Covid19 Survey – US vs India

Covid-19 virus has unleashed mayhem in the world, and it has caused many deaths. The pattern of deaths has, however, been uneven. As of the date of publishing (May 18, 2020), there have been 30 times more deaths from #Covid19 in the US (90,000 deaths) than in India (3,000 deaths), even though the US has only one-fourth the population of India. I was curious to find out why it was so.

We conducted a quick 5-minute survey with a simple One-big-question of rank-ordering 9 factors in terms of their importance in causing this huge differential in death rates in the US and India. The 9 factors were: Demography (older population in the US); Sickness (high chronic conditions in the US); Immunity (Indian soil; Yoga, pranayama etc); Culture (greater social cohesion and family support in India); Public Policy (how seriously each country mounted a unified approach); Resources (availability of medical equipment); Genetics (difference in two populations); Diet (more vegetarians in India); Measurement (less reliable data from India). There was a None-of-the above option too. In addition, we added two question on their expectations of the way forward. One was about how long it will take to come out of Covid19 situation into normalcy. And the other was about what might be the markers for returning to normalcy.

We did convenience sampling using social media contacts of the researcher who should be in a position to compare and express their perceptions. 66 respondents from US, India, and other countries, filled out survey. Of the 66 respondents 60% were resident in India, 29% in the US, and 11% in other countries. The respondents including 55% from the researcher’s own age cohort of 55-64 years, while 42% were younger. A couple of respondents were over 65 years. The respondents were 71% male and 29% female.

Here are the main results (see bar chart below). Demographics (Older population) in the US was perceived to be the major cause of higher deaths from Covid-19 in the US than in India. Public policy choices and higher rates of Chronic sickness in the US were also identified as the next important causes for higher deaths in the US compared with India. Higher levels of Immunity was ranked highest as the major reason for lower death rates in India. Culture, Diet and Genetics received only moderate support. Surprisingly, availability of resources was ranked as least important cause.

66 Respondents’ ranking of 9 factors to explain differential death rates in USA and India

Moving forward, half the people (48%) said that it will take 1-2 years to return to normalcy. 31% of respondents said it will take less than one year, while 21% said it will take more than 2 years (see pie-chart below). US residents were twice as likely as Indian residents to think that it might take 2 or more years. For return to normalcy, the preferred enablers were availability of a tried and tested vaccine and a tested cure for Covid19, in that order (see bar graph below). Declining death rates were a lesser important marker, while availability of resources such as PPE was considered the least important marker.

66 Respondents’ expectations of time frame for return to normalcy
66 Respondents’ ranking of factors for return to normalcy

Here below is some more granular analysis.

Age: Respondents in 55-64 years ranked Public policy and Measurement issues higher, while those in 35-44 age group ranked Immunity and Culture (social cohesion) higher, as factors for explaining the differential death rates.

Gender: Male respondents ranked Demographics (aging population) and Measurement issues higher, while Female respondents prioritized Immunity, Diet, and Availability of resources.

Location: Respondents living in Rest of the World (11% of total) ranked Public policy choices and Measurement issues by a wider margin than those living within the US and India. Indian residents ranked Immunity and Culture (social cohesion) as more important. US residents ranked Public policy and availability of Resources as more important issues.

Additional comments from Respondents: One respondent wrote that it may be taboo in the Indian culture to report Covid death from a social stigma perspective. One reported that there is greater resilience to pain in India. One reported that traditional Indian homes include a central space to grow Ayurvedic plants such as Tulsi. Some reported that the cause as well as cure for Covid19 were unclear and should be thoroughly investigated.

Summary: This survey shows that there are different perceptions of what has caused dramatically lower death rates reported in India compared to the US. Development of immunity is considered the best ameliorating factor. An effective public health policy could be another.

Lessons learned: Healthy holistic lifestyle including Yoga Sutras based practices such as asanas, pranayama, and meditation are among the best ways to a create a strong platform of immunity on which specific vaccines can work effectively! In fact, the development of a special vaccine for Covid-19 is essentially a way to increase immunity against this specific virus.

