Thursday, July 07, 2016

Unity in Diversity

A clich├ęd title but the reason for blogging is the fact that this is something we smugly believe and take pride in. Scratch beneath the surface and remove the veil, even slightly and the truth is often different, mostly unpleasant and even at times ugly.

A man is a social animal with a behavior pattern which is usually consistent with genetic and experiential factors. Therefore, often there is kind of typecasting associated with a person who is identified by gender, class, caste, religion, nation and profession. All of these seem to create impressions on an individual affecting his behavior. Therefore, this also, in turn, leads the persons who come in contact with each other to slot the person in front of them into any neat slot that seems fit.

Vedantic teaching and all scriptural teaching agree that the real nature of man is Sat Chit Ananda which in Sanskrit means Existence or isness (Sat), Consciousness or Perception (Chit) and Bliss (Ananda) all of which are eternal and everlasting. However, man is born with a baggage of his impressions in the form of mental and psychological imprints which get carried forward in the various manifested forms of existence. These are called samskaras. Then we are subjected to a barrage of experiences which are bombarded towards us from womb to tomb. These are faced by each one of us based on the social norms, customs and behaviors and add to the impressions we already have. So our natural state is hidden by our conditioned state over which it seems from the above reasoning we have not much control. 

Men are from Mars and Women from Venus, suggests differences based on gender, Caste, class and nationality create their own subsets of identity leading to the rich looking down on the poor, the higher castes oppressing the lower caste, nations conquering and subjugating other nations as in white collar jobs looking down on menial tasks. So all of this begs a question about Unity in Diversity, whether it is even possible or worth striving for? Many of us, in fact, the vast majority living in the present materialistic world would accept this fact and carry on without reflecting on this issue. Some of us would live in denial and like the blind stork who buries it head at the sign of danger would say we are all one, literally parroting the slogan of unity in diversity. 

However, despite our perceived differences, the basic nature of our true Self is one of Sat Chit Ananda or existence, consciousness, bliss and our journey in life and that of every life is to unveil this basic nature of ours. So a few of us can question these differences and search for the seemingly unattainable Self. The enormity and difficulty of this task can be elucidated by the tale of Astavakara a sage with a deformed body in eight places thanks to a curse inflicted by his father while the child was in his mother's womb. This was the punishment for contradicting and correcting his father's utterances from the scriptures. The story goes that the legendary King Janaka, a realized soul and the father of Sita, mistakenly looked at Ashtavakara and showed disdain due his ugly form. However, this was momentary and when he realized his error Janaka became a student of Ashtavakara and their dialogue is called the Ashtavakara Gita, an exposition on Unity or Advatism. 

In our journey of life,we go through all these stages and bit by bit we come to the realization that amidst all our perceived differences and divisions we are one. This is true Unity in Diversity. While it may seem impossible to make this leap of faith and transcend the barriers and differences which exist and are being reinforced every moment, we can start somewhere. This can be done in all our actions done selflessly in the service of others. We are all one and the concept of nature or prakriti pervaded by purusha or the universal consciousness propounded in the Vedas can be the true basis of Unity.

Therefore, I feel that we must start with ourselves and try and ensure that every action of ours is ethical which means based on the truth, ecological which means enriching the universe and empowering which means enabling us to reach for the real Unity in Diversity.

My association with the differently abled, mentally challenged persons as a father and responsible individual has given me this realization of oneness,which I strive to achieve. I am a humble seeker of this truth and amidst my many frailties and failings, I continue to work to achieve this ideal of Unity in Diversity.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Religion: Birth, Death and the Intervening Period

Amidst the causes underlying the raging conflicts of the earth since time immemorial, religion ranks as probably a single most triggering factor. So then why do religions thrive, prosper and, in turn, consume the very same persons, they sat out to save in the first place.

