In the medical garden of good and evil

While names like Aschheim- Zondek and Krigler –Najjar, Guillian-Barre, Rokitansky- Kuster- Hauser roll off the tips of our tongue, how many doctors know about Burke and Hare or the Tuskegee trials, or Henrietta Lacks or Nuremberg?

When you have a biomedical model of medical education these are missing pieces of information critical to an understanding of where we came from and therefore where we may risk going again and that the road to hell is often paved with good intentions……

The scene in Munnabhai MBBS when Circuit brings him a Japanese tourist as a ‘body’ is not far from the truth in the 18th century!


The newly minted doctors in Britain had no way of obtaining anatomical knowledge besides doing dissections on dead bodies. Burke and Hare were grave diggers who supplied these bodies. These shady deals would take place with the doctors and of course the fresher the body the better the price. You see where this is going don’t you ?!

Burke and Hare figured out that the freshest body was perhaps one which had not even reached the grave yet….and they set up a system of identifying people who were unlikely to be missed and then killing them and providing those bodies to the doctors.

After a spree of 16 such murders they were eventually caught. Hare turned informer and received immunity while Burke was hanged, his corpse dissected and put on display at the Anatomical Museum of Edinburgh Medical School where it remains.

dr knox

Dr. Robert Knox who bought these bodies, possibly knowing their origins, was never convicted but eventually hounded out of Edinburgh.





And that was that. Or so you would think.

Fresh scandals involving organ donation keep popping up all over the world with alarming regularity. Who does your body belong to? That is the question. Till recently, as an Indian, if you committed suicide but failed then you would be jailed because you tried to murder a citizen aka government property. Ever thought of yourself as that ?!

Read more in this brilliant article about who actually owns your body:

So many laws, policies, practises and medical advice is such that punishments are created for things you may choose to do to your own body. or if others do to your body –which is why assault, rape, murder carry severe punishment. (Unless you are and Indian woman and your husband rapes you. Apparently he owns you since marital rape is not yet recognized by the law.)

This also has very interesting implications for the right to have an abortion, the right to refuse antenatal care or a caesarean section and the right to euthanasia but maybe that is material for another blogpost !

What if you are a prisoner on death row, or maybe just in jail for a really long time and you happen to have the same blood group as a powerful person either rich or political who needs a liver or a kidney ….or two? Who would you appeal to if someone took it off you citing fake medical reasons?? If you are a political prisoner who isn’t fortunate enough to have been awarded something that will keep the eye of the global media on you, who is going to ask questions?

Who does your blood belong to?? Our filmi heroes and their mothers are forever going on about mera khoon, khoon ka karz, khoon bhari maang and so on. But what if you make a voluntary blood donation and someone uses it to take cells from it which they then replicate in vitro and use for experiments including developing and testing chemotherapy drugs, vaccines, antibiotics, anti- venom and such? These experiments result in the discovery of miracle products that could save thousands of lives. Yipee. But the pharma company makes billions and you never get even a rupee cos they never tell you. Well, they never even asked you in the first place, remember?

You think I am inventing a paranoid dystopian fantasy?? This is exactly what happened to Henrietta Lacks, whose cervical cancer cells were found to grow like magic in vitro in a way that no one had succeeded thus far. Her cell lines are still alive and probably account for over billions and billions of dollars in profits and research grant. More than 60,000 articles have appeared based on HeLa cell research including cancer and AIDS.


What did she get in return? Well, she died within weeks of that sample being taken. What did her family get? Nothing. Not only that, the He La genome has been sequenced and made public for anyone to see !

If you have a sibling or a family member who has the power to ensure that you ‘volunteer’ a kidney or bone marrow even if you don’t want to, who really owns you? If you are known to have a rare blood group, how safe are you? Can you be kidnapped and kept, like in a Stephen King novel, to produce that blood willy- nilly simply by existing? What if you possess something that can only be used post mortem?? What if you were a planned pregnancy because your organs are needed for the older child?

The movie “Never Let Me Go,” is based on a book which talks of some children who have been created in a laboratory to be Donors. They have no parents in the sense we use the term. They exist to grow hearts, kidneys, livers and other useful items, and then, to die after too much has been harvested.

never let me go

If you think these are just crazy conspiracy theory meets dystopian imagination, then do check out this fascinating and terrifying book –The Red Market.

red market (2)

Here I quote the first two paragraphs:

“I weigh just a little under two hundred pounds, have brown hair, blue eyes, and a full set of teeth. As far as I know, my thyroid gland pumps the right hormones into the twelve pints of blood that circulate in my arteries and veins. At six feet two inches, I have long femurs and tibias with solid connective tissue. Both of my kidneys function properly, and my heart runs at a steady clip of eighty-seven beats per minute. All in, I figure I’m worth about $250,000.

My blood separates neatly into plasma, red blood cells, platelets, and clotting factor and would save the life of someone on an operating table or stem the uncontrolled spilling of a hemophiliac’s blood.

The ligaments that keep me together can be scraped from my bones and implanted in the wounded knee of an Olympian athlete. The hair on my head could be made into a wig, or reduced to amino acids and sold as a leavening agent for baked goods. My skeleton would make a striking addition to any biology classroom. My major organs — heart, liver, and kidneys — could go on to prolong the lives of people whose organs have failed, and my corneas could be sliced off to restore sight to the blind. Even after death a determined pathologist could harvest my sperm and use it to help a woman conceive. The woman’s baby would have a value of its own.

Since I’m an American, my flesh sells at a premium; if I had been born in China, I would be worth much, much less.”

There is no doubt that ethical organ donation saves lives and is something we should all consider signing up for.


In some countries organ donation is automatic unless you opt out. That could have its own set of problems of course. But in India, organ trafficking continues.

The article says : “Rakesh Senger, national secretary, from Nobel Peace Prize winner Kailash Satyarthi’s NGO Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save the Childhood Movement) says that while trying to locate missing children, many times he has found dead bodies of children without their vital organs. “What was shocking was that their kidneys or other vital organs were missing. In many cases, police just says the body was lying in a stream, where some animal must have eaten the child’s organ,” says Senger. “It is much easier to file a case of kidnapping and murder against unknown persons. If you accept the organs were missing, you have to do a thorough investigation. So, the details in such cases get murkier.”

