Thursday, December 23, 2010

'Development is the Best Contraceptive'

If population is a bomb, Nagaland needs to be very afraid. Here’s why. Every year, a new Australia comes to India. The meaning is that the population of India grows so fast that the size of the total population of Australia is being added into India every year. By 2045, India will overtake China as the most populous country in the world. Now, Nagaland has the one of the highest fertility rates in India (only next to Bihar, UP, and Meghalaya) and this is a cause of serious concern. This fertility rate of 3.7 against the national rate of 2.7 is not from the last Census, but from a more reliable source, the latest round of the National Family Health Survey III (NFHS III), 2005-06. Worse is that the State’s rate has not declined since the previous round NFHS II (1998-99) while the national figure has.

Overpopulation is often linked with depletion of resources (food, ground water, etc), environmental degradation, unemployment, social unrest (e.g. youth bulge theory), illegal migration, communalism (e.g. ‘Love Jihad’), etc. Also it is compared to a bomb, as in Paul Ehrlich’s book The Population Bomb, where there is ‘too many people’ and ‘too little food’ in this ‘dying planet’. Malthus argued that increase in food resources increase arithmetically while the world’s population grows faster in geometrical proportions that one day, there will not be enough food for everybody. Surely the world’s population is growing so fast in the recent times that it took millions of years for the world to reach its 1st billion while it took just over a decade to reach its 6th billion.

But is population really a bomb and is Malthus factually right that population growth is outpacing food production? Or, is the population expansion the problem in itself or is there something else we are missing? Amartya Sen opines that there is no issue as contentious as the population problem. At one extreme, we have the pessimists like Malthus and Ehrlich while at the other are the complacent ones who think we are doing just fine with technology (e.g. hybrid seeds, contraceptives) and human progress (human reasoning to want smaller families) on our side. The depiction of population as a bomb has been widely used during the emergency period in the 1970s, and not least by Sanjay Gandhi. Forced sterilization of men followed in the infamous camp approach which led to the downfall of the Congress government. The idea has not died and the Hindu rights continue to use it to fuel communal violence. An example in point is the ‘Love Jihad’ episode where it was alleged that young Muslim men lure innocent Hindu and Christian girls into marriage and convert them into Islam. The Indian Express later reported that the police could not find any evidence of Love Jihad. Inciting fear that Muslims will outnumber Hindus, and stereotype like, ‘Muslims are dirty and breed like rabbits,’ have been effectively used by the Hindutva for political gains. BC mehta has effectively proven that after adjusting for literacy rates, fertility rate of Muslims is no higher than Hindus. Also evidence has proven Malthus’ mathematical prediction wrong. Food production has increased immensely over and above population growth. The problem of starvation is not one of food production, but of distribution. The proofs of this are the recent news report of food grains rotting in the FCI godowns when India has more malnourished children than Sub-Saharan Africa, and some countries dumping milk and millions of tons of food grains into the sea.

Now about the solution of overpopulation which is as contentious as the argument over its cause. The present policies and programs to tackle overpopulation are concentrated in the family planning program, in particular, the use of contraceptives, and to be precise, female contraceptives. India is not behind, in fact, it is the first country to have a national family planning program since 1951. This is very remarkable: the first country with a national family planning program is the one which is struggling the most from overpopulation. Having realized that the family planning program wasn’t working in spite of the lion’s share that it received from the health budget, and the use of coercive male sterilization methods during the emergency period backfiring; ‘Family Planning’ became ‘Family Welfare’. The new emphasis in the 80s was on female sterilization and Maternal and Child Health. Now the family planning initiatives function under Reproductive and Child Health (RCH).

Corresponding with this changing phases in India; the international family planning initiatives have undergone perception changes that guided the policies which in turn guided the programs. There were three international population conferences. The first conference was held at Bucharest in 1974 where the participants came up with the slogan ‘development is the best contraceptive’. Representatives, especially from the poorer nations, realized that the population problem at its root was due to imbalances in the developmental processes, which in turn was a result of the international economic system. To this I will return later. In the second conference at Mexico in 1984 however, this perspective was lost and the new emphasis was to make contraceptives available to meet ‘unmet needs’. This emphasis continues today. The third conference at Cairo in 1994 tried to recapture/return to the ideal of the first conference by moving beyond contraceptive provisioning to affirming reproductive rights. But this return was only a partial one. This will become clearer as I explain the importance of the first conference’s slogan, ‘Development is the best contraceptive’.

Why is it that countries which have the problem of excess population happen to be countries which are relatively poor? And when a country develops, the population problem seems to get solved by itself even when that country may not have vigorous family planning campaigns. Why so? Amartya Sen lucidly gives the explanation taking examples of China and Kerala. Since 1979, China’s population growth has declined drastically due to the ‘One Child Policy’ where families are not allowed to have more than one baby. But the policy has come under severe criticism as the drive to contain population growth came at the cost of human rights violation.

Interestingly, the decline in population growth in Kerala came without the use of any coercion for contraception. How was this achieved? It was due to socio-economic development; not least among many components of which was the increase in female literacy rate. Therefore on the one hand, we have China which controlled its population growth, but at the cost of violation of human rights, and on the other, we have Kerala which achieved similar growth rate of China without use of force through rise in female literacy. Of course, this does not negate the importance of availability and affordability of contraceptives in Kerala’s case. One may argue, “But China is a country and Kerala is just a State”. Sen clarifies saying that Kerala though a State is larger than many countries in the world.

The problem of overpopulation underlines the importance of realizing the interconnectedness of human existence. The Reproductive and Child Health wing of the Medical Department alone cannot bring about a healthy population growth rate in Nagaland. The Education Department alone cannot bring about the rise of female literacy if the social status is low and girls in the villages are not sent to schools. How can the status of women improve if more than three quarters of our population in the villages are poor? The Agriculture Department needs to contribute to uplift the poor as more than 80% of the economy depends on it. To study, the Power Department needs to supply regular electricity while the PHE needs to provide clean water supply to relieve the girls of the time consumed in fetching water for meaningful study, and so on and so forth.

Though it is beyond the scope of this article, it may also be mentioned that a very low population growth rate is undesirable. Some countries have failed to achieve the replacement rate and have started to experience decline. Pope John Paul II had described the crisis of birth in Italy as a serious threat for the future of the country: ‘Italy has grown old and cradles have become empty’. Even in England, if not for immigrants, the population has started to decline. In Russia and Singapore, couples are encouraged to have babies to keep the population stable. For Nagaland, this problem is too far away as we are still clambering on the other half of the problem. For now, the message of this article is: Population control has to be seen in the greater context of the overall development of the society.

