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6

If I can direct what you think, I can control your conclusion.

It is like blinkers on a horse. A horse able to see only in one direction is less likely to stray.

Whether I say "Think of a pineapple" or I say "Don't think of a pineapple" I can guarantee that the image in your mind is that of a pineapple. The dissent is an illusion.

If what you are shown is limited, the choice you make based on it is hardly free.
If what you are shown is limited, the choice you make based on it is hardly free.

Today, we have become so comfortable with blinkers, that we are uncomfortable with unlimited possibility. We need one aspect to evaluate and we need to arrive at a clear conclusion. Multiple perspectives bother us, particularly if they don't lead to same conclusions. Conclusions that need a trade off bother us - we have been conditioned to feel humiliated by less than perfection.

Some examples:

Government distributed bubblewrap instead of blankets to save money and prevent sale for money leading to people still shivering in the cold. People saw it as an insult to the poor to be given a cheap alternative. Questions about where the tax money goes, insults to the government about wrapping them in bubblewrap, etc. Predictable.

But there are actually a gazillion things to consider before deeming this appropriate or inappropriate. Does it work? Will it last the winter or how often will it need replacing - too frequent replacing will mean no savings or possibly greater expense? What about the environment (plastic)? What about windy conditions? What about younger people who may suffocate? And so on. An overall conclusion needs much thought.

This is a relatively low impact conclusion. The recent debate on the FDI in Retail is one where the debate was clearly on one track - economic opportunity. Dissent was about lack of opportunity. But what about social implications, political implications? Impact on rich poor divide, unemployment, lack of accountability in privatization, abdication of reform, quality control, examples of the impact of big retails in other places....?

The nuclear reactor protests, dam protests, whatever. Most debates follow one established track, form opposing camps, get flatlined by stalemate.

Creative solutions are the need of the hour. And creative solutions don't happen from banging head on wall. There is an art in knowing when to flow around obstacles, when to compromise, and when to pick a battle to fight. That art lives in an agile mind, free to think in diverse ways, interested in thinking "unapproved" thoughts with unknown results. Such a mind is quick to abandon something with high resistance and approach from a direction of common interest, low resistance and constructive solutions.

Part of the corruption in the country is a corruption of thoughts. Stupid people suit exploitative leaders. If I can bring up something I want done in a way that guarantees you measure it based on aspects I am prepared to defend, all the dissent in the world is actually my plan for getting my idea passed. At the very least I can make the dissent look uncivilized and against public interest and override it.

It is instinct that makes us oppose something. We register aspects in diverse ways, but if our thinking is limited, we are not able to express them in the blinkered view. Our arguments look stupid, and we are set up to fail. Yet, we cannot abandon them, because we experience their importance, even if we can't convey it.

Result? Stalemate. Lack of progress, sabotage of change, attacks on people threatening the status quo.

We have crises on every aspect a country can be in trouble in - economy, health, energy, human rights, security, agriculture, unemployment, education, media, censorship, terrorism, intelligence.... and more.

Our country is entering a dark, dark phase. And it is not just the economy, it is democracy itself. With diversity dead, democracy is rendered meaningless. Unless we are able to work functionally with diversity, we are going to stagnate to our death. It is a make or break time, and this is the great struggle facing all citizens of the country - how to break free of the limited perspectives and deprivation oriented defensive stands and really engage with all stakeholders to create solutions rather than victories at the cost of others.

For that, we need to take off the blinkers. I think this is urgent and important.

2

Republishing this post today to add this quote of horror:

Usha Devi, a slum dweller, went into labour at night on the 12th Jan 2012 . She was taken by her husband to Chittaranjan Hospital, which refused to admit her, and sent her to Shambhunath Pandit Hospital. On the way there, she delivered a baby outside Chittaranjan Hospital. Uma Devi, the newborn and her husband went to Shambhunath Pandit Hospital, who refused to admit her and asked them to go back to Chittaranjan hospital. She delivered her second baby outside Shambhunath Hospital and died. The twins, losing their mother within a day of their birth are themselves in serious condition. The macabre treadmill goes on.

A little over two months ago, 30 infant deaths in West Bengal Government hospitals was big news. Around the same time, another story went viral. That of a pregnant woman who was in labor being denied admission in a hospital. She delivered on the street outside the hospital. Everybody and his cousin were angry with West Bengal authorities for shoddy healthcare and callous disregard.

