Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The amount of fluid consumed depends on the type

I have realized over the years that the amount of fluid depends largely on the type of fluid. For example, it is much easier to drink more water than other liquids. When I drink water, it is very easy for me to quickly gulp down a glass of water without feeling satiated.

On the other hand, it is more difficult to drink a glass of cola, for example. Well, I don't really mean difficult. But I feel like I've consumed a whole lot more when I drink a glass of cola than when I drink a glass of water.

Granted that water is good and at times, you really need water and no other liquid will do. Jeet (Kareena Kappor) summarized it well in the film Jab we met: "Paani ka kaam to paani hi karta hain". But for the most part, I feel drinking liquids other than water will cause a net fluid weight gain less than that when you drink only water.

Now, now I can hear Rich Berkowitz wonder aloud about why the #$%& does someone on nocturnal need to worry and analyze fluid restrictions so much. Drink whenever you are thirsty!

Who needs thirst to drink? I, for one, don't! To rephrase a classic Amitabh dialogue, "Kaun kambakht pyaas bujhaane ke liye peeta hai?"As someone put it so eloquently, "Give someone on dialysis the water in all the rivers of the world to drink; at the end of it, he will still want more!"

The whole thing is mental. Psychological, not physiological. Dialyzors don't drink because they're thirsty. They drink because they've been asked not to. I am made that way. I don't know about others. Lift the restriction on fluid intake for me. Within a few days, I will end up consuming less fluid per day than I am doing now!

Coming back to the type of fluid, I find if I drink fluids other than water, even if the amount is the same, I feel like I've had more and feel more satiated when I have had something other than water.

Monday, March 30, 2009

The difference between my old job and new job

Its been about four months since I joined Grene. What a difference this experience has been compared to the years at Effigent!

The last few years at Effigent were completely spent on managing people. I was hands-on for the most part. But the role was primarily managerial. My current role is 100% technical. At Effigent, I would tell my team member, "Insert a thousand records by using an Excel file and macros and then test the app for performance and reliability". At Grene, I have to insert those thousand records by using Excel macros and test the app myself!

These last few months have made me get back in touch with the very low level details of programming I had probably lost touch with over the past few years. I was thinking about application usability, customer satisfaction, requirements collection and streamlining the process. Now its mostly about getting the app to work functionally.

I feel that the thrill of programming is in seeing something you have built work. As a manager, I rarely experienced that thrill. Yes, you manage the project, you manage the people who do the programming, you test the app, but you never feel the ownership of the software that has been built. It is quite second-hand. As a programmer, it feels great to experience that thrill these days.

The environment was also very different. In Effigent, hardly a minute would pass without speaking to someone about something. At Grene, there are hardly any minutes in which I speak to anyone! I am banging away at the keyboard most of the day. I get startled sometimes when I hear my name being called out!

At Effigent, I would be one of the guys patting people on the back for a job well done, encouraging the star performers and boosting morale. At Grene, I am the one who is looking for pats on the back, wants to be encouraged and whose morale needs to be boosted!

The thing I miss the most at Grene is the people. I am mostly alone in my office doing my work. I have coffee alone, lunch alone. At Effigent, it was like one large family. Everything was done with a large number of people. There were people everywhere. At the TT table, at the beer bashes, at lunch, in the lift, even in the loo!

Gosh, it is really different!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

In search of the perfect Ugadi pachadi

Inspite of staying in Hyderabad all my life, I was introduced to the Ugadi pachadi only about a year back. Now I am a big fan!

The significance of Ugadi pachadi is that it has six different flavors - shadruchulu - reflecting the different flavors of life itself - sweet, sour, bitter, astringent, salty and spicy. The Ugadi pachadi has an ingredient that adds each of these flavors - jaggery, raw mango, neem flowers, tamarind, salt and red chilli powder. Coconut and bananas are often added as garnishing.