For Eastern Mirror newspaper column BLOGSPEAK

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Someone's music, someone else's noise

One purpose of folk songs that I was told by my Aunty goes like this; it is from a story. There was once a man who realized that he has not been good to his wife. But it’s not in our Naga nature to express apology or affection easily and openly. So, he composed a folk song which says, “One cannot change one’s ugly looks, but one can certainly change one’s bad character”, He changed and since then, he remained loving and caring to his wife. Folk songs are a medium of communicating things which cannot be expressed in normal conversations. My critic of the music remains (Ah, its repetitiveness) but I’m able to appreciate it better after hearing that story. There may be people who think that everyone likes Kenny Rogers (I know one such guy). If there's anyone who doesn't, he/she ought to love Rogers. When I was in Patkai, the vocational students used to organise Christmas concerts. But even if they sing difficult songs and classical music of the highest quality, very few would show up to attend the shows. When a band shows up which sings popular gospel or secular songs, it’s always houseful. Now, someone may blame the musical shallowness and the ignorance of the crowd. But will that be a wise thing to do? There seems to be frictions between traditional and western music, and popular vs. ‘serious’ music. The churches in Nagaland are trying hard to promote indigenous music. Western secular music is thought by many to be a tradition destroyer, of low morality and a rebellion breeder. Instead of imitating the west, therefore, we should bring out songs that are authentic to our culture and tradition. However, this does not go down well with the young ones who are totally hooked to western music and reinforced by the powerful media gimmicks. Some people try to reconcile the two through fusion music. In my personal opinion, it wouldn’t be good to make a big fuss about the argument between western and traditional. We will always look for what we love to listen and will produce what we would like to listen. Traditional music when created well will attract people to it. We don’t love all that is western anyway. Also we can produce very good music which belongs to the western genre without the guilt of imitation. A time may come when the west would borrow our tune. Now between popular and ‘serious’ music; by ‘serious’ music, I refer to the music ‘literates’ and I didn’t say popular vs. classical because the ‘serious’ musicians/music lovers are not confined to classical music. If I have to generalize, the ‘serious’ music people look at popular music as cheap and shallow while the pop music people look at the former as ‘boring’. Music appreciation is a very subjective matter and there is no authoritative judge to decide the case which is better than the other. Appreciation deepens and matures with knowledge but it would be unreasonable to try to educate the masses to ‘read and write’ music. For a farmer who returns home from a day’s work and turns on the radio, the local songs serve the purpose of his entertainment. This brings us to the purpose of music. If I remember correctly, Ronald Pen talks of three levels of listening (though they are not tightly compartmentalized levels). An example of the first level is going to a concert and simply enjoying the show. The second level is where the listener appreciates the technical aspects of songs like the melody, chord progression, harmony, keys, flats and sharps etc. The third level is where the music inspires and transforms the listener. Music can be used for meaningful purposes at all levels: relaxation to the farmer after work, stimulating creativity in the composer, and bringing people to surrender their lives to God. This life transforming capability of even (technically) ‘imperfect music’ has to be acknowledged. Also we should develop our skills, so that we present our best for God’s glory. Be it folk or western, there are certainly lots of cheap music which I jokingly argue with my sister can be composed in one hour without shedding a sweat. In all cases we should respect and provide space to thrive, music that we have no ears for. For Eastern Mirror newspaper column BLOGSPEAK

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Starting Out

In writing, anything is possible. As a writer, you can finish off the hero in the middle of your story by throwing him into a cave of one and a half eyed monsters. You can create a fantasy world like Narnia, make people laugh and cry at the same time, or transform a society forever.
My love for writing began when my dad asked us (me, my brother, and sister) to write an essay every day. Though I always have the passion, I had this fear, ‘what if I’m the only one who enjoys my writings?’ I had bad experiences when I was a co-editor of a newsletter of college students’ fellowship in Imphal. Thank God I did not stop. Writing also became an escapade and a compensation for not being able to speak well. In a NCF-Delhi camp, I shared my testimony starting with, “even as I am going to speak, I have written it down”. This is not the story of an accomplished writer but an amateur whose effort is starting to pay off; many thanks to the Eastern Mirror for this breakthrough.
There seems to be a kind of freedom without responsibility. I could write nonsense in my blog, speak my mind and edit myself later and not be charged for what I feel. I was responsible to nobody. But to write for a newspaper weekly; how do I speak sense and for how long before my well run dry?
This nagging anxiety notwithstanding, I believe I have something to say. The kind of freedom without responsibility that I have mentioned is the concept many of us have of freedom, ‘freedom from’- freedom from bondage, freedom from fear, etc. This is the negative aspect. Os Guinness says that however, there is also a positive side of freedom, ‘freedom for’. Free for what? The answer would be: free to do what is right, free to do what needs to be done. It is freedom that comes with responsibility. How our society is and will be is our responsibility. How then do we use our freedom (here, of speech) to shape our society? Looking at the state we are in, I think there are a lot of things that need to be ‘put to rights’ (a phrase New Testament Scholar NT Wright often uses to describe new creation in Christ). I take up this columnist job as a mission, a minor one within the wider Mission of God of gathering all things, things in heaven and earth under the lordship of Jesus Christ, as we pray, ‘thy Kingdom com ON EARTH as it is in heaven’.
Areas of my interest are Christian Theology, Health Care, Music, Science and Religion, and genreless rambles on love and life. These topics will feature often in this space. I end here for now with a customised disclaimer:
A disclaimer to think about, but not to be taken seriously:
In a time when there is crackdown on plagiarism and copyright violations are increasingly seen as serious offences, it becomes difficult for a guy like to me to say anything at all. What I have learnt is mostly from others and original thoughts are minuscule. So here I stand and give credit to the One who is the giver of all knowledge to mankind, and a big thanks to all those people who passed it on to me. Now, don't accuse me of plagiary or copyright violation.
For Eastern Mirror newspaper column BLOGSPEAK

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The changing meaning of health

It is a good thing that Nagas are increasingly becoming aware of their health. Some of the people are very well informed, now that a lot of health information is just a click away and many newspapers reserve certain space everyday for health news and tips. Diagnostic and treatment facilities are getting more sophisticated each year. Disease patterns are also changing over the years. Tuberculosis is not the dreaded killer disease anymore, Small Pox is wiped out from the world and even Nagaland has achieved and maintained the elimination rate of Leprosy. These infectious diseases are giving way to non-communicable diseases like cardio-vascular diseases and cancers. With the antibiotics revolution, many of the infectious diseases have become treatable while non-communicable are on the rise, largely because of change of lifestyle, diet, and change in the physical and social environment.

However, this disease changing trend is not clearly demarcated, not least in Nagaland. The world has vitnessed the emergence/resurgence of infectious diseases like HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis B, and the fear of influenza (H1N1, SARS) pandemic is looming. Malaria has made a comeback after optimism of its eradication in the late 1960s and 70s. These infectious diseases are much harder to treat, coupled with the antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria now abounding. In Nagaland, two different scenarios emerge. At one end, we have people who suffer and die from easily treatable or preventable diseases (usually poor people in the villages) while at the other, we see increasing non-communicable diseases which are usually associated with affluence. Also, the scenarios are complicated by the fact that infectious disease like HIV/AIDS is spreading fast in the rural areas where awareness level is low, and non-communicable diseases like peptic ulcer and neck cancers are increasing in the villages.

