Stop Racism Now. To Anyone Anywhere

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

The events that have unfurled and gained momentum on US soil in and following the death of George Floyd are not local to US. Injustice against one anywhere is a threat to justice for everyone everywhere. If we do not join hands today in venting our anger and frustration, we do an injustice to humanity, to ourselves.

Three world leaders have demonstrated the power of protests. Mahatma Gandhi in India. Martin Luther King, Jr. in USA and Nelson Mandela in South Africa. Against one common sin. Injustice and hatred. And the path that these leaders have shown us is the path of non-violence.

Their protest did not stop till the goal was accomplished. The goal of abolition of dominance by one group of people over another group.

In 1893, Swami Vivekananda had travelled across seven seas to Chicago to address “Brothers and Sisters” of America. He talked of love and brotherhood. Across borders. Across religions. Across humanity. And it is he who had also told his fellow countrymen to “Arise, awake and stop not till the Goal is reached.”

Across countries, irrespective of a human’s color of skin, caste, gender and faith, the opportunities must be equal. And everyone must have access to power of justice with equal opportunity. Unless we have achieved that, let us hold each other firm. And we must remind each other the most important question in our life.

As Martin Luther King, Jr. had said “Life’s most urgent question is: What are you doing for others?”.

At the end of the day, “All lives have equal value”. To reduce inequity, we must be optimist. And impatient till the goal is reached.

Noodles before Marx

It was a hot April Day in Kolkata. Sometime in the decade of the 80s. The temperature of the city was higher. From the strikes. Left parties. Worker-Student solidarity. 

They had sat in front of the closed gate. Decorated with Red flags and banners. From early morning. Smoking. Sipping. Waiting for the result of the day long negotiations. Trade Union and the Factory Management.

Metal Box. One of the largest companies in the city. On lockdown for eight months.

Hungry Workers. Angry Students.

Among those waiting in the crowd of students and workers was a Medical student. In his third year. He was a member of a student’s union. Marxist.  Democratic Students Center. He had been coming every day for the past three months with his fellow students. To the gate. In protest. With them came their teacher. Comrade Roy. He taught them Marxism and Leninism. The factory gate was his University of practical learnings on Marxism. Direct contact with labor unions. Factory workers.

A different world from the comfort of his upper middle-class home.

Around six o’clock the results of the negotiation were declared. The Management had relented. Workers got all their demands in place. There was jubilation at the gate. International was sung. In loud chorus. Claps and slogans.

Someone suggested. ‘We must have a party.’ So, some students decided to go to one of the worker’s house. They poured out their pocket. Coins. Notes. ‘Let is have Noodles. Food of the Proletariat.’ They said. On their way to the worker’s house they bought a few packets of noodles. And tea dust.

The worker had four daughters. The eldest was acclaimed for her cooking. Father said ‘She will cook noodles for all of us today. She cooks so well.’ Shy daughters ran to light the kerosene stove in one corner of the room. Tea. Black. Boil water.

The students and a few workers sat on the floor. Cross legged. And analyzed the strike. The negotiation. From a Marxist angle. How would a Maoist have approached it? Was there an element of Revisionism in the last days of the strike? It was a theoretical debate. The medical student was vocal. He had been reading Marx and Lenin and Mao too for the last one year in much detail. He even asked for a paper and pen. To draw his interpretation. Of the flow of events in the Strike.

Tea came soon. They drank absorbed in their theoretical analysis of a Marxist analysis of the strike.

About half an hour later, the daughters all came beaming. With small bowls of noodles. Enamel bowls and spoon. The students were hungry. They stopped their discussion to eat. 

As the medical student took his first spoon of noodles he wanted to throw up. It was noodles boiled in water with salt. It tasted horrible. He just wanted to run out of the room and throw up the food. On the road outside. His other Comrades were all busy eating. 

The teacher pulled his student’s plate. ‘I am very hungry.  Can I have some of yours?’ He asked. The medical student was feeling sick. He drank the glass of water kept in the middle. And shook his head. ‘Yes. I am not hungry.’ He faintly said. 

