NO TO CAPITAL PUNISHMENT/DEATH PENALTY!

A large number of people, albeit not constituting majorities in many climes — blood lust, alas, being default response in rather too quick-fire opinion surveys — are implacably opposed to the death penalty in all, repeat, ALL cases.

Especially most feminist jurists and lawyers.

Staying in India and with lawyers and jurists alone — those who’ve spent years or decades struggling for women’s rights: Veteran lawyers and jurists such as Flavia Agnes, Pratiksha Baxi, Maja Daruwala, Vrinda Grover, Menaka Guruswamy, Indira Jaising, Kamini Jaiswal, Rebecca Mammen John, Arundhati Katju, Jayna Kothari, Karuna Nundy,  Nitya Ramakrishnan, Usha Ramanathan, Justice Prabha Sridevan, Saumya Uma, Judge Jyotsna Yagnik… (long, very very long list…).
And a number of younger and brilliant lawyers and law researchers too: Ragini Ahuja, Parijata Bharadwaj, Chandni Chawla, Avani Chokshi, Bindu Doddahatti, Ramya Jawahar, Lara Jesani, Guneet Kaur, Darshana Mitra, Malavika Prasad, Deeptha Rao, Vasudha Reddy, Neenu Suresh, Pyoli Swatija et al.

(These lists are open to additions. Please forgive me if in my advancing years I’ve forgotten some, including of those who self-declare to be feminists. Shall certainly add as advised. Needless to say, deletions sought, for various reasons that need not be stated, shall also be respected,)

Ms Swatija’s late grandfather Narayan Desai — father of Aflatoon and Nachiketa Desai — son of M.K. Gandhi’s legendary secretary Mahadev Desai, had appealed AGAINST the death penalty for Nathuram Godse, as had two of Gandhi’s sons! Whatever our current opinions of M.K. Gandhi, I believe that for the purposes of this discussion, we’re agreed that his assassination at the hands of Brahminical Hindu fanatics was condemnable.

Godse, who’d NEVER left the RSS, whose progeny — ABVP and BJP — have unleashed a reign of terror in Uttar Pradesh (Pop 200 m) and major universities such as AMU, BHU, JNU, Jamia and many others. (If anyone has doubts about Godse’s membership of the RSS in 1948 please look up the Jan 2020 issue of The Caravan magazine. There have previously been articles in Frontline fortnightly too stating Godse never left the RSS.)

The principal author of our constitution, Dr. B.R. AMBEDKAR, had called for ABOLITION of the death penalty.

While sentencing Babu Bajrangi and Maya Kodnani and others for their roles in the Naroda Pitiya massacres and rapes — repeat RAPES, or is it only an issue if a Hindu woman is raped and not if too many to count Muslim women are? — vandalism etc. as part of the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat (under the then state chief minister’s, now prime minister’s watch) the good judge JYOTSNA YAGNIK ruled out capital punishment

Ms Yagnik rightly said it went against “human dignity”.

(It’s another matter that the two convicts who directed the massacres, rapes and vandalism — namely Babu Bajrangi and Maya Kodnani — are permanently out on bail as they’re the current Indian PM’s darlings.)

The late Justice LEILA SETH was a member of the Justice J.S. Verma Committee that was formed following the December 2012 horrific rape-and-murder case — whose perpetrators were hanged today, March 20 — and which recommended NON-recourse to DP.

A US-based organisation, Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights (MVFHR), counts among its members those whose dear ones were raped and murdered.

It is NOT the SEVERITY of justice that feminists and other human rights activists seek but the CERTAINTY, which is so lacking, given that too many police stations in India fail to/refuse to even register complaints by women, what to speak of prosecution, conviction and sentencing.

Of the four people hanged in India since 2004 — Dhananjoy Chatterjee, Ajmal Kasab, Afzal Guru and Yakub Memon —  three of them were, many experts who’ve studied each of the cases threadbare, believe were innocent of the crimes they were convicted of and were murdered by the state merely to satiate the “collective conscience” of a mis/disinformed society.

(As for even the fourth, was he really afforded due process? Please google Kasab and V. Venkatesan. Please also note that the then public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam later admitted that he’d concocted the yarn that Kasab was being fed chicken biryani in order to influence public opinion and thus the court.)

Entire books and erudite articles by the likes of Arundhati Roy, Prof Nirmalangshu Mukherji, Vinod K. Jose and others have been written and documentary films made on the issue, especially on Mr Guru’s case, such as Vani Subramanian’s 76-minute ‘The Death of Us’.

