Things I learned in my last trip to Kerala

Wednesday, 9 April 2008 05:37 by salim
  1. I still love rain: I landed on the 22nd to the midst of a severe spring depression in the Arabian Sea. Really torrential rains for almost three days without a pause. A very nice reminder of the monsoons. Yes, it was disastrous, with large amounts of crops failing as this happened just when the paddy fields were getting ready to be harvested. The rain practically flooded large portions of the road between my brother's house and my sister's house between which I was doing most of the walking.
  2. Kerala drivers are not reckless, they are incredibly patient: I am still afraid of traffic in Kerala roads. I do feel much better driving in the US where there are specific rules and people largely obey them. So, the apparent chaos of the TVM traffic baffled me for a few days. I was trying to imagine how I managed to go through this when I was driving. But, the number of vehicles where several times less then than it is now. The roads have not widened at all, though in TVM, the number of roads have increased. So, as I traveled (as a passenger) around TVM, I came to learn the incredible order in all this chaos. The fundamental principle in the dynamic - you will be surprised - co-operation and patience!!! Every intersection, everybody yielded, watched for others, took the least invasive route. Of course there were tyrants and hot headed drivers and novices. But they all worked within this system of yield and cooperation much more than I see in an intersection with stop sign in the US. We are still learning the wonders of double lane traffic, but I think we are much better and getting better as we do it more.
  3. Kerala Govt. Hospitals are a good place to get health care: I know the maladies of our government hospitals from the corruption among doctors and staff to the lack of availability of equipments and sometimes medicine. But it does operate much more efficiently than many big hospitals in the US. It is quite amazing when you add the fact that most of the service provided by these government hospitals is free. I visited SAT, a hospital that specializes in women and children. It is where most of the difficult child births around TVM and possibly the whole of Kerala happens. In my own family, my elder niece had some complication during birth and was transferred to SAT immediately after birth in a private hospital. My sister gave birth to her daughter there as well. So, I am intimately familiar with the good and the bad. Knowing the amount of talent we have in there and the percentage of hard working dedicated people, with all the perceived bad, I will still trust SAT against any other private hospital and some of the hospitals around me in Philadelphia.
  4. The political discourse in Kerala has not changed a lot: This is a good sign. It has not deteriorated any further. There is the usual penetration of right wing media and further marginalisation of the left voice. But, nothing alarming there. There are the beginnings of alternative discourse becoming more visible through blogs and some odd TV programs. Coming from the US, even the worst offenders of journalistic ethics in Kerala looks like a bastion of Journalistic integrity in US standards)
  5. I love talking in Malayalam: I knew this. I have not done theoretical discussions in Malayalam for a while. Got some chance to do it. Loved it!
  6. There are way too many Cuckoos in Kerala: Yes, there are much more than say 7 years ago. I lived in TVM at two houses and in Kochin at my wife's house. In all the three places, I could hear much more Cuckoo (Kuyil) songs than I used to hear before. It was a novelty to challenge a cuckoo song and make it "mad". But now, it is actually annoying at times. My sister complains about this one cuckoo which start singing at 4 am in the morning!! I should ask an ornithologist about this.

More to come...

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I Did Vasectomy, And I am Proud of It

Wednesday, 9 April 2008 05:08 by salim

For a few years, we have been toying with the idea of getting permanent sterilization. However, since we have come up with a quite efficient plan of contraception and abstinence, this was not in the forefront of discussion. Last year, we asked our primary physician about it and he advised me to contact a urologist. Once I started the process, I soon found that it is not an easy thing to be done in the US, especially with the dubious status of my insurance. It was definitely too expensive to do without insurance coverage. So, when during my visit to India , I went ahead and did it. I went to the Sree Chithira Tirunal Govt. Hospital (SAT hospital for women and children. Yes, I know, not a likely place to do vasectomy) and did the Non Scalpel Vasectomy (NSV). Of course it was not among the most pleasant things done to my penis and scrotum. However, it was relatively low impact and I had to endure only minor post operative pain.

I know this is kind of a personal thing and might not be the best subject to discuss in a public blog. I am not that socially open person either. But what prompted me to advertise this was a rather alarming statistics. In the last year, among more than 150,000 sterilizations done in Kerala, only about 1,100, less than 1% were vasectomies. The rest were procedures done on women.

First I thought this might be a special case for Kerala, but soon it was clear that this is a global phenomenon. The percentage of males undergoing sterilization is much less than that of females. This is one of those hidden sexist actions we males do but never acknowledge.

The main two reasons for men not going for sterilization are two fold. One, they are afraid. Yes, as we men secretly know all this time that we are the meeker sex. We are afraid of so many things that might undermine our macho stature. Messing with our "Organ" definitely is the scariest things we could ever think of. The second reason is our opposition to random people handling our sex organs. The funny thing is that, we do not feel any angst when men and women medical practitioners pour over female genitalia for even the simplest of reasons as a fungus infection. It is with mortal fear men allow a doctor, male or female handling his "manhood". I think many of us fear a male doctor seeing it and judging the size of it. come on, what if his is bigger than mine and he actually sees it!!!

This is not an isolated statistics where women ends up doing men's dirty work. One other case is the HPV vaccine. The main culprit in spreading HPV are men who are the carriers of the virus. We all know that it is best to treat the point of distribution. However, the manufactures, even with indications that it will work just as well in men, went ahead and completed testing only with women (in developing countries, of course). 

So, I had to announce that, I did go through NSV, I am proud of it, and recommend it to all men who does not want to have kids. It takes only a few minutes of your life, and has very minimal discomfort. I will take HPV vaccine if they are offered for men as well.

Hey, if you do it in India, you will even get Rs.1,100.00. I also strongly recommend you do it in a government hospital instead of private, where you can do it for free. If you do so, don't forget to donate the money back to the hospital. They need a lot of supplies that is hard to get through proper channel.

Before closing this post, I would like to thank the doctors, nurses and assistants of SAT hospital in Thiruvananthapuram who did my vasectomy, and all the dedicated and brilliant doctors and medical staff in the excellent government hospitals of Kerala.

I am really proud of my state :-)

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