The Wizard of Lies, Movie, Hotstar

Bernie Madoff died a couple of months ago this year. His name and misdeed is just an event in a long list of financial scamsters over the ages – past, present and future.

One present scam uncovered recently is committed by a Pakistani Billionaire, Arif Naqvi who defrauded Bill Gates among many other high end people. There is a book out on this and one can read about his “exploits” here.

There is a saying by Aristotle – “Youth is easily deceived because it is quick to hope.” As far as Finance is concerned, it seems, this “youth” is prevalent irrespective of age and experience. It won’t be false to guess that we are all living among some unidentified scams in our midst, waiting for it to uncover.

The movie “The Wizard of Lies” has not much to show how the scam occured. The movie begins with the scam already done and dusted. Only the fall out is left. It’s a human predicament story. Except one character, Bernie Madoff, the rest are shown in the dark about the details of the scam but considered equally liable for the crime. The most poignant part in the story was when Madoff’s eldest son commits suicide. The second son later died of cancer. Madoff’s wife had to downgrade her living.

The movie is watchable because of two great stars – Robert de Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer – who keep the audience engaged through their restrained performances for little over two hours long movie. There is not much melodrama and sob-stories. Just matter of fact conversations interlaced with some back stories on how the scam came about in short and wrong steps.

One other actor who leaves his mark on the movie is Hank Azaria. In a role of Bernie Madoff’s hatchet man he complements De Niro and adds a lot to the scene value. In a mostly sedate rhythm of the movie, Hank’s character enlivens the screen and has an impactful edge in the story.

The movie does have some undertones of rationalization and an attempt to show that the family of Bernie Madoff also suffered. But after all is said and done, for thousands of people whose savings were wiped out, there won’t be any consolation. The movie and the reality also shows (and shows time after time) that, not only the individuals scams the system but the law enforcement agencies remain docile till the scam blows on everyone’s faces. History shows – Only the Law Enforcers had survived.

Whole government is a Ponzi scheme ~ Bernie Madoff

Swami Vivekananda on Himself

Swami Vivekananda’s complete works are compiled in books of 9 volumes. It’s also available online for free here. But if you want to have just one book which is comprehensive then “Swami Vivekananda on Himself” seems to stands alone.

It’s a “diary” plus other writings, a compilation, by Vivekananda about himself, his travels, his thoughts on people of different countries and his efforts to raise money to set up monasteries in India and also others parts of the world. It’s not clear when Vivekananda started penning his thoughts as a diary and the first recorded date in the book is 2nd March, 1884, when he was 21 years of age. The last diary entry is on 15th May 1902 when he knew his end was near. He died on 04th July 1902.

Vivekananda’s story starts when he meets Ramakrishna Paramhansa, the head priest of Dakshineswar Kali Temple, Calcutta. Ramakrishna recognises Vivekananda as an evolved being and chooses him to mentor him and to take Ramakrishna’s work and words forward to the world. But, Vivekananda, initially, considered Ramakrishna as a crackpot and a monomaniac. There were several arguments between them, on religion and philosophy, but Ramakrishna, through his patience and persistence and some “miracles,” was able to show Vivekananda the efficacy of his thoughts and actions.

Once Vivekananda is won over on Ramakrishna’s side, there was no stopping him. Ramakrishna dies in 1886 and Vivekananda took his monastic vow in 1887 and by 1902, he has published, lectured, taught, established institutions, and travelled the world, all in whirlwind 15 years. His last two years were spent in bad health.

Vivekananda writes clearly, perceptively, sharply and sometimes, humorously. Also Humanly.

There is one diary entry which is like kick-in-the-butt; “Going around the whole world, I find that people of this country (India) are immersed in great Tamas (inactivity), compared with people of other countries. On the outside, there is simulation of the Sattvika (calm and balanced) state, but inside, downright inertness like that of stocks and stones. What work will be done in the world by such people?…So my idea is first to make the people active by developing their Rajas, and thus make them fit for struggle for existence. With no strength in the body, no enthusiasm at heart, and no originality in the brain, what will they do, these lumps of dead matter!

And this by Vivekananda is a remark which, I believe, is a genesis of Globalization. He spoke these words in 1894, much before the world or the word became a fashion 100 years later: “I am thoroughly convinced that no individual or nation can live by holding itself apart from the community of others, and whenever such an attempt has been made under false ideas of greatness, policy, or holiness — the result has always been disastrous to the secluding one.

And here is one diary entry which is caustic but hilarious too; “Western music is very good; there is in it a perfection of harmony, which we (Indians) have not attained. Only, to our untrained ears, it does not sound well, hence we do not like it, and think that the singers howl like jackals. I also had the same sort of impression, but when I began to listen to the music with attention and study it minutely, I came more and more to understand it, and I was lost in admiration.” I’ve also heard similar remarks from our late filmmaker Satyajit Ray.

