31 March 2008

Jacaranda Time

Jacaranda mimosifolia

Enjoy Nature's changing colouful display all round the year.
Take Care!

28 March 2008

Whats in a Word?

Finally accepting the inevitable, I visited the doctor for the mandatory post 40 check ups. Despite being ‘only screening’ I had to visit the radiologist, pathologist, gynaecologist… Years of exercising and healthy eating paid off in the green chit I received from all these learned people.

At every halt in my doctor round, I was referred to as ‘patient’. My objections to the receptionists fell on deaf ears. I was awaiting an audience with the doctor to pronounce a verdict on the state of my bones, blood, heart, nerves etc so did not argue too much at this stage.

Having been cleared by the medicos, I have been ruminating on this peculiar term. The word conjures agony both physical and mental due to embarrassing strip downs and white rooms smelling of antiseptics with green curtains.

Does ‘patient’ refer to the sick waiting uncomplainingly at the waiting rooms before they are examined? Most doctors I have visited or heard of inflict this wait on those they have to examine, appointments not withstanding. Peculiarly, the sick too grade the doc higher, the more time they have to spend on the hard lumpy sofas with outdated magazines for entertainment. So could having to wait patiently at the consulting room have given rise to word ‘patient’?

Any one who has spent time in a pediatrician’s waiting room will agree whole heartedly with me that the word patient must have its origins related to the harassed parents therein. Every kid is accompanied by a minimum of one person and miscellaneous belongings containing clothes, disposal bags, toys, food and water sufficient to cater to any unforeseen situation. Mom and dad, a doting grandma and ayah accompany some of the lucky children. Sound levels remain constantly high as every person coming out from the sanctum sanctorum tests his vocal cords in case the doc forgot to! Patience is just what the doctor ordered for the parents here, awaiting the magical potions to end the child’s and their trauma!

A person is permanently branded ‘patient’ after a visit to doctor’s clinic long after his illness is cured. This is really difficult to understand. If a person is healthy then how is he still a patient, is a question for which I have not yet got a satisfactory answer. Even years after the encounter, the doctor and his staff always refer to you ‘patient’.

Why blame the docs, people too proudly claim to be patients of a particular specialist long after his need is over. Inexplicable, really, considering one is impatient to get well and forget ones ill health as soon as possible. Neither are we going to be patient about any delays by the insurance company settling our claims. NoSir!

There is an increasing trend for doctors’ waiting rooms in India to be flooded with overseas visitors who are here to make the most of our medical expertise, which is much cheaper than in western countries. The official term is ‘medical tourism’ and some establishments offer luxury tourist packages for the visitors to enjoy- after the healing touch is administered of course!

I did some searching and found that the noun ‘patient’ means person under medical treatment. The adjective ‘patient’ means calmly enduring or awaiting. Both go back to the Latin word meaning ‘pati’ or ‘to suffer’. Some sources say the word ‘patient’ first came to be used in English in the 14th century.

We are members of a gym, buyers at retail stores, clients at the beauty parlor, users of mobile phones, HNI for the financial advisor and so on at every establishment where there is a cost incurred for services rendered. Medical advice except in government institutions comes at a price Will it be unethical to be called health consumers instead?
Can we be addressed by our names instead? Mr/ Ms/ Miss/ Mrs/ Dr- the choice is wide and in no way detracts from the prowess of the doctor or the illness. This becomes especially relevant considering doctors themselves advocate preventive screening in healthy individuals.

Lets pause for a minute and think of all the taxes we pay knowingly and unknowingly for goods and services we use – excise, sales tax, state tax, octroi etc. Being branded a ‘patient’ can be considered a small due in return of getting back our health. It’s just a word after all.

Yet I would prefer to be addressed by my name…

24 March 2008

Its Spring

Don't click away seeing a new pink and blue colour combination. With makeovers being 'hot' decided to try one out here too!
Spring is in the air. For us in Pune, heat has already set in but my plants are enjoying the weather with a surge of new shoots. Jacaranda is in its full purple glory. In Assam, I remember the 'Seemal' to be in full bloom now. Huge red flowers of the size of a man's palm, crimson red and full of nectar. The monkeys in Tezpur drank from them as if partaking from a cup!
And a month later, the pods burst and the ground was covered with wispy cotton clouds- almost looks like a blanket of snow from afar. This has to be seen to be believed.
The 'Flame of the Forest' too blooms around this time. None of these have a overpowering perfume like 'Millingtonia hortensis' and one has to look up to appreciate the red or purple canopy.
Poinsettias have begun to fade now. Time soon to repot them.

