Sunday, April 29, 2007

Book Review - Doctor At Home by Dr John Daniel and Dr Jagjit Daniel

Dr John Daniel is a good friend of mine and lives in Bangalore. The most striking aspect about him is his affable demeanour and contagious sense of humour. He spends time reading and writing, besides of course watching TV and keeping up with current affairs.

He doesn't practise now, but has a keen eye on matters of health. He has authored a wonderful book: Doctor At Home, along with his wife Dr Jagjit Daniel. Though, naturally, it is not a substitute to an actual doctor at home, it comes very close to it; because, it answers a number of doubts we all have on health and fitness. It has a lot of tips and advices, and has been written keeping in mind the Indian medical scenario.

More on the book later. Before that, a little about a new passion he has just discovered. During the past few months, Dr Daniel has been exploring the new communication-publishing medium of weblog. Yesterday, he called me up to say that his blog is now up and running. Keep in touch with him at Funnylines.
Back to Doctor at Home.

May be you can call it the R-DEL approach: Right diet, right exercise, right lifestyle. Dr Daniel says if these three aspects are taken care of, 80 per cent of illnesses can be avoided. The book gives lots of interesting tips:

Diet: We are all hung upon calories, are we not? Dr Daniel says a healthy diet is more about eating right kind of food in right quantities. Those who are on weight-reducing diet should take lesser calories than what the body spends daily. If you check your weight over a week or two, you will know if the calorie intake is less, unchanged or excess, says Dr Daniel.

Exercise: What counts is not the amount of exercise but the regularity. Jog or walk briskly or just walk; or exercise in gym or play tennis -- but never overexert, says the doctor, because it is harmful. Any exercise, should involve deep breathing that pushes heart and lungs to work harder; for, that is the key to raising total body fitness.

Lifestyle: It’s defined as the general pattern of attitudes and behaviour you adopt through life, involving different aspects of living. A healthy lifestyle includes right diet and right exercise. Besides, it comprises proper immunization, hygiene, moderation and avoiding addictions, relaxation, closeness of family and shared love, regular medical check-ups, early treatment and safety precautions, says the doctor.

Your rights: Dr Daniel says patients should be aware of their responsibilities and rights. Doctors work under pressure in crowded hospitals under hectic schedules. So patients must cooperate with them. Patients should also make clear to the doctor that they would like an open, frank discussion before important steps are taken.

Dr Daniel says few people in our country are aware of their rights as patients. For good treatment, patients need to be informed about planned steps, to have their views heard and doubts cleared, and -- if they wish and if their condition permits -- to seek other opinions, says Dr Daniel.

First aid: It can often make a difference between life and death. Emergencies like chest pain, choking on food, fracture and head injuries can occur at any time in any family. Instead of throwing one’s hand up, at least one person in the family should be aware of first aid. Dr Daniel says first aid is so important that hospitals and NGOs should organise classes for the public.

“The earlier cancer is detected the better the chances of cure. The essential objective is not to ignore anything that is abnormal that happens in your body, particularly a growth, and wait for it to go away.”
“Plan your diet. Take plenty of (but not excess) of wheat, rice, vegetables and fruits. Take modest amounts of milk and milk products. Use minimum quantity of sugar and salt. Limit oil and other forms of fat, but using the unsaturated variety.”

(The above is an extract from my review of the book in The Times of India, Bangalore.)

-- Review of the book in The Hindu, in Deccan Herald, and in Hindu Businessline
-- Order the book from Indiatimes Shopping.

Doctor At Home by Dr John Daniel and Dr Jagjit Daniel is published by EastWest Books (Madras) Pvt Ltd, 571, P H Road, Aminjikarai, Chennai, 600029; 270 pages; Price Rs 275.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Bangalore flooded in summer!

Imagine, a flood in summer! That's what happened in Bangalore on Saturday. On a night of heavy downpour, water entered houses and basements of apartment complexes, roads became unmotorable, streets resembled lakes, and one didn't know if there was ground or drain under water. The tragic fallout: one woman was washed away. Surely it doesn't speak well of a global Indian city.

