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James Thanickan

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CONTENTS

 

1. Long Live "J" My Love (by Rani James)

 

2. Thoughts on Holi

 

3. Thanks Giving Day

 

4. Independence Day Message (2002)

 

5. New Year Reflections with Poets

 

6. A Funny Accident

 

7. Women's Employment and Family

 

8. Family in Transition

 

9. Mahatma Gandhi Apostle of Tolerance

10. Innovation Led India

Long LIVE  “J” my LOVE

By Mrs. Rani James

 

All is well that ends well goes the popular saying….

 

Was it all  a nightmare… no … but I still prefer to  believe it to be a REAL   nightmare  though the nightmares cannot be real.   When it ended  well  I  heaved a sigh of relief and  said  it  was only  a   nightmare. My agony turned into ecstasy.

 

James my husband whom I intimately call “J”, is a great guy with substance, a remarkable statement I often hear people saying. Today the 16th June 2005,  he  turned 55.   Long live  “J ” my love.

 

On 28.01.2005,  it was a Friday, early in the morning he flew  to Chennai   to deliver a  lecture on  geographical indications one of  his pet subjects. There was nothing unusual about it since his weekend schedules were already planned and fixed in advance and on every week end he was  away from Delhi. He got up that morning with fever. Notwithstanding his physical condition he travelled to Chennai since he had to fulfil his commitment. He returned to Delhi on 29th night still having fever, coupled with urinary problem. On Sunday the 30th Jan. 2005, the doctor on emergency duty at the CGHS dispensary, Pandara Park was consulted.  A kind and sensible young lady doctor Dr. Jalaja diagnosed his problem as UTI, not mistake it as Unit Trust of India but it was URINARY TRACK INFECTION. She prescribed pertinent antibiotics. The medicines were bought and without losing any time he began taking the prescribed doses of drugs. My “J” is one of those most cooperative patients who would follow the doctor’s advice verbatim. He will never make any compromise or special allowances when it comes to meeting the demands of the treating doctor. He felt a bit better. However, he decided to rest on Monday the 31st January 2005. I went to office since there was nothing serious with James in the morning on that day. Suddenly on that afternoon, he began to feel uncomfortable while passing urine, still following the advice of the Doctor, he kept drinking plenty of water. Gradually, the urine output began diminishing in proportion to the fluid intake.  My “J” a man of great will power also has terrific level of tolerance. His capacity to withstand intense physical pain is very unusual. It was around 8.00 pm that three of his friends came over for a social visit since their friend had not attended the office that day. He was by then in agony since the bladder was full and all his effort in passing urine failed. He had reached the danger zone.  But no one including me was able to figure out the intense pain my “J” was going through.  He kept discussing on certain books he was reading and no one would ever imagine that he was in agony. Every now and then he was going to the loo still making the last effort in emptying the bladder. It was gradually showing on his face and all of us sensed the emergency action needed.  Our doctor friend Dr. Ravi was contacted. He was on his way home. Immediately on reaching his residence, he rushed to the service of my “J”. It was already 9.30 pm. He examined him and straight away ordered to reach him to the nearest hospital as any delay would have been fatal.


 

He was rushed to the Ganga Ram hospital by 10 pm. The doctors at the casualty attended on him immediately and inserted the cathedra and drained out the 800ml urine that was blocked in the bladder. What a relief he experienced he said later in the most humorous tone quoting one of the famous old Malayalam writers … He was cool and composed while walking out of the casualty department of the Ganga Ram hospital. One of his close friends fainted seeing him carrying a uro-bag. It was now the turn of his friend to be wheeled into the casualty room. It was a sudden flash back of his childhood experience in the hospital, his friend later told us. The hospital staff attended on him and in half an hour he became normal. We drove back home.   

 

The doctors at the Ganga Ram hospital wrote on their pink card BHP (Benign Prostatic Hypertrophy). The diagnosis was third degree prostate.  Surgery was recommended…

 

Now, what do we do with this BHP.. how do we handle  the  third degree prostate  inside him .. his friends and  well wishers some of whom  “J” refers  as ‘lay experts’ began to give  varied opinion, suggestions, advices  all out of  concern. Dr. Ravi was of the opinion that  we  get the surgery conducted either at  the Apollo  or at the R.G  Stone.  While Apollo was covered under the CGHS list, the R.G Stone was under the purview of Medi-claim.  Hence, both the options were accessible to us. However, we chose R.G Stone on account of its proximity to our residence.

 

On 3rd February 2005, we went to the R.G Stone located at East of Kailash. They did all their routine investigations…. PSA (Prostatic Specific Antigen), blood sugar, urine culture, chest x-ray, ECG, Trans Rectal Ultra Sound, and so on and so forth. Considering the fact that R.G Stone is a speciality health centre catering to all urology related cases and having all the latest technologies including that of Laser surgery, Laparoscopic Surgery etc., we thought it best to get the surgery done there. Meanwhile, the results of each of the tests started coming. All the reports were ready by 3.00 pm on the same day. Some of the results were alarming and were crucial to us. The PSA report showed a reading of 77 against the normal range of 0-4, his blood sugar shot up to 330, all time high reading, never in his 15 years of diabetic life   such a phenomenal change occurred. The Ultra Sound also detected an additional small stone in his right kidney. We went back to the different specialists at the R.G Stone with all the alarming reports. The significances linked to each of the reports were discussed. It was that blessed PSA reading which brought my morale down. The narrative on the PSA report stated that it is a marker of Carcinoma. It further reiterates, it is just a marker…. Well some kind of hope …belief…. and faith that his case is not that…The endocrinologist was also consulted and he prescribed high doses of anti-diabetic drugs for my “J” who till then was on mild anti – diabetic drugs. The doctors at the R.G Stone were in a dilemma since immediate surgery was not possible with his condition at that time. Hence, they prescribed high doses of antibiotics to bring the infections under control. We were also told that when there is any sort of infection in the body, the blood sugar can shoot up and similarly, any rise in the blood sugar could also contribute to the increase in the infection level, therefore it is a vicious circle. In the case of James too this logic was absolutely right. We returned home with heavier heart and mind.


 

I did not want to believe that my “J” was suffering from any serious illness. I only wanted to hear everyone assuring me that there was nothing wrong with him.. I was not yet ready for any other kind of reality.   It took no time to spread the bad news or sad news whatever you may call. Our home was crowded with well wishers and close friends. One of my Hindu friends advised me to go to the Shrine of Our Lady of Velankanni, at Khan Market. Yes, I said to myself, I will go there and fall at the feet of Mother Mary and ask for help to heal my “J”.  Next day, my best friend who I consider also as my younger sister, visited me and handed over a small slip of paper on which written” “BY THE WOUNDS OF JESUS, JAMES IS HEALED” She asked me to keep repeating the prayer.  I kept repeating it day in and day out.

 

On 10th February 2005 we decided to go to the AIIMS for a second opinion. Mr. Vijay Kumar, the best and the closest friend of my “J” drove us to the AIIMS on that day. He has always been a great source of strength to us particularly in our times of troubled moments.  He is also one of those who are well versed in reading the horoscopes of those whom he is closely linked. Incidentally, as per the horoscope, he has discovered that there is an intimate linkage between his family and our family. The horoscope predictions made by Vijay have always proved right. We all know that Astrology is science.

 

At the AIIMS, the senior resident Dr. Rishi went through the reports of both the hospitals, Ganga Ram and R.G. Stone. He physically examined  “J” and confirmed that he has an enlarged prostate. He also did a great act of charity and gave my James the much desired relief by ordering the removal of the cathedra immediately. (At this point of time, I decided to have Vijay with us whenever we went for any important medical tests.) The doctor further wrote on his hospital card, Ca.Prostate?   His verdict at that point of time was purely on the basis of the PSA reading. The doctor further ordered for a bone scan. We returned home with heavier hearts.  My “J” was so composed and very courageous. He consoled me saying that if the Doctor’s diagnosis was to be right, we will do the   best treatment available and leave the rest to the Almighty. However the whole world turned around in front of my eyes at that moment. But I continued to recite the prayer which my best and the closest   friend told me.

 

On 11th Feb, 2005, it was again Friday, the day dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, as per the personal advice of Dr. Ravi, we went to Diwan Chand   for the scan of liver and the lower abdomen.  The reports were negative.  Well, one more hurdle we crossed for the present, I said to myself and I thanked  the Almighty.