There is also an emerging phenomenon in Nagaland and it will only increase in the future. As Nagas love to imitate others, especially the west, in dressing, food habits, etc. so also, Nagas are becoming obsessed about health like the people especially of the west. As mentioned in the beginning that mountains of health information are available in the internet and newspapers, people have become obsessed about their health. A very simple example is: when anyone gets a cold, he/she will simply eat a cold tablet as though it is a sweet, without medical prescription and unnecessarily. Over the counter drugs are the most abused drugs because they are freely available and are seemingly harmless in the short run. Actually, they are not. Misuse of antibiotics has resulted in multi-drug resistance where a person does not respond anymore to a host of antibiotics.

In the wider aspect, this obsession is reflected in the churches’ teachings about health and wellbeing, often heard in the ‘prosperity gospel’. The promise of complete physical and spiritual wellbeing is being preached which in reality is elusive in this world of Sin and death. People long for these things and unrealistic expectations in turn probably do more harm than good to one’s health. This is not a blanket cover criticizing the entire ministry of spiritual healing, as physical healings do occur occasionally to the surprise of medical experts.

In a time when physical beauty is being prized above all, cosmetic surgery is an extremely profitable business. People shell out any amount of money for creams that make one look younger than one’s age. Men also resort to all measures and regimes to keep their body in enviable condition. Though not wrong to keep one’s body healthy and beautiful, this health obsession has a philosophical basis which is sickening. It is also unhealthy for one’s mental health as it causes mental stress and anxiety. A lot of cardio-vascular diseases are due to the stressful lives that competitive modern people live. Many fall victims to false miracle therapies that claim to cure all illnesses. This whole concept of obsession for one’s health is known as ‘medicalization of health’.

Now, these all calls into question, ‘What is Health’? The definition of health is muddled by the fact that diseases are now defined from the molecular level to the societal level. Defining health as ‘absence of disease’ is not correct anymore as a so called ‘healthy’ person may have genetic defects which are not expressed externally. In other words, would you call someone ‘unhealthy’ who suffers no bodily discomfort but simply has a defective gene, or would you call someone ‘healthy’ when all medical investigations detect no disease but the person doesn’t feel well? Health therefore is also a very subjective matter. Whatever may be the medical condition, a person or a society may be feeling just fine and accept certain conditions be it sickness or death as a part of life while in some other, a single case of the same condition may be a cause for alarm. In medieval Europe when Tuberculosis was so rampant and there was no medicine for its cure, the disease even became a symbol of fashion. Those who cough blood and have thin physique as a result of Consumption (former name of TB) were considered ‘sexy’.

To date, the most widely used definition of Health is the one given by the WHO. WHO defines Health as ‘a state of complete physical, mental, and social wellbeing; and not mere an absence of disease or infirmity’. Its criticism is that Health cannot be defined as a ‘state’. No person by this definition can be qualified to be labeled ‘healthy’ as no one can achieve that ‘state’ where she/he has complete physical, mental and social wellbeing. This definition however, sets a standard (an ideal state) that each strives to achieve. Rather than being a ‘state’, K Park says that health is a dynamic concept where a person continually adjust to the ‘changing demands of living and of the changing meanings we give to life. It helps people live well, work well and enjoy themselves’.

The WHO health definition captures well the different dimensions of health. When we talk of health, we commonly mean physical wellbeing. Mental wellbeing is not properly understood and social dimension is neglected. WHO definition teaches that health is not just absence of disease, and treatment not simply tablets, injections or going under the surgical knife. All the three are equally important and are inter-related and interdependent. A classic example of this is the dictum, ‘poverty causes ill health; ill health causes poverty’.

With Dr. Keneinguzo Zumu, for Touphema Students' Union magazine

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A very Killing Killer Story

Today is the most boring day, so let me tell you a story which kills. I have not thought of it yet, but let me invent here and now. There was once a boy named AK47 who was super-multi-talented. He makes people doubt if God is indeed just. He does things with ease and speed. Teach him anything new and he will pick it up and beat you in your own game. He disappoints students, sportspersons and musicians who labour hard to make it because all these skills come naturally to him. So, friends who were jealous of his talents kidnapped him one day and ripped off his intestines. No, no; that is not how the story goes. No wonder his friends were jealous of his giftedness (something like Salieri and Mozart in the movie Amadeus) but they did not kill him. Let’s let him kill himself. Let’s say, like all people, AK47 has his weakness. His Achilles Heel was the result of his being gifted: He became proud and lazy. Booh! Boring story. Now we know where the story is heading; the plot is predictable. Hold on a sec. Let’s say, like his giftedness, he became an expert in being lazy, in fact he became the laziest person in the world. This has a positive side. His one weakness i.e. his laziness took care of his other weakness, i.e. his pride. He became too lazy to show any pride. To over-repeat myself, AK47 became too lazy to be proud. His laziness killed him eventually as we are all aware that eating and drinking require some effort, e.g. lifting of food to the mouth. Now, you may want to kill yourself for wasting your time reading this story. But didn’t I warn you in the beginning?

Pungro, 2010

Others in the series:
A very clumsy love story
A very scary ghost story
A very slow tortoise story
A very simple life story
A very killing killer story

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Very Crazy Nutcase Story

There was a mad person who was very wise in his own eyes. People simply tolerate him out of pity while he lectures about anything and everything. He carries a briefcase as he roam in the village acting like an educated person carrying some important papers. He talks about all the VIPs he brushed shoulders with and the degrees that he received in the college while he was in Kohima. He said he has the certificates in his briefcase. People did not bother to check what he was carrying; in fact they knew he has never been out of the village.

This went on until the man started to terrorize the kids in the village primary school with his wisdom. It got worse when he demanded to preach in the church on Sunday mornings thereby, disrupting the worship services. The villagers have had enough; so, they had a meeting and decided to stop him from giving unsolicited lectures. But how? One Gaon Bura (GB) proposed that the man be locked up. However, since the man has no family, who will feed him? Besides, except for his love for lecturing, he was not a troublemaker. Many other propositions were brought forth but there was no common consensus. Finally the school master came up with a brilliant plan. He proposed that the Village Education Committee (VEC) call for an inquiry and verification of the mad man’s credentials to see if he is qualified to teach. He explained that the man always refers to his college qualification and certificates as proof contained in his briefcase; that this gives him the moral duty to teach the simple village folks. Once it is exposed to all that he doesn’t have the required degree, he will stop lecturing. This sounded good to all. Some at first worried that this exposé may damage the self esteem of the man, but it was something which had to be done.

