A dark story……

My Ahmedabad days are always glittery in my memory — the evenings especially, which were mostly spent in the various delectable eateries of the city. Ahmedabad is a city throbbing with flavours. One has to queue up for a table in the good restaurants on most nights as eating out is part of the culture there.

I can never forget the five different flavoured waters of pani puri or the fafdas , theplas and khakhras or the ice cream sandwiches at Manek Chowk at midnight! I also remember my dear ‘Masi’ with whom I could never communicate but who made my life much easier with the one phrase ‘Tame jem fave su karo!’ ( Do as you like! )

However , this luminescence is marred by the dark memory of a narcissistic energy vampire. Energy vampires are people who are extremely judgemental and bigoted. They have no empathy and can only make others feel negative.

I met one in my own department . Those were the days when I was still sore about leaving the Delhi life. Add to it the written and spoken communication gap as Gujarati is the official language there. I was also struggling with a new surgical technique in which she was already an expert.

She preyed on my insecurities to bolster her ego. She was a tyrant in the O.T. and even in the OPD she demeaned and loud mouthed me in front of the patients. It was all unchecked because the HOD was her teacher.

At times I felt that this behaviour stems from her own insecurities.But nonetheless I was so demoralised that I developed tremors during surgery. The memory of those days still depresses me. For the sake of sanity I fled Ahmedabad a year before my husband’s tenure was complete. What mental torture!

The Net tells about 101 ways to deal with energy vampires but trust me —- when you meet one — run full speed in the opposite direction!

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Friendship — the elixir of life.

On friendship day I remember all my dear friends — my school friends who have known me since kindergarten; my locality friends with whom I would spend my evenings and holidays; tuition friends; medical college friends; hostel mates; special friends; post graduation friends; hospital friends — the list is long and sprinkled with sparkling happy memories — those I will recollect some other time.

But today I want to tell the story of this gang of old cronies whom I see assembled in the park,in front of my house, morning and evening. They humorously discuss everything from joint aches to Modi, from their own mean late mothers in law to Ayurvedic treatment of cancer! They sing their folk ‘ geets ‘. They do their pranayama and asanas. They bring their grand children along to tend to. But no matter what the weather these hexagenerian ladies religiously gather in their usual spot and spend some time chatting and laughing together.

Every time I see their connection I always feel it is this bond that is their refuge from everyday household worries, age related ailments and a gamut of negative thoughts that will over power them if they break away from this chain. And when a member passes away, they mourn her loss but slowly bounce back to the rhythm of life. This friendship is the key to their health and happiness.

It makes me crave for my MBBS hostel days when our batch girls would enjoy all birthdays and festivals with a lot of gusto. Once in internship our whole batch was late in returning from a birthday bash and the next morning inevitably we were called in front of the hostel superintendent Mam, being the story-teller I was weaving a nice excuse. And just as I finished my bestie entered the room, she was on night duty so didn’t know what all had just been said. It became a hilariously awkward situation for all of us when Mam asked for her version of the night incident!

Catching up with friends is undoubtedly one of the best things there is to life — I just wish I had a little more time and chance to do it more often.

P.S. — A happy friendship day to all my dear friends. Thank you for enriching my life.

To do or Not to do

I am a slave of my ‘to do’ list . The projects on my ‘to do’ list navigate my daily activities and very complacently I tick them off one by one.

And then last week I fell ill. I felt helpless as my ‘to do’ list lay unaccomplished. I recently read a post by a senior doctor about how our minds are our real homes where we live all the time. Being forced to inactivity made me finally search for my restroom.

I am sure there are many like me who feel guilty for any time they sit idle. I instinctively reach out for my list. I have to keep doing something, social networking if nothing else.

The two days suddenly released my life from the hands of the clock. At first staring at nothingness was daunting, to feel the seconds elapse.

Then I consoled myself that it’s ok to just be. It’s ok to miss a few appointments, it’s ok if the house is a mess sometimes, it’s ok to be a bad mom once in a while and let the kids enjoy junk for a meal. I don’t always have to be perfect on all fronts. There’s no harm in a little day dreaming, in fallowing in memories — good and bad. The aimlessly loitering thoughts left me relaxed and self connected.

Of course the type A that I am , who thrives on the pressure, come Monday morning and I will reach out for my list. But yes every once in a while I will just put up my feet and remember dear W.H. Davis ‘s ‘Leisure ‘ . ‘ What is this life if full of care, We have no time to stand and stare? ‘

I will just enjoy my existence, without anything to achieve.

Mediocre 100

Still in the hangover of ‘Super 30’ I could not help but write about a girl whom I met in class XI.

As my school was till X standard only so for XI and XII I joined Lady Keane College, Shillong.

Shyama had also joined in the same class. We noticed each other and started talking as both our homes were in the same direction in Laban after crossing a 10 minute stretch of pine grove in the Cantonment area.

In college I was busy with my convent group and Shyama was totally dedicated to the classes and lectures.It was during our after college walks that our special bond developed.

Shyama was from a very modest background. My father knew her father as he would build ‘Pandals’ during Durga Puja in our locality , for the rest of the year he worked as a daily wager. With a lot of hope and hard work he had managed primary education for all his four children but Shyama shined out and got admitted for secondary education in our college.

I had once asked her in our initial days — ‘so what have you opted for Medical or Engineering?’ Her answer always stays with me. With calm eyes she serenely replied — ‘My parents will not be able to afford the expense of 5 years of medical or 4 years of engineering fees and hostel even if I get through in one of the courses. I will pursue my B.Sc. with Botany honours and then try to secure a stable job so that I can be of some help to my family.’

