Monday, February 28, 2011

Votti (ਵੋੱਤੀ), Sotti (ਸੋੱਤੀ), ACL Tears and Getting Fit Again!

After successfully poxing out the pox in August last year, I was again forced to be off everything (I mean that literally too!) in December again.
Towards the end of November, after having done a lot of travelling, I was drained and exhausted and a bit under the weather - just wanted to be off for a weekend at least, to sleep early, wake up late and just laze around. But as some Murphy's Law would have it, it was exactly then that we from office had to travel to Goa over the weekend for an offsite.
The super-lazy me wanted to drop out, but then super-wifey, Neeti, admonished me for my laziness, moralised on what is right and pepped me up. And then, the "right"-side of me woke up and I hurriedly packed to sleep in time for the early morning departure to Goa. Was that feeling that I should not go a premonition (of sorts) of a forthcoming event?
Goa was as lovely as could be. The early morning air was as fresh as it could be, the morning sun was warm and soothing but the icing on the cake was Dabolim Airport which was a spotters' delight - being the tourist high season, Dabolim's tiny remote parking bays were teeming with jets (with exotic liveries) from western Europe and Russia. Just as our Air India Airbus A321 was taxiing in, a Monarch Airlines Boeing 757 was being towed out. The board in the terminal showed an arrival from Yekaterinburg - Екатеринбург, the city infamous for the murders of the Romanovs in 1918, following the Russian Revolution, and that gave me an eeky feeling.
Soon we were on the tree lined road to our resort on Arossim Beach. My memories took me back to May 2006, my first time in Goa, when Neeti and I had a lovely time cycling on the same road.
The first day was pretty enjoyable with a number of fun filled activities and it went off before we thought it was over. The second day went off pretty well until we went into the last activity of the day - dodgeball. I was a bit exhausted after the whole day in the sun and felt like dropping out, but the rational side of me forced me to play. On one occasion, when I was inside the circle, I stumbled over a colleague as I attempted to avoid the ball which was coming towards me. And I fell on my right side, twisting my lower leg. But I got up and within seconds, I was back in the game, only to get out after a few minutes.
The evening passed by, and we went to a beachside shack for a party. I never realised anything was amiss until the next morning, when I was unable to move my leg - the knee was swollen. Somehow, after mustering all energy I managed to get ready to return back to Bombay. Getting on to the flight on the ladder was a task - it took me a full 5 minutes, but I was aided by my helpful colleagues, Suyez, Pankaj, Nilesh, Deepak, Rajnish and few others. On reaching home, my personal physician, Neeti, took charge of me - my knee was liberally coated with Volini and I was padded up with tight crepe bandage. We were convinced it was a minor sprain, which would heal up by morning. And then we called it a day!
The next day, a Monday morning, the situation had worsened, the pain was as intense as ever, and I was not in a position to move. And my in-house physician decided it was beyond her, so our ever helpful physician, Dr. Ullal was called. He suggested an immediate MRI scan of the knee, before we met him in his clinic. And we quickly rushed for scan. The scan began - I was strapped on the couch, which then moved in, into the tube and a series of jarring, creepy noises started. In all, it felt as though I was being abducted by an alien spaceship!
The results showed a tear in the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), a critical ligament for stability of gait. On reviewing the report, Dr. Ullal classified this as a sports injury. In all the physical pain, that was a source of jest for Neeti and me - "How the hell can a lazybone like Rajeev get a sports injury?"
Dr. Ullal referred me to Dr. Dinshaw Pardiwala, a sports injury specialist, at the Kokilaben Dhirubhai Hospital and also was kind enough to speak to an administrative person at the hospital to facilitate an early appointment, as Dr. Pardiwala's appointments runs into a waitlist of upto a fortnight! Dr. Pardiwala recommended conservative treatment - no surgery, which relieved me. Immediately my leg was immobilised in a full-knee brace, with minimum movement, that too with a walking stick, which I never imagined I would ever use, at least before the twilight years set in.
Meanwhile, Neeti's Mom figured out that her ex-student, Dr. Jashan Vishwanath, was also an orthopaedic surgeon at Jaslok Hospital and suggested we meet him as well. That was quite useful as he reaffirmed that we were on the right track, but also suggested immediate physiotherapy to prevent muscles from wasting away, which was a distinct possibility.
My immobility made me quite a kid, and Neeti played parent to perfection - dressing me up, getting the shoes on, getting me food and all that was required. I remember the day I rejoined office two weeks after the accident, Neeti came with me downstairs to the car, just as a parent would go to see off a kid to the school bus!!!!
Then my folks came visiting. My Dad insisted on massaging the injured area himself, while Mom ensured an endless supply of great food to elevate my spirits!
In a few days, as recommended by the two doctors, my physiotherapy started - that helped to get the strength back in the limbs. My physiotherapy started under Heath Matthews and his team. Heath had treated quite a few Indian sports-persons and is a renowned name in that field. During the first session I had with him, he mentioned that Sania Mirza had a similar injury in 2007, but had recovered with conservative treatment, and went to achieve some success. That reassured me and also was another source of jest as Neeti often jocularly said that I was in the same league as Sania Mirza!!!!
Slowly and gradually, but convincingly, as the physiotherapy sessions by Heath and Shraddha progressed I limped back to normal. I gradually increased my time in office, started moving around at home and even went for a short vacation to Kodagu, which was covered in my photo-blog earlier, alongwith my folks, though Neeti's folks could not make it. There too we had our share of fun. The photographs that had Neeti, me and my stick were called votti (ਵੋੱਤੀ) and sotti (ਸੋੱਤੀ) photographs -- what a rhyming caption! The word, votti, means wife in Punjabi and sotti, stick!!! That became a joke in the family!!!
As my phsyiotherapy became intense, I was require to spend at least an hour in the gym. And then the next thing that started off in the family, initiated by who else but Neeti, that this was the only way to get lazybones of mine to exercise, a wake-up call! True, it was after nearly 3 years, and a few kilos of weight gain that I was getting back to serious exercising.
Religiously, I started going to the gym early in the morning, after a round of persistent persuasion by by my votti! And I have been doing the rounds of the gym regularly, with a few exceptions (yes, these were exceptions!). I did find that the seriousness was missing in most of the people visiting the gym. Most seemed to be there just to gossip, some to flirt with the supposedly, hot chicks, while the gym instructors would enjoy all the attention they got from the females. Some would spend just two minutes exercising, the next five minutes wiping off the sweat, and then gossiping around for the five minutes before getting back to the next round! Is that exercise? Perhaps, flirting and gossiping does burn a lot of calories, for some, at least.
My rounds to the gym, after intense persuasion by Neeti, and through weekly interventions by Heath and Shraddha, I have regained almost full functionality of my knee and all should be well in the next few months.
In a sense, my ACL injury was indeed a wakeup call - to eat right, sleep right and exercise right! I only pray that I have the strength to continue with my exercise regimen.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Of Blooming Jasmines, Mad Dogs and Sons of Bitches.....

