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About Me

Alam
part eccentric ... part fun .... stubborn .. but not stuck up ... very open to different views, ideas and possibilities ... varied interests ... engineer ... mba ... trying-to-be-a-good-entrepreneur ... ex-software ... ex-quality ... ex-tobacco ... ex-alcohol ... trying-to-be-ex-cancer
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Monday, December 24, 2007

Want to collaborate for a Hindustani Blog ?

I am looking for equal partners to start a blog in Hindustani written in Devanagari.
Let me know if you are interested.
We can figure out the details of the blog (thing like -Name of the blog .... the kind of stuff that we would post on the blog ... the kind of stuff we will not post on the blog ... how the blog will look etc etc) later ...

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Not so sweet 16 +16

Really strange ... in the last few days I have read about a few interesting personalities ... all of them had a common trait ... they died at the age of 32 ... how odd can that be ... These guys are from different corners of the world ... were active in different fields ... and lived in different times ... check them out yourself ... Sikander ... Adi Shankaracharya ... Ramanujan ... Bruce Lee

Friday, December 14, 2007

Ek Chidiya - Anek Chidiyan




Truly Classic from "Films Division", made for the "Center for Educational Technology" (NCERT) and played about a million times by Dur-Darshan ... repeated to the extent that it got etched forever in our memories ...

I have transcripted the lyrics in देवनागरी and Roman (English) scripts -
firefox users should enable indic language support (start->settings->control panel->regional and language support) to see देवनागरी properly

हम् .. हिंद देश .. हम् हम्हम् ... हम सभी .. एक हैं .. ता र र र र
भाषा अनेक हैं हम् .. भाषा अनेक हैं हम्

ये अनेक क्या है दीदी ?
अनेक यानि बहोत सारे
बहोत सारे .. क्या बहोत सारे ?
अच्छा बताती हूँ .. सूरज एक, चन्दा एक, तारे अनेक
तारों को अनेक भी कहते हैं ?
नही नही, देखो फिर से

सूरज एक चन्दा एक .. एक
एक एक करके तारे भये अनेक

ठीक से समझाऊ ना दीदी

देखो देखो एक गिलहरी .. पीछे पीछे अनेक गिलहरियाँ
एक तितली .. एक और तितली .. एक एक एक करके हो गयीं अब अनेक तितलियाँ

समझ गया दीदी .. एक ऊँगली, अनेक उँगलियाँ
हाँ
दीदी दीदी वह देखो अनेक चिडियाँ
अनेक चिडियों की कहानी सुनोगे
हाँ हाँ

आ आ आ एक चिडिया एक-एक करके अनेक चिडियाँ .. दाना चुगने आई चिडियाँ

दीदी दीदी हमे भी सुनाओ ना
तो सुनो फिर से

एक चिडिया, अनेक चिडिया, दाना चुगने बैठ गयीं थी
हाय राम! पर वहाँ, ब्याल ने एक जाल बिछाया था
ब्याल, ब्याल कौन दीदी ?
ब्याल, चिडिया पकड़ने वाला
फिर क्या हाउ दीदी ? ब्य्ला ने उन्हे पकड़ लिया ? मार डाला ?

हिम्मत से अगर जुटे रहें तो .. छोटे हों पर मिले रहें तो बड़ा काम भी होवे भईय्या .. बड़ा काम भी होवे भईय्या
एक दो तीन ... चतुर चिडियाँ, सायानी चिडियाँ, मिल जुल कर, जाल ले कर, भागी चिडियाँ .. फुर्ररररररर

दूर, एक गाओं के पास, चिडियों के दोस्त चूहे रहते थे और उन्होने चिडियों का जाल काट दिया
तो देखा फिर तुमने, अनेक फिर एक हो जातें हैं तो कैसा मज़ा आता है

दीदी मै बताऊं .. हो गए एक .. बन गई ताकत .. बन गई हिम्मत
दीदी हम अगर एक हो जाएं तो बड़ा काम कर सकते हैं ?
हाँ हाँ क्यों नही

तो इस पेड़ के आम तोड़ सकते हैं ?
हाँ तोड़ सकते हैं, पर जुगत लगनी होगी
..
.
अच्छा , ये जुगत, वाह, बड़ा मज़ा आएगा

हिंद देश के निवासी सभी जन एक हैं X4

रंग रूप वेश भाषा चाहे अनेक हैं X4

एक अनेक, एक अनेक ... सूरज एक चन्दा एक तारे अनेक
एक तितली अनके तितलियाँ ..एक गिलहरी अनेक गिलहरियाँ
एक चिडिया एक एक अनेक चिडियाँ

बेला गुलाब जूही चंपा चमेली
X4

फूल हैं अनेक किंतु माला फिर एक है X4


hmm .. hind desh .. hm hmhm .. hum sabhi .. ek hain.. ta ra ra ra ra
bhasha aneka hain hmm .. bhnasha aneka hain hmm

ye anek kya hai didi?
anek yaaney bahot saarey
bahot saarey .. kya bahot saarey ?
achcha batati hoon .. sooraj ek, chanda ek, taarey anek
taaron ko anek bhi kehtey hain?
nahi nahi, daikho phir sey

sooraj ek chanda ek .. ek ek ek karkey taarey bhaye anek

theek sey samjhaoo na didi

daikho daikho ek gilahri ... peechey peechey anek gilahriyan
ek titali ..ek aur titali .. ek ek ek karkey ho gayeen ab anek titaliyaan

samajh gaya didi .. ek ungli, anek ungliyan
haan
didi didi woh dekho anek chidiyan
anek chidiyon ki kahani sunogey ?
haan haan

aa aa aa ek chidiya ek-ek karkey anek chidiyan .. daana chugney aayi chidiyan

didi didi humey bhi sunaoo na
to suno phir sey

ek chidiya anek chidiyan
daana chugney baith gayeen thi
hai raam! par wahan, byal ney ek jaal bichaaya tha
byal, byal kaun didi ?
byal, chidiya pakadney waala
phir kya hua didi? byal ney unhey pakad liya? maar dala

himmat sey agar jutey rahen to ..chootey hon par miley rahen to bada kaam bhi hovey bhaiya .. bada kaam bhi hovey bhaiya
ek do teen .. chatur chidya, sayani chidiya, mil jul kar, jaal le kar, bhaagi chidiyan .. phurrrrr

duur, ek gaaon ke paas, chidiyon ke dost choohey rehtey they aur unhoney chidiyon ka jaal kaat diya
to daikha phir tumney anek phir ek ho jaatey hain to kaisa maza aata hai

didi mai bataaon ... ho gaye ek .. ban gayi takat .. ban gayi himmat
didi agar hum ek ho jaayen to bada kaam kar saktey hain?
haan haan kyon nahi
to is ped ke aam bhi toad saktey hain?
haan toad saktey hain , par jugad lagani hogi
..
.
achcha, ye jugat, wah, bada maza aayega

hind daish ke niwaasi sabhi jan ek hain X4

rang roop vesh bhasha chaahey anek hain X4

ek aneky ek aneky .. sooraj ek chanda ek taarey anek
ek titiali aneky titiliayan .. ek gilahri anek gilahriyan
ek chidiya ek ek anek chidiyan

beyla gulaab juhi chumpa chameli X4

phool hain anek kintu maala phir ek hai X4

Let me know about transcription/spelling/transliteration mistakes by leaving a comment

(Thanks to Saurabhusbondre , the youtube video has been posted by him. Another thank-you goes to my pal kholu for pointing me to the video)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The Nobel Sherwani



The Sherwani is looking smart at the Nobel Awards Ceremony

Friday, December 07, 2007

Honed to Perfection ???

This article was recommended by Subbu in a comment on Susu's blog-post about some transient midlife-crisis/existential-dilemma

It says that, many a times, the search for perfection is not good for you ... that the extra load and worry is just not worth it ...

I agree ... not because I am a lazy bum (you guessed wrong) ... but because I have always believed in "ek lohaar ki"

Wouldn't it be great if we all knew when to stop ... we could just show up ... make maximum impact ... and then rush out before the law of diminishing returns kicks in

I cannot paste the whole article ... nytimes copyright rules bar free distribution ... but you can always follow the URL
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/04/health/04mind.html

I guess folks in the software world would find the concept familiar. One of the warnings, given at the time of training, is against gold-plating

So folks ... chill out ... take it easy and enjoy

Shikaar-e-Naukari

Shikaar-e-Naukari ... sounds like the name of a complex poem ... it probably is complex ... but it definitely is not poetic ... it's more of a slaying-the-beast kind of a thing ... this Shikaar-e-Naukari (a bad translation of the word "Job-Hunt")

In all possibility "hunting" would have been an adventure thing even in the times of the early man ... only brave men (women?) would have entered the forests to slay the beast ... possibly to protect their fellow tribesmen, cattle or fields ... or maybe to kill a lunch or a dinner ...

With advances in technology (spear ... bow and arrow) and society (division of labour ... surplus produce ... specialized fighters) the odds would have tilted away from the hunted and in favour of the hunter ... fear would have come down ... and men would have started enjoying the hunts ...

