Friday, December 30, 2011


When the Bt-cotton technology was authorized by the Indian Government for commercial cultivation in March 2002, it was thought that in years to come, newer genetically modified (GM) seeds and plant cultivars shall make profound positive impact in Indian agriculture. It was a strong and positive call for the country from its authoritative level. Immediately thereafter, there was a need for an action-plan from the government for upgrading its basic infrastructure for handling different kinds of GM seeds that were expected to emerge from research within the country or through imports or both. The central and the state governments were to plan and move together in the matter for obtaining and determining a fast success in the country in the use of GM plant technologies to benefit Indian agriculture.

Bt refers to a Gram-positive soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt); Bt produce among others ,a kind of proteins named as ‘Cry’ proteins; these proteins are toxic to a wide range of caterpillars in their crawling stage of life-forms; when ingested, the caterpillars die. Bt-cotton is the man-made cotton plant where specific genetic materials coding for Bt –proteins have been stably integrated in to the genome of cotton plants by a technology, known as the recombinant DNA technology. By doing so, the Bt-cotton plants during their growth and survival produce among other substances, Bt- proteins too. Therefore, caterpillars feeding on any part of such cotton plant would die.

In order to derive benefits from the use of newer GM seeds and plant cultivars in a wide range of settings such as obtaining disease resistant cereals, pulses, fruits and vegetables as also producing nutritionally enriched food ushered newer hopes .Through the use of recombinant DNA technology, the preservation of freshness of fruits and vegetables were also considered as doable possibilities. There was therefore a need to prepare the country for the accomplishments.

The action -plan included plans for actions for increased up- gradation abilities of the central and state-government institutions including those supported by the government as autonomous institutions as also the autonomous public sector facilities like the state and the central agricultural universities and institutions for assessing environmental and ecological safety issues linked with the use of GM seeds and cultivars. The food safety issues were also to be addressed and the national institutions dealing with food and nutritional safety had to be activated. It was amply understood that addressing the environmental, ecological and food safety issues were intimately linked with the societal acceptance of these new products both scientifically and emotionally. It was surmised that well-thought out protocols for large field studies of GM plants, animals, and microorganisms would be prepared ; the effects of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) on flora and fauna would be thoroughly studied in the public sector settings and the data would be published for the benefit of the public; scientifically sound animal models would be developed for assessing the safety of food containing GM traits; a couple of model transgenic microorganisms would be developed for producing the transgenic proteins in large quantities so as to generate monoclonal or polyclonal antibodies in lab animals for easing quantitation of transgenic traits in target GMOs or non-target life forms, where transgenic traits might spill over. Further, national facilities would be set up for insect-rearing and for developing bioassays for quantitation of insect-lethal proteins. Also, analytical methods would be developed and standardized at the national level to trace transgenic traits in the open environment or in traded agricultural commodities or in the food products. Empowerment of the national system would enable the government to handle the rational development of GMOs within the country as well as to decide on importing such materials containing varied trans-genetic traits. Concomitantly, at the decision making level as well at the scientific institutions there was a profound need of having more numbers of scientifically trained people to address the diverse issues and complexities associated with the utilization of GMOs in commercial agriculture.

Every country makes progress with the passage of time. India must have also made considerable progress during the last 10y after the first authorization of GMOs (the lepidopteron insect-resistant cotton, popularly known as the Bt-cotton) in commercial agriculture in the country. Much of the capacity building traits as enumerated above may have been in place though there are no public access to those. The research towards achieving specific products of GM seeds to significantly enhance productivity in agriculture is also not visible yet. By the end of 2011, the Indian people have not heard about any new announcement about the introduction of any new transgenic trait in its open environment in agriculture other than a range of Bt-cotton. It is not clear therefore, to the common people if the use of the GMOs had been considered to be an important positive aspect for improving the productivity of Indian agriculture. There has not been any assertive statement from the authorities of the country if strong emphasis was placed on the use of this technology at least during the future years as one strong option, to address the emerging issues of food security.

None can belittle certain crucial facts that have come to light such as due to intense human activities and factors linked with increase in human population all over the world (demand for more energy for example for diverse reasons leading to increase in greenhouse gasses), there will be rise in the temperature across the world which shall lead to some visible catastrophe. There shall be rise in the sea-level, which would cause penetration of sea-water into many parts of fertile land. Ultra-violet light shall penetrate the ozone layer more in many parts of the world and shall show its deleterious effects in terms of reduced agricultural productivity in certain areas, and increase in certain diseases in human and animals.

