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Vivid tale of Guyana and its nostalgic Indians

Book: "The Sly Company of People Who Care"; Author: Rahul Bhattacharya; Publisher: Picador; Price: Rs.495, Pages: 280.

Guyana on the northern coast of South America is an exotic, forgotten land, once termed the poorest country on the continent. Rahul Bhattacharya has written a brilliantly evocative novel about the country through the eyes of a drifter, a young man who goes to Guyana to escape "the deadness of life".

The author draws the unnamed narrator from his own experience as a sports writer who visits Georgetown for a cricket tour and decides to return to explore the country.

It relates a story about migration, displacement, racialism and ethnic rivalries in Guyana. As Uncle Lance, a character, describes it in the book: "We got Blackman, redman, buck, chinee, coolie, dougla all lashin each other."

Guyana's colonial history is a fractured one. It was initially a Dutch and then a British colony. African slaves were brought to work on its plantations, they were replaced by indentured workers after slavery was abolished. The labourers were brought from China, Portugal and mainly from India.

They form an interesting population mix together with the indigenous "Amerindians" where the Indians form the largest minority. But it is a manufactured society kept divided, whose politics has polarised along race. Years of dictatorship and economic stagnation forced thousands to leave and it is often said there are more Guyanese living outside Guyana than in it.

The displacement from the village home in India caused a wound that has not healed even in later generations. An Indian explains the nostalgia for motherland: "We are sad because ever since we left India we have a hole in our hearts. Nothing can fill that hole."

Yet, he adds, "we find that Indians do not consider us to be Indians."

The Indiaman (Indian national) seems strange to the coolieman (Guyanese Indian), for he speaks different from the Indian "flims" that they watch in Guyana.

There are an estimated 325,000 ethnic Indians in Guyana.

The book is about Guyana, its mix of people, its language and its lush countryside. Bhattacharya's prose is vibrantly freewheeling and his liberal use of creole, the local patois with its fair sprinkling of Bhojpuri and Hindi words brings to life the country and its people.

The language is vivid - Mrs. Siddique who doesn't want to go home says "homeside got too much 'me say, they say' (a translation of the Hindi 'tu tu, main main')". Dawn is "dayclean" and it is "rainfallin" rather than raining in Guyana.

It tells of the texture of life and society; the favourite pastimes of "gyaffing" (talking) or liming, and listening to raggae or chutney music. Raggae - the music of slavery, based on resistance and confrontation; chutney - the music of indenture based on preservation of the remembered homeland and its ways.

It is people with colourful, even wild characters like Baby, who take the narrator on a "porknocking" (diamond mining) trip in the rainforest. Mr. Red, Uncle Lance - who is known as a gyaffman or talkman, Ramotar Seven Curry whose passion is to attend every wedding where the Hindu ceremonial food (seven curry) is served, and Roger Khan, the self-made don.

It takes the reader from the coast to the rain forests and the savannah and the small townships that dot the landscape where the protagonist meets and loses the wild haired, feisty Jan, who hates her given name Jankey......IANS/

Indian-American witness gave 'bizarre' testimony: Rajaratnam's lawyer

 New York, April 22, 2011: Lawyers of Raj Rajaratnam have dubbed the testimony of former Intel treasury official Rajiv Goel, who pleaded guilty to passing tips to the hedge fund tycoon, as "bizarre".

Closing arguments in the biggest insider trading trial in US history Thursday defence attorney John Dowd accused the government of using "worthless" testimony from witnesses to railroad Sri Lankan-born Galleon Group founder Rajaratnam.

Turning to Goel's testimony that he gave inside information to Rajaratnam about his company's quarterly earnings and a $1billion investment, he said:

"Mr Goel 'pointed the finger at Raj so he could get a free pass on crimes that had nothing to do with Raj.'"

"Mr Goel testified he didn't pay taxes on money he kept in offshore bank accounts," Dowd said. "If you gave Rajiv Goel $5, would you trust him to pay it back? If the answer is no, you cannot convict Raj."

Accusing the prosecution of mischaracterising witnesses' testimony to mislead the jury by giving it "a snippet" of the full story, he said the prosecution had failed to prove Rajaratnam had broken insider-trading laws.

Asserting that the alleged insider tips Rajaratnam got were common knowledge, Dowd, presented the court with dozens of e-mails, trading records and excerpts from trial testimony to argue that his client had made trades based on public reports, not on insider tip-offs.

Prosecutors, who allege Rajaratnam made $68 million off illegal inside trades from 2003 to March 2009 by trading on tips from a network of highly-placed corporate insiders, including at least three Indian Americans, presented 40 wiretap recordings throughout the trial.

Prosecutor Reed Brodsky told jurors Wednesday that "cheating became a business model" at Galleon.

Rajaratnam denies 14 counts of securities fraud and conspiracy. He faces 25 years in prison if found guilty.

Raman effect makes cancer detection possible

Bangalore, April 21: Scientists have found a method to detect cancer by combining the use of gold nanoparticles with Raman spectroscopy - a technique developed by Indian physicist C.V. Raman seven decades ago.The research by Sanjiv Gambhir and colleagues at Stanford University in the US reported in Thursday's Science Translational Medicine moves nanomedicine one step closer to reality.

Gold-silica nanoparticles - that are several thousand times smaller than the thickness of human hair - combined with Raman spectroscopy can safely detect colorectal cancer, according to their study done in mice.

They believe that their tiny gold balls -- coated with materials designed to be detected with a Raman spectroscope -- for finding colorectal and possibly other cancers would be ready for human trials within a year and a half.

