lundi 30 juillet 2012


A French academician once put it:
English is a language that is relatively EASY to speak POORLY.
A language so rich as English, with its nearly 200 000 words, lends itself to this abuse mainly because, one can easily communicate to another person with a command of just 200 words.
The best examples are: travel agents in Vietnam, who put notices up to say We Speak English, but on close scrutiny we find that they can carry on a basic communicative act, as in, how much is the bus ticket to Ho Chi Minh City? Ten Dollars. Enough to carry out a transaction.

There are variants of the spoken English, which is grating to the ear, such as the one you hear in Singapore, the so-called “Singlish”. The best AND the worst spoken English I have encountered has been in
USA, UK, Australia and India. India is an exception in that it is not a Native English Speaking Country, but a good percentage speaks it poorly and a small percentage speaks it extremely well. Asia fares poorly in English locution, in Malaysia, it is divided along the racial lines, with Indians speaking English better than the Chinese who in turn speak better than the Malay. In less than one hundred years, it has nudged French out of its centuries old pedestal as the International Language. At one time French was the language of the educated class in Europe, the Near East and the Far East excepting the British Colonies. The demise of the French from its exalted position may reflect the fact that its speakers became smug about the superiority of their language and thus did not bother to learn any other language, thus depriving them of the curiosity of the growing interconnectedness of this world. I see this a lot in UK USA Australia, the predominant Native Speakers of English, where the smugness has resulted in monolingual populations. When I hear a Vietnamese or a Khmer speaking English, I admire them, since they are speaking that language as a Second or Third Language, something majority of the populations of France, UK, Australia, and USA don't have, the capacity to speak another language. I admire the Indians and the Chinese in Malaysia who are usually trilingual, most of the time fluently, all speak the National Language Malay, many speak English, and then native Chinese including its dialects or Indian languages (not dialects, as Tamoul is as different from Bengali as Greek is from Swedish). Poor immigrant parents usually discourage their children from speaking the original language as they think of it as a shame (Mexicans in USA are the best example of this). Of course, we can mourn the daily deaths of many of the indigenous tongues in USA and Australia, the disappearance of regional tongues in France in the past forty years.

Let us get back to our beloved language.

 Those among you who are struggling like me to master French language and pronunciation and meanings of the words, may be comforted by the fact that more than 60 % of vocabulaire Anglais is either French or d’origin francaise. When Alexandre Dumas wanted to learn English, he remarked about the similarite between Anglais et Francais: English is all French, just pronounced differently, question d’accent; diference du pronunciation.
Recently there was a documentary at BBC, about the Great British History which showed the slow evolution of the language which we now call English in the islands (the current Great Britain and Ireland and other smaller islands) where at one time, the main language that was understood was British or Breton (which survives in France, despite the efforts of Charles de Gaulle and the successors to wipe it out).