After the noodle party, they got up to leave. Congratulating the worker again. And the daughters for the noodles.

On his return home the medical student and the teacher were in the same bus. The student felt guilty. Embarrassed. Depressed. He was depressed. He confessed to his teacher that he could not eat the noodles. Nausea gripped him. With the first spoon.

The teacher smiled. ‘I know you are far ahead of them. The other students and the workers. In your reading of Marxist and Maoist Theory. Knowledge is powerful. But if you want to be a Marxist, you must learn to eat noodles in a worker’s home. Unless you enjoy their Noodles, you will never be one of them Comrade. And unless you are one of them, you can never work for them. I strongly recommend this for you. If you want to serve the workers, learn to enjoy their noodles. Or you can just be a good doctor and serve human race. Workers too. That also is a good service. To Workers. For Workers get sick too.’ And he laughed. The student laughed too.

The student tried to eat noodles boiled in salt-water again. At home. He threw up. Twice.

Then one day he put his collection of Marx and Lenin in the shelf. Sad. And concentrated wholly on reading medical science. His teacher in Marxism approved wholly.

The student never forgot his teacher’s lesson. If you want to serve them, you must enjoy their food. Their lifestyle.

In public health, first you need to be a ‘public’ and only then can you be of any service to their ‘health’.

The Miracle/ Magic of being Max von Pettenkofer

(To all in love of Sanitation practices; Science and of course a good Story)

The Miracle/ Magic of being Max von Pettenkofer

The life of Max v Pettenkofer is straight out of a Jeffrey Archer novel. The only catch being that it is a life lived in real. A great life in service of humankind. A Messiah spreading the words of hygiene, safe water and sewage disposal. All elements that Covid-19 reminds us.

But this is not about his teachings and preaching. It is about the colorful life of a Chemist from Bavaria (Germany) who could have become many things in life but ended up being what he was. A legend in his own circle of admirers. A life that points to the non-believer there is a word in the dictionary beginning with D. Destiny.Max had eight siblings. Father, a smalltime farmer. But as happens in novels, he had a rich uncle. Who for no special reason known (except that he had no child of his own) fell prey to the “D” word and decided to adopt Max. There was a pharmacy shop that Mr Uncle owned. And he had planned to pass on the succession to Max.

But German they were. Mr. Uncle & Mr. Nephew Max. Each with their own temper. And muscle. And a fancy to punch as and when asked for. As happened during a public display. Mr. Uncle threw a punch. Mr. Nephew received it on his ears. And muttering “to hell with your shop”, Max left his Uncle and joined a theatrical company. Why? Ask “D”.

But Max was a failure in theater. So, he was in a soup. He had left his uncle in a huff. But then at such times “D” calls for help. And therein comes Ms. C with an arrow. Cupid.

Mr. Uncle’s daughter aptly named Helen. Came. Pleaded. Begged. Max to return home. Mr. Uncle accepted. Max wanted to study in University. Complete his education. But Mr. Uncle was wise. He insisted Max study medicine. For Medicine was a sure cut to livelihood.

Nothing of consequence, but good for us to know lest I forget to mention in the story of the miraculous life later, C played her role. In later life, Max and Helen were united by marriage.
Max was good in academics. A few boring things happened in his life. He passed his exams. And joined Liebig’s Laboratory at Giessen, Germany. It was a prize appointment tat just did not come. He had to wait months before he got there. In the period of joining he kept on with his academics and did boring things like devising the test for bile acids. The test bears his name.

After some time, he moved on from Liebig’s laboratory. Moved from one university to another. Was offered academic posts. D kept on playing its role. And he kept on refusing the positions offered to him. For he was different. However, he did rise in his position and kept on getting recognized. And ultimately got the prestigious honor in administration. Chief of the Court Pharmacy and Apothecary to the Court. 1850.