 

It was on Tuesday the 15th February 2005,  a day particularly dedicated to St. Antony,  we took the appointment for the crucial test of BONE SCAN at Mahajan.. Ever since our first visit to the AIIMS, I felt that if Mr. Vijay accompanies us every thing will be in our favour. Hence, following my conviction, I expressed my desire to have Vijay with us whenever we went for any important medical tests and he was more than happy to oblige me.  In the morning of 15th Feb. 2005, at 9 00 am we reached   the scanning centre.  James was taken to their scanning room within ten minutes of our arrival. Vijay and I waited anxiously and patiently at the lounge. They injected certain   dye into the entire bone structure of “J” which we were told was the preliminary step for the bone scan. This took less than half an hour. We were told to return to the centre exactly after 4 hours.  The actual bone scan was at 1.00 pm. We went home after the injection. At 1.00 pm we reached back at the centre for the scan. My “J” was once again taken inside.   He was inside the huge scanning machine for a full length of 25 minutes. He was made to lie first on his back, later on his stomach, on sides etc.  He later told us of his unique experience of those moments in the most interesting way. It was for him being on a space ship and his imaginations grew and grew and grew…

 

The scanner completed its task. Now it was the job of the specialists’ to translate those codes into words. My heart began beating faster and faster, my hands and feet turned cold. A whole lot of thoughts both positive and negative kept flashing in my mind. Vijay was sitting next to me not uttering a word, but fully grasping my feelings at that moment. I too could fathom the suppressed tension on his face. Vijay has a   fine and gentle-manly approach in dealing with other human beings.  The young assisting doctor was passing by and Vijay very tactfully enquired the result of the scan. Her first response was that the senior doctor is processing it and the report will be handed over in half an hour. On our insisting, she said the scan seems to be all right. We both heaved again sighs of relief. By this time James joined us. He was in his normal self…no obvious sign of anxiety or worry on his face. He was rather excited about the scanning machine and his wonderful experience inside the machine. As promised, the neatly printed report along with the slides with images of his entire bone structures was given to us. The narrative report said all things normal…what a great joy, the Almighty be praised. My best friend was at the chapel praying when the doctor at the centre was writing his findings of the scan. She later told me that while she was on her knees praying earnestly, she felt someone assuring her that what she asked in prayer has been positively answered. We returned home with a great deal of peace.

 

On 19.03.2005, it was a Saturday, the day of Blessed Virgin Mary. We were given time for the 1st biopsy at the AIIMS. On the previous day i.e. Friday, we met Dr. Rishi, who looked at the latest reports. The  PSA reading was 33, the bone scan was normal. He requested us to be at the C-4 ward of the urology by 8.30 am.  As preparatory measures James was administered anima at 5.00 am and also given specific drug. On the previous day of the biopsy, our son Rajesh whom we affectionately call Cuckoo, joined us. His physical presence did make a big difference to both of us. He is a very responsible and reliable young guy. Hence if he is around we can be assured of getting any thing done. He has some real good and sincere friends who will oblige him and do anything for him.

 

Mr. Vijay reached our home so punctually at 8.00 am to accompany us to the AIIMS for the 1st biopsy.  Besides the three of us, Mercy who is most merciful, helpful and compassionate (a niece of “ J “ working as a senior staff at the AIIMS), and our son Rajesh waited, for the arrival of Dr. Rishi, a very calm, composed and sober looking young handsome senior resident, outside the locked room, the door of which bore a sign board Ultra Sound Room.  The room was unlocked at about 8.30 a.m. by a nurse. Soon James was called in and prepared him further for the biopsy. Dr. Rishi walked in to the

 

room at about 8.45 a.m.. Mercy was allowed to stay with James in the room where the biopsy was being done. It was Ultra Sound guided Biopsy. We all kept sitting outside the room anxiously and patiently with our fingers crossed. I kept repeating the small prayer which I believed would bring me the answer I was wanting.  The biopsy was completed in 20 minutes. The doctor took out seven specimens by poking in seven areas of his prostate, a small delicate part of a male organ. The Ultra Sound also clearly showed the doctor that James’ enlarged prostate had shrunk considerably. This made the doctor for a moment to think that perhaps a surgery may not be required. But in order to take a definite decision, the lab report of the biopsy was most necessary. Incidentally, a biopsy of this nature is a painful affair. But my “J” with his terrific tolerance capacity, when asked the intensity of the pain he felt, his response was no pain but the form which the nurse had to fill indicated the possible intensity ranging between 1-20. Hence the nurse was in a dilemma. James quipped in and said  “fill the column with 1 instead of 0”. We went home with lighter heart. James rested for a couple of days. There was certain amount of pain after the biopsy. He had some antibiotics and occasional pain killers. Our son returned to Pune where he is studying.     

    

Now the waiting for the report of the biopsy was the most agonizing moments.  The eleven full days were extremely too long I thought. The   printed report with the doctors’ and the consultants’ remarks/observations were finally given to us on 02.03.2005. Our God was kind. The lab report was hopeful still. Out of the seven samples tested, six were totally free while one was not clear and caused concern.  Hence, one of the chief consultants of urology department Dr. A.K. Hemal ordered for a second biopsy exactly after one month. On 19.03.2005, a second biopsy was conducted on my “J”.  It was again on a Saturday. The earlier procedures were meticulously followed for the second time. It was again the same doctor, Dr. Rishi, a senior resident at the AIIMS. This time twelve specimens from one particular spot were taken for testing and  to rule out doubt of any kind.  I intensified my prayer, so also several others who loved us. People of different religion, language and culture praying to their God, asking for the health of James. God  was again kind and merciful. The report of the second biopsy was received within six days, five days earlier than the first report.  It was on 24.03.2005.  Well, this time the doctors and consultants were conclusive in their judgement. There was a typical cell found which confirmed their suspicion.. 

 

From the surgeon’s point of view, a six full weeks gap was necessary before the planned radical prostectomy.  Hence, Dr. Hemal noted in his diary 29th April 2005 as the date for the operation of my “J”.  It was going to be on a Friday.

 

These six weeks were most eventful. As advised by the doctor, scanning of pelvis and upper abdomen was done at Divan Chand on 12.04.2005. It was a Tuesday, the day dedicated to the Patron Saint Antony.  The reports were again negative. Every important test brought us certain amount of relief. During this period, he developed mild temperature. His diabetic condition was fluctuating all the time, it was often unsteady. These two conditions of  “J” were creating additional stress and tension on both of us. This extra  stress of “J” lead to the occurrence of an additional ailment viz, thyroidism. The T4 and TSH confirmed hyperthyroidism. The anti thyroid drugs in considerably heavy doses were prescribed. It was Numercosol. I thought it sounds nice and easy to pronounce.  Dr. Ammini, the head of the Endocrinology department whom we visited occasionally at the AIIMS   was not only a very competent lady doctor but a very kind and down to earth person whose mantra was….  Achan Ichichathum vaidyan kalpichathum pal.   Now this doctor was treating “J” not only for the DM but also thyroidism. When she put “J” on Numercosol, she told us that the medicine will start acting on the patient only after a minimum period of 6 weeks and that   the thyroid problem has to subside before the surgery.  The tension started mounting on us since the date for the surgery was already written in the diary of  the Surgeon. There were only just four weeks left.  I could not possibly ask my God to make the four weeks into six weeks, or prove Dr. Ammini wrong nor blame the Numercosol. 

 

The event filled six weeks were coming to an end and as per the surgeon’s instruction, “J” was to be admitted to the AIIMS on 26.04.2005.  God showed yet another sign of His love for us on the 25th April 2005.  The fever left him. The thyroid problem began to subside. His diabetic condition too was within the manageable level. On the morning of 25th April, our son arrived, and in the evening  J's younger brother from Kerala came. We got ready on the 26th to go to the AIIMS for the admission there since our surgeon had advised us to get James admitted two days prior to the operation. Nevertheless, by noon, we were informed that there was no room vacant for allotting to us since the priority had gone to a politician under the VIP quota. Well, we were a bit disappointed but we kept our hope alive. On the following day, that was 27th April 2005, we got our turn and were informed that Room No. 408 had been allotted. Our big thanks go to all those people in various ministries and departments in different positions and levels who used their influences and pressures in getting the room allotted on that day.