Mr Chatterjee — an indigent security guard despite his Brahmin-sounding name — was put to death following a shrill campaign led by the wife of the then CPI(M) chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, party politburo member Brinda Karat having been part of that episode.

The then president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, who’d signed off on that murder by the Indian state, expressed regret rather too late after the event for having done so.

Just as late former Chief Justice of India, Y.V. Chandrachud came around too late to abolitionism after having presided over Bachan Singh v. State of Punjab (1980), which set the ‘Rarest of Rare’ doctrine — observed more in the breach with too many trial court judges summarily pronouncing the death sentence.

Incidentally the majority verdict in Bachan Singh was written not by Justice Chandrachud but by Justice R.S. Sarkaria.

The dissent by Justice P.N. Bhagwati in Bachan Singh Vs State of Punjab (dissent dated 1982 as he took time to write it: This was in the pre-Internet era and he needed to get a vast amount of research done and which shines through) is a tour de force that ought to be a must read for every judge and lawyer.

“What might’ve been” is a question historians avoid. And yet it is tempting to speculate as to whether had Chandrachud J indicated doubts even then, might his and Bhagwati J’s opinions have persuaded the other three to swing towards abolition.

Mr Memon placed too much faith in what he bizarrely thought was the Indian executive’s and judiciary’s fairness and paid for it with his life.

Nearly 150 countries have discarded the death penalty in law or in practice (the latter term meaning that they’ve not passed a death sentence or carried out one for so long that they’re deemed abolitionist).

But we live in antediluvian, Modified times in India now.

In at least the lifetime of the young lawyers named above and their contemporaries and succeeding generations, dearly hope this land emerges from the current blood-thirsty nightmare.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

ANOTHER BRIEF HOSPITAL CHAT AND RANDOM THOUGHTS

Last Saturday evening a receptionist at a private hospital showered praises out of the blue while I was admitting my father for Intensive Care.

“I compliment you, sir…” she repeatedly said expressing amazement that a 92-year-old’s son was actually present to check him in. Meaning that in her experience, elderly patients were being admitted on behalf of non-resident sons and daughters and that it was rare for her to see someone being wheeled in with resident kin shuffling in alongside.

I did NOT feel flattered or gratified at all. Embarrassed and feeling regretful that she should say so.

Especially as, in between filling forms, I caught a few words of an exchange in Tamil with a colleague of hers in which she said in a disapproving tone about some other patient who’d passed through, “… was shifted to KC General Hospital…” after which she turned to me and my brother and repeated, “I compl…”

Translation: taking your kin to a government-run/public/taxpayer-funded hospital is bad as you (are bound to) get lousy service there and so filial piety is exhibited in taking recourse to private ones which inflate bills and rip patients off, and how!

(We’d merely acted as recommended by private docs near our home who’d examined my father and following a scan that showed — lemme spare you the details — suggested, nay, ordered that we immediately head to the private hospital he’s now lodged in.

(Now, K.C. General is taxpayer-funded. I’d once been there long years ago for a very minor ear thing. Cost: Rs 5. Was I satisfied? Yes.

One of my dear friends, Jagadish G. Chandra of the New Socialist Alternative — and who I’ve had the privilege to listen to delivering pithy but fiery speeches over the past several years since returning to Bangalore denouncing capitalism/communalism/fascism/male chauvinism/patriarchy/ — was telling me of his most positive experience at a public/taxpayer-funded facility in the city’s very heart and where he received service of a quality he has extolled.

(Right to health is a fundamental human right.

(Tax money ought to be going to funding public hospitals. Britain’s much acclaimed NHS is being destroyed by the rapacious right-wingers now in power. Long ago, in Hong Kong, I’ve availed of its excellent public hospital service a couple of times at very little expense, although I had to wait long, that being the punishment imposed by Hong Kong’s capitalist regime, which too prefers that citizens take their custom to expensive private ones.)

 

Late in the night I reported the exchange at the private hospital reception to a sister-in-law of mine and she said, yes, she too has heard that the area we live in is full of elderly people coping by themselves in spacious apartments, devoid of the pitter patter of young uns.