On the other end, the world population is no longer natural. Science has provided a world that has contained major childhood diseases by the development and use of more than a dozen of improved vaccines. Improvement in medical science has contributed to increase in longevity which is manifested in far large number of aged, but active people all around. Thus while on one hand, more food has to be produced, on the other hand, salt and temperature-tolerant plant cultivars would have to be developed. There would also be the need for drought-tolerant seeds and plant materials in certain areas while at many other areas water-stress resistant plants would be in great need for utilizing water-logged or flooded lands for agriculture. Moreover, there would be profound need for the long-term preservation of natural food including crops, cereals, fruits and vegetables for longer times, preventing these from spoilage or delaying of ripening.

Seeds and planting materials for deployment in such conditions would not be developed without the use of recombinant DNA technology, where possibilities exist for isolating, reconstructing and integrating genetic traits in to plant cultivars that do not possess them. The resulting GM seeds and planting materials could be used in situations and in lands possessing adverse conditions. It would not be possible to develop seeds and planting materials suitable for such conditions, by any other method including the breeding technology.

Pest resistant or disease-tolerant or herbicide resistant plants have been the low-pick developmental needs of recombinant DNA technology, where success is already in place and GM plants are used in commercial agriculture in several parts of the world. The brighter sides of the deployment of GM plants thus far have been their contributions to reducing the use of chemical pesticides, reduction in the deployment of human labor (for herbicide resistant plants) thereby reducing agricultural production costs, and concomitant increase in agricultural productivities, often due to longer periods of sound plant health, especially during their productive periods. GM plants have also been used for producing better qualities of carbohydrates and triglycerides and some other traits. While some of these achievements have been downplayed by local public, the use of GMOs could not be stopped because of overall economic benefits, which accrued to the farmers and to the society.

The main objections from the vocal public against the use of GM seeds and planting materials have been that (1) these substances enhance the spread of different kinds of nucleic acids and genetic materials across a wide range of genera and species that do not naturally possess them , such spread in ‘unnatural’ and therefore, such happenings could be catastrophic and must be avoided; (2) some of these trans-genetic materials code for toxic proteins that, when ingested by other living forms can create catastrophes by manifestation of toxicity or allergenicity; in smaller life forms , toxicities could kill or adversely affect population and thus could disturb the ecology of the environment; in higher life forms like in animals toxicities could limit the food chain; (3) food , feed and fodder toxicity or allergenicity could adversely affect the human and animal food chain; (4) the long-term effect of trans-genes opens up the possibilities of transfer of unwanted traits across the natural boundaries of species barriers; (5) since the technologies are held presently by a hand-full of private companies, the food security issues will have to be transferred to the whims of a few technology-rich private companies. Transfer genetic materials across the species barriers takes place naturally, even though the spread is very slow. ‘Unnatural’ transfers across the barriers have to have the capacity to survive; in most of the times, ‘unnatural’ genetic transfers are aborted, or the generated ‘new substance’ self-destroys it. Only a few trans-genetic constructs, the fittest ones, created by human kind survive. Such created clones are to be continuously multiplied and propagated to keep the genetic traits ‘alive’. In natural settings, most often the trans-genetic traits get aborted. Even in situations where such traits have escaped to the environment, these have not manifested with any situation that cannot be handled by human kind. The stories of ‘super weed’ formation or ‘genetic contamination resulting in catastrophe’ are exaggerated. All trans-genetic substances are tested for safety on a precautionary principle before these are released by any country for commercial use; unsafe substances are never released. All risks are assessed rigorously by scientifically deployed methods. Unfortunately, the present day science cannot find answers to certain questions of safety such as the long term use of GMOs. However for this uncertainty, a close watch is kept on the use of each GMO; any substantial adversity shall call for its withdrawal. Some people think that it would not be possible to withdraw substances, once these are set out to the open environment. This fear is untenable as GMOs that are linked with irreversible damage ( such as growth hormone gene containing fish that have high feed conversion ratio but are known to have lower longevity than the natural counterpart)) are not allowed by the governments to be propagated in the open environment. Unintended release is expected to be contained by nature as the law of survival for the fittest would eventually prevail; humankind might not have precise clues for such happenings though. Use of GMOs more extensively shall enable the development of newer technologies that will diffuse the presently surmised monopolistic situation. Introduction of Bt-otton in India resulted in the development and introduction of more than one alternate technology, which were different from Monsanto’s Bollgard cotton. Necessities drove the development of alternatives! There is a strong case therefore, for the faster use of the GMO technology across the world and in poor countries like India. Introduction of any new technology carries with it several kinds of risks; people using those technologies would learn to live with the risks. People would also learn to contain them.

People from the developing world spend a large sum of their income on food. In extremely poor settings, such expenses can go even up to 70% of their income. This situation cannot be adequately appreciated by people from the developed world where expenses on food are minor part of their earnings. Choice of better food materials that are grown without the use of pesticides, or which are natural, or which are grown organically are options no doubt. But these options are more suiting to the needs of the rich and the rich nations. Any reduction in the price of safe food resulting from the deployment of better technologies is a much needed option of the poor nations. Use of genetically modified seeds or planting materials, resulting in higher productivities directly or indirectly, is therefore an option for reducing the cost of food. Countries are free to make their individual food choices. But such choices should not be influenced by emotional reasoning or pre-emptive threats of risks that have neither been proven nor detected.

