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Thursday, 26 June 2008

Sense and senseAbility - 3.2: Touch

Sense and senseAbility - 3.2 Touch
-- Remigius de Souza

Sense of Touch is attributed to the skin.

Senses and SenseAbility are important for our personal and social health, in fact, all the four aspects – Work, Leisure, Education and Health – for our survival (survival means, said J Krishnamurthy, living sanely).

In the blind the other senses are highly active and enhanced. Their sense of touch works in the feet even while wearing shoes, not only hands, and cane.

In the growth of babies, emphasised Margaret Mead, anthropologist, in her famous book, ‘Coming of Age in Samoa’, it is important to hold them close. Among the young from their infancy, their senses are alert and highly active. In the course of time, their senses and creative ability are stunted by the contemporary education here in India. Even the educated parents are hardly aware of what is happening.

As we know the skin is the organ largest in area. It is also the youngest as the body continues to shed the skin until last. When one gets a fever – say, malaria fever or love-fever – the skin is an indicator.

It is not only the nose, the skin also breaths, and protects us. (Buchanan mentions there are millions of microbes on our skin as well as in the gut.) Hence we call the clothes, a second skin, and house is the third skin of man – both are expected to breath (particularly in the tropical climate0 and protect. Well, whatever may be the result of synthetic fibres and, and the houses with sick building syndrome!

The touch is the first sense that we experience in our mother’s womb that is oceanic. There is tradition among Indic people. They wrap newly born baby in soft cotton linen, which is mother’s recycled sari. The mother and the infant/s stay in confinement room that is dark. Modern gynaecologists may differ, though!

Touch obviously reminds us of the Untouchables in India (see: A tale of a scavenger in India). It continues in spite of efforts by the most revered saints of India across the country for centuries and in modern times by several social reformers: they could not eradicate this obnoxious distinction.

In very recent times, the young Indian elite had been holding agitations and campaigning against the reservation for the untouchables (official term is Scheduled Castes) in educational institutions and jobs in the name of equality. Perhaps they did not check the worth of this British-made education? The atrocities on the untouchables in various forms sometimes result in killings, house burning, rape, and physical assaults.

Another class of untouchables is the women when in menstrual cycle. Though it is less due to contact with the urbanised, the women do not enter the places of worship and the temples. Traditionally they suppose to ‘sit out’ i.e. do not cook, not even enter the kitchen, and touch to any person, and actually sit in out side veranda. The orthodox families and those who perform religious rites and rituals and magic – Mantra-Tantra, and those who practice traditional medicines strictly observe this custom. Perhaps it may continue for unknown time.

I would not judge, like or dislike, or accept or reject any of these issues, but prefer to examine in historical, social and scientific context, keeping aside what the western societies believe or approve of.

Until now what I understand that both the classes of untouchables originally were service classes in the civilised Indic societies. In the course of time, as population increased, the high castes and men, to keep their power, attached the stigma upon them as untouchable. Perhaps the original context of the rites and rituals and customs were lost and got distorted in the course of time.

We, however, can’t ignore a fact that society, which refuses to evolve, which remains stagnant like water in a pond, stinks. Do such things happen in the Industrial Society, which would lead it to decadence? Or has the decay already begun?

© Remigius de Souza., all rights reserved.

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Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Sense and Sense-Ability -3.1: Homeostasis

Homeostasis: The Wisdom of the Body
(Continued from the previous Part 2)

Body houses our senses, perceptions, memory, mind, intellect, intelligence… and soul.

Unfortunately in the modern times, “body” is yet another four-letter word like Self, Soul, Love, Life, Work etc. that are much abused in our fast pace of hedonic lifestyle.

We take our body too much for granted: Mind has become the colonial master that colonises the body like a bonded labour and exploits it without restraint, until it is exhausted, in part or full. Just check our work pattern/s. certainly we decorate it, beautify it; it is rather to satisfy demands of our egoistic mind than to elevate.

We take even our senses for granted. While eating/ drinking, for example, most of the time, we rarely pay attention to the action of eating. We simultaneously are involved with something else: daily news, TV shows, talk over the matters of business or gossip, think over the “urgent” matters on mind, or flatter our taste buds forgetting the need of the body: We at times call it a passion.

It is almost the same situation, more or less according to our passions, with other senses (except perhaps sex impulses: We shall come to that later).

Quite often we ignore or forget, if we know, that body too has intelligence just as we have. At least, we as Indic people have recognised the body-mind connection for a considerable time.

Body, however, continues to work, whether we are awake or asleep, till the end like a “Nishkam” – without desire for fruit – Karma Yogi. And whenever necessary, when something goes wrong with the system, sends us the signal – hunger or starvation for example. But we are too busy with our mental flights, passions or addictions: We tend to ignore it.

A Case of My Ailment of Heart

My own experiences are not very different from what I just mentioned above. However I have also been aware of the “Presence of Body” on several occasions. One of them was my ailment of heart, some fifteen years ago.

