Thursday, September 17, 2015




Lt Col. Athavale served the Indian Army for 34 years before he took up a second innings after retirement. He decided to study the science of ageing and put the knowledge that he gained into practice for the benefit of all senior citizens. For more than two decades, he has been working for the cause of the elderly. He is a member of many associations connected with Ageing and the welfare of senior citizens.

Elderly people in India as elsewhere in the world face complex health issues and financial problems besides familial pressures, loneliness and physical and emotional abuse. In our country, there is a large rural population of senior citizens both men and women for whom many of the benefits and conveniences available to the urban population are sadly missing. Importantly, access to emergency health services and opportunities for second career are not available to them thus compounding their problems which makes them financially and emotionally very vulnerable.

The author is of the view that the age range between 60 and 80 is the golden period of a person’s life. The author’s interactions with this age group in his hometown Pune and his study of gerontology and the many research studies conducted by him have convinced him that the sunset years need not necessarily be gloomy and traumatic. This is the message he has been trying to spread to the increasing number of senior citizens in his hometown and elsewhere.

The book has two parts. The first part explains the meaning of Gerontology (Study of old people). It is the study of the social, psychological, cognitive, and biological aspects of aging. This subject has not yet got the prominence it deserves in the field of education and in medical care. Research on Gerontology which is significant in developed Western countries is minimal in India where the demography is rapidly changing with an expected senior citizens’ population of 320 million by 2047 from about 100 million currently. In this section, the author writes on some of the research done locally on gerontology, the status of senior citizens of India with respect to other developed countries and the role of senior citizens in society. He espouses the need for a strong Senior Citizens’ movement to bring about rapid changes in legislation and Government policy leading to betterment in the life of the elderly and an Action Plan on Ageing in line with our age-old culture. The elderly, says the author, are valuable human resources and their strengths and experiences must be leveraged effectively for common good. The author gives many examples of how most people are unprepared to face the sunset period and that by proper long term planning, attention to finances, maintaining good health, remaining socially active and pursuing studies on new subjects and doing social work, a phenomenal change can be brought about in one’s life which is bound to make the post-retirement period productive, successful and satisfying.  

The second part of the book is about converting gerontological knowledge into daily life usage consistent with our lifestyle, ethos and culture. Long term planning encompasses health planning (physical and mental health), emotional, spiritual and social health, financial planning, choosing the location where one wishes to retire, and importantly covering oneself with medical insurance. The author has given practical suggestions for effectively handling security issues, loneliness and elderly abuse. There is a full chapter devoted to “Wills” and the concept of the “living will” and another on “Day Care Facility”.

Geriatrics which focuses on health care of elderly people and aims to promote health by preventing and treating diseases and disabilities in older adults seems to be getting more attention than gerontology. While gerontology is a social issue, geriatrics has commercial overtones. Both are vital for productive and successful ageing and deserve equal importance and consideration.

The book has an attractive cover page and may members of the author’s family have contributed to the overall excellence of the book. The author has provided a great deal of statistics on the elderly population and the demographic changes that are taking place. This would be of particular interest to students of gerontology and those who are doing research on this subject.  Though the book will have a niche audience as it addresses the problems of a particular age group, it should be of equal if not more appeal to those who are in the threshold of retirement and those who want to be part of a Senior Citizens movement. Policymakers at the Centre and State levels would also benefit from reading this book and they will hopefully initiate policies for the betterment of senior citizens who are an ignored set of people today.

The red lights are flashing and the alarmbells are ringing. The author highlights the plight of the elderly with facts and figures and draws attention to the powers that may be to take the warning seriously. Those policymakers who ignore the writing on the wall will make the country pay heavily in the years to come with unpreparedness for facing a mammoth demographic challenge.




Anita Ratnam is a renowned dancer and choreographer. Since her Arangetram at an early age, she has been giving Bharatanatyam performances for more than four decades now. She is also well adept in Kathakali, Kuchipudi, Mohiniaatam, Taichi and Kalaripaayattu dance forms. Trained at a young age by Guru Adyar K Lakshman , she  spent many years at Rukmini Devi’s Kalakshetra and has over the years evolved into a complete dancer. Born and brought up in a Sri Vaishnavite family, she is steeped in the religious culture and ethos of Sri Sampradaya. She can chant Sanskrit sholkas fluently as well as recite paasurams from the Naalayira Divya Prabandham (4000 sacred verses composed by the 12 Ahzwaars and by Thiruvaragathuamudanaar- a devotee of Sri Raamanujaa), who propounded the Vedanta philosophy of Vishishtaadvaita and its related theology, Sri Vaishnavism.

Though trained in the classical Bharatanaatyam style, Anita has constantly innovated this dance form and has adapted it to evolve an unique and distinct dance style of her own which she refers to as Neo Bharatam (Bharatanatyam was earlier referred to as Bharatam). On this platform, Anita has made this dance form new, invigorating, modern and very contemporary. On 3rd September, she gave a scintillating performance of a deeply spiritual extravaganza titled “Neelam- Drowning in Bliss”, at the Experimental Theatre, NCPA. It was, as I learnt later, her 50th performance of this dance-drama.