By early 1902, Vivekananda seems to be in pain and his diary entries reflect his inner state. “If ever a man found the vanity of things, I have it now. This is the world, hideous, beastly corpse. Who thinks of helping it is a fool! But we have to work out our slavery by doing good or evil; I have worked it out, I hope. May the Lord take me to the other shore! Amen! I have given up all thoughts about India or any land. I am now selfish, want to save myself! (The bold letters are omitted from the book, but I got the full version here.)

In the very last days of his diary entries he writes how the rains have poured and poured and the river has broken its banks and flooded his “Ashram” and he had gone out to dig a canal to drain off the waters. Well, I’ve myself stood on that river bank and I had watched the Ganga several times, emotionless. Next time when I will visit the Belur Math in Calcutta I know I will not be alone. And I’ll have the memory of this book with me.

The conviction has grown in my mind after all my travels in various lands that no great cause can succeed without an organisation. ~ Vivekananda (May, 1897)

Sherni, Movie, Amazon Prime

About some minutes into the movie I had a feeling of deja vu. The movie, Sherni, seemed very similar to the movie, Newton, in look and feel and the underlying tone of the story. In “Newton,” it’s one insignificant man and in “Sherni”, it’s one insignificant women – both have some bother against a huge system or establishment. In “Newton,” which is also on Amazon Prime, the movie is one of a kind – that is, it beats every department of filmmaking. It’s one of the movie in my repeat-watchlist. Unfortunately, Amit Masurkar, who also made “Sherni,” (after Newton) did not live upto “Newton’s” promise, storywise.

But no one expects a repeat of “Newton.” But what one expects, at least, is; if a lone person is pitched against a huge body of lies, how, in the end, the lone is able to win the day. On this yardstick, the movie “Sherni” starts well, proceeds well, but disappoints in the end. The climax was very tame. Although, there was an opportunity end it on a high.

The acting from top to bottom is perfect and seems to be handled by professionals, particularly those tertiary casts. Also, the cinematography is excellent. The Jungle and the village atmosphere and its unique sounds are aptly captured. Also well portrayed, are the middle class lives of government servants with their spacious but bland houses and their amateurish attempts to liven up their social lives.

What also is well crafted into the story, and for which the story is also educational in a way, is the depiction of conflicts in Jungle living; man-animal conflict, urban-village conflict, politics-land conflict and mixed with it all are the government legislations which threatens the livelihood of forest dwellers and their land. And on top of it all is the ever increasing menace of poaching – those “hunters” who brand Tigers as “man-eater” to justify the killings.

If the movie needs to be summed up, to say, two words, it would be – “Monitoring Cost.” The story is the attempt to protect the wild-life, the forest, the powerless forest dwellers and added to it all, is the protection of one’s relationships, in family, in workplace and finally in the protection of one’s sanity; because the “conflicts” takes a toll on all.

I wish the ending could have been better. There is a small scene where the villagers display their handloom and artefacts. And then there is an assurance by Forest Officials to help them profit from this. This shot could have been used to leverage the end. After the mission to protect the tiger fails, and the “powers” had achieved their goals, they all leave the village. The character of Vidya could have been shown to do the opposite – to reach out to the villagers and help them profit from their art. The last scene where Vidya shreds her resignation letter because two cubs were found alive – is ending a movie on a very weak note. It shows that the main lead of the story is satisfied with solace.

What the movie missed is to show is how the main lead contributes to the empowerment of the villagers. The two cubs have survived indeed, but they will only thrive and prosper if the villagers are in an economically advantageous position. In “Newton” the main lead decides that if the villagers have to vote till Three O’Clock, then the voting will continue till that time, till the last second. In other words, the main lead prevails till the very end. The same situation slipped in “Sherni.” In tennis terms – one can say, it was an unforced error.

The ending scene could have been rearranged such; Vidya is handed her transfer letter – she then types her resignation – but before handing her paper she visits a lone spot for final despondent moment – then, there arrives many villages and they gift her a handbag, made by villagers – this handbag is similar to her own favourite and “unique” handbag with which she had gone to attend the seminar of her mentor once earlier and the fallen-from-grace-mentor had complemented her handbag – this gesture by the villagers gives her renewed hope to work for the weak and the powerless and empower them – and then she walks away tearing her resignation – later she is supervising a museum where most of the displays and a store is stocked with village industries – also on display are those “unique” shaped handbag.

Not only the tigers dies, but dies with it, are everything, that necessitates their protection.

