To jab or not to jab

Is that still a question ??


I remember going to buy the HiB vaccine in 1998 for my daughter, before we travelled to the UK. The chemist shop—apparently the only one that even stocked the vaccine– was madly busy, but after much hand waving and shouting I managed to communicate with a salesman (there were never any women in chemist shops in those days. Not even these days).

He heard/ lip read me saying ‘HiB’ ‘HiB’ and waving the prescription, which he glanced at just cursorily, as though this was all beneath him, and opened the freezer door of a large fridge. A dozen different vials tumbled out and fell down. He gathered them and just shoved them in anyhow and rummaged a bit before handing me a slightly cold package over the waving hands of other customers. It said Hep B vax.

So then I had to shout and wave some more while he looked at me with an annoyed expression at not accepting what he was handing out. He took the HepB back and gave me the HiB. I still have no idea if there was anything in that vaccine that could have genuinely protected my 5 month child since the temperature of the cold chain seemed to be ridiculous to believe in. For all I know they even switched off the freezer at nights.

So, clearly, the vaccine delivery systems can have some grey zones.

Vaccines have been the cutting edge of preventive medicine for a while now. Evidence exists that the Chinese employed smallpox inoculation (or variolation as it was called) as early as 1000 CE. Apparently the Chinese would take scabs from healing vesicles, grind them up, and snort them up their noses. Those Chinese sure knew how to party.”

It was practiced in Africa and Turkey as well, before it spread to Europe and the Americas. But Edward Jenner’s innovations, begun with his successful 1796 use of cowpox material to create immunity to smallpox, quickly made the practice widespread. It eventually resulted in the eradication of smallpox.

The reasons why milkmaids were always being referred to as beautiful in poems was that they rarely contracted smallpox and the subsequent severe pockmarking of the face.

Disturbing image warning: Child in Bangladesh with small pox


Jenner took material from a sore on a milkmaid’s hand and inoculated his gardner’s eight year old son. After a mild fever and discomfort, the boy recovered. When exposed to smallpox a few months later, he was found to have complete protection against the disease. While today this experiment would be considered illegal at best and wildly unethical at worst, it was the first documented case of what would eventually be called vaccination.

Louis Pasteur’s 1885 rabies vaccine was the next to make an impact on human disease. Rabies has a 100% fatality and at least 10 million lives have been saved by this vaccine so far.

And then, at the dawn of bacteriology, developments rapidly followed. Antitoxins and vaccines against tetanus, anthrax, cholera, plague, typhoid, tuberculosis, and more were developed through the 1930s. Since then we now have a long list of vaccines that can protect us from many of the diseases that used to be common around the world, including polio, measles, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), rubella (German measles), mumps, rotavirus and Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib).

grow old

In India we have some free (and compulsory) vaccines on schedule. and then there are the optional ones made available. We have managed to successfully eradicate polio. It was a mammoth undertaking and Atul Gawande has written a very interesting account of his observations while accompanying a Pulse Polio field worker. But one reads about illegal immigrants crossing over from Nepal and Bangladesh every day and one really has to wonder…..

How are vaccines tested for safety and efficacy ? Well, first on animals and then mostly on fit and healthy adults   (probably mostly men since it would be unethical to ever try out vaccines on pregnant women). Some people are against the use of animals for testing. I loved the War of the planet of the Apes and it raised some very dark questions about humans and our sense of ownership of this planet and how we treat animals but then an image like this makes you question that again…

rather see

Meanwhile there comes news from Siberia that, despite Trump not believing in global warming, the permafrost has started to melt. This would open up the graves of those who died from smallpox so many decades ago and possibly the virus could spread again, against an entirely unprotected generation who was never vaccinated since small pox was eradicated in 1977! Spores of potentially fatal anthrax from dead people and reindeer that had been entombed in the permafrost are already thought to have infected 24 patients currently in hospital in Salekhard near Russia’s north coast.

If this cute looking tardigrade can survive 30 years of being dried out and all kinds of extremes of temperature, who knows what else is out there ?


Of course the story of vaccines also includes the story of Henrietta Lacks, whose immortal cell line ( HeLa), used without her consent, also led to breakthroughs in the study of herpes, leukemia, influenza, hemophilia, Parkinson’s disease, certain types of genetic diagnoses, cancer, AIDS, cloning, the effects of radiation and toxic substances, and in vitro fertilization. This made many pharmaceutical and biotech companies into billionaires many times over, while her family has yet to receive anything in compensation!

There are some people who are against vaccines. Though the claims that vaccines cause autism have been dismissed, repeatedly, ( now some people do question if the ingredients (such as thiomersal ) used in vaccines , could affect babies since they are vaccinated with fairly large volumes compared to their body weight.

trump vaxx

Bill Nye (the Science Guy) hosted an episode on this which we saw recently. From their debate I agree that one thing is true –those who have never seen the harmful effects of the actual disease can start doubting if the benefits really do outweigh the risks. It’s almost the same argument one makes for ensuring that women must have access to safe abortion. Those who have seen the wards filled with women dying of septic abortions understand how precious this right is.


Maybe the current Indian  government is sponsoring this anti-porn vaccine, using holy cow serum mixed with peacock tears…….hahaha


If vaccines are meant for public health, then should they not be government owned/ subsidized like nationalized banks? Well, those in the list of universal vaccines are but plenty of vaccines are part of the ‘for profit’ industry. In India the trials for the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine had some serious ethical concerns raised as did the unexpected enthusiasm with which everyone was pushed into taking the vaccine, especially since simple screening is as effective in preventing cervical cancer.

So— prevention, profit, ethics, public health…. and it’s the same dance that the medical fraternity is constantly engaged in. You put your right foot in. You put your right foot out. Step to the public, step to the private, swing around and back again. That’s what it’s all about …..