The Arab world has got into a boiling cauldron. After Tunisia and Egypt, the fragrance of the Jasmine has spread across the entire Middle East and North Africa. Seemingly stable and liberal regimes in Morocco, Oman and Bahrain are now finding themselves sinking, rapidly, in quicksand.
The Jasmine revolution makes for a number of interesting observations. I would start with the lighter and the spicier ones!
Firstly, power was the elixir that ensured the longevity of the geriatric rulers in the Arab world. Sample this, can you imagine working in any corporate well into your 80s? The answer would be a no. Hosni Mubarak is 83, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is 87, Sultan Qaboos of Oman is 70. Many of these geriatrics suffer from multiple ailments - cancer, diabetes, paralysis - ailments that could potentially incapacitate them from using their basic faculties for normal existence, yet they governed their countries as fiefdoms, governed with impunity and without any sense of shame. Such has been the craving, the love for power that once Hosni lost power, he lost his mojo -- he slipped into a deadly coma, as some newsreports suggest. Power is obviously the elixir for longevity -- this also seems to be true for a lot of geriatric Indian politicians as well!
Secondly, the despots may be despots, but they served a purpose, much like the jokers in a pack of cards. They, for a few decades, did give a semblance of stability and peace in a region, worse than any minefield. But more importantly, their antics and rants entertained the world. Their virility was the subject of a huge speculation, like the gossip on Colonel Gaddafi and his trusted "voluptuous blonde" Ukrainian nurse, Galyna Kolotnytska, and his 40-member female bodyguard contingent, known as the Amazonian Guard. These bodyguards are said to be recruited from Cuba and are all said to be either virgins or lesbians(?). Gaddafi's eccentricities are legendary - travelling with a camel to France, while on a state visit and pitching a heated tent, on the grounds of a Paris hotel, because Bedouin traditions so dictate! On his subsequent state visit to Italy, he went about fishing in Silvio Berlusconi's bunga-bunga harem - he invited 500 glamorous women to covert to Islam - apparently these women were lured with €70 each through a modelling agency! This reminds me of a one-liner, on the sex-escapades and virility of our geriatric N.D. Tiwari, that I had come across long back on Twitter, which is also apt for oldies like Berlusconi and Gaddafi -- "They give all men hope for their future!!!!" Perhaps, power is their viagra, that keeps them going into their twilight years!

