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Month: May 2015

Should I continue the Fight? A Cancer Story

Should I continue the Fight? A Cancer Story

He was not our friend. Nor was he a relative. Not even a neighbor, yet he was our solace during our worst of days. This is “his” story- of Mr. Rao (name changed on request).

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As we walked in to the hostile looking Oncology ward in Manipal hospital for the first time, little did we know what was actually in store. Of course we had read up on the “not so nice” side effects of chemotherapy. But we still had not seen the real picture. The first bed that greeted us in the narrow ward, had a lean man, probably as old as my Dad. He seemed to be comfortable on the tapered bed, oblivious  of the thin pipe and needle that dripped chemotherapy medication into him.

The chairs in the ward placed for the respective caregivers were close to each other.  So conversations were bound to happen. Similar to Dad, Mr. Rao was diagnosed with colo-rectal cancer at stage 4, with metastasis to the liver. In the 12 months post diagnosis, Rao had seen 2 surgeries and at least 12 rounds of chemotherapy to keep the cancer at bay. Having a similar condition, we discussed treatment options, doctors’ response, and prognosis. That was just the beginning. Over the years that followed, we would often bump into Mr. Rao at the Onco ward, where the conversation shifted from medical stuff to local politics, books, sports and family matters. For dad, he was the sole companion in the grim Onco ward.

It has been 5 years now. Dad succumbed to the disease in October after his long drawn battle. I called up Mr. Rao, to inform him of the demise. He said, “Could you please drop by?, I want to meet you.” I wasn’t really keen, considering I had just lost my father. I still trudged on to pay him a visit. He started the conversation. “Why do you think I am still around? Is it because the disease is being kind on me? Or because I have the fighting spirit? I simply do not know. I don’t want to go on with this disease any more”. I was taken aback at what he said.

Looking at my perplexed face, he continued, “I am 68 years old. Firstly, at this age, taking on the side effects of the medication gets to be doubly tough. From burning deep skin rashes caused by “Erbitux” ( adjuvant therapy medicine in treating cancer with liver metastasis), stomach related troubles, nausea vomiting, and a general feeling of uneasiness. I have had enough. Ok, so let us say that I still go on enduring all this.

Here is the second issue. By God’s grace, I retired from ISRO and receive a reasonable central government pension. I also saved up a substantial corpus for my retirement. Not to forget, my son is a techie in USA and he sends me money regularly. Yet,  a medical expenditure of almost 10-12 lakhs a year is difficult on us. In the Indian market, the cost of a vial of Avastin or Erbitux (adjuvant therapy drugs for treating liver metastasis) is between Rs. 30,000 to Rs. 40,000. A session of chemotherapy sometimes requires 3 vials. This is a drug that aggressively fights the spread of the disease. But at what cost?

Now the third and most important thing-my wife, who is my support and immediate caregiver. My wife and I live on our own. My son has a thriving job abroad. I would say he is a dutiful and loving son. Yet, is it justified to ask him to quit his job and return home to take care of me? My wife, she is a sugar patient herself and the umpteen trips to the hospital and then getting home and ensuring I am fine, does take a toll on her health. So now can you tell me, should I really continue to fight this disease?”

I had no answer.

Cancer medication does not offer you a guarantee of life. This is especially applicable to those diagnosed at a later stage of the disease. As one doctor aptly put it- “you are only prolonging life”. Once the disease is metastatic, it would keep coming back. So it would have to be an ongoing fight, with recurring medical expenses, till probably your energy or resources are totally drained out. Mr. Rao is probably in this stage now. I left him that day without knowing if I should tell him to continue his fight or let go of life. There was no quality of life after all, and no promise of quantity of life.

The World Cancer Day this year has a tag line  “Not Beyond Us”. It would focus on 4 main areas.

·         Healthy life choices

·         Treatment for all

·         Taking care of quality of life

·         Early detection

I am glad that these four areas are being focused upon. At least for people like Mr. Rao, the last two options, would mean a great big deal.

Dedicated to Aruna Shanbaug- Lest we Forget!

Dedicated to Aruna Shanbaug- Lest we Forget!

