Fall Colors – Sept/Oct 2021

End of September and beginning of October presents possibilities of Nature’s miracles in Colorado Rockies. As the temperature looks winter-wards, the green on Aspens deepens pigments to present a dazzling spectacle of colors. From a greenish yellow to deep crimson, present a plethora of colors erupts in to a visual delight for the mesmerized eyes. Season’s first snow lends added contrast to rich colors. The colorful flora in the lap of towering, freshly snowed mountains, wows the cursory to committed.

With my family and a few very dear friends, I happened to avail Nature’s blessings, an annual ritual in this part of the world. Aspen, Snowmass and Vail are small towns with worldwide fame. Its easy to see why.

Nature speaks for them. It finds eloquence in colors, in towering height of fifty eight 14ers and lung cleansing air. The magic seeps deep in the soul.

A single day may behold whether befitting a year.

Early morning freeze, midday heat on a taxing hike, late afternoon thunderstorm with “tropical” rain shower, followed by sudden break in clouds only to be substituted by late evening snow flakes. Its a cycle that we experienced more than once in a week’s escape to the Rockies.

The long hikes at demanding inclines and challenging altitude confer long periods of absolute silence. The sense of awe finds a companion in introspection. Problems seem to find solutions.

Plagued by divisiveness, an unsettled mind yearns for an answer in nature. It strives to seek a resolution.

The changing colors tell a captivating story.

Photosynthesis is the founding miracle of nature that blends water, carbon dioxide and sunlight to yield life sustaining oxygen and energy. Trees have evolved to do it effortlessly and flawlessly with 100% efficiency. No wasted effort. No wasteful residues. As Fall temperatures plummet, days get shorter, photosynthesis splutters and leaves blush. No more worthy of photosynthesis leaves fall and fertilize the next bloom. They fall in style and breathtaking splendor.

Hate should be deciduous, love perennial they seem to say.

Hate should blush with shame and fall alike Fall leaves, to be reborn as love. That’s a cycle of life the Fall seems to inspire.

Imagine spellbinding colors of a Fall leaf drifting elegantly towards the ground, having fulfilled its obligations to support photosynthesis. Now committing to raising the generation next. Thats how nature renews its vows. Life intuitively sustaining itself.

Hate is counterintuitive to humanity. Love is the necessary glue.

The falling leaves helped me shed some of my prejudices. It was a refreshing and a necessary interlude.

-Brij

Re athletes and stress.

It’s life.

All spheres of life share their burden of expectations.

I’m a radical and I confess.

Irrespective of load of unshed tears in my dry eyes and shoulder bending load on my torn rotator cuffs, my hands stay steady in service to my chosen profession, when maneuvering intricacies of damaged plumbing in human body.

Patients deserve and get the best outcome.

Now let’s say I’m physically damaged or intellectually impaired in a way that compromises patient care, then it will behoove me to back off.

It should be given a neutral acceptance of an ordinary act.

But that’s not what’s in play.

In our reactive trashing of all things White, we have sunk to the level of celebrating failure.

Biles has earned her successes.

She withstood sexual abuse and kept it together.

Thats a cause for celebration.

Nation owes her appreciation, and she has been well appreciated.

If her mental faculties stood in her way to perform her best, its her right and obligation to back off.

She did that.

And that’s noteworthy.

What’s equally noteworthy is amount of ink that has been spilled to spell heroism out of personal injury.

Failure irrespective of color is not a cause to celebrate or demean.

Somehow failed accomplishment of good intentioned athletes of color has become a surrogate rallying cry for the cause in general.

That’s new racism.

I resent all racism.

-Brij

July 4

Catalina
Emerald Bay, Lake Tahoe

Hello, Sonya!

The Great American Experiment began July 4th, 1776. Taxation without representation provided the initial thrust to the fueled passions, unleashing expansive dreams of human emancipation across the globe. The Declaration of Independence aimed to put human rights on a pedestal “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”.  Humanity had never aimed higher. That notion undergirds the nation called USA. That notion undergirds flight of freedom in human soul, irrespective of the moving lines across nations, called borders. The utopian interpretations of the nascent experiment lamentably failed to achieve immediate luminescence. The soaring rhetoric will struggle for centuries to surmount human prejudices and incrementally extend benefit to the rest. There of course is a distinction between an event and a process. For the event to deliver its promise, process is necessary. Yet a moral bar had been set.

For those who lived and died witnessing an egalitarian experiment but, were systematically denied participation, stood doubly harmed.  Only privileged could have it for generations.

Enslavement of humans while celebrating emancipation of humanity is not merely a revolting contradiction in terms. Its a sin. As It has rightfully been judged to be an original American sin.

Serial massacres of unsuspecting Indian aborigines, shredded treaties coaxed by Machiavellian promises and shady deals founded much of the wealth. These stains are abhorrent, unforgivable and will forever singe. They will compel us to remember the past.

