Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Salerno, the city of lights

Salerno on the western coast of Italy, just south of Naples, is famous for its artistic Christmas lights. Recently I had a couple of hours in Salerno, waiting for my train. I used that time for a brief visit to the city and to admire its beautiful lights. This post presents some images from this visit.

Salerno, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2014

Just outside the Salerno railway station is a small square with a monument to the soldiers who had died in the first world war (image below). It was a rainy day but fortunately for me, while I was there, it did not rain!

Salerno, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2014
From the railway station I took Corso Vittorio Emmanuele, the central street of Salerno with all the shops and restaurants. No vehicles are allowed on this road, so it was a pleasure to take a leisurely walk and look around. Here I had a first glimpse of the famous lights of Salerno. I had seen beautiful pictures of these lights at night and could imagine that they would be wonderful. I regretted that my visit was in the day.

Salerno, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2014

From Corso, I walked to the 11th century Duomo (Cathedral). The cathedral is quite simple and unadorned. The entrance leads to an open courtyard with some old tombs along the walls. The arcades in Romanic style are in polychromatic stones giving a wonderful look to this place.


Salerno, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2014

The bell-tower of the cathedral in Arabic-Norman style is especially beautiful because of the polychromatic designs made by stones of different colours.

Salerno, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2014

In the old city, there were several small shrines to Madonna and the saints like this beautiful small shrine to St. Rita, not far from the cathedral.

Salerno, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2014

After walking in the old part of Salerno, I came down to the seaside, where there is the municipal building with the clock-tower and behind on the top of a hill, you can see the Arechi castle.

Salerno, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2014

The seaside has rows of square boulders to create a barrier for protecting the city from high waves. On these boulders, a series of statues of grey-yellow coloured penguins have been put that gives the place a funny-happy kind of look.

Salerno, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2014

While walking along the seaside, I met Michela, a woman who owns a bar in the city and brings the old unused bread for distributing to the seagulls. It was absolutely marvellous to see her surrounded by the birds and it gave me an opportunity to take some beautiful pictures!

Salerno, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2014

Artistic lights of Salerno

The most beautiful part of this short visit was to see the beautiful city lights that are set up each year around mid-December and continue till the beginning of February. Unfortunately I could not be there to admire those lights at night, still it was wonderful to see them brightening up the narrow streets of the old city.

Salerno, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2014

Salerno, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2014

Salerno, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2014

The lights were in different styles. For example, two squares were decorated in Chinese style with lacquered boxes, colourful lanterns and a brightly shining dragon that must have looked spectacular at night.

Salerno, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2014

Salerno, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2014

Salerno, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2014

Salerno, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2014

I especially loved the lights with some colourful flowers in translucent plastic. Take a look at the images below for some close-ups of these flowers.

Salerno, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2014

Salerno, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2014

Salerno, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2014

Salerno, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2014

Salerno, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2014

Salerno, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2014

Salerno, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2014

Salerno, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2014

My couple of hours in Salerno passed so quickly. There were so many more streets with other kinds of lights that I could not see. In the end, my only regret was that I could not see those lights at night.

Salerno, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2014

The last image of this post is from a hill near Salerno that shows the bay with the tourist port. So even without the lights, Salerno seems to be a beautiful place to live in with the wonderful walkway along the sea. It was a short visit but very enjoyable!

***

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Fatal assistance - Reconstruction chaos

"Fatal Assistance", the documentary film by director Raoul Peck, follows the massive destruction in Haiti caused by an earthquake on 12 January 2010. It looks at the promises and the challenges of the country's reconstruction. It paints a dismal picture of the response by the international emergency humanitarian-aid world to the tragedy.

Stills from Fatal Assistance by Raoul Peck

"Fatal Assistance" will be a part of the International Documentary Film festival called "Mondovisioni" that will be held at Kinodromo - Cinema Europa in Bologna (Italy) from January to April 2014. "Fatal Assistance" will be shown on Wednesday 5 March 2014 at 9 PM.

Introduction

Natural disasters like earthquakes, cyclones, floods and landslides and man-made disasters like bombs and wars can cause massive destructions and loss of human lives. The global TV networks and the 24x7 TV news channels provide a trans-national platform to news about such disasters as they occur, showing horrifying images of destruction and human suffering. The reach of the news channels is accompanied by the growth of the social media, so that enterprising individuals can share information, pictures and videos about the events, adding a more personal human element to the far-away news. Usually this results in outpouring of  popular support and donations as people wish to help those affected by the disasters.

