Sunday, February 21, 2010

Dr Ravindra Bapat, a doctor of modern medicine, makes a case for Ayurveda

Last week, I was present for what turned out to be quite an interesting presentation by a doctor at the Sankara Nethralaya auditorium. I had never heard of Dr Ravindra Bapat before, but his name nevertheless seemed to ring a bell. He is as suave and erudite as they come. The Vice Chancellor of the Mahatma Gandhi Mission University of Health Sciences, Maharashtra, and Professor Emeritus at the Department of Surgical Gastroenterology, Seth G.S. Medical College and King Edward Memorial Hospital, Parel, Mumbai, was described as a “passionate teacher” and a winner of several awards.

In an email I had received, Dr Bapat was touted as a brilliant speaker. Of course, during his hour-long presentation, which tended to be a little too long-winded, that “brilliance” did not come out as such. I would hesitate to rank him alongside Dr K.P. Misra (former head of the cardiology unit at Apollo Hospitals), for example, who would, without any Power Point presentation, hold you enthralled for hours.

In any case, Dr Bapat’s was a decent presentation. He was the guest speaker this year at the V. Venugopal Endowment Lecture organised by Sankara Nethralaya's Medical Research Foundation and Vision Research Foundation. The late Venugopal, I learned, was on the board of the Reserve Bank of India and Andhra Bank, a business leader who was into fertilisers and coffee, and who was also a philanthropist. You could feel the Sankara Nethralaya hospitality. Visitors were first directed to the terrace where tea, coffee and snacks were served. There was staff to welcome you and make you feel comfortable. Thank God for small mercies. Why don't more institutions and people in them follow such an example?

The guest doctor’s presentation focused on how Ayurvedic remedies have proved successful, at least during clinical trials, in the treatment of certain chronic diseases. As far as modern medicine was concerned, there were several grey areas, Dr Bapat said, listing the challenges ahead as: side effects of drugs, antibiotic resistance, dependence on biological investigation, use of biotechnology, cost-intensive health care, emergence of new organisms and effect of industrialisation.

Indeed, modern medicine had a number of plant-derived drugs, Dr Bapat said (a large part of the audience comprised doctors and I’m sure they all knew that). Synthetic drugs had adverse effects, they were priced high and not always available, he added. Dr Bapat was for seeking alternatives in the Ayurvedic system of medicine.

For instance, Tinospora cordifolia (an indigenous immuno-stimulant available in the market for oral administration), on which the Ayurvedic research Centre at the K.E. M. Hospital has conducted many tests (led by Dr Sharadini Dahanukar, now no more), offered protection against induced infection and was effective in treating obstructive jaundice, with mortality rates dropping considerably.

Tinospora cordifolia also decreased abdominal fullness, increased appetite, decreased nausea. What’s more, it was found to be effective in the treatment of cancer if administered before chemotherapy. The herb was so versatile, it helped in anti-TB therapy and in leading a better quality of life. Dr Bapat also touched on the merits of the use of Amla, which contained Vitamin C, in treating fistula, piles and varicose veins.

With all this, I wondered why several people still doubt the efficacy of alternative systems of medicine such as Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani and Homoeopathy. Ayurveda especially, since it is our own science and finds mention even in the Vedic texts. Just as we do in life, we are all happy using short cuts. Allopathy offers quick remedies although it does not rid the patient of the root cause of illness, at least in many cases. Perhaps we have not worked on forming our own standards in streams like Ayurveda; our laboratories are not properly equipped for all that. This is where Allopathy gains, because we just need to hitch a ride to benefit from research findings conducted abroad and distribute medicines in the market after tying up with MNCs abroad.

The Sankara Nethralaya hospitality extended right to the end, with even Dr Badrinath himself saying hello to visitors. Wonderful indeed!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A break in Kovai provides the healing touch

I was away the weekend on yet another break... am getting addicted to breaks now. But I can tell you that they indeed provide all the refreshment you need.

This time, it was somewhere between Coimbatore and Palakkad - a relative's place. It was love at first sight so much so that the urge to retire early and settle down here is growing by the hour, would you believe it!