 

We took possession of the nice cool and cosy room having all the necessary facilities by 2.00 pm on 27th April 2005. On the morning of 28th April 2005 Dr. A.K. Hemal the chief consultant and the surgeon came to our room with his team of doctors to assess the readiness of their patient Mr. James and also to assure us that  “J” will be operated on 29th April 2005 as planned.  At noon, to be more precise at 12.15 pm one of the hospital personnel walks into our room and enquires whether we have made the necessary arrangements for the blood. We were also told that a minimum of 2cc blood has to be given to their blood bank by 1.00 pm. There was just 45 minutes at our disposal to contact friends and relatives for this great act of charity.  When there was just 15 minutes remaining for the deadline, six persons who are dear and near to us reached the blood bank unit of the hospital generously offering the necessary units of blood.  The most disgusting response of the cold blooded chap sitting at the cold storage of the blood bank was that their duty will resume again only 2.00 pm. Our dear and near ones though disgusted, patiently waited till then and donated their precious blood  for their dear and near one.  The ordeal was not over. At 4.00 pm Dr A.K.Hemal  came to our  room again to break the great news that he was going to make history in the annuls  of  AIIMS through  James.  The proposed radical prostectomy  on “J” was  not going to be the traditional laparoscopy  but the robotic laparoscopy. In the Indian  medical history robotic laparoscopy of the  prostectomy was  going to be done on two patients on the 29th April 2005 for  the first time.  My “J” was  one of the two  privileged according to the surgeon of the hospital. But my  mind  was full of  negative thoughts. Is my “J” going to be  a guinea pig in the hands of the surgeons at the AIIMS?  Is  this   robot  which looks like a  human being  with  head, hands and legs   as reliable as  the real human beings? I was completely disturbed not knowing the implications of the proposed  robotic  surgery of the prostate.  I placed all my anxieties and worries at the feet of Mother Mary and  the Almighty  who were  my strength   whenever stress and tension engulfed me.

 

On the 28th April 2005, after Dr. A.K. Hemal left our room at 4.00 pm, other  doctors of his unit  came with a list of  surgical instruments and  other necessary items to be purchased  for the proposed  operation  on the following day. We had no inkling as to where these instruments would be available. Our  helpful and enthusiastic friends  set out in search  of medical shops   big and small, far and near  from where the listed  items to be purchased for the  surgery on the following day.  To their great  disappointment, ‘none of the required instruments were  readily available at any of the medical shops. They came back  to report to the doctors  at the urology  department  the non availability of the needed items for the surgery.  It was then the doctors at the hospital got on their toes in helping us to obtain the listed instruments directly from the company with whom the hospital had good rapport. We began to make phone calls to the companies  listing out  the items with the precise specifications. The response from the companies was  very positive  and  they promised to  deliver the goods  in time. Yes they did fulfil their commitment. All the items were brought to our room in the morning of the operation day. We  paid huge bills.  What was most important for us at that time was that the  surgery  should take place as planned. The doctors came in the morning  to take charge of all the  items bought for the operation. The compatibility test of the instruments were tested since they were to be handled by the Robot. We were told on the previous day that the operation would be sometime  in the morning of  29th April 2005.  In view of this, “J” was  made to fast from the noon of  28th April onwards. He  was not given lunch, tea or dinner on 28th. Again on 29th no breakfast was served  to  him.  “J” was  fully prepared both mentally and physically for the operation in the morning hours of 29th.  We kept  waiting for the moment but to our great surprise, we were told around 11.30 am that  James would be the second patient.  Being the second in the waiting was  not  a serious issue but  “J” had not eaten for the past 24 hours and it was  showing on him. He  was looking physically exhausted. In the normal circumstance  only 12 hours fasting  is demanded  as a preparation for the surgery.  The first operation of the robotic prostectomy was successfully completed  only by 3.00 pm. We were informed immediately so as to proceed  towards the  operation theatre which is  located in another wing of the hospital. In fact the operation was being conducted in the operation theatre of the cardiology unit since the Robots were available only there. Realizing that  James was without food and water for more than 24 hours, they put him on  Intra-Venous fluids by 2.45 pm. Shortly after that, we proceeded towards the operation theatre.  He was  put on a hospital stretcher, robbed in  hospital  outfits, looking tired  yet  fully composed  and  ready  to  go through that first time experience which you and me might not go through in life at all. His  life experiences have always been unique and eventful,  some of which   would  certainly  make interesting history  for the generations to come.

 

We were a  big  gang  including me and our affectionate son. There were so many of our friends and a few relatives  accompanying  “J” up to the operation theatre. We were made to wait outside the  theatre since Dr. Jose who was  operated upon  first was still inside the theatre.  Every moment of waiting was  agonizing. I would rather not  like to recall those moments any more.  Dr. Jose was wheeled out of the operation room while my “J” was wheeled in to the operation theatre around  4.00 pm.  I wanted  to go in with him, I wished  in vain  that they would say that  I could be with him during the surgery too. Instead , they asked us to leave the place and wait in the room  until they  called us. So we went back to the room No.408. Since the first operation took around 4 hours,  we expected  that the second one too would take  about  same time. We waited in the room, everyone was so anxious but  there was chit chatting in the room to relieve  the  anxiety and tension. Our room was full of people, but  I was terribly nervous,  I could hear  my heart beat, I felt  lonely since my “J” was at that moment lying on the operation table surrounded  by strangers, I am sorry for referring the doctors and nurses and all those who were present with “J” as strangers.  Yes, it was the stranger who became the good Samaritan.  I kept praying not only  for  my “J” but more for the  doctors  and the rest doing their very best to  successfully complete their mission at that moment in that operation theatre. Well, they did it … The operation was completed with great success within less than four hours.  We were informed  around 8.00 pm  and all of us rushed to the place where we  had entrusted “J” in the care  of those  good doctors and others about four hours  ago.. We waited patiently outside. After  half an hour, Dr. A.K. Hemal the chief surgeon who did the operation came out and broke the good news that  the operation was successful and there was a sense of  fulfilment and  joy  seen on his face. Even before we could acknowledge and thank him, he walked past so quickly. James was wheeled out on a stretcher. Although I was  terribly anxious to see him,  I was so sad and disturbed  to see him  with several tubes jetting out from different parts of  his body.  He was  breathing  with the help of oxygen mask  too. We marched towards  C-4 ward, pushing the stretcher gently and with utmost care  and the bed allotted to him for the night was  21. The number is certainly significant   hum  Do, hamara ek.  He remained unconscious throughout the night and regained consciousness only  by 8.00 a.m. on the following day. Mercy whom I referred earlier, a niece of  “J”  and me  kept the night vigil. The electronic machine  which stood  next to  his bed kept blinking but it was continuously  monitoring  the entire body functioning of  “J”, the heart beat, the blood pressure,  the breathing rate, etc.  Mercy with her expertise as a professional nurse was  noting  down on the chart, as per the advice of the doctor, all the results showing on the monitor, besides  recording the  urine output as well as the  drainage.  In  the morning,  the doctors came for their rounds, looked at the charts and records and saw  that “J” was  alert   and fully conscious.  The doctors were pleased and   the  kind  and gentle Dr. Rishi detached  all the different  tubes  and “J” was freed. He  began to feel more normal. He was moved to the  Room No. 408 again. It was Saturday the  30th   April 2005. All the  news papers  on that  day  published  elaborately the historical event viz, Robotic Prostectomy   with different headings.  The two Js, Jose and James  got their places in the annals of  AIIMS history.  There was rush of well wishers and  visitors  on the following day   assuring us their continued  support and prayers for J's speedy recovery. After all, “J” became part  of the history which was  made possible by  Dr. A.K. Hemal.  May the Almighty bless Dr. Hemal; may he continue to be  effective instrument in His hands.

 

“J” recovered much faster than expected. He was discharged  on the fifth day of  the operation. It was 3rd May 2005. It fell on a Tuesday once again, a day of St Antony to whom my best friend Celine prayed earnestly all through, for the  good health of my “J”.  We were very happy to be back in our sweet home. “J's" loving and caring brother  returned to Kerala on the following day. Our son  decided to extend his stay.

 

Now  it was  the waiting period for the  final biopsy report.  I kept praying to the Sacred Heart of Jesus for the very last miracle. Yes indeed,  the God Almighty  did the great marvel for us. The biopsy report was received on Friday the  13th May 2005.  The  consultant’s  verdict on the report finally brought us much awaited relief. The biopsy  report was not only negative, but it also ruled out  the need for any further treatment.  It was the most joyous day for all of us. My  God  did  the final miracle for us and I saw  the healing power at work.

 

As per the advice of the Doctor,  it was decided to go for the post operative PSA test.  The test was done on 30.05.2005 exactly after one month of the surgery, and the report was received on the following day . It was Tuesday the 31.05.2005.  The report of the PSA  read  0.17  i.e.  less than one. The   range  0-4  is  considered normal.

 

The Agony that began on 31.01.2005  turned into Ecstasy on 31.05.2005.  Exactly four months of  testing period has been the most memorable experience. It has increased my faith in God and People. 

