dimanche 21 avril 2013


Malaysia likes to pride itself as Truly Asia, but the influx of superficial western experiences, cities in Malaysia, such as KL and Malacca are beginning to look their counterparts elsewhere. Malacca once possessed great charm, but since becoming a World Heritage City, the majority of visitors to Malaysia go there, with it has gone its village charm.
Malaysia has good infrastructure for interstate travel but that does not guarantee a comfortable trip. A bus fitted with luxury business class type seats promised comfort but driving at 90 km along roads made for lesser speed, instead provided a jittery experience.
Arriving at Kuala Trengganu central bus station, one meets the realistic Malaysia of third world reality, chaos, and suitable dirt. People are friendly even at the early hours at the bus station.
 Walking around this town, one gets a feeling of a real Malaysia, not a hyped up, "we are a developed" nation hysteria, but shows all the struggles of a country trying to modernize itself, despite taking wrong turns.
A 500 million ringgit religious complex with models of mosques of the world graces the river when there is no provision for a good primary care system.
The Chinese are a prominent presence here, historically having been here for a very long period of time. Malays have to be reminded that they too are immigrants to this land, the original inhabitants still live sequestered away in the jungle.
Apart from fulfilling an obligation to visit friends in this town which has a homey feeling to it, what attracts me, is its ancient connection with Zheng He/Cheng Ho . I will visit the temple that honour the visit of the great admiral of the seas.

For an authentic flavour of Malaysia, come to Kuala Trengganu...

dimanche 14 avril 2013


Is a fashionable term used, especially among the Middle Class Literati to denote imposing the unscientific but popular health/diet systems upon other people, who may enjoy eating Meat and are not averse to eating Gluten-full food or full fat milk. While these naysayers are at best a nuisance, they are not Fascists in that they don't actually cause harm.
Then there are others who hide behind Capitalism and hide their evil intentions behind personal freedom and competition. And their actions actually cause physical harm to people and this is Fascism. A selfish ideology hiding behind noble ideas of Freedom.

One Such case is the Food Fascism I witnessed recently on a visit to an Indian Reservation.
Due to the criss crossing of federal and tribal legal authorities on the very same piece of territory, some times Indians are unable to exercise their supposed sovereignty in their own land.
So, there might be businesses within the Indian Territory, which are harmful to the health of the Indians, but they are not able to stop it or control it.
Thus Indians can’t control the kind of food that comes to their food deserts and these greedy outsiders increase the food insecurity.
Recently I was taken to see VENDING, which has become a gathering spot for school children and adolescents. I had this image of games, a couple of soda machines and some snacks to buy. I was not prepared to what I was brought to see.
Remember this is a small village of Indians with a few white people living within the Indian Territory. There are not many options for food in this village: Dairy Queen, some lower level fast food outlets. Even McDo thinks this is not profitable a place that there are no cafes, fast food American restos. The nearest McDo is 60 miles away.
When you enter the hall, your senses are jammed with rows and rows of vending machine selling every thing that has to relate with food. And obviously with the in built condition that, in this isolation, vending machines cant sell healthy food but preserved food and canned drinks of all sorts. There are also frozen pizzas, hamburgers and hotdogs already prepared and there is a microwave oven ready for your input.
I am sure the owner is saying: I don't ask them to buy anything, if they don't want to buy it, let them not come.
Easily said. There are no other places to go and there is no great innovation from the tribe to offer a similar place where freshly prepared food is provided.
Legally the owner who is white is doing nothing wrong, but carrying on the centuries old exploitation of the unfortunate Indians. It is unethical when I was told that a Health care Provider (white) to the Indians in the local facility has some financial interest in the Vending Enterprise. The prices are higher than normal.
I was reminded of the poem United Fruit Company by the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, part of which I quote:
Meanwhile Indians are falling
into the sugared chasms
of the harbours, wrapped
for burials in the mist of the dawn:
a body rolls, a thing
that has no name, a fallen cipher,
a cluster of the dead fruit
thrown down on the dump. 
Pablo Neruda

