Thursday, 8 June 2017

A HILL CALLED MELROSE






This is a story which came in one of my Facebook post and which I had to share with you all. I am not the author, Dr. Yashwant Thorat is. I do not know the good doctor, but I have read about his father the brave soldier Lt. Genl. S.P.P. Thorat KC DSO and his bravery in the jungles of Burma, now Myanmar. I am sure you will enjoy this.

"May I have a light?" I looked up to see a Japanese – more or less my age – with an unlit cigarette in his hand. I reached for my lighter. He lit up. We were on a train travelling from Berne to Geneva in the autumn of 1980. “Indian?” he asked. “Yes” I replied. We got talking.  He was an official in the UN and was returning to home and headquarters at Geneva. I was scheduled to lecture at the university. We chit-chatted for a while; he gave me some useful tips on what to see and where to eat in the city. Then, having exhausted the store of ‘safely tradable information’, we fell silent.  I retrieved my book – ‘Defeat into Victory’, an account of the Second World War in Burma by Field Marshal William Slim. He opened the newspaper. We travelled in silence. After a while he asked “Are you a professor of Military History?” “No” I replied- “just interested. My father was in Burma during the war”. “Mine too” he said.

In December 1941, Japan invaded Burma and opened the longest land campaign of the entire war for Britain. There were two reasons for the Japanese invasion. First, cutting the overland supply route to China via the Burma Road would deprive Chiang Kai Sheik’s Nationalist Chinese armies of military equipment and pave the way for the conquest of China. Second, possession of Burma would position them at the doorway to India, where they believed a general insurrection would be triggered against the British once their troops established themselves within reach of Calcutta. Entering Burma from Thailand, the Japanese quickly captured Rangoon in 1942, cut off the Burma Road at source and deprived the Chinese of their only convenient supply base and port of entry. Winning battle after battle, they forced theallied forces to retreat into India. The situation was bleak. The British were heavily committed to the war in Europe and lacked the resources and organisation to recapture Burma. However, by1943 they got their act together. The High Command was overhauled; Wavell was replaced by Mountbatten and operational control was given to General William Slim, a brilliant officer. Slim imbued his men with a new spirit, rebuilt morale and forged the famous 14th Army, an efficient combat force made up of British, Indians and Africans. The Japanese, aware that the defenders were gathering strength, resolved to end the campaign with a bold thrust into India and a simultaneous attack in the Arakan in Burma.

In the ebb and flow of these large events chronicled in Military History, my father, a soldier, played a part – first in Kohima in clearing the Japanese from the Naga Hills, then in Imphal and finally in the deeply forested mountains of Arakan. Destiny took him there. In the blinding rain of the monsoons in 1943, the Supreme Allied Commander’s plane landed at Maugdow where the All-India Brigade of which his regiment was a part was headquartered. Mountbatten was accompanied by his Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Browning, who had been my father’s Adjutant at the Royal Military College in Sandhurst. He and the two other Indian commanders – Thimayya and Sen - were introduced to Mountbatten who made casual but searching enquiries regarding their war experience. Thereafter he was closeted in the ‘conference tent’ with the senior commanders for a long time. As they came out he turned to Reggie Hutton, the Brigade commander and said, “All right Reggie let your All-Indian Brigade do it. But, by God, it is going to be tough”. Then turning to the three of them he said, “Gentlemen, the Japanese are pulling out of upper Burma. You have been selected to intercept their withdrawal from there into the South. You will concentrate at Akyab, proceed to Myebon by sea, capture Kangaw, penetrate Japanese-held territory and convert the Japanese retreat into a rout. Is that clear?” It was.

My Japanese friend who had been listening intently leaned forward and asked “Did you say your father was in the All India Brigade?” “Yes”, I replied. Our conversation paused for a while as the waiter served coffee and croissants. Later, picking up the threads he persisted “Was he a junior officer at the time?” “Not really” I replied. “He was a Battalion commander”. He digested the information and said “Which regiment?” “The Punjab Regiment” I replied. His face turned colour. Maybe it was a play of light and shade or maybe it was just my imagination but I thought he was going to be ill. “Are you okay?” I queried? He nodded. “Please carry on”.

After marching through hostile territory, the brigade finally landed at Myebon.  Their dis-embarkation was not opposed.  They proceeded to Kangaw little knowing that forty-eight hours later they would be locked in a battle which was to last for a fortnight and claim the lives of three thousand men.

Mountbatten had been right.  The withdrawal route of the Japanese was dominated by ‘Hill Feature 170; Melrose. It was firmly held by the Japanese and gave them the enormous    advantage of having the ‘commanding heights’. Worse, intelligence reported that they had two brigades. The Indians had one.  Brigadier Hutton realised that if the withdrawal had to be cut, the hills would have to be captured irrespective of the numerical disadvantage. He took the call. The first attack by the Hyderabadis under Thimayya mauled the enemy but did not achieve the objective. The second by the Baluchis under Sen met a similar fate. It was then that ‘Reggie’ asked the Punjabis to make a final effort. Artillery and air support was coordinated.  The zero hour for the attack was set at 0700 hours on 29 January 1944. At dawn as the leading companies moved forward, the Japanese opened machine gun fire. The Artillery provided cover and laid out a smoke screen. The Punjabis began to climb the hill. Safe from amongst well dug bunkers the Japanese rained fire on them.  The Indian casualties mounted as men began to drop. The air cover which was a key part of the plan failed to materialise - bad weather and bad luck. Taking a calculated risk, the commander pushed on. They were hardly a hundred yards from the top when the Japanese threw everything they had at them. In the face of such unrestrained fierceness, the advance faltered hovering uncertainly on the edge of stopping. For the commander, it was the moment of truth – to fight or flee? As he saw his men being mowed down by machine gun fire a rage erupted within him. Throwing caution to the winds he ran forward to be with them. The scales ‘tipped’. The troops rallied, ‘fixed bayonets’ and charged into the Japanese with obscenities and primeval war cries. A fierce hand to hand combat ensued. Neither side took or gave a quarter. The Japanese fought like tigers at bay. The conflict went on unabated through the night. The Japanese counter-attacked in wave after wave but the Indian line held firm. Then the last bullet was fired and there was silence.

