Wednesday, September 28, 2011


This is the only word that aptly describes Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi. The title nawab sat lightly on him. I remember him as a cricketer and gentleman who taught Indians to fight to win. He groomed the likes of G.R.Viswanath and helped them become great cricketers. He did not know how to play politics and could never do zee Huzoor to anyone. He had this in built flair and style and it showed in his cricketing and personal life. I don’t think he did any work at all after he left playing cricket and our board which is busy politicking did not find it necessary to make use of his services. Not that Pataudi minded.

His passing away brings to an end an era of gentlemen playing cricket.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Shot that pleased golf gods

Each year the US PGA golf tour culminates in Federal Cup, the richest prize money event in golf. This year it was for a purse of ten million dollars [How much it is in rupees? Fifty crores?]. It is not the money that provided the excitement but the way the final holes were played. When the 18 holes were played out there were two players who tied at minus 8. Hunter Mahan and Bill Haas. They had to play a sudden death playoff. The designated holes were 18th and the 17th. It did not matter if Hunter Mahan won, he would get the cup but not the money, but it mattered to Bill. If he won he would get the cup and money as the accumulated points would put him in the first place.

The Drama began with the first playoff hole; the 18th is a long and tough three par. Bill was first to tee off and his shot went right to the right side of the green behind a bunker and landed in light rough. Mahan was next. His shot too went right into a bunker. Both hit great shots and parred the hole. They walked [buggy ride really] to the next playoff hole 17th. This is a difficult par four with water on the left and bunkers on the right. Bill’s drive found the right side bunker and Mahan’s long and perfect drive found the fairway and he was just 100 yards from the green. Advantage Mahan. Bills shot from the sand hit the sloping green and rolled over the edge to sit in water, half of the ball visible. Bill only knew that his ball had gone to the water and maybe he would have to take a penalty drop and thus lose the match and everything else. Mahan’s shot ended some 20 ft from the pin. Both players walked to the green and Bill to where his ball lay.

He now had a shot some twenty feet to the pin. The ball is sitting half in and half out surrounded on all sides by water. Facing him, a steep up slope and then five feet of green and then the pin. He now had to play one of the most difficult shots in golf. Even to get it up on to the green would be considered a great shot. Bill went down with one foot in water and the other just out, hovered his club face and then hit the water. The replay showed a sheet of water propelling the ball up and out in a beautiful arc and landing two feet away from the pin and stop dead. He got his par and so did Mahan and then in the next play off Bill got his par and Mahan a bogy and thus Bill Hass watched by his illustrious father Jay Hass won the trophy and prize money.

I have seen many great golf shots but this one is probably the best I have ever watched.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Full Circle

‘No, it is not he, it is I who wants it’, she said. A statement of bare fact which took my breath away though this was uttered 35 odd years ago when the age of permissiveness had not as yet set in. I thought then [now I know better] that it was the boy who wanted it more than the girl. So I asked this 17 year old that does she know the consequences. She replied,’ yes I know. I have to have it. I think of that day and night and it is interfering with my sleep, my studies and I am snapping at everyone around me, and I don’t want to become pregnant’.

So this teenager has come for advice on contraception and not to listen to stupid moral advice. Like a good lawyer who accepts briefs with the belief that all are innocent till conviction, I too offered her the advice. She went beaming.
Miss K is from a fairly orthodox Iyyer Brahmin family and they were my patients for some years then. A few months later Mr S father of Miss K, came to see me. He was obviously was very worried. Though I could guess the reason for his coming to see me, I kept silent as to the meeting his daughter has had with me. Doc,’ I am very worried about my daughter, she is into bad ways’. I thought the next thing that he will tell is that she has become pregnant. Instead he said she is moving around with a Christian boy.

