Happy New Year 2015


Thursday, February 28, 2008

A Thought for Today : February 24, 2008

When man was first placed in the Garden of Eden, he was put there that he might cultivate it; which shows that man was not born to be idle - Voltaire

Specialists, Generalists and Generalising Specialists!

Specialisation is the name of the game today, with functional groupings being wholly dedicated to deep specialities. We pick one discipline, be it a programmer, a stock planner, a project manager or say a cardiologist, and go on to devote ourselves to the same.

Success has become all about an exclusive concentration focussed on gaining more knowledge in the same area of expertise. And very soon, we fall into a rut, as attaining proficiency in the same skill sets.

We may be highly skilled in what we do, but at what cost? Can we really afford to be ensconced in our ‘ivory towers’, languidly basking in the glory of our immense expertise?

Well, as we burrow deeper and deeper in a single field, too much specialization can also turn into a gargantuan bar5rier of its own.

The exceedingly narrow realm can become our own undoing.

Specialisation blinds us to other issues and we end up not knowing much about anything else. Floundering outside our so-called ‘area of expertise’, we become totally dependent on other ‘specialists’ for the smallest things. Psychologist, Konrad Lorenz hits the nail on the head with, “Every man gets a narrower and narrower field of knowledge in which he must be an expert in order to compete with other people.

The specialist knows more and more about less and less and finally knows everything about nothing.”

But what if our speciality becomes ineffective or worse, defunct?

Then again, while too much specialization induces the ‘frog-in-the-well’ syndrome, generalists possess a wide range of knowledge, but lack specific skills in anything. By spending all our time trying to learn bits of everything, we can land up as a ‘jack-of-all-trades, but master of none’.

The Middle Ground

To balance the extreme approaches and enjoy the benefits of both, consultant Scott Ambler propounds a new term of ‘generalising specialists’ that calls on people to maintain one or more technical specialities while actively seeing to gain new skills in both existing specialities as well as other areas. Though coined in terms of software development, the concept holds water in almost every sphere of work.

To evolve from being specialists/generalists to generalizing specialists, we need to equalize specialization with other skills. Moving away from restricting ourselves to extensive knowledge in a single subject area or trying to learn everything, we should develop a strong grasp in a chosen speciality along with learning new skills in different aspects of our relevant domain itself.

Only by spending less time on perfecting skills we are already proficient in and cultivating at least a working knowledge of other related areas, can we own all the skills necessary to be successful.

For this, you should first know yourself and become aware of your weaknesses. Once you become adept in your field, do not make the mistake of ignoring other matters.

Instead, try to expand your horizons beyond your core area and gain a good grasp of the whole picture.

Step outside your comfort zone and be willing and able to learn new skills. Stretch yourself and your knowledge by reading, on diverse subjects, browsing the Internet or just talking to people.

For more profound understanding, you can even take up courses, cross-train or gain hands-on experience at work itself.

The varied knowledge and spread of skills (even if its based on rudimentary information) helps in understanding the whole process, end-results and even potential solutions.

It facilitates variety in work and increases your survival quotient as you can pick the ball and run with it whenever needed.

By contributing to other areas, you will become more co-operative, agile and emerge as the natural choice for taking up the lead.

So, while every job does necessitate a degree of specialization, why not know more than that to turn into a multi-disciplinary worker, or in other words, a ‘generalising specialist’.

To wind up, author, Robert Heinlein sums it up best with, “A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyse a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialisation is for insects!”

- Payal Chanania,
faqs@cnkonline.com (Narrowing realm can be career limiting)

Courtesy: The Hindu, Feb.13, 2008

Grateful thanks to Payal Chanania and The Hindu.

Meditation is a mysterious ladder

There are certain basic questions which everyone muses over at some stage in his/her life. What is the purpose of my birth? Why do some people have an easier time than others? Where did I come from and what is my destination? People often struggle to find the answers and those who do so get contentment. For this, one should dive deep ‘within’.

Yielding to worldly distractions, people seldom try to notice what goes on ‘inside’. If they contemplate, they will see that the mind is being constantly bombarded by sense perceptions. Very often, it is not until a person reaches a point of great distress that he realizes it is time to take stock of his life. It is in this context that meditation comes in. It is a practice by which there is constant observation of the mind. It is a mysterious ladder which leads from earth to heaven, from falsehood to truth, from darkness to light, from pain to bliss, from restlessness to abiding peace, from ignorance to knowledge, and from mortality to eternity (according to Swami Sivananda). It helps to discover that the infinite well of wisdom that lie inside men.

However, the mind is an elusive animal difficult to tame. Meditation creates positive channels in the mind and eradicates destructive influences. It is a scientific process but, the goal is spiritual. Through it the play of the mind can be seen. Good and evil, friend and enemy are all in the mind only. Every man can create a world of virtue or vice, pleasure or pain, out of his imagination. There is a power or an energy in each person and this can be tapped. Meditation unleashes this immense potential in each individual.

A virtuous life prepares the mind as a fit instrument for concentration and meditation. Without the aid of meditation, one cannot liberate oneself from the trammels of the mind and attain immortality. During this experiment (of meditation), worldly thoughts are shut out and the mind is filled with the divine presence. It is no doubt a trying discipline but intense training will bring success.

Swami Vimalananda, in a lecture, said that, in this spiritual exercise, thoughts should be fixed on God and the mind gradually withdrawn from worldly objects. One can get the meditative mood easily if the practice is systematic during the same hours daily. But no violent effort should be made to control the mind; it should be allowed a little freedom for a while; divine thoughts should flow gently. After some time, one who takes to this path will realize that it acts as a tonic, opening the avenues of intuitional knowledge and helps develop a strong will-power – while an inner voice will guide him.

Courtesy: The Hindu, August 9, 1995

A Thought for Today : February 23, 2008

Any activity becomes creative when the doer cares about doing it right, or better - John Updike

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

E-Ink, E-Readers and E-Books!

Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison thinks it is a huge advance. It helps her carry several books on her travels, choose and download more books, read in the yard or on the beach, and increase text size for clarity. The object of her fascination, Amazon's Kindle, makes it possible wirelessly to download books, magazines, and newspapers over a high-speed telecom data network. Whenever, wherever, within the United States (at this stage). The first generation of e-readers - the Kindle, Sony's Reader Digital Book, iLead, StareBook, Jinke, and the soon-to-be launched Readius - promises to redefine reading and the way books, newspapers, and other content are delivered. Digital technologies tend to get more hyped than adopted initially but their uptake is bound to rise as prices fall. Interestingly, when Amazon launched its $399 Kindle e-reader for the U.S., it sold out in five hours. The credit for this extraordinary reader response should go equally to the display technology such devices use - a black and white e-ink-based electronic paper screen that comes closest to printed paper in readability - and fast access on the go ("buy a book and it is auto-delivered wirelessly in less than one minute"). Then there is the bonus of being able to pack 200 books in a very portable 285-gram device; a facility to annotate text; music to heighten the reading experience; a built-in dictionary; SD card memory expandability; and good battery life.

The design goal for an e-reader is to enable the book lover to become absorbed in the story and the device to 'disappear'. Portable computers may facilitate e-book downloads but the e-reader is differentiated by e-ink. It has no backlighting and can therefore be read even under bright light; as a downside, however, the most popular devices do not yet offer colour and cannot handle video. But books and newspapers can do without either, and a strain-free reading experience adds to their appeal. That is not to say that these features will not appear in the future; some companies are working to add them and have demonstrated the capability. If the Kindle has persuaded publishers to launch over 100,000 book titles, 170 newspapers, and over 250 popular blogs on the new platform, it is due to its ability to reach a wider audience - and new readers - with a different experience. Some may be tempted to see in all this the impending end of print, but as author John Seely Brown cautioned, that would be erroneous 'endism' produced by blinkered euphoria. Printed books and newspapers will continue to exist, even as itinerant bibliophiles and people of the 'always-on' generation immerse themselves in e-ink content.

Courtesy: The Hindu, Madurai, Feb.21, 2008 (Editorial: 'Books Unlimited')

A Thought for Today : February 22, 2008

As soon as man does not take his existence for granted, but beholds it as something unfathomably mysterious, thought begins - Albert Schweitzer

Unending Scuffle

The Mahabharata is called the fifth Veda because it holds a microscopic lens over the infinite ways in which dharma and adharma are pitted against one another in a continuous battle. In chronicling the lives of the Pandavas and the Kauravas, the story unfolds this eternal conflict to highlight the right way of living. Sengalipuram Sri R.Damodara Dikshitar pointed out in a discourse (at Chennai) that association with the pious and holy can help in one’s effort to remove ignorance in matters of righteousness, while association with the evil can be harmful and destructive to one’s self, even though one might not be evil by nature. Association with the evil-minded is dangerous in the same way as green trees feel the onslaught of forest fire when dry wood catches fire.

In the Udyoga Parva of the epic, Vidura discloses many facets of dharma to Dhritarashtra who is confused and seeks peace of mind. Vidura makes it clear that one with a sinful heart will never find peace and the only way to peace is to be engaged in good deeds, good thoughts and good words. One has to get over ill feelings towards others. One should be honest and assess one’s inner feelings in this regard. Vidura points out to Dhritarashtra the many mistakes he had committed especially in his treatment of the Pandavas, as he was blinded by the love for his sons. He himself was not free from ill will against them, since he knew them to be superior to his sons. By condoning his son’s actions, when the unfairly humiliated Pandavas were subjected to harsher ridicule, it was clear that sooner or later he would reap the results of these sins. A man is deprived of his good sense and judgment when his fall is imminent.

Among the Purusharthas, Dharma (righteousness), Artha (wealth), Kama (desires) and Moksha (liberation), dharma alone leads to liberation. The other two are worldly pursuits and can confer only temporary benefits. The purpose of human life is to strive and remove the ignorance enveloping our consciousness so that one learns to conquer the senses and enjoy peace and happiness sanctioned by the Sastras. Ignorance is the cause of sorrow and hinders the proper perception of the value of dharma.

Courtesy: The Hindu, Madurai, Feb.26, 2008 (Religion)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A Thought for Today : February 21, 2008

Money is like an arm or leg: use it or lose it - Henry Ford

Secret of Successful Life

This is the secret of successful life according to Swami Vivekananda. He has stated in his rousing call to the … Nation that no work can be called work unless thought precedes it. He therefore asks men and women to fill their brain with high thoughts and highest ideals and place them before them, day in and day out, so that they can turn out good and great work.

Dwelling on the difference between one who has an ideal and another who has no ideal, the Swamiji says that if the former commits one thousand mistakes (this is only an assumption for the sake of argument), the latter makes fifty-thousand mistakes. Therefore, an ideal is most essential. And this ideal one should hear about continuously and as much as possible, till it fully occupies one’s heart, brains, veins – the entire body. “Out of the fullness of the heart, the mouth speaketh” and out of the fullness of the heart, the hand works too.

Swami Vivekananda directs us to hear first, then understand, shedding all distractions, shut the mind to all external influences and devote ourselves to the development of truth within. He observes that those who only take a nibble here and a nibble there, will never attain anything.

He believes very firmly that one must have tremendous perseverance, tremendous will. One should be able to say: “I will drink up the ocean like Agasthya; at my will, mountains will be pulverized.” If only one has that sort of energy, that sort of will and works hard, one will undoubtedly reach the goal.

