February 24, 2017

Nostalgia and movies

“HakunaMatata, ain’tno passing craze. It means no worries for the rest of your days”
– Timon and Pumba, The Lion King

We all have heroes and heroines from movies we saw as kids. Some of these movies we can re-watch and they take us back, even just for two hours, to that time, when things were so much simpler. Much of the appeal of those movies comes from the nostalgia accompanying our memories of when we first saw them, and what things were like back then. Movies and songs can be really powerful in the way they evoke certain emotions from us.

For me, ‘The Little Mermaid’, ‘The Lion King’ and ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’ are some of the movies from my childhood that manage to take me right back to the first couple of times I saw those movies. And I still cheer when I see Shahrukh running towards Camp Sunshine with Raghupati Ragav playing in the background. Shahrukh has clearly mastered those dramatic running sequences. These movies still make me laugh, cry, sigh and sing-along.

And I can’t help but reflect on how Indian movies have changed since the days of ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’. I know this may make me seem like an old fudfy-duddy but honestly, I really don’t enjoy most of the newer Indian movies. Maybe some might call the older movies cheesy, even I quickly lose patience with the seemingly never-ending ‘running-around-trees-while-singing sequences’, but at least they didn’t have the actors ‘getting down’ to Raghupati Ragav in a club like Hritik and Priyanka did in Krissh 3. That’s not on my nostalgic memory lane.

I finally got to see ‘Rogue One’ a couple of weeks ago, when I was back home and I was thrilled it managed to inspire the same sense of awe as the original Star Wars movies. In itself, the movie was wonderfully crafted and paced and while the central characters were completely new to the series, it was not just the self-references to the previous episodes, but the central message of sacrifice for a greater cause that evoked the nostalgia. And imagine there was not a single make-out scene in a modern movie that continues to break box office records! Good narratives still matter.

So it’s nice that there are still movies that you can enjoy that can take you back to your childhood days. I know we should be moving forward, forging onwards, setting goals and trying to achieve those goals. But life also needs some constants and most of what is evoked nostalgically is centred around the particular constants formed in our early years. They will never get old because they’ve become part of who you are.

For me, and perhaps many people my age, we’re in the throes of adjusting to adulthood. Getting used to living on our own, doing our own grocery, driving ourselves around and doing you know, ‘adult-things’. And a few years from now we’ll be responsible for keeping our patients alive, defending our clients in court or keeping our business afloat. So with our futures quickly hurtling towards us, it’s nice to escape for a few hours into a nice movie that makes us connect to our younger selves. In a sense, were are completing our narratives.

So what movies take you back to your childhood? When last did you look at those movies? I can guarantee that those movies will be the ones that can cheer you up when you’re having a bad day.

Women and the end of Indentureship

“Remember one-third quota/Coolie woman./ Was your blood spilled so that I might reject my history?”– Mahadai Das, “They came in ships”