A whole "emergency humanitarian aid" industry has sprung-up around natural disasters. Thus industry swings into action as soon as the news breaks out. The roots of this industry are mainly based in the developed world especially in Europe and USA where important humanitarian organisations are based with their offices across the world and with budgets that rival national budgets.

"Fatal Assistance" touches on this theme by focusing on the damages caused to the buildings and homes in Haiti, their impact on peoples' lives and the international humanitarian efforts for their reconstruction.

The Film

On 12 January 2010 a massive earthquake, 7 degrees on the Richter scale, shook Haiti. About 220,000 persons died in the disaster according to the estimates by Haitian Government. Thousands of buildings and homes collapsed in the earthquake. The scenes of the tragedy dominated TV news-screens around the world and countries promised millions of dollars' worth of aid.

An International Commission for Reconstruction of Haiti (ICRH) was formed under the guidance of ex-president of USA Bill Clinton. UN agencies, bilateral government agencies, international emergency humanitarian organisations and NGOs arrived in Haiti to promote the reconstruction and ensure health care, rehabilitation, education and community support.

As months passed, it became clear that aid actually received was a small part of what was promised and it was not enough to cover the cost of US army to clear all the debris of the collapsed buildings and homes. Thus, reconstruction was difficult and extremely limited.

People were forced to come out and occupy whatever open spaces they could find to set up make shift shelters as their homes.

The response by the different agencies and organisations was chaotic. There were many duplications and unnecessary competitions among the organisations in some areas because different organisations had approved projects to carry out the same work - for example, 4 organisations were working on cleaning the same canal. On the other hand, lack of coordination meant that many other areas were left uncovered as no organisation was working there.

Some organisations worked on making new homes. However, this was also not planned properly. In one example shown in the film, a rocky area 18 km away from the city was selected for building homes. It lacked essential services and houses were built without toilets or kitchens, and when it rained, water came inside those houses.

The film also shows the human dimension of the tragedy in different ways - on one hand, important international figures like Clinton and Sean Penn who, in spite of their good intentions, seem to play the role of supermen and heroes, on the other, Haiti's president Preval and prime minister Bellrive, appear powerless in front of the foreigners who have the money and the ideas they wish to implement without talking about them to the locals. In a scene, the Haitian members of ICRH denounce that they are in the commission just in name, they are completely ignored and are not involved in any decisions.

Stills from Fatal Assistance by Raoul Peck

Comments

The film presents a classic textbook case of how not to deal with development work. Unfortunately, in emergency situations, it seems impossible not to fall in the traps of rich donors dictating the kind of "help" they want to give. It is difficult to get out of the chaos because "humanitarian help" is part of countries' foreign policy and trade-commerce related issues are important in the aid-programmes. Thus, millions promised during the emergency, are given through contracts to expatriate companies, who want to earn and for them helping persons is secondary. In the end, large amount of aid-money comes back to them through their own companies.

Interference in the national elections, controlling and deciding without involving local partners, shown in the film are things that are known to all the actors involved in the situation, though they are hidden behind rhetoric and double-speak.

Personally I think that film's message that the money should have been given directly to people, was a little naive. I think that it leads to other problems and tragedies. Corrupt bureaucrats and corrupt politicians on one hand and difficulties of managing huge amounts of sudden cash, both contribute to it.

Local organisations and international NGOs with long history and experiences of working in those communities are both better placed to identify needs and provide appropriate support in emergencies. However they are usually small organisations and can not compete with big multi-national organisations that control the international emergency-aid industry. They are also few and can not respond to the enormous needs that are there in such situations.

Finally I think that nothing can substitute the country's own management capacities and their insistence on coordinating the relief efforts. Ideally they should refuse aid which they can not coordinate. It does become however very difficult to resist the pressures and controls of international organisations, who can bulldoze all the national efforts.

Though the chaos are caused by faulty planning and implementation guidelines and procedures decided in Europe or USA, it is the persons who work at the frontlines for these organisations who take the blame and try to find solutions. The film shows different moments of anguish of such persons, moved by idealism and a desire to help, who find themselves caught between the limits of their roles and their desire to help those whose suffering they are witnessing. They are the ones who salvage the humanitarian aid by their personal humanism and testimony.

***

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

A different teenage love story

Brazilian director Daniel Ribeiro's film "Eu Não Quero Voltar Sozinho" (I don't want to go back alone) is a Karan Johar's  "Kuch kuch hota hai" kind of film (with similar storyline) but with a difference. It is a cloyingly sweet short film, that left me a little irritated but may be that only means that I am no longer a teenager!