The method of making the pachadi along with the additional ingredients depend on the part of Andhra Pradesh you are from. People from Telangana, I am told, make the pachadi more watery - almost like a juice. People from Rayalaseema and Coastal Andhra make it more like a paste. For the record, I like the watery version (I'm on dialysis, remember?!).

The beauty of the pachadi comes from the different tastes. The combination of all the six flavors is what is unique about it. A tinge of bitter, a tinge of spice may cause a few raised eyebrows but it is to be experienced to be believed!

I have had the pachadi prepared by many different people inspite of having it only on two Ugadis. It is rarely available in shops. Some restaurants do make it on Ugadi day. The best is definitely one made at a Telugu household using a recipe that has been handed down from generations. The key is in the proportion of the ingredients.

Ugadi and its pachadi mark the arrival of summer when the Indian markets are flooded with raw mangoes. Ugadi is the Telugu new year day. The same day also happens to be the Kannadiga and the Maharashtrian new year day too - although with different names.

Traditionally, astrologers predict what's in store for all of us on this day. Usually a mix of bitter and sweet - just like the flavors of the Ugadi pachadi!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Everything you wanted to know about Aarogyasri but did not know who to ask

I have been a big fan of the Rajiv Aarogyasri program started by the Government of Andhra Pradesh in 2007. It basically provides free medical care to people below the poverty line (defined as people who have below a certain annual income).

I recently stumbled upon the Aarogyasri website. In case you're wondering why I did not happen to see this earlier, I was using the wrong spelling - Arogyasree as against Aarogyasri!

Those who want information about this scheme - what is covered, the procedure to utilize the service, the hospitals that are attached - should definitely visit this site.

To summarize this program, the government has tied up with an insurance company, Star Health and Allied Insurance Company and many corporate hospitals for providing medical care which includes major surgeries and other medical treatment including dialysis.

This goes a long way in showing what a little creative thought and innovation can do. The population is huge in India. But if the government of Andhra Pradesh could do it for this state, it should definitely be within the realm of possibility to extend this across the country - maybe in phases.

Dr. Rajashekhar Reddy should impress upon the powers-that-be within the Congress party the beauty of this scheme. The number of lives saved can be amazing.

There are allegations of corruption as usual. Which government scheme does not have problems of corruption? But in the process, the poor are really benefiting. There is no question about that.

Friday, March 27, 2009

"Wanted 2-3 years experience on iPhone development"

I have my profile on a couple of job sites. I have not had a chance to remove them in spite of landing a job. Because of this, I keep getting emails from different companies and recruiters giving the job description and asking me to send them my updated resume.

I delete most of them as soon as I see them.

A few however caught my eye. They asked for "2 to 3 years of hands-on experience on iPhone application development". They will never find anyone!

That's because the iPhone SDK was released in February 2008. Anybody who has done any iPhone application development has done it only after then! So, nobody can have more than about a year of hands-on experience on iPhone application development.

Some managers and folks in HR and recruiting have obviously not been doing their homework.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Disruption in normal life

No, not because of Chiranjeevi's rally. But my health. I've had a pretty bad last few weeks. First it was a tooth in my upper right jaw. An X ray revealed a little bone loss which is probably a long term side effect of kidney disease. This had got a little infected. The dentist said he must clean it up and hoped that would sort it out. He asked me to take some antibiotics before I came to him.

I did not get a chance to do this. I had a bout of diarrhea followed by a bad case of hemorrhoids and a fissure. The pain is quite unbearable. I have tried different doctors and their suggested antibiotics/analgesics/ointments. To no avail.

All this has disrupted my regular routine entirely. I haven't gone swimming for two weeks now. Not been to the temple either. And worst of all - I haven't been able to go to Poorna Tiffins for my Sunday morning rendezvous with Idlis for three weeks now!

I am visiting a surgeon tomorrow to see what needs to be done. Let's hope the surgeon is able to give me a solution. At this stage I don't even mind surgery if it can relieve the pain. Its that bad.

