Saturday, 23 May 2015

The universe is made up of stories

Last Sunday, I was on my 2nd consecutive night shift. When you do night shifts, it's like confusing your body. The next morning, you crash in bed. And then when you wake up at 5pm, your body thinks it's early morning but alas! It's mistaken. The body cycle is messed up and there isn't much you can do about it. You find yourself tossing in bed at 4am and that's only an expected side effect of the ever-changing shifts you work in ED. So, one finds a way to get past it, before it's dawn already. I read. These days it's either on my iPhone5 (which was a graduation gift from my parents, so I'm still hesitant to replace it with the newer version) or on my Kindle PaperWhite. I do not mean to be marketing, but I will hands down advocate owning one of these. It comes with a light adjusting mechanism which is all the more soothing to the eye especially if you're reading in darkness, like me!

Many stories headlined this week; Aruna Shanbaug, the nurse who was sexually assaulted by a ward boy in a hospital in Mumbai; and thereafter remained in a vegetative state for 42 long years, finally succumbed to a pneumonia on Monday, May 18, 2015. The perpetrator Sohanlal, was charged for assault and robbery (not rape, sexual molestation, or unnatural sexual offence) and served two 7-year terms; and continues to roam on Indian streets under another name. But what shines more brightly from a so-called comatose life of 42 years - (i) The hospital healthcare team looked after her, with utmost diligence and even on her last day, there wasn't a single pressure sore on her body (which is usually expected in any bed-ridden individual) (ii) Her friend/journalist appealed to the court, and in March 2011, the Supreme Court though rejected plea for active euthanasia; allowed passive euthanasia - that, in my personal opinion, is a milestone in the annals of palliative medicine.

May 19, 2015 - my in-laws were in Kolkata; Team 'Upasana', their creative brainchild, was staging Rabindranath Tagore's "TotaKahini" (Parrot's Tale). I read up the translated version of the Bengali short story by Gurudev - a simple yet biting satire on the conventional educational system of rote-learning, prevalent even today in the much-reputed schools and universities across India...

By mid-week, news spread about Maggi having significantly higher levels of MSG and more importantly, lead. Sigh! Maggi was lifted off shelves at many department stores, while I'm certain they continue to be hoarded in many households. I had a last packet of Maggi Masala at home too, so in deep mourning, I slurped on the 2-minute noodles mid-day. Twitterati was abuzz with memes and what not - people claiming they'll continue to have Maggi considering their brains are already damaged/fried thanks to their wives etc (you know the usual jokes on marriage blah blah) - but on a serious note, do keep your children away from these. I personally, know of a child with Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder thanks to Lead toxicity at a young age - he'd need special tutoring at school and more often than not, he'd go off on another tangent altogether. Maybe he was happy screaming during class hours about airplanes on fire, but oh well, I know his parents and teachers found him hard to control/discipline; and as adorable as he was, it's not an easy task to bring up a child like him. More power to his family! 

More cover stories flew in from the Cannes film festival; though more often the media covered the red-carpet fashion display by the celebrities/brand ambassadors rather than the movies themselves :P

By the end of the week, thanks to more sleepless nights, I had finished Jhumpa Lahiri's "The Interpreter of Maladies"; a lovely and varied collection of short stories. As a voracious reader in my childhood, I would read a lot of fictional novels but owing to my current work schedule, I've begun to love short stories more. I've always felt short stories end quite abruptly, but I guess that adds on to their charm and mystique. If not anything, I'm glad I'm back to reading :) Thanks to the Kindle, which has become a constant companion, be it in bed, at a coffee shop or even while traveling in an MRT.

Two of my close friends, from college, were setting forth on their post-graduation journey; and I was really thrilled for them. So, I decided, to surprise them with some gifts :) I sent them both books from the Gawande collection - 'Complications' and 'Being Mortal'. I'm hoping they find solace in the pages - as I did - for in this tumultuous journey as a doctor, nothing is more reassuring than knowing that we are not alone. 

May 22nd - 3 years  ago: I was still fresh from my grandmother's demise on the 22nd of January. Though, I put on a facade of pleasantness and went about with it everyday, there was a void, I refused to ignore. She was a beautiful woman, inside out - brave, determined, giving and unconditionally loving. Though, I spent only summer holidays with her; she continued to inspire me, everyday. That day, I remember, I was quite quiet and from thousands of miles away, while we were still only long-distance friends, @PranMaz, suggested, I focus on making someone happy that day - as that is in keeping with my grandmother's spirit. That struck a chord, somewhere deep within.
So, on this 22nd, I surprised him, by going shopping and picking up t-shirts for him. And then, we met for Thai dinner, followed the mocktails with some cocktails at Victoria Bar, to celebrate happiness :) and then ended the day, watching 'Tanu Weds Manu Returns' at an Indian theatre - entertaining to say the least! :) 'twas indeed a happy Friday #TGIF

Saturday, home with the husband, meant adding to our combined kitchen diaries :D We made Chinese fried rice and some Pepper Chicken to go with it. We had it, watching 'Criminal Minds' (our latest Netflix addiction after Shonda Rhimes' 'Scandal'). When, on my own, I just watch 'Friends' re-runs; Joey and Phoebe never get any less funny! 