During last May, “Arrival Month”, I wrote some pieces about the contributions of women during the period of Indian Indentureship, which lasted between 1838 and 1917. With the 100th anniversary of the End of Indentureship coming up, I thought maybe I could share a few thoughts on the role women played to bring about that end.
In the line from Mahadai Das’ poem above, she’s referring to the quota stipulated as to the minimum number of women that had to be recruited for each shipment of “coolies” – as the Indian Indentureds were scornfully called. With those numbers, you can imagine what the competition for women did to social relations on first the ships and then the logees. Murders and choppings and desertions were rampant.
On the ship Allanshaw’s voyage to Guyana in 1885, along with my maternal great-great grandmother, was a woman Maharani who was raped by some sailors during the voyage and died. Her story is told as “Maharani’s Misery: Narratives of a Passage from India to the Caribbean”, by Professor Verene Shepherd, one of the present champions of the Reparations Movement. It should be read by all persons in the Caribbean to get a glimpse of what it took to bring the half-a-million Indian Indentureds to the Caribbean. Seventeen persons died on that voyage and were thrown into the “Kala Pani” – the dreaded “Black Waters”.
To secure women for their “one third” quota from a 19th century India where women were completely sequestered, even the recruiters (“arkatis”) must have been challenged. Most of the female recruits were listed as “single” and there is much evidence that there was a high percentage of youthful widows. At that time, they could not remarry and would have lived a very miserable life of semi-servitude if their in-laws were willing to keep them, or more frequently, not a much different one in their home village.
Even in modern India, many widows have a liminal existence of “betwixt and between” the living and the dead and it is not surprising that many of them in the 19th century were persuaded to start a new life in a foreign land. Some of them went into relationships in the depots while they waited for the ship’s complement of immigrants to be filled. They would be described as “married” before the final boarding. This behaviour – breaking of caste rules! – scandalised later commentators such as Gandhi, one can imagine their reaction to the reality on the plantations when women were in such demand that even older widows with children could remarry – between religions much less caste boundaries.
Additionally women were harassed by both white overseers and Indian drivers for sexual favours and it should not shock the sensibilities of anyone that several women would have voluntarily entered into “liaisons” with men in power. How much different is it in the modern world of the office world? Starting in the beginning of the 20th century, Indian Nationalists started to take up the cause of overseas Indentured Indians – mostly because their degradation gave life to their claim to be “brown Englishmen”. The “cause” of “protecting Indian women abroad attracted the greatest interest and even attracted one of the top Indian Nationalist of the time – Sarojnie Naidu.
Women were also an integral element in the several episodes, beginning in 1872 in Devonshire Castle on the Essequibo Coast, when immigrants protested their working conditions – including abuse of women – and the Police were called in to open fire. In Rose Hall, Canje in 1913, 15 Indians were shot and killed – including one woman. News reached India as the matter was discussed in the Indian Legislature.
When a similar number of Immigrants were killed in Fiji in 1915, this served as a death knell to Indian Indentureship which was finally ended on March 12, 1917.

The 5 R’s of motivation against cigarette smoking

Last week I wrote about the 5 R’s of motivation to deal with alcoholism, this week I’d like to apply them to cigarette smoking. It’s an interesting quirk of history that our part of the world, the West Indies, first became important for producing both rum and tobacco, which are both now conceded to present severe health challenges.

As we try to motivate others to quit these two addictive products, we should be aware that the mega corporations that make billions in profits from their sales are spending commensurate sums to motivate the same people to INCREASE their usage.

Especially with cigarettes, as the developed countries became aware of the severe negative effect of cigarette on the human system and their governments began to take countermeasures, such as warning labels, the producers shifted focus to developing countries such as the West Indies. We are at even greater risk than before.

And just to recap the 5 R’s: in trying to motivate a patient to make a change in their behaviour, it’s important to explain to them how the change is relevant to them personally, to talk about the risks of their current behaviour, to educate the patient about the potential rewards of change, and to address possible roadblocks they might encounter while trying to change. And the final R is repetition- doctors should try to respectfully repeat the 5 R’s each visit to try to motivate their patients to make the changes to live a healthier life.

In terms of relevancy to the person, there should be a discussion about how quitting smoking would directly impact their life – it could save them money, improve their quality of life, and decrease the chances of heart attack, cancer or stroke. Quitting smoking would also improve the quality of life of the persons they live with – secondhand smoke can be as dangerous as if you were smoking the cigarettes yourself.

Each person is different, and there will be different issues that are relevant to them and it is important for their doctor to discuss those issues with them in a respectful, non-confrontational manner.

In terms of risks, there are long-term and short-term risks of smoking. In the short-term, risks include a reduction in taste and smell, a continuous cough and a weakened immune system.

In the long-term, heart disease, lung disease, lung cancer, throat cancer, stomach cancer, bladder cancer and a host of other cancers.

The discussion of risks isn’t meant to be a scare-tactic, it’s supposed to be a frank discussion where the abuser is made aware of the risks and where their perception of those risks is explored.

In terms of rewards, there are all of the health rewards – add on more than a couple of years to your lifespan, regain your sense of smell and taste. And of course, there’s all of that money that you can save. And for each patient, there are specific areas where their smoking is causing a problem, so there should be a discussion about how those problems might be ameliorated by cutting down the drinking.

And of course, change is never easy – if it was, they probably wouldn’t have had to come up with 5 R’s to motivate people. But that brings us to the 4th R: roadblocks. There should be a discussion with the person about possible hurdles they’ll have to face on the road to change and the smoker and doctor should come up with strategies on how to handle those problems when they arise. They may suffer withdrawal symptoms, or they may live in an environment that encourages their smoking.

