Sunday, November 29, 2020

A journey from death to life!

Life was a dream for Amit Vaidya, who soared high financially and professionally till he was diagnosed with cancer when he was 27.

Amit Vaidya lived the American dream.

A Gujarati, born and brought up in the US, with a PhD in economics, he worked in the entertainment industry's business department. "It was an active but not a healthy lifestyle as I was an overachiever", says Amit. 

His dreams "were shattered" when a few months after his father's death he was diagnosed with first stage gastric cancer. "The fall was great as I had risen to great heights when I was 27". Opting not to do surgery, he went in for "aggressive chemo radiation" in New York.

Two years later, he went into remission. Within two months of his recovery, his mother was diagnosed with grade three brain tumour.

"Nothing worked and I lost her too. 

Away in a foreign land, being the only child, I felt lonely and a scan showed my cancer had returned after 18 months. This time it showed up in my liver. Nine months later, in 2011, reports showed I was not responding to treatment and the cancer had spread to my lungs too", he says emotionally.

Doctors told Amit that his life was just a matter of time. "Not wanting to burden my friends, I started planning my funeral".

Soon he planned a trip to India. An aunt also told me about an Ayurvedic hospital in Gujarat that claims to cure cancer in 11 days for just a rupee!

"Having nothing to lose I wanted to give it a shot".

So off he went and explains that the treatment was disciplined with yoga, meditation and he was made to drink a mix of "desi cow milk, curd, ghee and gobar, gau-mutra. I was to drink it on an empty stomach.

For years everything tasted like saw dust because of the chemo. 

It was easy to drink something that smelled and tasted as it should. Others there were traumatised by this.

I kept faith and did it diligently.

I saw no change but felt no worse either".

Scans showed that the cancer "had not spread".

Amit, then, went back to the hospital and lived there for another 40 days. 

Reports showed the cancer had decreased. "Wanting to continue the therapy", Amit stayed with a farmer, who opened his house to Amit. "He offered me a tiny shack on his farm, a cot, a gaushala with desi cows, a well and a toilet. I continued the therapy and after months was able to walk. Over time, walks became jogs, jogs became runs and I started finding joy in my mind. The villagers had time for me, which was the best gift I got, especially when I needed time to heal".

After 18 months Amit claims he is cancer free and decided "on planning to live his life instead of planning a funeral.

I now talk to people about my journey and that healing is possible. I make time to spend with cancer patients. It is all free. I have started an NGO called Healing Vaidya".

He does not plan on going back to the US as "this country has given me much. I have learnt that people here don't value what it can offer". Amit has written "Holy Cancer - How A Cow Saved My Life" (Aditya Prakashan, Rs.495/-) which was launched in the city recently. The book is available in book stores.

For more log on to healingvaidya.org

Also available with Amazon and Flipkart

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-metroplus/a-journey-from-death-to-life/article7558731.ece

Vaidya is referring to RM Dhariwal Cancer Hospital at Valsad - Gujarat where Panchagavya is the treatment and the charges are Re.1/- only.


Tailpiece.

Got up around a quarter past 6, the chores and was ready by a half past 9. Video called my sisters and their families and caught up with them.

Lit up our balcony and the compound wall with 'diyas', soon after sunset, on account of 'Kartik Purnima".


Saturday, November 28, 2020

'Permission to bite the bullet'.

Navy pilot's marriage invite becomes a hit on social media. A letter written by a Naval pilot to his senior, seeking permission to "bite the bullet" and the latter's response saying "welcome to hell" have gone viral on social media. To be sure, it was a marriage invite by Lt Cdr Nishant Singh to his Commanding Officer of INAS 300 (Naval Air Squadron) of INS Hansa, the Indian Navy's air base in Goa.

But Nishant Singh decided to be a bit unconventional and the Commanding Officer decided to match the tone. The letter, dated 09 May 2020, is reproduced below :-

       "Permission to Bite the Bullet"

1. "I regret to be dropping this bomb on you at such a short notice, but as you would agree, I intend to drop a nuclear one on myself and I realise that just like all the split second decisions we take up in the airin the heat of combat, I cannot afford to allow myself the luxury of time to re-evaluate my decision", Singh said, disclosing that he was going to marry.