There are so many new vaccines being developed– to protect from Alzheimer’s, HIV, malaria and much more. There are even DNA vaccines being developed which could provide better immunity than the conventional ones.

But sadly, there is no vaccine against stupidity yet………



Bird song and songs with birds

We know that complexity of language is one of the key things that distinguishes us from other animals. It is this ability that has allowed us to eventually become civilized (such as we are….).

While many animals and insects also communicate through sounds, those uttered by birds “offer in several respects the nearest analogy to language,” Charles Darwin wrote in “The Descent of Man” (1871), while contemplating how humans learned to speak. Language, he speculated, might have had its origins in singing, which “might have given rise to words expressive of various complex emotions.”

bird song accent

Humans, according to the authors of this article, fruitfully combined these systems. We can communicate essential information, like bees or primates — but like birds, we also have a melodic capacity and an ability to recombine parts of our uttered language. For this reason, our finite vocabularies can generate a seemingly infinite string of words. Indeed, the researchers suggest that humans first had the ability to sing, as Darwin conjectured, and then managed to integrate specific lexical elements into those songs.

And going full circle we then tried to teach some birds how to speak !


It is no wonder then that when we invented a social medium that allowed us to communicate in short chirpy bursts we called it Twitter!

Maya Angelou says in her famous poem The Caged Bird Sings:

The caged bird sings

with a fearful trill

of things unknown

but longed for still

and his tune is heard

on the distant hill

for the caged bird

sings of freedom.

From bird song to birds in songs– here is a list of beautiful songs from Hindi films, old and new, that refer to birds!

This first song is without category. Incomparable– due to Lata’s voice and incomparable because it speaks of Dyaneshwar’s devotion to Vitthal. “The crow’s crowing from the river is good omen and indication that Vitthal is coming to my place. Hey crow, I will adorn you with gold, give you curd rice, milk, tell me isn’t it true that Vitthal is coming to my home? Please tell me without delay when is he coming?”


In this category are the songs that invoke a sense of longing and desire and use the plaintive cry of some birds to express their own emotions:

  1. Shamshad Begum sings for Nargis in Aag


2.    Teesri Kasam, with a delightful folk tune song, speaks of the caged bird which still     has the power to captivate the wandering traveller

3. Lamhe, a movie probably ahead of its time with a unique storyline and beautiful songs. Sridevi singing in the desert with Ila Arun’s voice as the tribal singer.

4. Bandini, with Nutan in prison and the others doing their daily work and singing about the free bird singing outside their walled lives. Imagining how life is going on in the free world

5. Mala Sinha and Dev Anand star in this movie Maya with poor girl rich boy, mixed identities and lots of twists and turns 

6. Rafi sings in the film Bhabhi and reminds us that we are just temporary guests in this world:

Fly away, o bird you no longer belong here, your lease at this branch is over, you did not own anything here, you were just a tenant here no one in this world stays here for ever


And now for some cheerful, fun and even mad songs here !

  1. Nutan and girlfriends, cycling down a lovely empty road,

2. Nargis frees the caged birds

3. The film is Madhumati and Johnny Walker is asking the question that remains at the core of accountability! If no one catches you cheat, did you really cheat?!

4. Dimple Kapadia in Bobby. What else does one need to say? Except of course that like many older songs and films, some of the lyrics are a bit regressive but I try to remember when it was released and forgive them….

5. Kishore Kumar at the height of his madness in the movies. It is difficult to imagine that anyone could actually direct him to do the stuff he did in Half Ticket!

6. Hum Saath Saath Hain gave Indian kids the alphabet song, lots of cultural gyan about loving your family and the most amazingly goody- goody family in this modern take on Ramayana ( kind of )

7.A hit movie in its time, Sargam starred Jaya Prada as a deaf mute girl and Rishi Kapoor as a dafliwala.

8. This list cannot be complete without this song picturized on Bhagyashree, who made only one film, paired with Salman Khan and it became a super hit –Maine Pyar Kiya



Songs of the stars

Now that the full moon and the solar eclipse and the clouds have all had their day, it is time to bring out the stars! Stars are defined as a luminous sphere of plasma held together by its own gravity. But a star is so much more than that!

carl sagan

Stars light up the night sky and the very first people who looked up and realized that some of the dots were twinkling and some were not , were the first astronomers who had just recognized planets within the solar system as being something different.

milky way

In fact Pythagoras, (whose theorem has tormented every student of geometry), theorized that the stars and planets revolving around the Earth (pre Heliocentrism) made a continuous sound. He called this the music of the stars. When asked how come the resulting sounds, which would be insanely loud, were not being heard by us, Pythagoras and his followers surmised that, because it was continually sounding, humans had no point of comparison—no real sense of silence or difference—and therefore could not distinguish it from our known idea of silence.

The nearest star to the Earth (after the Sun of course) is currently Alpha Centauri which is a three star system and is 4.2 light years away. Which means what we see today is the light that was set out from them 4.2 years ago. Amazing or what?!

Stars have a life cycle that goes into billions of years but is fascinating to read about since one of those pathways leads also to black holes. Those mysterious objects that do not allow even light and gravity to escape and have been speculated to be the pathways to parallel universes.

Our own Sun is a midsized star and is likely to end up as a white dwarf. Of course, hopefully humans would have moved on somewhere else outside the solar system by then since life on Earth as we know it would die out during the red giant phase.


Reality check–It is billions of years away. No excuse to miss your cardio routine today 🙂

Stars are an inspiration for poets as well as scientists and sometimes it is difficult to distinguish the two! After all, we are made of the same stardust– poets, philosophers, physicists and all.


In a smooth segue, here are some exquisite old songs with the Stars of Bollywood from the black and white era that also evoke the stars in such a romantic way!