In the meantime, blogging is probably not going to be regular. Bear with me!

Friday, March 20, 2009

A safe analgesic, anyone?

Its about 10 days since my fissure began to bother me again. This time the pain was much more severe than the episode in December last year. I actually had to take two days off from work - a first!

I have been taking a cocktail of analgesics, each having its own set of side effects and potential risks. I was prescribed Myospaz Forte to start with which had 500 mg of Paracetamol and 50 mg of Diclofenac Potassium apart from something else. This relieved the pain to some extent but it was unsafe for folks on dialysis. Sure enough I would feel some congestion in my chest within a few hours of taking it. It was ok if I took the tablet just before my night long session of dialysis. That way the pain would be relieved and the drug wouldn't accumulate in my blood too.

The drug that really worked well for me was called Sumo. And it was really as effective as a Sumo wrestler in beating the pain. Problem - it had 100 mg of Nimesulide - banned in some countries today due to the harmful effects on the liver. I have taken 3 tablets in the last 10 days. Which I am told is ok.

The drug they say is safe for me is Proxyvon which has 100 mg of Propoxyphene Napsylate and 400 mg of Acetaminophen (which I think is the same as paracetamol). This sadly, gives a little relief at best and only for a few hours.

I have also been advised to take a tablet called - hold your breath - "Thank God" which has Euphorbia Prostrata Dry Extract Ethanolic (no idea what this is!) and is supposed to clear any congestion. I asked the doctor why it was named like that. He replied, "Because after people take this drug, they exclaim, 'Thank God!'".

Well, I took it and could only manage a "Why me, God?"

More than 10 days into the pain, I am still looking for something effective and safe till "the fissure heals on its own".

Why, oh why can't medicine have a simple pain killer which you could take any amount of without any side effects?

Seriously, is that too much to ask for? Is it really that big a deal?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

In search of the perfect Meetha Paan

What better way to end a heavy meal than with a Meetha Paan?

A Paan is a betel leaf stuffed with a number of things depending on which version you like. The primary ingredients however are gulkand (a jam made up of rose petals and sugar), chuna (lime paste) and katha (catechu). Other things that are added include saunf, desiccated coconut, tutty fruity, some cardamom and clove. Supari (areca nut) is another key ingredient. However, I generally avoid the supari.

The gulkand is the main ingredient of a meetha paan. This is what gives it its sweet flavor. The Charak stores in Mumbai have really good gulkand. It is supposed to be very good for health too. Of course, that's not the reason we eat the paan!

There are three types of Betel leaves that can be used - the Kalkatta, the Banarasi, the Maggai. The Kalkatta is the most sought after. The Banarasi was of course, made very famous by Amitabh Bachchan in the movie Don with the song "Khaike paan Banaraswaala"! Depending on the stuffing inside a paan, it is called a Sada, Meetha, Rampyari, Tambaku etc. So, you have the various combinations - Kalkatta Meetha, Banarasi Rampyari etc.

There are tons of people in India and other countries who swear by their paan. They absolutely have to have their particular variety after every meal. For me, it is not a habit but something I indulge in once in a while. A treat.

A paan should be had freshly made. Nowadays, many paan shops make the paan and store it in the refrigerator. This robs the paan of its unique natural flavors.

In Hyderabad, there are many places that make great paans. My favorite is the paan shop near the Nehru statue close to the Ramakrishna cinemas. I don't even know the name. Paan shops usually have no name! These guys make the paan fresh. They use great gulkand and it is not cloyingly sweet.

In Mumbai, there is a very famous paan shop called Muchchad's paan shop. The name comes from the owner of the shop who sports a huge mustache! His paan is so famous that he has a website for his paan shop. You can place orders for paan online. The prices are in dollars. Delivery is only in Mumbai! Now, that's a first!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Bloody air bubbles

Well, literally!

