Friday, December 31, 2010

Stirring Out and all Stirred Up

Went for a long walk today, inspired by the  City Makers Collective which, was conducting a walk under the aegis of the Indo-Global Social Service Society in the Capital  today, with the aim of  reclaiming city spaces for homeless citizens. The route of the walk was exciting: The start was from Nigambogh Ghat, Yamuna Pushta and it was scheduled to end  at Hanuman Mandir,  Connaught Place.  I love particularly the symbolism of the planned walk. Originating from beside the life giving  river and Nigambodh ghat that stands sentinel to countless death-rites, the walk moves into the hustle and bustle of the city centre, culminating at the temple of Hanuman, the legendary monkey who consoled and protected his exiled king Sugriva, who was also homeless. Hanuman also leapt a hundred fathoms away from his own personal life and reached another kingdom as scout and messenger on behalf of yet another homeless exile, Ram. In fact,  he  used his tail as an incendiary torch to  rub home the message to the powerful king of that country that  his  destitute friends meant business.
 As a Delhi resident, I have visited all these places and my thoughts stayed with the walkers in spirit  as this is probably one of the most wonderful ways in which  an entire year could be wrapped up, while  the new year waited around the corner, with yet another knotted bundle of hopes and frustrations.
 Unable to participate in the walk  for a host of little reasons that crop up everyday,  I took off later in the afternoon for what used to be a regular haunt from my house in Safdarjang Enclave to the District Park. This is an expansive walk, past the newly made lake and the ruins of the madarsa and the Hauz Khas monuments and back, and remains a debatable distance of three or four kilometres,  that  no one at home has really settled. The walk took  around forty-five minutes  and the weather was crisp and the sky was blue, because for some part of the day, the sun had stopped by and dried up the grey air. One encounters unusual birds, ranging from green pigeons and  common barbets to the peacocks and tree-pies and the abandon  of bougainvilleas and the general lush foliage proves very soothing. Today, I observed that there is really very little public place available on the street, for someone with no home to go  as well as  the average pedestrian, the old and  the infirm.
The entrance to the park is eight hundred feet  from my home and I need to go past moving cars that honk me out of the way while I totter over to the side and lean on a parked car. The options are usually an ungainly dive to the side of the road, towards an occupied pavement, where either car or unsanctioned private hedge or fence holds sway. Occasionally, there are closed iron gates. These are illegal and are a display of resident ability to provide apparent protection  from passing cars, burglars and chain snatchers and pick pockets and louts. The only qualification required to cross by the small side entrance  is a robust disposition and  knees that measure thirty inches from the  level ground .  Clearly, the denizens of the world of Avataar were measured when these gates were made for unless you are extraordinarily tall and able, you  might as well as stay at home. If you are old, feeble or unwell, then you had better stay at home hadn't you, suggests the honk of  the  man  at the wheel of  a big black car.
 We had a functional circular fountain in the  district park. Our elected MLA  put up a rectangular one on the opposite side.  We have got used to this eyesore, especially since we are now allowed to walk in the  park again, post Common Wealth Games and the tennis stadium has withdrawn miles and miles of  stainless steel pipe fence intrusions. The children's section is desolate. One sunken rail-engine shaped jungle gym is all that remains of what was once a bustling park with loads of activities for small children. The walk itself is exhilarating, even though sections of the park remain unkempt, sometimes  even unattended. The return to the world beyond the park, however, remains intimidating.
 The road outside the park is an arterial road. it  has an endless build up of traffic. There is also one speed breaker,  but  cars don't take kindly to  all this. What business have pedestrians at the ends of roads?, they say as they refuse to pause at the break in the verge. Occasionally, if after a long flow of cars, one  finds a gap  and starts towards the  verge, the next car coming  from  quite far away will  see you and accelerate,  adding to the exciting unpredictability of  whether you will reach the verge or whether the car will get you first!  Having dared the impossible and achieved it,  I got  back into the  smaller lane inside the colony  considerably  invigorated. Seeing a car  heading in my  direction, a nimble dart  into the edge of what seems an empty parking space seemed  a quick remedy. Not quite, I found out as the car behind  noiselessly crept up, just missing my feet and taking up the parking space. Halt, pause and then recollect breath. Squeeze out of the slit between two parked cars and then  begin counting the lanes back to the house. Successfully complete the side gate high jump movement  and  land in the middle of a street to be  immediately accosted by honking  cars driving in opposite directions who don't understand why there should  be pedestrians on roads designated only for vehicles? Stumble home somehow and feel thankful for the possibility of being alive and not having to live on the street.  Maybe  I should stay at home, safe?  Unless, we can work towards a recognition of  sharing public spaces for a multiplicity of  needs, the  pedestrian will need to mutate and grow wings in order to survive in this hostile space.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Diwali Dhamaka

