Tuesday, December 01, 2009

December is here

... and the very first day of this, the "tenth" month of the older Julian calendar, is World AIDS day. Observance of this day is paramount to humans all over the world. AIDS is now prevalent all over the globe. It is estimated that this disease has killed over 25 million people to date, and that it is currently present in over 35 millions humans as a disease. According to information available on Wiki , the first World AIDS day was observed under the guidance of the UNAIDS in 1988, and since then, we have been having this observance every year. Memorial services for renowned people who died from this ailment or its complications forms an important event on this day.

AIDS is a modern disease, and already, we are into a pandemic of this dreaded illness, and it continues to take lives despite modern treatments against it.

The theme for this year is: UNIVERSAL ACCESS AND HUMAN RIGHTS.

Monday, November 30, 2009

A new month is around the corner

November is almost over, and with it, the first anniversary of the Black day that Mumbai experienced last year when 10 Pakistani Muslim terrorists attacked the city and killed off hundreds of innocent people. Yes, I am talking about 26/11, and that day, and the next two nights and days re-defined Mumbai for all its denizens: it was, everyone felt, no longer a city of dreams, and no longer a carefree or safe one for all, esp. not for women, old persons and children. It had, it seemed, transformed overnight into a sort of monster that was heartless and cold and calculating.

The anniversary observations were markedly subdued at all places; between friends, it was muted conversations with the occasional tears misting the eyes. At higher levels, there were the telling of many heroic tales, the release of a damning book by the widow of A.S.I. Hemant Karkare, the candle-lighting ceremonies at various chowks, and a lot of soul-searching and rumination by those who were victims, but who lived to tell their own stories.

The next few days were the days of Id-ul-Adha for Bohris (on the 28th) and the other Muslims (the next day, or yesterday, as I write this post). The weekend was also marked by the observance of Thanksgiving by the Christians.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Facebook and all that

Every once in a while, one re-discovers things. Last month, I re-discovered Facebook. I had signed up more than a year ago, but it is only in October that I started networking and also playing games. The games are addictive, and I play Farmville, Cafeworld, Mafia Wars and Fishville currently; sometimes, I also indulge in other games like Text Twist, etc. I have added many new friends, and improved connections with some old ones too.

However, as a result of these activities, I am finding less time to interact, blog, check mails and do all the other things I used to be involved in earlier. I have almost stopped visiting sites like Writing.com, mouthshut.com and so on. I know that this is not good, as the games are childish, time consuming and do not help in any way.

What do you, dear reader, think about all this?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Last Sunday of October

Yes, it is the second last Sunday of this month, I know, but read on. Once the 31st has passed, October will end, and then, officially, winter will begin in the Northern hemisphere. This year, climatic changes all over the world have wrought havoc on people. In India, the errant monsoon that returned late in September and early October after playing a hide and seek for more than one and a half months destroyed the standing kharif crop, brought floods, devastation and deaths to adjoining areas of three states in and around my own (Maharashtra) and so on.

On the personal front, my practice has been good so far in October, but the healthy season is approaching, and I think my resting and recreational days are likely to return. I am going for a medical camp to a place called Jhalra Patan in Rajasthan next weekend, and hence won't be around in Mumbai to write in my blog. :-)

Finally, Nishrin took a decision to visit her relations in Chandigarh in December, and hence, I went to Mumbai Central computerised reservation center and booked return tickets for her and Inas via Paschim Express for the 18th of December, a date that coincides with the 1st of Muharram for our Misri calendar. We aren't sure if Inas' college will give her the needed permission to stay away for ten odd days. But let's see ...

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Inas completes her training in a week's time

For those out of the loop, Inas is my older daughter; she is 18 and a half years old, and is doing a course in Hotel Management. At present, she is in her 2nd year of the three-year degree course, and as part of her education, she is posted as an Industrial Trainee (I.T.) at a famous 5-star hotel in Mumbai, since 1st May 2009. The I.T. training takes 6 months, and these six months will be over for her at the end of this month, i.e. after 9 days.

From all the conversations I have had with her, I have learnt that:

  1. Trainees are paid a pittance as "stipend" (Inas gets Rs. 1200 per month, which is the best from among all the hotels that train students in Mumbai; by the way, that translates to under $ 40/= per month).
  2. Compared to the measly stipend that they get paid, they are made to work like dogs ... at least 10-12 hours a day.
  3. Standards of food and general hygiene are as poor as at lesser prestigious hotels once you peek behind the glamorous and ostentatious exteriors; Inas tells me about this and has pledged never to eat at the hotel. She says she has actually seen the cooks cutting coriander without washing them, dicing vegetables and adding them to the pot without washing them, etc. She also saw a cockroach gaily sauntering among the various pots and pans!
  4. Food served to the employees is not even 10% of that which is served to the guests, is often repetitive, and rarely something to look forward to. Internees can expect little more than what is given to the permanent employees.
  5. Inas' life was limited to dressing up and going out at about 6 a.m., and returning at 7 p.m. or so, daily. She would take a quick bath, have the one meal at home and go to sleep by 9 p.m.
  6. Many of our own day and night time activities and household chores had to be tailored around Inas' schedule and Hannah, my younger daughter, and I, had to do the work that normally would be shared among the three of us. We could not attend night programs, watch night-time movies, or go for last shows to theatres.
There are some more things, but I will leave that to some other post.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

An interesting gizmo

I saw this video on the net. Looks interesting, but I don't know if this will become available soon ... do check it out:

BTW, the video shows a flat screen laptop that can be carried on a sling and rolled into a small, dainty "rolltop".