And yes, have learnt this trick to let you read my earlier relevant posts. So follow the beckoning hand for more information!

21 March 2008

Pet Peeves

I was under the firm belief that a dog is a man’s best friend. There are umpteen stories of a canine’s bravery and devotion to his two legged master. Yet I am quite convinced that things are gradually changing. Yes I do mean that Man could soon be rated as a dog’s best friend! My belief gets strengthened daily as I watch the world with my presbiopic eyes! Let me illustrate...
Pouring rain or freezing cold one finds the master out on the roads to enable this family member relieve himself. Despite the recent extended unseasonal cold, hard core late risers in Pune sacrifice their cosy razai to troop out to the canine demands. I must add that the pet too is well protected against the chill with woollen garments of various types- just one more design for Grandma to knit when she makes sweaters for her grandchildren! It’s OK to dirty the roads but not the house; that’s their policy! I have counted at least 5 dogs who treat the compound in my building as their personal toilet while their masters and mistresses indulgently look on! Is there no way to properly potty train dogs? I am told that in the US, the dog owners have to clean up the streets as they walk their dogs along.

Being health conscious I try to make it a point to walk my daily 6kms but often end up logging just a couple of kms. Before there are any doubts about my sincerity or hints towards laziness let me clarify that all shortcuts are necessitated by friends. You may well ask, what’s wrong with meeting friends? Let me explain- it’s not the friend that I am averse to but his four-legged family member. Even before our greetings are complete, the hound has already got his two forefeet on my chest and is trying to slobber me with saliva. The experience of a close up examination of the dental architecture of a panting hound is most frightening, not recommended for the fainthearted. All the while my friend indulgently says, “Polly won’t do anything!” Anything? I would be the one having to take 21 injections in my stomach if any of those pearly whites as much as scratched me! Then there is a bull dog who insists on following me as I try to get to my target heart rate. I should not be bothering really, the sight of the dog is sufficient to get my heart racing as it is! So you can well understand how my resolve to stay fit is desperately challenged each day. Why can morning walkers not bring along their pets on a leash? Of course in some cases, the sight of the duo is hilarious as one wonders who is taking whom for a walk as the dog surges ahead, pulling his hapless master behind him!

Visiting such friends can also be a testing time. Pomeranians tend to want to contribute to the conversation in a manner that leaves one temporarily deafened with their high pitched barking. Honey is one pooch who is most protective of her mistress’s property. She doesn't bother with troubling her vocal cords though preferring to keep a malevolent eye instead, pouncing forth if I as much as move a finger to pick up a magazine as my friend goes off to get me a cup of tea and biscuits for Honey. Believe me I am too scared even to reach into my purse to make a rescue call on my mobile. All joy of meeting my friend is totally overshadowed by having to sit erect and immobile for the entire period. To add insult to my injury, my friend waxes eloquent on some of Honey’s frivolous antics as I am forced to make appreciative noises as I watch the DVD of Honey’s birthday party!

Then we have these well wishers who feed every stray dog they can attract. End result being that the dogs soon assume food to be their right, the area becomes a flourishing maternity ward and the newest entrants end up snapping at the two-legged legal owners! I am all for feeding a hungry animal even offering some shelter but not if it ends up being a public nuisance.
Dogs are of tremendous aid to differently-abled persons and children. Dobermans and Labradors do an excellent job to supplement our Police Force, be it to track down explosives or thieves. I can understand the companionship a dog can afford a child or as a beloved family member. However, it should not end up traumatising people around them and being a nuisance to society in general. Postmen, newspaper boys will whole heartedly agree with me I am sure!

These are just some of my Pet Peeves. It is really immaterial who is who’s best friend. The Earth belongs to all of us and we need to coexist peacefully. Excuse me folks I have an important task to try to reform my neighbour and or his dog.... Hey, doggie that’s my freshly washed car you are heading for...