2."In view of the above, I officially seek your approval to willingly sacrifice myself in absolute peace time, completely outside the line of duty and follow up many other brave men into this graveyard spiral of matrimony", the MiG pilot said.

3. "I promise to never repeat such a performance in air or teach it to my trainee pilots", he added, inviting the senior officer to the wedding.

In his handwritten reply in red ink, the Commanding Officer reminded Nishant Singh that "I was your instructor in pre-solo phase, cleared your solo-check, saw your landing for the first time on MiGs as ACP made me really proud".

"Saw the spark in you and always believed you to be different. When you became QFI, cleared you for instruction flying on MiGs......But all the good things have to finally come to an end", the reply said.

"Welcome to Hell", the CO signed off.

A senior naval official said it was a private communication between the two.

"Finally, the couple has got married", he added.

Source. The Tribune.


Tailpiece.

Got up at 6, the chores and was ready by a half past 9. 

Participated in the 'Aazhchakkoottam' : "Graam Sabhas and the Panchayati Raj System" by Dr. SM Vijayanand, IAS, Former Chief Secretary to the Government of Kerala, from 1600 - 1700 hrs. It was a nice interaction.


 

Friday, November 27, 2020

A history of architecture.

Paro Taktsang

Popular among trekkers as the Tiger's Nest, Paro Taktsang sits on the cliff side of the upper Paro valley.

Padmasambhava Connect

According to a legend, it is one of thirteen Tiger's Nest caves in historical Tibet., where Padmasambhava or Guru Rinpoche taught Vajrayana. The legend states that Padmasambhava flew to this location from Singye Dzong on the back of a tigress, which gives the temple its popular name.

The Other Legend

Another story states how a former wife of an emperor became a disciple of Padmasambhava. After she transformed herself into a tigress, carrying Padmasambhava on her back from Tibet to Bhutan. In one of the caves, he meditated and revealed his eight incarnations and the place came to be known as 'Tiger's Nest'.

A fire broke out in the main building of the monastery complex, where a monk lost his life. An electrical short-circuit or flickering butter lamps could have caused the inferno of 1998.

Meditation Centre

11th Century CE. The period saw many monks and religious leaders from Tibet who established various schools coming in the kingdom.

14th Century. First sanctuary was built in the area. This was determined after studying the paintings found in the complex.

1692 CE. A monastery complex was built around the cave where Padmasambhava meditated. 

Chants of Padmasambhava in 'Land of the Thunder Dragon'

Padmasambhava brought Vajrayana Buddhism in Tibet in the 8th Century CE from where it was taken to the neighbouring kingdoms. Born in the kingdom of Oddiyana, Padmasambhava is considered to be the second Buddha among many Vajrayana Buddhists in Nepal, Tibet, eastern India and Bhutan. historians place Oddiyana in Pakistan's Swat Valley. However, alternative theories have connected it to modern-day Orissa. We tke a look at two monuments in Bhutan where Padmasambhava is revered.

Cultural Legacy

Dzong, which means a type of fortress, is the second largest in the kingdom. It hosts various festivals including Domche - where re-enactment of the Tibetan invasion of Bhutan in 1639 takes place, celebrating Bhutanese triumph.

Punakha Dzong

Also called Pungthang Dewachhenbi Phodrang, the building serves as the administrative centre of Punakha District.

Who built it?

1637 - 38 CE. it was constructed by Ngawang Namgyal, the first Zhabdrung Rinpoche.

Padmasambhava's Prophecy

Local legends tell how Padmasambhava had prophesied that "a person named Namgyal will arrive at a hill that looks like an elephant. Ngawang Namgyal spotted the peak of the hill, which appeared in the shape of the trunk of an elephant as prophesied and he built the current fortress.

Capital of Bhutan

1907. Punakhs Dzong served as the place where Ugyen Wangchuk was coronated, after he reunited Bhutan after defeating the regional lords.