  1. Yeh hawa, yeh raat, yeh chandni ,from Sangdil based on Jane Eyre. What a crackling chemistry between Madhubala and Dilip Kumar and Talat Mehmood’s silken voice.


  1. Yeh raat, yeh chandni, phir kahan? Dev Anand playing a guitar under a tree. Hemant Kumar singing. Does it get any better? The film is Jaal and Dev Anand plays a mysterious man who turns up in Goa and of course Geeta Bali falls in love with him despite the misgivings of her blind older brother (KN Singh).


3. Aaja sanam, madhur chandni mein hum. A romantic duet from Chori Chori. Starring Nargis and Raj Kapoor, it is a remake of ‘It Happened One Night’ and was remade again as Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahin. This track is based on the Italian folk tune Tarantella Napoletana

  1. Tere Bina Aag Yeh Chandni—from Awara, and apparently the first ‘dream sequence’ scene in Hindi films. It is also known as Ghar Aya Mera Pardesi.



God, in case you really exist, please save us from this evilty!

Of course, as they say, religion is just a cult with more followers…..but that is a whole other story.


After the triple talaq judgment and right to privacy judgement by the Supreme Court of India, the hat trick we were waiting for was delivered yesterday when the self- styled ‘Sant’ Ram Raheem Insaan (who made a very subtle film called Messenger of God –MSG) was found guilty of multiple counts of rape based on the accusation of a woman who served in the dera (ashram) and was raped by him in 2004. ( Looks like the court didn’t fall for the defence of “I didn’t doing it. God made me.I was just a messenger of God….”). MSG arrived in court with a fleet of 200 cars and left by helicopter apparently.


In response to the verdict of course his followers have burnt buses, rioted and generally wrecked havoc on public property.

raheem followers

No one rioted in the ashram when he was watching blue films, forcing women to have sex with him at gun point. Where was that self- righteous anger and outrage then ??


And in case you were missing Dhinchak Puja here is an absolutely hysterically bad music video of a song called ‘You are the Love Charger’. Yes seriously. If you have even 1 minutes to spare this weekend please, please listen to the opening minute of this video. I could not bear to listen to more so if there is a gem in the later minutes, please let me know.

There have been so many who have taken the foolish followers for a ride. A short list goes like this:

Swami Sadachari was finally jailed for running a brothel,,

Icchadhari Sant Sawmi of Chitrakoot was arrested for prostitution,

assorted dead bodies were found in the hugging ‘saint’ Amritanandamayi Ma’s ashram,

Asaram Bapu was accused of rape by a 15 year old girl

Radhe Ma of the orgasmic bliss photos in bridal wear apparently holds naked sex filled satsangs,

ram raheem2

Then there is Sant Rampal, whose devotees bathed him in milk and made kheer using that milk. (super double YUK)

“The milk falls on him, while he sits and meditates. The fruit of his meditation is present in the kheer,” said Krishan, 29, who is admitted in the hospital with a head injury.

Why does Krishnan he have an injury? Because the bodies of five women and 18 month old child were found in the ‘Sant’s ashram and Rampal was arrested along with 492 of his followers, on charges including sedition, murder, attempt to murder, conspiracy, hoarding illegal weapons and aiding and abetting suicide-mongers.

_da289592-8494-11e7-b63c-9d281adafd5eThe followers attacked the police with crude bombs and gunfire, hence the head injury.


“Everybody knows however that in this sect, where sex is nearly forbidden, people have most sex. There have been a lot of rumors about homosexuality among devotees, both lower and higher in their hierarchy. Lately there has been a lot of talk about prostitution among members of the organization, especially here in Vrindavan.”

The list continues:


Bikram Yoga,

the billionaire Sathya Sai Baba: Former Sai Baba leaders such as Swedish psychotherapist and former film star, Conny Larsson, who says the guru regularly performed oral sex on him and asked for it in return. Sai Baba was said to have claimed he was simply correcting Larsson’s inner “kundalini” energy.

Even before Blue Whale we had plenty of cults urging followers to commit mass suicide.

And while Twitter had a field day with Ramdev Baba’s sensational India Today cover it is he who is laughing all the way to the bank, with Patanjali becoming a multi- million dollar business despite a steady stream of accusations and fines for false advertising.

Eventually it all comes down to the holy trinity of power, money and sex.

The ashrams rake in money in the millions, they have policemen and chief ministers touching their feet, and they live far from celibate lives.

At least Osho Rajneesh was upfront about the role of sex in the meditations and programmes at his ashram…..

Beyond India, in the US, we have the outrageous Creflo Dollar who asked his followers to make his dream come true—by contributing money so he could buy a private jet worth 60 million dollars! Watch John Oliver do an expose here


And of course for the grand finale, that religious order which has its own city and postcode in the middle of another city—the Vatican. For an institution that preaches about sex as the original sin, and pushes for abstinence only education instead of scientific sexuality education, there certainly seems lot be a lot of sex under their own roof, consented or otherwise!

As of November 2013 over ten million Catholic Priest child sex abuse cases have been documented. These 10,077,574 cases represented a mere fraction of total crimes committed. Only an estimated 10% of sex abuse victims were thought to speak out about their sex abuse and just 10% of those cases saw the inside of a court room.

pope meme

Routinely rocked by child sex abuse revelations and cover ups, here is what one article says :

Ballarat, Australia, where Pell was an episcopal vicar for education between 1973 and 1984, was one of the worst hotbeds of abuse, with sexual abuse by both priests and nuns rife at St. Alipius Primary School, called “a pedophile’s paradise and a child’s nightmare” by Australian television.

And the result of being against abortion? Mass graves where unmarried women and their born babies were buried. So far 34 such sites have been found and a total of 350,800 children suspected to be in Catholic child mass graves sites in three countries.