Those looking for some thrills would go for the kills ... We know that Raja-Maharaajas, Nawabs and other assorted muchchads hunted for pleasure ... and the English and their (its turned ours now) language took the adventure-sport of killing a step further - it called it "Game" hunting...

Times have changed from then ... today shooting with the gun is out of fashion ...most of the shooting takes place thru the lens of a camera ... but the thrill of the kill remains ... and that is good news for me ... for I am on a Job Hunt

The fun part began with the resume ... something I last made when I was in b-school ... more than 3 years back ... in fact I had kissed my CV goodbye on the day I started on my own firm ... thankfully there was an old copy stashed somewhere in my yahoo briefcase ... so with a little copying of formats (thank you G) I could reconstruct most of the CV ...

The issues while making a CV are many

- size - one can make a five pager with intricate details of each project (technology, business domain, learnings, contributions, achievements, reporting structure blah blah blah) ...

- details - Some put a section on non-verifiable and usually cliche skills (out of box thinker,excellent communicator,team-player,eye for details etc etc) ...

- level of cow-dung (bull-shit for non-feminists) - Some people like to open with a paragraph of pompous self-boast e.g - A dynamic go-getter, with a penchant for innovation, drive for success, working as a catalytic change-agent zzzzzzz ..... others put more non-verifiable bullshit in the (believe-it-or-not) achievement's section e.g- Helped underprivileged blind children climb mount everest while carrying mother Teressa on my shoulders...

- Font - Thankfully laziness saved me the trouble of choosing fonts ... I unashamedly copied (smart worker, champion of efficiency enhancing methods like re-use) from the standard IIMB format
..
.
.
There were lots of other things ... but, for your benefit, I will cut the story short (or else I lose the very few readers who have bothered to read this far).

so what did I do? ... ... you might have guessed it right -I took the shortcut ... made a one-pager (size limits the amount of bull-shit) and sent it to friends for feedback ... Oh yes - I have been a quality guy ... I know the pluses of peer-review ...

The feedbacks are in and I am into the final draft ... hopefully it will not carry too much of embellishing bull ...

as Jigar Muradabadi had said

sab hi andaaz-e-husn pyaare hain

hum magar saadgi ke maarey hain

signing-off today with thank-yous to xl, uncle, pareekh, andy and jim

Thursday, December 06, 2007

We didn't start the bubble - too good


Way cool

Note- Pilfered from a usually biased and occasionally good blog (sort of like lotus in the middle of muck)

Monday, December 03, 2007

Track your comments

This seems like a very friendly feature of blogspot

Now you can get intimated of any follow-up comments on a post... Meaning ... if you write a comment on a post and want to get an intimation whenever someone else writes another comment on that post - you can easily do that ... you just have to check an option box while posting your comment ...

this picture shows the option box that needs to be checked -



I always wanted a feature like this ... and was very happy when I discovered it today ... am wondering if its been around for a while ... and also wondering why blogger's has not publicized this new feature

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A Rupee for petroleum

Lately the financial newspapers and blogs have started carrying loads of hu ha about petroleum and currencies ... should crude be traded in Euros ? ... should it be priced in Dollars ? ... does it really matter? ... who keeps his forex reserves where? ... who's weaving a basket for his currency? ... the issues are every where ... so I have come up with this novel suggestion

It would be good fun if, instead of running after dollar, pound, yer and euros, the persian gulf countries moved on to the Indian Rupee ... moving to the rupee wouldn't be such a strange thing for the sheiks ... they are already familiar with it ... in the olden times the Indian Rupee was in wide circulation in the gulf ... things went to such an extent that RBI had to issue special notes, popularly called gulf rupee, for the region ...

The gulf rupee was similar to the indian rupee except the fact that it was in different colours and the serial numbers included an extra "Z". Here's how the 1, 5,10 and 100 gulf rupee notes looked like (pics taken from Qatar Central Bank site)



Monday, November 26, 2007

Gaining weight - Fat a fat

There used to be a time when I could eat anything ... and not worry about my weight ... infact watching weight was the kind of stuff that girls did ... Those were such lovely days, I could eat to my hearts content with blissful abandon ... Mithais, chocolates, ice-creams, kingfishers .. triple helpings of everything ... sub chalta tha ... sub khoon maaf they

All that has changed now ... I am putting on weight on regular food ... don't know why ... its sort of scary ... i am already 85 kgs with a 40 inch paunch ... is this the onset of middleagedness ????

Block out

A new strategy to break out of the writer's block has just chamkooed to me.
Write short posts .. which don't require too much of thinking or typing.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Clear Scan

- The results are out ...

Which results ??? - Well the results of PET Scan done 3 months after treatment

What were they trying to find out ??? - If there are any signs of cancer cells left in my body

What did they find ??? - Nothing ... it was a Clear Scan

What does it mean ??? - Means that the treatment seems to have worked, the cancerous cells are gone, the residual mass of dead tissue is gone ... and cancer has not returned in the last 3 months

Wow seems good ... so you off the hook ??? - Sort of ... will have to send the report to my doctor and he will decide if this is "remission" ... Then will have to get a few quarterly PET scans done ... to see if the disease is relapsing

So you live life QSQT ??? - Yes I will ... but who doesn't

What are the chances now ??? - Pretty good ... If the cancer does not return in the next year or two there are good chances that it never will

Situation seems good ... you held up will ... Good Show :-) - Thank you

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Graceless on TV

Yesterday I spent a lot of time watching TV ... there was the T20 final and lots of bed time latter because I was tired after not eating the whole day (had a PET scan ... which required me to come empty stomach ... so hadn't eaten anything after previous night's dinner ... and since AIIMS is a "sarkaari" hospital, the scan scheduled for10 in morning actually took place at 4 in the evening ... leaving me hungry for longer than I could take)

So I was watching the TV and was stuck by total lack of grace from 2 people ... First was the Pakistani Captain ... he first thanked and then apologized to all the Muslims in the world ... I wondered why? He looked silly cause obviously all Muslims in the world had not supported his team ... infact we can do some calculations and find out his support levels ...

Here we go -

Reasonable assumptions
A> Muslims in India will support India (their own country)
B> Muslims in Bangladesh will not support Pakistan team (Bongs fought Pakis for their independence)
C> Muslims in non-cricket playing countries (like Indonesia) will not be interested in cricket and will support no one.

Now Numbers
World Muslim Population - 1500 million
Muslims in Cricket playing nations - 451 million
Muslims in Pakistan - 158 million
Muslims in India - 150 million
Muslims in Bangladesh - 135 million

Scenarios

Best Scenario for Pak Captain - All cricket interested Muslims except Indians and Bangladeshis support him (166 Million, slightly unlikely as there is no reason for all Kenyan, South African, Britisher etc etc Muslims to support Pakistan)
This translates int0 11.1% of world Muslim support and 36.8% of cricket interested Muslim support

Worst Scenario for Pak Captain - Only Pakistani Muslims support him (158 million, very likely)
This translates into 10.5% of World Muslim Support and 35% of cricket interested Muslim support

Bottom-line is that only 1 in 10 Muslims of the world would have supported him. Even in the cricket playing world only about one third Muslims would have supported him. He made a fool of himself by claiming global Muslim support. Two of my friends have written on this very topic. Samcho in his post Twenty20 and Siddhartha in his post ICC World Twenty20, Religion and myth-busting.

Now on to the second person who lacked grace ... it was Columbia University's President Lee Bollinger.... He invited Iran's president Ahmadinejad to his University and then went on to pile insults on him ... I am no fan of Ahmadinejad ... but I sincerely feel that if one invites a guest one should treat the guest in a civilized manner (if you hate someone to the limit of insulting - don't invite him in the first place) ... BBC showed the most insulting part of Bollinger's speech live ... makes me wonder if (and how much of) Ahmadinejad's speech was shown uncensored (I went to sleep after hearing Bollinger's part) ...

Reminds me of more crude behavior that I pointed out in my earlier post Saddam dead - Winners in West-Asia rejoice ... I don't expect the world to be free of crudeness ... infact crudeness adds spice to the world ... but I did expect the Presidents of a big university to be slightly better mannered

Thats all for this post ... will prolly write something when my PET Scan report comes out tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Delayed Plan, Round Trips and a Marriage

Those who have read the earlier post know about my mission-remission plan. In the plan I wanted to wait for normal blood counts before training to first regain and then maintain stamina.

Like all good plans mission-remission slipped from the very beginning - My blood counts refused to hit normal levels - which meant that the plan stood delayed ...

But all was not bad... there was a silver lining ... etc etc ... blood counts actually got stuck after creeping near 90% of normal values ... Being a Mechanical engineer I could easily declare the blood counts as normal ...You see its very characteristic of Mech engineers ... we don't shy away from happily rounding off pi as 3 and the value of acceleration due to gravity 'g' as 10 ... for the illiterate - pi is actually 22/7 which comes out to be around 3.14... 'g' varies from location to location but conventional students like to believe that it is 9.8 m/secsquared ... Mech engineers can do all the approximations because we pad up our final results with a "factor of safety" ... which means that when calculations require a part to be 1 inch thick, the mechanical engineer can safely ask for a 2 or 3 inch thick part :-)) ... Sadly I don't have a "factor of safety" so the optimistic approximation may not work.

