Thursday, June 1, 2017



Recently on my visit to Chawri Bazaar in old and real Delhi, where my ancestors settled, lived and thrived ever since Bahadur Shah Zafar left Delhi, the paanwala (read panwaari) gave me a good lesson in Reverse Psychology. Before I give you my story, let me explain what Reverse Psychology is.
By the way, Chawri Bazaar is close to Chandni Chowk. Metro stops at both these places. For the uninitiated, the important landmarks of Old Delhi are, Ajmeri Gate (adjacent to the New Delhi Railway station), Sita Ram Bazaar, Lal Kuan, Jama Masjid, Fateh Puri, Town Hall, Nai Sarak, Kinari bazaar, etc. The famous ‘parathe wali gali’ is in a narrow street off Chandni Chowk. Many important historical landmarks are there; Lal Kila, Jain Temple and its world famous Birds’ Hospital, Gauri Shankar Mandir, Gurudwara Shish Ganj sahib, Ghalib’s haveli and many others. This area is famous for many age-old traditions in eateries. Parathe of parathe wali gali, dahi-bhalla of Central Bank, various kinds of chaats, paan, kulfi, daulat ki chaat, nagori-sabji-halwa, poori-berami-sabji and a lot more. Some of the most famous mughlai dishes you get around Jama Masjid area. And then, there is this kheer, cooked slowly for hours together on slow wood fire.

If you are not sure of what Reverse Psychology is, let me explain it for you by the famous example of Shakespeare's characters Romeo and Juliet. Why Romeo and Juliet fell so passionately in love with each other? Or for that matter, Majnu-Laila, Heer-Ranjha, Sassi-Punnu, Shirin-Farhad. So many of our Bollywood movies, the hero and heroine have been victims of this process of psychology. Anarkali, Ek Duje Ke Liye, QSQT (Qayamat Se Qamayat Tak), DDLJ (Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge) have exploited it to dramatize a simple story. The list is endless.
If you remember any of the stories, the progress of all stories is the same. The two lovers meet and take a liking for each other. If the story ended here, they might have gotten together for life; or be happy for a few months and then discover that they are very different and don’t really see the future for themselves. No one would write an epic for them, or make a blockbuster Bollywood movie.
But, the families play spoilsport; forbid them to see or meet up with each other. That only fuels their desire to be together. The more family resists, more intense the attraction gets. Because, something happens that pushes them towards each other and makes them fight till death for their love. What is it? The fact that both families ordered the young lovers not to see each other; and this very reason pulls them towards each other with a magnetic force that no force on earth can pull them apart.
Whenever somebody forbids us to do something, our sense of freedom is endangered. Rebellion becomes our natural reaction. This is at its maximum during our adolescence and young adulthood, the age of risk-taking behaviour.
This is why using reverse psychology is such an efficient tool for making others do what you want. It is achieved by telling people to do opposite of what you actually wish them to do.

The effect of Reverse Psychology on group behaviours has been exploited extensively by tobacco companies no ends.

All over the world, most of the countries run regular campaigns for their citizens, especially young, to refrain from smoking. The government puts many restriction on the sale of tobacco, puts statutory warning on the cigarette packets, depicts horrible pictures of victims of tobacco related cancers, and runs advocacy programmes against tobacco use for the school and college students. Tobacco companies know very well how Reverse Psychology works. If they have to promote sales of their products, they like to catch the young population that is their biggest markets. As part of corporate social responsibility, they undertake, finance, and sponsor such programmes directed towards school and university students. The apparent tone of the campaign is ‘Say No to Drugs’, ‘Do Not Smoke’, ‘Tobacco Kills’, ‘Smoking Causes Cancer’ etc. Such messages, packaged beautifully and parroted by attractive models, kindle risk-taking behaviours of the youth. And the tobacco company succeeds in their ulterior motive of increasing sales of their product, and laughing all the way to bank.  
Back to the story at Chawri Bazaar. I had gone there to buy ‘kulfi’ for a family dinner. At Sita Ram Bazaar (adjacent to Chawri Bazaar), you get the best kulfi in the town. Over the years (since my childhood), we have patronized two most famous ones, Duli Chand and Kure Mal, who have been into the business for generations. The same is true for ‘paan’ also; you get the best paans in old Delhi. So I decided to buy some paan too for the evening. Since I was buying quite a few, I had to stay there for some time; while making paans for me, the paanwala was attending to other customers as well. They were mostly for packaged water, or buying cigarettes. What surprised me was that the customers bought one stick only, and none bought the full packet. Each such stick cost INR 7 or 10. There were posters in the shop warning about the dangers of smoking. But none was paying any attention to these. When only two of us were left, I asked him if all the campaign against smoking has dented his sales of cigarettes. He looked at me with an expression as if I had asked him a stupid question. He said, “Ever since these campaigns and advertisements against smoking have begun, the sales of cigarettes have only increased.” He further said that many years ago, the price of a cigarette packet, and he emphasized packet once more, was increased by 10 paise only; the result was the sales decreased by half. Why, because there was no advertisement against smoking then. Advertisement helps increase the sales, even if it is negative. Badnaam huye to kya hua, naam tou hoga!

