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Archive for the ‘Social Issues’ Category

Kabir & Bulleh Shah- the need of our dark ages.


Depressed and dejected with the ever rising religious extremism, intolerance and hatred in the world at large, helplessness over powers oneself. The only ray of hope left are the few shining stars in this dark sky that shone on our lands several centuries ago. Their golden words still need to be heard and heeded by one and all.

Kabir from India and Bulleh Shah from what is now Pakistan are two voices that spoke of peace and love beyond beliefs and borders. They were shunned in their own times, but if they were reborn now, they would not find much has changed from those days.

Reminscing their poetry, I dare to use them on painting a silk scarf.

The scarf background is black, which represents the dark ages of extremism, intolerance and bigotry that we currently are going through.

The golden messages of the verses are scribbled in golden ink, The verses chosen  relate to the abundance of  knowlege, in this era of information revolution, but the information that still fails to convey the message of peace and tolerance that it should accompany.

The languages have been reversed,
Kabir written in Urdu and Bulleh Shah in Hindi so that both sides are able to read them.

Silk1 001

Bulleh Shah here says:

Parh parh aalim faazil hoya, kadi nafs apne nu parheya ai nayi,
Ja ja werda mandi maseetey, kadi man apne nu wareya ai nayi.

( You read bookes, became learned, but never read (compassion in )your own conscience,
You visited temples and mosques, but never visited (the love)in your own heart.)
KabirBullehShahSilk 003

Kabir says:

Pothi parh parh jag muwa pandit bhaya na koi,
Dhaayi akher prem ka parhe to pandit hoye.

{The whole world read books after books, but no one became learned,
Read two and a half words of love ( peace and compassion), to be a learned}

KabirBullehShahSilk1 001

The peace symbols in the middle of the silk scarf are crisscrossed by chaos and confusion prevalent in our times.
KabirBullehShahSilk 013

KabirBullehShahSilk 014

The edges below the verses represent the hearts interlinked through love and peace, if only we heeded the verses in spirit.

KabirBullehShahSilk 009

It was heartening to see Kabir’s message of love and peace ( coincidentally the same verses that I was scribbling), being presented in another art form, called Dastangoi. I dedicate this piece and the blog to this wonderful  Kabir presentation. 🙂

 

Samra’s story: When marital abuse did not break her


First published in Express Tribune, Pakistan on June 10, 2013 : http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/17620/samras-story-when-marital-abuse-did-not-break-her/

 

Attending the graduation ceremony of students at the prestigious University of Toronto, my daughter pointed out Samra Zafar, saying

“She topped in Economics and she is a Pakistani!”

Samra was flanked not by parents, but two daughters, aged 12 and seven. I wanted to know more about her, and hence invited her over to our house next evening.

At home, while sipping tea, Samra shared her 14 year journey with me and I was absolutely floored by her story.

In 1999, in Abu Dhabi, Samra was a brilliant 16-years-old student of grade 11, dreaming to go to a foreign university to pursue higher studies. Her only fault was that she was tall and extremely good looking – she was a dream bride. Hence when the proposal from a ‘well settled boy in Canada’ arrived, it was difficult for her working class parents to refuse. Eldest of four daughters, the parents thought this would give her a great opportunity to go aboard and pursue her dream, under the safety of her husband and in-laws.

The in-laws reassured their support too.

However, once married and in Canada, things changed. She was told,

“The atmosphere in high schools is not good, and hence it is better to not be thankless and stay happy at home.”

Samra refused to give up though and completed her high school courses through distance learning.

Despite being a mom at the age of 18, she excelled in her high school exams and got accepted to the University of Toronto. Her husband, however, refused to support her and his good financial status left her ineligible for university loans. She tried to convince her in laws for three years but to no avail.

It was not just her education; she was under strict vigil all the time. She was not allowed to leave the house, had no cell phone and was not allowed to learn how to drive. She never had a penny on herself and was constantly abused and neglected.

Samra had not visited her parents for five years. The first time she went back was when her father sent tickets for Samra and her daughter. When she was leaving, she asked her husband fora meagre $10 so that she could have some coffee and buy some chocolate for her daughter during their transit stop at Heathrow Airport. He just snarled at here and said,

“Ask your father for that too.”

She had left and did not intend to come back, but her husband begged her to return with a promise that he would change and that she will be allowed to study this time; he said that he realized he could not live without her. Reassured, Samra returned, only to know that once she got pregnant the second time, the physical abuse was to became worse.

Samra stated that,

“A bruise on my upper arm was a permanent fixture, as in every bout of anger, he would grab my arm really hard and squeeze. Often he pushed me, pulled my hair and spit in my face, even in front of my daughters.”

Again disheartened, she went back to her father’s home, pregnant with her second daughter. Within a couple of months her father suddenly fell ill and passed away. Samra recalls the day before his death and the advice her father gave her when he said,

“My life is uncertain, I may not live to look after you. You have to be strong and pull yourself out of this. I have always envisioned seeing you at the top of a world ranking University.”

