Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas has come and gone

Indeed, as the title says it, Christmas has come and gone ... this time, a little more silently than in the previous years ... at least in Mumbai, but, thanks to the economic melt-down, perhaps all over the world as well. Festivities such as having a Christmas tree, visiting Santa, giving gifts etc. will all go on, but as the pockets aren't so deep, the trees will be smaller, and the gifts, not as ostentatious as before. Travelling to a foreign country will also, I am sure, be marked by austerity and some effective use of common-sense (which is otherwise so uncommonly seen). 

Mumbai has had the terrrible terror attacks a month ago, and although people have begun to lead near normal lives, the fear and the suspicion are still there: people check under their seats when they visit a restaurant, and some will even chide the manager for not having long table-cloths under which they may hide in case a terrorist visits their restaurant. Introspection, quiet demeanour and an acceptance of Fate have all conspired to flatten the enthusiasm of the average Mumbai who wants nothing more than peace and a promise of no-repeats of what happened on 11/26.

Today is the 28th and we are roughly midway between Christmas and the New Year. I saw big crowds near the Regal Cinema, which is a stone's throw away (I know the analogy is a bit weird) from the Taj Palace hotel and the Gateway of India. Both the Taj tower and the Trident started operations and welcoming guests on the 21st of this month, and have sent a clear message to the terrorists and their masters that they will not cower down before the actions of a murderous few.

Today was also the first day of our Muslim-Bohra calendar year. Yesterday night, we had a sort of feast - a tradition that we follow every year. We create several dishes, and also dice a lot of fruit, and serve it all in small, dainty plates and bowls atop a large serving plate known as a "thaal". This large plate, mostly of stainless-steel, is circular and more than 3 1/2 feet in diameter. Along with the dishes that are served up, we also place, in the thaal, a smaller plate containing a silver coin, some raw rice, jaggery, a supari piece, a coconut, a garland and a single betel leaf: the belief is that this is a "birthday" of the thaal. You could say we are invoking Allah for his beneficence and his limitless mercy.

Generally, we count the items on the thaal and make sure we have at least 21 items, but at times, we aim for  larger number, which is usually an odd number. Yesterday, we reached a modest 25 dishes, while others aimed to go to 51 dishes or even more!

Stuffed ourselves, yes ... we did. And then, Nish and I went to attend a wedding ceremony of the son of one of our neighbour friends, where, too, we ate some food.

That's all for now. Hope you liked the entry.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Party in our building

After much vacillation between whether we should or shouldn't have a party this year, considering the terror attacks in Mumbai a month ago and the economic gloom that has threatened the livelihood of millions all over the world, the society's children and youngsters decided to go ahead with a Christmas programme that would incorporate a small memorium for the victims of the 11/26 terror attacks in addition to whatever else that they would put up for the entertainment of the members and their guests.

My younger daughter, Hannah, participated in a "Fashion Show" (with a ramp created on the stage specially for this purpose!) and also in four of the eight or nine dance items that were put up for the programme. Inas, my elder daughter, was more or less preoccupied with her college activities and also, perhaps, did not want to be an active participant this year.

In the event, the programme was very well organised. They even had a professional conductor of the entire programme, a sort of Emcee by the name of Akash. He was quite good.

There was a delightful presentation of a children's fancy dress competition to start the show. The best-dressed children were also the ones with the best performance: to wit, both the daughters of Dr. Abdul Bashir and Archana Khan. While his elder daughter depicted the attire in different seasons, the younger one showed off the various things associated with clouds. They won the events in the two age-categories and got prizes from the judges, viz. Rukhsana Bhombal (m/o Ayesha Bhombal) and Durriya, another member).

This was followed by a Fashion Show, in which about 8 "models" participated, viz. Hannah, Akshay, Aamir, Zahabiya, Nirav, Rahul, Priyanka and Rahul. Hannah wore a distinctive hair-style and her mother's black saree which suited her to a T. The models did many ramp-walks, sometimes alone, sometimes in pairs, occasionally in a group of four, or three, and finally, a row of 8, turning back into 4 pairs as they exited the stage to a loud applause.

The emcee then called the oldest guests and made them walk the walk in a parody show called the "Senior Citizen's Fashion Show", in which my dad, who had come as my guest, also participated. One lady (from 610/C) and my dad won "prizes" - a genuine surprise!

This was then followed by a slew of dance recitals, most of them, nay, all of them, based on the beat of new Hindi movie songs. Hannah participated in many of these, and several people from the audience appreciated her lissome body and beautiful and graceful dancing in their conversations with me. All the dances (barring just a few) were choreographed by Tasneem Karmalawala; she also choreographed the amazing fashion show.

I had to leave for about an hour to attend to patients at the clinic, but was back in time to partake of the delicious food that the organisers had arranged. There were five or six snacks stalls, with sada dosa, bhelpuri/sevpuri, pani puri, sandwiches, popcorn, etc. and dinner in the form of Schezwan Veg. fried rice and Hakka Veg Noodles with Veg. Manchurian balls with gravy.

All of us had hearty meals. The party closed at about mid-night, with some guests and members dancing away into the night with all the children, who danced like there was no tomorrow.

All in all, a very enjoyable evening was had by all.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Mumbai Terror Attacks: What next will be most effective as a deterrant?

Expressions of sympathy, hanging of lists of names of victims, lighting candles, going on peace marches with placards in hand ... all these are activities to foster unity amongst the members of a fractured community that is a microcosm of India. Mumbai has suffered at the hands of terrorists repeatedly, with the 1993 blasts, the 2006 train blasts and the current terror attacks at the top of a huge list. Each time, Mumbai's denizens have gone back to their routines pretty fast ... and each time, they have faced terror again, after a hiatus of months.

In such a climate, it becomes imperative to ask what we can do to prevent such an occurrence for ever? Look at the U.S. of A and the United Kingdom; they were both brutalised with the twin tower tragedy in the former and the train attacks in the latter: yet, they both have never had a further attack on their soil. Why do you think this happened?

I think the sole reason was their serious attitude and actionable activities.

Somehow, Indians lack that ability to coalesce with each other and think like a breathing, thriving, multi-brain organism.Our responses have wither been driven by rampant political drama (such as the resignations of various central and state ministers) or acts of tokenism (such as the ones I listed earlier)). The real truth is that even if there had been cohesion between people, there would have been no forward-looking dynamic action; just the acts of individuals, groups of individuals and the NGO's.

That, my friends, is the reason why I have so much anger and passion burning inside me. I participated in all the tokenist activities, but I feel as though I could have done more, much more.

How about joining self-defence classes? Joining an NGO? Giving some cash or material to recognised charities? Booking a table at one of the 5-star hotels -Taj or Trident? Visiting some of the victims' families and imparting some courage and forebearance? Filing PIL's in courts against inactive politicians and overzealous security setups? I am sure readers will think of many other things besides what I have listed.

If you do even one small thing, but do it with heart and with full feeling, it will not have been a waste.