Diwali Dhamaka

India celebrates countless festivals that  endorse the community's sense of a collective. Festivals are in that sense inclusive and generate a shared space. This is true of Holi, Ganesh Chaturthi,  Dusshehra,  Durga Puja,   the collective mass at  both Eid and Christmas. Most festivals are followed by community feasting in large numbers. This is a fun filled space, with the bustle of people, the rustle of special or new clothes, the excitement of doing something different from the everyday and the delight of eating wonderful food with friends, acquaintances and families. Spectacle centred festivals  such as the staged  Ramleela,  the bringing down of the  putlas of Kumbhakaran, Meghdhoot and  Ravan during Dushshehra,  the display of stunning  Durga idols or the humungous Christmas trees that  dress up for Christmas, each of these occasions  would be unimagineable without the collective participation that is so evident. In fact, this holds true even for low key festivals such as Teej, janmashtami and Onam. 
I wonder year after year why Diwali has always been an exception to this rule. Yes, people do meet and exchange gifts and sweets and this is bumper season for corporate gifting, but celebrations remain largely personalised and exclusive. Card parties are played in closed circles. Everybody decorates their homes with all manner of electric lights, flowers , rangolis and candles .Each household has its own  exclusive  Lakshmi puja  and  a private diwali dinner, which is punctuated with  extravagant  firecracker displays. In households recently acquired through the grace of competent builders,  the first Diwali in the house is celebrated as if firecrackers would be shortly going out of fashion.   Never mind if the lights and air and excitement is snuffed out for all the neighbourhood plants, trees , animals and people.
 Since many laws have been implemented to encourage civic-mindedness in the Delhi citizen, why dont we add a law  mandating collective firework display  only in public maidans? It could be organised in a manner similar to other community festivals. This would not only bring back the spirit of collective participation, but will  leave our  eardrums  and  those of our children intact, our lungs more capable,  our hearts less subject to palpitations, our pets  more calm,  our vehicles more safe, diminish  threats to life and property that  unsupervised playing with fire causes, rekindle solicitude for the old and the infirm and those who seek quiet as well as happier  MCD karamcharis the morning after! Thus we could achieve that perfect state of collective beatitude that all religions purport to create लोकाः समस्ताः सुखिनो भवंतु ll which translates as  the future possibility of happiness for  every living being in the world
Ratna Raman.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Anti-social Algorithm

Yesterday i saw a movie called  The Social Network preceded by all the razzmatazz that movies are presented with nowadays. You drive to a mall, eat at the food court and post-meal plunge into a movie which is often an escape route to another world. The mall with its escalator starts the process as you are transported to a surreal world of upper-end shopping and a palm tree paradise where you can  eat all kinds of food for a price.
 The movie begins with a young woman and geeky young man in a crowded pub, having a post-modern conversation. The young man wants to be part of an exclusive social group and the young woman wants out. Post split up, she retires to her room while he sprints back through the long corridors to  blog bitchily about her and simultaneously create a site where sets of twin  pictures of all  women candidates at Harvard  are uploaded for a comparative vote  by Harvard males on female hotness quotient. The site is so popular that  the entire  university's computer system crashes. An investigation is held and the young man is suspended for six months. The young woman,  hurt and humiliated, gathers herself  up with dignity and moves on.
  Young man, Mark Zuckerberg is sought out  by three upwardly mobile Harvard males with  an exclusive network  idea for  fellow students. Zuckerberg goes one better  He ties up with  friend Eduardo as business partner and  Sean Parker of  the 90s Napster  fame provides cutting edge inputs. Facebook is born in the year 2004. The rest, as we all know, is history.

