Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Do-IT-India, 'Dig-IT-al'l !

“What do you want?”

I asked him out of curiosity. He was a lean naughty boy aged around ten sitting next to me in the bus and constantly peeping into my cell phone while I was busy shuffling the playlist with the earphones plugged.

“Akka you have games also in your mobile?”

The bright eyed fellow asked.

‘Patttt’ came a blow on his head from behind.

‘Aye! Aye! Do not ask such things!’ shouted his mother who was sitting right behind us.

Why not? I mean if we do not encourage kids or the know-nots to ask about things they are eager to know or if we fail to answer their questions in the right manner, I do not see the India Tomorrow with all the Information Technology we proudly brag about.

“That’s okay” I said. “I do have games, but I don’t play them always, I mostly use the phone  to talk to my mom or dad when I am away from home” I added. He looked at me and smiled; he looked at his mother and smiled more.

This was just one of those instances we face. It is not that people in the villages do not have mobile phones, it is not that students from certain schools do not have access to the Internet. Whilee the lack of it is one issue, the provision of these facilities without letting people know its best use is the most grave of all problems.The very reason I began this post on 'DIGITAL INDIA' with the stumbling blocks it has in this endeavor of progress. The increasing crime rates; mobile thefts, cyber pornography, hacking and online bank thefts for instance are proof to this matter

“Mangana kaige manikya” goes a saying in Kannada which means a gem in the hands of a monkey. Well you know what happens next! This is exactly the feeling when I see every second person with a smart phone crossing a busy traffic road. 

On what it is supposed to be….


We now have an evolving platform with the national programme ‘DIGITAL INDIA’ to transform India into a digitally empowered society and knowledge economy. The three key components of this initiative are:

1.      DIGITAL INFRASTRUCTURE-100 smart cities, National Optical Fibre Network, broadband highways, electronics manufacturing

2.      DIGITAL SERVICES- money transfers, online cash, bookings, digital lockers for PAN card, passport, educational, housing and medical records

3.      DIGITAL LITERACY- E education, E entrepreneurship and start ups 

With a 17.5 % population of the world, we 1.3 plus billion with the second largest mobile population in the world, 3rd largest information technology exporter in the world, with 74 % people who can read and write, with some of the world’s best engineers, scientists and doctors it is surprising to note that only 15 % of us Indians are Internet users (Source: MUFT INTERNET) With the growing disparity between the rich and poor, the urban and rural, educated and the knowledge deprived, the vision of DIGITAL INDIA is a challenge, but if we strive enough and in right direction it shall soon see the light of the day. As much as what we expect from our government we all ought to know and educate each other what this mammoth mission is all about.

[A picture does speak a thousand words. This collage based on the theme India 2020 was made by me and my friend Goutam back in medical school during a college fest, we were kind of good at it;-) so much so that we ended up getting the first place every year, collage was somehow our event, magazines were devoured by us quite literally. I stood by technology then, stand by the future it holds now]


Our prime minister Narendra Modi’s address in the Indian Digital Summit of 2014 is an apt summary of what we should be aiming at, his and our vision for a DIGITAL INDIA:

I dream of a Digital India where – High-speed Digital Highways unite the Nation

I dream of a Digital India where – 1.2 billion Connected Indians drive Innovation

I dream of a Digital India where – Knowledge is strength – and empowers the People

I dream of a Digital India where –Access to Information knows no barriers

I dream of a Digital India where – Government is Open – and Governance Transparent

I dream of a Digital India where – Technology ensures the Citizen-Government Interface is Incorruptible

I dream of a Digital India where – Government Services are easily and efficiently available to citizens on Mobile devices

I dream of a Digital India where – Government proactively engages with the people through Social Media

I dream of a Digital India where – Quality Education reaches the most inaccessible corners driven by Digital Learning

I dream of a Digital India where – Quality Health care percolates right up to the remotest regions powered by e-Health care

I dream of a Digital India where – Farmers are empowered with Real-time Information to be connected with Global Markets

I dream of a Digital India where – Mobile enabled Emergency Services ensure Personal Security

I dream of a Digital India where – Cyber Security becomes an integral part of our National Security

I dream of a Digital India where – Mobile and e-Banking ensures Financial Inclusion

I dream of a Digital India where – e-Commerce drives Entrepreneurship

I dream of a Digital India where – the World looks to India for the next Big Idea

I dream of a Digital India where – the Netizen is an Empowered Citizen.

Here is a link to the video which inspires every Indian to dream digital.