“Mumbai nurse Aruna Shanbaug, in coma since brutal 1973 rape, is dead.”

I fought back my tears as I read this headlines today. I was not sure if I was to feel sad over her death, or happy that her 43-year-old ordeal was finally over!!

25-year-old Aruna Shanbaug was sexually assaulted on the night of 27 November 1973, by Sohanlal Bhartha Walmiki, a sweeper on contract at the King Edward Memorial (KEM) Hospital, in Mumbai. Sohanlal attacked her while she was changing clothes in the hospital basement. He choked her with a dog chain and sodomized her. The asphyxiation cut off oxygen supply to her brain, resulting in brain stem contusion injury and cervical cord injury apart from leaving her cortically blind.

Unable to speak or walk or have control over body movements, Aruna Shanbaug entered a permanent vegetative state. She was incurable. In a permanently vegetative state patients seldom enjoy, favorite foods, music, and people. It also doesn’t allow for them to smile in response to an external influence.  She has remained in this state for the past 43 years, in KEM Hospital, becoming the world’s oldest comatose patient. She knew not what the world was outside.

Source: The Telegraph

The police case was registered as a case of robbery and attempted murder on account of the concealment of anal rape by the doctors under the instructions of the Dean of KEM, Dr. Deshpande, perhaps to avoid the social rejection of the victim, and her impending marriage. Sohanlal was caught and convicted, and served two concurrent seven-year sentences for assault and robbery, neither for rape or sexual molestation, nor for the “unnatural sexual offence” (which could have got him a ten-year sentence by itself).

On a petition filed by author Pinky Virani for euthanasia, the Supreme Court turned down the mercy killing petition on 7 March 2011. The court, in its landmark judgment, however allowed passive euthanasia in India. While rejecting Pinki Virani’s plea for Aruna Shanbaug’s euthanasia, the court laid out guidelines for passive euthanasia. According to these guidelines, passive euthanasia involves the withdrawing of treatment or food that would allow the patient to live.

The nursing staff at the hospital, who had opposed the petition, and who had been looking after her since she had lapsed into coma, distributed sweets and cut a cake to celebrate what they termed her “rebirth”. A senior nurse at the hospital later said, “We have to tend to her just like a small child at home. She only keeps aging like any of us, does not create any problems for us. We take turns looking after her and we love to care for her. How can anybody think of taking her life?”

Aruna’s family abandoned her after the rape when the hospital started insisting that they take her home.

This is not just a story… Not just another tale of pain….It raises some valid questions.

1) Has our judicial system improved in terms of delivering justice to the rape victim?

2) Rape victims still face a whole lot of social stigma, do we have a system in place for this? There are still families in smaller towns, which either disown the victim or worse, get them married to the rapist!

 All I can say for now is kudos to the team of KEM. Rest in Peace Aruna.

 

My Airtel App

My Airtel App

Welcome to the world of smart phones. Today we practically do everything on our smart phones. We watch movies, transact bank accounts, and can even plan a holiday. The latest entrant into this world of smart phones is the Airtel App. I recently downloaded this app titled “My Airtel App” on my phone. And I must say I was amazed to see the plethora of features it boasted of. From amazing offers, to recharging DTH, tracking account usage, and even buying products, this app is convenience all the way. It is an app that every Airtel user must have on their smart phones. There were three features in the app that I really liked. Here is a brief roundup of these features.

  • Airtel Surprises

The first feature is “surprises”. Surprised at the name? Well here is how interesting the feature is. On every recharge you make, you get free coupons from merchant establishments under various categories such as food, shopping, entertainment and wellness. Now isn’t this a great feature? I love shopping. And I am also a movie buff. I watch a movie or two in the theatre every week. So now with this feature of Airtel, I am surely going to shop more and watch more movies too, without feeling guilty.

  • The “My Bill” feature

For a person constantly on the move, keeping a track of bills, data usage, recharge dates etc… becomes a difficult job. To the rescue here is the “My Bill” feature. This feature provides all information related to the Airtel account. So you could easily keep track of recharge dates, mobile payment dates, data consumed, unbilled usage etc… This feature provides the convenience of giving you all the information you require on your mobile, so you don’t have to really log in to a computer to get the information.

