Month: December 2001

Root Cause

Root Cause

Recently, when Shivram Shetty (owner of the very popular Shivprasad Restaurant in Thane) and his wife paid a visit to Ulhas Pradhan’s home, a beautiful terrace garden in the backyard left the couple awestruck. Such was the impact of the garden that Shetty said to Pradhan, "Please send your garden’s mali (gardener) to my house. I want him to help me with my garden too". Pradhan, who had cultivated the garden himself replied, "When do you want me to come?"

Ulhas Pradhan, a reputed architect in Thane, finds nothing more appealing than the delicate scent of fresh flowers lingering in the air. That’s why his apartment at Cherai houses a most wonderful assortment of plants and vegetation that can be seen inside a concrete structure of bricks and cement.

Pradhan’s garden was created in 1982 with just about two or three plants. One of them was the bonsai banyan tree, which still stands. Over the years, Pradhan made full use of his 400 sq. ft. terrace where he cultivated different forms of plant life. Today his harvest consists of more than 200 different plants including everyday vegetables like Tomatoes, Capsicum, Lemons, Brinjal (Egg Plant) and even Chikoo (Sapodilla).

Flower plants like Chameli (Spanish jasmine), Asters, Mogra, Juhi and various kinds of Roses decorate the garden. The uniqueness of Pradhan’s garden is that all plants are grown in pots, and that includes trees such as Mini Orange, Palm tree and even X-mas tree. The garden is designed neatly but with a practical touch to it. All plants are all arranged in such a manner so as to allow obstruction-free growth-path and sufficient sunlight as needed.

Pradhan devotes a sizeable part of his Sunday towards maintaining his treasured backyard. But his wife is not complaining, as she can literally pluck green chili or "kadi patta" while she’s cooking.

Pradhan waters the plants regularly and says he has observed that plants somehow identify his presence. When he’s away for a few days, the plants actually respond by losing the sheen that is normally present, proving what Sir Jagadis Chandra Bose, the great Indian Scientist had concluded after a series of scientific experiments- that "plants definitely do experience an equivalent of emotions".

Homecoming of a parrot
A parrot’s shining green colour feathers, red beak, and the red lining around its neck make it look very beautiful. Besides, this cute little creature also speaks like humans. That’s why it is extremely popular among humans, especially children.

No wonder then, that recently when Karran Kharas, an 8-year old student J K School found his pet parrot missing, he was distraught with grief. Mithoo, as the bird was fondly called, had been living with the family since he was a baby. Karran and his folks would often leave Mithoo out of the cage but he had never flown away. Last week though, when Karran was playing with Mithoo, the parrot quite unexpectedly flew away.

Karran loves animals and is quite aware of the fate that meets pet birds when they fly away. He knew that soon other birds would attack his Mitthoo ruthlessly and kill it. He had very little time so act, so he immediately went in search of his beloved parrot. When he could not find the parrot anywhere in the vicinity of his home, he enquired with a few colony friends who were playing on the streets.

Fortunately for him, his friends had seen a few crows cornering one parrot. The friends informed him that a lady from the neighbourhood, who had noticed the bird in distress, had quickly rescued it from the clutched of the vicious crows. The lady took the bird with her. Upon hearing this, Karran asked them about the lady and went to the lady’s house and thanked her immensely for saving his Mithoo. He told her the story of how his pet had flown away and requested her to hand over the pet to him. The kind-hearted lady obliged and Karran ran to his house to get the cage. Along with his father, Karran fetched the bird from the lady’s house. The parrot was only too happy to get back into his cage, his safe and secure home.

Why the bird flew away is a mystery. But after having encountered life’s hardships and the cruelty of the world, Karran is sure the parrot won’t dare to be adventurous again.

Heal Thyself

Heal Thyself

Brahmvidya Sadhak Sangh held a function celebrating their fourth anniversary on last week at Shiv Samarth School compound in Thane. More than three thousand people attended the function on Sunday evening. What was remarkable was that all through the function the audience kept absolutely still and quite. The restraint practiced by the audience was amazing, to say the least. But what’s the secret behind such self-discipline? "Self-discipline is the key, the importance of which is taught to all the students of Brahmavidya course", says a senior instructor Vikas Phadke who is fondly called Phadke Sir by students and teachers alike.

The course focuses on inner healing power (through breathing and meditation) to heal mental and physical illnesses and has succeeded in helping many a difficult case to recover.