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Wife lost her cellular ... and more

Actually, Nishrin, my better half, keeps her cell phone in the outer room while working on her clients in the room within, as the cellular signal in the inner room is too weak for her to receive calls properly. In the past, too, she had lost one cell phone. What made today's loss all the more distressful is that this was the first cell phone from her favourite brand Nokia, that it was a present from me on her birthday, and that it was purchased by me less than a month ago.

During the time the phone went missing, I was in the outer room of our clinic too, and saw a few Sunday patients, and it is really surprising that someone picked up the phone and disappeared, almost from under our eyes.

In other news, Sunday has been a quiet day, and this is quite usual actually, but I am mentioning a few things that will make it a little hectic by evening. My parents and the entire family are about to descend on my home mat to spend the evening and have dinner. The occasion is sponsored financially by my mom, and will be attended by both my brothers and their families. A cake will be brought by Kaizar, the elder of the two younger brothers, and it will be cut by his daughter Nuriyah, who celebrates her birthday on the 22nd of October, and by my mom, whose birthday according to the Misri calendar falls today.

Food (Biryani, soup and dahi-kachumber) is being brought by me from the caterer, and will be supplemented by mom, who is bringing sheerkhurma and cutlets.

My family will be giving Nuriyah a gift pack containing a hand-chosen T-shirt (Inas and I chose it at a local store) and a decent gel pen. This will be not just for her birthday, but also because she cleared her S.S.C. exams last May, and because she underwent the "misaq" ceremony some months ago.

More news tomorrow ...

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Diwali: a festival of lights or pollution?

I have seen 49 years of Diwali celebrations. And, down the years, the shape of the festival has certainly changed! As a child, I still remember going to my father's shop (also run by his three other brothers, a partnership, if you may call it so) on the eve of Diwali. The night heralded, for businessmen, the start of a new accounting year (according to the Samvat calender); business-people would go to book shops during the day, and bring back "chopdas" or books of accounts, neatly and reverently wrapped in clean and crisp red cloths. They would also arrange to buy saffron, which they would mix in water, along with some red ink in inkwells, and they would clean up the wooden twills and keep them ready for the traditional "pooja" at the appointed auspicious hour, usually in the evening at 7:52 p.m., and sometimes, in the afternoons, at either 2:52 p.m. or 3:52 p.m. All the family members would come to the shop, and while the adults got themselves busy arranging things for the pooja, the children would eagerly await their rations of the fireworks, which, once given out to them, they would take to the center of the footpaths, and start lighting up. Joy and merriment was evident in the eyes and hearts of not just the children, but also their parents and care-givers. The mothers and daughters would dote on their children, and also keep an eye on the ceremonies taking place near the main "seat" or "baithak" of the shop. As the time for the actual pooja neared, the men would open up the books, and dip their twills in the saffron and red ink mix, and at the stroke of the appointed time, they would begin spraying the first page with the saffron-ink mixture. Each book would be sprayed, one after the other, and then passed on to the eldest brother, who would write religious lines and numbers on the tops of the page - usually a "Bismillah Irrahman Nirrahim" or the numbers "786/110" - both considered auspicious for the beginning of the new year.

The dichotomy between the Islamic phrases and prayers and the Hindu rituals and poojas were never considered contradictory, as nearly each and every shop played the same rituals at the same time. Thus, within minutes, the adults would go into their shops, while the children ran out with matches, sparklers and fire-crackers, and the street would get transformed from a moving-humanity, moving-traffic scene, to a brightly lit and noisy one with thousands of crackers bursting all at once in moments that seemed magical to us children. As the crackers stocks got over, children would move back into the shop and begin to pull at their mothers' dresses, either because they wanted more crackers, or they wanted to have a bottle of Coke or Gold Spot - drinks that would be served to each of the family members.

Down the years, while the ostentation and the noise have increased, the faith and the rituals have remained almost the same. While in the past, we used to burst simple crackers, such as the sparklers, the snake tablets, the ground chakkar, the kothis and a few stings of "lar" (pronounced as ler), today, people spend much more on fireworks, and expenditures of more than a few thousand rupees is no surprise. In fact, many households spend in five figures on fireworks. Also, people often burst more and more noisy stuff and smoky stuff that pollutes the environment no end. Children and adults with asthma or chronic respiratory ailments often stay within their homes, or, if they can, go away to hill stations, vacation spots or resorts, or ancestral homes in their native places, to escape the scourge of Diwali.

Doctors have to deal with many more cases of breathing difficulties during the ten days preceding and following the main dates of Diwali. At the same time, lest one forgets, there are incidents of accidental burning, eye injury, and, as it happened yesterday at a small place in Tamil Nadu, cases of wholesale fire-cracker shops blowing up due to some electrical short circuit. In the present case, more than 30 people, mostly customers, but also shop workers, lost their lives. See this for more details.

As a parent, I often used to buy a limited cache of fireworks for my two daughters until about six or seven years ago, when my daughters themselves lost interest in burning crackers and now mouth the pollution line and dissuade our neighbours and their friends from lighting them as well. This awareness among today's teens and youth is certainly commendable, but I also think sometimes of the thousands of men, women, and unfortunately, children, employed at the fireworks factories, whose employment may come to be terminated - and at the very least, they may have to take reduced salaries, as the people lose interest in lighting fireworks.

