Organ Donation

Organ DonationOur neighbour, a lady in her sixties, an ardent Christian from Kerala, India, called on us a few weeks back. The subject of organ donation and its importance cropped up during the discussion. Marina my wife and I were supporting the need for organ donations and said that we have signed up for organ donation with Health-Canada and the same is reflected on our Health-Cards. The lady being a strong Christian put forth the case that as Christians, we need to be prepared for the second coming of Christ, when all will be judged, the still living and the resurrected dead. She stressed the need for being prepared, both spiritually and physically for the day. For the God to resurrect, one need to be buried with all the body parts in tact she said. I put forth the argument that God created Adam from the dust and in case the God is all too willing to resurrect me, he can do the same.

The importance of organ donation is well known to all. This act by one person can save the lives of as many as eight other people – and make a difference in the lives of many more. As per Statistics Canada, the data for 2012 showed that over 4,500 people were waiting for organ transplants, 2,124 organs transplanted and 256 people on those wait-lists died before receiving transplants. Unfortunately, only a fraction of Canadians are registered to donate. If you decide to become an organ and tissue donor, discuss it with your family and friends as they are always asked before donation happens, so it is important that they know your wishes.

The first successful living donor transplant was a kidney transplant performed in Boston in 1954 between 23-year-old identical twins.

Anyone can be considered as a potential donor. Age is less important than the health of your organs and tissues, a kidney, part of the liver, and a lobe of the lung. The only need is that you must be old enough to give consent and must be in good health.

Organ donation is not only lifesaving but life giving. As an example, a kidney transplant will prolong the recipient’s life and vastly improve the quality of that life. Suddenly, someone who was tied to a dialysis machine has the freedom to travel, the energy to do what they want and the desire to again live life fully.

It is a difficult decision to be an organ donor, especially taking into consideration many myths surrounding the act. Many find it difficult to perceive about the state of one’s body after death. Always remember that being an organ donor is a generous and worthwhile decision that will always save a life or two.

Most common myth is that the hospital staff will not strive as hard to save one’s life in case they come to know that the patient is an organ donor. Social media, movies and  rumours, all have played their role in ensuring the veracity of this myth. The focus of any doctor would be to save the patient’s life and is mostly unaware about the patient’s organ donation status. As per a Canadian study, physicians are nearly 50 percent more likely than non-physicians to register as an organ donor.

Another myth is that in case of an organ donor, there is a haste in signing death certificate to facilitate organ harvesting. Although it is a popular topic in the tabloids, it has rarely ever happened. Most hospitals carry out more tests to determine that the donor is truly dead prior to removing any organ.

Religious myths and beliefs stand in the way of organ donations. Organ donation is consistent with the beliefs of most major religions like Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Sikhism etc. In case one is uncomfortable with one’s faith’s position on donation, it would be prudent to discuss it with the clergy.

Hindu philosophy supports organ donation to a great extent and there are many references to support the concept of organ donation in Hindu scriptures. Daan, meaning selfless giving, is one among the ten Niyam (rules) laid down by Hinduism. Bhagavad Gita chapter 2:22 says ‘As a person puts on new garments, giving up the old ones; the soul similarly accepts new material bodies giving up the old and useless ones.’ Here the mortal body and the immortal soul is described as in the relationship between clothes and a human being.

Pope Francis has called for more people to donate their organs and the Pope said that the clergy needs to explain that donating organs is a gesture of love and each of us, for example, has two kidneys, and giving one of them to a relative or a person we love is a beautiful gesture. There is a case of religious unity from Kottayam, Kerala, India, where Father Sebastian, a 41-year-old Catholic priest, in May 2013, donated one of his kidneys to Rasad Mohammed, a 30 year old Muslim. Father Sebastian said that he was inspired by the story of Father Davis Chiramel, who had donated one of his kidneys to a Hindu. He motivates everyone for organ donation by saying that in keeping with his Catholic beliefs, there is nothing more than giving one’s life to someone and God has given the opportunity to give a part of the life to a person so that he gets a new lease of life.

There is a myth that an open-casket funeral is not possible for people who have donated organs or tissues. The donor’s body is clothed for burial prior to being placed in the casket and hence there are no visible signs of organ or tissue donation. For bone donation, a rod is inserted where bone is removed and for skin donation, a very thin layer of skin is taken from the donor’s back. Because the donor is clothed and lying on their back in the casket, no one can make out any difference.

Another myth is that the organs of older people are not accepted. No one is too old for donating organs. The decision to use the organs is based on strict medical criteria, not age. Only a very few medical conditions automatically disqualify one from donating organs.  It may turn out that certain organs are not suitable for transplantation, but other organs and tissues may be fine. Allow the doctors decide at your time of death whether your organs and tissues are suitable for transplantation.

There is a myth that the rich and famous are given priority when it comes to allocating organs. It may appear so because of the amount of publicity generated when celebrities receive a transplant, but they are treated no differently from anyone else in Canada.

In case of donors under age 18, there is a need for parental consent. Children are also in need of organ transplants, and they usually need organs smaller than those an adult can provide.

Based on the above facts, being an organ donor will make a huge difference, and not just to one person. By donating your organs after your death, you can save or improve as many as 50 lives. Many families say that knowing their loved one helped save other lives helped them cope with their loss.

