Colors

Be like red, strong, brave and passionate

Be like blue, calm, peaceful and tranquil

Be like yellow, happy, cheerful and optimistic

Be like green, growing, giving and harmonious

Be like pink, playful and childlike

Be like orange, warm and spontaneous

Be like brown, grounded and dependable

Be like grey, wise and mature

Be like black, elegant, protective and powerful

Be like white, pure, innocent, kind and good.

May all the colors of the universe fill up your lives. Happy Holi everyone !

A lost city

They told me that she was once beautiful,
Resplendent, magnificent and bountiful,
That you could look at the blue, white and yellow skies,
The green trees, and the sun shining through with your eyes.
But all I see now is the heavy air,
The trees, sad and bare,
And the thick grey mist,
Wrapped in the somber tryst.
As I try to imagine, amidst the gloom and woe,
How she looked a long time ago,
I paint over the greys in my dreams,
The yellows, reds and greens,
Wondering if I would ever see the world of which they tell,
A paradise lost, far away from the land we dwell.

#delhichoking

Why, a doctor ?

1

I thought I wanted to be an engineer. Physics and Maths were my favourite subjects, and it seemed only natural that engineering would be a straightforward choice. My mother, a gynecologist, wanted me to become a doctor. She managed to convince me to take Biology as a subject in class 11, in case I changed my mind. For one year I prepared for engineering, till in class 12, I realized something was amiss. I could not imagine myself sitting behind a computer screen for hours at end. Oddly enough, I could see myself spending those hours in a surgeon’s clothes. And that, simply, is how I changed my tracks and got in to medicine. Not because I really thought about public service as a 17 year old, not really because I wanted to honour my mother’s wishes, but simply because I wanted to see myself, in a few years, as a surgeon.

Medicine was hard, arduous and frustrating, and there were times when we slept for only two or three hours a day at a stretch. But having the support of my parents, both in the medical field, and being a day scholar made those hard times easier to bear. I often wondered how some of my classmates whose parents weren’t doctors, many of whom came from outside Delhi and stayed in the hostel, managed to keep up with the stress. In fact, sometimes, I thought what made them take medicine in the first place, for I was sure that even though I didn’t admit it, one of the reasons, albeit subconscious, that I moved in to this field was because my mother was a doctor. And that I knew that she’d always have my back. And we’d grow old together treating patients.

A few months after I finished five and a half years of medicine, I lost my mother. To pneumonia. Not an accident, not a heart attack, not cancer or any other morbid illness. To pneumonia. One week of fever and a chest infection. And she was healthier than me, even at 52 years of her age. The team of treating doctors could not save another doctor from a pneumonia. I couldn’t save her. Even with the fanciest of treatments, my mom died of an infection that should have responded to antibiotics. That’s when the faith broke. I left medicine swearing to myself I would never come back again. I had lost my mom and without her beside me, it didn’t make sense. I spent a year and a half at home, convinced that I didn’t want to be a doctor. But, as luck would have it, it was those months at home that gradually made me realize that a doctor’s job was to diagnose and treat, to the best of his ability and with the best of his intentions. Not to play God. There is no foreseeable reason why a treatment does not work in a fraction of patients, even if it is the standard of care. No way to know why a particular disease would behave in an aggressive way in some and certainly no method to predict it. Some patients have an aggressive infection, some an aggressive tumor and some are resistant to standard treatments leaving little time, and sometimes little much even doctors can do. And with my years of medical training, I could realize that, slowly but surely. As a doctor, I knew that we had done everything possible to save her. That knowledge gave me my reassurance and my answers. Without it, I’d probably be blaming Medicine or my ill fortune all my life. And so, two years after my mother’s death, I came back to Medicine again. Took gynecology to fill in my mother’s shoes. And years later, oncology.

Even today, every intubated patient in ICU reminds me of my mother on the ventilator. As oncologists, we try to keep our emotions in check because, in spite of best of our efforts, we lose some patients – to aggressive disease, to stage IV cancers, to relapses. And many times when we break the bad news to the families, we go back to our rooms and swallow our tears. We may not be going home happy everyday, but we know in our hearts that we do the best we can, striving to give hope in every way possible. If we stand for ten hours in a surgery, it is not to satisfy our egos, but because if even the smallest of efforts can make a difference to a patient’s life, it is worth it. Helping terminal patients may seem hopeless, but if we can relieve their pain, provide a quality of life and help them live their last days without suffering, trust me, there is nothing more rewarding.