I started getting palpitations. In the beginning it remained for a second of two and recurred at interval of a couple of weeks. There was no apparent cause: fear, or worry of any kind. It would appear any time. Later it was for 2-3 minutes at a few days’ interval. I had started taking medicines, including exercises in self-hypnosis under a guidance of psycho-therapy specialist. I stopped the medicines and exercises.
One day the palpitations remained from noon to midnight. That was an opportunity for check up while it was on. With a note from family doctor I met a heart specialist at a neighbourhood hospital.

After the necessary check-up he diagnosed and told me in simple words, that my heart is sound, that it is a case of “electrical short circuit” in the heart, and the present rate of palpitation is at 250 per minute. He added, if the rate increases to 400-450 per minute it would be fatal – an instant death. That was music to my ears.

For me the diagnosis was enough. The specialist, however, did not tell me why it happens. He advised me to get admitted there and then in the ICU for observation and prescribed some medicines. Of course I flatly refused both. He was furious. I returned home, remained on fruit diet, gave rest to my mind and body.

After two days, I left for Delhi to attend a workshop on “People, Law and Environment” organised by Centre for Science and Environment. It was very romantic episode though I report it in brief.

I, then started dialogues with my body, and observations – or call it meditations as I am inside my body – without judging, my likes-dislikes, prejudices etc. leaving the information baggage.

I am aware of the “Presence of Body”, and this awareness is constant like breathing, even during my pet indulgences and petty vices. There has been no palpitation for last fifteen years.

A decade or so after this episode, while reading “The Ages of Gaia” by James Lovelock, I came across the word “Homeostasis”, which now has a meaning.

Links to MINI-TEXT :1. Solemn Celebration and 2. Body Dharma

© Remigius de Souza., all rights reserved.

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Context, Process and Content (Story)

Comment on a Comment by Harini on “Illiterate farmer women of Andhra”.

Any project has three elements: Context, Process and Content.
We, in Terra Incognita Indica, are right now critically concerned about Context and Content, which are elements of any project than its Process.

Our “NEEDS” are more important at this critical time in history than the “WANTS” of the few who constantly continue to upgrade process – technology – that has no effect on context to living sanely and livelihood of the billions.

Dheboo Ghosh, during one of his workshops on ESP held in Mumbai, told us a story:

Once upon a time there were two cities on the two banks of a river. Both city governments decided they should build a bridge for the convenience of the citizens.

They built the bridge. Everyone involved – cooperators, engineers, bureaucrats, contractors and the citizens – were happy. They had received their rewards.

But in a course of time the bridge developed serious defects. They tried to repair it, but no use. Hence they decided there was something wrong with the process – technology, and therefore proposed to build a new bridge. What could be the fate of the new bridge? They were checking the process instead of the context and the content.

Everyone of the participants understood the moral of the story.
If it is still not clear: Consider what was the context and content of the invasion on Iraq by the Us and its buddies?

© Remigius de Souza., all rights reserved.

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Saturday, 14 June 2008


Self-portrait by Remigius de Souza, Mumbai, India (1972)
Colour on handmade paper 9"x 12"
© Remigius de Souza

You may read or interpret iTECHNOMAN” in various ways that you may prefer.

Remi (Remigius de Souza) is marginally literate, not only in computers, but also in any of the Arts and Literary disciplines.
He began to learn writing Letters and Numbers of his vernacular language MARATHI on a slate, at his native village in Konkan.Simultaneously he also took lessons in his basic needs, which are farming in agriculture, horticulture and aquaculture; mud house building and its maintenance; and spinning and handloom weaving of cotton fabric: FOOD, SHELTER and CLOTHING.
Industrial society has failed after centuries to reach this ability or level, which is mentioned above, to impart education to any citizen anywhere in the world, certainly not in India.
Decades later he learnt computer programming in an antique language “1401” in an intensive course of one month, which was given by Tata Consultancy Services (TCS): that was the only formal training he received in computers.

© Remigius de Souza., all rights reserved.

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Monday, 9 June 2008

Sense and sense-ability-2

Sense and sense-ability-2

OUIR FIVE SENSES are attributed to five body organs: touch to skin, hearing to ears, smell to nose, taste to mouth and vision to eyes; it’s a common knowledge. Where does ‘perception’ reside? Obviously it is in the brain, where thoughts occur and flow continuously, sometimes connected, sometimes disconnected or random. There also occur emotions, dreams, daydreams, ideas and concepts (creative and/or destructive)… If observed, there is, as if, infinite space without boundaries, identical to space outside.

The senses and organs do not work in compartments or in departments like manmade occupations and organisations for example, governments, corporations, institutions etc. they work in association or in coordination with other senses and body parts. Just mention a word “tamarind” while talking in a group and someone’s mouth starts watering. Even a memory of an event may raise hair in the skin, or give a vomiting sensation in the breath, or even miss a breath.

