Thursday, September 28, 2006

Nominees in Most uncool ad category are..

My entry is "veta ho to koi bhi english bol sakta hai" or some such crap, where a housemaid is shown singing an English song and a young guy opens his moth in disbelief. The maid says "main chalti hoon saab", and walks away. Guy's mouth is still open. The tagline follows. Boo...!!

What do the people who make (and enjoy) such ads think? they are some special species who are born with some magical power (their dad/mom/grand-dad/grand-mom got some power from aliens..) that makes them able to speak English? Many housemaids end up in that job after having to drop out of school or having to discontinue further studies. Many of them do speak good English too (if they don't speak English with you, that's because of your attitude that they are not supposed to be in your league and you want their class to remain under yours forever..) Boo boo..!!

Please post your entries in this category.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Naan Aanaiyittaal..

Witnessed one old style Orchestra (in Malayalam we call it a Ganamela) near the Kodambakkam railway station at Chennai last month. The volume was high, and when I came to the scene it was one guy singing an old sad Tamil song with all his emotions put into it. I didn't know the song, I couldn't figure out the lyrics but I got the "feelings". Guy was in white and white. So were the others on the stage. The Orchestra leader had a black coat over his white shirt, and kept swinging his arms in the air. I sat in the front along with some locals, while many people who passed by showed their discomfort by closing their ears with their fingers.

Then there was newer and faster numbers (sang by someone who wore a white t-shirt and white pants), and old MGR numbers ("Naan Aanaiyittal.." that was the only song I knew. There was a couple of "once more" shouts after that song) The crowd, though small, was happy. That included me.

The emotion man came on the stage again, and some younger ones booed him. Guy didn't give it a damn, he again threw all his passion into the sad, sadder, saddest song. Later I spotted him behind the stage going for a tea or a cigarette, and I went and told him the song was good. He was happy, and thanked me, but the expression was like "I knew it was good.. It had to be good". Yes, it had to be good. Thanks, Bhaskar. Thanks other singers. Thanks the organizers.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Polio outbreak: Do bundein zindagi ki?

It seems there's a Polio outbreak in the country. The number of Polio cases reported this year is around 300, whereas it was 66 last year.

I got to know about this outbreak late. Mainly because I have been traveling over the last two-three weeks and have not been following news regularly (thats also the reason there wasn't any new post on the blog for so many days). I first read about it in the leading front-page story of "The Telegraph" yesterday. But after that I noticed one mail from my friend in my mailbox that gave a link to an Indian Express report on the government's explanation of the rise in Polio cases. Coming from the Government spokespersons, it naturally attributes it to kids who give polio drive a miss. It does not stop there, it goes on to target the Muslim community in particular: "Another problem that the government has to deal with is that UP's large Muslim minority are reluctant to get their children immunized because of rumours that polio drops are part of a Western conspiracy to make their children sterile. Nearly 70% of the cases are from minority communities.."

My friend can't hide his anger:

"Those who do these based on pseudo-scientific reasoning are doing unpardonable crime and
irreversible damage to their children

"The Telegraph" story is a twist in the tale, and suggests that the Government is desparately trying to hide the ineffectiveness of the Pulse Polio drive.

"India’s health bureaucracy ignored scientific advice about flaws in the polio immunisation programme for nearly 20 years and suppressed research that might have led to faster eradication, doctors have said.." [Polio botch-up blame at Delhi door,]

"The doctors have challenged assertions by health officials that the surge in polio in western Uttar Pradesh this year -- and the resulting setback in eradication efforts -- was only due to poor immunisation there last year.

In scientific papers and interviews to The Telegraph, they said India's failure to eradicate polio also stems from wrong decisions on dosage and choice of vaccine..." the report continues.

"The number of polio cases in India has surged this year to 297 after a steady decline for years and a record low of 66 last year."

"Children who got as many as 10 doses have still got polio in Uttar Pradesh this year."

"John believes policy-makers displayed an unscientific bias towards OPV over the inactivated injectible polio vaccine (IPV) that has been shown through studies as superior in many ways."

"In a paper three years ago in the Proceedings of the Indian National Science Academy, John suggested there might have been an effort to suppress findings about IPV's advantages. His own studies comparing IPV with OPV in Tamil Nadu were approved by the Centre on the condition that he would not publish the results."

"Another pediatrician in a government medical college in New Delhi told The Telegraph that he was discouraged from studying IPV."