 

For further context, I reproduce this exchange with an ambulance driver I’d quoted in my 2017 blog post entitled An Ambulance Chat, Gauri Lankesh and Hindutva Abroad:

“This whole neighbourhood is full of aged people whose children live abroad,” he began in an arresting tone.
“They address us via video-conferencing…
“So many elderly people with two or three children all living abroad. When you told me (on the phone) that your father was 90 years old, I assumed he must be yet another one of those…
“They abandon their parents and live abroad. Why do they need to earn so much money and neglect their parents? What is the use of all that money if this is the way you treat your own parents? …
“Hotte uriyatthe, saar (Kannada for ‘the stomach burns, sir’, or ‘the blood boils, sir’.)

“A lot of the buildings here have no lifts.” (It’s an old locality.)

“How long have you been working, sir?” I ventured to ask while he paused.
“Two and a half years. Earlier I was working ward-side. I want to give up this ambulance job.” (If I’d had an itch to give him unsolicited advice to request him to… but we’d neared the hospital.)

In 2018

AMBULANCE AND HOSPITAL CHATS REDUX

walkerjay.wordpress.com/2018/12/31/ambulance-and-hospital-chats-redux/

In 2017

AN AMBULANCE CHAT, GAURI LANKESH AND HINDUTVA ABROAD

walkerjay.wordpress.com/2017/09/16/an-ambulance-chat-gauri-lankesh-and-hindutva-abroad/

https://wordpress.com/view/walkerjay.wordpress.com

Which was graciously picked up by Raiot.in

http://www.raiot.in/an-ambulance-chat-gauri-lankesh-and-hindutva-abroad/

 

P.S.: A few hours before this latest hospitalisation, I was listening to a tour de force of a lecture by Senior Advocate B.T. Venkatesh entitled “Sedition: A Common Crime of Our Time.”
Needless to say, had to rush back soon thereafter without, alas, attending other pro-democracy meetings around town as I’d been intending to.
P.P.S.: Most of southern Asia ought to be in ICU as far as human rights and democracy are concerned.
Descendants of a 1925-founded Hindutva fascist outfit rule in India now.
Sinhala “Buddhists” — another “majority with a minority complex” — in Sri Lanka.

Pakistan has never gotten out of its army’s grip.

Nepal has painfully emerged from decades of strife only to see Chinese influence grow…

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

RESIST THE INDIAN REGIME’S GENOCIDAL PLANS

China has been running concentration camps in occupied East Turkestan — due north of Pakistani-Chinese-Indian-occupied Kashmir and Chinese-occupied Tibet — or what the Beijing regime calls ‘Xinjiang’ for an estimated 1.5 million Muslims.

The Chinese ruling party which continues to call itself “Communist” Party of China, despite being a robber-baron capitalist party since at least the 1980s — is but a bigger version of India’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Minus cow and temple.

Han-chauvinist CPC and Hindu-chauvinist BJP being both anti-Muslim, anti-Christian and ultra-nationalist.

The Beijing regime will tolerate homegrown Daoism and Chinese Buddhism but is intolerant of Tibetan Buddhism and Christianity and Islam.

Just as the Indian state has at various points of time been intolerant of not only the two Abrahamic religions, namely Christianity and Islam (the number of Indian Jews being too few. Also, the Indian state admires what Israel is doing to the Palestinians — Muslims and Christians.)

India too has built and is building concentration camps for its Muslims. There have already been many deaths at what the Indian regime calls “detention centres” in Assam state in the subcontinent’s northeast.

The Nazis killed six million Jews and 500,000 Roma/Gypsy people, who trace their origins to northwestern parts of South Asia. As a percentage of population, the Roma suffered a greater loss than the Jews as about 50% of them were killed off but there has been little focus on the Roma peoples’ — continuing — plight.

There are 140 million Muslims in India.

The RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh/National Volunteer ‘Society’) founded in 1925 is a fascist, genocidal, terrorist outfit one of whose members, Nathuram Godse, killed M.K. Gandhi (Godse never left the RSS. Please see the January issue of the Caravan magazine and other previous articles in Frontline fortnightly.)

One of the former ‘pracharaks’ (propagandists) of the RSS and former chief minister of Gujarat during whose watch some 2,000 Muslim men women and children were massacred and/or raped is now India’s prime minister.

He and his ilk will not stop at Muslims. Their own slogan: “Pehle Kasai, phir Isai” = First Muslims, then Christians.

Think also of the Aadivaasis, the Indegenous Peoples of India, who’ve lived for millennia in their primeval hills, forests and mountains.

