Bombay Blasts

Posted August 26th, 2003 by Deepa and filed in Personal
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The two blasts that rocked Bombay yesterday brought back the memories of the earlier series of blasts in March ’93. Bombay was just recovering from the horror of the riots that took place in January 1993. Schools had been closed for over two weeks during the riots and after two months people were just getting over the riots and its terror . Parents had just about stopped escorting their children to school. (As 10th standard students we were spared the indignity of parents having to drop us to school every day !)

It was during our SSC exam that the bomb blasts happened. I had just come home after the day’s exam and was having a well-deserved glass of “nimbu pani” from my mother, who was on leave to “help” me cope with the stress of exams. In other words, my mother, ever the opportunist, made my exams an ideal excuse for bunking office. It was at that time when we heard a loud blast. There didn’t seem to be any reason for firecrackers at that point of time, so we were not sure what to make of that blast. Reports soon poured in via the phone and TV that there had been a series of blasts at different points in Bombay within a short time. Rumors were rampant….we heard stories of regular workers at the stock exchange, who stepped out for some reason and thus were fortunate to escape being killed and others who were at the site of the blasts by accident or on a rare visit were killed or injured and yet others who by a quirk of fate missed one blast but was killed in another location. Tension was in the air, the riots were just over and everybody feared another possible breakout of communal violence. Of course at that point of time,I was equally worried about my next day’s exam. I was disgusted when my geography exam was postponed to the end eventually extending my exams by one more day.

But those blasts changed the attitude of the average Bombayite ( it was Bombayite then and not Mumbaikar!!) ..if only for a short while. Of course the change was not a drastic one and it was not even a very obvious change but you knew that behind the “bindaas” attitude that everyone sported, people were worried. The media for once did a good job of boosting the morale of the people. There were hoardings all over the city describing how the blood banks were full about an hour after the accident and how several Hindus helped Muslims and vice versa. Next day, the news showed clippings of the local trains which were as packed with people as before as Bombayites got back to their regular routines snubbing the terrorists in their attempt to disrupt their existence. There were spot interviews of some random people in the crowd who declared that they will not allow any such incident to upset their lives…We were all proud Bombayites then,,,scared , worried but proud!!

Everybody was a bit wary, those days after the blast. In the ladies compartment in the train, women smiled awkwardly at each other before peeking below their seats. At railway stations public announcements warned the people against any unattended objects or suspicious person. Buses were stopped mid route when people discovered a small box or parcel accidentally left by previous passengers. I remember my friend Priyanka unknowingly dropping a packet ( it contained Veg Manchurian ) at Bombay central station and then to our amazement finding it there ( on the platform steps) when we retraced our paths 15 minutes later. Inspite of the crowd ,nobody had even touched or stamped the bag.

Slowly things reverted back to the old state. People stopped checking below their seats, unfamiliar objects were bypassed calmly without calling the cops, petty thieves even dared to pick some of them up…. The bandhs stopped, politicians found new issues to blame Pakistan and the opposition. The terror and worry seemed a thing of the past

And now it seems like it is a repeat performance of the whole scenario…Several killed, and still more injured. Political parties do what they are best in doing : blame everyone else. A few weeks later all this will settle down. Headlines will be dominated by some other news . People in Bombay will get back to their busy lives , will still hail a cab without thinking of this incident and will still take their evening walk near the Gateway of India.
As they say….this too shall pass.

Books :

Standing in the Rainbow by Fannie Flagg : Life in a small town in middle America, with all its quirky residents and their everyday troubles and happiness . The book deals from 1946 to present . All her characters are distinct and interesting and the book itself is a happy book that makes you smile as you read thru and leaves you feeling happy and cheerful and as Fannie Flagg would say with a smile in your voice!

The Bridegroom by Ha jin : Short stories, based on Chinese people in China. Most of the stories have very predictable endings but each of them are very different from each other. It was interesting to note that most of the prejudices, and the so called traditional values were so similar between India and China.


Prem Deewane : I loved the movie when I saw it the first time. I always wanted to see it later to see whether I would find it equally good years later. And yes I still was laughing at the antics of “college ke Laila –Majnu” . The flashback was a bit irritating and but If you want mindless funny entertainment I recommend this movie.

Teen Deewarein : Great movie and amazing performances. Juhi Chawla and Naseer were wonderful but Nagesh Kukoneer matches their performance with his role as a middle class Hyderabadi accountant. I especially noted his accent that seemed to be quite authentic and without the Amru accent which was evident in Hyderabad blues and to an extent even in Rockford. Each of the three prisoners had different characters and what is more maintained their characters throughout the movie.
But regarding the story and especially the climax , it seemed very familiar…as though I have read a similar story somewhere else. Anybody have any ideas?

Independence Day

Posted August 15th, 2003 by Deepa and filed in Personal
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As a school kids Independence Day meant flag hoisting, a half-day at school and distribution of sweets. Attendance in school was compulsory, we would be warned previously and absentees always had a tough time the next day. We would watch the tricolor being hoisted, listen to a few speeches, sing a few patriotic songs and proudly pin a miniature paper flag onto our uniforms. After this brief ceremony we would rush home and attend a replay of the previous proceedings but with a different cast. We would sing the songs with the same gusto, applaud the speeches and stand solemnly during the flag hoisting as before. Freedom and freedom struggle was an abstract topic. I could probably reel of the names of the national leaders and may be even their birth-dates and death anniversaries but it was something that happened a long long time back.

By the time I reached high school, the enthusiasm waned. Attendance in school was still compulsory so we used to be present at the flag hoisting ceremony. However we stopped attending the “Swatantra divas samarambh” at the colony, preferring to go home and enjoy the rest of the day. I became aware of the distinction between the freedom fighters and the politicians. I realized that the leaders of the country are not automatically the greatest people in the country.