We are barely making sense of this gut churning information when the article goes on to say this:

Shroff says the demand for organs could be met if the country taps into the pool of people who are brain dead and promotes organ donations. “So many accidents happen in the country. Out of those, several people have brain injuries. We need to tap this pool. If this happens, we may not even require living donors,” he says.

To me this conversation is just getting drowned out by my brain blaring out Burke and Hare, Burke and Hare !!! Think ‘accidents’ in rural India, power dynamics and class and caste issues, consent and autonomy and control, and it is a terrifying thought that we could be looping back into the days of the body snatchers again.

organs for sale

Next week in part 2 we find out who these people are


The Creation of Pregnancy Act, 2017

This post is a satire to protest against the current environment where everyone thinks they have the right to control women’s bodies while taking no responsibility whatsoever for ensuring her autonomy or safety and making progress towards greater fulfilment of the human rights of all citizens. Specifically it is a reaction to the suggestions to restrict women’s access to safe abortion and to highlight the absurdity of trying to do so.

The rationale of trying to ‘solve’ the sex ratio by restricting abortion access instead of changing patriarchal cultural mindset and inclusive gender strong economic and other policies, is a script from the theatre of the absurd. ( more on that in a later post!)




This new ‘law ’has been written using the framework of the Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act 1971.

The Creation of Pregnancy Act, 2017 

An Act to provide for the creation of certain pregnancies by approval of registered medical practitioners and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. 

Be it enacted by Parliament in the Seventieth Year of the Republic of India

as follows:

  1. 1. Short title, extent and commencement.-

(1) This Act may be called the Creation of Pregnancy Act, 2017

(2) It extends to the whole of India.

(3) It shall come into force on such date as the Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette, appoint.

  1. Definitions.-In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires,-

(a) “guardian” means a person having the care of the person of a minor or a mentally incapacitated person (unless the said guardian is also incapacitated due to influence of undue power as adults, or alcohol, drugs or irrational religious and cultural beliefs, in which case the kids will do fine on their own, thanks.)

(b) “minor” means a person who, under the provisions of the Indian Majority Act, 1875 (9 of 1875), is to be deemed not to have attained his/ her majority, which could be age 15, 16, 17, 18 or 25 depending on which law you refer to in terms of age at marriage, age for voting, age for consent for sex, age for alcohol consumption.



  1. When Pregnancies may be Created by the approval of registered medical practitioners.-

(1) Notwithstanding anything contained in the Indian Penal Code (99 of 1860), a registered medical practitioner shall not be guilty of any offence under that Code or under any other law for the time being in force, if any pregnancy is created despite his/ her denial of approval in accordance with the provisions of this Act.

(2) Subject to the provisions of sub-section (4), a pregnancy may be allowed to be created by the approval of a registered medical practitioner,-

(a) where the length of the relationship does exceed twelve months if not legally recognized as a marriage,


(b) where the length of the relationship does not exceed twelve months but has been certified by not less than two registered lawyers, or any approved state authority along with a testimony from the immediate family from both sides.

Of opinion, formed in good faith, that,-

(i) the creation of the pregnancy would not involve a risk to the life of the pregnant woman or of grave injury physical or mental health , including any incidents of physical or sexual violence, emotional abuse, demands for dowry and financial aid from the woman’s family;


(ii) there is a substantial proof that if the child were born, it would be a loved and wanted child no matter what the sex or intelligence and would be provided food, medical care, complete school education and not be sent for paid or unpaid employment before the age of 18.



(iii) there is assurance that the pregnant woman can continue her education, avail of paid maternity leave if employed, money and transport being made available for antenatal and delivery care as well as State funded childcare, equal domestic responsibility shared by the male partner till the child so born is 18.



No pregnancy shall be allowed except with the consent of the pregnant woman.



Unless of course as per sub clause ‘Catch 22’ the government declares a state of emergency and for the cause of national security and the protection of democracy and ‘our culture’ requires the greater production of newborns of a particular caste, class, religion, tribal group or sex.



  1. Place where pregnancy may be allowed

No creation of pregnancy shall be made in accordance with this Act at any place other than,-

(a) a pregnancy creation facility established or maintained by Government, or

(b) a place for the time being approved for the purpose of this Act by Government.


Pregnancies created in private locations outside of these will NOT be recognized and considered null and void.



  1. Any male or female citizens of India found having sexual relations (which can lead to a pregnancy) without a written approval form FU2 being submitted to the local authority at least 24 hours in advance notice of such an act (and 48 hours prior to national holidays and bank closing days), shall be liable to punishment under the provisions of this Act.



Furthermore, if this is a repeat offence, the male partner shall be held in a government approved facility for 2 weeks and undergo a non- scalpel vasectomy before release.


Scribbled notes on last page from one committee member to another:

” Behenji, why you are inserting these absurd pictures into the document ?? Why you are interfering with the process?? You are very new to this cummatee no….Are you secretly from an anti- national NGO or what ??! “

“Well, Sirjee, I was just thinking, considering it is 2017 and all that….what if we don’t worry about either the creation or termination of a pregnancy but let women decide since it is their body and their life that gets affected either way ? Then we can focus our energies and programmes on preventing child marriage, rape, dowry deaths, ensuring gender equality, equal property rights, paid maternity leave……….you know ?”

Reply from other committee member:

fell off lughing


From healers to doctors—a rocky road !


(This post is really long but I could not find a way to break it in two without losing the thread. Hope it holds your attention all the way through!)

Medicine as a healing art is surely as old as the human civilization. The earliest such persons were likely to have been those who used herbs/ plants which were also a part of food. Archaeological evidence indicates that humans were using medicinal plants approximately 60,000 years ago. In India, Ayurveda medicine has used many herbs such as turmeric possibly as early as 4,000 BC.

aviv=cenna quote

The Sushruta Samhita (attributed to a group of healers collectively termed Sushrut) in the 6th century BC describes 700 medicinal plants and 57 preparations based on animal sources. It also discusses surgery and was one of the first in human history to suggest that a student of surgery should learn about the human body and its organs by dissecting a dead body.

