Thursday, September 24, 2015

Am I a Seeder or a Leecher?

Sometimes, small things, incidents or discussions in your daily routine can take on a bigger and more profound dimension. Call them one of those "Aha" moments when you re-think or deep-dive into a lot of the things you'd never really thought about before and you introspect upon your actions to come to a small (or big) epiphany. Such a thing happened (and is still happening of course) to me recently when I was discussing something as mundane as downloading torrents. I was having this discussion with a colleague (as crazy and off the rocker as me) about the technology of peer-to-peer file sharing using the torrent protocol. We were talking download speeds, share ratios and how good a download rate one would get if a particular torrent had a good share ratio.  For the benefit of people who don't use torrents, here's a bit of a primer on the concept being discussed (and for my own convenience, I'm going to use a lot of wiki here)

What is a torrent?A torrent (or a BitTorrent as the original terminology goes) is a protocol for the practice of file sharing that is used to distribute large amounts of data over the internet. BitTorrent is one of the most common protocols for transferring large files, and peer-to-peer networks have been estimated to collectively account for approximately 43% to 70% of all Internet traffic (depending on geographical location) as of February 2009. In November 2004, BitTorrent was responsible for 35% of all Internet traffic. As of February 2013, BitTorrent was responsible for 3.35% of all worldwide bandwidth, more than half of the 6% of total bandwidth dedicated to file sharing. Well, all good so far. But the next question is -
How does it work? To send or receive files the user must have a torrent client; a computer program that implements the BitTorrent protocol. Some popular BitTorrent clients include uTorrent, Xunlei, Transmission, Vuze or the official BitTorrent. A user must also have enough hard disk space to save whatever is being downloaded or uploaded and a working internet connection. A typical user downloads the software (let's say uTorrent), installs it on his hard drive and is then ready to download stuff off the internet. All he or she then has to do is search for what they're downloading, find a torrent, download the torrent file (it's a small file which has a .torrent extension) from a million torrent search engines like, open this torrent file using aforementioned uTorrent and they're good to go! Here's a small infographic that explains the principle behind this -

The colorful dots beneath each computer in the animation represent different parts of the file being shared. By the time a copy to a destination computer of each of those parts completes, a copy to another destination computer of that part (or other parts) is already taking place between users. The tracker (server) provides only a single copy of the file, and all the users clone its parts from one another.

The dynamics of a good download - Now comes the interesting part. People who download a lot of stuff from torrents know that the higher the number of seeders, the faster one can download stuff. If leechers outnumber seeders, the download rate goes down. We know this. We consciously select torrents with a high number of seeders and ignore or are wary of any torrent that has a higher number of leechers. But why is that?

A seed refers to a machine possessing some part of the data. A peer or downloader becomes a seed when it starts uploading the already downloaded content for other peers to download from. This includes any peer possessing 100% of the data. When a downloader starts uploading content, the peer becomes a seed. On the other hand, leechers are just downloading content. Basically, a peer or any client that does not have 100% of the data. The term leech also refers to a peer(s) that has a negative effect on the swarm by having a very poor share ratio, downloading much more than they upload. To put it in a nutshell, peers can either be seeders or leechers. Seeders are good, leechers are bad. 

Now comes the interesting part of our discussion. Both of us agreed that as end-users of this technology we're more leechers than seeders. In this cut-throat world of limited bandwidth where every kilobyte is paid for, we can't afford to seed! Or can we? Then we started generalizing the concept of peer-to-peer sharing - and that's where the first phase of our "epiphany" (for lack of a better word) hit us. Am I a seeder or a leecher? Do I just download stuff or do I give back content to the community when I'm done downloading?