The popularity of the Institute has grown from strength to strength in the last four years. The courses are held all over Mumbai, Thane and even Pune. One has the option of choosing either English or Marathi as the medium of instruction. Phadke Sir says, "The Brahmavidya course is for everyone. Our students range from 10-year old children to senior citizens as old as hundred years!"

Brahmavidya Sadhak Sangh propagates the theory of self-healing and believes that nature (Universe) helps those who tune into its energy. Philipus Aureolus Paracelsus, a well-known German-Swiss physician, once said, "The art of healing comes from nature, not from the physician. Therefore the physician must start from nature, with an open mind." And may we add that patients must do so too!

The Flying Friend

The Flying Friend

For ages now, the story of a thirsty crow has been an official lesson in school for first-graders. The thirsty crow wants to drink water but cannot reach the bottom of the pot. So he puts some pebbles in the pot to raise the level of the water sufficiently and then sips the water to quench his thirst. But have you ever wondered what the crow did when he was hungry? Well, if the crow was an Indian, he need not have worried, as he would rest assured that he would be fed by humans all around!

People around the world feed animals and birds for the sheer joy of it. But when Indians feed creatures, they look for something beyond joy. Most Indians feed animals and birds for religious or spiritual reasons.

Among the various creatures fed by Indians, the crow holds a very special status in India for a variety of different reasons. The crows, according to Hindus, are reminiscent of their ancestors. Predominantly, the crow is identified with the remembrance of ancestors during shraadha – a period that comes each year when people recall their departed relatives and offer them food by feeding crows.

While following this practice of feeding birds, one lady from Thane has made a peculiar friend – you guessed it – a crow. Sixty two year old Mrs. Nalini Manohar Taralkar has been regularly feeding this friendly crow from the past 4 years or so. Every afternoon at about 2 pm, the crow arrives for his "lunch" at Mrs. Taralkar’s terrace, who then feeds it with her own hands. What’s even more astonishing is that the crow never accepts food from anyone else – this means that if Mrs. Taralkar does not offer food, the bird simply returns on an empty stomach.

Over the years Mrs. Taralkar has observed that the bird is particularly fond of non-vegetarian food and never misses the opportunity to have his share. But how did she become so friendly with the crow? Mrs. Taralkar recalls, "I had been offering food to birds for many years now and during this time I observed one particular crow who would visit daily, without fail. Once, out of sheer curiosity, I attempted to go near the crow and offer him a morsel with my hands. To my surprise, the crow did not fly away but instead accepted my offering respectfully. Since that day the crow has been picking up food directly from my hands." Of course, Mrs. Taralkar derives the greatest pleasure and an inexplicable kind of satisfaction from feeding her "bird-friend".

It may be difficult to believe that the crows scavenging for food outside our windows and balconies are in fact our ancestors. But when you witness Mrs. Taralkar’s bond with the crow, you tend to believe the "theory".

Mark Twain, once mentioned "As concerned length of line and multiplicity of ancestors – in that property I am as poor as Jesus: no grandfather." Twain would have probably felt ‘richer’ as an Indian because then he could have not only met his ancestors but also fed them!

Pause and Applause
Every year, reputed psychiatrist Anand Nadkarni’s Institute of Psychological Health (IPH) organizes an event aimed at providing career guidance to students of various levels. This year, the event celebrated its tenth anniversary and several celebrities graced the occasion by their presence. One such celebrity to grace the event was flute maestro and India’s pride Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia, who performed a show for fund-raising for VEDH, the career guidance arm of IPH.

Just as the show was nearing its end, a young girl went up to Panditji with a farmaish (a request) for performing Raag Bhairavi. As Panditji had already performed the said Raag, he instead performed Raag Pahadi as he did not want to "disappoint a beautiful girl".

After the performance, the entire set of audience present stood up and there was silence all around. Panditji thought that the audience is all set to leave as the show has ended. But soon afterwards, the crowd began clapping vigorously. Anand Nadkarni noticed the astonishment on Panditji’s face. So he turned towards the Maestro and said, "Panditji, these people have stood up not to leave, but to give you a standing ovation for your brilliant performance." Hearing this, Panditji himself stood up and bowed to audience in appreciation and thanks. The audience clapped once again and there was a roar of applause.

Dance Stance

Dance Stance

Pandit Birju Maharaj, the most distinguished Kathak Dancer of our times, and the recipient of Padma Vibhushan award, was in Thane’s Gadkari Rangayatan Auditorium last week to participate in Gopikrishna Sangeet Mahotsav. While on stage, he recounted a rather funny but meaningful episode that occurred during a performance tour in Russia.