The programme started with an introduction of Anita Ratnam and the theme of the solo dance-show by poet Arundhati Subramaniam. She traced back to the Bhakthi movement in South India during the period between the 6th and 9th centuries, when twelve saint-poets called Aazhwaars ( immersed in God) devoted to Lord Vishnu or Tirumaal, the dark one, sang psalms in His praise. Almost during the same period, there were 64 saint-poets called Naayanmaars who sang in praise of Lord Shiva.  Their outpourings are among the earliest devotional hymns in any Indian language. Arundhati Subramaniam aptly quoted one of the verses of Nammaazhwaar (our aazhwaar)  from the English translation of selected verses by poet A. K . Ramanujan. The title of the dance show ‘Drowning in Bliss’ plays on the meanings of such an immersion or diving deep in the love of God .

During her formative years, Anita Ratnam had visited many Vaishnavite temples. The architectural beauty of these temples left her in awe and amazement. The distinct tall pillars supporting the hundred pillars and thousand pillar Mandapams and the seemingly never ending corridors where peace and serenity reigned, left a deep impression on her psyche. The quiet chanting of the Vedas and the Divyaprabandham in the background provided her with an ambience of sublime spirituality. She developed a great fascination for Aandaal (one of the twelve Vaishnavite saints and the only woman saint). Aandaal had unparalleled love for the Lord and completely surrendered to him. She exhorted all to do the same and secure their places in Vaikunta. The essence of Vishishtaadvaita philosophy is unconditional surrender (Prapatti) to Lord Vishnu. All individual souls are feminine and are totally dependent on Lord Vishnu, the supreme Soul and Paramapurusha.

The dance performance started with the chanting of the Sri Vaishnavite moolamantra- ‘Om Namo Narayanaya’, followed by the first verse of ‘ Sri Venkatesha Suprabhaatam”- the early morning awakening of Lord Srinivaasa at Tirupathi and Periaazhwaar’s (Aandal’s foster father) benediction to the Lord- “Pallandu Pallandu………” (may you live for thousands of aeons). There were four sections to the show. The first part had the procession of Lord Vishnu at Thirukkurungudi. In the second part, the subject was Aandaal where she expresses her envy for Paanchajanya, the conch of Lord Krishna which enjoys absolute proximity to the Lord which Aandal is yearning for. She wants to know how her beloved Lord’s lips taste and she repeatedly asks the conch “Karpooram naarumo, kamalappoo naarumo,(how does it smell, like camphor or like the lotus flower?), “shol aazhi ven shange” (please answer me you white conch) . In the third part is the dance where Mahalakshmi arose from the ocean during the great churning of the ocean in search of Amritam and garlanded Lord Vishnu. In the last part was the story of Lord Rama in Srirangam. She danced to Muthuswamy Dikshitar’s composition. She used a ragam-tanam-pallavi format of Dikshitar's 'Rangapura vihara' sung by Sikkil Gurucharan to visualise Lord Ranganatha through the Ramayana and the Dasavatara.

Flutist R Raghuraman was perched on the top of the stage and played so well that he received applause from the audience for his wonderful brilliance constantly reminding me of the magic of Lord Krishna’s flute playing skills conveyed in Periaazhwar’s hymns. Arvind Srinivasan’s piano for the section on Mahalakshmi was absolutely sublime.

Anita with her choice of colour for the costumes was a showstopper. For the first one on Lord Vishnu (Nambi) in a temple procession in Thirukurungudi she wore a yellow dress, for the second part as Aaandal she wore a golden costume, for the third part as Mahalakshmi she wore a shining lotus pink dress and for the last part of Lord Rama she wore a striking blue dress in consonance with the colour of the ocean (neelam). Visual design was one of the outstanding features of “Neelam”.

After the dance performance was over, the audience was invited to talk with Arundhati Subramaniam and Anita Ratnam who were on stage. It was an enjoyable tete-a-tete after the first few seconds of stunning silence when everyone was expecting another person to break the ice. The feeling was not the usual terror of audience participation but one of warmth and inclusion. Anita articulated her ideas well and with Arundhati’s imploring questions and comments, she handled them tactfully and gracefully. The finale was when one person asked Anita what was her idea of bliss. To which pat came the reply “ After all the rigours of the day, my idea of bliss is to get back to my hotel room and eat a bowl of curd rice”.

The settings of the dance theatre, the incredible costumes created by visual designer Rex, the lingering melodies of the flute and the piano and the elegant dances by Anita Ratnam resulted in an ecstatic and unforgettable evening for the audience. For Anita Ratnam, dance is a language of faith. The fond memories will linger on.


Sunday, August 30, 2015



This is the prolific author’s thirteenth book. Her earlier books are very popular with children. Minakshi Chaudhry is a former journalist who now lives with her husband Rohit Kanwar in Shimla. A cancer survivor, she is the Founder-Trustee of Swarn Educational Welfare and Awareness (SEWA) Trust, a NGO working for the cause of breast cancer awareness and screening which has the laudable objective of reaching every woman in Himachal Pradesh.

