Thursday, January 31, 2013

O’Freedom of Expression- Where Art Thou?

O’Freedom of Expression- Where Art Thou?

The founding fathers of the Indian republic took care to include in the Indian constitution Art 19 guaranteeing freedom of expression (with certain caveats under exceptional circumstances).

India was the first country to ban Salman Rushdie's novel Satanic Verses. Even before the Mullahdom of Iran and the Monarchy of Saudi Arabia. The Sultanates and Emirates merely followed the august example of democratic India.

India and specifically the state with a communist government of West Bengal refused to guarantee the safety of the writer Taslima Nasreen and asked her to move away to another state or country if she wished to stay alive, because she offended someone with her novel Lajja.

The Henderson Report of the reasons for the defeat/debacle war of 1965 against China has been read and reported in most international countries, including the victor nation of the war china, while it is still banned in India (from the Indian citizens) citing official secrets act.

Any book/film/material dealing with the Nehru/Mountbatten family gossip and any  material/book/film dealing with the emergency era excesses still get routinely banned in India courtesy a single family's hold on a political party.

The Tehelka group which pioneered sting operations were hounded out of operation within days of their exposes by continuous income tax raids and investigations- a move which had bi-partisan political support from the ruling and opposition parties.

The film Bombay which dealt with the Bombay riots, the film Sarkar which touched upon Shiv Sena Politics and the the film Guru which was loosely based on an industrialists life were all pre-censored by the persons involved- by Bal Thackeray, Shiv Sena and the Ambanis. Directors Mani Ratnam and Ram Gopal Verma did not have any qualms about removing scenes which were deemed objectionable by the super-censors.

Michael Jackson on his official India tour was made to first visit Matoshree, the residence of the Thackerays before being allowed to perform in Bombay.

Deepa Mehtas movie “fire” was not allowed to be filmed in India by self-appointed moral guardians -because “lesbianism” is against Indian culture. And this is the same country where gang-rapes are so common, that unless they happen in the national capital they are routinely ignored by the media.

When the actor Rajnikant choose to opt out of a Cauvery River Water demonstration, he was forced by “public” opinion to do a special “individual” sit-in protest against Karnataka for not sharing Cauvery water with Tamilnadu.

Sociologist Ashish Nandy has been charge-sheeted with multiple cases of spreading communal hatred because he choose to speak a few words on the comparative corruption of different castes in the Jaipur Litfest where an intellectual discussion on corruption was being conducted.

And people complain, protest that Kamal Hassan’s movie Viswaroopam's banning is wrong and against freedom of expression.

Really? And when did you realize this? Last night?

For 60 years the phrase freedom of expression has been torn and trampled underfoot by successive governments at the central and state levels and intolerant tyrants and their captive mobs have been allowed to dictate terms to the ordinary citizens. Our country has been turned into intolerant India, all the while mouthing platitudes like Mera Bharat Mahan.

A few thousand twitter account holders and bloggers (including yours truly) bleating online or television anchors screaming at high pitch is not going to make much of a difference at the ground level because politicians will ignore these “elite” voices with impunity as they do not form their captive vote banks and are not even powerful enough to dent their vote banks a little.

The voiceless, faceless masses of India who toil for a living face a daily test of their freedoms and rights every time they go to any government office for any official work. In point of fact, perfect expression of freedom is shown by the official clerks at government offices who barely look up to acknowledge your existence unless you show some Christmas spirit and practice the “joy of giving”. And it is when these masses, the “common man/woman” realize the extent to which their constitution-given rights have been curtailed by their indifference to the world around them will a change come to the country- a change from the grassroots. I hope it happens soon. Will it?

[Disclaimer- The facts quoted above are from media sources in the public domain and as such the writer does not vouch for the authenticity of the primary sources. The writer is a poor, working class individual and cannot afford to embroil himself in multiple libel cases under the efficient Indian judicial system. As such, an unconditional blanket apology is issued by the writer if anyone feels inclined to pursue any libel case against this blogpost.]

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Trust Deficit…..Or Musings on a Cycle

The Ones We Trust Or Not….