Max would have died a man remembered for a few years by his friends and admirers. But Max is remembered. For a reason extremely odd. And to some extent audaciously funny.

In the 1850s, there was an outbreak of Cholera and Typhoid in Munich. Max was skeptical of John Snow’s theory of germs. He thought this was a grand opportunity to test Snow’s theory with an intent to prove Dr Snow wrong. He conducted his investigation. And magically proved that he was right. It was all about the moisture content in the soil and to hell with germs and infection.
This aside Max worked hard in improving the sanitary systems of the city of Munich. And the overall impact on health of its citizens was high.

But then came the discovery of Robert Koch. In 1884. Cholera is caused by a germ. A bacillus. Vibrio cholerae. This was now too much for Max. It irritated him that a wrong theory of germs continued to be pursued by scientists. He had to disprove these theories. Once and for all. Max asked Robert for a vial of water filled with Vibrio cholerae. He would drink the whole vial’s water. And prove Vibrio cholerae is a bogus theory. He did. And with him two of his students drank the infected water too. Blindly believing their Master Max.

Miracle. Miracle. Miracle.

Nothing happened to Max. He was fine. He had the last laugh. Vibrio cholerae germ theory does not work. But magic is magic. Miracles are miracles. Science does have the last laugh always. The two students fell seriously ill with bouts of cholera. Scientific revelations believe that Max had had cholera in his early life. He was probably immune to the germ Vibrio.

But with this episode and magical last laugh max became famous in the annals of history.
Good stories always have an ending. That leaves its readers remembering the story for life.
There is a theory as to why Max drank the water from the vial full of Bacillus. It was not because he challenged Robert Koch. Which he did in his outward gesture. But perhaps internally he did believe Koch. And that is why he drank the whole water from the vial. To commit suicide.

Max had lost his wife and three children. He wanted to commit suicide. The vial of bacillus laden water was his poison. And his act of drinking it. His death-wish.

In 1901, Max Pettenkofer suffered a sore throat infection. He could not sleep for nights. With having lost his family and this illness, Max had had enough of his illustrious life. He committed suicide.

Max Pettenkofer wrote more than 200 publications in life and is considered to be one of the revolutionaries in the field of public health. What we call WSH today. Water. Sanitation. Hygiene.
A magical life. Blessed that the world had the magics of lives such as Max Pettenkofer.

(Source: With resources and publications from The Lancet; NEJM; and Max’s publications )

Support Nurses & Midwives

From medieval to modern age, the treatment of the sick has had three elements.
Cure, Care. Compassion. Cure by God/ healer/ physician. Care by the family/nurse. Compassion by the community.
Today is World Health Day. April 7. This year’s theme: Support Nurses & Midwives.
Wish them well. For Nurses walk miles and miles amongst the sick and the wounded in very difficult times and conditions to provide care. They are truly the Angels on Earth. In flesh and blood.
Here is my personal story of a Nurse who taught me the crux of care in my early days as a house-physician. In my pedestal of teachers, she sits very high.
1990. I was a House Physician in Shambhu Nath Pandit Hospital, Kolkata. A fresh graduate from Medical College. Suddenly thrown into managing patients in the Medicine ward of one of the busiest hospitals of the city. Wards overcrowded. With huge case-loads. I was in the learning phase. From text book to bedside medicine.We had a Nurse. Jagat -Di. We called her. She was aged. She was unlike other nurses. Stern. Strict. Sombre. Serious. In nutshell. She was no-nonsense. She scolded us when we forgot to sign a discharge certificate in time. She shouted at us when we forgot to write the dose of a medicine. And she shouted at patient parties. When they stayed back beyond visiting hours. She shouted at patients who did not eat their meals. She shouted at ward-boys who did not do their duty well. Everyone was scared of her. Because of her temper.
Sometimes, I asked her why she shouted so much at others. She replied because she can not tolerate negligence of duty and indiscipline. I grew used to her temper. Her shouts. And her scolding.
That was a busy day. My admission day, I think. I was on night duty. Late in the night I received a call. For a patient who was having severe asthmatic attacks. Male ward. I went. Saw the patient, Did the needful.
I then decided to visit the female ward just to check. The lights were dim. I watched from the door. Everybody sleeping. Quiet. As I was turning to return, I thought I saw a figure at the last corner. By a bed. I walked.
Beside a girl, on a tool sat Jagat Di. I came close. She had a plate in her other hand. Some chana/paneer. Home-made. She was feeding the girl. I stood there. I did not ask any question. After a few seconds Jagat Di looked at me. And said very softly almost in a whisper “Have you noticed that this girl has no visitor ever? Her family is in Bankura. They do not come to see her. I thought…….” She did not complete her sentence. I did not ask her any further. For even in the dim light I saw the moistness of her eyes. I stood there for few seconds more. Jagat Di sat there on the tool. Embarrassed that I had seen her in such soft care.
I knew the patient. A case of fever of unknown origin. Had been in the hospital for a couple of days with anaemia and fever getting treated for Typhoid.
Jagat Di and I never spoke of this incident again. And she resumed her scolding and shouting at me from the next morning. As if the night yesterday never happened.
In her scolding, shouting and seriousness she taught me bedside care in those two years like no one could have ever.
I support Jagat-Di. I support every Jagat -Di standing and sitting by those who need care and love in times of their ailment.