 

ALL IS WELL THAT ENDS WELL ……. I thank YOU and  I praise YOU..   YOU have done great things for us.    Long LIVE  “J”  my LOVE….                      

 

 

R

 

Thoughts on Holi

 

Tomorrow is Holi, the Festival of Colours. People around will be celebrating Holi with gaiety.  That is as it should be.  But, we are celebrating Holi when the black clouds of war are looming large in the horizon. It saddens me to see when some people talk only about war in the name of peace. My heart bleeds to see a world

 

Where fair is foul and foul is fair

Where to talk peace is to talk war

Where freedom means subjugation

Where Love is a stranger and Hate the gentleman

Where the cry of humanity is smothered

In cluster bombs new and Napam bombs old.

 

Everything is upside down

Reason lost its innocence

Garb of God becomes Satan’s gown

Black is white and white is black

Celestial light departed from the morning sun

And grey light of tomb fills the earth.

 

I am sorry, friends, that I have been talking in murky terms on a festive occasion when one should be in a gay abandon. But dear ones, I came to live in the glory of Love and the light of Beauty, which are the reflections of God ((Kahli Gibran), but everywhere it is the glorification of the Asur Hiranyakasipu and not Prahlad, despite the tradition of Holi.  With Shelley, I say

 

Ah, woe is me! Winter is come and gone,

But grief returns with the revolving year.

 

Shake I these grisly moods

And embrace winsome Feelings

Comely they are in colours

Spewn from pichkaris and hands fair

 

LET US THROW COLOURS,

LET US THROW FLOWERS

AND OFFER SWEETS SAVOURY

AND SPREAD HAPPINESS AND JOY

AND BRING HOLI INTO EVERY HOME

 

Thoughts on Thanksgiving Day*

 

 

It is good to have a day set apart for reminding every one that we should be thankful to God for the innumerable gifts that we have been receiving from Her. (It is coming as natural to think of God as a Mother when thinking of thanking for the gifts).  At the same time we must remember that we are receiving gifts on all days. What is a greater gift than life? And that gift we are getting every moment of our existence. Therefore, thankful, we are to be for every moment.

 

While people express their thanks to God for the gifts they received, many try to take away gifts from their fellows. We are grateful to God for vanquishing our enemies! (Remember the Psalms in the Old Testament). Are we not? Is that the spirit of Thanksgiving Day? I am sure the U.S. President will also participate in the thanksgiving and he won’t mind on returning to his office to order the bombardment of few townships in countries which he considers as inimical to the interests of his country. It does not militate against his thanksgiving that he becomes instrumental in taking away the gift of life and certain other things from some fellow beings, that being collateral causalities to his war for peace!

 

I am reminded of some old Jewish prayer which would read some what  like this  Lord, I thank thee that I was not born a woman. Even in prayer, a thanksgiving prayer at that, people find it difficult to resist the temptation to throw slur on others. The Jewish male is not alone in this. Don’t most of us when we thank the Almighty at least indirectly sound like “I am grateful to you, for not creating me an animal, a beggar, an infidel and so on”?

 

I am a bit of a cynic (why a bit? May be a full blown one). I doubt the sincerity of most of our public expressions like ‘thank you’ or ‘bhai’. Are they not mere polite meaningless words, full of sound and fury signifying nothing? Do they really express our genuine feelings? When in India we say bhai do we actually experience any fraternal feelings which is what that expression conveys? Do we treat him as our brother?  Or is it just a form of addressing the other? I am inclined to believe it is the latter one. (This is only an example. It is the same with such expressions in other languages and other cultures. I only mentioned one that came to my mind readily as that is part of my cultural milieu.) So is the case with most formal expressions including saying thanks. They are to be said. That is what we are taught as good social manners, as part of social etiquette, as marks of good breeding and we all want to pass as cultured people, people hailing from good, aristocratic families! Yes, I agree it is better than not saying anything. What I am driving at is that the insincerity part should go and we should be able to say these things with full sincerity. Otherwise all these words are meaningless. The Hollow Man was supposed to have existed in The Wasteland between the World Wars. Let us become real beings, who mean what they say.

 

We, I am afraid, are happy with masks, with insincerity, with formalities, with a make believe world. If a person goes to church or temple or mosque, pays obeisance to the priests, to the elders, makes offerings and so on then we will hail him as a good person, rather a godly person. We are not perturbed even if we come to know that the same person hoards food or drugs and thereby send thousands to death. We do not mind if the person overcharges and short-changes. We do not mind even if the person keeps a slave. We do not mind even if the person demands and takes bribe for doing his duty or for doing a wrong thing. I am seeing such things all around That is why I am a cynic.

 

I do not claim that this is a new phenomenon. As I perambulate through history I find that this has been the rule rather than the exception. Many a time you will have to read between the lines, many a time you will have to interpret the silences of history to get a vision of the truth. Demythification (not demystification) of history is necessary for history has been written by the victors and they wrote it in such a way to show their ways as the right ones. (A recent such example is the history of Second World War. Holocaust perpetrated by the Nazis was wrong, but atom bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki was right!!). As in Macbeth,

 

Fair is foul and foul is fair

Hover thorough the fog and filthy air.

  

Like thousands and millions of other people I too wish to see a happier world. I do read The Bible, though was not allowed to do so in my Sunday school and I recall Psalm 133 with great fondness:

 

How good, how delightful it is for all to live together like brothers;

Fine as oil on head,

Running down the beard

To the collar of his robes;

Copious as a Hermon dew

Falling on the heights of Zion,

Where Yahweh confers his blessing,

Everlasting life.

 

Sorry, I am becoming a bore with my dark thanksgiving, but the American’s favourite poet, Swinburne is not far behind me when he sings,

 

We thank with brief thanksgiving

Whatever gods may be

That no man lives forever

That dead men rise up never

That ever the weariest river

Winds somewhere safe to sea.

 

Yes, ultimately let us all be thankful that we are alive, we are allowed by the Almighty to enjoy the beauty of the sunsets (remember my favourite The Little Prince who always loved sunsets), the cool breeze, the chirping of the birds, the mewing of the cows, the flowers in their different colours.

 

HAPPY THANKSGIVING

 

* Letter written to a friend in the U.S.

 

Independence Day Message (2002)*

-James Thanickan

            There is one day every year, which almost all of us look forward with eagerness and expectation. That is our Birthday. Young children always call it ‘Happy Birth Day.’ There is one birthday which we all share. That is the birthday of our nation. August 15 is the birthday of India and India is the people of India. Therefore, it is our common birthday.

            Birthdays are occasions for celebration. It is also a day for reflection on the past and for making new resolutions for future.

Independence for India came after a long and arduous struggle. There was an important theme inherent in the non-violent freedom movement. That theme, that message was FREEDOM FROM FEAR. Gandhiji could instil it in the people of India that they must overcome their fears, mainly their fear of the might of the British Empire and also their fear of change.  In its time the British Empire, where the sun never set, was a very powerful state. To defeat that power was not considered possible or feasible. People were afraid of the power of the British. Gandhiji exhorted them to overcome that fear. He gave Indians self-confidence; the confidence that they are not inferior to others. Once they freed themselves from fear, political freedom became an achievable goal. And we did achieve that fifty-five years ago.

            Now one gets the feeling that we are losing that self-confidence, that pride which the freedom struggle gave us. Many voice the fear that we will never become a prosperous country, fear that we do not have the grit and stamina and commitment to make a great nation. One often hears a lot of lamentations over things going awry in our country. This is all coming out of our perception that we are not a first class people, that we are not equal to the Westerners, that we are not able to do anything right, that we make a mess of everything.  This was the fear from which Gandhiji’s leadership had led the people away years ago. We have again fallen victims of defeatism. We have to make a resolve to free ourselves from this fear. Then only our beloved country will really awake to, in the words of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore,

 

 

that heaven of freedom,

            Where the mind is held without fear and the head is held high;

where knowledge is free.

Then only we can become a developed and prosperous country as expounded in his vision for the future of India by our President Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam.

            People often ask how to do this. What is the right time to begin; whoare the right people to lead the way and so on. To answer these questions let me recount a short story by Tolstoy.

 It once occurred to a certain King that if he always knew the right time to  begin everything and the right people to consult and the people to avoid and, above all if he always knew what was the most important thing to do he would never fail in anything he might undertake. He made a proclamation that any one who would teach him this would be rewarded handsomely. Many learned men gave different suggestions such as, the best time to begin anything new would be as per the position of the stars, consultation should be with magicians, scientists, medicine men and so on. The King was not satisfied. Then some one suggested to him that there was a saintly hermit in the forest who could answer his queries.