Patients come to us doctors not necessarily for medical advice. Often we act as counselors to the family. I knew then that Mr S has two worries. One is that his daughter may land in trouble and second is that the boy is a Christian, a major disaster for an orthodox Brahmin [vice versa is also true].’ Is he a bad person,’ I asked him. ‘No doc he is nice and well mannered and we all like him, but she is too young for this sort of thing’. ‘What sort of thing? I asked. He kept quiet. I wanted to reassure him that there is no possibility of her getting pregnant but did not want to let the cat out of bag, so kept quiet. He requested me to talk to his daughter about the danger and after getting an assurance from me, he went his way.

Couple of months ago a middle aged lady traditionally dressed, came to see me. She could make out that I did not recognize her. She said.’ I am K. daughter of Mr S, we used to see you many years ago, remember’. Of course I remembered. Obviously she had not married that Christian boy [I could make out by the typical Hindu style of her bearing]. Still I asked her. She said,’ that useless fellow, he had no guts, I did well to break that relationship’.

I did not ask any further questions about her past. After a momentary pause she said.’ I have a teen aged daughter, who is going around with a boy, and I want you to give them advice as you did for me, it was a great help’. Unlike her father, K had not a bit of worry on her face.

I became a witness to a full circle of similar events.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The problem is food

Man domesticated animals and plants [animal husbandry and agriculture] between five to ten thousand years ago. Till then he did not know where his next meal was and when. Most of the food needs were met by gathering wild fruits, edible leaves, flowers, tubers [edible roots] small life like ants, flies, moths and bigger life like fish, birds, rabbits, deer and occasionally bigger animals. At that time the food was eaten raw. Cooking was the earliest form of food processing and probably it came into being only about 20,000 years ago.

Till the advent of Industrial revolution man ate more or less unprocessed food. Gradually over the past three hundred years the food that we eat has undergone a gradual change from unprocessed mostly cereal based diet to mostly meat based diet. This is true to western nations and not so much in eastern nations. The idea that meat based diet is healthy and cereal based diet is not healthy has taken deep roots in our thinking.

If you look at historically how the chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension, ischemic heart disease, cancers and autoimmune illnesses have evolved, one can see a more than casual relationship to these changing food habits. In societies which eat more grain based, mostly vegetarian diet, the incidence of these illnesses is much less. Even in these societies one sees these more commonly in the affluent sections than in the less affluent. Take one example. Breast cancer. I have seen breast cancer rarely in a poor woman, whereas I have seen this in many in mid and high income group.

Why are we facing a sudden epidemic of diabetes in our country? Answer is in the changing food habits. There is a sudden increase in the consumption of processed, ready to eat food. People are also eating more that what is needed for them. 40 years ago, seeing a fat youngster was a rarity. Today every other boy or girl is fat. Too much food is poison.

Adding insult to injury there is hardly any exercise. We are obsessed with the scourge called automobile. Our life revolves around this ‘convenience’. That wonderful mode of transportation, bicycle, has almost disappeared from our roads. Even the poor no longer cycle to work. Even they are becoming victims to chronic disease and diabetes is not uncommon in the urban poor. In the earlier era when men walked or cycled to work, and women spent time washing, cleaning, preparing food without any mechanical aid, they kept good health.

There was no television then and people did not sit staring at TV [aptly called idiot box]. Those who watch TV should be called idiots.

Instead of changing our dietary habits and going back to grain based occasional or no meat diet with little or no processed food we seem to be hell bent on increasing our intake of ready to eat food. Food industry is a major player in keeping our bad habits growing. Ads for wafers, oils, butter, spreads, cheese and meat burgers, pies, biscuits and confectionaries, beverages, health drinks etc , bombard us day in and day out. Even us doctors don’t spend time in trying to change the dietary habits. We are more interested in treating the illness after it occurs than preventing it. Preventive medicine and epidemiology has hardly any takers.

Therefore my friends, if you want to remain healthy and enjoy life, change your eating habits. Eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, limit your intake of diary and meat products, take an hour’s exercise daily and avoid watching television.