Still from I don't want to go back alone

Introduction

The teenage love stories like Karan Johar's early films like "Kuch kuch hota hai" and "Dilwale dulhaniya le jayenge" (there were no real teenagers there, but that is only nitpicking) and hundreds of such romantic films and books all over the world tell stories of beautiful people, who meet, fall in love, face some heartbreaks and then in the end all the misunderstandings are resolved, the guy and his lady love kiss against the sunset and live happily ever after.

However, the teenage romantic worlds are make-believe worlds with make-believe people - everybody is beautiful and perfect with designer clothes - the billionaire handsome guy and lovely virgin princess. If you are fat, short, ugly or worse, if you are disabled or gay, you have no place in this make-believe world, not even as hero's sidekick or heroine's best friend.

Gay and lesbians face a lot of discrimination and barriers, and it is not easy for young gay or lesbian persons to express their sexuality. If they also have a disability then expression of their sexuality becomes even more difficult.

Ribeiro's film is different because his hero is disabled and he is also gay.

The film

Leonardo (Ghilherme Lobo) is a high school student. He is blind. His best friend is Giovana (Tess Amorim), who secretly loves him but for him she is only a friend. She accompanies him to his home every afternoon when the school finishes. Then arrives a new boy in their class - Gabriel (Fabio Audi).

Soon, Gabriel becomes friends with Giovana and Leonardo. He also walks with them after school. Leonardo feels attracted towards Gabriel but does not know how to tell it to him and decides to talk about it to Giovana.

Comments


Still from I don't want to go back alone

It is a nice film to watch, simple and uncomplicated. However, there were different reasons why it irritated me a little bit:

(1) The film is based in Brazil but it is the world of rich and white Brazil. The whole class and the teacher are all white and rich looking. I know that Brazil has a lot of multi-colour families, which means that in the same families, some persons may be white, some dark and some in-between. Still, I would have liked the film more if at least some persons in the film were also not-whites.

(2) Everyone in the film is good-looking, perfect and a little artificial. Even Leonardo, who is blind, looks perfect with beautiful eyes.

(3) Everyone is accepting towards Leonardo's disability, no one makes comments about him. Even his being a gay is not an issue. The only dilemmas in the film are the romantic dilemmas - Giovana's heart break and the difficulty of Leonardo to express his feelings. Thus, the film is in an idyllic world.

However, I do recognise that as someone who is no longer young, and who focuses (too much??) on the problems and barriers faced by disabled persons and by non-heterosexual persons, probably I am looking at this film through a distorted lens. The film is a make-believe world to present alternate dreams to people who have a disability and are gay - like all teenagers they also have a need for uncomplicated romantic dreams and the film answers that need.

It is a short film (about 17 minutes) and though it is in Portuguese, you can watch it on Youtube with English subtitles. If you like sweet and romantic films with good-looking actors, watch it and tell me what did you think about it!

***
After I finished watching it, I was re-imagining "Kuch kuch hota hai" - suppose, Rahul (Shahrukh Khan) was secretly in love with Anjali (Kajol) but felt shy of expressing himself, and then Tina (Rani Mukherjee) came to the school and one day Anjali confessed to Rahul that she was in love with Tina ...

***

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Marta's suitcase - Carrying pain and fear

"Marta's suitcase" (La maleta de Marta) by director Günter Schweiger is an unusual documentary on a social issue - violence against women. It is unusual because it touches on areas usually ignored by discussions on this subject. The film travels between Spain and Austria, as it looks at the lives of women and men touched by the violence.

Stills from Marta's suitcase, documentary by Gunter Schweiger

"Marta's suitcase" will be a part of the International Documentary film festival "Mondovisioni" to be held in Bologna (Italy) at Kinodromo between January and April 2014.

Introduction

"Violence against women" is also called "domestic violence" as it usually occurs within the home-walls and the perpetrators are mostly husbands/male companions of the women. Less often it may be perpetrated by brothers, fathers or other men in the family. For this reason, it is also called "intimate partner violence". The violence can be emotional, physical and/or sexual.

The impact of emotional violence is usually under-estimated, and people tend to look at it as something not so important. However, it can be equally devastating. It saps away the victims' self-confidence, hopes, dreams and autonomy, leaving the persons more vulnerable. It may also be the first step of a cycle that leads to physical and sexual violence.