Enemy, Movie, Amazon Prime

The movie begins half-heartedly, and ends abruptly. So why bother watching? Well, it’s the middle part of the movie that’s interesting and arresting, particularly for movie-afficianodes.

One thing that captures the eyes at the beginning, and which remains for the entire movie, is the dull grey tones of the film. The movie never brightens. Even the sun shine is shown as sedate. If the approach of the cinematographer was to add soft colors to highlight the moods and aide in storytelling, then this was achieved totally.

More additions into moods and acting was done by Jake Gyllenhaal, the star in a double role. Though the character has double role, it’s only one of the roles that’s more detailed and extensive. Besides depressing outlook on life, the role also needed characteristics like; reticence, under-confidence, fear, but at the same time, an attitude to explore out of the box. Jake Gyllenhaal could portray all of them well.

There is nothing in the story to rave about. There is an attempt to create a psycho-drama, but it was not totally achieved. Only in parts where the actor is contending with his own mental conditions that the story remains steady. Anything else, like a huge tarantula, etc., has failed to add to the story. Also, there is one Car-Crash whose CGI is the worst I ever saw.

If the viewer expects story-satisfaction, there may not be any. But if the viewer is looking for some aspects of acting – the communication of subtle emotions, the rhythmic flow of screenplay in the middle-meat of the movie, plus, the unique cinematography – there won’t be much disappointment.

The movie begins to satisfy from a little while after the start till a little while before the end.

When Crying is Strategy

I first started to work in 1993 in an aviation company and by 1996, that company was showing signs of wear and tear. So, the monthly salary became trimonthly and then half-yearly. Mind you, this is still one month salary. Only the periodicity of disbursement is lengthening.

Anyways, I remember drawing my last salary in October 1996 and thereafter nothing. But I noticed around me, in the office, many complaints, grievance and laments. Initially it made sense, but often times I had this feeling that people were over doing it. The fact that this acting was done in my presence and in front of some unfortunate others, and for a reason, escaped me for months.

Then, one day the bubble burst.

I remember I was in the afternoon duty, and I walked into the office and into a storm. In a short while the truth was revealed. Most of the “No-Salary Crying Colleagues” were indeed drawing their salaries in a stealthy manner. They had cut a deal with the Finance Manager of the Company who periodically cut them a cheque.

Foreseeing that, now if the denied are not paid, the ones with the “salary” may have to do the duty, an understanding was reached and everyone “left out” were assured salaries. And I too, went to the Finance Manager’s Office and he cut me a cheque.

Then a few more.

No money ever came.

By mid 1997, I was in a different aviation company, in Calcutta, painting that town red. By the end of 1997, I was in the red. I returned home to Bombay to become white again and there waited for me, many letters and envelopes, some of which from the bank. I had absolutely forgotten about these last cheques of my previous company. And there it reappeared back from the envelopes, with lots of stamps of black and blue on its face, and stuck with each of it, was a paper, with a tick mark on – “insufficient funds.”

Moral of the Story: The Baby cries for a reason. Note the “Laments” around you. It must be hiding something of value.

Mare of Easttown, TV Series, Hotstar

The title of the TV Series, “Mare of Easttown” sounds familiar. There’s a book by Thomas Hardy called, “The Mayor of Casterbridge.” Though the TV series is an ongoing episode, and after watching 6 of them, I don’t see any familiarity with the book. Accept the fact that, the TV series is much more inviting and an easy watch. The same cannot be said for the book but the book is a classic nonetheless.

This TV series can become a classic too. Led by a screen-stealer, Kate Winslet, the drama revolves around her and in her rural and close-knit community of Easttown where everyone knows everyone and as the series progresses, it seems, everyone is a suspect in a crime, at least for once.

Dis-functionality sells big time. “Easttown” where “Mare,” Kate Winslet is the police officer, is a town where everyone seems have some problem, inside family and outside, and their skewed lives spill over the equally skewed lives of the others. What the TV series has done is to center its story on “Mare,” the character played by Kate Winslet, and then move this character “of Mare” around other characters and families and groups, to reveal their motivations.

Kate Winslet, of the Titanic fame, (and the Quills fame, a Geoffrey Rush movie is a great watch which I await to come to streaming), has kept the audience in her grip with her very studied and steady performance. The other cast members in this series are equally first rate and everyone has some exceptional acting to contribute. The packaging of this series indicates that the producers, directors and writers are taking (and have taken) lots of pain and effort to create a homely and everyday lives and then, infuse those lives with subtle undercurrents of various emotions which, indeed, shows on screen.

It shows when something gets created. It also shows when that’s destroyed. My hypothesis is, when we see Great Actors like Kate Winslet in a show, she must have taken care of the quality of the story and its productions value, before agreeing to act in it. We will see, in due time, how this hypothesis holds.

