June 25, 2005

Lest We Forget

Today is the 30th anniversary of the declaration of emergency in India. It is not a happy occasion but rather a poignant one; to remember how close we came to becoming another tin pot third world dictatorship.

However, i am not going to talk about emergency here; its been talked about and dissected a lot. I would rather talk about "Rajan case", the infamous police custody murder which happened in kerala during emergency period and the tragical farce it has become today.

For those who dont know the story: Rajan was a student of REC Calicut during the emergency period. In the 1970's the Naxalite movement had become very strong in north kerala. Almost any idealistic, young man/woman in those days were attracted to that ideology. College hostels were probably full of sympathizers to the "cause". It is generally accepted that Rajan was not in the movement but likely was a sympathizer but so were thousands of others. However, what allegedly bought him to the attention of police was a play which he acted/directed (i am not sure about the specifics) during a college festival which made fun of a minister in the kerala cabinet.

After he was tortured, murdered and burned (allegedly) in the kakkyam police camp, the government and the police steadfastly maintained that he was never even taken into custody. Prof Eachara Warrior, Rajan's father, could not even approach the courts during emergency as "habeus corpus" was suspended. After emergency was lifted, he filed a case against the government which ultimately led to a judgement by the high court against the government. karunakaran who was the home minister at the time of the murder (and chief minister when the judgement came out) had to resign. Jayaram Padikkal IPS,the man in charge of the camp and Pulikkodan Narayanan, the SI who tortured and killed Rajan were prosecuted but never rally paid for their crimes. Rajan's mother, who was mentally ill, was never told about his murder. She lived for more than 25 years in the fond hope that her only son will one day return.

Even today, exactly what happened to Rajan is a mystery. Was he burned with sugar (to ensure that not even burns will be left behind) or dumped in a dam? Will the perpetrators ever confess? I hope some one will tell the true story like the retired constable who confessed to the killing of Vargheese so that the old man will gain some peace of mind in the twilight of his life.

I once had the privilege of hearing Prof Eachara Warrior speak about his experience. A humble man, he spoke simply but movingly about his futile attempts to get his boy back. As he spoke, I tried to imagine his sufferings but failed miserably. He has written a small book on his experience. English version of the book can be found here

The incident should remind us of the excesses that a supremely powerful government can commit if the "checks and balances" are removed. During emergency, trains ran on time, governent service was efficient, civil servants were afraid to strike but personal liberty, "due proces" and fundamental human rights were trampled upon. In the quest for achieving the former nobody should have to give up the latter.

Finally, politics is again showing how farcial life is. Karunakaran has left the congrss fold and is open to joining hands with "non communal" forces. CPM, which once provided financial help to Prof Eachara Warrior during the legal proceedings and was at the forefront of the agitation against karunakaran, is obviously the "non communal" force. They are likely to welcome karunakarn to LDF fold sooner or later. All those post-emergency strikes against Karunakaran will likely be forgotten. SFI, the students wing of CPM, will follow suit.

To add insult to injury, one of my old SFI colleagues (yes i had communist leanings for a while before better sense prevailed!) still has the signature "Porattangal Nilakkunnilla" (the fight never stops) in his email while blissfully justifying the party position in every issue

this world is f***ed up!


June 16, 2005

A Forgotten Hero!

Hamilton Naki
Posted by Hello

I came across this obituary in Economist

I had to post this (please dont sue..its just middle of the month and i am already broke!)

One of the most exciting real-life-story i have heard is about Christain Barnard and the first human heart transplanation. Now it seems that even this heroic story had elements of bigotry involved in it. Read about "Hamilton Naki", the real hero of the event. May be it is time to rewrite our science books!

Hamilton Naki
Jun 9th 2005
From The Economist print edition

Hamilton Naki, an unrecognised surgical pioneer, died on May 29th, aged 78

ON DECEMBER 3rd, 1967, the body of a young woman was brought to Hamilton Naki for dissection. She had been knocked down by a car as she went to buy a cake on a street in Cape Town, in South Africa. Her head injuries were so severe that she had been pronounced brain-dead at the hospital, but her heart, uninjured, had gone on furiously pumping.