Domestic violence is surrounded by a strong sense of stigma and a sense of shame. Thus, women and children who are victims, also feel judged negatively by others and made to feel that it was their fault. Persons and institutions, who are supposed to provide support such as the police, often share the society's mindset that it is not important, it is an internal family matter and that men have a right to hit their wives if their wives do not behave properly. Thus, instead of providing support, they may even ridicule the victims for complaining. On the other hand, organisations providing refuge or support to battered women are sometimes depicted as creating unnecessary fuss and "destroying the families".

Finally, the words "domestic violence" can give an idea that it is about minor violence, in reality, it usually leads to broken bones or even death. It also results in emotional scars that may never heal, not just in the women victims, but also in the children.

Film

Marta, an Andalusian woman in Spain, asked for separation from her husband in 2000. At that time her two daughters were 12 and 15 years old. One day, while Marta was crossing a street, her ex-husband, a pharmacist, attacked her with his car, breaking the bones of her legs and then attacked her with a knife, cutting her in different places including her neck and abdomen. He was sentenced to prison while Marta underwent numerous operations.

Stills from Marta's suitcase, documentary by Gunter Schweiger

The film presents Marta's testimony about what had happened and her fears because her husband is out of prison now and she knows that one day he is waiting to attack her once again and to kill her. The police and the legal system in Spain does not take Marta's complaints seriously, as her ex-husband had completed his punishment and has not done anything illegal. Marta is forced to hide and change homes and towns, in search of a safer place.

The film also talks to some Austrian psychologists and mental health specialists dealing with men who perpetrate violence against women, to discuss why men behave this way. The film also has some interviews with men who had been violent in the past to ask them to explain why they had behaved the way they did.

Comments

It is a very hard hitting film. To watch Marta tell what had happened and look at the signs of the violence on her body, and to hear about how her own mother and other family treated her after the violence, how it changed her relationship with the world and with her daughters, is very moving.

Marta's family from a small town in south of Spain is ashamed of her for bringing dishonour to the family and for having made different life-choices. Her mother felt that what had happened to Marta was her own fault because she had walked out of her marriage.

The film shows that even in a country with excellent support services such as Austria, the persons dealing with victims of violence say that their shelter for battered women had to turn away more than 50% of the women because they did not have enough space for them.

An interesting part of the film is the interviews with psychologists and the men who had been the perpetrators of violence in the past. The issue of domestic violence is kept under wraps and ignored. However when one does talk about it, it is usually in terms of victims' point of view and the services that are needed to support them. In such discussions, the perpetrators are like monsters and criminals, and thus the discussions are exclusively in terms of legal measures for punishing them and for imprisoning them. The film makes you think about this and raises new ideas about prevention and reduction in domestic violence by designing interventions targeted at men.

Stills from Marta's suitcase, documentary by Gunter Schweiger

Violent men, or rather men who come to violence, are usually insecure. When they are confronted with ideas such as their wives may be feeling attraction for other men (real or imagined) or may be leaving them because they are not happy in their marriages,  these men do not have the skills of articulation, expression of their feelings and discussion. Part of it may be because of the way our societies raise male children and adolescents and the societal representations of masculinity and femininity. Thus, the men may also feel as victims and impotent to change anything, responding to the situations they perceive as threats to their self-image and masculinity, only with violence.

The violent men in the film also feel victims. They say, "She made me lose my mind and turn violent". Due to psychological violence that usually precedes physical and sexual violence, often the victims also feel "guilty" that somehow they themselves were responsible for provoking the violence.

However these insights stimulated by the film about the role of the perpetrators in the violence and perpetrator-victim relationships, point towards different and complex issues. Since domestic violence is very common - in some countries, more than 50% of the women face it at least once in their lives, and it affects both rich and poor homes, I think that the issue of male behaviour in the violence requires urgent research and discussions.

The film is a bit long and also a little repetitive, but perhaps that was my impression because I am familiar with the subject and have been involved in research in this area. Almost all the films planned for the Mondovisioni festival that I have seen so far, were 1 hour 10 minutes to 1 hour 25 minutes long. I feel that this length is excessive for documentaries and most of these films could be shorter by 10-20 minutes, and become more incisive. However, this small critcism does not take away from the hard-hitting impact of Marta's suitcase!

***

Monday, 6 January 2014

Our Family - The Four Legged Kind

A wonderful Guest post by Madhu Kamath

***
A few weeks back I read Gerald Durrelli’s delightful book “My family and other animals”. It put me in a rewind mode, sending me down memory lane forty years back when I had my initiation into the world of four legged ones.