Courtesy: “Tips to Success” (LIFCO’s Great Little Books), Published by The Little Flower Co., Chennai-600017

Eyecatchers-61: ""Think differently, Think out of the box" by Priscilla Jebaraj

“A lot has been written in management textbooks about learning. We need to write more on forgetting,” says Vijay Govindarajan, Professor of International Business at the Tuck School and founding director of Tuck’s Centre for Global Leadership.

During a recent visit to India, the management guru offered his insights on the key elements needed in the training of India’s management personnel.

“You need to forget all the rules about how we make money today and think about what will be needed in 25 years… Current success can be the biggest obstacle to future greatness,” he warns.

He offers a slew of examples to support his theory. In 1970, there were 3000 companies in the Swiss watch industry producing mechanical watches. By 1980, only a hundred were left. It was not that the other 2900 companies did not have access to new digital technology; after all, they had pioneered quartz watches themselves. But they could not see it as a viable business model that would disrupt their then successful, existing model.

Moving to a positive example, Prof.Govindarajan points to U.S.conglomerate, General Electric, for whom he now works as professor in residence.

The top management realized that the biggest opportunities in the next 25 years lie in the fields of health, infrastructure, water, alternative fuels. So they made the decision to acquire in these areas…But they also made their insurance business and their plastics division, both of which are profitable now, but will have diminishing relevance in the future,” he says. Again, the emphasis on forgetting current success.

So what comes next? After forgetting the rules of current success, how are management students to address the future? Prof.Govindarajan replies with that buzzword of the corporate world: INNOVATION.

He is quick to dismiss the current myths about the concept: “Innovation is NOT creativity,” he emphasizes. “Creativity is that light-bulb moment, that flash of a brilliant idea,” he says, pointing out that creativity cannot be taught at a management school.

Innovation, however, is a different story. “Innovation is about commercializing creativity. It is that 99% perspiration involved in taking it from the idea to the business,” he says. That is what management training needs to be about.

The process of commercializing creativity needs to be inspired by out-of-the box thinking. Prof.Govindarajan has spent 25 years of research into that process,…..

In the days of the Licence Raj, the key to success lay in exclusivity. It was a system that bred inefficiency. In the post-liberalisation era, that had to change. “For the last 15 years, Indian industry has grown merely by sucking out inefficiency. To me, that game is now over… Looking to the future, our innovation gap is bigger than our efficiency gap,” he says.

He lists e-choupals and the global delivery models of the IT companies as among the few instances of innovation in Indian industry. His best example for the forgetting and innovating process, however, is the Tata Nano.

“Tata had to forget all about how it makes money today… To make a Nano, you can’t just start with another Tata car and downsize it,” he points out. A separate team had to be created for the Nano, which was able to leverage capabilities from the current business, but was also be empowered to discard current notions and innovate anew.

Courtesy: ‘Education Plus’, Supplement to The Hindu, Feb.25, 2008

A Thought for Today : February 20, 2008

Those who are blessed with the most talent don't necessarily outperform everyone else. It's the people with follow-through who excel - Mary Kay Ash

Science Watch-3: "Age from the Eyes"

A new way to find a person’s age by looking into the lens of the eye could, among other applications, help forensic scientists, Danish researchers say.

Courtesy: Newscape, The Hindu, Madurai, Feb.21, 2008

Science Watch-2: "Laser Breath Test for Cancer, Asthma"

Laser Breath Test for Cancer, Asthma
Molecules in a single exhalation used

Washington: A new laser analyzer might be able to help doctors detect cancer, asthma or other diseases by sampling a patient’s breath, US researchers reported.

The device uses mirrors to bounce laser light back and forth until it has touched every molecule a patient exhales in a single breath, the team said in Optics Express.

This can help detect minute traces of compounds that can point to various diseases, including cancer, asthma, diabetes and kidney malfunction, they said.

“This technique can give a broad picture of many different molecules in the breath all at once,” Jun Ye, who led the research at the University of Colorado, said.

Mr.Ye’s team at a joint institute of the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the University developed a new technique, called cavity-enhanced direct optical frequency comb spectroscopy.

When animals and people breathe out, they exhale not only gases that are not needed, such as carbon dioxide, but also compounds that result from the metabolism of cells. “To date, researchers have identified over 1,000 different compounds contained in human breath,” Mr.Ye’s team wrote in the report.

Some point to abnormal function – such as methylamine, produced in higher amounts by liver and kidney disease, ammonia produced when the kidneys are failing or elevated acetone caused by diabetes.

People with asthma may produce too much nitric oxide, exhaled in the breath, while smokers produce high-levels of carbon monoxide.

Last February, a team at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio reported that they could use a mass spectrometer breath test to detect lung cancer in patients.

Courtesy: Reuters and The Hindu, Madurai, Feb.21, 2008

Science Watch-1: "Damaged Rubber Repairs Itself"

Power of Healing
Damaged rubber that repairs itself

Paris: French chemists on Feb.21, 2008 announced they had created a rubber that heals itself after being cut. This breakthrough could lead to clothes that self-mend if torn and toys that repair themselves if damaged by a tot.

The molecular concoction – described by other scientists as having “a touch of magic about it” – can self-heal at room temperature in around 15 minutes by simply pressing the damaged pieces together, they report in the science journal, NATURE.

Conventional rubber typically comprises long, cross-linked chains of polymers that can stretch and then recover to their original size and shape. The new formula made by a team at France’s National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) and a private firm, Arkema, achieves the same elasticity by using a mixture of two different kinds of smaller molecules.

Some are ditopic, which means they can hook up with two molecules; others are tritopic, meaning they can associate with three molecules.

The network is meshed together by weaker hydrogen bonds, which get broken when the rubber is cut but also provide an atomic “glue,” recombining into chains to bridge severed parts.

The ingredients comprise fatty acids made from vegetable oils, combined in a stepped process with diethyline triamine and urea, both common chemicals.