A great scholar L0008560 Arteries and Viscera (according to Avicenna),of the Arabian School was Avicenna, or Ibn Sina, born in circa 980 in modern day Uzbekistan who is considered the Father of Modern Medicine. Avicenna authored a five-volume medical encyclopedia: The Canon of Medicine.

It was used as the standard medical textbook in the Islamic world and Europe up to the 18th century and still plays an important role in Unani medicine. In it he writes about the study of physiology, the discovery of contagious diseases and the introduction of quarantine, experimental medicine and even clinical trials.


Is it an colonial/ western imposition that we have accepted without challenging, which creates this current hierarchy of the allopathic system of medicine above all else? Why can we not as Indians absorb all the various schools of medicine from our rich heritage? Worth a thought? Here is what a study from KEM Hospital Mumbai says about attitudes of allopathic doctors towards ayurvedic practices.pathy study

In Europe, the Benedictine monasteries were the primary source of medical knowledge. The monasteries had herb gardens which provided the raw materials for the simple treatment of common disorders. It was in one of these herb gardens that Gregor Mendel began his experiments in 1856 with the garden pea, leading to the understanding of genetics and inheritance.

The World Health Organization estimates that 80% of people worldwide still rely on herbal medicines for some part of their primary health care.

In the past centuries the traditional healers were mostly women ( hence the ‘old wives remedies’ or ‘kitchen remedies’), who used local kitchen garden herbs, with trial and error and basically using original state drugs that we now use in refined form—digitalis, belladonna, quinine among others. When villagers and peasants were unwell these were the healers they turned to. In Europe, where it has been well documented, it is believed that such women were also leaders of peasant rebellions against feudal landlords, and hence were labelled as witches and burnt at stake.

Have you ever considered the profile and description of a witch? She has grey hair, hook nose, warts, wrinkles and a complete disregard for social norms, while possessing a vast knowledge of tricks and treatments. Sounds like a regular older woman to me doesn’t she?! Witches are the most enduring feminist icon, with stories being created to make them sound terrifying perhaps because they represent a woman not under the control of any man or any system and definitely not the Church. Even the broomstick is symbolic because it is used by domesticated women to clean house, while the witch uses it in a subversive way to fly off into the night.


The killing of the wicked witch, usually by the knight in shining armour, reinforces the male right to defeat female (ab)users of power, suggesting that women are not entitled to power in the first place. Also a wizard is always assumed to be “good’’ and using power for positive things while a witch is always ‘evil’ and mostly putting curses on random innocents.

Do you know how many women were murdered by such witch hunts provoked and mandated by an unholy combination of the Church and the nobility? (That is a nexus that has stood the test of time. When religion and those with money/power come together, it is always a bad outcome for the common people. )Apparently close to 60,000 witches were killed, burnt or drowned in Europe in the 15th and 16th century. If you want to read more I would strongly recommend an amazing small book called Witches Midwives and Nurses which you can download in its entirety here.

witches midwives

But if you think that is ancient western history, think again. Women are being branded witches and tortured, beaten, burnt, hacked and killed in many, many parts of India. These are power games, attempts to subdue and control all women into submission, property rights, caste wars etc. Horrific as this sounds, please read these articles since this is also happening in India today.fact1

The Church in those times in Europe was promoting ‘healing’ by prayer, leeches, etc. It filled in the vacuum created by this mass destruction of women healers and slowly men took over the ‘medical’ professions. When formal medical training was instituted, women were not admitted into medical colleges. The excuses being given were that they had a small brain, were incapable of being rational, too much emotion, prone to hysteria and that so much studying will reduce their capacity for child bearing.

Women were instead considered suitable for nursing work since it aligned with their ‘natural instinct for caring’. I have yet to meet a woman who desires to clean other people’s poop as a natural instinct.

Basically a convenient rational was provided for a sexist division of roles, where men could be the bosses and give orders and women followed around taking the orders and doing the dirty work. See this short video where Dr Amar Jesani, Founder of the Indian Journal of Medical Ethics speaks about patriarchy in medicine:

Patriarchy captured medicine centuries ago and the aftershocks of this are still being felt. We may laud Anandibai Joshi, Elizabeth Blackwell, Elizabeth Garett Anderson for breaking through these barriers.


My own batch of medical students in 1980s had more girls than boys, but is there a genuine equality?

While I do not recall facing any overt sexism as a medical student, the reality is that after one qualifies and chooses a post graduate specialization, how many female doctors choose or are able to practise in fields which are seen as higher demand and also higher paying? Even if they do, how many can continue on the same trajectory as their male colleagues? How many are in full time attachments vs on calls all the time? How many work part time after they have kids? How many take days off when the children are sick? As compared to….. I don’t know, not even a single guy who has taken a back seat and works part time cos he has kids who come home at 3 pm and he needs to be there for their homework and general child care?


These are larger systemic issues which play out in individual lives. But this is what eventually results in a situation like this in India.

medicial times

And this in USA:

According to an article in the Journal of American College of Cardiology “ Women seeking a career in cardiology face deterrents, including the “impairments to family planning, poor work-life balance, and perceived radiation risks, ”A recent study by the Journal of the American Medical Association found the wage gap between male and female orthopedic surgeons to be a staggering $41,000, and $34,000 for cardiologists. Over an entire career, a gap like this could total over $1,000,000.

Crunch those figures and mull over those facts……the next post will be on the murky origins and blood curdling stories of the formalized medical practise.

Who is this mystery man ? Find out in the next post !

dr knox

Who was actually happy on Doctors’ Day ??


In India the National Doctors’ Day is celebrated on July 1 all across India to honour the legendary physician and the second CM of West Bengal, Dr B.C. Roy. According to Wiki it is an attempt to emphasize on the value of doctors in our lives and to offer them our respects.