Day before yesterday was Monday. On Mondays, I like to get onto dialysis early so that there is enough time to pull off the excess fluid that I have had on Sunday (I do not dialyze on Sundays). So, I got home, quickly had my dinner and started setting up the machine. I did not want to wait for the tech because he would come late anyway.

Everything went off well. Preparing the bicarbonate solution, priming a new dialyser (artificial kidney) and a tubing set. I then cannulated and connected myself and started the blood flow. In the last stage of the starting process, however, the Air Bubble Detector alarm went off. I tried the usual "Reset" button. To no avail. It kept going off no matter what I did.

I noticed that a large number of air bubbles had accumulated on both the ends of the dialyser. I was surprised. When I had finished priming, I had checked both the ends and there was no air bubble. How then did they get there?

Air bubbles are a serious issue in dialysis. The air should not get in to the blood that is going back into the body after passing through the dialyser. It can cause a potentially life threatening condition called Air Embolism. Dialysis machines are designed to detect any air in the blood usually by means of a sensor that is placed a little before the blood makes its way back to the body after passing through the dialyser. If any air is detected, the machine stops the blood from going back.

So, here I was, blood already out of my body and air bubbles gathered in the dialyser, not knowing what to do. Training! That's why training formally is so important. To be able to handle situations like these. I shouted out to my brother and asked him to dial the tech from my cell phone and put him on speaker. I explained what was happening. He asked me to try a couple of things. Didn't help. He said he would immediately come home.

The next 15 odd minutes were excruciating.

The blood was out of my body. I watched helplessly as the blood lay motionless in the tubes on the machine. I started wondering if all this was worth it. Whether I should ALWAYS wait for the tech to start dialysis and not do it myself. These things were rare. I had started dialysis myself many, many times and nothing had ever happened. But when something like this happens, you really feel scared. The whole process of hemodialysis is so violent with blood outside the body.

The tech came and immediately hit the dialyser against his hand repeatedly to make sure the bubbles came out of the dialyser and into the venous chamber. He went into priming mode for a few minutes while he did this. Within a few minutes, all the air bubbles were out of the dialyser and the session proceeded normally.

I am at a loss as to what to make of this. Should I aim for more independence by starting dialysis myself? Or should I not take any chances? What was the worst that could have happened? Is the independence worth the risk?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Every Other Day Dialysis Petition

In many countries including the US, most people dialyze on Monday-Wednesday-Fridays or Tuesday-Thursday-Saturdays. This leads to a two day gap on the weekends. The first group gets no dialysis on Saturday and Sunday while the second gets no dialysis on Sunday and Monday.

Studies have shown that dialysis patients have a much higher risk of death during this two day gap. This is because the toxins and fluid in the body build up to unsafe levels.

In India, the situation is much worse. Many people dialyse similar to the schedule I described but there are tons of people who dialyse only twice a week. So, they typically get two and three days off between sessions. In India, as I keep emphasizing the situation is bad because most people pay for their own dialysis and as dialysis being expensive, they try to make do with less dialysis.

However, in the US, most people are covered atleast to some extent. So, they have to bear only a part of the cost of dialysis or usually none. This coverage is only for the thrice a week regimen.

There is a petition being signed by many people to change coverage in the US to every other day dialysis. So, what they're rooting for is coverage for a Monday-Wednesday-Friday-Sunday-Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday schedule. This will eliminate the 'killer weekend'. This petition must be supported by all - whether or not they are on dialysis. This will save many lives.

Every signature counts. Please sign the petition here. Even if you are in no way connected to kidney disease, please do it. You are my friend if you are reading this blog. I have CKD. So, do it for me!

Friday, March 13, 2009

The terror of the third front

It has become a joke by now. Every five years, a few months before the elections, the third front is formed. A motley group of political parties come together purportedly with the motive of presenting the electorate with a credible alternative to the two main political parties, the Congress and the BJP.

