iyer, I am not a Tamil Brahmin, or a Brahmin nor do I have a girlfriend who is an Iyer, or a Tam-Brahm or a Tamilian.

Now after reading the above disclaimer if you are wondering whether I have gone bonkers, it’s because I am going to talk about an advertisement which targets a specific community- the Iyers of Tamilnadu, a sub sect of the Tamil Brahmins. For those who haven’t seen the recent Hero Honda Splendour motorcycle advertisement featuring people who are labeled Iyers in the ad, please do watch it and form your own opinion. For those who have already seen it, let me share my opinion of it. The advertisement (click here – for The Hindu’s opinion) is just absolutely tasteless and wrong in so many different levels. The first thought which popped in my mind was about damning with praise. By showing that only Iyers can afford to buy motorcycles in Tamil Nadu, the ad indirectly reinforces the image of the Iyer community, as being the only community which is rich enough to buy motorcycles on a whim. I am sure there are rich Iyers who can do so. But I am also sure that there lots of poor Iyers who travel by buses. And I am also sure that there are other communities of hard working people in Tamil Nadu who can also afford to buy motorcycles if they want to. By subtly indicating that the Iyers are the only community which can afford motorcycles the Hero Honda ad has laid the way for Iyer bashing in the near future. Which is quite surprising to see as Iyers are considered pretty much a calm and non reactive community in the real world and they are mostly seen lurking around twitter outraging all the time on non-issues. To label and scaremonger a single community as being immensely strong and powerful reminds me of what I read in history about the hoax on Zionist manifestos (Google- The Elders of Zion) of Tsarist Russia.

Leaving all that aside for the moment and come back to what the Advertisement Agency (JWT Ad Agency) which conceived this ad was thinking of. They are just propagating North Indian prejudices of South Indians. Ask any North Indian about what comes into his mind when someone mentions a south Indian and he would immediately say a dark, fat man, with a topknot and ash marks over his body and who talks in a funny Hindi accent and is named Iyer. That’s the extent of the caricaturing of  South Indians in the north due to the influence of Bollywood where every time a hopeless geek is needed, a funny tamilian character is pictured like Shah Rukh Khan's awful caricature in RA-one.  On the other hand, south India is a big place, its half a subcontinent for god’s sake, there are other states and other communities (other than Iyers), who are also South Indian and who are tall, fair, handsome and crop their hair and even recite spontaneous shayari in Hindi or Urdu better than many North Indians do (hyderabadi mushairas for one). So to label all South Indians as Iyers is insulting to the people of Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra, Maharashtra, Orissa and also all the other communities of Tamil Nadu. But what else can you expect from ignorant Punjabi dominated Delhi'ites? Now if that hurt any North Indian who read it, let me assure you it was an harmless example to show how it hurts us South Indians, who are the other half of the subcontinent, to be ceaselessly lampooned as halfcrazy/halfgenius Iyers.  So stop Iyer bashing, stop Tamilian bashing, stop South Indian bashing and find a better way to sell your motorcycles. Sell them on their merits and not with such stupid ads which inflame communal passions. This is also a part of your Corporate Social Responsibility, HeroMotocorp. Get me?

Diabetes Vs.Dengue

I ran into a junior from college today who was talking about applying for a life in medical research. When I asked him which research topic he had selected to marry for the rest of his life, he replied Type1 Diabetes. Now that puzzled me immensely. As far as I knew, type 1 diabetes is not such a widespread disease in India.

For those who don’t know the difference, diabetes is of two types- Type 2 is the commonest which everyone refers to as Diabetes. In type-2 or adult-onset diabetes (because it is first seen around 40 years only) there is reduced insulin production by the body leading to the sugar staying in the blood itself instead of being absorbed into the body cells, hence people say my blood sugar is increased but not absorbed by the body. This type 2 diabetes is the one everyone talks about when they say India is full of diabetics, because the people are overweight and don’t get enough exercise. But actually the largest number of type 2 diabetics (given the relative size of their population) is found in the USA. There they call it a non-communicable disease or lifestyle disease because it is brought about by lifestyle changes like fast food consumption and extremely stressful living conditions and it cannot be communicated from one person to another like an infectious disease.

Coming back to the other type of diabetes the type 1- it is a very rare genetic condition seen from childhood but mostly around puberty time (hence called juvenile diabetes) where the body does not produce any insulin at all. But thankfully the percentage of this dangerous disease is less than 6%, while 90% of the commonly seen diabetes is the other one- the lifestyle disease brought on by obesity and lack of exercise.

 And that’s why I was surprised when this guy told me he wanted to research this rare disease instead of the commoner disease. I congratulated him on his guts to go after this disease because; I know how hard it is to research any rare disease when the patients are not available immediately for doing any test required. He laughed and said, his motive was far more mercenary than I supposed. The reason he had chosen this topic was, the Americans are going absolutely crazy about diabetes and they are pouring millions and millions of dollars into research on diabetes, trying to find a cure for diabetes and any research proposal with the word “diabetes” in the title and immediately a visa is granted with a fat fellowship. And that’s why this guy had chosen this research. To get a US visa. And not because he had any love for research or interest in diabetes.

Well, I am in no position to comment about the Americans or their obsession with diabetes except to say that they should be far more proactive in preventing it by changing their fast food and stress filled lifestyle, instead of wasting dollars into trying to cure it later on. But that is a matter of opinion. Personal opinion.