This does not mean that every one in the Indian country is eating badly. Far from it. During my weeklong visits to this Indian reservation, my colleagues, who are all Indian, prepare lunch and dinner for me, from fresh ingredients as much as possible, but always keeping in mind to provide our bodies with healthy sustenance.

mercredi 10 avril 2013



I had just arrived at the home of my colleague, when he announced that a Medicine Man from Pine Ridge would be giving a talk on the Celestial Knowledge of the ancient Lakota. I had woken up at 4 am that morning at San Antonio, to fly to Denver to Rapid City where I was greeted by a member of the Youth Diabetes Prevention Programme of the CRST, to whom I am a Consultant.
I sat myself at the back, by myself, listening to the Medicine Man and what i noted about his tone was the humility. I had heard about him from my friends in Vermillion, Duane and Thin Elk and it was a great pleasure to meet him.
I told him that the Lakota story about seven Girls or Sisters is very similar to the one, he was reciting with variations.

Schapera an eminent south african anthropologist had collected the San stories..

  • When the Pleiades appear in the east, little ones are lifted by their mothers and presented to the stars . . . The Pleiades are considered friendly and the children are taught to stretch their hands toward them.
  • The Pleiades, named Khuseti or Khunuseh by the Khoikhoi, are called the rainstars. Their appearance indicates the rainy season is near and thus the beginning of a new year. Hahn. The Khoikhoi, or Bushmen (1881).
  • . . . when rain is accompanied by lightning, girls who are out in the open become killed by the lightning and are converted into stars. Therefore young unmarried women and girls must hide themselves from the rain. Schapera (1930).
Isaac Schapera (23 June 1905 Garies, South Africa – 26 June 2003 London, England), was a social anthropologist at the London School of Economicsspecialising in South Africa.

It was so good to some old friends and be greeted so warmly by them, like the mother and daughter whose pictures appear below.
If I can summarize the North American Indians in one word, it would be RELATIONSHIP and that is why they oft repeat Mitakuye Oyasin, we are all related.
My good friends drove 150 miles to pick me up at the nearest airport.
A lakota mother and daughter whom I have known for ages..
They had a full plan of activities for me, normally begining the day at 8 am and going until about 8 am, ably assisted by various out reach workers to the villages outside the main village and the dietitian and the exercise advisor.
But the Great Spirit had different plans..
The first and possibly the last Snow Storm rumbled into the prairie the day after my arrival and Strangely enough I did not feel nuisanced but instead I enjoyed the beauty of a white landscape and I had taught my brain not to feel the cold. Yogic Philosophy had taught me that aversion is a structural defect and I am happy to say that I did not have any bad feelings for the sudden change in weather.
I will return soon to this lovely tribe and their village so that I can complete what I was supposed to do on this visit.

 A lot of snow fell during this storm.
Since I had come here to educate the workers and the adolescents about good nutrition and lifestyle, it is no wonder that the staff made sure that I ate well during my stay here.. Each Day they cooked Lunch and or dinner for me.

I was so happy to spend some time, during the long hours of snow, discussing various aspects of life all over the world, with a delightful Psychologist.
Once again, A Big Thank You, to my Lakota Friends!

dimanche 7 avril 2013


The breakfast was being prepared as I came back from my brisk morning walk. Machacada, which is sliced meat; and specially prepared Refried Beans for me (without pork portion, but with olive oil). It was prepared by my kikapu sister and a mascogo from Nacimiento de los negros in Coahuila.
They also made their tortillas, so no need to worry about chemical pollution of this ancient bread of the Indians.