To all my fellow doctors, and especially to those who lost their loved ones along the way but didn’t lose faith, a very Happy Doctor’s Day. Let us continue our work, no matter what, no matter how.

The Screaming Closet

1

Creak, crack, burst and snap,

Screams my wardrobe, threatening to unwrap,

Numberless clothes stuffed into the bends,

Jeans spurting and tees stuffed into the ends.

“ Is this a garment factory ?” the closet pleads,

“ A shop for your greeds or an auction for proceeds ?

How can one person need so many clothes ?

Even if you wear a dozen, layer and superimpose.”

 

I smile sheepishly and try to reason,

For a woman needs attire for every season,

Western and ethnic, casual and formal,

All necessary, straightforward, and normal,

Work clothes, evening gowns and a night dress,

Scarves and accessories, but nothing excess.

 

“ Hahaha !” the wardrobe cackles in amusement,

“ You are serious and this, is your excusement !

Let me break this down, and make it simple to understand,

How about an impromptu Q and A in this garb(age) wonderland ?”

“ Oh sure, let the war begin,” I retort in reply,

“ I will burn you in this tete-a-tete and silence you into a tongue tie.”

 

“ Let’s start with the tops and tees; how many do you have and how many do you need ?

Coz they never seem to stop and only multiply and breed.”

“ Oh please !

You only tease,

A miscalculated notion,

Always blowing things out of proportion.”

“ True, I have tops of every hue and colour,

But would you rather I dress up pallid and duller,

One needs them in different prints, and fits – slim and loose,

And of course, in every fabric, collar and sleeve length I can choose.”

“ That’s balderdash, and you know it well,

Why do you need twenty-odd purple tops, pray tell ?”

“ As usual, you exaggerate,

They are not twenty, as you narrate,

And not just purple; but mauve, lavender, aubergine and lilac,

So do your homework properly,” I protest in a comeback.

 

“ Well, I may not know the palette a-b-c’s,

But I know you have a hundred tees,

And these you don’t even wear to work,

They lie there, staring, in every corner with a smirk.

And let me not spill the beans,

About your dozens of dresses and blue jeans,

Waiting to be worn on that elusive weekend,

Which you, in bed and torn shorts, most often spend.”

“ Oh my God, you’re funny !” I fake a laugh,

Thinking of an answer and escaping a gaffe.

“ You may joke, my dear, but a day may yet come,

When I can afford a vacation, or a weekend getaway, from my unspent income,

And then I shall wear these clothes proud,

Crop tees and distressed jeans, unbowed.

This, my lovely, is what I recommend,

Stock up on things that are in trend,

For you never know when you’ll find,

Those jeans – tattered, embroidered and boyfriend, ever redesigned.

And how do you know I might not go on a date ?

When that midnight blue dress I bought yesterday, would look great,

Or indulge in a trip to the park in that floral skirt,

Which, filtered into an Instagram pic, would never hurt.”

 

“ You are the queen of excuses, I bow in respect,

An amiable foe, in every aspect.

But let us now digress,

Look in the ethnic corner and reason a guess,

Why, after so many tops and trousers, do you want ?

These kurtas, kurtis and suits to flaunt,

And don’t even get me started on the bottoms,

Leggings, palazzos, pants and salwars in viscose and cottons.”

I close my eyes as I try to compose,

An argument to counter and propose,

“ Surely, you can’t only wear foreign brands,

And need to support the local artists in our lands,

Look a little desi, once in a while,

Wear a bindi with a coy smile.

And have you noticed, that Indian clothes make you look mature,

Taken more seriously at work, that’s for sure !

Do you think in western clothes I’d be heading,

To the family friend’s daughter’s wedding ?

Or to a prayer, meditation, bhajan or some such meeting,

In a tank top or shorts with a Namaste greeting ?”

 

As I see my wardrobe begin to lose ground,

And find my confidence rebound,

“ What’s with your matching obsession ?” I hear her squeak,

“ Matching coats, matching scarves and matching bags,” she speaks with tongue in cheek.