Covid-19 is a very important world-transforming, life-and-death matter. Please write to us as to what you think. If you wish, you may also take 5 minutes to fill out this survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/CovidAKM . Thank you!

Yoga Sutras is Positive Psychology

Yoga means union or addition. Positive means on the growing side of the number line. Positive is represented by the same + (plus) sign as is addition or union. It is not a coincidence. Maharishi Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras is indeed Positive Psychology.

Positivity works on the principle of optimism about the future, and one’s confidence to grow and face any challenges in being able to enjoy life. Optimism comes from the implicit realization that the rest of the universe is working to guide us in the direction of growth and joy. Optimism is like finding a home in the inner Being, which is pure consciousness. This pure awareness is the unified field of all the laws of nature, which guides us through the principle of least action to do less accomplish more. The concept of inner strength comes from this self-realization of self as an unbounded invincible being.

Positive Psychology is the science of well-being. Dr. Martin Feldman of University of Pennsylvania started this field in 1997 with a speech as the president of American Psychological Association. He presents a five-factor model for wellbeing–  in the acronym of PERMA. The five letters stand for Positive Emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning & purpose, and Achievements. Further research on positive psychology found that Self-discipline and Grit are more important than IQ or talent for achieving success and happiness. They also found that gratitude, hope and love are the most correlated with well-being. The single best predictor of well-being is gratitude, by far.

Yoga Sutras provide an eight-limbed path for union with unbounded pure consciousness. The first limb is yama. The relative world can be thought of in terms of the rules that govern relationships between individuals. The Yama, the master administrator, uses those rules to govern and see who has done how much good and should receive how much happiness. The five yamas are Satya (truth), Ahimsa (non-violence), Asteya (non-attachment), Brahmacharya (celibacy), and Aparigraha (non-possession). These five yamas structure the unity of natural laws to govern. The second limb of Yoga Sutras is niyama, or a set of rules for personal conduct. The five main niyamas are Shauch (cleanliness or purity), Santosh (contentment or satisfaction), Tapas (purification through strong effort), Swadhaya (self learning), and Ishawarpranidhan (bringing god into one’s awareness).

Yoga Sutras are a great path to developing the qualities for gratefulness and happiness. Gratitude directly maps to god-awareness, or appreciation for the gift of life. I wrote earlier on this blog that “what makes people most happy is to be present, to be here now! We are happy when we are fully engaged in whatever we are doing at the moment. Gratitude and Forgiveness are other habits that bring happiness.”   I believe that Positive Psychology is a secular version of Yoga Sutras.

Conversations with God: Bernie, Biden, & Tulsi

Conversations with God: Bernie, Biden, & Tulsi

GOD: Welcome my children. You all want to be leaders of the free world. Tell me why.

Biden: I have given whole my life to this country. I have served Obama for 8 years. That is a BFD (Big uh …you know). I love the Clintons. I followed her on the Iraq war vote. I can finish her unfinished work. I can beat Trump. I have been accused of plagiarism, but that was long ago. I supported Clarence Thomas, though I should not have bought his malarkey and should have supported Anita Hill. Look, the black people are supporting me. I will be the next black president. @joebiden

Bernie: The current system is not working for the majority of the American people. We need universal health care, and free college. We need Green New Deal.  I am consistently social democratic. My campaign is fueled by ordinary people and their small contributions. There is a revolution brewing in this country. I can beat Trump by bringing young people into the campaign. @berniesanders

Tulsi: I am young, healthy, fit, woman of color, and represent the future. I am a veteran put service above self by volunteering for defense services for 16 years, and deploying twice in the middle east. I have been on the right committees related to war and foreign affairs in Congress for over 7 years. We need to stop the wars, and invest at home.  I had the foresight to not vote for impeaching Trump, as that only played into energizing his base. I am not afraid of Trump. @tulsigabbard

GOD: Excellent. Some of you are like Mt Rushmore, as you have been around for a very long time. Why should health and age of your body not be an issue for this campaign?

Biden: I am fit, and thin. I usually remember what I am saying.