The gold nanoparticles have little hook-shaped peptides that latch onto cancer cells, while any free-floating nanoparticles wash away. During an endoscopy, doctors can spot the cancer by seeing where the gold-silica nanoparticles have stuck.

In molecular imaging, molecules are injected into the body that home in on molecules that might be indicative of cancer. But once they home in on those molecules, they have to produce a large signal that can be detected outside the human body.

At Stanford, the researchers developed particles made out of gold that go into the bowel to detect colorectal cancer.

The gold acts as an amplifier to produce a very heavy or strong Raman signal from the gold particle after it has latched onto a colorectal cancer. The characteristic signals can be detected by a Raman spectroscope.

Nanoparticles of this type were originally used in currency inks to make them difficult to counterfeit. Embedded in currencies, the nanoparticles scatter light in unique patterns called Raman spectra when scanned for authenticity.

But Gambhir's laboratory co-opted these gold-silica nanoparticles for a completely different use: bioimaging to detect colorectal cancer.

"Photoimaging with these nanoparticles holds the promise of very early disease detection, even before any gross anatomical changes show up, without physically removing any tissue from the patient," a statement issued by the university quoted Gambhir as saying.

Currently, a promising way to catch cancer lesions early is to use fluorescent dyes coupled with antibodies that recognise and bind to cancer cells.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) as well as computed tomography (or CT scanning) is some of the common imaging methods that are used to detect cancer. But these methods have different accuracies depending on what type of cancer one is studying and where in the body one is looking.

Nearly all colorectal cancers begin as small lumps of abnormal tissue called 'polyps' that line the intestine or rectum. Right now, doctors can view larger polyps during an endoscopy, but they often miss small or flat polyps.

But by having the gold nanoparticles light up literally wherever the cancer cells might be hiding in the bowel, "now the hope is that the endoscopist will be able to act on a lesion they would have otherwise missed," the scientists said.

However, until now there has been no proof these nanoparticles won't be toxic. The new study is the first-ever successful demonstration of their safety, according to the scientists.

Gambhir and colleagues examined the safety aspects by administering gold-silica nanoparticles directly into the intestine and by injection into veins.

The team monitored over 100 animals for two weeks. In both instances, the gold-silica nanoparticles were found to be safe at the doses tested.

The team is currently working on studying the safety of gold-silica nanoparticles in dogs. Eventually, patients may be able to simply drink the gold nanoparticles, the researchers say.

The tiny gold balls will settle in the stomach, travel into the bowel and latch onto cancer cells, allowing for real-time detection and diagnosis during an endoscopy.

Indian-American student indicted in roommate's suicide

New York, April 21, 2011: An Indian-American student has been indicted for secretly viewing a same-sex encounter involving his roommate, who later jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge into the Hudson River.

Dharun Ravi, 19, a former student of Rutgers University, could face up to five years in prison if convicted of the top charges in the 15-count indictment announced by Middlesex County prosecutor Bruce Kaplan Wednesday.

Ravi, of Plainsboro, New Jersey, was charged by a grand jury with bias intimidation, invasion of privacy and witness and evidence tampering for using a webcam to spy on Tyler Clementi's dorm room date with another man, New York Daily News reported.

Once Clementi's Sep 22, 2010, suicide became public, Ravi asked witnesses not to implicate him and gave misleading information to investigators, Kaplan said.

According to the indictment, Ravi also knew the target of his webcam would be intimidated because of his sexual orientation.

The 18-year-old Clementi, a freshman in his first weeks at Rutgers, plunged into the Hudson River after Ravi and a second student surreptitiously watched his liaison Sep 19, prosecutors said.

Ravi then tried to broadcast a second meeting between Clementi and his friend two days later, they said.

The indictment said charges against Ravi's friend, Molly Wei, were not presented "at this time".

Wei, 19, is already facing a charge of invasion of privacy. Kaplan did not explain why she was not included in the indictment.

Lawyers for Ravi say the webcam stream was viewed only on a single computer and did not show the men having sex.

The death of Clementi, a promising violinist in his first weeks at college, came amid a string of high-profile suicides of young people who were gay or perceived to be gay.

President Barack Obama and celebrities, including talk show host Ellen DeGeneres and sex columnist Dan Savage, have talked publicly about his death and said that young gays and lesbians need to know that life gets better.

Malaysian Indian walks 44 km backward to create record

 Ipoh (Malaysia), April 20, 2011: Ethnic Indian G. Deo has set a new record in walking backward, by shattering his own record.

He completed a 44 km track from Gunung Rapat here to Temoh, a town near Tapah.

He took about seven hours, surpassing his earlier feat of walking 40 km backwards in Cameron Highlands in 2004, The Star daily said Wednesday.

"This is my best shot as the weather was really unbearable and I had no choice but to give up," said Deo, a 57-year-old former security guard, who holds five records in the Malaysia Book of Records.

This feat, he added, was to commemorate the 83rd birthday of the sultan of Perak, Sultan Azlan Shah. He took up the challenge after he was cleared of a liver ailment and given the green signal by doctors.

"I had been training for the past month to ensure I was fit to carry out the feat," said the father of three who now makes household detergents for a living.

Deo began his backward walk from the Gunung Rapat police station near here at 7.25 a.m.

His sons Jegathesan, 36, Premnath, 32, and grandson V. Vigneesh, 10, accompanied him in a vehicle throughout the journey.

The other records Deo holds are the highest uphill backward walk (30 km) in July 2000, highest backward staircase climb (2,058 steps) in February 2000, longest walk of 912 km in July 1999, longest backward walk of 30 km (75 laps) in 1998, and longest non-stop walk of 222 km in 1997.

Deo and family are part of a 2.1 million strong ethnic Indian community that forms eight percent of Malaysia's 28 million population.