The government, on its part, is also trying to do a lot to reduce the impact of fireworks on noise pollution, and many extremely noisy crackers have been banned this year, e.g. the sutli bomb. NGO's like the one run by Sumaira Abdul Ali, are also into the act of monitoring the menace of noise pollution caused by fire crackers. Here is a report written by her on the evils of noise pollution: click here.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Belief in the basic tenet of "Work is Worship".

I have often heard many people say this, and to my mind, at least, it makes sense in an odd sort of way. How often have people missed their visit to a temple/mosque/dargah/church because they were busy at work? I think that while some people have unshakable faith in God/Allah/Ishwar, and will stop their work and first go and pray, the vast majority will willy-nilly skip the prayer, and either perform it later, or simply send up a prayer to be forgiven.

In Islam, prayer in the form of Salaat or Namaaz is mandatory, and as a Bohra, I am expected to pray three times a day. The timings of namaaz are strict, and follow the motions of the heavenly bodies, viz. the sun and the moon. During the afternoon prayers, and in the summer, during the evening prayers too, I am at my clinic and seeing patients. Even if I am not seeing patients, I find it very inconvenient to go for ablution and then the namaaz, as the clinic premises are too small for all this. Hence, most of the days, I skip the prayers.

Now, the crux is this: if I believe in the captioned tenet, then I am not doing anything wrong if I am busy @ work. Because, work is worship, right? And yet, unforgiving Islam will not accept this excuse and urge me to pray - either at the right time, or at least later on, when I am back home.

I am in a quandary. Should I accept the tenet, or embrace Islam unequivocally?

The Monsoon Game

Every single year, India, an agro-predominant country, looks to the skies to assess if the rain-Gods would smile at it or frown. Almost half of the action that takes place in meteorological satellites pointed to the Indian sub-continent is towards the calculations of the arrival, stay and departure of the south-westerly monsoon. Crores of rupees wasted on an imperfect science that keeps turning up riddles more than solutions.

In the midst of this, the news that we have been having more than the average rainfall for the last over 15 years; and then, the news that this year, at least, rains have been truant and the entire country is facing a deficit of from 20-50% rainfall.

Mumbai's case is a lot more peculiar than the one faced by other parts of India; in Mumbai, 150 million Mumbaikars depend on the various lakes around their city for their water needs. These lakes, including the Vaitarna, Bhatsa, Tulsi, Tansa, Vihar and the Upper Vaitarna - need to fill up completely for the Brihanmumbai Mahanagarpalika (quite a mouthful, isn't it?) - or the BMC - to supply unrestricted water to all the parts of the metropolis.

This year, Mumbaikars had to face the axe as the BMC first imposed a 15% cut, and then increased it further to 30 % as the dry spell continued to have its dark shadow upon us. Then, the rains came liberally, and we saw almost 20-25 days of good monsoon from late August to mid-September. The water cut was reduced to 15% as a result of this. Presently, September was ending and October was nigh upon us when the clouds gathered again over Mumbai, and within a few days, it was raining heavily!

I had already stowed away my raincoat, and had to bring it out once again last Monday! This unexpected rain was actually a reflection of the very heavy rains that lashed areas of East Maharashtra, North Karnataka and West Andhra Pradesh; here, there were flash floods and millions of people lost their homes and hundreds lost their lives.

However, the rains provided succour, and helped re-fill the lakes around Mumbai. This was, in a way, good news to the Mumbaikar, as the lakes now have enough water to last till the middle of May 2010. However, the BMC has maintained the 15% cut and is likely to do so to prevent any unforeseen problems.

For me, personally, the rainy season is a time for more professional work, while for my better half, who runs a salon, it is a bit of a business dampener. For my daughters, it is something in between a blessing and a curse, since it leads them to the pleasures of getting wet and dancing, so to say, while at the same time, reducing their outside activities and even school attendance.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Sachin's New House at Bandra

The above fantastic images are of Master Blaster Sachin' s new house at Bandra. Note the seashell concept. Isn't this a marvellous idea?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Ramadan - more news

Okay, so I started in right earnest by doing the first fast; after this, the rest were a breeze, but I did miss about four or five so far; a couple, I missed because of no particular reason other than the fact that I had more work in the day time and no energy to fast. In spite of these issues, I have managed to remain in good health so far, and intend to fast till the end, which is just about a week away. My last fast will be on the 19th of September and Inshallah, our Eid will be on the following day, that is, the 20th of September, which is a Sunday.

During Ramadan, I try not to talk abusively, to do charity with patients, to avoid confrontations at home and at work, and to generally be a good human being. Whether I succeed or not is for the others to say, and for Allah to witness.

Apart from fasting, I pray the Maghrib and Esha prayers regularly, the morning and afternoon prayers on occasion, and read the Quran on most days. There are a few other prayer books that I try to read, but the lack of time prevents me from reading much of those.

I have gone out with my family on one occasion to "eat" the special Ramadan offerings, and while I can say that I really enjoyed myself, I think my wife just about tolerated it and my daughters liked it, though less than how much I did. We had sauted goat kidneys and brain with Indian bread and also had the hearty malpua with rabri - all at Mohamedali Road's famous Minara Masjid Lane (Ibrahim Merchant Lane). My brother Murtuza and his wife Sakina also ate with us, and I sponsored them. The total bill: about Rs. 450/=!