Just Saying. Three things. In times Covid-19

1: It was just a few months back. Some young boys and girls with a stethoscope around their neck and a white apron over their dress sat on indefinite protest. What were they protesting against? I had forgotten. But after deep thinking I kind of remembered. Better security. Better infrastructure. Better supply of essential medicines. At hospitals. When the Government did not hear their pleas and demands they went on a lock down. Lockdown of routine services. Emergency services open. I and you were furious at these men and women. Boys and Girls. Frivolous. Bahanas of a bunch of kam-chors. We called them three names. Criminals. Rowdies. Anti-Nationals.

2: The last time I had met a jan-pratinidhi in a closed door meeting. Before the National elections. In our Society premises. He had asked us ‘What would you like me to focus on once you elect me?’. I asked for a nice park for my morning walk. Claps followed. My neighbour asked for a good school in neighbourhood. Clap. Clap. Her neighbour asked for a speed breaker in front of the society. A roar of applause. His neighbour asked for better security. And his neighbour asked meekly ‘Can we have a police Chowki close by, Sir.’ Daru peeke bahut bawal korte haiN gaoNwale. None. None. None of us asked for a hospital with good infrastructure. None of us said that we do not have good ambulance services. We just did not talk of matters related to health. Health is not my demand. Therefore, health is not an issue of the politician. Health is not an electoral agenda for the local politician. Because you and I do not demand Health from our politicians.

3: Our soldiers are fighting in Siachen. They are protecting our land. And we pray for them. And we should pray for them. Everyday. Prayer is strength. When I think of a soldier I think of a man with a gun lying on snow by a fenced border. Alert. Gun ready to response. And my hand automatically rises to salute. But who feeds the soldier? A cook. I do not salute. Who built the barrack where the soldier rests the few hours he has. An engineer. I do not salute. Who treats the frostbite of the soldier? A doctor. A nurse. Salute? Huh!! You must be joking my fellow citizen. Professionals are professionals doing their bloody work for money. Professionals do not do a service to the Nation. They do a service to themselves. They earn while others work.

All of the above are fine. In normal times. In times of our daily life when we pray for our daily bread. To the Lord.

In times of Covid-19 we think. What were those young boys and girls in white aprons shouting hoarse for? Better infrastructure? Better supply of medicines? Better security? Hmm.

In times of Covid-19 we think. What did I ask Mr Pankaj Singh. My MLA? A Park? A speedbreaker? Hmm.

