Thoughts,opinions and musings of a restless nomad

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A nomad in today's world, a world traveler in essence

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Rewind to the 70’s


Telephones – Remember the black rotary dial contraption we started with, the old bakelite phone? Well, that was a real fickle device requiring frequent visits by the telephone’s dept technician to keep it in working order. You screamed through it like it was needed to get the voice through to the other end (to this day we Indians do exactly that, even with mobiles!!) There were local calls and then trunk calls. STD came later on and then dialing was a pain, you had to be sharp eyed, and required an undistracted 5 minutes before you completed dialing all the numbers. Noisy kids who shot by got sharp raps on their ears. Each locality had a benevolent guy who loaned the use of his phone – or in apartments, there would be one phone in the whole building. It would be quite normal practice to call twice within a few minutes. The first call to ask for the person you want to speak to and the second time to speak to that person (some kid will be dispatched to that person’s home to call him to the phone!)…..Unbelievable eh?

TV – I still remember the first advertised TV’s (color TV came during the Asian games) were companies like Daynora, Onida, ECTV, Keltron…there would be two channels, DD1 and a local channel. You waited a whole week to see the one telecast movie which was an award winner; of course, arty like Mrigya…The most popular program being the movie songs hour (Geetmala?). Serials like Buniyad & Humlog were gripping events of the evening. TV ad’s were eagerly watched…. Like Lyril, Palmolive ka jawab nahin, Rasna, Surf…TV’s had no remote control, but with 2 channels, who needs one? The TV was blanketed with a nice cover specially embroidered by the seamstress in the house…later came the stiff & horrible plastic covers that yellowed with age.



Fans - Usha, GEC and Khaitan rules the roost and the fans had only three blades - or was it four?? We had that projecting speed controller on the wall which of course had at least one speed that did not work, the speed you wanted the most. Then we had those table fans. I read somehwere that Usha fans are now going to be made in China!

Films – Like somebody said, every Hindi movie had to have one of these - Amitabh, Dharmendra, Helen, Bindu, Ajit, Hema malini, Rekha, or Zeenat…Malayalam had hairy actors like Vincent & damsels like Sreedevi, IV Sasi dictated the mood & Tamil had Kamal Hassan & Rajni in the lead.

Cars – We had two options, the Ambassador or the Premier…colors being black and one or two other options at most dealers. Fancy colors meant a few months wait. In any case it took a few months and some premium payment to get a car!!

Two wheelers – Aha , slightly better, the Bajaj, Vespa, Vijay scooters ruled the roost – again a few months wait, especially the Bajaj. You kicked and kicked the starter for ages, sometimes, the scooter had to be tilted sideways to get the fuel flowing. As far as mobikes were concerned, it was Bullet or Yezdi, and of course the older Jawa (Ind Suzuki & Hero Honda were just around the corner).
I had already written about them earlier…

Gas – Most homes still had firewood in kitchens or the kerosene stove. Getting an Indane gas cylinder & stove meant long waiting periods. Only one cylinder per house meant very careful planning & monitoring since a new cylinder was not available instantly, again a few days wait or special connections with the dealer.. Before that it was the Nutan kerosene stove that everybody wanted!!

Newsreels – Who can forget those black & white events – It was always a flood in Bihar or something in Delhi that people waited patiently through for 15 minutes before the movie started in the theatre. AC was unheard of in theaters or switched on sparingly.

Power supply – When it became summer, power supply was erratic with blackouts & brownouts – This meant lighting up the hurricane lamp, and also during the night, no ‘goodnight’ but the incessant humming swoop attacks by mosquitoes…No inverters existed.

Singers & songs – Kishore, Rafi (he passed away in 80), Lata, Asha, Yesudas, SPB, Janki, Susheela & few others…But they did a really good job, though many a talented person never saw limelight during their reign…

Watches – If I recall right, there was only the HMT. All others were imported or ‘smeggled from Gelf’…or a relative brought it from UK or USA…BTW, will you believe me when I tell you that the watch pictured – the HMT Jawan is now being offered on ebay for US$ 365.00, and is considered super rare & cool!! Remember the ad? If you have the inclination, we have the time, the exact time….

