Merry Christmas

The long journey of Christmas from reluctant celebration in 4th century AD to current cosmopolitan, kaleidoscopic, cultural extravaganza merits a brief historical look back. The early puritans confined celebrations of Jesus of Nazareth to Easter. Even the precise date of birth was apparently kept a mystery to preempt celebration of Jesus’s birth.

Christmas was first celebrated in 4th century AD and increasingly found an enlarging audience. By middle ages Pagan celebrations were comprehensibly substituted by Christmas. There were brief periods of puritanical cancel Christmas outbursts, both in England and USA. Those outburst had the longevity of ephemeral effervescence of yesterday’s bubbly.

The legend of Santa Claus goes back to 280 AD when a monk named St. Nicholas catered to needy, sick and children. His generosity has since been immortalized in the slightly modified name of Santa Clause. He still puts smiles on children’s faces.

In 1870, Christmas was declared a federal holiday in USA.

From proximity to Winter Solstice, birth of Jesus and advent of a new year, the politically correct connotation of Holiday Season, bundles an assortment of joys. For the faithful, reasons for gratitude maybe many. But joy seems to be universal, and that we can be grateful for.

As we anxiously step out of the smothering confines of the pandemic, prayers may seek answers in the attenuated virulence of Omicron. Let it be a vaccine for the world. Thats a miracle this Christmas may well be remembered for.

Meanwhile, from my house to yours, Merry Christmas!

-Brij

Cohabitating with Covid

The chaos that marked the first two years of pandemic is finally settling in to a sharpening focus. The virus is no longer novel and vulnerability no longer universal. The degree of contagiousness and severity of virulence of continually mutating virus will keep us vigilant but wont push us in to a paralysis of locked doors.

We have learned much about the virus. We know how it spreads and deep cleaning is a resource wastefulness. From the peak in hospital mortality of twenty plus percent, improved care has favorably reduced the death rate to mid single digit. We know virus lethality favors elderly, obese and those with comorbidities. We are better able to triage our efforts to those at most risk. At risk patients can significantly lower risk through out patient monoclonal antibodies.

Vaccines and boosters remain the most effective preventative tools.

Unfortunately, virus also shed light on some of our flaws. We humans think differently. Cognitive bias can lock our brains in a hermetic seal. The fat based virtue of open mindedness that welcomes persuasiveness does not stand a chance.  Facts get distorted and reason gets reduced to derision. It is what it is.

The vaccine divide whether by personal choice or barriers of access is here to stay. Issues of access are being incrementally remedied. Naturally acquired immunity also makes a “natural” ally in the fight against the virus.

Pharma, mRNA based vaccines, compliance to mitigating measures etc by many give us rising hope.

Against this background, we have to choreograph a realtime readiness as new variants morph in to the next surge. Fortunately, here we are dealing with only two variables: hospitalization rate and numbers likely to be hospitalized. We don’t have a three body problem. We can work with this modeling.

If we take only hospitalization as a metric to calibrate mitigation measures, we look at a lagging indicator and predictably doom the healthcare as a large number of newly infected will faithfully stress supply chain as time lag catches up.

The projected hospitalization rate based upon prevalence of infection and severity will lend a workable calculation on hospital occupancy two weeks hence. Current occupancy is only relevant when blended with projected peak hospital occupancy. This integrated model can lessen uncertainty and rectify future demand supply disequilibrium. A calibrated approach that guides mitigation measures is our key to unburdened health care and open businesses.

Example: lets say healthcare need to be determined in a community of 1000,000. Lets say the new variant infects 10% over a period of couple weeks(an extreme scenario). If the variant causes hospitalization in 2% of the infected, then projected cumulative demand over next 2-4 weeks will equal 2000 beds.

These numbers are not static. New infections, adoption of mitigation measures, recoveries, existing hospitalizations, length of stay in hospital, ICU occupancy etc are many variables that can be predictably modeled.

On the other hand if downstream hospitalization rate is less than 0.5% then virus essentially becomes a vaccine. Putting emphasis only on number of infections in a community is an incomplete and practically useless metric.

-Brij

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