So, the VEC fixed a day for the public hearing of the man’s credentials at the Village Square. On the appointed day, the villagers did not go to the paddy fields, the school was closed, and everyone was gathered at the Square. The man came, grabbing the briefcase close to his chest. As usual, he claimed to have been to college while he was in Kohima and he has the degree certificates in his case. This time, the villagers all shouted in unison, “Show us”. He refused to part with his case pressed to his chest with both hands. The Village Guard (VG) stepped forward and demanded it to be handed over to him. Seeing that all eyes were pierced on his, the man meekly surrendered the case. The VG slowly opened it for all to see. What was there inside? True to the title of our story, it was a crazy guy with a case full of nuts. A very crazy nutcase story indeed.

Other stories in the series:

A very clumsy love story
A very scary ghost story
A very slow tortoise story
A very simple life story
A very killing killer story

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Saramati Apple Festival


:-)
The first Saramati Apple Festival was held at Thanamir Village on September 29 with Dr N. Benjong Aier, Mission Director (TM-NE), Directorate of Horticulture, as the chief guest.

Apple Store
The Festival was organised by the Department of Horticulture in collaboration with the Nagaland Missions Movement (NMM) and Thanamir Village Council.
Sale. Sold Out within an hour
Yummy
In his speech, the chief guest pointed out that the apples in Thanamir Village came as a gift of God, a gift that grew out of friendship between an Army personnel and J Yungbokhiung of Thanamir Village. He has urged for a partnership among the villagers, the NMM and the Horticulture Department to develop apple cultivation so that the present state of apples being used for personal consumption could be turned into a rich source of income for the villagers. The Department has already provided few thousand apple plants last year brought from Himachal Pradesh which are also doing very well. He emphasized on following the specifications as given by the Department based on scientific methods of cultivation like the importance of proper spacing, pruning and training, right cultivars, etc which are necessary for bearing quality fruits and to compete with those in the markets on commercial line.
Rev. Wati Longkumer
The villagers built a wooden bridge for the festival
He also expressed the need for improvement of road condition in the name of Apple Road coupled with Tourist Road as Thanamir is on the way to Mt. Saramati. He commented that market for the apples should not be a problem. He has also proposed Self Help Groups to be trained in making of apple juices and other preservation methods so that these items could be sold even at the State Hornbill Festival. “Not only will all these bring immense economic benefit to the villagers, it can also boost cross-border missionary work as the NMM is engaged in such a project at the village,” the chief guest said.
The chief guest also echoed the proposal of the Parliamentary Secretary (CAWD) to make Thanamir known as the “Apple Village.”
Short speeches were given by the SDO (Civil), Pungro, DHO, Kiphire and Thsantsumong.
Bridge Builders
The history of the first apple plants in Thanamir was narrated by Yungbokhiung, the man who planted the first plant in 1981. Rev. Wati Longkumer, Director of NMM spoke on the topic, “Count Yours Blessings.” Tangit Longkumer, NMM Missionary, posted at Thanamir announced that the Saramati Apple Festival will be an annual event.
Apples for sale on the day
The best apples on the day
After the program, apple exhibition-cum-sale was held followed by a training session on commercial cultivation of apple conducted by the Department in which about 150 farmers attended. Horticulture equipments, hybrid vegetable seeds were also distributed to the farmers. The festival was also attended by the SDO (Civil), Kiphire, and many government officials and village council chairmen from the neighbouring villages.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Should we tell Nagas to stop eating smoked meat?

Nagaland has the highest incidence rate of nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) in India. Though mouth cancers are common in India, NPC is rare except among the specific ethnic groups like the Nagas. The incidence rate of 4.3 per 1, 00,000 population in Nagaland falls under the intermediate category while the highest incidence rates are found in southern China (10-20 in males and 5-10 in females). In most parts of the world, the incidence is less than 1 per 1, 00,000 population. Though this is a serious health concern for the Nagas, it doesn’t get sufficient attention in the national scene, similar to its political struggle. There has been a lot of research done in China and South East Asia but Nagaland gets mentioned only on a passing note. As far as I know, apart from hospital statistics, there are only two researches done in Nagaland (One by P.K Chelleng et al, titled 'Risk factors for cancer Nasopharynx: A case-control study from Nagaland, India'; published in National Medical Journal of India, 2000, 13:6-8; and the other published in Carcinogenesis Journal 1989 OUP, ‘Mutanegecity and Carcinogenicity of smoked meat from Nagaland, a region of India prone to high prevalence of Nasopharyngeal cancer’, conducted by S. Sarkar et al from the cancer research institute, Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai). S. Kumar, et al has a study of NPC with reference to the North Eastern Region of India. In Nagaland, consumption of smoked meat has been linked to high prevalence of NPC. In the second study mentioned above, the charred portion of smoked beef and meat of other animals were collected and tested. It was found to be mutagenic to the Amas test, clastogenic in a mammalian test system and has the potential to induce skin papilloma in mice.
There are other risk factors associated with NPC and it is difficult to estimate which factor contributes more and which less. Epidemiology of NPC has earned the titles ‘confusing’, 'enigmatic' or 'intriguing' because of the interplay of environmental, viral and genetic risk factors. The ICMR bulletin reports that the disease is ‘one of the most confusing, commonly misdiagnosed, and poorly understood diseases’. NPC is not a common cancer in the world or India, but it is a leading form of cancer in a few well defined ethnic/racial groups in particular geographical locations. This gives important clues to explain the risk factors. The cancer is common in southern China and South-East Asia and this may explain the racial and cultural similarities between the people of South China/Hongkong and Nagas. Epstein Barr virus has also been closely associated with NPC. This trinity of genetic susceptibility, EB virus infection, and smoked meat in Nagaland (salted fish in South China) is linked to be causal factor for NPC. In the first study (case-control) done in 47 known cases in Nagaland, smoked meat and use of herbal nasal medicine were found to be risk factors for NPC. However, exposure to a smoky atmosphere, betel-nut chewing, use of smokeless tobacco products, smoking and drinking habits were not found to be associated with NPC. Nagas have the cultural practice of putting other food items over the fire place, e.g. fermented soya bean, garlic, chilli, etc. These were not taken into consideration. Villagers spend most of the time at home in the kitchen which does not have a proper chimney and therefore inhale excess of smoke. Although the research found no co-relation, there are studies done in other places which showed significant associations. Nothing can be done about genetic susceptibility, at least for now. So, should the Nagas give up smoked meat? I think the answer is not a simple yes. Let’s take the example of alcoholism: the favorite sin of Naga men which stimulates selective, extraordinary anger among church leaders. Simplistic measures, for example, behavioral change of deciding to give up alcohol may work in the individual but that alone cannot control the problem of alcoholism in the society. There are larger societal factors like law, religion, family structure, availability and price of alcohol, income, peer pressure, political situation, etc in play. The problem is no less in case of NPC when the risk factor is a traditional food item deeply entrenched in cultural history and is hardly seen as a problem at all. An alternative method of drying meat without smoking is being tried which is a positive move. I do not have slick solutions other than spreading this awareness and proposing for further studies. The disease incidence can be an underestimation as villagers may not report early (or at all) for painless neck swelling or they may be financially too poor to go to the town/city for medical treatment. Except for the dietary habit and genetic predisposition, we cannot assume similarity in socioeconomic conditions between Nagaland and Southern China which has a bearing on disease occurrence, characteristics and outcomes. Treatment seeking behavior, availability and accessibility of health facilities in Nagaland, treatment cost (e. g. at RIMS Imphal, CMC Vellore, Tata Memorial Mumbai, AIIMS Delhi, etc); burden of suffering, economic impact/indebtedness because of receiving treatment outside state, outcomes, and duration of survival are some of the areas needing further research. Such studies will show a bigger picture of how serious and how big is the problem of NPC in Nagaland.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Price to pay