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  • “I want to” feature

Here is a very interesting feature. The Airtel “MyApp” feature saves those tasks which I frequently do on my home screen as short cuts. This is saved under “I want to” tab making it easy for me to refer to whenever I require. So whether it is for bill payments or information regarding data usage, my frequently used options are available at a single swipe and tap.

For a person like me busy through the week, such an app has made life easier. I don’t have to run to a kiosk or Airtel store anymore to pay my bills. My phone is more than enough for it. It is a great app as it is hassle free. So whether it is recharging DTH connections or paying mobile phone bills, I really don’t have to worry anymore. The solution lies in my mobile phone. Thanks Airtel for simplifying our lives with “My App”.

Get more details from the link http://www.airtel.in/myairtel

Also watch this interesting video

"Facebook pages created to attract pedophiles shut down after outrage".

"Facebook pages created to attract pedophiles shut down after outrage".

I read this headline in the morning newspaper. It kind off shook me up. What may seem as a harmless facebook post of our children, in reality it may not be so.

Child rights activists in Chennai have forced authorities to shut down two Facebook pages in Tamil created to attract pedophiles. The pages had photographs of young girls with a number of sexually explicit comments. They were spotted by social activists who immediately contacted the authorities to take it down. One of the blocked pages reportedly had over 3300 likes with comments full of sexual connotation.

Social media giant Facebook has a policy that does not allow nude pictures, but these pages used pictures of children in full clothes, there was nothing sleazy or objectionable about the images – the photos were the kind you and I would post of our children. So technically it doesn’t fall under the obscenity category and hence the website’s algorithm was probably unable to decipher. Also, Facebook was unable to pick up on these pages because both the page and the comments were largely in Tamil and it is difficult to identify regional language words.  The online predators could have taken those photographs from innocent posts uploaded by young children or their parents. This has sparked immense outrage all over the state.

Last week, similar pages surfaced in Kerala. After several complaints, the pages were pulled down. There were pictures of children from the age of 5 to 15 with sexually explicit comments. The cyber police had forwarded the complaint to Facebook and the page had been taken down.

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But the big question here is, “In today’s world of Social Media interactions, how much should parents share and how much should they refrain?”

Most parents embrace social networks as a way of keeping family and friends scattered across the world constantly updated about the growing years of their young children. While we shouldn’t let paranoia take over our lives, we have to be very careful when doing so. Bear in mind:

  • Know how much to share. Never give away exact locations, school names and other such details.
  • Understand the importance of not tagging locations
  • Refrain from posting updates and pictures on a daily basis. It could entice someone within your circle.
  • Use stricter privacy settings

With the perversion and pedophilic individuals all across the web, great caution should be exercised.

Story time with Hama-Guri

Story time with Hama-Guri

“Hi! I am Hama-Guri and this is my friend Ma-Door. We are your friends now. Aren’t we Ma-Door?”

As I read these lines, I saw my little girl’s face light up. The look that told me to continue and fill her in with more details of Hama-Guri. Reading out a story aloud to a child is one of the best things in life. As enjoyable as it is to the child, it is equally a pleasure for the parent.

For the past month, my 6 year old has immersed herself in the world of Hama-Guri. I was fortunate to receive a reviewer’s copy of the e-book Hama- Guri Goes to School, Children’s stories, written by Aditi Bose and published by Cresco”. The book has opened up a whole new world for my 6 year old. The Hama-Guri series of stories is all about a 6 year old boy, and his take on his life’s matters. From how he overcomes his feelings on having lost a competition, to his earning pocket money, Hama-Guri has helped my little one cope with her own problems and fears. The book is brilliantly written, in a way my 6-year old would understand, She now looks at everything from the eyes of Hama-Guri. 

Hama Guri Goes to School Front Cover

Although she is just learning to  read text fluently, she spends time every day looking at books and catching on key expressions. She recites lines she has memorized from the many times I have read them aloud to her. And sometimes she makes up her own tale of Hama-Guri.