The final R is repetition. As I mentioned before, doctors should try to respectfully repeat the 5 R’s each visit to try to motivate the smoker to quit. Concerned friends and family should also do the same.

And doctors should also break the stereotypes of being high abusers of alcohol and cigarettes.

The 5 R’s of motivation and alcohol abuse

“Alcoholism is a devastating, potentially fatal disease. The primary symptom of having it is telling everyone – including yourself – that you are not an alcoholic.” – Herbert L Gravitz& Julie D Bowden

In school, we’re taught that an important aspect of taking a patient’s history is asking about whether they smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol. And then we’re expected to quantify the person’s cigarette or alcohol use. How much? How often? When did you first start? And invariably most people try to lowball their usage. It’s only after a bit of careful prodding that the truth comes out – or at least something close enough to the truth.

While the legality of alcohol in our culture might not suggest it – cigarettes and alcohol are two of the most potent psychoactive substances. So not surprisingly, we’ve been taught about our role as doctors in counselling patients to quit smoking or to reduce their alcohol intake.

This past rotation in family medicine, we learnt about the five A’s of intervention and the five R’s of motivation. I am sure that each of us, even if we are not doctors, will encounter persons who abuse alcohol and this approach can prove useful.

In trying to motivate a patient to make a change in their behaviour, it’s important to explain to them how the change is relevant to them personally, to talk about the risks of their current behaviour, to educate the patient about the potential rewards of change, and to address possible roadblocks they might encounter while trying to change. And the final R is repetition – doctors should try to respectfully repeat the five R’s each visit to try to motivate their patient to make the changes to live a healthier life.

Let’s take alcohol abuse as an example where the five R’s can be used to motivate a person to cut down on their drinking.

In terms of relevancy to the person, there should be a discussion about how cutting down their alcohol consumption would directly impact their life – it could save them money, improve their quality of life, and if they’re pregnant, it would increase their chances of having a healthy baby. Each person is different, and there will be different issues that are relevant to them and it is important for their doctor to discuss those issues with them in a respectful, non-confrontational manner. Maybe friends can be more casual…but certainly not confrontational!

In terms of  risks, there are long-term and short-term risks of alcohol abuse. In the short-term, risks include disruption of sleep, blackouts and a whole host of others. In the long-term, all that assault on your liver can lead to cirrhosis, liver failure and eventually death. Alcohol abuse is one of the most common causes of pancreatitis which comes along with its own range of complications. And then there are all of the emotional risks that come along with alcohol abuse. Long-term over-consumption of alcohol can significantly increase your risk for depression. And I’m sure by now, especially in a country with one of the highest suicide-rates in the world, we’re well aware of the link between depression and suicide. The discussion of risks isn’t meant to be a scare-tactic, it’s supposed to be a frank discussion where the abuser is made aware of the risks and where their perception of those risks is explored.

In terms of rewards, there are all of the health rewards – add on more than a couple of years to your lifespan. And of course, then there’s all of that money that you can save. And for each patient, there are specific areas where their alcohol abuse is causing a problem, so there should be a discussion about how those problems might be ameliorated by cutting down the drinking.

And of course, change is never easy – if it was, they probably wouldn’t have had to come up with five R’s to motivate people. But that brings us to the fourth R: roadblocks. There should be a discussion with the person about possible hurdles they’ll have to face on the road to change and the patient and doctor should come up with strategies on how to handle those problems when they arise. They may suffer withdrawal symptoms, or they may live in an environment that encourages their alcohol abuse.

The final R is repetition. As I mentioned before, doctors should try to respectfully repeat the 5 R’s each visit to try to motivate their patient to make then changes to live a healthier life. Concerned friends and family members should also do the same.

Alcohol abuse is a problem in our country. With alcohol, and I suppose most things in life, moderation is key. Our health professionals have a duty to their patients to motivate them to make the changes towards moderation. And so do we as ordinary citizens.

Wear Red

“Prevention is better than cure.” – Desiderius Erasmus

The first Friday of every February is designated “National Wear Red Day” in the US. Heart disease is actually the number one killer of women in America. Attention has been brought to this since 2003 by wearing red to raise awareness about heart disease. I’m not big on picking up American practices (no Halloween, please!) but I’ll make an exception on this one.

