Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Ruminations of a young aging mind....

Today's , (Sept 22, 2014 ) Times of  India, highlights an article titled  "Can menopause be erased in 20 years ? "...........

It has been a while since I have crossed the peak and started on the downward descent characterized by a big morcha of cells in my body, marching and/or swimming around (as the case may be) ,   carrying banners saying "Estrogen, Go back!".

 For a long time , it looked like the cells were losing badly.  I suffered immeasurably in the bloody skirmishes. You could call these the First and Second Endometrial Wars of Independence.  Energy loss, anaemia , all coinciding with the busiest part of life as we know it in middle class India.

At some point, the endometrium, like the British, gave up. And I celebrated Independence.  Menopause. 

Which is why, when I read the above article in the newspaper, I gulped.  It was like being colonized once again. 

The article refers to research being done at the SENS (Strategies for Engineered Negligible Senescence) Research Foundation, in Northern California. Senescence is a posh word for Aging. And the work is about finding a gap between when metabolic damage happens in our bodies , and the subsequent permanent pathologies, so that some re-engineering can be done with , say, stem cell therapies .

Stem cells , to put it simply, are "trained" cells, that carry algorhythms for a type of growth. Some offer a wide range of applicability and are called pluripotent stem cells. And some, are special purpose. Like, for example, stem cells, that when injected in a cardiac patient, will help to regenerate the heart muscle, and get things pumping normal once again. 

I do not understand this obsession with aging. 

And the obsession with having a world class uterus, ovary, and tubes like that of your twenties, when you are sixty. I actually know of someone who swore by HRT(hormone replacement therapy) to avoid the perils of menopause, and exulted in  sense of youngness, lesser grey hair et al. True, acquiring a suddenly new set of functioning ovaries, means child bearing then will have no age limit. With your reproductive hormones in full flow, women will presumably age slower.  And with no menopause, women will clearly have the various built in protections  related to cholesterol and osteoporosis and so on.

But I have a question. 

Unlike minds that are obsessed with opposing ageing in an individual, the organs of our body, are part of a set. The members of the set, the various other body organs, are all linked via arteries, veins, nerves, muscles and lymph. Even if you give a new lease of life to the ovaries, and thus the reproductive system, what happens to the rest of the body?  How do aging muscles handle an abnormally young uterus?  How do you handle old blocks in arteries that have built up over the years  and aging walls of the blood vessels? Will this sudden emphasis on one system, get compensated by afflictions to some other part of the body, which is still in original form, and not the new and improved version ? 

Like the human body, we as a society and as a people, have a life span, where we live in interaction with those around us. Sometimes, we are kids, sometimes we are teenagers, , sometimes family people, and sometimes geriatric folks.  Life is all about interacting with those around us, in different roles.  No one really grows up  unconnected. No man is an island.  And it is all about building bridges.  Each stage of life is not always about individual perfection. Roles change and mind set-ups change  with age. Levels of patience change. There is learning. Sometimes fresh and new, and sometimes by doing something again and again.  

How much stem cell therapy can you do ?  It's like, how any parts of a car can you change and replace before you find out that it is cheaper to get a new car ?

And if you really want to rectify non functional, or malfunctioning entities, why not work on things like trying  solution for Down's syndrome, various life threatening allergies, cancers and handicaps ? I understand that extensive research is happening  in stem cell therapies for these afflictions. But using stem cell therapies to abolish menopause sounds a  bit narcissistic.

I sometimes like to think of stem cell therapy as something akin to grafting on a plant. You graft a new variety of something on to a branch of a tree, and at some point, the tree and the graft accept each other's good points, and learn to grow as if they belong.  The tree doesn't make an issue of where the graft came from, and the graft is only too happy to be part of a whole system.

There is much for us to learn from this as humans. We still place great emphasis on "my genes", "my blood", "my complexion",  "my DNA", "my chromosomes" etc , and are , disgustingly  for an evolved being, incapable of handling grafts.

What you really need is some stem cells you can implant in minds.  To clean, educate and improve them....

Minds that have gone haywire, minds that are sick, minds that are violent, rigidly selfish minds and so on.  So that all these can get back on track. 

See , there is nothing cosmetic about it. Throughout life, the mind evolves, by interacting and learning. Your thinking actually decides your age better than your biological age. 

And it wouldn't be terribly wrong to say that Aging, really , is a state of mind.....

Friday, September 19, 2014

Spits and guts

"Mumbai Commuters, if you spit at the station, clean it yourself"   : Railways
So said a headline on September 19, 2014.

Easier said than done. Though this time, the cleaning staff  seems to be a the end of their tether, dealing with people who spit paan, spit and strew garbage all over the place,  asking anyone who objects,  "Kya yeh aapke baap ka hai ?"   .......

