Reading In Bed When Cold Rains Killed The Spring

When the cold rains kept on and killed the spring, it was as though a young person had died for no reason. In those days, though, the spring always came finally but it was frightening that it had nearly failed.
Ernest Hemingway (A Movable Feast)
The bright spring morning and the promises it held was a deception; and as I bent over the sink washing my face and trying to rub off a pillow imprint, I could hear the first drops of rain. The sky was overcast with dark clouds; blotting out the sun and it’s tinseled rays, that had entered my window at dawn and had spread so unabashedly over my bed as I tried to hold on to the last remnants of sleep. As the downpour grew steadily, I looked longingly at my bed, overwhelmed by a strong desire to climb back into it, snug under a quilt and a book in hand. The human brain makes innumerable connections, and a certain stimuli can bring about the need to re-create a pleasurable ambience from the past. Rain for me meant being in bed with a book.
My earlier disappointment at a cloudy day ebbed off as I eyed my books, running my fingers over the spines that had seen better days and careful owners. I had picked up these books last winter, squatting on a footpath and haggling over prices while precariously balancing a dozen books on my hands. And now I stared at these dozen new books, trying to decide on a good volume of short stories. I’d started reading Hemingway’s ‘A Movable Feast’ yesterday, but today’s a ‘cloudy’ spring day, and I want to read short stories, and will get back to Hemingway when the sun comes out. I tried to recall the passage I had read before drifting off to sleep last night; about hunger making the senses grow stronger, as pictures seem clearer and writing more vibrant. I was yet to have breakfast, and my mind was quick to paint the picture of a foamy cup of coffee and homemade vanilla cake while leafing through the familiar writing of a favorite author.
The rain drummed on against the windowpane and the tin roof of the old shed next to my room. It was early morning, but it looked like dusk, as a bland grey suffused through the sky, the horizon, the trees, the buildings, and the silhouettes of people with raincoats and umbrellas. I turned back to my bookshelf where short stories of Chekov, Maupassant, O. Henry, Saki, D.H. Lawrence, Edgar Allen Poe, Oscar Wilde, Henry James, Tagore and even Murakami vied for my attention; and Maupassant won. I took the fat, purple volume with the now yellowed pages and extremely small print, as I remembered the first time I had read Maupassant. It was a story called ‘Love’, about the love of a wild bird for its mate that had been shot dead. I was ten, and I remember the teacher squinting as he read out the lines, “I’m a simple man with simple tastes”, and he paused for a while and then looked so contented with himself, as if he were the inspiration behind these lines.
So the foamy coffee and two slices of vanilla cake and the stories of Maupassant and a warm bed and the rain with occasional thunderbolts, created my happiness on a cloudy spring morning. 
And as the sun came out, I went to gym, showered, studied for an exam, and crossed items off a ‘to-do’ list and at midnight returned to Hemingway, Shakespeare and Company and writing in 1920s Parisian cafes.

The Blur of my 20s

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

Of all things I didn’t expect my ’20s’ to resemble the opening line of “A Tale of Two Cities“.

Everything overlaps in my memory. I can’t pinpoint what happened when.

My 20s has been a blur: the years, the events, experiences, people who drifted in and out, people who lingered, the hard-earned and the surprise successes, the vicious cycles of failure, the ennui of adulthood, the simple or extravagant joys, deceptions and lies, the foolish heart that refuses to learn lessons, the heart that has learnt to be and even accept indifference, journeys of self-discovery, the indirect search for the meaning of it all, nights of fervent prayers, indulging in frivolities, still reading books with the same love and worship for the written word, still being the pampered daughter and doting sister, paranoid driving, learning compassion and responsibilities, healing others and not just because it is a job, learning the hard way to follow the advice of my parents, waiting for I know not what, laughing at how far I’ve come along yet how long I have stood still, sometimes mourning an untarnished memory, kicking myself often for wavering in the most important thing in the world-discipline, uncertain steps into writing, accepting deficiencies and along the way accepting myself, wondering what my ten year old self would say when my dreams of a settled career and being happily married and traveling the world by the time I turned twenty seven seems impossible now, telling my ten year old self that it’s okay the way things are now and meaning it, still skeptical about most of the people I meet, creating my own happiness, and not even close to learning how to cook.

When I was sixteen, a person who was over twenty-five was OLD, a fossil. Today I have turned 26. I don’t feel like a fossil. I have yet to embark on many journeys. I have yet to find the utopian true love. I have yet to get kicked in the guts by life and learn few more lessons. I have yet to find contentment. I have yet to make my parents proud. I have yet to travel to places I’ve read about in books and compare my mind’s imagery with the real beauty. I have yet to do something meaningful for the causes I believe in and support.

Miles to go…

(Photo Courtesy: kikimatters)

My Autumn: Cottony skies, Ghibli magic, Banned Books, Lemon Cake, Pasta, Phase 3, Basho, Earthquake and Empty Bank

I would always be partial to November, as it gave me to the world and mostly vice versa.  September comes a close second, autumn subtly coloring up my life.
I got a new job. I am not ecstatic about it. It’s a government job (the mere sound of which nearly mars all possibilities of excitement) at a remote corner of Assam. But it’s preferable to studying at home the whole day till my exams in January. It’s just the right pace, 5 hours a day; the puzzle piece that fits into the jigsaw of my exam preparation and the solitude I seek. The place is so remote it’s like the 1920s.  A car passing by on the dusty road becomes the discussion of the day at the market. The people are laid back and “adda” is the widely practiced local sport. Only solace is the unsullied green fields, the trees, cottony skies, the dew-laden mornings; and a pristine solitude.
 September introduced me to Studio Ghibli movies. My breath often forms a solid lump of joy in my chest, as I watch and relish idyllic visuals, marvel at imaginations, and relieve my childhood. I cling to these movies like an oasis of pure, stark joy. I watch them alone on evenings, in my room, on my bed. ‘Grave of the Fireflies’, ‘Whisper of the Heart’, ‘Only Yesterday’, ‘Arrietty’, ‘Howl’s Movng Castle’, ‘Kiki’s delivery Service’, ‘Princess Mononkone’, ‘My neighbor Tortoro’, ‘My neighbours-The Yamadas’, ‘Ponyo’ and ‘Spirited Away’. I don’t rush through them, as I usually do with things that interest me. I am slowly savoring each visual, each word and each feeling that it arouses in me.

Being jobless for a month and half, had a weird effect on me. I went on a spending spree knowing fully well my dwindling finances. I added the color purple to my wardrobe, and made Flipkart.com rich by a dozen books. I have an upcoming exam and can’t afford to indulge in the luxury of reading a dozen novels. But I hoard them. My mother has banned nine of these books from my life till January. Her threat is a real one, a new lock on my library evidence of her resolution. She doesn’t trust me when it comes to a few things in life, and reading novels stealthily tops the list. Many a flashlight had been angrily flung to the floor and sacrificed during my childhood, when my mother discovered it aiding a new novel to keep me awake beyond 3 am. I am 25, I have few bank accounts, I can drive, I can finally cross roads during rush hour, I can eat alone in restaurants, I am a doctor, I can call myself almost an adult; but I dare not defy my mother’s rules when an exam looms in the near horizon. So, the books are banned. Not the MCQ books though.
 My mother is overall a kind woman and I’m her first-born; so she let me choose three novels to read during the three months till January. My mind went into a tizzy, trying to decide which books to choose from the dozen new ones. I chose The naïve and the sentimental novelist” by Orhan Pamuk, “The particular sadness of lemon cake” by Aimee Bender and “Oxford anthology of Writings from North-east India”. I’ve started reading the Aimee Bender book. Beautiful writing. I devote pockets of time throughout the day to it without upsetting my study schedule and most importantly, my mother. I’ve read only a hundred pages till now. It’s about a nine year old girl who can taste in food the emotions of the people who cook it. It agitates her routine life, when she can taste a sad hollowness in her cheerful mother’s lemon cake. The knowledge of facades people erect lurches her forward from her complacent childhood. Aimee Bender’s words are brilliant and effortless; conjuring up images from a nine year old’s perspective. I am looking forward to reading more of it.
 I am a disaster in the kitchen, and so less bothered about my lack of culinary skills, that I stupidly flaunt it. I had a panic attack once when I was asked to boil eggs, because the duration of boiling was as unfathomable to me as the mysteries of life and death. When I was in a hostel, I was a mere bystander when other girls chopped vegetables, measured oil, marinated with spices and cooked delicious dishes that I shamelessly ate. My mother shudders to think what I would cook for my husband after marriage. Maggi noodles and cornflakes, quips my aunt. Then a month ago I read Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert. I fell in love with Italy. The food in the book personified and seduced me. Indian meditation and Balinese life balance intrigued me too. But Italy won. Not just the country and the language, even the food. I downloaded apps on my phone to learn Italian verbs, listened to the soundtrack of ‘La Dolce Vita’, and ate Italian food at restaurants. This phase lasted a fortnight. It mellowed down after that, but my ‘Italy’ hangover did the unthinkable. It made me venture into unknown territory within my own home, the kitchen. I cooked. Pastas, frittatas, and a variety of soups. As I skinned and seeded tomatoes, and whiffed the herbs in the soup, I FINALLY discovered the “joy” in cooking. It wasn’t finger-licking good, but after a few mishaps, I can now cook some decent Pasta. My mother thanked her stars at this small start. ‘All hope isn’t lost’.
July saw me falling in love, that went unrequited and September found me making peace with it. It’s Phase 3. After Phase 1 of dazed existence, and Phase 2 of sleepless nights, constant turbulence of thoughts, and brooding about the same person every day; this is a cool, refreshing gulp of air. It has cleansed and calmed me, and has brought back some much needed focus and stability to my life. Getting a grip on my thoughts had been a topsy-turvy and unpleasant ride, but time has worked its magic again. Relief. 
 I also discovered Basho’s Haiku poems in the past month; another delightful discovery this autumn. It appealed to me like no other poetry ever did. I watched “Winter Days”, a short anime movie about visuals from Basho’s haiku poems. I basked in his words. I made a clumsy attempt at writing a few Haiku poems myself too, which are on this blog here and here.
And to round it all up, there had been a 6.8 earthquake on Sunday that literally shook the life out of me for the briefest of moments. It has resulted in a sad loss of life and property in idyllic Sikkim and neighboring areas; not to mention the emotional trauma, fear and alarm that it has caused in the whole of India. I will always remember though that at the precise moment when the ground beneath me shook, I sprouted legs that could run as fast as the wind. I, who am outpaced by my eight year old cousin on long walks, glided downstairs from my second floor flat with my hard drive, phone and folder of school and college certificates in ten seconds flat. I salute my inner runner.
My autumn has just begun…

I wish I was in your class again.

“The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called ‘truth’.”

You might remember me only as a face in your classroom. But I will always be grateful for your support, belief in me and guidance at crucial points of my life. I feel blessed to be your student.

This is for you:~

Ma’am Deepti Singh: For that encouraging smile, a pat on the back, and developing a healthy competitive streak in me. And it touches me that you remember me even though it has been fifteen years since I last sat in your classroom. You were, are and will always be my favorite teacher in the whole wide world.

Sir Bijoy Handique: You were a lot of firsts for me. You were the first person to notice the ‘biggest introvert’ (me) in the classroom, the first to appreciate my work, the first to believe that I could achieve something big, the first to create a genuine interest to learn something instead of mugging up for exams and what do you know, you were even my first crush! I will always like history 🙂 And the fact that you still remember me as the little girl in a grey skirt, wearing tiny, hoop earrings and traveling to school in the old fiat…delights me no end.

Ma’am Manjula: Your smile comforted me on the first day of kindergarten. You taught me the alphabet. You didn’t laugh when I said that I sent my sports shoes to the ‘barber’ for cleaning!

Ma’am Ruprekha: I still remember the first thought that crossed my mind when I first saw you, “If my grandmother dressed up in chiffon sarees and wore lipstick, she too would look as beautiful as Ruprekha Ma’am”. I think your maternal aura made it impossible for anyone not to like you. How you patiently listened to my fanciful imaginations about ETs, doppelgangers and the ghosts in the school church!

 Ma’am Anita: You were the woman of 2011 in 1994! You made learning such fun. You brought beautifully crafted jewellery boxes to class when teaching about indigenous craftsmanship of Jammu and Kashmir, you taught us to appreciate the beauty of a song’s lyrics (the example was ‘ek ladki ko dekha toh aisa laga‘), you striked the perfect balance between being amiable yet someone we didn’t dare anger!