Some people who are concerned for me think that I run after trouble. One fine very early morning, I was going for a walk around Bayavii hill in Kohima. I saw nice cars parked outside the homes of the residents. This thought came to me as I admired a fine one, ‘who wouldn’t want to have this car? Yet, I’m running away from it!’ It was in early June 2010 when there was much pressure on me and frustration in the family because of my decision to go to a remote area to work. It was not that I didn’t know what I’d be missing. It was not that I didn’t count the cost. I’m aware of the money I can earn as a Public Health personnel in some other places. I’m aware that I blew up a golden opportunity by brushing aside the good political connections. People envied my chances. I don’t need to be reminded that my marriage prospects are not as good after my decision. I knew my family needed me to be near after being away for so long. Just to clear the air that I’m not reckless and running after trouble trying to be a hero. I have counted the cost. I knew there was a price to pay.

Clicking pictures with dirty children

Among others, Some celebrities and church groups go to ‘backward’ areas and click pictures with dirty children. They go there as ambassadors of some relief program or on a short mission exposure. Moved by the situation there, they come back, challenged, and I suspect, feeling good about themselves, pleased with what they have done. Those pictures become prized possessions to show off to friends, used in sermons/lectures or uploaded in facebook. I admit I also enjoy such experiences, when I come back exhausted but feeling proud of what I have done. But I don’t feel good to have such photo sessions and I’m here to tell why.

I chose to work in a less privileged area where people are poor and help seem far away. This decision brought me ridicule and honour, some call me a ‘fool’ some a ‘hero’. Every day, I have the privilege to come across poor people; not only in their poverty, but also in their time of sickness. As I take their hands and examine their palms, I get a glimpse of the lives that they live. If I have to prescribe a certain medicine which has to be taken thrice a day after food, I’m now aware that many people cannot manage to have three meals a day. Climbing steep hills with heavy loads every day, backaches and joint pain are very common. How do I advise them not to do so anymore; to change their lifestyle or choose another profession? There are many complexities in the field for which medical textbook procedures offer no help. Policy makers, students, celebrities and richer urban dwellers will do well to go and see, and understand their less privileged folks in the villages. If we want to truly help them, we have to understand them. We have to go beyond seeing them as ‘objects of pity’ who need aids.

However, even as I stay at Pungro town and try to understand and help the people in the region, I’m acutely aware of my ‘otherness’. When I go to the villages, there is someone to carry my bag. When there are so many malnourished children surviving on beans and corn, I’m served pork or chicken, sometimes both. When people live in insanitary conditions, there are marks that they cleaned up the best house just before my arrival for me. I’m ‘Doctor’, I am ‘Sir’. When celebrities, missionaries or people like me go to the villages, it is to show that we identify ourselves with them. It is to show our solidarity, compassion and help. But when I think I have understood them, no, I don’t even come close. This power imbalance! That we can’t meet in equal terms as fellow human beings disturbs me. I don’t want to see myself in a photo with dirty children because it makes me feel so bad.

I end here by quoting a mantra that I formulated for myself:

The villagers may be illiterate

But they are not ignorant or stupid

They may not be modernized

But they are not uncivilized

When we go to the villages

The learning has to be mutual.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Saramati Apple pics from Thanamir village

Clicked on 16th July 2010
The first tree, since 1981
Fruits from the first tree, smaller yet sweeter


















J. Yungbokhiung at Pungro CHC MO quarter
Thanamir Village
Fruits in 2009 clicked by Tangit Longkumer
Apple Saplings at Thanamir
 

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Story of ‘Saramati Apple, Thanamir village’

Some people have probably tried sowing the seeds of Kashmir apples bought from the market, but it is a fact that they usually do not germinate. However, to the disbelief of experts, that is how the story of the now famous ‘Saramati Apple, Thanamir Village’ began. It was during the years of armed conflict and some Indian soldiers were killed by the Naga army. In response, curfew was imposed and a check post was also set up at Thanamir village. J. Yungbokhiung, a Village Guard and Village Council member befriended a Nepali Naik of the Assam Rifles posted at the check gate. He requested the Naik for apples that the army get from supplies dropped through parachutes. In 1981 the Naik gifted him a Kashmir apple with the instructions to carefully plant it, to keep animals away from it; and an assurance that it will one day be a source of blessing to many. Out of three seeds that he planted, one germinated which grew to become the sweetest and the juiciest apples in Nagaland and arguably at par with the best quality apples in the Indian market. The first tree started to bear fruit in 1984 and it remains to this day. Only the main trunk remains while the upper half had to be cut off due to electric wires overhead. Branches shooting off from the original trunk continue to bear fruit. As a tired old person with a walking stick, it has to be supported with props while its fruits are still very tasty like good old wisdom. Yungbokhiung taught himself the art of root grafting and it was in the same year when his first apple tree started to bear fruit (1984) that he gifted 9 others saplings from root grafts. That was how Thanamir apple started to spread to other people and villages. Some neighbouring villages now have apple trees but they are not comparable to Thanamir’s. Situated at the foothill of mount Saramati, the climate is best suited for apples. Also thanks to the effort of the Thanamir Village Council which has made it mandatory for every household to have an apple tree, some families now own as much as 50 trees. Grafting is done in June-July. Several saplings sprouting from a root graft are allowed to grow as such for a year and are separated and replanted the next year. In 2 years, the new graft plants start to bear fruit. Flowering is in March-April and the fruits ripen in late August and September. To date, no chemicals are used in the growing of a sapling to the ripening of its fruits. Worm infestations occur on the main trunk shortening its lifespan, but the fruits are free of any worms or other infestations. The villagers have been enjoying the apples, fresh from the backyard orchards but have not enjoyed significant commercial returns to date. Apples have been used in three ways: eaten raw, boiled, or as juice which tastes ‘stronger than wine’. Mr. Tangit Longkumer, a missionary of the Nagaland Missions Movement(NMM) based at Pungro Town has been working tirelessly, promoting the “Saramati Apple, Thanamir Village”, the trademark phrase he came up with. He designed stickers, pasted them on the apples and gifted the government officials at Kohima and Dimapur in 2009. The upcoming Apple festival at Thanamir on the 31st of August, 2010 is the result of his effort. Thanamir village is blessed with the twin blessings of apples and the Mt. Saramati. It is the last village en-route Saramati peak. Trekkers hold the night at Thanamir and it provides guides and guards to the trekkers. Also the NMM has proposed to build a guest house in the village to train church leaders and laypersons from Myanmar. It has already sent two missionary teachers for the school in the village. To post a nurse at the village Sub-Centre is in processing. Although it is the last village of Nagaland in the international border and accessibility is difficult, there is hope for the people of Thanamir. There is hope for all the villages in all the remote corners of Nagaland, where resources and means for socio-economic development lay untapped. Thanamir’s is the way to go.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Census and spirituality