Every human birth into a family is a natural phenomenon governed by the laws of nature based on factors of which we have limited understanding and knowledge. However, the commonality of birth and evolution is the life principle imbued in the cell which replicates and specializes and creates forms of life from the unicellular amoeba to the evolved man, whom we arrogantly refer to as the highest form of life. The man has through his discoveries tried to unravel the vastness of the universe and as yet the expanse of the universe is beyond the scope of his imagination, It is inconceivable that equal or more evolved forms of life are not existing. In the midst of these facts, I feel that man's continuous  attempts to conquer nature leads to either frustration on failure and elation on success.

Religion is an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods. It stems from man's desire to explain and control nature and phenomenon which he is unable to explain scientifically. On the one hand, it seems that man is an insignificant speck in the expanse of the universe, yet he is effectively a miniature embodiment of the universe. This power makes man capable of reaching infinite highs and plummeting down to infinite lows. Over the years, at different times, a few men have risen above the mundane existence and propounded thoughts and beliefs to benefit and uplift his brethren from the morass of pain suffering and misery. They tried to show them a pathway to permanent joy. All of this was relevant to the time and era it was propounded and while some of it were in the form of universal truths, the rest was subject to change which was not in conflict with the fundamental truths which seem to be the same in all religions. The common man's ability to grasp these truths was limited and therefore, the pronouncements were subject to interpretations and needed to be explained. These led to rituals, ceremonies, rules and customs to regulate society and behavior. While this was done a majority of religions sought to impose these on the masses without allowing a choice or freedom to reason out these choices. This led to conflicts and some religions tried to actively seek followers by reasoning, coercion, and bribery. So the purpose of religion, which was to enlighten the people and give them a way out of their misery was completely negated by this fanatical zeal.

Therefore to my mind, even as man has no choice in choosing his parents and religion at birth, he should be given complete freedom and a choice to follow a path which appeals to his reason without crossing swords or opposing anybody who does not agree with his beliefs. The purpose of a life for any creature is to realize his true Self and his connection to the universe. While living to satisfy one's senses will lead to happiness, one soon realizes that this happiness is temporary and is followed by sadness. A man reaches for help when he realizes that his suffering cannot be explained or understood. Based on his evolution understanding and thoughts he will find an answer, either in the religion in which he was born or in another religion. A free choice is the essence of man's existence and there seems to be no logic in preventing a man from exercising this choice.

I belong to the Parsi Zoroastrian religion, which never actively converts others nor does it permit conversion to another religion. However, this insularity has led to declining numbers and an old forward-looking religion has reached the verge of extinction. Should the Parsis change and seek converts or should they allow those who have sought to marry outside the community and their children to  retain their religion?

Parsis historically migrated to India to escape religious persecution from Islamic forces and their welcome in India was subject to terms and conditions, one of which was not to seek conversions. However, much water has flowed under the bridge and the contribution of the Parsis to their adopted homeland has been such that they are loved and respected by a majority of Indians. Their philanthropic skills and ability to create and build institutions of excellence have made them a confident secure community. It, therefore, is but logical for them to allow peaceful and voluntary conversions and permit those who have married persons of different communities to retain their faith. Matters of free choice and human advancement cannot become the monopoly of a chosen few. I do not claim to be a religious scholar nor a revolutionary out to upset checks and balances of society, but I claim to be a humble seeker of the truth as I see it. In my life, I have made choices and have sought and taken help from many religious scriptures which have appealed to my reasoning and conscience. In the broad sense of the word I convert myself often and choose what seems to be the best, in order to enable me to fulfill the purpose of my life to realize my true Self.

Today, I have written this in a spirit of sharing and caring and this piece is my humble attempt to resolve conflict and usher in peace, which is the true purpose of any religion.

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Dr. Vijaya Venkat

The fact that she is no more is yet to sink in. For every question of yours I have twenty answers. From cold to cancer the body is capable of reversing and healing disease. Celebrate health not disease. Connect with Mother Earth. Add Life to Life. This was what she lived for and will live as long as there is life on Mother Earth.