There are so many decisions we can all make (not just women) about our lifestyle to reduce our risk of developing heart diseases. Things like checking your cholesterol levels regularly, and getting in a bit of exercise can go a long way in keeping you healthy.

A few semesters back we covered digestion and metabolism – all the chemical reactions that goes on inside us to keep us alive. As a part of that, we had to cover nutrition extensively. In addition to the “food” that comes to mind, our classes really emphasised how important the micronutrients like vitamins and minerals are, even though they’re required in much smaller quantities than rice and dhall – carbohydrates and proteins.

Eating well is vital to staying healthy. And while that may sound like common sense, you might be surprised by how many people actually don’t eat that healthily. Eating well doesn’t just mean eating your three meals a day; it’s what you eat that’s really important. In primary school I learnt about the different food groups, the food pyramid and the importance of a balanced diet. Remember “Go” food, “Glow” food? and “Grow” food?!

And now I’m in Med School learning even more about all of that. So one would assume that with all of this knowledge about how I should be eating, that I’ve been taking the time to plan and eat balanced meals. But in truth, it took a horrible flu, and my mother flying in and stocking my room with fresh fruits for me to finally start eating fruits regularly. And I’ve finally started taking my multivitamins again – some of those pictures on our lecture slides of what vitamin-deficiencies can look like definitely scared me into keeping up with my vitamins. (Yes, Mom!)

What we need to eat varies according to our gender, our age, our occupations and other such factors. So take the time to do some reading, or visit a nutritionist to discuss what nutrients are particularly important for you. Girls for example, need a lot of iron in their diet to replace all in the blood we lose monthly.

It’s important to weigh the pros and cons of the foods that you’re choosing to include in your diet for particular nutrients. Lots of people eat liver for its high iron content, but liver also has a really high cholesterol content and that’s not that good for keeping your heart healthy. If you already have high cholesterol levels, it might be better for you to eat other iron-rich foods instead of liver. I love liver, incidentally.

Technology is also quickly advancing to make it easier for us to stay healthy. There are so many fitness apps that keep track of your meals to let you know whether you’ve eaten enough of each particular nutrient. There are apps that you can use to keep track of whether you’re drinking enough water.

Heart disease is very serious. The heart is responsible for pumping blood all over your body. If the heart is affected, the rest of your body gets affected as well. Ease up on the fast food that’s flooding our shores, now that the US declared them unhealthy. I just heard that we’ll be getting back the Colonel serving up his chicken with his famous herbs and spices at KFC. They don’t mention all the oil needed to get that wonderful fried taste! Not good for the heart though.

rinidad is one of the most obese societies in the world. They’ve had the fast food joints longer.

So let’s all try to live better, healthier lives. There’s so much useful information at our fingertips via the Internet, that we really can’t cite ignorance as an excuse for not knowing what constitutes a balanced meal.

Remember, prevention is better than cure.

Happy New Year

“Of all sound of all bells… most solemn and touching is the peal which rings out the Old Year.” – Charles Lamb

On Friday, we officially kicked off the New Year with music and good food, family and friends. Interestingly, though the “New Year” was celebrated more than 4000 years ago, in Western cultures it was only celebrated from about 400 hundred years ago. For instance, in India, New Year is celebrated in the Hindu month of Chaithra (Mid April) and it’s been observed for more than 5100 years – of the present Kali Yuga.

In fact, the current date celebrated as “New Year’s” day was chosen in 153 BC by Julius Caesar. If you’re a fan of Roman and Greek mythology, you’ll be interested to know that the month January was named after the God of Doorways – Janus. He was given two faces – one which looked ahead to see what the new year would bring, and the other looked backward to see what happened during the past year. This is symbolic since you can never move forward if you completely ignore what happened in your past.

There is the caution that “those that forget the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them!” I guess in the case of Janus, being ‘two-faced’ wasn’t a bad thing!

They’re so many different traditions and superstitions concerning New Year’s Day in every country, it’s impossible to keep track of all of them. From the Dutch tradition of eating a donut (representing completing a year’s cycle) for luck or to the Scottish belief that it’s especially lucky if a tall, dark and handsome man is the first person to enter your house, it’s clear that different cultures have very different ideas about what makes you lucky!

But what is common in all cultures, is the fact that the New Year represents a new beginning – a chance to start afresh with new resolutions for the New Year (unfortunately, I’m as guilty as anyone else of conveniently forgetting those resolutions by the next week!).

