Dec 21, 2014

Don't sit on the fence. Take a bold stand.

Is pre-marital sex okay?

“It is okay provided the couple are in love and in a deeply committed relationship.”
As long as they are planning to get married, I guess.”
“It is today’s world. After seeing all these Western shows and movies, today’s youth would be influenced…”

You know what the scary part is? That the above statements are from those defending pre-marital sex. You are defending it and yet you add so many caveats. Contrast this to the naysayers and defenders of mankind’s pre-nuptial virginity.
“It is against our culture.”
“It is against our religion.”
“It is a sin.”
“It is because of chowmein.”

There is such a surety about their convictions, even if it is as absurd as claiming food and mobile phones as causes of pre-marital sex. You know that they are not going to budge. Sex without matching horoscopes or a wedding ring is obviously a crime that warrants the death penalty in their heads.

If you believe that your sexuality is your choice, stop trying to defend it half-heartedly because you fear society, religious values et al. Take a bold stand. When you add riders like “should be in love”, “should be deeply committed” etc, you are missing the whole point of the conversation. Look around you. Can you honestly say that every married couple around you is in love? That there is a deep sense of commitment between them?

Image source:
You and I both know that you answered in the negative. But the social norm is that even if you cannot stand the sight of each other, you must go to bed and engage in sex with him/her because of the marriage certificate. On the other hand, a young couple in love cannot kiss even though they are strongly attracted to each other because ‘that would be wrong.’ 
This is where you lose me. You look to shame an expression of love/desire/attraction between two consenting adults yet say ‘it happens’ when physical abuse/marital rape/subjugation in a marriage occurs and counsel the mentally scarred victim to stay in the relation. 

You can quote all the scriptures and verses you want but you just have not factored in the basic attributes of the human heart and mind: every heart yearns for love, affection and intimacy; every mind yearns for a compatible partner. You cannot pinpoint why two people are attracted to each other just as you cannot gauge the true depth of emotional commitment between any two people. I won’t even accept that this is a ‘problem of the new generation.’ Pre-marital sex has been going on since centuries and has little, if anything, to do with the advent of mobile phones, chowmein or tv shows. You cannot switch off puberty and all that comes with it, just because you think it is wrong.

Dec 8, 2014

Semmelweis' legacy in present day India #SwachhIndia

Ignaz Semmelweis.

You have never heard his name. And yet, you and I are probably alive today because of him and his perseverance.

Born of Hungarian ancestry, Semmelweis initially joined a law college back in 1837 before switching over to the medical field. While working in the Vienna General Hospital, this young man in his twenties doing his surgical training noticed a very curious fact. The hospital ran two maternity clinics, one run largely by medical students while the other was largely attended to by midwives. He found that the death rate in the hospital run by medical students was significantly higher (13% as against 2% in the second maternity clinic run by midwives.) The deaths included both pregnant mothers and newborn infants, secondary to puerperal fever, a form of septicemia. It reached such a level that women begged not to be sent to the first clinic for their delivery, even preferring to deliver on the streets in some sad cases.

The findings stumped this young man initially. How could trained doctors be killing more women and children than midwives? The doctors offered many reasons in their defence but none really sat right with Semmelweis.

Streptococcus pyogenes,
the cause of puerperal fever
still exists today.
It was when a friend of his died following an accidental ‘minor’ prick while performing an autopsy that the mystery started to unravel before Ignaz’s eyes. As he watched his friend die, he noted that his friend had the same symptoms as those pregnant women and newborns who suffered a premature end. He realized that most of the doctors were coming straight from the autopsies they had conducted and into the labour room to deliver newborn. Though they were washing their hands with soap and water, it was not enough to clean the doctors hands entirely. That was the difference – the midwives never participated in autopsies and hence never carried the ‘infectious particles’ from the dead back to the living.

Semmelweis' endeavours resulted in him challenging the iron-clad system and demanding that his peers use stronger chlorinated lime solutions to wash their hands before conducting any procedure on a living patient. As it always has and sadly still continues to be, the words of a young man trying to change what is the norm were not well received by his seniors and peers. His implications that the doctors were themselves responsible for the deaths of the women and newborn was met with barely concealed anger and stiff resistance. And yet, statistics were in Semmelweis favour.

Source: Here
The numbers don't lie.

Once his method was implemented, the death rate fell from 13% to 2.38%, with no fatalities reported at all in some months, something unheard of back then in the obstetric set up. Even as the statistics supported him, the mind-sets resisted. They mocked his theory of these ‘invisible infectious particles’ whenever he spoke of it. The proof of the presence of the invisible killers – what you and I know as bacteria – would arrive only decades later, demonstrated successfully by Louis Pasteur. Semmelweis passed away a year later at the age of 47, still trying to convince the medical field to wash their hands before and after every procedure.