This time, the possibility of neither of the two main parties getting a majority is very high. This will throw up some very dangerous possibilities. One of the main parties supporting a government led by the Third Front is very much in the realm of possibility. This means that the Prime Minister could well be one among the umpteen aspirants from this Third Front.

Just thinking of someone like Mayawati becoming the Prime Minister sends shivers down my spine. And this kind of government is a recipe for disaster. With each party having its own agenda, the government will be pulled in different directions. Each leader will demand his pound of flesh.

We have seen the Left literally making the Congress government dance to its tunes for a while before Manmohan Singh asked them to take a walk. But not before long, the Samajwadi Party took the Left's place. And this, with the Congress having a large number of seats in the Lok Sabha. Imagine the pressure on the government when the Prime Minister's party has much fewer seats.

In the circumstances, it would be prudent to ensure that one of the two major parties wins a decisive victory in the elections. It appears that the Congress has a slight edge at the moment. I was a staunch Congress supporter until Sitaram Kesri took over as Congress president. At that point of time, I switched over to the BJP. I have been neutral from when the BJP started opposing the nuclear deal. I need to go one way or the other now.

I think the Congress has done fairly well at the center in the past five years. Manmohan Singh is a better bet than Advani. Advani's age is a major put-off. Manmohan Singh was quite decisive in managing the nuclear deal in the end. However, Sonia Gandhi remains a major negative in the Congress for me. I have no problem with Rahul Gandhi taking over from Manmohan after a few years. Dynastic politics is here to stay.

So, here it is - Vote Congress!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

World Kidney Day

Tomorrow, the 12th of March is World Kidney Day.

The Times of India had an article about what nephrologists are planning. As usual, the emphasis is on organ donation. Which is definitely not a bad thing. But two other things need increased focus.

One is the increasing number of people getting kidney disease. How does someone prevent kidney disease? What diabetics and people with hypertension, the highest risk groups for kidney disease should do to prevent getting kidney disease? The number of young people I see in dialysis units today is really alarming. It is clear that the number of people with CKD is increasing and that the average age of the CKD patient is falling. This needs to be addressed really soon.

The other thing that needs focus is the treatment modality. Dr. Peter Laird in an excellent post questions the designation of the transplant as the primary treatment modality in treatment of CKD.

A transplant is touted as the light at the end of the tunnel for a person with renal failure. It is packaged as the ultimate solution for all problems related to renal failure. The goal for everyone on dialysis seems to be a transplant. This is really not right.

A transplant is accompanied by so many complications and risks. I have seen people doing extremely well on dialysis (and I am not even referring to daily) go in for a transplant and then die. The issues are too complex and not understood enough. The number of parameters to monitor, what to do in case everything does not go on expected lines, dealing with the large number of possibilities, zeroing in on the right combination and dosage of drugs - there is no consensus or procedure to follow.

On the other hand, a convenient and suitable dialysis modality may be much, much better. There is no daily tension of watching what you eat and drink. None of the nervousness that follows anything even slightly out of the ordinary - a fever or a cough perhaps. Is my kidney being rejected? Not having to deal with this question every living moment of life.

I am not saying nobody should get a transplant. By all means, increase awareness about organ donation. Encourage transplants. But do not forget about better dialysis. Encourage people to try home dialysis if they are suitable. They might decide that they do not want a transplant.

I did.

Monday, March 9, 2009

A day off from dialysis

Most (all?) people on daily dialysis, whether the short version or the nocturnal version take a day off from dialysis during the week. There is no medical basis for this. Kidneys don't take a day off so theoretically there shouldn't be a day off for dialysis too!

For some reason, however, we all take a day off.

When I started doing daily dialysis, I took Sundays off because well, everyone else on the internet I knew was doing the same! When I did not dialyze on Sundays, I slept better. I've never had serious problems sleeping on dialysis but the sleep on Sundays, not hooked to the dialysis machine were really 'sound', if you know what I mean. For example, I would go into deep dreams only on Sunday nights.

