Monday, February 20, 2012

Our children - The sad state of what they are growing up with

I wanted to start this post with something as interesting as "This weekend was an eye opener for me". But i don't think so. I think i have been seeing these all around me, but i have just been avoiding seeing them. So in my mind, i divide this post into two - What i saw, and what i think i should do about it.

Section 1: What i saw:

My wife's sister and her two kids ( one aged 10, and the other, half his age ) had come to visit us during this weekend. So Along with McDonald's and Domino's, we also planned some "learning" time in our own Birla Planetarium. ( Oh yes, Namma Chennai has a planetarium, located behind CLRI on Gandhi Mandapam Road ). The first thing that hits you, while you walk are the trees, the vegetation and the serenity of the place. The opportunity to re-explore the wonders of science along with my two eager nephews. Imagine my shock, when i turn the corner into a rusting, broken, dilapidated science center. Here are the highlights:

  • A playing park, conceptualized extremely well, holding play things and toys that explain scientific phenomena, rusted, broken, missing parts, overgrown with weeds, corrugated, and obviously not working at all! - More than that, given the condition, they are a hazard to children's health
  • Huge spacious marble tiled halls, filled with scientific exhibits - that show, hold your breath - a cube replica of a "modern day bedroom" - no i am not kidding - what do you expect kids to learn from showing a model of the new age bedroom and bathroom? There are exhibits of plastic pipes and taps ( the common variety ) that you see in every hardware shop. Why? What imagination do we plan to kindle in a young child's mind with plastic pipes?
  • A 3D show that has an entertaining, Alice in wonderland movie and also a instructional, journey through a human body ( done a la the Inner Space Movie ), but executed, once again in a theater with terrible acoustics, and a voice overlay of heavily American accented English. Right, the children who come there know what is Alice in Wonderland, and can understand the American Accented commentary while they show the human body! :(:(:(
  • Finally, the planetarium experience - Not too shabby, and definitely the best of the experience. At least the show was good, was decently executed, and the voice over was conversational. I think for a child, that would be interesting. I have no gripes there, except for a wish list that they could probably maintain the planetarium theatre well - and make the shows a little bit more fun!
The government officials cannot complain that they do not get visitors. Apart from seeing many honeymoon couples (??!!??) we saw that the place was full of school children. There were at least 6 school buses on Saturday and at least one more school trip on Sunday. Which makes it even more sad and outrageous - here we have a potential to engage and get children interested in studies - there is opportunity, there is place, there is time and there are resources, and we are shamelessly letting all of these pass by. I am not saying that all million children will become eminent scientists inspired by this visit ( maybe they will, who am i to underestimate?) but even if there are 100 children who could potentially have been kindled into this thoughts, we are not able to bring that transformation.

Sad. And terribly disappointing.

Section 2: What can i do about this?

There is a disclaimer as seen in the movies. What you read further can shock, as it shocked me when I realized it. Let me start with an anecdote. Sometime back i was driving through the roads of Kerala with my mother in an air conditioned car. Outside, in the sweltering heat, there were people pulling loaded carts, sweating and straining. My mother looked at them, and mentioned to me painfully " Oh my God, every time i see them, i feel pained - I feel sad, and i feel guilty to ride in this comfort."

I nodded in silent agreement. After few seconds she opened up again" I think i am a hypocrite. One one side, i yearn for such comforts - i want them, and while i enjoy it, i look outside this cooled glass and shower sympathies to the other side of the world. That is not fair or good ( for those who know Malayalam, these are the exact phrase she used " Nalla saamarthyam, enikku" - I am not sure if i can translate this directly into English ). I guess more than the sight of those people leading tough lives, what troubled her was that she, as a person, was not doing anything for them.

I find myself in a similar situation. I feel terribly sad about the condition. In fact, this post is the third time i have ranted about in the last one day. And i know i can do something about this, if i pain myself to change my life. But here i am , going ahead with my life, taking the path of least resistance of commenting about this sad story, clicking my tongue, shaking my head, .. and looking on my android phone for further twitter updates. Shameless! :(

In someways, i feel that this dilapidated condition of the planetarium is just a symptom of a larger issue - Solving this symptom wont cure the disease - but then, at the same time, we can't boil the ocean.

I introspect. I don't think i deserve to ask "What can / should i do?" As an educated person, i know what i should be doing. It's not that i do not know, just that I haven't yet taken that step. I am already feeling very guilty and hopefully, i will take a step. Soon.

Friday, February 17, 2012

"Sound Horn", Please!

While the world spends tons of money for ways to solve problems, we Indians find interestingly simple ways to solve the problems. What, you don't believe me? Let me take something simple and prove that .. "looks around.." ah.. there you go, lets take the poor simple horn fit in the Indian Automobiles .. Cars, trucks.. ah, yes, the same old horn... what could you do with this? Wait till you hear what all we do with it.

