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vendredi 30 septembre 2011

Thank the Spirits for the Good Month of September

Grateful for a good month of travel, friends, good food and family.
Highlights were certainly:
Malacca in Malaysia
Lecture at Oklahoma City
Harvest Festival of the Hocank
Steve Avery at Sioux City
Hocank and Umonhon Indians..

Thank YOU, all of you...

mercredi 28 septembre 2011


I am waiting for the sun to go down so that I can light the candles and welcome 5772..
My family is not with me on this special night: they are celebrating in vaious ways in Portland Quiberon Paris Miami
so I decided to drop in on my Indian family, when I arrived there they were preparing for a ceremony. It would be symbolic for me... My jewish family is celebrating Jewis New Year and my Indian family is celebrating enacting an ancient ceremony.
so L Shanah Tova to all my Friends, near and Far..
I would like to remember, two friends and mentors who are not with us any more: Dr Cecil Helman, CapeTown and London and Dr Joel Glaser, Miami.

lundi 26 septembre 2011

Generosity and Gratitude: Says the Philosopher of Sioux City

Where else in USA would the owner of the coffee shop would give his keys and say: you guys are deep in conversation, I am closing up but when you are finished, switch off the lights and close the shop! The person in question is Ron who is the brave owner of the Coffee Works, the oldest and the best and perhaps the only Coffee House or Café in the sense we know it in Sioux City.
The person he was directing this request was none other than Steve Avery, the Sage of Sioux City. At one time I thought Sioux City is a place humans went AFTER they died, such was the impression the decaying city left upon me. On a Sunday morning, at this very same café, Steve Avery changed all that, all those many years ago when New York Times in these parts were rarer than tooth of a whale!
I had just finished a simple lunch at Café Danh, the only authentic Vietnamese resto for at least one hundred miles, the usual Bung Ga Xao and decided to finish the lunch with a good coffee from Coffee Works in Pierce Street in Sioux City.
Today the coffee was especially good; a Café Americano with warm milk, Ron the owner himself concocted it. He also kindly did the favour of calling Steve to say that an occasional visitor was in the café.
I will be right over, said this busy man who with his brothers run a successful enterprise in this city which had seen better times and a large Jewish community of 2000, now dwindled to a few. The metaphor is not lost on me. I saw the old synagogue still sporting the Ten Commandments in Hebrew proudly has a sign in front of it Iglesia Cristiana!
It was interesting to note that there were many notices upon the community bulletin of this café urging people to come for free or very expensive Yoga classes and I was astounded that there is a Yoga College here. The popularity of Yoga as an exercise form is not lost even in a city, with its dying embers to light it up …
Steve would always have a book, his editor had advised him to read Alain Robbe Grillet so that he can learn a little bit more about tidying up his novel which he is attempting to publish. He is a writer, he proudly says, that I can write something so unique that another writer had not done it. His passion for literature, and his writing and the devotion to his land (terra not country) of his birth, the people from whom he had risen, all are evident in this man of conviction. I am a Rebel, because the people here allow me to be a rebel, I am not a revolutionary (a la Che) because I don't want every one in Sioux City to change so that I will no longer be a rebel! Open and honest, liberal in a country where being labelled liberal is worse than being labelled a Nazi in Europe.
Ron got caught up in our conversation and he stayed yet another hour. At this time our conversation was into its second hour. A true discourse I thought. This is not Face Book or Twitter encounter but an exchange, an archaic form of exchange of knowledge between people. This art form is lost. Where else, if you are not willing to sacrifice that you can spend three hours in the late afternoon talk about a range of literature from Faulkner (the Count not Count) to Alain de Botton to Virginia Wolfe to Gabo and many many many more including Harm de Blij…and his slightly Christian orientation. We wondered whether this Dutchman didn't have an Afrikaner education so that his worldview was influenced by the strict Calvinist traditions of the Afrikaners?
On and one, out and about, he respects his town and its people, he is not judgemental but wears his difference like a badge and he is proud of it.
We ended talking philosophy and it was amazing how clear he was in his head. Clarity is what I associate Steve with, his thinking is clear. We talked about eastern philosophy and the ingredients for happiness, summarized by him The Two G
No one including Dalai Lama would oppose to that.
He had also words about this country which would save failing corporations but not pay for the health care for the disadvantaged, the power of the corporations over the government, the powerful forces acting in this country of children of mediocre immigrants of Europe. He was horrified at the ineptitude of the politicians of the right who would like to see the poor slithering away to their death, and asked, regardless of the party, when would be the next time we would get a President as intelligent as Obama?
The People deserve the people they elect. They only have to go back and see what Bush did to this country. Obama was a beacon of light and there is darkness ahead.
We had been talking for three hours; the sun was still shining brightly. It was time to say good-bye, reluctantly to this man of wisdom from all unlikely places in the USA, Sioux City, USA
I proudly say to anyone. I am a Doctor but I do not know a single doctor practising in Sioux City (full of doctors intending to make money, according to him, heath care is only secondary, but they may be technically good) but I am proud to know the best of Sioux City: the sage Steve Avery and also Ron the photographer who is tireless in his efforts to provide the sole café in this city where like minded people may find refuge.
Thanks to both of you, from a traveller, you both are assets to your city.