[Images from The Telegraph report]

Now we'll try to check the science and "pseudo-science" in the claims and counter-claims. Last month when we talked about not vaccinating Aadil, I had promised to come back with the arguments against the Oral Polio Vaccines, popularly known as "Pulse Polio" (Amitabh Bachchan and Sachin Tendulkar come on the mini screen often to coax us to give our children the two drops of life).

One of the main arguments of the anti-OPV drive in Kerala was that OPV is discontinued in most developed countries. In USA, the Oral Vaccine was banned in 1999 following a case of "Vaccine caused Parallysis". (Read about one such case at The campaigns have documented similar cases reported in India/Kerala as well).

A "Science Daily" report admits that OPV runs such a risk, but says that it can be overcome by "proper coverage" (A 2004 outbreak of polio in China traced back to live attenuated oral polio vaccine (OPV), which is widely used in global eradication efforts, highlights the small but significant risk to eradication posed by the use of OPV at suboptimal rates of coverage..,
When this became a debate in India, the Government's stand was that if all the children in the country are given the vaccine at the same time (yes-- same time, not the same day), it was safe. Can one get any more unrealistic?

Oral Polio Vaccine is no longer recommended, says one US health brochure (pdf).

And now, check this:

    Despite the figues showing the Polio cases on the decline in the countries that are on the OPV drive now (India, Pakistan, China, some African countries), the figures (the official ones itself) of Non-Polio AFPs (Accute Flaccid Parallysis, cases of polio-like diseases), is showing an exponential rise in all these countries.
    In India, The number of cases of non-Polio AFPs rose from 772 in 1996 to 27,000 in 2004 (the polio figures dropped from 1105 to 136 in the same period).
The activists claim there is a chance that many of these cases are actually that of Polio and are not reported as Polio, because there are parties who benefit from the OPV drive and they are influential enough. I find it a serious concern. But can we ever expect honest research to happen in such areas, and even if research happens, what is the guarantee that the real results reach us? Chances seem grim:-(

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Onam day: My Snake charmer friend Jetson

His friends call him Paampu Velayuthan (meaning a snake-charmer) but Jetson is not quite a snake charmer in the sense that we understand that word. People call him when they find a snake, he comes and catches it, and leaves it back in nearby forests. He says he got to snakes as he wanted to do "something different", and snakes because they were around us but everyone was scared of them. "I wanted to change the people's attitude towards snakes, and give a message that they are just like any other living being". He seems to have succeeded in it to an extent, and there are people now who make a call to him before trying to kill the snake with whatever means they could find (I have seen people killing a snake hitting it with a branch and then pouring kerosene and burning it, it was a dreary scene. Ugly memories remain more clear, says Japanese author Yasunari Kawabata in Thousand Cranes).

Last month when I went to Kerala on a long weekend (Tuesday was Independence day, Wednesday was Janmashtami, so if you take off on Monday it was a five-day long weekend, isn't it tempting?) my Maharashtrian friend came with me. He wanted to do something exciting. I checked with my friends in Kerala, who told me that most trekking places in Kerala are difficult doing in monsoons. I didn't want to disappoint my friend, I called Jetson's house. His mother asked a number of questions about my whereabouts and why I called him, apparently to make sure it is not one of those "snake calls".

Jetson is now taking the snakes more seriously and is planning to do a research on Indian snakes. (Naturally, his folks are a bit worried). The 23-year old can be reached at jetson_for_animals at yahoo dot co dot in.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Happy Onam!

Wish you all a happy Onam! (Tuesday 5th September is the main Onam day this time, the thiruvonam day of Malayalam month Chingam).

I was looking for a good Onam pic on the net to share with my friends, something other than the cliched Onam images of thiruvathira (a dance form where girls dress up and swing to please the voyeuring male gazes), pookkalam (a rangoli of flowers), vallam kali (boat race) or Kathakali (supposedly signifying Kerala, though majority of Keralites did not even know what it was like), and I landed on on sarah and rock sea's page.

One month in the life of a Diary

It's about a month since we moved here, and I'd like to share the blogger experience with the readers. First I found the white background too bright, so dimmed it a bit so that it went easy on my eyes (as well as yours). While blogger offered better looks, flexibility and RSS feeds that were compatible with most blogrolls, I realized that it was difficult reading this blog without organizing the posts into categories. More so because the posts didn't stick to a particular topic. I found some means to fix it (thanks to this page) and I believe taking that much trouble was worth it and it is more readable now. But by then blogger has come up with a beta version that has the provision of tagging posts. The diary is still in the "old" blogger, though I think we'll eventually switch to beta.