Many years later Mountbatten would describe what took place as “The bloodiest battle of the Arakan” and correctly so. The price of victory was two thousand Japanese and eight hundred Indians dead in the course of a single encounter. Fifty officers and men would win awards for gallantry. The battalion commander would be decorated with the DSO for ‘unflinching devotion to duty and personal bravery’.  But all that was to happen in the future.

At that particular moment on the field of battle, the commander was looking at the Japanese soldiers who had been taken prisoners of war. They had assembled as soldiers do, neatly and in order. On seeing the Indian Colonel, their commander called his men to attention, stepped forward, saluted, unbuckled his sword, held it in both hands and bowed. The Indian was surprised to see that his face was streaked with tears. He understood the pain of defeat but why the tears? After all, this was war. One or the other side had to lose. How could the Japanese explain to the Indian that the tears were not of grief but of shame? How could he make him understand what it meant to be a Samurai? Given a choice he himself would have preferred the nobler course of Hara Keri than surrender. But fate had willed otherwise. The ancestral sword in his hands had been carried with pride by his forefathers. Now he was shaming them by handing it over. All this was unknown – unknowable - to the Indian commander. He came from a different culture and had no knowledge of what was going on in the mind of his adversary. Yet there was something in the manner and bearing of the officer in front of him which touched him deeply. He found himself moved. Without being told he somehow intuited that the moment on hand was not merely solemn but personal and deeply sacred. He accepted the sword and then inexplicably, impelled by an emotion which perhaps only a soldier can feel for a worthy opponent, bent forward and said clearly and loudly in the hearing of all “Colonel I accept the surrender but I receive your sword not as a token of defeat but as a gift from one soldier to another”. The Japanese least expecting this response looked up startled. The light bouncing from the tears on his cheeks, reflected an unspoken gratitude for the Indian’s remark. Coming as it did from the heart, it had touched his men and redeemed their – and his – honour. The Punjabis – Hindus and Muslims - who had gathered around also nodded in appreciation. Battle was battle. When it was on, they had fought each other with all their strength. And now that it was over there was no personal or national animosity. Maybe the Gods who look after soldiers are different from those who look after other mortals for they bind them in strange webs of understanding and common codes of honour no matter which flags they fly.

The moment passed. He looked at the Signal Officer and nodded. The success signal was fired. Far away in the jungles below, Brigadier Reggie Hutton looked at the three red lights in the sky and smiled. His faith in his commanders had been vindicated. He would later explain that at stake that night was not only the battle objective but the larger issue as to whether Indians ‘had it in them’ to lead men in war. There had been sceptics who felt that his faith was misplaced. He looked at Melrose and smiled. Its capture had vindicated his faith.

I looked out of the window lost in my thoughts. Suddenly I heard a sob to find that my Japanese friend had broken down. He swayed from side to side. His eyes were closed and it was clear that he was in the grip of an emotion more powerful than himself. He kept saying ‘karma, karma’ and talking to himself in his own language. After a while he looked up with eyes full of tears and holding both my hands said in a voice choked with emotion, “It was my father who gave battle to yours on Melrose. It was he who surrendered. Had your father not understood the depth of his feelings, he would have come back and died of shame. But in accepting our ancestral sword in the manner that he did, he restored honour to our family and my father to me. That makes us brothers – you and I.

The train pulled into Geneva station. We got down. What had to be said had already been spoken. He bowed. Goodbye I said. Keep in touch. Incidentally, would you like me to restore the sword back to your family. He smiled, looked at me and said “Certainly not. The sword already rests in the house of a Samurai”.

That was the last I saw of him.

Usha tells me that the probability of our meeting defies statistics. She should know. She studied economics and statistics. There was a World war going on. Good. My father was in the Indian army; his father was in the Japanese army; perfectly okay. They fought in the same theatre of war – Burma; understandable. They fought in the same battle; difficult but believable. The war finished, they went back to their families; plausible. But that their sons grew up in two different lands, happened to go to Berne at the same time, board the same train, get into the same compartment, share coffee and cigarettes, have a conversation on something that had happened four decades ago, discover their fathers had fought on opposite sides in the same battle – that undoubtedly is insane.