Took me back a few years. In fact, decades.

She was in her 70's.  Brought up with solid old world values, in a no nonsense way, she was appointed as one of the trustees of a very large well known temple trust in her hometown. The first woman trustee in its history.  She was known to all the older employees of the various temples, since she had been a devotee for more than 25 years and very regular. Back then , besides coming to worship, she also noted things like deforestation and encroachment on one of the hill temples, and met the concerned folks, got folks to donate trees, and in general was proactive. In a rare acknowledgement by the authorities, she was honored as a trustee in her mid 70's.

A beautiful historical heritage temple complex was renovated and notices about cleanliness put up all over the place.  When she was on her routine visit daily, everyone was on their toes, minding their duties , looking earnest, and so on. And one day, she saw a new young  priest intern, walking out from the sanctum santorum, across the courtyard, with a bucket of stuff. As he walked amidst the visitors, he turned and spat on the floor. And walked away.

She had him called back. Asked him to bring a bucket of water , a mop, soap , and so on.  And in front of everyone,  had him clean up a square metre around the spot.  He was told, that people looked up to him, and he should set an example rather than  flash his special position in such a uncaring manner.  Cleanliness. Godliness. Rules would be followed, if people saw him following them. Else we had no business putting up signs, and fining people and so on.

People watched. 

The lesson was learned. The other employees too learned a valuable lesson. The older employees nodded in approval.    Five years later, after an entire period where she questioned  purchases, and contracts given with an eagle eye, asked inconvenient questions, asked for references of previous work done, from people receiving work contracts,  the usual system kicked in, and she was replaced, by a person, who was actually once blacklisted by her as a vendor.

The system had sunk to its lowest level.  

She is no more, since the beginning of this century.  But many still talk about her and shake their head about what the world has come to.       

The effort of the railways is commendable.  The test will be in the implementation.  We as a country insist on enjoying the benefits because there is an element of "free" in it. We refuse to take responsibility.  What is not ours is open  to abuse.  Ask anyone who told a neighbor on the next seat, not to throw litter out of the bus or train window.  Ask anyone who is occupying 2 seats himself/herself, and is asked to shift.

You can fine people.  But there will be a subset of folks who will pocket them and shut their eyes.  Who will monitor these guys ? Extrapolate the thought and you will conclude that the top most person in authority must be spotless.  For the honesty to trickle down.

In the meanwhile,  at a busstop, I noticed a bike rider, trying to drive between the bus and the busstop, endangering embarking and disembarking passengers.  This is a common occurrence in Mumbai.   When I stopped him, and berated him, he glared through his helmet and asked ,"Kya yeh aapke baap ka rasta hai ?"......

I glared back, and told him, that it was not just my father's road (baap ka rasta), but my road too, since I paid municipal and vehicle taxes.  This was my bus,  my bus passengers. And there was no free-for-all.  As it often happens, the passengers gathered around, there were words. We got into the bus.

I wonder how many such altercations there will be at stations, stairs and escalators, between pan chewers, spitters , and ordinary public , not to mention, those monitoring such things.

I wonder what people think of political leaders who are shown on TV news chewing away to glory while talking unclearly, and someone suddenly rushing with a spitoon to catch the spitten projectile. 

Some will start flinging accusations, there wil be fights, and typicaly, someone will insist on installing CCTV's  on staircases and stations, as is the current fashion.  ( I have often suspected someone close to powers-that-be to be in the CCTV business)

What we need, is an example. Like the priest intern. 

And some fearless person, like the old lady . 

Wait and watch.

Mumbai CommurtersMumbai commuters, if you spit at the station, clean it yourselves: Railways - See more at: http://www.mid-day.com/articles/mumbai-commuters-if-you-spit-at-the-station-clean-it-yourselves-railways/15616166#sthash.ktcXI5jq.dpuf

Sunday, September 07, 2014

"Jumping " to conclusions...

The Information Age, has , as it were, sharpened the eyes, the ears, but numbed the part of the brain that evaluates things. 

The trouble is, having something appear on Page 1 of a national newspaper brings a certain "credibility" to  the news item,   that listening to a friend doesn't bring.  And so, in this age of limitless Fluid Intelligence, we gulp it all down. Without thinking.

And simply rush to a conclusion.  As is "jump". I now know how the phrase "jumping to conclusions " happened.

Today's papers highlight a news item  (" Cancer behind 70% of deaths in India's Atomic Energy Hubs ") ,  about prevalence of cancer as a cause of death in areas where the Department of Atomic Energy has its nuclear set ups. 

