Sunday, March 25, 2007

Overwhelmed

Have you ever put in your heart and soul in something? Have you prayed that the means meet the end? Have you ever hoped that your hard work and efforts pay off? These are the first few expectations you have of a mega-event, for which your team and you put in more than 8 hours in a day, for almost a month.

Focus '07 was all this and more and I can say with great pride that I was a part of it. The challenge was in the fact that the success of the event was not defined by the size of the audience who attend the event or whether the people were entertained. It was never meant to be that. We didn't want it to be the best symposium, we wanted it to be a class apart.

"A Thought for the Lesser Tots", a discussion based on the theme of underprivileged children, was at the heart of Focus. The purpose was to spread a message and spread it right. People preach and often don't practise. You keep watching such discussions on TV, but they are forgotten as soon as the show reaches its credits' section.

We aimed at striking a cord with the audience. When people volunteer to give their share of food to the kids in the slums nearby, or pay them a visit with one of the guests, then you know that you have reached what you start out for. Even contributing indirectly to the cause by purchasing articles made by these kids, is a decent start, if not a great one.



Personally, the joy of being able to work for a cause was unmatched. I will be lying if I say I felt very strongly for the cause when I began working for it, but with time, as I found our more about the misery in the life of these youngsters, I was working for them rather than the symposium. I guess that was what kept most of us going through those long tiring days, though, full of fun, work and unforgettable moments!

We as a team had our share of differences, in opinions as well as ideologies, but the fact that we loved the reason we were working for, besides the fact that our society was as important a part of each and everyone's life, eased out friction completely. It seemed a near impossible task in the conceptualization stage, but the team effort definitely did pay off well.

29 people, one team, one cause, and one grand event! There are few events which are etched in your life forever, and for me Focus ‘07 is definitely going to be one of them.

To know more about the event, read the report in DNA .

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The Placebo Effect

In Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, Ronald Weasley made miraculous saves to help his house win the Quidditch finals. He was under the impression that he had taken a dose of the luck potion ‘Felix Felicis’. However, that wasn’t the case and Ron was under a mere illusion. He was made to ‘believe’ he had consumed the potion.

It’s amazing what effect a person’s psychological state can have on his physical state. This was fiction but in the real world too, the power of the mind hasn’t gone unutilized. This phenomenon is called the Placebo Effect. It is defined as the psychological and/or physiological changes that result from the administration of a physiologically inert treatment.

Placebos are most widely used in the field of medicine. It’s interesting to note that placebo in Latin stands for “I will please”. Whenever a placebo is requested in a medical prescription, it simply implies a statement by the prescribing doctor that “This patient has come to me pleading for treatment which does exist or which I cannot or will not supply; I will please him b giving him something ineffectual and claiming that it’s effectual.”

Sugar pills are often given instead of medication, as pain killers and anti-depressants and they have had a proven positive effect on the patients. Many homeopathic medicines have been replaced by placebos in clinic trials and a sizable number of patients have continued to show an improvement. A few critics argue that the use of placebos is sham medicine and practitioners are misleading their patients but the medical world is still eager in expanding the sphere of treatments based on the placebo effect.

The Placebo effect has its physiological influence, but the psychological responses are even more astounding.

Arthur Anderson audited thousands of companies, and those audits gave us confidence in those companies, made them appear more stable, which, not surprisingly, made them more stable. Then, post Enron, the placebo effect disappeared. Same companies, same auditors, but suddenly those companies appeared less sturdy, which made them less sturdy.

Even the price of products in market can alter the efficacy of products to which they’re applied. In three experiments, it was shown that consumer paying a discounted price for a product derive lesser benefits from consuming this product compared to consumers who purchase and consume exactly the same product at its regular price. For example, consumers of an energy drink thought to increase mental acuity were able to solve fewer puzzles when they bought the drink at a discounted rate.

The power of placebos is also observed at home. A person watching a frightening scene in a movie will experience a sudden rush of stress hormones, even though that person knows he is in reality perfectly safe. A teddy bear may help a worried youngster get to sleep, even though a teddy bear has no intrinsic sleep-inducing qualities of its own. It is the child's mental processes, triggered by his awareness of the presence of the teddy that induces much needed sleep.

There exists a negative placebo effect too. We all play pranks, don’t we? Wait for a friend to drink a glass of water and then say to him "You didn't use THAT water did you? They found a rotting pigeon in the tank. The last person to use water from THAT tap was off sick for a week." It’s not very surprising that within a short time the poor guy who drank the perfectly normal, healthy and wholesome water will be feeling unwell! You have just turned a harmless glass of water into a negative placebo.

The human mind is capable of playing strange games. If its power is wielded in the right way, life can improve significantly. The current research on the Placebo effect is just the tip of the ice-berg. It has been neglected as compared to the conventional approaches in various fields. We’re standing at a threshold of a unique branch of human psychology. There’s a whole new dimension waiting to be explored!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Vrrrroooooooooooomm


That is perhaps all I heard. I saw THE light that night. All this while I was walking back from a friend's place, with a bunch of four pals, fooling around and cracking jokes that matched the level of insanity of a drunk person, virtually! It had been a great evening and the transition to normality was bound to take more time.

On the way to our destination we had to cross this two-way 4 lane highway. In everyday terms, it's no big deal, and it was not very different that night. With our senses on high alert, we began crossing the road. Lane 1, 2 and 3 passed smoothly.



Jack crossed lane 4 too, without much of a hiccup, well almost! I followed him, at my own regal pace, assuming the car that was around 150 meters away to slow down a bit while I walk past. Sam was about to begin a while later. Iyer held his line.

I was about to receive the shock of my life. The car never slowed down. The driver only flickered his lights in a frenzy. The blaring of the horn just grew louder as every milli-second passed. Yes, milli-seconds, because that perhaps was one of the longest moments of my life. I realised I'll never make it past if I don't run. Iyer sensed that Sam too wouldn't.

I rushed past just in the nick of time while Iyer pulled Sam back. Turning back to see everything ws fine with the other two, It just struck me that they literally scraped through, with two cars being just inches away on either of their sides. If it was an obese person, then I am 101% sure that either his paunch or his posterior would have got a quick shave.

We reached the other side of the road, but yeah, not the other side of the tunnel. We saw the lights of the heavens for a while, but I am glad it ended there. Needless to say, we were back to euphemistic sarcasm some time later.

*All names used in this entry are absolutely fictitious.