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An oncologist’s take on life, death and our quest for immortality

Dr Kashyap Patel

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You are neither earth, nor water, nor fire, nor wind or space/ For the sake of freedom, know yourself as the embodiment of pure eternal consciousness and witness thereof/ You are unbound pure awareness, supreme eternal bliss, in which universe appears like the mirage of a snake in a rope./ Be happy.

— Ashtavakra

Since the beginning of time, human beings have been on a quest to defy death. Records show the quest for immortality dating as far back as the first emperor of China, Qin Shihuang. He was obsessed with attaining immortality. He sent expeditions to find the secret to it, rumoured to be on the mythical island of Penglai, home to immortals. When this island was never located, he instructed his court chemists to formulate a compound that would give him immortality. His court alchemists concocted an elixir with mercury at its base. As you can imagine, drinking this elixir eventually killed him.

 Many pursued the secret of immortality in other parts of the world. Alchemy was practised regularly during the medieval period in the Middle East among Islamic communities, and in Europe in many religions, as well as by non-religious leaders and cultures. Muslims of the great Islamic Umayyad and Abbasid caliphates developed empirical approaches to it, which served as precursors to the more well-known European alchemy of the early twelfth century.

Later, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Sir Isaac Newton devoted significant time to alchemical studies, believing he could eventually discover the philosopher’s stone, which is thought to grant immortal life. With the medical advancements the scientific revolution brought, however, alchemy fell into disfavour.

‘Harry,’ I said as he (cancer patient Harry McGill) visited the following morning, ‘imagine that only you were granted immortality. What would it be like to see everyone you have ever loved — your friends, your children — all die one by one around you as you continue to linger on for centuries? What would that kind of life look like?’

‘Not good, doc. When everyone that I knew died, what would be the point of living?’ ‘Indeed, Harry. I agree with you! Yet, there are other ways to look at it. Depending on one’s religious leaning, there is the possibility of personal immortality in several theological or metaphysical modes—from physical resurrection and spiritual survival as a disembodied soul to reincarnation. The other possibility is through familial immortality. Our genes are passed down to our children, and to their children after them. Thus, our DNA continues to be part of the fabric of this world, even after we’re gone.

‘We can also leave behind a legacy through the influence we have on others. This form of immortality exists in the impact we have on individual lives—family, friends, students and members of our community. Even after we are gone, that influence remains, to be passed on to their children and their children’s children.

‘And when we die, we release back to the earth the elements we borrowed from it that constituted our body. These elements eventually give birth to new life forms and organisms. The elements of our body participate in the natural world long after we are gone. You can take comfort in the fact that your death will be part of the cyclical process of nature.’

 ‘Like when my friend drops my ashes over where I used to fly?’

‘Just like that, my friend. That one act alone will make you immortal. But I want you to remember all the good you’ve done for those around you… for society, in general. The love and life you’ve given Susan (Harry’s wife) and your children. The good you’ve accomplished through your work. The friends you’ve loved and encouraged. Yours is a legacy any man would be proud of. Regardless of your spiritual beliefs, all of those things make you immortal!’

Harry shifted in his chair, paused a moment, then shifted back. As he adjusted himself again, he said, ‘You’ve told me about what your religion believes and what different people believe. What about you, personally?’

‘Well, Harry, I see my own immortality through oneness—or non-duality—with all existence. This was an idea expressed in the ancient philosophical Upanishads, and rehearsed by Ashtavakra and Sankaracharya, two of my favourite Indian philosophers. Such a state is described in almost every religious tradition and can be realized through meditation.’

‘So, you think that immortality is really something that humanity can achieve in different ways… without existing in this body. But since we’re just here for a short time and then die… what does it all mean?’

‘Harry, despite all of the psychological, existential and philosophical challenges death confronts us with, I believe that death is what makes a meaningful life possible, knowing what little time we have makes every day precious, and each moment sacred. Recognizing that we can pass on something enduring from ourselves to those who will follow us can give us a powerful sense of purpose, even if the brevity of our existence tinges our days with wistfulness.’

Harry said nothing. But I could see in his eyes the kind of wistfulness I had just mentioned.

