Friday, May 16, 2014

Dr George John - World renowned Sports Surgeon

Photo courtesy : Melton Antony
published in The New Indian Express on May 13, 2014

I can show you 100 better players than Roger Federer. But it might not be easy for them to beat him. Because he plays with his mind, says Dr George John.

 Dr George John can talk at length not only about Federer, but also on many other top-seeded stars like Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Cristiano Ronaldo and even Diego Maradona. Years have gone by since this sports surgeon has been attending to their bruises and sprains. In a span of few years, this Orthopedic and sports surgeon, hailing from Punalur, became one of the most sought after surgeons by world renowned sports persons across the world.

A keen observer of sports, Dr George John is certainly not happy with the way sports are developing in the country. “Why are we missing out on several Sachins and Dhonis in tennis and badminton? Why is a boy who loves to play rugby or badminton taken so lightly?” he asks.

George John sadly points out that even now many sports organisations feel that it is unnecessary to hire a sports medicine expert as they already have physiotherapists.

Hence in an attempt to bring about a change in this scenario, George John is all set to share the experience he gained in the field of sports medicine. And as a first attempt on these lines he will soon start a full-fledged centre for Minimal Invasive Surgery in Kochi, which will be the first-of-its-kind in the country.

“It will become a reality in a matter of three years,” he adds. But to bring a whole new culture to the land, he is not ready to beseech the help of the government or any other sports organisations for that matter. “I have acquired a lot and it is now my turn to give it back to my motherland which I will do with my own resources,” he says. 

George John says that even the psyche of the people towards sports is blatantly disillusioning. “In our country, it is just the performance of a sports person that really matters. But in Western countries they go for both the individuals and the performance. The sportsmen have real values to impart,” he says.

Besides, the kind of promotions sports stars get here is definitely in the wrong direction. “It is all about money and brand they talk about. Where are those potent values that a sportsperson can offer,” he asks.

Ask him how he managed those sports persons who were faced with career threatening injuries, he says,“We normally do not slap it on their faces that they could not go on any further. Instead we take our own time and break the news gently. That’s why before donning the garb of a doctor for them, it always helps if you could understand their emotions,” he points out.

Thus he went on to narrate an experience he had with Federer.  “There was a time when Roger Federer lost his game to Novak Djokovic. He came to my room and I knew that he did not need my counselling but an outlet to vent out his emotions. I left the room. Sometime later when I came back, almost everything in my room was destroyed. He was just getting it out of his system. Understanding the players’ emotions at a particular moment as this and reacting accordingly is pivotal,” points out the surgeon who had associated with Federer for eight years.

Apart from sports, he is also into film industry. He is the executive producer of the film Kamasutra 3D.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Interview - Tamil poet and writer SALMA - Shaking off the shackles

Years ago, to be precise, at the age of 22, Rukkaiah dropped a bombshell in the conservative and Islamic confines of a hamlet in Tamil Nadu called Thiruvankurichi, when she scribbled her controversial poem Oppandum (The Contract) under the pen name ‘Salma’. The words were her way of venting her anger.

Like most of the girls in her village, Rajathi, as she was called prior to her marriage, was denied education when she reached puberty. A small window of her house, painted in green, facing a deserted street was her only link to the world outside. Clutching the window grill, her sister and she would look into the street to capture any sign of life in a world which was taboo for them. Time flew by and anger brewed. She resisted marriage proposals until the age of 22 when she was tricked into it by her mother. Sadly, even after her marriage, the fetters did not loosen. Its repercussions emerged in the form of the poem Oppandum. It was her first daring declaration of sexuality under the name ‘Salma’, her anonymous identity for quite some time.

She sulked for two years and was angry with her mother who had coaxed her into marrying by acting ill. But call it a paradox, it was her mother who smuggled the writings that she jotted down in pieces of paper she could lay her hands on, from her in-laws’ house to the publisher. Daring to defy the existent norms, Salma has become one of the most noted poets and writers of south India. Her story has reached different quarters of the globe. Kim Longitto, a film director from UK, has produced a documentary on her.

When I caught up with her at St Albert’s College, she was all smiles. Her face did not show any shadow of the bitterness she had to swallow during her early years of life. She had come here to promote her film Salma which portrays her struggle. The programme was organised by the Film Club and Women’s Club of the college.