No doubt, tobacco is a big killer all over the world. Even if it does not kill, it impairs our health by affecting practically all the organs and systems of the body. If our anti-tobacco programmes have to succeed, there is need to think fresh about how we wish to run our campaign. Time is Now.

Thursday, May 18, 2017


I Love Kashmir More and More…

Some time back when Prof Mohd Ashraf Ganie contacted me over phone to be a speaker for this conference, I was a bit intrigued. First of all, the name of the conference surprised me: I had never heard a scientific society like ‘Metabolic Syndrome, Prediabetes and Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome Society’. What is this kind of Society, which is trying to bring internists, endocrinologists, and Obs-Gynae experts under one umbrella? Psychiatrists had no place in it, though, Psychiatry is only obliquely related to all these disorders. A number of new generation antipsychotic drugs have been shown to result into metabolic syndrome (weight gain, central obesity, high blood sugar levels) in the users. People with Prediabetes are at risk for developing depression as well as cognitive decline. Women with polycystic diseases also have some mental health issues, which are largely ignored by the patients as well as clinicians. But to call a Psychiatrist to address these medical experts appeared too far-fetched. I thought, since Ashraf has been a good friend, he was being a generous host in giving me a chance to visit Srinagar once again.
Well, I readily accepted his invitation. Who allows a golden opportunity go waste to visit Kashmir! Visiting Kashmir has always been a pleasurable experience, and it would be a fantastic opportunity to escape the scorching Sun of Delhi weather, mercury touching 44 Celsius on daily basis.

Emperor Jahangir once said about Kashmir, “Agar Firdaws ba roy-i-zamin ast, hamin ast-u hamin ast-u hmin ast”, meaning , If there is Paradise on earth, it is this, it is this, it is this.”
However, the media was reporting some disturbing events taking place every now and then especially in South Kashmir. Though, there was nothing untoward in these news about Srinagar, but one exercises some caution while visiting it. My apprehensions, if any, about visiting the Valley, were immediately put to rest by Ashraf just by his reassuring phone call. Then I did not look back in making my preparations.
Ashraf wanted me to talk on ‘Lifestyle Diseases and Psychiatric Comorbidities’. During our frequent calls in last few days, he also roped me in to give one more talk on ‘Substance and Alcohol Use: Public Health Implication’. And as if to justify my visit to this Conference, I also volunteered to speak on ‘Depression and Non-communicable Diseases’. Believe me, I enjoyed giving all the three talks to a very receptive audience.
For my Delhi-Srinagar flight, I had done web check-in and selected window seat on left hand side of the aircraft. This way, on a good day, you can view majestic mountains during Jammu-Srinagar sector. I had been fortunate in my earlier visits to Srinagar, when miles on I could view mighty Himalayan snow covered peaks. When I reported at the airport, I was informed by the airlines that I had been upgraded to business class. However, what I realized, to my dismay, was that I lost my window seat in the process. It was not a good bargain, since flying business class for a 90 minute flight gives you no extra benefit except for some more room and extra calories. And I lost the view in the bargain.
Arriving Srinagar on the evening of 10th May was an exciting experience. The venue of the conference, Shere-Kashmir International Convention Centre (SKICC), struck as a venue like out of this world. I have attended my conferences within and outside the country, but never in my life did I come to a venue as beautiful as this one. The lush greenery around it, the lake, the flowers all over, the halls, the ease of going around the venue were all breath taking. The entire venue was teeming with delegates, busy in animated discussions. Smart enthusiastic young ladies, who impressed me with their efficiency and courtesy, were manning the Registration counter and helping with scientific sessions. Later in the evening we were entertained by local artists with folk music, dance, and ghazals of popular masters.