In Ireland the commission said analysis of selected remains revealed ages of the deceased ranged from 35 weeks to three years old. It found that the dead had been mostly buried in the 1950s, when the facility was one of more than a dozen in Ireland offering shelter to orphans, unmarried mothers and their children. The Tuam home closed in 1961.

Sounds pretty much the opposite of pro –life to me…..

One almost wants to look upon this Nagraj- Nagkanya couple fondly and indulgently let them carry on their make believe, almost like one would when one’s child puts on underpants outside her leggings and declares herself Supergirl and you are like Yay cool, now go use your superpowers in the other room to stay really, really quiet while mommy gets this blogpost written….

jimmy nagraj

These are Shree Jimmy Nagraj and Gurumayi Nagkanya.

“Not everyone can communicate properly,” he explained, happy to induct us with his own divine experience first. Telling us that he had experienced “immediate results” after two darshans, the Senior Superintendent at a maritime services company shared, “After I started believing in them, I dreamt that a large golden snake entered my home and I could communicate with it.”

This rung familiar and suddenly we realised why. “You are a Parselmouth Harry. Why didn’t you tell us?” “I’m a what?”  “A Parselmouth!” said Ron, “You can talk to snakes.”  A real-life (albeit middle-aged) Harry Potter in our own neighbourhood — we were chuffed!

‘Evilty’, was another term that popped up all evening. The pamphlet offered numerous instances of those afflicted with this condition — “Whenever Freddy got an attack of evilty (sic) he would shout on top of his voice late at nights (sic) and start flinging whatever came in his hands, even his plate of food,” it said, citing the example of a little boy, who, it seems to us was more likely afflicted with a case of the terrible-twos.

“What is this, Evilty?” We finally put the question to an emotional devotee. “Bad thoughts?” “Not bad thoughts,” she said,  “Evilty.”




Ganpati—a feminist story with a violent patriarchal twist ?

"Photograph by Chetan Karkhanis"As I write this I can hear the drums and bands on the streets , moving along all day long, bringing home Mumbai’s favourite guest just in time for the puja tomorrow. Ganpati or Ganesh.

He will be here for a short while, maybe 1and 1/2 days or 10 days, depending on each family’s wishes. At the end of his visit, he will take the water route to go back to his mother, (always his mother and creator Parvati).  Not to his father….

I guess it is difficult to feel much paternal love for a man who tried to fight you to the death and brought in armies of gods and wildings and whitewalkers and all……and eventually cut off your head, all on your first encounter.

I mean he did compensate by giving you the head of an elephant who happened to be strolling in the Himalayas for unknown and mysterious reasons…..

Flashback: According to one story Goddess Kali created Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva but only Shiva could keep his eye open and look upon her in her terrifying form. She thus gave him a boon that he would marry her when she would be born to Raja Daksha as Parvati in human form. It is an interesting and rare tale where the female goddess is the creator.

After her marriage one day Parvati is having a bath and does not trust any of her husband’s gang of men to guard her. since they always obey him first. So she creates a son for herself out of the sweat and dirt and maybe some homemade lotions she had applied before her bath. And then she breathes life into him, and sets him to guard her inner chamber, giving orders that none shall pass.


Shiva comes home and is furious at being denied entry and a great war ensues.

shiva barred

If you have seen episode 5 and 6 of Game of Thrones, ‘same to same’ scene takes place. The boy fights off armies of attackers and finally Shiva cuts his head off. Enraged at this assault, Parvati calls upon Durga and Kali, who proceed to eat up and destroy the armies of the gods and the wildings and the whitewalkers, setting them on fire and eating them up and basically creating mayhem until they beg for mercy.


Parvati then wants to know what exactly is she supposed to do with her beheaded son now?? Shiva s contrite and replaces the head with an elephant head and grants him a boon that everyone will worship him before any other gods.



What an imagination! Of course this is all symbolic and the elephant head means wisdom and there are many other interpretations at this link if you are interested. It also raises interesting thoughts about the issue of a woman’s consent and basically the consequences of when she is saying NO….

But still, one more virgin birth to add to the list..…..and it is interesting to note that his brother Kartikeya is the God of War.

In the Meluha series * spoiler ahead* Ganesha’s head and body is explained as being that of a deformed child caused by the poisonous waste thrown into the river as a by- product of somras production. Another interesting interpretation!

I was looking for some festival related songs to include here and came across this delightful old one from Takkar. Those innocent days when public singing could be a threat to bring down evil and corrupt politicians!

Murti Ganesh Ki–Takkar

Somehow in Bollywood the Ganpati puja seems to always attract the bad guys or be the backdrop for some serious violence like in these three songs.

Deva ho Deva—Ham se Badhkar Kaun

Dewa Shree Ganesha—new Agneepath

Gajanana– Bajirao Mastani

The public celebration of Ganpati festival was started by Lokmanya Tilak in 1893. This was a strategy to allow people to gather in large groups for religious reasons since they were not allowed to do so otherwise for political reasons. He also saw that this was a god being worshipped by brahmins as well as non- brahmins and could be a unifying factor.

Hindus (and the Hindutva fanatics should note that changing Elphinstone Road Station to Prabhadevi is all well and good but the word Hindu itself is something with Greek and Persian root and not our own naming of ourselves at all !). So anyway, Hindus have a relationship with the gods and goddesses which is totally unique on our blue planet. We address them as ‘tu or tum’’ which is the more familiar you as opposed to the respectful you ‘tumhi or aap’.

We often call the male gods also mother and our mythology abounds with the mistakes, bad choices and horrible things the gods have done and how they have also been punished once in a while. Not to mention that our religion has a god who smokes opium!

So, in keeping with this highly interpretive and fluid system here is a Ganpati song in the form of a qawwali which is traditionally not a ‘hindu’ form of song.

Hey Lambodar Maula mere Moraya !