Sweety and Kaloo were my in-laws’ and hubby’s pet Lhasa Apsos gifted to them by Laotian friends. When I got married in 1973, they had been with the family for more than four years. My mother-in-law had passed away the previous year after a brief illness. I had been an occasional visitor earlier but despite the fact that I had become a family member, Kaloo was suspicious of me. The moment he saw me touch something, he would pounce on me. Sweety minded her own business. I had to be cautious about my movements and that kept me tense. Till that day four months later …

I had taken leave from school as I wanted to visit my gynaecologist. She had confirmed I was expecting but off and on I was getting mild cramps. After my husband and father-in-law left for office, as I got up to lock the door, I went blank and fell. It took me a moment to get up and lie down. The cramps had suddenly become unbearable and I was alone! Well, not really! Both Sweety and Kaloo jumped on the bed, emitting barely audible whines and sat on either side, looking at me mournfully. With tears in my eyes, I put my hands on their heads. I was pleasantly surprised that Kaloo did not mind. May be I was half expecting it as I had seen his affection for the other family members. He had finally accepted me although under distressing circumstances.

When the pain subsided a bit, I called out to our landlady downstairs who promptly got a cab and took me to a nursing home. I was undergoing a miscarriage. She stayed with me till my husband and father-in-law arrived. The good soul was always there for us in need.

Although Sweety and Kaloo had been there for four years, Sweety had never had a litter. A few months later we were surprised to hear sounds from our quilt. We woke up to find Sweety and six new born pups all over our quilt.

The previous night, she had been moving restlessly all over the house, whining. We thought she had a tummy upset and tried to comfort her with a hot water bottle. She was so hairy that no one noticed she was pregnant. When she sat, it was difficult to make out which was her front and which back. She looked like a huge, fluffy black ball.

The pups were so entertaining. Every afternoon, when I returned from school, it took me at least a few minutes to enter the house because the moment I unlocked and opened the door, all of them would gather around my feet, followed by their proud parents. Sweety started avoiding them when they started teething because their teeth hurt her, she could not nurse them any more.

We had a large circle of friends and finding homes for the pups was no problem. A litter of five and another of 4 came in the next one year and needless to say, there were more puppy seekers than the number of pups to be adopted. Our pets’ curiosity about the new family members lasted only a few curious sniffs when our elder daughter was born in 1975. As she grew Sweety became her best friend and playmate. Ajju, her grandpa, called her Bukul. We never asked him why. Bukul sounds sweet, doesn’t it? By the way, in their mother-tongue, it means tomcat. The way our association with four-legged beings grew over the years, her pet name seems significant.

Now ours is a family that loves travelling. When Ajju was travelling, we used to stay put. When we had travel plans, Ajju would be there to be with the pets.

As the months went by, Kaloo, inexplicably became vicious. With a small child in the house, we had to be extra careful. Sweety kept herself confined under the bed or the sofa. Kaloo bit Ajju as well as my husband. Both had to take a full course of injections after we took him to a veterinary hospital. We were advised to get him put to sleep. It was a sad day for all of us. The medication he was getting at the hospital was not helping calm him. His left eye had come out of the socket and he looked wild. Baffled by the change in him, Ajju insisted on getting tests done. He had contracted rabies despite getting tests done. He had contracted rabies despite getting his annual shots.

Sweety also left us in a year’s time. She seemed to be fine, her usual self. She just crawled under the couch, let out a loud sound, ostensibly her last breath, and that was it. The house felt so empty!

Ajju, too, went suddenly when Meghna, our younger daughter was four months old. A massive heart attack when he was getting ready to go up to his room after a hearty dinner of his favourite fish curry and rice, took him away from us.

With Ajju no more, we could not think of keeping another pet, for, there would have been no one to look after it, when we were to travel.

***

In 1993 we moved from Delhi to Hyderabad, leaving Bukul there to complete her graduation.

Meghu got admission here in class X. One day as I entered the garage to switch on the motor to boost water, I saw four kittens quickly scurry under the wooden boxes stacked there. And then I saw the mother! She spat at me to keep her babies safe from me. We had no idea this family of five had been in our garage. Gradually, they started coming out and befriended us, treating the whole house as their own.