The delegates were from various parts of the country, and so many were overseas delegates. They had put away all the media scare-mongering, and did not let it come in way to visiting Kashmir for being part of this Conference. I was told that many invited speakers had cancelled their visits, and I could only feel pity for them, since they had missed a golden opportunity to be welcomed by the generous hosts and local people, and see for themselves that one has to be objective in making assessment, and not be influenced by the media frenzy.
I felt deeply touched by the warmth and hospitality of the Organizers, volunteers, staff, or whomsoever I met over last three days. It is difficult to find so much politeness, courtesy, and love from people anywhere else.
The scientific programme was impressively and imaginatively chalked out. I could find so many illustrious names in the programme, and could meet a number of them. I attended many scientific sessions, and in each session I learnt a few ‘take home messages’; whether it was listening to an endocrinologist, obs-gynae specialist, internist, surgeon, paediatrician, orthopaedic surgeon, oncologist, or a renal specialist, health administrator, or research scientist. Their presentations were rich in scientific content, and had a message about new challenges and novel innovations for everyone on lifestyle disorders.

I did find time to visit the Mughal Gardens once again. They were as beautiful as ever. I also went to Sonmarg and beyond. The drive to Sonmarg was picturesque, and at places the landscape was just breathtaking. The road goes all the way to Leh via Zozila pass, Drass and Kargil. A few kilometers beyond Sonmarg, the trek starts on the right side to take you to Baltal, and then to the Holy shrine of Amarnath. The Amarnath yatra will start in June, and continue till mid-August.

I must put on record my deep appreciation for Ashraf, his wife Sobia and the entire team behind them. Ashraf had been remarkable in looking after each detail, and personally attending to the concerns of all delegates, whether it was about their presentations, their travel or stay arrangements, or looking after their sightseeing trips. Sobia stood like a solid rock behind him.
It had been very heartening to see young people attending the conference. Very impressive had been to see a large number of young women attending the conference. If women are taking up higher education and challenging roles in a big way, there is no doubt that that society is bound to progress further and further. The testimony to that was the fact that all the three award winners for scientific presentations on the Valedictory function on 12th May were young ladies. My salute to them.
I also feel it is high time that the media behaves more responsibly in its reporting on Kashmir. For the sake of TRP, it has been sensationalizing petty incidents, which has unnecessarily put all kind of ideas into outsiders’ mind about the local situation. It only hurts local interests, and prevents people visiting this magnificent paradise on Earth. Let me give one example, narrated by a local resident. A few days back there was a heavy downpour for 2-3 days. The news channel, while reporting on it, showed footage from the havoc of 2104 floods, without clarifying that the footage was an old one. Local people got panicky that some parts were experiencing Nature’s fury once again!
I have been fortunate in coming to Kashmir on regular basis. I have very close and deep friendship with professional colleagues here, as well as with ordinary citizens. And every time I come to Kashmir, I love it more and more.

Read my earlier post of January 2016 on Kashmir:

Monday, March 21, 2016


Please click on the link below:

Kedarkantha - slide show

The Winter Embrace of Kedarkantha

I am in Berlin, and trying to write this blog entry at 4 am in the morning. This has long been overdue; though I came back to Delhi after doing the Kedarkantha trek in the second week of January, but the life in Delhi has ever since been too hectic at personal and professional fronts, preventing me to jot down a few lines about the amazing trek and my personal reminisces. But it is not to say that the experience has sunk down deep in my memory lane; I often think, remember, live and cherish the time I had with the group during this snowbound trek in very low tempertatures. Even here I wish to look at the photographs.

