Ancient and Modern Medicine

My friend Dr Joishy is a very well respected physician (an oncologist by training, with a special interest in palliative medicine). He also comes from a family of Ayurvedic practitioners and a long time ago he wrote a small article about ancient medical systems and modern medicine. He shared it with me, I liked it, one thing led to another, and here is his note about that article (unfortunately not available in etext form, only as a scan, see link in the following note).. I hope to do a podcast with Dr Joishy one day by the way..

ANCIENT MEDICAL SYSTEMS VS. MODERN MEDICINE:

BOTH CAN THRIVE TOGETHER IN THE EAST OR THE WEST

 By Suresh K. Joishy, M.D., F.A.C.h.P.M.

                 My good neighbor Dr. Omar Ali and myself were having a mutually interesting conversation on ancient medical systems and modern medicine.  I had published a paper on this topic titled “Towards Ideal Medicine: What Can Traditional Medicine Teach Us?”   This paper can be accessed by copying and pasting the following link onto an internet browser:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1zDhnS11SFkhEKUomFVpLuPY1n4wNhEyD/view?usp=sharing

After reading it, Dr. Ali suggested I submit it to “Brown Pundits” but we did not have an electronic copy. The scan is attached above.

My paper was written in 1981, when I was practicing Hematology and Oncology  in the U.S., after a research assignment in Malaysia.    Since I am a medical graduate from India, my grandfather was a physician in Ayurveda, and as I lived in several states of India, I was able to closely observe the ancient medical systems still in practice and thriving.

I am a practitioner of modern medicine.  I believe in science and evidence-based medicine.  Then why write about ancient medical systems?  My paper addressed this very question as to why Ayurveda, Unani and Traditional Chinese Medicine were thriving despite the success of modern medicine in curing infections with antibiotics and no limits to what a surgery can accomplish to repair, replace, or transplant organs.  I have described the science of modern medicine and compared it to Ayurveda,Unani  and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

Rather than dwell on the past again, here I will give my views on what has transpired since 1981,  after which I was teaching and conducting research abroad in Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, England, Japan, and New Zealand.  I also observed ancient medical systems were still thriving over there. Continue reading “Ancient and Modern Medicine”

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Book Review: The Boats of Cherbourg

From Dr Hamid Hussain

Book Review – The Boats of Cherbourg by Abraham Rabinovich

Hamid Hussain

The Boats of Cherbourg: The Navy That Stole Its Own Boats and Revolutionized Naval Warfare by [Abraham Rabinovich]

A well respected Israeli military historian Abraham Rabinovich’ s book is a fascinating account of a little known chapter of naval history.  Israeli air force and armored corps were ruling the roost as these two services played key role in June 1967 stunning victory against three Arab armies.  Israeli navy was relegated to the back seat as no one saw any meaningful role for this service.  The lion’s share of defense budget was allocated to air force and army.  Israeli navy needed a cheaper option to fulfill its operational role. Continue reading “Book Review: The Boats of Cherbourg”

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Interview with Radcliffe

Cyril Radcliffe gets a lot of (mostly undeserved) flak from people anxious to find some scapegoat for the partition disaster. The following is an extract from Kuldip Nayar’s book “Scoop” (published originally by Scroll, India) that sheds some light on those times and Radcliffe’s role in them.

HOW A KNEE JERK DECISION LED TO MISERY FOR GENRATIONS

An excerpt from ‘Scoop’, in which the veteran journalist, who died on August 23, wrote about interviewing Cyril Radcliffe, Chairman of the Boundary Commission.

“I nearly gave you Lahore,” Lord Cyril Radcliffe, Chairman of the Boundary Commission, told me. “But then I realised that Pakistan would not have any large city. I had already earmarked Calcutta for India.”

