Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The way forward in Kashmir. My thoughts.

Two weeks after roaming the hinterlands of Jammu and Kashmir, many who follow my travels  and read my opinions- asked for the same on the current state of affairs in the state.
My discussions on this topic have continued with men in uniform belonging to both the CPOs, as the Armed Forces and and also the civilians of the state even after my return. And here is my view.

The Army was a saviour as recently as the weekend of 7th April (when it snowed in the​ Valley and flooded the Poonch River) and a villain no sooner than 10 days later, seen strapping a civilian to a jeep, so reminiscent of how the Israelis treat stone pelters in the Occupied Territories.

On the other hand, the CPOs continue their utterly hapless task while the civilians led by their leaders continue on a path that cannot lead anywhere but to condemn yet another generation to violence.
Two news reports prompted me to finally snap out an sense of detachment or numbness, and pen what I feel are the first steps towards betterment in that state, so beautiful with it's mustard yellow bloom and yet so noisy with the sound of stones reverberating off the tin of the hapless uniformed mens vehicles.

One- Ageless photos of stone pelters have lost meaning and the Centre or State leadership should give a clear set of instructions to the men of the CPOs. I really wonder what instructions are issued to the men inside the vehicles seen below? They sit there and get stoned or they run in the streets only to get slapped or abused, with no instructions-atleast that's what it looks like to everyone down in 95% of India that watches  TV every night.

We await a disaster with Constable Hanumantappa of the CRPF from Bidar, Karnataka worrying about the failed IVF treatment and his  inability to bear children or some BSF Havaldar Surjit from Fazilka, Punjab worrying about his sons being on drugs and beating their mother, his wife for money- these guys, surrounded by these mostly hired stone pelters in Anantnag, to snap and open fire and trust me before he can be overpowered by his own men, they can kill or maim atleast 30, if not more of the protestors.
That will be the spark that will consume the state and cause the situation to spiral out into a full blown civil war scenario.

To protect the sanity and the morale of these boys - they need instructions- whatever they may be from returning to barracks or to surrounding villages and containing the stone pelters to some local geographical boundaries.

Second- over the last 3 days,  the IB and it's electronic intelligence wing rounded up close to 300 WhatsApp group Admins and 'counselled' them and deleted these groups- fantastic I say. Now here is what you do with this situation. That itself meant that some 75000 youth were instantly taken off the coordinated attacks grid. They will surely rebuild- but atleast we know what to do .

Sequester these Admins and fly them to Conferences as state guests to Vellore or Kalaikonda and keep them for 2 weeks for an education on how they should enter mainstream politics and to cease and desist from violence. As bad as it sounds- this is the only practical manner to dissuade them from their current path. The Port Blair jail was used rather effectively by the British... Let's use Vellore for a conference, sounds easier and less harsh.  Return them unharmed and untouched, use isolation as very rude prod to behaving and capitulate, and become good leaders.
The local Kashmiri has to realise that like the LTTE tried for decades to browbeat a state into giving the Tamils Independence, all it needed was a firm and merciless hand at the helm of the state to bring down a brutal hand and crush them. Unfortunately the ego of the rest of the country will want that to happen sooner or later as the remaining States are being fed a steady diet of it's CPO men being pelted, slapped and abused. One day this populace will demand the firm hand.
In summary-
A constabulary without any clue of it's role. The seething anger of the majority of India's population at their manhandling, and the locals equally clueless on their future, leads to only one direction- destruction. Isolate the agitation leaders and educate and encourage them to enter mainstream politics. It's very easy to convince how much your village and state mean to you once you leave it behind just for a few days. the Army under Op Sadbhavana built roads, laid water pipes and run schools on the Line of Control, near Bhimber Galli for example, that educate thousands of students- that very army should go back to its primary task of training and preparing itself for the defence of the nation and not policing a task that the police are being made to fail at.

The GOI needs to undertake this two pronged approach before that land throws up yet another generation that has no idea what it's elders are leaving behind.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Hello Saturn, may I kiss your rings?