Decided to walk across the border to Mexico. In fact, you can park your car near the Border and walk across the bridge into Mexico.
My good friend, Dra. E sees patients two days a week in this border town of Piedras Negras. She has amassed a reputation because she combines her occidental medical knowledge with complimentary medicine: homeopathy, rejuvenation therapy as well as Ozone Therapy.
My project with her is to study the effect of Ozone therapy in the prevention and treatment of Chronic Renal Failure in patietns with Diabetes.
USA does not accept Ozone therapy as a form of treatment but it is widely used in many countries for the past 50 years. Cuba is a leader in Ozone therapy, holds regular sessions for all those who may benefit. The Institute there also educates doctors from all over Latin America. That is where Dra E got her training in Ozone Therapy.
I will not go in great details suffice to say that I have seen a great benefit in prevention and treatment of Chronic Renal Failure in patients with Diabetes.
Every now and then I have a session of Ozone Therapy. I feel very energetic afterwards and that sensation lasts for a while, weeks.
What I can confirm is that it is an excellent form of therapy, in conjunction with ordinary therapy for many chronic disorders. When my sister in Miami was undergoing chemotherapy for cancer, I thought of bringing her to Mexico for Ozone therapy, to reduce the inflammation caused by the powerful drugs. 

Not many places in the world, a border such as USA-Mexico exist, a very rich country sharing a border with a much poorer country. The river divides the two countries and they are truly worlds apart. Even though most of the border towns on the American side populated mainly by people of Mexican descent and speak Spanish, there is a difference in the mindset of the people and like many migrants to the USA, these mexicans in the USA are not very proud of their culture.
Kikapu maintain their spiritual home in Mexico and they have no conflict about it. 
My sister always says: I am a Kikapu when I am in Mexico, and I am a Kikapu when I am in the USA.. but i am neither mexican nor american. 
It teaches us that we really dont have to give up our cultures thinking  it is easier to integrate into the mainstream society..
Walked back in to American Territory on the bridge over rio bravo...The drive back to San Antonio took two hours and thirty minutes.
I had checked into Hilton Hotel and a Black Sorority was having their annual function there and it was a sea of blue, with black women adding fragrance to the place filling the lounge and common places with an increased energy.
Time for Dinner, a simple Thai dinner at a Resto nearby.


Starting the day off with readings from Yoga Sutra, commentary by Yogendra from Yoga Institute in Santa Cruz.
What is the congruity here with the American Indian thinking? In talking about Kleishas, Yoga Sutra lays out IGNORANCE that which enhances the KLEISHAS or structural defects in ourselves/our ways of thinking. The one that we have to watch for is the EGO which when fired will lead us to wrong paths. HUMILITY is the natural antidote for cooling down of your ego; think about it, Ego or I-ness cannot flourish in face of Humility.
I am a Doctor to the Indians, and I think of ways to help them deal with illnesses and I have noticed that HUMILITY is what pays off when you are dealing with ancient population.
(Michele, a fantastic colleague to work with. I wish every patient with Diabetes had an Educator the calibre of Michele)
A tall 6 foot 5 inches full blooded Indian who is 47 years old comes into see me today and after a talk that touched on the history of his people, his ancestors remembered and counselling him about the optimism regarding the health, he gets up and hugs me. That meant so much, makes the daylong journeys to get to the Indians worthwhile.
"For me, the essence of a medicine man's life is to be humble, to have great patience, to be close to the Earth, to live as simply as possible, and to never stop learning."
-- Archie Fire Lame Deer, LAKOTA

It was not even 11 am in the morning, a nice get together over lunch with Indian colleagues and very light hearted conversation carried on.

Once you feel this humility, you begin to think of those who are close to your heart and life and begin to look at them with grateful eyes for being present in your life.
It is so good to be with the Indians and they are such good teachers.
I thought of the very large circle of my family and friends, in the Indian way related to me.
And felt enormous love for them and respect for my friends in Beijing and Reading for their struggles.
I felt closer to two friends from Asia, MC from KL and PJ from Bogor.
The day had cooled down a bit when we left the clinic and I was informed of a sweat lodge ceremony where some of my Indian family would be. At 6 30 pm, the western skies donning their usual beautiful colours I drove up to the next village.