Phase 1 of this epiphany is the digital world. Take the example of something as mundane as the Google Play Store. We all download apps and use them. Before downloading, we check the rating. Anything above 4 is good. We then check user comments and reviews. If most users are satisfied with the app, we download the app and forget about Play Store till we need another app. Classic leecher behaviour. On the other hand, the seeders amongst us use apps, rate them and the best of us review them with helpful comments. That way, the community gets more information about the app. What would happen if Play Store ratings remained blank? What would happen if there were no reviews? We'd have to go by the app developer's word for what a product is and can be. And boy, do we know how reliable that is! Take the example of a million other such communities. The Zomato community, the Maps community, the Goodreads community, the Facebook community, the Google users community and to scale up all these communities; the digital community at large. This world is built upon seeders. Those who share rather than hoard. Those who help rather than leech. And our small epiphany that day was to begin our transformation from being a seeder to a leecher in the digital world. By the end of this month, I plan to review (rate at the very least) each app I use. A more mid-term resolution is to participate more in the communities I'm a part of. Comment on a news article, write more on topics of general interest, edit Wikipedia entries when I know better, suggest feedback on apps I use, edit incorrect maps to suggest improvements and be a more active user. 

And then followed the larger realization of carrying this same principles forward into the physical world. Am I a seeder or am I a leecher? Do I just expect help from others but not help in return? Do I expect civic sense from others but can't exhibit it myself? Do I take or do I share? Do I hoard information just for personal betterment or do I share it freely with others? That is the question. As a human being, am I a seeder or am I a leecher?

Phase 2 is real life. Here the epiphany takes on bigger and more disturbing dimensions. Every resource is finite. Fuel, water, food, land; even knowledge and information. We can either take from the common pool, we can share with the common pool or we can add to the common pool. For every resource in our life, we can either seed or leech. 

Take the example of Turing Pharma that's currently in the news. Daraprim is a standard drug that is prescribed to AIDS patients to tackle a specific parasitic infection. It's been around for 60-odd years and has been priced (as of 2015) at USD 13.50 a tablet. Turing Pharma (a start-up that's been managed by an ex fund manager named Martin Shkreli) acquired the rights to this medicine sometime in September (this month). Overnight, the company jacked up the retail price to USD 750 per tablet! That's a 5455% increase . . overnight! Classic leecher behaviour. It's not enough to earn profits. Turing wants to cash in on a necessity and take advantage of it. Earning profits isn't bad at all. You can earn profits and still help people. That's seeding. But what Turing Pharma has done is the typical behaviour of a leecher. They want to take money from the community (leech) without giving anything back. They want exorbitant profits out of a necessity. Classic leeches. 

Unfortunately, I'm a leecher most of the time. Most of us are. We expect but not give. We want bigger houses for ourselves and our families, we want bigger cars, more money, a better lifestyle for ourselves and for our near and dear ones. Classic leecher behaviour. On the other hand, the seeders amongst us make sure that resources are shared with others, and the best amongst us go out of their way to ensure that inequity is corrected in the distribution of resources in their own spheres of influence. Take the example of a mundane resource like knowledge. What would happen if there were no teachers (the best seeders of all). Where would we be? We would have to learn for ourselves from books and the internet. But if there were no seeders, would books be written? If there were no seeders of knowledge, would there be self-learning tools on the internet? A horrible scenario isn’t it? We can pick a resource at will and find seeders and leechers amongst the users of that resource. Money, land, water, food, knowledge, influence, power . . you name it and you’ll find seeders and leechers for all of these. 

And that brings me to the question that faces each one of us in our lives. The question that should form the basis of all our interactions with other people. The question that we should keep foremost in our mind when deciding on a course of action that has an impact on people around us. The question that shall define our psyche as a culture, as a community, as a nation and as a specie . . . Am I a seeder or a leecher?

Saturday, September 19, 2015

A Tribute to Women . . And a salute to Furiosa

"Mad Max: Fury Road" released this year is a reboot of the original Mad Max franchisee released back in 1979. The original starred Mel Gibson and was directed by George Miller. This one stars Tom Hardy, who reprises the role of Max; and is also directed by George Miller. Keeping aside the fact that it is an extravagent treat for the senses, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that Fury Road isn't about Max at all. The movie is about Furiosa . . and her sidekick Max. It is an inherently feminist movie and the protagonist is not the male lead. Charlize Theron's character steals the limelight right from her entrance in the movie to the blood-thumping, pulsating background score titled "Redemption" which is what Furiosa is searching for through the movie. Furiosa isn't the typical version of beauty we normally see, and the stand-out fact is that Furiosa represents the right version of feminism that we need today. Take a gander - 