As we prepare for what promises to be a spectacular fly through between the outer edge of the rings of Saturn, Cassini will start the first of it 20 ‘flights’ on 30th of November.

Cassini-Huygens was in development from the ‘80s and finally launched in 1997. After a 7 year journey it reached Saturn, and immediately after that Huygens separated and achieved a spectacular landing on Titan, a moon of Saturn, on 25th December 2004.

Cassini now 19 years into flight and running low on fuel, prepares for a high elliptical orbit that will take us close to three of the moons of Saturn, and then dip closest to the outer periphery of the Rings of Saturn, on a weekly basis for 20 weeks.

Once it runs low on fuel, it is planned to have a controlled descent onto Saturn, to end its mission possibly exactly 20 years from launch.

Meanwhile here are a few images from the Hubble Space Telescope of the rings of Saturn- which I think are the most beautiful pictures to date taken from closer to the earth.

The Below images are now what are the beautiful images sent by Cassini. We can Only imagine what imagery will come in 4 days time.

Pictures Courtesy: NASA Archives.

Monday, November 16, 2015



A few days ago- I was saddened by the 'return of medals' be veterans and I listed my reservations on the same- Unfortunately a young life was lost and that picture of his 'last steps' is bringing you three lessons. 
Capt Ashwani Kumar, AMC, posted as RMO with 3 Ladakh Scouts- died in an avalanche on the Southern Glacier. 

1. Our politicians and bureaucrats do not have the sense of decency, respect that they could arrange for a proper coffin for our soldiers. Locally purchased ply- to be reimbursed to the Unit later- with a blatant label, reading 'FOOT' to indicate which side forward.

2. This is the image that the young of the country are to see and get encouraged to join the Armed forces? IS this the image that parents should see- and encourage their childrens decision to wear our countrys' uniform?

3. Whether the politicians tried to make money on buying coffins a decade ago- I dont know- nor care, all I know is that young men who lay down their lives protecting the nation, come home one day in a box- which has to be labelled- which side forward.
Veterans- the return of your medals is going to get you nowhere. This is the system that governs our country. Good service the nation be damned- I wonder how many of you can look at this photograph and not cringe! The change has to come from within. The sense of decency, a sense of doing good- doing proper- should come from within. That will begin when the Bureaucrats who avail of the CSD facilities will stop utilising them- then other things can follow. 

My heart goes out for the parents of the Young Captain from Patiala- the heart that swells with pride that their son died defending the country in the highest battlefield in the world- came home in a box- I hope the local Unit had the decency to remove the offending A4.


Thursday, October 8, 2015

How to learn motorcycle riding in India

Three high speed crashes yesterday with a category of bikes that I associate myself with- bikes with a lot of cc, a lot of HP- this side of a helicopter turbine, a lot of Nm or torque- easily the most this side of road rollers.
A Daytona 675R went down with its rider- fatally just north of Mumbai.

Another just as expensive or twice so- Ducati Hypermotard 821- literally broke into two around Lavasa, with news that its rider is alive- and then as if it wasn’t enough a bike twice that cost- a S100RR HP4, went down in Hyderabad again taking its rider with it- to heaven.
Time and again- too much, too little training, too little time acclimatizing to the throttle- and hanging with the wrong kind of people.
The fragile human ego- is easily challenged and at the drop of a hat ready to compete in a show of faster, further, stronger- at anytime. I think ego sometimes doubles up as a pimp for the God of Death.
In sequence- you have to find the right guys to learn from, observe, and train with- and in this only your karma can guide you. After that its your hand that guides you and your upbringing that tempers you- and the sense of what is right and wrong, inculcated in you that will prevent you from chasing people who are more proficient than you- and your judgement that there will always be someone better than you- eventually. And that its ok.
A commercial airline pilot, trained to handle emergencies and save the lives of the hundred who fly with him- if he could fall prey to the lure of being quick, being ahead- then others with far less training, I dread the coming days on the highways.
I call out to group leaders, riders who are looked up on be younger and newer fraternity to encourage good riding, and to be able to cultivate a sense of capability of different motorcycles, that a SuperLow will not stop on braking in even twice the distance of a Ducati Diavel. Racing on NH17 is not the same as flying low between Kolhapur and Belgaum.
I call out to new riders and wish to tell them that there are no older riders- every day is new- every ride is a challenge- there are just wise riders- try and find them and learn from them.
With my riding partners- Sushant and Osborne and the full family at #bombayharriers