In india, the horns have many, many uses:

  1. Remote Garage opener - I have seen many a foreigners having a puzzled look on their face, when in India, they see a car honking at a close gate.  Rarely do they realize that we are using our garage openers. And like a child pressing the button of the remote until the TV starts, our drivers just sit there, continuing to press the horn, until someone comes out to open the door - Even if all it takes for our driver is to get out of the car and walk two steps to open the door, and it takes 5 minutes for the guys inside the house to reach the gate. After all, you have invested so much i this technology, it better work! While the automobile companies in the west invest more and more money in making better garage openers with long range, we simply go ahead and fix ourselves a louder horn. When we want a seamless drive in experience, we just continuously honk right from the turn of the street. Apparently, we have the ability to tune out this incessent noice, if we don't belong to the household of the car owner.
  2. Calling Bell - "No way" you say? Let me invite you to stay with me. I live next door to a family who have school going kids. A Van comes about 7 A M in the morning to transport the kid(s?) to school. I think he has stronger hands than legs - If he doesn't see the kids waiting for the van, the driver, instead of using his legs to run up and ring the calling bells, decides to use his hands to sound horn. If you want to know where the phrase "blowing one's trumpet" originated from, you have to listen to this. Now, here's the weirder part. Somehow most of the parents have taken the horn to be a signal to start feeding breakfast to their kids. I believe they think that it is better to hear the horn rather than the the TV noise. unfortunately, i don't! :(
  3. Blind spot Indicator - While the newer automobiles in the west spend much on ads that tell the drivers "Hey! you don't have to turn around and 'painfully' check your blind spot now - We have neat indicators in the rear view mirrors that indicate ( what else would indicators do? :P ) if another vehicle is in your blind spot", we at India, simply use our horns. That ad campaign i mentioned above will not work in India, because we anyways don't turn to check who's in my blind spot. If you are in my blind spot, you better sound horn! and God forbid, if you do go and have a small "car to car kiss" with someone on your blind spot, you get down and blame the other guy " abey! Why didn't you horn? Careless driver!" 
  4. Traffic Light Indicator - "Now I have gone too far", you say, "how can a car horn replace the traffic lights at the roads and junctions?". Well, then you haven't driven enough in India. When you are on the road, and you see the light ahead of you turning to Red, you simply start honking continuously, telling everyone around " I am coming, i am coming". Somehow it has got into our minds that if we honk continuously at a signal turning red, it will turn back into "Green" for how many ever seconds it takes for us to cross the light / junction. and if by chance, any other driver on the intersecting road didn't notice that, you screech your brakes, take a wide turn to go around this nuisance, roll down your window ( all at once )  and shout at the oncoming driver "Abey, can't you hear my horn?"

Now, you believe me? We use our horns so much, i think we should call ourselves a "Horn"y country. ( No puns intended :P )

Image courtesy: ( If there is a copyright around the image, please do let me know, and i will remove it immediately )

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Failing, and Learning

They say that failure is your biggest teacher. And if you can learn from other's failures, all the more bravo! :)

Two of our IVF cycles have been unsuccessful, and i thought it might be good to write about some cause of IVF failures., ( Like every blogger, i imagine millions and millions of readers, who are simply waiting to read my blog :) ). Sometimes knowing about the reasons for being unsuccessful can help you cope with it better, at least in the case of an IVF. So Here goes.

An oft quoted reason for IVF Implantation Failure owing to poor egg quality. Implantation Failure occurs when pregnancy does not occur, even though fertilized embryos are formed in the test tube. What confuses here is, you would think that once the fertilization occur and embryos are formed, how can quality of eggs be blamed for failure? Here's how it works. You see, the egg performs two functions - first it enables formation of embryo after fusing with the sperm, and once embryo has  been formed, acts as the battery that powers the cell multiplication in the embryo. ( i love this battery analogy :) )  Something has to fuel the cell multiplication within the embryo - the egg is this "something". So if the egg Quality is bad, the egg would run out of battery power even before the cell multiplication within the embryo reaches the critical mass to cause a pregnancy. Imagine a line at which the group of cells in the embryo crosses over to becoming a small living organism. The egg has to provide external power at least till this line, at least. If the battery dies down before this line, well, we go back to square 1.

The easiest way to resolve this would be to undergo medication for making the egg quality better. As with our Dr, i think every Dr would have a standard set of medicines to get this effect. Generally this would take a cycle of 3 months.

Another oft mentioned reason is  "endometriosis" ( am a little lost here :), for generic aspect of this reason. ).  As the Drs say, we cant always pin point the reason, but we could analyze the data to find the most probable cause. Owing to endometriosis, our Dr said that that there was some amount of blood while doing the implantation ( which is a common symptom in endometriosis patients ) - But then, this is not a confirmed Villain. Apparently, endometriosis patients with indication of blood while embryo transfer have also had successful IVF. But it looks a "most probable cause". As the doc says, for a woman, there are only two things that matter for an IVF - The uterus and the egg quality.If the egg is of good quality (which will show up in the growth of the embryo, especially if you do the 5th day transfer) , it might be receptive environment of the uterus and the presence of blood that could cause an IVF failure. "Might have" :)

If Dr quotes this as the reason, the usual way to handle this  would be to give yourself time for couple of months with medically suppressed periods. This would remove this issue of having blood spots during the IVF cycle after this gap.