Bernie: I had a heart attack. But I am fit again. I am keeping a strenuous pace.

Tulsi: (smiles) It is the age of ideas I am most concerned about. We should reinvest savings from wasteful foreign wars into this country.

GOD: Will you support the eventual nominee of your party?

Biden: That would be me.

Bernie: It is up to the American people.

Tulsi: I think so. I am in this campaign to raise the right issues. I supported Bernie four years ago, and resigned from DNC to protest their favoritism towards the Clintons.

GOD: What would you do about Coronavirus?

Biden: Huh ? Corona … what? Whatever it is we can bring it under control.

Biden: We need universal health care. No one should live under the fear of not being being able to get the care they need.

Tulsi: This is a test of leadership. We need to be proactive in testing for this and other potential conditions, and then preventing it from spreading.

GOD: You are all doing well. Have a good time on the campaign trail. Stay healthy. Wish you all the best!

 

Why Tulsi Gabbard is the best candidate in this 2020 Presidential race

Aloha! I believe that Ms. Tulsi Gabbard is the best candidate in this 2020 presidential race.

First, Tulsi holds the bigger picture in mind. She focuses on World Peace. She focuses on the global environment. Her message is about humanity as a whole, even though she focuses first and foremost on the health and welfare of the American people.

Second, she is against wasteful unending regime-change wars that serve mostly commercial interests of the military-industrial complex. She volunteered for two tours of active military duty. She is fearless and can meet just as calmly with foes as with friends. Those foes include the vested interests inside the country. She wants a government truly of, by, and for the people.

Third, she is determined and takes initiative with a fierce sense of urgency. She does not take anything for granted. Coming from the island state of Hawaii reminds her of the constant dangers of nuclear wars, environmental disasters, and the devastation of the local people and cultures. She introduced a comprehensive bill against use of fossil fuels, which can become a cornerstone of the Green New Deal!

Fourth, she is an excellent communicator. She is an active listener and, surprisingly and refreshingly, answers the questions that are asked of her. She speaks truth to power. She is a good debater and brings out the truth in the most accessible way while cutting through other people’s circumambulations.

Finally, as a person, she is remarkably talented and attractive. Tulsi Gabbard has the temperament of a centered and experienced leader, and the warmth and innocence of a girl next door. She is a friendly and compassionate person who hugs easily and warmly. She speaks of service with love. Her voice is measured, and her speech is to the point.

Truth will win, ultimately! Truth and Non-violence go together and win, as Mahatma Gandhi showed! Tulsi is committed to truth-telling and to promoting World Peace. No other candidate comes even close! That is why Tulsi IS the best candidate in this race.

One last thing …. she is very young and has a lot of time ahead of her. So, irrespective of what happens in 2020, she has a tremendous opportunity to make impact on this country and the world. Like the other young Hawaiian-born candidate before her, she is destined for the White House!!

 

 

Increasing self-awareness

Do I know the context around me, the neighborhood and the neighbors, the friends and family, now and over the many decades of my life? The answer is that I hardly know things and people around me. I barely know my own full reactions to most of the situations I found myself in. I have a few pet theories of who I am, and who were responsible for guiding me. These are super simplifications that do not help come up with productive and promising ideas for the future. I think it is important now to know all or more around me.

What does it mean to know a person? How does one define a person? By their accomplishments or their goals, by their friends, or by how they carry themselves? We can seek out and learn about their interests. And accept whatever they are, positive or negative. It can take a long time to know people.

What does it mean to know a neighborhood or a situation? The neighborhood is about its support for life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. Safety. Limited regulations. Liveliness of activity. Plenty of wealth around. The situation would depend upon its difficulty and its impact on oneself, and how much one can do about it.

I think it is important to retain a sense of personal agency about oneself and the situations one finds oneself in. It is helpful to stop obsessing about one’s own interests and goals and accomplishments. The world is deeply interconnected and there is hardly anything one can accomplish without support from and alignment with the context around oneself.