So, on 1st July I received the usual slew of text messages and emails from random sources like banks, pharma, share bazaar etc wishing me for the day. None of whom had raised a word of protest when resident doctors in India were being lynched some months ago. No campaigns called #not in my name, no candlelight marches, no ‘we are the 99%’. Nothing.


Doctors were an easy target, the face of a health system that is increasingly being neglected by the government in the public sector and is increasingly indifferent as well as commercial ( and exploitative) in the private sector.

Who is responsible for this state of affairs? In India over 80% of all health services are sought in the private sector. Why? Because no one wants to deal with an inefficient and deadly public sector.,

The doctors who do private practise are in it because they do care about patients and curing people but they also want to be free to do it their own way and to earn money. Because they want to be able to afford a house, send their children to good schools, own a car, travel abroad. Same as their friends who go to engineering colleges, do MBAs, law, work in finance sector etc. It’s a job like any other. And why not? India may have had a socialist heart but our hands are capitalist now.

Most doctors work extremely hard, often losing the work-life balance, neglecting their own health, struggling to stay updated with their knowledge in a rapidly changing world while attending CMEs which do not always contribute to any education. Yes, some doctors did start unhealthy and unethical practises such as the cut practise and some doctors will do un- indicated diagnostics, or even un-indicated surgeries just like every profession has its black sheep. But once the market forces come into play, this is inevitable. Check out this wonderful book where the author explains how even blood donation when not voluntary can become a racket.

And here is a video where the author, who is the Professor of Justice at Harvard, talks eloquently about these ideas.

Yes there are some doctors who are extremely successful and many do fairly well. But like in every field there will be many more at the lower base of the pyramid, earning no more than a mid- range corporate job. After all for every SRK or Priyanka Chopra there are 10 Abhisheks. And the odd Dhinchak Pooja also J

In some places an Estate Agent could be earning more per hour than a doctor !

jobs compare

Since one can be self –employed it is difficult to be really jobless as a doctor, unless of course, you are a woman, in which case you may have to compromise and go part time, or ‘no time’ or work only as administrators of clinics or in day jobs.


But far greater are the system issues that no one seems willing to address.

What is the medical education like? Is it uniform across the country in the government colleges? Who allowed so many private medical colleges to spring up? What is their accountability? What do we teach medical students?


What is the process of admission like? It could be a real killer as the Vyapam scam would suggest where after 25 deaths and a hundred conspiracy theories, no one was ever convicted.

What is the life of a resident doctor like?

Who cares that they spend years and years struggling with studies and ward work in an indifferent and often hostile environment, work through sleep deprivation during 36 hour shifts, doing blood collection with no gloves, often no regular food if you work a surgical residency, with cramped and dirty living quarters with limited facilities while managing to also run OPDs, look after the admitted patients, carry out surgeries and other life- saving interventions? Who is there to see when they run like crazy through the long corridors between labour ward and blood bank, after midnight, the last meal eaten hours ago, to get hold of blood bags when the ward staff go missing or would simply not move fast enough?

But no one, literally NO ONE cares if resident doctors are tired, ill, depressed, upset, dealing with any personal issues, suicidal, being bullied by colleagues, unsupported by seniors or anything at all. As long as they turn up for work, all is well.

How do we self-regulate the medical profession when the Medical Council of India President is in the news for all the wrong reasons?

medical college cartoon

The current curriculum has a focus almost entirely on a biomedical curative model and the preventive and social medicine is the least liked subject. The wards are the temples of learning. We learn to diagnose typhoid, hepatitis, worm infestations, amoebic cysts through fever patterns, blood tests, palpating spleens, livers. And if no one solved the problems of potable water, toilets, hand washing, (besides of course the overarching issues of poverty, caste discrimination, malnutrition and gender inequality) well, then we have more patients to examine and treat!

Such medical students will emerge from the chrysalis of medical colleges as brilliant butterflies who can make Indian medical ‘industry’ among the best in the world with our health tourism attracting thousands every year. But how does the public health system benefit? How does the public benefit? And if the government does not solve these system issues who else is supposed to? What is the use of blaming individual doctors alone?

We are always told that doctors should go to the villages because the need is the greatest and India lives in the villages etc etc. But I want to know that by that logic why doesn’t everyone go to the villages?? Why don’t civil engineers, architects, lawyers also go the villages? Why don’t ministers and politicians go to the hospitals in their own constituencies rather than jetting off to USA? Equally, one would want to know why so many people leave these villages and come to cities in their tens of thousands every single day to escape the poverty and caste politics and to improve the life of their families? Looks like no one wants to be in the villages right now, not even the villagers……

So, it seems to me that the only people who are really happy on Doctors’ Day is probably the pharma industry, corporate hospitals and politicians nexus who are working together like a vast satanic web with medical students, residents and private doctors and private patients all trapped in it, putting money and blood sweat and tears into keeping it going, while the ‘government’ turns a blind eye, the public system crumbles and the hostile public unable to see who is running the machine, wreck violence against those who are as much a victim of it as they are.

doctor pharma

The next post will explore the origins of the medical system. Wait for it !

Cuppa tea anyone ?

tea help

Whether you are having a kadak Wagh Bakri chai from a solid mug that says ‘World’s Best Dad’, or delicately sipping green tea from a fragile cup for an ‘inside wala snaan’


Whether you are drinking from the saucer and sharing a cup (do dost ek pyali mein chai piyenge ! Isse dosti badhti hai !)

or having a few desperate sips of cutting chai during a night on call, from a place across the street from the hospital, which had very questionable hygiene…..

cuting chai

what you are consuming is best described by the inimitable Douglas Adams in the splendid trilogy of four books– The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

“No,” Arthur said, “look, it’s very, very simple…. All I want… is a cup of tea. You are going to make one for me. Now keep quiet and listen.”

And he sat. He told the Nutro-Matic about India, he told it about China, he told it about Ceylon. He told it about broad leaves drying in the sun. He told it about silver teapots. He told it about summer afternoons on the lawn. He told it about putting the milk in before the tea so it wouldn’t get scalded. He even told it (briefly) about the East India Trading Company.

“So that’s it, is it?” said the Nutro-Matic when he had finished.

“Yes,” said Arthur. “That is what I want.”