Mr Naki was not meant to touch this body. The young woman, Denise Darvall, was white, and he was black. The rules of the hospital, and indeed the apartheid laws of the land, forbade him to enter a white operating theatre, cut white flesh, or have dealings with white blood. For Mr Naki, however, the Groote Schuur hospital had made a secret exception. This black man, with his steady, dexterous hands and razor-sharp mind, was simply too good at the delicate, bloody work of organ transplantation. The chief transplant surgeon, the young, handsome, famously temperamental Christiaan Barnard, had asked to have him on his team. So the hospital had agreed, saying, as Mr Naki remembered, “Look, we are allowing you to do this, but you must know that you are black and that's the blood of the white. Nobody must know what you are doing.”

Nobody, indeed, knew. On that December day, in one part of the operating suite, Barnard in a blaze of publicity prepared Louis Washkansky, the world's first recipient of a transplanted human heart. Fifteen metres away, behind a glass panel, Mr Naki's skilled black hands plucked the white heart from the white corpse and, for hours, hosed every trace of blood from it, replacing it with Washkansky's. The heart, set pumping again with electrodes, was passed to the other side of the screen, and Mr Barnard became, overnight, the most celebrated doctor in the world.

In some of the post-operation photographs Mr Naki inadvertently appeared, smiling broadly in his white coat, at Barnard's side. He was a cleaner, the hospital explained, or a gardener. Hospital records listed him that way, though his pay, a few hundred dollars a month, was actually that of a senior lab technician. It was the most they could give, officials later explained, to someone who had no diploma.

There had never been any question of diplomas. Mr Naki, born in the village of Ngcangane in the windswept Eastern Cape, had been pulled out of school at 14, when his family could no longer afford it. His life seemed likely to be cattle-herding, barefoot and in sheepskins, like many of his contemporaries. Instead, he hitch-hiked to Cape Town to find work, and managed to land a job tending lawns and rolling tennis courts at the University of Cape Town Medical School.

A black—even one as clever as he was, and as immaculately dressed, in a clean shirt, tie and Homburg hat even to work in the gardens—could not expect to get much further. But a lucky break came when, in 1954, the head of the animal research lab at the Medical School asked him for help. Robert Goetz needed a strong young man to hold down a giraffe while he dissected its neck to see why giraffes did not faint when they drank. Mr Naki coped admirably, and was taken on: at first to clean cages, then to hold and anaesthetise the animals, then to operate on them.

Stealing with his eyes

The lab was busy, with constant transplant operations on pigs and dogs to train doctors, eventually, for work on humans. Mr Naki never learned the techniques formally; as he put it, “I stole with my eyes”. But he became an expert at liver transplants, far trickier than heart transplants, and was soon teaching others. Over 40 years he instructed several thousand trainee surgeons, several of whom moved on to become heads of departments. Barnard admitted—though not until 2001, just before he died—that Mr Naki was probably technically better than he was, and certainly defter at stitching up afterwards.

Unsung, though not unappreciated, Mr Naki continued to work at the Medical School until 1991. When he retired, he drew a gardener's pension: 760 rand, or about $275, a month. He exploited his medical contacts to raise funds for a rural school and a mobile clinic in the Eastern Cape, but never thought of money for himself. As a result, he could pay for only one of his five children to stay to the end of high school. Recognition, with the National Order of Mapungubwe and an honorary degree in medicine from the University of Cape Town, came only a few years before his death, and long after South Africa's return to black rule.

He took it well. Bitterness was not in his nature, and he had had years of training to accept his life as apartheid had made it. On that December day in 1967, for example, as Barnard played host to the world's adoring press, Mr Naki, as usual, caught the bus home. Strikes, riots and road blocks often delayed it in those days. When it came, it carried him—in his carefully pressed suit, with his well-shined shoes—to his one-room shack in the township of Langa. Because he was sending most of his pay to his wife and family, left behind in Transkei, he could not afford electricity or running water. But he would always buy a daily newspaper; and there, the next day, he could read in banner headlines of what he had done, secretly, with his black hands, with a white heart.

Link to the original article

June 09, 2005

One For Narcissistic Me!

Visitors to my blog crossed 1000!! (i swear i had blocked all my 3 IP address from the calculations!).