After I reached junior college I have not attended a single flag hoisting ceremony. Independence day became truly a holiday. It meant watching the Independence day parade relayed live from Delhi on the television and marveling at the different floats and feel proud of all the soldiers in their different colored uniforms marching in rhythm.. By this time I had understood that freedom struggle and independence was not something that happened long long ago but in fact just a few decades back. And that freedom struggle was not just one big glorious sacrifice but a long relentless fight spanning centuries with several moments of frustration, pain, anguish and hunger and deprivation.

By the time I reached engineering school, I stopped watching television too. Those few hours of staying in bed late seemed too much of a luxury to be sacrificed for watching TV. Instead I would wake up late to the sound of the loudspeakers in the colony blaring patriotic songs in both Hindi and Marathi. It was the time I realized that patriotism was not such something you unfurl on Independence Day and those days when India plays Pakistan in cricket but something one should practice daily.

Over the years the less I celebrate Independence day in a conventional manner, the more I realize the wonder of having a civilization that goes back 5000 years and more, of a country that has such a variety of culture and a freedom struggle and freedom fighters whom I truly admire and whose sacrifices awe me. I have forgotten the dates when Pandit Nehru died or when the Tilak was born or the day when Quit India movement started. But now I am aware of Nehru;s idealogies, Tagore’s works and Gandhiji’s views. I claim to understand and appreciate Indian history a little better than when i remembered all the dates and could spout the 10 reasons why the Irwin Pact was signed.

Books :

Minority Report and Other Stories by Philip Dick. Very interesting short stories..Science fiction is a genre I have not explored much and I am enjoying ever bit of Dicks works!
The Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri: .A very nice collection of short stories. Simple and effortless writing.
The Sonata and other Stories by Leo Tolstoy: Discovered a fellow Indian girl at my work place who won me over by coming to meet me with this book once she realised that I love reading.


Darna Mana Hai: Simply loved the movie. Admitted the ending was a little slack and needed a bit more thinking but the rest of the 2 hours was worth it. Every story has one delicious quirk, which I loved. What’s more, it reminded me of my annual visits to Kerala , when my cousins and I used to sit and night and tell each other a lot of such quirky stories some allegedly true but most of them made up at that minute. I especially remember a story about a monstrous hand which sprang up from absurd places and strangled its victims and how one of my cousins couldn’t sleep at night because she was scared ,she could see a hand on the bedroom wall. It was my brothers cricketing gloves !

Achanak : An Interesting movie by Gulzar about a convict (Vinod Khanna) who is nursed back to health by a team of doctors and a devoted nurse ( Farida Jalal) only to have him hanged after he is well enough. Vinod Khanna who is terribly in love with his wife ,murders her and his closest friend when he discovers them together. The interesting feature of the movie is that it does not excuse this adultery nor make it a case of “galat fehmi”.


Wonder why some cars got their names….here is one view or rather several views!!
INDIA ERAS [Here is one for Independence day!….Amazing link]

Of Docs and Quacks

Posted August 13th, 2003 by Deepa and filed in Uncategorized
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Recently there was an article at Sulekha written by a doctor about the legal troubles and high insurance problems faced by doctors which affects their practice the quality of health care in USA. Another article in the Times of India also exposed the dearth of doctors in my current home-state Pennsylvania to attend ob-gyn cases due to the fear of malpractice suits. Most people [as evidence by the comments on the above mentioned article in Sulekha] immediately point out that this situation is brought about by the greed and negligence of the doctors and that they can very well afford to pay those insurance premiums.

Well, that may very well be. I know, as many horror stories about doctors as the next person, may be even more. I also happen to work at a Cancer hospital as a Biomedical engineer. During the course of my work, I meet several patients, interact with doctors and work together with nurses and technologists. And I have found that most doctors are pretty committed individuals who genuinely care about the patients. I have seen docs discuss cases enthusiastically late into the evening to confirm a doubtful diagnosis. I have seen doctors plan a course of treatment carefully weighing the pros and cons of the prescribed course to determine what is best for the patient.

But then again most doctors are scared people. They live under the terror of speaking a wrong word or inadvertently giving a wrong impression, either by word or expression, that might cause the patient to sue him. The golden rule while dealing with patients, I soon learnt was “Don’t say anything!!”. No wonder it is frustrating for patients who go to a doc suffering from aches and pains to get a disjointed or a vague response. Most doctors live under the threat of a lawsuit and the hassle and the cost of it soon make the number 1 priority of doctors to avoid the lawsuit. The treatment offered to the patient immediately becomes defensive.
In the United States, physicians and other medical professionals pay insurance premiums to cover payments for awards resulting from lawsuits. This liability insurance is a must[in several places it is a law] while practicing medicine ,similar to the fact that you need an auto insurance for your vehicle prior to buying or driving a car. If you work in a hospital, in most cases your hospital covers a part [or most ] of your insurance. However if you have an independent organisation or are into private practice that you pay this premium yourselves. The liability insurance rates for ob-gyns with a clean record in Philadelphia is approximately 100K a year as compared to the National average of ~ 60K. [Well, that does put my car insurance into perspective!!!]
The dearth of doctors in this area means that waiting for months before scheduling an appointment with your doctor. At times, even emergency cases get attended to only after a month or sometimes more. I have known cases that to get a regular x-ray one has to wait for 7 months in Philadelphia. This certainly compromises patient care. High insurance rates in a city cause the doctors to look elsewhere for setting up a clinic or if not charge prohibitive rates to the patients. In any case it is the patient who suffers.

I do not mean to condone the behaviours of greedy or lazy doctors but isn’t this also worth a thought that if patient care needs to be of the highest quality then docs should treat in an atmosphere where the first priority of the doctor is to treat their patients rather than cover their rear ends.