Private sectors like Intel with the idea of skill development and innovation haves started a number of initiatives to digitally empower the citizens of India. The‘Digital Skills For India’ is intended to help five million people by the end of 2015.It has modules on digital literacy, financial inclusion, health care and cleanliness in five Indian languages. This application is available free on the Google Android Play Store. The Intel Innovate for India Challenge is for students, interested individuals and entrepreneurs from all over India. This aims to inspire the vast tech- savvy community in India to architect, design and develop novel applications in numerous areas such as Consumer Electronics, Digital Security Surveillance, Medical, Storage and many others. Also under the National Optic Fiber Network roll-out in India this year, Idukki in Kerala has become India's first district to be linked to this major step up in digital development, this is an ambitious government project to offer high-speed broadband connectivity in all the villages across the country. A truly literate state it is becoming, 'Manasilayo'? ;-)  Digital literacy training to key resource persons in the first 1,000 Panchayats is another important component of this programme. The multidimensional approach in this programme, the contribution to every aspect of digital growth is something that gives us a push. While such multiple schemes, policies and plans simultaneously happening we as citizens have a responsibility of using this opportunity and an obligation of making this programme contribute to our own digital development. 

Imagine a India where:

Every child has access to every book he should read online
Every citizen can vote from wherever he or she is online.
Every document of public interest can be accessed online.
Every personal information from bank accounts to passport is safe online.
Every medical record and supply is available online.
Every complaint can be filed online.
Every inquiry can be made online...

This and more…across India irrespective of who you are, where you come from and what you do is something to look forward to. I defer from posting a picture of a farmer sitting under the heat of the sun with a mobile phone or a group of kids sitting with a teacher in front of a computer which is switched on only when the photograph is clicked. It would only increase the TRPs of this post. My idea of E-governance is this, at the grass root level or at the level of policy making or implementing, whatever one is up to professionally or personally, let us use internet to the best possible extent wisely and judiciously. I as a doctor look at Internet with hope for integrating and accessing my patient records in my hospital, constant scientific research, keeping in pace with the latest diagnostic and treatment guidelines, and connecting to my scientific peers. I know there is no stop to the possibilities. We have just began the progress. Do share your views on the same. It is time to make the lines of Tagore’s poem true”….Where the knowledge is free….into ever widening thought and action…let my country awake”

PS: This post is written as a part of #DigitalIndia intiative of Indiblogger and Intel
  • AR.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Chumbak Turns Five-Congratulations!

  “It is just a wallet!”

Amma grinned.

“Whaaa...t! It is CHUMBAK!

I remarked and sulked into my ‘boohoo’ mood under the rug on that sleepless night. I had lost my wallet during a BMTC bus ride, a high probability occurrence in Bangalore. This happened a fortnight ago, a typical theft episode, an impecunious looking lady carrying a baby on her waist was standing behind me in the bus while I was about to get down at a stop. Before I felt her hand brushing past my body the bus was gone, so was my CHUMBAK wallet! While I was my worrywart self with the process and procedures of lodging a FIR and blocking my ATM cards I consoled myself thinking of how the money may help that lady feed her child, but what I couldn’t get over was the other loss. The wallet was very special; I do not know how to explain this connection. It was not a gift, it did not have any photographs or memorabilia yet this incident made me feel like an important part of ’me’ was gone. Over a period of time we get attached to the things we use, things with which we identify ourselves, for example that particular cup in which we like our coffee or the pen we use for a signature. At least people like me do. This was something of that sort. The grief was quite but obvious.

What happened the following day was a one in a million event. An another lady called me around noon saying that she has found a wallet with some cards in a drain near her house, it took me a while to believe her.

“How does it look like?” I askedwhen his eyes fell on it.

“Orange and white colour Madam, with birds flying” she replied.

That had to be my ‘Chumbak Kabutar Wallet’! I was on cloud nine at that very moment. . I was so frantic about the whole thing, my feeling was the sooner I get it back the better. I noted down her details and a friend of mine was kind enough to ride through the gullies and got it from her place in a couple of hours.The wallet, well is now back home. Frankly I am very scared to use loose it again and hence have locked it in my drawer :-) I did share this experience with the Chumbak team by writing a mail and hopped on to their website to order some new Chumbak stuff :-)

When folks and friends look at all things ‘Chumbak’ that I own the usual comment is:

“Ah! Wait a minute I know where it is from…”

CHUMBAK has now turned five, and when I look back at the oldest and fondest memories where do I begin? Years ago I came to know about the initiative in Bangalore by word of mouth. A couple of friends told me about a new range of products which had everything Indian about them. So when I visited their website, the Indian in me HAD to get curious. I had this gut feeling that this one is going to get trendy, particularly the illustrations and characters. The ‘Indianness’is completely relatable. I am a fan of sweet sarcasm, especially when you know where to draw the line. And thus started my love story.