Over the last two and a half years of being on nocturnal, I have mixed feelings about taking Sundays off. On the one hand, I feel a little relieved that I don't have to suffer the needles and the associated pain (yes, I use buttonholes - two pairs, if you will and no, it is NOT painless). On the other hand, I don't like the feeling of having extra fluid on me. There is a little discomfort in my chest by mid-day Monday.

One reason for this fluid build up is that I have a holiday at work on Sundays and due to this I have more spare time. So, I end up drinking more fluid. When I'm at work during the week, on the other hand, I am so absorbed in my work that I don't drink that much.

Also, on Sundays, I usually go for a movie followed by dinner out with my family or friends and tend to go overboard at times drinking a cola or some mocktail.

I've been thinking lately of changing my day off to a weekday and dialyze on Sundays. This will remove both the factors that contribute to my fluid weight gain and the subsequent discomfort. I will be at work and hence drink less and I will also not usually go out to eat and will again, well, drink less.

One advantage of learning the ropes of starting treatments is that I can start on Sundays without worrying about whether my tech will agree to come on Sundays. I can start off myself, get him to come on Monday morning to close and give him a weekday off.

Should work out, I think. Let's see how fast I can put this plan into action.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Today is Filmfare awards night!

Well.... not quite. The Indian Oscars, as they're called have already been given away for this year. A week back. Today is only the television telecast. I wonder why they did this. The entire joy of watching the best in mainstream Indian cinema has been reduced.

Filmfare awards are easily the most prestigious awards in the Indian film industry. The rest are usually poor me-toos. In fact, I was shocked at some of the recipients of awards given by Stardust and others. If a movie like Singh is King can win the award for Best Film, God save us all! The best music award went to Drona! Drona? Has anybody even heard about that film?

Year after year, I have been an avid follower of the Filmfare awards. They did not come without controversies. I loved every bit of them!

They used to telecast it live for a few years. Then they switched to deferred telecasts which meant that we would watch a version that was delayed by about half an hour. This would give some time for editing, I presume. I really have no idea why they did away with these formats altogether.

Anyway, I'm going to pretend that I do not know who the winners are! So, will Ghajini walk away with the Best Film or will it be Jodha Akbar? Or will Rock On prove to be the winner? SRK has no hope in hell for Best Actor this year. Its going to be between Amitabh Bachchan for Last Lear and Hrithik for Jodha Akbar. For Best Music, I think Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy are going to win unless the jury decide to give A R Rahman the award for Jodha Akbar.

The awards start in less than a couple of hours from now. I am all excited!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

In search of the perfect Chocolate Fudge

I was introduced to this heavenly concoction by my mother when we were kids. She would suddenly announce one evening that she was making Chocolate fudge and my brother, Prasan and I (we were only two brothers at that time, the monster was born later) would wait eagerly till my mother would patiently mix the ingredients, cook them and then roll the resultant mixture into eclair-shaped balls which we would gobble up in sheer delight!

For those who aren't familiar with the Chocolate Fudge (are there any?), it is a chocolate based dessert made out of milk, sugar and nuts.

I have had fudge made by different people in different styles. Some people make it smooth and dry. Some people make it coarse and wet. I like the coarse and wet version.

The best chocolate fudge I have ever had is the Chocolate Walnut Fudge from Cooper's in Lonavla, a hill station in Maharashtra, probably a three-hour drive from Mumbai. I was at my aunt's house in Mumbai, one summer, many years back. Some relatives were driving down to Mumbai from down south. They had to cross Lonavla and on the way, picked up a whole lot of Chocolate Walnut Fudge from Cooper's.

They had been fans of this fudge for a long time. I was tasting it for the first time. I took a piece. Gosh! this was heavenly. I was wondering why they had brought so many boxes. Now, I understood. By the end of the day, the entire fudge was devoured by my cousins and me!

The only problem was that this place was not close by, by any means. A three hour drive from Mumbai!