Not exactly a pin-up is she? No lovely curves like the absolutely sickening Game of Thrones characters (not very clear on names since I don't follow the mess). No bells and whistles like the long-suffering wives on countless soap operas millions of women across the world sit glued to their tellys for. She's Furiosa. She is what she is. Take it or leave it. One-armed protector for Immortan Joe's escaped breeders. Far cry from Deepika Padukone's "My Choice" video where she glimmers on screen in pretty, wavy hair and talks of having sex outside marriage. You won't consider that as even a relevant issue when you think of a character like Furiosa; she's got better and bigger things to worry about. She's actually trying to help the breeder's escape to the Land of the Many Mothers (again a very feminist concept) and help them start a new life where their children will not be warlords. Far cry from Deepika's simpering take on a pseudo-feminism that most women in India wouldn't even relate to. 

Mad Max is set in a dystopian future where critical resources like water, oil, arms etc are hoarded by warlords who have their castle and their armies to protect whatever they're hoarding. Immortan Joe controls all the water and calls it Aqua-Cola. He has an army of crazy Jihadis called "The Half-Life" who think dying in battle will take them to Valhalla (their version of heaven). Immortan's sole use for women is for breeding his progeny. He has a harem of beauties whom he calls his breeders. He uses them just for impregnation and treats them like his propety. His sole purpose for this harem is to give him male progeny so that his lineage will be carried on. The premise is disgusting but all too real (as history has taught us right from Genghis Khan who has fathered a genetically distinct generation to the comical Laloo Yadav with his 11 children). The movie in itself is a surreal take on an inevitable global melt-down, but let's not go there for now. Imperator Furiosa is shown as a critical cog in Immortan's army. He sends her on a mission to acquire bullets and gasoline from another warlord in exchange for his water. Coming to the plot, the movie is all Furiosa. Right from Max's entry; we see his concern as a very primal and selfish one. He's all about surviving without caring two hoots for anybody else. Furiosa is all about the bigger picture. She's trying her best to get the breeders to safety so they can start a new life. She's fighting for womankind, Max is just trying to save his own skin. Even amongst the half-life, she commands respect. Her team obeys her unquestioningly even when she leads them into a detour and an obvious ambush. Furiosa is the better fighter (it takes both Max and the half-life to subdue the one-armed Furiosa), she's the better shot (there's a scene to that effect), she's the one searching for redemption and she's the one who kills Immortan Joe with a chilling "Remember Me" as her parting shot. The climax of the movie when she saves Max from being run over while at the same time driving the war-rig after being stabbed with a knife and manages to save herself, Max and the breeders is basically the role of the protagonist and none lesser. Max is the sidekick. Fury Road is all Furiosa. Fighter, Mother . . Woman. 

It is very refreshing to see this kind of feminism being portrayed on-screen. To my mind, Furiosa is the epitome of all that is best in womankind. She doesn't conform to the norm when it comes to female beauty, she is trying to prove a point when she helps the breeders escape, she's uber-capable and at the same time sensitive to human emotions, she's ruthless and at the same time fair (she allows Max to drink water before she goes all heavy-handed on him in one scene) and she's got the larger picture in mind, she doesn't need Max . . he needs her. 

To all the Furiosas in my life - a salute from this sidekick Max.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Breaking the Myth - Windows is User-Friendly

Got myself a new machine recently. Had FreeDOS out of the box so it was up to me to get it up and running; the way I like it. I chose Windows 10 Insider Preview version and the latest Ubuntu 15.04 (Vivid Vervet) distribution for my dual-boot configuration. Let's just say that Windows 10 is still WIP - and how! But that's not the point. Even if I was using Windows 7 or 8, I still feel that the mantle of user-friendliness need not sit with Microsoft any longer. Here's a few quick points of comparison. 