Things had changed. Her mother was alone now and had two other unmarried daughters to support.

Samra, accepting it as fate, returned to her husband. To earn her own money, she began baby sitting in her house. As consolation to continue her work, she would give her husband some pocket money from which he would buy his cigarettes and a share to her mother in law, too, to earn their approval.

In 2008, she applied again and got accepted to the University of Toronto. This time she did not have to look to her husband for financial assistance, as her child care business could enable her to pay her own fees. However, this led to escalation of physical abuse. She was instructed by her husband on a daily basis,

“Don’t talk to your male professors, don’t talk to anyone on campus and don’t go to the library.”

The abuse was so severe, that she had to take a break after the first year. Several times she had suicidal thoughts and her self-confidence had completely shattered. That led her to a meeting with the Psychological Counselor at the university campus. She attended the sessions in secrecy and there she was informed that what she was going through was a typical cycle of domestic abuse. And that it was not her fault, or her destiny to bear it.

She reveals;

“It was my daily routine to beg my husband and ask him, ‘Why do you do this? Why don’t you love me?’”

And all he replied with each time was,

“Because you deserve this.”

The psychological counselling at the university, gave her the strength to get back to university. By the second year, the abuse had become worse but she had been told that she could call 911 if need be.

“I will call the cops, if you hit me again.” She uttered once, while her husband raised his hand. That is what triggered him to say,

“Talaq, talaq, talaq.”

(I divorce you, I divorce you, I divorce you.)

Samra says,

“I was shattered, and I did not know what to do next. If I left the house, I would not have childcare income. How would I continue to study? I had two young girls to support.”

Samra’s husband and in-laws ran from pillar to post to get Fatwas to invalidate the divorce. Samra laughs,

“Once my mother-in-law even brought a person for the necessary Halala to rectify the Talaq.”

However, by now Samra had, despite many weak moments, gathered enough strength to move out of this cyclical abuse and face what came her way.

She shifted to a residence at the university campus. Her husband and in-laws then tried threatening her; they said either return or they would malign her in the local Pakistani community of her ‘living’ with men at the university. Her husband often told their daughter,

Do you think your mother goes to university to study only?”

Samra revealed that,

“After a decade of physical, financial, psychological and emotional, abuse it was only in the summer of 2011, that I finally had the courage to go to the cops and give a detailed, date by date account of the abuse I faced, along with the evidence.”

As a result, her husband was arrested on four counts of assault. Despite two court cases, three jobs and two children, she continued to excel in her studies and became head teaching assistant.

Today, Monday June 10, 2013, at the official convocation of the prestigious University of Toronto, Samra will not only be awarded a Bachelors degree in Economics, but she will also be awarded the prestigious Top Student Award in Economics. She also has to her credit a dozen more awards given to her for her academic excellence in the past four years, including the prestigious John H Moss Scholarship, which is awarded annually to a single student in the entire university (all three campuses). She has also been admitted to the PhD program in Economics at the University of Toronto, with a full scholarship.

When not studying or working, Samra loves cooking for her girls and gives them all the free time she gets.

“We are now the happiest we have ever been.”

I asked her how she would advise other girls who are trapped in the same scenario and to that she said,

“Do not let anyone disrespect you. Believe in yourself. You are the only one who can change your situation. It is not easy, but it isn’t impossible either. I had all the disadvantages any girl could have.”

She refers to the myth of needing a man as a support,

I have no father, brother, son, or husband to support me. But I have done it, all by myself. If I can do it, anyone can.”

Read more by Ilmana here or follow her on Twitter @Zeemana

Kheloongi Holi ( I shall play Holi)


Published in Express Tribune Blogs here > http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/33221/you-can-play-holi-too-even-if-you-are-muslim/

 

Phagwa, more commonly known as Holi, celebrated on the full moon day of Phalgun, is a festival that heralds the arrival of spring. Played with dry and wet color, it is a symbolic expression for the changing temperatures and the blossoming fields.

Since very young, on the morning of Holi, I saw my Muslim parents being called at the gates of our house in Delhi, by a group of faces immersed in colors, who all looked almost identical. As my parents walked out, they were enthusiastically smeared with color by the crowd, and they too lost their identity with crowd.  It left no clue as to who was who, when they roared together with laughter and excitement.  As we siblings grew up, we joined in too, with our set of friends.

Holi, as I envision it,  is a perfect way to depict a spirit of universal brotherhood beyond color, creed, caste or social status.

If  taken in it’s true spirits, Holi never was and never is meant to be a religious festival to be celebrated by a select faith.

Though, like other religious festivals, it too claims a legend with a victory of the good over the evil ( The Story of Holika). However, from the context of its current celebration, it is said to have begun by the love duo Krishna and Radha.
Krishna as a young boy, being extremely dark complexioned, complained to his mother Yashoda, why was he dark, while his beloved Radha fair?