dimanche 25 septembre 2011

Harvest Festival of the HoCank and the Jewish New Year

I stepped out of the gymnasium into the pleasantly chilled air of this waning days of the Northern Summer; I could still hear the drums and jingle of the dresses. Hocank Indians were celebrating the Harvest Festival, the corn is being harvested, many of the families having the same corn unadulterated for centuries.
I am a Jew and for us the Jewish New Year begins at sundown on 28th September, the Wednesday. For Jews, the New Year is a complicated story; it would take a whole chapter to explain why the New Year falls at the beginning of autumn in the Northern Hemisphere. But it also once celebrated the harvest of vegetables in the land of Israel.
I had been told that the food would be distributed at around 5 pm. I arrived there at around 5 30 pm (12 30 pm French time) and was immediately given a bowl of corn soup, some home made bread and piece of home made beef pudding. I nibbled on it for a while and when an elderly lady sat down next to me, I offered her the corn soup that she accepted with thanks, since it is a delicacy for the Indians.
The MC, Chris by name is a professional at this, holds sway with his smooth talk, mixing in every day affairs with the history of the tribe. He welcomes me, saying to the audience, let us welcome Dr S who has arrived from the other end of the world from the Republic of Congo! They know that I am coming from somewhere so Chris could make up any country he wants, it does not matter. At one celebration, he said, let us welcome Dr S who is coming here from Mozambique, and on that occasion he was right, I had just been to Mozambique. The head dancer is a friend of mine, like many other people in the auditorium and I had a brief chat with him. He asked me some questions and promised to come and see me to discuss some matters pertaining to the cultural aspects of his tribe. I said hello to so many young and old people, but in general held my place in one corner, quietly and sitting there observing this cultural marvel blossoming around me.
I felt sad for a moment, a conquered people who refuse to give up their culture and identity. Contrast this to the immigrants who come to America who can’t wait to give up their identities, whether they are Chinese/Indian from Asia or refugees from Africa. Many of these dances and songs are centuries old and the fact that they have kept this up is remarkable indeed in this country where the people are too happy to give up their centuries old culture for the superficial glamour of USA culture. I remember as a child, someone in Australia saying. All the way with LBJ but do we know where LBJ is going?
The outgoing little girl champion dancer had a give away, that is she gives gifts to so many people important to her during the last year she had reigned as the champion dancer of her people, one of the champion dancers. What a change, among the non-Indians, a departing person gets gifts from others; here it is quite the opposite.
I delved deep into the rhythm and the ambience that was evolving around me. Occasionally chatted with someone or other, but mostly sat there observing these ancient people and felt so grateful to have been a part of them for the last twenty years.
Slowly euphoria began build up inside me, I looked at them, most of the adults whom I have known for many many years and the children virtually all their life. This is a privileged position to observe this ancient people. This sense of community does not exist in other parts of this country where getting together means the getting together of individuals. Here the individuals are forgotten but the tribe is what is being represented.
I remembered a line from that powerful book, The Saddest Pleasure by Moritz Thomsen, “by surrendering himself each individual has become something much more powerful than himself; by giving himself to the group, to the tribal imperative, he takes on and shares the power of all.”
As I drove home to the Blue House in the next village, just five miles down the road, cutting through the virgin darkness of the night, with an occasional light breaking the silence, the music on the CD player on the radio, belted out a tango. How appropriate I thought, congruent emotionally, it was Adriana Varela and Roberto El Polaco Goyeneche singing: Balada por un loco. When I heard Varela saying, Gracias, Polaco, for dejarnos volar con vos, I was already high in the clouds, a sense of absolute euphoria.
To me, tonight being with Hocank Indians celebrating the Harvest festival my Jewish New Year Celebrations have also begun.
On Wednesday night, I would go with my Indian teacher to a sweat lodge and during the sacrifices of the ceremony, I would beg the Great Spirit, on the first night of the Jewish New Year, to take pity on my family in France and my mischpochah in Miami and Portland, SF and on my sister friends Dar, Georgia, Sylvia, Gena, wehnona, Michele among others.
For my Jewish friends all over the world and in the state of Israel, I wish you L Shana Tovah. May this year be as sweet as you would like it to be.

What all is left for me, when I reach the Blue House where the fragrance of its recent visitors still linger, is to find the Kim Crawford from NZ and savour it…



At the recent meeting of the European Association of the Study of Diabetes (September 12-16, 2011) at Lisboa, Portugal, alarm was sounded by the troubadours of Diabetes tragedy how this epidemic is spreading out of control. As one Elder of the Lakota Nation once barked at the officials at one such conference: We are sick and tired of you telling us that we are sick, for God’s sake tell us how to prevent it.
That is something all these echolalic endocrinologists and professor peons have been unable to do while decorating each other with yet another prize or reward for exciting research. I am sure they would be baffled by the following results published in BMC Public Health just one week after the conference.
While diabetes prevalence has decreased in Nauru over the last thirty years, results from this study indicate that the rate of diabetes is still very high. Similar or higher rates of diabetes have been reported in other Micronesian populations in the Pacific region [19, 20]. For example, the prevalence of diabetes (fasting blood glucose ≥ 6.1 mmol/L) in Kiribati individuals aged 22-64 years old was 28.1% in 2006 [20] and in Pohnpei, the prevalence of diabetes (fasting blood glucose ≥ 7.0 mmol/L) among individuals aged 25-64 year olds was 32.1% in 2002 [19]. In other parts of the world, the prevalence of diabetes is notably lower. For instance, the sex standardized prevalence of total diabetes in the United States in 1999-2002 was 6.5% (95% CI: 5.9–7.2) among individuals 20 years and older [21] and 9.7% (95% CI: 9.2–10.1) in China among adults 20 years of age or older [22]
Prevalence and Risk Factors of Diabetes and Impaired Fasting Glucose in Nauru
BMC Public Health 2011, 11:719 doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-71
Why has Diabetes prevalence dramatically decreased in Nauru? Have they become so health conscious that they started walking around their little island? Have they gone back to the days of yore when they were fisherman, an art form completely lost ever since the Australians and New Zealanders plied them with all the canned goods and hydrogenated food stuff?
Even the authors above had made some suggestion that obesity might have a protective effect against Diabetes? So have the Nauruan, once advertised as the Fattest people on earth, become fatter than before?
I have had the fortune of visiting Nauru twice, once when I was taken aboard as a passenger on their Cenpac Trader boat and upgraded to an officer when I rendered some staff some medical help and another time, had to spend extra days in Nauru when a romantic holiday in Majuro was interrupted by a Tsunami.
At that time, Nauru was flush with money, owned hotels in various parts of the world, a tall building in Melbourne that could accommodate their entire population. I had accidentally ran into KaramChand Ramrakha, a brilliant Indo-Fijian lawyer who explained to me the details of the Phosphate money transfer to the Nauruans. They were getting a pittance per tonne mined and overnight after the case was heard in London, income of each and every Nauruan increased many fold. There were opportunists from Australia and NZ who could build supermarkets, car show rooms and the importation of chemical food. I heard once at the lobby of the only hotel in Nauru: when a car has a flat tyre, the owner rather buy a new car than change the tyre!
The troubadours of tragedy, the epidemiologists from Melbourne arrived on red carpet Air Nauru and pronounced them to have the highest rate of Diabetes and Obesity while the liquor flowed non stop at the Bar at the hotel..
I had tried to keep in touch with what was happening in Nauru but the time and distance made Nauru the smallest island republic a haze in memory. But Nauru resurfaced again, this time again with regard to its Diabetes…
The Economist, in my opinion the best news magazine in the world (despite their slight conservative tendancy and anti Israel leanings) had published articles on Nauru.
Paradise well and truly lost
Greed, phosphate and gross incompetence in a tropical setting: the history of Nauru really is stranger than fiction
Dec 20th 2001

you may wish to read the article in full on line to get to understand the rise and fall of Greed in Nauru.