Kate Winslet promises a wholesome viewing, of a drama which does not disappoint. Well, not as yet.

Mr. Modi’s Attention is needed Elsewhere.

Everyone knows the oft repeated phrase of – Sins of Omission and Commission. From the point of view of Mr. Modi:
Sins of Omission means – things which Mr. Modi did not do.
Sins of Commission means – things Mr. Modi should not have done (but did it anyway.)

Mr. Modi is more guilty of the second – Sins of Commission – certain things he should not have done. When Mr. Modi announced lockdown last year, he probably tried to position himself for any probable future success but, on the other hand, his opposition positioned themselves such that Mr. Modi fails. Mr. Modi’s opposition are not only the Opposing Parties, but they also exist within his own party.

Besides, opposition may not mean, not doing. Opposition also means, the system is so broken that nothing will get done however hard someone tried. This means, BJP ruled states like UP and Bihar will look like opposition.

What Mr. Modi did, on 24th March, 2020, he could have easily avoided. And he should have concentrated his efforts more on areas under his control. Mr. Modi’s action on 24th March 2020 made him lose control, made him politically vulnerable, because the resultants of his actions, the follow ups, were not in his control, or central government’s control, in the first place.

Mr. Modi had announced Lock-Down under Central Government’s “Disaster Management Act, 2005, under Section 6 (2)(i) – and under this act, the Ministry of Home Affairs issued innumerable directives – guidelines to all government institutions to – “restrict residents’ movement outside of their homes and orders a closure of all offices, factories and shops, except those considered as essential goods and services.”

But the administrative machinery through which the above could be achieved, the power lies with State Governments, as “Public Health” and “Public Order” are in the “State List” of the “Constitution of India.” See List – 2 on page 8, point 1 and 6 in this attached document.

Mr. Modi announced Lock-Down when the Covid cases were in low hundreds and resulting deaths were in only double digits. Contrast that with now, when both, covid cases and deaths are in several thousands, and all the respective State Governments are taking their own necessary actions. Well, this present ways of working would have been allowed initially. Here is the statistics of Covid casualties.

It’s a mystery, and probably remain a mystery, as to why Mr. Modi behaved the way he did. My own gut feel says – He Gambled! He gambled on the news, and he gambled on the history of such diseases. And he gambled on the words spoken by Mr. Trump when he came visiting India in February 2020.

Anyone who has lived through 2003 etc., will know that SARS was in the air then, people spoke about it, but life went on in India. SARS then disappeared from public memory. Then came MERS, and many people never knew of it. You see, most of viruses which affected other countries never chose to visit India. There was (and may be still) a “widespread Indian belief” that India’s heat, dirt, filth and pollution lets “no virus survive.”

Mr. Modi is an Indian, no doubt, and his context is as similar to ours. He must have believed the same things the people in India are programmed to believe. Besides, something more happened. Before arriving into India, Mr. Trump made a grand announcement in US that his health secretary has affirmed that “Corona will disappear by Summer. Corona cannot survive Summer Heat.”

Imagine Mr. Trump telling Mr. Modi, this. Logically, if Corona cannot survive US summer, what are the chances of its surviving the famous India Summer.

Mr. Modi spent his energies in the wrong place, wrong legislation. He should have remained in control of the situation by controlling the levers of power that are actually in his control.

I have written on Health previously (here, and here) and I believe that a powerful central control on health care in India in very necessary. I have a vested interest in such Health care improvements. I’m a Bachelor and hope to remain so. But I’m terrified of the health care given to people who are unattended in hospital environment. I’m sure Mr. Modi will understand this, since he is a bachelor too.

My own experiences, which I have written about twice before, points to the fact that majority of covid casualties in India has happened due to inattention.

Our health care over the years has depended on one healthy family member remaining with the patient in the hospital. The moment that “family member” is removed from the ward, crisis wrecks on bedridden patients. Media talks a lot about people who are not getting bed or oxygen to counter covid, but I’m sure, there many more who perished, on the bed and with oxygen, just because of complete apathy by the hospital care staff as, in quarantine conditions, patient’s relatives are not allowed to remain and attend to the patient.

Our Health Care culture has to change. And this culture can be changed. Focus is required at the recruitment stage, and most critically, at the probationary stage, and thereafter, selection and weeding out the “bad bloods” at the initial stage itself. Once a behavioral standards are set, fresh people in the healthcare field will respond to it positively.

Medical Education is in the Concurrent List, (List 3, Page 12, item 25), which refers many items in the Union List which the Center Controls. Besides, any dispute or conflict in the concurrent list (between the Union and the States), it’s the Union’s power that’s binding – as per Article 254.