The conversation between a complaining son, and  his doting mother,  is  narrated beautifully, in a famous folk song:

Yashomati mayya sey bole Nand Lala,
Radha kyun gori, main kyun kala?
Boli muskaati Mayya, Sun merey pyaare,
Gori gori Radhika ke, nain kajrare,
Kaale nainon waali ney, aisa jadu dala,
Tuu isee liye  kaala.

(Krishna asks mother Yashoda: “Why am I dark, while Radha is so fair?”
Mother  smiles and replies: “Listen my dear, the fair Radha’s kohl eyes have swept you with their magic, and hence are you so dark.)

And one day teasingly to console Krishna she is said to have told him: “What’s in a color? Go and smear Radha’s face with any color you like.”
And Krishna out of love for Radha, smeared her with red color( gulaal).

Legend claims that  thus began  the playing of colors ( Holi khelna), between Krishna and Radha along with her friends referred to as Gopis.

Their romance with playing Holi has been immortalized in many miniature painting s:
HoliRadhaKrishna1

Another one, with in Mughal art:
HoliRadhaKrishna2

Mughal Emperors  too fancied Holi, for its association with color and romance. They brought the practice of playing Holi to their courts and palaces.

Akber is no surprise, knowing his secular conviction and a Hindu Queen, Joda Bai.

Jehangir, the romantic art connoisseur, is documented to have played Holi with his Queen Noor Jehan in his palace and called it Eid-e-Gulabi. It isnt hard to imagine the ecstatic aroma and aura that must have been created in the palace by red gulaal,  rose petals ( gulab paashi) and   rose water (aab paashi) being sprinkled during the royal play.

Auranzeb’s fancy for the colors of Holi came as a surprise to me. Writes Lane Poole in biography Auranzeb: “During his time there used to be several groups of Holi singers who besides reciting libertine lyrics also indulged in salaciousness, accompanied by various musical instruments.”

Bahadur Shah Zafar’s verses on Holi now are sung as part of the phaag ( folk songs of Holi). One of the most sung verses being:

Kyo Mo Pe Rang Ki Maari Pichkaari
Dekho Kunwar Ji Doongi Mein Gaari
(Why drench me with color spray,
now my prince, I will swear at you)

Bahut Dinan Mein Haath Lage Ho Kaise Jane Doon
Aaj Phagwa To Son Ka Tha Peeth Pakad Kar Loon.
(
After long have you come in my hands, how will I let you go?
Today is Holi, and perfect time to catch hold of you)

This is Mughal Emperor Jehangir playing Holi in his palace:
HoliJehangir

Sufi poets too eulogized the Radha Krishna romance and Holi, when expressing their love for their revered Sufi Saints or even God.

To begin with  Sufi poets, it is Shah Niaz’s ‘s Hori Ho Rahi hai, (immortalized by Abida Parveen):

Holi hoye rahi hai Ahmad Jiya ke dwaar
Hazrat Ali ka rang bano hai Hassan Hussain khilaar
Aiso holi ki dhoom machi hai chahoon or pari hai pukaar
Aiso anokho chatur khiladi rang deeyon sansaar
“Niaz” pyaara bhar bhar chidke ek hi raang sahas pichkaar.

(Holi is happening at beloved, Ahmed’s (saww) doorsteps.
Color has become of Hazrat Ali (as) and Hasan (as), Hussain (as) are playing.
It has become such a bustling scene of Holi that it has become talk of the town,
people are calling others from all over,
What unique and clever players (Hasan and Hussain) that they colored the entire world.
Niaz (the poet) sprinkles bowlfuls of color all around,
the same color that comes out of thousands of pichkaaris ( spray guns).)
{Thanks to Ali Rehman @Baahirezaman for the translation}.

Bulleh Shah also played Holi with his Master:

Hori khailoongi keh kar Bismillah
Naam nabi ki rattan charhi, bond pari Illalah
Rang rangeli ohi khilawe, jo sakhi howe fana fi Allah

(I shall play Holi, beginning with the name of Allah.
The name of Prophet is enveloped with light,
He only makes us play with colors, who annihilates with Allah)

Amir Khusro  relates to  Holi through multiple fascinating ways, in various places. Khusrau refers  not just to the color, or the play but of  the birth place of Krishna Mathura in the famous Aaj Rung hai rey:

Gokal dekha, Mathra dekha,
par tosa na koi rang dekha
Ey main dhoond phiri hoon
Des bides mein dhoond phiri hoon,

Purab dekha pacham dekha
uttar dekha dakkan dekha
Re main dhoond phiri hoon
Des bides mein dhoond phiri hoon,

Tora rang man bhaayo Moinuddin
Mohe apne hi rang mein rang le Khwaja ji
Mohe rang basanti rang de Khwaja Ji
Mohe apne hi rang mein rang de

{In summary: I saw Gokul, Mathura ( bith place of Krishna) and even East to West I roamed, but I did not find anyone with a color like yours. My heart is enamored by your color, hence color me in your shade, my master.}

Another lesser know verse I came across is:

Khelooongi Holi, Khaaja ghar aaye,
Dhan dhan bhaag hamarey sajni,
Khaaja aaye aangan merey..
( I shall play Holi as Khaaja has come to my home,
Blessed is my fortune, O’ friend,
as Khaaja has come to my courtyard.)