 My Chumbak Stuff  :-)

I am not the kind of person who goes on an online shopping spree but with Chumbak it is different. Be it my first purchase, the ‘7 Blunders Of The World’ poster me and my best friend own, one each in our rooms because it is something we firmly  believe in; the ‘Best Brother’ coffee mug I gifted to my brother on his birthday three years ago, I still cannot forget the smile he gave(which he gives on rare ocassions!) when his eyes fell on it; the huge ‘You Know You Are Indian’ tin I use to store everything important under the sun; the ‘Street Food Tin’ and ‘Mithai Tin’ I use to store everything except sweet and candies; the ‘Kabutar Wallet’ and ‘Cat Tech Wallet’ which store more than what I earn, and the latest addition to my Chumbak collection I am yet to wear and flaunt, the ‘Birds In Love’ scarf and a gift that I have got for one of my juniors from my medical college, a  ‘Decorative Elephant Phone Case’ for her iPhone, well I have loved them all.

“Di, mujhe bhi Chumbak chahiye!” she says whenever she sees any Chumbak stuff of mine. She will definitely be happy when she sees it like I always do when I see my Chumbaks. Here is wishing you fifty and hundred more anniversaries Team Chumbak, grow and spread the Indianness across the world.

Picture Courtesy


Saturday, March 7, 2015

Swine Flu- Lessons From The Lab


The phone rings for the nth time in the laboratory while everything and everyone are up to something, all are doing their duty to help the patients of the hospital which I can vouch is always more than their individual capacities. 

One of my technicians picks the call.

“Hello Namaste, Microbiology” she says.

While the machines run and beep continuously, a technician receives samples, another processes samples, and an another attends an another call on the other telephone, a few patients wait outside for reports, a housekeeping staff of one of the wards waits inside for reports, a clinician calls for reports, a reporting desk assistant enters some reports, and I one of the microbiologists verify some reports, in the midst of this routine she comes to me with the cordless with quite a dreary look.

“Ma’am please speak to this patient, she is asking for her H1N1 report”

I take the call.

“Hello how may I help you?” I ask the patient out of habit.

And the rest is to be swallowed, in the name of the Hippocratic Oath.

There are times such as these when we get to hear from patients the most absurd things possible to a point that they question the credibility of a doctors duties and what I understand of such difficult situation is this, if there is someone who has to show a great deal of patience it has to be the doctors. It can be nobody else.

With the ongoing H1N1 epidemic we have lessons to learn, and believe me when I say 'A LOT'. If you were to pick up a newspaper and read about ‘swine flu’ which I am sure has more than one column nowadays, you may find information on these lines:

‘Death toll rises to….’

‘.....city’ has ‘x’ number of positive cases, and ‘y’ number of deaths

The fear is but obvious. I wish we paid attention to reverse of the coin as well. The working of Indian health care system, especially our preparedness with dealing such an epidemic, the availability of antiviral drugs and vaccination-the pros and cons; when to take them, why to take them and who should take them. The problems, more so solutions to the problems, these are the issues that need to be addressed. Even if they are, the point is that they are not very precise. As a result the pressures and forces acting upon the health care providers are more of social nature than medical due to this trepidation created. We are letting this run us as if we do not have a judgement of our own, well until the next epidemic.

Diagnostics and therapeutics are central to the working of a hospital and no doctor would risk his patient’s life by delaying a test. H1N1 testing is a molecular test, done by a method called Polymerase Chain Reaction and only a few laboratories have the setup and authorization to run this test, thus the logistical problems. Although automation and technology has reached the highest level possible in diagnostics there are areas which are new to us doctors as well. When the workload reaches a threshold, the maximum that a laboratory can do is increase its working capacity through various means, that’s exactly being done in the testing centres across the country. This scenario was quite unexpected in these places too. It is relatively easy to put the blame on the working of a system although some complaints will have the truth in them, thanks to the commercialization. 

We must not forget one thing, a diagnosis that would not have been made otherwise is now scientifically understood and medically treatable. There is no sensibility in hitting the panic button for the wrong reasons. This all the more gives us a good opportunity to confront the reality of the influenza virus. A common cold may not be a common cold after all. The antigenic shifts and drifts, the pandemics and epidemics are not for history, they are here to stay. Let us face it together!


The cordless on the table rang again.

“Namaste, Microbiology, how may I help you?” I asked.

“Doctor, I wanted to know my daughter’s H1N1 Report” came a query from a father at the other end.

I remembered his voice, the same man who had called at least five times the last evening. How could I forget the fear and anxiety in his voice, and that of the mother’s whom I could hear from behind? I searched for the status of her report as eagerly as him. Doctors are definitely humans, at the end of throughout the day.

I am doing mine, are you?