Most with zero papers to show when the CAA/NRC/NPR excercise kicks in.

Hills, forests and mountains containing minerals coveted by the financiers of the  BJP-Congi, Tweedledum-Tweedlee regimes, peoples who’ve already borne the brunt of ‘Operation Greenhunt’ and other such Congi-BJP horrific displays of terrorrism.

And the Dalits and other marginalised peoples.
No, this CAA nonsense has been thought up by the prime minister and his sidekick, the home minister and their party most cynically.

Once their ilk have tasted blood, they’re not going to stop with Muslims, Christians, Dalits, Aadivaasis. Blood lust is not so easily satiated. Already the recent attack on students at the Srishti School of Design by BJP terrorists shows who they’ll target next.

Please take seriously what many young people, including young women in India, have already grasped: This is a struggle for our civilisational values.

They’re leading.

And how!

May they and their generation and others to follow get to live in a de-Modified, post-fascist land.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

RUDIMENTS OF INDIA’S THIRD FREEDOM STRUGGLE?

“India’s Third Freedom Struggle has begun”, someone on facebook or twitter said a few days ago.

Exaggeration? Perhaps. But hope springs eternal.

This time freedom from homegrown, Brahminical Hindutva fascism.

However, it’ll be a long, long night. For these fascists have deep pockets just as those in Germany last century did: DuPont, Krupp, Siemens and several other behemoths were in cahoots with the Nazis.

Now, Adani, Ambani, Tata et al (one of the A’s with 0 experience in making any kind of aircraft having won a subcontract to supply fighter planes) in India have been enjoying untold millions of dollars in tax breaks and winks at massive frauds not only since mid-2014 but since much earlier, Congress and BJP being but Tweedledum and Tweedledee.

My generation may or not live to see this struggle out.

But these fascists, one of them fed on expensive imported mushrooms (as some reports have it) will die some day, just as their bankrupt and corrupt ideology must. As the poet James Shirley (1596-1666) said:

Death lays his icy hand on kings:

Sceptre and Crown

Must tumble down,

And in the dust be equal made

With the poor crooked scythe and spade.

Excerpted from

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/56372/the-glories-of-our-blood-and-state

RESIST!

P.S.: “… they can be identified by their clothes,” the alleged mushroom-eater has said about those protesting.

Many of those resisting in India, in Hong Kong, in Chile and elsewhere can be identified by their jeans and tops.

Young women, so many of them, not to forget the entire gamut of LGBTQIA+.

P.P.S: “C’est une révolte?”
NonSirec’est une révolution.”

¡Venceremos!

We Shall Overcome!!!

Insha Insaaniyath!

Happy New Year!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

REMEMBERING THE BEIJING SPRING

Today marks 30 years since the death of Hu Yaobang, general secretary of the Communist Party of China between 1982 and 1987. Reputed to have been of rather liberal leaning as regards human rights and democratisation, he was ousted by supreme leader Deng Xiaoping, whose choice as successor, Zhao Ziyang, only continued to espouse Hu’s line. And paid for it. But I’m running ahead of my yarn.

Hu’s death sparked an upsurge of clamour (N.B.: no social media then) for human rights, democracy and action on official corruption. Zhao no doubt stoked it, relying on ferment among intellectuals and students at leading universities. Workers were initially out of the picture. But their resentment over the pro-capitalist reforms introduced by Deng in the late 1970s simmered beneath. The populace had already suffered greatly under more than two decades of collectivisation (of land, factories etc) including a horrific decade of “cultural revolution” drama aimed at buttressing Mao Zedong’s hold on power laced with ultra-nationalist drivel. Tens of millions of lives lost, by several estimates.

Public demands to properly honour Hu, the marches and so forth were exhilarating. Zhao obliged, bizarrely praising Hu as a “great proletarian revolutionist”. This didn’t go down well: No, not with the proletariat (most of whom had little use for nor inkling of such speechifying) but among Deng and his cronies. Official publications initially under Zhao’s command praised the pro-democracy student demonstrators.

But Zhao had played his cards badly. The Deng line prevailed within the CPC. About a month after Hu’s death – and even as hundreds and often thousands of students thronged central Beijing’s Tiananmen Square – the CPC leadership ditched Zhao.

Martial Law was proclaimed in parts of Beijing on May 21. (Incidentally, ML had been imposed in Chinese-occupied Tibet earlier that year but that’s another story.)