Needless to repeat, there are ample such examples.  No matter how much one may attempt, it is impossible to separate the two inter-meshed   cultures coexistent for centuries in the subcontinent. These celebrations of culture are all about love and inclusion, and absolutely nothing about hate and discrimination.

Let’s celebrate then, with an open heart !

Holi pic

Here is the link to Amir Khusrau’s Kheloongi Holi, Khaaja ghar aaye:

Hear the snowflakes speak…


Snow storm

Next time,
you are stranded in your car,
in a snow storm,
snail pacing thro the traffic,
Turn on a soft music and,
watch each snowflake closely,
so beautifully crafted,
yet none two identical,
in shape, size or character,
sailing down, leisurely,
in a silent chaos,
trying to speak to you.
And hitting the windscreen,
trying to reach you,
To whisper to you,
“How pure, soft, different are we.
But so short lived as individuals,
While so lasting when together.”

snowflakes2

Being the ‘eighteenth camel’ for peace.


One advice by a Good Samaritan couple has come a long way for me, as an Indian Pakistani. Just a few days after being married, the couple of a similar kind advised, “Don’t quarrel over India or Pakistan; you will not be able to make any country a Heaven, but will make your own home a Hell.”

The exercise was easier said than done, but with few hard lessons, I ultimately decided that instead of acting an all patriotic for one side and holding a dagger against the other, I need to uphold objectivity, and a shield against  the emotional daggers hurled from both sides. And this is how I could actually see  how similar are both the people and their problems, and that both deserve to be seen with fairness. Hence to empathize with them of both became remained the only option. This is how I found my ‘eighteenth camel’, which to many of my friends is still an impossible option i.e. to love both India and Pakistan as much.

Just to narrate the context of ‘eighteenth camel’, the phrase is based on an Arab parable.

“There was an old Bedouin who had three sons, and all the treasure he had were17 camels. While dying he left a will to give one half of the camels to the oldest son, one third to the second and one-ninth to the third son. After his death, the sons began to quarrel, and since there was no way they could divide 17 camels into half, one third, or one ninth, none of them could have their share from the pie.
They approached a wise woman, and asked her to solve the problem. She was nonplussed too, and thought really hard. She sincerely wanted to solve the problem, even if it meant her sacrificing something from her side. So she decided to give one of her camels to them, so that it becomes `18, and now each one could easily get their share as the number was divisible by all –one half, one third and one ninth.
The sons were very excited and they began the mathematics. The one with half the share took nine camels, the one with a third took six, and the one with a ninth took his two.
To their surprise, they realized that after adding their shares, it was again 17 (9+6+2) and they were left with one camel. Since they were so content with their fair shares and at the generosity of the wise woman, that all of them with consensus decided to return the camel to her and that too with gratitude.”

So obvious from the story, even by finding my eighteenth camel, I did not lose anything.

From the India-Pakistan perspective, if we as common masses consider ourselves as the wise woman, and make an effort to find the eighteenth camel, we too would lose nothing, at all. Our love for our own country cannot in anyway be compromised. Giving a flicker of thought, that instead of harboring a venomous hate for the other side, we need think of them being as human as us– with same rogue elements, and vested interests trying to sabotage the peace process.

It would be unfair to generalize both sides as hate mongers, and I know firsthand that both aspire for peace as much.

But come a conflict, deliberate or accidental, between India and Pakistan, media takes the lead, with magniloquence of the ‘breaking news’. And the TV channels start to balderdash every few minutes, repeatedly beating sensationalism into the eardrums of the masses. And responding to its cries, the sleeping patriotic Bheemas in us suddenly wake up hungry, desperate to chew up the other side. Even before the facts come up, the mainstream media and the individuals on social media throw themselves into convulsions, frothing hatefully.

Haven’t we seen this circus both sides, all too often? Are we not yet fed up of this drama occurring day in and day out, sucking up our positive energies?

Can we as helpless masses be a solution? As above, I repeat, yes, we can be the ‘eighteenth camel’, being the unified voice of peace.

“Secret to peace is us, the humanity.” says an anthropologist Willaim Ury

We on the subcontinent are a billion and a half humanity, out of which two thirds are the youngsters who are or yet to embark on a journey of adulthood, and there lay decades of life ahead for them. Imagine if each day or each week, they simply indulge in barrage of hate waves either in sympathy for a Siachen, or Godra or Mumbai or even Zeeshan Abbasi? How will they be able to grow as productive individuals with such frequent doses of hatred?