At a time when multinationals have been flooding us with items containing carcinogenic ingredients, and the populace is mindlessly lured  into undesirable lifestyles thanks to merciless marketing,  one can expect the above news to be made capital of , by those striving to be noticed.

 A friend, who as a closed community hospital doctor, observed patients  over the last many decades, and the prevalence of certain cancers among her female patients.  She knew many of these people socially.  And she often wondered if their  over usage of, and the proclivity to , using  various insect killing powders, lotions, chemical scrubs, not to mention blatant use of hormones-in-the-quest-for-looking-young-when-you-are-old  etc had a connection.  And did it have anything to do with the particulate matter in the house atmosphere having concentrations  of carcinogenic substances which the skin could absorb ?

Do we see news items  about these ?  No.  (Ha. They advertise in newspapers) 

Then , at a time when GP's are disappearing, and we remain blind to the patient's history, pulse, touch , gait, and  skin etc,  there is so much unnecessary radiation happening due to  overuse of technology like Xrays and scans. Even when MRI's is a safer option.

Do we see news items about these ?  No. Because  we use machines  in an unregulated way.  Sometimes to kill female foetuses.  And regulating the use depends on individual ethics. While rules are followed in the breach.

Olestra is an additive found in so many things like peanut butters, toothpastes, certain popular coffees. This is a fat replacement and causes diarrhoea, sticks to all the vitamins and minerals in your body, flushing them out.  Thereby denying you those, that protect you from things like cancer heart disease an blindness. It even affects your ability to absorb vitamins later on.

Do we see news items  about these ? No. (Ha. They advertise in newspapers)

Colas and Sodas. They contain high fructose corn syrup , which is harmful for teeth. Some even contain calcium carbonate and citric acid ; the citric acid is not of the type you see in fruits. Under heat and light, these substances turn carcinogenic.  And yet, our cricketers fall prey to easy money and endorse these for obscene sums, creating an entire generation of smitten unthinking kids.

Do we see news items about these ? No.  (Ha. They advertise in newspapers)

And then we have the shampoo wars, as if  your life depended upon clean, strong, tangle free, dandruff free, shiny, silky, smooth, colored, unsplit hair, never ever out of place.  Propylene Glycol and Ethylene Glycol are the star players in the carcinogenic stakes. You find them everywhere . Shampoos, cosmetics, hand sanitizers, hair spray, hair color , hair gel, massage oils, deos, baby wipes, even fat free ice cream !  And these 2 contribute to Infertility, Birth Defects, Nerve Degeneration, Heart Problems, Brain, Liver and Kidney Abnormalities, and Metabolic Problems.

Do we see news items about these ? No.  (Ha. They advertise in newspapers)
Go back to today's news item . About Cancer being the cause of death in 70% of deaths in Atomic Energy related areas in India.  
Most of these hubs, are residential campuses that are built around the set ups, with schools, hospitals , and other facilities. Many senior citizens come and live with their children who work there, because it is a peaceful protected life , away from the city hustle and bustle, and sometimes , there are grandchildren. 
We have a Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, that is very strict about safeguards for humans  working inside nuclear installations.  There are rules about protective gear, continuous working in a defined area, mandatory  radiation checks, and so on. These are strictly followed.   
Regarding the news item, is there any clarity about samples surveyed ?  Age brackets surveyed ?  Sample sizes ?  Final cause of death ?  Pre-existing illnesses ?  Hereditary illnesses ?  It is well known that several patients slip into depression for various reasons, which could lead to eventual death.

Unfortunately, in our pursuit of Fluid Intelligence, connecting, downloading, etc, we have learned simply to highlight things, without any supporting research related questions.  Highlighting Atomic Energy and Causes of  Death, is guaranteed to garner eyeballs, in a population that refuses to think and analyse. 
I would love to see  some articles about the carcinogenic ingredients in the  aforementioned, toothpastes, and shampoos, and deos.  
I would love to see an ad where , say, one of our sports icons, comes and says , "Guys , dont drink Cola; its harmful" , and pours it down the drain.   
I would love to see an ad of a  Page 3 type sensibly washing his/her hands with water instead of spraying hand sanitizer. 
I would love to see a baby being wiped with a soft fresh clean washed cotton cloth, instead of a baby-wipe. 

I know this will not happen.  Because , today, businesses run the News business. And advertisers are Gods. 

And it is more important to be seen eating a carcinogenic pseudo fat laden burger, as you smile into the camera displaying Olestra studded teeth, your ethylene glycol-supported makeup, and say, propylene glycol strengthened strands of hair which are so strong, they even shut your eyes to reality. 
On another note, why does this remind me of folks who promise all kinds of things, pull wool over your eyes,  just so you support them ? 
And then you find out that they are no good.