The author has taken a personal diary approach in writing this book. While reading the book, one becomes involved with the characters and the love and affection for each other leaves a deep and lasting impression in one’s mind. The author (Rewa) lives in a close-knit family. They are four siblings strongly attached to each other and to their parents. The author describes how the greatest tragedy in their lives started unfolding on 3rd March 2012. Rewa’s Dadoo (father) could not recognize his wife Asha. It is a pathetic story of an intelligent and self-made man from very humble beginnings with almost nil parental affection who became a mathematics professor, who travelled extensively abroad with his family when he was posted in Nigeria, who was meticulous in his paperwork and record-keeping and who built a fortune for himself and his family by hard work, savings and by making shrewd investment decisions. But then a time came when he started gradually losing memory and from then onwards it was a downhill slide. A very proud man, at the same time modest, caring, friendly, helpful, charitable and a very practical and down to earth person. He didn’t believe in temple going,rituals and spiritual Babas. His religion was service to people which gave him immense happiness. Having lived a clean life with no bad habits and in a happy family environment, the diagnosis of dementia came as a deep shock to all family members. How could this happen to such a person? The author’s loving Dadoo was losing his mind.

Dementia is an omnibus term for a set of symptoms including impaired thinking and memory. It is often associated with cognitive decline as one ages. Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are often used interchangeably as many people believe that they are one and the same. In fact, the distinction between the two often causes confusion for the patients, their families and caregivers. However, issues other than Alzheimer’s can cause dementia. Alzheimer’s and dementia are still a mystery in many ways. This is why the two similar diseases are often mixed up in every day conversation and understanding. According to the National Institute on Aging (NIA), dementia is a brain disorder that affects communication and performance of daily activities and Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia that specifically affects parts of the brain that control thought, memory and language. Dementia isn't a disease. It is a group of symptoms that affect mental tasks like memory and reasoning. Dementia can be caused by a variety of conditions, the most common of which is Alzheimer’s Disease (AD). This is what the author’s father suffered from. AD destroys those affected in a slow and vicious manner. It strips a person of every unit of his/her dignity and self-esteem and that too bit by bit.. The afflicted behave in a manner totally uncharacteristic of themselves. It is a terrible disease which gives a horrific time to the patient and caregivers.

After introducing the readers to the shock of non-recognition of his wife Asha, the author goes back to January 2010 and from there onwards how it all started and continued till February 2012 when Dadoo had almost lost his mind. He lives but it is a lifeless life. The author’s love and devotion for her father is very deep and touching. Taking care of a dementia patient is a challenging task for the caregiver. There are moments when the patient can turn angry, abusive and violent. Great tact and patience is required. The patients also become repetitive, monotonous, irritating and suspicious. Rewa has experienced all these emotions of her father. Supported by a loving husband who is equally kind and helpful, the author and her husband keep reaching to their doting father and provide admirable support to their mother to enable her to maintain her mental balance and control against such heavy odds.

4% of India’s population of seniors (above 65) of 100 million people suffer from dementia. That makes it a whopping 40 lakhs. The prognosis is scary. There are no medicines/drugs to stem the rot of the brain. The incessant killing of the brain cells finally reach the lungs and heart. Medical research is trying to find out the cause and develop medicines to arrest dementia and AD. It looks a long way off yet. The only people who can really make a difference will be the near and dear family members who can provide the love, care and affection to their beloved ones. The problem of dementia/AD is not confined to India. It is a world-wide phenomenon and is spreading dangerously.

Minakshi Choudhry has written a very readable book and has written it in a simple and lucid style. While reading the book, I often shared her emotions and feelings as I too went through somewhat of a similar experience. It is always good to know what needs to be done if AD strikes our elders. We should be careful enough to detect it at an early stage. There are possibilities of some reversal then. However, if it advances, then there is no cure for this devastating disease which is irreversible. The author has created a much need awareness of Dementia and AD through her book. The book is a great and courageous daughter’s account of a loving father’s stolen life. It is anecdotal, informative, and extremely  readable. I strongly recommend it to children and parents. They might face the same predicament one day. There are many lessons to be learnt from this first hand and heart rendering account on how to cope with and manage an AD patient. Understanding this disease which can strike anyone beyond 60 and reaching out to them will greatly alleviate their loneliness and suffering.



Most grandchildren go gaga over their grandma’s culinary skills and traditional values. Bharathi Raviprakash is no exception. She is absolutely thrilled with her Thathi’s preparatory functions and the delectable food that is served. Cows are given a spanking bath, poojas are performed,food is offered to the Gods and then the finale. Food is served after these must-do chores are completed. And then she and her cousins are in seventh heaven.

Childhood memories don’t fade away easily. No wonder that the cousins got together to put together a cookbook spilling out the famous and time-tested recipes emanating from Paalakkad, Kerala of their dear octogenarian (93 years) grandmother Pankajam Muthuswamy. There are about a hundred of them. They are classical and yet cater to the needs of the younger generation who want to finish cooking in a jiffy. It is a bonanza of sorts. Not only are they shown the recipes for the daily sambhar, rasam and kootu, they are carried away to a whole new world of sweets like paayasams and kozhakattais,vella aval, mohanthaal and rava laddu. The initiate is taught how to make tamarind water, extracting coconut milk and even the difficult art of making pickles. The book has colourful pictures thus making the instructions appear simple and easily doable.