  • First off - install size and system requirements. The Ubuntu bootable USB is under 1GB whereas any Windows installation is 3.7GB. You can run Ubuntu without a lag on a machine with under 1GB RAM. But try that with Windows and you'll be pulling your hair with frustration. 
  • Right out of the box - It's time for someone to say it. Nothing works out of the box for Windows anymore. It just doesn't. I had to install display drivers to get a decent workable resolution, audio drivers to ensure sound was setup and ethernet drivers. Thankfully, Win8 drivers worked for Win10 as well. On the other end of the spectrum, everything worked out-of-the-box for Ubuntu. Didn't have to install anything other than the OS. 
  • Ease of Setup - Here too, there's no major difference left between Ubuntu and Windows. In fact, if I didn't  have to partition my hard-drive, I think the Ubuntu installation was as easy. As far as install-time goes, Ubuntu installed and was set up in under an hour while I took an hour and thirty minutes for Windows to get installed. 
  • User-Friendliness - I belong to the "habit-is-user-friendliness" school of thought. If you use an OS long enough, it gets "user friendly". It's a very natural cognitive bias we all have; that familiar things are better than unfamiliar things. Hence we give them a label of user-friendliness. But consider the facts. Ubuntu comes with little features that are really useful. An example is the "disable-touchpad-when-typing" feature. It essentially locks the keypad when you are typing. On my Windows 8 machine, there have been soooo many times that my cursor has moved accidentally when typing and I've had to redo the whole thing. Ubuntu/Linux has always had multiple deskops while Windows is just coming up with Workspaces. The Linux community with GNOME was much faster to experiment with a "Panel" whereas Microsoft adapted it in Windows 8. I do have a lot more examples, but the point is that there's no significant difference between either OS when it comes to user-friendliness. In fact, now that I am used to Ubuntu GNOME, I prefer it to the Windows interface. My mouse automatically moves to the upper-right corner of the desktop even on my Windows machine to get the GNOME panel to pop-up (does that without a click btw)! 
  • App Installations - This is where it gets a tad tricky. If I have a tarball or a package that I need to manually install; well, Linux gets messy. But if I've got the app available in the Ubuntu Software Centre, it's a breeze. In fact, it's easier than Windows. I just go to the product website, gives me a 1-click install option, I click on it, it opens the Ubuntu Software Centre automatically, I accept installation request, enter my credentials and it just sets up the software. As easy as falling off a log.

In summary, I must say that Ubuntu and the Linux community have bridged the gap between Microsoft and open source linux distributions fast and well. No longer can we say that Windows is more user-friendly. Not at all. In fact, as a user; I wouldn't use Windows if I had a viable alternative for Microsoft Office. The day is not far when the open source community cracks that problem too. 

In anticipation for that day, I'm starting off with Google Docs just in case. :-)

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Takes a little bit of crazy to make a difference . .

I recently acted as driver, PA, helper, coolie and general admin-boy for Ramashish Joshi (my mama) on one of his excursions to the innards of Konkan. He was on a tight itinerary covering the village of Harihareshwar and surrounding hamlets espousing the cause of the newly setup Government of India's biodiversity committee plan to various gram panchayats (village councils). To give you a brief introduction, Ramashish Joshi works with Sahyadri Nisarga Mitra (An organization engaged in conservation of marine turtle, whitebellied sea eagle, vulture, Indian swiftlet and other birds in the Konkan region). He is also involved in various other activities of a socially collaborative nature in Chiplun, Maharashtra and is active in ecological conservation activities throughout the Western Ghats and Konkan region. 

On that trip, as mama stretched our (I was accompanied by my wife who stood up to the challenge as well) physical endurance to it's limits with his seemingly inexhaustible supply of energy, I realised a simple fact - it takes a little bit of crazy to make a difference. 

He and I share the same birthday. People feel we also share a lot of other characteristics. But I think the similarities end at our birthday. I really wouldn't have the guts to live the life he has led to this point. We've often disagreed on various things. We've had our differences on many, many, many issues (particularly on matters of my behaviour through college; yes I do come off looking rather bad), but one thing we can both agree on is his "craziness" quotient. No arguments there. 

