Saturday, March 25, 2017

When Opinions Are Like________ And Everyone Has One

When Opinions Are Like________ And Everyone Has One



A few years ago, when social media was not yet as ripe as it is today, whenever I finished a book or a movie I liked I couldn’t wait to head to school/college the next day and discuss it with my friends. Sometimes the discussion would be with my area friends and I would head out to their house, call them out, mostly by ringing their door bell and informing their dad/mom whoever happened to open the door that a gang of us friends were waiting in the street for their son and rushing back out to the street before they could stop us and ask us about our marks in the latest exam. 

And after such hectic efforts to  collect a minimum quorum necessary to argue incessantly we would all adjourn to the nearby tea shop or potti kadai (pavement shop) or even the street corner- preferably a brightly lighted on underneath a street lamp –to make out facial expressions when arguing and then finally I would lay out my opinions regarding that book or movie which made me walk all the way up to their homes and then my friends would proceed to offer their candid comments on my taste of movies or books and lay threadbare my other foibles just to pass their time. After such a refreshing talk with alternate viewpoint’s we would all disperse to our respective streets/homes after promising to meet again soon under the same street lamp. And those were simpler times and not that long ago too- and definitely not from the Jurassic or Triassic era if that’s what you are thinking.

Now switch over to the current scenario. Suppose I read a book or saw a movie I liked- say a new author I have recently discovered or a classic film I just happened to download and watch on a boring day. I just have to post that information online on my Facebook and Twitter feed (or instagram a picture while actually doing it) and voila, the opinions fly in even without asking, even before I have finished posting. Friends, strangers, friends turned strangers and strangers turned friends are all actively commenting on my choice of the book/movie, offering me critical analysis of the novelist/director, recommending other unheard works from his/her oeuvre and generally being too helpful in educating me. And that’s just on facebook.

On twitter the situation is even more drastic. Critics and trolls will crawl out of the woodwork where they would have been long in hiding (just following my tweets silently) and treat my posting my opinion on the book/movie as an open invitation to offer their opinion of me, my behavior in my personal life, my opinon of narendra modi and my lifestyle choices. The open forum of twitter where you don’t have the option of “accepting friends” aka facebook makes it even easier to get trolled by anonymous (and some not so anonymous) trolls. The only option would be to either block them (and miss out on all the fun of being called an imperialist/british loving/macaulayputra running dog for preferring English over Hindi as a national language for united India) or in shifting to a protected tweets only mode which is simply like hollering alone in a locked room while the dogs bark outside. Neither of which appeals to my sense of humour. But sadly despite all that vim and vitriol real opinion on real issues never seem to happen on twitter. Everyone seems desperate to show off and impress others with their felicity over the 140-character format. Brevity in words is unfortunately taken to mean paucity of thoughts, original thoughts I mean.

And when all this pseudo-intellectual shit gets heavy on me, I post my opinions on Insta, where people (from world-over) instantly grant me likes and heart me- even if their ‘net connections are so poor that they can’t even see my post which has not yet loaded on their mobile apps and still take the time to comment “good”, “great”, “wonderful”, “fill in any other generic compliment you can think of” just so I would remember and repeat the compliments the next time they post something. An intellectual conversation is never on the cards on insta- unless it’s a post on feminists when you are sure to get more comments than likes as everyone and their aunt have an opinion on feminism.

Anyway the point of this post is that unlike the simpler older times when the discussion was instant (give or take 24 hours) and mostly on topic,  the use of social media to solicit opinions on our recent reads/watches mostly leads us off to unexpected areas where we are forced to either update our knowledge after accepting our ignorance of the topic we first posted upon (say on the comparative acting talents of Humphrey Bogart/Grace Kelley/Sidney Poitier) or we are forced to defend our opinions incessantly (like why we like chetan bhagats books despite the man being a mountebank). 

This ceaseless arguing, for weeks on together (whenever any idiotic stalker goes and likes our old post’s to bring it back up on the TL for further comments and discussions again and again) saps all the thrill and excitement of discovering something new and trying to share it with everyone or at least with our own close circle of like-minded friends. So much so, that nowadays I desist from announcing my excitement at my discoveries online. I prefer to hoard the emotions, gloat over them in private and if filled to overflowing I try to turn down the excitement a notch by writing a blogpost on it, of course with comments disabled for my peace of mind. So, far from social media being a great tool to harness contrary opinions and diverse views, the reality is that it’s the same shit all over again. And this way you don’t even have the pleasure of punching someone in the face when they disagree with you.


So tell me dear readers, do you like to post your opinions on social media when something new excites you? Or do you just want to pick up a phone, call a friend and talk it out with them? Which is your choice of poison? 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

My Top -5 – Underrated Tamil Films On The Theme Of Love Failure.

My Top -5 – Underrated Tamil Films On The Theme Of Love Failure.

Inspired by blogger Sylvianism’s post on top romance films of Tamil cinema, I wanted to write my own list. Here are a few gems which might not have made the mainstream blockbuster lists but still work in an understated way.