We do not and cannot live in a ‘natural world’ anymore! The food that is produced is primarily from our agriculture. Our agriculture utilizes seeds and planting materials that have been developed over many years of research, utilizing different kinds of technologies. Our seeds and planting materials cannot even survive in pure natural settings; those that would survive would not yield productivities without the inputs of fertilizer, water, pesticides and many more. For that matter, even we are not natural anymore. Food, shelter, medicines, hygiene, clothing, education and social environment have radically changed with the deployment of different kinds of technologies the world-over. In such a setting, we cannot ignore the potentials of GM seeds and plant cultivars merely on the basis of voices that do not find comforts from their deployment.

In such a setting, what has been done within the country for intensively utilizing the GMOs in Indian agriculture? A visit at web page at provides a glimpse of the status of Indian development in GM plant applications in agriculture including those in the developmental stage. The scenario depicts a weak standing of preparedness at the national level. This also portrays substantial weakness in the scientific and technological developments of GMOs in the public sector settings in the country. Moreover, the preparedness of the country to exhaustively examine the benefits or the short-comings including risks are not adequately elaborated. Should we therefore, redesign our strategy?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Spirit of Nature

Spirit of Nature

I was one day casually watching
A large droplet of water
On a blossomed lotus leaf
Shinning during the soft morning hours of autumn!

In the split of a second I found
The lotus flower passing a naughty blinking look with a sober flying expression of affection
Through its pink wide-open eyes and the shinning yellow lips,
Sending a storm of glee and joy all around!

A puff of wind blew away delightfully over the shinning droplet
The mid-aged leaf resting at leisure on the calm surface of water
Became restless on its bed
As the droplet started to dance, stimulated from the wink!

The sky above me was clearly at glee
And in a chorus joined the trees and the grasses from the green fields all around
The droplet remained engrossed in its own delight
As I rediscovered the innate fortitude of Nature in its integrated whole!



We slowly and gradually create
Our own varieties of cocoons around.
These mature and get stronger with the span of time.
We create within, our own planet and a new universe of our own
Our satellites and many more are invented around!

And we get engrossed within
In its limited space of narrowness
And the egoistic smelling labyrinth
Almost everyone during the entire life span
Do not sense the incompleteness and limitations of our own cocoons!

Life is larger than fantasy and fiction
The limitless spectra take us to situations unknown
Through experiences of unbearable pain or limitless joy,
Though greatest events of successes
Or through most miserable moments of failures!

The bondage and limitations of our souls
Get shaken up in such never-experienced situations.
Our so securely created individual cocoons staying around
Break away in to pieces in the split of a second!
Then and only then we discover the strength of our soul!

We discover that our souls are gifted with wings
Liberated, the souls can freely fly anywhere in any direction to any place
And from the high sky every cocoon looks narrow, small and alike!
Liberated, we get to realize
We are attached to none except to the Creator who sets us free!



For professionals and businesslike minds of diverse kinds like ours
Often we do not come to recognize when poetry or verse comes to us
Silently she steps in through our quiet or busy but distinctly lonely times
Poetry dresses herself soft and attractive every time she is very close to us
Suiting our tastes and molding us softer at our diversely different transacting moods!

Poetry arrives to awaken us to magnify our expressions of thought
Poetry is much closer to our mind and surely to our heart
But at times we do not wish to accept or to recognize the emotions
We, the professionals with businesslike mindset are often more close to our brain
Although we recognize the strengths that bind and unite through the feelings of heart

We lament when we fail regretting why we didn’t use our thoughts
Expressed more in the words of emotional knots
Through her sweet and meaningful verse,
Even though that would mean a bit worse
Some defeat in the pride of our intellectual logistic thoughts.

Poetry is a companion, a creative entity of every one of us
Poetry is the expression of maturity of our thoughts
Poetry empowers us, poetry provides us with strength
And for those who spend time with her more
They appear emotional, ripened and expressive from the core!

Poetry leaves for them who are closer to her
More of her finer humane and imaginative qualities of creations
In all their expressions, demonstrations and acts,
In the diversities of life, in all the determining events
Through the manifestation of maturities and through the detailing of thoughts.



As the head of a business unit
I have certainly a duty to perform.
Through measures and actions,
The targets of production, sales and profits must surely come.

The relations I develop with acquaintances at workplace
Are often casual and informal,
With feelings of inadequate zeal,
Though these are not considered strange or abnormal!

I have a heart
Within my flesh and blood,
That seeks to build relations,
To be closer to be delighted and to be glad.