Sir Joseph: You introduced me to the world of books…novels, poems, short stories, essays, and even limericks. You let me borrow 4 library books every month when the rule was a limit of maximum 2 books. You played chess with me and didn’t make a big fuss when I bunked PT class. You also bought me pastries in the school canteen, when the queue was long. You are awesome 🙂

Ma’am Srivastav: You always saw through my trick of feigning stomach ache when it was my turn to read a passage from the Hindi textbook, but you didn’t scold and embarrass me in front of the class. You gradually let the love for the language grow on me, even though it never reached substantial heights. But you managed to hold my hand and walk with me through my living hell of writing Hindi essays!

Fr. Philip: I am yet to see a person as dashing and as charismatic as you. I doubt whether I’ll ever see one. The way you spoke, the way you walked, the way you taught us the values of life was awe inspiring. But during tiffin break you patiently answered the questions of two enthusiastic little girls, my best friend and me, ranging from the contents of your lunch box to ‘why bad things happen to good people’. You let us rummage through your personal library every day. And when I left my hometown and joined a new school, you uncomplainingly passed on my long letters, addressed to the school principal, to my eagerly waiting friends in that old classroom. Yes, I will never meet anyone like you again.

Sir Angelus: You were aggressive, and you never missed the target when you threw a chalk piece at an errant student. You scared me when you threatened to clip my long nails in front of the whole class. Yet, when I came to know you better, I thought you were the most gentle person I had ever met! Your razor sharp wit, your quirky assignments, your exciting tales, and the fact that you were the lone inhabitant of the school at night (as your living quarters were on the spooky top floor of the school) made you quite the interesting character. You disciplined us when we needed it the most.

Rafida Ma’am: You taught the most boring subject on earth. Social Studies. Yet, I never dozed off in your class. You helped me adjust to a new school. You handed me important responsibilities, so that I felt more involved in the alien environment. You advised in hushed tones to each of the girls individually when it was their time to start wearing a bra. I anticipated the dreaded moment and it lived up to the most awkward conversation (or was it just nodding my head) of my life. You left us all bereaved early this year, but I would always remember you fondly. RIP, Rafida Ma’am.

Sir Ratul Rajkhowa: You instilled in me a love for life sciences and consequently medicine. Your tuition classes were so much fun. You showed us the bottled gall bladder stones of your wife while solving genetics problems, you showed us your Bihu music cassette while classifying bacteria, and told us about your stint with the Indian Navy when we discussed ecological hazards! I so enjoyed those two hours of biology tuitions every morning.

Sir Balwant: I excelled in mathematics in school because of you. I was a dunce when it came to numbers, but your teaching showed me how mathematics could be fun. Your black diary with the toughest mathematical problems, invoked in me such a competitive streak to solve all of them before anyone else, that it scared me. You are such a down-to-earth and humble person. I will always appreciate your confidence in my abilities.

Sujata Ma’am: English seemed more than substance writing and grammar. Poetry awakened dreams instead of being monotonously mugged up for exams. I loved that you understood and took care of the individual needs of each of your students. You are such a witty, and for a lack of a better word ‘spunky’ woman. I liked your ideas, and everything you had done in life. You will always remain my idol.

Sir Jnanendra Sharma: I can’t picture Gauhati Medical College without you. You are a great teacher and one of the most tirelessly hard working person I’ve ever met. During undergraduate days, you always encouraged this “Jorhat’or suwali” to work hard, and I really did during Pediatrics, which still is my favorite subject. Even when I was going through a bad phase of severe anxiety and cut myself off from the whole world, you were the only teacher who was supportive and gave me hope. You are a busy man and you didn’t have to care if your past pupil was having a problem, but you did. And I will always be thankful for it. You didn’t even make me feel awkward by questioning about my past problems, when I resumed my normal life. You made it very comfortable for me. I hope someday this “jorhat’or suwali” will be able to make you proud in her own small way.

Sir Sahid Ali: You are knowledge personified. And you are genuinely interested in sharing your knowledge with all your students. You care. A lot. And that’s why I respect you so much.

Ma’am Gayatri: You are an epitome of intelligence, hard work and positive attitude. I always wanted to work hard in your classes. Especially pediatric ward classes. You are one of the finest women I have ever met.

Sir Suresh Chakraborty: I always looked forward to your questions about Gabriel Garcia Marquez to Satyajit Ray at the end of the psychiatry class. You made psychiatry come alive. I loved when you encouraged us to make diagnosis, validate it with strong arguments, and supported it with that happy smile of yours. You had always encouraged me to write during my undergraduate days in GMC, and I’d always be thankful for that.

Probodh Da: I hated it when you cut short the evenings, meant for having fun with my cousins, with boring homework assignments. But you never missed a class for 8 years, and made sure I stick to the books. I enjoyed the chat sessions at the end of the class, and playing scrabble with you.<

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The Rain

I nestled my face against the half open windowpane, a book on my lap as I watched the clouds veil the sun and paint the sky a sharp grey. The wind blew in a stray leaf through my window; it was from the tree that I wake up to every morning. I picked up the papery leaf, and placed it on page 96 of the book I had been reading. It can wait.

Soon, it was coming down really hard. Sudden. Unexpected. Gratifying. I heard it on the tin roof, felt it on my outstretched hand, breathed it in as it soaked the garden, saw it glisten on the new road, and tasted it in a warm samosa and mango pickle.

I watched the rain for an hour, as it cocooned me from everything that bothered me in the recent past. I had said too much, messed up priorities, and hurt many. Relying on a memory that blocked out unpleasant incidents and repressed mistakes, I tried to lead a normal life; but kept on making the same mistakes over and over again. The brain was quick to mask them before I could learn my lesson. I lived in illusions to make it from one day to the other.


I needed this hour of quiet retrospection to break this vicious chain. I needed to feel something fresh and unsullied, that could wash away the accumulating grime of unmet expectations, a shaky self-image and futile hopes. I needed it to unfurl a blank, white sheet of my life; a new start imbibing much needed realizations and a clearer perspective. I needed the rain.

It stopped at dusk, as suddenly as it had come. The evening air, the black outline of the treetops, the lights gleaming on the distant hill, the raindrops on my windowsill, the wetness in my palm; I tried to absorb in everything as I woke up from my reverie.

Switching on the light, I opened page 96 and read on.

Letters


I beg anyone who has ever been in love to remember how one usually hurries home after dropping the letter in the box, rapidly gets into bed and pulls up their quilt in full conviction that as soon as one wakes up in the morning, one will be overwhelmed with memories of the previous day and look with rapture at the window, where the daylight will be eagerly making its way through the folds of the curtain.”
~Anton Chekhov
I read and re-read these words written a century and half ago, and marveled at their relevance even in the age of BBM, emails and tweets. I had clicked the ‘send’ button in Gmail, instead of dropping a letter in the postbox, but I felt equally overwhelmed by delightful anticipation on sending a letter to the one I love.
The Chekhov quote reminded me of those days of taking out time to pen a long, hand-written letter. I had not received such a letter for more than a decade. Email is the more available, more convenient option. So is a facebook wall and SMS. And there’s always the phone.
But how I miss writing long letters! I am terrible at making small talk, and overcompensate for it by writing long mails. That’s the most important reason I write. I can give some form to my thoughts and feelings, which become blurred in course of a conversation.
If and when I get married, I would want my husband to write letters to me. And patiently read my long letters. Even when we are living in the same house. It sounds silly, and probably is so, but I always want to experience the intimacy and the pleasure of exchanging hand-written letters.
During my childhood, summer vacations always brought letters from friends, cousins and pen pals. Pen-pals. Yes, I had a few. Just the very idea of communicating with a faceless person, who was from a different culture and country, and comparing notes with them during the growing up years was very exciting to me.
But as it happens to most things as time goes by, the child-like enthusiasm to write to a pen-pal faded away, and so did the pen-pal. I didn’t care anymore about sitting down cross-legged on my bed with the pen and letter pad on my lap and writing to a friend I had never met about my experiences in school and the books I had read in a scraggly script, oblivious to the rest of the world for a blissful hour. My parents got a telephone connection one summer and the new thrill was talking to my best friend every few hours about how many pages of history homework I completed, the latest songs we heard, and gossiped about how the new girl in class was such a big gossip. It was again the more available and more convenient option to communicate. Why waste time writing letters and waiting for days to receive a reply when I can just pick up the phone and talk? Letters faded away from my life. And I didn’t even feel their absence.
I shifted to a new city when I was in the 8th standard. I missed my friends back home and exchanging letters became a habit again. There were a lot of friends I wanted to write to but I didn’t know everyone’s addresses. So I used to address a fat envelope containing a nearly ten page letter to the school principal! And he was kind enough to pass the letter without complaining to my amused friends who read it in the classroom. And there were days when I walked in home after school and my mother handed me an equally fat envelope addressed to me. I can’t describe in words the joy I felt on reading my friends’ replies where they rejoiced with me in my achievements, gave me advice on my problems, described in detail hilarious incidents, shared the going-on in their lives, updated me on the latest happenings in my old school. And the familiar handwriting, the doodles, and the violet ink; these are memories I will always treasure.
When I had my first heartbreak I was devastated and I wanted to share it with someone who would understand the gamut of emotions I was going through, someone who won’t judge me by my wrong choices and patiently hear me out. I wrote a letter saying all that to my father. He understood and most importantly he didn’t laugh when I wrote him a letter from the next room!
And ever since that day whenever I face a problem where I am at a loss of words in communicating it, I write a letter. When I am in love, I write a letter. When I miss a friend, I write a letter. When it’s my favorite cousin’s birthday, I write a letter. When I want to apologize, I write a letter.
I will always write letters.

That Old Diary

There’s something about opening an old diary with its moth-eaten faded brown jacket; leafing through the smooth yellowed pages and breathing in the faint odor of memories cocooned over years. The writing is familiar but the words seem to tell about long-forgotten stories, and I feel guilty about prying into my own thoughts, as if delving into the mind of another person.

Memory can be a tricky thing and we modify, glorify or amplify it over the years. But the old diary quietly holds onto our real memories, good and bad, unchanged over the years. Few instances seem so new I wonder whether it actually happened to me. And some feelings are so out of sync with what I feel now I am left wondering whether I had actually imagined those feelings! It its like reading fiction.

Sometimes I feel sad reading the innermost child-like thoughts of a younger version of me; unsullied by grief or mistakes, blissfully ignorant of the harsher lessons of life awaiting her. I feel elated at her joys, want to comfort her when she had a bad day, encourage her, warn her about wrong judgments and protect her.

To get to the end is exhausting; it’s like living many lives. There’s a sense of wonder that it’s me all along; all those experiences, all those thoughts shaped by what life had to offer and how I tackled it. It’s still me who had loved so passionately, laughed so heartily, worked so hard, wept so quietly and felt so much over the years. That’s how I came into being.


And these written words, childish scrawls to elegant scripts, with doodles every now and then; are a witness to my life. There’s a sense of joy, calm, pride, a little regret too, and a lot of hope.

Now new pages await to be filled up and in a few years from now I’d again marvel and even laugh at my twenty-five year old self’s thoughts and wondering, ‘seriously, what were you thinking?!’

That’s the thing about opening an old diary; going through petals pressed against the days of first love, tear streaked pages of loss and smiley doodles signing off happy days; it’s like coming home.