More than the tragedy what matters are corrective steps. And, that's where we draw a blank. Civic problems mostly stem out of violations of rules and regulations pertaining to construction of housing and commercial complexes. And, yesterday, chief minister H D Kumarasway, who visited some flooded localities, threw his hands up, and said he would have to handle the issue of encroachments with kid-gloves since it was a sensitive matter. Flagrant abdication of responsibilities? What else.

If a person has been legally paying taxes for an illegal property, and that too for years on end, then there is something surely rotten with the system. Worse, our inability, or better, our lack of interest to set an anomaly right. That's what the CM's statement indicates.

When a government official comes to take action against an illegally constructed building, then the building owner quietly flashes the receipts for the property and all other taxes he has been paying over the past so many years. "If this building is illegal, then how come taxes were collected, why no one told me about this till now? And, how can you take action, when I have been paying taxes for so long?" that's what the owner will ask the government official.

This is typical of many hydra-headed government organisations, wherein one wing is completely clueless to what another related wing is doing. A society and its economy needs to grow, but not in an unregulated manner, like Bangalore has been growing.

The common premise is that one can get away with anything. The joke, "You can even get the governor's residence legally registered in your name", is an indication of the malaise we live with. While the government needs to be blamed for the lack of resolve, the citizens too should ponder over the willingness with which he has exploited the loopholes in the system for his selfish gains.

The runaway growth that has been allowed in Bangalore is like a killer monster that spews goodies. We are happy with the little goodies no matter if there is widespread destruction. If the growth is slowed down (i.e., if the killer monster is tamed and tethered) there may be some inconvenience (the killer's goodies may not the available). But, Bangalore will emerge as a well-administered city.

But the moot question is are we ready to take the pains to put things order; or are we just content with complaining? The howl of protests whenever the government takes a corrective step forward to make this city better, is, sadly, an indication of the latter.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Why NBC telecast Virginia Tech shooter's video

On Monday, a gunman, Cho Seung-Hui, entered the Virginia Tech campus, sprayed bullets at random killing 33 persons, most of them students. This is the worst shooting rampage in American history, and it has set off a discussion on that nation's infamous gun culture.

On Wednesday, NBC received a package containing a rambling and often incoherent 23-page written statement from Cho, 28 video clips and 43 photos — many of them showing Cho brandishing handguns. A Postal Service time stamp reads 9:01 a.m. — between the two attacks on campus. The video has disturbing texts, audio and video clippings in which Cho explains the background to his gruesome act. The package solved the mystery of the 2-hour gap between the first burst of gunfire, at a high-rise dorm, and the second attack, at a classroom building.

According to a news report: "Some of the pictures in the video package show him smiling; others show him frowning and snarling. Some depict him brandishing two weapons at a time, one in each hand. He wears a khaki-coloured military-style vest, fingerless gloves, a black T-shirt, a backpack and a backward, black baseball cap. Another photo shows him swinging a hammer two-fisted. Another shows an angry-looking Cho holding a gun to his temple."

At times of such catastrophic events, news media too get involved in a parallel debate on how such events are covered. NBC's decision, after careful deliberations, to air portions of the footage, has triggered such a debate now. Many networks, like Fox, have decided not to show the footage.

NBC says select portions were aired so that America understands why Cho did what he did, and the nation takes cues from it to avoid a similar tragedy in future. But others felt it was an insensitive move. In fact, the family members of victims cancelled plans to appear on NBC's "Today" show because they "were very upset" with the network for showing the pictures.

In such cases, I believe, there is no readymade formula that can be applied. Probably NBC is as much right as others who didn't show it. Because, how right it is to show such clippings depends on how much is shown and in what manner; meaning, the commentary and programme format that can make a big difference to the impact of such visuals.