But what struck me more was the fact that I had just read in the paper that morning about how so many people had died of dengue fever. Now dengue if you didn’t know is a communicable disease. It can be passed from one person to another through mosquito bites. If you can somehow stop the mosquitoes from biting infected persons and then biting normal person, dengue can be prevented completely. But no one is researching dengue. Not in America. Not in India.

In India we are suffering from so many communicable diseases like malaria, dengue, chickengunya, etc but are we or is our government caring about it? These are diseases which can be easily prevented, but they are not being prevented. Instead we are blindly following the Americans into concentrating on diabetes, heart disease and all the biggies of medical mysteries while every day a lot of people die of malaria but are barely thought about. Please check how many people die daily of heart attack and diabetes and now check it with how many people die of infections which can be cured easily with simple steps? And now tell me which disease we should be concentrating more on in India?

I am not denying the importance of doing research in diabetes with this post of mine, just offering a different perspective. We are a poor country, we don’t spend much money on research. And we don’t consider research important enough to fund, unlike say funding for security bodyguards to safeguard our politicians against all enemies. And that is why no one in their right mind wants to do research in India. But what little amount of research money being spent in India should be directed to the very necessary diseases of our country instead of blindly following others examples. That's my view. And I rest my case.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Love Bites- Part 3..The Conclusion

I nicked myself this morning shaving. As the blood flowed down my cheek and I stared at my own blood in the mirror, looking at the gaunt, hollow face staring back at me with eyes red rimmed from lack of sleep, I realized something. I, who had always prided myself on my steady hands, had somehow been distracted enough to apply the razor with more pressure than necessary. This was my own face, so I could be excused if I hurt myself a bit. But as my profession is based on using sharp instruments on others faces, I should be extra, extra careful and have to regain my senses soon. Couldn't go around with my mind half pre-occupied on something else. This had to stop now.

Seeing the blood, I also remembered something else. My ancestors. My long hidden racial memories based on the stories I used to hear from the old folk in the villages when I used to visit my native place as a boy. I come from Rayalseema (translated from telugu: rayalu- of kings and seema- the land). My ancestors were warriors, chieftains and kings. The blood of the greatest of the Rayal kings, King Krishna Deva Raya of the Vijayanagara Dynasty flows in my veins. And that blood was now flowing out because I was half distracted and mooning like a love struck teenager. My ancestors, those indomitable warriors who went dauntless into a thousand battles, would now be turning in their graves if they could see me. Songs and Ballads of their bravery in the field of battle and their disdain for wounds and for carrying on regardless of injuries, are still sung in the villages throughout Rayalseema even nowadays. Their scars were for valour, for defending kingdoms and creating empires. Mine for a mere girl? Where has the bravery of the Rayal clan fled? They would ask and hang their heads in shame at the mere sight of me.

The sight of my own blood has had a refreshing effect on me, like a cold shower. I am cured now and I can think dispassionately of what went on. So I made a mistake. So what? Everyone does at one point or another. I made the mistake of assuming that my wants and needs would correspond to someone else's. But it didn’t. So, instead of thanking my lucky stars that I had learnt of this at an early stage, without getting in deeper, I am complaining. Who am I kidding? This is the best possible thing which could have happened. I think I was lucky enough to escape without much real damage. The only thing hurt was my ego. My sense of, oh look at me, I am such a smart fellow, how can you not possibly fall in love with me? sense of entitlement. I guess I have fallen a prey to my own marketing. If you go around telling everyone what a great catch you are, I guess you automatically start believing it yourself. Till its time to wake up and smell the coffee. Time for reality.

And I really have to thank the girl who woke me up. By her forthright refusal she has pointed out life with her would have been a disaster for both of us. I am a love cures all, type of guy. While she just the opposite, a realist and practical. And the fact that she didn’t feel anything for me doesn’t preclude the possibility that someone else will feel the love this girl doesn’t feel for me now. And I appreciate her honesty. She could so easily have lied and taken me for a ride at least for some time. But she didn’t. Such honesty is rare. And this is the kind of honest persons I should have in my life, as a friend from now on, the kind who can point out the truth, regardless of my feelings. Too many people sugarcoat things just to avoid hurting others, that it’s such a rarity to meet someone like this. So I am not going to stop being friends with her. This has in fact brought much respect in my heart towards her, replacing the stupid infatuation I had.

And as for the future. Well who knows, now that I have woken up from my coma, the mind is fresh and alert and the world looks bright with new possibilities. And as I look back on what happened I realize that I have too much free time on hand. An idle mind is the devils workshop, has turned true in my case. So I have to increase my work commitments from now on. Take on more and more work load, so that I simply don’t have time for any romantic temptations. Get through the day as busy as I can make it, so I am too tired to think, except to get home, lie down, sleep, wake up and go to work. No more outings with friends, no more chatting on the Internet or wasting time on facebook or twitter. And as I decided earlier no more blogging either. I have had a good run, but like all good things, it’s come to an end and it’s time to move on in the real world. Thanks for staying with me all this time, hope I entertained you all, you guys are the best. Au revoir.

P.S. The one thing that has me chuckling right now is something the girl told me when she turned me down. That I lacked the “x” factor to make her fall in love with me. Honey, if you didn’t know, I have more, much more, than that. I have the “Triple-X” factor. I am, if you didn’t know before, the only Triple-X blogger. See above caption. I am like Superman hiding under the Clark Kent name. Damn. I wish I had thought of this line before. This would have made a fitting comeback to her. Maybe I will use it for the next girl who offers the same excuse. Howzzat?