Life giving lakes, dams and damnation

DSCN4906While Mumbaikers look forward to the monsoon (those some of us who are fortunate enough to have a pukka home which does not flood and who don’t have to travel on the edge of death by local train)….and to walks on Marine Drive and eating bhutta and drinking adrak chai, taking trips to Lonavla to stand under waterfalls, there are some who are busy counting (like the Counting Man from the Little Prince) the inches of rain that fall in the suburbs and the rise in the lake levels.

These are the people tasked with ensuring water supply to Mumbai from the end of one monsoon to the beginning of the next one! Usually the countdown begins in March which tells us –only 60 days of water left. Only 50 days of water left. There is apparently even an emergency evacuation plan in a report somewhere in the BMC offices if the monsoon fails altogether!

dam overflow

We enjoy a better water supply than most of the country but not many of us think about the Tansa, Vihar, Vaitarna, Bhadsa and Modak Sagar lakes. Where are these lakes and how did they come to be so conveniently placed to Mumbai? Well they are not really! They are more like 80-100 kms away. Vihar lake work was completed in 1860, during the governership of Lord Elphinstone. (As an aside, the local station named after him will now be renamed Prabhadevi station. Since the erasing of history will throw away the good and the bad. Also the newly named station will continue to have beggars, be dirty and get flooded. For a fascinating insight into the man and the area around the station and his Governor’s residence being converted into the Haffkine Institute read more here ).

The Tulsi Lake was completed in 1879 and the Tansa reservoir in 1892. Imagine that! Mumbai, the megapolis, which politicians want to transform into Shanghai while they invest almost nothing in it, is still surviving on the water being supplied by lakes built 150 years ago. By the British.

Post- Independence the number of migrants to the city increased enormously and Mumbai stood poised for unprecedented growth. The Vaitarna cum Tansa scheme as conceived planned and executed by a team of Municipal Engineers under the leadership of Mr. V.N Modak after whom the lake is now called Modak Sagar. (Apparently he was the man responsible also for the design and planning of Shivaji Park and the area around it but suprisingly I could not find any reference to him on the internet).


We had gone to Modak Sagar for a picnic/visit two years ago right after the monsoon and it was the most amazingly green place, just hours from the city.


rural landscape

The water supply to Bombay from various sources is about 563 million gallons per day (MGD). The monsoon precipitation is collected in six lakes and supplied to the city through the year. 460 MGD are treated at the Bhandup Water Treatment Plant, which is the largest in Asia.

Water is brought into the city from the lakes after treatment, and stored in 23 service reservoirs. Since two of the major sources, Tansa and Lower Vaitarna, are at a higher level than the city, not much power is required to pump the water.

Since the BMC manages to supply only around 75% of the water needed, there are also tankers and of course an emerging Water Mafia.


If we survive Donny Trump and his BFF Kim Jong Un’s pissing contest over nuclear weapons, the next war will be for fresh water….

Meanwhile the Chairperson of Nestle declared that water is not a human right! And then retracted and claimed to be mis- represented.

And Coca Cola of course thinks all ground water is their right and have systematically been sucking it out for almost free and selling it right back to us at 2 USD a bottle !

Is there any other renewable source of fresh water in Mumbai? Well, almost a decade after the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) made it mandatory for new buildings in the city to have their own rainwater harvesting systems, only one-third have installed it. If half of a developed area on a building’s rooftop is utilized for rainwater harvesting, around 590 million litres of water could be generated every day.

While North India has Ganga Yamuna and the tributaries and branches, the rest of the country has been battling over the rivers and building dams.

Hemant Kumar and Gulzar ask us in Kabuliwala –Ganga aye kahan se ? Ganga jaye kahan re ?

And now we are asking Narmada aye kahan se Narmada jaye kahan re ?? From Nehru’s temples of modern India we have reached the time of the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) being led by Medha Patkar and others.


Here is what the Friends of NBA say-“In brief, the Government’s plan is to build 30 large, 135 medium and 3000 small dams to harness the waters of the Narmada and its tributaries. ……It is well established that the plans rest on untrue and unfounded assumptions of hydrology and seismicity of the area and the construction is causing large scale abuse of human rights and displacement of many poor and underprivileged communities. We also believe that water and energy can be provided to the people of the Narmada Valley, Gujarat and other regions through alternative technologies and planning processes which can be socially just and economically and environmentally sustainable.”


Those of you who have seen Avataar will remember that it is the commercial potential of the mineral under the land which the Americans feel is a justification enough to displace and when resisted, then even attack the Na’avi tribes.

It’s kind of like– if your neighbour who is better off and more powerful than you says that the floor of your flat needs to be broken so he can get easy access to his duplex and since you can no longer live there and obviously cannot afford a new flat in that area or even anywhere in Mumbai now, you can go live in Pandharpur. Yes of course your kids will find school there, maybe even an English medium one, not more than a 2 hour’s commute away and yes of course you and your spouse can find some job. You do speak the local language don’t you ? No? And no school leaving certificate either? Oh well. Surely you can get some work on a building site or as a domestic help.

India is progressing and someone has to sacrifice….

Remember an earlier post where we considered who owns our bodies? Here Arundhati Roy asking similar questions after visiting the NBA site:

From being a fight over the fate of a river valley it began to raise doubts about an entire political system. What is at issue now is the very nature of our democracy. Who owns this land? Who owns its rivers? Its forests? Its fish? These are huge questions. They are being taken hugely seriously by the State. They are being answered in one voice by every institution at its command – the army, the police, the bureaucracy, the courts. And not just answered, but answered unambiguously, in bitter, brutal ways.”

This is not the first time, and maybe it will not be the last time either.