Pankjam’s grandchildren have done a great job of faithfully and meticulously reproducing the recipes of their grandmother so very lovingly that it would make any grandmother proud. Pankajam will always remain in the memories of her initiates for the unforgettable knowledge that she has transferred with so much affection and attention to detail. Like the flavor and aroma of her food which linger long, so will her recipes continue to remain embedded in the minds of the readers. Grab this amazing do-it-yourself cookbook and as they say the heart and soul of Paalakkaad will now be in your own kitchen.

Does the price look steep? Perhaps so, but then if you see it as value for money, I don’t think you would grudge it.



Saturday, August 29, 2015



B V GOKHALE is a graduate engineer and a post-graduate from IIT, Mumbai. He showed promise for writing in his youth when he wrote a book in Marathi on the game of chess. He has written many books in Marathi particularly on the subject of computers which are still read by a wide section of Marathi knowing people.
After his first heart attack in 1999, he started a serious study on the subject of Chelation(pronounced as key-LAY-shun) therapy (CT). He suffered another attack in 2006 which was severe. His doctors advised him to go for bypass surgery. He rather chose CT of which he had acquired sufficient knowledge in the interim period between the two heart attacks. A keen learner, he learnt EDTA chelation therapy by himself because those who knew it would not divulge the procedures. He is today recognized as one of the leading proponents in the world of chelation therapy.
EDTA chelation is a therapy by which repeated infusions of a weak synthetic amino acid- ethylenediamine tetra-acetic acid (ETDA) slowly reduce atherosclerotic plaque and other mineral deposits throughout the cardiovascular system by dissolving them away. Chelation means “to grab” or “to bind” the toxins like lead, mercury, copper, iron, aluminum etc., and drive them away. Many cardiologists and cardiac surgeons dismiss this therapy as a fraud and highly dangerous. They assert that claims made by the proponents of CT are unproven and the theories are unsound.  However, in the USA where it has now become quite popular after many years of anti-propaganda and law suits, CT is recognized by law and practice as one of the alternate therapies available especially for those suffering from cardiovascular diseases.

According to the author, the world has mostly overcome infectious diseases but we are struggling to handle degenerative diseases. Surgical intervention even if it helps is short-lived and it generates many complications and side effects. CT is a safe and affordable alternative.

The author has painstakingly collected all the evidence in the form of Court judgments to allay the fears of the readers who get biased by the advice of their doctors and has presented them in a lucid manner. The book is an eye-opener for those who are seeking a less painful and cheaper method of reversing heart diseases as well as other degenerative diseases. It is a pity that in a large country like ours with a senior citizen population of nearly 100 million and about 80 percent of them living in rural areas and for whom expensive medication is prohibitive, CT has not caught on.

The author refers to Dr James Roberts, an eminent American cardiologist who started practicing CT and was ostracized by the medical community. They nicknamed him “dirty doctor”. He persisted with CT and now he is a stronger and smarter doctor.

The book has six chapters. The author starts with explaining what CT is all about, its safety and effectiveness and importantly how it helps in reversing degenerative diseases of the aged. Of particular interest is “My Advice” of the author. After the age of 50, he says, degenerative diseases start setting in and the symptoms are obvious. The therapy is tailor made to suit the particular individual combined with oxygenation/ozone therapy and that the full success rate is 80%. It removes metallic poisonous substances and excess cellular calcium from the body and reduces free radical activity. Even if it does not cure the disease in some cases, it brings lot of relief. One can also look at CT as preventive proaction rather than cure reaction to increase active longevity. CT supplemented with ozone therapy can result in multiple health benefits for the patient. CT has been effective for old age diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinsons says the author besides a number of other diseases which CT helps in curing.

The author is an active practitioner and has trained many cardiologists and cardiac surgeons. He also conducts seminars and training programmes to spread the therapy for reaching a larger number of people. He is a crusader in a hostile environment. But by his knowledge, passion and perseverance he has been able to position CT as an affordable medical remedy for overcoming degenerative diseases and enhancing the quality of life for the older sections of society.The book is an excellent introduction to CT and presents the views of the opponents as well as those who recommend it in a fair and impartial manner.Mr Gokhale’s talk on this subject can be viewed on YouTube.



The author, Madhu Chandra, has been working with the Ashiana Group for more than a decade. She is responsible for their ‘Apna Asiana’ newsletter and for copy editing of their brochures. She is also a well-known journalist. Her association with the Group gave her an unique opportunity to closely study the leadership style of the founder of the Group, Mr Om Prakash Gupta. She has learnt very important lessons in the art and science of management. It was quite natural that she wanted to convey those lessons to a larger audience through this book.

OPG as he was popularly known in his circle of relatives, friends, other well-wishers and admirers established the Ashiana Group of companies as a Real Estate company literally from scratch. OPG graduated in engineering from IIT and went to USA to do his Masters. On his return, he decided to venture out on his own and broke away from the practice of  joining the family business. His fiercely independent thinking was appreciated by his father who gave his blessings to his strongly independent son. OPG had a vision. That of providing affordable housing of excellent standards to middle-class people. He decided to translate that vision into reality. He aptly named his group Ashiana which means nest or shelter.  He was not profit-driven like many others in the realty business and at the same time he understood that for long-term sustainability, his organization had to be run on sound business lines. He led his company with both his head and heart. He had some very strong personal values which he never compromised.He was kind, helpful, empathetic, sincere, hardworking and a great motivator and leader. He took Ashiana to great heights and the mantle has fallen on his capable sons after his demise two years back after fighting cancer for about 5 years.

