Friday, November 25, 2016

Are humans inherently selfish?

A few months back, a discussion broke out during lunch at work on altruism. Some of my colleagues insisted that humans are inherently selfish and people who engage in altruism are actually doing it not out of some genuine desire to help people who are needy but to make them feel good about themselves. I felt that might be the norm but there are still some people in the world who help out of a genuine desire to benefit those who need it.

When it comes to human behaviour, I believe it is too complex to classify easily, especially by using generalisations.

I have seen a lot of people, especially those who donate to religious causes who insist that their name be displayed prominently among the list of donors because they have donated a larger amount. Some would even decide the amount of money being donated based on how visible the news of the donation is going to be.

Sadly, my religion, Jainism has also become prey to this culture of vulgar displays of generosity. It is more important to many people to be seen doing charity rather than actually being charitable. The sangh and the clergy encourage this as well. It serves their purpose well.

Another fashionable trend that has started is for people to donate in their late parents' memory. The parents' name is displayed rather than their own. It's almost as if people wouldn't get to know who has actually spent the money.

No right thinking individual can condone this kind of conditional charity. It would be interesting to see how things change if for just one year, a decision is taken that all donations would be anonymous.

However, the topic at hand is the more subtle kind of altruism where people don't get the publicity that I have talked about above. They may donate anonymously. My colleagues argue that even this is with a selfish intent of 'feeling good about themselves'.

Even if this is true, I wouldn't mind this kind of 'feeling good'. At the end of the day people can feel good about themselves in whichever way they want to. Some people feel good by spending on themselves, while others may feel good by spending on the needy. At least in the latter, someone who really needed the money or the resources (arguably more than you did) has benefitted.

The point I'm trying to make is that first kind of people (who spend the money on themselves) are more selfish than the second kind (those who spend the money on the needy). And all this is assuming that those who donate are doing it only because they feel good about themselves. As I said before, human emotions are too complex to categorize in this manner and it is difficult to say with any certainty how they play out in the end.

Thursday, November 17, 2016


I awoke this morning at the usual 5 a.m. I gently put my NxStage System One in rinseback mode and then once the blood had made its way back into my body, removed the needles and disposed off all the used up consumables.

It was a cold morning. I was wondering whether I should put on a sweater but then decided against it. I made my way to the kitchen and put the water to boil. I decided to have the Rohini Premium Black Darjeeling this morning. One and a half teaspoons. Five minutes to brew. I chuckled to myself thinking about the irony of having Darjeeling tea in the midst of the Nilgiris! I took my steaming cup and went towards the backyard. I opened the door from my living room and took out my easy chair and placed it on the platform just above the grass. I settled in with my cup. I could see the moist air emanate from my mouth as I breathed out. I could actually feel the sips of tea going down all the way from my tongue through my throat and then right down my gullet, invigorating and warming my entire body. What would I do if there was no tea in my life?

I then did my usual ten-minute meditation routine and then wrote for about an hour. I had started writing this book within a week of moving to Coonoor. In the past three months, I had completed about half the story.

As the sun started rising, I realised I had begun to feel a little hungry. I had some cornflakes and then got ready and went to the community swimming pool. The heated pool in this part of town was absolute bliss. About 40 minutes of swimming and I was feeling so nice. The best part of the pool was a waterfall at one end where you had hot water gushing with force on your head.

I came back home and had a breakfast of Idlis. I then headed to the Coonoor NephroPlus centre. I checked on all the guests who had come in for dialysis, had a Skype call with the centres scheduled for today and then got about my daily emails and other tasks for the day. We were planning to submit four abstracts for the upcoming World Congress of Nephrology and the data was coming along just fine. I caught up with my Hyderabad team on some stuff and then went back home.

Traditional Gujju lunch and a nap later, another cup of Darjeeling black and then back to my book. Fiction gives you so much freedom. You give your characters the traits you want to, no restrictions imposed by actual people! You make things happen. You add a twist where you like to. No constraints! I am excited thinking about what the response would be! Of course, it may turn out to be a dud. But I wouldn't mind. I enjoyed the journey.

By around 6 p.m., I began to feel tired. My mind was exhausted. I munched on some berries. How I loved berries, in all colours and sizes. Not that I needed to watch my potassium since I was on daily dialysis but they did have low potassium. If there was one thing I missed when I was in Hyderabad it was berries. I watched some television. Modi was in the thick of campaigning for the 2019 election. I wondered if he would win. I think he did a good job overall. But was he as good as people thought he would be? That may be up for debate.

A light dinner followed. Some fresh bread with herbs and butter, homemade pizza - only Margherita (toppings were still overrated). I went through my Pocket and Flipboard apps and read some good articles.

I was soon back beside my companion for the night - my faithful NxStage machine. I was so grateful that I had access to this beauty. Just a few years ago, I had honestly no hope of being able to get one. But then suddenly it all changed. Indian health-care became dramatically different. It brought access to the latest and the best. With it, came the little NxStage machine. The lesson for me from all this was - never give up hope.

These thoughts lulled me into deep sleep in a few minutes.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Inflammation, inflammation!

It's been a long time since I blogged! I have been having pain in my left knee from about a month now. It gradually increased over time and about a week back, it became really bad. I could barely walk and when I did, I was in a lot of pain. The pain is worst when I sit for a while and get up and then reduces if I stand for a little while.

I consulted an orthopedician who got some X Rays and then an MRI and said I have some inflammation in that area and some fluid has accumulated and formed what is known, rather colorfully, as a Baker's cyst. When I first heard the term I wondered whether it was related to something that formed in bread when it was baked! Wikipedia put it down, disappointingly, to the cyst that was named after the doctor who discovered it and went by the last name Baker!

I was asked to take an NSAID called Indomethacin. Now, usually NSAID are prohibited in people with kidney disease because they can harm kidney function. But since my kidney function is already at 0, they were okay with me taking it because there was no lower the kidney function could go. Talk about a silver lining!

The drug has made it possible for me to walk, although with a slight limp. The pain has reduced significantly. However, I still have moments, especially when I get up after sitting for a while, when the pain is bad and I need to stand for a minute or so before attempting to walk.

In the recent past, I have had inflammation quite a lot. It was in my wrist at first and the same drug would relieve the symptoms in three days. Now, it's the knee. I wonder why I am so inflamed! I had read that dialysis is a very inflammatory process. So, it must be the long term dialysis.

I do hope I get better in time for my holiday this weekend! So looking forward to it!