In the end, we have to all look inside our own selves and determine what distance we are willing to travel to make that crucial difference in the lives of others, and ultimately, in ours too. Redemption of our souls will only occur when we are satisfied with what we have done. Empty actions - that is actions devoid of inner feeling - will be useless.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Dealing with sub-standard employees

This may seem like something rude to say about people who work for you, but at times, one is faced with the bitter fact that the person who is working for you and with you is not altogether competent/energetic/honest/hard-working/diligent or whatever. Now, I run a consulting practice and I have just one employee who sits outside my cabin and - takes calls, gives appointments, takes out print-outs of my prescriptions, coordinates the incoming/outgoing patients, collects my fees and so on. He/she is, effectively, more than one person rolled into one: receptionist, telephone operator, water server, etc. etc. etc.

I should be more accomodating since I am taking the work of four or five people from one person. Right? So why is it that I am saying so many negative things about this soul? Mind you, this is a general rant, and does not refer to any specific person or persons who have, at any time, worked with me or under me.

Well, the sorry fact is that some of the people who have worked with me have really, really been horrid. Either they are plain stupid (in which case, I should be called the bigger fool for having employed them!), but some of the others are wily, lazy, pre-occupied with their own things or simply, so truant that I am paralysed without their presence. On the other hand, even when they are around, they are so incompetent or adverse to improving that they end up giving me grief and stress.

How does one deal with this kind of mess? I cannot well throw them out for I need them too, to carry on with the mechanical work that forms a lot of the work that they do. I also consider the fact that I am not paying them top rupee, since most of them are students who come to work for me in their spare time, and a few are really needy people with families who it would be heartless to throw out of job. Thus, I continue to tolerate them till I can, or till they themselves realise their fault and ask to be released from the job.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Choosing the Right Career

I have seen the ridiculous matter of my elder daughter (Inas) slogging away, reading for the Common Entrance Test (CET) to gain entrance in a Medical College, and then, changing her mind a few weeks before the exam and finally, once the results were in, she switched over to a three-year course in Hospitality Sector (hotel management, catering and tourism). Initially, my wife and some other near and dear ones protested against her this decision, but later on, things became all right. Inas has begun to well and truly like the new line of studies. Doing projects, going for "waitings" - i.e. going to wedding and other functions where her friends and she wait at buffets to serve the guests - and earning money at each of the waitings - is something that she has begun to not just adjust with, but also enjoy.

Having said that, let me also say why she shifted away from a career in medicine: the following things repulsed her: a long duration of studies, which can stretch to 8-10 years if one does even basic post-graduation; or, to 11-12 years if one does Masters in a super-speciality; the prospect of very heavy books and very serious studies; the very idea of leaving social duties and being available to one's patients for emergencies at all hours of the day (or night); the requirement to stay in student hostels for 6 months per year or more; and finally, the fact that one doesn't earn anything till the entire course is over and internship has commenced (thus, after 5-6 years of joining). In addition, if one studies in Maharashtra, one has to compulsarily serve a rural area for one year after completing the internship, or pay a penalty of Rs. 10 lacs to the government in lieu of the same.

I think most of the objections outlined above have strong logic, so I respected her decision and decided to show her the green signal to join the hospitality course. Today, she goes for waitings about once a week and has begun to earn money that she can use for out-of-pocket expenses or fun, or even save for a rainy day.

Feelings of Anger at one's "impotence"

Lest you think I have problems with "that" kind of impotence, well ... no. I was referring to the feeling of anger that one gets when one feels unable to do anything for people or for one's own self after incidents like huge natural catastrophes, grave personal disasters or dangerous confrontations, after a lost argument when one knows one was right but just ... less powerful, after attacks of terror in one's city or after attacks on one's personal liberties by the insensitive acts of governments or police.

Have you also felt such impotent rage? Do share your experience(s) with me on the comment form. I have felt this recently, after the attacks by terrorists in the city of my birth and stay - viz. Mumbai. It wasn't just me ...but the vast majority of Mumbai's citizens have gone through/are still going through the same rage at the inability to do anything more than wear black bands, write angry letters to newspapers, mouth off obscenities to the nameless perpetrators, and light thousands of candles. Can all these things bring back the things Mumbai lost in the 11/26 attacks at various locations across south Mumbai? I don't think so.

I think what is needed is concerted action by the government, not just resignations by ministers of the cabinet at the centre or the state; joining hands for rehabilitation, not just to sing songs or light candles. Those things are not totally useless, and I am not saying that. However, they have token value. Imagine the difference between - saying "I will pray that your fracture heals" and - actually taking the poor fracture victim to the hospital and paying for his complete treatment. That is the difference I am talking about.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Face of Terror

Starting on the eve of the 26th of November 2008, Mumbai city came face-to-face with stark terror: a group of well-organised terrorists landed at Sassoon Docks and proceeded to different places from where they masterminded attacks that left hundreds dead and many more injured; what I want to say about the actual attacks is already on my other blog in the form of three entries that are here, here and here.

In this entry, I am about to share with you the metaphysical dimension of the attacks: we all saw, over the days that the attacks continued, the aggressive attitude of the terrorists and in contrast, the fear and panic on the faces of the citizens of Mumbai, many of them dying unnecessarily in the random shooting of the terrorists. At the C.S.T. railway station, Ajmal Amir Kasab and his accomplice shot people waiting for their trains so cruelly and randomly that the victims never saw it coming. Here is a photo of the surviving terrorist Kasab. As you can see, he is a fairly handsome young man of about 22-23 years' age. Hailing from Faridkot district of Pakistan, he was one of the ten young men who devastated some of the most cherished buildings of south Mumbai. They - i.e. the terrorists - were clinical and brutal in their demeanour and in their action. Gone was even a shred of conscience as they set about killing people mercilessly - unaware that by killing even one person, they were changing or, dare I say, killing humanity as we understand it. Equipped with AK-47 machine guns, grenades, grenade and bomb launchers, satellite phones, and what not, these ten killers descended upon unsuspecting travellers on the railway station, watchmen, patients and doctors at a nearby public hospital (the Cama and Albless Hospitals), pedestrians, adults, men, women and children on the roads near Cafe Leopold and the Metro Adlabs cinema, guests, staff and security men at the Taj Mahal Palce and Tower Hotel, the Trident Hotel and the Oberoi Hotel, and finally, the residents and others at Nariman House where 6 innocent Jews were killed in cold blood.

In addition to the hundreds of Indians who died, some while eating, others while just going about their way towards home, several tourists from many different countries of the world also died within the hotels that they were staying at or visiting.

Staff of all the hotels died, some entire families, such as that of the General Manager at the Taj Palace - except that the father survived. At the C.S.T. railway station, entire families were killed in the gunfire, which, although it seemed random, was actually precise and targeted to cause the maximum amount of panic and psychological damage.

Through it all, most Mumbaikars stayed away from the roads, for over 2-3 days, watching the "drama" unfold over television, as the armed forces and the NSG began their rescue operations. They would finally emerge victorious after nearly 2 1/2 days, but during those 60 hours, ordinary Mumbaikars lived and died a thousand times: stories of carnage intermingled with tales of heroism and supreme sacrifice as several distinguished city policemen and some NSG guards fell to the bullets of the terrorists. In addition, several less well-known policemen also died. And we, the ordinary citizens, watched wide-eyed, our hearts in our throats, tears in our eyes, and an anger that gradually welled up inside us as we prayed that the aggressors got their comeuppance and were killed.

