Thursday, September 27, 2012

Few minutes with Venus

Those were pre penicillin days. Penicillin came into universal use only in the late forties and early fifties of last century and revolutionized the treatment of many infections. Venereal diseases [diseases that are transmitted by sexual contact] were amongst these. When I was a medical student in the early sixties we saw a few of these relics who were suffering from the effects of having contacted gonorrhea in the pre penicillin days. The common complication was stricture [narrowing of the urinary passage]. These sufferers would periodically come to the hospital to get the passage dilated. The instruments uses were called bogies [don't ask me why this name] . These were graduated curved steel tubes which were slid down the urethra one after the the other and the narrowed portion was forcibly opened. Then the whole passage and the bladder would be irrigated with liquid mercuric chloride solution [an antiseptic].The victim would howl with pain during the procedure.

Once when I was doing this procedure, hearing the cries of the patient my senior said 'few minutes with Venus [sex worker] and life long with Mercury'

Monday, September 24, 2012


As most agree, it is a state of mind influenced by external inputs.Few days ago I was very happy when Khalin  became the number one amateur golfer of the country. That he also broke the course record by playing the round in 62 strokes only added to the pleasure.His father Hitesh Joshi [a scratch golfer] is a personal friend, topped my cup of joy. Khalin Joshi who is all 18 years will turn pro by the year end, and I hope he will keep making us happy.

Some days I feel happy even when there is no such input. This kind of stupid happiness and elation is akin to feeling sad for no reason. A state of mind devoid of all thoughts is supposed to give one great mental peace and many are the methods of meditation that are taught to achieve this. I have failed to achieve a thoughtless brain or mind.

As you age and see the world around you becoming increasingly unfamiliar, you begin to think that it is the ageing process. This is not really true. It happens because you are no longer in the thick of things and your utility to the community is much less or not at all.This creates a sense of dejection and older persons thus become mentally and physically aloof. The only way one can avoid this state of mind is to keep it occupied.

Occupying the mind is not easy with out exercising the senses. If one is idle then he will be forced to live in the past and his company will be so tiresome that people will avoid him adding to the misery. Using the eyes to appreciate the beauty around you, ears to listen to fine sounds of music, nose to smell the scent of flowers or aroma of a cup of coffee or the whiff out of a bottle of mature single malt whiskey, get the warmth of the morning sun and the cooling breeze of the evening wind on to your bare skin, stretch your muscles and bones. These activities will keep your brain cells so occupied that the mind [ a collection of past and present thoughts] has very little time for mischief and this is the best way to avoid depression of  old age.

Talking of old age, many elderly are over medicated. Older persons need lesser and fewer medications. But I see the reverse. Any number more than four is not easy to follow. I mean if one were to take four medications at different times, one can be sure that an elderly man or woman will not follow the regimen.
Most vitamins, minerals, tonics, nose drops eye drops, ear drops are useless and waste of good money. Medication for high BP should be such that pressure doesn't fall too much.Low BP is as much of a problem as the high BP.

It is time I stop these ramblings of my mind which started with some thing and ended up with some thing else.

Old age?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Bismillah and his Shehanai

Since I gave up my evening clinic work I find some idle time at my disposal. I use it to play golf, badminton, afternoon naps, reading and more importantly, listening to music. Readers of my blog are familiar with my love towards Hindustani classical music.Though my first love is vocal music, I often listen to this music played on Shehanai. Shehanai is a reed instrument and the note produced is smooth and easy flowing. I have found a lot of mental peace listening Shehanai.

Common knowledge is that the instrument came to India along with the invading Muslim armies around the 10th century. I also was under the same impression till I read a well researched article written by Dr Dileep Karanth, [who incidentally is my wife's nephew][Indian Oboe reexamined, published in the journal of Asian studies] Dileep is by profession a physicist and has other interests as one can make out if one reads this article.

Shehanai in one form or the other existed in old India since prehistory and spread from there to other parts of the world and the music played of course came under a lot of foreign influence notably Sufi Islam.

The greatest exponent of Shehanai was Late Bismillah Khan, Bismillah died recently at  the ripe old age of 90. Honours came to him aplenty including the Bharath Ratna. Despite all this he remained a simple person managing his large family and dependents. His home was the temple town of Banares and in one of the interviews he said he found the presence of God while playing the shahnai on the banks of river Ganga which flows by Banares. He also often performed inside the Kashi Viswananth temple. He in fifty years transformed shehanai from an instrument performed during festivals and marriages to that of an principal instrument of classical Hindustani music performed on stage like any other.

Though he is no longer with us I have vivid memories of him playing the shehanai. It was a visual and auditory treat. I remember his face with the trimmed white beard and the laugh lines around his twinkling eyes. With black coat and a write cap he had  stage presence rarely seen these days. What I liked about his music is that he rarely gave in to musical calisthenics to impress the audience. His was smooth and easy on the ears and played as much for us as for himself.

Traditional music as we have seen is slowly disappearing. Shorter versions with more titillation seem to be the order of the day. But old music like old wine is still available thanks to quality electronic storage devices.