And boy can I attest to that! Over the years, I have seen mama get into inexplicable scrapes with people all around him on matters of principle. Over the years, I have seen him change from a corporate honcho to an activist (he still denies both these stereotypes). Over the years, I have seen the "craziness" increase. By all "social" norms and definitions, only a crazy person will return to India leaving a high-profile, cushy and well-paying job (the so-called American Dream) in the "US of A" to do something different. Only a crazy person will deliberately choose 15th August as his date of return. Only a crazy person will then leave another similaly cushy job as a corporate IT honcho to turn to environmental conservation. Only a crazy person will leave behind a net of safety and security and set out to do something that we all see as a lost cause. Of couse, kudos to his wife too (my mami) on standing by him through all this craziness (that too must have been quite a difficult task). Only a crazy person will continue to fight the odds of a massively indifferent political system, an even more indifferent general population and a similarly indifferent audience (the wild animals and indigineous flora/fauna that he seeks to save) despite knowing that his efforts will most probably end up as "too little too late" (not because of any lack of efforts on his part but because of our ennui). Only a crazy person would do all this . . But then again, maybe crazy is what we really need.

Why am I writing all this? Because I realise that only in a flawed society is this behaviour called odd or "crazy". Only in a flawed society is social awareness taken as sign of naivety rather than of intelligence. Only a flawed society hinders such a man's activities rather than help and promote them in every way possible. Only a flawed society will create role models of criminals and spoilt movie stars instead of men and women like him. Only in a flawed society will we find "crazy" men fighting these odds. Perhaps it is time that we realize that civic sense is a good thing. Perhaps it is time we realize that we need to set our petty differences and vested interests aside and listen to what these people are telling us. Maybe there's more sense in it than what we've been considering as "good sense" all these years.

Maybe it is time for all of us to become a "little crazy" ourselves . . Maybe crazy is what we really need. 

Mr. Joshi, hat's off to you.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Goodreads Book Review - The Complete Yes Minister

The Complete Yes MinisterThe Complete Yes Minister by Jonathan Lynn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A superbly written series of stories. Apart from the cut-and-thrust banter that the inimitable Sir Humphrey and Woolley get up to with Hacker; what is even more apparent from this imbroglio of the British "functional anarchy" is that we (as Indians) have taken from the Brits what we should have left well alone and left alone what we should have learnt from them and incorporated into our own system.

What is heartening though, is that even Thatcher provided inputs to the writers about Whitehall and the political system of the great empire (

A throughly enjoyable and revealing piece of literature.

View all my reviews

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Modi Suit Saga

There's been so much hue and cry over the Narendra Modi suit saga and many people have lent an opinion. Some critisize Modi for a publicity stunt and others uphold him as a new-age fashionista. Prima facie - it looks like a publicity stunt with megalomania written all over it. But is it really? I wonder . . 

The controversial suit that had Modi's name monogrammed on it
Here's the timeline of events. Modi is gifted a suit worth INR 10-11 lakhs by a businessman. He wears it during an important meeting with Obama thus inflating its value. He then auctions it via a public auction raising INR 4.31 crores. These funds are utilized for the "Clean Ganga Mission" via a very public and legitimate channel. 

On the other hand, we have the UPA government which had a national resource (coal, 2G spectrum etc.). They did nothing to increase its base price (provide infrastructure, help build business model for social cause, regulate fair play and in any way perform its inherent functions). Then they sold off the resource via very unethical means (which they conveniently call "first-come-first-serve") and the money thus acquired was not used (or sparsely used) for any social welfare of the "aam admi". As an added note, the current auction of spectrum has so far realized INR 109000 crores whereas the UPA method of doing business earned the government INR 9407 crores

If you compare the two events from a business model perspective, isn't there a comparison that can be done? I am no economist and I am no political pundit, but isn't the suit auction proving that the famed "Zero-Loss Theory" by Kapil Sibal and the UPA was complete hogwash? That the government can earn money and help people as well? That business and good governance can happen hand-in-hand without a conflict of interest?

Is there a lesson in this somewhere . . ?