Unbiased Love

The child is deformed‘.
That’s the first thought that crossed my mind when I first saw him. The mouth hanging open, rotund belly, protuberant saucer like eyes, muddy complexion, disproportionately thin limbs and a very questionable hygiene. He wore a blue sweater stained with the contents of his breakfast.  I surveyed him as I walked towards him to monitor his vitals before the morning clinical rounds. His case file said he was ten years old; it was hard to judge from his appearance.
My approach scared him. He perceived the stethoscope hanging around my neck with apprehension often seen in young children but not usually a ten year old. He put his thin arms around the old man’s neck who was sitting on his bed. His grandfather, I presumed. I gently pried him away from around his grandfather’s neck and put the cuff  around his thin arm to monitor his blood pressure. I tried not to look at his face with the saliva drooping from the corners of his mouth and remnants of his breakfast still stuck on his face. Something wet hit my hand. I inwardly cringed as I rubbed away a drop of saliva that fell onto my hand from his mouth. I hurriedly examined him and went out of the room.
I love children‘, I reminded myself. ‘All children deserve unbiased loving‘. But even during evening duties, relatively less hectic and allowing me the leisure to chat and play with the children admitted in the ward, I never could bring myself to approach his bed, caress his cheek and ask him how his day went. I avoided looking at his bed, at him, at his grandparents who looked defeated by everything in the world. I didn’t despise him, but I couldn’t feel the love and care that gets naturally evoked towards all children.
The day after Christmas I had night duty at the ward. At one-thirty AM I lied down to rest on the creaky bed in the room assigned for interns. Hardly ten minutes later I heard loud cries of a woman coming from a distance. I presumed it was from the adjacent female medicine ward. But just to be certain, I opened the door of my room.
It was the boy’s grandmother. Howling and running towards my room, her faded yellow sari trailing behind her. I went to check on the boy and found him breathing rapidly in short gasps. His grandfather stood rooted to the spot even when I asked him to carry the boy to the adjacent ICU. Eventually another attendant helped me carry the boy to the adjacent pediatric ICU. I alerted the senior doctor on duty, and started the boy on oxygen and monitored his vitals. His grandfather still stood transfixed in the room, and his grandmother lay sprawled on the floor outside the ICU and crying even louder. I tried to calm her down while the senior doctor examined her grandson.
I looked back at his body; his protuberant belly rising rapidly up and down as he struggled to breath and his thin arms lying feebly by his side. His oxygen mask slipped from his face and as I fixed it in place he held my finger in his palm. His eyes were closed but he could sense someone’s presence near him and held onto that person for comfort.
At that moment I could see the child in him, the lovable child that I had failed to see earlier. I felt very protective about him suddenly. I wiped the drool of saliva from the corner of his mouth. I didn’t cringe this time. I looked at his grandmother, her face pressed against the glass door of the ICU. I heaved a sigh of relief every when I saw his vitals normalize.
I left the ward at 8 am the next morning and had a twenty four hour break. I came back to ward on 28th morning and found his bed empty. My heart stopped beating for a moment. I questioned the post graduate trainee on duty about him, inwardly praying that nothing bad had happened to him. His grandparents had taken him home a few hours ago. They had left against medical advice. I don’t know whether I will ever see him again or whether he will even survive for long, since he would be devoid of medical care.
Doctors meet hundreds of patients every week, hear different stories and encounter many families in distress trying to cope with illness and death. They interact with people at their most vulnerable moments. It’d be hard to survive if one emotionally connected and felt for every patient and their family. Life would be perpetually depressing to see human suffering at such close quarters and get emotionally attached to all of them. So, an emotional detachment is vital just for basic survival!
But once in a while I can’t help being emotionally attached with a patient and their families. It’s difficult to predict what triggers such an attachment. But it renews a compassion and care that is often forgotten in this busy world. And I feel grateful to that ten year old boy for reviving it in me at the right time.

Lost and Found

It feels strange typing these first words after neglecting my blog for so long. I actually fumbled around the blog dashboard to find the ‘New Post‘ compose button. I had been busy. But not so much that I couldn’t have squeezed in a few minutes of writing every week. I could have but I chose not to. I had started doing what everyone else around me were doing, mimicking their pastimes and their routines. It was work, studies, watching movies, getting together with friends, eating out…the usual stuff. Not just my habits but my whole personality went a sea change. I became more ‘social’; not extrovert, just more open to mingling with other people, small talk, taking the initiative to talk to people around me. I actually chatted up random strangers, which is so unlike me, given my total lack of social skills.

I got so involved in this routine, this ‘new‘ me, I had long neglected the things I loved to do. Writing, watching obscure foreign language films, reading and re-reading the authors I cherish, traveling, amateur photography, sketching…stuff that had always created and contributed to my happiness, a world I loved escaping into. But once I got stuck in this new web of superficial pleasures and pastimes, I became too lazy to get back to doing things that I love. Sometimes in the middle of a conversation, when I’m unusually chatty, I halt and mentally stare at the person I’ve become. And I realize it’s not the real me. Being more confident, the feeling of belonging to the ‘normal, everyday‘ people has been fun. But who am I fooling? It’s just so not me.

There had been surprise in their eyes and an awkwardness in the air when I interacted with the people I’d known for long and who were well-acquainted with my introvert nature. And there had been moments when my ‘friendly‘ attitude, new and clumsy, seemed too upfront to people and created misunderstandings that were totally uncalled for and embarrassing. And my idle mind crammed with just exam MCQs and small talk of the day, devoid of any creative pursuits, fell prey to daydreaming. I did few pretty stupid stuff. I don’t like this new change anymore even though I had secretly always craved it!

Each person is unique with their unique quirks and flaws and passions. I am a shy person. I prefer catching up on my reading on a Saturday night. I freeze at the thought of making small talk. I don’t like reading novels about vampires and girls addicted to shopping. I don’t like rowdy parties and large crowds and prefer small, intimate gatherings. If I fall in love, I love to love alone, cherishing the secret. I love being silent and contemplating a thousand thoughts even amidst a crowd. And in the past few days my mouth hurt from grinning inanely at jokes that I didn’t even find funny. However boring it may sound or is to others, but that’s me. That’s who I am; and who I have been in the recent past is totally contradictory to my real self.

Be true to who you are and do what you love irrespective of what the world thinks about you. Life’s too short to be wasted on pretense of any sort.

This post was my advice to myself. It feels great blogging after a long gap and to have finally found and accepted me.

Living with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Losing a childhood friend to a rare and fatal post-operative complication of a minor surgery or hearing the news of second relapse of my cousin to breast cancer would have broken my spirits had it occurred a few months ago. I would have been a nervous wreck.

I can’t adapt well to stress and bad news. Anticipatory anxiety, fearing what might happen, over-analyzing little details, brooding over hard facts of life that can’t be changed…my life at 24 was a never-ending series of worries of varying magnitude.

I used various adaptation ( mostly immature) techniques to avoid stress; avoiding confrontation with the real issue and procrastinating indefinitely, whining and cursing my fate, perennially questioning ‘why me?‘, retreating into a self-created cocoon; and the worst, obsessing over the worries and compulsively acting out irrational acts in an attempt to negate the bad thoughts that came to my mind. Like if I let the books on my shelf remain disorderly, scary thoughts that come to my mind regarding my loved ones will come true! So, I would spend a lot of my time arranging and re-arranging the books alphabetically, or by author, or by genre and spend a good 2-3 hrs unproductively! Absurd? Yes Irrational and impulsive? Yes. I knew it? Yes. So, I stopped doing it? Hell no!

Life had come to a standstill for me. Growing up with a strong sense of cleanliness and organization, it never occurred to me that severe stress will create havoc with this very organization fetish! It started gradually with breaking of basic discipline of my priorities;studies and household chores. I got distracted by superficial, fickle gratifications rather than a sense of satisfaction of completing my responsibilities well. Once distracted, it was hard to go back to my earlier routine. Acceptance of this problem and seeking help didn’t cross my mind. Anxiety built up during exams, family crisis, expectations not met…the cumulative effect of which I couldn’t anticipate. I felt if I did everything 16 times, bad things won’t happen to my family! I studied each line 16 times and completed a mere two pages of studying every day. I was busy with ‘pseudo work’. Making schedules and time-tables, procrastinating and again making new time-tables. Vicious cycle!

I had emotional breakdowns, woke up in panic, had insomnia, suffered from hormonal imbalances, gained weight, was lethargic, had hair loss, joint pain and an incurable headache; which a string of physicians couldn’t cure. My self-confidence had taken a beating. My obsessive-compulsive habits increased, fueled by my anxieties and in an effort to negate them.

If my mother was late in coming home after her weekly shopping trip, the first thought that crossed my mind that she had met with an accident! Not that she could be caught in a traffic jam, or she ran some other errands on the way, or that she stopped by a friend’s place on the way home. If my father had a bout of cough and sneezing at night, I would remain awake whole night dreading that we would have to again rush him to hospital like the time when he had sepsis! A mere cough and cold equated in my mind to sepsis! I became suspicious of people’s comments and doubted ulterior motives because of few inaccurate judgments on my part earlier. Generalizing men and their intentions became a habit modeled on my exes and their flaws!

Then came a time when  my career and personal life started getting seriously hampered by my inability to deal with stress and acting out as OCD. I sought help, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), to recognize, halt and remove obsessive anxiety-inducing thoughts. It took me few months of CBT, a healthy diet, a yoga regimen, deep breathing exercises, a conscious and deliberate desire to overcome my problems and reach out to others, like I used to earlier.

Now I’m back to leading a normal life; the competitive streak in me returning, self-confidence boosted up, and anxieties a thing of the past. Sure, I get anxious but I know now where to cut it. I’m the master of my mind and not the other way round anymore.

A big help was the book, “How to stop worrying and start living” by Dale Carnegie. A single quote from the book kept me going through all hurdles: “Every day is a new life for the wise man.”

Past regrets, future worries, what could have been, what might happen…erase all these from your mind. Just concentrate on today. Live ‘TODAY’ well. Make ‘TODAY’ worthwhile. Love, laugh, work, have fun…do it all today. It’s the only thing we’ve control upon…’NOW’, the present moment. Live it well. Rest will take care of itself. And when obstacles threaten to overpower your resolve to keep going, just remember that ‘Every man can carry his burden, however hard, till nightfall…”.

One day at a time, one step at a time, forget multi-tasking…That’s the mantra. And seek help if you have OCD. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s a disease you’ve to combat, just like diabetes or hypertension, but which can be paralyze your life more than a physical illness. Don’t be bothered about social stigmas associated with consulting a psychiatrist, or being branded weak-willed. You can control your mind, you just might need guidance during stress.

Leading a happy, fulfilled life with OCD is not just a possibility. It’s my reality.

The Change

Rrrrrrrrrring. The alarm goes off. Eyes half-shut, I fumble to hit the ‘snooze‘ button. But I’m denied those blissful five minutes of extra sleep. My mother noisily draws the curtains open; the sunlight nearly blinding me. Then starts the usual early morning lecture, primed to perfection by twenty years of uninterrupted practice, about the horrors sloth will inflict upon my future. I grudgingly accept defeat and get out of bed. And the day starts just as grudgingly. Why should I wake up early?  What for? What awaits me today? Unlimited rest, boredom, uncertainties about future, battling my own personal demons each day.

Two long years pass by…each moment of inactivity weighs heavy on my mind.
 
Rrrrrrrrrrrring. The alarm goes off. Eyes wide open, I fumble to yank the curtains open and greet the morning light. I stretch my arms, and get out of bed. A quick shower follows. Read the news, gulp down my breakfast, pack my bag. My mother watches me half-smiling. I love this morning rush, the spring in my step, the revival of a long lost enthusiasm. What awaits me today?

A day at work. Finally. The long craved change has finally begun. 🙂 🙂

(Photos: http://www.iandale.net/journal/uploaded_images/040507_AlphaSleep-740874.jpg
http://www.galantysgameplan.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/istock_000003781332xsmall.jpg )

The Walk Between Sunset and Moonrise


I halt at sunset, forever it seems;
The darkness unsettling,
Mirroring the shadows I take refuge in.
Caught in a tiring dilemma;
The day I cannot return to,
A night I dread to enter.
Past failures, present indecisiveness,
Future unpredictability haunts me.
Time is past, the battle lost;
And I must never emerge from my shell.

And then a brave new hope…

I walk towards the moonrise,
Stepping on, are those past failures?
Emboldened each moment,
I take small steps, surer steps.
Something brings hope,
Blows away uncertainties.
I search for my old self,
Perhaps looming in the distant horizon;
But a better self is mirrored back,
Now, this moment; I am she.
Unburdening the inferiority and pessimism,
I break into a run.

Is that a brighter light I see?

I run towards the dawn.
Time’s ticking away;
No use mourning the moments lost,
I would lose some more.
To catch up would be tough,
To surpass, euphoric.
I see it now, my goal, definite and clear;
The remoteness doesn’t scare me,
Nor will that darkest hour before dawn,
The one with wagging tongues, critical stares,
Deadly impatience and relapses into self-pity.
Translating this strong self-belief into action,
I shape my destiny;
And I run, like never before,
Towards the inviting new day.

Photo Courtesy: http://larsvandegoor.deviantart.com/art/Count-Your-Blessings-155154145

And Chlorine Became My Perfume


They say the plunge into unknown depths is like love. It will bruise you if shallow or its depth will give you the most wonderful dive of your life.