Today, Poynter Institute faculty members Al Tompkins, Jill Geisler, Kelly McBride and Bob Steele gathered to discuss NBC's decision. Listen to the podcast of the discussion here. There is also an explanation by the NBC why it went ahead with the telecast.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Rain in Bangalore, finally

The weather bureau in Bangalore was indeed right. Yesterday's drizzle was also an indication of more to follow. It poured in most parts of Bangalore this evening, instantly spreading some cheer all around. Afterall, the city has been experiencing unprecedented summer heat. As the rain lashed, some willingly got drenched, others stood in the comforts of shade to watch drops collect into a puddle and flood the area. In everyone's mind surely there was a sense of relief: one, relief from heat; and two, here's the water that we are all thirsting for. Hope, we have a good monsoon!

Sunday, April 8, 2007

BCCI takes a firm step forward

The dramatic changes that the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) effected in the team management yesterday reflect the public outcry that followed India's early exit from the ongoing World Cup. Few realise that the outcry was not against India's defeat. There was a feeling gaining ground that a few seniors were taking the large mass of cricket enthusiasts for a royal ride. It's this debilitating environment and conditions that were being sought to be changed by the BCCI.

It must be acknowledged that the cricket board has collectively come to a reasonable stand that indicates a willingness to save this game in our country. A few top senior cricketers -- who had assumed proportions of demigod status -- had virtually held the administration and conduct of the game to hostage.

There wasn't any point in blaiming the coach. In fact, there'sn't anyone talking agaist him, except a few senior players. It's apparent that Greg has been a thorough professional who looked at our senior players as nothing more than players. For example, some of our seniors may have earned Greg's wrath for coming late to the camp or taking the preparatory sessions lightly. And it may not have gone too well with them.

By indicating -- an unprecedented step in itself -- that the new team to tour Bangladesh will comprise mainly of youngsters is a blow to the cancerous vested intersts that had infected the team. Let us also not be now under the illusion that India will win all the coming matches. A little step has been taking in the foward direction; but a good amount of ground needs to be covered.

Going by yesterday's defeat of South Africa by Bangladesh, we aren't definitely going to have a cakewalk during our Bangla tour. Anyway that tour, unlike in the past, will be one worth looking forward to.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Sex education, for whom?

Trust our politicians and administrators to mess up things. The latest row is over whether Indian schools should have sex education or not. If so, from what grade. This is a needlessly controversy, badly handled. Children, who are sought to be protected from this three-letter word are, ironically, hearing and reading a lot about it! A major PR disaster by our educationists, that was further complicated by our politicians.

First the Madhya Pradesh state government banned sex education, then Maharashtra government followed suit. In Karnataka, a minister said there was no need for it, since children don't get AIDS! Coincidentally, a few days later, a Std X girl died of AIDS in Delhi's AIIMS.

Our country has a glorious history and culture of sex. Kama Sutra, the ancient Indian text on human sexual behaviour composed by Vatsyayana and Khajuraho temple in Madhya Pradesh famous for its erotic sculpture, are just two examples. Add to these today's liberal lifestyle.

It would surely be not an exaggeration to say that there is at least something remotely sexual in lot of the body language and the non-verbal communication that we get to see and hear around us.

Well, that's in the cities. But, in the villages and smaller towns, it's more conservative. Yet only the word 'sex' is a taboo, not the act. It's all there but behind the curtains and bushes. In the cities, though, it's out there, to various extents, in the open: be it in the parks or in the malls. That's all the difference. And, the present controversy is a reflection of this conflict, not our engagement with sex or sexuality.

For a student, what matters is the knowledge that is imparted, not the name of the course. Everything that is supposed to be taught under "sex education" can easily be taught under "health education". After all, we aren't teaching students when to have it or how to have it. It's more about the anatomical and biological aspects, and not the emotional or psychological aspects.

So, knowing well our collective -- not individual -- discomfort with the word "sex", it would have been more prudent to have quietly enhanced the current health education syllabus in schools. There was no need to separate sex from the general health education syllabus, and introduce it as sex education.

At the end of it all, our students would have got to know all they should have actually known, without the raised eyebrows and the discordant notes. Our objective is to educate the children, is it not, not fight over the name of the course.

PS: Going by the extent of taboos and misconceptions among adults, I think, it's the adults who really need a sex education, that too in some good detail. And, for children, health education, with sex and sexuality discreetly included in it.