So, Mr. Modi, armed with Central Laws can affect many changes which the Health Care in India requires. His Ayushman Bharat Health Care Insurance is just a legislative act. Insurance is always an afterthought. When a person get hospitalised, an insurance is a good leverage, but it does not ensure care. Patient admitted may live or die, the hospital will get its money through insurance. So, an insurance does not guarantee care. Here I speak of “CARE” in capital letters, because that is the key thing missing in our Health-Care. Mr. Modi’s actions in these directions with positively and benevolently impact the people and he will leave a great legacy if he is able to do this.

My own prediction is – “this Covid thing is here to stay.” It will show up, every now and then, in some form or the other. It will change the way we go about our lives. And the key area this virus will keep on attacking will be Health Care. So, if Mr. Modi positions himself strongly in areas of healthcare, his actions will have impact in our lives and the lives of the coming generation.

Okay, my predictions are wrong. But is it not a good proposition on which to gamble. What do you say, Mr. Modi?

State of our Health Care: Infrastructure or Culture

In these times, when there is Oxygen Crisis in India, I choose to direct my attention on “Care” because it predates and precedes the ongoing happenings and is also a cause of the present crisis.

This is very plain in India that if one member of the house is hospitalized, every member of the house are hospitalized too. The other members need not occupy the bed, they occupy the adjoining sofa, or the floor. It’s become a tradition in India that attending to sick person is the job of the family member. The hospital attendants, nurses, who are supposed to take care, do not show any inclination to do so and their apathetic behavior are something every hospital borne person has to contend with.

If the patient is asleep and the family or the relative is elsewhere, the hospital attendant who arrives with snacks or food, will just drop it on a table nearby, not even bothering to wake the patient or even roll the table so that the food is near at hand for the sick to eat.

The same applies to nurses who are supposed to administer medicine. The nurse, if they show some little concern, just punch out the required dose of tablets and capsules and drop in a tray. It’s the patient’s family who then gets the patients up to feed the medicine. Or mostly, this happens. The nurse enters and says – take this and this and this – and thereafter are in a hurry to scurry out. If the relative of the patient is old or unable to grasp the instructions properly and asks to repeat the instructions; just notice the facial expression of exasperation and hardness in their voice.

Okay, we understand that hospital environment is stressful and the people working there are “doing a great job” and we have all beaten our own share of utensils, but, – it’s their job – isn’t it. If the Health Care workers don’t like the job and can’ take the stress, they should quit and search for another compatible occupation. But the health care workers do not become “great and vital” just by the virtue of their position and sans the service required.

I’ve seen these abject state of affairs in good hospitals and even in a good class of that hospital accommodation.

My sister was hospitalized in 2018 for Dengue in Kokilaben. It was a decent two bed accommodation. But the service was far short of expected. Being weak with dengue, my sister had not enough strength to reach for the table on which snacks or food used to be dropped. Me, who is a bit of a roving kind, chose to wander the hospital and in a starbucks cafe on the ground floor. Innumerable times, the tea or snacks or food grew cold on the table and no one alerted my bedridden sister. Yes, she should have called the nurse. But when the patient is sick, firstly they don’t have much desire to eat. Also, just like a “tradition in Indian Hospitals,” the patient thinks it’s best to call the relative where food and other attendance are concerned.

Now lets see this “tradition in Indian Hospital” in the light of a new kind of malady, which basically changed the way patients are looked after. Before covid, the relatives were there for administering medicine, food and help to go to the toilet. After covid, no nobody is there to attend the patient. No One.

One cannot change culture overnight. “New Culture” cannot start on 24th March 2020, with “Lock-down.” So, you see, India is dealing with this new crisis with old methods and mindset.

I will tell you how. I was afflicted with covid last year June 2020. Here is a link of my experiences. I was admitted in Holy Family for 10 days isolation. I’m attaching my hospital bills just to give you an idea of what it could be for anyone facing similarly.

The bill has many interesting facts.

Each time the doctor showed up there was a charge. Well, that’s fair. But each time the doctor showed up, he/she wore PPE (personal protective equipments) and the hospital charged me for every equipment they wore. PPE and the Masks were charged separately.

The most all the doctors visits did was; they stood at a distance from me, near the door and sent forth one of their junior doctors or the nurse with oximeter. That’s all. They are wearing attire for which I had paid and not even venture close to me.

With no family member with me, in quarantine, I stayed alone. My snacks and food were dumped periodically on a table on the far side of the bed. No one woke me ever, or even offered to roll the table upto my bed. They entered, dumped, and out. And this is happening to someone who is paying Rs. 5000 per day for the room plus also what they are wearing.