6-storied

Structure that sits at an elevation of 1,200 mts and has been listed as a tentative site in the Tentative List for UNESCO inclusion.

Wrath of Nature

As the dzong sits between two rivers, flash floods have caused devastating damages to the fortress in the past, with the most recent being in 1996.

1897

The 1897 Assam Earthquake, with 8.0 magnitude severely damaged the fortress.


Tailpiece.

Got up at 6, the chores and was ready by a half past 9. 

Lekha went to the PDS Ration Store to collect provisions and the free kit, offered by the PM's scheme, to the white ration card holders, which we are.   


Thursday, November 26, 2020

In Memorium!

Twelve years back, on this date, the Pakistani terror attack on Bombay took place killing 166 people besides destruction of facilities! It's time to remember all the martyrs and say a solemn prayer to the departed souls. We salute each one of the security forces who tackled the difficult and often dangerous situations with courage.

    *           *            *

       The Unknown Sikh Soldier in the Kargil War.....

I remember it, as if it was yesterday. It was 23 May 1999 and the Kargil conflict was ongoing. My crew and I were in Awantipur, to pick up 24 casualties (20 sitting and 4 on stretchers); the casualties on stretchers were extremely seriously wounded. The age of the passengers ranged between 19 and 27 years. Some had bullet wounds, where the bullet had gone through and through but they still had legs and could sit, stand and walk, so weren't on a stretcher.....(I guess, in a strange army way making them feel better, that's how the system works, it actually works). I have actually seen a Gurkha with a bullet wound, helping another Kumaoni, who was limping along. It's a system which teaches one to be empathetic towards others. The men who were on stretchers were the really badly hurt ones, they were those, who had stepped on a landmine and had their legs blown off. A very different sight from those as seen on TV news videos, moving from wounded soldiers to heavy snowfall in some other part of the world, while people watch eating their dinner, disinterested, barely looking up from their phones - this was real life. The pain was terribly real. Also, it was not possible to merely change the channel.

The aircraft was the workhorse of the IAF, an AN-32; it reeked of Savlon and fear. As we waited for the last patient to arrive, I realised that my AN-32 also was a micro India. The Naga soldier was seated next to a tall Jat, the Thambi was next to a Maratha, the Rajput was next to the JAKLI, the Mahar was next to a tall Guardsman and the tiny Gurkha, next to an equally small and sturdy Kumaoni. All united by by shades of Olive Green and the invisible thread of pain. Injuries they had suffered on our behalf and honestly, had all been forgotten.

In the ambulance, which was parked just at the edge of the ramp (Behind the aircraft), was a Silkh Light Infantry soldier. He was really young. So young, that his beard had barely started to grow, a mere boy. He had lost both his legs in a landmine explosion. In an effort to distract him, I asked him if he was fond of cricket? His eyes brightened up immediately and he promptly said, "Yes, Sir". Seeing his response, I addressed all my passengers. (The World Cup was going on in England). India was playing Kenya and Sachin Tendulkar had scored 140 runs in 101 balls and was not out. He had helped India reach 329 in 50 overs. Tendulkar had dedicated his innings to his father, whose funeral he had returned from the previous day. "What do you think, will we win?" I asked the wounded bravehearts.

"Yes sir", was the immediate answer. All of a sudden, a Tendulkar tsunami swept through the aircraft and the ambulance behind it. 

Everyone forgot their pain and their injuries. They forgot their predicament - all they could talk about, was Tendulkar and his century. Everyone started talking to the person next to them. Everyone broke language and cultural barriers and new friendships were instantly formed.

I could see my new friend in the ambulance, talking animatedly. His eyes all lit up; his smile was ecstatic, as he described Tendulkar's shots. His injuries and pain were forgotten briefly. He was happy; all my passengers were happy. For a brief period, everything was the way it ought to be.

I don't think Tendulkar has any clue how much we value him in our country, as he sells us everything from washing machines to toothpaste, in an effort to make even more money.