Of course, we won’t be hoping for only ourselves to change for the better this New Year, we’ll be wishing for other things as well. Maybe for West Indies to become the number one Test team again (please?)

New Year’s Eve truly is a magical time. When we were very young (and still naïve) my father insisted that we be up and outside to see the “Old Year Clouds” move over and be replaced by the “New Year Clouds”. Do others also have this tradition? There’s a special joy in counting down those last few seconds until you light off the fireworks to usher in the New Year. And then the invariable hugs, shouting and general pandemonium as everyone celebrates making it through yet another year – another year full of possibilities and dreams.

But the New Year doesn’t just have to mean moving on, the New Year is also a time to strengthen bonds with those you love, keeping in mind that January 1, 2016 isn’t the end, in fact, it may only be the end of the beginning.

Happy New Year (or as they say in Greece, “Eutychismenos o kainourgios chromos!”)!

Growing pains

By Anu Dev

When my own CSEC results came out in 2011, I’d been vacationing with my family in Suriname. I learnt about it, in what is now the old fashioned way — via the newspapers. This year, the Education Minister broke new ground – she personally streamed the results of the top 52 performers who’d secured 11 or more passes with Grade Ones.

My family were avid viewers over in New York, where we were vacationing: my brother Abhimanyu had written 17 subjects at the age of 14 and “anxious” was not the word for us!!. Maybe me more than my kid brother! Abhi had always been special – and precocious. You know the saying, “You have to creep before you walk”? Well, he just dragged along on his (pampered) rump for a while and then blithely stood up and walked one day.

He started to read at the age of two and when he entered primary school at the age of six – he had to be placed in Grade Three. As his classmate Saskia Khalil recently reminisced on his Facebook wall after the CSEC results were announced, Abhi was already writing his notes in cursive at that time!

For him to enter school and skip Grades One and Two, he had to be evaluated by several officials in the Education Ministry. When he later placed 4th in the NGSA at the age of nine, the Chief Education Officer Genevieve Whyte-Nedd confessed that she’d opposed his entry – she hadn’t thought he’d be able to compete.

So Abhi, went on to Queens, and against the advice of his teachers and our parents, he decided to write 17 subjects. It’s possible he wanted to top me – who’d done 15. I’ve heard about these “sibling impulses”!!

Like me, he didn’t do any lessons, except for Spanish. But unlike me, he absolutely refused to seek assistance from our father – who I still learn from even now I’m in medical school. Forget about ME helping!! That was, and is, Abhi – fiercely independent and marching to his own drummer.

So Minister Manickchand announced the 11-plus achievers– and Abhi wasn’t on the list. We could see he was bitterly disappointed. When he was finally able to access his grades– he’d gotten 9 ones and 8 twos. Now I personally think this result was incredible – not only in absolute terms – (any 14-year-old securing 17 subjects has to be special), but because I knew Abhi didn’t really study. For sure not like how I did, three years ago.

And this is really what I want to talk about today. We hear a lot about boys not performing as well as girls and this year’s results prove that in aces – at least at Queens where the top 100 NGSA performers end up.

Among the 20 Queens students who secured 11 or more Grade Ones – not a single one of them was a boy!!! While I only have access to the Fifth Form friends who shared their Grades on Abhi’s Facebook page, it appears that he was the top performing boy this year at Queens. What is going on??

I can only report from what I saw with Abhi and his friends. Even though all of the friends went to lessons – the latter was seen as mostly a place to hang out. Then there were the other extracurricular activities – cricket, computer games – and in Abhi’s case, reading every book under the sun (and then some), but his schoolbooks. Whether it is a case of our method of imparting education is geared more towards girls (who are socialised to be more passive), or because we mature earlier – I wouldn’t be able to say definitively.

But I do know that Abhi finally buckled down during the three months his exams lasted. And I say – congratulations for doing what he did in that time!! Imagine what he and the rest of the boys could do if they hit the books like we girls did!

Be a Leader

By Anu Dev

Last Sunday we celebrated Republic Day – the day we recognise that we govern ourselves, we’re not under the rule of a monarch and I’ve been thinking about leaders and leadership. What Shakespeare said about “greatness”, can be paraphrased for leaders: “Some are born leaders, some achieve leadership and some have leadership thrust upon them.”