Says poet EE Cummings “Hatred bounces.”

Aren’t we seeing it bouncing higher and higher with each incident?

Both sides have their own fair share of problems to wrestle with, and most of them are identical. Name it and we both have them– religious extremism, corruption, poverty, ill-health,  ignorance, women abuse, and the list goes on…

Should we not be aligning with each other, and be the unified voice of peace? And with numbers on our side, we can show to the vested interests that we want to live with dignity, with prosperity and with peace, and that our voice matters.

Being eighteenth camels for peace, do we lose anything?  No.

We all win, and no one loses.

happy_camel

Preparing for the New Arrival- Prenatal Checkup


Every human being deserves to be in good health, at all ages.

For women likely or planning to embark on pregnancy need to be healthy is even more. The health of a woman has bearing not only to her own future health during and after pregnancy, but also of her unborn baby developing in her.

Unplanned pregnancies are at a greater risk not only to the mother, but to the babies with preterm and low birth babies. Some medical conditions and medications can harm the developing baby.

pregnant exam

Ideally the preparation for pregnancy should begin 3 months before getting pregnant. Some actions, such as quitting smoking, reaching a healthy weight, or adjusting medicines already in use, should start even earlier.

Steps to take before PLANNING a pregnancy:
1. All women need to take 400 to 800 micrograms of folic acid every day. It is proven that, folic acid lowers your risk of some birth defects of the brain and spine, including spina bifida. Talk to your doctor about your folic acid needs.
2. Stop smoking and drinking alcohol– it is better to start much earlier.
3. If you have any medical condition, be sure it is under control. Common conditions include: asthma, diabetes, oral health, obesity, or epilepsy.
4. For any over-the-counter and prescription medicines you are using, do inform your doctor about it. These include dietary or herbal supplements.
5. Be sure your vaccinations especially the Rubella vaccination is up to date.
6. Avoid contact with toxic substances or materials that could cause infection at work and at home. Stay away specially from chemicals and cat or rodent feces.
7. Avoid intake of fish that can be high in mercury, like shark, swordfish, king mackerel and tilefish.

If there has occurred an UNPLANNED PREGNANCY:
Start taking care of yourself right away.

• Take 400 to 800 micrograms (400 to 800 mcg or 0.4 to 0.8 mg) folic acid every day.
• Stop alcohol, tobacco, and drug use. Ask help for quitting smoking.
• Make a doctor’s visit to confirm your pregnancy.
• Discuss your health and issues that could affect your pregnancy. Find out what you can do to take care of yourself and your unborn baby.

What are the different periods/trimesters of pregnancy?

Pregnancy can be divided into 3 trimesters of approximately 3 months each. They are:

pregnancy trimesters.

What happens during prenatal visits?

During the first prenatal visit, you can expect your doctor to:

  •  Ask about your health history including previous pregnancies, other diseases, operations etc.
  • Calculate your due date from your last menstrual period.
  • Ask about your family’s health history
  • Do a complete physical exam, including a pelvic exam and Pap test
  • Check your blood pressure, height, and weight
  • Take your blood and urine for lab work—Blood group, Hemoglobin, check immunity to certain infectios esp Rubella, Varicella, Blood tests for infections like: hepatitis B, toxoplasmosis, syphilis, gonorrhea or chlamydia. You might also be offered a test to check for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
  • Will order for you an Ultrasound test: To detect the location, and double check the age of the growing foetus. The doctor may also ask for certain extra blood and US tests to check for fetal abnormalities.
  • Answer your questions—you must freely discuss all your concerns and fears with your doctor. Find out all you can about how to stay healthy.

Note: The purpose of first prenatal visit is to book with the doctor, get your date of delivery ascertained, check if there are any risks to the pregnancy & get basic tests done.

Following prenatal visits will probably be shorter.

  • Your doctor will check on your health and make sure the baby is growing as expected. Most prenatal visits will include:
  • Checking your blood pressure
  • Measuring your weight gain
  • Measuring your abdomen to check your baby’s growth (once you begin to show)
  • Checking the baby’s heart rate—Though Ultrasound can detect the heart rate almost at any early age, but for a heart beat by a Doppler is heard only after 3 months.
  • You will probably not need any internal (pelvic examination) till the later part of pregnancy.

Number and Frequency of prenatal visits:
Usually the visits are monthly till 28 weeks, then in two weeks, till 36 weeks. The purpose of the tests during the pregnancy is to ensure that the baby is growing as expected, and that the health of the mother is also normal. Regular checkups will help in finding out any deviation from normal early, and hence easy to handle.
Towards the end, after 36 weeks, the visits become weekly, just to make sure, that the growth and the position of the baby is normal enough for a normal delivery, or if not, then prepare for a surgical delivery.