A terrifying week indeed. Heads rolled in the government - both at the state level and at the center, as chief ministers, home ministers and bureaucrats resigned. Homage was paid to the heroes of the nation and they all received state burials. And we, the common citizens, watched it all from home on the various news channels.

After three to four days, people gradually started going back to work, still depressed, dizzy, worried for their safety, panicking at the slightest rumour, and above all, angry at the inefficiency of the government, the intelligence department, the bureaucracy, the politicians and the armed constabulary.

But that is another story, for some other day.

Monday, December 08, 2008

A cousin, a doctor and a gentleman is no more: Dr. Altaf Savliwala

A dear colleague of mine, Dr. Altaf Savliwala, son of Safakathusein and Sofi S. Savliwala, a Pediatrician by profession, and a soft-spoken and gentle human being, died on Sunday, 8/12/2008 in the early hours of the morning due to a massive heart attack. I came to know him about 36 years ago, when I was but a boy of 13. I still remember his soft-spoken nature and kindliness. When a particularly nasty illness struck me at the age of 15, he was studying to be a doctor at the Seth G.S. Medical College and the K.E.M. Hospital. It was he who got me evaluated by his boss (Dr. P.D. Anjaria), and looked after all my needs over the next several visits to the hospital.

Eventually, I was to study medicine and pediatrics in the same medical institutes and pass out in 1986. Over the years, I came to know more and more that he was a gem of a person. Never one to show anger publicly (or privately to me or anyone not of his immediate family) or create any form of friction between him and others, Altaf was the epitome of geniality, cordialness and humility.

I salute this kind soul who Allah called to His presence rather prematurely and early. He was only 54, physically trim, and healthier than most middle-aged people I know; also, he was a calm and careful person, and it seems cruel that Allah should snatch him from among us with the first cardiac arrest of his life.

Altaf left behind his wife Fatema, daughters Tasneem and Zahara and grand-daughter Umme-Hani (born of Tasneem and her husband Ali-Asgar).

May his soul rest in Peace.

Mufaddal adds this:

In continuation to Dr. Taher's views, Dr. Altaf's death has left a deep void in my life. Altaf was a thorough gentleman, well matured, cool and composed person. I remember all the good days that I had the pleasure of spending with him during my visits to Lonavala.

Fate has dealt us a very hard and a nasty blow and snatched away from us a great human being. I pray that his soul rests in Peace and God give strength to Fatema, Tasneem and Zahra to cope up with this tragedy.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

A Brutal Assault III

Three more days have passed since the paramilitary forces such as the National Security Guards (NSG) finally took control of one structure after the other after a struggle that lasted for nearly 60 hours. The Oberoi and Trident Hotels are not as damaged as the Taj, which took the maximum damage; Nariman Building, which, it turns out, was the command center of the terrorists and the place from where their leader watched TV news and guided his "men" on how to move and where to attack, is almost completely damaged and in danger of falling.

At the end of all this, and the investigations that are going on, the National Home Minister (similar to the Minister of Home Security in the U.S.) has resigned; so has the state-home minister. The state's chief minister has also resigned on the 3rd of December evening. People, however, believe that resignations are nothing but political ploys to defuse the peoples' anger, and as such, serve only as "palliative changes" and not as real change.

News culled from various sources have thrown out many shocking details of the terror attack: the technology used by the terrorists was state of the art, their shooting skills, superb, their strategising, totally geared to cause maximum damage, and their planning, very, very detailed. They had even created their own escape routes, should they succeed in hoodwinking the security forces. They were to return to Karachi in Pakistan - once again, by sea. Their use of advanced AK 47 machine guns, satellite phones, grenade launchers, credit and debit cards from Indian banks, Indian SIM mobile phone cards, motorised rafts, false maritime licences, etc. point to an amazing level of planning, and correspondlingly, an amazing lack of intelligence by Indian authorities. It has become evident that their boat was challenged in the Mumbai waters by the Coast Guard, but they were let off once they showed the licences, which were forged = professionally.

On the eve of the 3rd of December, more than a lakh people, angered at the lack of proper security and the insensitiveness of the politician-class, lit candles and gathered en masse at the Gateway of India, just adjacent to the cordoned-off Taj Mahal Palace and Tower. Some of the men and women were celebrities, and had come to the spot because they felt passionately about the issue, but the vast majority were common Mumbaikars who were there to show the victims' families that they were with them at this hour of personal grief and tragedy; they wanted to display that they were Indians first; they wanted to tell off the politicians and bureaucrats who had failed the nation; and finally, they wanted to unite with each other and rise above the parochialism of caste and class. I was there, too, and felt a sense of terrible loss but also a sense of unity and pride in the spirit of Mumbaikars, who had finally had enough and wanted firm and decisive corrective action by the government.

As I write this on the eve of the fourth, I wish to say that two more bombs have been found, containing the lethal RDX, at two different locations visited by the terrorists on the night of the 26th, on two different days - yesterday and today. These bombs remained unexploded, probably due to some error, or else, they would have caused still more deaths and tragedy.

More than 180 dead ... and the nation continues to mourn. Mumbai is back to normal, but it is not the normal normal that I have seen earlier. People are subdued, they are morose, not joking or enjoying life as usual. The wounds of the dastardly attacks will take a long time to heal, and the scars may never fade from the memory of the present generation of Mumbaikars. Questions still remain to be answered, but that is another story.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Brutal Assault II

It will be a long time before Mumbaikars will recover, but their hard questions will not stop.

In my earlier article, I had hinted that I would tell you about how exactly the events unfolded in Mumbai as the terrorists went about destroying the secular fabric of an already fragile metropolitan city with bomb blasts, religious rhetoric and possibly the worst Hindu-Muslim riots to ever occur in free India as a part of its shameful but chequered history.

However, I am quite sure almost all readers already know how the events occurred. It all started with an assault at the C.S.T. railway station on the night of 26th November. Within an hour, it had moved to Cama and Albless Hospital, situated just behind the HQ of the Brihanmumbai Mahanagarpalika (the Municipal Corporation building); and then, after the three prominent policemen lost their lives – in a small lane just behind the Cama Hospital, the chief of the anti-terrorist squad Hemant Karkare, encounter specialist Vijay Salaskar and ACP Ashok Kamte, the terrorists escaped in a stolen police jeep past Metro cinema and towards Chowpatty.

At this point, I have learnt that initially, the Mumbai police force, including the three policemen who laid down their lives (see above), did not realize that they were up against people who had not only the technical knowhow to carry out a sophisticated operation of terror or the arms and the ammunition to fulfill their ambitions of bringing a city – and indeed, a nation, to its knees, but also that they were completely emotionless and cruel to the point of being devoid of any feelings: they went about the act of killing these decorated officers with complete insouciance and no regard for their status or rank. This very fact should have, and probably did, alert the intelligentsia among the police, the strategic forces and others, that they had a big cherry on their hands and it would be some time before they could swallow and digest it.