Lahore had Hindus and Sikhs in a majority and way up in assets, he said. Yet he had no option because of paucity of big towns in Pakistan. The conversation took place at Radcliffe’s flat in London towards the later half of 1971. I had gone there to meet Lord Mountbatten, the last British Governor-General. I wanted to know how the boundary lines of India and Pakistan were drawn. Although the Boundary Commission had four more members – two from India, Mehar Chand Mahajan and Teja Singh, and two from Pakistan, Din Mohammed and Mohammed Munir – they were all serving judges.

Radcliffe was the one who made the decision because the Commission was divided, India’s members on one side and those from Pakistan on the other. What yardstick did he apply? I was keen to know. I found to my horror that Radcliffe had no fixed rules to go by when he drew the boundaries between India and Pakistan. He had gathered sufficient information by the time he came to demarcate the borders. Continue reading “Interview with Radcliffe”

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Review: Soldier Sahibs

This was written way back in 2002 for the Pakistani newsmagazine Herald (which just closed down unfortunately). Lets see how it holds up.

Soldier Sahibs is an old-fashioned and unapologetically imperialist book. And writer Charles Allen makes sure you know what you are getting into by giving it the flagrantly politically incorrect subtitle: The Daring Adventurers Who Tamed India’s Northwest Frontier. But imperialist does not necessarily mean inaccurate and Allen has taken a good deal of trouble to get his facts right. The book claims to tell “The astonishing story of a brotherhood of young men who together laid claim to the most notorious frontier in the world, India’s North-West Frontier,
which today forms the volatile boundary between Pakistan and Afghanistan.”
The men in question include John Nicholson, Harry Lumsden (founder of the Guides), Herbert Edwardes, William Hodson, James Abbot and Neville Chamberlain. Protégés of Sir Henry Lawrence, these men were responsible for laying the foundations of British rule in the Punjab and the Northwest Frontier. The author’s intent is to tell the story of these young men and through their adventures, give the reader an idea of how the British conquered – or, as he would prefer, “pacified” – the ‘wild’ Northwest Frontier of India.
But while Soldier Sahibs gives a very readable account of the adventures of these (surprisingly) young men, it is not possible to piece together the broader history of those times from his book. Why the British were here in the first place and what were the factors that made a small island in Europe more powerful than any kingdom in India do not form any part of Allen’s concerns. Nor does he waste much time explaining the situation in the Punjab or of the East India Company at that time. In fact, the author does not even provide a map of the vast area over which his protagonists established their rule. If you are totally at sea about those times, then you may have to read a few other books to fully appreciate the goings-on in this one. But if you are one of those enthusiasts who cannot get enough of the Raj, the mutiny and all that jazz, then you will definitely enjoy this book. Its written in authentic ‘Flashman’ style, with wit and verve and loads of ‘local color’.
The English heroes may appear larger than life but by all accounts some of them indeed were larger than life. And being Englishmen, they left us a veritable storehouse of laconic and understated wisecracks. These include Nicholson walking into the mess to tell his fellow officers: “I am sorry gentlemen, to have kept you waiting for your dinner, but I have been hanging your cooks.” (The cooks had apparently poisoned the food but were detected and hanged, and dinner was served half an hour late).
Though Nicholson gets the most lines in the book, the stories of Edwardes of Peshawar and Bannu and Abbot of Abbotabad are also told in some detail. William Hodson, the villain who executed Bahadur Shah Zafar’s sons, also gets a sympathetic hearing. We are told surprisingly little about Sir Henry Lawrence, who is supposedly the godfather of this fraternity. And it is not always clear why certain officer’s lives are described in detail and others get only cursory mention. Lack or availability of sources may be the explanation for that .
In these times, it is impossible to read such a book and not look for parallels with the current efforts at “pacifying” Afghanistan. But these British adventurers and their peculiar code of life are poles apart from the westerners who are now coming to bring us into the civilised world. Occasionally, Madison Avenue will try to create a suitable heroic image for some American colonel or diplomat but the substance of this new empire is very different from the last one and so are its agents.
Nicholson and company may have been bigoted, male chauvinist psychopaths, yet they also had undoubted personal courage and their own peculiar brand of love of justice. In the Pakhtuns and the Punjabis, they found not just enemies, but also friends and fellow adventurers. It is fashionable these days to describe their local supporters as ‘traitors’ who took the side of a ‘foreign power’. But to the Sikhs, Punjabi Muslims and Pakhtuns who fought under Nicholson to reconquer Delhi, the capital was also a foreign power and one they did not remember fondly. And these British officers had always respected their honour and treated them fairly. They provided an administration that was in many ways a big improvement over the ‘locals’ they had replaced. In fact, it would not be remiss to say that the Punjabis and Pakhtuns who fought for the British may have been men of higher character and personal courage than most of their current detractors. Many things have improved since Nicholson rode across the plains of the Punjab blowing mutineers from canons but it is hard to avoid the suspicion that some things have also deteriorated.