1)    Paneer Pushpangal- this being the season of paneer, how could I resist starting off this post without paneer? Released in 1981 this was P.Vasu’s first directorial- much before china thambi and chandramukhi. The title paneer pusphangal refers to lotus flowers but the hidden meaning of the title is the early morning dew on the lotus flowers which evaporates with the full dawn as a metaphor for first love which disappears with the onslaught of reality. The story which deals with the budding of love in school kids of a boarding school in Ooty and is full of hilarious takes on hostel life in boarding schools and still resonates with those who have spent some part of their lives away from home eating terrible hostel food and pining for attention/affection even when surrounded all around by friends. The romance is such a natural expression of kids in that terrible teen years when your heart yearns for affection and gets a crush on whoever shows even the tiniest bit of affection. The lead actor suresh and his group of friends capture the slice of life of teen years in a poignant way. Not to forget the sketch of the wise and understanding teacher played, rather underplayed by pratap pothen in his trademark style. And true to style the movie ends in love failure as so often happens in real life. The songs are especial highlights of the movie- who can forget kodaikala katraey? Definitely this is one movie for the discerning types.



2)    Ninaivellam Nithya – again, an 80’s era film with love as the main theme and all the characters revolving around it. This again ends in a tragedy but is all the more sweeter for it as the entire movie seems geared up to play out the almost impossible happy ending when it comes to a pairing between two widely divergent individuals status wise. The hero is a rich kid, the heroine is a tribal and not only do they have the temerity to fall in love but they end up eloping and dying in the climax. A very young karthick and viji a debutante would have lived the roles of the star crossed lovers. Every casting choice was perfect and natural and the highlight of the movie are the songs which still make one get goosebumps. You can even consider this the breakout movie of singer SPB as the songs Pannivilum malarvanam and neethane endhan pon vasandham (yes, the original of the movie with the same title by Gautham menon) are still being played in many impromptu jam sessions and karaoke nights.



3)    Kadhal Kondein- I am partial to selvaraghhavan romances- I have no hesitation in accepting it. I thought long and hard about 7-g rainbow colony- another doomed romance with haunting songs before picking this one simply because with 7-g selva had perfected his craft and knew all the ways to tug at heartstrings but this one was raw romance with nary a thought of the box office acceptability. Danush burst on to the scene with this movie and gave us a glimpse of what he could do if left unfettered and in proper hands but sadly the image trap has consumed the actor in danush in recent times. The theme of unrequited love might be the same but the way that selva builds up danush’s character as the innocent friend who is used as a go-between of two lovers who naturally gets tempted and falls in love himself and the way that the heroine is the most matured character of all and handles the inappropriate love with parts compassion and parts exasperation makes beautiful watching. You can’t beat selvaraghavan when it comes to showing love from a feminine point of view.



4)    Parthiban Kanavu – this is a little gem for those who missed out when it was first released. The lead actor srikanth is in love with a woman but marries her lookalike who is totally opposite to his expectations. Rather than being disappointed, depressed or ending up in divorce the hero starts appreciating the new woman in his life. For a movie about post marital love it’s surprisingly subtle about the way in which the wife’s character starts growing up in her husband’s affection and ends up gaining his love even after he meets his original lover. Sneha literally owns this film in a dual role with both women affecting the hero in different ways. The movie which starts off with the love failure ends up showing marital success as the hero is mature enough to realize that what you lose on the swings you gain on the roundabouts.



5)    Ullam Ketkumey – a movie about a group of friends all of whom have love failures? I see you shaking your head and saying no way José. But this movie is not just about love, it’s about friendship, it’s about ambition, it’s about making clear headed choices in life and about redemption after love failure. There are a lot of romances in the movie- arya’s, poojas, shyams, laila’s- everyone ends up falling for one another as so often happens in close knit college buddies groups. But the movie doesn’t stop with the usual romance scenes or love failure songs. It shows life beyond love failure when people have the guts to pick themselves up and go onto succeed in other spheres of life even when romance has failed them. The scene where pooja walks into aryas room on the eve of his wedding and the scene where shyam at last realizes Laila’s love after being oblivious to it throughout the entire movie are quite heart tugging. The songs are just so and so, but the story more than makes up for the music.



The Other contenders -

Although there were many other contenders for the top 5 love failure movies, I didn’t want to go with the usual suspects like vinnaiy thandi varuvaya and premam which you would be hard pressed to find anyone in tamilnadu who has not watched or has an opinion on. Rather I wanted to showcase a few which no one would have seen or heard off before as my recommendations to watch. I give thanks to my friend sylvian Patrick for the blog prompt for this post and also to raj tv channel which by repeated telecast of all these movies has made me appreciate and become a fan of these little know gems. There is life after love and there is always another love failure movie to watch on Raj TV. Happy Valentine ’s Day folks.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Healthcare 2017- Ditch Robots And Bring Back The Doctors

Healthcare 2017- Ditch Robots And Bring Back The Doctors



After yet another fruitful year of practicing what I preach, I thought it’s time to put up a post on my pet peeve, again. The said peeve being, the practice of medicine is slowly being changed into a robotic occupation, where a doctor is given a set of instructions and told to follow them to a “t”. But unfortunately the human body doesn’t not cooperate with this by the book approach as every individual is unique by himself and every disease affects a person differently. Given a set temple and asked to follow the protocols given is the surest way to prolong disease till the patient is deceased. And that’s the reason why I always take evidence based medicine with a pinch of salt.