Personally, I do not believe that there are outcomes in life which are necessarily bound to happen?Yet, sometimes I am not so sure. You can never connect events by looking into the future; you can only connect them by looking at the past. Maybe it is comforting to believe that because the dots connect backward, they will connect forward also. I don’t know. Perhaps in the end, you have to trust in something.  The sword has a pride of place in our home. Whenever I see it, my mind goes back to the jungles of Arakan where in the midst of the madness of war, two soldiers were able to touch each other and their compatriots with lasting humanity

By Dr Yashwant Thorat, son of Lt Gen SPP Thorat KC DSO.

Friday, 19 May 2017

ENTITLEMENT VERSUS EMPOWERMENT – WHICH IS THE ROAD AHEAD?





If there is a basic difference in the way the Left and Left of Centre Thinkdom (LLCT remember!) and the present government teats the poor and the downtrodden then this is it – the LLCT believed in the policy of ‘entitlement’ whereas the present dispensation is of the opinion that ‘empowerment’ is the way ahead for them. So when the LLCT believed in providing the poor with a free fish now and then, the present government wants to teach them how to fish so that they never have to go hungry in future.

Let us understand these two words very clearly right at the outset before we go about comparing them.
Entitlement: the unhealthy belief held by a group or an individual that they deserve special treatment because of their special circumstances. Constantly giving a handout reinforces this mindset. They feel they have a right to have, do, or get something and they are deserving of or entitled to certain privileges.
Empowerment: providing an individual the skills and information that helps them make an informed decision. Giving someone a hand up by taking the time to believe in them, nurture them in love and teach them a new skill. This is an effort to give official authority or legal power to enable and promote their self actualization of goals in life.

At the family level
Forget about the complexity of governing a country as big and as varied as India, let us compare these two phenomena at a family level. On the one hand we have the pampered son of a business baron who, on the first day of his employment, walks into the company board room because he is entitled to do so as he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. On the other hand we have an equally successful businessman who insists that his son should start from the shop-floor level and gradually climb up the ladder after learning the tricks of trade from every department. So on one hand we have an executive who has no knowledge of his business, his products and his people and on the other you have one who knows almost everyone by his/her first name, knows what they are good at, how can they contribute maximally and contribute towards the success of his company. The first guy is entitles by birth where as the second one is empowered by experience………who do you think will be more successful?

A cycle that repeats itself
There are many ways people often become entitled or empowered, but most commonly it has to do with their childhood and how they were raised. Most successful empowered individuals grew up in poor families. Wanting to change the circumstances of their lives, they often aspired to do great things to change the lifestyle they had grown accustomed to. That’s right! Those children, who learn early on that in order to achieve a goal, they must work for it, have a greater likelihood of achieving the same kind of success in their adult lives.
Entitled individuals often come from a childhood where they were given everything they wanted. If they needed something, often their parents gave it to them. They didn’t have to work for it and if they did, it was most likely a simple menial task that anyone could accomplish. It’s this reinforced behavior that often follows them into their adult lives.
So this leads to a very fundamental question, what causes parents to take actions that will either lead their children to become entitled or empowered? The simple answer is that it’s a cycle. Parents who grow up with nothing as children often become empowered to change their lives. When they become successful, they often want to give their children what they did not have, this leads to children who when they become adults feel entitled and often lead unsuccessful lives. This becomes a cycle that will often repeat every 2-3 generations. Look around in your own surroundings, among your friends and relatives, and you will appreciate what I am referring to. Look at the third and fourth generation Indian Americans; do they have the same hunger to succeed as the first and second generation ones?
Parents should adopt characteristics required to inspire the behaviors that lead to empowerment. Because if the individual is empowered as a child, you will give them the tools they need to become empowered and successful in their careers.

At the factory level
Now let us take this comparison from the family to a bigger level – a factory. An empowered employee typically has a track record of success and thereby has gained a positive reputation for delivering results based on actions. An entitled employee often feels that they are owed decision-making ability either by any number of factors such as caste, title, money, or tenor. Behaviorally, they are completely different. One has the ability to inspire teams to greatness, while the other can be disruptive and sometimes lead to failure.

Managers must follow the same behavior guidelines. A manager who gives, gives, gives  and keeps on giving without expecting work will create an employee that feels they should receive the best no matter what. A manager that rewards based on action and success will create an employee that delivers results and will feel empowered to do more. In business, the entitlement "ethic" has become a rotting cancer, infecting big business and reducing them to ruins. Entitled by caste, creed, domicile, proximity to power and political nuisance value the government sector is today infested by unemployables and it is not surprising to find so many vital government sectors in the red.

At the National level
Now that we have seen the family and the factory levels let us see what these two policies of Entitlement and Empowerment are doing to the country.  Like a ship at sea, we, as a nation, are today on storm tossed waters. Our choices have become more complex, yet the courses they set are chilling. If we choose to make it, to strive, to fail and to rise again, we are empowered. If we succumb to handouts, subsidies, free food, unemployment checks we are opting for the easier option of entitlement.