Reading out aloud for your child is an important activity. They are the building blocks not only to improve their literary skills but also, their imagination, their hearing skills and their ability to sit patiently and wonder about what would happen next. Books can be a child’s best friend and can be a pleasure to them all their lives.

If you are a parent:

  • Make story time a routine, even if it is for a few minutes.
  • Try to show your child that you enjoy reading and you think it is important.
  • Have books around the house.
  • If you have more than one child you can also read or tell stories that they all like together, e.g. family favourites or stories about your own childhood.
  • Encourage grandparents to tell stories about when they were young. Story time builds good relationships.
  • Find toys or puppets that are like the people in your child’s favourite story to encourage her to remember and play out the story.

A love of reading is one of the best and most lasting gifts that you can give to your children.

Ek Nayi League

Ek Nayi League

I am not much of a cricket buff. I seldom catch any match on television except when it is an India Pakistan World Cup match. And even then, I seldom watch it in entirety. But something did catch my eye today. Something interesting that has been doing the rounds on social media networks. I came across a series of promotional videos that featured cricketer Kapil Dev.

What was Kapil Dev doing on Twitter? This was my first reaction. I soon realized what it was. Titled “Ek Nayi League”, a series of videos have been trending in the top spots on twitter under the hash tag #EkNayiLeague. It has also gone viral across other platforms such as YouTube.

What is Ek Nayi League? To find out I had to see the video. Kapil Dev the man who made the country proud by lifting the World Cup in 1983 had something to say in them. What was it? I had to know.

The series of videos that have been made has Kapil Dev speaking on a range of things. He has referred to a few famous celebrities such as Dev Anand, MS Dhoni, Sania Mirza and Yuvraj Singh. He speaks of how they have always done things from their heart. He stresses on one thing in all the videos, that is, the new league is all about playing with your brain and not playing with your heart.

After watching all the videos, I did get a considerable amount of insight into what exactly Ek Nayi League is going to be. I personally feel it is going to be a game show involving a team of players, who put their brains together to win something big. The winning prize could be something that they have always craved for, something of great value to them.

The format of the show would be something on the lines of a quiz show where one would have to use logical thinking and reasoning. I agree we have had many such shows earlier, such as Kaun Banega Crorepati or the renowned Bournvita quiz contest. But I feel this may be a quiz show with a difference. Maybe it is a sports quiz show, or a kind-off faceoff with the masses and celebrities.

Here is another point that came up in my mind after I watched the series of videos. Kapil Dev talks about Yuvraj Singh, his battle with cancer, and his coming back in IPL and being auctioned at 16 crores. Is he trying to imply that the game would involve huge bucks?

I wonder.

In the days of celebrity cricket, Indian Premier Leagues and other gaming shows, Kapil Dev’s Ek Nayi League sounds pretty promising. It sure would be a reality show aimed at the masses and would involve both the television medium as well as the online world.

Here’s linking you to the site . link to http://www.eknayileague.com/

You could watch the videos here and take your guess

Pads Against Sexism

Pads Against Sexism

The recent campaign in Jadavpur University, Kolkata, has caused quite a furor.

It was the sanitary napkin campaign, in protest against India’s patriarchy and rape culture. A group of students calling themselves ‘Periods’ had messages written on sanitary napkins. These were then stuck on walls all across the campus. The scribbled messages were clear- to break society’s taboo on speaking about menstruation, bring about gender sensitization and the stigma of those raped or molested.

The protests were drawn in line with the international ‘Pads Against Sexism’ campaign that was started on International Women’s Day (March 8) by a German woman named Elonë Kastratia. Elone had messages against rape and sexism written on sanitary pads, sticking them at public places in Karlsruhe in Germany. What inspired her was a tweet that said “Imagine if men were as disgusted with rape as they are with periods”.

The campaign however saw disapproval from the university. Jadavpur University set up a three-member fact-finding panel to probe the matter, as it was considered to be socially unacceptable. Similar protests were seen at Delhi’s Jamia Milia earlier that had led to four students being show caused.

The campaign got me thinking. What was the university basically against? Were they against the messages? Were they against the protest? Or were they against the use of a Sanitary Napkin as a medium around the campus?

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Menstruation is still a taboo subject among the progressive masses as well.