Evidence based medicine to give its due, works in a fairly efficient way, in a limited spectrum. But given its limitations it is inefficient at best and dangerous at its worst. And why, I will explain now. For those not familiar with evidence based medicine- it’s a set of treatment protocols (usually developed in western countries) which says after checking these protocols this is the best treatment for this disease and hence, everyone worldwide needs to follow these protocols whenever/wherever they see this same disease.

The problems with this approach are manifold. Let me just discuss the top two. Firstly most if not all of these protocols were developed for simple diseases and straightforward diagnostics/treatment procedures. If you have any complicated disease requiring multiple procedures, you just cannot follow any protocol template, you have to diagnose and treat case by case using all your years of experience and intuition and hope for the best. Which in turn defeats the very purpose of evidence based medicine. You need best evidence protocols for the most difficult cases because these are the ones which test you to the limits and are prone to end up with the death of the patient and the doctor being blamed for inadequate/insufficient treatment. Where others who have the luxury of time, weeks and months to study the symptoms will second guess the decisions you make in seconds by the patient’s bedside as the patient lies gasping for air and fighting death minute by minute. What’s the evidence say? Did you follow the treatment protocol? These questions are very easy to ask in hindsight but doesn’t help at the moment when most required.

The second major disadvantage with this protocol based approach for treatment is that the template developed most often uses a particular procedure using a particular piece of equipment which study in turn is sponsored by that particular equipment manufacturer. You can’t blame them – for most of these studies are really expensive and require large scale funding which governments never do and hence the researchers raise money from private players who naturally have a vested interest in promoting their products. So even if there is a better or more simpler or more low cost way available to treat that particular disease it will never be accepted as mainstream – because no one does research on it and no one publishes it and no one by which I mean no respectable medical board or journal accepts it- which results in the low cost or simpler alternative having the status only of quack medicine. While the costlier company sponsored study gets accepted in prestigious journals and then becomes the accepted standard of care worldwide merely because there is no other alternative to it.

This grant of legitimacy to costly treatments in the absence of alternatives is the primary reason that doctors from developing countries hate evidence based medicine. It’s all very well to recommend protocols followed in Boston or the Massachusetts general hospital but not everyone is lucky to be practicing in Boston or Massachusetts. What about somebody practicing in Nigeria? Or Nellore? With no access to the level of diagnostic or treatment machinery as given in the protocol as per evidence based medicine? Is it fair to punish that doctor for treating that patient but not following the best established practice protocol? Whose fault is that and how can you apportion the blame?

This craze of getting more and more evidence based protocols also has the side effect of developing and insisting on more and more tests, more than 90% of which are unnecessary- like treadmill test, stress test, angiogram, CT slice- 64/128/216 machines – all of them being developed just to rule out any cardiac disease and your doctor has to prescribe these unnecessary tests every time you go for a simple muscle sprain or gastric distress and indigestion or any other condition which does not involve the heart. But because the best evidence based medicine protocol says you have to rule out heart disease in all cases, everyone gets to do a CT scan at the highest possible resolution beyond 64, beyond 128 beyond 216 slices- even if you are a healthy person with absolutely no evidence of any heart disease. But because the protocol formed in SanFrancisco or New York or London says so- you have to get that CT scan, every time you over eat samosas and have gas. If this wasn’t a waste of resources and such a tragedy it would be such an inside joke, but I can’t laugh at it now. And neither should the poor unfortunate patients who end up paying for all that waste of time.

So the best thing that you and I can hope for is that the government gets into the act and funds medical research in a big way so that individual researchers do not have to go begging bowl in hand to equipment companies who in turn dictate the treatments to be researched and published. And secondly the realization that data mining and rigid protocol’s don’t work for human beings. There is ample space in medicine for hard won experience and intuition based on it. Or otherwise we will continue to take angiograms for every patient who comes to the hospital with an acidity problem and advocate cardiac by-pass surgeries based on miniscule blockages seen in every minor blood vessel, whether they want to or not get a major heart surgery done. Why? Because the evidence says so, and you want to get the best possible treatment at international level don’t you?


I hope national governments realize the immense damage being caused to local healthcare managements by these artificially imposed from abroad protocols and either help in developing local protocols for local people or at least stop penalizing doctors for using years and years of experience to treat patients instead of following Boston rules. Support doctors not robots.