Now, I take my scenario and regress downwards. Consider a situation when people, not affording the expenditure which I had shelled, also encounter the similar situation. I was healthy, mobile and for me, staying alone, isolated is not a problem at all. But think of those, who are old, invalid or handicapped due to covid, has to stay alone, and with hospital services all around tuned to total apathy. It does not surprise me at all, when there are news which says, “Patient disappeared from ICU, Hospital says he died 15 days back.” Covid-19 apathy is another subject on its own. We only read what’s little that’s reported. There may be vast numbers existing out there in desperate and dire states.

Even if our infrastructure is weak and the logistics broken, if this – “care” – is in the “culture” of our people – two things will happen.

1) The Hospitals and Health care establishments, which is, in India, is a multi-billion dollar enterprise, will be proactive to provide the inmates with a quality of care suitable for convalescence. If nurses and other attendants have care in their hearts, they will pressure the higher ups and demand the tools that will help them to provide service.

Instead what is happening now. “Social Media-Fication,” show-offs, crocodile tears of the modern age. These are happening. The hospital care staffs are armed with pics and twitter updates to all helter-skelter, to show, as evidence, when asked – what have you done? They all say – Look, this is what I’m doing, updating every moment our state of affairs, tweeting for Oxygen, and posting on Facebook, to demand the wherewithal.

Besides, and these may not be even reported – the hospital attendants, in times of covid care, are busy to be as far from the affected patients as possible. I saw this myself when in hospital.

2) The life and lifestyle of the people of India, of the lower rungs, not particularly poor but not well to do either, is the cause of much distress in hospital care. You might wonder how? Let me explain.

The majority of Indian population live is small houses and pretty beat down living. They live like 10 in one room, and two, or even three, in one bed. No ventilation and of-course with poor hygiene. If one keeps this context in picture, imagine, a patient going to the hospital and asking for better care. It is not surprising that in states like UP and Bihar, there are two or three people on a bed. Well, they sleep at home like that, why should they demand any better in the hospital.

Now, covid comes – tell me who will provide social distance to people, who never experienced any social distance in their lives. Why would a hospital provide hygiene to people who never aspired for hygiene ever in there lives. For people of our class, if we see a dirty toilet, we may stop shitting for a week. Why would a hospital clean their toilet for people who never aspired for a clean toilet.

Incidentally, I’ve also had experience with subsidized hospitals too. My father who is a great believer in “simple living and high thinking,” (another name for poor taste) got admitted to Navneet Hi-tech Hospital near Dahisar in 2019 for Hernia Operation. While attending to him, I realised, he must of chosen the lowest of the low grade of bed, despite having a good insurance plan. For a week, I was living with people who were virtually from SRA (Slum Rehabilitation Authority.) There were two beds side-by-side in that pigeon hole, with barely two metal stools to sit on, one for me and the other for the attendant of the next bed, who never stopped looking at me for all the four days I was there.

There, in that hovel of a Hospital ward, I came face to face with “real India.” My many philosophies changed. In those four days I knew the true nature of man, the rudeness, the abjectness, the total non-care of the doctors and nurses and attendants, contemptible and degrading.

The investment in Hospital care, and with this covid type of disease which will be a new norm from now on, our hospital care has to change. There should be investment in such endeavors where people in hospital care jobs should go through re-education and sensitization on the quality of help that has a proper standard. We take “Care” as a given, as voluntary act of human being. No, it is not. The “Care” should not call for “Emotion.” “Care” should call for “Duty.” The carer “choose” to be “moved” when “camera shines” or taking “pictures” for Social Media, crying for 5 minutes of fame. This Ad-Hoc behaviour should be outright rejected or trolled and laughed “out of social media.”

Medical and Health care has never been a priority for any government and will never will be. Ayushman Bharat and other types of Health Insurances are just legislative. They provide the people with some mitigation but again, health insurance is a milking cow for the hospitals. But, let’s consider that people of India are “paying now or every year” for “Milk” to avail future “Hospital care,” either via tax or premium, aren’t people of India entitled for comensumerate Hospital Care. Should it not be an agenda for IRDAI (Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority) to for their attention to legislate the requirement for “Proper Care” so that, anyone, or bachelors like me, can get admitted to any hospital, stay alone, be attended to, get assisted, and not just disappear from the bed or die in the toilet and be discovered after 14 days.

Covid-19, 20,21, … Our Tryst

I’m recounting my experience with covid so that people will get aware of this malady if they unfortunately face this fact. There is a wide range of symptoms which people report, pre covid, during covid, and post covid. I hope what I recount will aid others to get aware and be on a look out, for themselves, for their loved ones and for their relatives and friends.