After the initial screams of panic, muscle stiffness, being nearly blinded by the chlorine and awkwardness of being in a bathing suit died down (which nearly took a month), the swimming pool stopped being a thing of terror. I never thought myself to be hydrophobic until I was pushed into the a four feet deep pool and thought I was going to drown. I never knew how self-conscious I was of my body image until my first awkward walk out of the changing rooms for my swimming lesson. I never knew how my initial fear and pre-conceived notions held me back from trying out new things until I took my first dive after two weeks of climbing up and down the diving board.

My decision to take up swimming last year was one of the best lifestyle changes I ever made. During my childhood I swam in the pond (yes, a pond, not a fancy pool) at our home, especially during the summer holidays but it wasn’t too deep and it was more frolicking in the water than learning how to swim. Moreover, I was no longer pleasantly plump and bordered on being  obese. Swimming seemed the perfect solution to lose the extra flab and cross off one item from my ‘things to do before I’m 30’ list. I browsed through nearly a dozen shops in search of a modest swimsuit and also the swimming cap and the goggles (which never failed to fog up). And the next day I was at the pool.

I took it up for fitness. A heightened sense of self-awareness, a calm mind and losing my fear of tackling the unknown were added bonuses. I still haven’t lost the flab entirely and at times the prospect of sleeping late seems more inviting than a frighteningly early morning swimming lesson but this is one activity which I will try to pursue as often as I can.

It’s a pain waking up at five in the morning for exercise and I pack my bag and head out to the pool half-asleep. But the moment I’m in the water relishing the slight shiver, breathing in the crisp morning air and floating in the crystal clear water, I’m home.

After a few laps I feel my body become lighter, the breathing regular and enjoying the the silky touch of the water on my skin. I don’t compete and rarely keeping tabs on the time taken to make a lap. I swim at my own pace. And within minutes I am not aware of the movement of my limbs. Just like breathing, barely perceiving. The mechanical strokes become almost meditative and my mind is free to ponder on my thoughts, often gaining new perspectives. I take in the beauty of the early morning, soaking in the warm sunshine; feasting my eyes on the blue water; it’s a state of pleasing serenity.

Then there is the joy of people-watching too. The pool is the meeting ground of a variety of people. There is the paranoid young girl flapping her arms since for more than a month at the shallowest end of the pool. There is also the “I-feel-I-am-God’s-gift-to-womankind-because-I-have-a-super-toned-butt” guy who strides leisurely around the pool looking very pleased at the beauty he exudes. The young lady of seventy who competes with her grandchildren, the professional swimmers hard on their training, the rowdy kids occasionally kicking me in the head in their enthusiasm to race each other, a giggling gang of fat funny females and few disturbingly attractive women who shine with the confidence that cellulite and stretch marks will never be a part of their lives, and lastly the instructors who have their own personal quirks; all these people are a part of my swimming experience.

I’m longing to go back into those blue waters after a prolonged break during the winter.

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/73303415@N00/2817664242/

The Unrest Cure


I needed an “Unrest Cure”.

Saki (H.H.Munro) had mentioned it in one of his many delightful short stories. Stressed and harried individual retires to a relaxing environment, enjoy the sunshine, take a few long walks, laze around with some music or a book, spends some quality time with family and goes back to their usual hectic lives well-rested and with renewed vigour. That’s the “Rest Cure”. The exact opposite is the cure for those people who feel annoyed if the disturbing monotony of their lives gets altered, even the minute details. They find comfort in the predictability of what the day holds for them; they become mere spectators of the outside world and all the excitement it involves. It is such people who need an “unrest cure” to jolt them out of their routine and often complacent existence.

The past couple of years, I found myself getting more inclined towards leading a life planned to the last detail; soaking in the comforts of home and the known. I sought solace in the fact that I have my life planned to what I’d be doing five months and three days later (the answer: what I’m doing today!). I googled for articles on “How to wake up refreshed in the morning”! I had a hard time fighting Monday blues, and Tuesday blues, and you get the idea! I heard about, watched, felt awed and delighted in the spontaneity and excitement in the lives of those around me. But I was reluctant to disrupt my quiet existence. And I was just 23. It’s sad. But sometimes one gets addicted to the sort of days when nothing happens, and living life in a leisurely pace (which is highly over-rated!). It’s not so that I was seeking constant excitement or thrills. I just needed a break from this mind-set of seeking comfort in the familiar and the known.

I’ve started making small changes in the career front. I know I’m taking huge risks in terms of money, job security, and time in veering away from the expected (read secure) options. I admit I am scared. Not “what-was-I-thinking” scared, but “this-is-new-but-I-am-so-going-to-do-this” scared. Travelling, taking up new hobbies, learning a new language and meeting new people are small steps towards my “unrest cure”.

Two things had been of huge help in adopting these changes. The first is a healthier lifestyle (less mental and physical lethargy, more zest). Secondly, there should be perseverance and belief in following your passions without being bothered by those who ridicule your non-conformity.

I love this restlessness.

Photo Courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/67603667@N00/945757852/

When Was The Last Time You Did Something For The First Time?

She asked me.

I thought. The minutes ticked by painfully slow. But I still couldn’t recall.

And it’s a sad thing.

In the past two years, I’d undergone a disillusionment towards the way my life has shaped out to be. It’d been a gradual process; stifled emotions squeezing their way out from the depths of my heart and thoughts I’d vehemently refused to ponder upon all these years.

A middle-class upbringing grounded on its own definitions of success and a future planned out to the last detail for me-a secure job of a doctor, a job in the US, a six figure salary-painted a pretty picture and I took the plunge.

In junior college my friends opted for biology as an elective. I wanted to continue hanging out with them, so did I. They brought application forms for medical entrance exam. Again I was scared of exploring new territory so, I stood in queue to get the application form. I cleared the exam at one go and my friends didn’t. It was only when I was sitting among unfamiliar faces in a class of a hundred and fifty students on that first day of medical college taking the Hippocrates oath I realized that I had chosen my career. This was it.

Hectic classes followed. I was forced to be a part of the race to survive the grueling years in medical college. I played my part and well too. I loved the power to heal that the doctors held. It’s the most powerful thing of all. You can give a new life to others. Some doctors realized the great responsibility that this power brought along and humbly offered their services to people. Rest were a bunch of inflated egos and a smirk, a retort, a snarl were the first things they had to offer to patients.

Many factors contributed to my disillusionment; the stifling and rigid curriculum, few biases, my own gradually escalating obsessive compulsive disorder and the most important of it all, I was finally beginning to think for myself.

I was a good student in the sense that I molded myself well to any situation you put me into. My parents could have put me into any career and I would have survived in that just by the inherent desire of trying to do well whatever I do. I could’ve been an engineer, a lawyer, a businesswoman, a teacher. Anyone. Whatever was the flavour, as a friend rightly put it.

I wasn’t the only one who had this mind-set while growing up, many of my peers and family has the same story to tell. Conservative Indian families have rigid rules about what a girl ought to do. Success was defined to me as a good job overseas, a few cars, a grand house, a flourishing career; this was the benchmark set before me. A close friend recently told me her parents had told her to enjoy her life once she passed the hurdle of matriculation exam. Then there were the hurdles of engineering entrance exam, engineering exam and now a MBA degree that she had to overcome before getting a chance to enjoy life, by which I’m sure she meant exploring her own hopes and aspirations and just for a moment enjoy the simple pleasure of not thinking about the next exam to clear. I wonder if she’ll ever get the chance.

We have mastered the art of loving what we do. During the past two years when I struggled with the thoughts of a life based on my own wishes, I was startled by my own and others’ responses. I am no writer. But I love to write. I want to learn the art of creative writing. I want to give serious thought to my interest in history and ancient scriptures. And I want to travel. Not fancy spas and luxury vacations. Just travel for the sake of travel. Maybe even the previously unexplored nooks of a nearby town. Travel is a liberty I crave for. But solo travel is still a dream. I only get to go on planned vacations to the usual tourist spots. And yet again, I have no option but to love what I get.

I still haven’t been able to cut my umbilical cord. My parents are the best parents I could’ve asked for. They have given me everything I want. Pampered a lot. But their over-protectiveness have led to such a situation now that I can’t go anywhere without another person accompanying me. It’s not the travel restrictions, it’s just that I’m still not allowed to be self-reliant even at the age of 24. I’m leading the life of a dependent 12 year old! And I haven’t been able to do anything about it. I can’t hurt my parents. I’ve tried discussing with them this problem, but there was no change in their protectiveness. Everyone comments on how it’s high time I pave my own life path. I know I should do that too. It’s already too late. My whole life has been sketched to the last detail by others. My whims were catered to but major decisions were already taken for me. Abandoning the noble profession of a doctor to pursue writing was frowned upon. Who in their right mind does that? Is success guaranteed? No. Will you make as much money as a doctor does? No. Is it a secure job? No. Are you aware of the hard life out there? No. Do you have the talent? Not yet. “So, shut up and concentrate on your career as a doctor. Time runs out fast for a girl. Your friends are getting married. Concentrate on getting PG in a good hospital, get married, have kids; and then you’ll have abundant time to follow your hobbies“. Will I?

I don’t have an aversion to being a doctor. I feel blessed that I’m given a chance to serve people in need. I have gone through instances in the past where I came close to losing my father to critical illnesses but it’s through sheer dedication and skill the doctors overcame all hurdles his age, his co-morbidities posed along with the critical illness. I have nothing but true devotion to this skill bestowed on doctors and which I’ve been given a chance to be a part of. But who goes to a “simple” MBBS degree holder these days? You need to have a string of degrees behind your name, fight out the fierce competition in private practice or positions in reputed hospitals. Do you know many hours of studying brings about these? Your entire youth. Do you have time to pursue on the side-lines your so-called “hobbies”? As an amateur? Yes. As a professional? No. They remain just “hobbies”.

I’m finally taking a stand on how my life is run. I deserve a say in that, don’t I? I’m officially not in the race anymore. My life, my pace, my dreams, my aspirations. Will the people who talk now about their idea of success and condemn me for losing the competitive streak provide a solution to the ever-increasing emptiness that grows with time in the runners of this rat race? They won’t.

So, why should I live my life according to what the world wants me to be? My definition of success: Being myself and doing what I love in a world that is constantly trying to make me do something else.

And here’s a huge thank you to Priyanka, my friend who asked me this question today. Thanks for being so supportive 🙂

Photo courtesy: http://i.telegraph.co.uk/telegraph/multimedia/archive/01408/happiness_1408507c.jpg

24…

The first few minutes of being “24”.

Pampered and immensely loved all my life. Blessed with best friends who also happen to be my parents; a younger sister who is the only person who knows me inside out and loves me despite it and an aunt who never lets me forget the little girl in me. And then there are my two soul sisters (yes, I do believe in that term), with whom I can relish the joy of silence without being compelled to indulge in mindless, superficial chatter. My kid cousins, whom I love a lot and I can’t remember what my world was like before those two were born. A career in the noble profession of medicine, a library full of books, a soul yearning to travel the world, a heart rejoicing at simple pleasures, an ambition to write, and contentment at creating my own happiness.

I’ve been on an emotional roller-coaster ride for the past four years. Dealing with my obsessive compulsive disorder which fuels anxiety and panic at the slightest stress; learnt a lesson too late about trusting people too easily; was misunderstood a million times; hurt my loved ones more than I ever intended; studies suffered for more than a year due to my OCD; came close to nearly losing my father in May…I wasn’t happy being 23.

But as I always say…the world thrives on hope and so do I.

Being 24 is going to be good.

Very, very good.

Note: Caught up with studies and exams the past few months and this will continue till January. Will get back to blogging as soon as my exams are over.

Mishaps Along The Road To Beautification

WARNING: THIS IS A VERY GIRLIE POST! MEN WOULD BE BORED BY IT.

I am overweight, 5’5”, and haven’t been able to tame my hair since the past 23 years. Not a favorable description for a young girl. But that’s the reality of my life.

The ugly duckling never turned into a swan. Fat, slim, short, tall, fair, dark, ugly, beautiful; I’d never really invested much thought in physical attributes. A person may have drop dead gorgeous looks and consider himself a boon to womankind; but if he doesn’t have a pleasing personality, a good sense of humor, and most importantly if I’m able to see the back of his head when I look into his eyes, I won’t give him a second glance. Character, personality, intellect, wit; that’s what interests me more.

