Thursday, May 31, 2007

The clash of medical systems

In the context of the double dose of chikungunya and dengue in Kerala ,there has been an ongoing debate on the merits or demerits of homeopathy vaccinations for the same.Most practitioners of modern medicine would find it extremely difficult to believe that these homeopathic preparations have any real prophylactic benefit.For one, I am not aware of any kind of controlled studies in this field .In fact one of the major faults of the system of homeopathy is this very lack of documentation. Many of the conditions in which homeopathy apparently produces dramatic cures are conditions having natural remissions after a course of time. I mean why is that conditions which do not have a definite cure in allopathy and are not self- subsiding, have no effective homeo cure? Say for example HIV infections ?If as homeopaths say ‘we treat the patient as a whole ,based on his /her symptoms’ ,then can’t you treat HIV infections too? Or for that matter cancers?
The very theory that extreme dilutions of toxic products like arsenic can be used to cure disease sounds a bit improbable.( Things like arsenic have been used effectively for various diseases in the past at higher doses ,but this practice has been stopped because of it’s toxicity ) In fact the whole issue has been put rather simply by a US FDA statement regarding the safety of homeo medication –The United States Food & Drug Administration considers that there is no real concern over the safety of most homeopathic products "because they have little or no pharmacologically active ingredients".( )

There are good aspects of every specialty and an active, constructive interaction might help all systems of medicine ,but the basic problem is modern medicine stresses on meticulous documentation of clinical evidence, while homeopathy largely ignores this basic scientific principle.After the initial works on the Materia Medica by Hahnemann and later Kent , modern homepathy has shown very little original research .All you have to do is compare the average number of scientific papers bought out by the respective systems in recent times ( Though I admit ,the concept of healing goes far beyond documentation on paper ).Surprisingly the most elaborate study on the effectiveness of homeo medications in recent times was the famous Lancet study (Lancet ,Aug 2005 ) ,which was contested by a number of homepathic researchers.What is not commonly known is that there have been a number of other ‘evidence based medicine’ studies in relation to the efficacy of homeo medication in specific diseases in recent times ,all of which have shown results that are rather unflattering to homeopathy . ( /reviews ).Actually if homeopaths really want to end the criticism of their system , they should conduct more controlled studies to prove the validity of their treatment modalities.It would be nice if they at least tone down their claims before coming out with reproducible evidence.Will the homeopaths who are promoting these ‘vaccines’ be brave enough to be inoculated with the chikungunya virus after taking the vaccines themselves ?(There will be the valid counter argument that can modern medicine practioners risk inoculation with something like the small pox virus after taking a vaccination ?Maybe not, but the point is that virtually every single modern drug or vaccine which comes out into the market has gone through extensive animal and human trials.In spite of this there are unexpected side effects ,like the recent Valdecoxib issue.So how can you justify mass treating people with a drug which has simply not been used for a condition before? Morover most modern medicine practitioners don’t go about claiming miraculous success for even established medicines ).
Like Shakepeare wrote in Hamlet “There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy”.So maybe there are hidden ways in which homeopathy works ,which is beyond the comprehension of modern medicine.However if that be the case ,then it’s time that homeopaths thought of proceeding in a more scientific way with their system.If you think a medicine can work for a disease ,prove it first in a scientific manner ,try to find how exactly it works and then share it with the world.,instead of obstinately sticking to your claims without backing it up properly.Modern medicine is far from perfect but at least whatever is there, is out in the open.Any detail regarding any effect or side effect of a drug or disease is freely available on the net.
It is futile to argue on the relative merits of alternative systems of medicine vis-a vis modern medicine.Instead it is time that various groups put their heads together in a scienific manner ,to make the best of what each system has to offer .

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

To knot or not to knot….

Saji John Tharayil believed earnestly that was his salvation.33 years and not being married was bad, even for a guy, in god’s own country. Already he had old aunts surreptitiously querying if he needed any traditional medicines for problems pertaining to you know what. The problem however was that he didn’t like most of the girls he met live through official arrangements and the ones he did ,simply didn’t fancy him much.