Recently I had the opportunity to give a talk to Diabetes Professionals working with Native Americans and I stressed the fact that if we look at Diabetes among native people with a very strict scientific viewpoint we would never be able to help them. Because Diabetes is a social illness, brought on my social, environmental factors on a population suppressed and discriminated against, living in poverty in the land of plenty. If such an understanding does not exist, the outcome of adopted treatments would fail. If we understand the true causes then we will institute proper measures.
Give us jobs, said another Elder, then we can conquer this Diabetes..
The cause of the lessening of Diabetes prevalence in Nauru may have to do with Paradise truly being lost. The per capita income went down from approximately 12,000 dollars to 2,000 dollars while the same conditions that existed at the time of Diabetes Storm persisted. 98 per cent are still overweight or obese, on the exercise scale, they are one of the least physically active people on earth, but the diabetes rate is falling, if not dramatically, at least substantially!
This is how the authors explained the decline, you can see their heavy biomedical leanings, but give them credit for including some concession to the social scientists….

The specific reasons for the decline are not certain. Evidence from previous studies support a strong genetic component for diabetes among Micronesians in Nauru [6, 13]. Early data pointed to NIDDM clustering in certain ethnic groups, especially the Pima Indians, Nauruans and Australian Aborigines, lending some support to the thrifty gene hypothesis[14]. The thriftygene hypothesis postulates that metabolically thrifty genes allow more efficient food utilization, fat deposition and rapid weight gain at occasional times of food abundance, for better survival during a subsequent famine [6]. In 1991, Dowse and colleagues reported a decline in the incidence of abnormal glucose tolerance in Nauru, which they attributed to the fall in the population frequency of the thrifty genotype due to higher mortality and lower fertility among diabetic Nauruans [5]. However, work by Barker and colleagues suggested that the size and speed of change was unlikely a eugenic effect of low reproduction among diabetics and more likely a result of improved foetal and infant nutrition in the post-war generation [11]. Counter arguments of the thrifty gene hypothesis warn against using this to explain high rates of chronic disease in post-colonial indigenous societies because it confuses ”genes” with ”race”, and does not give due credit to epidemiological data that shows the effects of social class, education, income, poverty, ethnicity and prior malnutrition on chronic diseases [15]. The 20-fold increase [3] in diabetes prevalence from the 1960s to the 1980s has argely been attributed to lifestyle changes of Nauruans, especially a shift from a healthier and more traditional diet to consuming imported processed foods during a period of extreme wealth.

The prevalence of diabetes in Nauru during the 1970s was alarmingly high and represented one of the highest rates in the world [14, 16]. Over the past decade the economic state of Nauru has changed drastically; the phosphate industry collapsed, leading Nauru to suffer a dramatic decline in its economy, and becoming more dependent on foreign aid [8]. The decline in diabetes prevalence in Nauru may be partly attributed to the rapid change in Nauru from an excessively wealthy state to that of a poor state. However, evidence to support this explanation is lacking. None of the dietary or physical activity measures in this study or in fact, in previous surveys [5, 16], were significantly associated with increased risk of pre-diabetes or diabetes compared to those with normal levels.
As an aside, I can tell you why they thought obesity has a protective effect.
More than once I have seen young American Indians, in their twenties, already diagnosed with Type 2 DM returning to the clinic with loss of weight and normalized blood sugar or A1C. Before you congratulate them on their effort, they tell you that they had run out of their Insulin and other medications and our wise nurse points out that his loss of weight a metabolic one, induced by increased blood sugar and its clearance. May be the Nauruans had less diabetes because they were forced to do the best aspect of Nutritional Therapy for patients and others without Diabetes: Eat Less..
In times of want, mortality and prevalence of diabetes does go down..

Fig. 5. -- England and Wales food consumption and female diabetic deaths. Showing the correlation between food consumption and diabetic mortality rate. The female rate was chosen as less influenced by mobilization, and the curve antedated one year to allow for time lag. (Himsworth.)article published in 1949
here is an image to show sugar and refined carbohydrate consumption and its effect upon diabetes mortality..whatever conclusions the authors may have drawn at that time, one thing is clear: during the time of want, rationing, diabetes mortality does drop and when there is plenty of refined food available, the diabetes mortality climbs.
I suddenly remembered something. When the Mexican dictator Porfirio Diaz was asked about the conditions of his native Mexico, he answered:
Pobre Mexico, tan circa de estados unidos y tan lejos de Dios
Poor Mexico, so close to the United States and so far from God
Poor Nauru, so close to the heart of the Australian Epidemiologists and so far from the truth!

samedi 24 septembre 2011

Toxicity of Plastics.. Consumer Association of Penang

It may have been in 2004, I had gone across to Johor Bahru to relieve the tedium, when I ran into a Book Exhibition inside a Hindou temple.. Intrigued I walked in, and there were many books in various languages, Tamoul being the predominant one. There I came across a small booklet TOXICS IN PLASTICS What dangers and which plastics to avoid. It was published by a group of people based in Penang, called Consumer Association of Penang. This little book had a great impact upon me, it had cost me 2 malaysian ringgis, fifty US cents at that time. It prodded me to read more about it and as an Endocrinologist I was able to use much of the information given in the booklet and did further research to find the toxicity in plastics. I gave a lecture in 2005 to a group, pointing out at that time that Precocious Puberty in young girls may have something to do with Plastics and that plastics may have contributed to the the high prevalence of obesity and Diabetes.
At first I was laughed at by my colleagues but by 2008, there were more mumblings and by 2010 it was accepted that many chemicals in the plastics, such as BPA were dangerous to health. In 2008, during a trip to Penang, partially motivated by a desire to meet the director SM Mohamed Idris, I visited the CAP office and spent a delightful hour with Mr Idris. A remarkable man in the tradition of Gandhi, with a philosophy as profound as Dalai Lama, working tirelessly for the sake of the health of Malaysians and through people like me, for the health of the people all over the world.