Thursday, March 12, 2015

A Day at the Hospital

Lokmanya Tilak Municipal General Hospital, Sion, Mumbai. EMR section. 10th March 2015. Bed 1 was me with the patient, Raja Patil. Weight - all of 45 kilos, age - 40. Chronic liver degeneration and something called congestive cardiac failure (yet to be diagnosed). Bed 3 was a 20-year old kid brought in by his parents who lived in Kurla and who'd drunk phenyl in fear of his upcoming 10th standard exam (which he'd already attempted 4 times). Bed 6 was a middle-aged lady whose husband was abusing her (evident from her black eye, bruised face and her conversation with her friend) and who had a stroke of some sort in front of my very eyes. The right side of her face was twitching and her limbs were flailing. Her companion was stricken and scared. Interns were milling around her. Bed 11 was a small kid. Maybe 5th grade. He was panting loudly and his fingers and toes had curled inwards. The doctors/interns weren't sure what the problem was and were trying to reach their superiors. The dad (a workaday guy) was panicking. One of the interns advised that he (the child) breathe into a bag. I remembered I had one in my bike. I reassured the dad, rushed outside and got it. He thanked me and turned back to his son.

The scene of battle
I stood there bemused and shocked. It was an assault on the senses. I was numb. Every bed was a tragedy and every patient was a story. Raja Patil seemed insignificant. I seemed insignificant. What was I doing here?

Back in December of last year, Raja Patil started taking a lot of leaves. He washed the vehicles in my apartment building in Airoli, Navi Mumbai. My beloved car and equally loved bike stayed unwashed for days on end. My fellow residents were suffering the same way. Whenever we saw Raja, we'd criticize him for taking leaves. We'd ask him to drink less and we'd ask him to amend his ways if he didn't want to get fired. After an especially caustic tirade one day, I remembered an incident. To wash the roof of my car, he'd upended a bucket, stood on it and wiped it clean because his height was insufficient. He didn't shy away from the task. He did it and did it thoroughly. That didn't look like a lazy man to me. I've seen people shirk their duties and I've done that too when I'm feeling lazy. Nobody's perfect. But you get a feel for the character of a person when you see him or her work when he or she doesn't know anybody's watching. The next time I saw him, I asked him why he was taking so many leaves. He showed me a wound on the back of his head and said that he had constant headaches and fever and a never-ending body-ache. The wound was bad. It was something out of a slasher movie like Saw or Hostel. I could see the skull. I was aghast. I immediately took him to my doctor - a very kindly woman named Ujjwala Dongarwar who has a clinic in Airoli on RG Marg. She diagnosed him and suggested that Raja needed a surgeon for the wound and a few checks to diagnose other ailments he obviously had. She referred me to a specialist. She didn't take payment. Unfortunately, this specialist was available only in the mornings and I really couldn't work out my schedule. The matter lagged for a couple of days. Then the subsequent week, a bunch of kids knocked on my door asking for Helpage India donations. That set me thinking. I first tried the Helpage India Mumbai number. No answer. I then called them on the helpline listed on their website. Long hold (maybe they should consider outsourcing this). Then I checked out their website and got a few contact numbers for individuals. No answer. I then sent an email to them explaining this situation.

Email sent to Helpage on 06th Dec 14
I got a response on 12th dec 14 asking for more information. Through a series of emails, we identified that a Helpage mobile unit was going to be stationed at Thane early Jan-15 and that I could take Raja to this unit. Help would be given. Unfortunately, by this time (this exchange happend on 05th Jan 15); we could no longer find him. He had stopped coming to work and when we checked his home, it looked abandoned. The watchman of my building kindly guided me to a country liqour bar he frequented but nobody had heard of him for a few days.

Email exchange with the Helpage team through the month of Dec-14
Towards the end of February, he turned up again. He claimed he was sober, the wound was healing and he had gone to a Municipal Hospital. He looked relatively better. However, the hospital he had gone to had strangely referred him to the ICCU unit of Sion Hospital for inpatient treatment. If he felt better, why would a doctor advise him to get admitted? It felt weird. I suggested that he go to Sion Hospital and do what the doctor advised. A few days later when I asked him about his health he requested that I accompany him to Sion. By this time, he said he was feeling breathless all the time and his legs had swollen up. So off we went to Lokmanya Tilak Municipal General Hospital in Sion, Mumbai. 