Courtesy: AFP and The Hindu, Madurai, Feb.21, 2008

Eyecatchers-60: "The Best of Booker Race"

London: India-born authors Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy and Kiran Desai will be among those vying for “The Best of the Booker", a one-off award to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the literary prize.

It will honour the finest novel to have won the Man Booker Prize for Fiction since it was first awarded on April 22, 1969, the organizers announced on Thursday.

In all, 41 novels will be eligible. They include Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, Arundhati Roy’s God of Small Things and Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss.
This is the second time that a celebratory award has been created by the Man Booker Prize organizers. In 1993, the 25th anniversary year, Rushdie won the ‘Booker of Bookers’ for Midnight’s Children.

The Best of the Booker will, for the first time, give the public an opportunity to help decide the deserving novel, choosing from a shortlist of six novels. The shortlist is to be made by a panel of judges.

Courtesy: PTI and The Hindu, Madurai, Feb.22, 2008

Eyecatchers-59: 'Roof Riders"

Indonesian commuters riding on the roofs of trains will be sprayed with colored liquid so that security officers can identify and arrest them, said a recent report. Electric trains link the Indonesian capital and its neighboring towns. These trains are so full during the rush hour that many of them end up sitting on the roof of the train. But this is also a ploy to travel without buying a ticket. The state-owned railway company, PT Kereta Api, has been trying to discourage commuters from traveling on the roof but to no avail. So now they have hit upon a strategy that is sure to discourage the roof riders by dousing them with colored liquid so that they can be identified and punished. At least 53 roof riders have been killed in the past two years, the Post said.

Courtesy: Young World, supplement to The Hindu, Feb.22, 2008

Friday, February 22, 2008

A Thought for Today : February 19, 2008

Any activity becomes creative when the doer cares about doing it right, or better – John Updike

Eyecatchers-58: 'India: World Diabetes Capital"

Not only is diabetes a leading killer, the type 2 form of the disease is now a deadly epidemic in India. Diabetes affects an estimated 25 to 40 million Indians, according to different estimates and at this rate the number of patients could double by 2030. With more diabetics than any other country – every fourth patient today is an Indian – India is often called the diabetes capital of the world.

Some reasons for the epidemic: Experts say that many Indians are genetically predisposed to the disease. Others attribute it to a rising incidence of obesity, high-fat, high-calorie diets, sedentary lifestyles, lack of exercise and even stress.

Courtesy: Reader’s Digest, February 2008

'Keeping Diabetes at Bay' by Cynthia Dermody

1. Drink Milk

A Scandinavian study found that adding whey, a protein in milk, to high-carbohydrate meals increases insulin secretion and lowers blood sugar levels. Researchers have yet to figure out how whey does this, but they say it may be that whey protein is highly digestible and releases high levels of amino acids in the blood. The acids summon the insulin release that is necessary to control blood sugar. Another report from Harvard found that men who drank the most low-fat milk had a 23% lower risk of developing diabetes than men who drank only a little milk.

2. Snack on Walnuts

People with diabetes and those at risk for the condition are told to eat oily fish like tuna or salmon twice a week because it helps reduce the amount of saturated fats in their diet and because it supplies omega-3 polyunsaturated acids, which protect against heart disease, the No.1 killer of diabetics.

But many people don’t eat that much fish. Australian researchers found that having a daily walnut snack (about a handful) and eating slightly less fish boosted omega-3s and lowered saturated fat better than fish alone.

3. Get some sleep

Boston University researchers recently found that people who slept too little (six hours or less a night) were 66% more likely to have diabetes than those who slept seven to eight hours.

Study author Daniel J.Gottlieb, MD, a professor of medicine, speculates that insufficient sleep causes the release of adrenaline-like substances that induce insulin resistance, though more research in this area is needed.

Excerpt from Reader’s Digest, February 2008

My grateful thanks to Cynthia Dermody and Reader’s Digest.

Monday, February 18, 2008

A Thought for Today : February 18, 2008

Many attempts to communicate are nullified by saying too much - Robert Greenleaf

A Thought for Today : February 17, 2008

Keep five metres from a carriage, ten metres from a horse, and a hundred metres from an elephant; but the distance one should keep from a wicked man cannot be measured – Indian Proverb

Facts & Figures-20 : Mobile Moves

Singapore raised mobile-phone subscriptions to 5.62 million last year after Singapore Telecommunications Ltd and StarHub Ltd offered free incoming calls on pre-paid plans and discounts on high-speed handsets. The city-state added 992,200 wireless users in 2007, the Infocomm Development Authority said on its Website.

The increase means Singapore has more than 1.2 subscriptions for every person, a gain from about 1.03 a year earlier, according to the regulator.

Singapore Telecomm, South-East Asia’s largest phone company, StarHub and MobileOne Ltd lured users by offering free short message services and discounts on Nokia Oyj phones. SingTel had 2.33 million mobile users in its home market as of December 31, 2007. Wireless subscriptions in Singapore, home to one of the highest mobile-phone subscriber rates in Asia, first exceeded its population in March 2006.

Hong Kong had 10.55 million mobile customers in November 2007, representing 152% of its population, according to figures fro0m the city’s regulator.

Singapore added 31% more prepaid users for a total of 2.6 million and gain 49% more high-speed subscribers to end the year with 1.7 million, according to Infocomm.

MobileOne, the smallest of the city-state’s three mobile phone companies, said on January 24 that it had 1.53 million subscribers. - Bloom berg

Courtesy: The Hindu Business Line, Feb.11, 2008 (eWorld)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

A Thought for Today : February 16, 2008

Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not; a sense of humour, to consle him for what he is – The Wall Street Journal

Friday, February 15, 2008

A Thought for Today : February 15, 2008

Genius is the gold in the mine; talent is the miner who works and brings it out - Lady Blessington

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Letters-7: Shining Example

(1) I remember with nostalgia my stay at Anandvan – the commune established by Baba Amte for leprosy patients – at a time when it was still at the developing stage. My father was a medical officer there for some time and I stayed with him. Words cannot express the dedication of Baba Amte, his family members and their co-workers towards the development of Anandvan. Over the past few decades, Baba Amte’s mobility was restricted but his activities were not.