Cricket – We knew cricket mainly through the radio commentary in Kerala – since it was not quite popular in the state, unlike football – Ah, we had the Madan lal, Yashpal Sharma, Gavaskar, vengsarkar, Sivaramakrishnan and all those chaps.. Sachin was playing the gully variety then….I guess..

Indie Pop music – Usha Uthup, Sharon Prabhakar, Preeti Sagar – that was about it…My heart is beating, hare rama – dum maro dum…

But the days went by, we were happy to be outdoors where life was a breeze..



Computers did not exist and if we wanted to talk to somebody we went over and met him, no SMS or mobile phones, naturally. We were happy using a bicycle or a bus to go places, or walk short distances, for that matter…We did not have credit cards, debit cards or ATM’s and were living well within our means…As borrowing was the only go during a shortfall, we did have to maintain good relationships with relatives & friends…



But who said today is not exciting? No complaints, just remembering the roads we traveled…
In all frankness, I should give full credits to some dude who started this topic ages ago at myhotboard.com. I based some of this on that outpouring from many contemporary fellows & served it here with gusto…

Oh, Kabuliwalah!!!


Kabuliwallah – That one story introduced people like me, living the southern tip of India, to Northerly Afghanistan, many decades ago. Our Nobel Prize winner Rabindranath Tagore wrote this powerful story in 1892, a time when the frontier policy was being debated by the British. This was a story that then found its way into our school text books. Tagore was the one who introduced us formally to the Afghan, though we saw Kabuliwalah’s often on the streets. If you have not read the story, please, please read it. It is such a beautiful bit of writing. Here is a link (it is but one translation, there are better and worse, this one is OK).

Then there was the Kabuli Chana (chickpeas or Garbanzo beans) that we all know. Today we have Desi Chana, but in those days, it came from Kabul (so did Badam, Pista, Raisins…) through roving Kabuliwallah’s and it was thus called so. When we eat Chana masala today, with the sizzling Batura, we don’t quite care about its origins, be it from Turkey or Kabul or wherever, but many years ago, it reached India through the Khyber pass, in return for spices and other Indian stuff that went back North and Westwards through the silk road and the Hindu Khush…

I was listening to Khaled Hosseini reading out his own book Kite runner, a book that I enjoyed to the hilt. So some days back, it is this narration that took me often to the streets of Kabul. My mind was quite full of Afghanistan, the smell and the sights and the waste wrought by mankind, the destruction of the once great nation, again geopolitics at play and the price? Someday I hope Khaled Hosseini (since he remembers & quotes mainly Persian authors) and you all will read the Kabuliwallah story and allow that story to fill your heart & eyes. It was Tagore’s gift to an Afghan in 1892.

I was fortunate that three Afghan movies I had seen earlier, prepared me for the various scenes in the Kite Runner and Kabul.

Osama
It is one of the most poignant movies we have ever watched. The story of a 12 year old girl in the Taliban run Afghanistan, in a movie shot in Kabul. The film takes you through the destroyed streets of Kabul and the life of the abject populace (covered in Kite runner during the second half), the high handedness of the ruthless Taliban and the plight of the once proud & even scholastic women of Kabul..
After the brutal Taliban regime bans women from working and forbids them to leave their homes without a male escort, a 12-year old girl and her mother find themselves on the brink of starvation. With nowhere left to turn, the mother disguises her daughter as a boy. Now called "Osama," the young girl embarks on a terrifying and confusing journey as she tries to keep the Taliban from discovering her true identityNY Times - Osama has no special resiliency or survival skills; her face is, at every moment, a study in suppressed panic and worried passivity. Her unvarnished vulnerability, along with the director's combination of tough-mindedness and lyricism, prevents the movie from becoming at all sentimental; instead, it is beautiful, thoughtful and almost unbearably sad.