After a couple of years, I had gone to Mumbai for some work. My uncle loves driving. And I love the fudge. So, both of us conspired and took a couple of others and headed out for Lonavla! We reached Lonavla early afternoon and headed straight to Cooper's near the Lonavla railway station. We were aghast when we saw that the shop was closed!

My mind ran amok. Had they shut down forever? Oh, I wished more people knew about this place and the great fudge they made. Then they would have done well and wouldn't have closed down. What a loss for mankind! When shall anyone make such fudge again?

A passerby came to mankind's rescue. "Teen baje khulega". ("They will open at 3 p.m."). Thank god, I shouted aloud! The owners, a Parsi family led quite a relaxed life. They opened at 10 in the morning, closed at 12, went home for a siesta and came back at 3 to wind up for the day at 5. It all fell in place. Only these kind of people can make such good stuff. The ones who like the good life. Those who are not in a rat race and trying to outdo everybody.

The striking thing about Cooper's is that they only sell from their shop. They have no branches. They do not sell to any agents or salesmen. You wanted Cooper's fudge, you had to go right to their small little store opposite the Lonavla railway station.

Lonavla is well-known for chikki. Maganlals makes very good chikki. Trying to ride on the success of Cooper's fudge, they started making fudge too. It isn't half as good. Compare "Maganlal's Chocolate Walnut Fudge" with "Cooper's Chocolate Walnut Fudge". Doesn't even sound as good!

The taste, the name of the maker, the place it is located, everything is perfect. Chocolate Walnut Fudge from Cooper's in Lonavla. Ha, everything about it is perfect!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Holier than thou Radio Jockeys

Over the last few years, Hyderabad, as indeed many other cities in India has seen many Radio stations pop up. For many, many years, we had the good old Vividh Bharati with its standard fare. News, old Hindi film songs and staid Radio Jockeys (RJs). Heck, they didn't even call themselves Radio Jockeys!

Radio Jockeys sounds quite hep, right? How could Vividh Bharati have anything hep?

That has changed over the last few years. We now have a surfeit of radio stations. Radio City (I wonder who thought up their new tag line - Whatte fun?), Mirchi, Big, Rainbow FM etc. etc. Each station has its own set of RJs. In fact, some of them have become quite popular.

RJs are the life of the radio station. They are the ones who hold the show together. A good RJ can have you hooked. I was really fond of some of the RJs on Radio City until they went in for a makeover a few months back.

One problem I have with some of the RJs, however is the way they preach.

Just yesterday, I tuned in to a channel on the way to work in the morning. There was this lady anchoring a particular show. Suddenly she started off on a sermon. Wear your helmet while driving, don't talk on the cell phone, students study well for your exams, she went on and on. And her language wasn't that good either. It was as if she'd been instructed by her boss to do this mandatory 'social message' kind of thing. No genuineness at all.

I agree that radio is a good medium to spread such messages and serve maybe as reminders for things like avoiding using cell phones while driving. But please, do it in style. Not just ramble away. And do you really think students are going to study well after listening to your message on the radio? What were they doing listening to your show in the first place?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Commisions in the medical industry - an axis of evil

In the Indian medical industry, there is an open secret. A part of almost everything that a patient pays goes to the person who has prescribed it.

Companies give commissions to doctors for promoting their products. This raises some serious questions. This kind of financial incentive to prescribe one product over another is very disturbing. The sole reason for choosing one product over another should be the efficacy of the product. Nothing else. The moment you bring in a financial incentive into the equation, you are compromising the patient. You are bringing in an incentive for the doctor to suggest an inferior product.

Doctors working in hospitals are given a commission on the tests they get the patients to undergo. Very often patients are asked to undergo expensive tests which are unnecessary. The hospital benefits because they make a huge profit on the test. The doctors benefit because they get a cut.

Who loses? Only the patient.

The MRP or the Maximum Retail Price of most medical products is greater than 100% more than the price at which it leaves the manufacturer. This huge differences is split eventually between the various players in between the manufacturer and the consumer.