I urge all the readers and my friends to visit their website
you will see the array of books they have published on a wide variety of subjects that affect society and humanity.
One of these days, they would consider Mr Idris for a Nobel Peace Prize. It is noteworthy that the corrupt and untrustworthy politicians with limited visions of the future wanted the expulsion and silencing of CAP and Mr Idris including Mr Mahathir Mohammed that venomous son of an Indian Migrant and Malay Mother who sprouted sick pronouncements against all things non Malay during his reign as Prime Minister.
I was thinking of all this when I was reading Endocrine News September 2011 which I receive as part of the membership of the Endocrine Society. The following article caught my attention
Rudel R A, Gray JM, Engel CL et al. Food packaging and bisphenol A and bis(2,Ethy-hexu)phthalate exposure. Findings from a dietary intervention. Environ Health Perspec, 2011 119-914w-920
Many food items-from canned peas to throw-away forks-are packaged in or eaten with plastic products. So any one wanting to limite their exposure to the endocrine disrupting chemicals frequently embedded in plastic products, BPA and DEHP would do well to shun plastic linked to eating.
In an 8-day study of 5 families (parents and two children), participants at prepared fresh foods(intervention diet as free fo plastic as possible) for days 3-5. In the two days before and after the intervention diet, they ate their normal food.
At the end of intervention, urine BPA levels were on the average 60% lower and phthalates about 55% lower than the subjects' regular levels, which were similar to those of the general U.S.population. These chemicals can enter the body in ways unrelated to food, for instance BPA from shopping receipt paper and DEHP from cosmetics.

CAP booklets to get:

TOXICS IN PLASTICS as mentioned above
COSMETICS AND PERSONAL CARE PRODUCTS more dangers and side effects
THE REAL THING IN SOFT DRINKS: malnourishment, obesity, osteoporosis


vendredi 23 septembre 2011



Oklahoma is a Choctaw word for Okla Red Humma Earth.
Oklahoma City feels so neat, organized with a mixture of odl and new architecture, a sense of space and no crowding..! Just the week before I had been in Bangalore, known for its chaos and Singapore known for its lack of space.. so Oklahoma City was a breath of fresh air.. I was staying at Ramada Renaissance Hotel where the bathroom alone was bigger than some of the hotel rooms in other countries! Also had the pleasure of a leisurely bath.. Dinner was at a place called Mantel, a little pretentious, slightly upscale. I was able to order a Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc from a reasonable wine list, the grilled Atlantic salmon showed its lack of freshness. The place was crowded and noisy, a place for celebrating but not for intimate conversations. I was with two old friends.
Missed the breakfast as I had to present to a group of very enthusiastic Indian professionals working hard to improve the health conditions of Indians in Oklahoma. The morning sky was covered with a melancholy bunch of crowds and an occasional thunder reminded us that we are in the middle of the country. This gloomy morning gave no indication of a glorious afternoon of sunshine and breeze! On arriving at the Diabetes Centre of the University of Oklahoma, a somewhat opulent clinical space for someone like me who is used to settings in the developing countries, but my mind had already been made up to enjoy the good things that are to come my way during this 24 hour stay in Oklahoma City. I was led to a room where an enthusiastic group of Indians were gathering, they had driven long and short distances to be at this monthly meeting and it was my honour this month to address them, to give them a scope of the work I do, the anthropologically oriented Diabetes care to the Indians under our care in the tribes I work with. Also I could regale them with stories of my travels to exotic destinations with always a lesson to be learned which can be translated and used in the clinical settings of an Indian Health Service Clinic. The air was full of chirpy, friendly salutations and chats, most of the people in the room were members of the state-wide Oklahoma Indian Diabetes Coalition, working hard to coordinate a higher level of care for the Indian patients in the state. Dr F who is the head of the Indian Health Services in the region was there and his presence was felt and made an impact on the conference. Another presence was a couple, both looked elegant and from another world, and they were, as they were in the media world, of radio and TV. I had a chance to say hello to them later, the lady turned out to be of Italian origin.
When my turn to speak came, I felt the words and thoughts coming to my mind without any difficulty. Using cues from the power point presentation, I launched into a plea for a social view of the health problems faced by the Indians and a less biomedical view of the western world. Sensing the energy coming out of this friendly crowd and appropriate appreciatory symbols of the professionals, I felt a fluency more normal than ordinary and felt very content to be able to express my feelings. I know how to talk to Indians since it is with the heart one speaks to the Indian, I couldn't have given the same presentation at a Diabetes meeting of the White americans as they would be much more interested in facts and figures and medications and much less in what we are doing manipulating symbols of the society the Indians live in. My presentation was part science, I talked about telomeres and how they can be damaged by every day life stress (Dr Blackburn, the Australian Nobel Prize winner 2009), part philosophy, part psychology (both learned from the Indians), but at all times humble and human. The agreement and nods of the participants on hearing my proposals for a better health, which is truly a practical approach to how to take care of an Indian with chronic problems. I could have easily carried on for another hour but out of respect for the participants I decided to stop at an opportune moment. I could see from the expressions on the face of the participants that I had succeeded in conveying the good wishes of my loved ones from near and far and the advice of my UmonHon Indian teacher: May the Spirits give you good words so that Indian people may be helped, also my Kickapoo sister who felt that her prayers would protect me.
The day before at the home of my sister in Miami, I had enjoyed preparing this presentation. I enjoyed it even more the act of communicating . As Dr Ronnie Frankenberg, a professor of Anthropology at my alma mater used to say: For Knowledge to be Knowledge it has to be communicated. And hopefully the love and affection and advice of my loved ones, had eased my knowledge into the realm of Wisdom from which Indian patients may derive some benefit.
As my Kickapoo sister later said to me, now that you have enjoyed doing this, it is time to say thanks to the Spirits. That would require more sacrifice from my part, do acts of generosity and demonstrate an open heart in my dealings with Indian friends at the various parts of their country. I know that in the coming weeks I will have ample opportunity to do just that in Nebraska, Texas, South Dakota and Florida.
Lunch was to be at a Thai Restaurant, an unassuming place where people came to satisfy their craving. The lady at the table was a Thai but she somehow let us know that the owner was a Burmese. I gave her my visiting card and asked her to convey Mingalarbar to the owner. Within minutes the Burmese lady was at the lady, we exchanged the pleasantries like old friends. I am sure it was no coincidence that the owner of the restaurant my friend from Oklahoma had chosen happen to be from Burma, a country which is very close to my heart.
I was given a tour of the Medical Campus and the obvious Capitolio which resembles the one in Havana! But the symbol here is an Indian, rather than the giralda!
The poignat moment was visiting the Memorial for the victims of the 2005 bombing of the Federal Building. The visit to the adjoining museum is a must, it shows the American spirit or the Oklahoma standard as they call it there of generosity and helping when it is needed and a solidarity against evil.
This day in Oklahoma, in the company of my two friends and where I made a whole slew of new friends, reinforced my belief that one has to be humble and it is the humility that gives rise to this euphoria, joie de vivre and spontaneity. I felt more than ever grateful for this life.
Now to the quiet confines of the Will Rogers Airport for a flight to Denver..