I wont go into the history how British came to be the language of the land, before the arrival of immigrants from the European Coast facing the Islands, Saxons and Germanic speakers. Normans conquered Britain, was it the one referred to by the welsh as the Great War of 1066? (King Llewellyn?) And during the next 300 years were the channels of entry of Norman words into the budding “English” language, Engels being a Germanic tribe from the northwestern part of what is now Germany.
I truly feel that if you know 2000-3000 words in English you could speak it quite well, like many Indians or Persians or Malaysians or Singaporeans. It is incredible to think that one uses actively only between 150-1500 words and NY Times reported that the daily tally of different words we use in English comes up to only 600!
Ah. I am a lover of the Spanish Language, that ornate and descriptive language, but quite cognizant of the fact that a well written piece in English is equally mesmerizing. Who wouldn't fall in love with a poem by that eternal Chilean poet of the Americas, Pablo Neruda,  “Y sabre acariciar las nuevas flores
Por que tu me ensenaste la ternura.”
And I shall know how to touch the new flowers gently
Because you taught me tenderness…
There are more non-native speakers of the English language than native Speakers, that is why you may hear, English is a dying language. Not the language but the population that speaks it as a native language in UK USA Canada Ireland, Australia and New Zealand and some parts of southern Africa is being dwarfed by the Mainland Chinese, Indians and the citizens of every country between Albania and Zambia, who now learn English. So it is not surprising that some of the best writers in the English language are not native to the language, and the major contribution comes from India. For those of you who do not know the flourishing literature in English from India, may I just mention a few names?  Amitav Ghosh, Terun Tejpal, Kiran Desai, Pankaj Mishra. Their ranks are swollen by children of Indian immigrants to England and USA.Jhumpa Lahiri…
The Caribbean has been and will continue to be the fecund producers of literature in English; Trinidad gave us the best living writer in English Language, Sir Vidia Naipaul. There was another, Derek Walcott from St Lucia who also won the Nobel Prize. Lamentablemente, India has produced only one Nobel Prize winner in Literature, nearly hundred years ago, Rabindranath Tagore. But there are many in the waiting.
Producing good literature is a sign of the civilization of the society; Indonesia produces great writers, whereas Malaysia and Singapour do not, it speaks for itself regarding the priorities of the societies.
I will conclude with giving you examples of the evolution of the words in English language. Before 1600, Revolution was a word exclusive to Astronomy, before Hans Selye wrote his seminal treatise on Stress in 1953, that word was associated with mechanical engineering. I don't have to tell you what became of that description of joie de vivre, Gay!

dimanche 29 juillet 2012


Tolerance of Minorities in Israel The case of Circassians
For some reason or other, I thought about the Circassians this morning while at the Blue House among the Indians
I knew that they had Slavic origins but did they come from Russia or Balkans?
www. To the rescue
Circassians arrived at their present location from the Balkans in the year 1880; after 10 years of residence at Marvel, which is at the border of Greece and 

Bulgaria, they migrated to Palestine. The Ottoman Sultan asked them to reside at Rihania (Reyhaniye) and Kfar-Kama villages. About 1,000 Abedzah Circassians live in Reyhaniye and about 2000 Shapsıg Circassians live in Kfar-Kama, and scores of families live in various Israeli cities and towns near their jobs.

Education and Employment 
Kfar-Kama, the larger village, has Jewish settlements as neighbors. Children graduate from village school and continue their education at Jewish schools.
They learn Hebrew, English, and Circassian at school. The National Circassian Alphabet of Caucasus is used in teaching Circassian. Reyhaniye is closer to Arab settlements and children are able to go to both Arab and Jewish schools.
Circassians serve in the army and are employed in the border and regular police forces. Municipal and public services are wide open to the Circassians. Circassians living in these two villages communicate in their own Circassian language.
The Circassian Law (Khabza) regulates the conduct of the Circassians and settles all matters among themselves.

But if my memory serves me right, they came from the Caucuses and not the Balkans. Ah well that is for another time to find out.

When asked by a visiting Jewish teenager: what do you think of the Israelis, her teenage friend replied, you mean Jewish Israelis, thus bringing home the point that not all Israelis are Jewish and you can be Israeli and something other than a Jew. Circassians and Druze minorities in Israel are a good example of good civic citizens of the Medinath Israel.

I suppose, I am writing this from the USA which states they are a Christian Country. John Howard, the former PM of Australia told the sharia mongering immigrants: we are a Christian country. But Jews have flourished in both countries, and now in the USA, the most diverse nation on earth, there are more people speaking variations of hundreds of languages some of which are extinct in their countries of origin. So tolerance is the key, tolerance of the other… so that the other may flourish.