The whole body, not only the brain, is a most complex and intricate system; it is right with us to watch. It works smoothly except for our indulgencies (egocentric that we are) by committing various sins or crimes against its functioning. By our indulgencies, by going beyond moderation, we, perhaps, may boast that we patronise many manmade systems and organisations in the name of research and development and progress etc. which give job opportunity to many, including ourselves, and the state, whether monarch, democracy, totalitarian or fundamentalist.

The body, however, is far more superior and sacred than any manmade institution, or machinery – from kitchen gadget to a spaceship. Despite all great inventions and the great leaps in various branches of sciences, thereby technologies, in the context human body (and mind), they are still groping to understand it. The mystery deepens. To compare brain to a computer (artificial intelligence) is preposterous and arrogant.

Some time ago I read an article on senses, “Doors of Perceptions” by Bruce Durie (New scientist, 29 January 2005, p. 34-36), which give a table of several senses. It reports, the scientists have names and added five more senses in addition to the five known to us, which are called “conventional” senses. It may not be out of place to mention them here: Pain, Mechanoreception (balance), Temperature and Interoceptiors (blood pressure). All 10 are further divided into 21 “accepted” (by the scientists) senses, and they are further divided into 33 sub-sub-divisions called “radical”. The article is informative, and does not necessarily advocate them. Thankfully, he adds, ‘they are flawed… the table is incomplete… though in the end, it may not matter at all’.

It was amusing. It reminded me of Indian caste system: four ‘varna’s that that have turned into few hundred castes, sub-castes and sub-sub castes over centuries. And see what kind of mess we have been in!

In modern societies there are classes, occupations, specializations, careers and classes… In sciences alone the specialisations break into several divisions. Of course the division of labour is a basic characteristic of any civilised society (We don’t include any tribal – adivasi – aborigine communities, which still survive, though few, among them).

Hence my perception tells me, more advance a civilised society more the divisions of labour (you may call them varnas, castes, classes or occupations…) more divided (read fragmented / decadent) the society. Though the western society, which thinks itself superior to all societies on the globe, is not an exception; perhaps it’s the worst example (count the wars in the past two centuries; assess the plight of the underclass, which is rarely reported, and the racial and gender atrocities).

A body – human, animal or plant – would not function, not even survive, even to a span of breath, if it has to follow such a prototype of advance civilised society. May God help the clones, morons, zombies to die soon, if any amongst us!

Characteristically the western society (and the westernised) still continues to think in a linear and deductive ways, thus go haywire, as is evident from the “Doors of Perception”. I wonder would they ever complete a cycle – circle? Anyway, till then let them enjoy their adventures and enjoy spending dollars, a plenty that they have earned at the cost of the Earth’s resources as if they alone own her, for the survival of their institutions…

At one place Bruce Durie says, ‘When we talk of senses, what we really mean are feelings or perceptions. Otherwise we would be operating not much above the level of an amoeba or a plant’. This is indeed very sad.

First, our remote ancestor was bacteria from whom the plant and animal world was evolved, even before “pikaia” that swam in the seas long before hominid was born, which scientists agree.
If I have to believe, ‘bacteria live like a superorganism and collectively decide their actions by communication… [A]s with human language, bacteria possess a lexicon, or vocabulary…’ as says another author (Buchnan, Mark. “A billion brains are better than one: a single microbe won’t have much to say for itself. But put a lot of them together and it’s a different story.” New Scientist, Nov 20, 2004: p 34-38) then the statement by Bruce is either wrong or incomplete. Perhaps he operates in different division, which is hardly holistic.

Even before our desi scientist J C Bose (November 30, 1858 – November 23, 1937) discovered in his laboratory, what the Indian peasants have believed, that plants have feelings. Sir Jagdish Chandra Bose claims that plants can “feel pain, understand affection etc.," from the analysis of the nature of variation of the cell membrane potential of plants, under different circumstances. According to him a plant treated with care and affection gives out a different vibration compared to a plant subjected to torture. Perhaps Bruce did not pay attention to this past research and people’s belief.

But science, which exists from the time hominid existed, need not be condemned because no scientist can conclusively proclaim “truth”, and agree with others, and they may not, because they too are human. The entire human race is a miniscule part in the whole schema of Nature.
We shall dig more in the senses in the following posts.

P.S. I am not a scientist. My education in science is up to matriculation that was few decades ago. I am just an ordinary citizen and don’t claim any authority in any subject.

(Link to previous post: Sense and Sense-ability )
Remigius de Souza
© Remigius de Souza., all rights reserved.

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Sunday, 1 June 2008

Illiteterate Farmer women of Andhra (Comment)

IN THE FIRST PLACE, They should show these movies to the ruling minority in India – politicians, bureaucrats, experts, specialists, planners, the educationists and the self-proclaimed leaders, and the urban elite – before showing them to the world.

This “Soil Unrecognised Indian” is now being seen…

Link to the Image above (Hindustan Times)

© Remigius de Souza., all rights reserved.

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