“You want the taste of dried leaves boiled in water?”

“Er, yes. With milk.”

“Squirted out of a cow?”

“Well in a manner of speaking, I suppose…”

“I’m going to need some help with this one.”

world tea consumption

Thanks to our childhood readings of Enid Blyton, tea-time will always be associated with jolly picnics involving boiled egg sandwiches and a cool lemonade bottle, packed in a basket by Nanny or then hot buttery scones and homemade jam served in the nursery by the fireplace on a winter evening. YUMMM!!


Centuries before globalization was a ‘thing’, China tea cups, Indian tea leaves and Jamaican sugar came together to help the British invent the concept of high tea!

The Americans then took it up a notch and came up with the Tea Party :), whose first day first show was held in Boston and involved the throwing of crates of tea from ships in the harbor, while shouting ‘No Taxation Without Representation.’

Not quite the peaceful cup that cheers….

tea am

Besides ‘Sound of Music’ where the von Trapp children use the repeating refrain of ‘’tea with jam and bread, jam and bread, jam and bread’ to escape the Nazis, there is only one Bollywood song I could think of that mentions tea, and in such a charming way too—Shaayad meri shaadi ka khayaal dil mein ayaa hai, isiliye Mummy ne meri tumhe chai pe bulaaya hai !

Well, even if no one’s Mummy is calling you, the monsoon has arrived in Mumbai , so go ahead and curl with an interesting book,  sipping adrak chai after a plate of kaanda bhajji.


The lovely leaves of Camelia sinensis give us this day our daily cuppa. (The local tea that is drunk in Africa is the Rooiboos, or the red bush tea and is a different plant altogether. It also has a soothing effect that helps the brain think, as Mma Ramotswe from Alexander McCall Smith’s delightful No.1 Ladies Detective Agency would agree).


Most people agree that Camelia is of Chinese origin and somewhere in the mists of time is the lost story of how it came to become the most popular drink across the globe. It is also a mystery as to when someone decided that adding cow’s or camel’s milk or salt and yak butter would be a splendid idea…..Some studies say that most of us make our tea incorrectly anyway…..

The Japanese have of course refined this whole thing to some quantum level into an elaborate tea ceremony. Each action such as how a kettle is used, how a teacup is examined, how tea is scooped into a cup – is performed in a very specific way. All these procedures are called, collectively, temae. The act of performing these procedures during a chaji is called “doing temae“.

japanese tea ceremony

I am sure the Japanese would recoil in horror at a well- known ad which used to say Dip dip dip. Add the sugar and its ready to sip. But if you are in Sheldon’s company don’t use the tea bags two at a time for dipping or you may be accused of being at a rave haha


Two fabulous tea ‘ceremonies’ that must be remembered include the one in Father Ted, the most brilliant satire/ comedy from Ireland

and the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party in Alice where it’s always tea time !

mad hatter

Indians were so pleased when Tata (who already owned Wah Taj !) bought over Tetley Tea , thus returning that very British lifestyle symbol back to its Asian origins. But how many of us know that the original Tata built his fortune on the opium trade that resulted in wars and addiction and destroyed more than a generation of people across the continent ?!/2013/02/how-parsi-become-new-rich-elite-in-india.html

The tea leaves have been steeped (pun intended!) in a horrible saga of colonialism and exploitation (no surprises there). What makes it unacceptable to me is that this still continues! It seem that the workers on tea estates are no better than slaves or bonded labour, with very few benefits, healthcare and education facilities.


Some of them are so isolated that they have developed their own language.

industry cup of tea

Maybe we could stop contributing to this by switching to another hot drink. Maybe start drinking the good old doodh- haldi, now trendi-fied into ‘Turmeric Latte’. But then we are told that cow’s milk and white sugar are not exactly the healthiest of foodstuff…….

Perhaps we need a serious chai pe charcha to figure this one out.

chai pe charcha




Winding my way down the Amazon, through Angelina to a whole new world of wonder women

Despite the fact that 5 times more people use the internet to watch cat videos than do online shopping , Amazon, the online retail group is used by over 244 million people! It started out in 1994 as an online bookstore but it is now truly living up to its name.

do on web

The Amazon River, after which it is named, is just shorter than the Nile but in terms of quantity of water, it is the largest river in the world. In fact the fresh water pouring out of it in to the Atlantic Ocean dilutes the salt water for as far as 160 kms!

At the time of the Spanish conquest of Peru, in 1535, the river had different names: Rio Grande (Great River), Mar Dulce (Sweet Sea) and Rio da Canela (Cinnamon River). The Spaniards encountered hostile female warriors from the Icamiaba tribe who defeated them soundly. This so impressed them that they changed the name of the river to Amazon, in a reference to the female warrior tribe from Greek Mythology.

This mythology is about a race of female warriors called the Amazons, who dwelt in the region of modern-day Ukraine. No men were allowed to live there. However, in order to continue their race, once a year, these women would visit a nearby tribe called Gargareans. After having sexual intercourse with them, the women would return home; they would keep all baby girls that were born, but the male babies were either killed, sent to their fathers, or left in a forest to die.

The most popular explanation for the name of the tribe claimed that Amazones was a derivation of a, “without,” and mazos, “breasts”; another explanation suggested ama-zoosai, meaning “living together,” or possibly ama-zoonais, “with girdles.” The idea that Amazons cut or cauterized their right breasts in order to have better bow control offered a kind of savage plausibility that appealed to the Greeks.

It is from this mythical tribe that we have the story of Wonder Woman, the movie, in theatres this month. This latest superheroine movie had me thrilled to bits. I went with a cautious enthusiasm tinged with a lot of wariness in case this movie would also have tokenistic and one dimensional female characters and I would be disappointed once again. But it did not happen and it was all I could do to stop cheering in the theatre !

It is not a perfect film (and many reviewers have cribbed, rightly, about its lack of intersectionality and a very limited feminism) but I think that just its existence is such a breath of fresh air !