mardi 20 septembre 2011

Maroosh Lebanese Restaurant in Coral Gables, Miami

Nutrition has entered the mainstream discourse in America. There is so much written about food, nutrition, dieting and wonderful drugs that would burn your excess weight
What people do not realize that there are factors associated with food which has nothing to do with the calories or the nutrients. One such meal was tonight at Maroosh Rest in Coral Gables in Miami. Samir the genial host and i was in the company of my sister and her husband..
Every one was happy and getting along..pleasant meal and the ambience and the comfort of the meal in such good company would reduce any sort of oxidative stress and any damage to your body..
Bon Apetite..


The Incredible Doctor of Kuala Lumpur

Dr Li Zi Qi

Each of the visits to KL has rewarded me with new friends usually ready with their minds to open new thought processes and pour in their knowledge and wisdom. It is as if the Spirits have to reward me for traveling so far to be with my two good friends, the sisters Yong.

I had met this doctor briefly in context of medicine but suddenly one day the conversation took an unexpected turn and very soon we realized, that this soft spoken doctor is not your run of the mill doctor interested in money and fame but he is very interested in the enlightenment of the soul and also aware of the spiritual nature of this life and this world.

On a balmy night, sitting by an artificial lake created to make real estate more valuable, now added with mediocre restaurants catering for the Iranian and other wannabee western clientele, the conversation began. It took some time for me to get use to the cadence of his way of speaking, starting and stopping with uncomfortable gaps of silence. Paying close attention to his words, I soon realized that he was not wasting any words and all he said was carefully analyzed previously in his mind, thus perhaps the long silences. This is not the story of some young man in search of the spiritual light and going off to Nepal to trek amidst the mountains, but a person who had paid a lot of attention to his own pain and sufferings and made them his teacher. I became wide eyed and riveted to his story, from childhood onwards to medical school and the pain opening up a completely new stream of thought which has given him a new consciousness. As he continued to talk, I realized that he was teaching us

, asking us to open our hearts and our ears to listen to his words, which would help us, tackle our own momentary problems. He had made awareness of the present an art in itself and at the end of the evening, I was convinced that yet another star had arrived in my Malaysian and thus Universal Sky…

Thank you, Dr Li for your guidance.

Thank you, Mun Ching for bringing him into the world of our friends.

lundi 19 septembre 2011

Preparing for the Flight to Miami from London

I am fortunate in that i fly to some interesting destinations during the course of the year and I always look forward to my next destination..
today it was Miami, a place i look forward to going, especially since my sister lives there and I can be guaranteed of love and affection and food prepared by a sister!
so it is important to find ways of flying comfortably , so that it is just not a journey but a pleasant one and enjoy the journey as well.
Today it was one such journey. Relaxed myself well in the ClubHouse before boarding the 9 h 30 min flight to Miami... Thank you Virgin Atlantic Airways

jeudi 15 septembre 2011

Best Work Cafeteria Food.. where else but in France?

France is truly a very advanced country when it comes to taking care of the health and welfare of its citizens. Where in the world would you find employers providing so many services for their employees: subsidized annual holidays (which are 4 weeks in length), gifts to younger children in the family, education, health etc etc..
at a time when every one is talking about increasing obesity, especially in the nouveau wanna be european countries (Kerala leads India in Childhood Obesity and Malaysia leads Asia in Childhood Obesity for example), it is better to copy the French example of civic society (rather than mindlessly copying the western fashions)
Most companies or companies in the same locale would contract caterers to provide good healthy lunches for their employees. If you are interested in the health of your employees, you give them at least one hour for lunch and also make sure that healthy food is available to them, and also make it reasonable. USA is far far behind in this department.
Today I had lunch at one such work place cafeteria in France.
The menu, shown above was:
Sauteed shrimp in banana and coconut
served with vegetables of choice
three varieties of cheese with tasty bread
apple crumble for dessert
0.5 liter bottle of sparkling Mineral water, Badoit in this case
a nice strong coffee to finish it off..
Such a meal cost less than 10 usd and the same meal outside the cafeteria of the same quality can easily cost twice the amount.
Merci beaucoup, France..