Malabar and Tellicherry Pepper


Grocery stores in Canada carry Malabar and Tellichery black pepper. Malabar, one can easily associate with pepper, but how come a small town Tellicherry in Kerala, India, has been associated with this spice.

Tellicherry is the name given by the British to Thalassery. The name originates from the Malayalam word Thala (Head) and Kacheri (Office), thus Thalassery or ‘head of offices’. The Europeans nicknamed the town Paris of Kerala, as it was in close proximity to the sole French military base in Kerala in that era. Later the French abandoned Thalassery and shifted their base to Mahé.

Thalassery had a unique geographical advantage as a trading center being the nearest point from the coast to the spice growing area of Wayanad. The trading center developed mainly after the 16th century when the British got permission to set up a factory in Thalassery from the local ruler. Various conflicts with the local chieftains prompted the British to build a fort in Thalassery. The local king gave the fort and adjoining land to the British in 1708. The fort was later modified and extended by the British East India Company. The king also gave permission to the British to trade pepper in Thalassery without paying duty. After the construction of the fort, Thalassery grew into a prominent trading center and a port in British Malabar. The British won absolute administrative authority over Malabar region after annexation of the entire Malabar region from Tipu Sultan in the Battle of Sree Rangapatnam. Thalassery thus became the capital of British North Malabar.

In 1797 The British East India Company established a spice plantation in Anjarakandy near Thalassery. In 1799 it was handed over to Lord Murdoch Brown with a 99-year lease. Coffee, cinnamon, pepper and nutmeg were cultivated there. Anjarakandy cinnamon plantation was the world’s largest at that time. Construction of the Tellicherry Lighthouse in 1835 evidences the importance the British attached to the area.  The British East India Company built a new spice warehouse in 1863 and also established the first registrar office in South India at Anjarakandy in 1865, only to register the cinnamon plantation of Murdoch Brown.

Thalassery municipality was formed on 1 November 1866 according to the Madras Act of 1865 of the British Indian Empire, making it the second oldest municipality in the state. At that time the municipality was known as Thalassery Commission.

The Arab traders had monopolised pepper trade from the Malabar region from about 1500 BC. They sailed in boats through the Arabian Sea, hugging the coastline and reached Malabar and Travancore regions. From there they used the backwaters and the rivers to move inland. The Arabs sold the pepper procured from these regions in Egypt and Europe. Black peppercorns were found stuffed in the nostrils of Ramesses II, placed there as part of the mummification rituals shortly after his death in 1213 BC.


In order to dissuade the Europeans from sailing into the Malabar coast, the Arabs successfully spun many a stories and myths about black pepper. The most common story was that large many-headed serpents guarded the forests where pepper grew and the local people would set the forest on fire once the pepper ripened. The fire would drive away the serpents and people would gather the peppercorns before the serpents could return. The black colour of the pepper was due to burning.


Trade interactions between the Arabs and the local Hindus from Malabar resulted in many marital alliances. Some Arab traders settled in the Malabar region and Islam flourished there as a result. Today the region is dominated by Muslims. In Kottayam, south of Malabar, spice trade was based on the backwaters and rivers with Thazhathangady (Lower Market) and Puthenangady (New Market) as trading posts established by the Arab traders. Wherever the Arabs established trading posts, Islam also flourished there.

The Cheramaan Juma Masjid at Methala,  near Kodungallur, Thrissur District of Kerala is said to have been built in 629 AD, which makes it the oldest mosque in the Indian subcontinent which is still in use.


The Christians in the region believe that they were converted to Christianity from Hindus by St Thomas, one of Christ’s disciples in the first century, who might have traveled in one such ship.

Many Christians and Jews persecuted in Persia fled to Kerala in the Arab ships and settled along the coast. They were welcomed by the local Hindus with open arms. Fort Kochi area was known for its Jewish settlement and these Jews were called Malabar Jews and are the oldest group of Jews in India and settled there by the 12th century.  


They built synagogues in the 12th century and are known to have developed Judeo-Malayalam, a dialect of Malayalam language.

Judaism, Christianity and Islam came to Kerala through trade. but these religions elsewhere in India mostly through the sword.

Peppercorns were a much-prized trade good, often referred to as ‘black gold‘ in Europe and used as a form of commodity money. The legacy of this trade remains in some Western legal systems which recognize the term ‘peppercorn rent‘ as a form of a token payment made for something that is in fact being given. Pepper was so valuable that it was often used as collateral or even currency. In the Dutch language, ‘pepper expensive‘ is an expression for something very expensive.

Its exorbitant price during the Middle Ages was one of the inducements which led the Portuguese to seek a sea route to India. In 1498, Vasco da Gama became the first person to sail to India by circumventing Africa. Gama returned in greater numbers soon after and Portuguese by the 1494 Treaty of Tordesillas gained exclusive rights to trade in black pepper in Malabar.

Pepper’s popularity quickly spread through world cuisines once more trade routes were established. At one time it accounted for a whopping 70 percent of the international spice trade. As it became more readily available, the prices dropped, and ordinary people were able to enjoy it. Regional cuisines began incorporating pepper into their foods alongside native spices and herbs.

Whatever may be the history of black pepper. it is still sold as Malabar or Tellichery pepper even though currently Vietnam is the world’s largest producer and exporter of pepper, producing 34% of the world’s requirements.