“ Well, with the garments come accessories,

And with them, I must fill my treasuries.

Wearing a black coat every time wouldn’t be proper,

For I’d dare not be known as a miserly shopper,

Nor would a brown bag go with every dress,

Not if you wear to impress.”

 

“ Can I ask you something,” the closet lifts up her head one last time,

“ Why am I filled with clothes, of all conceivable sizes of the size chart paradigm ?”

“ Oh you innocent fool !

I don’t mean to ridicule,

You know nothing of these clothes’ history,

And hence the perplexing mystery.

You see, Small are the clothes I wore in college,

And that they inspire you to lose weight, is common knowledge,

Medium are the clothes that carried me in masters,

And the best size I could dream to reach, claim the forecasters,

Large was the size I was, a few months back,

And I promise to reclaim it before you come up with a wisecrack,

Extra large is to accommodate the present girth,

And is flowy and comfortable, for all it’s worth.”

 

“ O Khaleesi, I cannot win this war !

There is truly, nothing, you can’t answer for,

And that I’m cramped for your need,

Is something I’m willing to concede,

But don’t you fret or stress,

And let not the sprees take a recess,

For I’m sure that in your house, you’ll find,

A family member’s closet, to raid, you mastermind,

And none, may dare, counter your claim,

You, the greatest guru of this game !”

A difficult woman

3

 

Haven’t you heard about the difficult woman ?

That eccentric and finicky human,

The one you have to deal with at work,

Bossing around with a frown and a smirk,

For she has such quintessential traits,

And for you, reader, let me lay those straight.

 

If she is a team leader and seems exacting,

She is fussy and overreacting,

A crazy and hyper human,

She is, a difficult woman.

 

If she loses her temper at the job,

She is hot-blooded and a snob,

And she being a woman, it’s probably her raging hormones at work,

Menopause, PMS, or something to do with her cycles, that she is such a jerk,

A crazy and hyper human,

She is, a difficult woman.

 

If she strives for perfection,

And encourages others in the same direction,

She may think that she wanted to give it her best shot,

But she was over-demanding and impossible, is what we thought,

Oh dear, that crazy and hyper human,

How does she manage to be a difficult woman ?

 

If she does things in a systematic way,

And doesn’t take any short cuts come what may,

She is a pain in the butt exasperating,

And in no uncertain terms, irritating and frustrating.

If sloppiness at work she doesn’t permit,

And doesn’t take any lame excuses or bullshit,

She is the dirt of the ditch,

In the mildest of words, a nasty witch.

A crazy and hyper human,

She is, a difficult woman.

 

If she works long hours and expects dedication,

Diligence at work, and no procrastination,

“ No wonder she’s single !”, comes the cognition,

For her personal life, the most logical explanation.

If she seems impatient, and ‘loses it’, once in a while,

Furrows her brows, looks annoyed or drops the smile,

The reason is most definitely, a spousal strife,

And she is, without doubt, ‘frustrated’ in her personal life.

Oh that crazy and hyper human,

She is, most certainly, a difficult woman.

 

If she gives orders, she throws her weight,

If she questions an order, she is insubordinate.

Belligerent and argumentative, if she raises a concern,

Obstinate and headstrong, if she doesn’t back down in an argument and turn.

She is a crazy and hyper human,

Alas, a difficult woman !

 

If she tries to show her mettle, in a work ‘not meant for the ladies,’

Well, she is odd and peculiar, coz she should be making babies.

Dresses up and she has put on airs,

Dresses down and she needs repairs.

Oh that short fused, overreacting, stubborn human,

She is, such a difficult woman !

Teacher’s Day

22

 

To the teachers who made their students think their own thoughts and ask their own questions.

To the teachers who made us ask Why and How ; and not just When and What.

To the teachers who taught the children how to be better human beings and not just excel and succeed.

To the teachers who turned the walls in slums into blackboards.

To the teachers who made the shade of a banyan tree into a school, in villages far away.

To the teachers who refused to give up on ‘weak’ students, and who took those hardest to teach, and polished them into gems.

To the teachers who taught the students to take failures as lessons and to never give up.

To the teachers who never stopped and never lost faith.

Happy Teacher’s Day !