I have not seen a Hollywood film named after and centered only on an empowered woman in a very, very long time ! Probably since Erin Brokovitch ? Ms Pepper from Iron Man series was deeply annoyingly caricatured and although X Men had some amazing characters like Storm and Jean Gray and Mystique, they were never explored as well as Wolverine was.

Wonder Woman’s supporting team of ‘liars, murderers and smugglers’ are all at the fringes of society; including a Scotsman, a man of Middle Eastern origin and a native American, who says very casually that his people were destroyed and when asked by whom—shrugs towards the white male in their team. Chris Pine plays an ‘almost woke’ man. Still doing a bit of mansplaining, ‘let me protect you and tell you what to do’ stuff, but getting to the right place soon.

wonder woman

It was a sheer delight to see Robin Wright on screen after ages ( not since Forrest Gump really), and the main role played by the Israeli Gal Gadot who was apparently 5 months pregnant during the shooting of some scenes and had to use a green screen on her abdomen. It would have been interesting if they HAD showed her pregnant though, or making a choice not to be….A whole new movie is possible already !

There were so many ‘in’ jokes about girls wearing glasses, men being useful for procreation only, crossing the No Man’s Land to rescue everyone. Of course a small nagging doubt remains that like #femvertising maybe they are just pandering to a growing demand for women empowerment tropes or situations for the sake of the audience…. But even if so, I think it opens a door that will not be easy to close again.

It may be cheesy, but seeing the old white male War God being defeated by this fierce (yet kind) new feminine order was a real thrill. They might as well as done some sky writing there saying “Smash the Patriarchy!”

The actress looked so much like a young Angelina Jolie, who is perhaps one of the real life wonder woman of our times. Besides an amazing career on screen and as UN Ambassador, she has also raised a mix of 6 biological and adopted children, had a double mastectomy to reduce her inherited risk of breast cancer and moved on from a marriage when it stopped being worth it.


Pretty Amazonian I think.

As is Arundhati Roy, author turned political activist, Rupi Kaur, calling out and holding to account Instagram and Facebook for deleting her posts, Qandeel Baloch, murdered by her own brother for being outspoken on social media, Shireen Ebadi, speaking out despite the threats to her life in Iran, so many more for so many reasons…………but wonder woman is not only an uber successful high profile woman on a global platform.

My household help is a wonder woman too. She is a single mother, abandoned by her alcoholic husband who ran away after their first child was born. She is raising her son with the help of her mother (another super woman), while commuting 2 hours every day, working in 6 homes, managing the house and also supporting her younger sister who is studying for her 12th std exams.

My taxi driver last month was a wonder woman too. Again a single mother, living in the slums, decided to become a driver to support herself and now owns the taxi she has been driving for 4 years. She does not worry about her security she told me. Only about where to pee in a long journey since public toilets are so badly maintained in Mumbai.

The young women I have the privilege of working with, across Asia, in countries like Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Pakistan, Philippines who are speaking out against controls on women’s bodies, who are helping other women find safe options, who are at the edge of the rising tide of wonder women, saving the world, one action at a time.

Wonder women. May we be them, may we know them, may we raise them !



Before the rains…..

Like the cloud messenger in Kalidasa’s Meghdoot, the advance lines are appearing on the horizons of Mumbai. When the monsoon clouds reach Kerala we know that we have to wait only for one more week. An end to the scorching summer and three months of blissful rain.under the umbrella

In fact sometimes it rains so hard that you cannot even hear the traffic. Oh well. It IS an urban jungle after all……

There is something peculiar about the rains in Mumbai. They isolate you and bring you together at the same time. You can be ten people crowded under an awning, waiting for the rains to slow down a bit, but each one of you will be having a different rain experience. Some wait impatiently, some enjoy it peacefully, some find it romantic. I am always amazed by how many people don’t seem to carry any umbrella and look slightly bewildered at the downpour.

The dark sky at noon, the thundering downpour, the flooded roads, but at every turning and every signal and every station, the Mumbaikars, with sarees held high, trousers rolled above knees, struggling with flapping umbrellas but doggedly trying to make sure they reach work on time.


Every year brings some new flooding and disaster forcing us to learn about mystifying things like BRIMSTOWAD

and the fact that we have our very own river! (The Mithi River (a.k.a. Mahim River) is a river on Salsette Island).

The smell of the hot earth when the first drops fall on it has its own special name called saundhi khushboo. You can’t bottle memories but apparently you can buy this fragrance from a special ittarwala in Ahmedabad !

In glorious anticipation of the monsoon…..and the inevitable traffic jams and steaming hot tempers inside the floating cars, here is a list of 10 lovely songs for you to save and listen to. There are plenty more but these are delightful and not too commonly remembered.









And as a bonus this haunting track from Jagjit Singh

The Global School of Alternate Facts

Are you looking for the best education for your children? You have come to the right place indeed. Welcome to the 21st century New Age Global School of Alternate Facts!

Here is a sample of our latest interactive updated syllabus for your reference.

Fact 1: Humans evolved millions of years ago and our socio- cultural context is dynamic

The ecology of social transitions in human evolution:


Alternate Fact: What some people wrote in books based on their understanding 2000 years ago is what we must follow to the word, forever and ever more.


Fact 2 : Humans have sex and children need sex education since they are more likely to use that information than the Pythagoras theorem is real life.

Alternate Fact: Sex education will make young people go out of control. They should study and stay celibate till they get married because sex is a bad bad thing. In ancient India we were all so pure and celibate. Kamasutra was a fictional book and the Khajuraho caves were just joshing. We became 1.2 billion because a cow drank a peacocks tears. She already had 33 crore gods living inside her, so ……..ya that is how it happened.

Satirical Sex Ed class in India:

Health Minister Dr HarshVardhan says “This so-called sex education in schools should be banned.”



Fact 3 : Monogamy may have been a social construct imposed by a patriarchal society.

“ The 1961 census found that incidence of polygamy was the least among Muslims, with just 5.7% of the community likely to practice it. Hindus actually had a higher incidence rate of polygamy, at 5.8%, although other communities, including Buddhists and Jains, were proportionally even more likely to practice polygamy. At the top were tribals, 15.25% of whom were polygamous.”