American Indians place a lot of importance on Gratitude, feeling happy with what you have, (and thus not feeling unhappy with what you dont have) and they make a point of expressing their gratitude in their own culturally specific fashion. Baracoa Photos
This photo of Baracoa is courtesy of TripAdvisor

More than once during any given day I am grateful for the life which has been given to me, and last year someone told me to make up a gratitude list each morning. It comes naturally, you dont have to think who appears in it, but whoever appears in it, has some special relationship with you..
As I prepare to go to Lunch for a nice rendez vous, this is my gratitude list for today:
Paris and the sacrifices to make my life comfortable and Love that is like a Bakery in the Sky
My Connections in USA: mainly my sister for being well and always thinking of my welfare. My American Indian family and their struggles and allowing me to be part of the great culture which has left indelible impressions on me. My american Indian sisters are close to my heart. My teachers from various tribes whose words come repeating back to me.
My dear loved ones, especially who give me so much tenderness and love: Adriana, Loraine, Yanetsy, Claudia, Danielita and good friends who are like tatto in your heart: cari amparo bebe yamina yandry tania castro and so many others.. Thank you for continuing to allow me to be in your life.
I know that in the coming months, my life would revolve around: Paris Miami and La habana
I am so eager for that....

mardi 13 septembre 2011

Intellectual Life in Malaysia

Certainly not in the Starbucks or other institutions of such ilk, but I have been very satisfied with the high quality of people I have been meeting, facilitated by my best friend in Asia.
On this visit, my fifth in one year, the highlight certainly was the visit to Cheng Ho Museum and the people responsible for its operations. the Curator is such a history enthusiast that we could have talked for hours about the history of Malaysia (perhaps trying to find the true version rather than the official version) and those of the intertwined histories of this region. Zheng He (Cheng Ho) the greatest navigator ever, created history by visiting every major sea port all the way to Malindi in Africa and his presence is felt every where in south east asia if you care to look for it..
In the same fashion, you can have an incredibly good intellectual life in KL if you care to look for it... just get out of the Starbucks and other oft visited places...

Once again an excellent Gastronomic Visit to Malaysia

Since I met my best friend in Asia, MC now the Life Style Coach at Meher Yoga Lifestyle Coaching, in 2008, I have been to Malaysia on the average 5 times per year. Delightful friendship was garnished by excellent dining, mainly Asian Food and this visit was no exception. But some meals stand out, the best meal on this trip was :
at OLE SAYANG Nyonya Restaurant in Malacca in the company of the warm and friendly Curator of Cheng Ho Museum in Malacca.
chicken Serai
Asam Fish (gerang Asam)
chinChou (with soya bean)
chili prawn (sambal tercing)
Wonderful other chinese meals, always tasty meals at The Legends Claypot restaurants.
Have to mention the worst meal as well, It was some soggy homemade Tapas.
My advice to Malaysians: Avoid pre fabricated western food. Indulge in other western food at restaurants only occasionally. Avoid Palm Oil as an ingredient in the food you buy (which is most of the packaged food) and Find fresh food and vegies if you can and try to eat food, vegetables and fruit from the ASEAN region

All food was consumed in the company of my best friend, MunChing and occasionally with her sister Man Lee, who is an expert when it comes to ordering chinese food. To the sisters YONG, my stomach says THANK YOU...

lundi 12 septembre 2011

From ONE home in ASIA to another in EUROPE

10 am at Heathrow terminal 4
11 am at Paris CDG
1700 in KL Singapour
5 am in La Habana, Miami

The flight from Paris to London was delayed because of some late arriving passengers, nice of Air France to do that.
Then some couldn't make it, so their luggage had to be taken out. So the flight left about 1 hour late. The flight time is a short 40 minutes but I could see that we arrived over London and then were going around in circles.. finally making a touch down one hour and a bit after taking off from Paris.
Now that we arrived in London, many other long haul carriers also have arrived at Terminal 4: Qatar Brunei Delta Ethihad among others. I dreaded at the thought of all non European passport holders clogging up the line, but what I saw when I entered the immigration hall was incredible. The line was so long that the end couldn't seen or found.
Taking clues from my recent education about living in the present and not worrying too much, I took out the book by Amitav Ghosh and began reading the gripping tale about Mauritius, the second of his three books about the history and other things surrounding the Indentured labourers to Mauritius ( it could be “malabaris” to Reunion, Telegus to Fiji, or Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and even the rubber tappers to Malaysia from Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadou). Erudite to the extreme, brining in the atmosphere of the time so clearly and succinctly, Ghosh entertains us, even in a long immigration queue. Hope he would become yet another Nobel Prize contenders from a country, which has not seen a Nobel Prize winner in Literature ever since Rabindranath Tagore, won it nearly 80 years ago!
Quickly at the desk, very polite immigration officer, what is the reason for this long queue I muttered as I pass to him my very acceptable blue passport. You have seen nothing, sir, you waited no more than a few minutes, the lines moving quickly (the reason behind is that all non European passport holders have to be fingerprinted like they are doing in Malaysia and some other countries, most of the people in front of the long line were passengers from Canada or USA.. Ghana, Qatar, Taiwan and other colourful passport holders were just engorging the line.
Welcome to the UK
Thank You..
Sitting at a chair far removed from the hubbub of the arrival hall, it is nice to reflect the past 7 or 8 weeks, since my departure from Europe.
USA, American Indians, Bangalore in India, KL in Malaysia and a short visit to Singapour…
Each and every place has given me something or other of great significance. I was able to spend time with my family in the USA and get to know some of them outside the rapid magical visits but during prolonged reality visits, shopping for food, having the house clean etc. (Did I actually do that? May be not?)
In KL, as usual an array of good food, chosen by my new sister, Man Lee. Western food was disappointment, so should it be, you are in Asia, enjoy the delicious food there, not some imported prefabricated food!

The Meher Yoga Lifestyle Coaching to which I am the consultant, is growing and glowing like a flame in the forest tree! I was on the verge of leaving the outfit when I realized that it is my cataract that was hiding the beauty behind the closely knit trinity of Myself, MunChing and Man Lee. I am glad to have gone to Malacca with them and rediscovered my purpose in Malaysia.
For the first time surprises waited for me both in Bangalore and Singapour. In the latter, people were friendlier to me than normal, and it was good to run into a haggle of Burmese people sitting out in the sun like a bunch of geese enjoying the vista… I felt genuinely close to them.
I enjoyed my time in Bangalore, and thanks to Dr Jagdeesh my teeth also shines in tune to the heart…
For the first time, since I began traveling to India as an adult, I felt a tinge of sadness leaving Bangalore.
Thank you for my family in Portland, UmonHon Nation, Miami..
My heart glows, my face glows and I am content..
Now for the biggest gift of it all.. by this evening I will be home in Paris!

vendredi 9 septembre 2011


It does feel good to be back in Malacca. a certain tranquility not to be found in KL or Singapour, which lies 2-3 hours away on either side of Malacca.
this time wanted to concentrate on the Dutch Contribution to Malacca.
No 8 Heeren Street
a National Monument of a house of a dutch merchant
The cranes at the riverside to unload the merchandise from the time of the dutch
The remnant architecture reminding one of Curacao on some buildings in the area just across the river
the historic centre of the city with dutch church and Stadhuys.
and then there is the neglected cemetery of the Dutch