We will request you to move from your houses after the dam comes up. If you move it will be good. Otherwise we shall release the waters and drown you all.”– Morarji Desai, speaking at a public meeting in the submergence zone of the Pong Dam in 1961.

“Why didn’t they just poison us? Then we wouldn’t have to live in this shit-hole and the Government could have survived alone with its precious dam all to itself.”– Ram Bai, whose village was submerged when the Bargi Dam was built on the Narmada. She now lives in a slum in Jabalpur.”

So, as we reach close to the end of the monsoon 2017, and about 500 million litres of water have run down all the multi- story buildings in Mumbai, through the slums and  drains and straight into the salty sea, here is a song about water and existentialism all in one.

Oh re, Taal mile nadi ke jal mein, nadi mile sagar mein, sagar mile kaun se jal mein ? Koi jaane na….

The Museum of Partition

Remember in school when we would put a ruler or a long pencil to separate our sides of the table? And then every eraser and pencil shaving was either deported or captured.

Then we grow up and sometimes draw those lines on maps.

When India was partitioned in 1947 and two new countries were carved out of it, it resulted in the largest migration in human history with a death toll reaching 2 million.

In the word of Gulzar, “Sarhad par kal raat suna hai kuchh khaabon ka khoon huwa hai

(Last night we heard that some dreams were killed at the border)


I read this interesting interview which suggests that we do not have any memorial to the Partition deaths in India because everyone who was involved suffered and was also the aggressor. “But it is also that if India and Pakistan remember Partition with honesty, they would have to admit that politicians agreed for the sake of power to what became a bloodbath.”

Now, after 70 years, we do finally have a memorial– the Partition Museum in Amritsar.

museum of partition

It is still being set up and you can read more about it here.

The few rooms that are open already are a stark and incredibly moving memorial to a forced tragedy. Radcliffe was brought out of nowhere to draw the lines on the map. He had very little data to work with and the authorities either were not able to or did not care to make any arrangements for the smooth and peaceful transition involving eventually 14 million people.

The freedom we won by an unheard of non- violent struggle was finally soaked in the blood of millions at the very stroke of the midnight hour.

The stories and panels at the museum are so poignant that one is moved to tears by the time one reaches the end. This should actually be compulsory visit for all those who take the oath of office and for all civil servants here and in the UK to see what decisions taken in meeting rooms can do to people on the ground.

There are audio visual installations with interviews and short documentaries. There is also a video of Gulzar reading out his exquisite poems in memory of the partition and its aftermath.

Aankhon ko visa nahi lagta, sapnon ki sarhad hoti nahi,

Band aankhon se roz main sarhad paar chala jaata hoon,

Desh, sarkar nahin hota, aur mulk hukoomat nahin hoti.

Your eyes don’t need a visa and dreams cannot be controlled by borders. I close my eyes and cross the borders every night. There is no country, no government, no controls.”

For me the most disturbing installation at the Museum was a well. It represents the many wells into which women and girls jumped during the partition migration to commit suicide to prevent a fate worse than death at the hands of ‘enemies’.

The other such well, a real one, which can actually make your skin crawl is right next door—inside the Jallianwala Bagh.

jalianwala bagh

As we all know from our history books, on 13th April 1919 (which was also the festival of Baisakhi), people gathered at the Jallianwala Bagh to peacefully protest the arrest of two leaders. The bagh is an enclosed garden space, where many thousands of Sikh men women and children had gathered. General Dyer entered and blocked the only entrance and without any warning order firing on the unarmed crowd.


At the final count close to 1000 people died and an equal number were injured in the ensuing stampede and by bullets. About 120 bodies were pulled out of the well.

What adds to the depth of the tragedy is also that all those soldiers who fired upon the crowd were Indians themselves.

Indian soldiers have taken orders from the British not just here but also in both the world wars. In 1939 the British Indian Army took in volunteers and by 1945 was the largest all-volunteer force in history, rising to over 2.5 million men.

India contributed the 3rd largest Allied contingent in the Italian campaign after US and British forces. Indian forces played a role in liberating Italy from Nazi control.

We don’t even hear about them!

Shashi Tharoor says in this article

It was Indian jawans (junior soldiers) who stopped the German advance at Ypres in the autumn of 1914, soon after the war broke out, while the British were still recruiting and training their own forces. More than 1,000 of them died at Gallipoli, thanks to Churchill’s folly. Nearly 700,000 Indian sepoys (infantry privates) fought in Mesopotamia against the Ottoman Empire…….Rabindranath Tagore, was somewhat more sardonic about nationalism. “We, the famished, ragged ragamuffins of the East are to win freedom for all humanity!” he wrote during the war. “

The territories being fought for were as far flung as Abyssinia on the African front and so many of them died, so far from home and with no means of communication.

The India Gate was built in Delhi as a memorial and has the names of these soldiers carved on all its bricks.


But the most famous epitaph of them all is inscribed at the Kohima War Cemetery in North-East India. It reads,



We used to believe that something becomes a Museum exhibit once it is no longer a functional entity.

Sadly it does not seem like there will be a Museum of War any time soon….

Non Sibi Sed Omnibus—The Summer of ‘87


It was thirty years ago, in 1987, that we found ourselves in the subtly named MLT (Main Lecture Theatre), for the first time. Not quite knowing what lay ahead but quite confident that since we had managed to make our way into the most prestigious Seth Gordhandas Sunderdas Medical College, life could only get better.

It was the beginning of a life changing journey that challenged us, moulded us, taught us and eventually made us who we are.

(Who are we?? GSites 🙂kem logo

We may have bunked lectures but we never bunked college! Food was always tastier eaten sitting on the kattas and idly was best eaten shared 2 plates by 3 friends in Shetty’s canteen. The flavour of that mysterious SK vada can never be replicated nor the equally confusing Hawaii sauce.


