Friday, June 26, 2015

Why Eric Beyrodt Hated Carrots

My husband's father, who is 91, visits Anna almost every evening.  One day this week, Daddy dropped in, just as Anna was scheduled to eat his evening portion of fruit. Till recently, the fruit was papaya, as it was one of the ways to manage his chronic constipation. With the advent of summer, we switched to melon.  Its full of fiber and water. But more importantly, it is sweet and we all know how Anna loves sweet things.

I joke with Daddy that Anna is very happy these days.  He does not have to eat the dreaded papaya. And the icing on the cake is that he gets a sugar high after his portion of sweet melon. Anna dislikes the papayas we get here in Delhi - they are just not sweet and soft enough for him.

Daddy takes the papaya conversation seriously, and gives Anna a run down on why papaya is the healthier option. "Papaya is a rich source of vitamin C, fiber and antioxidants like carotene", while conceding that melons are better in summer as they are "cooling".

Anna, of course, latches onto the word carotene, and changes the subject to how carrots also have fibre and carotene.    

He then goes on to tell us the story of Eric Beyrodt who hated carrots.

In 1954, Eric Beyrodt came to India as a part of a technical assistance program run by the Ford Foundation in developing countries.  Anna was then a Deputy Development Officer posted in New Delhi.  Eric was an expert on leather technology and its use in the footwear industry and Anna worked with Eric closely.  Eric stayed in India for 8 years helping the GOI build the leather footwear industry.

During his first winter in Delhi and Agra, Anna noticed that Eric Beyrodt never ate carrots. Anyone who has lived in North India, knows that the carrots in winter are the best - deep red & sweet.  We eat carrots as if they are going out of fashion - in salads, as sabzi (cooked vegetable), in halwa (the Indian, much sweeter version of carrot cake).
So one day, Anna, noticing that Eric removed all the carrots from gajar mattar (carrot and peas) sabzi , asked him why he did not eat carrots at all.

Hienkel 111 Gunner
Eric then revealed to Anna, that he was a tail gunner in the German Air Force in World War II. He was shot down over North Africa in the early part of the war and spent nearly 4 years as a POW. As a POW, all he got to eat was carrots.  Carrots for breakfast, lunch and dinner - when he got to eat, that is!  Carrots to grow and harvest. Carrots to peal and cook. He just could not stand them anymore. They also brought back memories of Nazi Germany and the war.  He was just a young man, a couple of years older than Anna.  A young man who joined the war, because his country was at war.  He was not a Nazi.  He was just a citizen who got caught up in the war and spent years as a POW.

This story is so interesting that we forget all about constipation and its cure papaya.
Anna wins this round hands down!!

Dealing with Constipation in patients with Parkinson's Disease

Constipation is a common problem for patients with Parkinson's Disease. Constipation may occur due to the improper functioning of the autonomic nervous system - the system that is responsible for regulating smooth muscle activity. 
Here is what helps us manage Anna's constipation:
  1. Eating at least 2 portions of fruit everyday.  Papaya / melon is a must.
  2. Eating at least 2 portions of vegetables.  Raw salad added to at least one meal.
  3. Drinking lots of water.  We measure his water intake and urine output daily.
  4. Exercise.  Walking at least 2 times a day helps
  5. Stool softener.  He had a  mild softener on alternate days.  It just helps ease the way.
  6. When the situation reaches the "danger stage" i.e. 3/4 days without a movement, then a surefire way to solve the problem is to cook him a meal of besan ka cheela (crepes made from gluten-free chickpea flour)  and a green fiber-rich vegetable like spinach.
Come to think of it, this is exactly what people, with or without Parkinson's Disease need to do to prevent constipation.  So what is unique for a Parkinson's patient?  Well:
  1. It is a monitor and control every meal, every day activity.  Healthy people can take a break once a while and eat low fiber stuff, a Parkinson's Patient can not.
  2. Exercise is harder for people with Parkinson's and hence we need to balance cajoling, motivating, and forcing them to exercise

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Blankey Clock

In 1948, Murthi (Anna) stood first in the 1st year of BSc (Tech). At the same time an unknown benefactor died and left some money to help fund the education of a student.  As a result, Murthi was the recipient of a scholarship of 24/month for a year. A princely sum of money!