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Book Review: Flashman and the Cobra

Flashman and the Cobra (Adventures of Thomas Flashman Book 2) by [Robert Brightwell]

I am a fan of the original Flashman books by George Macdonald Fraser and just happened to see that a new author is writing a series about Harry Flashman’s uncle Thomas Flashman, so I picked one up to check it out. The conceit is the same in this case: that these are the memoirs of a rogue who happens to have been around in the Napoleonic era. This allows George Brightwell (who is writing this series, the late George Macdonald Fraser having passed away) to write entertaining little books about various campaigns from that era. This particular book starts with Thomas Flashman getting caught in up in a sexual escapade in Napoleonic Paris (complete with a dinner with the first consul himself) that leads him to take up a secret mission to India, where the Wellesley brothers are getting ready for war with the Marathas (the second anglo-Maratha war).

The book is great fun to read and readers will get a flavor of the life and times and a detailed description of 2 major battles (Assaye and Argaon) and one siege (the siege of Gawilgarh). I certainly understand the battles and the siege better than I ever did before, but unfortunately Mr Brightwell is no George Macdonald Fraser, so the book tells us little about the overall war (why it was being fought, what else was going on; for example, Lord Lake was taking Delhi at the same time as these events, but you would not know it from this book). In the case of the Flashman books, you could pretty much get the story of an entire campaign (eg the Indian mutiny is covered really well in “Flashman and the Great Game”), at least from the British point of view. This is not the case with this book. Readers will learn relatively little about the overall picture here (unless they have read other books about the topic). Still, the book taught me more about the battles he does happen to get caught up in than any summary history is likely to teach.  I see that there are a couple of “Sharpe’s” books about the same war (Sharpe’s triumph and Sharpe’s fortress) and they likely cover the same battles in even greater detail, but I have not read them yet. If, like me, you have not read about these battles in any detail, then this is a good book to start. The book also introduced me to the begum of Samru, one of those extraordinary characters that inhabit India between the decline of the Mughals and the stabilization of British rule. Other notable characters who make an appearance in the book include James Skinner (the anglo-Indian adventurer who raised “Skinner’s horse”), but unfortunately none of the other Indian characters of the age get much coverage (or sympathy).

The books have the usual imperialist British rogue POV one expects from Flashman books and the author is clearly in awe of Arthur Wellesley (later the Duke of Wellington) and the fighting qualities of the Scottish Highlanders, but in both cases he has good reason to be a fan. The historical details are accurate as far as they go, but unfortunately lack the “big picture” view one gets in George Macdonald Fraser’s books even as he follows Harry Flashman from bedchamber to narrow (and implausible) escapes in various battles. Still, these books are very inexpensive on Kindle and audible.com and this one was certainly a fun read and very informative about the topics he does happen to cover. Worth a quick read.

By the way, the title has almost nothing to do with the book. The cobra shows up once and disappears without much ado.

 

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Book Review: The Battle for Pakistan

From our regular contributor, Dr Hamid Hussain.