That's about it for now.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Overcoming fear of failing as a doctor

I have been practising as a pediatrician for over 22 years now, but whenever I come across a very sick child with complications and so on, I am afraid that I am going to go wrong somewhere and miss either the diagnosis or the management and lose the child for ever. I know that my fear is not irrational because every doctor, during his/her professional life, makes some errors of judgment, not all of which are going to kill his/her patient(s). This is because medicine is a very complicated science, and in some respects, it is not even a science, but an art that one learns throughout life. It is not even just an art, but also an act of faith: faith in one's own self as a doctor, faith in the abiding sea of knowledge that a doctor draws upon, faith in experience being a bigger teacher than books, and ultimately, faith in the Almighty: the most agnostic doctor will look to the skies for divine help when his patient fails to improve under his treatment.

I thought about all this for the last six days as I struggled (and am still struggling) to save the life of a newborn who is under my care. While there is a secular trend towards improvement, the child keeps having episodes of worsening which leads me to believe that, through her, the Almighty is testing my faith. I am happy to report that the baby is now showing improvement.

Such is life, and such is the tension in the mind of a clinician.

Monday, August 24, 2009

A little bit of this and a little bit of that

Sounds quite crummy as a blog title, doesn't it? Well, I don't have anything momentous to say right now, so I decided to go with smaller stuff that can add up to something readable ... or so I hope.

... I want to say that of the many things that really encourage me, the most encouraging of all is the smile that my patients give me as they improve and recover from whatever illness has put them under the weather.

... I want to say that even if a patient pays me less than what I deserve, I am satisfied if the patient or his/her parents extend a hand of friendship and cooperate with the treatment plan properly.

... I want to say that I love to eat street food: this may be one of the reasons why I seldom fall ill with gastrointestinal problems as my gut flora is used to being abused.

... I want to say that I don't subscribe to the patients and parents' oft repeated worry that eating bananas and curd will make their child ill and suffer from cough and cold. In fact, I don't mind if the child even has an ice-cream, as long as he/she is also taking medicines properly.

... I want to say that I think my parents are now really, really old, as they hardly leave the house, fall ill often, and my dad gets breathless even if he has to utter a few sentences in a row, and my mom suffers from cardiac anxiety and is always scared to venture out of the house.

... I want to say that I enjoy eating. So much so that I know that even if I skip lunch every single day during Ramadan (the month of fasting), I am not going to lose any weight. Underline the word "any". In fact, don't be surprised if I actually gain weight.

... I want to say that Pediatric practice is a very flucutating form of medical practice. The climate decides if the pediatrician is gonna be busy or not in his office. Right now, with swine flu raging around us (more as a media hype than actual pandemic), practice is really good. I am not complaining.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Swine flu, Illness, and now, Ramadan

I think there has been a big gap in my blog, and I will try and make up for it today with a lot of snippets of what, essentially, has been going on with my life.

Well, for one thing, Swine flu (novel H1N1) hit India towards the end of the first week of August, 2009. Cases in Pune were the first to be discovered, and India saw its first death from swine flu in a std 1xth Muslim girl from there. The disease then reared its head in Mumbai, Pune, and so on, affecting many of the larger cities from India. The Government of India, and the Mahrashtra govt swung into action pretty soon, and we had a state of near panic and Pune got touted as the swine-flu capital of India. Masks became the commodity most sought after, and a black market in masks soon became active, with masks costing Re. 1 or 2 now costing Rs. 20 a piece, and the N 95 masks costing about Rs. 80-100 costing more than Rs. 450 a piece.

As the cases climbed, so did the few who succumbed to the illness. In what can be termed a knee-jerk response, Mumbai closed its multiplexes, schools and so on for a period of 3-7 days. Knowing that swine flu is here to stay, this kind of temporary closure did allay anxiety and the hoi polloi got the impression that the government was abreast of things and not dilly dallying, but this was senseless. Reports from WHO and so on tell us that the entire life cycle of this illness may last from anywhere between 1-3 years, so that short term actions will, essentially, be useless.

Swine flu attacks will continue periodically, and over the next year or three, it will affect at least 50-60% of Indian citizens (that's over 600 million individuals). Even if 1% die, we are talking of about 5-6 million people dying from this disease. The expectation is that this may not happen if the organism continues to display the same level of aggressiveness that it does as of today, but there are scientists who are saying that the disease severity may, in fact, increase, as the virus will continue to undergo antigenic changes and turn more virulent (= aggressive).

Okay, so with this swine flu, doctors had a very busy fortnight indeed, as we battled to allay the anxiety of parents who brought their offspring no sooner than they had had a little fever or cough. Speaking for myself, I think I had the best 15 days of practice in a long, long time. In fact, the rush of patients reminded me of a similar panic that had gripped Mumbai a decade ago when there was a scare of plague following an epidemic of plague in Surat a town that lies in Gujarat (a neighbouring state of Maharashtra). At that time, though, the panic remained for just three days. I remember how Surat then underwent a magical transformation from being a filthy city to becoming one of the cleanest cities of India under a new city commissioner.