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

How to solve the Indian Farmers Dilemma

Time and again- the troubles of the farmers comes to the fore. There is only one solution.
1'- 4' tall bunds/dams every 2/5/10 kilometers on every river that runs around farmlands. 


I want one senior Govt official or Minister to read this and force it on every PWD and CPWD engineer to get a plan in the next two months and start executing in the third month.

The Govt is full of people who want a city like Mumbai to do rain water harvesting when it is just not feasible to trap water- and that its meant to be done in arid areas or areas of erratic rainfall. In a city, no matter what you do, it will take three days to fill your reservoir and being surrounded by saline water on all sides, precious jack seepage achieves.However- in the interiors- where it is life and now reaching generation saving proportions- it is critical that we act on this.

Simplest pyramidal shaped- gravity held bunds/dams will arrest the flow of runoff from the so critical monsoon that most of our nation depends on. Force the water into the fields by pumps, or then the rest into ground water by seepage.

Pic 1- Different dams depending on locally available material (1)

So what happens next is- you will get backwaters created where fresh water prawn (Macrobrachium rosenbergii) and  quick growing (Catla, Catla catla and Rohu, Labeo rohita) and where mud banks permit- vegetables (Bitter gourd, okra, ridge gourd), tuber crops and pulses (Pigeon pea)(2) can be grown before the water either is consumed, evaporated or seeps completely into the ground.  Either ways- the benefits are humongous. Boating and other water-based recreational facilities can be developed where possible. Endless are the possibilities for 'detained' water bodies.

Superb examples of blocking waters span almost 90 years- starting from the 60's! Examples like-  the 'Fifteenmile Creek' area in Wyoming, USA, and Mexico City's 29 Detention Dams for reasons from sediment control to flood control abound. 

And likewise what needs to be looked into the future- at the 11th International Conference on Urban Drainage, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK, 2008 two members of the Instituto de Ingeniería, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México presented a model study of the Mexico City dam system- extrapolated to the Year 2050(4).

What is interesting is that the Wyoming project was carried out in the 60's as Fifteenmile Creek, though contributing just 1% of water to the Big Horn riverine system, gave 75% of its sediment content. Over a 10-year period, the following structural controls were implemented: 34 sediment detention dams, 110 reservoirs, and 21 spreader dikes. In addition, 2486 ha were contour-furrowed- and this is just an example of breathing life into the flora and fauna of Big Horn(3)

Tragically our countrys' planners neither have had the vision for the future nor are they 'suffering' from 20/20 hindsight. Every year that we delay the implication of blocking run-off, we imperil our farmers. To give you a small perspective- the about 20% agrarian base of our GDP is what prevents us from tipping and tossing everytime a Greece teeters and totters. Our new found wealth in the 'Services' Sector is making us blind to what is our countrys' economic seat-belt and air-bag system.  We cannot afford to ignore the very base that protects our economy.

IF this is not done- the less rain/more rain trauma that shows farmers committing suicide will just increase Y-O-Y. The vagaries of the monsoon cannot continue to hold our country to ransom.
Issues like malaria and other mosquito driven diseases that come with bunds are just as well tackled by use of guppies in water, and start surrounding populations with anti-malarial drugs- or introduce them to 'gin and tonic-' for its quinine content.
Over which I would be willing to discuss this further.