Towards the end of June last year, 2020 I was hit by covid. Prior to this, I had the following symptoms;

  1. Loose motions with froth or foam-like substance which accompanied the stool. The usual/normal motion takes time and effort (and leisure) but a covid-shit takes no time. It’s shit-in-a-minute. Meaning, I used to go, sit on the pot and baam! It’s over. All clear. The look of the stool was like Goats droppings with shampoo or soap froth. You know what I mean.
  2. Another symptom was, my tailbone, the butt on which I sit, started to ache a few weeks prior to my diagnosis. I’ve been sitting cross legged since childhood, and since May 2017, I’ve become a regular butt-sitter. My bed is my regular work place where I sit or sleep, as I desire. I was never afflicted with Tailbone pain before and after covid, but the weeks leading up to my final “fall,” I had tremendous discomfort in that region. I cursed myself for never having a regular work table, etc., etc.. Here is another one recounting similar happenings.
  3. The third symptoms, which initially I blamed on my obesity and lack of exercise, was my complete and utter exhaustion. If I even walked up to my toilet and peed and came back, I used to lie down with total tiredness.
  4. Then finally, I developed a fever and and I used to have two paracetamol 500 tabs ever two hours just to keep the fever below 103 deg and to 99 or 100. I finished all Crocin whatever was lying at home, got my sister to get stock from her house, finished that too, then my sister went out to get some more and finished that too. Finally, due to COVID warnings or whatever, the medical shop started refusing to sell paracetamol without any covid negative test report. The medicine was finally procured from elsewhere but by that time everyone in the house knew that there was something wrong with me. No one, not even me, suspected covid.

I was suspected of Dengue. The reason being; since 24th March 2020 till my final fall to COVID in last week of June 2020, I may be the only person in this world to have followed the covid protocol strictly. I never stepped a foot outside the house. I don’t even remember opening the main door. Seclusion and solitary confinement is no problem to me and here I can beat Nelson Mandela. After few days of Dengue tests, I finally took the covid test and within two days thereafter, I was honored with covid Positive report.

Also, along with covid test, my doctor advised me to also take HRCT (High-resolution computed tomography). The LINK HERE is my report and this will give an idea as to the destruction this virus can wreak on a human body. No wonder I used to get extremely tired walking just a few steps. I’ve had breathing problems since birth and being allergic to many things, I was adviced hospitalization, just to have the oxygen handy, if need be.

5. In the hospital I had two strange occurrence.

a. The calf muscle on my right feet suddenly developed pain, and the pain travelled up and down the calf muscle. I just couldn’t make out what could have triggered this “cramp” as I was prone on the hospital bed most of the time watching non-stop Hindi movie songs. At home, I never see these but in the hospital, there was no Netflix. I heard this song so many times, that it became my favorite. Particularly the dance.

Then those medicines started coming in and I was surprised that corona had medicines. Most of them were Vit C, Vit D, anti Acid – but one of them was called – “Clopilet.” Armed with my iPad, which is my another appendage, I google the medicine and found that it’s a sort of “blood thinner.” And later, it may have been instrumental is curing my right calf muscle cramp. Now, I can say, I did have a blood clot and I was fortunate to have been attended to.

b. Around the same time, in the hospital, a largish circular “Goosebump” kind of a Skin Eruption occurred on the back side of my right thigh. It was not painful in the beginning. Over the course of next three to four months, that skin-eruption developed into a pussy boil with no discernable “head.” Gradually it subsided.

When I was in the hospital, my father, mother and sister all were diagnosed covid positive but they were all asymptomatic and quarantined at home. After the quarantine period, our family doctor advised “Venous Doppler” tests on both limbs to all. This was to find any blood clot which may develop as a result of covid and which can travel to the brain or heart and cause fatality.

Thus the malady. Hope this helps, to be aware of the things that may happen, leading to, during and after covid.

In my opinion, the covid test is just an indication. The damage the virus does can be determined by HRCT and “Venous Doppler” tests and also the use of “Blood Thinners.”

HRCT saved me as I became aware of my lung deterioration which made me go to the hospital prior to emergency. In the hospital, I was never on oxygen but my room had oxygen saturation increased.

The “Blood Thinner” was a boon to me inadvertently. Had I not being hospitalised, I wouldn’t have known or taken this medicine.

Post covid, Venous Doppler is important, just to be safe and not let a grain of blood clot which if undiagnosed and untreated, may travel from limbs to the heart and brain. If it doesn’t cause death, it may cause something more disastrous – paralysis.

Even if your immunity saves you from covid, there are other things you should take care of. I’ve listed my own experience.

On Privacy and Surveillance-05

I’ve written on this topic, here, here, here and here. And here is a play I wrote long time back which typifies an office environment.

After writing some on “manual surveillance” I’m veering towards surveillance of the “Tech-Kind.” These are not opinions only but my experiences too; things that happened to me. And if you are not careful, it’ll happen to you, too.