Just a day before the performance was scheduled, the Pakhawaj master who was to accompany Birju Maharaj in the show, realized that he has forgotten to carry atta (wheat flour) required for treating the Pakhawaj. For the uninitiated, the Pakhawaj is an important drumming instrument that accompanies Kathak. The Pakhawaj, known as the king of Indian drums, produces an extraordinarily rich resonance. This powerful reverberation is a result of a flat cake of whole-wheat dough, which has to be prepared fresh for each playing before it is loaded on to the drum-skin.

Coming back to the Performance in Russia, Birju Maharaj and the Pakhawaj player knew that they had to get hold of wheat flour for the show to go on. So they set out to find it in the foreign country. They visited a local bakery but found it extremely difficult to communicate the exact nature of their need as they could not speak Russian and the Bake Man did not understand English.

When verbal attempts failed, Birju Maharaj turned to his Kathak Skills, using his hand movements to convey what was needed. After managing to gesticulate "bread" and the "dough" that goes into making it, Birju Maharaj finally succeeded in putting across his need of wheat-flour, which the bake-man delivered to the artists so that they could go on with their show.

"Dance is the hidden language of the soul", said Martha Graham. We may add that it is also a language that souls of all nationalities can understand.

A Rhythmic Challenge
While on the subject of Kathak as an art form, a mention must be made of Mrs. Manjiri Deo, a well-known personality in the field of Kathak Dance. About 25 years ago, this disciple of Padmashree Nataraj Gopikrishna, founded Shri Ganesh Nritya Kala Mandir in Thane to teach Kathak dancing. Then, a few years ago, she came across Netrali Bhide, a deaf and dumb girl from Thane, who wanted to be her student.

Mrs. Deo took up the challenge of teaching Kathak to Netrali. "I knew it was going to be difficult to teach someone who can’t hear. But I was also aware that Kathak depends on the technique of abhinay (miming). Now, suppose a dancer, unaided by music, were to keep his eye on any person or object (for e.g. movement of the drumsticks) which was marking dancing-time to his/her sight, then he or she could definitely dance to it," states Mrs. Deo enthusiastically.

Although Netrali had previously performed in dance and ballet shows, that was with other handicapped students. Acquiring a degree in Kathak was altogether a different matter. But with Netrali determined to master Kathak, Mrs. Deo put her heart and soul into this challenge. Netrali’s parents too were quite supportive of their child, which according to Mrs. Deo was extremely important.

"The difference between the impossible and the possible lies in a person’s determination", said Tommy Lasorda, one of the greatest Baseball managers of the United States. Last year, at the age of 20, after years of meticulous practice, Netrali went on to become the first and only Deaf and Dumb girl in India to obtain a Visharad in Kathak. Her determination has certainly paid off.

Prescription Panic

Prescription Panic

A principal of a school summons the parents of one of her students. "It’s about Nikhil’s handwriting. It’s atrocious", says the principal. Delighted on hearing this, the mother of the ward says to her husband, "Guess what! I always knew our son is destined to be a doctor". Another old joke explains that doctors go to school to learn how to write illegibly and that pharmacists go to school to learn how to read what doctors write.

But jokes apart, we all know that doctors have the worst hand when it comes to writing. And it is certainly no laughing matter, as it can affect the lives of the patients. It’s strange that despite all the years of school that doctors go through, one thing many never seem to master is good handwriting. Recently a study conducted in United Kingdom analyzed handwriting samples taken from three different groups of health workers. Among all samples, the doctors’ scribble proved to be the least legible. The research, published in the British Medical Journal, was triggered by concern that poor handwriting may lead to prescription errors. The study suggests that doctors, even when asked to be as neat as possible, produce handwriting that is worse than that of other professions.

In such state of affairs, it is heartening to find a doctor whose handwriting is not only legible, but is actually quite tidy. Meet Dr. Mirza Thanawala, MD (Med). Dr. Thanawala is a consulting general physician from Thane’s Jambli Naka area. Dr. Thanawala’s prescriptions are quite legible and his instructions on medication schedules are clear and simple to understand, which ensures that his patients never make a mistake in such a critical matter. When required, this highly qualified doctor even provides instructions in Hindi, Marathi and Gujarati for the patient’s convenience.

According to Dr. Thanawala, "As a doctor, I am conscious of my responsibility towards the well-being of the patients. Bad handwriting can result in serious and irreversible damage to the health or in some cases, even to the life of the patient. No doctor can afford to take this lightly." Indeed, as there are medical cases that prove that illegible prescriptions have led to serious damage to the patient’s health and even death.