Thirdly, common enemies can make strange bedfellows. Newsreports spoke of an Israeli journalist, Noy Alooshe, spoofing Gaddafi's televised rant of last week into a YouTube hit, which got some accolades from Arabs!

Fourthly, the Kissinger doctrine of "he's a son of a bitch, but he's our son of a bitch" still holds true despite Obama's fancy new(?) world view. The interpretation of democracy is a matter of convenience, it just depends whose son of a bitch you are dealing with. Not very long back, in the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan had called Gaddafi the Mad Dog of the Middle East, and ordered airstrikes over Tripoli, killing the dictator's baby daughter. Gaddafi then orchestrated the Lockerbie bombing and other acts of terror. In the 2000s, he became George W. Bush's "son of a bitch". Gaddafi was locked into a tight embrace with the United States. Condoleezza Rice then travelled to Libya, conferred with him in a Bedouin tent, got "lovingly" called Leezza, gave the Mad Dog the aura of a statesman and came back with gifts worth USD 212,000, afterall, Gaddafi had become Bush's "son of a bitch" or perhaps his poodle!!!!! And when the Hosni regime was on the verge of falling, the Obama administration got into an intense engagement with the Saudi royalty on getting democracy restored in Egypt. The Saudis cannot be termed as democrats by any stretch of imagination, but they are the Americans' "sons of bitches". Jemima Goldsmith (the ex-wife of the Pakistani cricketer, Imran Khan -- I always wondered how a Pakistani feudal fundamentalist could ever, ever marry a Jewish heiress???? Lucre or lust, you decide!) tweeted saying "Obama conferring with the Saudis on the democratic transition in Egypt, is like asking a vegetarian how to cook prime rib." Wow!!!! The world needs a few lessons in the Saudi style of democracy, it seems!!! But they are Uncle Sam's "sons of bitches", afterall; democracy be damned!!!!!
Fifthly, while the fragrance of the Jasmine is contagious, it reopens some festering wounds. Notably among them are the Sunni - Shiite rift, which is now out in the open. How this affects terror outfits is an open question. Even the might of the Chinese state may be humbled by the wafting Jasmine fragrance across Silk Route. Already, the Great Firewall of China has blocked out any news on Egypt and Jasmine. Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter which were used to propagate the fragrance have been blocked, but a Twitter clone, is still on and is reportedly being used, alongwith an unblocked LinkedIn, as the media to propagate dissent, reportedly through code language. So economic upliftment by itself may not be enough without some real power to the people. That should make the Indian political dynasties uneasy, for they do not change, we too could have a messy time ahead!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Journey Through Spice & Coffee Country....

The other day Neeti went about flirting with coffee, albeit on her blog. And then, she inspired me to write a photo blog on our journey through Kodagu, earlier this year which we thorougly enjoyed. Undoubtedly the place was good - no traffic, no hustle-bustle, no deadlines for those few days and more importantly, the company was great - spending quality time with Neeti and my folks was priceless. Unfortunately, Neeti's folks could not make it.
The best way to begin a journey through Kodagu, India's coffee and spice country is in the morning. Numerous trails will lead you into the various coffee plantations, which offer an exciting insight into how nature balances itself and how man can optimize conservation and commercial cultivation!

Plantation Trails -- The rutted paths lead us deeper into the heart of the plantation.... The lovely greens and the constant chirping of birds give us a spring in each step we take!

The sun rises, lifting the veil of mist through the greens.....