Book Review – The Battle for Pakistan by Shuja Nawaz

Hamid Hussain

 Shuja Nawaz’s new book The Battle for Pakistan is a timely release of a work that reviews Pakistan’s security challenges and U.S. Pakistan relations. A new unpredictable era of U.S.-Pakistan relations is around the corner in view of recent U.S.-Taliban agreement and uncertain future of Afghanistan.

There are not many analysts and scholars of the region with access to both Pakistani and American sources. Shuja is uniquely equipped for such a project as he has access to Pakistani army high command as well as Pentagon and State Department sources.  Book covers U.S.-Pakistan relations, working of Pakistan army high command and fraught civil-military relations in Pakistan.

 Shuja gives a comprehensive view of expectations and disappointments of Pakistan and United States.  The dilemma of this un-equal and transactional relationship is that each side fail to understand the interests of the other party and ends up blaming its own failures on the duplicity of the other party.  This has been a predicted cycle over the last seventy years.

 Shuja gives insight into power struggle among senior officers of Pakistan army.  The first round was when General Pervez Musharraf was forced to give up his uniform and his confidant and successor General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani worked to bring his own team.  He superseded and removed from important positions officers considered close to Musharraf.  Kayani brought his own team of senior officers and then eased Musharraf’s ouster in 2008 to enjoy two three years tenures as the master game-keeper of the reserve.  

 Several segments of the book deal with civil-military relations. Shuja provides details of many episodes of serious friction.  Army is the dominant force and civil-military relations are seriously imbalanced.  Mutual distrust, antipathy and outright disdain for each other ensures repeated cycles of crisis.  Each side has become expert in self-goal seriously damaging country’s reputation.  Army high command has not been able to work with two major political parties; Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PML-N).  This forced them to put their chips on the third option. Current Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) government headed by Prime Minister Imran Khan is actively supported by army high command.  Army high command and PTI repeatedly claim that they are on the ‘same page’, however, army is taking lead in tackling different problems faced by the country.  Army nominated and supported serving and retired military personnel, bureaucrats and politicians have found place in all corridors of power.  The seeds of distrust are thus sowed, and friction will inevitably increase between army and new political force of PTI. 

 Shuja also provides details about increasing role of Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Pakistan’s internal affairs.  In many cases, United States used Saudi Arabia and UAE to manage delicate domestic political matters of Pakistan. Pakistan is increasingly dependent on Saudi and UAE largesse due to difficult economic state. Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman (MBS) has developed close personal relation with President Donald Trump and Washington uses this connection to manage some areas of Pakistan policy.

 Book is a must read for everyone interested in U.S.-Pakistan relations and the region.  In Pakistan, the book launch became unintended casualty of controversy over Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s three years extension of service.  Book’s South Asian edition was published in India in August 2019.  When Pakistan enacted trade ban with India, book could not be delivered to Pakistan.  A Pakistani publisher released the book and Shuja travelled to Pakistan for book launch ceremonies in several cities.  Pakistan Supreme Court took the case of extension of COAS shaking the army brass.  They asked Shuja to delay the book launch as it could generate criticism of the army although book presents Pakistan army point of view on various issues. Shuja refused to cancel book launch and army directly pressurized event organizers to cancel the events.  More copies were sold in Pakistan due to silly acts of the brass. 

 Shuja Nawaz.  The Battle for Pakistan: The Bitter US Friendship and a Tough Neighborhood (Karachi: Liberty Publishing), 2020

 Hamid Hussain

May 2020

[email protected]

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Why Did the EIC Win in India

From Major Amin. A look at some factors that made the EIC so successful militarily. As usual, the Royal Navy gets a lot of credit.