1. Pic 1- https://civilsolution.wordpress.com
2. Success Stories. http://www.crri.nic.in/crri_sucstory.htmCentral Rice Research Institute, Cuttack, India.
3. Effectiveness of sediment control structures relative to spatial patterns of upland soil loss in an arid watershed, Wyoming. Richard A. Marston, Lawrence S. Dolan.Geomorphology 31 1999 (313–323)
4. Runoff control modelling on a detention dams system. H.L.  Cisneros-Iturbe, I.J. Pelczer. 11th International Conference on Urban Drainage, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK, 2008

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Learning from your Rides- KDs Motorcycle Diary

After a lot of Harley riding over the past 4 years, I have had some hard introspecting to do.
I graduated in bikes from the SuperLow to the Super Glide to the FatBoy where my liking for torqueand economics finally seem to have peaked.
I am more driven now by marquee rides. Signature rides- unique locations. Sequencing locations like no one has done before.
Riding to Dhule ten times a year or riding to Vapi five times a quarter to just add 5-700km a weekend- is just useless commuter riding to me now.
I restrict my riding to Igatpuri, Lonavala and then to Palasdari in the north. That's it.
After completing the Leh ride by car and then by bike- I see no charm in rides that I call pedestrian now.
Yes- so where is my problem? It is that I make new friends and they are where I was in India 4 years ago. Wanting to pound the streets and I looked at them- 'what boss? no vision, no dream.'
So wrong on my part.
Probably my peers also questioned my quick change of bikes equally, branding me as whimsical- at its most police. Probably my neighbours wondered- where does he go for five hours every weekend morning.
Over the past few weeks I have been thinking and all I have made peace with is- destinations and goals of other riders and mine will not match.
Rajmachi in the rains does not attract me. As much as the best road in India- Hyderabad to Bangalore, does not beckon me either.
The border roads of india- be it the 'no pillar zone' in the Kutch, the long forgotten Munnabao railway station, the Israeli grass and snakes in the sands of Longewala  sector, the wheat fields and the brave punjabis who live around BOP Khakian.
All the way to the riverine plains around Dhubri in Assam. I learnt- these may not turn on other riders. I learnt not to demand- and yet I learnt.
To let them sell their bikes till their economics and riding senses were filled.
To let them ride where they learnt to enjoy themselves- remembering good times with their fathers and friends on the road.
Not many have been machine gunned at on the LC while having a younger Officer say- 'park your bike this side, so those fools won't get a stray round into your paint.' But yet a samosa-chai stop in a torrential downpour in Bijapur with friends you have not seen in ten years, could hold more thrill.
I promise not to cringe or wince at the topic of an upgrade. I promise not to chew my lips at the sound of a destination.
I will learn to smile that I did all that.
Just a few months ago. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

How to Live with AIDS? The Elders Diary 2

How to live with AIDS


HIV causes AIDS. What are these acronyms?
Advertisements that educate office colleagues, patients afraid of informing family members, spouses denying conjugal rights knowing they are HIV+ or have AIDS, thousands of rupees spent from family income towards treatment- un accounted for, the repeated illnesses, lonely visits to the doctor- what is all this? Being HIV+ is not death. Having AIDS is not death. Do not kill the patient before his time is up. With coming years, HIV+/AIDS is to be ‘downgraded’ to a affliction or condition like Diabetes, which with proper physical care and medication and enable a person to lead a life with dignity and contribute towards society in a meaningful manner.
‘Human Immunodeficiency Virus’ (HIV) is a virus that attacks a category of sub-category of White Blood Cells called CD4+ T Cells. Wide spread destruction of these cells causes a condition called ‘Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome’ (AIDS) where the human body is rendered incapable of defending itself against the simplest of infections.
The three most common ways of transmission of HIV are-
a) Sexual contact with a HIV+ person or someone in the latent period, who could be called a carrier, with yet to be diagnosed as being HIV+.  Semen, blood, sputum and vaginal secretions could all result in the transmission of HIV
b) Blood transfusions, using contaminated needles by accident in hospitals or sharing with other drug abusers. Even simple things like contaminated eye-droppers could help in the transmission of HIV
c) Pregnancy- or later thru lactation from mother to child.
HIV does not have a good life span outside of the human body, hence casual contact, social kissing, or sharing of items that are not contaminated by blood or saliva cannot cause HIV transmission. Toilet seats for example unless contaminated by body fluids- are safe.
The ‘AIDS  = death’ stigma with HIV/AIDS that peaked in the late 90’s and early 2000’ has now sufficiently worn itself out where it has become acceptable to try and psychologically accommodate patients suffering with this ailment into mainstream social life. Doctors now have a bouquet of almost 30+ drugs that combat the spread of HIV (reducing the viral load, as its calculated in the human body) and another 44 more  registered with the USFDA alone, are in various stages of testing.