A nice lesson for the newly democratic nations of the Middle East. Indeed.

jeudi 26 juillet 2012


When I was adopted into an Indian family, C, a brother began joking about it. I tried my best to stop this adoption, but now I have to accept that you are my brother. We have all sorts of Christians in this family, and now we have also a Jew..
Joking is a stabilizer in relationships in the Indian world. Relationships are considered so important that it brings in a certain morality to ones behaviour. When you are adopted into an Indian family, all of a sudden you inherit a whole universe, cousins do not exist but only brothers and sisters and nephews and nieces and your world expands along with its responsibility.
His oldest brother and thus my brother as well, was a leader of the Native American Church and well respected man in the community. A sudden and short illness carried him away to the other side.
It is time for us to mourn him. 
Today on the way to the hall where the four day long ceremonies are held, I glanced at the rolling green hills, in the foreground plump corn plants with emerald green leaves and trees standing guard in between the fields. I thought to myself, my Elder brother has seen these seasons for every year of his life, the scene I am looking at, he had looked at it many more times than I have. He is gone but his sight of these plants and trees are left behind for us to connect with him. I felt a new respect for the plants and the trees, they are guardian soldiers of the mother earth which looks at all of us with sympathy and pity. They are able to witness our frailties, our growing old, our crossing to the other world, laugh at our changing moods and judge whether we are good human beings or not. As an Indian said, they are our one legged family members..
I looked at my older brother lying there, life and heat drained from his hands. I said to him, have a nice journey dear brother and have pity on us who are left behind, struggling to understand what is happening.
The Indians spend four nights with the departed, giving every one to express the sorrow, privately and publicly, pray and conduct ceremonies. The Jews sit shiva for seven days and the house is protected with covering, the mirrors and the furniture, so that it does not give the idea for the departing soul, for wanting to linger on. Indians also cover the mirrors, but someone said, we don't know why but when there is thunder, we cover the mirrors also. The last cultural belief runs across race and continents since similar beliefs exist in central and south America as well as Africa.  Jews also refrain from public display of joy and pleasure and families might do that for an entire year, also they stand up at the synagogue during the recital of the Kaddish, the prayer for the dead.
This Shabbat, I will say Kaddish for my older Indian brother. I still mourn for two of my professors, Dr Cecil Helman and Dr Joel Glaser.
It is nice to remember, because that is how their lives on this earth are kept alive, until each and every one who remembered them also have died

mercredi 18 juillet 2012


Don't be arrogant, because arrogance kills curiosity and passion.”

Recently I had been thinking about CONTEXT, in a phenomenological sense, but never thought that I would learn something about Context in the non Social Sciences, the so-called Hard Sciences.
This is that story. Of how context matters at the Cellular Level as well.
Let us begin at year 2008. A strong of coincidences, but do they exist? but a prepared mind, a curious mind was introduced to a very curious mind in Malaysia. I remember the day clearly, we were guests at the home of the master of Awadhi Cuisine as well as the Creative Director of Astro TV.
He was from India and within the first few minutes I knew he had within that skull an extremely active brain. During each of my visits to KL I made a special effort to meet up with him, till he got tired of the commercialization of his environment and went back to India
Doctor, he said to me, you must watch TED videos.
So thanks for this gift from Malaysia, even though he was from India and the gift he gave me, TED, is American.
This morning, a note from TED arrived to inform me of the new videos available for viewing. TED videos are available free of charge to download, they subtitled in many languages and they encompass the entire spectrum of the world of knowledge… watching one TED video a day, at the end of the year your knowledge base would increase tremendously, if only you are curious to follow the information through and convert it into your personal knowledge.
I chose to watch a video
Experiments that point to a new understanding of cancer
Having received the good news from Cuba yesterday that a close friend was suspected of having breast cancer was cleared of that suspicion (Grateful Grateful).. Having close family members with past and present breast cancers, I wanted to be on top of the information about Cancers.