And then I started hearing comments from my peers and family. There were few kids in school who used to tease me always because I didn’t have that peaches and cream complexion, had very short hair and was reed thin back then. In my family too, I used to hear random comments and comparisons with the good looking cousins. I’d had enough.

I know I can’t turn into a beauty overnight. But some serious damage control had to be done…but I was completely clueless about where to start.

1. Clothes, I decided. The only colors in my wardrobe then were black (98%), white (1%) and blue (1%). High time I introduced some more color to my clothes collection. But I don’t know the first thing about clothes design, color matching, embroidery, different clothing materials. And so many choices! Guys have it so easy; just shirts, tees and pants. Here’s a sample: In November, I was wondering what to wear for my brother’s wedding and my Bhabhi suggested, “Buy an Anarkali dress”. Right. But what on earth was that! Flashes of the movie Mughal-e-azam came to me. I had to call up few friends to find out what it was, and they were all aghast at my negligible knowledge of fashion! Too complicated, I tell you; especially coordinating the different pieces. What goes well with Harem pants, tees or kurtis, or are the pants out of trend already?

I decided not to fuss about clothes trends anymore and wear what I feel comfortable in.I started taking care that I wear simple yet tasteful clothes and make myself as presentable as I could.

2. Shoes. Shoes. Shoes. Own about 20 pairs now, and slowly adding to the list.

3. Accessories: No improvement on that field yet. I hate jewellery, but I’d started wearing a pendant bearing the letter “M” since past few years. Simple yet elegant. Non fussy. Just the way I like things to be. I have a few Esprit watches and bags. That completes the collection.

4. Make up was and is still a no-no. I feel awkward wearing make up. It is too much of a bother; applying lipstick, mascara, foundation and what not in the never ending list of options women have.

A couple of years back I started reading the occasional Cosmo and was amazed at the collection of cosmetics available. I have this fetish for moisturizers: body butter, lotion, body cream, face moisturizer, tinted moisturizer, night cream, day cream, winter cream; I started hoarding all of them. I say hoarding because an average bottle lasts me a year. As for applying lipstick, I swallow it within an hour of application. I get raccoon eyes with eyeliner and mascara, even the water-proof ones.

One of my most painful memories is of waxing. I quit after that first attempt. Depilatory creams were a pain free yet messy boon. I haven’t got used to even threading my eyebrows because of my low pain tolerance, and roam around with bushy eyebrows most of the time.

But now I try to remain loyal to the routine of cleansing, applying sunscreen, moisturizing, and short cuticle-free nails. Four basic steps in my road to beautification.

5. Perfumes: A fruity, citrusy note.

6. Hair cut at a proper beauty salon rather than the neighborhood ‘Aunty‘ who had been giving me and my sister haircuts at home since a long time.

7. Bright red nail polish, I find them irresistible. Short nails with rounded tips and bright cheery red nail polish painted on them is one pretty sight.

8. Black mascara: that’s the only piece of make up I wear and try not to get raccoon eyes.

After years of neglecting the way I look, I am on the road to beautification to look somewhat presentable. I can’t change my physical attributes but the least I can do is be confident enough to face the world and that confidence is boosted by wearing the right clothes(not necessarily branded expensive ones), having a sensible non fussy hairstyle, and proper accessories. I’m making the effort despite laziness and enjoying it too!

Vices (not men)…Can’t live without them, can’t live with them!

I had earlier written a post about Virtues, Vices and Ethics; in which I concentrated upon ethics and virtues. This is part two of the series and I’d like to mention my vices. I know my flaws; a few I try to avoid, and the rest has become a part of me.

Instant gratification
: I want something, I want it RIGHT NOW. Pronto! Immediately! It can be anything; a craving for my favorite dish, a new dream I want to pursue, letting someone know what’s exactly on my mind or a task I want done. I thrive on the adrenaline rush and pleasure of doing a task as soon as possible. This hurry and rashness in action without giving thought to prudence has put me in many a difficult situation. This can be a virtue if used constructively to pursue one’s goals in life. But can be a disaster if indulged in under the influence of anger or jealousy. I often find myself in a situation when I know I will be ashamed and embarrassed about the words I speak, but in that moment I just have to say it. I do it even with this awareness lurking in the subconscious that I’ll regret saying the very words soon enough. These are words and actions I would resolutely forbid others to do if they came to me for advice,; but when I find myself in the same situation, I’m guided by my instincts for instant gratification. But then it’s always easy to guide other’s lives than our own. I’ll say what I want to say and I’ll do what I want to do. Most often these are irrational words and actions that aren’t accurate portrayals of how I am as a person and done in an irresistible impulse.

Anger: I tolerate a great deal, but there’s a limit to it. And when that limit is crossed, God save the person who brought about this anger. My anger is (in) famous in the family and everyone likes to trace the anger genes I’d inherited. My father’s family is notorious for their mercurial temper and his sisters being the only female versions of angry young women in the past, they are often referred to as my predecessors! I get angry quickly, and then cool down just as quick. And I have mastered the art of being angry and torturing the person who made me angry with varying degrees of anger right from ‘exaggerated indifference to their existence’ to ‘a violent outburst’. But I don’t use expletives; I would instead use sentences that would wrench the heart out of the person. But getting angry is very human; few control it better than others. I never hold grudges and the anger episodes hardly lasts more than a week.

Jealousy: I’m a Scorpio, and although I’ve none of the Scorpio traits of being beautiful, mysterious and sexy (whatever that means); the fact that I’m a Scorpio shows on me only because of one trait, Jealousy. Not of riches, achievements or material things. It’s only romantic jealousy that I suffer from. And it’s this jealousy that brings about anger which in turn brings about the instant gratification I derive from irrational words and actions that makes me feel better at that moment and which I thoroughly regret later. It’s a vicious cycle. Not being in love has broken the cycle and I’ve been anger-free, jealousy-free and embarrassment-free for a long and happy period.

Perfectionist: When I set about doing something, I’ve to ensure it’s perfect. This causes irritation if other people are involved. I can never bring myself to trust another person completely to do something, exactly as I want it, without involvement from myself. If some task is entrusted to me, I want to be involved in its implementation at all levels and ensure that it is perfect. Every person has their own way of doing things, and most of the people I’ve encountered in group projects and tasks are quite laid back which is not my way of doing things. I can feel as uneasy as how Monica Geller feels if she is prevented from removing a dirt spot in the wall instantly. I want to tackle things as soon as I can, plan and organize them, and not just complete it but make sure it’s the best we could have done. As a result of this, I have some initial trouble adjusting to a group of laid back workers. And have to resist the temptation to organize and speed up things so as not to irritate anybody. But sometimes it’s too hard to resist and I take upon myself doing the whole task alone, much to the delight of the rest of the group who can relax as much they want then. The end result makes me happy but very tired, and it’s high time I can let go of this perfectionist trait to make my life simpler.

Sloth: Apart from studies and work I like to spend my spare time mostly lazing around; curling up with a good book, going on leisurely walks, watching movies, traveling once in a while or just catching up on sleep. In fact I spend most of my free time immobile in a couch or my bed, and the lack of activity is so sleep inducing. Another vicious cycle. Physical activity of any sort has gone way down in the past six years and I find myself huffing and puffing nowadays after climbing few flights of stairs. And I’m just 23. And over-weight (no surprises there). I was highly active till I was in the 11th std. Swimming and badminton were routine and I thoroughly enjoyed them and I was quite a fitness maniac. I had joined the local gym at the age of 13 and attended it for four years. Then sloth came into my life. Studies took up most of my time, and I took a break from all the physical activity and now I find myself unable to go back to my earlier routine.
(Note: I’ve erased this vice from my life now!)

Low Confidence: I’m a huge introvert and most of the time like the company of a select but thoroughly treasured individuals. I’ve problems socializing and meeting new people. I’m wary of hurried first impressions because of my non-existent conversational skills. Very few people are eager to delve into the depths of knowing a person; and frankly no one has the time and patience. It’s not that I dread meeting new people but I’m a loner by choice. I love spending my free time doing the things I enjoy. I’m trying to shed the barriers of low confidence and slowly getting to know more people. Blogging is one way of meeting so many like-minded people with a certain anonymity factor.

There are few more additions to the list: Getting too involved in solving other’s troubles and neglecting my own life, too trusting to the point of being taken advantage of, outspokenness to the point of being misinterpreted as rudeness at times, and white lies at times to excuse myself from doing something I abhor (which I thoroughly enjoy inventing)!

I’ve done it. Publicly listed my vices!

My Hair…(Almost) Gone with the wind

The social network Orkut had a question in the personal profile section, ‘What is the first thing people notice about you?’
I so wanted to write liquid eyes, tall stature or dimpled cheeks. But who was I kidding? Even a one-eyed drunk can notice from a mile away the disaster that is my hair. My unfortunate hair. Forget a silky, glossy mane; I don’t even have common, dull, thick hair. How do I count the ways to emphasize my point!

First is the sparsely populated scalp! Sometimes I feel I have like what a hundred hairs, which is reducing at an alarming rate! At the age of 23, I google for “female pattern baldness” and “hair transplantation”!

Second is the limpness. The world might change overnight and the sun may rise in the west but my hair would refuse to fluff up. And then I discovered mousse. God bless the makers of this miracle product!

Thirdly, the humidity factor. Humidity and extreme dry weather, both have disastrous effects on my hair. It doesn’t add volume as such, but turns me into a live demonstration of static electricity. Strands of hair flying in all direction; and untamed at any cost except for maybe shaving it off completely.

And the last, but not the least, the consistency of ‘bad hair days’ that it maintains. The rest of the world at least has a rare bad hair day, while good hair day continues to elude me. I was born with the unmanageable and unstructured curliest curls ever in our family.

And now I’ve no option but to wear my hair short to conceal the alarming hair loss. I’ve tried every remedy in the book, but in vain. I never thought hair could cause so much distress. Nearly every romantic Hindi song has at least one couplet praising the heroine’s lovely long tresses. I’ve been searching in vain for a song without the mention of those damn tresses that my beloved might someday be able to sing for me! It wrenches my heart when I see those shampoo ads and long, jet black hair blowing in the wind. I guess I’ll never have that. Or maybe I would. Let me google for wigs now.

Holiday from Hell

I took a sudden decision to go on a short vacation to Bangalore in the second week of May. My sister had a medical entrance exam there and I decided to accompany her and my dad and hoped to explore Bangalore while they were busy with exams. We set off to Bangalore on the fourteenth of May. We stayed over at my brother’s place and my brother and bhabhi went out of their way to make our stay in Bangalore quite enjoyable. Good food, shopping, sight-seeing, and just enough time off to curl up with a good book. It was bliss! It was also quite wonderful to watch the young newly-weds, my brother and bhabhi, run their home so efficiently.

And then things went horribly wrong. After a humongous shopping spree on 16th, we decided to have lunch in a restaurant on MG road. Pa along with the rest in the group ate seafood, while I being vegetarian stuck to typical North-Indian fare. Pa had slight indigestion the next day. But after I gave him some OTC medicines; he felt quite okay. On 18th we had an early morning flight to Mumbai and from there an evening flight to Guwahati.

After reaching home on 18th night, Pa felt seriously ill and had to be admitted to the hospital. at 10pm. He was shifted to the ICU that midnight. Everything was so sudden, that we were at a loss of what to do. He collapsed and his vital organs began to fail. He had food poisoning which spread in his entire body in a matter of few hours, aided by the fact that he is a diabetic. He was diagnosed with sepsis and multi-organ dysfunction. He was slipping away and doctors said that he had very little chances of survival, but they were fighting hard against controlling the infection. All our relatives from every nook and corner of the country gathered in the hospital. My mother who had recovered from a recent myocardial infarction was another great worry, and I had to make sure she was able to cope with whatever the outcome was.

And then on the third day in the ICU, my father’s spontaneous breathing stopped. I felt my whole world had collapsed. Nothing mattered and nothing will matter ever again. All I could think of was how four days back we were happily discussing the national election result and making guesses about the likely cabinet ministers, and then on the flight back home how I was busy reading a novel and hardly checked on him. I vomited in the corridor outside the ICU. I can’t describe in words how I felt. My sister fainted and I had to take care of my mother too. This can’t be happening to us, this wasn’t how it was all supposed to be. And then my uncle came running to us, and said that the doctors had been able to successfully resuscitate Pa. He was breathing again. I immediately ran to the ICU, forced my way in despite visitor restrictions and confirmed what my uncle said. I, who was never so much of a religious person, began praying day and night after that moment. After ten harrowing days of battling for life in the ICU, my father was finally out of danger. He was shifted to the ward. Two days after that, he was back home. But he needs to be on complete bed rest for a month. So, here I am, thankful for every moment to God, and the amazing critical care specialists in the hospital, esp Dr.Vandana Sinha. I will always be indebted to her for the miracle of my father’s surviving sepsis at the age of 59yrs and with the complicating co-morbidities of diabetes and hypertension. I’m thankful to all my relatives, near and far, who made every effort to decrease this ordeal for us through comforting words and actions. The help my dad’s office colleagues offered is something I will always remember and be thankful for.