 The King went in search of the hermit. He found him working in his garden with a spade. The King recited his questions. The hermit listened to him but instead of answering went on doing the work he was doing. After some time the King reminded him but of no avail. Seeing the hermit looking tired, the King offered to help, which the hermit gladly accepted. The King went on working, occasionally reminding the hermit. When it was dusk, the King again asked the questions. This time instead of answering the King, the hermit said, “Here comes some one running, let’s see who it is.”

A bearded man holding his hand on his stomach came running and fell on the ground fainting. The King helped the hermit in washing and dressing and putting him to sleep. By that time the King was also tired and he also fell asleep. In the morning the wounded man awoke along with the others and told the King that he was his sworn enemy who had planned to kill the King on his way back from the hermitage. “But the day passed and you did not return. So I came out from my ambush to find you and I came upon your bodyguards and they recognised me and wounded me. I escaped from them, but should have bled to death had you not dressed my wounds. I wished to kill you, but you have saved my life. Now I will be your loyal slave for ever.”

The King was very happy and decided to go back to his palace, but before departure he once again requested the hermit for the answers to his questions. The hermit replied: ‘you already have been answered! You see, if you had not pitied me and helped me you would have gone back and this man would have attacked you and you would have repented of not having stayed with me. So the most important time was when you were digging the beds; and I was the most important person; and to do me good was your most important business. Afterwards, when that man ran to us, the most important time was when you were attending to him, for if you had not bound up the wound he would have died without making peace with you. So he was the most important person, and what you did for him was the most important business. Remember: there is only one time that is important – Now! It is the most important time because it is the only time when we have any power. The most necessary man is he with whom you are, for no man knows whether he will ever have dealings with any one else; and the most important affair is, to do him good, because for that purpose alone man was sent into this life.’

            So, remember, now is the most important time in our life and what we are required to do now is the most important thing. When you are in the classroom the most important thing to do is to study and the most important person is your teacher. When you are in the playground the most important thing to do is to play. Whatever you do, do well, do it with your full heart and soul. If we do that, we will be doing our duty to our country and then, we will get rid of our fear of defeat. And the right time to start that is NOW.  Remember,

yesterday is history,

tomorrow a mystery

and today is a gift

That is why it is called the Present.

At the same time we should not be afraid of change, or of future or of going ahead. Let me narrate a parable by Sri Ramakrishna.

Once a woodcutter went into the forest. On the way he met a holy man who told him to go forward. The woodcutter decided to follow the advice of the holy man and he went little deep into the forest. There he discovered sandalwood trees and returned with cartloads of sandalwood, sold them in the market and became rich. A few days later he remembered the words of the holy man and decided to venture deeper and found a silver mine, became richer. After some time he ventured still deeper and found a gold mine and became still richer. Again after some more time he ventured much deeper and found a diamond mine and became very rich.

Whatever you may do, you will find better and better things if only you go forward.  We need to get rid of our fear of the unknown and go forward. There is a tendency to stay at where you are because you are comfortable. But remember the words of the American poet, Robert Frost:

The woods are lovely, dark and deep

But I have promises to keep

And  miles to go before I sleep

And miles to go before I sleep.

Remember, Pandit Nehru used to have these lines always on his office table.

This is the message of Independence Day, that

we must get rid of our fear of defeat,

our fear of failure,

our fear of future

and move forward as responsible people

doing our present duty to those around us.

 

Jai Hind .

 



* Message to students of Saint Peter’s School, Faridabad, August 15, 2002.

 

 

NEW YEAR REFLECTIONS WITH POETS

 

 

Dear friends and relatives,

 

Once more it is the season of festivities, season of greetings, season of new resolutions and above all season of change. Those who had a ‘bad’ year look forward to the new year with the hope that the new year will bring happiness; those who had an indifferent year look forward to the new year with the hope that it will be better than the past one and those lucky ones who had a ‘good’ year look forward to the new year with the hope and wish that it will be a still better year. I wish them all their wish fulfilment.

 

The first thought which comes my mind is that no body really wants the current year to stay with us any longer. Or, am I wrong and there are some who would tell the outgoing year

 

Stay yet a while! Speak to me once again

Kiss me, so long but as a kiss may live. (P.B. Shelley)

 

I often wonder why we all look forward with so much hope and expectations to the New Year, even when for some of us the year that had been was full of sad remembrances, of things we would like to forget for ever, even when we know that wishes are just wishes and may not happen, nay, most often not happen at all.

 

[I ignore those few incurable cynics who will say

 

A year comes and a year goes

What does it matter to me?

My days roll on from

One crisis to another.

 

And those few ‘philosophers’ who say

 

Time past and time future are but

The two points of a swinging pendulum

 

And those poets who say with Cavafy,

 

You will find no new lands, you will find no other seas.

The city will follow you.

You will roam the same streets.

And you will age in the same neighbourhoods

And you will grow grey in these same houses.

Always you will arrive in this city.

Do not hope for any other]

 

But, most of us look forward hopefully. Why? The answer I can think of is that hope is in-built in human beings. Even when life appears to be a bleak house, an unfathomable abyss, a glimmer of hope (Forget Kahlil Gibran who said hope is an ailment) remains somewhere. That is why we always have a wish. That is why a cynic (not an incurable one yet!) like me too wishes for all to have a Happy New Year. If, as they say, by chance the wishes come through it will be good!  So, you are welcome to wish me also happiness!!

 

While I know that nothing dramatic or earthshaking will happen on the stroke of midnight of December 31 and the next morning will be as the previous morning except to the extent that the year digit would have changed, I am inclined to look upon it as a ring for change, a harbinger of transition. From the beginning of time change has been the mainspring of life, nay, of the universe itself. As per the latest theory of cosmologists (and my favourite astrophysicists), the present universe evolved out of a cell, a cell of energy not of matter, which grew and divided, which in course of its evolution created time, space and matter. Even in the recent history of living organisms, change has been the main running stream; creatures, which changed and adapted themselves to changes outside them could survive; those who changed more and evolved themselves in to beings who could cause or even bring changes could climb higher in the evolution ladder.  This theme of change is inherent in the transition of one year to another in the calendar.

 

Some times I just wonder over the way the New Year has been celebrated over the centuries its evolution from the Mesopotamian New year festival of Zagmukthe to the Sacaea of the Persians to the Jo Saturnalia of the Romans and to the Christmas of the Christians and to the current Christmas–New year Celebrations. It was not long ago that the Church had looked disapprovingly over the New Year celebrations treating them as Pagan and un-Christian. When it found that its prohibition failed, the Church adapted the Saturnalia celebrations as Christmas; adaptation for survival!! Isn’t it funny to remember that in ancient Egypt New Year was celebrated when Nile flooded while in Kerala it is still celebrated when rains stopped?  I laugh like anything when I recall the ways the Mesopotamians (or Babylonians, I am not sure) celebrated by stripping their king of all clothes and also recall that the Austrians celebrate by dressing up (sylveterklauses). What I learn from the recalling the history is that change (I know what Alphonse Karr said, The more things change, the more they are the same.), adaptation and variety are part of every thing. Hasn’t some one said, “variety is the spice of life”?

 

I have friends who tell me that the breaking of the New Year is the time for recollection, for repentance of sins committed, knowingly or unknowingly. For, they say, when we committed sins,

 

There hath past away a glory from the earth (Wordsworth).

 

I know Kahlil Gibran had said,

 

One may not reach the dawn save by the path of night.

 

But I am more inclined to sing with Cavafy (who is my latest favourite or fad),

 

The days of our future stand in front of us

like a row of little lit candles --

golden, warm, and lively little candles.

 

The days past remain behind us,

a mournful line of extinguished candles;

the ones nearest are still smoking,

cold candles, melted, and bent.

 

I do not want to look at them; their form saddens me,

and it saddens me to recall their first light.

I look ahead at my lit candles.

 

I do not want to turn back, lest I see and shudder

at how fast the dark line lengthens,

at how fast the extinguished candles multiply

 

Tell me, why should I mar my happiness in being Hopeful by mia culpas. I do not gloat over my sins; I do not boast of my indiscretions; I do not claim any ‘wrongs’ as ‘rights’ (your ’wrong’ is my ‘right’ approach). Like a tragic character my repentance started the moment of commitment of the sin. But do I have to kill the happiness (momentary though that may be) that I can get in being hopeful of a Bright Year, because of my past sins? No, friends, for once let us forget the past and live in the Hope of the Present.

 

As Omar Khayyam sang in his Rubaiyat

 

You know how little while we have to stay,

And, once departed, may return no more.