Alternate Fact: No no, polygamy is found only in followers of one religion and they have a history of a poor status for women also. So we are going to get rid of triple talaq. See, in our religion you can leave without saying a single word. Look at our Modi-ji. Why you have to speak so much if you are going to go away anyway?


Fact 4 : Global warming of even 4 deg will cause island cities like Mumbai to drown


Alternate Fact: What nonsense! What you think Shivaji statue to be built at 2330 crores is going to do outside Gateway if not protect Mumbai and the Marathi Manoos? For extra protection we will also post a posse of cows.


Fact 5: People are choosing not to have a girl child because the status of women is less than the cow.


Alternate Fact: Of course not! We pray to goddesses all the time! Durga, Kali, Sita Maiyya, Radha, Laxmi, Saraswati. And without girl child who will our boys marry when they grow up? That is only reason we want to save girl child. They will earn at our school that their role is meant to be secondary and only for cooking cleaning and child rearing. All for free!



Fact 6: Despite dowry and child marriage being illegal it is still happening on a gigantic scale and the authorities are not stopping it.


Alternate Fact: When was the last time you heard news about dowry?? It is not happening. Girls have to be married young to keep them safe no? Who is safer than the husband? After all, marital rape is not a crime here. We have banned it. Along with alcohol at highways, sex education, pornography, lesbianism, freedom of speech, girls using mobile phones, inter caste marriages, common sense and many, many other terrible things that you will find only in India, never in Bharat.


Fact 7: Peacocks and peahens are birds and have sex to procreate.

Alternate Fact: Peahen drinks tears of the celibate peacock. This is a logical evolutionary mechanism. And Krishna wears the peacock feather because he is the icon of celibacy. He and his 50,000 wives, and also Radha, only listened to him playing the flute and gazed in adoration at the peacock feather.


So, what are you waiting for?? Enrol your ghar ka chirag today! Special pre-monsoon discount for the next term! If you take the right decisions your son or daughter could grow up to be a high court judge, the Minister for Women and Child development or even the Prime Minister of India or President of the United States !

For appointments write to us at

We will respond within 24 hours as soon as the sun revolves around the earth once (unless there is a solar eclipse in which case we will respond after the havan to pacify the rahu ketu gods.)


Ready or Not ?? The future is here !


AI robotJust a 100 years ago– in 1917– can you imagine how people lived without any of these ??!

Ballpoint pens, Colour TV, Disposable diapers, Hair dryers, Internet, Jet engines, Pop up toasters, Loudspeakers, Mobile phones, Microwave ovens and even zippers !

Back-to-the-future-2We were watching ‘Back to the Future’ last weekend and then its part 2 which is made in 1985 and set mostly in the immensely futuristic ‘far away’ 2015. Their ideas of what that amazing year would be like really made us laugh. They showed hovering skateboards, self- zipping and self- drying jackets and shoes and all kinds of gadgets and stuff.

Of course there continued to be bullies and greed and chaos and romance because that’s part of the human experience, no matter how much technology you have…. but then they did have a time machine which has always been on top of the wish list of humans for a very long time.

There are so many different lists of inventions from the last 100 years, but here is one list of the amazing inventions made BY women that changed the world.

If this list doesn’t turn sexist stereotypes on the head I don’t know what does! Women invented (drum roll here …) WiFi, Bluetooth, Beer, Computer software, computer algorithms, the fridge, Kevlar vests, monopoly and the medical syringe!!! Well, well, well…..

As you can see from these images I found on Google, not only are the women inventors invisible ( which is fine cos most things don’t identify the inventor) but even the women users are invisible if these are the only images that show up on page one of a search !

Anyway, what were the top 10 life changing inventions FOR women? Surveys reveal that this list includes the Contraceptive Pill, the bra, pregnancy tests, disposable nappies, jeans, contact lenses, freshly prepared food and of course the washing machine. Hans Rosling has a brilliant video where he explains how the ‘magic’ washing machine helped women have enough spare time to learn to read.

The medical field has had some other amazing inventions too that could change the way we manage patient care– with telemedicine, robotic surgery, artificial limbs, organs grown in laboratories. We have barely scratched the surface of what is possible with nanotechnology to improve public health and medical care.

In the past decade we have seen wild new inventions that sounds like a far- out science fiction dream. As a routine part of our lives we now have genetically modified food at our tables, small children use e-readers and Facetime, working people use remote location video conferencing programmes and families gather around over dinner to watch Netflix ! We could soon start resembling the humans from Wall E 🙂 if it wasn’t for the standing and even swimming office desks !

wall E

Cutting edge inventions continue to come at us on a daily basis in scenes straight out of Orphan Black’s Club Neolution or Black Mirror’s dystopian world of conflict ridden human/ technology interface. If you have not seen either of these TV series, do see them. They will bend your mind and open more windows to the future and the human race than you thought your brain was capable of handling !


Just in the last five years we have had news of the bionic eye, the invisibility cloak, road testing of driverless cars, office employees voluntarily having chips implanted, ‘smart’ contact lenses and of course what we really needed as a civilization—sigh–flying drone phones to take air selfies.

Here is what their ad says: “AirSelfie is a revolutionary pocket-size flying camera that connects with your smartphone to let you take boundless HD photos of you, your friends, and your life from the sky. Say hello to the future of selfies.”

air selfie

This is all we needed….really. Boundless photos …taken from the sky. Sigh.





( In case you want to read more about any of these inventions listed, and as proof that I did not just make those up!!, I put all the links here so as to not distract from the reading flow–,,,,,

There is also some work being done to explore if we can transfer our consciousness to a robot which could then theoretically be immortal.

There are obvious social justice issues here since the poor would never stand a chance at being able to pay for immortality. But that apart, when my daughter and I discussed this, we figured that both of us have such wild thoughts and such a roller coaster stream of consciousness, that we might short circuit the poor robot. The other problem was that we are foodies and who wants to be immortal inside a robot that can neither taste nor eat?! YOLO is good enough for us for now.