Anyways, I could not let technical glitches from spoiling my plan ... Normal blood counts would have signalled that my body could take the load of shaping up ... now I planned to bypass the counts and test my endurance directly ... So I took two adventure trips (must agree that the trips were not solely for testing my load-bearing capacity ... after months of staying at home I was dying to go out and meet people) ...

First trip was more challenging ... it involved driving on Delhi-Agra-Gwalior-Jhansi-Satna route in two days ... Gwalior-Jhansi strech had to be covered after sunset (poor planning by me) on a path which had non-existant roads (poor planning by UP and MP governments) ... the challenges didn't end with the drive ... there was more -> Satna- Allahabad travel, stay with the in-laws, Allahabad-luckhnow-Delhi by various combinations of train and bus ... Bottom line is I endured the trip without too much trouble ...

Second trip was within a week -> I went to Mumbai to attend my friend Andy's wedding. It was a typical Tam affair ... the detailed story is on the IIMB Class of 2004 blog. This one was two days flyin-flyout kind of a trip . Was good fun ... but took some time to recover from it ... slept throughout the day for 2-3 days ...

Anyways ... so that was how I was whiling away my time ... after all I have the licence for doing Haraamkhori ... though I guess the licence will expire soon ...

I have my PET Scan on 24th Sept ... The scan will tell if the treatment (chemotherapy and radiation) has succeeded so far ... an all-clear in the PET means I would be back to normal life (though I will have to take care of my body ... stay in shape and get regularly checked-up to see if the cancer has relapsed) ... In case PET shows that the cancer lingers on, then I will hold my Haraamkhori licence and may have to get on to a second-line of treatment (which is slightly tougher than the first line treatment ... with less optimistic results) ...

So the coming week is a week of uncertainties ... which is nothing unusual for me ... I can continue making full use of my Haraamkhori licence-

Ajgar karey naa chaakri
Panchi karey naa kaam
Das maluka kahi gaye
subkey daata raam

Friday, August 10, 2007

CBC 4000 and climbing

Most of my friends have been tracking my progress (against blood cancer) thru this blog.... there was a time when I made frequent postings ... in those days; no one felt the need to mail or call to find out about my health ... lately I have been getting a lot of calls and mails from my pals - all wondering if am doing OK ... I guess a personal health update is overdue

So here's the latest -

I have completed the first-line of treatment ... this means I have undergone R-MACOP-B chemo therapy and have also taken radiation (40 Gy which were distributed over 20 sittings) ... If this first-line treatment succeeds ( I hope it will) then I will not need any further treatment and will go on to live a (hopefully satisfying) long life :-)

When the radiation got over (in late June) I came back to Delhi have been resting at home for the past 1.5 months ... in this time I have slowly evolved and brought into action my Mission-Remission ... Mission-Remission is a three staged program for getting my life back
here's how it goes -

1. Let blood counts mount
Chemo and radiation had slowed down the production of White Blood Cells (WBCs also called Leukocytes) in my body ... a normal man has WBC count ranging from 4000-11000, mine had come down to 2400. The first thing that needed to be done was the wait for the blood counts to come back to the normal range. I rested at home, ate good food, got blood counts analyzed twice a week ... all in anticipation of normal blood counts ... My counts first rose to 3000 level ... stayed there for a while and then slowly started improving .... I reduced the frequency of getting counts done to once a week ... Last Monday the blood counts touched 4000 ... if the figure goes further up in next Monday's blood counts I would declare myself to be officially back to normal blood counts.

2. Get back in shape
To give you an idea ... I was 5 kgs over my ideal-body-weight when I was diagnosed with cancer ... the treatment put me on steroids and I gained a further 5 kgs .... so now I am 10 kgs overweight ... before I got the disease I could work 10 kg dumbbells with ease ... now I have trouble doing 3 kgs ... earlier I could go on a morning walk of 6 km and come back feeling refreshed ... now I get totally drained out in a 3-4 km walk .... Clearly I need to shed weight and build up my strength and stamina
I have given this 3 months time ... starting next week (when I will declare the blood counts to be officially normal) ... aim is reduction of weight by atleast 10 kgs (from 81 kgs today), reduction in waist ( from 38 inch today, to below 32 inch) and regaining stamina (back to comfortable 6 km walks) ... in the process I might also get back my strength (with other things in place it will come automatically)
During this time I also aim to get a job for myself ... What kind of a job? ... I don't know ... I am a man of many talents (some would say "well hidden", but I ignore them :-) ... and since I am a very fast learner ... I can potentially do many things (no point being modest these days :-) ... I have to make up my mind ... there are unconventional options like teaching or taking up a job in one of the NGOs ... but my guess is I would get back to rigmarole of corporate life ... any suggestions on this are most welcome ... please feel free to shoot out possible career options and openings at baawara@gmail.com

3. Keep on the good work
Once life gets back to normal ... I intend to keep it that way ... I probably will need to be more careful with my health than most blokes ... but hey staying fit cannot be that bad a choice ... I think making little challenges for myself will help ... first challenge ... completing Delhi Half-Marathon in 2008 :-)

I told you so

About a year back I wrote a protest post on this blog.
It was called Live-in, Wives, Legislation and Jail

At that time I thought that the "Domestic Violence Act" was unfair (I still do) . It (apart from its many other shortcomings) assumed that men were guilty and therefore must be punished by (pre-conviction) prison sentences imposed by their wives.

My argument, that the DV law is flawed, has been backed by this news article (to see the video click on "watch video"). The article says that the DV law is being misused- even Supreme Court thinks that the law was badly drafted.

A basic question ... Does a law become good just because it has been passed by an elected parliament ??? ... looking at the biased domestic violence law the answer seems to be - NO ... then comes the more important point ... when all laws are not good then shouldn't we stop following the "not good" ones ? (this may look like sedition to a lot of people - but it is an honest question)

You see - an impartial judiciary can ensure implementation of any law (by punishing the violators) ... India can boast of a slow, but largely impartial judiciary ... If judiciary has to implement "bad laws", it would effectively be spreading injustice (even if it has the best intentions ... because the fault lies with the law not the judiciary) ... Any law not based on time-tested and important principles like equality and assumed-innocence runs a big chance of being a "bad law"... By dishonouring the principles of equality, assumed-innocence etc, the parliament is actually exposing the common man (note the pun) to possible travesty of justice.

The onus is on the parliament - By passing good laws, they can prevent the courts from meeting out a travesty of justice ... more importantly they can prevent people (like me) from thinking "... should I even be following any of these biased rules? ..."

Greater good of people demands that the rules and laws be based upon equitable and universally accepted principles ... I think some "equitable" principals are laid out in our constitution (I know the constitution provides an exception from "equality" by saying that special rules can be made for women- making a women specific law for tackling a problem faced by both genders is plain idiotic) ... Whether these principles are "universally accepted" remains an open question (The fact is - An individual has practically no choice over his country's constitution just like she/he has no choice over her/his parents, her/his looks , religion, etc ... most people are usually happy with what they have ... the ones who are not become - whiners ... deserters ... misfits ... rebels ... revolutionaries ... pioneers ... inventors ... prophets etc)

Finally, the two things that can reduce the justifications (actually there are some good ones) for partial and biased laws are
1) A more swift, effective and impartial investigative force (can it be police?)
2) Faster justice from the courts

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

$urpri$e

There are small surprises in life that give us much more happiness than their monetary costs ... Getting a box of your favorite chocolates as gift ... finding the long forgotten 500 rupee note in the jacket pocket ... one can think of numerous examples ...

Today I had one such small-joys-of-life experience ... I got a cheque ... not too much in value ... but totally unexpected ... It was the payment for my piece in "Men's Health" ... I remember writing that stuff with no expectation of getting paid for it (Had I known maybe I would have written it more carefully) ... I was under the impression that people wrote such stuff just for the kick of it ... but then the cheque came ... and it gave me a high that no drug (at least none worth the cheque's value) could have managed ... :-)

Makes me wonder if one can sustain ones self just by writing opinion, insight and analysis pieces. There are a truck load of topics out there ... eco, Int relations and trade, health issues, climate issues, race/religion issues, rich-poor issues, moral-immoral issues ... If you can think about it , then you can write about it ... there can be many interesting pieces on many interesting topics ... but the point is - will people like to read them ??? will someone pay for them ??? does anybody apart from Vir Singhvi(or is it Sanghvi?) make a living by dishing out his style and guile, cheers and fears, vices and biases, fakes and takes ..et cetera et cetera for public consumption ... and then make a good life out of it ...

All you journalists out there ... tell me ... is it possible to make ends meet just by writing off your heart's content ???

(It's very unlikely that any journalist will ever read this post ... so the question passes to anybody who has foggiest idea about the publishing industry :-))

* I remember that I had promised a piece on Sudoku .. and I will definitely keep my promise some day ...