It is one among the 10 selected films under the category ‘Movies that matter’  by the Amnesty International. “I was told by the Amnesty International that I should travel across the country promoting this film for it talks about human rights violations. They will bear the expenses for it. And now I am here,” she says.

So far she has had 11 screenings of the movie in the state. “The response was truly overwhelming. There are many who still go through the same plight as mine. Education is a way out, but sometimes, I feel sad that even  education fails to liberate women. What we need is an education that permeates to grass-roots level,” she points out.

Asked what she did first with her new-found freedom, she says, “Earlier, I was Rajathi and Rukkaiah, But neither of those identities gave me freedom but Salma did. Now I am enjoying it to the fullest as a breath of fresh air.” She did not waste any time before commencing her education which abruptly ended at the age of 13. “I completed my graduation in BA Tamil and now I am pursuing my post-graduation in MA History,” she says.

She got the first vibe of discrimination when she was barely 12. She narrated it in hushed tone still suggesting that freedom is yet to be gained in its true sense. “Once we went to watch a Malayalam movie Avalude Ravukal. We were clueless about the film. The moment we entered the cinema hall, all eyes were on us. That was the end of everything. When my family got wind of it, I was barred from going to school even before I reached puberty. But I was shocked when I saw my cousin, a male, who also watched the movie but could go scot-free. For him, nothing changed,” she says.

Confinement did not end her urge to be liberated, thanks to the umpteen books she read. “I devoured every book that came my way and was quite amazed by the world, the Russian literature opened for me. Dostoyevsky and Leo Tolstoy put me on a pedestal to cut out a new path,” she says

Salma has come a long way. There was a time when she used to go to the common bathroom of her house and write poems on small sheets of papers despite the stench and hide them.

For, very often the scribbled bits would  disappear as her husband would take them away. But now things have changed. She entered into politics with the backing of her husband. But still her relationship with him and sons are distant. “They are yet to accept me with a liberal mind,” she says.

But that is not going to deter her from going ahead. “I should do more, there are many girls in my village who could not muster the courage to come out of the confines,” she said.

Salma’s work comprises poems, short stories and novels. Some of her works daringly examine woman’s sexuality and her identity and some were also translated into English. One can flip through her works at

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Art a Panacea for one and all - Dr Iva Fattorini and Dr Latha Mani

Each one is a patient at one time or other. The pent up emotions and mounting tension always seek an outlet. Unfortunately, many do not know that art offers great solace to the disturbed mind, said Dr Iva Fattorini, who was here to launch Arts and Music therapy, an initiative of the Kochi Muziris Biennale Foundation, in the General Hospital on Saturday.

 She says being an artist is not a tough job, for, all are artists in their own way. “You become an artist when you find a way of triggering the energy around you. Art therapy is not limited to music alone. Poetry, dance, creative writing and other creative work, by invoking the positive energy around us, take care of not only our body but also the soul,” she said.

Dr Latha Mani said, “Many artists were born in the Nazi regime, and saw only the darker sides of Germany. It is like your life is shattered one fine morning and you want to rewind.”

  While Dr Iva is the chairman of Global Arts and Medicine Institute, Cleveland clinic in  Abu Dhabi, Dr Latha is an Abu Dhabi-based paediatrician and both have been associating themselves with arts therapy.

Dr Iva said that the art therapy is going places in the US where she was earlier based. It has made a giant leap by successfully treating multiple sclerosis patients who became speech-impaired. Stroke disrupts the parts of the nervous system and affects the ability to communicate. Hence the message of speech cannot reach the brain directly. But music therapy has the ability to rewire and the message takes a detour to reach the brain. “It is not easy for a speech-impaired patient to say a simple sentence such as ‘Give me a glass of water’. But surprisingly, a stroke patient can say it after the sentence is repeated  rhythmically, as the words become coherent after many attempts,” she said.

In a survey on patients who underwent art therapy, 90 per cent of them were brimming with positive attitude, she said.

When asked how they are going to handle Keralites who are rigid by nature, they said, “Time has a way of unwinding itself.

 “This issue prevails everywhere. Arts therapy is not a session but a journey and when it is done regularly, it becomes a culture. We are not imposing it on anybody. But if somebody wants a moment of respite, the opportunities are always there." Dr Iva added.