A leading light in the field of rehabilitating leprosy patients has been extinguished but his memory will remain forever. - Lt Col G.Kameswara Rao(Retd), Secunderabad

(2) There can no greater service than selflessly helping the sick and the downtrodden. Baba Amte will remain one of the great icons and a shining example for all Indians, perhaps even for the world. - David Peniel, Tiruchi

Courtesy: The Hindu, Madurai, February 12, 2008 (Letters to the Editor)

A Thought for Today : February 14, 2008

Plan ahead – it was not raining when Noah built the Ark – G.F.C. (Reader’s Digest, April 1975)

Encourage Your Baby to Explore

Parents who stop their babies crawling around may permanently harm their mental development, says John Brierly, a British schools inspector and author of books on child development. Encouraging a baby to explore, however, may increase inventiveness in later life.

“A narrow environment with no toys, no stimulus, no affection, inarticulate communication and a prohibitive attitude to children’s natural exploratory activity may permanently retard mental development,” he writes in the UK Department of Education’s publication, Trends in Education.

Such deprivation during the crucial years from birth to five could make thousands of children educationally backward in the early school years.

Security, minimum interference by adults and an environment that invites exploration and experiment provide the best conditions for exploratory learning.

Courtesy: The Guardian, Manchester & Reader’s Digest, April 1975 (News from the World of Medicine)

Sri Visveswarar Medical College Hospital, Trichy Bypass Road, Sriram Nagar, Kottaiyur

All my people know that I seldom have anything good to say about allopathy hospitals and doctors. But here I am complimenting straight from my heart the above hospital and its physician, Dr.Kaveri, M.D.

Let me start from the beginning. First let me remove the misconception - There is no medical college as the name suggests. To my knowledge, it has been so for more than 20 years now. It is easily the biggest hospital, say, in about 50 km radius, with many latest gadgets. Somehow from the beginning it did not attract many patients. Poor management? Honestly I don’t know. Now this hospital management has been taken over by ‘Mata Amirthanandamayi Trust’.

Now the highlights:

· It has a well-qualified and well-experienced physician, viz., Dr.Kaveri, M.D. This soft-spoken and kind lady attends on patients sympathetically. Her diagnosis is good. She does not unnecessarily prescribe unwanted laboratory tests. Whatever medicine she prescribes is generally minimal and cheap.
· The consultation fee is Rs.10/- for, hold your breath, for a month. You may have any number of consultations during this time and you don’t have to pay anything except the initial Rs.10/-.
· There is absolutely no crowd. So you don’t become tense. You relax yourself and get the treatment.
· All charges are nominal – ECG, Scan, X-ray, various lab tests etc are carried out on concessional fee.
· At two places, they have parked vehicles which you can use for going to the hospital, WITHOUT PAYING ANYTHING.

Now, to the painful thing, still there is no crowd. You never see more than two or three patients. I have seen patients thronging many private hospitals, restlessly waiting for hours for their turn. Why don’t they use this hospital? God alone knows! They publicize through local TV channels. On their vehicles, you see banners highlighting the benefits. Yet, painfully, the hospital is, to put it mildly, under-utilized.

Medicine is no longer a service or a profession. It has grown into big business these days. So when you see institutions like Sri Visveswarar Medical College Hospital, you are very much moved and your cynicism is checked a little bit.

I have always been an admirer of Mata Amirthanandamayi. There are many educational institutions, including some of the best institutions of higher-learning, hospitals and many other service facilities run under benevolent guidance.

I touch the Holy-Feet of ‘Mataji’ and pray that the innumerable service activities carried out under her benevolent guidance grow and continue to benefit humanity. My grateful thanks to the local ‘Mata Amirthanandamayi Trust’ who dedicatedly run this hospital.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

6th Karaikudi Book Festival

The 6th Karaikudi Book Festival was inaugurated at Kamban Mani Mandapam, Karaikudi, on Saturday, the February 9, 2008 by renowned philanthropist and writer, Nalli Kuppusamy Chetty. Rotarian PHF Muthu.Palaniappan (President, Chamber of Commerce, Karaikudi) welcomed the audience. Writer and Chairman of Organizing Committee, Prof.Dr.Aykann delivered the presidential address. Dr.N.Palaniswamy, Deputy Director, CECRI, offered felicitations. I was honoured at this function as the person mainly responsible for the introducing State-Level Book Festival at Karaikudi and for organizing the first four Book Festivals. While thanking the Organizers and the Executive Committee of FASOHD, I recalled the problems faced in organizing the Book Festivals and the unstinted support received from the Presidents of FASOHD during this period viz., Dr.M.Raghavan, Dr.V.Sundaram, Mr.K.Nakkeeran and Rtn.Muthu.Palaniappan; and the Secretaries of FASOHD during this period, viz., Dr.Visalakshi Ravindran, Dr.R.Srinivasan, Dr.N.Kalaiselvi and Dr.S.Sathiyanarayanan. Dr.A.Muthukrishnan, Controller of Administration, CECRI, Karaikudi, offered the Vote of Thanks. Competitions for students at the college and school levels, Cultural programs, Quiz programs and various other activities are on the card during the Book Festival, which will be concluding on the night of Sunday, the February 17, 2008.

My best wishes for the success of this Book Festival.