Epilogue :

When I landed with my passengers in Delhi, I shared the good news with them, that we had indeed won the match, far away in England. My new friend, who was on a stretcher strapped securely to the floor, smiled at me. I shook his hand and wished him well. I was relieved that it was dark and he couldn't see my eyes. My crew and I stood behind the aircraft, as they disembarked, silently wishing them well.

It's men like these, the ones who were passengers on my plane, who silently walk away after giving their youth for all of us.

They are the ones we owe our freedom to.

Please do think about them for a moment.......if you really care.......


Tailpiece.

Got up at 6, the chores, washing machinex of the bed linen and was ready by 1000 hrs.

The LDF candidate, Bibitha, came asking for votes.  

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

This is how legends are made!

Do 50 years as a 'fauji' wife qualify me to write an ode to the Indian Army? I certainly think so!

March 2010.

It was the worst time of my life as I watched my husband Maj Gen DP Bahl surrender to cancer after a fierce battle. He fought bravely, just as he had when the Sabers raided the Indian skies; only this time the enemy was within him and it proved more lethal.

I was emotionally paralysed.

Then something beautiful happened, something I salute, not with my hand but with my heart.

My husband had often said "When I go inform the Air Defence (AD) branch", the Arm that he had served in.

After 20 years of retirement, who in the AD branch do I call? Which number do I dial? Would anyone care today when the chair, the uniform, the medals and the stars had lost their lustre?

My mind somersaulted to the time when today's Maj Gens were young Captains on the threshold of their careers. A name flashed into my mind - Rajeev Kalra, who was the MG Arty Western Command.

"Rajeev" I wailed "He's gone and I don't know what to do".

A moment of silence, pregnant with shock and disbelief was followed by, "Ma'am, you don't have to do anything. We will take care". And care they did take!

Suddenly, a network was activated. Caring people from the ranks of Jawan, Captain, Colonel, Brigadier, Maj General and the Director AD himself were there to console and help in "seeing off" their veteran friend who I thought was long forgotten.

Forgotten is a word that should have never entered my vocabulary.

A week before my husband 'departed' two young jawans knocked on our front door. "We are from the 2nd Field Regiment", they said. "2nd Field Regiment?" I asked taken aback. "That's my husband's first regiment way back in 1956". "We know. We have come to pay our respects and seek his blessings". I had led them to his bed where they took his hand and placed it on their head, turn by turn. "Saab ji please bless us! We are from your regiment".

And then suddenly something hit me. "Tell me", I asked them "were you even born when he was in the unit?" "No! But he is our Saab ji all the same".

I burst out crying. This was something beyond loyalty and solidarity. Something I had no words for. Gratitude and appreciation overwhelmed me. It was a bond that transcended time and space.

50 AD, the unit he had commanded, came together to help in every possible way. They called to console and remember him with affection and respect.

Time lost its dimension as, fellow soldiers, separated years ago, some of them hadn't seen each other almost 40 years ago now and settled in different parts of the country, called to lend strength and courage in those traumatic moments. Many dear ones came personally to be with us and share our loss. Some, I could not even recognise, as it had been many years since I last saw them and they looked so different now.

As if in a movie, I watched scenes fade in and fade out as memories crystallised into long forgotten events. I remember seeing them young and so full of life singing folk songs, film songs at parties and dancing to happy tunes, playing dumb charades, celebrating birthdays and promotions and bidding adieu ar farewells. They brought back to life the happy times which pierced through those bleak moments. Tears of happiness mingled with tears of sorrow and pain.

There are no words to express my gratitude to them all for their support at a time when I needed it most. Such is the solidarity imbued by the Indian Army.

What a family we make once we wear that most coveted uniform? Only those who have had this privilege can understand.

- A Major General's wife.


Tailpiece.

Got up at 6, the chores and was ready by 10. Sajish, the hair stylist, had dropped by at 0730 hrs, to give me a haircut and a good massage. I was getting it done after a gap of two months. 

The Wednesday 'aarathi' of the house was done.