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Radio Ga Ga

Sometime near the beginning of time, when I first started off blogging, Delhi was already a quasi-modern city. Even in the ancient days of 2004, the city boasted 3 or 4 FM stations. Some of those stations were passably good, some weren't. One knew which was which - There weren't too many alternates and each station had its musical leanings (broadly angrezi, punjaabi-based-khichdi, akaaswani-based-oldies+social-message-trash). They also had well separated frequencies- one knew them by heart (hardly surprising since there weren't too many channels ... moreover it helped if you receiver had the tendency to lose "stored stations list" on each power cut)

All this has changed now.

Delhi, these days, has well over 11 FM stations and the list is growing fast. I found this out when I sat down to configure FM channels on my mobile phone (small miracle of convergence ... sometime in near future I hope to write about configuring a few zillion TV channels on my "portable electronic sustenance thing" - PEST) . Now my phone also has the "feature" of assigning channel-names to stored frequencies - This forced me to spend about an hour trying to figure out the names of various FM Stations ... it was not a very difficult exercise, the RJs helped me in this ... every 5-10 minutes the RJs tend to announce something like "its a gloomy day and you are listening ABCXYZ FM". On the whole this might look like a huge waste of time, but it wasn't - my efforts revealed two well-hidden facts - that "Meaoon" is the only FM station which is "just for women" and that "Gyanvaani" is Delhi's only full time "educational" FM radio channel ("educational" should not be confused with "educational films" like the classic legend "mysore mallige" which used to be afloat in hostel LANs)

So here's the current list of Delhi's FM stations. (hope it helps you in configuring your PEST or in case your receiver has the habit of losing "stored stations list" helps you in tuning into your fav FM station)

91.10 MHz - Radio City
92.70 MHz - Big 92.7 FM
93.50 MHz - Red FM
94.30 MHz - Radio One
95.00 MHz - Hit 95 FM
98.30 MHz - Radio Mirchi
102.6 MHz - AIR FM "Rainbow"
104.0 MHz - Fever 104
104.8 MHz - "Meaoon" 104.8 FM
105.6 MHz - "Gyanvaani"
106.4 MHz - AIR FM "Gold"


Point to note ... While most channels are separated by multiples of 0.8 MHz ... this rule does have some exceptions ... I wonder if some sort of optimized-station-separation is mandated in the policy for spectrum distribution.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Bharat ek Khoj... Shristi sey pehley sat nahi thaa

Here's a blast from the past

One of my favourite TV serials, it was first telecast when I was in class 5 or 6 ... in those days , when history classes were the most boring things, it made history seem interesting to me ... Aptly named "Bharat ek Khoj" ... it was the story of Indian history, as told by Jawharlal Nehru in his book "Discovery of India"...

I especially liked the title tracks ... they had a distinct sound and aura about them

Yesterday ... I did some googling to dig out the mp3s and some info on the tracks ... The tracks are actually recitations of Sanskrit originals and Hindi adaptations of Nasadiya sukta and Hiranyagarbha sukta ... These Hymns (sukta) can be found in Mandal 10 (book 10) of Rig Veda.

Opening Track (click to hear/download the MP3)

(Sanskrit Rig Veda 10.129.1)
nāsadāsīn no sadāsīt tadānīṃ nāsīd rajo no vyomāparo yat |
kimāvarīvaḥ kuha kasya śarmannambhaḥ kimāsīd ghahanaṃ ghabhīram ||

(Hindi adaptation Rig Veda 10.129.1)
srishti se pehaley sat nahi thaa, asat bhi nahi
antariksh bhi nahi, aakaash bhi nahi thaa
chipa tha kya, kahan, kisney dhaka thaa
us pal to agam atal jal bhi kahan thaa

(Hindi adaptation Rig Veda 10.129.7)
srishti ka kaun hai karta, karta hai va akarta
oonche aakaash mey rehta, sada adhyaksh bana rehta
vahi such-much mey jaanta, ya nahi bhi jaanta
hai kisi ko nahi pata, nahi pata, nahi hai pataa, nahi hai pataa


Closing Track (click to hear/download the MP3)

(Sanskrit Rig Veda 10.121.1)
hiraṇyagharbhaḥ samavartatāghre bhūtasya jātaḥ patirekaāsīt |
sa dādhāra pṛthivīṃ dyāmutemāṃ kasmai devāyahaviṣā vidhema ||

(Hindi adaptation Rig Veda 10.121.1)
vah thaa Hiranyagarbh shristi sey pehley vidyamaan
vahi to saarey bhuut jaat ka swami mahaan
jo hai astitvamaan dharti aasmaan dhaaran kar
aisey kis devata ki upaasanaa karen hum havi dekar

(Hindi adaptation Rig Veda 10.121.5)
jiskey bal par taejomay hai ambar
prithvi hari-bhari sthaapit-sthir
swarg aur suuraj bhi sthir
aisey kis devata ki upaasanaa karen hum havi dekar

(Hindi adaptation Rig Veda 10.121.7)
garbh mey apney agni dhaaran kar payda kar
vyaapa thaa jal idhar-udhar neechey-ooper
jaga jo devoon ka ekmayv praan ban kar
aisey kis devata ki upaasanaa karen hum havi dekar

(Hindi adaptation Rig Veda 10.121.9)
ho.. srishti nirmaata swarg rachayta poorvaj raksha kar
satya dharm palak atul jal niyaamak raksha kar
phaili hain dishaayen baahu jaisi uski submey subpar
aisey hi devata ki upaasanaa karen hum havi dekar
aisey hi devata ki upaasanaa karen hum havi dekar


Now ... my Sanskrit is a bit rusty ... in fact my Sanskrit was always rusty ... never shined even a bit ... I could not graduate beyond "Ramah kandukain seh kridanti" and "Vrikshe patrani pattanti" ( I think these words are grammatically incorrect Sanskrit for "Ram's playing with the ball" and "Leaves fall from the tree") ... I have some questions which someone with better command of Sanskrit/Vedas can possibly answer - Can we call the couplets or verses (which are part of a sukta) in Rig Veda Shlokas? can we call them Mantras? are they called Rik ? ... What is the difference between a Shlok, a Mantr and a Rik ?

That's all for this post ... will soon write something on Sudoku

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

About Men's Health

Folks I got some footage in print media

"Men's Health" Magazine (India Edition, June 07) carries a few picture and an article by me.
:-)

pages of interest 58-60

Sunday, May 27, 2007

and the story continues ....

Regular folks know that this blog has become (almost solely) about my Lymphoma ... I am not comfortable with the "oh poor me" undertone which(I think) comes with my disease and can get attached to the blog ... Since I don't want to be the "beechara" fellow... I would (hopefully sometime soon) start posting about more regular stuff (whatever that is) ...

And, from now on, I will mark lymphoma related posts with the label "Mission-Remission" ... this should help folks interested only in the Lymphoma story.

The past month and a half were supposed to be a break... a break from treatment which ended up being a break from blogging ... there was a lot of action in this time ... which would have made some interesting reading ... here's a sample ...

First there were the wild mood swings that came with steroid tapering-off ... I was taking some steroids as part of my Chemo ... actually "some" would be an understatement ... I was taking lots of steroids(about 10 times my body's natural production) ... This was soooo much that (in all probability) my body would have stopped making some of its own steroids (called "Cortisol") ... with the ending of chemo, the huge dosage of steroids had to end too - The plan was to taper the steroids down to Zero in 15 days ... these 15 days (and a week afterwards) turned into my personal flower-power days ... I went thru withdrawal symptoms that only the most wasted junky can boast of... there were cycles of depressive lows followed by ebullient highs ... lots of cranky behaviour that my wife(Afshan) gracefully endured, and I thoroughly enjoyed.

By the time the freak-mood subsided, my drug-induced diabetes had also vanished. Now I can hog whatever I like, as much as I like ... thank god for small mercies.

Then came the nice girl (Ananya Dasgupta) from CNN-IBN. She suggested that I do a citizen journalist report. Being ever so fond of "footage", I obliged and got my 5 minutes on national TV ... ideally I would have preferred being featured as a filthily-rich-guy... but that's still years away ... right now I have to settle for the citizen journo clip, which, apart from being for a good cause, qualifies as an "A" Grade look-mom-i-am-on-TV moment ... You can check out my citizen journo efforts at CNN-IBN website (by clicking here) ... The clip was immediately followed by a live discussion (Link here) ... pls discount the wrong age and the slightly sentimental pen-sketch.

I took part in the live discussion from Hyderabad ... had gone there to get a PET Scan done ... The scan is the one of the best available methods of detecting cancer ... it works like this - first they injecting some radioactive glucose in the blood ... then they take a picture of radioactivity that builds up inside the body ... Since the cancer cells eat-up 5-6 times more glucose than normal cells, they show up as bright spots in the PET Scan image ... My doctor tells me that my test results are good ... there is no "active disease" left in my body ... He shied away from using the word "Remission" ... mostly because the "residual mass" (leftover fibre and dead-tissue at the tumour site) has not reduced by the amounts that he wanted ...