Native troops played a significant role in the East India Company’s conquest of  India. Certain aspects however made the military potential and effectiveness of East India Company’s troops stand out from their other opponents in India. The East India Company employed European officers trained in the European way of war to drill train and command native Indian troops.In addition in almost every battle native troops were grouped around a relatively much smaller nucleus of European troops. Another factor which played an important part in the East India Company’s conquest of India was naval power.Naval power gave flexibility to the operations of the East India Company. This meant that troops from Bengal Army could be swiftly transported from Bengal Presidency to the Madras presidency,thereby reinforcing the Madras troops in case of any serious military reverse. This happened many times during the Mysore Wars. Naval power also played an important role in logistically supporting the operations of land based armies. Three widely separated bases of the English East India Company which were interconnected with each other by sea meant that loss of any one of these could not defeat the company,since troops from one presidency could be switched to another quickly via the sea route. No single Indian power had common borders with all the three presidency and this meant that no single Indian power could destroy the English East India Company. The only way that this could be done was by an alliance of native powers and this was made extremely difficult since no two native powers could agree on anything for a long time. Above all the center of gravity of the English East India Company was naval power and no native power possessed naval potential to challenge British naval mastery. For sometime the French were in a position to do so,but the only opportunity to do so was lost during the Second Mysore War at Cuddalore when all the French squadron under Admiral D’ Orves had to do was to remain in position off the coast of Cuddaiore while the English East India Company’s main army under Sir Eyre Coote facing Hyder Ali of Mysore could have been starved into surrender. (1) Due to some inexplicable reason D ‘ Orves simply sailed away and the French lost their last decisive opportunity to defeat the English East India Company. Continue reading “Why Did the EIC Win in India”

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Partition story, part 1

My father, Nadir Ali, writes short stories and poetry in Punjabi. He is in his mid-eighties now and has been writing his autobiography in Punjabi and my sister translated a segment that deals with his memories of partition. He was a little over 11 years old at that time. My grandfather was a lawyer in Gujrat city. There are more stories from that time that I hope we can translate at some point. For example, my grandfather rescued some Hindu/Sikh women who had been kidnapped by the rioters and my father was the go-between who was young enough to go into the women’s quarters during those negotiations; I hope to get that story written down someday.
Anyway, my grandfather never really reconciled with partition. He wrote to his Hindu friend Hari Singh regularly until 1965 and I  remember hearing that he once lamented in a letter to his friend (they both wrote in Urdu) “what a tragedy and a travesty that you, who are more Muslim than me, are in India, and I, who am more Hindu than you, am in Pakistan”. He would also use Indian time (30 minutes ahead of Pakistan standard time) as his own “standard time” for decades after partition.

Memories of Partition. Nadir Ali Continue reading “Partition story, part 1”

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Brownpundits Browncast episode 100: Creating a New Medina, Venkat Dhulipala

Another BP Podcast is up. You can listen on LibsynAppleSpotify,  and Stitcher (and a variety of other platforms). Probably the easiest way to keep up with the podcast since we don’t have a regular schedule is to subscribe to one of the links above!

Due to the costs of both recording software and storage space, I would appreciate if you could also support the podcast as a patron. The primary benefit now is that you get the podcasts considerably earlier than everyone else. It also compensates Razib for his editing.  If we get more patrons we have reached out to have someone professional edit…but really we don’t have the funds now.

If you can’t give (in these times many cannot!), I would appreciate more positive reviews!

Coming up with an idea of PakistanIn this episode we talk to eminent historian Venkat Dhulipala. Venkat is the author of “Creating a New Medina, state power, Islam and the Quest for Pakistan in Late Colonial India” and we talk about the book and the ideology of Pakistan as well as his current interests and projects. We also manage a shoutout to Keerthik Sashidhran, who everyone should read.

This remains a controversial topic and I hope people add value in the comments.

 

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Causes of the Revolt of 1857

This is a longish piece written by Major Amin. As readers of brownpundits are well aware, major Amin is a military historian (and a very good one) who also has strong (and mostly “not academic”) opinions about history in general. These are his thoughts on the Indian Mutiny (aka “War of independence”). Even those who disagree with particular opinions may find some insights worth reading.. in any case, it will generate interesting comments 🙂

What follows is from Major Amin, unedited and unexpurgated. Continue reading “Causes of the Revolt of 1857”

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