Before I realise it, it's time for the next blog post :D While he's at the cricket ground for a Sunday game, I sit, in the pleasant breeze, typing away...

As Muriel Rukeyser aptly put it, "The Universe is made up of stories, not atoms". 

A week filled with stories - fictional, reel and real.
A week of reading; and more reading between the lines. 
A week of 'Friends' and friendship. 


Monday, 18 May 2015

It's all about perception

Last Sunday, I was enjoying a quiet evening with my husband; we were discussing about our personal and professional frontiers, and coming up with creative ideas on how to get past them. For what we deem as limits are only put forth by our own minds; the truth however is that the high sky is no limit anymore. I always keep one of these quotes (introduced to me by one of my dear friends) close to my heart - "Aim for the moon, you'll land amidst stars anyways!"

During the course of that enriching conversation was when the 5Ps emerged (Photo attached) - Nothing new in all of that; We've all read more and enough about each of these. But I always believe that knowledge and actually applying that to daily living are two very different things. If each of us even applied a single point everyday, I'm certain we'd all be better people. (Okay, enough of preaching!)

Another night shift ensued, and it was a Monday, one of the most dreaded days of the ED week. There are times when it's so crowded there's barely any space to squeeze between two patient trolleys! It's challenging and who doesn't like some adrenaline rush eh? It certainly seems all fancy on Grey's Anatomy, but when you're on that ED shop floor, and you're assigned patient after patient even before you've settled with the previous sick patient, there are times when you feel the floor underneath exists no more, you wish you could ask them to stop flooding in, you hope the next patient you've to see has easier veins to access for blood sampling so you wouldn't spend too much time there, which you'd rather use on getting history and examining the patient to gather clues about his/her illness and reaching at a provisional diagnosis and managing it, thus, actually helping the patient; but alas, you're stuck with a sick breathless patient with a probable severe pneumonia and acute heart failure and worsening kidney function who needs you more; the next not-so-sick patient with atypical chest pain has to wait before you can even get to him; the woman who keeps vomiting will get an injection to stop the retching and you reassure her you'll get to her in a very short while. In that chaos, you honestly don't have time to think too much about yourself, let alone listen to hunger pangs or bladder urgency calls!

Prior to the night shifts, I've often found myself anxious, to be honest. And as I've introspected, I've realised it's not about the stress of the work but actually the 'fear' of being late; for discipline in ED is paramount. I've never been late, so it's quite counter-intuitive why I would be anxious about it but as my better half pointed out, maybe the reason I'm never late is because of the fear/anxiety - point noted! And thus, he so very subtly, helped me empower myself to use this so-called anxiety to my advantage. It struck me how perception was so important. A single paradigm shift could actually work wonders.

There have been times, I've even questioned myself if there was in some way a lack of passion about what I was doing. I've even felt guilty for feeling thus. I mean, one spends years preparing for medical school and then finally having graduated out of medical college with that prestigious degree -a year later, you feel 'disillusioned' - that's shitty right? As a recent article on New York Times reiterated, our generation has had it all quite easy. We've had it all served to us on a silver plate! We've not had to struggle to feed ourselves, or fight for education rights. We've not had to live in homeless shelters and travel hundreds of miles to access healthcare. We've not faced extreme discrimination and slavery and have not had to fight for freedom. We've been immensely fortunate to have all the opportunities in life that we do and the least we can do, is make good use of them; for ultimately, passion isn't a fruit that's going to drop on our heads from a tree branch - it's the culmination of sheer hard work and continuous effort; the fruit of unconditional thoughtful action.
I so needed that kick at my back to shut all unnecessary questions in my idle mind and focus on the important things instead! So that was great and liberating, to say the least.

Post night shift, we had the Happy Tribe over for pizza party at our home. It was good fun listening to their work anecdotes, a welcome change from medical stories (which I shall gloat are the more exciting ones, any day ;)) We played this fun game called Perception (which may be, more often, far from reality) but just another cool way to reinforce the fact how it plays such a huge role in all our lives.