We learnt how to be a sophisticated theatre audience by watching Dharam Veer in this very hall, while some senior students sat in the aisles and made decidedly unsavoury shadow fingers at the screen and where film reels the size of truck tyres reels were rewound to watch Govinda dance again. And again….

We attended lectures which Charlie seemed to understand more than we did and we did practicals in which the lab peons knew the correct reagents and expected results better than we ever could. No one ever understood the patho slides so let’s leave it at that.


We slept inside the library and studied outside it. We bunked official rounds but some went for other secret ones. Some of us had never dreamed of doing anything but medicine and some would have preferred to do anything but this.


Despite all that, we managed to swim more than sink and somehow made it to the other side of the 5 and half years that forged us and shaped us and made us what we are today.

We were thoroughly ragged, taught, mentored, found friendship and love, grew and evolved. We studied, relaxed, enjoyed cutting chai, overnight emergencies in the monsoon, organized festivals, edited magazines and went to Delhi filling up an entire train compartment.

Group photo 3

We were there for each other through days that seem to have been filled with sunshine and laughter and joyful learning.


It is said that the best a parent can do for its children is to give them roots and wings and Seth GSMC has done that for us in full measure.

For those of us who survived the siren call of the west and the common pooling system, we forged even deeper ties during our residency at the KEM Hospital. Those of us who moved to other lands still carry with them the indelible aura of a GSite and have done well in every chose field in every new homeland.

It is 2017 now and we have come a long way. From landline telephones monitored by our parents to monitoring our own kids on Whatsapp! From those reel movies to Netflix streaming. From katta food to 5 star gourmet. And from mystifying ward rounds to being heads of department.

It’s been such a long journey and while we may not feel too much older than we did that day, we do certainly feel wiser.


The very genesis of Seth GSMC was a rebellion, a movement for change. In the days of the British Raj no Indian doctor however qualified and brilliant could ever rise through the ranks simply because he was Indian. This changed in 1926 when some crowd funding and a substantial donation of 12 lakhs was made by the family of Seth Gordhands Sunderdas to set up Seth GS Medical College and KEM Hospital.

The very foundations of our college are steeped in a fiery national pride, a refusal to accept things the way they were and forging ahead as change agents. The college and hospital have always maintained the twin pillars of academic excellence with this uncompromising integrity and strength of character.

GSMC and KEMH gave the country pioneers in many fields—from the first mitral valve surgery to the first IVF baby. From the first Artificial Kidney Department, to the first clinical pharmacology ward in the country. The first renal transplant in India, the first heart transplant in India, and the first left to right limb transplant in India.

In 1942 during the Quit India movement the college was closed for several weeks and some students had to go underground. Post partition, GSites led medical mercy missions deep into Pakistan. And in 1964 during the gastroenteritis epidemic the PSM department apparently managed to immunize 1 million people in 17 days thus containing the deaths.

(I am quoting from Dr Alok Sharma’ article in the Gosumag ’92)

WhatsApp Image 2017-08-12 at 6.38.54 PM

Standing on the shoulders of such giants, we continue to lead and contribute to great work across the globe now. From students to leaders, we can continue to be agents of change and as we remember what Seth GS Medical college has given to us, we should also ask ourselves what can we contribute in return.

For details check out this link

After all, as we were always taught– Non sibi Sed Omnibus




Radcliffe, Brexit and other lines drawn

I happened to be in the UK on three occasions in the last 12 months. The first time was when the Brexit results were announced, the next when Teresa May was elected and the third time when she managed to epic fail the new election. This also coincided with the Queen’s birthday parade, terror attacks in London Bridge and the Grenfell fire.

As you can imagine, everyone was alarmed and vexed and frustrated and there was much ink and air time spent on hand wringing, moaning, fussing and making dark gloomy predictions for a dystopic future for Great Britain.

After the Grenfell disaster ( where a council building caught fire due to poor quality cladding and close to 80 people died), they predicted another upheaval likely with internal migration in numbers of lakhs of people.

And then there is Brexit.

brexit twitter

What is the worst that will happen? Some economic losses maybe, some political losses of course, some job losses likely.

And heaven forbid… the horror… but some people will need visas. To enter another country. Like everyone else the world over.

But how many people are expected to die from Brexit? As of now no one….

Read those words carefully. Here they are again.

How many people are expected to die from Brexit? As of now no one….

Ok, now take a deep breath, and read this unrelated story.

In 1947 there was a man named Sir Cyril Radcliffe who was asked to draw a line. What were his qualifications? He had a pencil. He was around. And he was British. He was man suddenly conferred with more power even in the throes of death of the British Empire than did the emerging new leaders, Gandhi, Nehru, Jinnah. So he drew a line. Randomly. Saw that one side of the line had only one city, so he shifted the line to give them two. Drew another line at the other end, gave them one large city.

What were these lines?

These lines divided British India into Pakistan, India and East Pakistan.


Do you know how many people were displaced as a result? FOURTEEN MILLION.

Excuse the shouting but it is considered to be the LARGEST migration in HISTORY!


Do you know how many people died? Anywhere upto TWO MILLION.

People killed each other, driven to despair and frenzy, devastated by the loss of generations of roots being ripped out and thrown asunder, shreds of their past lives blowing away in the winds of time. Some men killed their own wives and daughters to prevent them from being raped.

Do you know who is responsible for this un- invited civil war leaving death and destruction in its wake unabated for decades?


This casually undertaken and callously unplanned migration with no logistics management, not a stray thought spared for old people, pregnant women and children who had to walk kilometres and kilometres with whatever few possessions they could manage to bring.

brexit queen

This was repeated in the Middle East, Africa,25558, Canada, Syria, Ireland. Wherever they went they drew lines. Through the land and through the heart of the nation.

So please excuse me if I have no sympathy for all the hand wringing around Brexit !