I had been thinking of doing Kedarkantha ever since 2011, when I did Roopkund trek with the Indiahikes. We were impressed with the logistics and arrangements done by the Indiahikes, and had wanted to do some more treks with them. Since I had never done any snow-bound winter trek ever, we zeroed down on Kedarkantha, which Indiahikes had recently added to its kitty. Meanwhile, Shariff, Malini (my colleagues) and Vasuman (son) completed the trek long back, and I had to wait thus far to find or create the opportunity. But then, things are destined, they say, and I was destined to do this trek with Kushagra, and the fantastic bunch of 25 young enthusiasts.

Kushagra was planning to visit us some time in December 2015, but when I told him about my intention of booking for Kedarkantha trek in the first week of January, he firmed up his dates immediately to join me for the trek, as he said, ‘it is quite a while, we had done a trek together’.

When I looked at the Indiahikes website to book, I was surprised to see that all the suitable dates for us were already full. It seemed the trek was fast becoming popular. Fortunately, I had saved some telephone numbers of Indiahikes from my previous trek, and to my good luck, the numbers were active, working, and when I rang up, someone immediately put me in touch with Prathima, who assured me of helping us by accommodating us on our preferred date. She precisely did that. Prathima was kind of in-charge of the group leaving on 2nd January, and as I realized, she was mentoring the group throughout.

Fortunately, I had already been training myself for this trek for last few months by working out in gym or going for long walks for cardiopulmonary exercises, endurance, and strengthening my quads and glutes. The significance of training oneself for any trek cannot be overemphasized, and Prathima too had been reminding the group members time and again to practice running 4.5 km in 30 minutes. What I was a little worried about was managing the low temperatures. In the month of January, it could go as low as minus 10 C. But when Kush arrived in December, he advised me very precisely how I should layer myself with specialized layers without overburdening myself. Though his advice was very reassuring, yet the anxieties remained.

That Kedarkantha was going to be an exciting trek was never in doubt. After all, the Indiahikes has labeled this trek as the best ever winter trek. It had given many reasons in support of its verdict: it remains snow bound from December till April, prettiest campsites, beautiful drive in Himalayas, pleasure of walking on a carpet of brown leaves with snow peaks all around. I could vouch for that. We had done nearby ‘Har-ki-Doon’ trek way back in 1993, and to this day I find ‘Har-ki-Doon’ as one of most beautiful treks. The exciting part of Kedarkantha was doing it in winter with snow-laden path under extreme cold conditions.

When I was preparing myself physically and mentally, Prathima from the Indiahikes was constantly in touch with all the group members reminding us about how to prepare ourselves, what all essentials we should carry (no more, no less), what we should expect by way of arrangements, giving various important contact numbers etc. The most praiseworthy part was that whenever any member posed any query on the group email, the response came almost immediately. Meanwhile, one trek member had soon created a whatsapp group for members to get acquainted with one another. They were coming from all over, Bengaluru, Pune, Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, and the US.

Little bit about Kedarkantha: One has to first reach a village by name of Sankari to begin the trek.  The road for Sankari (the starting point for the trek) starts from Mussourie and passes through Kempty falls, and some other small towns like Barkot, Purola, to enter the Supin range of Himalayas. A couple of hours before reaching Sankari, one enters Govind wild life sanctuary, a protected area. One then views two rivers, Supin and Rupin, and their confluence, which finally merges with river Yamuna. When a few decades back, my uncle and auntie were trekking towards Har-ki-Doon, they decided that whenever they were blessed with a daughter, they would name her Rupin; and they precisely did that. Now Rupin is a smart young lady, working where else but Silicon Valley. One then reaches Netwar, a small village, which used to be the starting point for beginning the trek to Har-ki-Doon way back in early 1990s, since that was the end of road head that time. Now road goes as far as Sankari. Sankari is a small village of about 400 houses at a height of 1950 m (6400 ft). It has a GMVN guesthouse of about 15 rooms, and a couple of private guesthouses. Sankari is now the base camp for both, Har-ki-Doon as well as Kedarkantha. Once you starting walking up, it is all the way uphill trek amidst lush green forests of pine, oak and other trees. There are two campsites, Juda ka Talab and Kedarkantha base camp at very picturesque sites, finally taking you to Kedarkantha peak at 12,500 ft.