 Facebook feeds into the social demands of  the very privileged young  and gives them an outlet through which  to construct  their virtual identity. It moves very quickly from  exclusive social networking to  a slow unfolding of the narcissism and  exhibitionism that is a major  preoccupation with people who occupy Ivy league colleges slated as being among the best places in the world. This Peter Pan world where you never need to grow up is now international and intercontinental.
 Facebook has iconic status in our  modern cosmopolitan  consumerist society which willingly engorges on everything that is offered, advertised or flaunted.  Yet, what is so different about this whole new world?  The change is  possibly in the external details. We have moved from the streets and alleys to the virtual page. The life lived outside of the electronic page  however hasn't changed. Greed  abides and so does the lust for power and control. Women are objects of desire and occasional arm candy and essential eye candy. Men with exceptional  good looks, athletic or intellectual potential, don't really require to acquire much else, let alone a humanistic education. They engage with very little outside of their own self-image and decadent lifestyles. Such are the new  Cyber lords who have replaced  earlier feudal lords.Otherwise this is a  dog eat dog world where someone has to be top dog .The trick is to be cool, stay cool , market the coolness  at the highest premium  and hit the jackpot with a new brand.
Friendship is en passant. Friends and relationships are set adrift whenever  expedient. Codes and rules arent written.  Players settle things among themselves principally in hard cash. Money Power runs this game and  fame reassuringly frames itself around successful lingerie brands and  facebook frivolities. Losers throw themselves down bridges and winners take to revenge, alcohol, wild music, sex and dope. This is the new global world where Dorian Grays take to Stocks and Shares and pop goes community and collective welfare.
 The world  has shrunk and so also has the  human imagination. Once our mythical heroes battled dragons, supplied fire and water, ploughed and tilled land  on behalf of the entire  human civilization. This is so not happening here!   Human potential  has diminished and the human imagination  is now self serving, meretricious, cynical and facile.
This is the sad part. Exposure to technology driven knowledge highways is still an empowering and enabling source for large sections of the world.  For the founders and users of facebook these insignificant details belong to a world which  exists way beyond the fringes of their virtual world. Hopefully, this is an ill conceived and incorrect assumption. A different note is struck by Erica, the young woman who breaks up with Mark. She is a facebook user but wont accept his request to be her electronic friend.   We need to believe that more dissenting voices such as hers do exist,  even if they remain outside of  facebook

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Marvellous Medicine

Have been puzzling over the treatment for cancer that is available for people who are visited by the disease. There is chemotherapy and there is radiation. and  if one is lucky, in a manner of speaking, chemotherapy and radiation are prescribed as adjuvant therapies. This means that one can have surgery and excise the cancer growth at any particular site, get rid of the existing cancer and then follow either or both methods to prevent the recurrence of cancer again in any threatening re-infestation.

The good thing about cancer is that if it is detected early, the chances of survival are strengthened. However, the therapies prescribed to help survivors of cancer who have had surgical intervention remain as scary as ever. Chemotherapy is intimidating  because the  very notion of  going in to attack the cancer cells with all guns blazing and bombing every living cell in the body is a terrifying and terrible project. Chemotherapy subjects living cells and marrow to a  blitzkreig and creates a collateral damage that is reminiscent of war by a superpower out to annihilate some small  voiceless nation which can only cower in fright. Not very surprising, if one were to recall that the protocol for cancer treatment really comes to us from the US and Europe.  Alternative treatments,  practised outside of the allopathic system, however varied, suffer from inadequate monitoring and documentation and are at best only seen as preventive strategies, never as curative options.