A Thought for Today : February 13, 2008

We know the truth, not only by the reason, but also by the heart - Blaise Pascal

A Thought for Today : February 12, 2008

Truthfulness is the main element of character - Brian Tracy

A Thought for Today : February 11, 2008

You have to have confidence in your ability, and then be tough enough to follow through - Rosalynn Carter

A Thought for Today : February 10, 2008

Prayer is less about changing the world than it is about changing ourselfves – David Wolpe

A Thought for Today : February 9, 2008

Luck is not chance, it is toil. Fortune’s expensive smile is earned – Emily Dickinson

A Thought for Today : February 8, 2008

People hardly ever make use of the freedom they have, for example, freedom of thought; instead they demand freedom of speech as a compensation – Kierkegaard

A Thought for Today : February 7, 2008

Let us not look bck in anger nor forward in fear, but around in awareness – James Thurber

Friday, February 08, 2008

A Thought for Today : February 6, 2008

No day in which you learn something is a complete loss – David Eddings

My Album-18: "Achu playing"

Achu playing in our Living Room. Clicked by Vinod using his Nokia N70m.

My Album-17: "Achu (after hair-offering and ear-borning ceremony) with Ammu"

Achu with Ammu, after hair-offering and ear-boring ceremony. Clicked by Vinod using his Nokia N70m.

My Album-16: "Achu again, before hair-offering(tonsure)"

Achu, a day or two before hair-offering. He is in a jolly mood with a bewitching smile.

My Album-15: "Achu dressed like a Girl!"

In our family, it is customary to have the first hair-offering ceremony at one of the various tremples of Lord Muruga, preferably the nearest one, after the child is one year old. Achu's hair-offering got delayed by nearly 5 months. His ear-boring and hair-offering function were held at the Lord Shanmuganathan (another name for Lord Muruga) Temple, Kundrakkudi recently. The day before this photograph was taken at a studio. His mother dressed him like a girl and had this photo taken. Does he not look charming?

A Thought for Today : February 5, 2008

Whenever you do a thing, act as if all the world were watching - Thomas Jefferson

Three Stages in Life

There are three stages in life: you have to take a nap and you don’t want to do; you want to take a nap but don’t have the time; and you want to take a nap, and you do have the time, but you can’t fall asleep. - Sarah Raymond

Courtesy: Reader’s Digest, September 1997

The Long and Short of Life

Pessimism is a very easy way out because it is a short view of life. If you look at what is happening around us today, you can’t help but feel that life is a terrible complexity of problems. But if you look back a few thousand years, you realize that we have advanced fantastically. If you take a long view, I do not see how you can be pessimistic about the future of mankind.

I become very amused by my colleagues – particularly in the study of literature – the tragic view is the only key to life. This is self-indulgent nonsense. They simply feel rotten about everything, and that is terribly easy. But if you try to see things a little more evenly, it is surprising what complexities of comedy and ambiguity and irony appear. And that, I think, is what is vital to a novelist. Just writing tragic novels is easy. – Robertson Davies
Quoted by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in Creativity (Harper Collins)

Courtesy: Reader’s Digest, September 1997 (Points to Ponder)

A Thought for Today : February 4, 2008

Truth is eternal, knowledge is changeable. It is disastrous to confuse them – Madeleine L’Engle

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Three Obstacles to Success

Most people would like more out of life than they already have. Some of them even define it. Yet, most of them will never achieve it, and it is because they are so easily stopped.

Just think of all the things you have ever wanted to accomplish in your life, and then think why you did not accomplish them. You would probably say you did not try hard enough or you never planned it out properly. But it is because you were stopped by three things that stops many people from being successful than anything else. In no particular order they are:

1. FEAR : Fear of failure is the single, biggest obstacle to our success. Fear is a negative motivator. It paralyzes us. Most people don’t succeed because they are afraid to fail. They are so afraid to fail; they don’t even try; which creates a vicious cycle since the only time we really fail is when we stop trying! Do you really believe that if you keep going out there day after day that you are not at least giving yourself the opportunity to be successful, to be great, to be the best? It is only when we STOP that we take away any opportunity we ever had to be great.

2. OTHER PEOPLE: This is a huge obstacle to success. Other people are always so ready, willing and able to tell us “It can’t be done,” and stop us from doing all the things we want to do in our lives and careers. They would like you to think they are acting in your best interests, but they are not. In fact, too often they are acting in their own best interests. There are too many people who want to stop you so that you don’t become more successful than they are. They feel it is easier to keep you down with them, than to get up off their rear ends and join you in achieving success. The next time one of these “other people”, tells us it cannot be done, say to them, “you are right, you can’t do it, but I can.”

3. HABITS: Bad habits constantly stop us. The habit of procrastination; laziness; call reluctance; not writing things down and many others. The problem with bad habits is not that we have them; it is how we try to break them. Habits are not addictions (drinking, drugs, gambling). Addictions have to be stopped immediately. Habits only be changed gradually. After all, you did not acquire that bad habit overnight. What makes you think you can change it overnight? Bad habits must be changed a little bit at a time. Mark out one day a week that you would not procrastinate; make one more sales call a week than you normally would; wake up five minutes earlier every day. Do it for a month, the next month do it a little more. Don’t try to break out of your comfort zone, just expand it.

There are no overnight successes. Success is a long journey over a road that has many roadblocks (fear, other people, bad bits). It is the people that go over, around and through those roadblocks who become successful.