My association with Dr. Vijaya Venkat started many years ago, in fact so ingrained are her principles that I don't remember when I really started. Initially l had met  Mr. Bhasker Save an organic farmer who opened my eyes to natural farming and living with nature. He was the first person to make me aware of the ill effects of the five whites refined salt, white sugar, white milk, white rice, white flour and refined oil. I read about Dr. Venkat in the papers and decided that I would need her help to avoid and if possible eliminate the five whites from my diet. I joined her course and saw her for the first time at the Dadar centre. She came across as an energetic passionate woman, totally in command of her subject and domain knowledge. With her able assistants Anju and Vaishali along with Gita she was unperturbed by every query l had. I played the devils advocate and tried my best to find flaws in her reasoning but she was able to defeat all my arguments using scientific knowledge and native wisdom at most times and rarely if these failed her, she used faith and spirituality to counter reason. Healthy food could br very tasty was demonstrated by the THAC in a manner unsurpassed by anybody I have known. She was copied and imitated by many but respected as the first person to adopt healthy food to modern lifestyles. A sure sign that she was agenius meant that she had her critics who lampooned her and labelled her as a crazy woman. The link between food  and sustainable existence was emphasised and l realised it only after I met her.

Dr. Venkat and her daughters, mainly Anju along with her staff gave me and my wife Daisy the strength and encouragement to walk the path of healthy lifestyle. The transformation in my life and diet has largely been sustained and barring some lapses l have been able to walk the path. In fact l feel that Vijaya Venkat lives through her followers and the ideals of natural living. Anju, Preeti and Dimpi along with the kitchen ladies and all the other staff past and present will surely continue her legacy. May the Lord give them strength to carry on Dr. Venkat's work. May her soul rest in peace.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

India Unravelling???

Even at the cost being baited and targetted, I am compelled to say I told you so. The series of actions and the brazen attempts to make India a theocratic state are so numerous, that it will take me a few days to list them. Rationalists killed, sedition laws brought out to counter criticism of the government, modification of textbooks to create false history or correct the errors of colonial historians. In 2014 when the election results were announced and a so-called saffron wave surged and swept a BJP led dispensation into power, I was considered a recluse and pariah in my own family and friend circle. I have chosen to keep quiet for some time and allow things to pass. However, I consider not speaking up today to be a crime. Those who read my blogs, must know that I have repeatedly warned you about Modi's authoritarianism and his mask of development. The mask is now falling and revealing the khaki shorts, which are hidden under the sartorial designer clothes which are part of the packaged brand Modi.

I again want to emphasize that the Congress is certainly responsible for this by their refusal to act and oppose Modi ideologically. Today at least a few politically aware and persons with a social conscience have risen and acted, by registering their protest by expressing their views in print and taking the unprecedented route of protest, by returning national awards. In the run up to the Bihar elections, a ploy to polarize the votes around communal issues was attempted. What succeeded in UP during the 2014 elections and was hailed as a master strategy to win more seats in UP to enable a clear majority in its march to Delhi, failed miserably in Bihar.

While I have nothing against anybody, I consider Modi and RSS as two sides  of the same coin. The second massive defeat of BJP and its mentors in Bihar may be a matter of caste arithmetics, but I am certain that if this atmosphere of hatred continues, all the development in the world will get negated. The danger of authoritarian rule and persecution of the minorities coupled with corruption in the form of crony capitalism is a disaster in the making. Disregard for environment, agriculture, healthcare and NGO's, intolerance for contrary views or dissent within the country and the party are there for all to see. Abuse of critics on social media by hired trolls are some of the many things which disgust me.
The undignified tamashas all over the world make me hang my head in shame. Our ex-PM Dr. Manmohan Singh was prophetic when he said that Modi as PM would be a disaster.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Capital Punishment???

Capital punishment, meaning death by hanging is in the statutes and is the law of the land. In a society governed by the rule of law, is capital punishment justified? To answer this question based on the nation and its people is going to be my en devour. This punishment has been now explicitly reserved for the gravest of crimes and has been given for such crimes. It takes decades of hearings and sifting of evidence before a case is decided in our system. After that , appeals and multiple benches, end up with a mercy petition which goes through layers of state government, central government each taking their own sweet time before opining on the petitions. While all this is going on under trials or those on death row spend their lives in abysmal conditions, known as jails in this country. I wonder if this is not defined as a punishment almost making a living man dead.