This taboo strongly prevails across societies. Almost all women across India are often told to maintain some sort of seclusion during their cycles. From abstaining from religious activities to visiting a temple, the whole episode is considered as something impure or dirty. This is despite the knowledge most people have, that menstruation is a sign of a healthy body. It is a part of humankind and cannot be alienated to women alone. In the bygone ages, in an era where the modern sanitary napkins weren’t really available, seclusions must have been purely to avoid any sort of embarrassment for the lady. It would also have been to help her relax and maintain a certain degree of hygiene. But under the present day context, such seclusions are really unwarranted for.

How often have we noticed parents squirming in their seats when there is a sanitary napkin advertisement? Not wanting their child to watch it, they are quick enough to change the channel.The discussion on such a subject is almost always a no. It is a taboo.

Despite removal of all the sanitary napkins from the campus within 24 hours of the campaign, the students of Jadavpur university have raised some valid questions.

  • What is socially acceptable and what is not?
  • Is the sanitary napkin not acceptable?
  • Is menstruation not acceptable?
  • Or are women as a whole not acceptable to society?

I leave you thinking …. along with a few snapshots of my favourite campaign messages.

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The Salman Verdict- And Our Delayed Judicial System

The Salman Verdict- And Our Delayed Judicial System

The verdict is out. Celebrated Bollywood actor Salman Khan has been convicted in the 2002 Hit and Run Case, which claimed one life and injured a few others. After a 13 year long trial, the Mumbai sessions court today handed down a 5 year jail sentence to the actor. He was charged under IPC Sections 304 part II (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), which typically stipulates 10 years in jail.

The incident occurred when the actor in a drunken state drove his Land Cruiser into a group of homeless men sleeping on the pavement in suburban Mumbai. He however rejected this claim in court, and said his driver was to blame. Salman’s lawyers fought against his conviction, seeking the least amount of imprisonment, stating the fact that Salman is involved in many a humanitarian acts. His NGO Being Human has been financially aiding the poor for a few years now.

The court however decided to give him half of this stipulation, with five years (it included charges under other sections too, of drunken driving). It was an exemplary punishment to set an example for others. Salman probably would have wished he wasn’t a celebrity, today.

Begum Shaikh, the wife of the victim Nurulah Mahbob Sharif, said she had been waiting a long time for justice, adding: “We have gone through a lot of hardships.” “Everything is so expensive and we hardly have any income. My kids are always under stress,” she told the CNN-IBN channel.

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But yes. I am proud of the judiciary system today. It sent out a message loud and clear that no one is above the law. We are not a soft country and we do make judgements and deliver justice. What really still irks me is the delay in our justice system. Why do we need 13 years to convict Salman Khan in a hit and run case? Why is there still a delay in many other cases where people are awaiting justice? It is time the country had a jury trial system that would complete cases in less than a year. A jury trial or trial by jury is a legal proceeding in which a jury either makes a decision or makes findings of fact, which then direct the actions of a judge. It is distinguished from a bench trial, in which a judge or panel of judges make all decisions.

But for now Salman would head to the Arthur road Jail, before he could file any bail appeal at the high court. Khan has become the second big-name Bollywood actor to be imprisoned in the past two years. Sanjay Dutt, star of a series of gangster movies, was jailed for possession of weapons that were linked to several bombings in Mumbai in 1993.

Death Bed Visions

Death Bed Visions

He lay on his death bed, mumbling and moaning. I noticed his eyes- they were transfixed at the room door. Did I catch a movement of his pupils? Well, probably once or twice in a span of an hour.”

Just a month back, I had met father’s oncologist. “The cancer is terminal”, she had said. I asked with a grim face, “So how long more?” A tough question for any doctor to answer. But she answered, diplomatically, “Unlikely months may be weeks.”  I had got the message. Father wasn’t really going to make it through.  And his first sign of the impending death came sooner than expected. The onset of jaundice in terminal liver cancer marks the beginning of the end. The liver is a vital organ responsible for regulating metabolic activities across our body. And a failure would mean a slow death of all other vital organs. The unregulated count of ammonia in the blood becomes a toxin to the brain. Hepatic coma is what the patient finally gets into.