I got back to training again. Oh wait. That sounds too pompous, as if I am world class athlete training for the Olympics. The truth is I limped my way to the neighboring gym and started light cardio exercising again after a break of almost two months.  The reason for this longish break being the injury to my ankle and knee due to my ill advised venture of trying to learn Silambam ((Read this post for more)). After a long period of rehabilitation of the twisted knee and sprained ankle over the Christmas and New year period, I at last worked up the courage to limp back into the gym and instead of straight off hitting the treadmill to run, I opted to sit back and relax on a spinning cycle trying not to strain my left leg much, as this was its first outing and I didn’t want to push it to the limit but just ease it back in almost like how you drive in a new car during the first service period. And of all the things I noticed on my return to the long and arduous route back to fitness (with my eternal enemy the weighing machine sitting there and grinning at me), the one thing which made me thoughtful was, even now when I had been pronounced healed, how much I was avoiding straining my left leg and favoring my right.

Which sent me off on a tangent to think. About how we rarely trust someone again once they either lose our trust or disappoint us. I am a big fan of the forgive and forget method of mental peace and I am always ready to get over mistakes and move on, provided the apology is genuine. If someone realizes the error of their ways and wants a second chance I almost always give that to them. But still, I couldn’t help wondering if we do go back to the total trust we used to have on them prior to their disappointing us. That’s exactly what I feel- disappointment -when someone does something which I feel has either betrayed me or let me down. I don’t get angry, I don’t get even, I just feel acutely disappointed that they could not measure up to the standards I held them onto. Case in point - Something which happened a couple of days ago at the hospital.

We have a system called informed consent where, before any procedure, the patient is informed of the pros and cons of the procedure and provided they agree and give their consent, they are required to sign a consent form indicating their agreement. Most of the risks and complications mentioned in the consent form are the on-in-a-million-chances and unnecessary, but they are required by law and the insurance companies for everyone’s peace of mind. The real risks of the surgery and its aftermaths are usually explained by the surgeons themselves. But the rest, the procedures to be followed right from the admission time to the discharge from the hospital are included in the informed consent form and that’s handled by the front office people, who are usually trained in giving a concise account of the forms contents and getting the patient to sign it. Which works out fine for everyone- the surgeon does his work- the actual surgery and the support staffs do their work- the paperwork and formalities. And all of this is routine and has occasioned no need for any interference or oversight on my part till I happened to notice suddenly one day that the front office staff was making a grave error. They were getting consent without informing.

Now that in my opinion defeats the very purpose of the exercise to get consent. The staff of the front office was shoving the disclaimer form at the patient and asking them to sign here and the patient was doing that without asking why or what. Of course I wouldn’t blame the patient for doing it blindly, after all they are already worried, anxious and don’t realize the gravity of what they are signing for. But it’s the duty of the front office staff to take the time to explain to the patient what it was they were signing so blindly and doing anything else was sheer laziness or petty arrogance. I walked up to the lady at the front desk, after the patient had departed, and explained to her that as per procedure she should have gone through the disclaimer form with the patient before asking them to sign. But the front office lady stoutly maintained that A) this was how they always did it B) no one else had complained till now C) so why was I raking this up? I had always found the lady in the front office somebody bright and pleasant to work with, so I was disappointed by her defending the error of her ways instead of apologizing and getting on with it. So I took the time to give her a mini lecture on what informed consent means and why it is necessary- in words of four syllables as if explaining to a child of five. And of late I have started checking with the patients whether they read through everything they sign. Which is a complete waste of my time if I could only trust the front office again like I used to do.

And that’s what I meant by the difficulty in regaining trust once lost. In everyday life, as in my hospital, there are times when even our most trusted persons badly let us down. And even if we are disappointed we are sometimes forced by circumstances to work with/along with them and we cannot avoid them by citing trust deficit between us. Especially if they either apologize or act as if they regret the backstabbing. But still we cannot go back to everything being honky-dory again immediately. Even if we forgive and forget and start treating them like old, it will still take time to regain our complete trust. They would have to prove themselves trustworthy again as the onus shifts on them to convince us of their reliability. Like my slowly easing my knee back into action and giving it its full workload.