So I am on "Mission-Remission" ... which starts off tomorrow with the first dose of radiation ... Will keep you guys posted about Mission-Remission and other interesting topics ...

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Comming back to life

Finally the chemo-therapy is over ... with that phase-I of fight against cancer has been completed.

I have shifted back to Delhi to rest, recuperate and rejuvenate. The whole aim is to the get the body and mind out of the effects of cancer treatment ... and get back to life

The first steps are already on the way ... I am slowly tapering off the corticosteroids (that I was taking) ... hoping that my metabolism will slowly come to speed on its own. More about this story in the following posts.

Right now, I will leave you with some visuals of the growth next to my heart.

This is how my chest looked about one year back. An expert can detect initial signs of lymphoma, but my doctor missed those signs completely. The lymphoma was later aught in an x-ray 6 months down the line. If it had been caught at the time of this x-ray treatment would have been much shorter and easier.


This is how the chest looked when I got the X ray in December last. The chest doctor suspected that I had TB. He asked for tests, but started off with TB before the tests could confirm/deny TB. I took that medication for more than a month.


In the first month of TB treatment, I started having difficulty in breathing and swallowing.
I met more doctors and they started hinting that I might have something other than TB. At that stage I got this X-ray taken in first week of Jan 07. It showed significant increase in tumour (In just one month's time). I got a laproscopic biopsy two days after this X-ray. That biopsy confirmed cancer


This is how my chest looked yesterday. Chemo therapy has taken out most of the tumour. But still I can see that some residual tissue still remains.

Chemo 12 - .

It's over ... and I am happy
:-)

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Chemo 11 - The Buzzzz

Having done Adriamycin and Cyclophosphamide on 5 earlier occasions, I was expecting nothing new on the 6th.

I was in for a surprise ... thanks to something called cumulative dose which makes a repeat of the same old drug a whole new experience (not a pleasant one at that)

... in plain speak - repeat doses of the chemo drug causes more effects and side-effects than the initial doses. This is because - Any drug takes some time to leave the body, some of the drug remains in the body for quite a while (funda of half-life). The effect (of the drug) lasts much longer than the drug itself. So, the effect of repeat dose adds up to the effect of the initial dose (thus curing me faster). Sadly the side-effects also add up (e.g. so the mouth ulcers come faster and cause more trouble etc). Worst is the accumulated toxicity - most of the chemo drugs have a cumulative toxicity levels ... one is not supposed to take more than a particular amount ... even when that amount is spread over many days ... and wisely so ... I don't see much fun in a cancer free life if that life comes with failed Kidneys, dysfunctional liver and failing lungs.

... The body also makes its contribution or rather refuses to make it contribution (of putting putting up a good fight). It gets tired of fighting the Chemo ... gets hit faster and takes more time to bounce back.

Well, now that things are in perspective, the immediate effect of 11 Chemo can be described as a very strong buzz (less like a good high more like a bad hangover) in the head ... coupled with water tasting bitter (the torture is - my kidney will get damaged if don't drink something like 5 litres of liquid) ... coupled with bouts of extreme fatigue ... coupled with uneasiness ... upset stomach ... nausea etc etc.

That's all reduced by today ... and will get much better by the time I am ready for the last Chemo ... which is on the good day of Thursday ... it was supposed to be on friday ... but the coming friday is "Good Friday" (commemorating the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazreth ... definitely not a day to celebrate) ... so the doc advanced the chemo by a day.

Before signing off ... It's been a month since I have replied to mails ... don't hold it against me ... will catch up once the chemo gets over and the body gets recharged ...

till later ...

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Goodbye Shaheer

Shaheer, the 3 year old from Peshawar, died today ...

I hope there actually is some place called heaven and the little boy goes there ...

Makes me wonder ... Why the children? ... and then my thought goes to the parents ... They came with two kids and hope for a cure ... and now, when they are leaving ... one of the boys will be in a wooden box ...

For ages their land (near Khyber-pass in Hindukush) has been one of the most important connections between India and rest of the world ... today they have to fly to a third country (Dubai) to get back home ...

Life is strange ...

Friday, March 30, 2007

A Thought for Shaheer

Folks spare a thought and a prayer for Shaheer, the 3 year old boy from Peshawar who underwent a Bone Marrow Transplant. Shaheer's graft (donated by his 2 year old brother) was accepted, but he has developed a serious complication called (possibly Drug Induced) Interstitial Pneumonia. None of the medicines seem to be working- the kid is on lung machine, heavy dose of Morphine and Steroids. He is fighting for his life in the ICU.

Such Interstitial Pneumonia is not very common here (someone said more common in radiation tratment patients in Australia). This is the first case in 15 years in CMC. If you know a Heamatology/Oncology/Pulmonology doctor who has successfully dealt with Interstitial Pneumonia (after Bone Marrow Transplant) and would be available on mail/phone then do let me know at baawara@gmail.com - Pls stop your search ... the little boy is no more


I hope the kid pulls thru ..

Monday, March 26, 2007

Chemo 10 - 9..8..7..6..5.....

The Countdown is on ... there are just 2 more Chemo's left.

Life's on a routine ... a boring routine ... the initial hiccups with OPD Chemo administration have been sorted ... and there's nothing much new ... Just bidding my time ... Chemo will get over ... Then there is a one month break ... after which I get a scan (called PET Scan ... more about this one when it comes) ... Scan will tell us the extent to which the Lymphoma has survived the Chemo. (we hope that all lymphoma will be wiped out, but realistically some might still remain) Then we let loose some radiation on the remaining bits of Lymphoma ... just to deliver the knock out punch :-) Since the scan is not 100% reliable- we will nuke the remaining tissue even if scan shows no malignancy.

Now some might think ... what's the point of PET Scan when it's results may not affect future course of treatment ... Well I don't know ... the doctor asked for it ... maybe it helps in identifying the targets for the Nuke machine

I have learnt that these guys use some serious equipment for nuking the cancer- linear accelerators and all. Will talk about these big guns when I get to see them.

The plan is to go back to Delhi on 10 April and then chill out. The treatment path is chalked out. There's nothing i can do which will improve my chances . So i am taking things easy ... I think Delhi is a good place for taking things easy.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Chemo 9 - You have to "Face" it

Long years ago ... when I was well and working ... Afshan(speaking purely as business partner) gave me this fine advice "go meet the clients" she said "else you will slowly turn into a face-less phone number and email-id" I was slow on uptake, thinking - why bother someone, waste their time and mine, when we can get all the work done on phone and email.

Friday's chemo was a reminder of that advice. It turned out to be a short demo-exercise on the need of putting a face (hopefully one which evokes recognition and empathy) to a name.

It was slated to be a long Chemo ... atleast 8 hours of drug infusion ... CMC OPD would not have handled it (they typically handle chemos that last less than 4 hours) ... so we had to get me admitted in one of the Haematology wards (called M wards locally, this includes M 1,2&3 and MTS 1,2,3&4)

Now M wards have a lot of patient load, so we had booked our room one week in advance ... We had played it safe ... asking for a room on Thursday (one day before the Chemo- so that Chemo could start early in morning ... also as a buffer just in case we had difficulty in getting the room) ... And we called M ward office almost daily- to remind them of our booking (obviously we were worried ... we din't want the chemo schedule to go awry because of some stupid room availability issue) ... each time we got the same reply - "we are not expecting any discharges, can't say anything yet"

Then we made a couple of trips to the office and realized that the lady seemed to be more helpful when "face to face" than on phone (on phone- "no rooms yet, pls try again later"... face-to-face - "yeah we are trying, will try to fix something up for you... definitely ..sure.. blah blah") . So on Thursday, when all the phone calls failed, we landed up at the office ... planted ourselves there and then convinced the lady that the ROOM IS INDEED NEEDED. We left after extracting a promise on getting a room first thing next morning.

Finally we did get our room ... not exactly early in the morning ... but after keeping our faces planted in front of her for about an hour and a half (It helps that I look like a cancer patient ... evoking some level of sympathy from the casual onlooker)

With the room problem out of our way, a doctor was needed - to give all the right instructions for the chemo to begin ... Getting the doc was the job for the nurses at M2 ... but why would they do it in a hurry? (They didn't realize the seriousness of the situation ... delay in giving Chemo meant delay in reaching home ... which meant me missing the starting of the cricket match ... really serious stuff)

This was another chance for me to use my "Face value". I just strolled into M3 (ward just above mine) and showed my face to Dr Biju (consultant who was around at that time) ... That did the trick ... being the nice doc that Dr Biju is, he was happy to see me, asked me about my health and when he found out that I had come for the Chemo he set things in motion right away ... two minutes later- Dr Abhijit had written down all the instructions and prescriptions ... the chemo nurses were already being called.