Anyway, this handling of so many children with respiratory complaints had its inevitable side effect on me, and last week, I came down with flu like symptoms - cough, cold, fever, and body-aches. I did not go in for a confirmatory test for swine flu (incidentally, the municipality and the govt. have set up about 15-odd centers in Mumbai for swine flu testing), as swine flu or not, this illness was not going to kill me, and would be all right in a week to ten days' time. Today is the sixth day of this illness, and though I still have a bad cough, I am able to eat, move and have no fever, so I can see that I will be all right in another few days.

Ramadan is upon us. For Bohras, it started on Friday, and today was day 3, but for the sunni Muslims, it began today, and will run its course as usual. I performed the fasts on the first two days, but gave it a slip today as my cough has turned a lot more serious and I did not fancy bearing this for an entire day. Tomorrow, I do plan to fast, of course.

In other news, everything is going on as usual. Hospital admissions are modest, clinic practice is returning to normal, parents are all right (mom is fasting, dad isn't), Inas is fasting, Hannah isn't, and life goes on.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Taxing times

It has been my observation that when it does not rain enough, times become tough for every one; for the farmer, it means a reduced time window for sowing seeds that ripen and bloom in the coming year and yield crop and hence, reduced annual crop yield and reduced income; for the townie, it means reduced freight (transportation) of the harvested grain to be taken to the big city; for big cities, it means reduced amount of grain and vegetables in the markets, and higher prices of the same; for the stock markets, it is a period of gloom as a good monsoon spells positive news for India, which is, by and large, an agrarian economy; for politicians, it means an era of broken promises; for the housemaker, it is a time of shortages and delicately balancing the market purchases against a fixed household income; for corporates, it means tightening the money belt, with reduced ad spends, reduced allocation to the company's wages account, and so on.

We had good rains in the third and half of the fourth weeks of July, but after this, the rains have played truant. Almost none so far since the 25th of July.

Let's wait and see.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Rains continue in fits and starts

Mumbai's rains have always been unpredictable, and I remember days from my childhood, adolescence and youth before asserting this claim. There is a near consonance in the starting date, which is usually any time between the 4th and the 10th of June. We begin to read from late May that the rains have hit the Konkan coast. Once the rains are in Goa, the rainy season is but a few days away.

This year, though, something unusual happened. A cyclonic storm in the Bay of Bengal (Aila) and the El Nino effect upset the calculations. The monsoon advanced normally upto Ratnagiri, and then stalled out there for nearly eight days before slowly moving northward. We got our first rains around the 20th of June, and thereafter, rains have been playing a game of hide and seek, with the catchment areas of the five or six lakes that we in Mumbai draw drinking water from - receiving poor rainfall.

The civic authorities (Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai) have been forced to cut the water supply by 10, then 20, and now, 30 per cent in view of the near alarming situation. I admit, though, that in the housing complex where I live, there has been near normal water supply because we also draw water from a bore well.

In between, we have torrential rains. We had one such downpour lasting more than 3 hours yesterday morning, and many schools and offices remained shut as a result. We had one more such downpour today evening, with water collecting in many low-lying areas of the city. The civic authorities have a ready excuse for this, and I believe that they may be right about this: when it rains heavily at the time of an ongoing high tide in the ocean, water is bound to drain off slowly, and also, sea water will enter into the city.

Let's see how it goes ... it's fun for those who are passive observers, but for those who get caught in the downpour, it is an agonising experience indeed, as they have to wait endlessly for taxis, wade through ankle or sometimes knee-deep water as they make their way to their destinations, they have to get wet, and perchance fall ill later on, they have to ... oh, I guess you get the point.

More later.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Rains in Mumbai

Finally, the day Mumbaikars were awaiting since the first of June! On the 4th of July, it rained and it poured from dawn to late at night with a slight let up in the afternoon. The weather bureau reported nearly 125 mm of rain in Colaba and almost 250 mm in Santacruz.

What really affects me is that once it rains like this, there is no escape from the wetness ... whether you are at home and the cool droplets fall on your hands when you hang out the washing or your towel after a bath; on the bus, where you attempt to close the window shutters and they are jammed, so you are wet all over before you decide to change your seat or simply brave it if there is no free seat elsewhere; when you are walking under an umbrella (these are getting bigger and bigger each year, and the unfoldable ones are returning to fashion!), and while your head face and upper chest maintains a modicum of dryness, your body's lower half takes the full force of the rain PLUS the spray from passing cars, trucks and what have you; on a scooter with a top 1/2 of the two-piece rain suit on, and bottom 1/2 still in the dicky ... and your thighs, with the handkerchief in one side pocket and your wallet in the other ... taking the full brunt of the rain; in your car, and when you step out, you can never coordinate the opening of your umbrella with the car door opening, or when you simply decide to run from the car to the entrance of wherever you are destined to go ... and you get all wet; or in a train ... and you get wet; or under a tree or some form of shade of a shop eaves or roof ... and you get wet; or, like a traffic policeman who wears those bright yellow or white raincoats ... and still ends up wet.

If this is the case, why not enjoy getting wet? This is exactly what I do when I return from work late in the evening. I deliberately stuff my rain protection gear inside the dicky (if I am on a two-wheeler) or on the back seat (if I am in my car) and then walk leisurely from the car to my building's life ... a good 15 feet!

Flooding occurred at all the usual places by the evening ... at Mazgaon circle, near St. Mary's ICSE, at JJ junction, at Null Bazaar and so on in my area, and at more than a 100 flood-prone areas all over Mumbai.