Hmmm... if only all dreams became reality. I am hopeful though.

The onward train journey was tiresome. I was appalled at the sheer lack of civic sense and insensitivity on the part of people everywhere. There was waste and offal and plastic bags liberally thrown on the tracks almost throughout the route. Heaps of garbage, with the plastic component high, appeared at routine intervals. On the train, passengers flung tea cups and plastic packets outside the window, not even bothering to get up and look for a bin inside. Of course, there wasn't any in sight, so you cannot probably blame them totally.

The Coimbatore heat was unnerving, quite unexpected. looked like the Kerala influence.

However, where I and my companions chose to stay and explore, a nook near the Coimbatore-Palakkad highway, the climate was salubrious. From where we stayed, we could see the Malampuzha and Ooty hills. The wind blew into our faces; it would howl in the months ahead, our hosts said.

I woke up early much before sunrise and walked inside the gated community... if only life could always be like this, I thought. Good food, masala tea, lovely and caring hosts, we couldn't have asked for more...

1. The rural ambience was so tempting... we just stood rooted for minutes.

2. A pathway in the gated community where we stayed - there were several such pathways, all quiet and welcoming.

3. A view of the hills in the background added to the charm.

4. Some day, when I can build my home, the entrance should look like this, lawn and all...

5. A tree that looked out of this world.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Of Kollengode fields and marriages

Pictures I clicked from inside the car as we were being driven around in Kollengode. Look at the verdant paddy fields – a sight to behold. You have to be there to actually take in the such sights. No wonder it is God’s Own Country. I have seen similar beauty in Kunisseri as well. Places you feel like going back to again and again. And what are we doing, living in cities, you sometimes wonder. Frankly, I am looking at early retirement and living in such places.

See the greenery in the background as a groom is being welcomed to the marriage hall by a party comprising women and children in their best attire. This is also Kollengode.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

In Kollengode, where I belong

This is Kollengode – the village of my ancestors from my mother’s side. Some day, I plan to learn more about its history. The Kollengode Palace has now been converted into a hotel, I understand. Didn’t find the time to get inside and see how heritage has been preserved and put to good use. But some day I will.

I clicked some special pictures, though. The first here shows a typical house in Kollengode. Obviously, It has been done up reasonable well and is well maintained. It was in the afternoon that I took this picture, quiet all around. I wonder how much quieter the nights would be!

The second is another well maintained residence belonging to my aunt’s family. The sloping roofs, the tiles, the front portico, you can tell from far that this is a typical Kerala home. It was my aunt and uncle’s turn to get nostalgic here – apparently, they had met here first before marriage. Hmmm.

The third, fourth and fifth are very special pictures. The cream-coloured building is the one where my mom and her sisters and brothers played together as children. The other house, Krishna Villa, is where her cousins stayed and she did meet a couple of them later, and reminisce they did about the games they played in both houses as children, sometimes looking and chatting through the windows.

A special feeling in God's Own Country

I always feel good whenever I visit Kerala. This time, the feeling was special. For one, I was taking my mother there after years. And for another, it was a visit to my home town, Kollengode, where a visit to our family deity (from my mother’s side) was scheduled.

It eventually became the talking point for my mom, thrilled as she was in being able to make it through the narrowest of village roads on which a car could be driven, to be able to walk a small stretch to reach the small temple. It turned out that there was a festival at the temple the day we reached and, needless to add, it added a very special flavour to mom’s happiness. Sadly, I did not click any picture, at least from the outside; it was just that it didn’t strike me then at all that a few pictures could be taken because I did have my camera. Perhaps the happiness of just being able to bring my there shut off everything else from my mind.

Talk about God’s Own Country? Look at three pictures here: the first shows a view from the front balcony of the house in Palakkad where we stayed, the greenery and the palm trees. The man in the second picture is busy pruning branches of a tree in the backyard. And, in the third, isn’t that a lovely sight of the lane winding up to the main road? That is how it looks from the front gate. It’s always nice and quiet and there’s hardly a soul that moves about even during daytime.