Feelings could get worked up in emotions,
But I need to hide them and I can’t surely express.
I must act as the symbol of substance
That remains unchanged in good times or in distress!

From my office,
I have no time to breathe a sigh of relief!
I don’t come to know how the tired days
Lie down in the laps of mother darkness in trust and belief!

The charms of morning hours
That I felt in my youth are all lost in daily routine,
The monster of burden forces me relentlessly
To be set in, to be focused and to be competent to win!

When in my car I am traveling alone,
I sometime engage
My eyes to take a glimpse of the flying birds,
The moving herds and the morning rays!

And the joys of the silent mansions
And the dancing branches of the left over trees…
They make me to feel for moments
That I am alive as before, I can be careless to hug the nature and the breeze!

But in moments I realize that I cannot stop
Nor can I wait,
For my assignments
Must be met!

And this is the flavor of life of all top brass executives,
Alike the best Managers too of any country often are!
Joys, pleasures of togetherness or leisure for their personal care
Are often lost from their world forever!

The uprooted plant

The uprooted plant

When I picked up the plant that was uprooted
And thrown out to die, I recognized this to be one, which was acclaimed.
My neighbor laughed and commented on me with sore
“This was sterile, diseased and was of no use anymore”.

But I felt that it needed some affection and care right there and then
It had yet the desire to survive to live and to regain.
I thought, it would get cured and might bloom once again
And if it would flower, it would please me in my times of despair and pain.

I bought a big cemented pot with soil and more
I planted it in to the pot and kept it in shade
I watered it regularly till it showed some recovery and gain
I placed the pot in my garden under the sky then again.

The plant started to bear new leaves and branches
It was a joy to watch everyday its subtle nuances
And one day I found it blooming to flower!
That was the happiest moment for me to be out of despair.

The plant greets me smiling gratefully everyday
As I pass by it to my work even in the hottest days of May.
In my moments of sadness and pain,
I find my plant cheering me up in its way again and again!

Saturday, October 22, 2011



Over here, in the western part of Delhi,
Janakpuri by name
In search of livelihood and shelter,
We travelled many long miles and came.

Some made their choices to settle and they were firm
Several others were here in tattered form,
Blow out uprooted from their home
By human rage of intolerant storm!

Many summers had come and then winters again
As years passed by giving us time to settle and regain
We started our annual worship in our homogeneity of mix
The first festival was celebrated in nineteen seventy six!

Not much happened for long beyond an annual meet and a lot of time flew away
Some faces vanished in the meantime into the infinity of Milky Way
Leaving us alone in pain, but new leadership came up in time
Shouldering lost responsibilities to keep our congress united in sublime.

We came young when we came, decades flew away again and we were in two thousand and eleven,
But we made some progress: a land was procured and a place of worship Durga Bari , our heaven
We decided to build and this was in the meantime getting completed by us.
The community building was almost ready barring some finishing touch!

As populace would use Durga Bari Community Centre and its space,
It would bring in satisfaction to one and all in the congress.
And up to the end of this year or a part of the next, more or less
It will be the beginning of the closure of an era with humility and grace!

The members of the period up to this had made a mark around thoughts
That was conservative in conjecture but action-oriented in diversities of plots
The forerunners foresee in the future the birth of multiple new thoughts
That shall be cast by the young in the upcoming slots.

In the future years, youthful people shall certainly come
And newer views and outlooks would seemingly hum
With activities of more contemporary community welfare
Cogently knitted in to our core principles of architecture!

We, now aged, shall then delightfully watch from distance and share
The progress of our congress and support its growth to reach its prime
As we grow older and get prepared to disappear
In to the eternity of time!

Monday, August 29, 2011


August 27th 2011 and August 28th, 2011 are the two great days, which will be remembered in our history. August 28th, 2011 was the day when Anna broke his fast after winning for the cause for which he was asking the Indian Parliament for the enactment of a law to deal with corruption very forcefully. On August 27, 2011, Saturday he won!

Anna’s win heralded the beginning of the win over a monster by the name “corruption’ that was devouring much of the excellence of the nation! Anna won for the people of India! Anna made history! Anna was able to maneuver his craft through the rough waters of ‘ego’ of some politicians and leaders of the country; but he knew that he had many friends even outside of his group to assist. And he was right! Otherwise, how could he prolong his tough journey for 13 days (up to Sunday morning, August 28, 2011 for over 290 hours) without food at the age of seventy four? He could wait for long enough time to find the transformation in the mind- set of the majority of powerful people to become real to his wishes.