Chemo nurses looked pretty grumpy ... having to come down on such a short notice ... thankfully they too recognized me (I am 9 chemos old ... most Heamat Department people know me by now) ... one of them smiled and said ... " oh so its you who has got admitted in room 209 " ... and things went smoothly after that (She even found a vein in the first try)

That was not the end of the demo on face-power. Chemo got over by 6:30 (and my hopes of watching the match from the beginning soared) but the discharge- bill refused show up ... that despite all our requests for a quick discharge and countless phone calls... at 8:15 Afshan had had enough ... she took charge of things, went directly to the billing section and got the bill settled in 5 minutes flat ... proving that showing your face fastens everything ... manifolds :-)

Some of you might have started thinking that CMC is a lousy place ... things don't get done on there own, you have to push for stuff to move, etc, etc ... don't think that way ... people here are nice ... they are polite and the (at least) do things once they see your face ... you must compare it with the usual places ... where things don't move at all, despite all your pushing and prodding ...

that's all for now ... going to meet my doc today ... to discuss the future path of treatment

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Chemo 8 - Hallu hallu

It's been quite some time since I last wrote ... many would be wondering why ... after all, in the last 4-5 weeks , I have clocked at least two posts per week ...

Well ... I have not written because my body has asked me to take some rest ... duly obliging, I spent the last week resting ... taking time off from everything ... didn't even answer mails ... enjoyed the bliss of doing nothing (not that I was doing much earlier) ... but that's how it's been ... that's the type of energy that's left in me ... enough to keep a happy flow of thought going ... but not enough to let me put a sustained effort in anything ... its like the body is saying "... enough dude ... show some respect for the intensive chemo regime ... take it easy for some time ..."

So "Taking it easy" is the prevailing sentiment ... everything at a slow serene pace .... Hallu hallu ... as they would say in Hyderabadi ...

There was one exception though ... 8th Chemo ... it was not slow ... infact it was a fast hurried affair ... mostly because we had smartened up ... we didn't want to repeat that six hour ordeal of the 7th chemo ... and with a little help from Dr Auro (my consulting doctor ... very nice and knowledgeable) ... I managed to be the first patient in the chemo room ... FIFO ... I was the first out too ... in fact I left home at 12 and was back from chemo by 2 ... This must be some sort of an all-time record for fastest friday afternoon chemo at CMC ... (the fact that this particular chemo lasted just 15 minutes helped)

Other updates -
CT Scan - report shows that tumour has shrunk by almost half on all three dimensions. Volume wise tumour is down to almost 1/5th the original volume
Blood Counts - At a decent level of 5800
Mood - upbeat

that's all for now ... till next time ...

Monday, March 05, 2007

Chemo 7 - A Dip in the sea of humanity

The sight was overwhelming ... The waiting area (with rows of fixed metal-bucket-chairs, an overworked fan and a TV) was full ... the hallway, with a continuous run of backless-wooden-benches, was full too (the less inhibited were squatting on the hallway floor) ... The elevator and stairway landing was substantially big ... it had plastic seats arranged in tight rows ... these rows too were full ... so were all leaning spaces on stairway railings ... the stairs themselves (except for a small way for people to climb) were full ... the crowd had overflowed down to the ground-floor ... which also had seats ... all fully occupied .. to the last broken-three-legged-seat and one more ...

And into this vast sea of humanity two more drops were added - Afshan and Tanweer Alam ... the concerned-wife and first-time-outpatient ... walked in to the Friday OPD - Department Haematology, Christian Medical College, Vellore.

I wasn't actually anticipating a quite stroll straight into the doctor's room ... I expected a Queue, with most seats in waiting area occupied ... but this was slightly beyond my expectations ... this was more like the crowd outside an small-town-cinema-theatre ... waiting for tickets of first-day-first-show of a mega block buster (perhaps starring Govinda and scantily-clad-item-girls) ... Only that people were less loud, more civilized and there was no pushing and shoving (maybe because a substantial chunk of the people were seriously ill ... and the rest were anxious and concerned relatives)

Earlier ... the day started with a morning trip to the Hospital ... I gave blood sample at 8:30 AM (the blood count report is a prerequisite for Chemo) ... Then we went to "Saravana Bhavan" ... which is one of the best chains of eateries for dosas, Idlis, Vadas, Murrukks and the kinds (the firang junta need not feel left out here ... they have eating joints all over the world) ... then Home ... Bath etc ...

By 1:00 pm reported to Heamat MRO (with appointment slip) ... MRO guys kept us waiting for 20 minutes, did something with our file and then sent us to the OPD ... which had the legendary crowd ... we stood waiting for an hour ... then Afshan had the bright idea of putting some guilt in the heart of one of the sitting relatives ... coaxing a seat for me (come on ... I am a patient here ... entitled to some special treatment) ... We met Vedika and Vedant, 16 month olds non-identical twins from Maharashtra ... Vedika will be the marrow donor for Vedant in 6 months time ... We shared some Dairymilk chocholates with these kids ... Shared some chocho cookies with a poor boy who was eyeing them while I was eating ... most of the time - we spent waiting

By 3:00 we still hadn't got a chance to meet the doctor ... Afshan did some running around ... talked to the doctor on phone (our regular consultant was on a week long leave, so we were assigned to an alternate) ... Doc said that he would call us as soon as our file reached him ... The file finally reached the doc by 4 ... consultation was just 10 minutes (all normal ... go get your Chemo ... CT scan report will come by Monday) ... we reached Chemo Room-1 ... nurses gave us a list of Chemo drugs to buy .... finally at 5:00 pm I was one of the last patients to be given Chemo ... The damn thing got over if 45 flat. (finally after that 5 hour wait)

My next Chemo is going to be 15 minutes short ... I plan to talk to my Doctor and work out a way to beat the OPD crowd ...

Clearly OPD at CMC is tough road to walk ... there is such a huge crowd of people walking the same road that one moves at a snail's pace ...

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Home ... Home Again

Saturday was the day I had been waiting for... on Saturday I moved out of the hospital and back to home ... back to Shums, Afshan, Amma and Aapa ... back to home cooked food ... and back to generous pampering ... Of course, the home in Vellore is not like the one we have at Delhi ... while Vellore home is different, it is by no means inferior or bad ... in fact, I like the place ... Vellore ... its got the small town feel (probably cause it IS a small town) ... you don' t have to travel too far to get stuff, things move at a human pace and there there is no chaos (especially on the roads)

The fact that the doctors have shown confidence by to letting me out, is encouraging. (It proves that mine is not a total gone-case ... something we have known right from the beginning ... haven't we?) ... From now on I will take my Chemo therapy as an out-patient ... which, I must say, is not an encouraging idea ... it means that Afshan will have to stand in long ques for getting appointments and making payments ... while I will have que-up for giving blood samples and for getting Chemo ... But we prefer the out-patient status ... it comes with the comfort of home.

Home ... in Vellore ... is a 2 BHK house with 3 bathrooms, a store room and is on the first floor ... It sports a decent balcony (Shumzi's swing has been put in the balcony) ... under our balcony is the mezzanine floor balcony and a single room ... we have also taken the Mezz-floor room as well ... It serves as my day-time abode of not-so-quite (due to construction next door) solitude ... The room doubles/triples/Multiples-up as a study/office/guest bed-room/etc ... Mom has got basic kitchen stuff up and running. And we have a reliable "bai" for Jhaadu-Poocha-Bartan ... Our long-time house-help(family member by now... he is on our ration-card) Ramzaan is a big hit with Shums and helps with the kid for at least 4-5 hours a day.

So all-in-all life is going on a smooth track ... Usual things ...happening at usual pace ... Day before - we took Shums for his Hepatitis A1 immunization .... today- I have a CT-scan scheduled
in another hour ... it should tell us the current size of my tumour ... Then we have my 7th Chemo (and my first as an out-patient) on friday .... and so life goes on merrily ...

Now ... I got to go ... and have a bath before heading out to the hospital for the CT ... will keep you guys posted ...

Friday, February 23, 2007

Chemo 6 - Time to think of the inequities

Today was an odd day ... atleast it had odd beginnings ...

The day started off early ... too early ... I was up at 2 in the night (after having slept at 9 the previous) ... then tossed around in the bed ... couldn't get much sleep ... generally waited for the sun to come up ... and when the sun finally did rise ... I got up ... had bath ... had breakfast ... and when it was time to take medicines ... oddity again... I ended up taking Metformin (Diabetes medication, causes nausea) ... rather the nurse gave it to me (not her fault too, seems like the junior resident goofed up) ... apparently I was not supposed to take Metformin (it will add to the nausea of Chemo) ...(Latter Addition: Maybe the doctor didn't goof up, I am still taking the medicine ... though one doctor was saying that he would take it off ... that doc is on leave ... I have to check on the next OPD appointment)

Then ... The Chemo nurse couldn't find a good vein in my right hand ... so got the IV line set up on the left hand ... that's a second consecutive week for the hand ... the veins of my left hand had turned red after last week's Chemo ... I wonder if repeating the hand was a good thing to do ...

... there was more action for the morning ... the blog post (that I was writing in the morning) ... got accidentally deleted ...

Anyways ... Chemo started around 10 in the morning ... its 7:30 in the evening ... the chemo is still going on ... it has already outlasted a "sabzi wali maggi", two mausambis, Tehri, a cheese sandwich, mutter-paneer and rotis + a shot of Insulin ... (obviously, today was the day-off for diabetic-diet :-) ... it might go on for another hour or so.