If you thought that was crazy talk, here is some terrifying news from Facebook in today’s news, which literally wants to connect to your brain directly. “Our brains produce enough data to stream 4 HD movies every second. The problem is that the best way we have to get information out into the world — speech — can only transmit about the same amount of data as a 1980s modem,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post. “We’re working on a system that will let you type straight from your brain about 5x faster than you can type on your phone today. Eventually, we want to turn it into a wearable technology that can be manufactured at scale.”

So, what can we expect from the next generation? Going by the latest news, we have the possibility of 3 D printed ovaries being used to treat infertility and the very next week the uterus transplant carried out in Pune. My cousin said in cynical response to these news items —why don’t they just 3 D print the baby directly and save the women the troubles of pregnancy and labour ??

Fear not sister, that day is not too far in the future I am sure….. !


Only Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.


As the summer season reaches a peak in India, temperatures are at 44 (and even beyond) in places like Delhi, Jaipur, Ahmedabad. In comparison to that, Mumbai at 34 seems like a jolly cool place to be in right now !



In tropical climes there are certain times of day

When all the citizens retire,

to tear their clothes off and perspire…..

Mad dogs and Englishmen, go out in the midday sun,

The Japanese don´t care to, the Chinese wouldn´t dare to,

Hindus and Argentines, sleep firmly from twelve to one”

Despite Noel Coward’s song from the title, it isn’t just mad dogs and Englishmen but many others who are forced to step out in the mid-day sun—whether for work, to pick up kids from school, run errands, travel and generally carry on with our working lives. It’s a tough task to stay hydrated and keep in the shade with so many trees being cut down and water shortages everywhere.

For those of us living in cities and fortunate enough to have 24 hours of electric supply and able to afford air conditioners to keep us comfortable, remember to keep the temperature not lower than the magical 24 deg.


After all, whether Trump and others from the oil conglomerate agree or not and whether climate change is real or not, it just makes sense to be responsible and use energy wisely.



India’s huge need for electricity is a problem for the planet”

These alarmist headlines seem to convey that it is Infootprintdia and China who are going to plunge the world into darkness sooner or later. But this is an old trick used by the West, by conveniently hiding its own sins of the past and for failing to also point out that one single child born in USA is likely to have a carbon footprint as big as 17 children in a country like Bangladesh or India.

As this other article says clearly: “The point is that the population problem isn’t just something “over there” in “those poor countries,” where they may be having more children. From a consumption perspective, the developed countries have a bigger population problem than the developing countries!”

So maybe we should be talking about family planning campaigns for sustainable development with the USA??!


India is already taking steps towards becoming a solar power giant and by the end of 2015 just under one million solar lanterns were sold in the country, reducing the need for kerosene. 46,655 solar street lighting installations were provided under a national program and just over 1.4 million solar cookers were distributed. If you are interested in donating to NGOs that supply solar lamps so rural children can study in the evenings, check this out

In school we learn that all stars are just like our Sun, but very, very far away and that the Earth rotates around the Sun. But the idea that we live in a heliocentric system rather than a geocentric one cost Galileo his life. Even though he was only defending what Nicolas Copernicus had said some decades ago. (Copernicus died of natural causes soon after he published his theory and was spared any punishment by the Church).


As is often the case, here in India the heliocentric theory had apparently been written up as early 500 AD by Aryabhatta.

Eratosthens, Chief Librarian at Alexandria, used the knowledge of the length of the shadow in two known places to calculate the earth’s circumference as long ago as circa 195 BCE, without even leaving Egypt.


Much before and much beyond its scientific understanding, we humans have also worshipped the Sun, whether as the Sun God Ra in Egypt, or the Surya Dev with his chariot of seven horses, or Huitzilopochtli and Intli of the Aztecs and Incas. Indians also have a hymn (Gayatri Mantra) and yoga postures (Surya Namaskar) dedicated to the Sun.

sun god

So many temples have been built around the world to ensure that the Sun’s rays fall at a certain point at a certain time such as at the inner sanctum at the Sun Temple in Konark, the Kanyakumari temple, Stonehenge etc.

What we are all really worshipping is a big ball of hydrogen being converted to helium through nuclear fusion. But then while astronomers travel the world to view a solar eclipse to help measure phenomena in the live setting, there are as many who would attach more spiritual meaning to it.

In India we have so many wonderful and imaginative stories related to it such as the baby Hanuman wanting to eat the rising Sun like an apple, Hiranyakashyapu who could be killed only when it was neither day nor night, Karna being born to Kunti when she called upon the Sun God and so many others. Greek mythology has the story of Icarus, who, despite his father’s warning, flew too close to the Sun using his wood and wax wings. They melted and he had a huge fall. Lesson ? Parents are always right ! Yeh baal dhoop mein safed nahin hue hain beta 🙂

We could also chat endlessly about solar winds, solar flares, red giants, white dwarves, the magnificent Aurora Borealis, perhaps even black holes, but an 800 word blogpost limit cannot possibly cover every topic under the sun 😉 let alone about it!

Stephen Hawking has already recommended that humans should leave the solar system in the next 100 years, but until then, as we whirl away around this middle aged, average sized yellow star in the distal spiral arm of the Milky Way Galaxy, it’s time for us to chill out with some beautiful songs about the sun!!


Let us start with the absolutely delightful song from Bawarchi:


  1. Bhor ayi gaya andhiyara!

Up next is the philosophical song reminding us of the limited time we are lucky enough to have on this 3rd rock from the Sun:

  1. Chadhta suraj dheere dheere dhalta hai, dhal jayega.

After that serious one, here is a melodious romantic song, in Sonu Nigam’s perfect voice

  1. Suraj hua madham, Chand jalne laga

This is a song for the faithful, whose soul finds peace in the presence of whoever they worship, just like a person under the scorching sun would find peace in the shade of a tree.

  1. Jaise suraj ki garmi se jalte hue tan ko mil jaye taruvar ki chaya

I have saved the best for last.

Farooq Sheikh- Deepti Naval’s song, in Jagjit Singh’s velvet voice, from the movie Saath Saath.

tumko dekha

  1. Tumko dekha toh yeh khayal aya, zindagi dhoop tum ghana saya