Special Tests during pregnancy:
In the fifth month, the doctor shall ask you for a blood test to check Glucose tolerance. This is to rule out if you have the risk of developing high blood sugar in the pregnancy, as this can harm the growth of the baby.
Some specialist centers  may also do a ‘cardiac Ultrasound at five months ( 20 weeks) to check that baby has no heart defect.
If your Blood group is Rh negative while husband’s is positive, the doctor will ask for a Rh Antibodies test.

Ultrasound scans during pregnancy:

  • In the first 10 weeks of pregnancy the best way to scan is by inserting a small probe into the vagina. The examination is similar to an internal pelvic examination. Embryos as small as a few millimeters long will be visible on the TV monitor. The procedure my be a little uncomfortable for some, but it is not painful at all.
  • In later stages of the pregnancy, the scanning will be done via the surface of the abdomen. Ultrasound gel will be spread on the skin, then the scanner is passed over the uterus until the fetus and the placenta are found. Usually, the pregnant woman and her partner can watch the scan on the monitor.
  • In the first stage of the pregnancy, usually before 14 weeks, ultrasound scanning is used to check whether the fetus is alive and whether it is alone or one of twins or triplets.
  • By measuring the length of the fetus it is also possible to accurately determine when the baby will be due.Some major abnormalities can also be detected at this stage.
  • At 11 to 14 weeks, measurement of the thickness of the skin at the back of the neck (known as nuchal translucency measurement) can be used to calculate the risk of the fetus having a chromosome abnormality.
  • From 18 weeks onward  it is possible to examine the fetus in more detail. Most organ systems can be examined to ensure that the fetus appears to be developing normally. The spine, skull, brain, heart, lungs, kidneys, arms and legs can all be seen. If the mother is overweight, then the quality of the examination may be poor.
  • From 30 weeks onward  ultrasound is often used to estimate how well the baby appears to be growing. It is difficult to be precise about this but it is often useful if the woman has had a small baby in the past or has a condition that may affect the baby’s growth, such as preeclampsia.
  • The bloodstream in the umbilical cord is also examined to see if it is functioning well enough to transport sufficient oxygen and nutrition to the fetus.
  • It is also possible to check the position of the placenta to see whether it is lying normally or if the placenta is lying abnormally close to the inside of the cervix (a condition known as placenta praevia).
  • There is no scientific evidence to support the concern of harm caused by repeated US scan.

pregnancy_ultrasoundObsUS

Last weeks of pregnancy:

  • After 36 weeks till 40 weeks you will be asked to visit every week.
  • Apart from the usual weight and blood pressure, the doctor will lay more emphasis on the abdominal and pelvic examination to assess the position of the baby and its possibility of a normal birth through vaginal delivery.
  • If the baby is with head down, you are good to go with normal delivery.
  • If the baby is positioned otherwise i.e. rump or legs first( breech) the doctor might try to over the abdomen to turn the baby to head down. This is called as external cephalic version.
  • If it still remains so, then you might need Cesaerian section.
  • In the last visits, do ask doctor about any questions that arise in your mind, pertaining to the child birth, like sexual intercourse in the last weeks, or about the preparation of the new arrival, like Breast feeding the baby, and other concerns. This is also the right time to discuss, what are the different methods of birth control, in order to space the next child.

Role of the Dads to be:
You know it takes two to make a baby. She’s not the only one who’s expecting, you too are. Hence the responsibility does not stop there. Nor does it stay limited to driving a screaming partner to the hospital for child birth and then pacing in the corridor to hear if it’s a girl or a boy.

Research has shown, the Dads who take part in the pregnancy have less infant mortality rates. And there needs to be a relationship built with the baby while the baby is in the mothers womb.

OJO-PE0068533 - © - Chris Ryan

Some of the things fathers-to-be need to do:

  • Create a birth plan together-the doctor to be seen, the place of birth, the method of birth, even about the time baby arrives.
  • Read up together with the Mom to be about pregnancy from the net, books, hospital brochures etc.
  • Accompany her to her prenatal visits, her tests and Ultrasound scans. Also know what is being done and why?
  • Nurture the Mom to be—understand her condition, her anxieties, help her in the daily chores, make her rest, and most of all pamper her, after all she is carrying your baby.
  • Build a relationship with the baby. Studies show that babies in the womb can hear outside noises (and voices) as early as the fourteenth week. By talking to your baby he/she will be familiar with your voice even when still in the womb and this will help develop a closer bond with your tot before he/she enters the real world.
  • Lastly, enjoy your new role, don’t take it as a challenge or burden.

Dr. Bradley said (in his path-breaking book “Husband-Coached Childbirth”), “You can’t beat a husband as a companion in labour!”

pregnancy Dad

Childbirth:

From 36 weeks to 40 weeks , it is normal time for childbirth. If no onset of labor  pregnancy can be allowed to go on till 42 weeks, but there is close watch at the baby with weekly checkups.

Majority i.e. 85% or more have normal childbirth, while 15% or less may need a Caesaerian section.

