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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Denial of the Soul

       A disclosure to begin with; Dr Peck has been one of my favourite authors, (a psychologist /philosopher /motivator ), I tend to agree with most of his ideas (not a good thing for independent thinking). Moreover, having been through "Road less travelled", "Further along Road less travelled" and Road less travelled and beyond", most of the anecdotes and case histories are so familiar.

           The title reminds you of of CG Jung's "Modern man in search of a soul" It is always exciting when Physics, Metaphysic, Psychology and Parapsychology meet, like in "Tao of Physics"

            The book covers the medical and spiritual aspects of Euthanasia and mortality. During our lifetime, we inevitably have to endure physical suffering such as pain, sickness, injury, tiredness, old age, and eventually death; and we have to endure psychological suffering like sadness, fear, frustration, disappointment, and depression.

           It starts with an analysis of physical pain. There is good pain and bad pain , short term pain and chronic pain and there are gradations in severity of pain. After all the first step to relieve pain is to study pain. Here, we are introduced to the concept of palliative care and hospice, which focus on pain management rather than cure.  While physical pain is more talked about, it is the emotional pain that Dr Peck considers more relevant to the issue of Euthanasia.

            There are many ideas which wouldn't go well with the scientific fraternity; I quote,

           "The question is not merely "what is the name of the disease ? but whether the disorder is purely biological or purely psychological or a mixture of the two. If it is a mixture, which is the case as often as not, what are its proportions ? 50-50, 90-10 , or 10-90 ?Social and spiritual factors must be considered. I could argue that almost all diseases are bio-psycho-socio-spiritual disorders"

(Doctors are obsessed with disease and disorders... A corollary to the above statement implies that well being means 'physical, mental, social and spiritual well being)

      After Physical and Emotional pain , the author goes on to Social and Spiritual aspects of Euthanasia. There is a chapter on Secularism. While Indian secularism implies going to every place of worship, the American secularism, stays away from all religions.

        Some of the terms discussed are 'pulling the plug', 'double effect', (relieving pain by increasing the dosage of painkiller, while risking speedy progression of the disease) , 'Physician assisted suicide', 'passive euthanasia', and 'right to death on demand'.

      The author is not against Euthanasia,but against playing 'God'. He is just apprehensive about two things in particular; firstly, the inconsistent nature of medical cover in US and secondly, the rampant secularism. Specifically he is concerned about a number of things like not debating enough about euthanasia, leaving out the spiritual aspects in the discussions, and finally letting the economic aspects decide framing of laws, since it is the Insurance companies which are most affected by any law on Euthanasia.

       He concludes that, in the absence of widespread debate on the issue, the nation might be mislead. It is likely that legal experts, medical experts and insurance companies who are averse to take into consideration any spiritual and emotional aspects, decide the fate of patients who, by and large believe in some kind of God.

       Everything discussed in he book is morbid and it definitely jolts you, and yet it leaves you with a clearer and lighter frame of mind, in the end.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Three Slips and a Gully

Three slips and a gully , a silly mid on and a forward short leg ; that is test match for you. I am writing this when the Ist test at Lords between England and India is nicely poised on the start of the Final day. Not evenly poised,but yet interesting; the question is can India save the test . The beauty of test cricket is that you can thoroughly enjoy a game even if it doesn’t produce a result. After all, it is only fair that a well contested match ends with equal honours shared by both contestants.

In ODI and 20-20, it is all a question of chances (that is why the cliche ‘on its day any team can beat any other team’). The bowler bowls from wicket to wicket, somehow hoping that the ball crosses the stumps without contacting the bat. The batsman shuffles all over the crease and takes a mighty swing hoping that he somehow  makes  contact with the ball and then he hopes that he is neither caught nor run out. The crowd keeps baying for fours and sixes or wickets as the case may be.

What is cricket if a bowler is not keen to take wickets and a batsman is not keen to keep his wicket ?

In a test match the bowler just attacks. He is prepared to go for runs as long he has the last laugh and a batsman is prepared to bide his time and wait for the bad ball to score. Nothing is left to chance.

It is sad to see the lone slip in the shorter versions of the game. How nice to see the slip cordon for fast bowler or the close in fielders for a spinner.

The crowd at test cricket is small but well informed. I recall the lines from “The Hindu” (Vijay Lokpally, I think)," A typical Chennai spectator has curd rice in his tiffin box and Wisden on his finger tips and is ever prepared to appreciate a good ball or a good hit irrespective of whether it produced any runs or wickets."

Viva Test Cricket !

As always the better format has less takers, in any part of the world, in any field; like books Vs movies, classical music Vs popular music, filter coffee Vs instant coffee, and finally Linux Vs Windows . Thathastu. So be it .