An older lady takes the stage, with conservative dress and well coiffed hair, and I noticed that she spoke with an accent that I couldn't place. Could it be East European? Certainly not Arabic. A tinge of Hebrew may be?
I was fascinated by what she had to say. The introduction caught my attention, be daring and think out side the box, which resonates well with me and my professional life. At a time when people are queuing up to be conformists, it chimed well. For Thirty years, she struggled, ostracized by the scientific community because she had theories about cancer cells and how they spread which contradicted the accepted theory of Oncogenes that cells that become cancerous carry the gene for that cancer, like Her-2 for breast and prostate cancer. After many years of struggle (she briefly mentioned that no one would fund her scientific work!), she was able to prove that at cellular level, Context overrides. In different contests, cells do different things.
The conventional wisdom is that a cancer cell when put into another part of the body will create more cancer cells and then currently the “poisons” cancer doctors use, such as the ones my sister had to go through, kills all the cells but multiplying cells like the cancer cells more efficiently. It is truly a very gross form of therapy, like using a machine gun to kill a mosquito!
MINA BISSELL, the senior scientist was able to show experiments where she was able to reverse the process of cancer by adding the missing ENVIRONMENT. Watch the video and it is truly amazing to see cancerous cells regaining their normal shape and form. Form and Function in balance, between the Extra Cellular Matrix and the Nucleus of the Cell. WOW indeed…

(Biologists discover rotational motion of breast cells, required to avoid malignancy

January 27, 2012)
Congratulations Professor Bissell! Like your colleague in San Francisco, Elizabeth Blackburn, from Australia, who deciphered human Telomeres and won the Nobel Prize for Medicine, I expect to hear that Mina Bissell has won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, in the very near future.
This video was filmed in June 2012 and uploaded in July 2012 and I received the notification today.

Then I got interested in this professor as a person, who is she, where does she come from. Imagine my pleasant surprise that she was born and raised in Teheran and was the top student in all of Iran in the year of her high school graduation. Few months later she came to the USA to study, ending up with BA, MA and PhD from Harvard Universities and currently is the Senior Scientist at Berkeley, California at LBL. (Lawrence Biological Laboratories).
(Mina.. one of the meanings, depicted above)
In an interview she had mentioned that she had to choose between English Literature and Chemistry and that Chemistry had won. Her favourite book was The Little Prince by Antoine St Exupery and now it is True North by the Australian Historian writer Jull Kerr Conway.
But what touched me was this bit about her, which has a personal meaning for me:
“My childhood hero, however, was Iranian Prime Minister Mosadegh, who was a forthright, courageous man who asked Britain and the United States to help nationalize the oil. He was portrayed in the American press as pro-Communist, yet nothing was further from the truth -- he was a constitutional man. However, because of the sentiments against him, he was toppled -- a very sad event for that country. Years later, there was an admission that this was a bad mistake. I believe that had he stayed in power, the tragic events of the so called "Islamic Revolution" brought about by decades of oppression, would not have happened”

In another Interview she was asked:
Do you ever return to Iran?
I haven't gone back since the Shah fell because I'm very outspoken and wouldn't tolerate it if someone said, “Put that thing on your head.” Not once did I have to wear even a scarf, despite the fact I had an Ayatollah for a grandfather.
The curious thing is that even now, 54% of those studying engineering, medicine, and architecture at universities across Iran are women. And 52% of Tehran University faculties are women. Who hears about this? All you hear is Ahmadinejad!

I am truly happy to learn about this women and her work. And for my Iranian colleagues and intellectuals in and outside of Iran, let her be a guide to you, an inspiration. During the recent meeting of Endocrine Society I was so happy to see so many young Iranian doctors (almost all of them based in the USA), who would contribute to the society that they call home.
Iran’s Loss is the Gain of the World. Let the arrogance that kills Curiosity and Passion and Excellence of so many Iranians, let that stay behind in Iran with the Bearded Ones.

So thank you Malaysia for your ongoing gifts to me..through Iran in this case. I truly enjoyed writing this..  Gracias. Merci Beaucoup. Obrigado.
It is also good to see the illustrious professor does take time to spend as much time with her family as possible! or feasible!

featured posts


CUBA IS THE FUTURE FOR LATIN AMERICA AND PERHAPS THE WORLD On my way out of Cuba, from La Habana, on COPA airlines flight to Panama, I w...