There are many details, and information an expectant couple would like to learn, about child birth. The are many details you need to know, and hence I suggest you to read, and understand about Sign of labor  types of delivery  episiotomy, epidural anaesthesia etc and know terms like Labor Pains, cervical effacement, breaking water, episiotomy etc. This link answer many of your queries.

newborn

“A mother’s joy begins when new life is stirring inside… when a tiny heartbeat is heard for the very first time, and a playful kick reminds her that she is never alone“

How to avoid Cancer !


What is cancer?
Cancer is not just one disease, but many diseases. There are more than 100 different types of cancer.
Cancer is a term used for diseases in which abnormal cells divide without control and are able to invade other tissues. Cancer cells can spread to other parts of the body through the blood and lymph systems.
Cancer is a leading cause of disease worldwide (GLOBOCAN estimates that 12.7 million new cancer cases occurred worldwide in 2008).

The top 4 causes being:
• Lung (12.7%)
• Female breast (10.9%)
• Colorectal (9.7%)
• Stomach cancer (7.8%)
In all these four cancers account for 40% of deaths from cancer.

Although the incidence rate in developed countries is twice as high as the developing countries like ours, but the outcome ( in terms of death and disease) is much worse in the developing countries, owing to poor detection at early stage, and poor case management. However, the incidence of cancers related to infections like stomach, liver or cervix ( which can be prevented) are more common in developing countries.

GOOD NEWS is that about half of all cancer cases are preventable. Prevention offers the most cost-effective long-term strategy for the control of cancer.
And even Cancer diagnosis is still not a death statement. If detected early can be cured.

Many reasons within our genes, our lifestyle, and the environment around us may increase or decrease our risk of getting cancer.

There are simple measures that we as ordinary human beings can take to prevent cancers to some extent.

Here are they :

Part 1

LIFESTYLE:

TOBACCO in smoke or chewable form TOPS the list.
Tobacco use is the single greatest avoidable risk factor for cancer mortality worldwide, causing an estimated 22% of all cancer deaths per year.
Cancer that tobacco can cause are of lung, esophagus, larynx (voice box), mouth, throat, kidney, bladder, pancreas, stomach, cervix and female breast.
About 70% of the lung cancer burden can be attributed to smoking alone.
Second-hand smoke (SHS), also known as environmental tobacco smoke, has been proven to cause lung cancer in non-smoking adults.
Avoiding tobacco is best, however cessation of the use of tobacco, gradually reduces the risk, and in 15 yrs is as good as for non smokers.

ALCOHOL
Alcohol is a risk factor for many cancer types including cancer of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, oesophagus, liver, colorectum and breast. Risk of cancer increases with the amount of alcohol consumed. The risk from heavy drinking for several cancer types (e.g. oral cavity, pharynx, larynx and esophagus) substantially increases if the person is also a heavy smoker.
WEIGHT & EXERCISE
Obesity is a cause for most chronic diseases and cancers, including breast, prostate, lung, colon and kidney and endometrium.
A general goal of 30 minutes exercise every day and keeping the body weight in the normal range can avoid from a lot of cancer risks.

RISKY BEHAVIORS:
-Practice safe sex & do not share needles, sharps like nail cutters and razors. There may cause Hepatitis B, C or HIV infections which can then lead to Liver or other cancers. Cancers caused by infectious agents(viruses etc) are more common in developing nations e.g. Cervical Cancer, Liver Cancer and Stomach Cancer.

SUN EXPOSURE:
Light skinned especially should protection from sun by use sunscreen with SPF >30 between 10 AM and 4 PM. Skin cancers like Basal Cell Carcinoma(BCC) or Melanomas. BCC are less aggressive but Melanomas are very aggressive and fast growing cancers & kill 75% of those who have them.

PART-2
FOOD

What makes some foods cancerous?
Refined sugars: They act as fuels for the growing cancer cells, as ready energy. Terms suggestive of refined sugars on food labels are: high-fructose corn syrup, sugar, sucrose, enriched bleached flour, white rice, white pastas, white breads and other “white” foods. Refined flour are also lacking in fibres which cause cancer.
Hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils: Besides being a cancer factor, trans fats promote heart disease, interrupt metabolic processes, and cause belly fat(obesity) that in turn are again another cause of cancer.
Sodium nitrite (and nitrates): Added to give pink color to the meat. During the digestion process, however, sodium nitrite is converted to nitrosamine, and that’s where the cancer problems begin. Nitrosamine is a carcinogen. Nitrosamines are also found in food items that are pickled, fried, or smoked; in things such as beer, cheese, and fish by products, and tobacco smoke.
Saturated fats: Usually of animal origin which may cause obesity which is indirectly or directly related to certain cancers.
• Some chemical additives like coloring agents and flavouring agents have also been known to be cancerous.