Be it Census, Electoral roll, or date of birth certificate; Christians are called to be truthful. Many appeals have been made to give the right figures for the census, some pointing out that it wouldn’t affect the development funds. But Christians are supposed to be committed to the truth even when others aren’t. Even when the other tribe/community/family/individual benefits more than us by stating what is not true, it is the call of Christians to be committed to the truth. A wrong, just because everyone is doing it doesn’t make it right. Census exercise is therefore in a sense, a test of our faith. Do we cry, ‘Lord’, ‘Lord’ on Sunday mornings but do not obey him, or will we try to please him in all that we do? What will it show as a Christian witness to the rest of the country and the world that a State which has over 90% of population as Christians has the most inflated census in the country?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Observe, Read, Think, Live

Observe: ‘Look at the birds of the air’, ‘look at the lilies of the field’; the Bible exhorts. It pays to be observant, and it is exciting too. Just a scoop of earth on careful observation shows that there is a world in that small mass. Watching a plant grow is medicinal as we marvel at how a simple seed falling and dying germinates and grows into a giant tree. The observant photographer captures frames that we might have simply ignored and convert them into sights of great delight. A researcher carefully observes phenomena and makes connections where we saw none.
Read: There are books that I have literally kissed after having read them. There are so few things that can be more enriching to the mind and soul than a good book. It is not enough to intellectually survive by feeding on newspapers and text books in the syllabus. Students need to read other good books. Book selection is very important. Some books are to be read simply to be critiqued, some to be digested and meditated upon. Peer reviews and Publisher names are considerations that will come with experience.
Think: when the Bible says, ‘look at (or consider) the birds of the air’, the Bible scholars tell us that it doesn’t only mean, ‘turn your eyes towards the birds of the air’, but also, ‘think deeply about it and learn from it’. The image of a thinking person many people have is a university professor or some eccentric intellectual tadpole (a big head and nothing much else). Twenty20 cricket, micro-blogging like twitter, facebook status update, sms; all of these may be indicators that we either have no time or too short attention spans. We want our lessons in bullets than in long descriptive passages. We have books like, Quick Sermon Notes for Busy Pastors, and hear of ‘googled’ assignment papers. There is no time to sit quietly and think deeply. Fifty people over the age of 95 were asked what they would do differently if they were given another chance to live all over again. One of the most common answers is, ‘I would have reflected more’. Think about what is meaningful and what is not, what is lasting and what is not; think things in the light of eternity. “Whatever things are true, whatever things are honorable, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there is any virtue, and if there is any praise, think about these things”. Phi 4:8
Live: ‘How long have you lived?’ Tony Campolo would ask his students. He would object if students tell their age. Their biological age is how long they have breathed and their hearts have pumped blood. He then would go on to narrate his story. When he was a small kid in school, he visited the Empire State Building. Like any other young kid, he was playing around until he suddenly stopped when it dawned on him that he was at the top and the whole city lies below him. He sucked into the city below all around him and he felt so alive. Even if he’d live a million years, he says that moment would be one that he will always remember. That moment was when he truly lived. He then would turn to the students and asked, “Now, how long have you lived?” Many of us live in regrets of the past and anxieties of tomorrow that we are not really alive to/in the present. But the same passage about the lilies and the birds in Matthew 5 tells us not to worry. Our heavenly Father provides for these creatures which neither sow nor spin and we are of much greater worth than they. ‘I have come so that they may have life, and have it to the full’. John 10:10