Kabul Express It is a story of five people whose paths cross in Afghanistan. I liked both John & Arshad, but the American girl was mainly eye candy. On the whole, I enjoyed watching the movie. The movie ran into rough weather over some harsh comments passed about Hazrah’s, an ethnic minority with Mongoloid origins (Some say they are Genghis khan’s descendants) in Afghanistan and who were horribly treated by the Taliban. The ‘Kite Runner’ book features the protagonist’s relationship with Hazarah’s amongst other things.
Kabul Express is set in post 9/11 (November 2001) Afghanistan where the American bombing has destroyed the most hated Taliban regime and the Taliban soldiers are trying to escape to Pakistan to avoid the wrath of the Afghans. Against this turbulent backdrop, Jai and Suhel, two Indian Television reporters have entered Afghanistan and their aim is to somehow get a rare interview with a Talibani. One cold winter morning in Kabul, they get kidnapped at gunpoint by a Taliban fugitive who wants to escape to the Pakistani border. American journalist Jessica spots them and thinks that they are leaving to get a big scoop and unwittingly she too becomes a part of the kidnapped lot.

The 9th Company (9-Ya Rota)
This is an odd one in comparison, looking at the Afghan war from the Russian side & based on a true story. It is the story of a regiment who goes to war against the Afghan Mujahideen and the dismal results that ensue. A brilliantly crafted movie, it has superb photography and sharp depiction of the war scenes.
Washington post - The young soldiers, unsure what they're fighting for or even where, are abandoned on a lonely plateau that is eventually overrun by a faceless enemy. After a bloody but heroic denouement, the lone survivor is left to return to a home country that is itself in crisis, where his experience will be ignored if not scorned. Russian art seems inherently pessimistic, and the atmosphere around the camp could scarcely be darker as stories circulate about hideously injured soldiers and whole companies going missing in the mountains. When the troops finally get to Afghanistan the film explodes into action (this apparently had one of the largest budgets in Russian cinema history) and the battle scenes are told with all necessary brutality, without ever losing sight of the human story at its core.

Kite runner itself was released as a movie earlier this month, I hope it will be good.

For those interested – some more information on Kabuliwallah’s & KabuliChana
Thanks to Shantanud - Afghan money lenders used to do brisk business in undivided India. The story Kabuliwallah became so well known that it was later made into a movie starring Balraj Sahni (there were actually two movie versions one in Bengali and one in Hindi). Largely illiterate, through a complicated maze of signs and symbols, they kept meticulous track of who owed them how much, when was pay day and then were present at the right time and place to collect their dues. Their interest rates were of course usurious but they provided unsecured loans which their customers not having much collateral to give, found beneficial. However defaults on payments were not tolerated and when patience ran out, the Kabuliwallah’s justice was rough and ready.
For those crazy guys who will keep asking - why, how, when - like me – there are two
types of Chana’s or chickpeas in the world. They are Desi and Kabuli (Mediterranean version) with the latter costing (and tasting better?) twice the Desi version.


Desi chickpea – These are spilt peas and are relatively smaller in size having a thicker seed coat. They appear dark brown in color and they can be used and served in many ways.
Kabuli Chickpeas – Kabuli chickpeas have a whitish-cream color and are relatively bigger in size having a thinner seed coat. They are generally used in soups /salads or as flour

If you want to watch real footage of some action of the Afghan war…try this

A bomb - Vedic connections


Just the other day, Paul Tibbet the chap who dropped the first nuclear bomb on human populace died at 92. I wondered, like a fellow blogger Happy Kitten, if he had a single nights peaceful sleep for the six decades after the event that killed 140,000 Japs (and many more years later). But what mystified me was the report that throughout his life, Tibbets seemed more troubled by people's objections to the bomb than by his having led the crew that killed tens of thousands of Japanese in a single stroke. And he insisted he slept well, believing that using the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki saved more lives than they erased because they eliminated the need for a drawn-out invasion of Japan. In a 1975 interview he said: "I'm proud that I was able to start with nothing, plan it and have it work as perfectly as it did... I sleep clearly every night." Some guy that.

After the tests at Los Almos, Oppenheimer the father of the A bomb, said - Quoting from the
Bhagavad Gita Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds - The full verse in the Bhagavad Gita verse 32 from Chapter 11 is "If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the mighty one. Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds." kalo 'smi loka-kshaya-krit pravriddho, lokan samahartum iha pravrittah. He actually, mistranslated it to say only the one part, as translated above.