 

#MeToo for a Blissful, Peaceful World

The #MeToo movement is going global. It is creating new conversations that are somewhat discomforting, but which can be opportunities for discussing the undiscussable and raising the collective consciousness of the world. Recently a classmate of mine who is a professor in a university in the US found the courage to share in a public group, during an ongoing charged conversation on sexual insensitivity and harassment, that she had been a victim of sexual abuse/assault. This revelation could have polarized the group, but the group decided to pursue it to its logical end. But very soon the intensity of the topic died down. The topic is still the phantom 800 lb gorilla in our WhatsApp group and is impacting the language being used in the conversations. It is also making some men in the group uncomfortable as they are having to watch their every word. What is the point of the conversation, they ask. They just want to be themselves. However, they will necessarily have to change their tonality moving forward because status quo is not acceptable any more, and having friendly conversations with longtime classmate buddies is just too pleasurable to give up.

Sexual abuse and assault and harassment are just one of the categories of buried injustices in the world. Racial profiling and injustice in the US, and caste-based exploitation and injustice in India, are a couple of other prominent examples. This buried injustice and anger is finding its way out through social media. These eruptions threaten to rip apart all societies and their cherished models of control, just like it brought about Arab Spring. In some ways, just getting heard is highly cathartic for the individual and the society. Free from this heavy emotional baggage, hitherto disadvantaged people can have the opportunity to purify their perceptions. They will find bliss within. They will become the peace they want to see in the world. And the world will be blissful and peaceful!

Transcendence in Life and Society

In some ways, transcendence is the recovery of the primal innocence we were all born with. We all emanated from some womb, through a similar process. Then we gathered the elements which bulked up our body. We gathered sensations that grew our mind. Then we began to develop our bodies and minds … making them sharp, beautiful, strong. We fell in love with these growing things, and we began to totally identify with our body and mind. We forgot our own selves, the little seed of awareness within. We began to worry about the potential loss of the body and the mind. We frantically began to covet resources of all kinds to protect the body and mind. At some point, we forgot our body and mind also and began to love the growing riches of stuff and resources Then we began to live in the dream state of life. Our coworkers became resources. Relationships became assets too. Instead of transcending to the state of freedom from thoughts and things, we began to become a thing ourselves. The objectification is almost complete. Then we enter the slumber state.  We are now manipulated by legal drugs, junk food, mindless entertainment, and constant interruption. Shhh … what/who is manipulating us? We will soon become automatons. Robots impress us as nearly as good as ourselves. We are being enhanced by robots. Soon robots will decide if they need us sleeping hydrocarbon blobs.

Suddenly some one wakes up from slumber. Oh my! This is not me. I am aware that this is not me. I am eternal awareness. I can’t be destroyed. I don’t have to worry. I don’t need much. I am invincible. I am unbounded. What’s going on, I wonder. Air does not need to be toxic. The water either. We can grow little wholesome food in our backyard. We have plenty of sunlight. We can be free. Autonomous. We can live on endlessly. And blissfully. Let’s spread some bliss around. However, others don’t believe our bliss. They live in Plato’s caves. We try telling them that they are seeing is the shadows, and that they should venture out in the open to see enjoy free life. They laugh it off as cranky and weird. Well, some of them muster the courage to try it. And voila! They find it different. Refreshing. Unbounded. Lively. Healed. Happy. Joy and Bliss. Our growing numbers and energies are now devoted to work on liberation of all, and on the healing journey for all. That is all there is to do. Everyone can be free to be compassionate. And slowly the world begins to become blissful again. And then exponentially so. And the world is happy and healed ever after.

P.S. What happens to robots? Well, they continue to grow more powerful and useful. They clean up our soil at our command. They plough and tend to our vegetable gardens. They do all the chores we want done. What happens to the information machines and Artificial Intelligence? Well, they are rolled into robots. Finally, what happens to the evil empire who wants to keep us all hooked and dependent in the caves? Well, the liberated ones scared the crap out of it. Little innocent children can scare the big bad bully out of its evil ways. Watch the Pixar movie ‘A Bug’s Life’ for inspiration.