Friday, June 4, 2010

Sharing at youth service, 29th May, 2010

It’s always a relief to hear the speaker say in the beginning, “I’m not going to speak for long”. I proclaim that good news to you as I begin to speak. But in this short sharing, I want you to pay careful attention because in simple sentences, there are deeper messages embedded that I’ll be trying to get across to you. For the sake of brevity, the points are almost given in bullets and elaboration is needed. Therefore this hand out is prepared for further reflection and fleshing out of the points. It’s good to be with you. I’m thankful to be back for good after more than a decade of stay outside. I’m thankful to God for he has been with me throughout my journey of life-from Patkai, to Imphal, to Delhi, and now here back in our hometown. As we look at Nagaland today, or our town Pfutsero; we see that there are many believing Christians, but so few practising Christians. God is often on our lips, but we struggle to find any Christ-like character. We pray, ‘Lord, Lord’ but do not obey what he says. At the public level, let’s take an example of the Naga issue. We want peace and justice. We all love peace and we want it so badly in our society. But we have been looking for the wrong kind of peace. We want ‘our’ peace regardless of whether it is ‘theirs’ as well. Peace-loving is easy but peace-making is difficult. Jesus says, ‘blessed are the peacemakers’ and not ‘blessed are the peace-lovers’. The justice that we demand is not different from what the Bible describes as ‘an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth’. We want perfect retribution (without realizing we have dust in our own eyes) and there is no place for forgiveness. If we ask for a ‘just’ punishment of the wrongdoer and we get what we rightfully deserve, there will be no place for forgiveness, as Yale Professor Miroslav Volf argues. In fact there will be no need for forgiveness- nothing left to forgive- as the price is being paid perfectly. But that is not what the Bible teaches of justice and forgiveness. Even before our enemy falls on her knees and beg us, even before she realises her wrongdoing, we are asked to forgive. Truth and justice that we seek; if without love and forgiveness, is to disobey the Bible teaching. The recent Mao gate incident raises serious doubts of us Nagas being known as a Christian majority people. It is difficult to disentangle the propaganda being spread from what actually happened at Mao gate and from reasons behind it or the core issues. The situation is messy and this is not the place to discuss details. Some things which appalled me are; the amount of bitterness and hatred that we have inside us, as I see the comments flooding the internet after the incident; the hypocrisy of call for prayer and cry for Meitei blood both in the same sentence; church elders spearheading the vandalism of Manipur Bhavan at Delhi, and easily buying any news story that suits our purpose. In more peaceful times, we talk about loving our neighbour. But in a time of crisis like this, the second greatest commandment of the Bible flew out of the window. At a more personal/private level, ‘money’, ‘sex’, and ‘power’ have become things of our deepest desire (The three words NT scholar N.T Wright often uses). People loosely say, ‘it’s difficult to stay spiritual with an empty pocket’. But our society has neither seen such amount of money nor such level of spiritual deprivation as our times. Sexual purity before marriage has become something to be joked at. Sex scandals similar to stories in ‘Crime and Detective’ magazine have started to surface. Connections with people in power have become a requisite to move files in the government offices. We pray one of our own will rise to power and lift us up. I’m not a pessimist, as Tony Campolo describes, “some joyless people who would complain even if they were in heaven”. There are many cynics in intellectual circles who are experts in critically analyzing the world’s situation, and we need them. But what hope for the world do they offer? And what is the true Christian alternative? I invite you to an alternative lifestyle, which ought to happen to every Christian at the time of conversion, what sociologist Peter Berger calls as ‘alteration of personality’, even (what Richard B Hays calls) ‘the conversion of the imagination’. I want you to commit your life over to Jesus Christ in full time service, whatever form that ‘service’ may take. When we say ‘full time’, we think of people who have gone to Bible College. That is not true. John Stott points out that the book of Acts recorded that serving food is also called ‘ministry’ as is preaching the gospel. There are neither part-time Christians nor part-time workers. All of us are called to full time service. The antidote to our society’s ills is to give ourselves in service to others in obedience to Christ. There, we will find the greatest joy and the most fulfilling sensation. In a time when there is no ‘enough’ to our wants, Jesus calls us to give ourselves away and enjoy the thrill of trusting in him who feeds the sparrows of the air and decorates the lilies of the field. As I am a doctor, you may say that it’s easy for me to speak this way because I have social prestige and economic potential to back me up. But I tell you from experience that it’s like a cold war zone within the medical fraternity and with lots of discontented, anxious and depressed people. It’s the same for any other department; people climb the social ladder in search of happiness and lo! It isn’t up there as well. The cost of following Christ may be heavy but the reward is greater, yes, even when we are on this earth. Following Christ may cost dearly to family and loved ones. Parents have good plans for their children and it may be pleasing to God. But when God’s purpose contradicts our parents’ wishes, who do we obey? Jesus says to the one who wishes to bury his father first, “follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead”. Matthew 10: 37 says, "The one who loves his father or mother more than me isn't worthy of me, and the one who loves a son or daughter more than me isn't worthy of me”. In many families, family concerns take first priority and God is pushed further down the list. God talk becomes a flavour that we add to the plans that we have already chalked out for self and family. Service to God becomes an activity to be engaged in spare time. Serving others can be the most liberating experience that any Christian can have. There can be no better medicine for one’s sadness/worries than to bring joy to someone in need. This joy is available to those who say, I will stop dancing around the golden calves of money, sex, and power, and dance to a different drumbeat (the heartbeat of Christ). I will stop participating in the rat race of one-upmanship (trying to be one step ahead of the other) and instead, serve my fellow human beings. I will run a different race for the price Christ set before me. Young people often ask, “what is God’s calling for my life?” More simply, “which career should I take...what type of job...what should I do with my life?” We have to remember that before we are called to do something or go somewhere, we are called to Someone. It is Jesus Christ who calls us and we respond to that call and follow him. Whatever we do follows from obedience to that call (Os Guinness’ definition of Calling). Before we are called to do, we are called to be. We are called to be conformed to the likeness of Christ. After having known the Caller through maintaining right relationship with him; we should be able to find what he has called us to do. Many people look for signs if what they plan to do is really God’s will. However, hearing a voice from heaven or seeing a vision is not the general way God reveals his plans to his children. When we continually feed on his Word and we grow to become more and more like him, and we discover the gifts/talents and interests/desires planted in our hearts, we will be able to say, “Yes, this is it; this is what God has called me to do”.....................................Dr. Sao Tunyi (I mentioned the names of authors I quoted specifically for your future reference as I found them to be helpful and reliable. If you find books written by them in the bookstores, grab them!!)

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Good Meitei*

A man from Kohima was travelling down to Dimapur to attend to some business affairs. It was soon getting dark when he was stopped by highway robbers near the Patkai Bridge. They seized his Maruti Alto, took all that he had, beat him and left him half dead by the road.
At that time, a pastor was coming back from a Bible camp held at Dimapur. He praised God for the many souls saved, but exhausted after the 4 days of tight speaking engagement, he was more than happy to be travelling back home in Kohima for a well deserved rest. His wife and children will be eagerly waiting with warm water to bathe, and a hearty dinner prepared for him. He saw the man lying by the road side as he looked out of his white Bolero and felt sorry for the poor guy. He thought, “Shouldn’t I stop and take care of him? I need to. But if I do, I have to turn back and take him to a hospital in Dimapur. Since there’s no one with him and if he or his relatives cannot be identified, it will be my responsibility to care for him which may take days. Besides, I’m very exhausted. What if the guy is a bad person, an alcoholic beaten by a mob, or a member of some underground group?” These thoughts flashed through his mind as his driver drove passed the man lying by the road. Within seconds they were far away and the man was forgotten.
Now, a politician was travelling by the same road at that hour. He laid the foundation stone of a new office building at Peren and was returning to Dimapur via Medziphema. He saw the dying man but simply drove away with his team. Not a thing moved in his heart for the man. Election was too far away to show any noble publicity stunt, and he already has a strong public support.
A night bus from Imphal to Guwahati was passing by soon after the politician. Suddenly the bus came to a stop just in front of the man by the highway. Curious passengers looked out at the man and wondered why the bus had stopped. Then they saw a fellow Meitei getting off the bus with his bag and wondered what he is up to. He puzzled everyone by asking the driver and co-passengers to carry on the journey. They questioned what he is going to do, but he simply insisted that they go on ahead. The Meitei approached the wounded man and tried to revive him. He breathed a sigh of relieve to find the man still breathing. He immediately stopped an auto and took him to Zion hospital and cared for him. When the man regained consciousness and gave his name, address and phone numbers, his family members were immediately called from Kohima. The family profusely thanked the Meitei for saving their loved one. It was already too late and the Meitei went to Dimapur town and stayed the night in a hotel. The next morning he caught the first bus and was again on his way to Guwahati.
*The Good Meitei can also be a Tangkhul, a Bru, a Kuki, a Bangladeshi migrant, a Palestinian Widow taking care of a wounded Israeli soldier, or - as in the original parable - a Samaritan.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Something good out of April Fool