 I continued, ‘If death is the end of us, does it make life meaningless? Or is it what makes life meaningful? Death is paradoxical in many ways. Death is bad, yet not bad for the person who dies. It is both important to hold on to it, and essential to let go of it. We are justified in fearing death, and yet we should recognize that death is what gives our life meaning.

‘Harry, death is one of our most powerful teachers. Hopefully, the wisdom we gain from reflecting on the impermanence of all around us, and from exploring the ideas of those who have faced and thought deeply about death and loss, will help us die better when the time comes — and to live wiser, richer and more fulfilling lives while we have them. Just as you’re doing, Harry.’

 ‘Just as you’re helping me do, doc,’ my friend said.

Excerpts from Dr Kashyap Patel’s book, ‘Between Life and Death: From Despair to Hope’ (Penguin). Dr Patel is a renowned oncologist in the US who works with terminally ill cancer patients.

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Netizens divided over Deepti Sharma ‘Mankading’ England’s Charlotte Dean

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Netizens divided over Deepti Sharma ‘Mankading’ England’s Charlotte Dean

Indian all-rounder Deepti Sharma’s act of’mankading’ England’s Charlotte Dean at the non-striker’s end has generated a lot of polarising reactions on social media, leaving the cricketing fraternity divided.
This was first done by Indian cricket legend Vinoo Mankad during 1947-48 during India’s tour of Australia by running out Australia’s Bill Brown at non-striker’s end, which earned it the name ‘Mankading’. Though many cricketers argue that it is against the spirit of the game, it is totally legal as per the laws of the sport.
The Indian cricketers were extremely quick in coming to the defence of Deepti.
Ravichandran Ashwin, who had run out Rajasthan Royals’ Jos Buttler during IPL 2019 in a similar manner while playing for Punjab Kings, quipped on him trending after Deepti’s act, saying that “tonight is about another bowling hero, Deepti Sharma.”
“Why the hell are you trending Ashwin? “Tonight is about another bowling hero @Deepti_Sharma06,” tweeted Ashwin.
Former Indian opener Virender Sehwag also defended the all-rounder, posting a meme and sharing the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) law as per which mankading is completely legal.
“It’s funny to see so many English guys being poor losers. #Runout” tweeted Sehwag.
Former Indian opener Wasim Jaffer also defended Deepti, saying that the ball comes into play when the bowler starts his run up and as a non-striker, one must have his eye on the ball.
“It’s actually quite simple. Ball comes into play when bowler activates run up. From that moment on, as a batter or non-striker, you have to keep your eyes on the ball. If you are a bit careless, the opposition will get you out. And you can get out at either end,” tweeted Jaffer.
Deepti found support from international players from other countries as well.
South African bowler Tabraiz Shamsi seemed to voice his support for Deepti, saying that batters can also learn to stay behind the line just like bowlers are forced to stay behind the line while bowling.
“I’m on no one’s side here but my opinion is that if bowlers are forced to stay behind the line while bowling due to the laws in place…. batters can learn to stay behind the line too while backing up due to the laws in place. Seems fair to me if we all just follow the laws,” tweeted Shamsi.
Former English spinner also said that though it will be questioned, but mankading is under the laws of the sport. “It would be questioned for a long time but it’s in the law of the games. You can be run out by #mankading. Bear in mind it’s in the laws of the game. #ENGvsIND,” tweeted Panesar.

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By fulfilling over 650 wishes, John Sena emerges as real-life genie

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By fulfilling over 650 wishes, John Sena emerges as real-life genie