 

Do we have to have any plan for the future, for the ‘tomorrows’?

 

Omar Khayyam says,

 

Tomorrow? – Why, Tomorrow I may be

Myself with yesterday’s Sev’n Thousand Years.

          

Dust into Dust, and under  Dust, to lie,

Sans Wine, sans Song, sans Singer, and – sans End.

 

Yes I know it is only for a day that it can be so, for as Longfellow writes,

 

Man is a history-making creature who can neither repeat his past nor leave it behind.

 

But let us escape with Keats’ Nightingale

 

Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget

                   

The weariness, the fever, and the fret

 

Let us forget for a day this place,

 

  where men sit and hear each other groan;

Where palsy shakes a few sad, last grey hairs,

Where youth grows pale, and spectre thin, and dies;

Where but to think is to be full of sorrow

And leaden-eyed despairs;

Where Beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,

Or new Love pine at them beyond tomorrow.(Keats)

 

Let there be a temporary amnesia over

 

This strange disease of modern life,

With its sick hurry, its divided aims,

Its head o’ertax’d, its palsied hearts (Matthew Arnold)  

 

Forgetting the

 

Turbid ebb and flow of human misery. (Matthew Arnold?)

 

Let us wish in the words of  Wordsworth for New Year

 

Apparelled in celestial light,

The glory and the freshness of a dream.

 

Fair as the moon, bright as the sun

Majestic as the stars in procession.

(Song of Songs 6.10)

 

And for a resolution let us remember Emily Dickinson

 

If I can stop one heart from breaking

I shall not live in vain

If I can ease one life the aching or cool one pain

Or help one fainting robin unto its nest again

I shall not live in vain.

 

And the Psalmist

 

Blessed is he who has regard for the weak. (Psalm 41.1)

 

And that is not very difficult, for as the Malayalam poet Akkitham wrote

 

When I shed a tear for others, a thousand suns arise in my heart’s horizon

 

Or as that great sage Narayana Guru  said

 

That which you do for your happiness

Should bring happiness to others also.

 

Or with the Psalmist you may

 

Put your hope in God

(Psalm 42.5)

 

And, say with assurance,

 

Nothing will; shake me;

I’ll always be happy and never have trouble

 (Psalm 10.6)

 

And, thus let us resolve on December 31

 

Tomorrow to fresh woods and pastures new.

(John Milton)

 

And

 

Go, eat your bread with joy

And drink your wine with a glad heart.

(Ecclesiastes 9:7)

 

And, so let us sing

 

Auld Lang Syne

 

WISHING YOU ALL A VERY HAPPY,

 PROSPEROUS AND PEACEFUL NEW YEAR

 

KULLU AM ANTUM BI KHAIR

(MAY YOU BE WELL THROUGHOUT THE YEAR)

 

Sasneham,

 

James Thanickan

 

A Funny Accident

 James Thanickan

 

Last week I had a funny accident while returning from my evening walk or stroll or whatever you prefer to call my daily perambulations from 7.15 p.m. to 8.30.p.m. in Lodi Garden. While crossing the Ramana Maharshi Marg at the Khan Market red light I stumbled upon the traffic island and fell forward. That was normal and quite understandable. But then I was skidding or rolling or something like that forward; Since there was another segment of road further ahead I tried to brake myself and got a little scared when my body refused to come to a peremptory halt. Somehow on the edge of the island I could arrest the forward movement. Naturally I got bruises at several places (what children call loss of 'paint').

I was, however, very careful and protective of a book for my best friend and a birthday card for my lovely niece that I had in my hand and did not allow any damage to happen to those precious things. After all what is there in some skin, which in any case is bio-degradable as per the classification of NDMC!! And a book is the precious lifeblood of humanity.

But my dog stick or baton in hand struck me on my shoulder and left its mark on my body. Perhaps the baton might have mistaken me for a dog when I was a quadruped in the brief state before I reached the ground with my face down.  Sometimes these sticks are very 'wooden' and do not have any sense as to their owner!!! They should read Wordsworth.

Be that as it may, I was determined not to remain in a horizontal position for long. After all I am not a soccer player in the World Cup to lie down on the ground for the referee to turn up and show the yellow card to my challenger.  I, though, could have waited for my walking companion, Mr Thampy to catch up with me, not necessarily in a horizontal way but in a more vertical posture.  He, incidentally, is thickset, sturdy and sober in keeping with his age which has recently relieved him from his bondage to the Government of India and is now a free citizen and, therefore, his perplexity in comprehending what happened to me like a lightening is understandable. He, however, gave a beautiful simile later that I rolled like a football. I then got up 'promptly' and like a macho stepped into the road segment ahead hoping that nobody except my companion noticed the great circus act and loss of paint.

The Delhi traffic lights have no sense of humour. The lights turned green and the traffic started flowing in front of me like water upon the opening of a shutter in a dam. Since even my baton committed an unimaginative judgement error, I thought I could not rely on the assorted vehicles moving on Delhi roads and like a prudent Dominican stepped back on the traffic island. Now my companion did one of those rare beautiful acts of charity flowing out of the milk of human kindness. He held me firmly on my right arm. I at first thought it was a show of solidarity and reassurance, but it was more than that. He did not want me to descend at a fast pace to the nether regions of an open manhole just behind me half an inch away. Permitting me to take that step like the character in a poem by Ogden Nash who thought promptness was walking out of the window of his office room on 28th floor and peremptorily reached the road below in a shape and consciousness which he could never again fathom, would have deprived my friend of a companion for the evening walk for quite some time. And what a loss of a chattering literati it would have been!!!

 My companion who is also an avid reader and a great fan of Dostoevsky later put it in Shakespearean language: “For about ten-fifteen seconds the primal elements of nature were raging against you, lashing at and uprooting you like a tornado.”  Perhaps that is the best description of the happenings which now sound so funny but were baffling and shocking at that moment and on re-living quite scary on that part which did not happen but could have happened. After all Sherlock Homes solved the mystery by asking the question, why the dog did not bark. 

 

A Note on WOMEN’S EMPLOYMENT AND FAMILY

 

James Thanickan

 

During the past couple of decades, many changes have occurred in social life.  One of the major changes is women taking to paid employment in increasing numbers.  Even though we come across in history women who had been active in political or social or even economic life, they were mostly isolated cases and women’s opting for a career in large numbers is post Second World War phenomenon.  This social change took up momentum so fast that during the last decade (in the 1980s) in many countries there has been an organised and institutionalised endeavour to increase the percentage of representation of women in various services.

 

There are many reasons for this shift in social perception of woman and work.  To begin with, in the Western countries, women’s employment had become a necessity after the Second World War.  A large number of able bodied men were lost in the war, thus creating a shrinking of labour force.  Owing to a necessity, women gallantly came out of the hearth to fill the gap in the labour field during the War.  This had a cascading effect in the years that followed.  Once they entered the labour market, women were also subject to market mechanism.  They had to improve their qualifications through education.  As education spread among women, they became conscious of the gender discrimination against them.  The awareness that the society had been denying them equality led them to fight for justice.  Many concluded that it is the economic dependence of women that was a major cause of the unjust treatment.  They, therefore, advocated women’s employment as a means to empowerment through economic independence.  Employment, education, awareness, economic independence, equality – all these were mutually replenishing and reinforcing.  The cumulative effect is that the causative factors have led to a situation where a woman’s employment is now looked upon as a normal phenomenon, just like a man’s employment.

 

Today, the reasons for woman’s employment are the same as for a man’s employment.  First, it is economic.  For most poor families, it is a necessity; for middle class families, it is the means to a better life, a life where the comforts of life would be accessible and for the rich, it is basically for personal fulfilment.  For some middle class women also, a career is the way to self-realisation.

 

Be that as it may, woman’s employment has thrown up a number of problems, particularly for the family life.  These have arisen basically from the double role that a woman is compelled to play.  Although she too has become a breadwinner, she continues to be the home maker too.  In most cases, there is no reduction in her duties as a housewife.  She still has to cook the food for the family, prepare the children for the school, and attend to the many sundry household chores.  She is carrying a double load of work; one inside and the other outside the house.  This double strain can and does affect her relationship with the family.  The children, the husband, the aged parents (if they are living with the family) – all get the feeling that they are neglected.  For, with an outside job, naturally the woman cannot spend as much time with them as they and she too would like.  She becomes an “always busy person” who cannot relax, sit and chat with the parents or listen to the gabbles of the children.  The husband misses the pleasure of meeting his wife fresh from her bath with a cup of hot tea in her hands and a smile on her face when he returns from office.  In fact, she herself returns from her outside work tired and with the knowledge that a harrowing day’s work is still awaiting her return at the house also.  It is an almost harrying feeling.