A few days later another cat (we named her Mausi) coolly stepped inside our garden and she her two kittens also made our house their home. And then came Chutki, all by herself, spending long hours on the swing we had in the verandah. We had names for all of them but after all these years, we remember only wink-eye and Satan; the first because it always seemed to be winking and the latter because we changed its name from Satin to Satan when we realised it was a male. Surprisingly , one by one, all of them disappeared in the next few weeks. It was as if they had a premonition of what/who was to come!

Bukul used to come home during vacations and one such visit, just a few days after the last of the cats disappeared, we were about to go out in the evening, when she saw a black rag near the main door. As she bent to pick it up, she jumped up with a shriek. It was a new born pup, black and brown. Tiny, barely able to move and bleeding from the rectum. Where had it come from?

Thankfully we knew of a vet in the neighbourhood and rushed to him with the pup. He treated him and refused to charge us for the treatment. The pup was soon out and about, prancing, chewing socks, shoe laces and eating well. Needless to say, we could not have left him out on the road.

We had to keep on telling him, “Don’t do this, don’t do that.” With all the don’t do’s in the air, we ended up naming him Dhondu. He grew up to be a handsome, loving, much loved family member. The most endearing thing about him was putting his chin on our knee when he wanted what we were eating, imploring!

One evening when Meghu had taken Dhondu for a walk, she heard a whining sound coming from some bushes. On closer look, she found a tiny brown pup probably trying to feel the presence of its mother but not being able to find it. We brought it home and gave it milk with a dropper. Its eyes hadn’t opened and it looked doped. The vet confirmed it was a female and named it Dopey. Like Dhondu, Dopey also stayed. He was five and she, may be ten days old.

Our 4 legged family by Madhu Kamath

Babli was our colony dog. Apart from us, two other families used to feed it. It was amazing how, whenever she had a litter, it used to be raining. Thus for every litter she produced, our garage came in handy. After the 5th or the 6th (not sure!) we got her sterilized.

In the last litter, Babli had three male pups. Meghu named them Pumpkin, Munchkin and Coffee. They too would have ventured out with their mother but father dear had a wish! He wished to keep the white one, Munchkin, for himself. His reasoning - “Bukie has Dhondu, Meghu has Dopey, what about me?” Amusing! A fifty two year old sounding like a kid.

To let you in on a touching family trait … it all started with the time when father dear himself was a young child. His mother was no less an animal lover. They had a dog and a cat, both got along well and were looked after by them. Tiki and Tik-Tik sure had loving hands and hearts to care for them. So, you see! It runs in the family.

And thus Munchy stayed. Babli had free access to our house to come and play with him. We gave away the other two compassionate families after Babli stopped nursing them.

Our 4 legged family by Madhu Kamath

Now Dopey did not trust anyone. Not even us. God knows what trauma she must have endured when she was alone in the bushes. The day after we found her, we took her to each and every house in the neighbourhood to look for her mother and her siblings, if any, but in vain. Still, we all existed under the same roof, in a some what peaceful co-existence, wary of her snapping at anyone who came close to her.

Dhondu left us when he was 11, afflicted by age related ailments. Although Dopey growled at anyone who even touched her by chance, she had a way of saying sorry by lowering her head and raising her paw. She lived to be 13.

***
And then came additions of the feline kind to our family when Bukie found a tiny kitten, eyes not yet open, almost in the middle of the road. She brought it home and fed it with a dropper. Fortunately, we have a gate separating the ground floor and the first floor so the dogs would not be able to reach the cat. She was named Daisy.

Daisy started going out on her own and stayed out, for long hours, but by the time we started thinking of getting her spayed, it was too late. One night she got into one of the cupboards in our ground floor bedroom and delivered a male and a female kitten. Our grand daughter Aari was delighted. Her soft toys and dolls took second place. Chutki and Bheem (that’s what she named them) became her companions. The two used to roam around with dear mom and occasionally brought back mice to devour. That was the only problem we faced with them.

Tragedy struck when Bheem came under a vehicle and got crushed. No one saw how it happened. I saw his inert body covered with a newspaper outside our house. We burried him in the small mud patch in our garden. Aari missed him the most.

There was also Yuki who appeared out of no where and used to sit behind the fridge. She disappeared as suddenly as she had appeared.

We got Chutki spayed well in time but another tragedy was waiting for us. My husband, Meghu and Aari had taken her to the vet a day after her surgery, when Meghu, realising that she was urinating, put her down to prevent herself from getting wet. The moment she put her down, Chutki took off like lightening, jumped over a wall and disappeared. In the growing darkness, they were not able to locate her. The vet’s staff also failed though they searched high and low. She was wearing a huge cone shaped E-collar round her neck, so she must have been noticed, we hoped. The next day, Bukie, Meghu and Aari went back to enquire in the neighbourhood but with no luck. That is how we lost Chutki. We still hope that she is safe wherever she is.