Mid-week, mum - dad were at the Art of Living Ashram as part of Alap Bangalore performing at the special Satsang on Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's (Guruji's) birthday. So post-evening shift, past midnight, we were watching the webcast and capturing screenshots! :D It was peaceful to just relive my times at the Ashram - the atmosphere is just filled with so much positivity, love and joy - just simply uplifting.

The following day was my dear dad's birthday. Family has and will always play a pivotal role in my life. The sacrifices my father has made for me are immense and the poignant truth is I wouldn't be where I am today if not for the unwavering support of my father. He led by example, to live by principles, of righteousness and sincerity. I've always been his princess but he always taught me to be tough on the inside. His unconditional love, his kindness and his faith in me are constant factors pushing my wings to fly higher... He's my friend, my go-to-person, my super-hero!

The rest of my evenings were with patients. I had a young looking 70yr+ old gentleman walk in, and I greeted him with "Wow! You look so young!" and he got back with "I'm not 17, like you!" He was a retired teacher and I've always enjoyed non-medical conversations with my patients. I find it easier to connect with them and I like to believe, they open up better with some casual talk.
I've had 80yr old beautiful ladies with dementia who couldn't stop telling my senior consultant that I was a "pretty" good doctor! Haha! How patients can make a doctor's day :P Simple pleasures ;)

Saturday brunch was to be a catch up session with the Strathmore folks. We were celebrating a friend's change of job - and instead, another friend ended up stealing the thunder by announcing he was getting hitched! We celebrated over yummy food at P.S. Cafe and I must say, the Mojitos with the basil leaf were simply awesome! Can't get it wrong with basil - yes it's one of my weak points - If it's Thai food, I'm always going to have the Basil Minced Chicken; if it's Italian, I'm always going to have the Basil Pesto Pasta! I do have my weaknesses- Sigh!

I missed the AIB stand up comedy session thanks to night shifts over the weekend. The husband had a good bout of laughter with the rest of the audience, while I was swarmed with patients :P But no complaints. :) Another week done!

A week of the emergence of 5Ps.
A week of 'learning, unlearning and relearning' about Passion.
A week of changing and refining Perception.


Sunday, 10 May 2015

The Balancing Act

Last Sunday evening, we were out with my high school best friend, who is currently pursuing her PhD; we were craving for biryani so off we went to Swaadisht at Little India for the spicy Kerala biryani. Even though, their service was off the mark right from the start, we ate to our hearts' delight and then ended up at Starbucks, chatting till the other side of midnight! It is always good to catch up and funnily enough, the last time we met was also on our monthly anniversary :D

The week had a couple of night shifts again; and in order to balance the 'tragedy' that my ED life exposes me to, I opted to go for a stand up 'comedy' session with the same friend. Girls' night out :D There were some amateur, even dull acts but there were also some really nice acts and we had a nice, refreshing time, laughing out loud. Prior to that, we went to R.O.D. again, for yummilicious waffles with ice-cream - it's like my new 'chicken soup for the soul' :P Almost, getting addicted!

Mid-week was spent in solitude. Cooking (Baingan Bharta, Dhokla etc) and cooling down. Creating new song playlists and meditating. Time alone, gives one opportunity to sit back and enjoy one's own company; to retrospect, introspect and evaluate future prospects! Me-time everyday, is highly recommended. What one does in that time, could vary and is personal, but the joy is unparalleled.

The downside of a highly variable working schedule is how the body has to adjust to different time schedules everyday! So one night, at 3am, I found my insomniac self, wide awake, on the couch, reading Atul Gawande's 'Better' - a truly inspiring collection of stories and anecdotes; I must confess, I did wake the husband up to irritate him :P That was fun (evil grin)
(He was back late too; Happy Marketer had won an award at Mumbrella Awards earlier that evening and the team was out partying (Kudos to the winning team member and of course, the entire crew/Happy tribe as they call themselves :))

Watched a really nice, fun Bollywood movie- Piku with the gang. I honestly can't remember a single dull moment in the entire film. While AB's motion talk did get a bit too much at times, yet the simple acting by the trio truly makes the movie enjoyable - Amitabh's resplendent Bengali, Deepika's radiant acting and Irrfan - his expressions are out of the world! It had something to offer to everyone, and that is what made it so heart-warming :)

Caught up with some other friends over lunch on Saturday at Bazaar. Getting there wasn't ultra-convenient but oh well, anything for tandoori tikkas and creamy North-Indian gravies (slurp). Subsequently, another couple got introduced to R.O.D. :D. Okay, I'm clearly addicted now!
I ran off to work after that sumptuous supper.

