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Revisiting ‘My Experiments with Truth’ on Gandhi’s 149th birth anniversary

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Mahatma Gandhi

New Delhi, Oct 2 (IANS) As expressive of his faults and follies as of his vigour and virtues, Mahatma Gandhi’s autobiography — read, discussed, debated, admired and critiqued widely — is the living testament of Bapus coming to terms with “satya”, for he never claimed to have been all truthful, as those who preach his preachings today do. His was a lived faith and his own realisation of truth(s), in its myriad forms, came during the course of penning what became the monumental “The Story of My Experiments with Truth”.

It is towards the end of the autobiography that the Mahatma, speaking directly to the reader, notes that he had set “a high value” on his experiments.

“I do not know whether I have been able to do justice to them. I can only say that I have spared no pains to give a fruitful narrative. To describe truth, as it has appeared to me, and in the exact manner that I have arrived at it, has been my ceaseless effort,” he wrote.

To Gandhi, truth was not a mere slogan and to preach the virtue of truth, he first had to be truthful to himself. That he did by penning down the stories of his life “in the exact manner” as he came across them. It was not easy, as we now know that many episodes in it have become the staunchest arguments of his critics against him. But Gandhi critiqued himself in his autobiography and the very act of penning it was perhaps a tour de force in being truthful to oneself.

And so he wrote: “The exercise has given me ineffable mental peace, because it has been my fond hope that it might bring faith in Truth and Ahimsa to waverers (readers)”. He then expressed that it was “not without a wrench” that he had to take leave of the reader.

Gandhi also pointed out that his experience had convinced him that there is “no other God than Truth”.

“And if every page of these chapters does not proclaim to the reader that the only means for the realisation of Truth is Ahimsa, I shall deem all my labour in writing these chapters to have been in vain,” he left a cautious note to the readers, as also warned them that even if his effort was to go in vain, the principle of penning it was not at fault. It was his experiment of coming to terms with truths of his own life and mustering the courage to make it public.

While there is no dearth of khadi-wearing politicians imitating Bapu in attire and etiquette for obvious want of admiration (read votes), claiming to be holier-than-thou and truther-than-truth, Gandhi found himself and his strivings “imperfect and inadequate”.

He wrote that the “little fleeting glimpses” that he was able to have of Truth could “hardly convey an idea of the indescribable lustre of Truth, a million times more intense than that of the sun we daily see with our eyes”. Gandhi argued that “a perfect vision of Truth can only follow a complete realisation of Ahmisa”.

But politics is a dirty game and it is not always practical to follow “satya” and “ahimsa”. Or so have we been told and made accustomed to? Even on this front, Gandhi noted that it was in the quest of truth, which cannot be attained without adhering to ahimsa, that drew him into the field of politics.

“… and I can say without the slightest hesitation, and yet in all humility, that those who say that religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion means”. He further added that “God can never be realised by one who is not pure of heart”.

And Gandhi knew, as he wrote, that the path of self-purification is hard and steep. “I know that I have still before me a difficult path to traverse. I must reduce myself to zero. So long as a man does not of his own free will put himself last among his fellow creatures, there is no salvation for him. Ahimsa is the farthest limit of humility,” he contended.

Contrary to Gandhi’s personal experiences, or experiments as he called them, those who miss no opportunity to use him and his legacy for political gains even while contradicting him in their actions, proclaim to have overcome all their follies, as they themselves and their psychopaths make hysteric statements of a leader’s supremacy over others, of a religion’s supremacy over others and so on and so forth.

Gandhi’s autobiography is available in multiple formats, nearly all Indian and dozens of foreign languages, starting at prices as low as Rs 20. For anybody even minutely inspired by the Mahatma, and more so for those using him as a political tool, it should be the starting point to understand the man that Mahatma Gandhi was, and the values he stood for.

(Saket Suman is a Principal Correspondent at IANS. Views expressed are personal. He can be contacted at [email protected])

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Herd immunity an impractical strategy, study finds

They found that using the suppression strategy, far fewer fatalities were predicted: 62,000 among individuals aged 60-plus and 43,000 among individuals under 60.