As India celebrates its 70th Independence Day on 15th August, finally we have a Museum of Partition. I visited it in Amritsar and will write about it next week.

From the very well maintained files of Mrs Pushpa-I- hate-Tears, Secretary to CEO

No. 9-2-11/ Ab ke baras bhej bhaiya ko babul

It has been decided to celebrate the festival of Raksha Bandhan on 7th August 2017. All offices shall remain open and all the lady staff shall tie rakhis to all male colleagues.

Attendance sheet to reach my office by 5 pm.

Note to Mrs S: No, male colleagues may not tie rakhi to you even though you are taller than everyone and a black belt in karate. This is a cultural expectation, not a logical ritual.

Yes, you can screen Dangal movie after office hours for those who would like to stay. Please arrange to pay the peon overtime from your own pocket.

Please see me in my office about the proposed lunch time meeting on gender equality. Come after office hours.

 'Our standards are very high. We even have high double standards.'

No. 420-17/ Utha Rashtraveer Ho

It has been decided that henceforth at all lunch meetings only pure vegetarian food will be served and only gomutra will be available as drink. Attendance will be compulsory.

Mrs S: Please bring note from your family physician regarding your allergy to gomutra and bullshit as you have indicated in your email.


No 69/ Cows’R’Us

It has been decided that all staff will participate in the protest rally against beef consumption.

Gau Rakshak T shirts will be distributed to wear at the rally.


No. 377 Urgent MEMO

Mr K Mahalingam please see me immediately for faulty auto correct on the T shirts used in the rally which said “We are Gay Rakshaks. We stand untied.”


No. 47/ Sare Jahan Se Accha

It has been decided that morning staff meetings will begin with standing up for the national anthem.

We need to be more patriotic and more nationalistic.

Note to Mrs S: No, this will not reduce the number of children dying due to malnutrition. No, it will not reduce violence against women. What is the connection with patriotism ??


No. 88/ BC Sab Ulta Pulta Hai

It has been decided that all staff will perform yogasanas for 20 minutes in the lunch break. CCTVs will be recording for attendance.

The library has been cleared for this since no one was reading the books and journals anyway.

No 666/ Ours not to question why

Please remove chappals when bowing to the Enormous Photo of the Great Leader inside the front door.

Actually, stop wearing chappals since they are probably made of cow leather. Also don’t wear shoes made in China.

Note: HR manager please see me regarding appropriate footwear choices

Note to Mrs S: Yes it is a very large photo to accommodate his chest size. Yes. Size matters.


No 345/Pyar mein thoda maar diya to kya hua

Mrs Sharma will not be able to come to office today. Apparently she walked into the door.

Since the sexual harassment committee must have at least one woman on it and she is the one, the meeting will be postponed to next Thursday.” I walked into a door”


No 420 B/ Ghar aya mera pardesi

Tomorrow is the welcome back party for Mr Sharma who was exonerated of all charges and released from jail for the alleged pornography material possession.

His lawyers were able to prove that it was a foreign hand and not his in the videos.

Note to Mrs. S: Did you send everyone that audio file singing “this hand is my hand, this hand is your hand, from Kanyakumari to Mumbai Island ?”

No. 555/ Bachao betis from whom

The photo of Asa Holey Baba is being temporarily removed from the main corridor since the “Beti Bachao Andolan” NGO visit is expected today.

Mr Patil please replace with the Gandhi portrait from the godown.

Note to Mrs S: Yes, we mean Mahatma Gandhi and not Sonia Gandhi. No, this will only be a temporary replacement. No, we will not put up a photo of Arundhati Roy instead.

No 627/Dahej Nished Diwas

Mr Bhatt will be on earned leave for the next two weeks for the wedding of his daughter. Although his monthly salary is 10,000 Rs his loan request for 5 lakhs has been approved for the wedding expenses and he has signed a bond to work without any salary for the next 50 years.


No. 700/Raja Ram Mohan Roy anniversary

Everyone is invited to Mr Hari Singhs’ house for Rani Sati puja.

Note to Mrs S: please note that these are our deep and ancient cultural rituals which we should respect. This is not in any way a glorification of sati so please stop sending Mr Singh emails asking if his wife will burn on his funeral pyre.

 No. 1098/Children of God

We send our deepest condolences to Mr Jain whose daughter Ayushi dies after a prolonged fast of 20 days. May her soul rest in peace. God always calls the good ones first.

Note to Mrs. S: please desist from putting up newspaper articles of child abuse outside Mr Jain’s office.

 No 444/Tum mujhe khoon do

Dr D on our corporate panel has confirmed that due to some internal mental problems (he called it diurnal rhythm) women working or living together can experience their menstrual cycle at the same time.

Hence tomorrow all ladies staff will be on menstrual leave.

On another note, the seminar on the dignity and privacy of individuals will have to be postponed as a result.


Note to Mrs S: Please explain what is this Kamakhya Devi whose temple all of you went to instead of taking rest during this fragile day?

No 666/Razor’s Edge

We would like to apologize for putting up on the notice board the letter Mr V received about his vasectomy follow up.

Henceforth all letters marked private will be opened only by the Secretary to CEO and not by the front desk staff.

The seminar on privacy has again been postponed since he was in charge and he has been sent for anger management class.

Mrs S: Was it you who has been scribbling ‘ironic’ and ‘LOL’ over this circular ??


No. 23/It’s because we care

All unmarried employees will undergo a two finger virginity test every month to ensure that our cultural values are being protected.

It also gives a baseline for rape allegations against office or field staff.

Thanks you Mrs S for pointing out that the memo should have said female employees and for your suggestions on where would we could put the two fingers for the male employees.

And no the government is not of the people for the people.

I know you voted .

You showed me your finger also.

elections2HAHAHAHA Mrs.S the joke is on you.