Like the late
Turkish President Ecevit, in this time of uncertainty (Check the link if you want to read about the impact of Gita on Oppenheimer) Oppenheimer often revisited one of his favorite books, the Bhagavad-Gita, and from it drew encouragement that steadied him in his work. Oppenheimer understood the Gita and other Sanskrit texts well enough to formulate a code for living that, while the product of his unique mind and experience, nevertheless showed signs of its origins in the sacred literature of India. Although the scientist himself never reduced his homemade Hinduism to a catalogue of principal tenets, a distillation of his words and actions might produce a short list of three: duty, fate, and faith. Without the inspiration of the Gita, Oppenheimer might not have been able or willing to direct Los Alamos.
Like Tibbet, Oppenheimer never regretted his action, comparing himself to Arjuna in the Gita. Many years later, somebody asked him after the Trinity tests if that was the first nuclear explosion. Pensively he said “Yes, in modern times” never providing further explanations. He was supposedly going back to passages from the Mahabharata describing a nuclear event that occurred some 8,000 -10,000 years ago.

Leslie Drake & Berlitz quoted from the Mahabharata (Karna Parva) in their books, to create ominous text that people then re-quoted for years. The quote explained a catastrophe…

Gurkha flying in his swift and powerful Vimana hurled against the cities of the Vrishnis and
Andhakas a single projectile charged with all the power of the Universe. An incandescent column of smoke and fire, as brilliant as ten thousands suns, rose in all its splendour. It was the unknown weapon, the Iron Thunderbolt, a gigantic messenger of death which reduced to ashes the entire race of the Vrishnis and Andhakas It was an unknown weapon, an iron thunderbolt, a gigantic messenger of death, which reduced to ashes the entire race of the Vrishnis and the Andhakas…the corpses were so burned as to be unrecognizable. The hair and nails fell out; pottery broke without apparent cause and the birds turned white. After a few hours all foodstuffs were infected…… to escape from this fire the soldiers threw themselves in streams to wash themselves and their equipment.

Dense arrows of flame, like a great shower, issued forth upon creation, encompassing the enemy... A thick gloom swiftly settled upon the Pandava hosts. All points of the compass were lost in darkness. Fierce wind began to blow upward, showering dust and gravel. Birds croaked madly... the very elements seemed disturbed. The earth shook, scorched by the terrible violent heat of this weapon. Elephants burst into flame and ran to and fro in a frenzy... over a vast area, other animals crumpled to the ground and died. From all points of the compass the arrows of flame rained continuously and fiercely. "

But this is all sounding wrong to me – The Mahabharata mentions of a number of Bhramastras being used, not just once - also some parts were about the scene many years after the war!! So many inconsistencies, I decided to check and found no such text in the translated Karna Parva. Some parts could be discerned in Mausala parva.

C
omments by Colin Biggs revealed that sentences from various parts of the epic were cleverly joined by Leslie & Berlitz for effect. Berlitz incidentally used Protap Chandra Roy's Mahabharata translation of 1889 to quote in his 1974 book ‘The Bermuda Triangle’.

A single projectile charged with all the power of the Universe. Karna Parva, section 34
It was the unknown weapon, the Iron Thunderbolt, a gigantic messenger of death which reduced to ashes the entire race of the Vrishnis and Andhakas Mausala Parva section 1
It was an unknown weapon, an iron thunderbolt, a gigantic messenger of death, which reduced to ashes the entire race of the Vrishnis and the Andhakas…the corpses were so burned as to be unrecognizable. Drona Parva section 201
The hair and nails fell out; pottery broke without apparent cause and the birds turned white. After a few hours all foodstuffs were infected…… Mausala Parva, section 2
To escape from this fire the soldiers threw themselves in streams to wash themselves and their equipment. Drona Parva section 197

More fuel was added to the fire by interconnections with other mysteries in the locale such as explained
in this site and by many others (Check on Google & you will go after a wild goose chase thorough a 10,000 year period covering India, Europe, Atlantis, UFO’s and so on…).

Oppeneheimer also said - Access to the Vedas is the greatest privilege this century may claim over all previous centuries. Yes, he could be right. There is so much mystery & history behind the texts in the Vedas & the epics that it will take much convoluted thought to even understand the implications..