Even so, I think the average Mumbaikar is really, really happy that heavy rains have fallen, for we get our water supply from the catchment areas of Vihar, Tansa, Tulsi, Bhatsa and Vaitarna Lakes. If it rains well there, we will get water here .

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Old and present students of Bharda New High School

Some students of the Bharda New High School at CST, Mumbai, got together on a warm afternoon under the stewardship of Mr. Abbasbhai Igatpuriwala, one of the old teachers, in Bharda's auditorium, on 16th June, 2008. The purpose was to discuss what best we, old Bhardaites, could do about our alma mater.

There were equal supporters for "contributing to the upliftment of the school buildings and the staff" and for "starting new institutions of excellence and advanced studies" in Science and Technology (to be named after Mr. A.H. Mulla, our beloved principal who passed away in March) and in Mass Media and communication (to be named after Mrs. Banoo N. Cama, still very much alive and in her eighties).

As a result of the deliberations of the meeting, an online Yahoo group has been created where Bhardaites can come together to interact. To visit this group, please click here.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Values: old vs. new - a perspective

I am 49 years young. However, when dealing with the tweens of today (those who are between teenage and adulthood, viz. my daughters, and others of their age), I feel like someone from Satyug. I am not joking, and most readers of my age will probably be nodding their heads in understanding. :-)
Values have changed so much, that often, what seems like a "ghor apradh" to me, sounds like a "all in a day's work" to my children! They think nothing of ignoring your requests to this household chore, or postpone the purchase of a 4 GB card for the time being, or wait a little while to have lunch while their father is on the way home, negotiating the killer traffic at Bhendi Bazaar. To them, retiring to their own rooms when my friends come to the house is, to put it bluntly, their bounden duty. It matters not that their mother (my wife) comes home after a hard day's work, hungry and thirsty: if I nudge one of them to get up and get her a glass of water, or to unburden her of her handbag or something, they will immediately turn the other way, or tell me to ask the "other daughter"' or, they will get her the water, and then refuse to do the next task asked of them, saying that they "already got up once to get mom water".
It is not only frustrating, but also demeaning, to hear them shout at each other at 11:30 p.m. to "give me more space on the bed, and to shift there."
I am sorry if this diary sounds like a public lament of my daughters, but I am using my examples to illustrate what is, I am sure, a general experience of most parents.
Coming to adult values, it is too late when yesterday's teens realise where they went wrong. Their own ghosts come to haunt them later on. Values never change, only perceptions do. And yet, false values have gradually seeped into the moral fabric of the society. Petty behaviour, insulting an elder to that person's face, speaking rudely to one's own teacher/boss/superior, ignoring the pleas of one's own parents or elder siblings, etc. are now so acceptable, that the youth does not even consider it as wrong behaviour. To a large extent, the open sky policy and the invasion of channels from the West have contributed to this moral depradation. Music today has words like F@@K and so on openly weaved into the lyrics. In such an environment, how can the tween remain untouched?
The need of the hour is to sit with them and talk to them, to sensitize them to their follies, and to do all this before it is too late.
Can I do it? I don't know. Can you? Do tell me! 

Monday, June 01, 2009

If someone saw me in real life, they would immediately remark that I have a rather huge belly. If you've seen my photos here and elsewhere, you wouldn't guess that, would you? And yet, it is true. Years of chai and indiscriminate eating has caused my belly to bloat up. My belly measures 39 inches. God! I have been trying to shed this flab off and on. I made my first serious and fairly successful attempt in 2007. In this, my first attempt, I passed with flying colours, as I lost nearly ten kgs within six months, and the belly shrank by nearly 3-4 inches!

The top photo is the one I achieved after five months of gymming in 2007, while the lower one is the earlier one.

My second attempt began in January 2008 at Talwalkar's (see my review on that). This was a failure, as, instead of losing weight, I gained 3-4 kg there, and lost no fat. I left that, and am now in my third attempt at a local gym called Mission Fitness. Having completed three months there, I can safely say that it is the best of the lot, but I haven't lost any weight or inches so far. I am maintaining a daily visit there. Recently, the physio person there changed my routine from alternate day cardio/weight training to daily weight training + cardio. I completed one week of that, and am now into the second week of the same. I am praying that I see results soon.


This is an unique website which allows common people to give reviews of almost anything under the sun, allows them to maintain diaries, allows them to comment on others' reviews, and allows social interaction and exchanging of virtual gifts. I have been a member there since many years, and have written some reviews too; yesterday, on a lazy Sunday, I decided to do a little more on the site: I read reviews, commented on many of them, uploaded photos, wrote two diary entries, gave away virtual gifts, sent messages, etc.

The beauty of this site is that it keeps rewarding members for doing any of the above activities with MS points, thereby encouraging members to keep interacting and to never leave the site. Very interesting site. Do register as a free member and explore the site. 

And, please, check out my profile here.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Writing an entry every single day

It would definitely be desirable to visit one's own blog every single day and to write a few words there ... personally, though, I am no pro at typing, and writing long entries is something that I don't either admire or cherish. Even so, I am committing to writing one entry every day for the entire week beginning from today. Let me see if I can come good on my resolve.