Courtesy: Yuva Bharati, Feb.2008

Monday, February 04, 2008

Letters-6: Farmers' Suicide

1. The editorial, “The unending farm tragedy (The Hindu, Feb.2, 2008) was a timely reminder of the grave crisis facing our nation. We have a polity and a governance mechanism that have chosen not to act decisively to tackle the crisis. It is a matter of irony that the same political class which witnessed the onset of the crisis still calls the shots. Why don’t our politicians launch a national movement to address the woes of the farmers? Has a single hour of Parliament been disrupted for the hapless farmer? Has a politician ever sat on a hunger strike for him? It is a disgrace that the Maharashtra CM sought to draw media attention to Davos and Germany than to the crisis being faced by the farmers of Vidharbha. Discontent among farmers is a sure recipe for social unrest. If we do not take corrective action now, it will perhaps be a case of too little, too late. (Sekhar Rayaprolu, San Jose, California – Letter to the Editor, The Hindu, Feb.4, 2008)

2. That our farmers are resorting to suicide is not at all surprising. What can they do with a CM, who is inclined to “believe only local journalists,” at the helm? We are ready to sympathize with our entrepreneurs who will take home a few lakhs less every month because of the rupee appreciation. But we could not care less about what happens to the man who is responsible for cultivating food for us. We need to realize that our national security will be in danger if we lack food security. (S.Srinivas, Viakhapatnam – Letter to the Editor, The Hindu, Feb.4, 2008)

3. The agrarian crisis is a national tragedy. Evidently, the relief packages announced by Central and State governments have failed to mitigate the crisis. A multi-pronged approach including speedy relief to the affected farmers, low-cost operations with emphasis on food crops, and a radical change of mindset is the need of the hour. (S.Janakiraman, Coimbatore – Letter to the Editor, The Hindu, Feb.4, 2008)

Thanks to the Individuals and The Hindu.

Letters-5: On Smoking

1. Union Health Minister Anbumani Ramadoss’ appeal to cinema stars to quit smoking on screen is well meaning and in the interest of society. Superstars and cricket players have a huge fan following, especially among the most impressionable group – the youth. The power of the visual media being what it is, their actions are bound to have a tremendous impact on young minds. These multi-millionaires should have a sense of gratitude. They should pay back to society from which they have got so much. (K.N.Krishnan, Bangalore – Letter to the Editor, The Hindu, February 4, 2008)

2. Acting falls in the public domain and actors cannot claim unlimited freedom as a matter of right. In a film-crazy and hero-worshipping nation like ours, cine stars should maintain a socially correct and upright image at least in public. Let our stars study the life and career of M.G.Ramachandran who is still remembered for his films which resonated with socially progressive themes. (V.N.Mukundarajan, Thiruvananthapuram – Letter to the Editor, The Hindu, February 4, 2008)

3. There many youngsters who look up to Sharukh Khan and others as heroes. Everyone knows smoking is bad for health and addictive. Should not they behave in a manner that has a good influence on the people? (D.Arpana, Coonoor – Letter to The Hindu, Feb.4, 2008)
Thanks to the individuals and The Hindu

Eyecatchers-57: 'Superfast Train"

Spain is to introduce soon a superfast train between Madrid and Barcelona. One way trip takes 155 minutes and any delay more than minutes, the passengers get back the full fare! The train runs at a speed of nearly 350 k.m. and can accommodate 404 passengers. Every reclining chair is fitted with video and music players and passengers can enjoy the trip listening to music or watching videos.

Based on a news item in The Hindu, Madurai, February 4, 2008

Eyecatchers-56: ''Daytime Nap good for Memory"

Concerned that a daytime snooze might ruin a good night’s sleep? Do not fret. A team of researchers in the US has carried out a study and discovered that a brief bout of 45 minutes obtained during a daytime nap does not hamper sleep at night but boosts a person’s declarative memory performance. The results of the study have been published in the Sleep journal.

Courtesy: PTI / The Hindu, Madurai, February 4, 2008

A Thought for Today : February 3, 2008

Every action must be due to one or other of seven causes: chance, nature, compulsion, habit, reasoning, anger, or appetite – Aristotle

Saturday, February 02, 2008

A Thought for Today : February 2, 2008

Youth is a circumstance you can't do anything about. The trick is to grow up without getting old - Frank Lloyd Wright

Eyecatchers-55: ''For LPG in fiberglass cylinders" by Sujay Mehdudia

Lightweight and transparent composite cylinders for liquefied petroleum gas, termed the 21st century LPG cylinders, are all set to hit the Indian market. Attracted by the expanding Indian market, a Norwegian company, Ragasco, has obtained the approval of the Chief Controller of Explosives to set up business in the country.

Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Murali Deora, who met a representative of the company during a visit to London, said he had asked the oil-marketing companies to examine the feasibility of introducing the advanced technological innovation in India. Ragasco, the pioneer of this technology, is contemplating setting up a joint venture in the country.

It is learnt that officials of Indian Oil, Hindustan Petroleum and Bharat Petroleum have visited the company’s facility in Norway to have a look at the new technology.

The new fiberglass cylinders are lightweight, easy to handle and safe. They weigh 50% less than the steel cylinders now in use and will not corrode.

The design is stylish and one can even view the level of liquefied gas inside.

Ragasco has marketed 3,00,000 cylinders in European countries including France, Portugal and the UK and has received product approvals in the US, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia.

India has 150 million LPG cylinders and on an average seven million cylinders are circulated in the market every year.

Ragasco manufactures cylinders ranging from 5 kg to 14 kg by weight.

Courtesy: The Hindu, Madurai, Feb.2, 2008

Friday, February 01, 2008

Facts & Figures-19 : 17,060 Farm Suicides in One Year

17,060 Farm Suicides in One Year :
Upward Trends in major States unchanged, Maharashtra is the worst hit
By P.Sainath

Farm suicides in Maharashtra rose dramatically in 2006, more than in any other part of the country. The state saw 4,453 farmers’ suicides that year, over a quarter of the all-India total of 17,060, according to the National Crime Records Bureau(NCRB) in its report, Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India, 2006……

Courtesy: The Hindu, Madurai, January 31, 2008

A Golden Moment

Jnanpith winning Malayalam writer, M.T.Vasudevan Nair, received a special honour recently. The Kerala Sahitya Akademi organized a grand four-day literary festival in Thrissur to celebrate the golden jubilee of his novel Nalukettu, published in 1958. The novel deals with the disintegration of the Nair joint families. Malayalam’s living literary pantheon was present in full strength at the festival to sing paeans to writer who is tipped to be the next Central Sahitya Akademi president.