 

Most working women have less time for home care and her influence in the family may decrease.  Some husbands may also feel threatened, if the wife rises in her career faster and starts earning more than the husband and many accentuate the tension.  Another possible friction is when, because of her exposure to the world outside, the woman develops her own interest areas and fails to share the interests of her husband.

 

There are, however, certain positive aspects too in woman’s employment, so far as the family is concerned.  As already mentioned, it improves the economic position of the family, particularly for the middle class making the comforts of life affordable.  Apart from the financial security that her work provides to the family, the work may give greater sense of actualisation to the woman.  She is no more a mere shadow of her husband, but a person in her own right.  The outside exposure will also widen her horizon.  The mental satisfaction and intellectual life may lead to a positive attitude to life and family, enabling her to enjoy herself and make other family members to enjoy life more.

 

Whatever be the pros and cons of woman’s employment, now that the phenomenon of working woman is here to stay, one has to think of ways to alleviate some of the problems generated by both husband and wife working outside.  The solution lies in ‘understanding’ – understanding by all partners of family, the husband, the children and the parents and others.  They must understand and appreciate the work of the woman, the support she gives to the family and the hardship she is bearing for giving that support.  They all should help in reducing the woman’s burden by sharing the household chore.  The stereotyped view of housework as woman’s only job has to go.  Since housewife’s job was not a paid one, society had complacently been looking down upon it as below a man’s dignity to do.  It is now time for both husband and wife to share the housework, rather home-making, willingly.  May be the challenge the working woman poses to man is not in the outside world but inside house: he has to prove now that he can also do housework equally well as a woman.  With understanding and co-operative family partners, working woman can contribute to enhancing family happiness through their financial contribution and enlightened championship.

FAMILY IN TRANSITION

 

 

JAMES THANICKAN

 

 

To speak about family in transition poses certain special problems in the Indian context; the reason being the wide varieties of family systems existing in the country and the sharp regional differences.  It is rightly said that “the most intriguing system in the Indian sub-continent, next to the caste system, is its family system.  India is the only country where we find almost all kinds of family structures, ranging from several variants of matri-family model to ubiquity of the patri-family model, and the practice of polyandrous and polygamous schemes and several institutions of mating.” Generalisations, therefore, are difficult.

 

My observations on family in transition are limited to the urban middle class family.  This is the family with which I can claim familiarity is not the only reason; this is the type of family where changes are more discernible than in other types.  The recent economic and technological changes have affected this section significantly.  This is one section which has taken to modern education system in big way.

`

There have been conspicuous changes in the family structure and nature during the last couple of decades.  Values and norms too have undergone much change.  Some of these changes are good but some are really disturbing.  There

are certain evil customs like dowry which ought to have changed but have not.  We have to keep in mind all these, while discussing the issue “Family in Transition”.

 

A striking feature of the changes is the declining importance of father.  There was a time when the entire family life was centred around the father.  His success both in business and in social life conferred on his wife and his children their only prestige.  Father’s judgement on moral and social questions made him priest as well as king inside his house.  His word was law within the family. When the father entered the house, a hushed silence descended on the household.  It was like a jungle when the king of the jungle, the lion, was on a prowl.  It was the dictatorship of the father.  All that has changed.  The father is no longer either the sole bread winner or the sole arbiter in the family.  The mother has taken to these roles increasingly.  The mother’s ascendancy is in direct inverse proportion to the father’s decline of power.  A major political shift in family life had taken place over the last generation.  Now there is more democracy; there is now more egalitarianism.  This fresh breeze of democracy in family is a welcome one, and a long overdue one.

 

But this democracy has been achieved at considerable cost, particularly to the mother.  She now has to perform a double role – she has to be an earning person and at the same time she has to continue with the entire house-hold chore.  This is quite a tough demand on woman.  This has come from a wrong perception of sex stereotyping of jobs.  The household chores are still looked down as below a man’s dignity to do.

 

The working mother also affects parenting and child nurturing.  Children, in most cases, are deprived of the affection and care which their natural rights are.  Child care, unfortunately, is passing from the domain of parents to that of servants and crèches – both ill equipped for the onerous responsibility.  Grown-up children return from school to locked up houses; have no one to chat over their day in the school.  The idiot box is their only company.  And you know what company the television offers!

 

Of course, the double income enables the family to spend more on the children.  Children now enjoy much more facilities than were dreamt of by their parents when they were young.  The parents care for their physical needs lavishly to compensate for the lack of care for the emotional and spiritual needs.  But enhanced earning power combined with the consumer culture has affected the life of parents and children altering their attitude to family life which, in many ways, leads to the weakening and even breaking of family bonds.  We cannot put the blame for this on any one in particular.  It is the compulsion of the situation.

 

The problem for the children is more acute because of the absence of grand parents in the nuclear families.  The grand parents used to instil the traditional values in their grant children through stories and other interaction.  Not only the children are missing a cultural link, the old people themselves miss the company and care of their own children.  The aged are left to fend for themselves.  Here also things are neither clearly black nor plainly white as some would imagine.  People want their off-springs to make it big in the world.  This naturally leads them away from their own places.  Many emigrate to foreign countries.  Even when they stay in the same city, many stay separate from their parents.  May be it is due to the stress and pressures of the modern competitive world.  Whatever be the reason, the results are sense of alienation in children and feeling of loneliness and helplessness in old people.

 

Another discernible feature is the growing individualism.  Economic independence of women has led to a certain weakening of family bonds and dependence.  Women have become more assertive both in the family and in the professional sphere.  Husband and wife have become competitors, not only with others but between themselves too and both outside and inside  house.  Consequently, the stress and strain in marital life accentuate and many wilt under the pressure and opt for the easy way out.  The result is the higher rate of divorces.  There would be many arguments in favour of divorces, like two people who do not love or like each other any more should not be compelled to stay together.  But, what is normally ignored by the protagonists in their search for their happiness is the interest of their own children.  In most cases, a little adjustment would enable both parties to lead a normal life.  Instead they rush to the court for a separation, then a fight for the custody of the children, and so on, all the time ignoring the emotional trauma the separation inflicts on the children.

 

Another important departure from the past is in the matter of discipline.  Spanking of children has now become a thing of past.  No more do  we hear the proverb “spare the rod and spoil the child.”  The working couple don’t have time to impose discipline on the children.  The parents have given their children freedom and independence at an age that was unthinkable in the last generation.  This has its inevitable impact on discipline.  While too much policing is bad, its total absence is also bad.

 

These are some of the observable features of the family in transition.  As I had mentioned in the beginning, some of the changes are for good but some are not so good.  Changes will occur whether we like them or not.  We cannot stop them.  They are caused by socio-economic conditions beyond the control of the family.  It should be our endeavour to see that while we retain good things, we reject or modify those which are not good.  Of course, ‘what is good’ is a relative concept.  That which I consider as good may not be so considered by another.  For example, individualists would not agree with my position on divorce.  I am not against the individuals pursuing their careers or professional satisfaction.  But I hold that individual good is subservient to the family good and the social good.  Sacrifices are necessary.  When we ignore the good of the family and refuse to make any sacrifice for the family we are forgetting the sacrifices made by some others for us.  And I firmly believe that  ‘understanding’ can do wonders.  If we keep an open mind, and a cool head, if we make a genuine attempt to understand the other person, we will be able to overcome the temporary animosity we felt for the other person.  Mutual understanding will lead to love.  Yes, the best love is “not ever having to say ‘you are sorry’.” But even if you have to say sorry let us say it for the future of family.

 

Family is a social institution which developed at a particular stage of human development.  It emerged in response to certain felt needs – biological, psychological and sociological.  So long as these needs continue to be there, the imperativeness of family also would be there.  Therefore, the changes should not be fatal to the institution of family itself.  Transition should be to a better family and not to the dissolution of family.

 

(Talk at Panel Discussion on ‘Family in Transition’ at Diocesan Community Centre Library, New Delhi on 20th April 1994.)

MAHATAMA GANDHI

 APOSTLE OF TOLERANCE

 

 

James Thanickan

 

Tolerance is fundamental to Mahatama Gandhi’s philosophy of life.  Non-violence is the cardinal principle of Gandhian world view. Non-violence is an impossibility without tolerance.  The Indian tradition in general and Mahatama Gandhi in particular consider non-violence to be a positive quality, which encompasses many values and attributes of which tolerance is an important one.