I have first hand experience of this practice. Apart from the extra money I have shelled out throughout my condition, I can never forget an incident that involved a nephrologist. At that time, I was on Peritoneal Dialysis. I was evaluating PD cyclers. I was on CAPD using Baxter fluid bags. I was very happy with Baxter and was inclined to buy their cycler too.

However, my nephrologist suggested that I buy another company's cycler. This company was relatively new to PD. Also, their cycler did not have a facility to adjust the volume of exchanges. You could only do 2 liter exchanges. I tried arguing with the neph. He wouldn't listen.

I was firm however. I changed my neph!

Later, I found out the reason behind his insistence on not using Baxter's cycler. Apparently, he had wanted to attend some nephrology conference outside India and asked Baxter to sponsor his trip. Baxter refused due to some reason. That was it. He stopped promoting Baxter.

These are the kinds of things that happen when you bring in commercial aspects in the treatment equation.

Patients suffer in every way. Not only could they end up using inferior products but they also end up paying a lot more than they need to. It is an evil axis between medical companies, doctors, technicians and hospitals.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Defacing the city prior to political rallies

Apart from the chaos on the roads and the extreme inconvenience that is caused to common people like you and me, political parties have this disgusting habit of defacing the entire city prior to a rally. Sample these walls in my area:

These walls will stay like this for months. Nobody will clear them. This morning as I drove down to Poorna Tiffins for my weekly rendezvous with Idlis I was dismayed at the amount of disfiguration the city had gone through due to one rally. Ugly posters all over. Party flags strewn all over the roads.

I read in the newspaper yesterday about a question put to the Civic Administration, the GHMC about this very issue. The Commisioner replied that they would investigate who was responsible for this and would take action against the individuals.

Who is responsible for this? Isn't it obvious? Does one need an investigation to figure out who disfigured the city during a Congress rally? And they will take action against the people who were responsible? Is the commisioner going to pull up the Chief Minister for this?

Again, don't take this as Congress bashing. The rest of the parties are equally guilty. The TDP, the BJP, every single party.

The political class of this country has a lot of answering to do. The trouble is, who is going to ask the questions?

Pointless political rallies

I had booked tickets to catch 'Valkyrie' at the Prasads multiplex yesterday with a few friends. I was really looking forward to the movie. I had some office work to finish in the morning. I wound that up early, got back home and took a short nap. I was planning to leave in an hour.

Suddenly, I got an email from the booking website that the movie was canceled because Sonia Gandhi was visiting a place close to the multiplex because of which all roads leading to the multiplex were blocked. I was appalled!

After visiting the area, she was scheduled to address a public meeting at the Parade Grounds in Secunderabad, a stone's throw away from my house. The familiar routine was played out. Trucks full of people were transported from the villages around the city to the venue, probably lured with a meal and some money. In this process, normal life around the venue was thrown totally out of gear. Traffic came to a grinding halt on the roads leading to the city.

And what if I had not accessed my email around that time. I would have struggled to make my way to the multiplex only to realize that the show had been canceled. I'm sure there were many people who went through this.

The people who were brought in hordes to the city for the meeting had nothing to do with the Congress party which organized the meeting. By making them attend these meetings, the party cannot even be assured of getting their vote during the elections. And every political party is guilty of the same crimes. It is not only the Congress party. People like Sonia Gandhi and L. K. Advani do not even speak in the only tongue understood by the people that attend the rallies.

What, then, is the point of holding these rallies?

A show of strength? An opportunity for sycophants to show their loyalty to their political masters? An ego-boost for the leaders themselves?

It cannot be votes, definitely. These kinds of rallies can never ensure votes. If you spend the same amount of money and give them a meal and the money while letting them enjoy the Saturday evening in the confines of their homes, they will probably more likely vote for you. That way, you would save on the transportation costs!

It really beats me. What is the point?