Today, we in the medical field call him the ‘saviour of mothers’. Semmelweis' Germ theory is taught to every medical student, making us aware of the invisible particles than can make us doctors killers even as we try to be healers.

Dec 5, 2014

Vattayappam / Steamed Rice cake

That my mom is a wonderful cook is pretty much apparent from my 'never shrinking belly'. She has arguably the largest collection of recipes in the district and I honestly don't feel I am exaggerating when I say that. I can picture her cutting recipes from Femina and Women's Era back in the 80's when I was a small kid in Dubai and now three decades on, she's still at it even today, taking down notes from online cookery sites to try out at home.

Over the past few months, she has indeed been trying out quite a few dishes from both the traditional Malabar cuisine (remember this array of yummy food pics?) as well as international cuisine. And I figured what better place than at my site to showcase some of these dishes.

Godyears Kannur Foodgasm Kerala

Today, I wanted to treat you all to a healthy Keralite tea time snack that has quite a few unique features - the Vattayappam or steamed rice cake

Dec 1, 2014

When opportunity knocks, are you ready for it? #WillYouShave

Like most Indian males, I have experimented with my facial hair a lot – A LOT – over the years. I have oscillated between a long early adult phase of being clean shaven to having an Arabian beard for a few years (mimicking my dad) before finally reverting back to being clean shaven.

That middle one was during my brief phase as the
Mexican Superhero 'El Loco de Burrito'

Of course, as anyone will tell you, it is not easy being clean shaven all the time. Especially when you work 24/7 as a doctor in a busy hospital. And you have to realise that as an anaesthesiologist, most of my time is spent hidden within a surgical mask. The temptation is always there to not bother to shave and just allow the mask to hide my face for days on end. I admit I and my colleagues have done it on many an occasion during my post graduate days when you would enter the operation theatre on day one and leave as the sun was setting on day 2.

Am I smiling? Am I sticking my tongue out at you?
You will never know!
But that was one aspect that I left behind when I finished my post graduation. Working as a consultant, I made sure that no matter where I was, I always shaved before heading off from home the next morning. The patients I encounter on a daily basis still do not get to see me for the most part as the mask forms an integral part of my everyday gear. And yet, the simple act of being clean shaven every morning gave me a truly unique opportunity in the most unexpected way.

Nov 29, 2014

Speak up for better healthcare within hospitals #AbMontuBolega

Over the last few months, we have all been watching a steady increase in the awareness of keeping our country clean. The Swachh Bharat campaign and the subsequent photo-ops by various ministers trying to out-do each other appeared on all our front pages, sadly in some cases, bringing the dirt with them to pour onto the streets. I really could write volumes on what I thought of such deliberate acts by ministers to be relevant but the truth is I do wish to talk on an aspect of our lives that desperately needs to be given priority as far as cleanliness is concerned.

I am referring to the state of hospitals in India. Look beyond the plush tertiary health care centres for a moment. The vast majority of patients (> 85 %) in this country do not have access – either financially or just geographically - to them, after all. India, by and large, walks into primary and secondary health care centres when they have a cold, fever, infection or pain. And it is this section which caters to the majority that I feel has been neglected for too long.

If you recall earlier in November 2014, a state-run hospital in Indore called in exterminators to deal with ‘an infestation’. Only this was no minor bug infestation as it turned out. In two days, over 4,000 rats and mice were killed. The pest and fumigation agency noted with shock that there were at least another 10,000 rodents in the hospital and it would take over a month to get rid of all of them.
This was one of the biggest government run hospitals in Madhya Pradesh and included a medical college. They looked after people of all ages, ranging from 1 day old to a hundred years old all within that single campus which HAS (the extermination is still underway as I type this) more rodents than you and I will ever see in our lives.

The sad part is that this is nothing new.
Image source: here
Maternity ward shifted outdoors due to construction work.
How is this okay in today's India?
Come into a packed government medical college out-patient department on any day of the week. What do you think you will see? Hundreds and hundreds of patients and their relatives, jostling for space to stand as they wait outside cramped corridors. 
There are people groaning in agony and sneezing and coughing all over one another, infecting everyone around them. General wards are usually overflowing, with patients sleeping on the floor after the beds are taken. 
Rats, cats, dogs, frogs, monkeys, snakes… these are all animals I have personally seen inside hospitals.

Cleaning the roads is fine… it is the first step towards fulfilling the ‘prevention is better than cure’ concept. But that concept is at least a decade away (optimistically)  from fruition. Till then, you need to be able to cure those who are ill without allowing them to share illnesses at the very place they come to be cured.

Nov 24, 2014

Year 10 - Happiness is the Path

Godyears begins year 10 this month end.