 

Gandhiji imbibed tolerance very early in his life.  He refers to this experience in his autobiography:

 

In Rajkot…I got an early grounding in toleration for all branches of Hinduism and sister religions.  For my father and mother would visit the Haveli as also Shiva’s and Rama’s temples, and would take or send us youngsters there.  Jain monks also would pay frequent visits to my father, and would even go out of their way to accept food from us – non-Jains.

 

They would have talks with my father on subjects religious and mundane… .

 

He had, besides, Musalman and Parsi friends, who would talk to him about their own faiths, and he would listen to them always with respect, and often interest.  Being his nurse, I often had a chance to be present at these talks.  These many things combined to inculcate in me toleration for all faiths.

 

Gandhian tolerance is based on equality of all religions.  He staunchly believed that all religions are paths to the one and only God whom different religions address by different names.  It is this belief that led to his conviction that religious conversion is not advisable.  Gandhiji advised his followers that their prayers should not be for the conversion of people of other faiths to their religion; instead they would pray that their Hindu friends become better Hindus, Christian friends better Christians and Muslims better Muslims.  Gandhiji truly believed that there is truth in all religions, that no religion is perfect that there are shortcomings in all religions.  According to Gandhiji, if you are not prepared to accept that other religions are as truthful as your religion, you must at least accept that other people are as much for truth as you are.  The concept of a secular and tolerant India that our Constitution propounds is owing to this philosophy of Gandhiji.  Speaking of the India of his dreams, Gandhiji says: “I do not expect the India of my dreams to develop one religion, i.e. to be wholly Hindu, or wholly Christian, or wholly Musalman.  But I want her to be wholly tolerant.”

 

To Gandhiji tolerance was not mere sufferance but positive encouragement of diversity.  For him tolerance was not a matter of political expediency but the outcome of a deep-rooted conviction in the respectability of the multiple ways to realize Truth.  He had equal respect for all religions.  He always believed that it was the duty of every cultured person to read sympathetically the scriptures of the world.

 

We all want others to respect our religion; so also we must respect other religions.  Respect can come only from understanding.  Gandhiji said, “If we are to respect other’s religion as we would have them to respect our own, a friendly study of the world’s religions is our sacred duty.”  Gandhiji set an example to others in this.  While remaining a good sanatani Hindu, he had diligently studied and imbibed many good things from the Bible and the Quran.  He felt that his study of other religions only made him a better Hindu.  In his prayer meetings, prayers from different religions were used.  Often he had to face criticism from religious fundamentalists for this practice of his.  Responding to criticism of his reading and speaking on the Bible in a Gujarati college Gandhiji said, “We need not dread, upon our grown-up children the influence of scriptures other than our own.  We liberalize their outlook upon life by encouraging them to study all that is clears.”

 

Gandhiji’s attachment to tolerance springs from his commitment to truth.  He made it clear that his doctrine of tolerance does not include tolerance of evil.  But here too he made a fine distinction, true to his greatness: “Intolerance of evil does not mean intolerance of evil-minded people.  However, tolerances of evil people does not extend to encouraging or welcoming their all actions.”  Gandhiji was never for tolerating a religion founded on untruth.  His own norm for judging whether a particular religion was founded on truth or not was the effect of the religion on its followers; if it brings good to the followers then it is founded on truth, otherwise it is a false religion.

 

Gandhiji firmly held that truth would remove intolerance.  He said that God should be worshipped not merely with lips; he should be placed in the heart.  Whatever be his name God is one.  If this truth is known then all enmity and intolerance will end.

 

 

Published in News and Views New Delhi Sept-Oct. 1995

 

Innovation Led India

Today we are celebrating the 65th Republic Day, having completed 65 years as a ‘Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic Republic’ which had in the Preamble to its Constitution vowed to secure to all its citizens
Justice, social, economic and political;
Liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship;
Equality of status and of opportunity; And to promote among them all
Fraternity assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation.

Sixty years ago when India declared itself to be a Republic, many of you were not born. Many grew up in the early years of the Republic as toddlers and young people. They have seen the changes that have happened. At that time life expectancy was very poor (32 years), infant mortality was very high (145.6 per 1000), health care was pitiable, and adult literacy was at abysmally low level (12 %). No Hospitals and schools in most of our villages. Colleges and universities were remote. Transport and communications were ancient. No proper tarred roads, no telephones, no electricity in most villages. Newspapers were not heard of in most parts.

The founding fathers with foresight laid the foundation of a modern India, an India to be guided by scientific spirit. Institutions were built up, despite vehement opposition from old and new colonial powers. Technology and medicines were denied to India. Limited private enterprises in India did not have sufficient capital or capacity to make large investments in education and health sectors and also to set up mega industries. The government had to spend public funds to build up infrastructure, large basic industries and pharmaceutical companies. Besides, hospitals and medical colleges, universities, IITs, IIMs, etc. were established. Even institutions for space exploration and atomic research were set up, when they were not in existence even in most of the developed world. Many of us were beneficiaries of this public largesse. Wherever needed policies were adapted, though not to the liking of many abroad.

Today, things have changed much. Food scarcity is a thing of the past. (No longer we talk of roti, kapda aur makaan or garibi hatao. Today we talk of vikaas). India is now the pharmacy of the world. Most things are now at arm’s length or a call from your mobile. Indian scientists, medical personnel and technicians, and managers are in huge demand all over the world. Today we boast of the largest population of science graduates in the world. We have long roads and highways, one of the largest networks of railways and so on. We are a nuclear power. We had launched our own rockets and satellites. We are deep into space exploration. Our satellites have landed in Mars and Moon (Chandrayan and Mangalyan). Despite cynicism and downplaying in our own county, most of the world has been perceiving India as a country moving forward fast, a nation emerging from its shadows. But young and old are demanding fast development.

But the world today is led by technologies. It is an innovation led world. That country which innovates first gets rights all across the world, thanks to the WTO regime. Knowledge is now power and money; it is property; intellectual property. Some six countries are ahead of us, we are seventh only in the Innovation table. We have to catch up with those six. Otherwise we will be left behind. And we are a huge population. Lagging behind means less progress for a large chunk of humanity (17.5 %). We cannot afford it.

The pace of technological changes is very fast now. Products and processes become obsolete not in centuries or decades but in years, because better products and more efficient processes enter the market.

Every generation in the past has carried forward the torch of knowledge, starting from that guy who invented the technique to make fire; the people who made the first stone implements; those who designed alphabet and numbers; the person who invented wheel to the current generation exploring the outer space. Now we talk about micro-Sims and miniscule computers that can do crores and crores of calculations in a jiffy. Nano technologies today lead the world. Medicines may soon become obsolete once stem cell manipulation is fully managed. The computers and mobiles that you are having today may well be junked once bio-chips are developed.

Where will we be in this fast changing, fast moving world? India had led the world upon a time in science and technology, in civilization. Past should inspire us, but should not languish in that. We have to move forward. I recall the words of Robert Frost

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go miles to go before I sleep
And miles to go before I sleep.

We have to reclaim the leadership of the world for the betterment of humanity; for the betterment of those deprived sections of humanity all over the world. We have to show a new light to the world.

I have hope and trust in the young generation. When I travel across the villages and towns of India, I find inspired and ignited young minds who invent, innovate and come out with bright new ideas. But somewhere in the formal education system, they get lost. They have to suppress their novel ideas. They find very little means to develop their talents. We have to nurture them. We have to facilitate the fructification of these young people. We have to have proper innovation and incubation centres. We who gained from what our predecessors had done, including those who made political freedom a reality, those who laid the firm foundation of this Democratic Republic, those who created the education, health and other facilities rudimentary though they were in many cases, owe it to those past generations to provide better opportunities and facilities to new generation. We have to nurture the young minds in scientific spirit, spirit of enquiry and innovation with a sense of fellow feeling. Creativity and innovation with a human face should be the guiding words. We have to strive to achieve them.

The great words of Swami Vivekananda should inspire us: Uthishtatha, Jagratha,prapymanatha. Awake, arise, and rest not until the objective is achieved. Create a better world than what we had inherited should be the aim of us all. It is an achievable goal. Our forefathers had done it. Let us also do it. Then only the great prayer of Rabindranath Tagore will become reality: A nation

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
... ... .... ...
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action.

So let us rededicate on this Republic day to that ideal. Let us forget the small squabbles, and differences, which are nothing if you stand fifty feet away and look at them. Life is not too long. It is brief in the time-space continuum. But that short life has to be well spent. Then only you will have satisfaction in the end and others will remember you well. So let us vow to make India great and cheer loudly:

Bharat Mata Ki Jayate.

Jai Hind

(c) T C James, 26 January 2015 Address at Nava Kairali CGHS, Dwarka
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