Being a sensible young man, not yet 20, he wanted to spend this money on the right things, starting with the first 24/-.  His best friend and adviser, Nagarajan, who was a whole year older than him, and with whom he competed to stand 1st in class, was called upon to help make the decision. After much research, including multiple trips to the library, discussions, and arguments, Nagarajan & Murthi decided to buy an alarm clock.  

Alarm clocks in the 1940s were
expensive and rare.

  Most were imported.
After multiple visits to P.Orr & Sons in Madras and a detailed cost analysis, Murthi bought a Blankey Alarm Clock.  It was made in France (India became independent in 1947 and that may have influenced this purchase).  The clock was round & green, with a little chromium carry-handle on top.  It stood on two angled feet. The keys to wind the clock, set time and alarm were on the chromium-plated back of the clock.  I am describing the clock, as Blankey the company, does not exist anymore & I have been unable to find a picture of the clock.  After you read this story, you will know why.

The alarm clock, a prized possession, worked as it should for 8 – 9 months. One day out of the blue, it stopped working. Murthi & Nagarajan tried everything they could think of - wind the key till they could feel the resistance of the spring, put a book under one leg so that it tilted at an angle, shake it, bang it on the table, cajole it - but it would not work.

Started in 1846 by Peter Orr(Scotland). 
They then took it back to P.Orr & Sons to be repaired (it cost them 10/-!!)  The clock worked for a full 4 days after which it stopped again.

Murthi was so upset that he placed the clock face down on his study table.  Lo and behold, the sound of the seconds ticking by could be heard again.  The Blankey clock kept perfect time and the alarm rang only when it was face down!

A few days later, Murthi “generously” gifted the clock to Nagarajan, on the pretext that Nagarajan needed to get up earlier and study harder, to be able to beat Murthi in the next exam. Murthi hoped the clock would soon fail and not wake up Nagarajan in time to study. Murthi was also relieved to get rid of the clock that so disappointed him.  Soon Nagarajan got tired of the "work only when face down" clock and returned it to Murthi.

When Murthi graduated, on his visit home to Erode, he left the offending clock with his father.  His father, KPV, told him not to worry and that he would have the clock repaired.  Every clock repairman in Erode and Namakkal tried to fix the clock.  Each time, KPV would pay them ~₹5/- for the repair.  Each time it would work for a few days.  And when it stopped working, placing it face down was the only way for it to work again.  The clock stayed with KVP for years.

In 1958, Murthi’s younger brother Krishnamurthy, joined ITC.  On a visit to Erode, to see his parents before heading off to Calcutta, Krishnamurthy, with all the confidence of a newly graduated mechanical engineer, took the Blankey Clock to Calcutta.

The Blankey Clock moved into a single room at Komala Villas with Krishnamurthy.  It remained temperamental. Stopping at will. Working only when face down. Being fixed at various watch repair shops.

One Saturday afternoon in summer, Krishnamurthy, returned to his room at lunch time.  The door was open and there was a slightly built man in the room. Krishnamurthy looked at his table. All was where it should be other than the “work only when face down” Blankey Clock. Krishnamurthy looked at the thief and asked him to return whatever he had taken, and the Blankey Clock was returned to Krishnamurthy safely. 

Krishnamurthy used the Blankey Clock as much as he could.  Eventually, many rupees poorer and disgusted by the clock, he took it back to Erode and gave it to his father.

The Blankey Clock languished in Erode for many, many years.  In the mid-60s, Nagarajan visited Murthi’s parents in Erode.  Murthi’s mother, Ananthalakshmi, took Nagarajan aside and asked him if he could help her with something.  Nagarajan immediately agreed - after all he and Murthi had been friends since college!

Ananthalakshmi said, “There is a clock in the house that is not working.  Can you please take it to a large shop in Madras and have it fixed?”  Ananthalakshmi went out of the room for a few minutes and returned with the Blankey Clock held carefully in both her hands.

The story goes that, on seeing the dreaded Blankey Clock, Nagarajan fainted.  He had to be carried to a bench-bed to lie down.  Ananthalakshmi called for sandalwood paste from the God’s Room, mixed it in some cold water, and sprinkled it on Nagarajan’s face to revive him.

What happened after that has been lost in history.  Some of Murthi’s relatives claim that the clock stayed in the house in Erode for many, many years. Many people continued to try to repair it but it never worked. 

The Kalamangalam clan spent a fortune on the clock probably because it was a clock bought with Murthi’s prize money. It had to be cherished “at whatever cost”! Literally!