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Boost immunity

Achieving herd immunity to COVID-19 is an impractical public health strategy, according to a new model developed by University of Georgia scientists. The study recently appeared in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Controlling COVID-19 has presented public health policymakers with a conundrum:

How to prevent overwhelming their health care infrastructure, while avoiding major societal disruption? Debate has revolved around two proposed strategies. One school of thought aims for “suppression,” eliminating transmission in communities through drastic social distancing measures, while another strategy is “mitigation,” aiming to achieve herd immunity by permitting the infection of a sufficiently large proportion of the population while not exceeding health care capacity.

“The herd immunity concept is tantalizing because it spells the end of the threat of COVID-19,” said Toby Brett, a postdoctoral associate at the Odum School of Ecology and the study’s lead author. “However, because this approach aims to avoid disease elimination, it would need a constant adjustment of lockdown measures to ensure enough—but not too many—people are being infected at a particular point in time. Because of these challenges, the herd immunity strategy is actually more like attempting to walk a barely visible tightrope.”

This study carried out by Brett and Pejman Rohani at the University of Georgia’s Center for the Ecology of Infectious Diseases, investigates the suppression and mitigation approaches for controlling the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

While recent studies have explored the impacts of both suppression and mitigation strategies in several countries, Brett and Rohani sought to determine if and how countries could achieve herd immunity without overburdening the health care system, and to define the control efforts that would be required to do so.

Pejman Rohani teaching a class. Credit: Photo taken by Andrew Davis Tucker/UGA in 2019
They developed an age-stratified disease transmission model to simulate SARS-CoV-2 transmission in the United Kingdom, with spread controlled by the self-isolation of symptomatic individuals and various levels of social distancing.

Their simulations found that in the absence of any control measures, the U.K. would experience as many as 410,000 deaths related to COVID-19, with 350,000 of those being from individuals aged 60-plus.

They found that using the suppression strategy, far fewer fatalities were predicted: 62,000 among individuals aged 60-plus and 43,000 among individuals under 60.

If self-isolation engagement is high (defined as at least 70% reduction in transmission), suppression can be achieved in two months regardless of social distancing measures, and potentially sooner should school, work and social gathering places close.

When examining strategies that seek to build herd immunity through mitigation, their model found that if social distancing is maintained at a fixed level, hospital capacity would need to greatly increase to prevent the health care system from being overwhelmed. To instead achieve herd immunity given currently available hospital resources, the U.K. would need to adjust levels of social distancing in real time to ensure that the number of sick individuals is equal to, but not beyond, hospital capacity. If the virus spreads too quickly, hospitals will be overwhelmed, but if it spreads too slowly, the epidemic will be suppressed without achieving herd immunity.

Brett and Rohani further noted that much is unknown about the nature, duration and effectiveness of COVID-19 immunity, and that their model assumes perfect long-lasting immunity. They cautioned that if immunity is not perfect, and there is a significant chance of reinfection, achieving herd immunity through widespread exposure is very unlikely.

“We recognize there remains much for us to learn about COVID-19 transmission and immunity, but believe that such modeling can be invaluable in so-called ‘situational analyses,'” said Rohani. “Models allow stakeholders to think through the consequences of alternative courses of action.”

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Bihar Man Carves Out 3-km-long Canal In 30 Years To Irrigate Parched Fields

A man from Bihar’s Kothilawa village has been carving out the canal for the last 30 years that too single-handedly. This will benefit a large number of animals.

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Longi Bhuiyan

A man from Bihar’s Kothilawa village of Gaya dug out a canal 3-kilometre long canal single-handedly. This canal carved out by Laungi Bhuiyan will direct rainwater from the hills nearby to the fields within his village. This will help in irrigating the farms and will be beneficial for the entire village.

Laungi Bhuiyan took nearly 30 years to carve this canal single-handedly. He dug out the canal after he noticed that during the rainy season, water falling from the mountains would flow into the river. Bhuiyan found a way to utilise the water. He planned to save the water coming from the mountain by taking the initiative alone and carving out the canal in Kothilawa village in Gaya, Bihar.