The terrorists then probably proceeded to their three target buildings, and planted bombs in the taxis that left them at their destinations. These bombs exploded at various locations all over Mumbai, depending on where the cabs went after leaving them; thus, one cab exploded near Dockyard road station, one at distant Vile Parle, and one near Napean Sea Road: all bombs probably activated by remote mobile-phone triggered detonators. These taxi blasts served to terrorise the entire city, and at the same time, threw red herrings about what the terrorists were up to.

The action then shifted to the three buildings – not buildings all, because two of them are five star hotels and more than that – they are landmarks of Mumbai. The Taj Palace Hotel, with over 400 rooms – located at the Gateway of India and the Trident and Oberoi hotels, located at the prestigious Nariman Point. In addition, they also targeted a non-descript building going by the name of Nariman Building – located just inside the main Shahid Bhagatsingh Road and ahead of the Colaba Market. This building is a community center for a certain sect of Jews, and also houses many Jewish families in it.

I want to ask here why they chose only these three structures and none other. I think that they realized that the two hotels would be mostly populated by foreign tourists and the third building already had Jews, traditional enemies of Moslems worldwide. Once they were inside these buildings, the next stage in their act of terror happened.

It is believed by the police that at the Taj, they had two staff from the house-keeping department, who let some of their associates in with the weapons and other things a week or two ahead of their D-day. Thus, the terrorists already had the master keys to the various sections of the hotel, the map of the hotel, and much necessary inside information about the “lie of the land” as it were. They were able to stay inside the hotel as guests, planning every single step of their coming assault. They ate, slept and played out full rehearsals of the entire plan a full week ahead!

I am pretty certain that they staked out the Oberoi in much the same way, and also visited Nariman Building and strategized everything there as well. Thus, when the actual action began, they went in with full knowledge of what they would be doing over the next few days – or more, depending on how everything panned out.

After listening to the news all over on TV and reading articles and news items, my reckoning is that Mumbai actually escaped a lot of damage only because of three reasons:

a) The terrorists lost a raft at mid-sea with hundreds of explosives and ammunition. They reached Mumbai by rafts in a boat from Karachi via Porbunder (although the last point has not yet been substantiated and the first point has been denied strongly by the Pakistani Government).

b) The NSG commandos were there quite early in action, although they still took 4 hours to reach from Delhi to Mumbai

c) The attacks began at night – or else there would have been tremendous damage at CST and in the hospitals.

It seems that the terrorists had planned on eliminating 5000 people; in the event, a loss that is much lesser in numbers is more than “compensated” by the brutal manner in which the killings took place: over 50 dead as they waited in the concourse of the railway station; entire families who were waiting to travel to their home-town were eliminated; men, women and children killed in cold blood as they sat eating in the restaurant in the Trident; employees of the hotel killed in their working places – the kitchens, the restaurants and the service areas of the Taj; and, finally, people killed on the roads of Mumbai, as the terrorists took to them en route to their own destinations.

Above all, the entire operation was carried out by the terrorists with an expertise and proficiency hitherto unseen in terrorist actions in our country and outside. Flying two planes (or four) recklessly through buildings needs average accuracy; planting bombs in busy marketplaces needs planning, but little accuracy; however, commandeering three entire buildings and mocking the hundreds of security forces with explosives while being just 3-4 in number speaks of astonishing planning and deadly accuracy. Thus, it would be fair to say that modern, hi-tech terrorism has finally arrived in India. And to expect our untrained policemen or home-guards to counter these people is sheer stupidity.

In the event, the successful termination of the attack was only thanks to the intervention of the black cat commandos and the factors already discussed above.

Where do we go from here? What does the government need to do to prevent such dastardly acts in future? I will discuss this in the last part of my article.

A Brutal Assault I

Yes, I am a Mumbaikar. I live a normal, non-descript life in a small locality in South Mumbai. I have dreams and aspirations, successes and failures, problems and difficulties just like all you readers out there. However, what I really want as a citizen of the World's most populous democracy is to be allowed to live my small, non-descript and non-lime lighted life SAFELY and in PEACE.

After all, who doesn't? Even the rich and the famous want the same things. I am, in that respect at least, as ambitious or non-ambitious as they are, or the beggar on the street is - which, thankfully, I am not. We all want to live peacefully as we journey through life, don't we? And who is to ensure that we do so? The elected representatives of the country, state, city and locality, of course.

While I am not equipped to understand which aspects of security are "central" matters, which "state" matters and which are within the ambit of the "local municipality", I am certainly sure that all of them failed to stop the three nights and two days of terror that hit Mumbai starting at or around 9:30 p.m. on the 26th of November, 2008.

I must say this at the outset: this is solely my own work, inspired both, by the hours of sitting glued in front of the TV and watching the news channels nearly 12-16 hours a day, and by the reactions of my family and me, as we went about trying to preserve a modicum of "normalcy" in our life.

I was returning from my clinical practice when I saw a few bullet-proof jacketed policemen on the road near J.J. Hospital. Something did not seem right, and when I reached home, I learnt from a family member that there had been firing near C.S.T. railway station. You can then imagine how the next 60-70 hours must have passed. Immediately, I was there before the TV, switching on one of the news channels, and I saw the beginning moments of what became, for me and for millions of others, the worst three nights and two days of my life.

Let me hasten to say that I haven't lost any family member, or property, or had any personal assault upon my physical being, but my mind and heart have been rendered asunder by the devilish actions of the dozen or more individuals who carried out the most fiendish plan almost to perfection. Even their death must have been planned, since they were "fidayeen" who were prepared to die for what they believed was a just cause.

And what did they want? Money? Fame? Perhaps fame, but definitely not money, since they sent an email that asked the government of India to "stop atrocities" and "release all Moslems" from their grasps within jails or incarceration. They wanted the erstwhile Moslem states of India (read Kashmir, Hyderabad etc.) to be released from the sovereignty of India.

And above all, they espoused the cause of jehad.

Is this the right way to conduct jehad? I think no one will disagree with me when we say that terrorists are totally misguided about what they think should be the right form of jehad. Moslem scholars all over the world have denounced terrorism as a form of righteous jehad and condemned those who would choose physical violence as the correct way to influence the world and to change the ways of non-Moslems. I ask you: can a parent forcefully control his/her offspring? Then how can terrorists hope to seek governments to submit to their nefarious suggestions by use of brutal force?

And herein lies the paradox of the tragedy that played out in the past 72 hours in Mumbai. The terrorists came via the marine route with arms, ammunitions and explosives that were so huge in quantity that they could have possibly completely demolished all the three structures that they attacked: Hotel Taj Palace, Hotel Trident and Oberoi (which are actually two separate buildings adjacent to each other at Nariman Point) and the Nariman Building at Colaba. Their avowed plan was to do precisely that: they wanted to injure India so badly that it would never recover economically, politically, psychologically or any other way. They wanted to do all that, and also demoralize every citizen of India. And, additionally, by hitting out at 5-star hotels, they wanted to hurt Americans, Israelis, and citizens from all over the world who had come to India to enjoy its wonderful hospitality.

And, I daresay, they wanted to cock a snoot at the mighty United States of America and show them what they could do – when they wanted, with whomever they wanted.