Thankx everyone!

good job anish; may u soon reach the "five figure" :)


June 06, 2005

A "Priestly" Bachelor's Party

My family is devout xtian but has given up trying to convert me, but relatives have not.

So extended family ceremonies can be trying, particularly since i do not want to embrass anyone but more importantly do not want to get embrassed myself. This time it was worse, coz my to-be-wed cousin is a junior priest (in our community priests can marry and even have kids!)and the place was full of priests, methrans, thirumeni's and other "scum of the church”.

So I knew that a big prayer session was coming as soon as i landed up at his home. As is my habit in such occasions, i planned to walk around during the prayers and desperately hoped that my absence will not be noticed.

Ahem..i should have known better. There comes vargheese kochappan, slightly deaf and more than slightly drunk! Being slightly deaf, he likes to believe that rest of the world is deaf too. He starts off by asking (actually shouting) “who are you?”

I know i should respect age (he was ancient when i was a toddler!), but not when this question is asked immediately after the prayer (when a silence falls over the entire group as they plan out the sins they can commit now that they have taken advance absolution!).

As usual, the entire group does an about turn and stares at me. i mumble that i am his brother's wife's sister's daugther's son. He then goes like this (after editing out the expletives and translating!) “oho.. by the suspicious way u were moving about in the dark during prayer time i thought u were a thief or doing something else”.

Now i have no clue about what he meant by "something else”. Any ways, kochappan continues; "so why didn’t you join the prayer?"

I wished I was drunk enough to shout back "because I did not want to”. But being the coward that I am, I mumbled again and decided to move back to the rubber jungle where i was hiding during the prayers.

Well, if god ever had a chance to make me a believer it was then.

If only god had appeared on the skies and said "blessed are the non-believers; they seek proof of my existence and i am honored more by their questions than by the blind allegiance of you fools”

But he did not appear; did not support me when i needed his support; thus wasting the evangelical opportunity of the millennium.

Thankfully the ungles were too thirsty to enjoy this spectacle for long and slowly moved behind the cattle-shed where "drinks" were arranged. Soon all ungles got unsteady with their feet and bawdy with their songs. Aundies passed time making snide comments about the "vellamadi" habit that runs in the family.

Now there were two parallel drinking sessions going on. One the parental generation drinking openly (admission restricted to males above 50 only!). And the second, the younger generation who were making frequent trips to the toilet where a bottle of OP rum was kept!

I was graciously invited to be part of the second group. I refused because i no longer want to drink OPR in the toilet with tap water. My cousins thought i am acting "pricey". Now i got all uptight and said that i dont see why people who are 25,30 or 35 have to drink furtively when everyone knows everything. So I was left all alone; sober and uptight!

Well, a dear uncle (to whom i am eternally grateful!) saw me standing forlorn and called me to the outhouse. At the outhouse drinks had been arranged for the "representatives of god" and boy do they drink posh :). vsop brandy for the francophiles, whiskey for the colonials, anthi kallu for the swadesi's and karimeen pollichathu plus tharavu varuthathu for all!

Uncle was in the side room and in charge of supplying unlimited quantities of the above mentioned items to the main room where “men of god” were having their philosophical discussions. The nice man that he is, he made me his assistant and i finally got my due. It is fun to drink with "men of god" (albeit them not knowing i was spying) and hear the "godly" conversations.


June 01, 2005

Deep Throat - The Final Disclosure

In the last 24 hours, international media has been abuzz with the unravelling of what probably is the greatest mystery in journalism.

Everyone knows about the watergate scandal.

Lots of people have heard about the "Deep Throat" (i have even watched it hehe..).

Seriously, "Deep Throat" was the ultimate insider who decided to turn a whistleblower. He got the sobriquet from a controversial porn movie of the same title, which ahem...featured "activities related to the title" :)

He was the second in command of the FBI who leaked out information about the criminal activities of the President of the US of A. And he chose to remain anonymous; atleast till yesterday. Yesterday, he came clean.

Read the article here.

I Am The Guy They Called "Deep Throat"

Congrajulations Mark Felt, u deserve all the accolades coming your way!

congrajulations Woodward & Bernstein. you guys are not just hard-nosed investigative journalists but also men of honor!

ps: and to think that today US judiciary is about to grant prison terms to journalists who are not willing to divulge their confidential sources!