Man is a paradoxical animal. Potentially, a single great man can alter the destiny of his country or that of the world, but a single misguided person can destroy everything around. A criminal act  like murder, terrorist act, destruction or waging war against a nation are all the handiwork of a diseased mind, All of us are products of our minds. Quoting the Dhamma pada Buddha says "Our life is shaped by our mind; we become what we think. Suffering follows an evil thought as the wheels of a cart follow the oxen that draw it. Our life is shaped by our mind; we become what we think. Joy follows a pure thought like a shadow that never leaves." The difference between a terrorist and a criminal and us is that, he who physically hurts has brought into action that which he has thought, whereas we out of fear or lack of courage do not do what we have thought. If we examine the mind chatter and look at it as an outside witness, we would notice that we commit crimes against many persons very often and keep them inside. So in one sense there is a criminal element hidden in all of us.

Then comes the question of socio-economic class caste and ability to use the system. There is absolutely no doubt that the rich and influential can and will escape death row using foul means, In a system where the state acts as an instrument of terror and wars are created and waged by vested interests, it is but natural that only some will get this punishment. Mobs kill in riots and nobody is arrested or even investigated has been the refrain of independent India cutting across the whole political spectrum. Examples of destruction of evidence, terrorizing witnesses, eliminating witnesses and simply crushing protest abound. However, this cannot mean that one can get away with a lesser punishment cause many are able to escape despite being criminals. 

The other aspect of capital punishment which rankles in my mind is when in the specific instance of Afzal Guru and his involvement in the attack on Parliament, the then Chief Justice of India in his judgement stated “The incident, which resulted in heavy casualties, had shaken the entire nation and the collective conscience of the society will only be satisfied if the capital punishment is awarded to the offender. The challenge to the unity, integrity and sovereignty of  by these acts of  and conspirators, can only be compensated by giving the maximum punishment to the person who is proved to be the conspirator in this treacherous act. The appellant, who is a surrendered militant and who was bent upon repeating the acts of treason against the nation, is a menace to the society and his life should become extinct. Accordingly, we uphold the death sentence.” The invoking of the collective conscience of society as a reason for awarding a death sentence  goes against all tenets and norms of justice. Judge must go purely by evidence and proof and collective conscience cannot be invoked as a justification for capital punishment.

The nuances of the Karmic laws and their operations over the multiple rebirths of a human soul seem to give a rationale for the suffering which befalls persons who have been good and the good fortune of those who have been bad. However the concept of an eye for an eye and life for life is ingrained as a concept of justice and also karma in the Indian psyche and te judge was referring to that feeling among the masses. For all our drawing room debates and discussions on capital punishment my bet is that if the common man on the streets is asked about capital punishment for heinous barbaric crimes and acts of terror, the majority will want the severest punishment given and that will be hanging to death. So all this talk of mercy, non-violence and compassion are forgotten in the hurly burly of life and in times where life is cheap and even floods, accidents and daily deaths on the roads of India are mere statistics and change nothing on the ground.

Is capital punishment a deterrent and have crime rates increased in countries where capital punishment has been abolished? Well the answer is generally, it makes no difference, however, the fact that mercy petitions are filed by almost every person on death row and a hard life in prison is accepted in the hope that there will be life after the long years means that life is dear. The inordinate delays and time taken means that deterrence due to capital punishment is never likely, since in the game of political roulette, if u happen to be beneficial to the powers that matter, your petitions will be inordinately delayed and you can live almost happily ever after. 

In conclusion, capital punishment must go, for the right reasons that no one except God or the supreme power has the right to take away life. It must go for the wrong reason that our esteemed rulers and opposition politicians will at least not have an instrument to incite the masses for their political gain. 

Disclaimer: I hold no brief for any party nor criminal, this is just a view point to be taken as such.  

Vispi Jokhi

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Blog Revival

It has been a while since I blogged. In fact over a year. However, my Modicentric blogging led to an expectation that I need to talk politics all the while. However, while national issues and political developments engage my mind, I will write about that some other day. Today, I want to share with you musings and thoughts about my adventure to become a student once again. More than a year back, while reflecting on career and life in general, I realized that I was gradually entering a decline phase in my Orthopedic career. My lack of success in my field has been mainly due to my temperament, laziness and a casual attitude. This realization made me want to make change for the better. In short I wanted to learn to "manage" my life better. So I decided to learn management literally and try and train my self to improve and manage myself. While a full MBA seemed beyond my reach, I decided to challenge myself and apply for a course in healthcare or hospital administration. After a bit of market research and inquiries, I literally became tired of hearing the refrain TISS or nothing. TISS for the uninitiated stands for the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, a premier autonomous institute with a tradition of conducting courses for professionals and whose alumni, today boasts former deans, present CEO's, Superintendents and administrators in cities dotting the Mumbai landscape.

So I applied almost hoping that I am disqualified or told am overage. However, I was called for an interview and in the waiting room met a curious mix of persons, dentists, physiotherapists, a few guys who were already administrators in their hospitals. We waited on class room benches and chatted, Some of the faces I met seemed clear in their reasons for doing the course. They became friends over the next year and co-travelers in the journey called EPGDHA (executive Post Graduate Diploma in Health Administration). We were interviewed one by one and my first impression of a short and stout dark complexioned personality Prof. M, Marriappan was to be frank unimpressive. Short in stature simple smiling man, asking the simple questions to find out and probe our reasons for opting for this course. He warned us that he had no intentions of making this course a farcical walk in the garden. So we went home and ultimately got the admission email with the procedure. Management subjects are basically attempts to objectify management and create leaders out of the individual personae. While a leader has personal, interpersonal, leadership and practical skills, he or she needs to know and understand the tools which are needed to understand the workings of organizations in the field of health care. As clinicians we have generally looked down on administrators and felt that their failure top provide what we need is because of their incompetence, however for me this course showed me that this was not really true and quite often the clinicians behavior and attitude left a lot to be desired. The subjects we studied were alien to me and the lack of precise answers, bemused me and we were a bit taken aback Principles of management, Research Methodology and Statistics, Financial accounting and cost accounting, Human Resources, Ethics and Governance, Hospital Information and management systems, Hospital Support systems and Marketing were taught in the first semester by teachers and guest faculty in Government class rooms with adequate facilities, The group dynamics of the students consisting of persons from diverse fields and areas of the country soon gelled into groups, but unlike our college days, the maturity of the group led to a healthy competition along with a genuine sharing and mentoring by the seniors. While 15 days of lectures along with travels and exams and impromptu assignments challenged us,very soon we found ways to cope with the challenges and help each other. The friendships forged and the whats app group dynamics made learning fun and soon we had completed our first semester. While the going was tough, the hints of the storm to come were available but not taken by us. In the second semester, Thesis and project work, along with hard core subjects like Strategic Planning, Strategic Cost Management, Financial Planning, Business development, Quality Management, Materials management, Hospital project planning and Organization of clinical and super specialist services hit us like an avalanche. However we managed. The final exams along with the vivas, made us literally struggle through late nights and fears of the unknown.

All the teachers had their styles and peculiarities, but the overall impact of the course was positive. The use of moodle and the communications and the assignments with their relevance created the need and the desire to look at our hospitals and study aspects we hitherto took for granted. The thesis of trying to create a strategic turn around of a unique hospital proved to be an exciting project. I feel making it a three semester course could be better.

Almost all our teachers were sincere dedicated and masterful in imparting their knowledge. Prof M. Marriappan and Feroz Ekbal the local faculty were the workhorses, These two were the men for all seasons with answers to all our queries and between them covered 5 of the sixteen subjects. The others were ex TISS students and had a love and commitment for their work as teachers, D,P. Singh sir, Neil Sequera, P,M, Bhujang, Dr. Prashant Bhatt, Mr, Ashok Thapar, Mr. Vijay Arul Dass, Dr, Ram Naraine, Dr. Prashant Kelkar, Dr. Vivek Desai and Dr, Atul Adania all contributed through out the course.

Lastly a special word of thanks to my co-students and friends. We will cherish the process of our journey and take back wonderful memories of the roller coaster rides in our journey. The highs lows, petty fights and acts of kindness and bigheartedness have made our EPGDHA a memory of life.

While I await my results, I feel extremely gratified that after so many years I could overcome the challenge adding a new dimension to my learning and enjoying it too.

On this eventful day in India when a terrorist was hanged and India bid farewell to a peoples President, I am glad to have revived my blog. Hope to write more often.

Vispi Jokhi

Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Verdict

Ten days after the verdict in favor of NDA in Election 2014, I would like to say that I am surprised, at the scale of the victory achieved by the NDA. However, my views on NaMo remain unchanged. Electoral legitimacy cannot make one change ones view about a person. However, there is hope for each and every person including Narendra Modi. His actions rather than utterances will be under close scrutiny.

For starters an optimist like me cannot despair at the complete defeat of good in this mahabharat, but as they say the battle is lost but the war has begun. This is a war to rescue the soul of India and to win this war even a handful of crusaders is enough. The fallacy of the system first past the post leads to this skewed result. I am quoting from stats from an article by P. Sainath.
Nationally, the BJP got 31 per cent of the vote and 282 seats. The Congress got 19.3 per cent of the vote and 44 seats. As Siddharth Varadarajan writes,  that’s a 12 per cent difference in votes, but an over 500 per cent difference in seats.
In UP, the BSP got nearly 20 per cent of the votes and zero seats. The Congress in that state got less than 8 per cent of the vote but won two seats. The Samajwadi Party  got 2.6 per cent more than the BSP and got five seats. The BJP got just over 42 per cent of the vote -  and close to 90 per cent of the seats.
In Seemandhra, the difference between the TDP-BJP front and the YSRCP in the Lok Sabha polls was barely 2 per cent.  The combine however got twice the number of seats the YSRCP did.
In Tamil Nadu, the DMK got 23.6 per cent of the vote  -  and bagged zero seats. The BJP-led five-party alliance got 18.6 per cent but bagged two seats.  There were five-cornered fights in many places. That is, the AIADMK, the DMK, the BJP-led alliance, the Congress and the Left. Ultimately, the AIADMK took all but two of the 39 seats with 44 per cent of the vote.
In West Bengal, the Left Front got nearly 30 percent of the vote and just two seats. The Congress got less than 10 per cent but took four. The Trinamool Congress got 40 per cent of the vote, but 80 per cent of the seats, winning 34 of the 42 in the state.
Do these kinds of waves hold much water? Some 60 per cent of Indians who voted did not favour the BJP and its allies.
Is it time to consider bringing in some degree of proportional representation? Perhaps, for a start,  by placing a third of Lok Sabha seats under PR while the rest remain in the first-past-the-post system. We’d  be able to compare the outcomes.
So for my critics and gloating NaMo bhaktas 60% of voting Indians have rejected NDA. And remember only 66% of the eligible voters voted. However, this happens in every election. The underlying current of this election is a rejection of Congress, therefore in straight fights where the BJP was pitted in a contest against Congress it won, but in places where there were many parties like UP the division of votes worked in its favor.

The power of money in this election is unprecedented, the law which allows parties expenditure to be not clubbed with candidate helped. A media owned and controlled by corporates who was the next messiah for them gave disproportionate coverage to Modi and every speech was covered live at all times, in fact timed to influence voters on voting day where campaigning had ended. The unwillingness of media to ask inconvenient questions and of Modi to debate real issues was the hall mark of this election. Whereas he justifiably criticized congress for vote bank politics and celebration of poverty, Modi cleverly used his hench men to divide and polarize voters and project a mask of development and modernism. Modi is a image and a perception created to cash in on the bankruptcy of his opponents.

Honestly, UPA and NDA are tools in the hands of corporate interests and will loot and plunder Idia and hand over lollipops to the rich, resulting an accelerated inequality set in motion by the ex PM in his avatar as the FM. Modi's past will haunt him till he regrets it and reaches out to those who have suffered in his regime.

We have lived through and overcome Indira Gandhi's emergency, we will overcome these days too.