In my next entry, along with a discussion of how the actual terror played out, I am going to ask several questions to the authorities who have failed utterly. We are alive and the tragedy has passed only because of the valour and bravery of the armed forces, some of whom gave their lives to eliminate the terrorists.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Night of Terror ... and not yet over: Mumbai 11/26

Most readers would be aware of how terrorists have held Mumbai hostage since 9:30 p.m. on the 26th of November ... and right up to now ... as they continue to shoot and terrorise innocent people at more than one location ...I am too shocked to write coherently for now, but suffice to say that this is the worst act of terrorism for India ... ever.

Writing this on the evening of the 27th: the siege at Taj and Oberoi (Trident) hotels and at Nariman House continues. So far, over 100 people have died, including 6 foreigners and 14 policemen (which includes 3 decorated policemen - Chief of ATS Hemant Karkare, DIG of ATS Kamte and Police Inspector Vijay Salaskar). At the time of writing this, I have learnt that these are terrorists who came by boat from Porbunder in Gujarat. They have been hoarding large numbers of AK 47 machine guns and hand grenades for over 2-3 weeks inside the two hotels. When the attacks started, they created many areas of confusion by having bombs explode inside taxis in places as far off as Vile Parle, Dockyard Road, Colaba Market, Napean Sea road etc. This was then followed by attacks at the CST railway station, and then, the three locations that I have listed at the beginning of this paragraph.

I was up, watching TV, till 3.00 a.m. Then, I have cued in again at about 7 a.m. Through the night, shooting, fires and throwing of grenades have continued in and around Taj Palace, Hotel Trident and Nariman Building. There were over 400 people inside the Taj, but they have mostly all been removed to safety by the time I write this (it is 3.00 p.m. GMT at present). At the Trident, there are still over a 100 people trapped inside their rooms. At Nariman Building, there is a family of 7 Israelis - which stay inside. There are 3-4 terrorists inside Taj, 2-3 inside the Trident and over 6-9 of them in the Israeli-occupied building. 5 terrorists have been shot dead since yesterday night and over 11 have been arrested. More later ...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Professional chit-chat

If you belong to the medical profession, you are sure to identify with much of what I write in this entry. If not, it may be a little difficult to identify with and empathise with the contents of this entry, but, I assure you, whatever I write here is the truth.

Medical practice is cyclical, and it can sway from the lowest rung of a success ladder to the highest one, sometimes in a matter of days. As climatic changes can cause illness or cause a break-out of "good health", I have had alternate days of a full waiting room and a completely empty one, with just medical representatives (the bag-toting pharma-representatives) awaiting their turn to see me and to promote their company's products. The trend of the practice outside can be easily calculated from the number of reps. who are waiting to see me! On empty days, they finish their "calls" faster, and are therefore promptly at my clinic in droves. On the busy days, they are not to be seen as they cool their heels in the waiting rooms of the other doctors whom they also meet.

Having said that, let me also hasten to add that over an entire month, the things get balanced out and average incomes are reached, so there is no panic or anxiety.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Down with the 'flu

I suppose you can call this a quickie entry, but I am down with flu-like symptoms today ... this, I think is my second attack of the flu in as many months. This time, it started with a slight tickling sensation in the nose, then on to a lot of powerful, earth-shaking sneezing, then the slight irritation in the back of the throat, and by the end of day 1, a slight cough. Over the night, the cough worsened - so much so that I started getting bouts of wracking cough that caused my head to swim with anoxia (lack of oxygen) for a few seconds. Now, it is the end of day 2; the cough looks and feels better ... but let's see what happens next. So far, I have not taken any medicine other than paracetamol and a cough syrup that goes by the name of Zedex. I chose that since it has no sedating anti-histamines. It comes from the house of Wockhardt.

Hoping to have a better Tuesday as compared to my miserable Monday!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Preferred Authorship on Writing.com

Sometime in the first week of November this year ... i.e. just over 7-8 days ago, the staff at Writing.com made me, after 6 years of being on the site, a preferred author. This means a lot to me, as this enables me to go even higher in the future. The higher levels are those of moderator, senior moderator, and finally, staff ... but the last is something I don't intend taking up, and also, I am unlikely to be offered that post as I am not a resident of the U.S.

The immediate announcement came with a mail in my G-Mail inbox; I was, naturally, elated to see that my portfolio had turned from a black one to a sunny yellow! Yippee, I said, and immediately went into the WDC site (that, to my readers, is Writing Dot Com). There was a forum meant for Preferred authors and above, where I duly went and declared to the world of WDC pref authors and mods that I had now become a part of their circle. I received many congratulations and accolades ... for which I thanked them repeatedly!

Now, this is no longer a novelty. If you want to see my writing, please do visit this page on the site or this, much more clean link.

Tell me what you think of my writing once you have read some of the stuff that is displayed. If you find the site overwhelming, click on "Table of Contents" just below the portfolio image and browse through the items at leisure.

Are there any items I would like you to really, really read? Of course! If you want to cut through the clutter and see my best work, just open the first folder called "My Awarded Items" and read whatever you fancy within that folder. My personal recommendations for this: "Endings and Beginnings", "With a Cherry on the Top" and "Gandhi: The Naked Fakir".

That's it for now.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Hannah's misaaq

To all those readers who are not able to understand that word in the title, a misaaq is an initiation of a person into the fold of adulthood; it is similar to the "janoi"or the thread ceremony of Brahmins; something similar to this exists in some form or the other in almost all faiths. I am reminded of my own misaaq which was performed when I was but 15 years old. A misaaq is performed by a priest upon a teenager who is ready to take on his/her own responsibilities and duties as a Muslim. Before the misaaq, the person is a child, and his/her caretakers are responsible for him/her and his/her deed (s). Once the person has been misaaq-i-fied,the responsibilities are his/her alone. He/she pays for his/her own sins and earns grace for his/her kind acts before the Almighty.

During the ceremony, which takes about 45-60 minutes, the priest goes over the history of Islam, explaining to the candidate the various events that shaped the religion and the various dates that defined it. He talks about the pillars of Islam, explains the meaning of the "kaleima" (There is but One God and His name is Allah and Mohammed is His Prophet). He goes on to tell about how our own sect of the Shias separated from the Sunnis, how Bohraism came to be, and finally informs the candidate about the Syedna - our Head of Religion. He asks the candidate to swear allegiance upon Islam and its rites and responsibilities, upon the Syedna and asks him/her to perform all the religious duties regularly.In a way, this ceremony is quite rigid, because no one who has undergone the misaaq can remain completely pure and only religious. The World has its own way of intruding into the privacy and purity of one's religious obligations and of twisting morals of an individual completely.

This, in fact, is something that the priest himself must surely be aware of, since they charge a not-so-insignificant sum of almost 4000 INR to do the job.

After the misaaq, my daughter Hannah (now renamed Habibah) went to school and attended it for the half day that remained to be completed. I plan to attach some pictures of the event later.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Something nice about me: a poem by me


One fine day I sat down to think -
And a hard day of thought that was;
I went back to my past, and reflected,
Of the time gone by, I suppose.