What happened in the Indian Parliament on the ‘draftLokpalBill2011’ on Saturday August 27, 2011 is the triumph of the power of people over politicians. But the politicians are also people; some of them with great wisdom realized that ‘ego’ hurts everyone howsoever small or big he or she may be. It cannot be true that every politician of any country is corrupt. There are many who indeed, put every materialistic things of gain of their own at stake to serve the people. Many such people and other right-thinking politicians must have realized that Anna was fighting for a right cause. These individuals were trying to find ways to bridge the gap between what could be done within the system and how much the system could be bent to accommodate the cause. Pranab Mukherjee’s assertion that ‘our democracy is powerful enough…..…flexible enough to accommodate different viewpoints……’ in the Parliament on Saturday dated August 27, 2011 was something to listen to and adore. Arun Jaitley’s statement that “People are no longer willing to accept status quo…. The time has come to raise the bar of accountability in India” was the summary of the mood of most Indians. But the best strike came from the Prime Minister at the right moment when he had to overrule some seasoned politicians to make the Parliament to adopt the language ‘ the House agrees in principle’ … the final adopted resolution of the Parliament on the matter to accommodate the three last issues that Anna asked to include ; the points of Anna to prevent corruption from the public life were thus included. The LOKPAL BILL 2011 to be enacted is therefore, anticipated to be stronger than its present form. The present draft can be read at on the net.

The economy of several large nations is going through severe crisis. The recent market collapse that followed the debt scaffold of some countries is one factor that has been firmly identified. But there is more to it. At least some of the other major ones need raft attention. Many nations have extremely low saving habits (contributing to low generation of money for the future resulting in to low capital formation, thus leading to low national investment); high medical coverage expenses (high insurance cost) with low capacity of the government for reimbursement, thereby increasing the burden on the exchequer, which is anticipated to rise phenomenally in the future years; heavy but avoidable expense on military base that are created at different global locations outside their own country ; heavy consumption of energy, where the per capita consumption is very high, which can be modulated and rationalized; and food habits that depend mainly on meat consumption, thereby decreasing the efficiency of conversion of plant-derived food/ feed for human and animals .

The economic health of the poor and developing countries is also entering in to troubled areas in many ways, which can perhaps be modulated through technological means. Agricultural productivity-increase has to be achieved in every developing country; added to this , there is colossal loss of food grains , distributed through weak logistics due to lack of infrastructure ( inadequate and inefficient storage capacity, poor distribution net work etc.). Loss of large quantities of fruits and fresh vegetables on their way to the consumers is yet another sad story, on which massive improvements are possible, if collectively efforts are put. Serious attempts are to be made with concerted activities and action plans to find cheaper source of energy; how long can poor countries pay for the increased cost of crude, which is rising very fast? Corruption is another monster, which is the root-cause for many evils, has to be has eliminated from public life. Methods for upgrading the sanitation, making available safe drinking water and improving the health of average citizens through sharing of affordable technologies, making available healthy food and better medicines are also equally important. Education is the right of every citizen. Every education has to have standards that catch-up and qualify international standards. There is much that developing nations can do to improve these factors.

Much of the inadequacies are to be fought collectively by the people of different nations. Technologies, human deployment policies and leadership qualities shall be the forerunners in the game .Today’s nations are closely interlinked. Leaders have to modulate the linkages by balancing the greed and exploitation. Every nation can contribute to its development with its own people. For transformation very fast, corruption must be eliminated from the public life. It is not that corrupt nations do not prosper; every nation prospers with time. But nations with strong character with traits that are good for others and for its own would show quicker results, where betterments are diffused more profoundly with extra-evenness among its entire people.

Anna’s steps to tackle corruption are in the right direction therefore. This is the beginning of a new era in our history. This is also reinforcing the belief that methods of non-violence can deliver.

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Broken Nib

The Broken Nib

The ink-pens which were once considered to be mightier than the swords are not mightier anymore! Animated able alternative competitors have appeared and have taken positions. The contest for innovation has robbed the established glory of many.

Like any equipment which is in continuous functioning, the ink-pens that are put to constant use suffer from wear and tear. Once a nib is broken, the user can move from place to place for its replacement. The user is no luckier these days to find a shop that would be ready to provide a replacement! Let me narrate my own experience:

I have been a staunch user of ink-pens for decades. Somehow, the old instruments that I possess have impressed me so much that I love to look at the spread of the ink as I write something on a piece of writing paper to express or to respond to expressions of routine. I keep watching with delight the inking process on the writing materials as I progress in my thoughts and keep expressing those.

As is anticipated and is quite usual, very recently one day one of my possessions got its nib damaged beyond repair. Therefore, I had to replace it with a new one. I went to pen shops in my locality in Delhi where presently besides good ball pens some ink-pens of different manufacturers are also sold. The Parker brand is in wide use. But the shopkeepers were unable to assist me for the nib replacement. They argued candidly why I should not look for this spare part anymore and why I should buy a brand new one, which shall not only be of better glitter but which would also be of better utility. I could not be convinced. Therefore, when I insisted on whether they knew someone who might be doing such jobs of nib replacement, one of them who knew me well gave a dead blow answer! He responded softly in a low voice by saying, “Sir, who would be engaged in such jobs anymore when a minimum earning is not assured from such skills and labor?” In Delhi, everything is money!

