Category Archives: Food for thought

The Color of my DNA

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The color of my DNA is brown.  I’m conditioned to despise it and assign labels to it– including but not limited to- low status, bad character, poor hygiene and scant education if any. And this is how it all began.

My mother is fair complexioned while I’m not. ‘Tumhari ladki kaali hai’ or ‘your girl is black or dark’ was a common remark I came across which my mother rushed to correct; ‘no, her color is gehua’ i.e ‘wheatish’ as if to provide me solace. It didn’t. Not really. Because I’d been labelled and it was drilled into me from as long as I can remember. Over and over. not necessarily in an accusatory rather in a matter of fact manner. Yes, my color is dark, meaning I’m not fair, or pretty or beautiful etc. And everyone knows how important it is for a girl to be ‘pretty’ in our society. I don’t think the intention was to put me down as many members of this ‘color’ club were very dear to me including my own mother. But it had its effect. I began to believe I was lacking. That I was inferior to my fair counterparts. I used to compare myself with others all the time. Often, I’d align the back of my arm with my mother’s hoping to see a change. I did try a couple of creams and soaps but gave up soon enough as they had no effect.

Fortunately, this ‘anomaly’ of mine remained a mere irritant. I wanted to make something out of myself. I was good in both academics and extracurricular activities and generally I got my way. So, even though I was insecure about my looks I didn’t let it hinder my progress. I realized very soon that color has nothing to do with beauty or character or competence. Working as a physician in the west I also discovered how color segregates people and turns them against each other and negates all the progress that humankind has made. Today I feel enriched interacting with people from different backgrounds and cultures and I realize how shallow and abhorrent it is to judge someone based simply on their skin color.

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Is Love a Responsibility?


In this month of February where there’s an overdose of love everywhere, here is a refreshing and thoughtprovoking examination from a teenager.

Love is often spoken about as something divine and beautiful, but talk of it is so widespread that it can get degraded to a mere obligation. Some argue that falling in love is a given in everyone’s life, and that one has not fully experienced life without it. Others insist that it is impossible to be happy without a lover or spouse despite it not being the case for some. In today’s society, significant others are almost treated as an object to be won – interpersonal connections and close relationships appear no longer be as important as they were in the past. In a society where living alone is often perceived as a failure rather than a choice, the role of relationships and love in culture is to be examined.

A functionalist may argue that a spouse, or some other form of significant other, is necessary in an individual’s growth and maintaining a balanced society. In most cultures, it is expected and considered natural to have a partner in order to procreate and have children. In fact, that is the very purpose of a living being – to reproduce. This concept is so instilled in society that it’s almost difficult to imagine a good and settled future without someone else. Not having a significant other or spouse merely breaks the cycle; one is unable to have kids, raise them, send them to school, and get them married, as well. In this case, change is unwarranted, and whoever does dare to resist this cycle ‘breaks the family lineage’ and is often viewed as a disappointment.

The culture and personality theory illustrates the idea that cultures create and value certain kinds of citizens. People in the west, and in many other areas around the world, simply perceive a partner as a requisite aspect of adulthood. People who don’t have one seem out of place, and this can oftentimes be demoralizing. They may eventually start questioning themselves: are they worthless, unwanted or unlovable? This may not be true, but societal culture can influence thought and emotions. Even though one may be satisfied without a partner, expectations may force them to think otherwise. People may question what is right for them, and could possibly act to please others at their own expense.

As emphasized by the theories of functionalism and culture and personality, the idea of love can be changed from a personal relationship to a responsibility. Having a significant other or spouse fulfills one’s role in a harmonious society, and anyone who doesn’t fulfill that role is considered strange and rebellious. Living without a partner has been so denormalized that it can prompt self-doubt and hatred. Though a partner is certainly not necessary for happiness, societal expectations and pressures regarding relationships present significant challenges to those who would rather remain alone.

Any thoughts? Do share.

Introducing The Med Bag

 

I’m excited to announce my new blog and website called The Med Bag. It’s a place where people from all walks of life can share their experiences and insights related to the medical field– sort of like medical reality TV but in the magazine form.

Do check it out, share and subscribe. Contributions are welcome! You can also click on the link right above this blog.

 

Surya Namaskar (Salutations to the Sun)

According to me one of the most spectacular scenes of nature is the play of the sun across the horizon. I’ve been lucky to watch the sunset often–over the Rockies and the ocean (whenever I visit the California coast) but not as often as the sunrise. The reason is quite obvious. I’m not an early riser, unfortunately.

Today, however I had to get up quite early to drive to the bus stop to pick up my husband (better than the 40 min haul to and from the airport). On the way back, I witnessed the most ordinary yet extraordinary phenomenon–the advent of dawn. First, the burgundy tint to the clouds in the east, followed by the gradual lightening of the skies and then the most spectacular of all– orange flames consuming the horizon. I was mesmerized. Who wouldn’t be? If you think about it there’s no other message more powerful than of a new day. It’s the message of hope, of change, of renewal, of revival. No wonder native people around the world worship the Sun and have done so for millenia including those from my country.  