 

International Yoga Day 2017

I think that International Yoga Day is a laudable initiative to bring emphasis and attention on Yoga.  I wrote about it last year too, calling it the Independence Day of the Human Spirit.

Yoga is ‘cessation of the activities of the mind’, as defined by Patanjali in the first phrase of Yoga Sutra. Yoga has 8 limbs.  Asanas is one of them. Meditation is another.  Asanas prepare the body and mind for meditation.  All good meditation centers avoid televisions and aggravating foods that would interfere with the practice of inner peace and quiet.

I have met Swami Ramdev. His vision is almost unfathomable. Have visited Yog Gram too. I want to go to Coimbatore to see Satguru’s center; have heard great things about it. Have met Sri Sri RaviShankar a few times and learned his technique too. At our own campus (set up by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi) in Fairfield Iowa, everyone meditates daily for long periods for the dual purpose of self-development and world peace. I  have also been to many Vipassana centers and done their 10-day courses.  Every guru has a different meditation technique. They say there are 108 ways to transcend!

No guru is without detractors who would call their followers as a cult, sometimes somewhat justifiably. Ramdev made yoga popular. He propped up Narendra Modi in his bid to become Prime Minister of India. And he is giving foreign companies a run for their money. He has completely upended marketing practices. He is a big part of India rejuvenation.  … despite all his faults.

 

The New Way: Disrupt Yourself

Unshackle yourself from the lessons of past lived experiences. They are not nearly as normal as one typically believes them to be. They are a product of the times and of our own perceptual apparatus. We are conditioned by the received distilled wisdom from well meaning family and friends; and by what we read, especially in the younger ages when we lack the power to critically examine and reject an incoming lesson.

In the abstract we know that we are infinite, invincible and blissful. In practice we feel bounded, weak and miserable. The path from the practical to the ideal seems long, arduous, uncertain and unachievable. Most people give up on the ideal. The new way is to disrupt yourself. Do not settle for the unsatisfying and the unfulfilling.

Drop the baggage of past experiences.  It has to be a visceral process. The experiences are embedded in the core of our mind and body. But perhaps not in our souls. We can reclaim our souls.  We can do what we deeply desire.  We can also do what we deeply fear: jump into the deep end.  We reveal ourselves to ourselves thus.

The relative future is inherently uncertain.  But that can be an exhilarating ride. If only we can drop our expectations.  That is scary. Without great expectations, nothing great can be achieved.  Is that so? Truly so? Charles Dickens wrote so. He is widely considered the greatest English writer, at par with Shakespeare. Did he write from special wisdom or did he just articulate what he lived in the sweatshops of his times.

Disrupting oneself can mean having altered expectations. Or even no expectations. Could set us up to be light as a feather.  And float nicely in the winds of the times. It does not guarantee survival. Or a long life.  But we don’t know. It guarantees blissful life.  Or at least an authentic life. Of a fleeting hundred moments or a hundred long years.  How does it matter? The soul does not die. It was never born. The body was made up from the elements. It will merge into the elements anyways. Sooner or later i.e.

Disrupt yourself.  That is the New Way of living.  Expect nothing. Achieve everything. Including blissful fulfillment.

 

Sudden Death of a Dear Friend – Lessons Learned

A live-wire dear friend, a classmate from Delhi now living in Australia, died suddenly of a heart attack. The news shocked all our classmates as he was not only very popular, social, thoughtful, musical, athletic and fit, he was the life of our WhatsApp conversation group. Friends reflected very fond memories of conversations and time spent with him. However, it also jolted us all to take better care of ourselves through preventive measures before an event occurred. I am writing this so all can benefit from the lessons from this sad episode.

Bimal Mahendroo was a gem of person!  He grew up in Delhi, and went to the well-known Delhi Public School, and then went on to do Engineering at the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi. We were batchmates, and also in the same hostel, at IIT. He was a good student. He lost his father while still in college. He had the rare distinction (in those days) of having a girl friend while still in college. He is now survived by his wife (then girlfriend) and two adult children. Bimal also became a homeopathy expert and cured friends on chronic medical issues with homeopathic medicines.