Yet even within  prescribed and valorised systems of  allopathic cure, grey areas persist. For instance you could have a small carcinoma of the breast and elect to have  a lumpectomy. If you have more than one tumor, this is termed multi-focal cancer and usually the total removal of breast is recommended as multifocal cancer indicates an aggressive cancer and normally, after a mastectomy, chemotherapy is prescribed.. There are a series of tests that the retrieved cancer tumor is subjected to. It is checked for IHC,  for HER-2 and then there is another test, the latest gold standard that is called the Onco type DX test. Examining tumor tissue at a molecular level, the OncoDX test predicts the likely benefit of chemotherapy and the possibility of the recurrence  in early stage cancers of both the breast and the colon.

 Cancer treatment is expensive and simple tests like the IHC and the more complex Her-2  are expensive. However, they are now available here in India. Unfortunately, facilities for  Onco DX  testing for tumors, the Medical Oracle for Chemical Oncologists, do not exist in India.  Samples have to be sent to America and some of  New Delhi's posh hospitals  offer such privileges. The costs of this test are so prohibitive that  79 out of the 80 people who are afflicted by cancer cannot even think of getting an Onco DX test done, which could accurately predict whether they actually require  chemotherapy or not.  Access to this test would allow them to escape the toxicity of chemotherapy and its attendant  traumas , as well as  bypass the unnecessary aggression that is waged upon the hapless body.
 For me, this is a significant discovery as i learnt recently that a multifocal tumor could have really low scores on an Onco- DX test. Chemical Oncologists in India and the US hastened to tell me that this was a unique occurence. One is too much a product of a scientific age to believe totally in miracles, but i wonder if the uniqueness of my case really lies in my access to this test?  What documentation do we have on multifocal  node free  breast cancers in our country which were subjected to the Onco-DX?

The test itself has only been around in  the last few years, but if we are working with Indian  demographics, the number of people who may have benefited  from this test could  have been  enormous. Given the fact that breast cancer is one of the more prevalent forms of cancer in our country today, we need to view Onco DX  analysis with far more seriousness. It is possible that if this technology had been  made available in India. we would  have a different set of readings and perhaps a new protocol for treatment based on a different  data bank. So a low Onco DX reading in a  node negative multifocal tumor might not be a unique case given a different set of statistics. For  something like this to happen, or to even move from being a mere  idea, we need this technology here and  now. We need it to be available, affordable and accessible! Our Medical Research Institutes and  Health Ministry Pundits need to do some urgent jugaad in the matter!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Food From The Head

Our prime minister visited The Golden Temple last year for prayer and thanksgiving. This year while laying assorted foundation stones, he also visited the  golden vimana enshrined deity of the Tirupathi Temple. Lends a very nice touch this, the head of a modern nation, recognising the diverse traditions that make up our motley democracy, not being overwhelmed by them  and standing amidst temple officials looking as unruffled and  calm as he always does while attending to the onerous duties of the state.

Of late though, he seems to have  been deeply influenced by  two persons, the chap in a suit with a cigar, who first said "there is no such thing as a free lunch" and his savvy long fingered  nephew Baxbaum who coined the expression "if you think you have someone eating out of your hands, it would be a good idea to count your fingers!" I can attribute no other reason to the prime minister's recent pronouncement except the overwhelming pressure exerted by the aforementioned fellows. I wonder if this could be the much reviled foreign hand after all.   Why else would our Prime Minister chide the Supreme Court for its order that the food which is rotting in the government godowns  be distributed free to the poor? Our dispensers of fair justice must have felt like overambitious schoolboys who had mistakenly turned in completed assignments without being asked for them.

When  the serene sevadar of the Har Mandir  finishes distributing karah prasad (that fragrant, delicious and warm concoction of semolina  brown-roasted in ghee and sugar) into numberless stretched out hands, he has never needed to check if he has lost any fingers at the end of the day. This would be endorsed by all the  karsevaks  at the langar who voluntarily cook for  2000 people every day. The act of providing free food is an every day happening at the countless places of prayer and worship in our country, at innumerable temples and ashrams, where visitors get not only  free lunch, but even have free breakfast and dinner thrown in. In fact, one of the good things about most  religions is that poor feeding is listed as mandatory activity for all practitioners.