I grew up restless and eager
To do things never done before,
As time went by, however,
I grew contented to the core.

I read, wrote and studied,
Telling few lies and seldom swearing,
Learning by rote, teaching only some,
Hardly did anything daring.

I tried to emulate heroes,
And jived, danced, sang and ran,
Walked, talked, did things crazy -
As with dad, spoke man to man.

Now, I am older and perhaps wiser,
Living on my own terms, happy but sere,
I hug all my enemies,
And shun all I held dear.

It is as if the wheel of my life,
Has turned a circle tight,
For better or for worse,
This is me, all right

Back to gymming

After a gap of over 5 months, I started my Gym routine again from the first of November 2008. As the gap has been rather long, I did only 40-50 minutes of moderate intensity cardio activity only. On Sunday, I could not go, and on Monday, that is, today, I did over 65 minutes ... 45 on the treadmill and 20 minutes on floor exercises, including abs.

I have just over 2 months to go before my annual membership at Talwalkar's expires, and I hope to lose at least 3-4 kg before that is over. I weigh 81.7 kg at the start of this stint of gymming. My target is 78 kg by the 15th of January 2009.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Bigg Boss

The great national show that is airing on Colors TV channel since the past eight weeks is actually in its second season. Based on Endemol's international format "Big Brother", this show was last seen on Sony TV in 2007 when the winner at the end of three months was Rahul Roy (Rahul, who? did you say?). This time, we have had new participants, and among those who got evicted in the past eight weeks were a politician (Sanjay Nirupam), a dancer (Sambhavna), a two-bit actor (Rakhi V), a seasoned actress (Ketaki Dave), a British actor (Jane Goody - who had to leave in the second week itself after a medical report on her turned out to reveal that she has cervical cancer), a gangster's moll (Monica Bedi - who's got back in as a wild card re-entry), a starlet (Payal Rohatgi) and a few others, whose names I can't remember at the moment.

Those who are still in include Raja (a small-time actor), Rahul Mahajan (the BJP fellow's son), Ehsan Qureshi (the comedy-ghazal-singer-actor), Debojit (a singer), Asutosh (an actor), Zulfi (a model), Diana Hayden (a model-actor) and Monica Bedi (re-entrant).

All through, the show provided us viewers (or, should I say, voyuers) a lot of entertainment as the participants went around their daily/weekly tasks, fought, fought even more, bitched, gossipped and romanced (Rahul M with Monica, then Payal, and again, now, Monica). Shilpa Shetty, the last season's winner on the Big Brother show in the U.K. in 2007, is the Friday night hostess who conducts the eviction episode. She is good, but not as good as the guy we had last year - viz. Arshad Warsi. Even so, the show is quite engrossing, and I find myself rushing home every weeknight to catch it as it airs around 10 p.m.

Everyone's favourite this year seems to be Rahul, but I think Debojit and Ehsan are the dark horses to watch out. Among the girls who are still in the fray, I don't have much hopes for Diana, but Monica just might ride on the public's sympathy vote.

Are any of my readers watching this show? I would love to have your comments on this show. What did you like? Hate? Who is/are your favourite(s)? Do you regularly send SMS's or vote to keep people in?

Monday, October 13, 2008


In my 48 years, 7 months and 10 days on this planet, I think I must have met, on a rough estimate, at least 200,000 people, right? So how is it that one strikes the right chord of friendship with so few? I guess I can count off the names of my close friends on the fingers of my hands! I know thousands of people right now, in real time, and have a passing acquaintance of another 8-10 thousand, but when I sit back and think about how many bridges remain to be crossed before I can say that person X is no longer a known moiety, no longer a passing acquaintance, no longer a good friend, but a close friend ...and I have to conclude that seldom, if ever, will all those bridges be crossed and a close friend added to my list.

What, then, are the ingredients that go towards fostering a close friendship? Ask a hundred people, and you will likely get a hundred answers. To think off the top of my mind, I can think of the following:
-attitudinal match
-ability and opportunity to interact
-comfort in each others' presence
-mutual acceptance of pluses and minuses of each other
-tolerance of each others' bad or nasty habits/behaviour
-enjoying each others' conversations
-keeping each others' secrets
-lending shoulders to cry upon

I guess the list is endless, as you can see!

Aside of the physical world's friendships, the internet has added a fourth dimension to the discussion: we make friends so freely over the net, and what do we have to judge the other person by, except for the way they write/chat/interact? Nothing. Pictures and photos need not be genuine. Nor blogs, nor profiles, nor locations, or even sex. Thus, our friendships on the net hang by a thin, easily breakable thread of belief and faith - in the friend, in our own self and in God - or cyber God if you will.

Having said all this, I can say that once a thread of friendship is formed, maintaining it is even more difficult ... and taking it to the next, higher level ...even more so. We mostly maintain relationships at the same level of comfort, but we never try to "test" our friendships to see if the friend does come in "good" when the need arises. A mere statement that "a friend in need is a friend indeed" is okay for writing a school essay, but do we really put pressure on our so-called friends to see who our "real" friends are?

To do this, we need to sometimes create "crises" and call up our friends and see their level of response/reciprocation. To give you an example: announce to all your friends by email, phone or SMS that your car has stalled at ..... location (the location needs to be *inconvenient* for the friends to reach) and could they help by coming to you and fetching you ... or rendering some other form of help to help you extricate yourself from this situation.

Now, sit back and enjoy. Over 90% of those you call will feign that they are too busy to come and pick you up, or cluck in mock sympathy. Around 5 % will show genuine concern, but will not go beyond, say, giving you the number of the local police station or towing agency or Automobile Association etc.

Only the last 5% will discuss the nitty-gritty of the problem and offer to come and pick you up.

They are, in my opinion, a few notches higher than the remaining 95% whom you contacted.

That does not mean that they are the only true friends you have. Someone from the 95% discussed above still may be your true friend, but how will you know that? Therefore, keep creating "crisis" situations from time to time, till you are sure who your real friends are.

Did I make sense to you? Will you try this method to test your friends? Do write back and let me know!

Monday, October 06, 2008

A month and some days later

Today, as I was browsing a newspaper item, I came across "advice on how to make your blog be noticed". The author of this was a blogger who was recently approached by Penguin India to make a book out of her blog. She says that one must make the blog readable and accurate in terms of grammar etc., but most of all, the blog must look and read like an honest outpouring of the thoughts of the writer.

I was sitting there and wondering what my blog would look like if I did that! Ha ha. I am sure Penguin India (or any other publisher for that matter) would turn red in the face to read the absolutely honest stuff that I would write if I were to go in that direction!

So, what prevented me from blogging this last 35 days? Do you want a flowery answer or the one that shoots straight from the hip? The first option is not workable, actually, since I am one of those "honesty" wins type of guy. So here is the factual answer: I did not blog because I never got the proper time or the motivation to do so. Fasting leeched a lot of my imagination and creativity, and that is a very honest appraisal. Prayers, and finding time to prepare the special iftaar dishes also consumed a lot of time. Finally, boredom and ennui also sort of drained me of motivation and vigour.