Rituximab was the star of the day ... it went on for six long hours ... gave me enough time to ponder on the absolute unfairness of it's pricing ... The drug is Hi-Tech, cloned, artificially-engineered, trans-species, genetically-modified, all the hu-ha and the works ... at 1.35 lacs/700 mg dose ... the price is impressive too ... but I don't want to crib about the absolute price per se ... Typically a fortune is spent in developing a hit drug like Rituximab ... after all, the pharma firm(Roche in this case) would have spent lots on chasing thousands of molecules.. spending millions on clinical trials etc ... Roche has to recoup these costs and make some profits too ... hence the high prices ... In other words ... they have a case when they ask for a pound of the patient's flesh ... lets not begrudge them their rightful due ...

What I totally oppose is this - While, Roche asks for a "pound of flesh" (high price) from its American patients ... it's demanding both legs, both eyes and the good arm (impossible price) from the Indian ones ... Here's how - The drug appears to be 25% cheaper in India ( my dose would have costed around 1.8 lacs in America) ... but, in actuality, it is still way beyond the average Indian's reach ... The Aam Aadmi has to spend 12 years of his earnings on a 4 dose treatment ... the American Joe needs to spend just 5 month's of earnings for the same treatment ... how very unfair.

Indian cancer patients are getting a raw deal ... we are being made to shell out a disproportionately large portion of our life's earnings to sustain R&D cost of new drugs ... in practice, we are cross-subsidising patients who are way better-off than us ... enough is enough ... we better wake up and smell the coffee ... It's time we start taking exceptions on patent-protection of life-critical drugs ... or at least threaten the Pharma firms with such exceptions ... we have to have down to earth prices in this country...

Phew!!! ... that was serious stuff ... I have been typing away with one hand for way too long now (IV drip is on the other hand) ... the Chemo's got over too ... time to take a break ... we'll catch upwith you again in the next post ... till then ... ciao

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Swinging both ways

Short recap for all those who joined late..... My problems started eight months back with frequent fevers ... doctors brushed those off as viral ... start December - X-ray showed huge growth in chest ... wrongly identified as Tuberculosis ... one and a half month of wrong medication ... a lot of small biopsies and inconclusive pathology reports followed ... finally video assisted thoracoscopy got out some good tissue samples ... these were found to be malignant ... alarm bells rang ... I had cancer ... in two days rushed to CMC Vellore ... CMC identified "Mediastinal Large B-Cell Lymphoma" as the technical name of my condition ... Started on a 12 dose, weekly, intensive chemo therapy regime called MACOP-B + Rituximab... 5 weeks are over ... 7 more to go...

Now on to the funny situation ... the latest thing that is bothering me is not my cancer, but my blood sugar levels ... they have been thrown haywire by one of the steroids that I have to take ... and to some extent by the anti-diabetic medication that is being given to control the sugar ... Early in the mornings (5 am) my blood sugar level goes extremely low (Hypoglycaemia - with sugar levels around 40 -50) ... by late afternoon it shoots up to extremely high levels (Hyperglyceamia - sugar 300 -400) ... So my sugar is swinging both ways ... in fact its swinging wildly ...

So yesterday an endocrinologist (someone who deals with the endocrine system ... I have no clue what this system is ... Wikipedia says it produces hormones) came ... He has made some suggestions to my doctors ... lets see how his gyan gets my drug-induced-diabetes in control.

Othewise, I am doing fine here ... have met lots of interesting patients ... most of whom are doing well in their treatment ... Shaheer, the pakistani 3 year old with Thalassemia has been taken into the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit ... He will remain in the BMT unit till his marrow graft gets accepted and will come out after about a month ... Mr Matthew ... the patient who has been fighting Leukaemia for six years and who boldly proclaimed all cancer patients to be "Thick Skinned Buffalloes" comes down from Chennai every 3-4 days to continue is ongoing Chemo.

On my part, I have taken up the task of making a Hindustani (not Hindi or Urdu, but Hindustani) adaptation of a children's story book called "Rahul's Challenge" . This book was written by Sister Ann Bothamly, Ex- Head Nurse, Haematology Department. She is a Britisher who has made India her home since 1968. After retiring, she runs a home for children. In her day time she visits cancer patients, especially children at the hospital. The book is a story of a boy who has leukaemia and has to undergo Bone Marrow Transplant. Sister Ann uses it as a preparatory book for all BMT children ... it gives the kids an idea of all the things that they would have to go thru ... my adaptation should help Hindi speaking kids who are not comfortable with English ... Right now haven't begun work yet ... What should I call the story ? "Rahul ki Chunauti" or "Rahul Ka Mukaabla" or a totally different name ... These are the interesting choices that I have to make now....

Rest all is cool ... Should be discharged from the hospital in another week's time ...

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Chemo 5 - Caustic Truth

Folks Chemo 5 is over - It took 3 hours for the drugs to go down and I spent next one day balancing diabetic diet with nausea ... Its a catch-22 situation ... can't eat too much cause I am on diabetic diet ..on the other hand.. if the stomach gets empty (while loaded with Chemo drugs) I run the risk of getting very bad nausea and vomiting ... I think I managed the balancing act pretty well ... got away with just a slight queasy feeling and just a few hours of elevated sugar.

Fifth Chemo was a rude eye-opener... yesterday- a drop of my Chemo drug had fallen on the bed (clumsy nurse)...today morning- I noticed that drug had burnt the bed sheet .... just like chemistry lab, where spills used to burn our aprons and school dress....It's slightly unnerving...cause the chemicals in the chemistry lab were confined to the beakers, burettes and pippets...this damn thing is running thru my arteries and veins.

Check out the pictures (I have put stain and burnt area in red boundary)



Since I am posting pictures ...here's one with my balding head ... notice that my face is swollen ......






Another one with me and my little boy Shums ... i am lost in some thoughts .....







That's all for today ....more action in next week....

Friday, February 16, 2007

Pre Chemo Short Update

Morning Folks ...today is another Chemo..a repeat of the first Chemo dose.. have taken this combination before.. with minimal fuss....so its a cool day

Abbu's coming down today...will stay on for a few days.....He has been real calm and composed in front of me...that's a great support... I can rest assured that dad is thinking calmly and taking rational decisions....takes the job of worrying (and thinking of where the money is going to come from) off my head :-)

The status health wise is.....blood counts rose steadily thru last week from 3000 to 3500 to 4000....they have taken fresh samples today morning....Neutrophil count (and hence immunity) is holding good.

It's the blood sugar that needs to be stabilized. I don't want to get cataract or major eye problems (which high sugar + steroids will cause) ..so am trying hard, with the doctors, to get the sugar in control. We have attacked sugar on all fronts ..... regulated diet, oral medication,insulin shots and exercise ... almost every trick is being tried.

I am running a small experiment of my own...using my glucometer I trying to figure out the ideal exercise schedule for myself (should it be pre-meal?, post-meal?..how hard? ..for how long?...how much after insulin? Amaryl?) Its turning out to be good fun. In fact I am doing so much of self-blood-sugar-testing that I ran of testing strips in the morning, so took a morning walk to the pharmacy to get more.

There seems to be an interesting day ahead....too much of action..dad coming...he will have a car with him...which means that Shums can come and visit me too......I am looking forward to it all...

Breakfast has come in ......and I just can't resist the idea of attacking it right away.....

so long for now....will write again after the Chemo

Thursday, February 15, 2007

February 14

Yesterday was Feb 14 - St Valentine's day. It's also my nephew Kabir's birthday..so for me.. its more Kabir's Day.. (without the St or "Sant"..hello.. I am talking my nephew here). Kabir turned 3 yesterday .....and from his pictures I can make out that there's a cute little Alam who will (in true Alam tradition) be super-hit in Switzerland(that's where he lives).

There's another 3 year old ...who was on my mind yesterday... He is two rooms away from me and has come all the way from Peshawar, Pakistan. This little kid has Thalassemia Major. The disease will leave him with a compromised quality of life and life-long dependence on blood transfusion. He has come for a bone marrow transplant- the transplant is the only hope against life time of transfusions. Guess his marrow donor....it is his younger brother...who is just 2 years old.

The ironic part in his story is ...that Thalassemia could have been avoided by a simple screening test (a blood test). This child's, his younger brother's and his whole family's troubles would never have risen if his parents had known about the Thalassemia test and had bothered to get the screening done. Indians are prone to Thalassemia and must be careful.

I think Valentine's day is just the right day to remind all you wonderful couples out there..If you are planning to start a family..please don't forget the Thalassemia test along with other pre-pregnancy and post pregnancy screening tests. I have seen many Thalassemia children in the ward here...believe me folks the risk is just not worth taking.......remember you owe the test to your kids....