Wrestler-turned-actor John Cena has officially broken the Guinness World Record for the most Make-A-Wish Foundation wishes granted with a 650 count, Guinness announced. According to The Hollywood Reporter, he is the most requested Make-A-Wish celebrity, with no other star even coming close to granting as many wishes as Cena has in the foundation’s decades-long history.
Back in 2015, when he was honoured for granting 500 wishes, the ‘Peacemaker’ actor opened up about the foundation and how much he enjoys doing what he does. “I just drop everything. If I can offer a fantastic experience, I’ll be first in line to do my part, “ Cena said at the time.
Cena has been granting wishes since 2002, a few years after he began his career as a professional wrestler. As his popularity as a 16-time world champion soared, so did children’s requests for him to grant their wishes.
Of why he continues granting kids’ wishes, Cena said, “I want them to have an experience that will stay with them forever. I don’t ever want the children or their families to be treated in a way where they feel as if they’re up against anything at all,” reported The Hollywood Reporter.
A champion WWE wrestler, Cena has made huge strides into acting, tackling profane comedies (‘Blockers’, ‘Vacation Friends’) and family comedies (‘Playing With Fire’) in equal measure, as well as adventure and action movies.
Last year, he starred in both ‘F9: The Fast Saga’ and ‘The Suicide Squad’, the latter a Warner’s DC movie that spun off his character, Peacemaker, into his own series for HBO Max. 

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Modern Kashmir on display: Aalaav food fest celebrates traditional dishes

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Modern Kashmir on display: Aalaav food fest celebrates traditional dishes

A food festival named Aalaav was organised in Srinagar to celebrate traditional food and encourage more women to set up food businesses. The festival was organised by the Department of Rural Livelihood Mission of Jammu and Kashmir to celebrate traditional food and novel nutritional formulations.
Many women from the self-help groups took part in the festival. The department had invited all the women groups that earn their livelihood and give employment to other young women.
All the participants in the festival prepared and displayed famous vegetarian dishes of Jammu and Kashmir on the stalls in order to promote the self-help groups. The aim was to encourage young girls and women toward the food business and also to raise awareness for more women to set up business units in rural areas of Jammu and Kashmir.
The festival also aimed to make them aware of the schemes of the government under which they get financial assistance to set up these units to earn and provide employment.
Indu Kanwal, the Mission Director of Jammu and Kashmir Rural Livelihoods Mission, said that the festival was organised with the motive of promoting vegetarian food in Kashmir and also creating awareness among women.
Rumina, another participant, stated that having food stalls at the festival is a very profitable venture for the young girls and that more such initiatives should be implemented. 
“This provides a great platform for the young girls to set up their businesses. At this festival, we are able to earn around Rs 3000–4000 from each stall, so it’s really profitable. We would want more of such festivals to be organised,” Rumina said.
Asha, the festival coordinator, talked about the food presented at the festival.

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Three Rhino statues made from burnt horns stand tall at Kaziranga park

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Three Rhino statues made from burnt horns stand tall at Kaziranga park

In a one-of-its-kind move, three rhino statues at the Kaziranga National Park have been created using the ashes collected from burning rhino horns. These statues were unveiled by Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma along with spiritual leader Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev on Saturday during the inauguration of a three-day Chintan Shivir at Kaziranga.
On September 22, last year, the Assam government made history by igniting a stockpile of 2,479 rhino horns to send a clear message to poachers and illegal horn traders that rhino horns have no medicinal value.
The rhino statues thus created are an attempt to immortalise the efforts and dedication of those who selflessly protect Assam’s pride, the great one-horned rhinoceros.
The Assam Chief Minister, along with Sadhguru, also opened the Kaziranga National Park for tourists for this season.
The Shivir was inaugurated with the aim of drawing a roadmap for the holistic development of the state and creating a blueprint for expediting its growth as a model for all sectors.
The Chintan Shivir over three days will have elaborate discussions and deliberations involving the Chief Minister, other Cabinet ministers, senior bureaucrats of the state, bureaucrats from other states, and functionaries from the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council.
Speaking on the occasion, Assam Chief Minister Sarma said that Assam was once a very flourishing state and its state GDP growth was more than the national average.
“The per capita income of the state was also more than the national average. Though the state is contributing greatly to the growth of the nation, in the last 75 years the growth of the state has not been as encouraging as it should have been,” Sarma said.
Referring to the devastation caused by the great earthquake and subsequent floods and other developments, the Chief Minister said that all these had a negative effect on the common psychology of the people. However, making a turnaround, the present state government, with the able guidance of the central government, has unleashed a series of activities which have given new momentum to the development of the state.
The government has already embarked on a journey to steer the state to a robust growth trajectory, the Chief Minister said, adding that the state government is encouraging a vision which has emerged from that sense of responsibility.
The Assam Chief Minister thanked Sadhguru for coming all the way to Kaziranga to address the Chintan Shivir.
He said Sadguru’s wisdom and his idea would really help the government to build and promote a socio-cultural-economic and academic empowerment narrative in the state to spread the fruits of development to all sections of the state.
Sadhguru also addressed the congregation at the Chintan Shivir. The Chief Minister also signed an MoU on behalf of the state government with Sadhguru, who represented Isha Foundation. The MoU signed on the ‘Save Soil Movement’ will essentially guide the state on the sustainable use of soil for agricultural practices.
The Assam Chief Minister and Sadhguru also opened the Kaziranga National Park for tourists for this season.
On this occasion, Sadhguru led a jeep safari from Mihimukh when he drove a jeep with the Chief Minister sitting alongside.
Assam Tourism Minister Jayanta Malla Baruah was also present.