The plantation has quite a magical and enchanting feel to it. Look at the pure dewdrops dropping from the leaves... Why couldn't we see this in the city each day?

And we walk on, in amazement and in wonder, thinking of the bounties of nature, that we never notice.... Each step we take rustles the dried leaves on the rutted path!!!!

The coffee plant glistens in the morning sun...... and berries drink in the golden rays to give you the robustness of your morning cup!

A coffee plantation always gives more than coffee. These tiny chllies that grow in coffee plantations are quite a bomb, they can make your skin burn for long.

I wonder whether these ones are deadlier than the Bhut Jolokia of Nagaland that is the deadliest chilli on earth - heard that DRDO is developing an effective, non-lethal weapon from an extract of the Bhut Jolokia!

And pepper too!!! Numerous wars were fought in the medieval era for the fruit of these vines. Some say the Crusades were fought to secure the spice routes.
But here humble pepper corns wait to reach your dinner table!!

The brilliant blue sky, what a lovely morning!

The ants are preparing to call this coffee leaf their home

A lovely example of his wondrous ecosystem thrives. The spider that makes this web lives in burrow beneath. The web traps pests (insects) that thrive on the coffee plant!

A lazy day in the plantation!

These berries will someday be ground into aromatic coffee, which will find its way into your cup!

Gently flows the Cauvery!!!

Such a pristine environment!!!

Would love to spend more time here!!!

Waterbodies in the plantation complement the ecosystem!!!

You should not be surprised to see this in a plantation. As jackfruits ripen, elephants come into the plantations from the reserves to feast on them....

And that's vanilla pod, which left permanent stain on my denims! The aroma was amazing!

And that's a cardamom.....

And the sun sets on the plantation!!!

And watching the sun go down on the Kodagu hills is an unforgettable experience.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Fall of Hosni - A Cataclysmic Event?

Egypt's strongman, Hosni Mubarak has now gone, handing over power to a council of the army.
But we cannot say with certainty whether this event bodes well for the Islamic world in general, and Egypt in particular.
Will peace with Israel endure? Will Egypt go the democracy way or will it go down the fundamentalist road taken by the likes of Pakistan? Or will the so called "success" of democracy craving youth extend into the dungeons of the Arabian peninsula, read Saudi Arabia?
Only time will answer these questions, but history has proven that every ten years there are cataclysmic events that alter the shape of the world.
1981 brought Ronald Reagan as the 40th president of the United States. And Reagan unleashed a series of economic interventions encouraging increased consumption aided by easy debt availability to the Americans. Further, the American economy systematically moved away from manufacturing to services. The results were far reaching - the effect was to be seen only after 2008, when the malaise of toxic loans hit the most powerful economy of the world, with catastrophic effects, which then had to rely on the Chinese to support it - whether it was for money or for manufactured goods.
The invincible Soviet Union was brought down to its knees 1991. With no countervailing balance, the only remaining superpower, the United States unleashed deadly wars in the Persian Gulf, which stoked flames of militant Islamic terror, which today can be felt in every continent on the globe. More flames were stoked by cheap arms made available from the disintegrating Soviet military, which also encouraged bloody conflicts in Africa and Latin America.
2001 brought terror to shores of the United States with the 9/11 attacks. And America's psyche was deeply hurt to the core, like never before, which made the world lose its innocence for ever.
So the big question today is whether the events in Egypt today would sink the Islamic world deeper into a medieval era, or towards a resurgence?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

恭喜發財 - Kung Hei Fat Choy!!!!