Our journey from Delhi to Mussourie by train, then onwards to Sankari by SUVs was quite uneventful. We met up briefly with our batch mates whenever we stopped for breakfast, tea or lunch on our way up. There were two father-son teams, two husband-wife teams; many of the members were colleagues or had been friends since school days. There was a group of 9 from Bengaluru, who had studied together in school, all graduated from various engineering colleges, and now were all software engineers in Bengaluru itself. Others were fast becoming friends with one another. Youngest of the group was 11 year old Shreshtha, and the oldest was ‘yours truly’.

When we reached Sankari in the evening, Harshit (trek leader) welcomed us at the guesthouse along with his team of technical experts, Sarvan and Tarpan, with hot tea and delicious pakoras. We were tired, and perhaps famished, or the charm of hot pakoras in a remote area, we ate like hogs. Harshit gave a detailed briefing of our trek, which I would rate among the best briefings I have ever had. He explained each point in detail, answered to every query patiently, and did not mind if there were frequent interruptions or similar questions being asked by different members. The GMVN guesthouse at Sankari is basic, with spacious and reasonably clean rooms, toilets with running water, flush working, but no hot water please. The quilts were heavy but warm, so did not have to struggle for sleep.

The morning was bright and sunny, and after a sumptuous breakfast we were ready to trek to ‘Juda ka talaab’.  The other groups had also camped in the village, and their members had left before us. We were to trek for only 4-5 km, but would gain 2700 ft, so it was an ascent all the way. The trek passed through a dense forest of pine  and maple trees, and I think there were rhododendrons also; did not see any wild life, birds were chirping, but too high in the pine trees, so could not sight any. The climb was not tough, but at places, there was slush, or frozen snow that made the trek slippery at places. But I was happy that I was making good progress, and not feeling any fatigue. What I had decided this time was to necessarily consume 3-4 litres of water every day. That is the key to success; you prevent dehydration, and it prevents mountain sickness. So by the time we left Sankari, I had already consumed at least 1.5 lt of water. The campsite was almost like the size of a football field, and had on its left side the ‘talab’, the pond, of the size of ‘D’ of the field, was half frozen. We were now at 9200 ft, and the temperature was falling down rapidly. Though we had reached quite early in the day, I had decided to enter my tent only after having my dinner. Meanwhile, Kushagra helped the group do some stretching and flexibility exercises. I continued with my walking and breathing exercises preparing myself for the tough part over next two days. I started getting acquainted with the group members, and had found them to be a fantastic bunch. More about them later. Later in the afternoon, some members got together to play ‘pitthu’, known as ‘laghori’ in local language, and also known as ‘seven stones’. It was fun seeing them running around or away from the ball, or chasing stones and putting them one on top of other. Meanwhile, the kitchen staff brought hot tea and ‘chatpata pakoras’. Everyone got together to polish them fast, but the kitchen staff kept on supplying them till we ourselves could eat no more. I must say something about the kitchen staff right away. They were an enthusiastic bunch of young people, who never shied away, whether it was cooking and serving food in sub-zero temperatures, or pouring rains, or at an unearthly hour of 3 am. And each meal was a multi-course meal, starting with starters, soup, main course, and dessert, followed by hot chocolate. To top it, there was hot water available for washing our cup-plates.
The next day trek was to Kedarkantha base camp. I wondered why it does not have any other name. It was at an altitude of 11,400 ft, and of course has no resident population. From here one could see peaks all around us, but with some haze and clouds, it was difficult to identify these with names. The trek leader identified them for us as, Swargrohini, Bunderpoonch, and Kalanag etc. The camp was a pretty site, with snow all around. Following lunch, people got on to their own devices. In no time, there was a snowman erected giving all of us ample opportunity for photographs and selfies. My anxiety levels had starting increasing. The next day’s ascent to the peak of Kedarkantha was going to be a steep one, in freezing conditions on snow-covered treks. I was worried about my fitness, capacity to tolerate low temperatures, and had fear of slipping on snow trek or frozen ice. Arjun Majumdar’s video on how to layer ourselves in low temperatures, Kush’s selection of right gear and wear, Harshit’s (trek leader) assurances to be by my side all the way up, and other members’ enthusiasm and encouragement was much helpful in keeping my morale high. With the sun setting, the mercury started falling down rapidly, and many of us were losing our appetite. But it was essential to keep ourselves well nourished and hydrated. Fortunately, I was drinking enough water, keeping away fatigue as well as other problems of high altitude.