Courtesy: ‘Indiana’, The Week, February 3, 2008

Eyecatchers-54: ''DELHI BOOK FAIR" by Anita Joshua

The 18th edition of the biennial New Delhi World Book Fair, billed as the world’s second largest such event, will open on Saturday.

Announcing this at a press conference here, National Book Trust (NBT) Director, Nusrat Ahmed, said this time it would be a trade-oriented event and not just a platform for book sales.

A highlight this year will be an international rights exhibition featuring works on and by Mahatma Gandhi, in the 60th year of his martyrdom. Titled, “In Words and In Deeds”, the exhibition will have on display 1000 titles in Indian languages. There will also be some published in French, German, Finnish, Spanish and Brazilian.

NBT has put together an Annotated Rights Catalogue. It features annotations, bibliographic details, information on the availability of translation rights, copyright status, and contact details for rights, permissions and licences. The purpose according to Ms Ahmed, is to have an estimate of the quantum of writings on Gandhiji across the world and facilitate copyright negotiations.

With 2008 being declred the A highlight this year will be an international rights exhibition featuring works on and by Mahatma Gandhi, in the 60th year of his martyrdom. Titled, “In Words and In Deeds”, the exhibition will have on display 1000 titles in Indian languages. There will also be some published in French, German, Finnish, Spanish and Brazilian.

NBT has put together an Annotated Rights Catalogue. It features annotations, bibliographic details, information on the availability of translation rights, copyright status, and contact details for rights, permissions and licences. The purpose according to Ms Ahmed, is to have an estimate of the quantum of writings on Gandhiji across the world and facilitate copyright negotiations.

With 2008 being declared the Year of Russia in India, the Russian Federation will be the Guest of Honour. Housed in a special hall, the Russian pavilion will have over 80 publishers displaying their publications. Russia will host panel discussions, literary programmes and children’s activities.

Anzhelika Zhukova, director general of IMA Dialog which is putting together the Russian component, said 30 writers from Russia would attend. Half of them are part of the official delegation; the rest are coming on their own.

Ahead of the Fair, the Frankfurt Book Fair will host an international conference. NBT is buoyed by this, as it points to India’s emergence as an Asian center of publishing on a par with China.

The NBT Director drew attention to the number of requests that hve come from publishers for visa facilitation. Participation from 23 countries is confirmed.

Courtesy: The Hindu, Madurai, January 30, 2008

Eyecatchers-53: 'Kolkata Book Fair'

Kolkata Book Fair – Staff Reporter, The Hindu

“It looks like a war is being waged against books,” West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said at a “symbolic” inauguration of the Kolkata Book Fair here on Tuesday.

A Division Bench of the Kolkata High Court ruled in response to a public interest litigation that the Fair, which was supposed to begin from January 29, could not be held at the venue previously decided due to environmental concerns and possible traffic congestion.

“My reason or logic fails to explain as to how books can pollute society”, Mr.Bhattacharjee said. “No civilized society can accept this and together, we must find a way out of the situation.”

American poet, Christopher Meryll, carried out the “symbolic” inauguration by sounding the gong.

American novelist, Paul Theroux said the ‘alternative Book Fair’ was the best that could be managed under the circumstances.

“We are meeting secretly like early Christians because we are all book-lovers and readers,” he said.

Eminent Bengali writer, Sunil Gangopadhyay said the Book Fair was not just an emotional matter but it involved the livelihood of a lot of people, especially the poor.

“But it is unfortunate that we are inaugurating a Book Fair that does not have any books”, he said.

While steps should be taken to make it pollution-free with conditions imposed on the organizers, the Fair itself should be returned to the maidan.

Tridib Chattopadhyaya, General Secretary, Publishers and Book-sellers Guild, who organized the Fair, requested Mr.Bhattacharjee to consider setting up a permanent venue for the Book Fair.

Courtesy: The Hindu, Madurai, Jan.30, 2008

Eyecatchers-52: 'Walk to India Without Money'


A British man is planning to walk to India without using money. He expects to rely on the goodwill of people along the way or work for bed and board.

Former dotcom businessman Mark Boyle, from Bristol, aims to reach Mahatma Gandhi’s birthplace after the 14,500-km trek. He reckons it will take him about two and a half years.

“I have got some sunscreen, a good knife, a spoon, a bandage… no Visa card, no travellers’ cheques, no bank accounts, zero. I won’t actually touch money along the way.” The 28-year-old told BBC radio.

Walking between 25 km to 70 km a day, he plan to work his way through France, Italy, eastern Europe, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan before reaching Porbandar.

On his blog, Mr.Boyle said he was setting off on Wednesday. “I will start writing a new chapter in my life. From this point on I endeavour to never touch money again,” he wrote at

Describing the trip as a “pilgrimage,” he said he aims to demonstrate a “harvest philosophy” in which people can live by sharing skills rather than using cash.

“My mum and dad always speak about a time in Ireland when people came together and took in the harvest together, and no money changed hands,” he said in his soft Irish accent.

“It was your friend John down the street or Mike round the corner and everyone came together and chipped in. But now folks tell me back home that they don’t even know anybody in the street anymore, the door is always locked. My message is, we have got to get back to a time where actually we have got to open those doors and get back to a communal way of living,” added Boyle, who describes himself as a “freeeconomist”.

Having traveled in Asia before, he believes he should be alright there. But he expects the phase of leaving Britain and traveling through Europe to pose problems.

Courtesy: AFP/The Hindu, Madurai, January 31, 2008

A Thought for Today : February 1, 2008

Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life. –Confucius

Facts & Figures-18 : 11,000 deaths in one year

During 2006, there were 55,145 road accidents in Tamil Nadu, in which 11,009 persons were killed.

Courtesy: Dina Malar (Tamil daily), Madurai, Jan.30, 2008