This was the dire situation ,getting direr ,when his all knowing friend ,philosopher and guide,his cousin Renju ,directed him to the possibilities of internet romances , the in- thing as far as new age Indian marriages were concerned. Saji was hooked… he could skim through dozens of photos and profiles ,shortlist potential Ms.Sajis and if the girl was nice / stupid enough to reciprocate…..voila! you had another marriage made in the word wide web heaven. Saji was simply too nervous to talk romantic with a girl in the real world.The virtual world provided him with the ability to chat endlessly to half a dozen females everyday with a relatively higher comfort level.
His very Indian parents were much more conservative, like…well like very Indian parents are. They were bent upon proving that Renju was an evil influence on their ‘oh so sweet and innocent’ child. They staunchly believed in doing things the time-tested traditional mallu way.
To elaborate : Little known relative /marriage broker meets girls parents /boys parents
( “There is this good girl /boy who I know personally ,she/he has done his/her degree with first class,soooooooooo beautiful/handsome ,verrrry good family………etc. etc.”You do wonder why somebody hasn’t married such a gooooood girl /boy already!).This all too familiar conversation is followed by a exhibition of the photo of the bride to be in a stiff ,full length studio pic ,with jaded wall paper in the background.If the visuals are appealing enough ,a date is set for the girl viewing ceremony.This is when the groom-to-be and family set forth on a trip to the girls house to assess the girl and her house (importance varying in degree for different people).If the assessment goes well ,the date is fixed ,hands are shaken and the marriage broker pockets a hefty commission. Incidentally ,it is a big plus if the girl and boy also manage to like each other.It was precisely this kind of mating ritual that led Saji’s family to fall in love with Ms Sanjana Mathew Parackal ,26 years ,MBA, soooooo beautiful ,verrry good family…….the works.The only hitch was that the bride groom to be wasn’t smitten ,Saji plain refused to even take a look at the girl’s photograph. The matter would have ended there if a certain wager hadn’t been waged by Saji’s father…..

Mr.John Tharayan ,retired KSEB ( Kerala State Electricity Board ) engineer ,really had no idea what to do about his son’s newfound obsession with matrimonial websites and chat rooms.He decided to have a face to face talk with Mr Renju Jose Tharayil ,his unfortunate elder brother’s only offspring.
Renju was one of those lucky individuals who had no idea why they were put on this earth ,and had no intention of finding out either.He was the jack of all trades ,master of some of the shadier ones. His idea of life was relaxing on the backwater kissed inlands of Kottayam , on a regular diet of toddy ,tapioca and fish (precisely in that order ).It wasn’t that he had no formal education to boast of, in fact he had passed his MBA with honours . Renju was what you would describe as a unique combo of street suaveness and unadulterated laziness. He had started up a number of innovative and interesting business operations ,most of which fizzled out simply because of his laziness. The one family member Renju got along was his lil cousin Saji,who was a year younger to him.They had grown up together in the huge house that their paternal grandfather had right next to Baker junction, in the heart of Kottayam town.The house had sadly been demolished a few years back when Baker Junction gradually developed into the central hub of Kottayam town. That demolition had marked a kind of temporary separation for Renju and Saji.Life didn’t change much for Renju though ,he just continued to loaf around in a different surrounding. Both John uncle and his own appachan (father ) Mr Jose Tharayil (BSc Engg ,FIE ) had tried to get him married so that he would learn to shoulder responsibility. In the case of this particular horse it was virtually impossible to take even take him to the water, leave alone make him drink.