Kerosene subsidy, power subsidy, railway fare subsidy, fertilizer subsidy, LPG subsidy were the hallmark of the LLCT governments. The kerosene was sold to the petrol pumps to adulterate diesel and the really poor and needy were condemned to use firewood, cow dung pats or simply waste material, which they would collect by foraging far and wide. The fact that the fare increase will help the Railways to stop making losses, enable it to expand its network, undertake necessary modernisation and improve facilities for ordinary passengers was conveniently forgotten by LLCT. These activities generate employment and also improve railway safety and provide much needed connectivity for the poor people living in remote areas who have no other means to escape from their miserable local environment and search for jobs and better living. The huge and persistent haemorrhaging of the State Electricity Boards precluded capacity expansion and did not allow even the critically needed upgrading of transmission and distribution networks. The urea / fertilizer subsidy almost entirely benefitted either the fertiliser companies or the middle and large farmers who are its major users. These populist policies have an even more harmful consequence. They are creating a culture of entitlements from which it will become increasingly difficult to wean away the non-poor beneficiaries. And we are still not talking about how these entitlement benefits never reached the poor and  were siphoned out by the systemic corruption which was the hallmark of the LLCT governments!

This entitlement culture breeds corruption, inertia and dishonesty. Instead we could use the same amount of resources to train people, educate them, improve access to quality health services, reduce power cuts, make them better connected and in overall terms make the common man more empowered. Giving ‘Right to Food’, ‘Right to Education’, ‘Right to Employment’ are simply hollow promises if they are not supported by matching budgetary provisions and serious intentions. Liberty is no use to us if more and more of us are finding ourselves chained by poverty while an elite few climb higher and higher and the LLCT policy of entitlement was doing exactly that. Let us hope that the Empowerment policies of the present government – Make in India, Stand up India, Start Up India do not remain hollow slogans and truly give us the fruits of empowerment.


Empowerment is a far bigger investment and for a longer period of time but invest in the poor and you will see dividends. Make higher education more readily available, increase the quality of public education, improve their health by making medication more affordable, be creating incentives to live healthier lifestyles and equip them with skills to succeed in life. These will make them more productive employees, increase their buying power, increase their ability to rely on themselves which will then allow them to contribute more to our economy.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

THE CASE OF GRAYING HAIRS



While some people proudly sport a silver mane like the one and only Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the famous model Kate Moss and the actress Jamie Lee Curtis, many others face the arrival of new gray hairs with dread. The good news is that scientists are hard at work on how to prevent them. So what do researchers know that you don't?

Scientists have pinpointed the cells that cause hair to turn gray and to go bald in mice, according to a new study published in the journal Genes & Development. Researchers from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center accidentally stumbled upon this explanation for baldness and graying hairs-at least in mouse models-while studying a rare genetic disease that causes tumors to grow on nerves. They found that a protein called KROX20 switches on skin cells that become a hair shaft, which then causes cells to produce another protein called stem cell factor (SCF). In mice, these two proteins turned out to be important for baldness and graying. When researchers deleted the cells that produce KROX20, mice stopped growing hair and eventually went bald; when they deleted the SCF gene, the animals' hair turned white.

So though this project was started in an effort to understand how certain kinds of tumors form, they ended up learning why hair turns gray and discovering the identity of the cell that directly gives rise to hair graying and hair loss in mice. More research is surely needed to understand if the process works similarly in humans. With this knowledge, we hope in the future to create a topical compound or to safely deliver the necessary gene to hair follicles to correct these cosmetic problems of baldness or graying.

Hair stem cells make hair, and pigment-forming stem cells make pigment. Typically they work together, but either can wear out, sometimes prematurely. Researchers are trying to figure out if a medicine, or something we could put in our scalp, could slow the graying process. Hair dye simply coats our hair in color but doesn't alter its structure, the pigment – forming stem cell is expected to do just that. A single hair grows for one to three years, then it sheds — and a new one grows. As we age, our new hairs are more likely to be white. Every time the hair regenerates, we have to re-form these pigment-forming stem cells, and they wear out as we age.

Causes of graying:

There are certain factors which have been seen to be responsible for premature graying and these are:
1. Normal aging.
It is not surprising to know that age is the biggest culprit. Dermatologists call this the 50-50-50 rule - Fifty percent of the population has about 50% gray hair at age 50. Like skin, hair changes its texture with age and would lose its shine, texture, pigment and finally its density as we grow old.
2. Ethnicity.
Caucasians tend to go gray earlier — and redheads earliest of all. The Asians, Africans and their descendents grey relatively late. My grandmother and my mother had jet black hairs in their eighties. Scientists haven't figured out why ethnicity plays such an important role.
3. Stress.
Stress is often blamed but it doesn’t cause graying directly.  During an illness or a stressful event — like getting chemotherapy, people can shed hair rapidly and they may grow back with a different colour.
4. Lifestyle.
Smoking, over indulgence in recreational drugs and low vitamin B12 levels are notorious for causing loss of hair pigment. Foods packed with certain vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants may help protect cells against toxins and help prevent heart disease, cancer, and other ailments and perhaps gray hair as well. Carrots, citrus fruits, legumes and pulses, liver are very useful to fight graying.
5. Genetics
Yes, this is one thing for which we can certainly blame our parents, and they, in turn, can most likely blame it on theirs. It is scientifically proven that premature graying of hair is mostly genetic in nature.