This had no effect on the students camping out in Tiananmen. Behind their zeal lay months and years of groundwork by intellectuals such as the astrophysicist Fang Lizhi and journalist Liu Binyan and others, not to mention the “Democracy Wall” movement of the late 1970s and not to forget that an earlier similar protest following a top leader’s death – that in 1976 of Zhou Enlai – had Deng’s hand all over it.

By late May, the military was in place. Battle tanks showed up in central Beijing. On the night of June 3 to June 4, the rebellion was quashed. Meanwhile, Zhao had been stripped of all but his CPC membership. Replaced by Shanghai colleague Jiang Zemin who did zilch other than obeying Deng, who in 1992 called for the unleashing of robber baron capitalism – “socialist market economy” was the euphemism used.

Result: China has grown and how! Decades of runaway GDP growth – widening inequality sparking thousands of workers’ strikes annually and the despoiling of the environment, with global consequences.

The animals outside look on as a regime that persists in invoking Marx – now under arguably the most authoritarian dispensation led by Xi Jinping since the1970s – cavorts with mostly homegrown business behemoths and assorted foreign specimens.

P.S.: Why should a resident of a city in southern Asia bother about what transpired in a city in the continent’s northeast?

  1. I was a journalist based in Beijing 1988-1994 and Hong Kong mostly 1995-2012.
  2. The four hyphenated words in my text.

See also: UPTURNED BOTTLE, DEAD DEER AND MAY 35th
https://walkerjay.wordpress.com/2011/06/01/upturned-bottle-dead-deer-and-may-35th-that%E2%80%99s-right-may-thirty-fifth/

Posted in China | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

AMBULANCE AND HOSPITAL CHATS REDUX

After a gap of fourteen and a half months, my now 91-year-old father spent three nights in a private hospital in November, whose rates for various services and supplies have been jacked up by many multiples of 10% on a long list.

“Don’t you provide a bottle of water in the patient’s ward?” I asked a nurse the first evening. She said she’d ask for one to be supplied (by the sub-contractor in charge of the pantry).
“It’ll be charged,” she muttered under her breath.
“So I could just get one from across the road?”
“Yes.”
Cheap (in both senses of the term).

Quick however/moreover.

A bit earlier, while having brief conversations with one of the hospital representatives re major problems with Internet access in the ward and twiddling thumbs as she checked her screen which was taking its time, I asked (mindful of the #MeToo movement):
“Out of sheer idle curiosity, Ma’am, do you have an Internal Complaints Committee?”
“Yes, we do,” she said in what sounded to me a confident tone. “We brief staff every month.”
(Disclosure: She’d asked me about my profession.)

But I fidgeted. Having noticed aspects of the hospital’s labour relations that are far from what may be deemed best practice, I wonder how much of staff briefing actually takes place.

For one, most of the staff seem harassed all the time. Short-staffed in almost all departments, be it reception, accounts/billing, nursing or cleaning.

As for the last named, i.e. cleaning, their distinctly different-coloured uniforms and lapel logos mark them out as contracted from another company. Meaning they’re not hospital staff.

Room cleaning and cleaning of patients as well as assisting patients to go to the washroom when able to do so or to take a walk in the – rather too narrow – corridors when so advised by the doctors is the responsibility of the cleaning staff, not the over-stretched nursing department.

So, I got talking with a few of the cleaning staff.

Had to.

As I and/or my brother were expected to tip them for services rendered such as ensuring my father had his … er … ablutions, had his diaper changed, got himself cleaned up through a ‘sponge bath’ and so forth.
They had subtle and not so subtle ways of letting us know that tips were expected.

“Saar, I gave your father a sponge bath…
“Saar, I cleaned the toilet even though it was not my duty but only because – here come a couple of almost untranslatable words from Kannada – ‘neevu vicharskotheeri’ (broadly meaning you pay attention or rather pay attention to the need to tip).

Only one – or so I was told by one of my interlocutors among the cleaning personnel – and I can personally endorse this, based on my experience as of November 2018 – of the actual hospital staff in charge of cleaning can be recognized by way of a different-coloured uniform: Grey.

Now, there is a broadly predictable caste-wise break-up of the hospital personnel: 1. Doctors/specialists, managers, 2. Receptionists/accountants/front-managers 3. Nurses 4. Cleaning and security personnel with salary scales and employment conditions too being on a declining scale. At any rate none of them is unionized and some categories being contract workers ensures they won’t even begin to consider unionizing.