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Typhoon Talas smashes Japan, leaving thousands without water, electricity, two killed

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Thousands of people in central Japan were without running water and electricity on Sunday after Typhoon Talas dumped record rainfall on the area, causing floods and landslides and leaving at least two people dead.

According to the AFP’s published report, the body of a man in Kakegawa city, Shizuoka region, was pulled from what remained of his house on Saturday after a landslide destroyed it.

“Another male (in neighbouring Fukuroi city) was driving to his home (Saturday) when the water level rose and his vehicle apparently stopped. While the individual tried to walk home, he was believed to have died,” a regional disaster management official said.

He stated that another man was still unaccounted for in Kawanehoncho town, Shizuoka, after his car slid into a gap that appeared in the road. He also mentioned that three other people received minor wounds.

According to the Japan Meteorological Agency, Typhoon Talas battered central Japan on Friday and Saturday as it passed by close off the Pacific coast, pouring more than 40 centimetres (16 inches) of rain in Shizuoka villages in a single day.

Before heading back out to the Pacific on Saturday morning, it was downgraded to a depression.

Up to 120,000 homes may have lost power on Saturday as a result of the storm’s heavy rains causing landslides, including in the isolated mountains of Shizuoka. This is because several electricity pylons fell and broke as a result.

According to the local firm Chubu Electric Power, 2,910 homes in Shizuoka and the neighbouring Gifu region were still without electricity as of Sunday afternoon.

“As for those areas where restoration crews are not able to reach due to blocked roads after landslides, we will make progress while analysing the conditions of the landslides,” the utility said.

Debris choked a water inlet in Shizuoka, leaving almost 55,000 homes without running water.

“Currently, we are working to remove debris from a water inlet. But for now we are unable to give any estimate as to when it can be restored,” the regional government said in a statement Sunday morning.

Typhoons regularly cause significant damage to Japan in the summer and fall.

Typhoon Nanmadol struck southwestern Japan this weekend, leaving 147 people injured and four dead.

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Top opposition leaders gather at INLD rally to challenge ‘Delhi Sultanate’

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Sharad Pawar, the head of the NCP, Nitish Kumar, the chief minister of Bihar, Sitaram Yechury, and Sukhbir Singh Badal, the leader of the Shiromani Akali Dal, were among the prominent opposition figures that attended the INLD’s large gathering on Sunday in Fatehabad, Haryana.

JDU leader KC Tyagi addressed the crowd and claimed that the Bihar CM has come from Patna to challenge the Delhi Sultanate at a time when eight former Congress CMs had switched to the BJP. He claimed that Kumar has no fear of the ED, the income tax, or any other organisations.

To commemorate the birth anniversary of Devi Lal, the founder of the INLD and a former deputy prime minister, a rally is being conducted.

Tejashwi Yadav, the deputy chief minister of Bihar and the head of the RJD, as well as Arvind Sawant of the Shiv Sena, also showed up at the gathering to demonstrate the unity of the opposition.

The coming together of so many regional satraps is seen as part of efforts to forge opposition unity. Kumar and RJD president Lalu Prasad are likely to meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi after the rally to take the process forward.

Veteran socialist leader Tyagi had already declared that the gathering would be historic because it would unite like-minded forces against the BJP in the run-up to the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

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