Heterosexual sex, with multiple partners is like a probability game that one day, a member of the chain  will get infected and then spread it in the ‘network.’ With male homosexuality, the chances of tears to the rectal canal are more during anal sex, and therefore the chances of passing the infection are far more than in unprotected heterosexual encounters. Condoms offer the simplest barrier to reducing the chances of transmission, but human nature, lack of convenience of use, and surprisingly, the lack of knowledge of how to properly use them in rural areas, are among various factors that preclude the use of these- thereby resulting in disastrous outcomes for either individual.
Suspicion of being HIV+ comes mostly from within, the knowledge of a risky lifestyle, or indulging in any of the events mentioned above, in conjunction with multiple subtle medical symptoms- oral infections, swollen lymph nodes, repeated unexplained fevers, repeated diarrhea, oral thrush and a possible dozen other such symptoms. In many cases, this may not happen and routine examination by hospitals before routine surgeries that could be needed, unrelated to AIDS will pop up an alarming result. Paranoia that sets in after a casual sexual encounter with a sex worker is at times enough to ‘cure’ a person from his wayward ways, but ironically the negative result just bolsters him after the intense fear of having contracted AIDS passes away.

SO what  does one do? -
After about 2-3 weeks of the ‘event’ whether a sexual encounter or a suspected wrongly administered blood transfusion, or the wrongful use of a needle has occurred-
1. Get an Antibody test. The Antibody test will show positive for HIV. IT is the cheapest of tests and correspondingly needs a high viral count to create those many antibodies to reflect a positive.  A negative result, unfortunately, could mean nothing and a repeat after 12 weeks will clear the debate to a >98% probability.
2. 1week- 3weeks from date of incident a more expensive Antigen Test will show the results and lastly
3. A Polymerase Chain Reaction Test would show viral load (extend of spread of the HIV) within 2w-3w from date of event.
So what happens when the HIV enters the human body is that it attaches itself to the T Cells and infects it with it DNA/RNA which then helps it replicate itself. These new HIV cells then attack other CD4+ T cells and the reaction continues. The quantum of HIV in the body is referred to as ‘Viral Load.’
On the realization that a high risk event occurring the person in question should get a rapid test done in 3W and then a repeat in 12weeks. If the Antibody and Antigen tests return a positive result then immediate Highly Active Anti Retrovial Drug Therapy (HAART) should begin.


So the patient had HIV/AIDS- now what?
HAART should commence, even on the day of the HIV+ lab test result.  This is usually a cocktail of 3 antiretrovial drugs from two of the five classes of drugs used to attack the mechanisms that HIV uses to replicate itself. The sooner the drug therapy begins the better, so that at all times the HIV load can be kept to a minimum and the stress on the immune system is consequently lower.
The HIV+ individual needs to regularly monitor two variables that affect his condition. The HIV Viral load and the CD4+ density. Viral load can vary from a barely detectable 40-75 copies per ml to over 300,000-500,000 in case of full blown AIDS. In normal humans, CD4+ T Cells are usually between 500-1000 cells/mm3, and if their numbers sink below 200, then the condition can be categorized as the patient suffering from AIDS.
A few years ago, Doctors preferred to wait till the CD4+ count dropped to <350, but no longer so. The current aggressive therapy demands that treatment begin at the soonest. This enables the person to avoid minor infections and lead a proper healthy lifestyle. The HIV has the unique ability to mutate and create strains that are resistant to the current drug cocktail. Therefore repeated tests track the viral load and CD4+ numbers and indicate the efficacy of the current cocktail. These numbers also then indicate the need/necessity to change the constituents of the same.
It usually would take between 8-12 years for the HIV+ persons’ immune system to get overwhelmed and then result in the condition called ‘AIDS.’ This is for an untreated person. With medications that I will discuss later, the period may be prolonged for upto twice that number. Even today Basketball star Magic Johnson enjoys a healthy lifestyle almost 20+ years from going public with this HIV+ status.
The HIV attacks the CD4+ cells, uses them relentlessly to multiply over a decade, and over time overwhelms the immune system leading to a condition where the body cannot defend itself from simple oral infections, vaginal yeast infections, and wounds that refuse to heal and further, if untreated overwhelms the patient leaving him susceptible to dangerous medical conditions like pneumonia and cancers which then eventually lead to his/her death. |