I was still an intern after passing my MBBS when I started this blog back in 2005. I had no idea if I would pass an entrance exam for a postgraduate seat, get into a good college, pass from there or even be a good doctor.  Literally lakhs of words later, I am here: a consultant anaesthesiologist having done thousands of surgeries over the last 7 years, saving limbs and lives while always struggling to find a decent pair of scrubs that fit me.

The blog stats continue to bring a smile on my face.
Year 6 - 2 blogs, 322 posts, 3333 comments, 072702 page views.
Year 7 - 2 blogs, 361 posts, 3990 comments, 100908 page views and 06 published stories.
Year - 3 blogs, 432 posts, 5936 comments, 143942 page views and 10 published stories.
Year 9 - 3 blogs, 499 posts, 8227 comments, 291886 page views and 19 published stories.
Year 10 - 3 blogs, 601 posts, 11722 comments, 573318 page views and 30 published stories.

If the past few years were hard in real life, it was made easier because my blog carried me through. The posts reflected my inner conflicts on many an occasion, the truth hidden within fiction and fables. Godyears was having a ball – stories getting published, an online column, the odd title here and there. Meanwhile, I worked in the background, be it in the operation theatre or in real life. There definitely was a sense of disillusionment... a feeling that I was not doing what I wanted to do; being who I wanted to be.

I was too busy making a living to lead a life.

When I took up the #100HappyDays challenge during the first week of January, I started off by showing you all my wish board: the stuff I wanted to attract towards me this year. Sounds silly, right? Something straight out of a television comedy sitcom? Well, here is the wish board anyway… so how did I fare?

Nov 15, 2014

Tag 5 bloggers, ask their opinions and feed 'at least' 19,000 children for an entire year

  • Harry Potter and the students of Hogwarts defending the school against Voldemort's army at the end.
  • Team Gandalf staying alive and distracting Sauron long enough for Frodo to complete his mission.
  • Even Ram's army of monkeys taking on the demon lord Ravan and his huge army in their own home ground and ousting Ravan.
  • A country divided by a hundred languages and castes uniting against one unassuming lawyer by the name of the Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and freeing the land without raising his hand.

I would like to believe that they all stood there, seeing what they were up against and felt that fear rise within their hearts. The nagging dread that this was a battle they could not win. That the numbers were against them. It is irrelevant whether the tales above are from lore or legend. What matters is the lesson: 

"That you can achieve the impossible if you stay united and work together. One step at a time."

When we go around asking for aid to help the needy, the usual questions asked are usually laced with skepticism and disdain, Oh, you are going to save all the poor people in India? You are going to feed all of them?

The truth is, there are those of us who sincerely wish we could if we had the cash. But we don't. As the popular ad says, we are not the 'children of Bambani'. With our regular salaries, we can afford to sponsor a child or two at best with our finances. We can talk it over with our friends and perhaps convince one or two more to join us... but that is about it. 

Blogadda along with Akshaya Patra asks us to tell them how we can eliminate classroom hunger. How we can feed lesser fortunate children and keep them inside the classrooms. And then they tell me the answer to the question themselves:
For every blog post written on the subject, Blogadda will assist Akshaya Patra in feeding one child for AN ENTIRE YEAR.
Do you understand the significance of that? Your words will help feed a child for an entire year.

Image source: here

Nov 13, 2014

A lot can happen in a month

I have had some crazy months in my life. Some decidedly evil ones too, to be frank. Which is why whenever anything good used to happen to me, I would always be looking over my shoulder, waiting for the "bad stuff" to reveal its presence.

A funny thing happened though over the last one year. I stopped caring about whatever could go wrong. Most of it was the fear of "what ifs" anyway rather than reality itself. Somethings were out of my hands anyway so there was no point sitting and worrying or regretting. And the universe did respond positively too with a whole lot of changes.

But I would be lying if I said I have had many months as memorable as the last one. If 2014 has been about positive changes, October-November has been the cherry on top of this cake.

  • I attended my third book launch as an author in as many years (this time for Myriad Tales). 
    Godyears Roshan RADHAKRISHNAN
  • I stayed at the Grand Hyatt, thus checking "stay at 5 star hotel" off my bucket-list.
    Waiter! Have one of these delivered to my home please!
  • I got to meet co-authors from many books in Mumbai.
  • I got to finally visit Blogadda at their office and catch up with the awesome team I credit with kick-starting my run of good fortune.
  • I came back and was goaded by this cutie pie to collaborate with her in a blogging contest which I had actually given up on since I had no hopes of winning myself.
  • Well, I WON (for this post that I am quite proud of since it is related to my medical field and the world today) - for those of you who are wondering, this was the FIRST time in 3255 days/8years 10 months and 29 days of blogging (not that I was counting or anything!) that I won a blogging contest. Seriously.