Madhu Chandra recalls all the sterling qualities of OPG in the form of encomiums from his colleagues and some outsiders who came into contact with him. She has also written about his sterling qualities. His attention to detail, quick thinking, ability to face hurdles and take setbacks in his stride, endeared him to one and all. A pioneer in the setting up of retirement homes where the aged could lead a peaceful life free from hassles and worries and with round the clock security and medical care, he set up ‘Utsav’- residential complexes for senior citizens. With the population of the elderly on the rise and with a gradual shift from joint family structures to nuclear families, he realized that the time had come for elders to live separately with dignity and self-respect.

The book is a tribute to a great leader and visionary and a very good human being. His love for everyone, compassion and positive energy and thinking were qualities that endeared him to his associates and they reciprocated with the same warmth enabling the blossoming of fruitful and happy relationships. The book would be very useful for management students and young entrepreneurs who can learn many lessons from the various anecdotes spread over the book.  Success and trust does not come overnight. Hard work, modesty, respect for others, honesty, fairness, uprightness and clean dealings go a long way in building a lasting organization. OPG has shown that this is possible even in a not so conducive environment by leading from the front and by example.

OPG’s brother- in- law Sri Anil Agarwal, Chairman of the Vedanta group has written the Foreword to the book where he says that once he started reading the book,  he just could not put it down. The book ends with moving tributes from his two sisters and from his loving wife.

The  illustration on the cover page of ‘OM’ goes well with the wisdom of OPG which the book oozes through Madhur Chandra’s words. I strongly recommend this book to both young students and management practitioners who surely will immensely benefit from this book. OPG has left behind an indelible impression for generations to come.



Atul Gawande has written three best-selling books and is a natural writer and a wonderful storyteller. ‘Complications’,’Better’ and ‘The Checklist Manifesto’ are his earlier works. He is a practicing surgeon, he writes for the ‘New Yorker’ and is a professor at Harvard Medical School. He is a director of a non-profit organization which works towards making surgery safer globally.

Modern medicine has been undoubtedly a great boon for mankind. Childbirth, serious injuries, complicated diseases- all of these have become controllable. However with regard to ageing and death, medicine remains counter-productive. Through his in-depth research and compelling personal anecdotes, Atul Gawande has explained the suffering his own family and patients have experienced at the terminal stage of their lives.

Assisted living homes for senior citizens and nursing homes fail in alleviating senior citizens’ anxiety over death. They adopt treatments which do more harm than good. The practices they adopt accelerate their death rather than slowing down the suffering. Left with no choice, the family goes along with the doctor’s recommendation.

The author has candidly admitted to the struggles that he has to face as a practicing surgeon. He closely examines the limitations and failures of his profession in the area of geriatric care by visiting nursing homes, hospices and geriatric clinics. He calls for a change in the philosophy of health care. All of them in this profession have been wrong about what their job is. It is not ensuring health and survival. It is to enable well-being. He compellingly argues that we need to come to terms with the reality of the eventual decline of the body, accept what matters most to us and adapt our society and the medical profession to allow people to die with dignity and self-respect. Instead of focusing on dignified living during the twilight years of senior citizens, medical professionals concentrate on the disease.

The book is divided into eight chapters each one of them a gem by itself. Chapters 2 and 8 are embedded with rich stories from his own family. He searches for models of care that help weak senior citizens’ ability to live a purposeful life. He offers many suggestions in this direction. Like adopting cats and dogs and bringing in kids to create some cheer and purpose in their lives. He also suggests splitting up floors into smaller spaces which are more homelike and help to close-knit the residents.

In the last chapters, Gawande argues that patients have priorities besides just prolonging their lives. He admits that in such cases “ we do not have adequate answers. It is troubling and has caused callousness, inhumanity and extraordinary suffering.”

Gawande explores the concept of decision making in medicine arising out of consensus rather than top down. The modern doctor “must ask, tell and ask.” There has to be a dialogue with the patient and what he is seeking is to be understood. The patient’s priorities must be paramount and the doctor must help in achieving them.

Admittedly, there are no perfect answers to the problems which senior citizens face at old age and particularly when their conditions are almost in a terminal stage. The goal should be to enable them to lead a good life till the end.

The end of the book offers a discussion on euthanasia. It is a tough call. Do we commit the mistake of prolonging unbearable suffering or the mistake of shortening valued life?

Atul Gawande has provided the readers with a deeply touching book on aging and death written with remarkable insight. He is appalled that we have turned aging into a medical problem rather than treating it at a human level. Old age and death are unavoidable but certainly we can handle them with care and sensitivity. I strongly recommend this outstanding book and urge every senior citizen to read it and breathe a whole lot of fresh air.



                   P. HARIDAS : NOTIONPRESS.COM : PAGES 235 : PRICE RS 550/-

P. Haridas is a first- time author. He has written an autobiographical book on how he battled with epilepsy which afflicted him since he was five months old. Books on this subject by Indian authors are very rare. The few that have been written on this disease are by expert physicians. This book is therefore very unique as it is written by a patient. What you read in the two hundred and thirty five pages are words literally from the horse’s mouth. In spite of this debilitating disease, Haridas led a near-normal life, excepting when seizures (fits) attacked him. Then all hell would break loose.