I’ve encountered a fair number of leaders from all three backgrounds, over the years and this year at Med School I’ve met even more. We have weekly PBL (Problem-Based Learning) sessions where we’re broken into small groups and everyone has to take a turn at leading the group discussions. So after a while, everyone gets a chance to be group leader and I found that most of them exemplified quite distinct leadership styles, approaches and qualities.

A good leader is assertive yet approachable. During my early years at Queen’s College, I was always impressed with the prefects chosen. I was awed by these students who were all-rounded and carried themselves with decorum. These prefects welcomed us to speak to them freely, but by mutual understanding, there was a boundary we never crossed. These were the type of prefects I tried to emulate when I became Head Prefect in Upper Six.

Another fundamental trait of leaders is that a true leader inspires others to achieve. And the best leaders do this not by telling – but by doing. The line from Portia in the Merchant of Venice has stuck with me: “I can easier teach twenty what were good to be done than be one of the twenty to follow mine own teaching.”  It can be hard, but to be good leader, that’s absolutely necessary.  A good leader can inspire dedication and great feats from followers, through leadership by example.

Good leaders must show integrity since a leader can’t lead if he doesn’t have the trust of followers. Leaders must show honesty, well-controlled emotions (that’s right, no screaming your head off at your charges!). In our Professionalism Course, we’re constantly reminded about the importance of integrity – as doctors we’ll have to work along with other doctors, we’ll need the trust and support of the nurses and other members of our medical team to ensure that we care for our patients successfully.

Leaders must also have high self-respect and self-esteem. After all, if a leader doesn’t respect himself / herself, how could they earn the respect of others? Yes, respect is earned, not demanded. Good leaders should have the respect of their subordinates and also give due respect to their subordinates.

My tradition emphasises the need to delegate tasks and to groom new leaders for the future. In my estimation, this is a defining quality that all leaders should possess. That leader who tries to singlehandedly tackle all of the objectives and challenges of the group usually risks biting off more than they can chew and simultaneously demotivates the rest of the members.

Leaders should also always be conscious that they can’t be the leader forever – there comes a time to step down and pass on the torch. New times demand new skills and new visions.

One of the more over-looked qualities a leader should possess is a sense of humour! Humour can be an effective tool to energise persons and ease tension. More often than not, leaders choose the too-serious approach – a balance should be struck.

In conclusion don’t believe that I’m only talking about leaders of countries and corporations. In every endeavour that we embark on in groups, there is the need for leaders. We never know when leadership may be thrust upon us: be prepared.

Republic Day!

A return to first principles in a Republic is sometimes caused by the simple virtues of one man. His good example has such an influence that the good men strive to imitate him, and the wicked are ashamed to lead a life so contrary to his example. – Niccolo Machiavelli

By Anu Dev

Well, Republic Day is on Sunday and it really is an important day. I certainly wasn’t around way back in 1970, to know personally what it must have been like to live in a country still under the rule of another. Or even nominally under a governor general. But I do know that it feels better to be in control than to be controlled. And we won that right on Republic Day – to chart our own destiny. It’s like an ultimate version of becoming an adult.

My favourite hero in WI history was Toussaint L’Ouverture.  To be a man – born a slave – take on the full might of one of the greatest European powers of the day, for the right to be free, was awe inspiring. He was indeed an “Opening”: the eventual independence of Haiti showed the path that every other colony had to walk.

So on Republic Day at least, we should make a point of being proud to be Guyanese. On that day we commemorate the earlier rebellion of our own Cuffy, in our own Berbice, for that same struggle to be free. Before l’Overture.

I know some people try to raise some Guyanese pride on Republic Day, but unfortunately for most, it’s just about the Mashramani parade.

Granted, everyone has different ways of celebrating, of showing joy. Some people express themselves by parading down the streets in various states of undress in honour of Republic Day. Other people have more demure gatherings to celebrate the day.

But the problematic thing about it all is that most people don’t parade because of national pride. They parade to dress up (or undress) in costumes and ride on floats. Because it’s all about Mashramani – the jump-up and wine-down.

We’ve gotten so caught up with the festivities, that we’ve completely forgotten why we’re celebrating in the first place. Who thinks of the meaning of Cuffy or Toussaint in the definition of what ‘freedom’ means?