Between the 15th and the 25th of May, I stood in as a substitute for some of my professional colleagues at one or two hospitals that I visit. It was a sort of busy fortnight for me, as I was now seeing patients of mine as well as two other pediatricians! Apart from being very professionally satisfying *and monetarily too, I may as well add*, this experience reminded me of my younger days, when there weren't that many doctors or pediatricians in my geographical territory which is about 5 odd sq. km south of my home at Mazgaon. It was after a long time that I was seeing so many patients in the hospitals where I was standing in for the other doctor(s).  And although tiring, it was enjoyable too, since it will definitely earn me more cash in the days I worked that hard! 

I also wanted to share one more thing with my readers: on Writing.com, where I have an extensive portfolio of my non-medical writing, I am currently participating in an unique writing contest called the "14 days - 7 prompts - 1 story contest". In this contest, the admin gives the contestants a word prompt that HAS TO BE  incorporated in the coming installment. At the same time, the next prompts have to be also incorporated too, without going back and re-doing the story! Thus, the writer has to be very imaginative while tying up the prompts as they come every alternate day. To read the story as it develops/developed, click here.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Cricket, Politics and some more stuff ...

As everyone knows, the Indian Premier League (IPL) is a limited overs game with both teams bowling just 20 overs to decide the game. This year, because of the simultaneous holding of the General Elections for Indian Parliament, the venue of the IPL was shifted to South Africa instead of India. Well, the round robin league is over, and so are the semifinals ... and today, on this warm Sunday evening, Deccan Chargers and Royal Challengers will play the final for the cup and the glory. Within a few days, the Congress Party's cabinet will be in place too, and India will begin a glorious chapter of politics with the ruling party in full strength; no more coalition style politics, thank you. And, as an Indian, I wish MMS (Manmohan Singhji) has a very fruitful run as a PM (his second tenure), and India prospers as a result.

In other news, Murtuza's family and mine, are treating Dad on his just passed 75th birthday (he turned 75 on the 20th of May). We have invited him and mom to my place for dinner and to gift him a little token of our love. Murtuza's daughter Umme-Salma continues to run a slight fever since the past three days. My aunty Asma Sawliwala had a stroke last week, and is admitted at Prince Aly Khan hospital ICU as a result. She is unconscious and is being artificially ventilated. Inas keeps running for her duties to the Taj, and Hannah is at home, reading books or whiling away her time seeing television or playing a game on the computer. Nishrin's work is going fine, and mine is too.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Almost a month gone

It's been some time that I have written in the blogs that I own, including this one. It isn't that I don't enjoy blogging; of course, I do. If I did not, would I start so many blogs? However, it is also true that life sometimes just does not permit you to write ... time runs short, motivation runs short, or at times, there just isn't anything happening enough in your life to write to the world about! In my case, it never is the case that nothing is happening. So much is! If nothing else, my medical experiences would be enough to write so much about!

Since I last wrote in here, my elder daughter Inas has begun her industrial training at the Hotel Taj at Mumbai. For those not aware, Inas is in the second year of the Hotel Management (three-year degree) course of the Mumbai University. As part of the course, students are required to complete a six-month hands-on training at any of the designated hotels in the city. As Inas was one of the best students in the course, she got a chance to take the training at the famed Taj Group Hotel located at the Gateway of India ... the very same hotel that was attacked by Pakistani terrorists in November 2008. Initially, we were wary of sending her to that spot, but in the end, common sense prevailed. She began her training on the 2nd of May. Every day, she is required to be there for 8-9 hours, and her first 1 1/2 months' posting is in the Kitchen Department. This is one department that she dislikes. However, she is in, whether she likes it or not. Just yesterday, she told us that she had to peel over 250 onions! In the process, she accidentally nicked three of the five fingers of her right hand, and had to apply "Band Aid"s on the tips of all these! She has been called the "Chop Chop Queen" in honor of her "accident" :-)

Okay, Hannah continued going to school for a fortnight more, and her last school day was the 1st of May. Her results came that day, and I am happy to inform you that she did well, scoring 77 % marks in Marathi ... for the first time in her career. Her overall percentage climbed a healthy 7 % ... from the earlier 59 % to over 66 % this time. Within a few days, her tuitions for the Xth standard have also started, and she is barely able to enjoy 2 free days every week, the rest being interspersed with tuitions in Hindi, Marathi, Math and Science. Once her school restarts, she will have tuitions in French as well. This will be her final year in school, and then, it will be college life for her from June 2010.

Nishrin continues to work solo in her parlour after having removed her one and only assistant in November-December 2008. This is taking its toll on her mental peace. There are days when there is a rush of clients and she has to refuse some; there are days when there are hardly any, and she sulks around at the parlour and even weeps at times on her misfortune. To inform the readers, I should add here that she had to remove her assistant because the latter was stealing her work and attending to her clients outside the parlour at the clients' residence by doing home visits after finishing her work at the parlour.

What about me, you ask? Oh, well. My practice picked up a lot more than I had expected, but still, I was doing worse than what I did last year in April. I finally got a letter allowing me to admit patients in the 'general' class at Noor Hospital, and to date, I have admitted quite a few patients there! I am sure that the hospital trustees will have to consider giving me full privileges in the year to come. My writing work at WDC attracted prizes again. My gymming had to take an unscheduled break when I developed severe back spasm in mid-April ... then I re-joined in late April, took yet another break as the spasm acted up again, and have now re-joined and have resumed muscle training since the past four to five days.