So, Manmohanji, dont listen to these two newly arrived economic advisors who  seek to dim your free thinking by  loudly humming the right notes  on policy formulations. They dont even know that in India  we do not own  social security cards with which we can claim our due as citizens.  This is especially true for that 37 percent population which  our new statistics have demarcated as poor.  Should n't be so difficult to identify them.  By now they should all have their own BPL cards ready.
 Please give them the food that will otherwise only decompose in our granaries Manmohanji..
 As a gesture from the state it is not even incumbent upon us to ensure that the food is cooked.
It only needs to be edible.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Teachers in kind

Kapil Sibal as education minister is very different from his predecessor Arjun Singh although both took office with the Abhayahasta Mudra ( why fear when the hand is there)centrestage. Arjun Singh displayed near complete immobility on most issues while his successor Sibal is from the opposite end of the spectrum. In fact, if Arjun singh has been immovable, Kapil Sibal has been virtually  unstoppable.
 First he thundered that there were to be no Class X exams. Moment of relief for stressed parents, super achieving kids and all  those harassed kids whom the system does everything it can to keep out. Time for a change especially as the first set of class X exams were held in 1977.  Ideally over a period of 8 to 10 years, feedbacks need to be collected, tabled and incorporated  towards the better functioning of the system itself. It is very possible this  has been slow and fraught with difficulties. Given the funds alloted for education in our budget, this should not evoke monumental surprise.
Kapil Sibal, however is a man who will not allow any grass to grow under his feet. He wants change and his notion of change is dramatic, and in keeping with generation Y, is  also required to be instantaneous. So change it is! Class X exams are to phased out, made optional and  from  2010 onwards  they will carry no marks, only grades. One year of such a board process has taken place. I am still quite puzzled as to how the awarding of grades instead of marks will alter the quality of education that we provide  and transform it into something truly empowering? Surely as educators we must concern ourselves with the quality of education that we provide? Also perhaps with exactly how this is being dispensed? In the seventies and the eighties, we were educated largely within our schools, both public and state aided. Prodigies who sang and danced received parental support and training largely outside the school. This was also perhaps true of our best  sportspersons. Schooling  now is a very different ballgame. Schools welcome children as part of a programme to initiate them into the workings of social life. They feed the children, teach them to cipher and to sing, involve them in cultural extravaganzas, have all sorts of educative entertainments lined up for them, introduce them to reading and writing and language  and when it is time to really hone  interests and provide some direction for the child, they simply let go.
This is where tuition centres step in as indispensable crutches to higher education.
This year too, despite the abolition of marks, tuition centres, individual and group are chock a block with students in each year of their  senior secondary education. These are not to be confused with coaching centres for entrances to the engineering , medical and technological colleges.  The tuition centres  I speak of are helping  children understand all the  maths, physics, chemistry, economics and commerce  they cannot fathom at school. Meanwhile there are personal tutors for the languages, national and international. So  today's young student studies by rote almost twice as much as my generation did, because they learn the same thing twice over. It is true that the majority of our school teachers are an  overworked and underpaid lot. So if thoughtful parents wish to ease the pressure off regular school teachers and cough up money to tutors and tutorial centres, this gesture of philanthrophic solidarity  must not be tampered with.
 What we  really need to do is to augment the corporate spirit our secondary education has been displaying for some time now.
We could use the occasion of teacher's day to get the  government to announce new schemes to bolster the health of  secondary education. Maybe we could petition Kapil Sibal and request that tuition shops be declared  centres of excellence forthwith. Once this is done, these centres can be authorized   to issue CBSE degrees in the subjects they teach, after a requisite written examination. This will enhance the self-worth of the Tuition Centres and  the tutors therein engaged and enable them to set new benchmarks and aspire to greater  heights. This will also solve the dilemma of  numbers that the CBSE Examination Board annually grapples with, namely the correction of an enormous amount of examination papers at breakneck speed under diverse regulations by anyone who is available. We should also  authorize our schools to issue certificates stating that their students were part of  all school activities, barring specific subjects from nursery to class X or XII, whichever is applicable. This will ensure that  there will be no bad blood between schools and  tuition centres, since now they can officially feed off each other.  Student loyalty, emotional quotient  and commitment to core values  can be deduced by the certificates handed out by the school while their academic potential or its absence can be gauged by the marks issued by the tuition centres.
Ratna Raman