One of the aspects of being free means that we’re a democracy – we can elect our own government. I know I’m thrilled that I’m finally 18, so I can vote in the next election. Even though I just get one vote out of the thousands that are cast on Election’s Day, it still makes me feel like I have a say in who’ll be in charge of running our country.

And I’ll be thinking long and hard about which party has the best interests of the country at the top of their agenda before I cast my vote. Who’ll ensure most UG graduates don’t emigrate? A healthy nation is a productive nation – which party will implement the best health-care programme for the country?

Our kids are the future of our country and they need to have a sound education to ensure that they can have successful careers to continue the development of Guyana. We still have so few scholarships that kids have to write over 20 subjects at CXC to try to grab either the regional prize or the two scholarships that Guyana gives out.

Why aren’t we giving out scholarships to children for the different streams, example, science, arts and business? That’ll encourage children to be the best in their chosen field, instead of having to spread themselves too thin to write subjects from all of the streams.

So don’t just wait until it’s close to election’s time to think about whom you’ll vote for: start this Republic Day. Look at their actions during the year – what bills are they pushing (or holding up) in Parliament? Are they the type of people you’d want representing you?

We’re a republic now. We have the right (and obligation) to vote for who governs our country. So let’s think long and hard and make the decision that’ll be best for Guyana. That’s us.

Happy Republic Day!

 

Eating healthy

By Anu Dev

The first Friday of every February is designated “National Wear Red Day” in the U.S.

Heart disease is actually the number one killer of women in America. Attention has been brought to this since 2003 by wearing red to raise awareness about heart disease.

There are so many decisions we can all make (not just women) about our lifestyle to reduce our risk of developing heart disease. Things like checking your cholesterol levels regularly and getting in a bit of exercise can go a long way in keeping you healthy.

This semester, for our first block (of courses), we’re covering digestion and metabolism – all the chemical reactions that goes on inside us to keep us alive. As a part of that, we’ve had to cover nutrition extensively. In addition to the “food” that comes to mind, our classes really emphasised how important the micronutrients like vitamins and minerals are, even though they’re required in much smaller quantities than rice and dhall – carbohydrates and proteins.

Eating well is vital to staying healthy. And while that may sound like common sense, you might be surprised by how many people actually don’t eat that healthily. Eating well doesn’t just mean eating your three meals a day; it’s what you eat that’s really important. In primary school, I learnt about the different food groups, the food pyramid and the importance of a balanced diet. Remember “Go” food, “Glow” food? and “Grow” food?!

And now I’m in med school learning even more about all of that. So one would assume that with all of this knowledge about how I should be eating, that I’ve been taking the time to plan and eat balanced meals. But in truth, it took a horrible flu, and my mother flying in and stocking my room with fresh fruits for me to finally start eating fruits regularly. And I’ve finally started taking my multivitamins again- some of those pictures on our lecture slides of what vitamin-deficiencies can look like definitely scared me into keeping up with my vitamins. (Yes, Mom!)

What we need to eat varies according to our gender, our age, our occupations and other such factors. So take the time to do some reading, or visit a nutritionist to discuss what nutrients are particularly important for you. Girls for example, need a lot of iron in their diet.

It’s important to weigh the pros and cons of the foods that you’re choosing to include in your diet for particular nutrients. Lots of people eat liver for its high iron content, but liver also has a really high cholesterol content and that’s not good for keeping your heart healthy. If you already have high cholesterol levels, it might be better for you to eat other iron-rich foods instead of liver.

Technology is also quickly advancing to make it easier for us to stay healthy. There are so many fitness apps that keep track of your meals to let you know whether you’ve eaten enough of each particular nutrient. There are apps that you can use to keep track of whether you’re drinking enough water or not.

Heart diseases are very serious. The heart is responsible for pumping blood all over your body. If the heart is affected, the rest of your body gets affected as well. Ease up on the fast food that’s flooding our shores, now that the U.S. has declared them unhealthy. Trinidad is one of the most obese societies in the world. They’ve had the fast food joints longer.

So let’s all try to live better, healthier lives. There’s so much useful information at our fingertips via the Internet, that we really can’t cite ignorance as an excuse for not knowing what constitutes a balanced meal.

Remember, prevention is better than cure.