Aari is great friends with Daisy also, the occasional scratches not withstanding. Another small baby kitten Aari noticed outside our house was infested with ticks and fleas and her breathing was very shallow. We took her to the vet. He put her on a drip but was doubtful of her survival. The poor thing breathed her last in Bukie’s arm later that night. She too, rests in peace in our mud patch.

Life carried on with Munchy downstairs and Daisy upstairs. In April this year (2013), on hearing mournful mewing from some where around, Bukie and Aari went in search and found three kittens, a couple of weeks old, scrawny, but moving around, at the back of the vacant house next door. For a couple of days we fed them milk there but doing that several times a day was very tedious so we brought them home.

Our 4 legged family by Madhu Kamath

Meghu’s bedroom was lying vacant as she is posted overseas, so with a food bowl, litter tray et al, that’s where we lodged them. Aari took it upon herself to mother them and named them Kittoo, Grey and Minnie. She treats them like her own babies and spends a lot of time talking to them. Of course, she does not mind getting scratched.

Soon after we brought the latest additions home, we got them their shots. Just like Daisy had started going out on her own, we assumed that these three will do the same. But no. Whether we lock up Munchy in the bedroom and let them roam around or put them in the bedroom with the windows open, they rarely go out for more than ten minutes.

Coming back to the meaning of Bukul’s name assuming such significance, we are convinced that some unknown factor was at play when her Ajju gave her that name. After all, it was she who was instrumental in bringing the helpless Daisy home. Her daughter Aari pointed out the presence of the dying kitten to her. It was she who first heard the piteous mewing of the three siblings who have now been with us for almost eight months. Connects? Doesn’t it?

There is a tom cat roaming around in our colony. A few days back it attacked Kittoo near our main door. Bukul rushed out and drove it away. Male cats are known to kill male kittens so we are really scared. Minnie will soon be able to conceive. Must get them all spayed. There isn’t room for more additions. Sorry, house full!

Our 4 legged family by Madhu Kamath
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Sunday, 5 January 2014

Baby in the womb - Amazing anatomy models

The science museum of Bologna (Italy) has an amazing collection of anatomy models created around mid-1700s, and used for teaching to the medical students and obstetricians. I especially love the part of this museum that presents the models of babies in their mothers' wombs. If you ever visit Bologna and you are interested in human anatomy, do not forget to visit this museum.

Anatomy models, Palazzo Poggi, Bologna, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2014

This photo-essay presents some of the anatomical models from The Palazzo Poggi Science Museum of Bologna university.

Origins of anatomy models in Bologna

In 1758 Pope Benedict XIV asked the university of Bologna to establish a school for teaching obstetrics in Palazzo Poggi, that hosted the Bologna university at that time. Dr Giovanni Antonio Galli (1708-1782) was the first professor of obstetrics at this school. Most of the anatomy models displayed in Palazzo Poggi were created during the second half of 1700s by anatomy artists like Anna Morandi Manzolini, Giovanni Manzolini, Ercole Lelli and Clemente Susini. The models are made mainly in two kinds of materials - cold painted terracotta and wax.

Some of the first obstetrics models showing babies in the mother's womb were made by Giovanni Manzolini for Prof. Galli. When Giovanni Manzolini died in 1755, Prof. Galli asked his wife Anna Morandi Manzolini (1714-1774), who was also an artist and used to help her husband, to make the models. Majority of obstetrics models displayed in the Palazzo Poggi science museum are by Anna, who did human dissections and was appointed as the professor of anatomy.

Ercole Lelli (1702-1766) was a well known painter and anatomy modeller. His speciality was wax models of human bodies showing the bones and the muscles. Finally Clemente Susini (1754-1814) was another important artist who specialised in preparing wax models showing the different organs.

Obstetrics models of Palazzo Poggi

Let us start this virtual tour with a terracotta representation of Prof. Galli teaching to obstetricians. It shows both a pregnant woman as well as an anatomical model used for teaching. However, in reality only models were used for teaching and actual people were not brought in the theory classes.

Anatomy models, Palazzo Poggi, Bologna, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2014

When I had studied medicine in Delhi (India), we did not have any such models. Though I had studied human anatomy and obstetrics, most of our learnings were through looking at few diagrams and imagining the human body.