We all have our ups and downs; as a doctor, people expect us to be at the best of our health at all times. However, that is simply not possible. We often work even when we aren't feeling too well, but at times, we need to step on the brakes and take some time out. Acute sinusitis can give you headaches of the worst kinds and one really, needs to sleep it out. And that's what I did as well.

Later on the rain-washed evening, I went for a nice stroll with the husband. We had North-Indian food for dinner at Raj, Biopolis and got back enjoying the fresh air. It's always good to spend time with him - we smile and laugh; we talk, discuss and deliberate; and I'd like to believe, we bring out the best in each other. And that, is a blessing.

As the clock struck 12, we realised, unlike our usual 'social' selves, there was no snap uploaded for Mothers' Day. :P As a fleeting thought, we wondered if our mothers would feel neglected amidst all the outpouring of love on FaceBook; We laughed at the thought and fell asleep like babies, feeling eternally grateful for our mothers' support at every step of our lives.

A week of balancing - tragedy and comedy; nights and days; company and solitude.
A week of celebration and gratitude- Buddha Purnima & Mothers' Day
A week of more waffles, Indian food and a lot more food for thought.


Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Living the Owl Life

Last Sunday ended with me watching my first ever Bengali movie - 89. A thriller, with subtitles of course. Unlike many of the billionaire super-achievers out there, I do not believe in monotone. So I can't wear the same colour to work everyday to set a routine so one doesn't have to waste time thinking about it. On the contrary, I believe in making memories. I like to experiment. I like to have many firsts. I don't have a bucket list, for I think it'll be far too long, and I know I'll do whatever I wish to do anyway. I make many plans, be it for the week, month or even the rest of the year. All of them, may not materialise, but I love the process of planning and researching; dreaming and looking forward to it all. But that is not to say, I do not live in the present. For when, one works in the Emergency Department, every minute serves as a constant reminder that Now is All you've Got.

The week started with a night shift, and then my sleeping day. I flaunted the "owl" earrings designed by a sister-in-law and gifted to me by another. I binged on Thai food (which is my new comfort food, after my mum's home-cooked food) and tried the steamed seabass for the first time, especially loved the lime and chilli sauce with it - so refreshing; and the iced lemongrass to go with it! That evening ended on a high with Max Brenner's dark chocolate hug mug and the Chai Tea (which is quite like the Indian masala chai with Cardamom) only that it's presented very differently (shall not reveal more about it here, do give it a try!)

The rest of the days were quite busy on the work front, but that wouldn't stop us from taking the visiting sister-in-law out for fancy dinner at Rochester Park. We truly love the Cheese platter at Da Paolo's; but we decided to go to North Border instead - their buffalo wings are to die for! Loved their service, only wish the Moscato bottle was slightly bigger/wider!

Labour Day was spent at work as well. They say if you love what you do, it's not a "job". My work is hectic, intensive and can get annoyingly busy as well. But, when you walk out into the twilight, there's this deep sense of fulfilment, that arises from knowing that you did your best and that really helps to make you feel much better than what you felt in there, amidst all that chaos. I treated myself, with the company of friends, to an Akshay Kumar Bollywood movie, full with all the masala; and followed it with absolutely yummy snow-flaked waffles with ice-cream at Rabbit Owl Depot (with a mental note, to get back to that quaint little cafe, very soon!)

And soon enough, the Saturday dawned upon us. Even though, I work over weekends as well, there's something lazy about it, nonetheless. We had booked tickets for the Shankar Mahadevan concert at Esplanade, later that evening. What an amazing experience that was! 'Kaleidoscope' - a fusion concert featuring many folk artists from across the various states of India; supported by very talented musicians; a well-orchestrated depiction of the musical heritage of India that left us with many a goosebump moment; not to forget, "Breathless". In the meanwhile, the younger bro, placed first at an all-India Battle of the Bands and bagged some good load of cash prize for it! Couldn't be more proud!

And thus, before I realised it, the week had ended where it began - by the river. Under the starry sky. Quite an eventful one, I must say. It had been 5 months since #SocialShaadi as well. And as we sat comfortably in silence, having gobbled up some Gluttons by the Bay satay; absorbing the vibes around us, we were grateful for the opportunities that life had bestowed upon us.

Why do I call it the owl-week? Not just because it had a night shift :D or I spent the late evenings, outdoors! Because, if like an owl, you hone your visual and hearing skills enough, even you'll be able to see in the dark and listen to voices, humans can't usually hear. And the truth is, in the dark of the night, what you see is what you really ever dream about and what you hear, is the beat of the loving heart, that inner voice. And if we care enough, that is enough to keep us going...

A week of firsts and lasting memories.
A week of honing the owl skills.
A week of twilight and dawning wisdom.

(Deep shit, eh? Lol)