The result: not a single post in Ramadan. And for five days afterward too! However, here I am, back to write some words of wisdom and foolishness - with the sole purpose of entertaining you, the reader. Welcome back to the blog, and enjoy.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Ramadan has started

Yes, it has. For our community, the "Dawoodi Bohras", Ramadan started on the 31st of August 2008. Today, as I write this, we are into the second of 30 days of fasting, religiosity and shunning of vices like lying, cheating, robbing, etc. Ramadan is observed as a month of repentance and doing deeds that will help in redeeming ourselves in the 'after-life". This includes fasting, the reading of the Holy Quran, the praying of the Salaat and the giving of "zakaat", the dispersion of 1/40th of one's net worth in charities. In addition, Muslims are encouraged to visit Mecca for the performance of "umrah" (intent to do Haj) during Ramadan. My intentions being noble, I could not complete both my first and second fasts on account of symptoms of hypoglycemia - low blood sugar - that I developed towards the afternoon on both the days. I have sought advice on this and have been told to hold back a little on my diabetes pills from tomorrow. This, then, is what I am planning to do.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The monsoon surge in professional work

One of the things that is unique about medical practice in India and similar tropical countries is the surge in illnesses that occurs around the time of the monsoon. This season is marked by floods, a general decline in the hygiene status of cities and metropolitan agglomerates, slush, a multiplication of the population of house-flies and mosquitoes, the ubiquitous vectors of deadly diseases such as malaria, typhoid, gastroenteritis, etc, a rise in humidity that brings in illnesses like acute attacks of asthma and croup, crowding and gathering of masses (e.g. under awnings and rain-shelters during an unexpected bout of rain), and several other factors that cause a rise in illnesses, hospitalisations, and the like.

The indirect spin-off of this is that our professional work rises too: there is a spurt in the numbers of patients visiting the clinic, a rise in patients who get hospitalised, a rise in home-visits and a sudden increase in the number of patients who call on our mobile phones for advice that is, seemingly, for problems that are so small that they do not merit a visit to the doctor - e.g. ear pain, a rash on the skin, a slight runny nose, a stickiness of the eyes, a mild cough and so on.

While advanced economies like the U.S., Europe and so on have doctors who will almost never directly take patient calls, and chemists who will never bypass doctors and never give medicines unless the patient hands them a valid prescription or the doctor faxes him one), in countries like India, this is generally not the case! This means that doctors never get paid and cannot raise bills for a telephonic consultation, patients can buy medicines from the chemist on a friend's recommendation or by showing a past prescription of a doctor, or by simply asking the chemist for, say, "Amoxil" or "Tavegyl". This skews the advantage towards the patients, and as chemists still get their pound of flesh, and the manufacturer is also not hurt financially, it is the doctor alone who gets cheated out of his rightful income.

This, dear reader, is the sad but true account of medical practice in India.

Now then, having said that, as India is home to more than a billion souls, I am certainly not cribbing that doctors do not earn well; it's just that a lot of practice gets siphoned off in the above manner.

Okay, last para: now that the monsoon has all but receded, the inflow of patients has reduced. This has enabled me to do other things, like, for example, writing this loooooong entry in my blog!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Feelings on selling something you owned

Along with the other information relating to the above, you will find, in the post I have made to my general blog, some idea of the gamut of emotions I have encountered while selling off the premises from where I practised pediatrics for over twelve years. Read this for the same!

First clinic at Nagpada sold

With my new clinic (read older posts to see its inauguration details and pictures) doing well, I took the decision to sell off the premises where I used to sit earlier. I have finally sold that place off, and am now considering running the charitable aspect of my practice from a rental place in the same building where the clinic used to be. In this way, I am trying to have the cake and eat it too.

Let me explain this further: my clinic is (or rather, was) a very small 100 sq. ft. office space that served me well for over 12 years (I had purchased it in June 1996 and, after renovating it, started practice on October 1, 1996), was actually a very cramped place that necessitated the purchase of a bigger premises whenever I could afford to buy it. With the flow of cash also coming in from Nishrin's salon practice, this finally made it possible to buy the new premises near J.J. Hospital in 2007. As readers are aware, I began practice at my new place on October 21, 2007.

Thus, the older place became useful to segregate my charitable venture poor patients from the regular patients who can afford to pay my full consultation fees. The charitable venture was, in fact, started in memory of my late mother Mrs. Zubeda, who died of breast cancer when I was just 11. I have even received donations to continue doing this charity. These donations have come from some of my cousins whose lives my mother had touched in the past. Thus, you can see why I would like to continue the charitable work that I am already doing.

Leaving the premises was a clinical decision which has not had many psychological repercussions; however, the actual emptying of the premises was a physically draining affair with some pleasant spinoffs in the form of recovery of memorabilia that would otherwise have lain hidden inside drawers and cupboards. These include letters from friends: imagine two thick files of long letters written by snail mail from friends in this age of emails and mobiles! The two files are literally a treasure-trove of past memories. Other stuff included gifts and mementoes from well-wishers, writings done by me from the past, a sketch-cum-colouring book that I used to while away the time in the era before computers (in fact, how does B.C. sound for that? :-)), notes and academic stuff from the time when I was still studying to be a pediatrician, pictures and notes on patients that I have seen in the past, old books, toys, an antique casette-tape-recorder player (that I have gifted to my receptionist), etc.

It is said that life must go on, and it has. The sale was completed last week. As of now, I am work-less in the two hours from 16:30 to 18:30 that I used to sit at the old clinic. I have decided to resume those timings at a rental premises after Ramadan, that is, sometime from October 2008.

Funny when you think of it, but October features repeatedly in the above post: it was the month when I had started both my clinics, and it will be the month when I start my charitable venture as well ...

Thursday, August 14, 2008

What happens to one's blog if one is inactive for long?

Let me ask that question again: as you can see, my previous post was over two weeks ago; at that time, and in the preceding few weeks, I wrote posts frequently enough to increase the page views and eyeballs that my blog was getting very regularly. The Shinystat counter that shows these stats to me even increased my blog's rank from 4 to 6 as the numbers piled up. Then, in the past two or three weeks since my last post on Google Knol, life caught up with me and I was unable to find the time to surf, log in, research and write a post. The result was that the page views and then the ranking came down ... so that now, I find the rank at 3!

The question is: what happens to one's blog when one stops posting in it for more than just a few days? Well, to tell you the truth, nothing really "happens" to the blog; what happens, happens to the owner of the blog: I started feeling guilty after five-odd days, and then, kept returning to the blog to try and log in and write something; unfortunately, it was not to be, as my work has increased tremendously. I have even stopped going to the gymnasium,and my diet and weight are both up!

In addition, the withdrawal symptoms included a tremulous imagination that allowed my soul to think ahead and take a firm decision to enter a post within the next two or three days. Which is why this post came to be.

Friday, July 25, 2008

About Google Knol

As most of the net-savvy readers know, Google Knol has been officially launched about a day ago! I have already reviewed a few of the posts submitted by others, and also written one item related to sleeping habits of children! To learn more about the site, click here. To read my first article there, click here.