With that message ..me signs off.....will send you a pre-Chemo update tomorrow morning.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Sweet Surrender

Yes it is true- The Sweets are going to be surrendered....so will be the chocolates, biscuits and double helping of mom's food....gone are the days of eat, drink and be merry...its good-bye Khana-khazana and hello to Kalahandi
{for those weak in geography- Kalahandi is the place in Orissa, India, where (sadly) starvation deaths are a regular feature}

All my gloating about eating my fill and more (in post "year of the pig") has boomeranged...someone's evil eye ("buri nazar"), someone's voodoo and a lot of jealousy have come together and taken the pleasures of unrestrained hogging away from me.....

Want details?....here the latest "twisht" in my tale -

Fact is that I take a corticosteroid by the name Prednisolone (75 mg daily). Apart from fighting my tumour, It gives me a feeling of well-being and an very healthy appetite.

Now, it seems, it is also giving me hyperglycaemia and possibly insulin-resistance. This means that I have very high sugar levels in my blood ....and possibly, Insulin (the stuff that's supposed the help use-up this sugar) has become increasingly ineffective.(Well, I have pre-existing diabetes trouble- here's my September-06 post on Diabetes)

Yesterday my sugar level was around 425 (normal range 80-140), They gave me a shot of Insulin...the damn thing reduced a teeny-meeny bit to 380.....they gave another shot of Insulin and still blood sugar was 250 at the time I went to sleep. (despite a measly two-chappati dinner)

Now the two ways- other than Insulin, of reducing blood sugar are - controlled diet and exercise. Since I can't exercise too much, the resident doctor has decided that I must be put on very controlled diet. To be precise - a 1500 kcal/day diabetic diet.

1500 kcal/day will probably just about keep me alive and is likely to give me that empty-stomach feeling. What makes it a torture is the fact that Prednisolone will make me feel hungry, while rest of the Chemo-drugs will give me nausea on empty stomach. This has put me in a really tight spot - one right between the rock and a vary hard place.

So today,I have decided to be nimble and tactful with the dietician, maybe I can negotiate some tasty food and space it well enough to beat the hunger-spasm and the nausea.

Don't know if it will work......lets see......

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Chemo 4 - Should be smooth sailing now

Chemo 4 was possibly the easiest and fastest of all Chemo's. Chemo-nurse started an IV --> put a saline line on one valve --> Vincristine and Bleomycin were side-pushed (from the other valve).. and in 5 minutes flat and it was all over...short and simple.

From now on, I expect nothing but smooth sailing in the next 8 Chemo cycles.It's Just that the blood counts should hold on. WBC is still at 3000, but... the good news is that these WBC(leukocytes) are mostly "Neutrophils" (80% of WBC). Neutorphil is the stuff that eats up infection casing bacteria, fungi etc.... With about 2400 Neutorphils/Microliter of blood..I still have a decent cover against infections.

With this stable situation, I will leave hospital and move on to the temp-home that Amma and Afshan have set up in Vellore( prolly after Monday's blood counts at the hospital). Then I would need to visit the hospital only once a week to get my Chemo.

Actually, I could go back to Delhi and take remaining Chemo there....but I prefer to stay in Vellore...the deciding factor is not the Chemo, but management of any possible complications. For managing the unexpected odd situations,I would prefer CMC over any place in Delhi. Not that I want an odd situation to arise, but just to be on the safe side if it did.

Rest all is good, I am itching to leave the hospital. The room and the surrounding are chipping on my sanity. I wonder how people keep their heads from going bonkers when they have to stay on for months (some critical patients have to... someone in my ward once stayed for 5 months)

I asked the 5 month-stay fellow, how he deals with it. (Actually he has been fighting Bone marrow cancer for an impressive 6th year now)...He said......

We Cancer Patients are "Thick Skinned Buffaloes"

Interesting words...I guess hope/faith and thick-skin keeps a lot of us guys in good fighting spirits.

With that, your thick skinned friend would take your leave..got breakfast to catch up with....Will keep you guys posted..cheers

Friday, February 09, 2007

The year of the pig

The Chinese new year is round the corner. Come 18 February and it will be the year of the "Pig"...yeah I know some people like to call it (inoffensively) "boar" , but boar is so bore...for me its just the year of the P I G - pig.

And in keeping in tune with the season, I am on a hogging spree..I am eating in almost every waking hour of my life...all thanks to some healthy appetite generated by Prednisolone

here's a sample
05:00 AM - Make Maggi at the "no cooking allowed" heater and eat
06:30 AM - Bread jam or banana or biscuits
08:30 AM - Two helpings of breakfast. Including at least two eggs and bread. idlis vadas/ pongal
10:00 AM - Puri-bhaji from YWCA canteen
10:00 - 12:30 - Anar, Mausambi, Kharbooz, Tarbooz and Banana
12:30 PM - Chicken Soup
01:00 PM - Home cooked food....Gosht or keema enough to feed a baby elephant
03:00 PM - Samosa/Cutlet
05:00 PM - Two masala dosas from YWCA canteen
07:00 PM - Dry chicken and veg-soup
07:45 PM - Home cooked dinner

End result. Blood sugar count of 350 and an injection of insulin from the ward nurse.

The interesting thing is that even after giving a free run to the "pig" inside me...my weight's holding on to 73-74 KG levels...Hope all this eating comes handy ...today is another chemo day

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Blood counts slightly up - good sign

Folks short update on top of the last post. My blood counts have started to increase on their own. This is a good signs and shows that body is capable of bouncing back after the occasional strong punch from the Chemo (I guess hour long squash sessions with VC have built up some of this stamina)

Instead of telling stories, I will let the numbers do the talking

Normal Range WBC count(lukocytes) per microliter of blood - 4,300 to 10,800
me after
1st Chemo - 4,700
2nd Chemo - 4,200
3rd Chemo - 2,700
today - 3,000

rest all is fine..steroids are making me pick up fat at all wrong places...I am losing muscle-mass due to lack of exercise. Soon I will be look like a small egg(neck and head) on top of large egg(paunch) with sticks (arms and legs) jetting out in all directions...

Doc says next Chemo will be on Friday (as scheduled) but after a blood count in the morning....

signing off for today....so long

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Counting Blood

Till now, (very luckily) my body has shown no adverse reactions to any of the chemo drugs (only drug, that I am yet to take, is Belomycin- it is rumoured to be rough on lungs and the skin. we'll see how it goes, its scheduled for this Friday)

So Far,So Good

Now, the game has boiled down to killing the cancer cells before the body gets badly hit (from chemo). The hit, that I am talking about, can come from two fronts..one- permanent damage to organs (heart,lungs,liver, kidney, bladder, eye sight). The damage is already being managed. I get things like "rescue medication" to reduce the effect of chemo on some of the vital organs. Regular tests/check-ups will ensure that any damage is identified early and slowed down.

The other area from which the hit can come- Infection due to low immunity. The Chemo kills leukocytes (WBC), which are part of the immune system(and help fight disease). Chemo also slows down bone-marrow- this can bring down the number of RBCs, WBCs and Platelets (measured by "blood-counts") in my blood - Leaving me "immune supressed". My blood-count numbers will definitely come down (inevitable), its the amount of dip that is unknown- it depends on my body-condition, fitness and my diet. Some dip can be tolerated, but if the numbers hit a bottom, i might get infection even from the very food that I eat and the shit that comes out of me. In slightly better cases I will still be catching other peoples cold (which might come to me as pneumonia ... which is why visitors are discouraged).

My blood counts are being measure every third day. The last check showed a slightly low count (for the first time during entire Chemo). This was an expected dip(in fact doc says could have happened earlier), and the counts are expected to bounce back. There will be another check on Wednesday, the counts should go up by then. If they don't, then I will be given something called "growth factor" which should set the counts right. The docs hope to continue with Chemo on friday.

So, all in all ,life is currently revolving around the blood counts....and, I guess, these counts are going to be the "hot topic" for some more days...

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Chemo 3 - Hair today, gone tomorrow

Here's the short update on Chemo 3. It was on Friday, went on for 7 hours and it went on fine. No lochas, lafdas or any problems whatsoever.

The only noticeable side effect, which I have observed, is that I have started losing my hair at an (note the pun) hair-razing speed. I first noticed this in the bath on Saturday...by today (Sunday) when I tug at a bunch of hair from my head, it just leaves my scalp and sticks on to my hand. Most of my hair don't even need the encouragement of a pluck, they have started falling off on their own. My whole bed is covered with hair, so is my bathroom sink.

While this hair loss is expected, its extent is not. Meaning, I knew that I would go bald, but I didn't know it would be this soon and I still don't know if the whole body is going to lose hair. All I know is that my head is going to be a shinning plate in a couple of day... and it might stop at that ..in which case I would look like "Mogambo"...there is also a possibility that all my body hair- lashes, eyebrows, chest-hair....every kind of hair may fall...if that happens then I would start looking like an overgrown lizard....Maybe then I can call myself by a respectable lizard name like "Comodo Dragon" or "Godzilla"

I have decided that tomorrow morning I will use my skills learnt at IIMB (where I was known as "Alam-Nai" even before I had graduated to become an Alumni) and shear off the remaining growth on my head. If I don't do that, there will be hair: there, everywhere