Did I remember to salute that engineer who built that bridge in Ladakh on which I merrily hummed a Rajesh Khanna tune holding Mousumi’s hand? Did I say ‘Thank you’ to the nurse and the pharmacist who I met in the forlorn PHC many miles away from Leh? They stay there to serve around five patients a day. Hmm.

Please read. And forget. For the Lord is kind shall forgive ‘all our trespasses.’

(Photo courtesy: Self. Location: A PHC miles and miles and miles away from Leh)

Cleaning the Garbage

Shanta Prasad Chaturvedi. Brahmin. Scholar. Vedas. Recite. Front to back. Back to front.
Woke up early morning. Very disturbed. With what had been troubling him. For months.
Woke his Master up. ‘Master, master, I have a question. Without an answer. I can not sleep.’
Master sat. Straight. ‘Oh, but you should have asked long back.’

‘Master, in our loom factory. There works. Untouchables. Not for cleaning. The dirty job. Cleaning the trash and garbage. But working alongside. Me. You. Other Brahmins. I stay away from their shadows. But why, Master why? Must they work on looms? Why on earth, you the learned, would allow them to work by a Brahmin? Why must they too find a place in a loom where Brahmins like me stay?’

Master smiled. ‘Sit. I hear your complain. Surely, but you may know that if God has a place for them in Heaven, my mill is too humble a place to not deny them a space.’
‘In Heaven? Surely you are joking Master. Why would God find a place for them in Heaven.’
The Master smiled. And said.

‘ For there must be someone in Heaven to throw away the garbage and trash from Heaven when the like of yours enter through the Gates. For sure, Heaven must be clean and free of souls and minds that are trash and garbage.’

The Master: Sant Kabir

कबीर कुँआ एक हैं

पाणिहारी अनेक

बर्तन सब के न्यारे न्यारे

पाणि सब में एक।।
(With apologies for any spelling mistake in the Hindi Text)

If I ever start a Company, my Mantras.

Many years back, there was a person. Very close to me. Not a relative. Not a close friend. But someone who I knew and adored for his passion and energy. He had started a new company. Healthcare consulting.

He trusted me. I trusted him. We met over coffee. To discuss his new company.
He had just received his first grant. 250K $. And therefore it was his treat.

Coffee done. Pastry eaten. I said ‘ Well then. Good luck.’ He smiled and said. ‘Did you think the coffee and the cake was for free? Huh!! You may pay too. Give me some guidance on how you would have run the company had you been in my place.’

This was not what I had expected. But he was insistent. So I said ‘ Well, order another coffee then. Latte with double shot. Let us discuss them.’

This is what came in our conversation. I told him that I would have followed a 4-C approach.

First. Build capacity. The 250 K is a very small funding. Nothing compared to the scale I dream for. Therefore, I would have transparently discussed on using some of this fund for capacity building of my team. To prepare the team to develop proposals and execute projects better. Most importantly to learn how to document well. Capacity building. In these aspects.

Second. Be creative. Even if the magnitude is small, I would encourage the team to do something innovative. Be creative in thinking. An innovation that will be picked up by us in future projects or by others in other projects. But every work that we do must have some element of original thinking. Creativity.

Third. Make connections. Nothing can be done alone. Connections are critical. Connections for complementary work. Connections for collaboration. Explore multiple partners. Find those that are complimentary. Then connect. With connection the power is manifold. Connect.

Fourth. And this one would be most important for me and my team. Be courageous. Every new idea. Every new thought. Needs courage to express. When you have to express your idea. Your thought. Never be scared. Be courageous.

So four things. 4Cs. For my company. If I ever have any.
Build capacity. Be creative. Make connections. Be courageous.

The guy was happy I think. He ordered a mutton patties for me. His way of thanking. I loved it.

As a footnote, I must write. I have not started a company. And will probably never. And the guy and his company is doing moderate. All he did except I think he was not courageous enough. It is the most difficult of the 4 Cs. Particularly when you are at the receiving end.

Let there be light #COVID -19

There are many who I know personally who are publicly vocal against the lamp lighting ceremony today.