Lest not to repeat it!

The quest continues.

Political battles whether to seek justice, impose imperial decrees, impound others wealth, spread religion by sword, engage in retributive tribal bloodbaths, romantic conquests and many other iterations, were confined in their scope.
None aspired to see beyond the confines of horizon.

Declaration of Independence raised the bar.

The proclaimed Moral Code decimated extortive monarchies and feudalism.

Profit and power will obstruct universal implementation, but law of land was set. For sure it will keep the restless busy.
Switching gears to now and tomorrow.

It’s a trifecta: a welcome unleashing of coiled energy to celebrate July 4th, Declaration of Independence and life “after” Covid. What a RELIEF!

I continue to believe 21st century will have multiple pandemics but Covid prepared us for the impending challenges. Science evolved at Warp Speed. Now we have Platform technologies that marry speed and precision.
Covid reminded us about our personal responsibilities towards health. A simple rule: no smoking, healthy diet and daily exercise equal 80% reduction in disease burden. We need to do our part. We need to weigh less.

There are many prevailing, and unfortunately, entrenched issues in our society that need a novel look. These include gerrymandering, infrastructure, accelerated climate change, renewable energy, responsible fossil fuel extraction, drying up water resources, threatened agriculture, income inequality, vocational education, desalination, planetary sustainability and educational standardization among many others.

Then there is Establishment. The arrogance of it, shallow and repulsive! Feudalism spelled with different alphabets. Ambition has developed ambidexterity in double speak. Establishment infrastructure has truncal obesity, uncontrolled diabetes and unsteady gait. We can’t lend it a shoulder to lean on. Disruptive engineering is necessary.

In closing I will like to celebrate a wounded friendship that found healing and blessed this nation. Both giants crossed the finish line and succumbed to eternity within hours, unbeknownst to each other, to mark the 50th year of Republic’s founding, July 4th 1826. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were 2nd and 3rd presidents of the nation. They were friends who wrote Declaration of Independence. They became enemies with big egos and sparks flew. All their monumental contributions to the nation and humanity would stand diminished, if at the end, they did not renew their love. Their renewed love was an “invented accident” masterminded by another Founder and mutual friend, Benjamin Rush.

As we echo rehashed words from adversarial echo chambers in this country, it will behoove us to renew vows to the love for this country. It has given us much. We owe it back. Lets be a Benjamin Rush and bridge the gulf.

We are one!

-Brij

An American Tapestry

[The following article was published as a Community Voices op-ed in the Bakersfield Californian on June 16, 2021]

Life, beyond sustainability, is a continuous quest seeking purpose, enlightenment, meaning and salvation.

Contradictions abound.

Rushing to judge others while being blissfully unaware of personal responsibility is not an uncommon occurrence.

It can be a chore to practice equitability in human affairs.

Prejudice is universal among humans. Extirpate it we can’t. Manage it we must.

Only blindness can make us colorblind.

This world is not a monochromatic experiment. It’s a chaos of colors. Colors that lend diversity and festivity. Colors that divide and bridge. Prejudice is an ultimate versatile emotion, a true chameleon. It piggybacks on color, culture, nationalism, reason, region, religion and God forbid, politics.

What distinguishes the United States of America is its virtues, which far outweigh its flaws. The pursuit continues but progress is everywhere to see. It’s the most benevolent empire the world has witnessed in human history. Amplified shrillness in the voices of fragile and wilting seem to be in a rush to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

There is a reason America has a strong pull for the driven across the world. Traditionally, it has taken the world’s finest and encouraged them to express their best in the bounty of freedom. In the process, the U.S. has thrived and made the world a better place.

Growing up in India, I was exposed to many of the same prejudices. We all realize life is nuanced and complicated. The U.S. is the crucible that nurtures the upward trajectory of humanity as it struggles to accommodate conflicting data points that seek disparate resolutions. Linear deductions can be questioned, but the essence remains unchallenged.

Closer to home, Central Cardiology in Bakersfield was founded by Americans of Sri Lankan and Japanese descent. It was soon joined by Dr. Peter Nalos, whose dad was a renowned engineer at Boeing. Dr. Bill Nyitray of East European descent joined in 1988. A year later. Dr. Peter Fung of Chinese descent joined the group. I was fortunate to join the group in 1992 and have been forever grateful.

Our group has since expanded a lot and is now a microcosm of the community and country we serve. It’s an uncommon privilege to have some of the world’s best work in harmony to achieve the goal of a healthy Kern County.

Physician scarcity is becoming a significant bottleneck in sufficiency of healthcare delivery. In the U.S., there are roughly 30,000 seats in medical schools. Simple math suggests less than one in a thousand high school graduates opts for medical school. More on that some other day.

Base prejudices do occupy the minds of a few deviants.