A while after this hospital experience, at a meeting at SCM House to release a small booklet, Right to Love (about the implications of the Supreme Court’s Navtej Singh Johar verdict), Prof Babu Mathew who has a long labour rights background, brilliantly linked the issue to assaults on other disadvantaged sections. To wit the absent/denied (with backing of the full force of the state) right to association of informal sector workers. “Structurally adjusted”, as Prof Mathew quipped balefully. Hoary International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions a century in the making are being trampled on blithely.

There is a term for workers lacking stable employment conditions, insurance, paid holidays and so forth: ‘Precariat’ described elsewhere.[1]

After the 2017 hospitalisation episode when the final bill was presented, my elder brother took a careful look, argued with one of the surgeons who – so my brother repeatedly tells me – said, “the hospital is looting you and you are keeping quiet”, and got a small discount.

In late November this year, we learned a lesson for questioning the hospital’s billing practices: I’d noticed that in the final bill before my father’s discharge could be effected, the discharge order having been pronounced pre-noon, there was a mention of a medication costing Rs 200+ – a MERE Rs 200 in hindsight – that had not been administered.

Punishment: my 91-year-old father, and elder brother had to wait until nearly 3 pm before we were let go. Incidentally my brother and I also had to watch while my corpulent father devoured a standard meal while we’d both wished the hospital had provided for a wee bit of variation. The hospital having contracted out the catering, perhaps there was little the physicians and surgeons could do by way of suggesting appropriate diets.

On the way to and from the hospital, we’d been provided ‘complimentary’ ambulance pick-up. I noticed that the driver was not the same one I’d met in 2017 and described in the following:

https://walkerjay.wordpress.com/2017/09/16/an-ambulance-chat-gauri-lankesh-and-hindutva-abroad/

The current one sounded tense and preoccupied. In the few minutes it took to get home, I asked him about his work.

“Neighbours just watch, they don’t offer any help (with getting the patients into and out of the ambulances),” he muttered.

[1] https://www.opendemocracy.net/n-jayaram/universal-declaration-of-human-rights-at-70

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

HOW A TINY KITTEN MIGHT HAVE HELPED RID ME OF BACKACHE BLUES

A less than six weeks old kitten came into my life early in August and by the time I found a permanent home for him he had inadvertently paid me back many, many times over for spending a few sleepless nights worrying over his welfare.

I was forced to bend and pick him up so often every few hours from late afternoon on August 3 and until the evening of the 7th that a backache which had sapped my physical and mental energies for nearly two months had – lo and behold! – begun easing rather than aggravating as I’d feared it might while fussing over the precious little being.P1030967.JPG

That backache started in early June, perhaps after I lifted one bucket too many filled with wet clothes to feed the washing machine and collecting the drained water to carry to the parched plants in the garden.

Although a painkiller ointment seemed to take care of immediate symptoms, the full force of the punishment came on a Sunday afternoon. So excruciating was the pain that I found myself unable to stand. It was panic-inducing.

The American humourist and filmmaker Woody Allen is credited with quipping:  “Not only is God dead, but you can’t get a dentist at the weekend.”[1]

Nor orthopaedists, he might have added.

A neighbourhood private hospital in the part of Bangalore I live in was open. The duty doctor ordered a painkiller injection and prescribed a couple of pills. We’ll see five days later if an X-ray is needed, he said. A fat lot of good the injection and pills did.

After a couple of days, well-intentioned relatives began suggesting myriad remedies, therapies and doctors (as well-intentioned relatives do) and my mother commandeered my brother and his car to drive me to the clinic of a reputed orthopaedist near our home.

His quick-fire diagnosis was followed by a prescription for super-strong pain-killers. I tried asking the reputed ortho about possible side-effects but he had no more time for me.

“We’ll see about the side-effects,” was all he said. Duh! Thanks, Doc.

However, given how much faith people around me had in his wisdom, I did take half of what he had prescribed for about half the duration. That rid me of the unbearable pain and I could get up from a reclining or sitting position. An underlying feeling that something had gone wrong remained. Fear of bending and lifting things or exerting myself in other ways gripped me. A cousin lent me his Lumbo Sacral Belt. I began walking slowly, avoided sitting before my laptop for long stretches and tried lying flat on my back listening to music and spoken word programmes via the Internet.