Monday, August 30, 2010

our chief minister

I think Shiela Dikshit  makes for great photo-ops. I love her tussar sarees in the cold season. I like the cottons she wears as well. I wish our president would discuss her wardrobe options with Shiela Dikshit and Sonia Gandhi. Sheila must make for a wonderful aunt. I am sure her near and dear ones are treated to orange lopchu tea with Monaco biscuits or crisp snacks and fresh cake when they visit, but  what i cannot understand about her is her public utterances.
When young Saumya Vishwanathan was killed while returning from work Sheila sounded like a distraught grandmother providing  interim domestic relief when she declared   that young women should not go out in the late hours. She could have scored some brownie points if she had said "young people" instead of women  and had drawn attention to damaged body clocks. At least she would have won the hearts and the loyalties of perennially  stressed parents.
Then she took on the entire populace living on either side of the BRTS or driving through it. Travelling on the  the bus lane ( in the centre of things) Aunt Dikshit declared that  no traffic problems were being created by the BRTS. The BRTS is without debate one of the most wretched changes that have been introduced on Delhi's roads. Having given official sanction to the mauling of the premier stretch of  Delhi's roads beyond recognition Aunt Dikshit turned her attention to the Common Wealth Games. She worked around the clock to effect clearances but ripped pavements and unfinished exteriors continue to plague our sight while all our service providers ranging from fruit seller to cobbler have been hustled off the roads.
Then after that intemperate brahmin cackled with malevolent glee over impending games disaster Dikshit took it upon herself to announce that anyone who was not for the games was not for the country. A slight  modification of the Delhi police ( with you, for you, always)statement, this, but look at the deluge that followed. Enormous siphoning and misappropriation of funds  were made public and this even made the  British queen  testy.Quickly forgetting  Britain's hoary colonial rapacity, or perhaps seeing this as a historic occasion  for redressal,  the Queen denounced  the 21st century attempts by her subjects  to shortchange the natives.
That imperial command prompted all our investigating journalists to go home to sleep off the attendant weariness. Meanwhile, the rains continued to descend on us. Little water in our taps, but unquantifiable, 24 hour supply of it  on all our roads. Driving below flyovers and underpasses, and on any road off the Ring Road equalled the experience of being in Venice on a Gondola. Except for the power that trips and is on the blink  and the freshly reincarnated mosquitoes ( bigger and more lethal). But Aunt Dikshit blunders on quixote-like and announces that there are no problems at New Delhi. She goes on to croon Meri Dilli Meri Shaan  and announces that we will have the best games ever. 
I think i have finally solved the mystery. Aunt Dikshit lives in a wonderful city where the girls being good  go to bed early, thereby bringing about a cessation in the crime graph. The civic amenities in this city are taken care of and every single inhabitant lives a happy life with abundant infrastructural  support. The countless parks and sports stadia are dotted by storehouses where helpful attendants hand out sports equipment to our gamine young and eminent sports persons coach all our young talent, while the joyous populace serenades its administrators with hosannas.  Shiela Dikshit cannot be the Chief Minister of New Delhi!

Ratna Raman

Saturday, August 28, 2010

visits from the magi

Rituparna, Aprameya and Anubhuti  come to see me. Like the Magi they arrive, bearing gifts to preside over a new confinement. There are long stemmed red zerberas reaching out to the sky, a gauzy gold and translucent bag filled with chocolates wrapped in pastel metallic foil and chocolate fudge icecream, a flavour wherein Mother Dairy surpasses  itself.  We move upstairs and settle down  and I catch up on  their lives. Graduates now, Aprameya and Ritu are moving into top-gear and are enrolled for a  Master's Programme  In English Literature at Delhi University, while Anubhuti is in her second year  of MA at Arts and Aesthetics at  JNU and has a musical timbre to her voice that definitely evokes associations with vintage Shubha Mudgal.  My life revolves around reading these days and so i tell them about my first blog, initiated by the event of getting my fingers in the way of the whirring mixer grinder.
 All of them exclaim then. They had thought that bandaged fingers were part of the treatment for carcinoma. When i tell them it is an independent injury i have contracted they are in a state of disbelief as they had not wanted to draw attention to my "unwellness." Anyway over ice cream and home crafted khakra and tea we quickly laugh and share a host of other details about academia.
 They leave shortly and it is time for me to meet  my surgical oncologist who has had a long day. He doesn't notice my solidly bandaged three fingers at all, till i draw his attention to it. He is immediately contrite and concerned. Probably the repeated barrage of gauze and surgical cellotape has  rendered him immune So while he is pronouncing the health or otherwise of my  fingers, i tell him about  my visitors of  the day. He is very amused  that such possibilities of non-knowing  exist and he laughs and says "literature walone ki kya baat hai' and suddenly the air is light again.
Driving back home i wonder at the innocence and joy de vivre of my students and their palpable concern for me and the practical efficiency with which Harit Chaturvedi  deals surgically with threats to bodily well being and this brings me back to my favourite rumination..,,when we distribute the spoils of education and give all the literature and the humanities to one section of students and all the physical and empirical sciences to another does this choice in effect  develop some aspects of personality and  push into cold storage other aspects?  Should we rethink the paucity of options we provide for our students at secondary schooling levels..?

Ratna Raman

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Mean Kitchen Machine......

Was helping mom with a new garnish  that she wanted to add on to  chopped pumpkin. So mom took out my  small grinder and loaded it with  5o gms of coconut shreds,1 tablespoon raw rice, chopped green chillies and a teaspoon of mustard seeds. She used  a Sumeet mixer till it gave up the ghost  and had no idea how to use my Panasonic  super mixer grinder. This is a highly required gadget for the part time housewife and cook avatars that  women don everyday. So i placed my right hand on the lid after the mixerjar was locked in,and switched on the mains. The button at grind one was already depressed and i didn't see it. The machine whirred at full speed, the lid slid off and before i could use my left had to switch off the mains , my right hand slipped and three fingers were efficiently cut into  by the chopper. Reasonable blood loss, pain, shock, torniquet , medical attention and after i can now evaluate the damage to my fingers. The forefinger is badly off, some skin has been gouged out and the doctor attending on it recommended  stitches which i declined,  I didn't want to be sewn up just yet ., the other two fingers are badly cut but the gravity of  the injury reduces sequentially as i move from one digit to the other.
Now of course as i type this with six fingers i'm very curious to know..all these machines that we are so dependent on and buy at fairly upper end prices... how much user-safety  do they offer.?. I use this shallow dry grinder very often, and i always use it with one hand resting on the lid..  Now bruised I dont see why i should be shy of voicing apprehension about gadget safety. Especially since mine is the last of the prudent generations and we are raising generations of kitchen-gadget-challenged youngsters. This shallow grinder used for dry grinding and for chutneys is completely lethal, as  i have realized . In a deeper jar, should such a slippage happen, one's fingers would not be at risk, although i admit that i am deficient in the scientific certitude of what could happen if the lid flew off a deeper container. So how should i treat this  mid- morning mishap? As a freak accident, or should one begin to ask why we should stand beside our mini grinders holding on to lids, however feminine or graceful such a pose  may seem to the viewer.The further query i have is, have the producers of this machine taken this danger seriously? Or is this a third world situation, where human life is not at a premium and therefore, safety norms can be easily overriden, if not entirely ignored.
Is there any way of finding out if safety norms are adhered to? or if they even exist?