6. Nutrition
Being healthy is all about eating healthy and right. What we eat is reflected on our skin, on our hair, and certainly on our overall health. The right kind of diet gives us all the nutrients that our body needs to function properly and if we are fit and healthy, our hair too will show the signs. And this will also help in postponing the advent of the grays

Alternative approaches
Curry leaves, coconut oil, Amla or gooseberries have been used by those practicing Ayurveda since time immemorial to treat graying. A homeopath treats a patient by taking a detailed case history and based on the findings, he or she prescribes homeopathic medicine for graying. A few Homeopathic medicines used commonly for eliminating white hair and preventing premature graying are:
1.   Lycopodium Clavatum: It is the chief remedy for pre-senility and is also useful in treating premature graying of hair. It is also useful in treating baldness.
2.   Phosphoricum Acidum: Used to relieve fatigue and debility, along with nervous exhaustion and gray hair. It is also useful for preventing hair thinning and hair fall.
3.   Acid Phos: For treating hair graying and hair fall.
4.   Lycopodium: Early graying, associated with exhaustion, bloating, and other digestive problems.
5.   Silicea: Cures exhaustion.
6.   Thyroidinum: Works on the Thyroid problems.
7.   Psorinum: Useful in treating gray hair, especially when they appear in spots.


But yours truly too has a theory for graying and baldness which deserves your attention. Hairs are a pent up source of potential energy which as we reach adulthood convert into kinetic energy. Thus energized, the hair follicles start drilling in through the scalp, through the skull in search of grey matter. If they find it they turn gray and if they don’t, they simply fall off!

Thursday, 11 May 2017

LESSONS THAT SCHOOLS ARE NOT TEACHING




If schools and colleges are under the impression that they are simply in the business of teaching prescribed lessons from the course books, it is time they think again. They are molding the blocks which will be used in nation building in not so distant future and so they must revisit their curriculum. At school, kids learn a lot that isn't going to be helpful to them later in life. While getting an education is important, there is much that kids could be learning that schools aren't teaching. Children and young teens need to be taught life lessons that will enable them to be independent and certain, yet respectful and unique. We need champions and we are not getting them. All that we are getting is a bag of excuses.


The first lesson that a child should learn is to be the decision maker. While parents, teachers, friends and relatives will try to persuade them, but what the student has to know that they cannot decide for him/her. They must make sure that the path they decide to take aligns with their own intuition and desires. It's okay to switch paths or create a new one. 

Patience is about the ability to keep a good attitude while working hard for what one wants to achieve. Being patient gives one the time one needs to reach one’s goal. Patience is about pace, not waiting. It's about timing oneself to work with more than one process around you. 

Making mistakes are part of the learning process and most mistakes are unavoidable. Making mistakes is not the problem, not learning from them is. Remember that behind every great success, is a thousand failed attempts to get there. If students are not making mistakes it is actually a matter of concern. It only means they are not being challenged to their fullest potential and are being taught to play in the junior league only.

Students must be explicitly told not to expect success to come to them just by sitting around. You are what you do, not what you say you'll do or plan to do. All the grandiose plans to succeed and all the cook-books available on these subjects written by the success Gurus will take you nowhere, hard work will. Yes, ‘failing to plan is planning to fail’ but after the planning the required hard work has to be put in, the regular practice has to be done……..and there is no substitute for it. Remember that good things come to those who work on meaningful goals. Ask yourself what's important and have the courage to build your life around your answer. 

Our students should learn to accept all the apologies they never get, this will make life easier. The key is to be thankful for each experience, be it positive or negative. Instead of getting upset at a situation, they should take a step back and say 'thank you for the lesson'. It is vital to realize that grudges from the past are a waste of happiness. When you forgive, you're allowing yourself to let go of your past. 

As a student of a very specialized branch of surgery I have learnt a very invaluable lesson – there are no good teachers and bad teachers. There are teachers who tell you how to do things and there are others who teach you how not to do things. Both these lessons are invaluable and I am eternally indebted to both these types of teachers.

We must teach our students to be brave and walk away from the people who make them feel uncomfortable and insecure. If anybody they stay with makes them feel like they can't be themselves, or if they feel emotionally drained or anxious after spending time with them, we must teach them listen to their intuition and step aside. Hang out with the people who inspire you to be the best version of yourself. 

The things that one owns have no bearing on who they are as a person. A big car does not make you a bigger person than a guy with a smaller one and in the same currency it does not make you smaller than the fellow owning a fancy sailing boat. We live in a hugely consumer-driven culture that gives more importance to material things than meaningful connections and experiences. Teachers must emphasize that their students make it a point to create their own connections without being influenced by what they see on TV, social media or read in fashion magazines. 

A vital lesson to be conveyed is the fact that things and situations change, often spontaneously. People and circumstances come and go. The students must know that life doesn't just stop for anybody. It has the ability to move from calm to chaos in a matter of seconds. Unpredictable events happen and they may happen at any time. So when life is good, they must absorb each moment, enjoy it. And when life gets tough, they must know that these moments do not last forever and they should keep their head above the water and try to fight out of the fix.

When they're young children are taught to be nice to others. But as they get older, they need to be reminded that while it's important to be nice to others, it is important that they be nice to themselves too. They must not see themselves through the eyes of those that don't value them.  They must know their own worth. They must know when to stop being nice to whom and simply walk away. If they value the relationship then they shouldn’t insist on winning the argument but if any relationship reaches a point where continuing with it means a severe compromise with their morals and a serious challenge to their values, then they must call it quits.

We must teach our students never to fear the unknown and shy away from it. They should be bold, be courageous, and never afraid of accomplishing their dreams. At every stage of their life they will learn something new. The very act of learning something new disrupts the way they have always seen things-and the way they have always been. A fresh idea pushes us out of our comfort zone and threatens the very foundations we’ve built our view of the world on. That’s scary for nearly everyone and truly frightening for the vast majority! So rather than experience any form of discomfort of rowing in the turbulent waters of the unknown, most people regress – and return to their ‘Safe Harbor of The Known’. It feels better, seems safer and infinitely more cushy and comfortable. But, in truth, it’s not.