The presence of Zheng He is being felt more and more due to the indefatigable work of Dr Tan. The magnificence of the history of this greatest of the navigators loom over the city..

jeudi 8 septembre 2011


Fake Yogis from the West
Having recently come across some Yoga students and Practitioners from the West who had been wandering around India, I have decided to follow an American Indian dictum.. You come across good and bad people, avoid those who would cause you pain. I shall from now on avoid any westerner who has spent time at Ashrams in India or wandering around with beads or orange coloured robes and greets you with Namaste. As James Michener had written a long time ago in a novel form, these confused westerners go to exotic places hoping to add them to their repertoire of practices and some even venture to teach Yoga in the west, while knowing very little of the deep philosophy of the practice. I am looking forward to a time to an awakening in India among Indians which would lead them to study and propagate their own philosophy at home and abroad. To these mantra chanting, fake yogis of the west, I have only one thing to say: Please go home, look in your own backyard and smell the flowers that are yours by nature… before you come to steal something from someone else’s garden.
Sorry to be so harsh, but I am just avoiding that which is fake in my universe and not allow their shallow understanding of this world to harm the people I care for.

There are a surprising number of young Western travelers moving about India who seemed to have abandoned all attempts at personal hygiene. Wearing dirty, stained clothing and with greasy matted hair it is possible they see themselves in solidarity with the very poorest of India's poor. Perhaps they are blissing out on a temporary detachment from material possessions. This may seem fine for privileged children of the West who are here with return tickets and adequate cash, but it offends and disgusts most Indians. In India, personal cleanliness is the most basic of virtues, and most people are fighting a daily battle to maintain whatever level of personal cleanliness and order that their socioeconomic situation allows.

mercredi 7 septembre 2011

Dr Jagdeesh and his Elegant Dental Team in Bangalore INDIA

During many years of my peripatetic wanderings as a Humanitarian Physician, one aspect of self care was often neglected: Dental Care. I shudder to think the state of affairs of my dental structures had I not been lucky to meet Dr Jagdeesh in Bangalore in 2004.
He identified 52 minor, medium and major defects in the dental structures and made arrangements to correct them within a short ten day period, often accommodating me with two to three appointments per day. Since then more than once at conferences, when I give lectures, I have been complimented on my teeth.. I would say to myself, like in one of those TV advertisements: Thank you, Dr Jagdeesh. He runs a fine outfit of dental and auxiliary workers, in an extremely congenial and hospitable atmosphere which is unique in India and perhaps unusual even other parts of the world, such as Malaysia or Singapour ( I recommend Dr Jagdeesh to those needing dental care in those countries!)
Apart from the feeling of being made welcome, Dr Jagdeesh and his crew fits in with your schedule, which is very important when you are in town for only a day or two.
This time around, I had stopped by, for my annual visit to Dr Jagdeesh. He recognizes that I do not live nearby, so he goes on his prevention mode. I was relieved that he could correct some existing anamolies and identify problems for prevention. I had excellent services from Drs Latha, Arjun and Neeraja Shetty ... preventive and cosmetic dentistry and its best..

Now I am ready to give my talk in Oklahoma City on the 22nd of this month!

dimanche 4 septembre 2011



The last time I visited Bangalore was in February of 2010. This time was a visit of 4 days and here are some observations

The Quality of Food in Restaurants have definitely gone down. the Indian people with whom I ate at these restaurants agreed with me.
The prices have doubled on most of the food items.
The Newspapers are bordering on Rubbish, Rupert Muroch would look like a knighted intellectual compared to the news coverage on Paper, Internet and TV
The obsession with the private life of Bollywood Stars have become the news of the day. Libya? who cares? as long they have good looking men and women with no acting talent who wouldn't get into an off off broadway production
India as a whole is a theatrical production, every one acting a part which are not their true selves. Every one seems to be wanting to be someone else and somewhere else..
People from Kerala still to me, seem to be the sweetest of all Indians....

Air Asia to KL. I have no doubt that I will get better South Indian Food in KL than in Bangalore.
The ordinary India is very interesting when people stop acting fantasy roles and accept the reality of India, sweet people who are manning the shops, railway stations...

Now to comment on the best meal of my four days here was at Coconut Grove in Central Business District. The seating and the ambience was befitting a tropical country, waiting staff dressed nicely and hospitable, made to order food, delicious Kerala Cuisine... very satisfactory dining experience, despite more than average prices. Thank you

The Metaphor of Lotus in India

I have been visiting this part of India, in reality, one house in an area lying outside a major city, once a year, for reasons of umbilical remembrances. The person who had given birth to me had come to live in this area and my Hocank and Kickapoo Indian sisters always remind me that I must go and see her at least once a year.. so here I am..
This has been an annual ritual since 1999. When I am here my purpose is singular and apart from finding out some nice places to eat, I do not participate in the ambience or the culture of the city. I always feel that I am passing through a canvas of humanity and it feels like a panoramic view of the world around me. Being an anthropologist, a keen eye detects many items of pleasure and India is certainly a great treasury of wonderful visual and sensual stimulations.. and lucky are the visitors who are exposed to the barest of the human essentials in the purest of human emotional terms.. this is one such story.
Manjula and Mahaluxmi are two sisters, born into poverty but into a family who had seen better times in the past and thus endowed with a certain class of their own. Their single mother, father having died in an accident, was determined that only through sheer hard work she could elevate the girls out of their humble situation. The mother worked hard as a maid, cleaning houses and diligent, and attending to her duties with out any undue problems, with the two girls helping her during the weekend. She saved a little from her meager salary so that one day she could invest in the education of these girls. I met them as pre teenagers all those years ago and at that time we couldn't communicate well because they spoke only Kannada, the local language.
Imagine my pleasure and surprise when on this sunday morning, two nicely dressed young ladies appeared at the door wanting to greet me . they both are now in the first year of College studying commerce. The older one is a little more worldly than the other one who is determined to study hard and get a job after completion of her studies and look after her mother. Marriage is not on my mind, only get a job and look after my mother and how my appreciation for the hard work of my mother, said she. She spoke now to me in English, having added this important language to her pantheon of Kannada, Tamoul, Telugu and Hindi. they had also picked up a little bit of Malayalam since this suburb is full of expatriates from Kerala.
determination, duty to mother, responsibility to the society, a desire and determination to succeed.. this is the new India, two young girls, well born culturally but not economically.. a New India awaits them and they would contribute to it not only with their labour but their sturdy value system... so good to hear that from such young hearts.
My day started off well when M and M came to say Hello to me, on this beautiful morning with a bright sun shining and the weather that reminded me of Medellin in Colombia.. La Eterna Primavera..

vendredi 2 septembre 2011


After a morning pleasantly attending to Hearing tests and Dental cleansing, the anticipated lunch time arrived. Empire Resto is a very Kerala oriented resto with an ambience of an up and coming resto in a poor country, even though this one had been established in 1966. the staff looked like gents recently laid off in the Gulf Countries.
When arriving one is greeted with a gargle of people waiting, and a big notice to advice the hungry masses that the resto will reopen after the Friday prayers are over!
I cannot imagine this sort of courtesy afforded to christians or hindus in any of the moslem countries. It is an uneven exchange. While the Saudi money constructs Mosques by the hundreds, not a new church has been open in the region or allowed to open...
But we are in India, the democracy in action with a proud people with a long history of democratically elected government ever since independence from Britain in 1947.
Alas.. the devotion of the cook did not extend to the food served. The food was at best mediocre, of bland taste and quality and it is a crime to serve such food to the public, even at this modest cost, 10 usd for three!
No need to return to this pious establishment, not because of its piety but because of its lack of attention to the good food of Kerala..

so it is Adieu Adios from me to the EMPIRE whether it meant Moslem or British!

Philosophy of the man in seat 4 D LH 747-400

Philosophy of the man in Seat 4 D
This year, for unknown reasons, I had been assigned to seat 4 D on Lufthansa long haul flights, usually to Asia.
It is a seat by itself, so you are not forced to have a conversation and the flight attendants would find hard to ignore you!
While I was putting the collage of this flight on seat 4 D on LH 754 from Frankfurt to Bangalore, this thought occurred to me.
What you have is not as important as how well you use what little you have.
My peripatetic life: Havana Miami Los Indios Far East, ever since my brother Eliyahu and I went to the Myanmar/Cambodia/Vietnam complex and since 2008 a healthy dose of Malaysia.
Living in a western society where such wanderings are looked upon as aimless waste of time, I look at the alternatives.
As Mr Altschuler in Havana told me, there are two types of people, one who want things for themselves and the other who want things for others. Of course for those in Category 1, my peripatetic life would be abhorrent, objectionable and inconceivable. But those who understand Lifestyle category 2, my life does not look chaotic at all, but a certain sense of order of spirit and fulfillment of senses, the foremost being the relief of pain and sufferings of other people, usually poor in rich countries or poor in poorer countries.
The satisfaction is enormous, fulfillment immense when I am involved in assisting others cope with their lives, either emotionally or physically. After all, I am a well-qualified Endocrinologist and a practicing Medical Anthropologist!
A fringe benefit of this wandering has been the desire, ability and stamina for International travel. How to make these long haul flights enjoyable? There is a method to this madness… On my previous visit to KL, I was offered a seat on Japan Airlines from Bangkok to Narita and then on to London. For me, this would be preferable even though it adds another six hours, but isn’t it worth it, the excellent Japanese food on board and the Japanese ambience of the flight? Because I belong to the Frequent Flier Programme of Star Alliance group of Airlines, lately I have been able to use Japan Airlines and Lufthansa and Swiss Air. The last two trans Atlantic flights have been on Airbus 380, one belonging to Air France (another airline I am loyal to) and the recent one on Lufthansa.
Well my hard working American colleagues may have neither the desire nor the ability despite having more money, please don't condemn me for using the best possible way what little I have!
I have become reasonably knowledgeable about international air travel and how to get the best out of the various routes.
So, while sitting on seat 4 D on Lufthansa flight on an ageing 747-400, I thought to myself:
It does not matter what you have, how much you have, what matters is how well you use it, always keeping in mind that the central theme of life is not to help yourself, but to help others!

jeudi 1 septembre 2011


My third visit to Asia in 2011 began with this flight. Miami to Frankfurt on Lufthansa , Airbus 380.
I had chosen a comfortable seat and was lucky to have Ms Tetzkova, from Bulgaria (the land of Dilma Rouseff's ancestors) attending to that section of the cabin.
We left on time, arrived half an hour earlier and the new additions to technology for the passengers are welcome and impressive. The route map actually shows the aircraft over the landscape being passed over, with names of major towns poppin up. the aircraft does not fly in a straight-line but constantly is being pushed around by air streams and it is interesting to watch it turning directions. Occasionally when the aircraft makes a directional change, one can feel the turbulence as well.
apart from a poor selection of wines, the meal was very good.The champagne, Duval Leroy was not up to par. the white wines available were from Washington State, 2009 Columbia Valley Chardonnay went well with Grilled Mahi Mahi with pineapple salsa, coconut jasmine rice and Bok Choy. the starter was very tasty: smoked salmon roll with bulgur wheat, avocado and Lemon Creme Fraiche. I suppose I could live for ever on Smoked Salmon for Breakfast and Bun Ga Xao for dinner! A taste of Bailey's with the Peach Crumble Tart. Coffee was nothing to write home about. the breakfast was anticipated and enjoyed.
Said good bye to Ms Tetzkova(may she forgive my bad spelling of her bulgarian name) and on to the Senator Lounge in the B concourse at the Frankfurt Airport.
Wifi is on, that is why I am able to write this.
I will have a shower and freshen up before flying off to Asia..
Twice before I have flown MIA FRA KUL... so this would be the third time...

for the next flight, i have managed to secure the seat 4 D which stands by itself on a 747 aircraft...
Thinking about the pleasant month spent in USA with family, a conversational reunion with Teheran and the presence of my best friend in Asia...Each visit is special, as it has been since 2001 when I began traveling to Asia, but trips to asia has become more special since 2008 and the chance meeting on an Air Asia flight to Siem Reap..