Surya namaskar (Salutations to the Sun)

In the Vedas (ancient Hindu scriptures) Surya also known as Aditya is the Sun God. He first appears in literature in the Rig Veda (the oldest among the Hindu texts composed between 1500 and 1000 BC). He travels across the sky in a massive chariot pulled by seven horses representing the seven colors of the rainbow. He is also the creator of the material universe or prakriti. Those familiar with the practice of Yoga are familiar with Surya Namaskar or Sun salutation; a sequence of twelve poses, performed in the early morning on an empty stomach facing the east. They provide an excellent whole body stretching routine and cardiovascular workout. The purpose of this most famous yoga sequence which is in practice for thousands of years is to express gratitude to the Sun, the giver of life and the source of energy. According to Hindu tradition, different parts of the body are governed by divine impulses. One of these, the solar plexus (also called the second brain) is located in the center of the body and is connected to the Sun. The regular practice of Surya Namaskar enhances it thereby increasing our creativity and intuition. The notion is very tempting. Enough (I hope) to nudge me awake every morning 🙂

“Make America Great Again”

Illustration by Santiago Caruso

Yes, let’s make America great again not by ensuring health care to all, food for the hungry and homes for the homeless, but by giving weapons of mass destruction to our kids so they can murder their friends in order to deal with their frustrations because no one is willing to listen to them.

It’s a perversity and nothing less than a disgrace that citizens of the most advanced country in the world have to lead their lives in fear. We are so worried about government tyranny that we don’t trust law enforcement to protect us instead we have to carry guns to defend ourselves. We have become a nation of gun toting vigilantes, who shoot first and pretend to ask questions later. And if some of us happen to die in the crossfire; well a great wall of greed and impotence is the perfect consolation besides of course ‘thoughts and prayers’.

This is exactly what we envisioned- a classic case of hypocrisy. On one hand we talk about advancements in technology, AI (artificial intelligence) etc making our lives easier; on the other we train our kids to prepare for the eventuality of being killed. We send them to school not to get a sound education but to participate in active shooter drills. But don’t you see it’s a ‘mental health’ problem. Isn’t it always?

Okay let’s talk about mental health. Yes undeniably it’s a huge problem in this country. I know first hand as a physician because I deal with it everyday. In fact the system is overburdened. But most people with mental health issues aren’t violent. Even those who are don’t go around shooting down innocents with AR-15s. They do so because we put the idea in their heads and provide them access. And tell them it’s okay to do so because thoughts and prayers will solve everything.

According to me and I dare to say “ there’s no place for guns in civilized society,” in the least AR-15s. According to a radiologist who treated victims in the Florida shooting said the high velocity bullets from an AR 15 cause significantly more damage than a typical handgun and should be banned. I agree. But are we ready for a conversation? No. Not even the educated and rational  want to discuss it. They love their guns. Some of my colleagues own AR-15s and say they use them for hunting and target practice. It’s a hobby. 

The right to a hobby vs that of a child to go to school and be safe. What is more important? You be the judge.

I live in a place called #Freedom

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Who wouldn’t want to live in a place called Freedom? But is an address enough?

Today on India’s 69th Independence Day celebrations I want all of us to take a moment to reflect on what does it really mean to be free–as a race and as an individual…

Below I’ve tried to pitch in with some of my thoughts—

We are not #free until we are all #free

#freedom from bigotry

#freedom from slavery

#freedom from inequality

#freedom from oppression

#freedom from child labor and abuse

#freedom from poverty

#freedom from corruption

#freedom from abuse–of humans and animals

#freedom from inequality (race, gender and everything else)

#freedom from forced prostitution

#freedom from illiteracy

#freedom from casteism

#freedom from child malnutrition

#freedom of expression

#freedom to be me

I am sure there are many things I missed but the general theme is the same. Let’s all strive together and really make the world a place called #Freedom 🙂

Thank you!

Mommy Dearest!

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Moments to capture

Memories to treasure

Beautiful mother

Lady, I bow down to your amazingness!

Anna Jarvis, a devoted daughter, created Mother’s Day in 1908 in West Virginia, United States. Anna’s intent was to honor her recently deceased mother, and mothers everywhere, for their love and dedication to their family and community. The new holiday was envisioned as a time to continue the good work of one’s mother.

The holiday was enthusiastically accepted all over the United States and in places across the globe.  However, the intention of the celebration quickly evolved to be a day to show one’s love and affection to our mother.  Typically showering our mothers with cards, flowers, and or a lovely meal prepared in her honor.

Only recently, in the last decade, has the celebration Mother’s Day become popular in India.  “In the presence of umpteenth number of existing festivals, it is a remarkable achievement for a foreign festival to make its presence felt in the vast and culturally diverse country like India,” according to the Society for the Confluence of Festivals in India.

In India, the already innate and powerful qualities of motherhood are deepened by strong, fixed social customs that mold its society.   It’s no wonder that this holiday is being embraced all across this country steeped in richness of culture.

Take for example the close bond that is created between mother and child by constant physical contact throughout infancy and childhood.  Children share the mother’s bed, may receive a daily oil massage, and may be breastfed until two or three years of age.  When old enough to eat solid food, the child is fed from the mother’s hand.  Even when children are older, mothers make sure that on special occasions, such as a birthday, cake and other special foods come from her hand.  Mothers in India go to all extremes to ensure the vitality of their children, even if it means sacrificing her own nutrition in order to provide food for her family.

How will I honor my own mother on Mother’s Day?  In the truest sense of the holiday, I will ponder the causes that are closest to my mother’s heart and put forth an act of beneficial goodness towards that cause. I couldn’t emulate my mother no matter how hard I tried because of the kind of person she is—compassionate, soft spoken, unbelievably kind and unselfish, self-sacrificing, supportive, resourceful, astute, smart as a whip and endowed with an astounding degree of fortitude. She has always been a role model for me and she is the one I turn to for inspiration whenever I fall short. So I try, not just on this day, but whenever I get the opportunity to do something that pleases her.

As we often say in my culture—we reap the fruits of our past karma. So I must have done something very good in my previous life to have been blessed by a mother like mine. Thank you Ammy! I am what I am because of you. I love you so very, very much!