Which brings me to my second observation of the day- where I almost unconsciously started favoring my right leg instead of my injured left leg and making my right leg do double the work of my other (weak)leg. When someone in a team fails to pull their weight, the work automatically falls onto the others on the team who are forced to compensate extra. And sometimes when a person is sincere and hardworking, more and more work is thrust on them just because they are trustworthy instead of on others who cannot be trusted to complete the job. I have done the same error myself inside the operation theater. When there two or three OT staff nurses present, we always demand that the one who is sincere attend us, as they can anticipate our needs and provide us the next instrument we want even before we ask for it, thus making it easier for us and saving time. This results in the sincere person being overburdened with work, while the lazy layabouts dodge work because of their reputations. No one wants them to assist and they are happy with it, lazing off. Which is quite unfair to the sincere types. For they will work and work ceaselessly without complaint till one day they will break down with the strain. Like my right leg will if I put all my weight on it while letting my left leg relax. So this is one lesson I have learnt today and which I will apply in the near future- not to overburden the sincere persons while letting the dodgers go scot-free, however much it eases my workload.

So those are the two nuggets of understanding I gained today while working out on a spin cycle in the gym. Tell me, do you forgive and forget easily? If so do you trust that person back immediately? And do you overburden the persons you trust always? And does anyone of the above lessons apply to you too?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Myth of The D-Tox E-Mails.

The Myth of The De-Tox Diets

So have you had your eight glasses of water today?

Started your day with lime juice to balance the alkalinity in your body?

Eaten only fruits and vegetables for ten days?

If you have done any and all of this to detox your body, I wish you good luck with it.

But its not necessary. Never was. Never will be.

The idea that our body is filled with toxins which need to be regularly removed to keep it healthy is an actual fact. But what isn’t is that we need to do something to help the process along. Our bodies do a far more efficient job without any helping hand we can offer. The myth of the detox diets is one of the most viral myths shared over the Internet. I personally get over a half dozen e-mails every day advising me to do this or that to detox my body and stay healthy. Which is the reason I am writing this post. After all I am fed up of all that junk mail clogging my in-box and I thought I would share with you all a few facts I learnt in my first year physiology and biochemistry classes about how the body works.

Food to our body is just fuel to be used for producing energy. Energy to breathe, walk, talk and do the myriad things we do every day without conscious thought and that food is broken down in our bodies to three specific groups for energy production- carbohydrates, proteins and fats. That’s all there is – nothing else. Whether you eat Kentucky fried chicken all day long or eat spinach and greens (like Popeye) or gorge yourself on sweets and ice-cream, once inside your body, all of them get divided into the three major groups only. Chicken, mutton and beef may have more protein than carbohydrates or fats. Ice cream may have more fats than proteins. Spinach may have more carbohydrates than proteins. That’s all. It’s just the percentages. But they all contain all three groups of food in them. Eventually all of it will be used. Every single bit of it will be squeezed dry of useful stuff in your intestines (colon/gut) and the reminder evacuated through feces. So isolating any one particular food group and saying it will help you cleanse your intestines is like putting a clean clothe inside the washing machine and running it on full spin just to cleanse the washing machine. It doesn’t work that way. Adding fiber/roughage and things like that (salads/raw vegetables anyone?) to your diet- just provides more bulk to your shit and nothing else. Because the roughages or starch are indigestible by our body and anything not useful to us- is passed straight in-straight out (like certain phone numbers).

Our intestines contain a lot of good bacteria which live on friendly terms with us. They help in absorbing the vitamins (vit b12?) and other trace elements (like iron or magnesium or selenium) we need from our diet (in minuscule quantities) and again excrete the rest if there is more than needed to be absorbed. And the intestinal cells and their good buddies, the commensal bacteria, do this quietly, efficiently and slowly - 24/7 for however long we live with nary a help asked from us. We only realize the absence of the good bacteria when we take heavy antibiotic therapy (multiple/combination antibiotics for long durations) which wipes out the good guys and lets the bad guys come in and take over the town. And that adds to a different set of problems which I will talk about on a later post.