Was good to see my friends but as if it was pre ordained, an extraordinary man of knowledge was there, visiting them. I was so excited about meeting him. Chatted about two hours with him about the history of the tribe. We agreed on many things, such as:
We are not clever enough to understand everything the Indians can teach us
And that,
We need them much more than they need us, whatever little help and counsel we offer.
As I was about to leave, an older Indian lady came in and greeted me; she talked about her grandfather who had taught her a whole lot about the ancient ways of her people.
By this time, my heart was brimming with emotions that I had not experienced in a while: humility as the base, love and affection for all those who have crossed paths with me in my life and those who are still present.
The lady continued: I live in a farmhouse outside the village and I am raising four grandchildren. I wanted to connect a washer and drier to the water pipes but I cannot get any one to come and help me without charging me an arm and a leg.
Suddenly I thought of my friend Joe from Bogor, it is as if he was standing next to me and saying: hey Doc, act on this!
May I have your address? I have a patient who is a handyman and I could ask him to come by your house and check it for you.
I had already made up my mind, my patient/friend will come and see me tomorrow at the clinic and I will ask him to go by and check out the situation and I will pay for the work to be done connecting the water pipes etc. including the material to be bought.
I felt grateful to Pak Joe in Bogor because he would have done the same thing.

I could only agree with the incredible genealogist/historian whom I met today:
I need these ancient peoples much more than they need me.
Paul Brill, the Incredible Genealogist who has an encyclopaedic knowledge of Omaha Kinship. He has mapped at least 8 generations of Omaha! The other person in the photo is my Omaha Brother


The alarm went off at 0600 AM, I had already packed my bags, so it was easy to be ready to leave at 0700. Switched off the heating of the Blue House, thanked the House for the nice hospitality, and the tribe for the incredible days with them.
As I was leaving the village I saw a man walking slowly along. I hesitated for a moment, but then decided: I will take him where he wants to go, that way I don't have to decide whether I take the highway or the rural route to the Airport!
The man was lightly clad, tall, dishevelled, replied: I am going to Macy, which is about 9 miles away.
He got in.
One of the earliest lessons that my Meskwakia teachers gave me: regardless of who is sitting in front of you, treat them all with respect.
When you meet an Indian, usually you try to place yourself in their world. So I asked about his family and soon realized that he is related to the family I was adopted into.
I dropped him off to the entrance of the village to Macy, and asked him: Have you ever seen me before?
Are you not the doctor who comes here?
I realized that repeated visits over the course of twenty years, you become part of the community.
Few miles down the road is a small community of Decatur, the second oldest white settlement in Nebraska and it is easy to say that in the years since then, the attitude of the people there towards the Indians who had been living here for centuries have not changed. There is hardly any social interaction between the Indians and the White People.
A nice little steel bridge at least one hundred years old over the river Missouri and you enter Iowa and as far as you can look there are farmlands on both side of the road, Quickly you catch up with the traffic on I-29 and within one hour you are at the Airport and returning the rental car to AVIS.
Brand loyalty is so well rewarded in the USA. D greets me and we chat for a while, he is the person who checks the car out, but over the years that we have known each other, we have become friends and always some niceties are exchanged.
Is B working at the desk inside? I asked him about my good friend B who has been a friend ever since I started renting AVIS cars here at the Airport.
It took no more than one minute to check the luggage in and get my boarding passes and I went over to the AVIS counter where B greeted me with such warmth.
It was only 9 AM and the airport seemed deserted. We chatted for a little while; she is always helpful and helps me with the various coupons AVIS sends me.
She has been working with AVIS for 16 years, which I think, is a record since this is an industry where there is high turnover. In fact only D and B remain of all my acquaintances over the years at AVIS and thus have become my friends.
You forgot my birthday, didn't you? She kidded. I am extraordinarily bad with birthdays, since I am not in the habit of celebrating my own.
On 21st March, I turned 36. And I know that she likes bracelets and jewellery. I made a mental note to buy her something on my next trip to Asia. She admired my ring from Iran and I told her that two jade stones were waiting for me in Malacca…
She showed me the pictures of her two sons, and told how difficult it is to be a single mother, despite the fact that she has a goo salary and a nice supportive social system.
I don't think they would believe if I told them that many Indians live under dire material poverty but the social structure is intact and that helps them survive. An average American is not educated in nor is he aware of the injustices done to the Indians by the invading marauding Europeans from whom they are descended. But individual Americans, such as D and B are so nice and friendly and for a traveller like me, having these social interactions gives context to the travel I have to do within USA.
A short 2 hour flight to Houston and there, a layover of 3 hours (I like the United Club at Terminal E) and a very short flight of 42 minutes to San Antonio.
I thought to myself, this is exactly the same flying time as the one from Miami to Havana but these two flights had nothing in common other than the fact that they were both undertaken in aircrafts!
Ducked into the United Club at San Antonio situated close to the arrival gates and was happy to see W, who has worked there ever since I have been flying into San Antonio on my way to visit to the Kikapu Indians of Mexico.