In Dr. Thanawala’s opinion, patients too must be proactive. So, to avoid errors on your prescriptions, make sure that on your next visit to a doctor, you take a pen and paper with you. When the doc prescribes the medicine, ask him/her to spell out the name of your medication. Write it down, along with the correct dosage and schedule. Then, when you buy your medicines, compare the labels with your notes.

Health is Wealth goes the old adage and bad handwriting should NOT be the reason for putting such a rare wealth at stake.

Cell Spell
Unlike a few years back, mobile phones have now become so commonplace in metros like Mumbai that we hardly even notice the phone ringing. But for some, the cell phone still casts its magical spell.

A juvenile beggar got into the first class compartment of a CST bound local in Mumbra. It was around noontime on Tuesday. Just as he began his session of begging (by singing Hindi film songs obviously), a passenger’s mobile phone rang. So fascinated was this little boy with the phone that he simply kept gaping at it, forgetting his purpose of being in the train.

When the passenger got off at Thane, the kid woke up from his temporary spell and went back to his normal routine, although still looking entranced. Of course, for the child, the cell phone instrument was nothing less than a magic device.

A Battle for Cleanliness

A Battle for Cleanliness

Mumbai’s civic body often ignores the very issues for which it exists. Amidst the strikes, financial deficit, corruption and other issues plaguing it, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation forgets to carry out its functions dutifully.

Take for instance, sanitation. Despite the highly paid civic workers of Mumbai, many of the metropolitan’s streets are filled with filth and garbage. The gutters overflow due to clogged sewage and many drains around the city have become a breeding ground for mosquitoes and other harmful insects leading to potential health hazard for residents of the area. The city’s civic body is known to turn a blind eye to most of the complaints received in this respect.

It is for this very reason that our city requires people like Ronny A Williams, a social worker from Vikhroli. Here are two interesting cases where Mr. Williams had to literally fight a battle of sorts to make the BMC attend to the issues of basic public sanitation.

An open gutter running parallel to the St. Joseph Church and School was never cleaned by the BMC and the sewage mess had been accumulating since ages. Repeated complaints by the school authorities to the BMC in this regard did not yield any results as the concerned ward officers (S ward) refused to own responsibility claiming that the area does not come under their ward.

Mr. Williams took up the matter personally and brought Deputy Municipal Commissioner, Dr. More Patil (Zone-VI) to the site for inspection. The response was immediate and the concerned ward officers were directed to visit the site and supervise the removal of muck from the drain. Mr. Williams said, "The irony here is that after cleaning the drain the garbage removed was left at the edge of the drain, as the lifting of garbage is supposedly the responsibility of the conservancy department. Although the maintenance department de-silted the drains, the rains ensured that the garbage flows back into the drains only to clog it once again."

Mr. Williams was compelled to follow up on the issue once again. This time he explained to the civic officials the practical aspect of the problem, which arose because of the apparent "lack of coordination" between maintenance and the conservancy departments of BMC. "If the various departments of BMC work in synchronicity, a lot of its problems will disappear. Unfortunately, the officials always try to disown their responsibilities", says Mr. Williams.

The transmission nallahs at Haryiali village, Tagore nagar and Bharat Nagar in Vikhroli were also in an appalling state and once again, the de-silting work was organized and supervised by Mr. Williams himself.

But Mr. Williams is quick to point out, "The general public is also to be blamed for the sorry state of affairs. They should use the garbage dumps available to dispose of with their domestic waste, instead of throwing it in the drains."

Residents of Hema Park in Bhandup (East) faced a similar problem of clogging of drains. For almost a year, the drain running parallel to Hema Park was lying clogged, with mud covering most of the drain. As expected, the monsoons created havoc flooding the area and exposing the public to diseases. Mr. Williams actively pursued the matter and got the BMC to clean the drains. Although the BMC recently wrote to Mr. Williams informing him about the completion of de-silting work in Hema Park, Mr. Williams is not satisfied. "One drain is still left as it is. The BMC has sent the letter without inspecting the area."

But this is not all. From time to time Mr. Williams takes up many other issues related to basic civic amenities. For instance, he has, in the past, worked on removing of illegal constructions on footpaths and other structures creating a hurdle for public. Hawkers occupying pavements illegally is another issue taken up by Mr. Williams regularly. Corruption within the BMC and illegal commissioning of civic contracts are also addressed periodically.