Talking about the canal, Lungi Bhuiyan said, “It took me 30 years to dig this canal which takes the water to a pond in the village. For the last 30 years, I would go to the nearby jungle to tend my cattle and dig out the canal. No one joined me in this endeavour… Villagers are going to cities to earn a livelihood but I decided to stay back.”

The Kothilawa village in Lahthua area of Gaya in Bihar is surrounded by a dense forest as well as mountains. Moreover, it is 80 kilometres away from the Gaya district and is known to be a refuge for Maoists. The people of Kothilawa earn their living by farming as well as animal husbandry. This canal made by Bhuiyan will benefit the farmers as well as the animals which means that all villagers will benefit from his work. The villagers took this opportunity to praise his efforts and hard work.

“He has been carving out the canal for the last 30 years that too single-handedly. This will benefit a large number of animals and to irrigate the fields as well. He is not doing it for his own benefit but for the entire area,” said Patti Manjhi a local from Kothilawa.

“A lot of people will benefit here. People are now getting to know him because of his work,” said Ram Vilas Singh, a teacher from Kothilawa village in Bihar’s Gaya while praising the man for his efforts which will benefit the villagers.

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World Alzheimer’s Day 2020: Everything you must know about the brain disease

The theme for World Alzheimer’s Day 2020 is “Let’s Talk About Alzheimer.”

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Alzheimer disease

World  Alzheimer’s Day is observed every year on September 21. The day aims at raising awareness and challenge the common stigma that surrounds Alzheimer related dementia.

According to Alzinfo, every 65 seconds, someone develops Alzheimer’s disease. At current rates, experts believe the number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s will quadruple to as many as 16 million by the year 2050.

The theme for World Alzheimer’s Day 2020 is “Let’s Talk About Alzheimer.” The day was first observed in 2012.

What is Alzheimer?

Alzheimer, in simple terms, is a brain disease that negatively affects memory, thinking, and behavior. These changes interfere with daily living. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of dementia cases. Most people with the disease get a diagnosis after age 65. If it’s diagnosed before then, it’s generally referred to as early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

Symptoms of Alzheimer:

According to the National Institute on Aging, in addition to memory problems, someone with Alzheimer’s disease may experience one or more of the following signs:

  • Memory loss that disrupts daily life, such as getting lost in a familiar place or repeating questions.
  • Trouble handling money and paying bills.
  • Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work, or leisure.
  • Decreased or poor judgment.
  • Misplaces things and being unable to retrace steps to find them.
  • Changes in mood, personality, or behaviour.
  • Withdrawal from friends, family, and community.

Stages of Alzheimer:

  • Stage 1. There are no symptoms at this stage but there might be an early diagnosis based on family history.
  • Stage 2. The earliest symptoms appear, such as forgetfulness.
  • Stage 3. Mild physical and mental impairments appear, such as reduced memory and concentration. These may only be noticeable by someone very close to the person.
  • Stage 4. Alzheimer’s is often diagnosed at this stage, but it’s still considered mild. Memory loss and the inability to perform everyday tasks is evident.
  • Stage 5. Moderate to severe symptoms require help from loved ones or caregivers.
  • Stage 6. At this stage, a person with Alzheimer’s may need help with basic tasks, such as eating and putting on clothes.
  • Stage 7. This is the most severe and final stage of Alzheimer’s. There may be a loss of speech and facial expressions.

Treatment Of Alzheimer:

Alzheimer’s is most commonly identified through patient and family history, and by talking to the immediate family about the presence of symptoms. Also, brain imagining may be suggested to check for beta-amyloid protein deposits. As of today, there is no curative treatment for Alzheimer’s. Drugs are usually administered to manage symptoms and healthy lifestyle changes.

Despite this, Alzheimer’s is one of the most expensive diseases to get treatment for. The global cost of dementia is estimated to be around $1 trillion currently.

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