It was a bad time for our family; fear, tension, anxiety and pain. Fear of losing the most important person in our lives. Time stood still for us, as we waited day and night outside the ICU, praying for his recovery, dreading every time the doctor called us in for an ‘important‘ talk. But they fade into oblivion when I see Pa at home now, reading the morning newspaper and watching cricket. So many times I’ve taken this man for granted, his very presence as something I would have for life. But this incident, least expected and so sudden, shook me up completely. Never ever I would give my parents a reason to worry or grieve because of me.

A lot of things have changed for me in the past month. My whole life was on the verge of coming to a standstill and picked up at the last minute. At times like this, we realize the true value of family, relatives and friends. And the need to believe in a higher being with the power to drive away all your troubles. I started believing in God instinctively, when I saw Pa in the hospital bed.

"Things I wish I hadn’t said in school" aka "What was I thinking?!?"

1. “I am absent”

(In response to the query why I’d not submitted my homework the day before)

2. “Miss, she took my copy and (longest pause of my life as I’d the sudden realization that I didn’t knew about the existence of the word ‘tore’) fali dile.”

(‘Fali dile’ is the Assamese translation of ‘tore it’)

3. “My mother is blind”.

(Because I couldn’t explain to the teacher that my mother is myopic and had difficulty helping me with the school project at night)

4.“Pride has a fall.”

(Because the two guys sitting immediately in front of me were making a huge racket and I wanted to say something to quieten them!)

5. “Sir, I can’t attend the sports drill today.”
“Why?”
“Personal problem of a girl, Sir.”

(And worse…I used the ‘personal problem’ excuse nearly three times a month and felt smug about conning the PT teacher!)

6. Teacher: “How come you failed on the spelling test?”
Me: “Because I was trying to fail the guy who sat next to me!”

(Once there was a spelling test, and the guy sitting next to me didn’t know anything and was trying to copy from me. I thought I would mislead him, and deliberately wrote the wrong spellings which he copied while I was sniggering all the time. Then the teacher announced we have only two minutes left to submit our papers. I panicked. I erased all the wrong answers and she took the copy from me before I could write down even a single spelling. The guy who sat next to me and I, both of us scored ‘zero’ on the spelling test. But the teacher said at least he attempted to write the spellings, while I submitted a blank sheet! My parents were called to school the next day!)

7. “I couldn’t wear the sports shoes today because my mother gave them to the barber.”

(Self-explanatory!)

8. Teacher to me: “Nice Haircut. Who cut it?”
Me: “Mistry!”

(I was seven, and my father used to take me along with him to the local saloon, where the barber was called ‘Mistry’ by everyone as is the habit in India to call the common workmen so. I hadn’t learned the word ‘barber’ yet!)

9. My friend: “He called me names. He called me a cow.”
Me: (in all seriousness) “Don’t feel bad. At least he didn’t call you a lizard or crow. Cow is a useful animal. You can give milk and dung to everyone!”

(Our friendship wasn’t as strong as earlier after that pep up talk I gave my friend)

10. “Avoidable reasons” on my absent note.

(I missed school one day because I overslept. I vaguely recalled a friend once writing “avoidable” or something on her absent note. She had written‘Unavoidable reasons’. It was a big word for me and I could only recall it entirely. Thankfully, the teacher had a sense of humor and didn’t scold me)

The soaring temperature is indirectly proportional to the longevity of my life!

I love summer. While growing up, it meant my favorite things in the world. Days get longer giving me and my cousins abundant time to play out, those two blissful months of summer vacations, no school or college, going for a swim about ten times a day; ice-creams and mangoes and water-melons, summer specials for kids aired on television; lying on the cool, tiled floor for a long siesta; the sun shining bright on our beautiful garden, resting under the shade of a tree after hours of playing in the sun, summer camps and catching up on my reading.

Cut to adulthood. Summer means the following: prickly heat, sweat, dehydration, sweat, lethargy and exhaustion, sweat, loss of appetite, sweat, insects, sweat, humidity, sweat, and scalp nearly ablaze!

Cut to 28th April, 2009. I woke up early, very early; okay, midnight. Studied, surfed the net. The sun rose at around 4-30am. And by 6am, it was already quite hot. I dreaded thinking about the rest of the day. The temperature hardly rises beyond 40 degree Celsius in this region, but the humidity alone is enough to kill you. Brimming with optimism as I always am (?), I decided to start the day by exercising the old, flabby muscles and sticking to my fitness resolution. BAD idea! I nearly died of exhaustion despite taking all the precautionary measures to avoid dehydration and muscle exhaustion. It wasn’t anything strenuous; just the heat and humidity seemed to have put my heart pump on 5th gear and I was huffing and puffing in just 20 minutes!

And since I was completely drenched in sweat by the end of the exercise routine, I decided to take a shower. I stood under the shower and awaited the cold stream of water, but instead my skin got scalded by boiling water! I frantically turned the ‘cold‘ water dial, only to be showered with a greater gush of boiling water. The water tank on the terrace had heated up!

After that disastrous experience I spent a good one hour lying perfectly immobile in my room, when my mother asked me what I would have for breakfast. That’s another advantage of summer for the wafer-thin people whose diet consists of a slice of fruit for breakfast, a bowl of soup for lunch and a carrot or whatever for dinner. They don’t have to put in any effort to go on such an obnoxious diet. But I don’t want to go on a diet, never been on a diet longer than eight hours! But the heat had killed my appetite and I can’t even tolerate looking at my beloved carbs. I am on a lemonade and salad diet at present. Anything ‘heavier’ than that and my tummy does a somersault! Forced to diet, another evil of this season.

Then I had to drive my mother for shopping in the sweltering heat of midday sun. I noticed that the other drivers on the road were extremely temperamental and road rage predominated. The heat again, no doubt. After two hours of walking the streets and getting into what seemed like a thousand shops, I was dangerously dehydrated. When I panted all the way down to the last store, I noticed the doorman give me a strange look. I checked my reflection in the store window. I looked hideous; hair plastered to the skull, sweat drenched kurta, and the tan of spending weeks in the Sahara sun without sunscreen. It was a wonder they let me into the store. This is the aspect of summer I hate the most. Sweat is okay if it occurs while playing sports or exercising. But I sweat while walking just about 200m! And how I envy the girls whose sweat glands appear to have become extinct and who look fresh as a daisy even after hours in the sun! I could even hear a few guys tittering at the sight of me. But it was too hot to care.

I decided to buy a super size tub of ice-cream on the way back home but the store was out of my favorite flavor and had only butter-scotch, which I hate. Seriously, Murphy must be having a field day today!

I reached home only to be greeted by the sight of the neighborhood ‘aunties’, who found this afternoon to try and sell us cosmetics and insurance policies! Just the sight of them in their heavy silk sarees and decked in jewels from head to toe was enough to make me faint. All I wanted was to rest for sometime and sip on some ice cold aampana. But they refused to leave despite the pained expressions on our faces. It was six in the evening by the time I got to my room and decided to take a nap. Only to be attacked by insects who always manage to get in around this time of the year, despite the netted windows.

And it’s only April. Four more months to go!

Photo Courtesy of http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1210/526448338_6257f2452d_o.gif 

Letters I Forgot To Send

I’d seen this being done in several blogs. Indi’s and Tasha’s at first, I guess. It consists of letters to certain people in my life without revealing their identities. What I’d really like to say to them, but couldn’t do so for whatsoever reasons.

1) I was so proud of you always. Everything you’ve achieved till now. The way you’ve achieved it. The love you showered on me. Then slowly I discovered that even you were flawed. And that you had continually hurt the person who loved you the most. I detested you for that at times, wished you’d change for the better. Sometimes I even wished you’d die in the moments when you hurt her a lot, but the very next moment I prayed hard that nothing bad happens to you ever. I can’t even think of my life without you. I never hated you. Can never hate you. I cherish each and every moment I spend with you nowadays and prefer not to think about the bad times anymore. You’re a good person, but one single flaw of yours made me lose the respect I had for you. I’m regaining it again. And I like that as an adult, I can talk to you about anything that had bothered me in the past, without feeling weird and that has changed the whole equation of our relationship. I like our relationship now. It’s what I’d always wanted. You wonder aloud whether I’ve forgiven you. I can feel it in the way you look at me at times, but had never gathered the courage to ask it yourself. I have forgiven you. And I’m still proud of you.

2) If I’m asked to choose just one person whom I can’t live without, I’d choose you. Always. You know me inside out; you’ve seen me make a fool of myself, you’ve seen me stumble at various phases in my life, you’ve seen me at the worst moments of my life. And you had stood by me, listened to me, offered advice, and never once judged me. You were the one dancing with joy at all my achievements, even the not too significant ones. I can be goofy with you. I can tell you anything. I can be plain stupid. I can watch corny tearjerkers and even the “No. 1Govinda comedies with you, knowing fully well that you’re not judging my IQ. You have an uncanny sense of knowing when I need you, and when I need my own space, without my even telling you so. You love me a lot, but would rather have your toe nails plucked out before admitting it. You can always make me laugh. We think alike, but it amazes me that still we’re so different. You know all my secrets. And although I’m much elder to you, I look to you for advice on anything bothering me, because I know it’d be genuine and heartfelt. And even though while growing up, there were angry moments when I was ready to sell you off, but then I would have lost the sole witness to every little detail of my life and the one who loves me despite my shortcomings. I feel blessed to have you in my life.

3) I don’t know your name. And I don’t ever wish to know it. I dread seeing you ever again in my life. Not because I’m scared of you. But because I don’t know whether you’ll survive if you cross my path again. You are the lowest form of being on earth, I pity your existence. I wonder how you can look yourself in the mirror without wanting to kill yourself with shame. I presume it’s not difficult for you, because you obviously lack a conscience, and repentance is something one doesn’t expect from your kind. You probably will have a long life, a long marriage to an unsuspecting wife, and maybe you even have kids, and I wonder whether you lust after your own daughter even!

4) Thanks for introducing me to the world of books. That’s the best gift I’ve ever received.

5) I take your presence in my life for granted. And it’s such a comfort. Eleven years of friendship. No matter where life takes us, the bond we share will grow stronger each day. It’s one of the few things I can be sure of in life.

6) If I could go back in time, I’d make sure I never let you in my life. Lies, deception, fraud; your whole life and existence can be summed up in these three words. Now, when I think back on our time together, I realize I was never in love with you. I did care for you. I believed when you professed your love for me, and thought it was my DUTY to reciprocate your feelings! It felt good to be loved by someone with such strong intensity. I reveled in that attention and care you showered on me. And when your deception began to unfold gradually, I couldn’t bear to lose the one who said he loved me so much! It hurt my ego that the love I received was a farce. And since I had begun to be so much emotionally dependent on you, the very thought of being alone scared me. I devoted years to the relationship and everything turned out to be pretense. I was ashamed of facing friends and family because I had let you into my life and didn’t recognize your true nature! I was feeling guilty for your mistakes. You are living proof of all that’s bad in the world, and it’s not just because you broke my heart. You have made me too cautious to fall in love again.

7)You were a lot of firsts for me. I loved you. And now I miss being friends with you. And that quirky humor, and that shy smile, and that confused frown you always wore on your face. Hope you’ve a good life, “genius reborn”. If we ever meet, hope we can be friends again. I’d really like that.

8) Distance and time has crept into our relationship lately. Job, new friends, new place. I’m possessive of our friendship, and I’m afraid of losing the one I grew up with.