Today, very few cases of cures are mentioned in the press, only two, if memory serves me right- at last count and few cases of patients becoming resistant to HIV. This does not mean that they are HIV-free, its just that they are not in need of drugs to keep the viral load down. Long term outcomes of such people are not known yet. In a few cases, the transition from being HIV+ to AIDs can progress in two to three years inspite of intensive HAART. Unfortunately the mechanism or the reason for such rapid progression of the disease is not known.


Life with AIDS
Exercise, proper diet, and regular ART will now be the key ingredients to a healthy and productive life. The better care the patient takes with the above, the longer will be the phase of being just HIV+ and not progressing to an AIDS situation.
Knowing to interpret the numbers is very important- for example, if the viral load changes from 20000 to 40000, then has doubled- that’s not good. But an increase from 45,000 to 60,000 may not be really worrisome. Also, for the same CD4+ number, a higher viral load is more dangerous than a lower viral load number. It is very important to maintain strict data and records of ones own health along with notes on ART-cocktail recipes, and parallel alternative medicine therapies that one may try on recommendations.
Currently the 30+ and the 44 new drugs, from five classes that attack different ‘waypoints’ in a HIVs life, are available as a part of the ART. Modern techniques like refining ‘transcriptase blockers’ will attempt to stop the replicating mechanism of the HIV itself. Some of the most brilliant minds in the pharma industry are at work on this- and a few of their areas of interest are as – vaccines that will teach the T cells to give a stronger response to the HIV attacker, anti viral medication that will make the cells more resistant to attacks by HIV and then cell and gene therapy that will alter cell wall composition and essentially try and block the HIV from entering the CD4+ cell itself.
At home, rest, diet and exercise like stated earlier should form a part of daily routine. Attention to small details like the good levels of bacteria in the gut to prevent alimentary canal infections. Proper hygiene prevents pesky fungal infections in the toes, around the neck- almost like diabetes, but just more sensitive.  Learning to care for wounds, bathing the infirm, cleaning up vomit or body fluids, the proper wear of protective gear and the systematic manner to clean the clothes, cloths, utensils to prevent infections is a must. Updated knowledge on the side effects of the drugs being taken- which could have some serious contraindications without warning, like swelling of the oral tissues creating difficulty in breathing or swallowing. Extreme attention and care to personal hygiene, and including visits to the dentist for regular check up and cleanings prevent oral health issues that could have potentially fatal outcomes. As with chronic diseases like cancer or pneumonia, life partners and family members should concentrate on learning about palliative care..
Help and support groups are a valuable source of emotional and mental support. Knowledge of drugs, therapies, success stories are all a part of a HIV+ persons life. 
It should be an endeavor to find like minded people who are bent on defeating this ailment and that effort itself would be a positive contribution from them to society.

An earlier medical-oriented article is at-

Do not ever self diagnose your ailments, the numbers here are to prompt you to take a Doctor opinion faster than you usually would.
As regards, ayurvedic or home remedies, you could continue on them as in the least, they will have a palliative effect. These will not replace Allopathic medication.
Do not every self medicate and never stop any allopathic medication based on anything you read. Always consult your Doctor. If in doubt, get a second opinion.