I thought this metropolitan city was not the right place for the ink-pen lovers. The branded ink-pens that were presently sold in Delhi were usually used to gift someone young or scholarly after the results of annual examination were declared. These were also gifted on occasions of birthday or any special-day celebrations. I made such judgment on the basis of my general observations that young or elderly people in offices or in banks, where I find the use of writing instruments most profoundly, they make use of different kinds of dot pens or ball pens; I think, I have not seen even one possessor of an ink-pen during the last couple of years in those places, where I often make a visit for obvious reasons and purposes.

It occurred to me that I should try the city of Kolkata, where like me there could be old people who would still be cherishing writing with ink-pens. These senior citizens would be generating some demand and therefore, some skillful pen shops would still be in existence.

A couple of months were spent for an occasion to arise to enable me to travel to Kolkata. When an event drove me to the City of Joy, I took along with my many belongings the damaged ink-pen that I like very much. It was a simple fountain pen. But its nib would enable writing very smoothly. While using this pen I felt that the instrument ran faster than my expressions!

The nib of my fountain pen got permanently damaged when once it fell from a height vertically down and hit on the concrete floor. We do not have the floors carpeted everywhere in our houses.

In Kolkata, I was very glad to move as I knew most of the pen shops around my locality. But when one day I went out at about 11’o clock in the morning, being the right time for beginning transactions in the city, I found several new shops of pen that had come up. This delighted me as the probability of solving my problem increased for sure.

But when I went to one shopkeeper, he said that nibs were not sold now-a-days anymore! When I went to a second one with some depression in my mind , he got a bit annoyed and made in an impolite but not-quite-audible-voice that I came in the morning hours with a problem that was useless to him and to everyone of his trade. His annoyance, he murmured was for the reason that he had not yet made any sale and he came across a customer like me. A third one, a middle aged shopkeeper looked at my pen and remarked that this possession was a very old one. He could not assist to repair the nib, but stated that I could buy a new Parker pen costing about Rs. 250 and the new pen would perform extremely well. As I was adamant to make the repair, the shopkeeper directed me to another shop, which was long known as the “Pen Shop” in the locality. I suddenly remembered that I also knew the shop at one time.

I rushed to the “Pen Shop” and found the expansion of the establishment. This delighted me from the core. As I alighted before the entrance, I was welcomed by a middle-aged shopkeeper who at once enquired in a sweet tone about what kind of writing goods I was looking for. I took out my ink-pen and asked for a repair of the broke nib. He looked at me and after a full breath mentioned that those pens were in use some 30 years back; presently none use them anymore. Much better performing writing instruments, according to him had come up thereafter and very good ball pens had replaced all those old timers with performance, ease and prices. On my request once again to get the replacement of the broken nib of my pen, the person tried to remember something and raised his face towards the sky with closed eyes. He then lowered his neck to normalize his posture and opened his eyelids. He seemed to me to be like a skilled fish-catcher in shallow waters. His new appearance made me to believe that got something that he wished to share with me as does the fish-catchers when a scale-less fish gets caught within the palm of the catcher beneath the mud in shallow waters and the catcher smiles with pride to show his catch! The shopkeeper said that some 8-10 years ago when there was occasional enquiry for a problem like the one that I brought before him, he used to visit the footpath close to the Dalhousie Square on the right side of the Writer’s Building; the directions were for an onlooker of the Writer’s Building from the Dalhousie Square. He further stated that I should look for the road that cracks and houses in its middle an ancient Church. I remembered that there was a Church on a road that he mentioned and indeed the Church was standing as a divider of the stated road. He assertively stated that many footpath vendors existed at that time with all kinds of nibs and spare parts of fountain pen. If some of them existed at the present time also, then that was the place where I could go to make an attempt to solve my problem. I got at last some light at the end of my dark long tunnel!

When I mentioned to some passers-by about my intention to visit my new destination, many would not even entertain. But one old man I met listened to me for a minute and directed me to take a bus for Dalhousie Square and to further enquire. I had that knowledge even without enquiring. So I insisted, if I could take the Metro for convenience, to which he said that I could do so as well. But he advised that from the spot where I was, I had to travel first to Rashbihari Avenue and then catch the Metro that moved towards Dumdum, alight at the “Central Station”, walk up to the Tea-Board office by taking the left footpath and then turn to the left after crossing the Tea-Board office to reach a main street. If I walked for about 100-200 meters on the footpath of that main street towards the Dalhousie Square, I would find my destination. I thanked the fellow passer-by for his patience while praising for his precise knowledge about the streets of Kolkata.

It did not take me much time to reach the destination. I walked forward all along on the left footpath after alighting from the Metro at the Central Station. Once I crossed the Tea-Board office on my right, I soon arrived at the T-junction of a busy street! I understood for sure that I was at the right destination.