The earliest record of April 1 as "April Fools' Day" or "All Fools' Day" goes back to the Canterbury Tales in 1392 although there are different stories as to it's origin. Interestingly there is a view that links it to the Bible. The first day of the Hebrew month corresponds with April; the day Noah sent out his dove too early before the waters receded. April fool can be fun or nasty and disastrous as you read the stories here. But why I say it can be good is because of this: It reminds us by showing us how important trust for one another is. In subtle human interactions of everyday lives, we depend so much on trust. It is not only in occasions of 'under oath' in a court, but we expect people to speak the truth and be sure to a large degree that they are not fooling us. When I was new in Delhi, I ask for directions from strangers. And I expect them to point me in the right direction if they know. When they don't (sometimes they simply give directions confidently even though they don't know), and point me to a wrong place, I get angry. So when we instinctively expect even strangers to be trustworthy to a certain extent, how much more so, those who are close to us. For example, how important it is in a marital relationship, that one is not cheating on the other; in other words, fooling the other. April 1 shows us glimpses of a world where there is no trust: You never know if what your friend is saying is true or not; you can't trust the BBC (they have a notorious history) or the newspapers (see Times of India today's paper). What would the world be like if everyday is April 1 ! Link

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Is biblical justice leftist?

On the one hand, we are Bible believing Christians. On the other hand, we work for justice. But we don’t seem to have a good biblical basis for justice. Our concept of justice in JNU campus is influenced by the leftist political parties which see justice in the light of power struggle. We have the oppressed and the oppressor, and structures that are oppressive. So, when we work for justice, we argue for the underprivileged and dismantling the unjust structures. As Christians, to this we simply add compassion for the poor/underprivileged and other Christian virtues. However, the biblical basis of justice and the call of the Christian to work for justice do not primarily stem from a noble concern for the poor and the oppressed; but first of all, because we believe in a God who is just. A God who is just and merciful. A God who has mercy on us though his justice deserved us to be punished. A God who not only is just and merciful, but a God who loves us and redeems us back by paying the price for his justice through the sacrifice of his Son. A God who is in the process of - in N.T Wright’s words – ‘putting things to rights’. 1. Therefore as believers and servants of a just God, we reflect his justice to all creation. But we are simply servants/stewards, forgiven criminals who are called to proclaim God's justice (not our justice). That prevents us from taking matters into our own hands. The aim to overthrow the oppressive regimes can lead one to take things into one’s own hands without this realization. There is the danger to be puffed up with pride that we are champions of justice for the poor. 2. Because of Sin, all our works for justice will be incomplete and imperfect until we meet our saviour face to face. This explains the messy world we are in where complete justice is still elusive. This does not mean lowering of the biblical standard to achieve achievable level of justice, but a call for humility and refraining from instant realization of utopian dreams in a world stained with sin. 3. The Bible also says that we who work for justice will also have to sit on the judgment seat and give an account. To a Christian, the means is accountable as much as the ends we try to meet. The Bible does not justify justice through violence no matter what.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Miroslav Volf: Exclusion and Embrace

Miroslav Volf laments about his country
“Did I not discover in oppressed Croatia’s face some despised Serbian features? Might not the enemy have captured some of Croatia’s soul along with a good deal of Croatia’s soil?”
Here’s another quote:
"Cultural identity insinuates itself with religious force; Christian and cultural commitments merge. Such sacralisation of cultural identity is invaluable for the act of piety. Blind to the betrayal of Christian faith that both sacralisation of cultural identity and the atrocities it legitimizes represents, the “holy” murderers can even see themselves as the Christian faith’s valiant defenders".
But the best I’ve come across so far is (I’m yet to finish the book, but can’t wait to put this up):
"It is a mistake, I believe, to complain too much about Christianity being “alien” in a given culture...There are, of course, wrong ways to being a stranger, such as when an alien culture (say one of the western cultures) is idolatrously proclaimed as the gospel in another culture (say one of the Asian cultures). But the solution for being a stranger in a wrong way is not full naturalization, but being a stranger in the right way. Much like Jews and Muslims, Christians can never be first of all Asians or Americans, Croatians, Russians or Tutsis (or Nagas), and then Christians. At the very core of Christian identity lies an all encompassing change of loyalty, from a given culture with its gods to the God of all cultures. "
I heard that there are some updates in his new book ‘The end of memory’. But this 2002 Grawemeyer Award winning book (and one among the 100 best books in the 20th century by Christianity Today) is great and sets the heart racing as you turn the pages. Please get hold of the book and digest it.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Quote

Before going polemical, we need to check the ground beneath our feet and watch our vocabulary

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Three things Delhi can learn from me

There are three simple things that Delhi can learn from me:
  1. I do not throw paper cups anywhere. If there is no dustbin nearby, I put them in my bag and properly dispose them later
  2. If I meet friends in a busy place, I do not stand in the middle and talk, blocking the whole traffic/footpath/corridor etc.
  3. I have 'sorry' and 'thank you' in my vocabulary.

No offence meant

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Denis Alexander

A strand of hair fallen on his shoulder caught my attention as he sat in front of my row. The person I’m referring to is none other than ‘the’ Dr. Denis Alexander, director of Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, Cambridge. That was when this silly thought came to me. I imagined myself picking up the hair and putting it in a poly bag like a forensic expert taking specimen. However, not to do any test with it, but like a cricket fan who just had an autograph of Sachin Tendulkar, to put it in a frame and show it off to friends and generations to come. It will be a proof that I met Denis Alexander and sat for his lecture. But that would be a silly thing to do. (Sweet nothing from the recently concluded short course on Science and Christian Faith. For downloading mp3 lectures, videos, photos etc, go to breaking barriers website.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Pic tales2

Traditional footpath Rabbits. The mother plucks its own fur to warm the newborn. The mother would abandon her babies if fur from another mother is put here Christmas meat: After it was believed that smoked meat causes throat cancer, smoking of meat over the fireplace is very much reduced. Instead, people dry meat in the sun as this Mesulumi Youth Society Lock up :-)

Each plank with the bull horns are carved out from the same tree

Pic tales1

Traditional water pond, now converted into a modern one under NREGA. The old one was said to be spooky, and where during Siikriinyi, the men folk go early in the morning for ceremonial bath Local tea: Grinding of leaves in progress. After this, it is dried in the sun. Good that we are becoming self reliant in this, but it still doesn’t taste as good as Assam tea Thin snow over our house. Vepiilii commented, “Who dropped salt bags up there?” You have to know vepiilii to get the real punch of the joke The oldest TV set in our village, still in working condition

The Pumpkins are a blessing from a misfortune. Some miscreants burnt up a huge pile of wood that mom and dad collected at Dachokiilii. The ashes were used to grow pumpkins which became so good, they were distributed to Kohima and Pfutsero here as you can see