A well built, closely cropped man of Mexican descent was the driver and yes, he has served in the Army for ten years and now back home and I love it, he said. They are so polite, Yes Sir, and No Sir and make very polite conversations.
Within minutes of arrival at San Antonio Airport, I was already on Highway 480 West on my way to Eagle Pass via Uvalde to be with my Kikapu family.
I had taken the 90 West this time and had a chance to stop at Castroville, an Alsatian settlement, with preserved architecture of that era. It is amazing to see blond, blue eyed European men and women (now fully integrated Americans) who would not be out of place in that province of France and Germany from where they had migrated. They make good bread so I got a nice whole wheat bread for my Kikapu sister.
This drive took nearly three hours…and once again I enter another world. Eagle Pass is a town right on the border with Mexico and within this isolation from mainstream America; there is a small reservation of Indians, which is isolated from the culture of Eagle Pass.
It felt so natural to find my around and enter the Reservation and find the house of my Kikapu sister.
Her son and grandson were busy playing video games and a new Mascogo (descendant of Africans who went to Mexico with them 150 years ago) lady was in the house to look after them.
The irony was not lost on me. 150 years ago, Indians and African slaves left the then young United States to go to Mexico where they lived side by side but maintaining their distinct cultural identities. The relationship never changed and now 150 years later the Indians are back in the land of their origin, and the Mascogos are suspended between Africa and Mexico, well accepted in Mexico but not so well in the USA. I thought of Rogelio Martins Fure, that brilliant Africanist from La Habana, who would be thrilled to hear some news about them.
Why did I make this long journey, when I have to drive back the 160 miles back to the San Antonio Airport and then catch a very early morning flight to Rapid City, South Dakota and drive another three hours to the Reservation of the Lakota?
I am the traveller, I am on the road, but my Kikapu family nor my esteemed colleague  Dra E and her delightful husband P, can travel to see me, unless we make elaborate arrangements to meet in Cancun or La Habana.

We went to the appointed Restaurant, Parillada Don Miguel in Eagle Pass, by far the best eatery, comparable to the ones in Mexico. My good friends, colleague Dra E and her husband P arrived and we had a delightful dinner together. All four of them, including my Kikapu sister M have been friends for more than 15 years.
Friendship is like a growing plant that nurturing, you need to water this plant and your physical presence is necessary. With all the current social interactions and possibilities over the net these days, nothing beats the face-to-face presence. I cherish each and every one of these moments.
A very nice Mexican Meal, the waitress was the very same one who had served us when I was here two months ago.
We always talk about Juanito, the bartender at our favourite restaurant El Jacal in Muzquiz in northern Mexico. Simple yet wonderful people, these people who come into our lives and are there in the periphery but never to be forgotten.
But as for Dra E, P and my Kikapu sister, they had entered my life, and their presence is permanent and have had a great effect on the course of my life.
It is a morning, a little cloudy; the day has not woken up yet. I am going walking around the reservation away from the homes.
On my right, along the river Bravo, is Mexico, I can see people going about their daily chores.
I am in between, two grand civilizations, in fact both originally Indian, among the Kikapu, they are still Indian but on the other side, they have long ago become assimilated to become Mexicanos.