I started walking on the footpath which was to my left. After about a while, I started discovering different kinds of Hawker’s shops almost all of which were of the dismantling types. All these could be erected within a couple of minutes once appliances were unloaded either from a cycle or from a petrol-driven two-wheeler or at best from an old three-wheeler run by petrol with low efficiency. Most of these shops were erected anew almost daily habitually on the edges of the main road, covering considerable portions of the walk-ways. The influential ones among these were under the shades of the planted trees that were standing on the footpath for ages to provide shade to the users of the walk-ways.

I had not discovered any pen shop yet; closest to the skills, I found some shops selling wrist watches, small locks, kinds of mobile phone holders and the like. I gathered courage and asked one such shop owner where could I find the pen shop? Prompt came the response. I was asked to walk forward with assurance that those were further down the direction I was already moving in.

Soon I found the first one on the main street with his shop displayed on two wooden boxes where on a plastic stool he sat and held another empty for his prospective customers. As I enquired about my fountain pen, he first asked me to take a seat on the empty stool and then requested me to show him the pen. I thought I had got the right man at one chance. I took out the ink pen from my office bag, which I was carrying. The shop-keeper in his early 50s seemed to me to be an upcountry Indian, who was making a living in the large city of Kolkata by selling and servicing writing appliances. To me he did not seem to be adequately educated. His Bengali pronunciation had those clinks of Bihar and UP although he spoke at a stretch with me without having to wait to search for the right Bengali words.

After watching my fountain pen he said, “Sir, you have been using this pen for 20-30 years I suppose.” When I answered in the affirmative, he said with regret that I would not find a replacement of the nib as those materials were not available anymore. Moreover, such customers like me visited his shop may be once in a year. The services were no more paying for a living. He showed some ink pens too that were being used some 50-70 years ago. He sold them to the antique collectors and thought that those were not used by any regular users these days. He felt that there was no regular customer anymore for such nibs and holders and the glass inkpots except some customers who cherished in antiques. I was not quite interested in his antiques. Therefore, I reminded him that I was looking for the replacement of my broken nib in my fountain pen and not in the antiques. I also said that I was not an antique pen collector. I would actually use my pen if the nib was repaired. I would pay more than the reasonable price for the new nib. I wished to bring the discussion back on the track. I wanted to bring home the point that I had yet profound love for the ink pens. I had no regrets that the refilling operations were laborious. I was aware that often these operations could even stain the hands and the fingers and sometimes even the clothes if I was not so cautious during the filling operations. Yet I liked using the ink-pens.

The shopkeeper was impressed with my “a bit lengthy” explanation. He watched my passion for an ink pen and particularly for my concern for bringing back the glory of my fountain pen that had its nib damaged beyond repair. We became intimated at more-than-the-normal speed of spread of closeness among people of our age and culture.

The shopkeeper said that he was Abdul Rashid. He came to Kolkata some thirty years back in search of a living. Although he did not have much formal education, he could read and write in Hindi. He had a desire to be educated. His dreams could not materialize however. He picked up the profession of dealing with pens of different kinds as his job gave him satisfaction mostly because according to him, he met people who were educated. He liked his clients. Abdul had seen much of the changes in this industry through the passage of time. He lamented that people were no more using ink-pens. According to him, even though alternative technologies were in place yet he liked to repair old ink- pens and in the process he met many elderly people earlier who visited him as I did today. He said with tenderness that such customers did not come to him anymore. He had therefore changed his skills from dealing with fountain pen repairs alone to the sell of full complete fountain pens along with all kinds of dot pens and ball pens with refills. According to him, the new technology of ball pens provided much better earning for him than the sale of complete fountain pens although he was aware that the ball pen technology, according to him was not as reliable or of as good a grade as that of a fountain pen. I became curious and asked why he thought that the ball pen technology was not better in every respect to the fountain pen technology. He made a straight answer saying that for the price he charged he could not guarantee when the refill of the ball pens would stop functioning. He took no responsibility to any refill material sold by him except their performance on the counter just when this was being sold or shown to the customers to perform. He elaborated that if durable refilling materials were to be used then those would cost not less than Rs. 150 per piece and could cost even more if they were to perform excellently well for a long time. I was quite happy from his admissions as I was also of the same impression. Mine was based on actual user experience. Nevertheless, after searching his commercial bag in vain, Abdul started looking at my pen again. He opened the nib from a place, raised it above his eyes and carefully watched it for a while. He then asked his neighboring shopkeeper who was also dealing with different kinds of writing instruments. After consultation, Abdul said that the nib could not be replaced by anymore from that street. He returned the fountain pen after fixing the broken nib at its original place.