That's all for now ... but I would like to end this post with a small bit of news: May is a month full of birthdays in my extended family. My youngest brother's both children, my own Hannah, and my dad, all have their birthdays in May! My nephew Shabbir was born on the 7th of May in 2002; my niece Umme-Salma on the 8th of May in 2008; Hannah on the 14th, in 1994, and my dad, on the 20th, in 1934. My brother Murtuza invited us all for cake-cutting and dinner on the eve of the 8th. My brother's wife Sakina had cooked the dinner, and it was okay. My other brother Kaizar, did not attend owing to some problems.

Hannah will turn 15 this year, and Nish and I plan to give her 15 gifts, of which one will be sponsored by Inas. We are also planning a surprise party for her and are inviting 7-8 of her best friends for an evening of fun and frolic. Let us see how this goes ...

Monday, April 13, 2009

Recently, I read about a friend's bad experience with Citi Financial due to mistaken identity. This reminded me of my own bad experience with Citibank due to their publishing a wrong telephone number in their advertisement.

I want to share my experience with Citibank ...
the bank that never (let me) sleep (s)!

About fourteen years ago, I used to live in a locality that had telephone numbers beginning with 371. My number was 3712484. Now, as most of you know, -2484 are the last four digits of Citibank call centres, as CITI codes as 2484. No matter. Then, one fine day, Citibank published a half page ad on page 1 of the Mumbai edition of ET (Economic Times). The ad simply said: Get Loans at Low rates
against your shares. Call (you guessed it!) 3712484 NOW!

I remember that this was during the second stock market boom after Harshad Mehta's stint ,,, the KP10 boom, if you will. Mumbaikars were sitting with penny stocks like Himachal Futuristic, Silverline Industries, Pentamedia Graphics etc ... and all these were priced above 1000-1500 per share, with PG being priced at 2700 per share!(Today, barring HFCL, the other stocks, including Mazda, (KP's darling stock) have all sunk or vanished.)

Phir kya ... the home phone started ringing non-stop from 7.00 a.m. onwards! I looked at my own number on the front page of ET at 8.30, by which time, my wife and I had already fielded not less than 70-75 calls. We tried calling Mumbai's own citi call center, which we knew was 2022484 ( I had a credit card from citi, so I had the call center no), but we could not connect. And, our own phone never gave us a second chance to use it for an outgoing call!

Remember, there were no cell phones back then.

By about 10, our patience had reached breaking point. Finally, I connected to the citi phone center. They were as surprised as we were, and one of them immediately recognised the number to be citi's number for New Delhi. I demanded rectification on an immediate basis, but they, obviously, could not do anything right away. About 11.30, I got a call from their head, one female officer called Anjali something. She was profusely apologetic, and said that they would publish the new number in the next day's newspaper, and in the meanwhile, we should just wait and suffer in silence.

I was shouting at her by then. I asked her to send someone "decent" to take all my calls, and to stay with me till the menace receded. She was willing to do even that, but then, she had a brilliant thought:she sent me a box pack of an advanced telephone answering machine manufactured by Philips. The person who accompanied the box was knowledgeable and helped us to set up the whole thing. He also handed me a letter signed by ?Anjali, and then left.

Over the next few days, the calls gradually stopped. However, citi never sent to take the machine back. We used it for the next five or six years, before it malfunctioned and had to be thrown away.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

A new financial year begins

Isn't it a funny twist of Fate that a new financial year begins on All Fools' Day? I am a practising professional, and as per Indian tax rules, I am required to file the returns of each financial year by the end of August of the second year of the two years that the financial year pertains to. For example, I must file the returns for the F.Y. 09/10 by August 31, 2009. And so on. Now, to tell you the truth, my Chartered Accountant (C.A.) has never filed my returns on time, and I am forever running to his office and seeking time with him to clear the accounts back-log and planning ahead for the next F.Y. This March-end, we finally submitted (with whopping late fees), the returns for the F.Y. 2007/08. Two more returns need to be filed now ... and I am keeping my fingers crossed.

Financially, the last twelve months were a complete disaster, and not just for me,but for almost all people in India and also all over the world. American citizens were the most hit, but no one anywhere in the world was spared. The inflow of cash is not a worry as much as is the inflow of patients, which is something that can cause doctors to get extremely bored and incapable of action.

I would have written more, but that will have to wait as I have too much other work at hand.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Relatives visit ...

A fortnight ago, Saleh, my first cousin on my pop's side, visited me at the clinic. Having met Nishrin, he then waited for me to also arrive at the clinic and was with us for at least an hour and a half. Saleh continues to be a pragmatic person; what I do find changed in him is that he looks much happier now than he did some years ago when he used to visit us from Dubai. It seems that Canada has been nice for him. Living at a small place called Missisuaga (I hope I have the spelling right), which is about 45 - 60 minutes away from the Niagara Falls, Saleh is enjoying life ... and I envy him!

Today, it was the turn of his younger brother Aslam to visit us at the clinic. His wife Shabnam was also with him. Aslam and Shabnam continue to dwell in Dubai, and their son Husain was also with them today. I gifted them with a small token of my appreciation that they all came to visit us.

Tomorrow, Nishrin's relatives -- her fufi, her first cousin Pinky and her family, are coming down from Chandigarh to spend a few days with us. We are all looking forward to them being with us. They would be going to Nanded next, and finally, to stay with another relative before going back to Chandigarh on the 29th of this month.

So, what does a visit by a relative mean? It means a rejoicing of sorts, as it rejuvenates both sides. It also awakens slumbering emotions and makes people yearn to hope for more.