For many of them I have high respect. Because I know their scientific and rational bend of mind. I know they love their Country no less than any other.

Yet. Today they choose to criticise the call by Prime Minister. And they decided not to participate in the activity.

Firstly, I salute them for their courage. In today’s India. In these very trying times it takes courage to be a critic. Not everyone is courageous to speak his or her mind. Those colleagues of mine who speak against this with their deep knowledge of science and social science. I respect them for they speak their mind withstanding criticism.

I do not challenge them either. Who am I to challenge these friends of mine who I know are most rational in their thinking, love the Nation as much as I do and think above politics. And in times ordinary, these friends of mine participate in Nation building as much as any other Indian does. If not more.

So, I ask myself. Why did I participate?

When I know the three broad questions that these critics, my friends ask.

1: What good will lamp lighting do? This is a coverup to distract a billion mind away from the real issue. The lack of resources. The unpreparedness.

2: It is almost unethical given that so many lives have been lost and the economically weak are in deep distress.

3: The PM said to light lamps. Some citizens burst crackers too. This is defeating the whole purpose. People are celebrating when they should more focus on bracing for a tragedy to come.

I do not refute any of these. All of the above have elements of thought in it.

Yet I and my family celebrated.

We celebrated because:

1: We wanted to be one again as a community with loud cheer from children from their balconies. Children do not come to the park anymore. We miss them. They all came out today. They clapped. They cheered. They sang the National Anthem. Mousumi and I felt very happy. We were deeply hungry for this happiness. We were missing the laughter of children of our society.

2: I am reading a lot on the fallout of Covid 19 in short and long term. One prediction is that this will heavily impact mental health. People are increasingly getting into the phase of loneliness. In a country like India where social connections are about prime driver, the adda, the gup-sup, the bakwas party, the hang outs, we are beginning to feel the brunt of distancing. Netflix is no solution. Nor is Facebook. Skype and Teams. We are no more beting able to shout at each other ‘abbé gale lag ja’ or able to click our coffee cups and daru-glasses. Today as I had expected we saw each other on balconies. Some waved. I felt good.

I know we have not made one step forward today in fighting the Coronavirus by lighting a million lamps. But today, we have felt together one as a Nation. A Nation together. Present. In balconies. In front of houses. Resilient. Together. Fighting back.

Mousumi and I celebrated for a selfish reason. To see my neighbours. To hear cheering voices of children. And to come out of loneliness.

Nothing more. Nothing less.

Love’s Mysterious Moments

‘Today is your first day as House Physician. A full fledged doctor. Will you not wear a new shirt to work today?’ He asked. My father. On his cane chair. Glancing through Anandabazar Patrika. As I left for my first day of duty. As House Staff. Shambhu Nath Pandit Hospital.

I was a Charminar smoking, Guevara swearing , Mao eulogising youth from Bengal. I scoffed. I frowned. I shook my head. I said ‘No’ softly ( because it was he, my father ) and touched his feet. A custom before a special occasion. A culture. To me, I said ‘What is in a shirt, that we call a shirt, by any other name would have been a mere wear.’

My father also said ‘But today. At least you could wear.’ I said ‘No’. To me, I said ‘Pari Burjoa byapar-syapar jotto sob.’
Ma was there too. As I touched her feet, she said ‘Mithu, Baba bolche. Ak bar dakho na.’

I shook my head. And moved on.
Late evening. I returned. From Hospital. Baba was in the drawing room on his cane chair. He asked ‘How was your day?’ I sat. Over tea. I told him all about the day. He listened to everything intently.

All done. I went for bath. Bath done. I opened my almirah. For a new payjama and a vest.

On top of the few shirts and trousers I had then, there was a cream coloured shirt. New.
I pulled it down.

This was a shirt my father had bought for me to wear on my first day as a doctor. A surprise.