What next? ‘Alternative medicine’ was suggested. Ayurveda, obviously! An Ayurvedic doc prescribed pills, potions and an oil to be applied to the back, plus hot fomentation. We’ll see whether an X-ray is needed, he too said.

He told me to avoid climbing stairs. Er… there’s no way I can avoid using the stairs to my room at least 15-20 times a day. Thanks, but no thanks, Doc.

Next visit, he did prescribe two X-rays at a newly opened outfit which charged a bomb: The radiologist’s observation: “Early lumbar spondylosis”.

The Ayurvedic doc prescribed more pills, but this time he threw in – following my own query – massages costing a few thousand rupees for a week.

Now, there seems to be a link between backache and depression. My own situation was not helped by my staying away from meetings – private and public – with many brilliant and hard-working human rights lawyers and other activists. And the media rife with the exploits of the likes of Donald Trump, Narendra Modi, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and their followers is not exactly mood uplifting. I began to wonder whether I’d ever feel better and get back to my routine.

Fast forward to early August: I’d been avoiding climbing the steep stairs to the 2nd floor roof of our house for a few weeks but was forced to as some masonry work was going on.

A dry coconut branch had fallen on the roof. I tried to ease it down but it landed partially on a neighbour’s roof. I resolved to retrieve it the next day. But the neighbour had thrown it into our back alley. (We use dry coconut branches, shells and husks to heat our bath water.) On August 3 evening, I opened the locked doors to the alley to retrieve the branch.

It was then that I saw and heard the kitten.

The alley was bereft of any other activity. No feline or human guardian of the kitten seemed to be about.

I bent down and picked up the tiny creature and took him – yes, a male as a vet later pronounced him to be – to my mother. We both fell head over heels in love with the precious being.P1030954.JPG

Pulling out a saucer that had previously been used to offer milk and cat food to an exalted Daily Visitor[2] who had been gracing our compound for several years until January 2015 was but the work of a moment.

The tiny one lapped up a few tongues-full. I posted a notice on the wall of a nearby veterinarian clinic inviting adopters and bought a bag of kitten food from a pet shop.

From that evening on, I was at the kitten’s beck and call almost 24/7. I felt duty-bound to get up at unearthly hours to check on his welfare, offer food and drink, play with him, lead him back to his saucer…This routine could have gone and on and on.

But my mother and I knew we could not keep him as we share a house with others who exercise a veto.

Discreet messages were sent to a few friends alerting them that I shall go public requesting human would-be serviteurs to this feline being to raise their hands.

One of my respected friends, Cynthia Stephen, independent researcher and journalist, got cracking and supplied me with a number to call before I was even half prepared. But after showing great enthusiasm in the beginning, the gentleman went off the hook. Cynthia then posted my request on the facebook page of Pet Adoption in Bangalore.[3]

An almost immediate response led to a couple from a locality in the vicinity of Bangalore’s International Airport coming all the way to my area, just south of the Indian Institute of Science, and picking up the teeny-weeny.P1030959.JPG

Although I had taken the kitten to the neighbourhood veteran veterinarian on August 5 and he had declared that the kitten was sound of health, I was worried about some excretions from his beady eyes. His assistant, who was on duty the following Monday, gave the eyes a wash, prescribed some eye-drops and the kitten was on his way to his furever home.

While going to pick up the eye-drops from a chemist’s a few steps away, I was telling the couple about the incidents that led up to our – three humans and an uncomplaining little creature – finding ourselves where we were.

“He was meant to be for us”, they said, and I paraphrase from my rather delirious memory of that exchange as I was over the moon at having found good caretakers for a tiny being who had nearly eclipsed my thought processes such that he and his welfare were mostly all that I was ruminating about for several dozen hours.IMG-20170810-WA0008.jpg

[The last photo shows the kitten in his new home. Photo courtesy Sudhir Kumar.]

All that I’d say is that a series of coincidences led up to the denouement.

After I was already on the mend – and again thanks to relatives’ advice – I consulted one of the most reputed of orthopaedists practising in my area.

He let me off saying there was nothing to worry 1.Without prescribing any pills and potions. 2. Suggesting just two exercises to strengthen my ancient back.

What he did not suggest was what I credit with having done the trick: Kitten Therapy!

Meow!

[1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/453DvFvVsBGn9xRfkKT1D4n/defining-death

[2] https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=521064894614085&set=a.102775279776384.4449.100001317365949&type=3&theater

[3] https://www.facebook.com/groups/1398121880480335/

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment