Teacher’s Day

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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 !

You are not a Hindu

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Where are we going as Hindus ? Our festivals have turned into pompous shows of extravagance. Celebrations with families and neighborhood have been overthrown by the pandals and festival melas, all trying to outdo each other with outlandish decors and loud speeches and celebrities and politicos. The sounds of the bells and the gongs and the conches are drowned by the loudspeakers blaring bhajans to the tunes of Bollywood songs.  Diwali used to be a festival of lights, poojas, diyas and rangolis. Instead we are lured by the mindless pre Diwali sales, the artificial electric lights and the booming crackers. Holi has become synonymous with outrageous songs, rain dances, alcohol and leering. Come Janmasthami, and cash prizes are offered for the dahi handi with many govindas losing their lives, or worse paralyzing themselves, in a bid to outperform each other in the race to climb and claim the coveted prize. Raavan dahan of Dussehra turns into a tragedy for hundreds, as people are drowned in the frenzy while safety takes a backseat. The return of the kaawads becomes a political game with the parties across towns making their shivirs on the roads, blocking main ways and turning traffic into mayhem. And then we take all the moortis and the flowers and the prasad, wrapped in toxic paints and plastic, and dump them into the rivers and choke them.

Why have our festivities turned into circuses of blind faith and tomfoolery and jarring displays of feigned reverence? Does God pick out and award the best ?… the best decorated pandal, the most exorbitantly decorated idol, the best lit house, and the people that promote these antics. Does he reward these picked winners with his grace, and shower them exclusively with his blessings ? Is the surest way of making God listen to your prayers, is to sing songs in his honor over microphones and loudspeakers, and to make them loud and clear for every earthly being living within the ten mile radius ?

What are these religious revelers thinking, if they are, at all, thinking ? …

“ Well, hello, hello. Jai Siya Ram, Har Har Mahadev, Jai Shri Krishna and Jai Mata Di. What are these ridiculous questions ? How can you call yourself a Hindu ? You should be ashamed of yourself. We don’t build pandals, Devi maa gives us sandesh to do it. If it blocks a main street, so be it. Everybody has to make sacrifices.  What traffic are you talking about ? Isn’t there already so much traffic in the city ? One pandal here and there, and it sets the tongues rolling. Bloody heretics ! How can you tell us how to celebrate our festivals ? We will build huge Raavan effigies near railway tracks, and we will burn them to the ground. Come Diwali, we will burn a billion crackers, we will light bombs, and we will fly rockets till kingdom come. Jisko bura lagta hai lage. This is between our God and us. Why shouldn’t we make merry on Holi, and drink and smoke and dance and tease the mohalla girls ? Even Lord Shiva smokes ganja. And what about Lord Krishna’s gopikas ? You talk about the bhajans on loudspeakers. The songs we play are in honor of our Gods. They are loud so that everyone can hear how ardently we love them. Ye bhakton ka zamaana hai. Did you donate for the Navratri celebrations in your locality ? No ? No wonder the celebrations were so lackluster this year. Well, you Madam, are a disgrace and an atheist and you will rot in hell for that. And you are no longer a responsible citizen of this country. You are more concerned about the plants and animals and the environment, than you are about human beings. All this nonsense about Diwali crackers terrifying the animals and the smoke killing the plants. You ask us to care about them when even God doesn’t. If he did, he would have made them humans. You see, we humans are made in the image of God. And we please only him. Rest of the earth gayi tel lene. The rivers  ? What are you talking about ? Ganga Maiyya is self cleansing – the holy water washes away all the dirt and sins. Yamuna ? Doesn’t she drain into Ganga ? You environmentalists have a habit of poking your noses into everything. With the blessings of Bholenath and Mata Rani, our celebrations will continue. And the bhakts will rule the world.”

Life and death

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I lost my Mom today, fourteen years back. One of my favorite memories is of her taking early morning walks in Lodhi Garden, and forcing me to come along on the weekends. I would grudgingly agree on a Sunday morning, force myself out of the bed and trudge along. As she bounced along the tracks in the garden, I tried hard to keep up with her pace, puffing and panting, wondering how a middle aged lady could beat a college kid like me at walking. But when she cooled off in between, we had the most interesting talks on a myriad of topics – life at the hospital and life at college, markets and movies, sarees and jeans, surgeries and exams, patients and teachers, and everything in between.

Today after many years, I revisited our old haunt – to relive the old days, maybe to honor Mom’s memory in some way. As I rediscovered the place, I realized there was so much beauty in it… nature at its best, a wonderment. The splendid scenery, the smell of jasmines and the chirping of birds swirling around. Life in the thick foliage, the bamboos and the bougainvilleas and the birds and squirrels. Death in the enshrined tombs and the dead leaves. Life and death swirling together in a song. An old dead tree trunk overgrown with blooming creepers and flowers. A barren tree with the sun rising in its background. The living and the dead playing games and life prospering, in spite of all odds. Everything around a display of life’s full circle. A symbol of the joy in struggle. The reason in sorrow. The calm in storm. The light in dark. And the hope in tomorrow. Saying that no matter how much the pain today, someday, things will fall into place. And life will be okay.

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Mumbai Diaries

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My tryst with Mumbai began with a dislike for the city, admixed with frustration and confusion. The houses and the PGs were pigeonholes, on top of which, when I went around looking for a single room, the frequent question was, “ Share nahi karna hai ? Kyun ?” After much cajoling and convincing, that some human beings (read this Central Delhi brat) need their personal space and can’t always ‘ adjust ’, I got habituated to being shown tiniscule, windowless cubes that rented at 10K per month, until I found one I could fit into. The killer humidity could put Delhi’s 48 degrees of scorching heat to shame. I did not understand the city’s obsession with vada-paos (those sauceless, mayoless burgers) and naming every third park after ‘ Naana-Naani.’ There were no excuse-mees to ask for way, but a curt ‘ Baaju !’ And shockingly, people made kissing sounds in order to beckon someone. When the rains came, it was a four month long thunderous downpour, that clogged the drains while we took the ‘riks’ and swam in muck and sewage en route to work.

A year later, I found myself as an Mch resident at Tata Memorial Hospital (TMH), getting used to conquering the trials and tribulations. The green see-through scrubs with the pajamas inexplicably ripped at the bottom seams ( Was it our fatty posteriors ?… Or our gassy interiors ?) that we made a dash for in the morning, carrying a mental checklist – “ Check the naada, check for holes behind and below…” The Tuesday staple sabuddana khichhdi which the TMH cafeteria single handedly ruined for everybody. In all these years I always wondered who the 1% fasting staff was, for whom this evening naashta was intended. Not to mention, the upma and the poha, which everyone had more than a lifetime’s share of. Working for 16 hours as a first year and then getting calls in the dead of the night with a voice squeaking “ Doctor, Bed number 123 ka urine output only 800ml hai.” While some would reply politely and tell the sister not to worry, others would put in a tongue in cheek like “ Itna susu to maine bhi raat bhar nahi kiya.” Learning another language was always difficult but a few Marathi phrases got me through – “ Tikre zopa ”, “ Ghaabru naaka ”, “ Saieel soda ” ,“ Pot aatmade ghya ” and the requsite “ Thaamba!”, ” Laukar !” and ” Patkan !”

In all those five years, I never realized how Mumbai grew on me. Days were long and arduous at the hospital, but a hearty laugh expunged all the aches and pains. No matter what the patient load, no matter what the odds, things got done – biopsies, PCNs and CT scans, physician referrals, emergency explorations and OT lists. And even then, it was never too late for a sea side stroll or a movie in the city that never sleeps. When the TMH cafeteria botched up the dinner, Canara and Aditi fed the Tata inmates. Catching the sunrise at Marine Drive on a Sunday, or gorging on lunch at Pizza by the Bay, the joyride never stopped. And before you knew it, you were salivating at the sight of vada- paos and swaying to songs on your headphones, oblivious to the rain and the traffic. ‘ Chalega ’ had replaced ‘ Theek hai ’, ‘ Ek number !’ had kicked out ‘ Ye baat !’, ‘ Mast hai ’ had taken over ‘ Sahi hai ’, ‘ Baaju ’ had toppled ‘ Bagal mein ’ and ‘ Barabar ’ had usurped ‘ Bilkul.’ The years zipped by as we wrestled duties and night outs, busy weeks and Sunday breaks and exams and celebrations. But just like that, the time ran out too, jostling us out of the reverie, asking us to pack our bags and leave.

I never thought leaving Mumbai would be so hard and painful. I never thought I would end up romanticizing it to Delhiites. And missing it so. I left with a heavy heart but with memories to cherish for a lifetime. I have so many extraordinary people and so many remarkable things to thank for ! Here’s a big shout out and dhanyavaad to my family, friends, teachers and colleagues who helped and supported me, and made this a wonderful adventure.

Dance Basanti

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Dance is the medicine to everything. It is as indispensible as coffee. And it stays with you through all the ups and downs of life. Eat, pray and love all you want, but there is nothing like dance to lift your spirits up. Everyday, when you come home, lock your door, turn on the music, and dance. Forget what happened at work, and dance. Whether the day was good or bad, whether you are feeling happy or sad, drop everything and dance. If you are overjoyed, jump and leap, and bobble your head this way and that. If you are down in the dumps, get up on your feet, twirl around to some happy music and make circles with your hands. And if you are feeling just like you do on ‘any ordinary day’, wave your arms to your favourite song, twist and untwist your legs and swing your hips away.

 

Dance like you did as a kid, oblivious to everything and everyone. Dance like no one is watching. Do the eighties break dance, or the seventies Saturday Night Fever disco moves. Move your arms at the hinge joints and do the robot dance. Sprinkle talcum powder on the floor and attempt the MJ moonwalk. Spin round and round and scream whee ! Break into a tango, a shimmy or a sixties twist. Enact every word of a song. Do the ‘vulgar’ pelvic thrusts and the bum moves in your bedroom. Try the twerk, if you’d be so brave. Turn on a rock number and do the headbanging and the air guitar. Or perform a solo waltz with one hand on an imaginary shoulder, and another around a dreamy lover’s waist. And when it’s raining outside, dance to old Hindi movie songs with a coffee in hand.

 

In your world of Dance, you are the salsa queen, the Bollywood enchantress and the belly dancing seductress. You are the dancing champion, you raise hell, and there is no one like you. Dance like there is no tomorrow. Dance all your worries away. Dance with all your heart. Dance a stellar performance and take a bow to the empty room. Dance in the shower singing into the soap. Dance amidst others, mixing Bhangra steps with electro music. Dance in front of the mirror in a public restroom. Dance in the trial room, trying on a pretty dress. Stop and break into a dance during your morning walks at random. Click your heels and whirl around to the music playing in your head. Dance in the rain, dance in the sun, dance in the snow. Dance till you can’t dance anymore and then dance some more. Dance till the day you can’t live without it, and then dance through your life, all the way to the end. And the sun and the stars will dance with you, in celebration.

Addendum to the Hippocratic Oath

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I will always respect the ‘Google Maata,’ for she is always ere and better informed than I.

I will work for more than 24 hours straight and not once, even for a minute, will I sit down for rest, lest a media hound snaps that moment of a pause for the world to see and condemn.

I will not expect any pay for my work, for my family’s needs would be taken care of by God and his men.

Any ‘personal time’ or ‘family time’ will be considered a crime, liable to persecution and legal action.

I will be expected to have a contrast enhanced CT vision, to diagnose patients’ illnesses without ordering any ‘expensive tests,’ and to pick up complications, if any, the nanosecond they happen.

I promise, never to err at any time, or subject myself to the risk of being beaten up by the patient’s relatives.

I shall expect, for my work, no respect ; rather, I could be sued anytime for wrongdoing and neglect.

I will neither eat nor drink any food or beverage, remotely linked to any disease, in any case report published by Google, even in the confines of my house, if I chance to visit it at the end of the day.

I will be under constant scrutiny, and all my doings, including the restroom breaks, will be watched over like a hawk, around the clock.

I am neither God nor a normal human being, but a healing machine with Godly powers, dutifully bound to perform miracles in the worst of sickness.

What ails Indian Medicine ? Part one

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Something is ailing in the Indian medical community. We are no longer the ‘respected’ profession, the parents – including doctors, want to push their children into. As 18 year olds, most of us were coerced into medicine by our families, prepared for the long journey in spite of all odds. The light at the end of the tunnel was becoming valued doctors, admired and appreciated by the community and the country. But the odyssey is long and arduous and full of toils and bumps and obstacles. So it takes a decade and some years more, from graduation to post graduation and then super specialization. And along the way, we come to terms with the reality of how, even in our late twenties, we are financially dependent on our parents, unlike our friends from school who are professionally settled and financially blooming. And by the time we join as consultants in government or private sectors, the rat race has begun at full throttle, to make up for the lost time.

 

There is nothing wrong with the race to the top. We are professionals, and unlike what some people may think, we have families and we’d like to be paid for the hard work, thank you very much. But unlike other professions, we deal with human lives – in sickness and in health. Ours is not just a shop to run, or a business empire to expand. Ours is not a profession to lure customers, away from the competitors into our lair. Which is why, it is disheartening to see doctors undermine and belittle their colleagues and competitors – in front of the patients and in public.

 

Professional jealousy, ego, business rivalry or the number race – no reason can justify this atrocity. Saying “ That doctor ruined your case !” or “ That doctor is a fool and knows nothing !” or “ That doctor is a fraud. He cheats his patients,” may earn someone brownie points, with the patient who has come to his clinic after a tremendous amount of doctor shopping, but disgraces medicine, and the medical community as a whole. How can we expect a patient to respect medical professionals if we don’t respect each other ? When we are out there, at each other’s throats determined to bring each other down at any cost ? How will the people trust doctors, if we ourselves, are giving them reasons not to. One doctor is trashing his rival and him, vice-versa. And the karma is turning around a full circle and giving it back to us, beating us down multifold. The irony of it all, is that the only time we seem to be standing together and watching each other’s backs, is when a few disgruntled relatives turn hooligans and thrash one of us down.

 

All of us our different, some may be more skilled than others, some may be more competent than others, but we can all agree that almost all of us strive towards a common goal – patient care. And none of us, to our knowledge, are unabashedly evil. One doctor’s approach towards a patient’s condition may be different, and what he or she did, may not be what some other doctor would do, but that doctor still acted in good faith and to the best of his or her ability. So it gives us no right to be self-righteous, and shout from the rooftops of how our ‘competitor’ mismanaged a case, and how things would have been so much better, if only the patient had come to us first. If unity binds our community in times of ordeal, when one of us has been horrifically treated by members of the public, or elected representatives thereof, the same thread should bind us in each day of our professional lives. Because though the practical world is all about the competition and the bad mouthing and the shrewd business and the numbers to show it, we are better than that.

 

Purple and Pink

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Purple is the colour of royalty,

Resplendent flowers, lavender, orchid and lilac,

Eggplant, grapes, plum and blackberries,

And a purple bruise turning bluish black.

 

Pink is a cherry blossom in bloom,

Bougainvilleas in the garden, singing,

Flamingos strutting on the lake,

And piggies on the farm, playing.

 

The inside of a guava,

Strawberry ice cream and shake,

Bursting bubblegum and cotton candy,

And the syrupy concoction for bellyache.

 

Pink lips signing a kiss,

Rosy cheeks, pink in adulation,

Hearty in the pink of health,

A bubbling champagne for celebration.

 

The colour for the female newborn,

The clothes hanging in a girl’s closet,

And the pink ribbon to stand up and fight,

Against breast cancer for the women who got it.