17 March 2008

It has to be Now

Last week, a bus ran over a school boy in the wee hours of the morning, snuffing out a young life barely a few summers old. He was cycling to school for football practise.
As usual this has led to a debate of building cycle tracks in the city.
Here are a few observations: A cycle does not need to be registered with the RTO nor does the cyclist need a license. In fact, I am not sure there is a minimum age for a person to be cycling on the road.
The city does 'boast' a few tracks but what is their state? The one on Canal road is built through several trees. While we laud the conservation attempts, it can be most inconvenient to cycle around them a la slalom skiers! And that's if one can save themselves from the overhanging branches.
Some are used by the irrepressible two wheeler drivers as they try to get ahead come what may, even going in the wrong direction. Thelavalas too set up shop here or simply park their vehicles for a siesta.
So where does that leave cyclists? In all other road lanes of course.

Everyone wants to travel safely on roads but wants someone else to do something about it.
Worse, many end up jeering the one person who waits for the red signal to turn green, practically honking him/her into deafness.

All of us who use roads, whether on wheels or walking have to respect and follow certain rules. Yes, pedestrians too use roads irresponsibly and need to relearn basics taught at school. We need to take pride in following rules. Traffic discipline has to come from within.

Hope some awakening occurs sooner rather than later.....

08 March 2008

Dont Forget Her!

Its 8th of March again. I don't know who started this business of Women's Day or when, but it surely is a big business proposition today. Card shops go berserk with special cards, beauty parlours and obesity clinics offer special packages, apparel, car sales, the list is endless and more innovative each year.
We all forget the one important lady who takes care of our home chores so that we can go out to work, enjoy these 'special' days and be there with a cup of tea or glass of water when we return. That's our domestic help of course. She may not even get a chance to read this blog or any other such forum, yet we must not forget that she too deserves something special today.
My views on this subject have been published at 4IW. Click here to read on.

Don't forget her!
Happy Woman's Day All!

01 March 2008

Wanted: A Plant Hotel

Most of us have a collection of plants in our city flats. They thrive despite the pollution in the city and bring great joy and beauty to our lives. No true plant lover will complain of having to manage nutrients, pruning, correct light conditions or watering however busy the schedule.

The biggest problem arises when the entire family goes out on a vacation. Nuclear family units mean the house is empty and there may be no one who can be entrusted the job of caring for the plants. By and large this period lasts up to 15 days and can be very traumatic for the plants. Servants cannot always be relied upon to water correctly nor is it advisable to leave house keys with them. Very few have the luxury of friends and family chipping in to do the needful.

I would like to share some of my plant vacation ideas with all of you. I carry out what I call 'plant training' prior to my departure. Essentially it means acclimatizing the plant to going without water. Depending on the duration of my stay away I begin by watering the plant on alternate days progressively increasing to every third, fourth, fifth day etc. By the time I leave the plant is used to surviving without water for up to 10 days. Of course the season plays a very important part.

To reduce the trauma, I shift the pots indoors, which also cuts evaporation. In case of plants, which require lots of water, I immerse them in a tub half filled with water. To prevent the roots from rotting, I usually place the pot + tub in the balcony. In hotter months, the soil in the pot can be covered with gunnysack soaked in water or wet paper.

Avoid fertilizing the plants just prior to departure. Make sure you do spray some pesticides though. Avoid adding to your collection just prior to a planned vacation. Mud pots remain wet for a long time hence providing valuable moisture to the plants.

Make sure to water your babies the moment you return but do not immediately place in bright sunshine. Move gradually from semi shade to usual spot.

Don’t be worried if the plant loses leaves- most plants revive soon. Of course this method works best with established and healthy plants. It generally takes me about 10 days to get back to my routine but on my last holiday, my fern, asparagus, arelia, serisa, Erica palm etc had all got new shoots in the period, recovering faster than me!

Naturally some activists may protest about my training but it’s better than keeping the pots in the compound/yard - open for vandalizing (broken stems and pots) or even stealing (yes , healthy well grown pots too are stolen!). For stays of over 15 days this technique is not an ideal one.

I read of a pet hotel in Delhi meant for pets when the owners were out. With so many plant lovers, a reliable place to house plants for up to 15 days is a necessity in Pune. There are plant libraries and nurseries but I was unable to locate a plant hotel. Takers anyone?