And then his mumbling became clear. He called out, “Mother you have finally come? Where had you been?” An hour or so passed and he called out again, “Shankar, you have come too. And you look so young.”  Shankar was my mother’s brother, whom father had always disliked. He had expired a year ago. Upon hearing this last line, I instantly felt a sudden chill. Father was having death bed visions (or known as DBV in short). He was talking to my grand mom and uncle- both of them deceased.

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In scientific literature such experiences have been referred to as death-related sensory experiences (DRSE).  Many a dying patients have often reported such visions of comfort to hospice staff around them. The scientific community considers deathbed phenomena and visions to be hallucinations

Specific studies on deathbed phenomena have described the visual, auditory, and sensed presences of deceased relatives or angelic beings during the dying process as hallucinations. The hallucinations occur due to cerebral hypoxia. When the body is injured, or if the heart stops, even if only for a short period the brain is deprived of oxygen. A short period of cerebral hypoxia can result in the impairment of neuronal function.

I have almost always looked up to science for life’s various questions and mysteries. Yet, for what I have experienced watching my dying Dad, I am still to receive convincing answers. Going with the hallucinations theory, I still have questions unanswered.

Why were there only dead people in his hallucinations? If they were a game of the brain, why did he call out to my uncle whom he seldom liked? How come he had clarity in his voice when he called out? He wasn’t coherent otherwise.

As I sat by dads bedside in his last few hours, I was greatly comforted in many a way to hear his death bed visions. I felt despite his pain, the sight of family members ready to take him with them, may make his transition, from dying to the world beyond, easier.

Probably that’s what I want to believe.

Hopefully, as time goes by, science would be able to give us a greater insight into such phenomena.

Marital Rapes Still Not a Crime

Marital Rapes Still Not a Crime

“Rape is the crime, typically committed by a man, of forcing another person to have sexual intercourse or any other form of sexual penetration with the offender against their will”.

We generally associate this term when the man involved is a stranger. But what if it’s the person within the home, such as one’s spouse? Marital rape, the term used in such cases, is non-consensual sex in which the perpetrator is the victim’s spouse. The force could result in intimate partner violence, an abuse of power, establishing dominance and control over the other.

So what’s the big deal? Isn’t sex a vital aspect in marriage? As simple as it may seem so, “Marital Rape” is a form of violence and could greatly affect the partner involved, both physically as well as emotionally. The Government of India recently made a statement that marital rape cannot be criminalised in India as marriages are sacred in the country. A host of debates and discussions have sparked out, with many a women’s rights activists and jurists being irked by the statement.

Well, I do agree that marriage is sacred. It is sacred because it brings together two entirely different individuals to live under one home. It is sacred because it speaks of mutual respect, understanding, trust and equality. If these are prevalent in a marriage, yes, I would call it a sacred relationship.  But if there is dominance and suppression of the other partner, the whole sacredness aspect is a big question mark.

The Justice Verma Committee report says that any sexual contact against a women’s consent is sexual violence regardless of the relationship of the accused to the women- whether husband or Boyfriend. So just because she is married, she doesn’t have to suffer an aftermath of rape.

The next big question in almost all minds- What about false claims? Could it be misused?

  • Despite a domestic violence act in the country not many women still come out and file a case against their spouses (for social and economic reasons). Keeping this in mind, would there really be a large amount of false claims coming up? I wonder.
  • The onus on such cases is for the victim to prove the deed. And in the case of a marital rape, such would be difficult as there would be “zilch” number of witnesses. How many women would actually be able to prove their rape? I wonder.
  • Almost all laws have the potential to be abused, and this is known fact among the legal fraternity. Whether it is theft, adultery, murder or cheating. We don’t really scrap these laws, do we

Having a marital law, may not be the ultimate solution to the issue of marital rape. Nevertheless, it is a much needed thing, to bring about a change in the mindset that prevails in society. It could bring out a message, loud and clear, that marriage does not give the man a license to exercise his dominance over the woman. It would help us take that step ahead in bringing about a positive change in our patriarchy society, of  bringing about equality and respect in a relationship.