People across nations and ethnicities, who have embraced notion Americana, tend not to bring ideologies of places they are escaping. They emigrate to America to assimilate and become American. The people of Chinese descent in the U.S. played no part in the Wuhan Lab Leak theory. Their adoption of the USA is a declaration of their fidelity to the chosen land.

The shame belongs to Xi.

To cast slurs on east Asians based on superficial appearances is guilt by association, a manifest folly.

To shoot Sikhs at religious places is illiteracy and bigotry, a manifest folly.

To equate U.S. and Talibans by congresswoman, on the other hand, is a considered and manifest mischief. A refugee who was welcomed by the land of opportunity is busy poking in the eye of the host. As she simultaneously doubles down on antisemitism. Serial offenders should have serious consequences.

Color of skin should be no sin. Born white can’t be a crime. To relitigate the past through the prism of present is retributive and regressive.

Some four decades ago when I went to medical school, chapters on the utility of leeches in therapeutics were long deleted. I am in no position to cast aspersions on the practice of medicine in the 18th century. There is an evolution in human affairs. The focus has to be on creating an equitable present and better tomorrow.

To call a spade a spade should not be a contrived grievances-driven charade.

It will ill behoove me to insult the generosity of a country that accepted me as a citizen, allowed me to thrive and threw no systemic racism at me.

American tapestry is a work of art. It’s pockmarked. It’s uplifting. It’s liberating. It’s a work in progress. A weave runs through it.

Lets do our bit to make it a masterpiece.

Father

Hello, Sonya –

Father’s Day has been a hard concept for me to imbibe, foreign in its meaning. Father, as a significant part of parenthood, is alive in every breath. To carve out 24hrs in a year to celebrate, a part of parenthood seemed superficial, ceremonial and unnecessary to me. Cultural baggage of rural India bestowed that rigidity on my thought.


Time and place have contrived to accommodate another dimension of love in this inflexible mind. Love is innate to every heartbeat, but a designated day can help highlight those emotions.


Traditionally, father is a guide, mentor, provider and role model for kids.


Truth be told, beneath all that façade of strength and inaccessibility, he aspires only to be a friend.


That’s the Father’s Day present a father awaits.

-Brij

Juneteenth

Hello, Sonya!

Thank you for sharing your Juneteenth message. I’d like to share my own thoughts:

Juneteenth, an amazing amalgam in calendar that merges numerics of days with a month, a unique distinction.

Empowerment with a meaning!

It’s an unbearable shame that some humans, beastly in their predisposition, transiently empowered, morally degraded and profit inspired, unleashed their selfishness on the vulnerable and naive.

Slavery is not unique to a time or place.

It’s time slavery has no time or place.

The US has been transformative in emancipation of humanity. The sin of slavery is foundational to that transformation. That sin needs salvation.

Salvation is in solution, not guilt transference. Empathy is my time travel vehicle.

I’m taking a dive. With due deference, it’s a dive taken by an immigrant who is an American by choice – and proud in his choice.

The context is necessary.

So also is the success of the greatest experiment in human fulfillment, called America. My vantage point is flawed: darts welcome.

At a personal level, when my child sniffled, I feared the worst and failed to sleep. How can one reconcile with the enormity of pain of an unsuspecting mother, whose child was kidnapped, never to return, always to be abused. Abuse, rape, diminished existence, exploitation, murder and lynchings – continued not for decades, but centuries.

Taxation without representation did not seem to rhyme with that crime.

Shredded treaties written in vanishing ink of deceit perpetrated the same crimes to the near extinction of the Native Americans.

Perspective on ownership is relevant.

Notion Americana is ill supported by its territorial claims but favorably anchored by its soaring rhetoric.

A rhetoric that finds favors in my heart.

I came to the USA to seek salvation in soul and flight in spirit.

I’m here to tell you how.

Perfection is a pursuit, and humans are not divine. The American journey is a melody where sad songs tickle, but romance invites.

It’s that prism, if I was a descendant of a slave, I will look through. The road I travel is rough, the road my slave forefathers travelled infinitely worse.

Fairness is a pursuit.

The incline on my side of the road is steeper. That’s why I will seek parity through longer strides and hurried steps. I will overwhelm the prejudice. I will always remember the scars. I will not inflict them on others. My honor demands that. My forefathers encourage me so.

It’s my turn to make the world a better place for my kids. And their friends of all colors. Love will have to be color blind.

But I will never submit to inequitability. The weak smell susceptibility in generosity. My generosity is in self empowerment, shared success and collective enhancement. I forgive, but give no more.

I urge the people in power to empower the weak. Let’s raise the tide.

-Brij

Juneteenth 2021

Hello Brij!

Today is Juneteenth, which commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African-Americans. This week, it was recognized as a federal holiday after President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act into law.