His is a close-knit and God-fearing family. His parents and his two siblings give him extraordinary support. He is extremely attached to them as can be seen from the various anecdotes in the book. Haridas has written in a simple and engaging style. In the early part of the book, he writes about his family and childhood memories. He graduated in Arts from Loyala College, Chennai. His father was the sole bread-winner till Haridas took up a job. The financial strain on the family was severe. Yet, the family members kept their heads above water by frugal living and performed household tasks in a co-operative manner. When Haridas took up a job in 1988, there was some improvement in the family’s fortunes. But medical expenses continued to take a big toll. He worked for almost twenty years in various organizations in Chennai and gathered considerable secretarial and managerial experience. He is now a freelancer. His epileptic attacks which fluctuated and kept coming left him on tenterhooks all the time. He could not perform to his peak potential. His underperformance irritated his bosses and he had many skirmishes and run-ins with them. All these incidents have been narrated by the author. A differently-abled person sadly often gets the short end of the stick. Haridas was no exception.

Epilepsy is a condition of the brain which causes seizures. There is an electrical disconnection between neurons. Unprovoked seizures twice or more after a time gap of 24 hours is a clear sign of an epilepsy patient. Haridas was a confirmed epileptic. The disease is challenging and directly affects the quality of life. 65 million people around the world suffer from epilepsy. India has an epileptic population of around 10 million people. Astonishingly, 95% of them do not receive any medical treatment. In fact, many of those afflicted and their parents do not know what they suffer from till seizures attack them. There are psychological, psychiatric, psychosocial and behavioural disturbances known to be associated with epilepsy. Epileptic patients suffer from a great sense of insecurity, frequent seizures and social unacceptance all of which lower their self-confidence and self-esteem. Good drug treatments are available for immediate relief. However, the general rule used to be ‘once an epileptic, always an epileptic.’ That picture has now changed.

After terrible suffering in childhood and in the prime of his youth, Haridas came to a stage when he decided to consider other options for treatment. He heavily researched, read books and surfed the internet for useful and pertinent information. Surgery appeared to show promise for a partial if not complete recovery. As the book progresses, Haridas dwells on his pre-surgery days and post- surgery days. He took the tough decision to go ahead with the neurosurgery entirely on his own in a split second armed with the knowledge that he had gained. The scar on his right forehead of the brain identified by Dr. Prithika Chary of Apollo Hospital was the marker which indicated the root cause of his epilepsy. For him there was no looking back. His parents were very apprehensive given the risks and totally rejected their son’s decision. But with gentle persuasion and statistics on how many patients had recovered after surgery, he was able to convince them that surgery was not a very risky option as thought out to be and that chances of partial/full recovery were extremely bright. In any case, Haridas says that he had come to the conclusion that life was not worth living in such traumatic conditions. He was immensely helped in arriving at this decision by Dr. Chary who recommended surgery and managed his case very ably. Surgical intervention has huge psychosocial benefits. However, there are risks involved. Haridas had a successful surgery. His seizures have almost stopped. Dr. Chary continues to give him support and advice during the post-surgical period.

Haridas’s main objective of writing this inspirational book was to make every reader know of the remarkable changes that surgery brought about in him and in his personality. His target audience mainly consists of epileptic patients, their families, care providers, doctors and surgeons. Surgery was an important landmark in his life. Haridas claims that he has experienced fifty stunning changes in his life after surgery. Each of these changes is narrated in the book. His ‘magical moment’ would be he says when people learn more about epilepsy, how it creates havoc in one’s life and how one has to cope with it. When medicines don’t work and life becomes hell, surgery becomes a strong and workable option, though it is expensive. It can bring about incredible transformation in health, attitudes and family relationships. Patients must come out of the fear psychosis that grips them when surgery is recommended to them. He has proved by example that one should face surgery happily and courageously with confidence in its success.

Greek physician Hippocrates (460-370 BC) widely known as the ‘Father of Medicine’ wrote the first book on epilepsy. Many books and articles have been published since then. This book is a very useful addition to the list of books written by the illustrious authors. Haridas has not waited for the long gestation period required for the book to see the light of the day if one approached book publication in a conventional manner. He decided to have the book published through an indie-publishing platform. did the job in a remarkably short time. Haridas has put his heart, mind and soul in writing the book. It is a superlative attempt in reaching out to differently-abled persons and for spreading the message that family love and belief in God can work wonders. Haridas has profusely expressed his gratitude to his surgeon for having changed the course of his life. Dr. Prithika Chary, he says, will remain etched in his mind till his last breath. Pages 224 to 234, eleven pages in all, have twenty-two touching testimonials embellished with sketches of flowers for a kind and loving surgeon from an ever grateful patient.

I have only one regret. This excellent hardcover book with good printing and appealing cover which also has a ‘kindle’ edition could have been moderately priced which would have helped in reaching to a larger number of readers. Haridas could consider publishing a paperback edition in the near future.