9) I’d hurt you so many times. I had a bad day; I took out my anger and irritation on you. For no fault of yours, just because you were always there, the available target. And you never mouthed your disapproval. I had been unreasonable, cranky, and plain intolerable. And I’m so sorry for all those times. You’d led a difficult life, devoted your whole life to the happiness of others. And often these people took you for granted. You never complained. And I hated you for being so weak, and was angry with you instead. I was wrong. I realize your strength now. Your enduring power marvels me. Not everything is as simple as I think. Love is a complex emotion, and the extent we tolerate for love is something I’m beginning to fathom gradually. I understand you now. I realize my anger was misdirected. I’d never be able to repay for what you’ve done for me. And even the thought of repaying back, you’d perceive as an insult. But, I want you to know that I’m everything I’m today because of you, and I love you so much. Thanks for giving me my life.

Photo Courtesy http://www.crane.com/content/images/letters-you-keep.jpg

The dreaded "C" word

Someone’s got fever or stomach ache or his head hurts or loss of appetite or bleeding gums or a weak heart, whatever be the ailment, you hope it’s going to be alright after a course of medications and in worse cases maybe surgery. You tell them, “Sure, everything’s going to be okay. Get the required tests done, take the medicines and you’ll be up on your feet in no time”. That’s what we tend to think when we or our loved ones fall ill. But when the dreaded “C” word looms large on the horizon in some cases, all hope drains out of us even if for a moment. Cancer. It still evokes the same horror in us when we hear about it, as it did when the disease was first discovered.

We all plan our lives assuming we would live at least till the age of seventy or eighty. “In ten years I’d be doing this, and in twenty years after the kids have grown up I’ll be doing that”. At that time the thought doesn’t cross our minds that our lives maybe cut short any moment by some accident or illness. And cancer is the cause for many a life cut short. Recently, Jade Goody’s death has increased the awareness of cervical cancer. A few years ago it was breast cancer awareness that had started on a massive scale.

I lost my grandfather to cancer twenty years ago. He used to complain of irregular stomach cramps, a couple of routine tests didn’t yield any results, so the doctors gave him some antacids and let him go. But the stomach cramps continued, and one day while he was teaching me how to make paper planes (I was three years old then), he collapsed. By that time his gallbladder cancer had reached its terminal stage, and the doctors predicted no more than a month to live. My father worked in Guwahati then, while the entire extended family lived in Jorhat. My youngest uncle wrote a letter to my father telling him of my grandfather’s illness. Telephones weren’t too common back then. My father arrived by night bus, and that was the first time I saw him cry. He didn’t cry when my grandfather died a month later. Two of my younger uncles got married within two weeks of the diagnosis of the disease, because my grandfather wished to see them settle down into family life. I didn’t even realize he was gone forever. I remember I was so irritated I took my drawing book and crayons to sketch, away from all the hue and cry going on in the house! It started to sink in only when I sensed his continued absence that stretched beyond a month.

This year my elder sister was diagnosed with breast cancer. She’s just 39 years old, and a mother of two wonderful girls. She called me up a couple of months back and told me she had felt a tiny painless lump on her breast. She was worried because on my mother’s side there’s a history of breast lumps. Even in our family, my mother, my younger sister and I had battled with fibroadenomas, but we got away with just a minor surgery. She repeatedly kept asking me, “Since it’s painless, it’s nothing serious, right?” I didn’t have the heart to tell her that it’s the “painless” lumps that were mostly malignant. I was hoping it was a benign lump, and asked her to get a mammogram and a FNAC (Fine needle aspiration cytology) done. The tests came out to be positive of malignant cells. The whole family went into a collective shock. This can’t be happening to her, she’s so young and fit. But my sister was so brave. Her husband and her entire family’s support and her own will power helped her tide over this crisis. She lost a breast, she went through a harrowing period of diagnostic tests to detect the spread of cancer to other parts of her body, and she lost all her hair in the post-operative chemo and radiotherapy that she’s undergoing now. I marvel at the courage with which she has fought the situation. I was shocked and crestfallen when I first heard about it, but she is the one living the ordeal, and each moment of her battle with cancer has been a lesson to me. About the unpredictability of life, about how insignificant and petty our everyday troubles seem compared to these battles with death, about the strength of human spirit, about hope, about tolerance, about perseverance, about the support a family offers, about love that endures such tough tests and grows only stronger by the end of it. She had relapsed again after three cycles of chemotherapy. But I pray that she doesn’t suffer much agony.

Then there’s this uncle, my khuri’s (the wife of my father’s younger brother) brother, who had been a constant presence in my life while I was growing up, even though our interaction has lessened in the past few years. He was the one who accompanied me and my father when I went to watch a movie (‘Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak’) on the big screen for the first time, and he had got all the scolding from the audience when I got scared and started howling when the fight scenes were on. He was the one who brought me a square tin box as my first school bag! And I happily carried it through kindergarten. He fell ill a month back, lost his appetite and became reed thin. The doctors in his town ran a lot of tests but nothing was found wrong with him but still his condition worsened every day. I asked him to get transferred into my college hospital last week. The doctors here suspected a colorectal malignancy and the results are due on Saturday. When I talked to him and his wife today, they expectantly asked me if he was going to be alright. They had never ever even heard of the word “biopsy”. I said he would be alright. But with the “C” word again popping up, I am praying each second that what I assured them would be true. Whatever the test results maybe, I hope he gets over this hurdle in perfect health.

There had been an immense development in the field of oncology (study and treatment of tumors) in the past two decades, be it research for causative factors, treatment, surgeries, diagnostic techniques and screening procedure for cancer detection, study of the magnitude of the disease. The survival rate has gone up. But it still kills a millions of people every year across the globe. The lifestyles we lead today, toxic agents in the environment, addictions like smoking and alcohol, familial factors etc contribute to the millions of people affected each year. It has slowly stopped being the disease of the old age. A frightening number of children and young adults are being affected by it every year. And although there’s increased awareness among people nowadays about cancer and they go for tests at any suspicious symptoms, some cancers hardly show any symptoms till terminal stages and remain undetected. That’s the sad part of this disease. It can hit you anytime. But people have started fighting hard against it. Their families too. And the fight for survival leads to successes, miracles. A cancer survivor knows what’s it’s like to be alive. Their bravery astounds me every second. Few of these brave people’s chances of survival become bleak, but they fight on till the end. Every time I visit a terminal cancer ward, I can’t explain the gamut of emotions I go through on seeing these people’s calm courage at the face of death, trying to live as normal a life possible with tubes and pipes restricting their movements and confining them to beds, pain affecting most of their waking moments, living on with the knowledge that death is close by, carrying on normal conversations with friends and family. They’re living wonders of hope, bravery, and perseverance.

In My Perfect World, On My Perfect Date

Brisk Wind not Warm Breeze

Break of Dawn not Darkness of Dusk

Long Walk not Fancy Wheels

Uplifting Melody not Syrupy Love Song

Companionable Silence not Constant Chatter

Finger Food Platter not French Cuisine

Open Sky not Suffocating Spaces

Exploring Places not Candlelit Dinner

Loud Laughter not Forced Humor

Spontaneity not Calculated Moves

Quality of Time not Quantity of Time

Entwined Fingers not Groping Hands

The Kid in Him not The Macho Male

Creating Exhilarating Moments not Anticipating Sensual Moments

Genuine Words not Deceptive Promises

Shy Glances not Incessant Staring

Goofy not Grave

Genial, Never-ending Conversations not Frigid, Formal Talks

Lingering Contentment not Lingering Regrets

Of Ethics, Morality And Virtues

Ethics, Morality, Virtues, Vices; I never really put much thought into them, and instinctively followed the values I picked while growing up. Some were deliberate conscious decisions and some were ingrained habits of my life. I have always judged what’s wrong, and what’s right according to my own principles, not biased by other people’s views. And have earned scorn for that at times. But ethics, virtues and vices are very subjective terms. What may seem perfectly moral for me, may not seem so to another. And we should accept the fact and not jump into a tirade denouncing the views of others unless it brings about deliberate harm to someone.

My views and opinions regarding these topics have been both pliant and staunch at different times and my current set of beliefs and values have evolved through the years. I learned from various experiences, mostly by trial and error method. My ideals are distinctively mine, my own individual set of values and others can like it or lump it but I’m going to lead my life within the boundaries of those rules. I’m open to change and my ideals may get modified over time, but certain values are so deep-rooted and so influenced by one’s upbringing that there’s but little change in those specific ideals.

What is ethics or morality? “A code of values to guide man’s choices and actions; a system of principles governing morality and acceptable conduct”. But it evokes the question of what’s acceptable conduct? And do we need a code of values and if yes what should they be? How does an individual decide the principles of right and wrong and should he/she strive to get them accepted by the society at large? And who should these values primarily benefit? The individual or the society? One needs to thoroughly clarify and answer these questions before deciding their life’s ideals.

I faltered many a time at various ideals I believed in and each time the only reason was because I put others’ interests over mine. And, the results were far from what I’d predicated and diminished my image in my own eyes. That’s why I say I’ve learnt through trial and error method, I know what works for me and how I should lead my life; not being bothered by the socially acceptable “virtuous qualities” and not being an “sacrificial animal” yet again. The beneficiary of my ideals should primarily be me. I’m not talking of material and monetary benefits, but the joy and satisfaction that arises from achieving my goals without compromising my values.

The present social scenario leads me to question how the society views what’s immoral and moral. It’s based on few very irrational and archaic principles. Firstly, if an individual’s actions benefits himself more than it benefits the others around him or the society, it’s evil or selfish. Altruism is the keyword for being the epitome of morality! And being concerned with one’s own interest is synonymous to evil! If a person sacrifices his life’s ambition for the care of other people, he is considered far superior than the one who struggles all his life to fulfill his ambition. “For the greater good” is the motto. “There’s no greatness in working for oneself!” Secondly, the self-custodians of morality are hell-bent on reforming the society of everything that they perceive threatens its existence. The rights of a person to live the way they deem fit is frowned upon. One has to answer to the society at large.

There are obvious flaws in this outlook towards life. Every person on this earth has the full right to pursue their goals and ambitions irrespective of whether it pleases others or not. I’m NOT talking about indulging in irrational whims, or harming others in any way on the pretext of “doing whatever pleases me”, but working towards rational goals. But we tend to be bound by the expectations of others, and get motivated to do what’s considered virtuous in the eyes of others and thus lose track of what we always aspired to do. Dare a girl who has the responsibility of her parents on her to pursue her dreams single-mindedly without being condemned for her actions. And dare a single girl live life on her own terms without questions being raised on her character after she passes the conventional marriageable age. We live for others! I used to do feel that’s the proper thing to do too. But it suffocated me.

After a long rumination based on my previous experiences, I’ve decided on my code of ethics. I decided never to renounce what I have in life for the sake of another person, anyone at all, at the cost of hampering my own progress. I know by now few of you’ve conjured up a image of me as the ‘evil’ one. But I don’t want to further arrest my progress in life by self-inflicted pain and sacrifice for the sake of others. I feel that’s the best decision of my life so far; something I should have done a long, long time back.

I feel the following values are enough in leading a life of happiness, a life one can be proud of. I will try my best to always uphold the following set of ethics I believe in and not just preach but actually put them into practice in my life:

Responsibility: Of achieving my goals. Of making my parents proud through my actions. Of never letting my self-esteem falter. Of a constant thrive to aim high in life. Of never sacrificing for the sake of another individual, nor asking anyone else to make sacrifice for my sake. I first read this line in the oath taken in one of my favorite novels, Atlas Shrugged. I used to think that’s not possible to follow; not any more. I would strive my best to live by it.

Rationality: In exercising my choice on the course of actions to be taken at every step of my life. In originating the goals of my life. In my thinking.

Pride: In leading my life on my own terms. In not being prey to the schemes of other people. In never harming any one for my benefit. In achieving what I’ve set out to do. In the power to think.

Independence: And knowing it’s importance, cherishing it and never misusing it. Freedom doesn’t equal to drinking, smoking, using abusive terms in everyday conversations, pub hopping and whatever the youth of today associate it with. It’s okay for those who indulge in these for pleasure or out of habit, and I’ve nothing against them; it’s all about the choices we make in life. But that doesn’t and shouldn’t pressurize me to ape them to assert my freedom.

Justice: And standing up for what I believe in. Of knowing the boundaries I’ve set for myself and being true to them and not letting the moral guardians of society influence my life. And not tolerate self-interest schemes masked by altruistic approach, like the power seeking politicians “working for public good” or the the ‘moral duty’ of supporting a leech (of the human kind!).

Selfishness: Being concerned with my own interests. Doing what makes me happy, and once again, I don’t mean indulging in irrational whims.

Self-esteem: Never losing it again. For anyone at all. Absolutely no one’s worth it. The loss of of self-esteem hurts and stings the deepest and the longest.