The conversation between John uncle and his dear nephew went something like this (expletives censored)

John Uncle : Da..why the *&^%*&* hell did you put up Saji to this nonsense ?
Renju : Nonsense ?What nonsense…at least now he can decide whether or not he really likes the girl he’s going to marry without you oldies breathing on his neck.
John Uncle : You started this mess ,now you better end it…..unfortunately you’re the only person he’ll listen to.
Renju : Nothing doing ….it’s a matter of principles ,besides ,I think it’s for his own good
John Uncle : Principles!! You and principles! You may yet get small pox ,but you can forget principles.
Renju : Well so be it …..but mark my words…the next marriage in this family will be an internet marriage
John uncle : Don’t bet on it
Renju : You know what ?maybe I will bet on it….how about an all expense paid vacation on a house boat in Kumarakom?
John uncle was by now too angry to think clearly ,but either way he took up his nephew’s challenge.He had decided that his son was indeed going to marry the aforementioned good lady Ms Sanjana ….of course he still had no idea of how he was going to go about it.

Enter the main co-conspirators in the wager ( in the anti-renju team ),namely a certain Ms Anita Mathew Parackal , software engineer and the nominated bride’s only sibling .Anita was nothing like her sister.She was one of those confused 20 and half a decade old ,new age Indian females who shifted from full time female libbism to coy ‘girl next doorism’ ,without a moment’s notice ,much faster than a Mr Jekyll could say ‘Hyde’.She had spunk though. So it was natural that when Mr Jose explained to her the plan of action ,she was all for it ,in spite of her more placid sister’s protests.
Thus began operation plan was quiet simple.Anita was to log in as a mysterious suitor interested in Saji ,entice him and then dump as to make him completely disenchanted with an internet romance.
Well man proposes and god ( and most females ) disposes.Anita did start off in right earnest.She hooked Saji the very first day in the guise of a rather exotic pseudonym - mallu_nymph25 (yuck …sounds like one of those 70’s semi –porno Malayalam flicks) .Saji of course continued to chat under the very ordinary label of Saji_T111 (Whatever that was supposed to convey).They chatted and chatted and each time Saji asked Ms Nymph for a pic she coyly refused.Of course that didn’t stop Saji from imagining a very nubile nymphish mallu girl ,rising out of the water a la Bo Derek in Dr.No.(Not in a bikini of course but in a white sari with silk borders).For Saji there was a problem though ….he realized he got pretty ‘ keyboard tied’, something akin to being tongue tied ,even in virtual reality .At times when the late night conversations started swaying towards extreme mushiness, he felt his typing fingers simply freeze and he had to sign off in a hurry with very uninspiring repartees like “Hey nymphy ,got to go….dinner’s ready” (this at half past midnight ).
So now our hero no:1 turned as he would ,to hero no:2 …a.k.a Renju and ever loyal as he was ,especially with an interesting wager on ,Renju gleefully jumped into the cesspool of this murky affair. Renju donned the mantle of ghost chatter for his cousin. As far as Ms Nymph was concerned all of a sudden her conversations with her very dull would be bro-in-law started becoming uncomfortably interesting.One thing led to another ,and Ms Anita started taking a fancy for Saji_T111.To make matters really worse Renju started feeling very strange mushy feelings for Ms Mallu Nymph.The last time he had felt that way was years ago a little grey-brown Pomeranian pup, which he had escorted home one fine on his way back from school.Unfortunately ,though he felt like doing the same with Ms Nymph ,he knew that things wouldn’t be that simple. As his heart disease turned chronic ,he finally decided to break the news to Saji. Saji mind on hearing the news,was rattled to a state somewhere between hurt and angry bewiderment.However ,being the gentleman that he was ,he decided to cede any copyrights he had over Ms.Nymph. Renju of course was overjoyed, and the very same day proposed to Ms.Nymph and suggested that they meet as soon as possible to discuss their future. According to the pre-written script ,Ms Nymph was to press the eject button at this point ,but as twists in the tale go ,Ms Nymph accepted the proposal,without consulting the director of the drama.To make matters really messy she sent her pic to her virtual lover.To make matters messier than really messy ,this pic which was saved on the desktop of Saji’s computer was later seen by Saji himself and as you would expect in a crazy story like this ,Saji simply fell in love all over with the lady in the picture.