The problem is that refusing to learn and grow is the beginning of the end. Life is all about making tomorrow better than today. The progressive mind is obsessed with the idea of stepping into your next level of excellence with every passing hour. A student should know that to cling to the thoughts and ways of performing that they’ve always known is to resign themselves to being average and mediocre. They are no more playing the game but being  mere spectators.

Our educational institutions must encourage the students to be outrageously ambitious and fantastically innovative. A child who dares to break outside the stipulated outlines in his/her art colour book is the one who will break the shackles of the known and venture into the world of unknown tomorrow. But in order to reach these new lands, he/she must lose sight of the shore-even for just a little while. And we must teach them to dare to be a Columbus or a Vasco de Gama and explore the unknown.

Schools and colleges have the responsibility of making the champions of tomorrow. Champions may or may not think alike, struggle, toil and persevere the same way or their own way, but will have the same never give up attitude and they will all be different and unique. Our educational institutions should start encouraging and fostering this uniqueness and not push the students in the rat-race of marks, grades, ranks and distinctions. Lord Macaulay was creating clerks to run British India with his system of education, India today needs leaders, path breakers and champions and the old system is certainly not delivering.

Friday, 5 May 2017



WHY SHOULD A BRIGHTLY BURNING CANDLE EXTINGUISH ITSELF?





First it was my friend Ashok Raj Kaul, an exceptionally innovative Plastic surgeon from Bangalore and now it is T. S. Murali, a celebrated urologist and a wonderful teacher.....within six weeks we have seen two high achievers commit suicide. This made me think why? These are people who have attained success to the point of stardom and yet were surely not happy. They had lovely family life but were surely not contented. So why they opted for this unfortunate choice?  

This question was bothering me for quite some time. I can understand the less focused and the less successful guys, those who have messed up their lives, their family, their relationships and their professions to simply opt out of life…….but why should those who are themselves epitome of success go the same way?

Historical perspective
When I started thinking to get an answer to my question, my mind took me down the memory lane and I was surprised to find that how many individuals, at the peak of their success chose to opt out of life. The farthest I could go was Cleopatra, queen of Egypt and lover of Julius Caesar and Mark Antony. Cleopatra committed suicide on August 12, 30 B.C., following the defeat of her forces against Octavian, the future first emperor of Rome, possibly by means of an asp, a poisonous Egyptian serpent and symbol of divine royalty. Not only Cleopatra but Mark Antony, Brutus, Judas Iscariot, Hannibal and Nero all committed suicide.

Sigmund Freud, Virginia Wolf, Adolf Hitler, Ernest Hemingway, Sylvia Plath, Vincent van Gogh, Jack London, Dylan Thomas, Judy Garland, Rudolph Hess, Pontius Pilate, Socrates, and possibly Tchaikovsky, Elvis Presley, and the one and only Marilyn Monroe all chose to end their own lives! Creator and host of Soul Train, Don Cornelius, the famous fashion designer Alexander McQueen, Musician Freddie Prinze, Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain, World famous WWE wrestler Chris Benoit, Director of hit film “Top Gun,” Tony Scott and comedian par excellence Robin Williams all of them chose to extinguish their own lives and they all were very successful. The Russian poet Sergei Esenin (1895-1925) wrote an entire poem in his own blood that served as suicide note.

The Indian scenario
This is no less gloomy. Vasanth Kumar Shivashankar Padukone, better known as Guru Dutt, the finest director and actor that India has ever produced,  Manmohan Desai, the famous Bollywood producer and owner of Paramount Studios (Filmalaya) who is credited with helping Amitabh Bachchan rise to fame with movies like ‘Amar Akbar Anthony’, ‘Coolie’ and ‘Mard’ , Silk Smitha the famous Tamil film star,  Nafisa Joseph was a popular VJ on MTV, an actress and a model, Viveka Babajee a famous model and entrepreneur with  her own event company called VIBGYOR ENT, she was an  anchor for FTV India and acted in a film ‘Yeh Kaisi Mohabbat Hai’, Divya Bharti, Jiya Khan, Disha Ganguly, Pratusha Banerjee all very talented and successful people committed suicide.

You would not expect a sportsperson to be so un-sportsman like, accept defeat gracefully only to return again to conquer. But sports too have been tainted by this problem. Welsh national team manager and former player Gary Speed hanged himself. Former Queen's Park Rangers' defender Dave Clement, killed himself in 1982 by drinking weed-killer. Cricketers Jack Iverson, "who could have the world's best batsmen at his mercy, if he could spare the time", Jim Burke, the Australian batsman and Peter Roebuck, the Somerset captain and commentator all went the same way. Interestingly, the latter wrote the forward to David Firth's book about cricketer's committing suicide, "By His Own Hand".

Back to the question “Why?’
The word “suicide” comes from two Latin roots, sui (“of oneself”) and cidium (“killing” or “slaying”). Suicide is tragic enough, but it’s particularly bewildering when young people who appear to have it all take their own lives. We are living in a highly competitive world. Those who are successful find themselves in a unique intersection that exacerbates the burden on those prone to mental illness—enormous pressure to be perfect, combined with seemingly having it all going for them, combined with feeling exactly the opposite inside. And social media isn’t helping either.

Successful people tend to be hyper competitive and upwardly mobile and ambitious, which means that they are constantly comparing themselves to people who are even more successful. This type of comparison leads to unhappiness as no matter how much they succeed; there'll always be someone else who's done better. So they need to understand success in a healthy way.

Successful people need to celebrate their success by extending a helping hand and pulling up all those who are struggling to achieve the same success. If instead people pursue success just to get approval and acceptance, it could feel like a long tiring fight. They would fear to lose what they have because of being judged by their failures.  Additionally, it is very upsetting when a "successful" person reach a point whereby they seem to have everything they could ever want, and yet still feel empty, dissatisfied, or disappointed. What would be your next goal in such a situation? If there's none, what is there to live for? Hence my theory: ‘there is no success without a successor’!

Plenty of "successful" people go into depression and ultimately kill themselves because they cannot live a life whereby they are constantly plagued by the fear of being unable to maintain or better their success. This is because they have achieved success but not understood it. Success is not a destination where one has to reach; it is a path which one makes for others to follow. When we help others to achieve success we prepare ourselves of a bigger and worthier challenge……a challenge worth living all over again!

People do not kill themselves "because" they failed in their own mind, or "because" they weren't successful. They kill themselves because the acute pain of suicidal/psychotic depression - an acute, pain almost akin to physical pain, along with the "emotional pain" of the thought distortions and self-hatred that go along with depression finally exceeding their willingness or ability to cope/stand the pain. To the suicidally depressed, killing oneself is in a perverse way their last and final act of self-mercy. And the best way to fight depression is to help those who are less successful and less fortunate.

If you think Wall Street, Dalal Street, Prime Minister’s office or Hollywood and Bollywood are high pressure zones then wait till you fall sick. Nowhere is the macho code of success more evident than in the pressure-cooker situation in which a doctor works, right from his/her medical school days. Attending to patients of all types, getting work done by the juniors, the nurses and the ministerial staff, trying to remain in the good book of seniors, attending classes and clinics, learning newer skills, being abreast with all the recent advances, being polite and considerate to all the patient attendants, hospital administration and lay press…….and doing so day in and day out even at the peak of their careers takes a toll on the personal and family life. They are taught by their teachers in the profession to give.......give time, effort, patience and keep on giving. This turns them into empty shells and the same patients whom they enjoyed treating now become burden - burden of responsibility, work and indeed reputation. They start believing that if we don't help them they are helpless. They forget the real world where they are moms and dads, husbands and wives, friends and relatives and a referee in a football match or a secretary in a Durga Puja committee. Their life becomes monotonous and unidirectional from the kaleidoscopic multi coloured and poly directional as God desires. This is when they stop making intelligent choices and simply burn out.

So, while I may not have all the answers of why creative and successful people end up committing an act hardly becoming of them but I can tell you that it is some complex combination of nature (genes, brain circuitry, chemical imbalance) and nurture (a lifetime of bad experiences piled up high enough) coupled with underlying diseases like depression and a few drugs like isotretinoin (Acutane), used for treating acne hopelessly stack up against a sensible decision making. Depressed and bipolar people can appear to be high-functioning creative leaders—during their manic bursts—and simply moody when they hit the low end. 


Most of us are brought up to believe that success equates to happiness, unfortunately it could be that the pursuit of success is what that drives people to the brink. No matter how you feel, no matter what mistake you think you made, you can fix it. Suicide is the one mistake you can’t take back.

Monday, 1 May 2017

PHYTOCEAUTICALS – EVEN OUR GRANDMOTHERS KNEW ABOUT THEM!





 “Finish your carrots, they are good for your eyes” she would say; the oil in “the orange peel will make you’re your skin glow” she would tell my mother. My grandma was an unsuspecting carrier of a bounty of knowledge, which has today acquired a fancy name ‘Phytoceauticals’!

Phytoceauticals are biological actives obtained from plants and have been known to those practicing Ayurveda since ages. Their use from wound healing to cosmetology and from anti inflammatory to anti cancer therapy are today the ‘in thing’ in medicine, but the fact that they are a part of our glorious heritage and find documentation in ancient books like Susruta Samhita and Charak Samhita cannot be denied.

Today we aesthetic surgeons have formulated a classification for these phytoceauticals as our ready reckon-er:
–        Anti inflammatory – naturally occurring COX-2 mediators to reduce inflammation
•         Turmeric, ginger, papaya
•         Pineapple, Blueberry, sweet potato
•         Kelp, Brown algae
–        Topical bleaching agents 
•         Hydroquinone, Kojic acid, Glycolic acid
•         Lemon / Orange peel – Ascorbyl palmitate
•         Licorice extract
–        Topical anti bacterial agents 
•         Apple stem cells
•         Salicylic acid powder
•         Pumpkin oil

Let us now appreciate how we have used the phytoceauticals all these years:

Cosmetics:
Different Lepās (Masks or applications) were recommended for different seasons for body beautification. The ingredients used during the cold seasons were quite different from those used in warm seasons. In fact Ashtānga Hridaya (a 1500 year old book of Ayurveda) offers six different formulations to be used for the six seasons of the year. Similarly special cosmetic Tailams (Oils) and Ghritas (Clarified butter or ghee) were used for facial beautification. Superfluous hair was considered to be a stigma and a large number of depilatory agents were recommended to get rid of it. Special ingredients were used for hair washes. Many remedies have been indicated for hair growth, prevention of falling hair and premature graying. Hair dyes, fragrant hair rinses and fumigants were also in use. Fragrant bath powders and body deodorants also find frequent mention. Oral hygiene in the form of care of teeth, mouth deodorants and coloring of lips were daily chores to be religiously pursued. Today we are re-discovering them in our tooth pastes in the form of Neem, turmeric, cinnamon, licorice, almond, clove, peppermint and eucalyptus oils.  It appears that the whole range of modern cosmetic usage was conceived by the ancient Indians and was practiced with the help of natural resources then available.

Anti inflammatory:
Turmeric or Haldi is a commonly used spice in our kitchen but its use as a medicine too is not new as it has been used both topically as well as orally. It is a natural remedy for several ailments and is greatly notable for its strong anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties, and for its ability to kill bacteria and boost the body's immune system. It's no surprise that it's so widely sought after, given all these benefits and the entire world is keen to patent its goodness when we have known about it since ages! What is most exiting is that mixing it with just one other natural ingredient can turn it into something even more potent?  And that is Honey!

Anti bacterial:
Of all the natural antibiotics nature has to offer, golden honey has been found to be one of the strongest ones ever known. When combined with turmeric, these two ingredients can make a powerful natural remedy, which acts as a medicine for colds in particular, with benefits that may outweigh those of the synthetic antibiotics you're accustomed to.
Unlike other medicines, golden honey has no negative effects on the intestinal tract. But, rather, it improves digestion and increases the activity of beneficial flora in the gut thus acting as a probiotic. It also acting as a wonderful healer in the following cases:

• colds and flu
• respiratory diseases
• weight problems
• arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis


So, when you feel like you're coming down with a nasty cold, golden honey is the first thing you should reach out for. Here are the directions of how to make it:

Ingredients
• 3.5 oz. (100 grams) of raw organic honey
• 1 tbsp. of turmeric powder

Directions
Combine the turmeric and honey, mix well, and place in a glass container.

Dosage instructions
To fight cold and flu symptoms:
• Day 1 – Take ½ tsp. every hour during the day.
• Day 2 – Take ½ tsp. every two hours during the day.
• Day 3 – Take ½ tsp. three times a day.

To fight respiratory diseases:
• Take ½ tsp. three times a day during the week.

How to take it
When ingested, the mixture should be kept in the mouth until completely dissolved. You may even add golden honey to milk or tea if desired.

Do not consume turmeric if you suffer from hypertension, hemophilia, bile disease or other gallbladder problems, since it could cause muscle contractions in the gallbladder.

According to Indo-Tibetan medicine, if you use turmeric before meals - it acts on the throat and lungs, if you use it during meals - it acts on the digestive system, and if you use it after meals - it acts on the colon and kidneys.

Phytonutrients

Plant foods contain thousands of natural chemicals. These are called phytonutrients or phytochemicals. Phytonutrients aren't essential for keeping us alive, unlike the vitamins and minerals that plant foods contain but improve our wellness and health. More than 25,000 phytonutrients are found in plant foods but the six important ones are Carotenoids, Ellagic acid, Flavonoids, Resveratrol, Glucosinolates and Phytoestrogens. More than 600 carotenoids provide yellow, orange, and red colors in fruits and vegetables. They are antioxidants and they tackle harmful free radicals that damage tissues. Alpha-carotene, beta-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin are all converted to Vitamin A and are useful for our eyes. Yellow and orange foods like pumpkins and carrots are good sources of alpha- and beta-carotene.

Lycopene give red or pink colour to tomato, watermelon and pink grapefruit and prevent us from prostate cancer. Lutein and zeaxanthin protect us from cataract and age related macular degeneration and are found in green vegetables like spinach, kale and collards. Ellagic acid is found in a number of berries and other plant foods, especially Strawberries, Raspberries and Pomegranates. These protect us from cancers by enabling the liver to neutralize carcinogens. Flavonoids include catechins found in green tea, hesperidin found in citrus fruits, flavonols in apples berries and onions and Resveratrol is found in Grapes, Purple grape juice and Red wine.

Fruits and vegetables are concentrated sources of phytonutrients; other plant foods like whole grains, legumes/beans, nuts and seeds, and herbs and spices also contain phytonutrients. Since many phytonutrients also serve as the pigment that gives foods their deep hues, you can identify many phytonutrient-rich foods by looking for colorful foods; for example, look for foods that are blue or purple like blueberries, blackberries and red cabbage (rich in flavonoids); yellow-orange foods like carrots, winter squash, papaya, and melon (rich in beta-carotene); red or pink foods like tomatoes, guava, and watermelon (rich in lycopene); and green foods like kale, spinach, and collard greens (rich in chlorophyll). Yet, since not all phytonutrients give color, it's important to not overlook some off-white foods as well—for example, garlic, onions, and leeks are rich in powerful sulfur-containing phytonutrients.

Phytonutrients are rich source of antioxidants and are found in whole grains, legumes/beans, nuts and seeds, green vegitables, citrus fruits and herbs. They promote good health and are gifts for us from the plant kingdom.