Top cancerous Foods:
1. Soda pops, sweetened drinks: >2 servings per week increases Pancreatic cancer by 87%. Glucose and Fructose both feed cancer cells. Women who ate the most high-glycaemic-load foods were close to three times more likely to develop colorectal cancer.
2. Fried foods: French fries, hash browns, potato chips, samosas, pooris. – Apart from calories, they contain saturated fat and trans fat, they also contain acryl amides. They should be called “cancer fries,”
3. Processed meats and bacons: burgers, sausages, bacons. Nitrosamines are produced from fat at high temperature cooking, as in tobacco smoking. People who eat a lot of processed meat may be 50 percent more likely to develop colorectal cancer, stomach cancer or pancreatic cancer.
4. Red meats: Beef. Researches show even eating twice a week, they raise a risk by 20% of cancers of breast, colon and prostate cancers.
5. Donuts, Cookies, chips and crackers: Refined sugars, refined flour and trans fats. They scream for themselves that they are cancerous foods.
6. Charred meats, smoked meats: Many studies including one from Harvard have shown a high link between charred meats and cancer of colon, stomach. Even delicious smoked meats are high in nitrosamines due to the nature of their cooking. Trick is eat them sparingly, if cannot avoid.

How can healthy eating prevent cancer?
The main principle is eat simple:
Eat unprocessed foods and base your diet largely on plants. Consume foods that have omega-3 fats and other essential fatty acids.
Eat lots of fruits and vegetables; many common ones have known cancer-fighting properties.
Get regular vigorous exercise, since tumors cannot thrive in highly oxygenated environments.
Keep your blood sugar stable to avoid being an all-you-can-eat buffet for cancer cells.

Top cancer preventing foods:
Green leafy vegetables: These cute little green trees help to fight off stomach, liver, skin, lung, bladder, prostate, and breast cancers. Broccoli contains sulforaphane, an antioxidant that rids the body of cancer-causing toxins.
Hint: Cooked Brocolli tastes mushy, so avoid over cooking, leave it crunchy, or make stir-fry, or eat raw in salads.

Berries: The darker the berry the better still. Blackberry, blue berry, strawberry, raspberry. They contain anthocyanins, antioxidants that slow the growth of premalignant cells.

Garlic: Fights the nitrosamines in the red meat.
Clue: Add garlic to your tomato puree, sauce.

Tomatoes: contain lycopene, which has been shown to stop cancer cell growth according to research. The sure fire way to increase lycopene is by cooking tomatoes.

Walnuts; are the best among nuts for fighting both breast and prostate cancers. Adding just an ounce of walnuts a day will help to keep the cancer away. Vitamin E (gamma-tocopherol) found in nuts and plant seeds may slow the growth of cancer cells.

Beans: Navy and black beans help delay cancer growth of breast and colon cancers. Add a half a cup to your diet a week, at least!

Coffee: Research shows that coffee may contain healing antioxidants as well, preventing colon cancer, diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease. An alkaloid in coffee may even prevent cavities!
Studies also show that drinking coffee helps reduce muscle soreness and improves stamina
Harvard researchers are finding an intriguing link between coffee and the prevention of an aggressive type of prostate cancer. However, it’s too early to recommend boosting coffee drinking to men, although one cup of coffee might be helpful.

Green Tea: Antioxidants of green tea are also known to be cancer preventive.

ENVIRONMENTAL TOXINS:
Many environmental toxins are blamed to be carcinogenic.

The topic of environmental carcinogens is vast and controversial. For details on each aspect and toxins see the link: Here

Part- 3

KNOW YOUR BODY:
Keep a regular check on your body- any moles on the skin, or your breasts ( in women) or testicles (in men), especially while taking shower, or changing clothes. If you feel any change in the shape size, or feel any lump, or feel any change in your body or symptoms which appear unusual to yourself, you must take doctor’s opinion. Please do not panic. This does not mean you necessarily have cancer or a serious problem. But even if it is, it will be detected early.

BE INFORMED:
Cancer Prevention and Early Detection strategies:
Certain cancers are known to be caused by viruses, and being infectious spread easily in developing countries. They can be avoided by using their vaccines:
Hepatitis B Virus: A set three vaccines given will prevent Hepatitis B which is a common cause of Liver Cancer
Human Papilloma Virus: A sexually transmitted virus that can cause cervical cancer. A new vaccine against HPV protects 99% against Cervical Cancer.
Helicobacter pylori: For stomach cancer. Hence when detected, must be treated promptly by consulting a Gastroenterologist.

ALSO BE INFORMED THAT: There are certain cancers which can be screened and detected early and prevent complications and premature death.

Following two blogs shall explain in detail how to prevent or detect cancer early. There are specific screening tests and issues in men and women which shall be discussed in next two blogs: Early Cancer Detection in Women & Early Cancer Detection in  Men, respectively.

There’s a famous saying: An apple a day keeps the doctor away. The ( not so secret) apple for cancer prevention is:

Take home apple, oops message is: “Half of the cancers are preventable and can be avoided through healthy living and better awareness.”