I thought I would share my letter from last year leading up to Juneteenth events.

Until next time….

-sonya

#GetVaccinated

Hello, Brij!

On Saturday, I read that almost one-third of Kern County is at least partially vaccinated – boosted partially by the expansion of vaccine eligibility in Kern County to include anyone over 16. This week, all Californians 16 and older will be eligible to receive a vaccine.

At Bakersfield College, we’ve been promoting vaccines as a public health necessity. I’ve been sharing updates from our vaccine clinics on my personal blog, sonyachristianblog.com. We’ve held several clinics on our Panorama Campus, and we have also held clinics in Arvin and Delano to reach our more rural populations.

But I know that vaccine hesitancy is still a concern for many, and helping to ease those concerns is our next big challenge. I wanted to share a few videos that we’ve created at BC to help assuage fears.

We also had Student Health & Wellness Center Director Cindy Collier speak about some of the myths surrounding the Covid-19 vaccine:

I know that we must all work together to end this global pandemic. It’s exciting to know that in California, our cases are down and Gov. Gavin Newsom hopes we can continue on this trajectory to reopen our state’s economy on June 15. But I know that in order to achieve these ambitious goals, we must all do our part over the next few months.

What’s been on your mind, Brij?

Until next time….

-sonya

Crack of Dawn

A physician prepares COVID-19 vaccines at a clinic hosted by Bakersfield College.

[The following article was published as a Community Voices op-ed in the Bakersfield Californian on March 11, 2021]

It’s been a long time coming. Spring this year seems to have bounce in its step. The pandemic seems to be slipping in the rearview mirror.

As a bonus, the flu virus yielded to COVID-19 precautions and called in “sick.” We have virtually no flu this year. Prevailing preventative measures that effectively eliminated flu, in the face of continued rampage by COVID-19, is a testament to remarkably high contagiousness of COVID-19. A contagiousness that can be only contained through a relentless campaign of near universal vaccination.

Virus hesitancy is emerging now as our current and present challenge.

A high rate of infection in the U.S. since the start of the pandemic hugely burdened the country. These upfront costs are now turning into investments. Between confirmed and asymptomatic infections, there are roughly 100 million Americans with a spectrum of immunity.

Increasing vaccinations and a substantial base of naturally immunized bring us proximate to community immunity, ahead of schedule. Remember immunity to the SARS-2 virus was a burning question this time last year. Development of vaccines that would be safe and effective was a figment of hope. An accelerated schedule condensed into a matter of months, a first in vaccine development.

We did incur huge losses in life, health, education, business, career development and economy in general. The damage, both widespread and disparate, could have been worse still.

Science saved us. Until now, a relatively stable virus allowed us a path forward. Lately, the virus has been exhibiting its evolutionary genius. Its variants latch on better, evade adaptive immunity of previous infection, skirt the vaccine and pack a more pungent punch. The cat and mouse game is on.

It is well established that the most effective way to limit variants is to limit virus replication, by limiting virus spread. Vaccination limits infections by eliminating vulnerability. Preventative measures limit infections by keeping the virus at a bay.

As vaccine production and access increases, vaccine hesitancy is emerging as the next challenge.

Vaccine hesitancy is multifold.

There is a well choreographed effort by the anti-vaxxers, piggy backed by usual social media instigators and hostile actors from across the world. These actors can barely hold their glee as we self destruct in an intransigent melee.

No, the vaccine won’t give you a third eye. Bill Gates has not invented nano particles with embedded video cameras to record all your moves.

The argument of rushed development for political reasons is looking tired. Vaccine development is the result of genius and indefatigable efforts of scientists and leadership involved in Operation Warp Speed.

Both Presidents Trump and Biden have taken the vaccine with their spouses. That’s vaccine bipartisanship. Let’s build on it.

When seen through the prism of fetal cell, a vaccine can be a hard hill to climb for the faithful. Borrowed breaths from a compromised conscience can be a corrupt bargain. Facts are at variance though. There is no component of immortalized lineage of lab grown cells, derivatives of remote fetal tissue, that is incorporated in the vaccine and injected into the human body. The Vatican has made its position clear. There is decency and divinity in saving human life. The vaccinated are less likely to spread the virus to the vulnerable and more likely to protect by literally being a human shield between the virus and the vulnerable. The concept of greater good encouraged by the Vatican is by no means an endorsement of birth control but pandemic control. Pope Francis took the vaccine.

The high contagiousness of COVID-19 and its evolutionary versatility demands a very high percentage of public immunity to get over the hump.

Now is not the time to sit on the fence and allow the virus to morph. The vaccinated are protected and protect. Vaccine hesitancy is counter to civic responsibility. The crack of dawn is an invitation to step outside and live life to its fullest. Let’s avail it.

Time to be all aboard.

Adios Team Virus.

Salud Team America.