Friday, August 28, 2015



At first sight, one would have thought that this book belongs to the genre of philosophy. The book title ‘Tat Tvam Asi’ in Sanskrit gives that impression. After all, this is one of the four Mahaavaakyaas from the Chaandogyo panishad. And the cover page image by the author’s daughter conveys another impression altogether. It goes to the credit of author Pinky Acharya that this intriguing combination of title and image compels the reader not to brush it aside but to give it a serious look. Running into 115 pages, the book is in the form of short and personal real life soul-searching anecdotes and is an easy read. The author has used a very lofty and noble concept to trick the reader to understand in common parlance what the title means. The reader is the winner.

This is the first book of the author on a very profound subject. The three word title literally means “Thou Art That”. There are various interpretations of this short aphorism. What it essentially conveys is that we all are a part of the Almighty, the Supreme Godhead. This is not a book on Vedanta. But it carries the message of Vedanta in the form of importance of self-realization and that good values which if practiced can make a person happy. After all, every person seeks happiness. The author Pinky Acharya tries to highlight important values in people’s lives which if followed can bring about truly a societal transformation for the good of mankind.

The book has 21 short chapters each conveying a message for the reader. There is an illustration at the beginning of each chapter and at the end of most chapters a quotation from a famous personality which underpins the theme of the chapter. Having been fortunate to have been brought up in an atmosphere of love, kindness, compassion, empathy, devotion to elders and bhakti,the author is a personification of all these virtues and practices them in her daily life within her own family and circle of her near and dear ones. Here we come across not an academician explaining a concept which is very sublime but one who champions it by example as an object lesson for all ages and genders to lead a truly noble and useful life.

Pinky Acharya begins with a flying start. ‘You can’t change the world around you, but you can change the one within’. Look within and try to cleanse your soul. The first chapter on ‘Seva’ is very touching. How an elderly spinster reaches out to the have-nots and provides medicines and food supplies to them in spite of lack of funds at her disposal. She provides a cellphone to an incapacitated octogenarian to enable her to remain in touch with her daughter. She galvanizes old and lonely people for religious activity and arranges their visits to temples from Kashmir to Kanyakumari thus giving them hope and cheer and a meaning in life which they had totally lost due to their incapacities.

In each of the subsequent chapters, there is a lesson and a message. How technological progress has its upsides and downsides, how impromptu acts of kindness can resonate two hearts in unison, why one should cut one’s coat according to the available cloth, why one should respect food and not waste it (‘annam na nindyaat’), how a carpenter felt he was overpaid and travelled a long distance to return the extra money, how a well-to-do person decided to give up everything in life to follow his calling of helping the needy and less privileged by living minimalistically on the pavements, how we should sustain an atmosphere of good values at home for the young to learn and mould their characters, that wisdom and education are not necessarily the same, how some doctors are like good Samaritans and help the patient in the process of healing by giving appropriate medicines and subjecting them only to the minimal number of medical tests, how loss of vision due to an operation which went horribly wrong did not deter the lady from remaining positive and in channelizing her energies to purify her inner self, how the death of a child transformed the parents and spurred them to work ceaselessly for the cause of building a medical foundation to help poor children suffering from terminal diseases which became a mission for them thus converting their huge personal loss into an emotional societal gain, how understanding and empathy can build lasting relationships, how the food one eats reflects one’s personality, how the company one keeps indicates the character of the person, the feelings of a mother when she gives birth to a new life. how a septuagenarian lady teacher decided to earn a living for herself and her family who now are totally dependent on her earnings by leaving the amount of fees to be paid by the child’s parents to their discretion and not asking for some huge tuition fees and how the teacher is more important than what the teacher teaches. These examples and anecdotes leave a lasting impression in our minds. We realize that there are indeed such people around of outstanding character and values who make their own contributions to the improvement of society by their selfless deeds.

I have given a few examples above of the importance of moral values in one’s life emphasized by Pinky Acharya. They are very basic. Integrity, honesty, kindness, sympathy and empathy, love and compassion, eating the right type of food, keeping the company of good people etc. These values can uplift a person to great heights resulting in moral and spiritual elevation leading to a high degree of happiness which all of us crave for. One has to continuously soul- search and purify one’s soul.

The author is a deeply religious person and is blessed with a loving family. She shares her experience in a simple and engaging style rid of any mumbo-jumbo. She does not sermonize. She beseeches the readers to pause and think of how they are handling their lives in this modern age and materialistic world. How in our anxiety to become rich we are missing the essential values that transforms a person into a noble personality.

I recommend this book to the youth as well as to the middle-aged and seniors. There are lessons to be learnt by all. One should not get intimidated by the Sanskrit title on the cover page. It is neither a philosophical book nor a book containing some esoteric secrets. It is a book to read and lead a happy and contented life. Let the spark of the Supreme Godhead in everyone of us be lit and illuminate us by unfolding the divinity that is lurking in our hearts.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014



     The Silicon Mind: Manikarnika Lagu: Become Pages 367: Price Rs 250/-

The book belongs to the genre of science fiction and it is Manikarnika Lagu’s first novel. She has a doctorate in physics and as a teacher and researcher has contributed many research papers in scientific journals. This background eminently suits her to write a science fiction novel based on a subject as complicated and sophisticated as the neural chip project.