I had ruined his pleasure. I had deprived him of the pleasure of witnessing the sparkle of joy in his son’s eyes. On opening the cupboard. Morning.
I wanted to run and embrace him. And tell him how sorry I was. But that would be too dramatic. I was too vain. And my father too prosaic for such drama.

A guilt I shall live with.

I remembered the above incident because I watched a movie yesterday which had a similar story.

A youth was going away from home. To a distant city for work. From a modest income family. As he was to leave, his father said ‘Open your trunk. I want to check .’ The youth refused. He was bitter that his father suspected. His honesty. He left without the customary greetings.
After he reached his city, still bitter from his father’s suspicion, he sat down to unpack. As he opened his trunk. Lo and behold, on top of it all was a box. In it a watch. The family’s only fortune. A gold plated watch. A note. ‘ If in distress, with no sadness, sell.’

The child in the youth cried.

And legend has it that he ran all the way back to embrace his father. To say ‘Sorry’ . For he had deprived his father. Of the pleasure.

Love is a mystery. More mysterious is the way in which the mystery manifests.

The man who defined “No” for me.

Allow me to introduce you to Gavin de Becker. De Becker is a global expert in prediction and management of violence. He and his firm have provided security to world leaders including US President. Considered a global authority on the subject of threat assessment, he teaches at University of California and chairs many boards on security and terrorism. You can learn more of his work at

De Becker has written a couple of books and developed a few methodologies like the famous MOSAIC methodology that helped police in USA address increasing spousal violence. His first book “The Gift of Fear: Survival signals that protect us from violence” is an all-time best seller and challenged many conceptions around fear as a weapon against violence. The book is long. You may not have the time. Read a summary to begin with here.  

De Becker’s primary domain of work is against violence against women, Sexual violence. Spousal violence. Terrorism. And violence in society in general.

In these very uncertain times globally, let us ponder on some things that de Becker tells us. He says, we have forgotten to rely on our instincts to look after ourselves. We believe there is someone there, the government, the police, the doctor, the scientist who is protecting us. But often these authorities come very late in our lives in times of crisis. And we trust technology. Alarms, high fences will protect us from danger. They were built to do a job. Protect us. We believe. And we neglect the most important signal that should drive us. Our intuition. Our gut-feeling!

His famous quote from the Gift of Fear runs thus: intuition is always right in at least two important ways: it is always in response to something; it always has your best interest in heart.

The argument that de Beer puts is not around the power of our intuition but the lack of our trust in our own trust on our own gut feeling. He proposes that in fact trusting one’s intuition is the exact opposite of living in fear. He says, real fear does not paralyze. It energizes. And enables one to do things that normally one could/ would not do.

He illustrates this by a story of an attempted rape victim. A trapped victim’s reaction when her attacker said that he was going to the kitchen, her intuition told her to tiptoe him to the kitchen. And as the coward opened the drawer to look for a knife, she made a break for the front door and ran away. Later in her recollection she spoke of her intuition to follow the criminal but she had no recollection of any time when she was afraid.

Another wonderful theory that de Becker proposes is around an act of violence. He refutes the theory that some humans are born criminals. He says that there is nothing called a criminal mind separating some people from others. In fact, according to de Becker every human is capable of committing violence. It is how he or she justifies it that matters and is different. And he says that an act of violence is not always a spurt of the moment act. Rather it is a chain of thoughts and acts. 1) Justification, a judgement that one has been intentionally wronged. 2) Alternatives, there is no other way but violence to seek justice or redress. 3) Consequences, the decision on whether one can live with the consequences of violence and 4) Ability, the confidence on the power of muscles, brain, bullet or bomb to achieve their ends. And he concludes on this almost dramatically, violence is predictable. Almost as much as that water will come to a boil.

I will end by stating two last statements from de Becker. One on spousal murder. De Becker had said that most spousal murder does not happen in the heat of the moment. It is usually a premeditated decision.

And the final statement of de Becker, which for me is framed in mahogany in my heart. And I will quote it as it is “I will encourage people to remember that “no” is a complete sentence.”