One would imagine that this was an outrageous incident, and I think many imagined that, but it is really an outrageous pattern. I mean, pregnant women dismissed have delivered outside hospitals, in cars, outside emergency wards, outside elevators... because the  refused to hospitals refused to help them. Even twins! I mean, a woman ready to deliver twins is like really obviously badly pregnant. Can't be missed. Pregnancy and delivery is still a natural phenomenon, and one way or the other, deliveries happen, unless there are complications. And it isn't like being admitted is any kind of guarantee that anyone cares. Read the story of Nisarga's birth.

Victims of torture refused admission have spent the night on the street. Howzzat!

Another documentary had gone viral about conditions of government hospitals in Delhi. Frankly, all this information is the best advertisement for home birthing if no health concerns are present.

Today, a fire broke out in the basement at AMRI in Calcutta. This is a high end, centrally air-conditioned hospital, and that central air-conditioning took the smoke from a basement fire and circulated it all through the building. People died desperate deaths as staff escaped and left them to die. Unbelievable accounts of security guards refusing entry to locals come to help, reluctance to call fire brigade and windows that couldn't be opened have tempers blazing in empathetic fury.

Other information emerging about basement used like a godown, warnings from Fire Brigade ignored, lack of emergency plans even inability to provide very basic information to fire fighters likel locations of emergency stairs is adding to public fury. The Uphaar tragedy was relived in a hospital.

Many praised Mamata Banerjee for swift action against the culprits. I don't see it as anything extraordinary. For that matter, there was no need to play extra curricular superman. Police ought to have arrested them anyway. What does it mean that it takes Mamata for them to be arrested after such an incident? Will our police not arrest rich people if they commit crimes unless someone tells them?

And there are hordes of other scams (will add links later - bad network) related with government funding but no free treatment for poor, vaccines, referrals, transplants.... you name it.

It isn't about government hospitals being substandard. It is a lack of standards all through.

It all comes down to one root cause - lack of standards being enforced. Without appropriate oversight, people are free to twist the system to taste, and this is turning our healthcare into a health scare.

Employees in government hospitals grudge patients care. Maternity hospitals promote more expensive cesareans, induce women before time to fill "empty beds". More expensive hospitals create increasingly service industry type "products" and focus more on delivering an experience. Researchers conduct shady trials that they couldn't in other places. Others promote additional vaccines, while government vaccine productions capabilities are decreased, leading to extremely lucrative deals.

This whole scenario reminds me of something P L Deshpande said about Pune's shopkeepers (satire) "In the entire shop, if there is anything to be ignored, it is the customer."

26

Khatnil herbal bed bug killer is a product that claims to be herbal. While there are precious few alternatives to target bed bugs in India, the ingredients of this one are unclear.

Khatnil K-20 for bed bugs is an insecticide product which claims to be herbal. However, the ingredients of Khatnil are not clear. With a base that smells of paraffin or kerosene, it is unclear how the product can be called herbal.

Update: The bedbugs did decrease after using Khatnil, but I was doing so many things from vacuuming to hot water washing of all cloth items that it is difficult to say what was killing them. It most certainly could not be applied and left to work. Not even regular applications got rid of the bed bugs completely, and we ended up trashing the mattress and the one that came after it as well. I did win the war against the critters, but it was not easy, and while Khatnil probably helped, it most certainly wasn't the solution.

bottles of pesticide khatnil


Bed bugs! When we returned after a trip with suspect accommodation, we were worried that we may have brought back more lives than we went in with - as in a whole colony of bed bugs. Actually, I suspected much later when I couldn't sleep and caught the critters red handed or rather red smeared on the sheets. I then put two and two together and remembered the ghastly sleepless nights in the cheap hotel .... and sure enough, the suitcase we had taken there had some in it too.

[slideshow]

Worried about the safety of my infant son Nisarga, I wanted to find an organic solution for bed bugs that was most appropriate and least toxic.

The local shop set me up with a bottle of Khatnil K-20 and I happily looked forward to a bedbug free home. Alas, things did not unfold so. True to form, before using anything I don't know much about, I decided to look up the active ingredients in the bottle to get an idea of their safety.

Imagine my surprise when all my hunting didn't find any place on or in the pack where it mentioned what was in the bottle beyond "Powerful liquid to curb bed bugs" and "herbal". Yeah, that's how everyone describes their herbal bedbug killer product - but not its content. I searched online. I couldn't find the ingredients anywhere.

So how does one check that the active ingredients in the herbal insecticide for bed bugs are actually safe? What if someone has an allergy to something in it? What in the world does a doctor combat in case of accidental poisoning?

So I went to the shop and argued my tongue off. No help. They wouldn't take an opened bottle back and offered me another 'herbal' solution, which they say is pretty much exactly the same as Khatnil, but mentions the ingredients - petroleum derivatives, coaltar... were some of the words that I had to investigate - herbal? The only herbal ingredient in there seemed to be eucalyptus oil.