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Down the memory lane

Attended the Golden Jubilee function of My School. The School has everything a 50 years old Public School should have. A great infrastructure - sprawling campus with nice foot ball fields, hockey, Basket ball and tennis courts, swimming pool and riding school.........You can see a great mix of modernism and traditionalism and a blend of spanking new buildings and blocks as old as the hills in the background. It has among its alumni, top brass from the defense services, bureaucrats, top professionals and corporate heads.

            A number of retired teachers in their 70s and 80s could be seen with clusters of ex-students around each.           The only thing perhaps lacking was 'alumni from different generations, in the same family'; that I feel is the true hall-mark of a great institution.

             Amaravathinagar came into being because of the dam over River Amravathi, and is now known all over the country because of the Sainik School.

          Everywhere, you could see boisterous back-slapping, laughter and light-hearted leg pulling. meeting after a long time, there were flashes of inputs on present and future, but mostly it was about past, past and past..... of memories sweet, salty and silly......

            Boys will be boys... you could sense an attempt to break away from the present and get back to the care free a way it was the best of the both worlds, spending money like men yet behaving like school boys ! "

             If inanimate obects like tuning forks and pendulums can respond to a set frequency, what of the highly evolved human minds? Well, you could sense some kind resonance to a common frequency.
              My object of attending the function was mainly to meet my schoolmates, some of them I was meeting after 36 years or more.

             There were emotions, sentiments, the simple joy of being together, sharing a feeling of camaraderie, and I could see the look on some faces, "hi, I didn't know it would be such fun !

          Of course, there was an odd discordant note; some bitter memories did creep in. Some of us did hurt one another during our stay at the school, and some of us did carry our grudges home.It is always easier to meet than to depart gracefully.

      It is never too late to drop these extra baggages, and this was a great occassion to do so, drop them exactly where we picked it up from.

Now for some narcism

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Great Indian Divide

One advantage (or misfortune) of going over news items online is that you get to read the comments from readers even before the news has been digested fully. I suspect that there are readers who read only to comment.
The comments bring out the Schism in the society. In most cases, the news report or the incident itself has nothing to do with the accusations and counter accusations.
From today's news on rail accident................
kapil narang (new delhi)
2 hrs ago (03:56 PM)
The anti hindu forces of West bengal and Tamil Nadu are creating a wave of mess in the nation .
Bannerjee (kolkata) replies to kapil narang
1 hr ago (05:06 PM)
Hindi speaking uncultured, uneducated politicians from cow belt (except nitish kumar and JDU )are creating trouble in the country.Lalu, Mulayam ,Maya ,Rahul Gandhi, Digvijay etc. And not to forget Punjabies -MMS ,Kapil Sibal,Manish tiwary.
I remember a particular story,"Army officer's wife chargsheeted for drunken driving" . Well there were comments on women, mothers, army, The rich, Upper castes, and even on religion. There are fancy names like indian, trueindian, lucifer, kaliyug, and so on. One guy declares that "women are good for nothing..." another wonders how come the victim had 5 children even though he was a hindu. There is not a word about the legal issues or on how to avoid road accidents.

We are divided, and divided very badly and it just needs any kind of trigger for the fissures to show.

The only hope perhaps is that the different axes along which the nation is divided keeps changing so rapidly, there is a sense of unity like the one we see on Republic day parade. Of course the media plays a great part in ensuring that the public memory is not just short but momentary.

Another Sign Post at Mhow

Friday, July 1, 2011

Gates of Fire

Read a book Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield, a historical novel based on the battle of Thermopylae. It is a nice mix of fact and fiction , the drama just enough to smoothen the rough edges and to add a little spice to a simple battle report.

Of course the victors write the history and it would be worth remembering the words of Mark Twain

"The very ink with which all history is written is merely fluid prejudice."

Though over 2500 years have passed since, the Spartan culture , governed by the laws of Lycurgus continues to inspire and influence military minds, particularly the spartan way of training for war.

The story is narrated in the words of a low ranking person in the Spartan society helot / Squire. It reminds me of another great book on written by a German private , one of the best books I have read on World War - II, "A Forgotten Soldier" by Guy Sager .These books paint a broad brush on the macro events while concentrating on the innermost emotional experiences of soldiers during war and what soldiers call minor tactics or battle craft.

The language used is not scholarly but simple narrative style. Even a profound statement is reduced to simple words. During a lull in the battle a non Spartan tells the Spartans , "I now realize that all the drill and discipline you Spartans love to pound into each other's skulls were really not to inculcate skill or art, but only to produce this glue that bind a unit together"

" Only to produce this glue"; The words ring true even today. In military academies they talk of camaraderie, team spirit and bonding which are nothing but the quantity and quality of 'this glue'. At least in infantry battles it this 'glue' which decides the outcome, even in the 21st century.