WELLNESS: At the PAC Auditorium, Assembly Complex, host Dr Ajay Vaidya (left) and visiting celebrated spinal neurosurgeon Dr Premanand Ramani from Mumbai, field questions from an enthusiastic audience. Everybody may not be interested in politics, but everybody is interested in health and fitness!

IT’S good news, of course. Even the government of the day is into it and is now seeking fitness and wellness! Towards this end Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s message has gone out that there should be yoga and health-conscious programs for politicians and government employees across the country. Not a bad idea seeing how much ill-health our politicians and so called government servants invite (for all their treacherous, ill-gotten ways)!

Saturday morning, June 17, 2017, was raining like crazy but I was determined to make it by autorickshaw first to the Kadamba Bus Terminal and thence to the Goa Legislature Assembly complex, changing autorickshaw half-way (the first one collected `100 and refused to take me further across the Mandovi bridge) – both autorickshaws had ticking meters but they were just for show!

Anyway it was worth it to listen to the renowned neurosurgeon Dr P S Ramani talk on the subject of how to be healthy and happy in life. The talk he delivered was titled “Wellness, The Path to Success.” Wellness is something he practices actively and this comes across in his very presence, he is certainly qualified to speak on the subject (apart from the fact that his name is synonymous with many firsts in spinal surgery). If I may so the Mumbai-based Dr Ramani is a very popular invitee with the Goa government and do you know that there is actually a PS Ramani Annual Goa Marathon?

He may live in Mumbai but never forgets his Goan roots and origins in village Wadi (near Ponda). Quite the philanthropist, he has donated his ancestral home for community welfare and sporting activities. But then, he did wind up his peppery health talk at the PAC auditorium at the Assembly Complex by advising the audience that it helps to subscribe to a philosophy of giving and giving away to be happy. It was a treat of a talk and clearly Dr Ramani takes his own advice, his 80 years something sit well on him (he was born November 30, 1938, one of six siblings in a Goa where primary education was in Portuguese and for further studies one went to Mumbai or abroad). He was a brilliant, quick learner and after finishing his MBBS in Mumbai travelled to various places abroad.

This spinal neurosurgeon has a penchant for green lifestyles and pursues fitness and wellness, hones both his hardware and software, runs in marathons, eats frugally (for many years, he confessed, he skipped lunchtime because of a busy practice and out of conviction). He encourages organic terrace gardening back in Mumbai where he lives and believes in giving back to community/society generously and kindly. Undoubtedly making a lot of allowances for sins of commission and commission!

Sometimes I wonder what comes first, hardware (body beautiful) or software (modus operandi of the mind)? And does hardware influence software or is it the other way around? The other way around of course! But think about it. To stay with what the gracious Dr Premanand Ramani said in his talk — it was in Marathi and since my Marathi is kacha pakka I missed out on the finer nuances of his humor — he more or less traced how his humble beginnings contributed to his desire to work hard and not look back with regret. He remembers his mother, who brought all of them up with great difficulty, with nostalgic affection.

Later, after he passed out of medical school, he studied in the UK, visited the USA, Japan, Korea, Hungary, generally following a motto of working hard and playing hard, to stay alive in the pink of wellbeing. His contribution to spinal surgery in the last 45 years is notable with several firsts and awards. The gist of his talk was that from early on in life one should engage in exercise and watch one’s diet. “You have to say goodbye to batata-vada! Better to eat chonak raw and sliced fine Japanese style as sushi…”. (Or is it sashimi?)

He spoke of the benefits of yoga and Ayurveda which came with the “samudra manthan” (churning of the ocean episode in Hindu religious/spiritual mythology) and Lord Dhanvantri has indeed, offered us the kalash of amrit for reaping longevity if we want to. In response to a query later during the question/answer session he acknowledged that we modern day Indians eat too much refined carbohydrates and that could well be linked to our high incidence of diabetes. Shun fryums and eat a lot of antioxidant-rich veggies and salads, and beans for protein.

NO balanced nutrition means no balanced wellness in body and mind! Funny, after the talk and selfie moments with fans in the audience I managed to catch his attention to ask what he thinks of India becoming a Hindu rashtra? Alas, just when he was about to finish telling me that he is no believer in religion, being a man of science first, somebody pushed me aside rudely saying, “No political questions, please don’t politicize this talk!”

Hell’s bells, it was embarrassing, so what if Dr Ramani had been allowed to finish what he was saying to me? Oh well, all I can say here is such are the times we’re  heading into. What kind of times? You work it out, my dears. But I think it is time we asked the people of this country if they are happy with a progressive multi-dimensioned India or whether they really want a homogenous tyrannical Hindu rashtra where a bunch of super Hindus in power will dictate terms to lesser mortals like minorities? The old caste system modified?

How about a nation-wide opinion poll? I’m confident that a majority of Indians do not by any stretch of imagination want a Hindu rashtra! The only folk who want it are those whose mindsets are frozen in time. I mean, after 70 years of independence, what’s the point of trying to put back the clock? In the process we’re seeing a whole lot of hate thawing out of the woodwork of past history and predicting a grim future of revengeful, bigoted politics of justification. The question arises, who will live and who will die to pay the price of rectifying perceived historical wrongs? And to think that such vendetta-infused politics will only lead us down a path of no return. Are we going to crucify the spirit of Mahatma Gandhi twice over?

Hey, I don’t want to think about such nasty future scenarios, my dears! But this is to say thank-you for a sparkling, full of wit, talk, Dr Premanand Shantaram Ramani! The function was moderated by ophthalmic surgeon Dr Ajay Vaidya and it was quite a jugalbandi. I think it was Dr Vaidya who observed that fortunes are made by the first generation, spent by the second and lost by the third, meaning the fourth generation has to start all over again from scratch! The audience had a good laugh at this. I noticed there were a few politicians past and present up front in the audience, but no chief minister or Goa Legislative Assembly Speaker Dr Pramod Sawant, who I understand is the brains behind the new re-vitalised message infiltrating government offices — do yoga, be fit, look deep into your conscience or else…sorry, my dears, that’s my interpretation! I made friends with a Mrs Godinho who gave me a lift back to Panjim and I thank her.

I may note that post-event there was a wonderful lunch served to all in the swanky MLAs restaurant at the Assembly Complex, and here I found former Power Minister, now green businesswoman with a spice farm, Nirmala Sawant, to talk to and express my indignation over not being able to ask Dr Ramani if he would like India to become a Hindu rashtra or not! In any case I think this Dr Ramani comes across as a man for whom work, research, fitness, is a religion, and perhaps religion per se is troublesome nonsense.

On that note it is avjo, poite verem, selamat datang, au revoir arriverdecci and vachun yeta here for now.

— Mme Butterly


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