I first took Raja to the second floor where the ICCU was located. I asked him to sit on a bench outside while I searched for assistance. I noticed a couple of young interns standing just outside the ICCU. I went up to them and asked them for help. One of them very kindly guided me inside to meet the shift-in-charge and helped me get started. She directed me to the EMR counter where fresh cases were being given a case-paper and explained all the procedural formalities to me. From the second floor, I came down to the EMR counter (I suppose it stands for Emergency Medical Room) and got started. I had the case paper made, consulted a guardian intern outside the EMR and was then guided inside along with my charge. The melee was phenomenal. Cries, smells, sounds and people greeted me like a railway platform at rush hour. Here a man was lying wasted on a gurney and there a child was bawling his lungs out. It was nothing like anything I had seen before. I walked up to the intern in charge (she looked like she was in charge because she was surrounded by patients hankering for her attention). After some attempts at getting her attention (in all fairness, she was beseiged with patients), I did manage to catch her eye and explained Mr. Raja Patil's situation to her. She suggested an ECG, guided us to Bed 1 and instructed her assistant interns to get cracking. 

The poor souls unfortunately had a faulty ECG machine. They were already trying to get it functional for Bed 2 and we therefore had to wait our turn. I observed that the ECG machine was a box connected to a set of wires with clamps at the end. These clamps were coloured and they were meant to be attached to a corresponding pin of the same colour at the end of the set of wires. One of these wires was broken and was taped. The taped portion was a loose connection. The connector where the wires were joined to the machine was a lot like a printer port. The interns called out to the orderly to replace the wires and I could see him struggling. Since it was in my own interest to move things along, I jumped in. Both of us replaced the clamps from the old set of wires to the new set of wires. We then connected the set of wires to the ECG machine. Once this was done, we found that one of these clamps was a small rubber ball which created suction and stuck to the chest so that a reading could be taken. The rubber ball was torn. We taped it up with medical adhesive tape and were set to go. Once Bed 2 was done, the interns moved over to Raja. They immediately identified that his liver was abused (for lack of a better word). They strapped the ECG machine to him and off we went! Once this was done, the female intern in charge (Kanchana) instructed me to get something called a Trop T Test. I went to the medical store behind the hospital and bought this kit. Once this was done, Kanchana took the ECG, the result of the Trop T test (which was negative) and took them to her superior. While this was happening, the interns slid off to their lunch leaving me and Raja Patil to the mercy of the elements. Bed 3, 6 and 11 were stories unfolding right before my eyes. I couldn't stand it anymore. I sought out Kanchana, found out from her that Raja was suffering from liver failure and heart problems (chronic liver disease and congestive cardiac failure were the terms Kanchana used), got Raja's admission papers made and ensured he was admitted. Then I gave him instructions on the medications he was being given and walked out; 4 hours after I had walked in, a shaken man. Back to my 1530 IST appointment, my daily routine, my safe and secure world of an air-conditioned office and the comforting arms of my beautiful wife at the end of a long day. 

But on the drive back, I reflected. What was the lesson that I was taking away from this episode? I pondered on this for quite some time. Was it that the system was broken? Or that it still had not collapsed enough to the point of anarchy? On one hand, I was living in a system where Raja Patil was forced to wash cars despite being physically weak and old. On the other hand, I was also living in a system where I received a response from HelpAge India to give him assistance. On one hand, I was living in a system where residents of my apartment complex shouted at Raja without understanding his problems. On the other hand, I was also living in a system where my doctor (Dr. Ujjwala Dongarwar) refused to take money to check Raja and give him advice. On one hand, I was living in a system where politicians have so much money that they don't know what to do with it but a hospital doesn't have a functional ECG machine. On the other hand, I was also living in a system where we had the ingenuity to fix the machine with the tools at our disposal to ensure that patients were treated. On one hand, I was living in a system where interns slid off to have lunch right in front of my eyes leaving Kanchana to man the entire EMR herself. On the other hand, I had Akshay (another intern) who slogged on and I had Kanchana herself who bravely handled all patients who came in with a resilient battle-hardened fury and determination. It was very easy to blame everybody and come away with a sense of desolation. I could almost slide into that frame of mind without effort. But I also knew that it is our response to our problems that determine how they are solved. I could either crib, or I could jump in, pull up my sleeves and try to fix the problem wherever possible. I chose to fix. I admit I came away shaken and stirred. But I'd do it again.