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.

The cluttered wardrobe….

It’s Monday morning a disheveled Sheetal stands in front of an equally disheveled wardrobe …. sulkily she drags out a black pair of jeans and snatches a hanging pink tunic top and rushes off to work.

Recognisable…. very much!

I first became a victim of this ‘I don’t have anything to wear’ syndrome when I started medical college after 12 th class, till then the uniform was a great saviour.

Over the years I have struggled with my own cluttered closet and thought about it and worked on it and developed my own workable philosophy of it. Recently when I came across the book ‘The life-changing magic of tidying up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organising ‘ by Marie Kondo I was glad I was not wasting my time.

— The latest rage,The Konmari method of de cluttering professes disposing things that do not spark a sense of joy .

— The Japanese advocate simplicity in all aspects of life including in the wardrobe.

— I have formed my own philosophy of organising.

#For me it all starts with the differentiations of need and want. The ‘want’ things go to a wish list that I will purchase someday as it is something non essential. That way I can save on my clothes budget and spend it on outings or experiences.

#I have a fixed number of outfits for work which I wear and maintain on rotation.

#I think outside the box for occasional wear, purchasing something unique, mixing and matching, layering, getting a celebrity style costume stitched is cost effective.

#When I think of purchasing something new I first discard an old one. That way the space aspect is managed.

#I try to buy clothes mindfully rather than just on fancy as the guilt of a dumped wardrobe is overwhelming.

#I don’t hoard away clothes for a someday … perhaps by that someday they will become outdated or outfitted.

#Following the Konmari method I dumped out every piece of cloth from my wardrobe and respected all that empty space. A top that still has its tag which always gives me second thoughts, a kurta I didn’t wear in the last two years….the list goes on….their turn will perhaps never come! Donate,gift,sell …. use for dusting — discarding freely is such a liberating feeling!

#And last but not the least… like I always feel… this time will never come back… so I have my own collection of antique and unused apparels… like my wedding lehenga or the chanya choli I picked up at an Ahmedabad flee market or my mother’s old silk sarees.. though impractical….they definitely are happy memories!

The Cataract Month

In my OPD every day I see 20 to 25 cataract patients whom I advise, work up and operate all through out the year. But as June is being hailed as the cataract awareness month I would take this opportunity to bust a few myths about this common perennial condition.

# I am healthy and follow a healthy lifestyle how can I have cataract!

…. Cataract is not a disease per se, it is a degenerative condition which comes most commonly with aging. Some conditions like trauma, metabolic diseases,diabetes, electric shock can accelerate the process . As of now there is no prophylaxis against it…. it will set in just like the greying of hair and wrinkling of skin.

# Though my vision is hazy I can manage, I will wait for the vision to deteriorate further!

…. It is only after a through dilated evaluation on the slit lamp can your ophthalmologist advice when you need surgery . Never self assess. I have seen many a cases who wait for the vision to deteriorate and cataract to mature and reach such a stage when the intra ocular pressure becomes raised to a state of no visual prognosis.

# Give me some drops to melt my cataract or at least stop its progress!

….Surgery is the only treatment… till now …. it does not resolve with any medications.

# I will wait for now and get operated in winter !

….Thanks to fans and air conditioners cataract surgeries are performed all throughout the year. Though I agree in rural areas with their long load-sheddings winter months are more comfortable but summer months are fine too with minimal restrictions these days.

# It is a 10 minute procedure just like threading nothing major!

….It is the skill of the ophthalmologist acquired by years of practice that he or she can perform the cataract surgery in 10 to 15 minutes with minimal discomfort. But it is a major surgery and by no means to be taken lightly, all precautions like avoiding head wash for a week and no touch to eye along with timely drops should be followed stringently for the best outcome.

The customary morning walk….

Donned in my grey track pants and pink laced sneakers I am as excited as my first day of medical college. Today I resumed my customary morning walk after more than a decade.

Feeling the cool morning breeze against my face makes me want to close my eyes and savour this wave of freshness. It takes me back to my medical college days when me and a dear friend would wake up at 4 a.m. to jog around the whole campus.

So many memories flood back……

The beautiful landscape —- the green pastures and the orange slanting rays of the rising sun at a distance.

The warm up session in the college playground —- soaking up the serenity of solitude.

The jovial banter between us which soon bloomed into friendship.It became the best part of our day and we each did our best not to miss it.

The clothes were fitting better and the confident gait was drawing quite a few appreciative glances.

And the endorphins were magical!All throughout the stressful final year my mood, digestive system and sleep cycle were balanced — well quite so .

I used to call it dynamic meditation, the way one has to focus on each step and each breath. It is amazing that even after these long years morning walk still has that mind clearing effect on me.

I remember joking with my friend that in the event of an untimely death you can still find my ‘aatma’ jogging in the campus in the wee hours! Such was my affinity to this addictive habit and I am glad I resumed it.

P.S. Hope you also remember that time fondly Harpreet 😊