Thereafter, watching my helpless facial appearance, he picked up his commercial bag once again and from its bottom he took out a brand new fountain pen and presented it to me saying that this was a small gift from his side to me. When I asked for its price, he humbly said “Sir, I am very pleased to find your attachment to ink pens. I am therefore presenting you with this small gift for which you need not have to pay”. He smiled and added, “I shall be glad if you would write using this ink pen”. I was very much astonished but impressed too. I took a look of the pen which he gifted and kept it in my possession. But I could not end my transaction there. I asked Abdul to show me some of his complete ink pens that he would like to sell. He showed me his stocks of the entire range. I choose one from them in gratitude although I had no intention to buy. It was a Chinese ink pen not very expensive but it had an impressive antique touch which I liked. I purchased that and returned home partly satisfied that I had met a man who was different. I was impressed by the emotions shown by Abdul, a footpath seller, on the point that even though he had limited income yet he nurtured the noble feelings of gifting for a cause.

Good thoughts and noble qualities are conceived and nurtured as fertile eggs in the wombs of all human minds for years. In the small time of the twinkling of eyelids of a couple of times, the feelings sometimes mature to burst into chicks that were waiting for long to find an environment to hatch. The hatched chicks come out into the world with their qualities that we adore. They do not get lost but get into dormancy again in another mind that is exposed to their greatness. They are indeed infectious. The process continues. Whenever we come across those rare moments, we wonder with joy the greatness of the Creator who cogently nourishes such good seeds in the hearts of all people without resorting to caste, creed, education or social background. Greatness prevails everywhere. It can sprout from any heart given the conditions and the environment that it requires.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Our immune system: the basic security about which everyone should know.Part-I

Our immune system defeats the foreign pathogens by two independent and distinct biological processes. Pathogens can be viruses, bacteria, fungi, nematodes and the like that can create disease or discomfort in to the body. Immunity illustrates biological defenses through which living entities including human fight infection or diseases or discomfort. Immunity also includes biological processes to prevent biological invasion.

One immunological defense system is known as the innate immune system or innate immunity. Human is born with innate immunity. Innate immunity is the natural way of providing a defense or resistance to invading microbes through physical or chemical or cellular methods. The physical barriers include the skin and the pathways that lead towards the inside of the body; the mucous substances such as the saliva, the tears and the like provide the physical barriers. The chemical barriers include the antimicrobial agents, the chemical signaling substances such as cytokines etc., which are secreted by phagocytic cells that encounter the microbes; such encountering can result in inflammation and fever. All these symptoms and secretions are defensive against the invading microbes. Once the invading microbes are inside, the body triggers immediate encounter to the cause of infection without being specific to the disease-causing microbes. The immune cells within the human body, which include the natural killer cells, mast cells, eosinophils, basophils, and the phagocytic cells including macrophages, neutrophils and dendritic cells mount the offence for the defense of the body. The attack is primitive in the sense that these immune cells and their cell-surface receptors straight –way recognize certain molecular pattern present on the surface of the pathogens, which are uniquely linked or associated with several kinds of disease producing agents. Recognition of the molecular patterns, which are associated with diseases (in animals) have been developed through evolution.

As the cells of the innate immune system recognize only general molecular pattern, which are residing on the surfaces of the pathogens and which also include toll-like receptors (TLRs), the attack of innate immune system is non-specific. Moreover, many pathogens over the years have learnt and developed ways to evade the recognition by changing and mutating its surface molecular patterns. Therefore, the innate immune system cannot recognize them and thus have limited capacity in resisting some of the specific infections; in such situations, the microbes acquire the capacity to evade recognition and may infect the recipients.

The other immune system, known as the adaptive immune system is highly specific in recognizing the pathogens; here the recognition system is extremely precise. This system can virtually recognize any pathogen that the body might encounter; this system also provides immunological memory of infection. In this system, two types of responses are observed. In one type, specific B-cells are activated and multiplied, which produce protein antibodies (also known as sensitizes immunoglobulins) that can bind on to the surface of the invading microbes or their parts (against which recognition has been established by the immune system). Such antibodies can also be produced naturally in human after an infection or a child from the mother can acquire them. These can also be produced in-situ in human through vaccination, when an individual is artificially injected with a safe antigen (vaccine) or an attenuated (non-disease producing) microbe (vaccine). In certain cases, disease-sensitized immunoglobulins prepared elsewhere, can be injected in to individuals to impart immunity against a disease.

In the other type of adaptive immune system, highly lethal killer T-cells are created within individuals; these T-cells (called as the activated CD-8 positive T-cells) can recognize the invading microbes and therefore, can attack them for destruction.

The adaptive system of immunity relies upon the recognition of a pathogen through the innate immune systems to initiate its own response to a pathogen. Therefore, the adaptive system is slow compared to the innate immune system.

The two systems, namely the innate and the adaptive immune systems together provide a comprehensive defense response to infections.