The story centres around the protagonist- young, handsome and successful medical practitioner Dr Aman Kapoor who is involved in a horrific car crash and falls into a state of comatose. Another important character in the story is Prof. Narayan Murthy aka Ray who is a brilliant neuroscientist and the founder of ‘Chetna Coma Clinic’, India’s state-of-the-art specialized care hospital located at Bengaluru. Ray has been collaborating with Prof John Smith also a neuroscientist based in USA in the pioneering neural chip project. They have jointly developed a neural chip, an Artificial Intelligence device, considered to be top of the line and way ahead of competition. It has the capability of enhancing human memory and substantially increasing computational skills. Though this discovery has been an outstanding success in theory, there really has been no volunteer yet prepared to take the risk of having a neural chip implanted in his/her brain even after a year of its discovery. This is a source of great disappointment, frustration and desperation to both Ray and John. As pioneers of a breakthrough scientific development, both the neuroscientists are deeply disturbed at the cold reception the neural chip has received. It has dashed all their hopes of receiving international recognition, money and fame. It had become imperative to urgently get hold of an unconscious patient in a state of coma to implant their neural chip into the human brain to find out its performance. This objective had to be achieved by means fair or foul, as time was running out.   

Immediately after the car accident, Aman is admitted to ‘Get Well’ hospital in Bengaluru. Ray’s technical assistant Murthy is able to have Aman transferred to ‘Chetna Coma Clinic’ in spite of resistance from Dr Tapan Dutta, Director of ‘Get Well’, who has excellent coma care facilities in his hospital. Murthy is helped in this illegal activity by one Velu Swamy- a crook, blackmailer and a money-extracting peddler who provides patients to doctors for their experiments. Aman now comes under the direct care of Ray. The arrival of a comatose patient in their clinic, gives Ray and his team hope and a golden opportunity to implant their discovery in Aman’s brain which would given them a testing ground and invaluable feedback on how it performs in the company of the natural brain.

The chip implant takes place under the supervision of Ray and John and a few specialists from the US. The complicated surgery is performed by a talking robot Haku. Haku has feelings and emotions too!  
A 2mm hole is drilled at a predetermined spot and an extremely sophisticated silicon chip coated with collagen is installed in Aman’s brain. The operation turns out to be successful though Ray keeps his fingers crossed hoping that complications should not arise at a later date.

Unfortunately for Ray after some lapse of time, Aman starts facing some burning problems in his hand and depletion of physical energy. He approaches Ray to seek answers to these unwelcome manifestations. Ray’s responses are unconvincing to Aman. He gradually loses faith in Ray and asks Manasi, a clinical psychologist, to study his CAT scans. Aman is able to obtain these images through Ishan, a journalist and Manasi’s friend. Ishan uses his contacts to break into Murthy’s office and is able to steal the floppy containing the required images. Manasi was sure that the scans would help in giving a clue to identify the probable causes of these weird occurrences. Manasi, a strong-willed woman puts her heart and soul into this project to ascertain the cause of these bizarre incidents. She is single-mindedly focused to enhance her reputation in her field. Aman meanwhile gets further perplexed as he seems to be exhibiting miraculous healing powers which he suspects will not last long. He accidentally discovers this when he attends to a young boy Sameer’s knee injury. The youngster is amazed that there is not even a scar where the wound near the knee which was dressed by Aman had occurred. Aman is deeply concerned that this would bring him fame and later a bad name if this newly acquired power faded away. He disappears for a while from the glare of the media. With the help of Ishan, Mandira makes rapid progress with her investigation albeit a few setbacks and is on the verge of almost hitting the bull’s eye. By a stroke of good luck, Sameer and his friend Sakshi meet Manasi. After finding out that Sakshi is Ray’s daughter, Manasi asks her to convince her father to remove the chip from Aman’s brain because that alone can save him. Manasi is convinced that the neural chip is the culprit. Sakshi who is a brilliant and smart girl agrees to help them for Aman’s sake as she respects him as a kind doctor. Sakshi has the ability to make her doting father Ray run around her in circles. But she insists on proof of the presence of the neural chip in Aman’s brain. Sakshi is convinced. She confronts her father. Ray realizes that the game is up and that his reputation will be in tatters. He realizes that prudence is the better part of valour. He and his team of John and Haku and other specialists perform the chip removal surgery.

Though a scientist by training, Manikarnika Lagu has shown great flair in writing. This sci-fi book has a lot of imagination and style in it. She provides just enough scientific and technical information on the neuron chip and its implantation without making it excessively boring for the lay reader. The conversations between the various interesting characters laced with Hindi expressions make the book humorous and a fun to read. She has even provided a glossary at the end of the book for those not so familiar with the Hindi language. As a clever author, she has also brought in an element of sex to keep the interest of the reader stimulated. There is an entire chapter where Mandira, a bored wife and patient of Aman, gets excited by his touch during her physical examination to the extent that her sexual fantasies enable her to have an orgasm.

Sci-fi writers and ‘futurists’ have a common vision. This is called singularity, a point when technology and our bodies meet. We then become different people and at a higher stage of evolution. There are already some courageous people (cyborgs) who have had technological implants into their bodies for a number of reasons and are reaping the benefit of enhanced functions of their body parts. ‘The Silicon Mind’ is a trailblazer and welcome book by Manikarnika Lagu. We need more and more books in this category. Suitably adapted, ‘The Silicon Mind’ has the potential of being turned into a Bollywood movie.