This seemed worrisome. Taking a risk, I used it sparingly in areas I was dead certain no one would touch and still worried about fumes. It smells like turpentine. Last I know turpentine isn't a herbal product. For the rest, I just shook eucalyptus oil and water together and sprayed. It seems to be working, but then I physically slaughtered most of the critters and it wasn't a bad infestation.

We have no trouble these days, though I'm going to keep a sharp eye on things for quite some time.

Is there anyone at all who cares about such things?

4

India is plagued with unending superstitions around almost every facet of life, but when a person is pregnant, logic flies out of the window. Here is a taste of the bizarre superstitious rules most women endure.

black and white pregnant woman nude silhouette

I guess every place in the world has its share of superstitions, and pregnancy in India seems to be prime time. For entertainment purposes, here are some of them and some humorous and not so funny things I found out:

  • Don't eat papayas: This seems to be the most popular one, including with some doctors. Apparently, papayas cause contractions. This is based on the fact that raw papayas contain a latex (or something) that can cause contractions. However, there is nothing to say that these contractions are strong enough to cause an abortion in a woman unready to deliver. No special baby killing properties to them and particularly ripe ones, as a friend of mine found out, when she ate loads of the stuff when she got pregnant unexpectedly. She didn't want a baby that early into her marriage, and she didn't want the responsibility to abort. She is currently a happy mother of a healthy baby born at full term.
  • Don't eat mangoes, pinapples, etc: If they don't normally upset your digestion, go right ahead and have a blast.
  • Don't cut a whole watermelon: Apparently, it looks too much like a ripe belly to some women and they think its a bad omen.
  • Don't go out during an eclipse: That's an old one from when eclipses scared people enough to be thought evil.
  • Don't talk too much about feeling good or praise the baby, etc: Apparently it will jinx your stroke of good luck. More likely, you bore people to tears when you wax eloquent endlessly about your little miracle, and they need a way of shutting you up. Really, appreciating things puts you in a better mood, and encourages nicer things to happen. Don't see harm in that. In fact, I see a world of good.
  • Listen to this music or that and don't listen to this or that: Babies are well insulated in their comfortable cocoons, and really, loud music is probably the only stuff that reaches them. With all the racket of your heart and blood and uh... digestion around them, I doubt if the distant music is going to alarm them unduly. If it makes you happy, go ahead.
  • Pay attention to the words of the song/read religious texts: Probably a way to get you to remember God once in a while. I doubt if a baby is capable of understanding elaborate philosophy, or wicked words. All it probably gets is the sound of your voice and tones at the most. So go ahead, read the telephone directory lovingly if you wish.
  • Don't sit on the floor with both legs on one side: No clue how this one came up. Probably alarmed by the threat of you toppling off the floor.
  • Don't cut your hair: While orthodox Indians are disapproving of married women cutting their hair at the best of times, I was surprised to hear this from a well-educated and "westernized" friend who was convinced that it shortens the life-span of the child in the womb! Not that I'm planning on cutting my hair at the moment, considering how lush and shiny its getting, but this is plain ridiculous.
  • Don't cross your legs when you sit: I got this gem yesterday - apparently, if you do it really fast, you could loop the umbilical cord around the baby's neck like a lasso.
  • Eating a strawberry can make your baby get ugly birthmarks
  • Don't knit: No clue why, but all those films with the deaming of baby and knitting shots are plain wrong - something bad happens. I forget what.
  • Don't make a baby wardrobe or other baby preparations before it is born: Apparently it jinxes the baby or something. This is rather silly, because honestly, who has the time to go shopping for immediate baby needs after its born? The second trimester seems to be when the energy and time support this mission, but..... don't do it 😀 Possibly a hangover from the time when miscarriage and mortality was much higher, and intended to avoid the pain of looking at the stuff if something happened to the baby it was meant for.
  • Look at pictures of beautiful babies to produce beautiful babies: People are trying to give me random pictures of beautiful babies - some with lovely golden hair. Now, there's going to be a serious problem with the peace in our family if I get a blond child considering how we are all Indians, no matter how beautiful it is.
  • Death and crippled people or otherwise abnormal people/children can infect the spirit of the child: This one is plain ridiculous. I can understand that illness carries infection, or death/injuries can cause stress. I fail to see how seeing a Down's child (for example) can cause Downs in a healthy foetus.

And so on....

I'm sure you know your own treasure of such pearls of wisdom. Care to share?