Suma had taken a day off as she was stung by a wasp last evening and her hand was swollen. So, it was Lekha's show all the way.

Called off our visits to Drs Padmanabha Shenoy and Satish Bhat as tomorrow is Bharat Bandh! 

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

A great birthday!

Had got up at 6, the chores and was ready by a half past 9. Lekha gave me a tight hug and my card - a beautiful one at that - first thing in the morning. The first calls were from my sisters and their families, Achu, my nephew. It was a stream of calls from my classmates, Academy course mates and my naval friends. 

Meanwhile, we'd come down to the ground floor when Lekha presented me with a batch of three handkerchiefs with 'R' monogrammed on each. 

I cut the cake - baked by Lekha, yesterday - around 1000 hrs with Lekha's friend, Seena and Suma in the ringside. The cake was delicious and yummy! Sijo, the autorickshaw driver, took me on a small errand and therefore, he too was given a piece of the cake.

Phone calls continued to come from my relatives and friends, along with SMSes and What'sApp messages. By evening, the last of the gifts had arrived by courier - it was a collage of photographs from my childhood to the present day. This was the result of systematic hard work, plenty of rounds of discussions between Lekha and Ammu, my niece along with her husband, Mithun and working as per a conceived plan.

A birthday that I enjoyed thoroughly. Thanks all of you for making my day!

Lekha and Ammu showed that anything could be pulled off even during the most adverse conditions! I doff my hat to the both of them.

   *          *          *

Your First Eyes

A lover has four streams inside, of water, wine, honey and milk. Find those in yourself and pay no attention what so-and-so says about such-and-such.

The rose does not care if someone calls it a thorn or a jasmine. Ordinary eyes categorize human beings, That one is a Zoroastrian. This one, Muslim.

Walk instead with the other vision given you, your first eyes. Don't squint and don't stare blankly like a vulture. Those who love fire fall in the fire. A fly slips from the edge into the whey.

If you are in love with the infinite, why grieve over earth washing away in the rain?

Bow to the essence in a human being. A desert drinks war-blood but if it knew this secret, springs would rise, rose gardens.

Don't be content with judging people good and bad. Grow out of that. The great blessing is that Shams has poured a strength into the ground that lets us wait and trust the waiting.

Rumi


Tailpiece.

The Covid cases are on the upswing in India. It's cited as the second wave......will we have to go through yet another lock down? A spike in cases is sure to occur by the end of the first week of next month, soon after the elections to the local self government bodies!

 

Monday, November 23, 2020

Facts of life.

Before the age of 20, you'll spend a lot of time with a lot of 'friends'. After 30, you'll spend a a small amount of time with just a few important friends.

After the age of 20, you'll only spend a small amount of time with your family and parents before the end of their or your life.

You'll spend a huge amount of your time between the age of 20 and 60 with the people you work with.

If you're a parent, you'll spend the most time with your children between the age of 25 and 50, after that you won't see them often.

The time you spend with your partner will continue to increase from the day you meet them, until the day that you die.

At 30 years of age, the amount of time you spend by yourself increases until the day that you die.

Six Lessons to Learn from This.

* You will only ever have a small group of very important friends. Invest more in them and less in meaningless relationships.

* Your time with your parents will be limited. Create as much time for them as you can and make that time special.

* A huge amount of time will be spent with the people you work with, so you have to make sure you work with people you love.

* Once you have kids, the time you get to spend with them will be short - so make the most of it.

* Who you choose to be your romantic partner is one of the most important life decisions you will ever make. Choose wisely, don't settle.

* You have to learn to love yourself, enjoy your own company, depend on yourself and pursue your hobbies, because as you age you'll spend more time on your own.

Spend more time with those that you love the most, because one of these days you'll say, "I wish I had" or "I'm so glad I did".


Tailpiece.

Got up at 6, the chores and was ready by a half past 9. It was a normal day.

Lekha had toiled during early forenoon to bake a cake for tomorrow. She'd downloaded the recipe from the You Tube and the cake looks yummy and nice.