The next day Anita spent in quiet contemplation. Finally she decided to open her heart to her sister.Her sister ,being the mature person that she was ,took things very coolly.They had a long discussion and finally made their decision….they would go together to meet Saji and explain the situation openly.
On the other side Renju too had decided that being truthful was the way to go.So on the day of the proposed rendezvous ,he had a man to jilted man talk with Saji ,and talked him into going to the Olio restaurant ,near the Thirunakkara grounds with himself ,to meet his future Bhabhi and help him explain the whole story in detail.Saji relented ,at least partly out of a desire to meet the beautiful girl he had almost fallen irreparably in love with..

3 months later:
Renju and Saji were relaxing on the open deck of a luxury houseboat ,on the Kumarakom lake.Anita was lazing on the port side of the boat ,with a heavily dog-eared ‘God of small things’ nestled in her laps.
Saji called out to his wife “Darling ,can you pass me that tender coconut juice”
Anita looked up as her twin sister Sanjana, lovingly tendered to her husband’s need.When she turned her head ,she saw her crazy ,adorable husband Renju casting a sly wink in her direction.
The foursome’s honeymoon vacation was completely sponsored by Saji’s dad…who had both won and lost as far as the bet was concerned ,but considered himself to be the greatest winner on the whole ,at the end.

© copyrighted – Feroze Kaliyadan 2007

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The ghost of suicide point

Rathish Karyatt was in a strange occupation – professional ghost chaser .To make matters worse he was not paid for his work.He started of on this rather novel pursuit after what could be loosely described as a ‘life after death’ experience.The 5 years that had passed after his freak parachute accident had dulled his memory ,but he could still remember the strange sensations ,the light at the end of the tunnel ,the eerie feeling of having a rather unpleasant aerial view of his own bloodied body, a bevy of sensory inputs of which he had read in books before and had dismissed as supernatural crap.The experience had changed him profoundly .Now he believed in spirits ( not the gulpable kind) ,in the afterlife and in the judgment day.From steady partygoer and philanderer ,he had metamorphosed into something of a saint philosopher with no time for worldly affairs.He was into spiritual pursuits …literally.His family and friends hardly got to see him.

So far ,so good ,but somehow he never managed to actually find a ghost.He had scoured all areas likely to be infested with unsatisfied spirits. Cemeteries ( of all religious hues,death after all seemed to be one great beacon for secularism ) ,suicide points ,prisons with histories of judicial executions ….you name it .So that was how ,one fine day he found himself staring down the unending depth of green grass and granite steeply sloping by the sides of the cliff at the suicide point at Lonavala. Lonavala ,for those not familiar with it, is a hill resort ,a few hours drive from Mumbai. The suicide point at Lonavala is known to have assisted quite a horde of disgruntled souls to the after life. Disillusioned lovers ,alone and in pairs, irrespective of sex ,caste and creed ,share brokers ,whose share of bad luck broke their will to live, students ,whose failure in their board exams ,drove them over board ,drug addicts and alcoholics who jumped down to reach a new high…….
The chilly night weather nipped at his bones ,he somehow felt that his long quest was finally going to bear fruits tonight. The pavement lining the edge of the cliff was empty ,except for the neatly arranged wooden benches and the irregularly strewn dried leaves. .The edge itself had been barricaded with barbed wire.It was worth thinking if a half a metre high wire fence would really dissuade a depressed human being from leaping into oblivion. The eeriness was accentuated by the dull glow of a half moon ,attempting to shine through a thick envelope of angry rain clouds.The fog was getting heavier.Rathish continued to walk along the winding pavement.Not a sound ,not one dejected ghoul in sight.As the clock in the central tower ,downtown, struck twelve ,the familiar frustration started taking root.
It was then he noticed the footsteps ..firm, regular. As if by magic a huge silhouette emerged out of the fog.
‘Bhaisaheb ,raat ke is waqt ,yahaan kya kar rahe ho?’.The voice had a rich baritone quality, Rathish could almost feel the echoes. As the giant came closer,he could make out his course facial features. Bushy eyebrows ,acne scarred face and a huge handle bar moustache that would have put Veerappan to shame.He was smiling ,more like guffawing actually,the moonlight reflecting off his huge bunny teeth.

‘Just strolling ,enjoying the chill….are you the chowkidar around here?’
‘Haan Saheb ,rotten job ,but have to keep the fire burning at home right?Where are you from?It’s very rare to see people at this time of the night.You’re not planning on jumping are you?’

Rathish smiled ‘No ,not for quite some time at least.I am from Navi Mumbai ,just came for a weekend getaway.So you still have a lot of suicides these days?’

The watchman ,contemplated for a brief moment.’No ,not much ,we had one last year ,a young lady from Jaipur.Apparently some kind of love affair that had a bad ending.In fact it was almost exactly a year ago.I still remember ….she jumped wearing her bridal brocade.When they retrieved her body ,it was difficult to tell the red of her blood from the red of her dress.Ghastly site.’

‘She was married ?’

‘Yes ,but not to the guy she loved.She and her husband had come here for their honeymoon’.He glanced briefly towards the barbed wire and then turned back to Rathish with a smile ‘A lot of sad stories have had their endings across that fence Saheb’.

There was a strange expression in his face.Was it grief ?or some kind of morbid amusement?

‘I’m going to my security post ,Saheb ,it’s beyond the curve ,about half a kilometer across.If you need something ,I’ll be there .You better be going now ,though.I’ve been year more than a decade ,but this place still gives me jitters sometimes’

‘Don’t worry ,I’ll be fine’Rathish replied

The watchman ,disappeared into the fog.Rathish moved on along the pavement.The temperature seemed to have dropped further.It was getting really late now.Rathish was about to turn back when he saw her.She was sitting on one of the wooden benches ,staring into nothingness ,it seemed.Rathish felt like a hunter approaching his prey.He felt no fear at all ,just a feeling of raw excitement..As he came closer ,he noticed her bright red dress with rich zari work.He sat down next to her.She still seemed lost ,oblivious to his existence.

‘Rather late for a girl to be here alone isn’t it ‘?

She jerked her face to me with a startled expression on her face.Her face was pale ,and wet.She had been crying .Her eyes were glazed ,Her long dark hair was swaying in the light wind.The moonlight produced a strange halo around her face.

‘Who…who are you?….leave me alone..please’Her voice was soft and frightened.She tried to move away from him.It seemed as though she wanted to run away ,but didn’t have the energy to do so.

‘Hey ,easy.I ‘m not going to hurt you.I…I was just taking a late night stroll…I’ll leave if you want to be alone’His sincere reassuring tone ,seemed to have its desired effect.There was a brief pregnant silence.

‘I am sorry.I really wanted to be alone for some time.You startled me ,I didn’t think I’d find anybody around here at this time’ She continued staring ahead into the mist .

‘You live nearby?’ Rathish queried cautiously.

Another brief period of silence ‘Yes ,just about half a kilometer from here ,near the security hut’
‘Like you have a home there ?’
She stared at him incredulously as though he had asked a most idiotic question.

‘The honeymoon cottages…we just came today’ she gestured with her hand towards the direction of the security hut.
‘Kind of overdressed for this time of the night aren’t you ?’

She was back to her vacant stare ‘ Today was my wedding day’

Rathish continued to interrogate her ‘Had a tiff with the hubby ,did we?’

She seemed to be getting impatient.’ You could say that …not his fault though. It’s me…I ….’The rest of the sentence melted away into the fog.
‘There was someone else?’
She seemed genuinely surprised ‘Some one else?? No…Why did you ask?’
He thought for a moment ‘You were not planning on ending your life were you?’
She smiled for the first time ‘That was the original idea…..I guess crying in solitude…in the middle of nowhere helps flush out depression to some extent’She wiped her face with the loose end of her Sari. ‘I guess ,I’d better get going….I have to sort out my life by myself ,nobody else is going to do it for me ‘

She stood up and started to walk away.She hardly took a few paces when she turned to address me ‘I’m sorry I reacted the way I did….I ‘m sure you understand’ she came back and extended her heavily henna laden hand to him.

Her hand went through his …as though his hand was made of thin air.Her dilated eyes reflected the fear she felt.She ran….her scream echoing around suicide point.Rathish couldn’t blame her though …..after all she had seen a ghost.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

A sick degree of separation

12 June 2006 ,
Beecholim ,Goa

It’s our anniversary day ,and she still won’t talk to me.It’s been exactly one year ,one whole year of brooding silence between us.I always like to brag to myself that me and my wife were a special couple.I mean how many twosomes do you know who split on the day of their wedding anniversary.Awesome ..right?
It’s even more awesome considering that we’re neighbours.We practically share a compound ,with not even a namesake wall separating our places.Four feet apart physically ,a light year apart mentally.
Our mutual friends and relatives come over once a while ,and they make it a point to visit us both.Nobody seems happy about us splitting.Most of our friend don a visage of shock mixed with palpable sadness when they come over.
It isn’t that we were always at loggerheads ,we had our fights ,but we did make up pretty soon.In fact most of our friends considered us to be very much in love ,in spite of our obvious differences.Linda was the archetypical girl next door ,the semi-geeky ,goody-goody girl ,who managed to provide an easy comfort zone to the people around her. While yours- truly was basically a three quarter misanthrope and one quarter universal cynic, who could needle the most placid of people to the verge of mad rage.Our jobs complemented our characters…..she a primary school teacher ,me a political journalist. She could find reasons to love the naughtiest of brats in her school ,while I could find reasons to pour vitriol on the most decent of politicians (Which luckily for me most people heartily supported . ‘Decent’ and ‘politician’ simply don’t seem to go well together ,like two sore thumbs sticking out from each other ).Yet surprisingly ,she was the one that wouldn’t give an inch after we split…and oh for what a silly reason too.Could you ever imagine a wife walking out of a marriage because her husband liked to use his cell phone while driving ?!OK so we had an accident ,but for heavens’ sake it wasn’t such a big deal and I tried conveying to her my resolve ,not to do it again.Sometimes I wonder if the head injury she got didn’t make her a bit loony.Well wives and knives they’re all the same ,they cut you deep when you least expect them to.Good riddance , sometime I think.

Today the friends and relatives were drizzling in ,like small scattered spatters of rain.Nothing like our first anniversary .No great celebration ,no loud greetings ,no booze ,no feast. No great presents either ….most of them brought flowers!It was almost hilarious watching them visit her house first ,spend a few minutes in idle small talk….blah blah blah and then repeat the tedious process at my place.Some were audacious enough to wish me happy anniversary! Wonder why they bother to come at all ,it isn’t like we like to be reminded of our sorrow ,not me at least.The scum!
Somehow, like last year, I hoped deep in my heart that she’ll forgive me….that she’ll come over and we’d have a candle lit dinner like old times ,with Kenny G in the background and contented sighs in the air.
The day passed ,the decaying fragrance from the flowers at my place seemed to merge with those at her house.She still didn’t turn a blind eye.Happy anniversary ,Linda ,my wife of one glorious year!

Post script:
The Goa Times
12 June ,2004
Couple killed in car accident.
-Linda and Lance D’cruz ,of Beecholim South were killed when the car in which they were traveling, crashed into a parked oil tanker, near Colva beach.Police sources later commented that the driver of the car seemed to have been talking on his cell phone while driving and probably did not notice the tanker parked after the curve. The couple were returning home after celebrating their first wedding anniversary .Both of them were laid to rest at the Beecholim St.James cemetery in adjacent graves.