The other organs of de-tox we have in our bodies are the kidneys, the liver, the lungs and skin. The kidneys are obvious- they filter out almost every single damn thing we take, absorbing only the useful and discarding the useless. So to burden them with drink after drink after drink, even if its just water is just an over-kill. Most of it will be excreted and you are just going to spend a lot of time running to the toilets. Eight glasses? I am not sure who came up with that particular quantity. But all we need to do are to replace whatever we lose in a day through perspirations, expiration and excretions. And that quantity – the amount to be replaced? is determined by our thirst levels. We have a very efficient organ called the brain- especially one specific part called the hypothalamus which does nothing but measure the water levels in our body and prompts us with thirst when the levels go down. So please allow that organ to do its job efficiently (as always) and get on with yours.

And about the ph balance thing with lime juice? Last I heard citric acid, the active ingredient of lime juice is an acid so I fail to understand the logic of how it can balance your alkaline levels in your stomach. Especially your early morning empty stomach- first thing in the morning, as the pseudo-nutrition quacks proclaim. Even if somehow my knowledge of biochemistry is lacking and lime juice is indeed alkaline, pouring a glass of a dilute alkaline solution on an empty stomach overflowing with concentrated (Strong) Hydrochloric acid, strong enough to burn and strip cells off our own body if given half a chance- that’s like, well I can only compare it to pissing on a burning building hoping to put out the fire. The only thing to do is eat breakfast- eat a proper breakfast if you would rather not have your own body fluids (the acid inside the stomach) eat up your own stomach. If you don’t want to end up a self-cannibal - you eating you- keep off the starvation diets and resultant ulceration. An ulcer is nothing but a hole in the stomach caused by the acid eating through the stomach itself in the absence of anything good to eat.

Which brings me to all those fad diets which promise you can cut off specific groups to help detox- the no-carb diet, the no-fat diet etc. We have a very efficient functioning liver inside our bodies which helps in digesting just those specific groups of food. Would you rather leave it all alone? With no work to do? Haven’t you heard that an idle mind is the devils workshop. A liver with little to do sometimes produces concentrated (thick) bile (the liver fluid) which might cause problems like bile stones (gall stones) etc. So we need to think twice before doing any fad diets to avoid unpleasant results we didnt anticipate. Besides the liver is an outstanding poison filter. It cleanses our blood of anything and everything which we are fool enough to ingest- like alcohol. And thats why alcoholics of long standing end up damaging their livers beyond repair. Anyway, the liver is good enough to go about this work with a curt no thank you, even if you offer to help it detox. So leave it well alone.

And then our lungs. Everyday, every single breathe we take, our lungs are detoxing for us. They remove all the poison gases which we dont need and exhale them out into the air. But sometimes with pollution (man-made- think smoking) our lungs become coated with the pollutants like tar and nicotine and so we have efficient little cells called lung macrophages which hurry in to cleanse them and detox our lungs. But if we keep abusing beyond the limits- even those little cells cannot manage beyond their capacities and our lungs become coated with the vile stuff. So our lungs are also very efficient in self cleansing detoxes without any help from us.

Finally our skin. We shed a lot of skin daily. Half the dust inside our rooms is probably our old and dead skin cells flaking away from our bodies to be replaced by new skin cells underneath. And why do we need to do that? Because we are exposed to so much air, water and bacterial pollutants every single minute that if our skin cells didnt sacrifice themselves in flaking away from our bodies -carrying along the enemy with them and away from us – we would probably be overwhelmed by infections and die a nasty death.

So every single organ of our body is involved in its own personal detox one way or the other. And they have been doing it for millenia, from the very first time we evolved from a single celled organism to who we are now. And they do it very efficiently. So even if we do love to help, the help is just not needed. We would just be a hindrance.

The body finds its own balance- just leave it alone. If you really want to detox – go do it to your mind – lose those negative memories which hold you back, remove your fears and act on them. Also go do it to your soul- detox your life, your job, your relationship and put it all back on track. All the best.

And please, please do not forward to me all those chain e-mails about the wonderful new detox diet or I promise you- I will write an even longer blogpost on it and mail you the link. Fair warning?

P.S. The writer of this post doesn’t drink lime juice in the mornings, doesn’t do detox diets and last checked had the blood chemistry values of someone 5-6 years of his actual age.