Amma on the ground

Puratchi thalaivi .Amma alias Dr.Jayalalitha descended on the ground the second time in a few months .The threat of nearing elections are enough stimulus for even the AIADMK supremo. In a tit for tat style ,she held the rally at Coimbatore ,the venue for the Semmozhi Manaadu that recently concluded. All local and national media carried a reasonably good coverage of this event.

The crowd was really breath taking ,and that for a leader whose party second line has virtually abandoned her in lure for greener pastures .Whoever was at the grass root organization level for this rally deserves commendation (which is very unforthcoming in the party .)The crowd was great ,the mood was upbeat and the event was well covered .That is for the better things .

What was disappointing was the Jaya’s speech which should have been the highlight of the rally.When people gather in huge numbers ,they expect you will say something remarkable .But as usual nothing or nobody can change the ways of Madam Jaya .She went on in a monotonous tone narrating the various allegations she had already said in the media many times over .It was like listening to a JayaTV news broadcast (though one must concede that the newsreaders do a better job with the reading ) .Nothing except the last few lines which hinted at an alliance and urged the party cadres to get ready for elections stirred the crowd .When she could have easily used the occasion to galvanise the workers and get them going ,she watered down all the good work some loyal functionaries had done on the ground with her dry talk (time to have separate writers for the speeches and the statements ).

As for her declaration that, the DMK is on its way out, the ruling party was quick with the retort ,”She is not octopus Paul !”



Brithday ,then and now

Every morning after the school prayer assembly was over ,the teacher leading the assembly for the day would call out , “all the birthday children come forward .”Once they gathered the whole school would go “Happy birthday to you ….”.There was an interesting tail to this when the birthday children had to sing back ,
"I thank you I do ,
I thank you I do ,
I thank you dear children ,
I thank you I do”.
It was, I or we ,depending on the number .The ones who presented themselves for these honours usually belonged to the primary school .Amongst the high school and higher secondary ,coming forward to sing I thank you I do into the mike was rather too embarrassing. Then followed sweet distribution , mostly nutrine and rarely eclairs,to the teachers and all classmates .Back home ,birthdays were more of auspicious occasions marked by a kesari or payasam and a visit to the temple .Some got new clothes, others wore their most recently purchased new dresses on the birthday .Birthday parties were for cinema stars and anybody who got to cut a cake belonged to the rich and the famous .

As a college student ,it was the era of greeting cards .Any approaching birthday meant visits to the greeting cards showrooms (which were rather sparse then)or the fancy stores which also stocked few cards for any occasion.Of the exclusive showrooms ,Greetings Gallery in Egmore was a favourite haunt .It was mindblowing to see the range of cards that they had ,you name an occasion and they had the card for it .Greeting cards with sentimental (almost close to the mother sentiment in MGR movies) ,tear jerking write ups were for close friends and they inspite of all the writing were not really complete without a personal touch of art or graffiti .Very rarely some thoughtful friends pooled money to buy a gift .The only birthday treat I remember giving was buying cool drinks to five of my close friends . My bottle was broken and also what was left was that part on which few ants had already partied .The alarmed shopkeeper immediately replaced it with a new one ,unbroken and unshared.

Today birthdays are what only family and few close friends care to remember .Some websites remind a few friends and what surprises me is how some shops in which you carelessly scribbled out your birthday ,take care to send cards every year without fail (my brother fractured his leg in school and the orthopaedic centre still sends him cards though it is more than fifteen years now. Remarkable patient follow up that ).

My kids birthdays though are never complete without a party .There are upto twenty, below ten kids in my apartment and that means birthday parties every month .Last year when I asked the kids to suggest a game for the birthday party ,one little girl promptly responded , “Aunty,Let’s play guessing what is the return gift game ….!!!!!!”.Return gifts and snacks are the yardsticks of any birthday party today .

More alarming than this is the recent trend in schools of children distributing gifts to whole classes on their birthdays .I find my little son returning with anything from pencils, fancy stationery ,stickers and pencil boxes .Last week one kid gave small fancy bags with his name imprinted on it for due remembrance .Assuming that each bag would have cost atleast fifty rupees and the class strength is around forty five ,even my not very mathematically sharp brain calculates it as a purse breaking amount .Time for schools to say NO to this whole sale gifting and restore some equality and childishness ...



HPV and the doubts ...

I recently attended a meeting addressed by an oncologist to clear the doubts regarding the HPV vaccine .The audience was a mixed groups of gynaecologists ,paediatricians,nurses and NGOs .Some points that were discussed and clarified were ,

1.The death of the four girls in the now infamous PATH vaccine trial (that was conducted in Gujarat and Khammam ,AP and sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) were in no way related to the vaccine .Two deaths were due to drowning and two due to other causes .
2.The trial was trying to test whether the vaccine could be given to even the most backward rural areas (in this case a tribal region ),a so called "feasibility study".The outcome of which could affect public health initiatives .This could enable inclusion of the vaccine in the Universal Immunisation programme with wide ranging benefits.
3.Safety trials have been successfully concluded and the vaccine is USFDA approved and in wide use ( even in men in some parts of the world).
4.The press which raised a rightful hue and cry over the deaths has been underplaying the investigation report and the clarifications of the health ministry and the ICMR in this regard.
5.Even among doctors ,the reports have led to confusions over administering the vaccine and a few doctors said that they had indeed stopped vaccinating their patients and were not aware of the clarifications that have been issued .
6.Also ,most importantly ,the vaccine can succeed only when combined with strong screening programmes which unfortunately is severely deficient even among the urban ,literate population .

Time to take the call ...