My expectation is that while Knol is not likely to outpace the sheer size of Wikipedia (see this for Wiki), in a year's time or so, it will start giving competition to the latter. And the benefit will be to the users, who will now be able to get two major sources for any item they want to search. Google knol has a few more advantages: it permits collaborative writing in addition to private items and public editing. Wiki has only the last option for most of its usual articles, but it has begun to close some of the items for editing once they realise that the items are perfect, factual, and do not need any further elaboration or editing.

So let us see how far Knol takes us ...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

UPA Wins the Confidence Vote

News is just out: PM Manmohan Singh's United Party Alliance has WON the historic confidence vote with 275 for, 256 against and 10 abstentions!

This means that Sonia and MMS will continue to rule India for the next year (or more, till the elections in 2010)
. This also means that India will finally sign the Nuclear Treaty with the U.S. of America. It means that Mayawati and the others will have to wait longer before they can access the seat of the Prime Minister of India. Finally, it will mean that the BJP has to bite the dust once again.

There is one more side-effect of this vote: the CPI M is headed for a split, with Karat probably having to face dissidence, and having to step down.

Inas starts her college

This is just a short entry to inform all my esteemed readers that my elder daughter has begun her course in hotel management and catering at the institute she registered at in May 2008. Her first day was full of syllabus outlining and the first day's meal was apparently quite distasteful ... oh, didn't you guess: the students get a free meal everyday from the "quantity" kitchen; it is prepared by the students themselves.

Her college timings will be from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. every weekday including Saturdays. Please send your prayers to her for a successful 3-year stint in this course.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

My smaller clinic sold

For all those familiar with Mumbai, I have a clinic in a location called Nagpada for the last over 12 years. It is a small place, with floor area of just 145 sq. ft. on the agreement, and a little over 100 sq. ft. in reality. It was my main clinic for the past nearly 12 years, or till I shifted to my new clinic premises near J.J. Hospital. You will find the entries to the new clinic's inauguration in the back pages of this very blog!

Well, I have sold off this old clinic for a fair consideration, to a businessman-cum-investor, who is likely to rent it out to someone in the future.

I have about 15 days to vacate the premises. I am going about the emptying of the place in a sort of romantic way, opening and reading through all the old diaries and files, cutting out nostalgic entries and pictures, remembering the patients who I saw here in the past over 18 years (before I bought this particular clinic on June 1, 1996, I used to sit within the premises of another doctor just two doors away in the same building, paying him a rent of over 2500 Indian rupees each month to use his place for two hours everyday).

The nostalgia is worth every moment. I haven't shed tears yet, for the separation, though a little heart-wrenching, is not all that sad an event! I have always separated from things and memories without much emotional baggage, and this will be similar to that! However, the cuttings and the other old stuff will be there to remind me of the days spent at the old place.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Is the UPA Government ready to face a vote?

As everyone who is interested in Indian politics is aware, the UPA is about to face a vote of confidence next week in Parliament. The issue is whether India should sign the Nuclear treaty with the American Government ... a treaty that will allow it to access nuclear material for its reactors for use in India ... while at the same time, imposing safeguards and preventing it from using the same for making bombs. Opposing this ratification is the Communist Party of India (Marxist), a party that was, until a few days ago, a supporter of the Congress-led alliance known as the "United Party Alliance" or the UPA for short. This party, and in particular, its front-leaders, namely Prakash Karat, Brinda Karat, Sitaram Yechury and others, have, all along the line, opposed the treaty; last week, it finally withdrew support to the UPA and reduced the ruling disposition to a minority in the Lok Sabha. In addition to the CPI (M), the other major opponents include the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), among others.

The problem has been, to some extent, mitigated by the sudden show of support by the Samajwadi Party (SP), though, at last count, the UPA still needs support from 26 other members to sail through with a more than 50% majority (which translates to 272 members at the very least).

I have no doubt that the UPA has already started "gifting" money to Independents and fence-sitters. I also think that the SP will extract a huge price for supporting the UPA, as, otherwise, no love is lost between Mrs. Sonia Gandhi of the UPA and Mr. Amar Singh of the SP. In the final analysis, I think a lot of money (and I really mean a LOT OF MONEY) will change hands between the UPA and its would-be supporters before they actually buy out those unsure of their loyalties.

Let us see what actually happens on the 21st of this month when the UPA has called a special session of the Parliament to discuss and to vote on the issue. Perhaps they will sail through, and perhaps they will not. If they do not, the government at the center falls, and India will look towards a fresh bout of General Elections, perhaps as early as January to February 2009.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Writing from a sick chair

Every sane person knows that a viral cold and cough has no real treatment; it just comes, prevails for a time period of about 6-7 days, and then retreats. However, when one does get a severe cold, one's sanity is often lost; sneezing repeatedly inside tissues, or inside a much used handkerchief, coughing in abdomen-tightening bouts, sniffling with a body-temperature of just over 100 F and a feeling of nausea after eating just a tiny morsel of food - these, and some more like these - become more important and overwhelming.

Needless to say, these things, and similar stuff like these, became all too omnipresent and omnipotent for me! On Sunday, I had to go about 45 km out for a remorse-for the dead-function. En route, I was okay, but on the return journey, I began wheezing and breathing heavily. This was surprising, since most of my own patients are suffering from a mere upper respiratory infection.

A spell of steam inhalation and one tablet of Deriphylline retard (that will open clogged, spasmed airways) did the trick and I slept well in the night.

Today, as I write this, I am breathing well; I am still coughing, but not as bad as I did yesterday; I haven't, as yet, taken Deriphylline or steam; and all is well with the world.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Creativity stifled: The Price of fast life

You might find this an irrational thought, but actually, to me at least, it makes a lot of sense: as one progresses through life, the second decade is spent in education (and for me, almost seven years of the third decade as well), the third in getting a foothold in life through the novel experiences of marriage, starting a family, beginning a new business or profession, and travelling to new places in a process of discovery (and also a bit of escapism), the fourth in stabilising one's life and almost half of the fifth in completing the remaining obligations of life such as pending loans, etc. Now, during these nearly 35-40 years, one's creative streak, call it a hobby, call it a pastime, or what have you, takes a back seat.

I recall my childhood and adolescence as if they were yesterday. Although not a gifted child, I was certainly above the average when it came to both, academics and creativity. Perhaps you could call me an under-achiever in sporting activities, but circumstances and the kind of upbringing I received deprived me of opportunities to discover if I had any sporting talent and to hone my skills in that direction.

The result was that I was considered a book-worm by my more adventurous peers; however, being left alone has its advantages too; I took to reading books (not just from my curriculum, but outside it too), drawing, sketching, colouring, making craft items and so on. Another, major hobby that I started cultivating right from childhood was writing. Enid Blyton was one of my major idols, and my first books were an imitation of her style of writing without her finesse or skill. I also wrote essays, poems, a novella, and I experimented even with writing a short novel in Hindi!

During my college years, these activities allowed me to explore English without any hesitation; I took part in handwriting competitions in school, in elocution and drama in school, in debating and elocution in the medical college, and finally, I took to writing as a favourite pastime hobby sometime around the age of 40+.

The revival of creativity has done wonders to me, my aging, my personality, my leadership qualities and capacities and many more things besides. And therein lies the blessings of Allah.