Today is the Chinese New Year, this year happens to be to be the Year of the Rabbit!
My fascination for the Chinese New Year came about when I was in Hong Kong and Macau around the same time last year. The city had an exotic look. It was decked up, emblazoned in red to welcome the Year of the Tiger. It was nice to see red banners all over, little red lanterns suspended from the ceilings. Shops carried messages, that appeared very exotic to me, saying: 恭喜發財 or Kung Hei Fat Choy!!!!
And we were curious to know what it meant. We asked a hostess at The Spaghetti House what that meant, actually showed her a picture of the message: Kung Hei Fat Choy to make her understand. She said it was a greeting, may you be rich and prosperous.
And then out of curiosity, I googled on the significance and mythology behind the Chinese New Year and I came across an interesting story, which goes as follows:
Long ago in the mountains, there lived a horrible demon creature named Nian, 年獸. On the first day of the year, Nian would awaken and come to the villages. He would eat all the grain and livestock. And if there were any kids stuck outside, they would disappear.
The villagers lived in fear of this beast and locked up inside their homes on this night to protect their families. One year, right before this event was to occur, an old man visited the village. He turned to the villagers and asked, "Why do you fear this creature such? You are many and he is but one. Surely he could not swallow all of you."
But the villagers remained skeptical and locked themselves up anyway. That night, Nian did not come. The old man had ridden him until dawn and the creature went back to its cave hungry. This went on for several nights until the old man revealed, "I cannot protect you forever."
Soon the old man went away. The villagers were terrified that once the old man left, they would once again see Nian return.
So the old man informed them, "The beast is easily scared. He does not like the color red. He fears loud noises and strange creatures. So tonight, spread red across the village. Hang red signs on every door. Make loud noises with drums, music, and fireworks. And to protect your children, give them face masks and lanterns to protect them."
The villagers still took precautions, but there was one little kid, wearing a red cape, who scampered out. Nian on seeing the kid ran away, never to return back again.
Today, the Chinese commemorate this day by having lion and dragon dances in the outdoors. Streets and sidewalks are decorated with flyers, dragons and lanterns. Restaurants have special menus for the festival. Offices are decked up.
At home, the Chinese clean up, sweep away any ill-fortune in the hope of the incoming good fortune. Windows and doors are decorated with red colour lanterns and banners having couplets on "happiness", "wealth", and "longevity". On the eve of the Chinese New Year, supper is a feast with family and friends - the feast includes pork, duck, chicken and sweet delicacies. Families end the day with firecrackers.
Kids are ones who have a blast of it all, like the way they do on Diwali here! Early the next morning, children will greet their parents by wishing them a healthy and happy new year, and receive money in red paper envelopes.
We were also given a packet of complimentary red envelopes in a shop in Hong Kong and this year we did use these at home, for gifting and greeting one and all with 恭喜發財 - Kung Hei Fat Choy!!!! Isn't that simply another way to have fun and wish loved ones?
We also learnt that children in Hong Kong are used to saying: 恭喜發財, 利是逗來, 伍毫嫌少, 壹蚊唔愛 in Cantonese, which can be translated as, "Congratulations and be prosperous, now give me a red envelope, fifty cents is too little, don't want a dollar either." Isn't that quite funny?
The Chinese New Year tradition is to reconcile, forget all grudges and sincerely wish peace and happiness for everyone.
Isn't it so much like the way we celebrate Diwali in India? Isn't there too much in common between us and the Orient? Perhaps because, for centuries, Indian culture and mythology had been a source of great inspiration for East and South East Asia, the remnants of which are seen today! Look at the way the Chinese pray, it's so similar to the way we pray!
This year is said to be the Year of The Rabbit, based on the Chinese zodiac - how the Chinese zodiac came into being is another interesting story!
This year is supposed to one of peace and calm, just the way rabbits are! Also, it is likely to be an year of introspection, where we reflect on what's happened so far, while planning for the future, somewhat like burrowing deeper like the rabbit. This is also the time to watch out that we do not become too indulgent. The influence of the rabbit is said to spoil those who like too much comfort and thus impair their effectiveness and sense of duty.
Wonder what the Year of The Rabbit brings in for our world with all the turmoil in the Arab world and at home, in India, the state of paralysis in the government.
But there are some lighter moments in all this turmoil. The Wall Street Journal just reported that bunnies had been reared especially for gifting this new year and the kind of havoc these little created in the homes of those who received them as gifts!
But for me, I am waiting go out on Saturday night to have an authentic Chinese meal at the Aromas of China close by. That would mean an intense round of lobbying with Neeti, who is steadfastly keeping a hawk's eye on my calorie intake. But a couple of red envelopes and 恭喜發財 - Kung Hei Fat Choy's could turn the game in my favour!!!!
Till then, 恭喜發財 - Kung Hei Fat Choy to all!!!! May the Year of The Rabbit (兔) bring good fortune to the readers of Rajeev's World!!!!
(All the photos are from Hong Kong and Macau, except for the one of the kids, which was taken by Neelima in Singapore)

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