I found that the Atharva Veda even explains Nuclear Fission. Then again there are the Vimana mentions, flights to the moon, galactic wars. It was starting to become very heady, so finally, I decided to leave it all to the proficient sages who brave the elements of the Himalayas & other places. Not for us mere mortals.

Now what - Kerala special tea!!


We in India are so fond of drinking tea and spending time doing it. Companies & offices had tea breaks some time ago and thus spending a while drinking that essence from the magical leaf and chit chatting over it, has become a national pastime. For that very reason, we have hordes of tea boys in the national workforce and thousands of tea shops dotted across the country. Most are shacks by the road side, some have now become mobile (Thattu kada’s serving idli’s & dosas as well) and some have graduated to become mini restaurants where freshly cooked snacks & light meals are also served. In Kerala, Tea stalls are very common and have become a meeting point of sorts, where people come to discuss politics, national & international news, movies (and Shakeela), gossip and even the economic situation. I can easily assure you that every Malayali would have sat on one of those wooden benches that are placed outside the tea stall and sipped a tea from one of those characteristic ‘glasses’. Sometimes these places are even called Nair shops by non Mallus. Here is where you would find mostly dhoti or lungi clad people with a lot of time at hand, rambling usually about the politics of the land - the rulers, the rules and the ruled.

A tea stall is not for the loner. Never would you be left alone, somebody is bound to ask you the time, or the state of life or for that matter the state of the nation, which you must be prepared to answer, eloquently. Some places are a frequent haunt for the eloquent type, they normally end up reading the newspaper aloud for the benefit of the others, making sure that topics are chosen carefully and stress put where group interaction is needed. You can see him gazing around the audience, and raising his voice when need be.

The tea stall owner, the referee, meant to ensure fairness in the surroundings, in addition to preparing the magic brew, is usually hunched over the boiler, checking the flames under it and ensuring the potency of the brew, not by tasting, but by the mere color of the previous serving. He would then take out the old discolored, wrinkly tea bag from the boiler, puts in the tea leaves for the next brew and then starts to look around. Ensuring that people of warring political factions are not raising a ruckus or arguing, he chats with some known regulars. I guess we should call them KR – known regulars.

Let me ask you a question out of context though. Who knows what the popular usage ‘KD’ means? It means ‘Known dacoit’. So now you know what it means when some other Malayali refers to somebody else as a KD, but then, the usage in Kerala has nothing to do with dacoits. It is usually synonymous with ‘rouge’.

Sometimes an out of state or ‘not local’ character comes along, in an auto, or alighting from the bus to ask directions. Here is when the ‘Google map’ brain of our teaman springs to action aided by all & sundry drinking tea. Here is where the visitor gets inner details of the family he is about to visit, the recent scandals if any, the parentage and so on…and of course directions that are best ‘avoided’ as they can be quite long, winding ( With N,S,W&E thrown in) and difficult to memorize.

Teashops are places where a Malayali vents himself. How I wish we had in Kerala a place like the ‘
Speakers corner’ in Hyde Park London where anybody could go to and speak and never be taken to task. I assure you, there would be queues & tickets to enter that place. Well, maybe not…I guess even without a corner, at least in Kerala, a Malayali is outspoken…

The very fact that these watering holes are dear to a Malayali is proven by checking Wikimapia where you will find the tea shops (Like Mohan’s tea shop, Kingini annan’s chayakada, Bhaskaran’s tea shop etc…) in many villages prominently mapped. For here is where the idle mind sits, reading the newspaper, where many brainwaves are discussed, arguments settled and curiosity satiated.

The Malayali tea shop entrepreneur has cornered about
70% of teakada’s in Chennai and many other places. In Mumbai trading Malayalis first started out as Chatai wallas (selling Pulpaya – grass mats), then Nariyal walas (tender coconut) and now have entered the tea stall business. They can be found everywhere, announcing their heritage proudly – ‘Kerala tea stall’. I remember the case of the Malayali ‘Ambika applam’ chain owner, who apparently started as a tea shop boy, went on to own the tea shop, then branched off into making the world famous Ambika Applams and even owned the lodge where I lived for a year -Ambika Nivas in Triplicane.

The Malayali’s affinity for tea & tea stalls is legendry. So many jokes abound for example of Neil Armstrong landing in Moon and being asked if he wanted tea by a Mallu who already had his tea shop there (another variation – Hillary reaching the Everest summit). A fairly recent joke goes thus - If your late father left you a part of an old house as your inheritance, and you turned it into a “chaya kada” (tea stall) yes, you’re a Malayali.

Back to the tea shop - Soon the bare bodied (usually so in the summer) teaman figured out that people who ambled by to drink a cup of tea might eat biscuits or some fresh savories. Thus those nice big rows of bottles with all kinds of such stuff started appearing, then came the other Mallu favorites like plantain ‘kula’s’ hanging on a rope (different varieties from the Poovan, to Palaynkodan to the Eatha or Nendra pazham), a variety of cigarettes, though the common man always smoked Scissors. The must in all those places was the slowly smoldering rope to light the cigarette or the electric version where you pressed a button and the coil burnt red.

When you place an order for your tea, you also have to specify two things – the strength (strong, medium, light), with or without milk (Kattan) and the amount of sugar (only these days). Once that is done you have to state how hot you want it (most Mallus want it scalding hot – Mind you, the kind of lawsuit that got the millions for the scalded American lady from the deep pocketed Macdonald’s, is not going to work here!! ) and that is when the teaman exhibits his brilliance with getting it all right. Standing next to his brass boiler, he pours the concoction of tea brew, sugar, milk and boiling water from glass to mug and back with unmatched flourish. The tea stays stretched out almost horizontally and then vertically as the glass, liquid and mug flash past your bewildered eyes. You will notice that not a drop is spilled, and the drink gathers a nice and impressive half to 3/4th inch of froth. ‘Chaya ready’ he shouts out, for you to pick it up.

The mustachioed Malayali dips his whiskers into the froth, lips on the glass edge and takes a deep swig, and later, after using the back of his hand to clean his moustache; he utters the first contended sigh of the morning. He then proceeds to dissecting local, national & international news from the newspaper at hand. Unlike neighboring Tamil Nadu tea shops which
got into troubles about maintaining a second set of glasses for Dalits, Kerala does not segregate by caste in tea shops.

Ever so rarely, he makes a mistake with proportions and the knowing customer is bound to notice. He is quick to react - proclaiming the liquid to be akin to ‘ara vellam’ (translated as ‘liquid from the drains’)…and provoking much argument over the present mental state of the teaman.

Washing up is easy – He has two plastic basins full of water, once for the pre-wash and one for the final rinse. The setup in general is efficient and environment friendly, somebody from the local populace supplies a few liters of fresh milk in the morning (remember the Mohanlal movie where he is watering down the milk on a wayside field??). The glasses are washable….the water from some municipal tap nearby.

Ah! These are things you will always miss at the Starbucks and the 711 and all those places. The ambience that you would only find at a Chayakada…Even though many tea stalls progressed to adding things like soft drinks, under the counter ‘pot’ packets, batteries, oil & shampoo and much more to graduate on to a more respectable ‘petti kada’ the traditional & much loved tea stall remains. Now you can see how the
glorious tea ceremonies in China or Taiwan differ vastly from the gulp, read, smoke & gossip tea sessions in India…

So finally to the point - Who said Malayali’s are not enterprising? While getting the pictures required for this post, I stumbled upon something called KST.
Kerala special tea - served in a china teapot with cups and saucers with the required froth layer. This tourist was introduced to KST in Cochin where they were mystified by the fact that so many people were drinking tea with their curries. It dawned on them later that you need an extra expensive bar license to sell alcohol in a restaurant. Thus originated KST…KST ‘beer’ might be served in a teapot, or as a bottle wrapped in newspaper and placed under the table, or you might have to sit at the back of the restaurant to consume it.

Once -
Much before TV, Internet and other modern media made their entry and opinion polls began on an hourly-basis, humble tea stalls, once ubiquitous in the length and breadth of Kerala, traditionally provided the only viable forums for political debate. Candidates, unsure of their fate, used to send men incognito to tea stalls to eavesdrop on chatter and report back. These reports would become inputs for strategy or provide for course corrections. But in these tea huts or makeshift stalls, which provide benches and one or two newspapers, sometimes politics gets too hot. Now, increasingly signboards come up asking customers to sip quietly and leave. "No credit and political debates here."

Irani hotels in the 40’s & 50’s added Opium seeds – it was called Hafim tea & the idea was to get addicted people come often to their shops – you would never need that in Kerala, ever.

So well, that is a Chayakada for you – as they say, the best place to unite and make friends!! Today we also have a
cyber Chayakada!! And of course, Chayakada.com

Read this inspiring story about
Chayakada haneefa

History of tea
It was in China that tea-drinking began about 2000 years ago. In the course of trading with China in the 17th and 18th centuries, the British developed a national taste for the beverage brewed from tea leaves. Beginning in the mid-19th century, British businessmen began planting tea from the northern Indian state of Assam all over India. Their goal was to take the international market from China, and they largely succeeded.

The Danish and Swedish East India companies at one point were more successful in the tea trade than the British, and would smuggle tea into Britain for huge profits. But well, who the hell knew these Skandinavian companies even existed!! I did not, till today!!

Tea plantations in Kerala - Munnar. Munnar was developed to cultivate tea plants by British although it was first discovered by Scottish planters. In 1877 Poonjar, a subordinate of the Maharaja of Travancore, leased 588 sq. km of land around Munnar to a Mr. J D Munro, a British lawyer cum tea planter.


Tea stall picture – Jacob1575 on flickr.
Teastall2- Globosapiens
Tea cooling
pic – David MP
Ithatha’s stall
pic – from linked site
Boy
making tea from linked site

Pills, pills & even more pills



LA times Health section Aug 6th, 07 Under the influence states - FOR many Americans, a doctor's decision to prescribe medication is something of a sacred transaction. A physician considers the patient and symptoms and chooses the best drug for the job, drawing upon years of training and clinical experience. It is an exchange conducted in a hushed sanctuary, far from the heat and noise of the marketplace -- a place where cool judgment reigns. That sanctuary has been breached. Today, drug manufacturers do everything in their considerable power to ensure that their brand-name prescription medications are on the lips of patients and in the minds of physicians every time the two meet across an exam table. In 2006, drug-makers spent almost $5 billion to reach out to consumers with direct advertising. The world's pharmaceutical companies spend an estimated $19 billion annually to woo doctors (the US market size itself is 300B$).
The sales strategies are complex and enticements to doctors are many. More than all this, the worrying fact is that 40-100% specialists in panels & groups who write drug advisories have extensive financial ties with drug companies.
With that in the background, Let us take a look at a couple of examples

Peptic ulcers, H Pylori & antacids

Doctors Warren & Marshall were ridiculed for decades after they published papers stating that H Pylori a common bacterium is the cause of Peptic ulcers. Unlike others, they did not give up. After many years of struggle to get heard, fights with peers in the medical world & the highly profitable antacid drug industry hovering in the background, Dr Robin Warren & Barry Marshall were finally awarded the Nobel Prize in 2005.

New Scientist states -
Working at the Royal Perth Hospital, Barry Marshall and Robin Warren established beyond all doubt in the 1980s that Helicobacter pylori causes stomach ulcers by infecting and aggravating the gut lining. Moreover, they showed that ulcers could be cured altogether by killing the bacteria with antibiotics. Hitherto, ulcers had been considered incurable. Instead, patients' symptoms were treated with a lifetime of drugs to reduce the acidity of the gut. The pair’s claims provoked a fierce backlash from the medical establishment, which held to the dogma that ulcers were brought on by stress and lifestyle, and could not be cured. By revealing a simple cure, the researchers also threatened to destroy huge and lucrative global markets for the existing anti-ulcer drugs, which simply eased symptoms. At conferences, the two scientists were subjected to abuse and ridicule. Notably, Marshall proved in 1985 that the bacteria caused gastric inflammation by infecting himself, then curing his condition with antibiotics. Since their discovery, it has been accepted beyond all dispute that H. pylori causes more than 90% of duodenal ulcers and 80% of gastric ulcers.
Note the following - A peptic ulcer is a sore in the lining of the stomach or duodenum. The majority of peptic ulcers are caused by the H. pylori bacterium. Many of the other cases are caused by NSAID’s. None are caused by spicy food or stress. Treatment is still complex, antacids & acid suppressors & lining shields are required for acid reduction, antibiotics for the bacteria. Treatments could very well be double, triple or quadruple combinations of the above.
Although the idea that bacteria cause chronic inflammatory disease was seen as heresy back in the 1980s, there is now increasing evidence that bacteria might be to blame for other conditions, such as Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis and even the clogging of arteries that leads to coronary heart disease.
Peridontitis and CHD (Coronary heart disease)
This particular discussion has both supporters and detractors and proof is not absolute. Colgate for example has a
white paper establishing the connection. The national advisory I thought agreed with this. AHA journal paper affirms - Periodontitis, which would lead to frequent bacteremia from the oral lesions, has been implicated as a risk factor for the development of cardiovascular disease. BTW I must state here that CHD has multiple causes and oral ill health is only one of them!!
Chronic inflammation from any source is associated with increased cardiovascular risk," Dr. Wolfgang Koenig, of the University of Ulm Medical Center, Germany, and colleagues write. "Periodontitis is a possible trigger of chronic inflammation."
In 1996 Dr. Joseph B Muhlestein at the University of Utah reported a startling discovery. His research team found a bacterium called Chlamydia pneumoniae in 79 percent of patients undergoing coronary bypass surgery. Now a report from Johns Hopkins says other studies have also implicated Chlamydia pneumoniae. In addition, the bacterium H pylori that causes the majority of stomach ulcers has been linked to CHD along with infectious agents that cause periodontal disease. Many laughed when it was first announced H pylori triggered stomach ulcers. How can bacteria cause heart attacks? Harvard researchers believe chronic infection, such as periodontal disease, causes inflammation that often goes unnoticed by patients. Inflammation is usually a helpful reaction because it sends an army of white cells to fight the infection. The Harvard report claims these inflammatory cells also secrete a substance called C-reactive protein (CRP). This, they believe, promotes the growth of atherosclerosis. Researchers also found men with the highest levels of CRP had three times as many heart attacks as those with the lowest levels.

On the other hand,
A Swedish study by Dr Ahmadreza Parsa does provide another explanation for an association between periodontitis and cardiovascular disease, i.e. that chronic inflammation in the mouth leads to elevated levels of cholesterol in plasma. "

Statins – The miracle drug of the century
Serum cholesterol is a fat-like substance found in the blood (serum) and produced by the liver. The body needs a certain amount of cholesterol to build cell membranes and for other uses. However, the liver makes enough cholesterol to meet these needs. A diet high in saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol tends to raise total blood cholesterol, while a diet low in those fats and dietary cholesterol helps to lower it. The risk of heart and blood vessel disease rises as blood cholesterol levels increase. Statins are a class of drugs that lower the amount of cholesterol in the blood. Lipitor and Zocor are examples.

Would it turn out that bacteria are a primary cause of CHD and that reduction or elimination of those would result in improving cardiac health? Most definitely!!

So then, what could happen to the highly profitable and growing Statin industry (The Statin industry is over 25Billion US dollars in size) in such a case?

Would it grow or decline? Food for thought!!!

I must add that I am neither from the anti Statin lobby nor am I against periodontal treatment, just wondering about all this!!

Something interesting - do you remember the much hyped bird flu hysteria?? How many of you know that the chairman of the Tamiflu (the only medicine for Bird flu) company Gilead Sciences Inc was Donald Rumsfeld till he became US defense secretary. They own the license though marketing is sublet to Roche.
Maneka Gandhi’s article on how the hysteria was whipped up makes very interesting reading.

By the way here is something new for those medically inclined -
Gut check RFID smart pills - This $500 device doesn't deliver drugs; rather, it provides information about acidity, pressure, temperature, and digestive activity from inside your intestines. The data is transmitted wirelessly via RFID to a receiver worn around the patient's neck or waist; from there it can be downloaded to a doctor's laptop.

I tell you guys - Soon we are going to have embedded phones in our body – or maybe they will call them ‘distance communicators’, You can tell yourself – I need to talk to ‘so and so’ now and it will dial out or establish wireless communication through the net to somebody thousands of miles away..