The night was cold, but the tents and the sleeping bags, being of good quality, were able to keep us warm in sub-zero temperatures. But it was difficult to sleep soundly. After tossing and turning, I woke up very early to get ready for the challenging yet most exciting day of the trek. We were to trek for 3-4 hours to reach the summit at 12500 ft. One wanted to enjoy the rising sun and sun-basked peaks in front, but I was concentrating in maintaining my pace. The peak where we were to ascend appeared so distant, testing my resolve time and again to walk.
The soft snow covered trek was now hard ice, taking each step became an effort. In spite of frequent temptation to stop and rest, I resisted; that would have meant delay as well as breaking the rhythm. Kush was in front, but keeping an eye on me all the time. He kept on encouraging and goading me to push myself. What a relief it was when at some distance I saw our batch mates assembled on a small flat area at the top, excitedly making noise like school kids during their lunch break. What an exhilaration it was when I joined them at the top. It was an unbelievable feeling of excitement, relief, and elation. When Kush hugged me, I was overwhelmed with emotion. On the top, there was Lord Shiva’s temple. We all bowed down to pray.
Even when I had reached the top, it was an humbling experience. As I had written in my earlier post…
Coming down was easy and fun. Now we were descending down on the southern ridge, which was heavily covered with soft snow. We discovered very soon that sliding down on the snow was the best and fun filled exercise.
We were to reach Sankari via Hargaon, where we stopped for a night. Just before Sankari, when I was to take a trail out of so many going down, I heard a melodious voice cautioning me not to take that trail since trekkers often fell down there. This young girl was coming from her orchard nearby bringing some fruit. I was overjoyed when she offered me a kiwi. I did not know kiwi was grown there. I eagerly peeled and ate it. And I can vouch, never in my life had I tasted a more delicious fruit of kiwi. She disclosed that she would study to become a doctor; I wished her well, and thought if somewhere down the line we would be working together.
A few words about my batch mates. I had spent some enjoyable time with these young guys during this trek. Many of them, Sunil, Rishab, Gaurav, Utsav, and Ashish had encyclopaedic knowledge about computers, smart phones and mobile apps. Some knew all about movies, whether Hollywood or Bollywood. Milind Tambe, a naval architect, was in profession of rescuing stranded ships in the ocean. He could also give a tip or two on photography as well. He has promised to take me along when he goes for his next rescue operation. I hope he remembers it. Sunil Chauhan could patiently wait for his panoramic shots and night photography. If you cared to ask, he would teach you as well. Bengaluru group was a big group, always willing to help others.

On our last evening of the trek at Sankari was of sharing our experiences and thanksgiving. I had a long list of people to thank: to name a few, the Indiahikes team, trek leader Harshit Patel, Sarvan and Tarpan, all the kitchen and housekeeping team, the fellow trekkers, and many others. I shared with them a story of fish and shark. How the presence of shark in ocean or fish tank is crucial to keep fish alert and active. We all should always have a challenge before us. It acts as a huge motivating force to keeps us productive, innovative, and full of life.
Kushagra had been a constant guide before and throughout the trek. On return, he posted the following lines on his facebook page, the best lines of this trek, As a young boy this man took me up on my first trek up the majestic Himalayas leaving me with a deep lasting love for the outdoors. This week, twenty-five years later, he and I went back for a winter trek in Uttarakhand to climb up the beautiful Kedarkantha. As he overcame the bitter cold and severe fatigue to bravely surmount the last couple of miles to the summit I realized that I'm still following him trying to be half the man he is. Dad you will always be my hero. Love you. #‎Himalayas #‎family #‎climbing #‎trekking #‎India


REVERSE PSYCHOLOGY Recently on my visit to Chawri Bazaar in old and real Delhi, where my ancestors settled, lived and thrived ever si...