Today, the 3D computer-based models are common and are a wonderful learning tool. Some time ago, during a free online Coursera course on the anatomy of the upper limb, I had tried learning through virtual 3D models and they were wonderful!

Even comparing with the quality of virtual 3D models, I think that the terracotta models shown below are absolutely amazing.

Anatomy models, Palazzo Poggi, Bologna, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2014

Anatomy models, Palazzo Poggi, Bologna, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2014

Anatomy models, Palazzo Poggi, Bologna, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2014

During the pregnancy, the baby keeps on moving in different positions in the womb. Only when it is close to the delivery time, baby takes the position for the delivery. In most cases, the baby's head goes inside the birth canal and the opening of the uterus begins to dilate. Some of the possible positions for a head-first delivery are shown in the image below (though in these models, the head is still not engaged inside the birth canal):

Anatomy models, Palazzo Poggi, Bologna, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2014

Some times, instead of the head, baby's butt or the feet come out first - it can mean a more difficult delivery, especially if it is a first baby. Some of the positions for butt or feet first delivery are shown in the following models:

Anatomy models, Palazzo Poggi, Bologna, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2014

Inside the uterus, the baby is closed inside a membrane filled with liquid - the amniotic sack and the amniotic liquid, while the umbilical cord connects the baby to the placenta on the uterine wall as shown in the next models.

Anatomy models, Palazzo Poggi, Bologna, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2014

Anatomy models, Palazzo Poggi, Bologna, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2014

How do twin babies grow inside the uterus is another fascinating area of study, and are shown in the next images.

Anatomy models, Palazzo Poggi, Bologna, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2014

Anatomy models, Palazzo Poggi, Bologna, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2014

Anatomy models, Palazzo Poggi, Bologna, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2014

Most child-births are fairly straight-forward affairs, and women are known to have delivered even alone. However some times there can be complications. Thus regular check-ups during the pregnancy and the presence of a trained obstetrician or a trained traditional birth attendant is important during the child-birth.

Some countries in Africa and South Asia, including India, continue to have high mortality rates for the mothers and the new born babies. Urban areas in India have highly privatised health services with extremely high rates of Cesarean sections. On the other hand, services in rural areas and for the urban poor are lacking or are of poor quality. Reducing mortality of mothers and new born babies is one of the Millennium Development Goals - unfortunately, the progress for reaching this goal has not been sufficient.

The next image shows models depicting some complications during deliveries - intervention for removing placenta (normally placenta separates automatically after the child birth and comes out, but sometimes, it may need to be removed) and the rupture of the uterus.

Anatomy models, Palazzo Poggi, Bologna, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2014

The position of the placenta in the uterus can sometimes be a problem, if it is placed close to the opening of the uterus and thus, can rupture during the early phases of the child-birth. Therefore, an ultra-sound test is important during the pregnancy to rule out any malformations and to confirm the position of the placenta.

Unfortunately in countries like India and China, ultra-sound test may also be used for sex-determination and abortion of female foetuses.

The next image shows the wax models explaining the different positions of placenta inside the uterus.

Anatomy models, Palazzo Poggi, Bologna, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2014

Ercole Lelli's wax models

The anatomy museum also has the wax models of Ercole Lelli showing the human bodies, especially the bones and muscles. There are both male and female models, that show the different layers of skin, tissues, muscles and bones in the human body. These make learning of human anatomy such as the functions of individual muscles in moving different joints, so much simpler.

Anatomy models, Palazzo Poggi, Bologna, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2014

The Venerina of Clemente Susini

Clemente Susini had specialised in the models showing different organs of the body, important for understanding of human anatomy and physiology. One of his most famous creations is the model of a pregnant woman, where you can remove different layers of skin and muscles to look inside different organs, and to take out individual organs to study them.

Anatomy models, Palazzo Poggi, Bologna, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2014

Anatomy models, Palazzo Poggi, Bologna, Italy - images by Sunil Deepak, 2014

Conclusions

Every time I visit the anatomy museum of Palazzo Poggi, I wish that we had access to such models when we were studying medicine. Even if you are not a doctor, I think that such models are interesting because they help us to understand our bodies better.

Palazzo Poggi museum has different sections including astronomy, physics, geology, natural history, boats and war-strategy. In this post I have limited myself to the anatomy models, but other sections of the museum are also very interesting. It is a 14th century building with some truly wonderful frescoes. If you are planning a visit to Bologna, do not forget to visit this beautiful museum!

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