One year ago, 35 years after graduation, our IIT class of 250 students decided to organize through a WhatsApp group. Bimal jumped into it with full gusto. Soon, there were hundreds of messages posted every day, with almost half of them written by him alone. With a delicious mix of music, humor and serious social commentary, he would hold everyone’s attention and respect. He could keep multiple conversations going simultaneously with different people. With that intensity and hunger to connect, the batch held a well-attended get-together in Gurgaon. Another get-together followed a few months later, incidentally at my parents’ house in Gurgaon. Bimal was the catalyst for many other mini-get-togethers, in Mumbai, in Dubai, in Singapore, and elsewhere. We were planning on one in the US in the summer. He was working on organizing one in Sydney, his hometown in Australia.

Bimal was very energetic. He did no smoking, no alcohol, and was a light eater. He had a passion for coffee, and had started a coffee shop in Sydney. He may have been a bit worried about reviving his career.  Bimal also engaged in 1-1 conversations online with many many people. Everyone saw him as their personal friend. He often fondly talked about his family.

Yesterday, he was returning from playing badminton, and in the car itself had a massive heart attack. He died before reaching the hospital.  A friend wrote that Bimal came into our lives like hero of the movie Anand …of course without the illness …he connected with ease. For a dear lady classmate, he was more than even a brother!!  The light has gone out of our batch, I said. Bimal’s last words on WhatsApp were in response to something I had posted. He wrote:

  • ‘The folly of human conceits, demonstrated the best in our differentiated treatment of each other, the incessant need to compare, contrast and differentiate. Wonderful reminder, Anil, of our morality. And mortality.’

When someone so bubbly and social and athletic passes on so soon, it must be for a higher purpose!!!!  Here is my imagination of Bimal’s conversation w God.

God: Welcome home.

Bimal: thanks God. It is pretty nice here. But can I return for a moment?  This happened too fast.  Can I say hello to my friends?

God: tathastu (so be it). You can do it from here itself.

Bimal:  hello friends. Sorry had to leave like this. Miss you all so much. You were my life. But I am here now. Up there somewhere.  It is nice here.  Don’t worry about me. Hopefully you will remember me as a nice funny chap. Just keep having fun. I will watch from here.  Once in a while I might drop by through someone who can connect with me.  The heart-to-heart channel, you know.

God: (smiling). Very nice.  They love you and will love you forever.  Anything else you want?

Bimal: For my family too. Same message. Just keep living your life happily. Uxxx, sorry had to leave like this. Sorry.  You were the love of my life. We will meet again.

God: Yes, things will keep changing.

Bimal: thank you.  Please bless all my friends and family.  So they can enjoy every moment of their lives fully.

God: तथास्तु।

It is also a stark reminder that life can be so unpredictable. This is a wake-up call for all of us. I am sure some of us have managed their health better and others can benefit from their experience. Here were a few key suggestions shared by friends:

  1. One suggestion is to be disciplined in diet, nutrition and exercise. One of Bill Clinton’s Doctors is Dr. Dean Ornish and he has a book on “Reversing Heart Disease”. Dean Ornish’s book was helpful for another friend when he underwent a coronary angioplasty recently. There is also a vegan-diet plan from a group called freedomfromdiabetes.org. Both of these conditions, cardio and diabetes, go hand in hand. Regular exercise and movement is also required to manage body weight.
  1. Another suggestion was to do an annual comprehensive medical checkup. Many people could thus get the diagnosis in time so they could do something about it. Personally, I get a comprehensive checkup done almost every year when I visit India.
  1. Please meditate. Saying differently, in life s**t will happen! We just don’t want it to stick to us.  We wash our bodies everyday with soap and water.  We should also cleanse our minds everyday with meditation. Try TM, Vipassana, or another other well-tested technique you like. Choose carefully, as just like all diets and medications are not the same, so also all meditations are not the same.

Wish you the fastest growth to enlightenment!!!!  And the resultant freedom from stress.  And great health!