Today I am in contact with Shyama through Facebook and Watsapp. She is a government school teacher in Shillong, happily married to one. And seeing her bright photos I can’t find traces of the self conscious reserved girl sitting on a corner bench.

Everyone can’t make it to the IITs or AIIMS , so where do the mediocres go? Shyama showed the way! We don’t have to always be a doctor or an engineer, as long as we are progressing in life, we are successful. As rightly concluded in the movie — an educated person changes the circumstances of his family and of his generations to come.

P.S. Kudos to the legendary teacher Anand Kumar who changed the lives of thousands at a time by creating geniuses 30 at a time.

The ability to say….NO

Its a day from kindergarten — very hazy — all I remember is sulking and being angry with my mother for coming to pick me up in a sleeveless blouse!

Growing up, many a times my mother emerged as the Anti-Heroine in my mind as she firmly adhered to her choices. She was never the all tolerating,all forgiving Hindi Seriel Bahu. She would frankly excuse herself from any untimely guest to make sure our study hours were not disturbed. And even when it came to the household chores,she never overdid things to impress others. She likes dolling up and day dreaming in her spare time, and of course gossiping with me!

Warming up to womanhood I learnt it the hard way that my YES is taken for granted, its my NO that sets the ball rolling. It raises a few eyebrows, makes people judge me and perhaps dislike me for sticking to my opinion. With each NO I take the steering of my time and energy back in my hands. I ready myself for the consequences. Its a liberating feeling to be true to myself, just like the innocent childhood days.

I know a lot many people who are constantly exuding the so called Negative Aura because first they will do things to oblige others and then keep nagging about it .

Then there are the diplomats who smartly say NO without using the N and the O . But I feel that such shrewdness does not go far and sooner or later their YESs also lose credence.

Now there’s nothing wrong in lending a helping hand or in thoughtful and considerate deeds. But these should be indulged in without expecting anything in return or with clear intentions. By valuing our priorities and our self, we can lead a life of less regret and more personal choices — just as my Heroine had rightly taught me!

The aroma of Panch Phoron ……

I follow my Mother-in-law’s school of cooking …. first the cumin is spluttered, then goes the ginger garlic paste, the chopped onions followed by the puréed or chopped tomatoes and finally I can think of what vegetable I want to cook today!

But once in a while and mostly on the days when one or the other of the above ingredients is depleted— I reach out for my panch phoron box, stored in a back corner of my upper shelf and as I sprinkle a pinch of it into the hot simmering mustard oil, the emanating aroma instantly transports me to my grandma’s and mother’s kitchen.

I am nine years old, crouched in front of my Grandma’s unun ( mud stove) watching with rapt attention as she pops our the chal pithas ( rice dumplings) from the matir shajh ( mud mould). I remember how I would lust after the largest piece of fish even when she would just start deep frying them. I would spend hours in my Grandma’s kitchen, chit-chatting about her childhood days, unknowingly soaking up her culinary nuances.

I am a teenager, learning the tricks of the trade from my mother — how she balances her salt with a little sprinkle of sugar, how she goes light on her oil and spices for a healthy cuisine. I savour the memories of my mother’s Sunday Biriyani and evening luchis ( maida puris) .

Whoever said the way to a Man’s heart is through his stomach forgot to add that the way to a child’s psyche is through one’s aromas and tastes. So I diligently wake up early every morning to cook a meal for the day …. that someday some aroma or taste somewhere will metaphorically, bring my children back to me!

P.S. Panch Phoron is a Bengali five spice consisting of fenugreek seed,nigella seed,cumin seed, black mustard seed and fennel seed in equal parts.

Happy Doctor’s Day

The first anatomy class is still vivid in my mind.The girls all huddled around the front left dissection table and the boys occupying the remaining three empty tables.

As Purkasthya Sir ushered us into the Medical World with a round of introductions , each one of us had much excitement and many aspirations in our young eyes, I’m sure.

Since then we have each had our highs and lows — I speak strictly for myself. The delusions of a big house and car, a posh lifestyle, fancy vacations, a large bank balance — in short a set life which spurred me to study hard to secure a seat — took sometime to dispel. As the bubbles burst some realisations dawned.

I can’t pay bills with respect and gratitude. Our society is such that a 500 rupees lipstick is branded but a 500 rupees consultation fee is exorbitant. After investing so much time and energy I am expected to be charitable always.

To enjoy your hard earned money you need time and mental peace. But I am sure you have dearth of both as even away from the hospital your phone and mind will be busy with patients.

When I was busy stressing myself out in books, classes, semesters and PG entrances my friends in other professions were earning and spending. By the time I reached a port in my career they were already planning their retirement!

Being a lady doctor is a double whammy. Its not like a demanding day in the O.T. will absolve me from my family duties. The moment I reach home I am Kanta Bai’s reliever!

What’s embarrassing about this fraternity is that rather than being each other’s support we are the cause of each other’s exploitation, frustration, depression and disappointments professionally.

For the hundred patients who do well and recover fully — its my duty. For the one case that gets complicated — I am sued as negligent . The recent Kolkata incidents highlight the physical vulnerability of doctors.

All said and done, the shine in an old man’s eye or the sincere thanks of a young mother always make me beam with joy and pride. I have realised that taking medical as a way of living with erratic work hours, constant up gradation of knowledge and serving sincerely takes the bitterness out of the profession. Till then its a Happy Doctor’s Day to all the dreamy eyes who have recently made the choice or about to make it soon.