Recently, Apple launched “Airtag” and (frankly) I did not have a clue of what it is. Then when I knew it, after watching YouTube videos, I found Apple is not the first one to make such a device and there are others in the market, and these are pretty popular – “in the western world.”

But who the hell will buy “Airtag” or other “tag” like devices in India?

Imagine, losing your bag and with an airtag attached to it. I’m hundred percent sure, in India, your phone “may” guide you to the “tag” sans the “bag.” Besides, I still doubt you’ll get the “Airtag” too.

Here is my story about “tagging” of another kind.

A decade back (2011), after a drinking binge I walked up to my car and before opening the door I decided to have a smoke. I deposited my iPad and iPhone on the roof of my car. Having finished smoking, I entered the car and drove off. The devices on the roof may have clattered and clanged on the road near my usual bar.

Upon realising what I had done, I went to to locate my devices. Obviously, anyone who may have picked my phone and pad, did the first important thing. They switched it off. On the browser, I put both my Apple devices on “Lost Mode,” and “Erase Mode,” with message and phone number for any generous angels. I had also remotely password locked those devices so that if any one even tries a password for once, the device will self erase and me getting an SMS with location. Or so I believed.

Then I did the next best thing ever expected out of only me in this world. Next day I went back to the bar and told everyone what all I have done to trap the person who, by now, was my culprit.

A guy like me, in that bar, and who tips pretty good left, right and centre, is always trailed and watched. I know this for sure. I’m pretty certain that many known eyes would have seen me take off and also seen those devices fall of the car-roof. And my next days idiotic brag would have tipped off the culprit for certain.

My two devices probably was never switched on, or, if its SIMs were removed, never got a whiff of any Wi-Fi. Well, why would anyone interested to steal would enter a Wifi password. Yes, the SIM’s were blocked later when no angels showed up.

It must be added here (and it must not be missed) that on the day, or rather the night, when I lost my devices by placing it atop my car, I was not alone. I was with my colleagues, one of them was from my previous company. This “previous-company colleague” had made a career out of “Khabaree-giri,” (snooping and informing higher management). I know this guy since the day I started my career.

After the above incident, only a day or two may have passed, and I was standing beside my car on my office parking – with my “new iPad and iPhone” atop my car roof. At the same time, another car rolled in and stopped beside me, and out peeked a Higher Management and remarked – “Don’t put it on the roof, you’ll again lose it.” I was struck; I literally had my mouth wide open. I immediately knew who reported it and the utter shamelessness of it all. It had not taken him much time to let the news to flow; I can imagine him not sleeping the night and divulge it to the management “first thing next morning.”

So, some tagging don’t work. But some do. Tagging literally means Labelling, for identification. And in this world, this #tag, is an important function.

“Airtag” as is feared, can be used as surveillance. This has been disputed as “Airtag” cannot be used as tracking device on others as their iPhone will alert them. What’s been left unsaid is that if the technology is there, who prevents a third party to devise such a useful device?

In these days of smart devices, there are many more ways to know what people are doing with their time. Such information is important. If you are not doing the work of the company, you are doing the work against the company and this information in your colleagues hands will be used against you in the first meeting everyday with higher management. Any crap information will do. The higher management love entourage, a crowd of yapping sycophants in their cabin, to feel important. In this world, sycophancy to any power is free because it feeds on scraps of promises. Even the bosses smile will do for that day.

In the beginning of my career, I used to go to work with a book in my hands. I realised after a few days, that this was one undesirable behaviour in the world of corporate illiterates. “You know, he reads books,” such expressions started to make rounds till I stopped carrying it. But by that time my reputation was tainted.

In my last company too, there has been numerous occasions when, with my attention is engaged elsewhere, I’ve noticed colleagues fiddling with my iPad. Many of them act ignorant of the device but they exactly know where to go in the ipad and which options to click to know the history of your net-whereabouts.

Smart Devices these days have made it very easy to get information on anyones engagement of his days. Take iDevices. Screen Time has made it easy for anyone to know how the owner of the device is spending his days. And if you cannot access Screen Time, if it’s turned off, then GOTO>Setting>Battery. You’ll get all information at a glance with statistics.

What one does with his days, what app one is accessing, what website one is exploring, what is posted on ones Facebook and Twitter etc., are precious raw metals for adversaries. Picture a run-down African country and their run-down hungry looking kids with porus baskets filtering muck and dirt. They are looking for diamonds and gold. They do it all day looking for just a speck to sell. Your colleagues will scour your life the same way for what you have, and what you consider dirt, is diamond and gold for them.

Along with smartphone, start carrying a Basic Phone too. If anyone asks for your phone, for whatever reasons, give them the Basic Phone. And see the fun!