Productivity: A focused approach towards my goals. And not doing pseudo work. Of understanding the value of the opportunities I have received and utilizing them fully.

Integrity: A moral soundness that comes from living a life that I’m proud of. Of helping the ones in genuine need without making them leeches, but never at the cost of my own survival.

Knowledge: Of striving to achieve the best of it. Feeding the most precious treasure of man, the mind.

Trust and Honesty: Of valuing human emotions and understanding the hurt that comes from lies and betrayal. Of being honest in my career always, and never settle for minor neglects that I feel won’t harm anyone. Of being honest to myself and my priorities in life. Its neglect might not bring any immediate harm, but its cumulative effect can cause major upheavals.

Love: Caring for and nurturing my relationships with my loved ones and standing by them through thick and thin. And being careful in judging who deserves my love. Not let just anyone stray into my heart.

Effort: Relying on hard work alone and never luck to progress in my career. And not shying away from hard work ever.

"Life of ‘Pee’", nervous boyfriend and hawk-eyed parent…perfect recipe for my first date!


I went after lunch to two of the few book stores in Guwahati which can boast of a good collection of books, from the latest bestsellers to the classics, covering a varied and interesting range of books. “Western Book Depot” and “Papyrus”, situated at Panbazar. If you happen to spot a fat female browsing through books at these two bookstores often, oblivious to the world around her…well, that most probably is me. I had spent many happy hours browsing at these bookstores every month, and save money all year round to splurge on visits to these shops. By the way, I bought three books today…Milan Kundera’s “Slowness” and “Ignorance”, and “Recess: A Penguin Book of Schooldays”. Reviews are due next month after I complete reading them.

Anyways, this post is not about the pleasures of endless hours of browsing at bookstores. I had already written about my fascination for book stores. Today I want to share a very memorable incident in my life that occurred at the “Western Book Depot”. My first date. Or my first date turned disaster. You must be thinking what’s wrong with me to have chosen a bookstore as the location for my first date. Read on to know why.

I fell in love for the first time four years back when I was 19. I was never interested in the guys I had grown up with, or studied together. And the whole concept of casual dating and testing the waters for a few months is something I can’t identify with at all. Add to that my introvert nature …and I would’ve remained single till I was 50 if I hadn’t met him! He was 5 years elder to me. Completely different backgrounds…he was an MBA student at IIT, Kharagpur, while I was a second year medical student in Assam. We met online. And I liked him instantly. He was witty, intelligent, caring and I absolutely loved talking to him. Friends first…and then in a year became a little more than friends. But we had never talked about meeting; and were quite happy with our conversations online. I admit I was scared that the comfort level in our relationship might change when we meet in person…scared of awkward silences in conversations, or that we might not have anything to talk about. When he got his MBA degree, and was about to leave for his new job…one night I received a phone call from him, saying that he’s on his way to meet me and arriving in Guwahati the next day.

May 14, 2005: To say I was petrified would be a huge understatement. My father is way too protective of me and my sister, and we weren’t allowed to go anywhere alone. I had no other way but to seek permission and go. That day I told my mother about him…the most awkward conversation of my life! She was OK with it but forbid me to meet him alone. Back to square one! He called up on reaching Guwahati, and I told him of the dilemma I faced. He was quite supportive and didn’t sulk. But I so wanted to meet him, I was ready to do anything just to see him once. I told my mother I had to buy a new book and have to urgently go to “Western Book Depot”. My mother, who was already suspicious after I mentioned him to her, was adamant on accompanying me to the bookstore and worse insisted on taking my sister and aunt along too! I was on the verge of tears. But this was my only chance to see him. I frantically texted him to meet me at the bookstore and warned him that my mother would be with me. He said he didn’t know the way around Guwahati and would accompany a friend to find the store. I was in such a hurry…I forgot to even comb my hair on the way out! That too the first time he saw me! The last thing I cared was how I looked; all I wanted was to see him once. We reached the store at 6pm. My mother got down along with me, while my aunt and sister waited in the car. I pretended to search for medical books. After about fifteen minutes, my mother said she would wait for me in the car. I was so relieved. As I waited for him, I decided to gift him a book. He had mentioned a few days earlier that he wanted to read “Life of Pi” by Yann Martel. I got the last copy of the book available in the shop for him. At around 6:25pm, I heard two loud, excited voices in the shop. My back was turned towards the entrance and when I turned around; I saw him and his friend. I smiled at him. But he didn’t reciprocate. I was taken aback. Didn’t he recognize me? After a moment’s confusion, I realized he was deliberately trying to feign that he didn’t know me. The reason: there was a lady in the book store who he thought was my mother!! He came and stood beside me but carried on the little act of being strangers, and instead turned to a man behind the bookstore counter, and asked whether “Life of pi” was available. The man answered, “Life of ‘Pee’ toh nahin hain. Last copy inhone (pointing at me) purchase kar liya.” (“Life of ‘Pee’ is not available, she purchased the last copy”).We were all trying hard not to laugh at the man’s pronunciation of the book title. I then turned and gave him my gift, the same book. He smiled at me, and by now had realized that my mother wasn’t in the shop as he had earlier thought. As he took the book from me, the bookstore owner went, “How kind of you, ma’am! Giving him your book. And that too free of cost!” They hadn’t yet realized that we knew each other and I turned the kind, helpful girl in their eyes. I had already spent a lot of time in the bookstore, and was worried that my Ma would come in and find him near me. I asked him to leave, quite reluctantly though. It was hardly for ten minutes that we saw each other that day…the first time…and he had to leave. As I walked out of the shop five minutes after him, I saw that his bike was parked right next to my car!!! Of all the places available, he had to park near my car, with my mother sitting in the car! I hoped that she hadn’t realized who he was. And I drove off, without daring to even look at him a second time in my mother’s presence. After few minutes, my mother remarked, “So you met him? He seemed nice.” I nearly had a cardiac arrest, when I realized that my mother had recognized him. How on earth did she know? Turned out that when my guy had parked his bike right next to our car, she overheard him tell his friend that I had asked him to meet me in the bookstore. And after all the trouble we both went through to keep the meeting discreet!!
That relationship ended long back, and he is happily married now. But I still can’t stop smiling thinking about my funny first date-turned-disaster, the nervous look on his face that day, my hawk-eyed Ma on the lookout for a tricky Romeo out to trap her daughter and instead finding a bumbling fool, and me savoring each second of those ten minutes of my first meeting with my first love. Short and sweet, a memory so special that it would last a lifetime. And, the bookstore will always remain special too.

The Battle of Muesli vs Aloo Paranthas

When I woke up at four in the morning today and went for a long drive and then stopped at a park for a quick jog, I knew it was going to be one of those days. The more energetic the start to the day, the earlier the energy recess sets in. I gave a whole new meaning to the word “sloth” today. Amplified, magnified, hyperbolized, expanded, and inflated it’s meaning. Slept almost the whole day!

After the sudden burst of energy and strenuous physical activity in the morning, I decided to sustain that rare desire of doing something healthy. It was time to attack my daily diet after the attack on physical activity or rather the lack of it. Decided that breakfast will be a small bowl of muesli and a fruit instead of the usual parathas. My mother asked once again whether I was sure I didn’t want Aloo paranthas for breakfast. I was so charged up about fitness by now that I vehemently refused. It was 8am when I had breakfast and went around the house feeling quite smug about my new found enthusiasm for fitness after a long hiatus. I felt so good till I heard my stomach growl at 9 am! I tried to curb the temptation to reach for the paranthas by eating some high fiber biscuits which claimed to get rid of hunger in a jiffy. Struggled for an hour. Distracted myself from the thought of food by studying, but that was a disaster. I gave up after a while and binged on paranthas much to the amusement of my family. I tried to justify by saying that I would cut down on the calorie intake gradually, today was the wrong approach. I over-ate. And that resulted in immediate drowsiness. I usually spend Sundays catching up on my reading and watching movies, the only time I can fully indulge on my hobbies without feeling guilty. So after the meal, I sat down to watch one of my favorite movies, “The Breakfast Club” (coincidence??) but felt so drowsy, I slept off within few minutes. I woke up, had a quick shower, more food at lunch, and again felt drowsy and the vicious cycle continued till dinner time now. I had hardly been sleeping more than four hours per day in the past week and my body caught up on the lost sleep. But what’s distressing me is my poor resolve to stick to my fitness routine.

Lessons learnt:
1. After a long break in your fitness routine; build it up gradually, rather than doing everything at once. Adapt your body gradually.

2. Be realistic in your approach to cutting down calories. Especially when Aloo Paranthas are involved. And stick to your resolve. Don’t follow my example.

I’m sleeping off now. The sloth fairy hasn’t left me yet. And I’ve some really sore muscles tonight because of the long gap in exercising. I hope for a better start tomorrow. No Aloo Paranthas tomorrow.

I’m cutting you off my life

Calls go unanswered.

Messages not replied to.

Some urgent chore to attend whenever the possibility of meeting is brought up in the conversation.

It can’t get more obvious than this…take the hint. You’re being cut off from their life.

How do you cut off a person from your life without being downright rude? I’ve tried to cut off few people from my life without being rude, tried every trick in the book; successful with a few, failed repeatedly with the rest. There was a time when I had that uncontrollable urge to please everyone and not hurt anyone’s feelings and that compelled me to wish everyone on their birthdays, or major occasions, send mails, call them up once in a while, the whole “keeping in touch” routine. I go out of my way to text every person on my phone book be it New Year, Diwali and even Republic Day! Huge phone bills notwithstanding, I go all out in making sure none of my acquaintances were left out.

But one day, in one of those rare moments when some sense goes into my head, I realized the futility of the need to lug so many people around. Sure, they are my school buddies, or college mates, or gym pals, or a friend of a friend. But I’m not obligated to carry on an acquaintance forever! Times have changed, I’ve changed, and I realized I don’t really care about what my friend from fifth standard is doing these days. I’ve known these people, had spent some wonderful times with them, but there comes a time when I don’t want to clutter my life with those people from my past about whom I don’t really care too much. I just want to focus on the ones who I genuinely care about irrespective of whether the feeling is mutual.

I’ve displeased a lot of people in the recent past by cutting them off, but there are some who just can’t take the hint despite calls and messages not being answered gradually, and end up hurting themselves for being ignored. But I just hope they take the hint soon enough. Just today I was discussing with my best friend how some people take so long to understand that they are being cut off. A common friend, who is a big time gossip, had been meddling in our lives for long. We cut her off. But she had been persistent too about not letting us go so easily. I got fed up of such characters; changed my number, blocked emails, and even made my Ma rehearse the “She’s out-of-town” excuse in case they drop in at home. So far I’ve been successful in warding off the few people who refuse to take the hint.

It’s not that I had never been at the receiving end. I too had been cut off by some friends. School, and college was a long time ago; everyone has different careers now, and their careers have taken them to different places. They’ve met new people, the earlier acquaintances have lost their value once time and distance have come in between. I took the hint early in few cases, but in the ones where I really cared a lot for the person, I persisted for quite some time before realizing the futility of my attempts. It does hurt when a person you care about, and had spent years together with suddenly fades out from your life. But it’s their choice. You can’t force your presence in someone’s life.

I have learned the hard way that people change, so do emotions. Once distance and time creeps into any relationship, only constant care and the genuine wish to continue the relationship can sustain it. The relationships that pass the test of importance in my life, remain with me for a long time to come. And the rest I simply cut off to de-clutter my life. We meet new people everyday, and we can’t lug the whole world along with us. I’ve realized the importance of nurturing the relationships I know are genuine and weeding off the rest. A decision I know I won’t regret. I hope.

Being A Girl

I’m no hardcore, bra burning feminist. All I want is never to be discriminated just because I’m a girl. Women have made gradual but tremendous progress in all walks of life. They are on equal footing with men. And might I say that’s setting the standards a little low! Still got a long way to go. Especially in my country, where female feticide is an open secret. Women are yet to find their rightful place by breaking the barrier of domesticity, embracing education and following their dreams. And not just in the rural areas. Even in the urban society, uber modern lifestyles notwithstanding, women have to make compromises in their careers, education or family life at some point or the other. A woman breaking into the top of the male dominated corporate world is still so rare that it makes news headlines for a week. Even in the field of medicine, that I’d opted for as a career, women faces discrimination on the basis of their sex. The ratio of male to female surgeons is still high. There are still a section of patients who prefer a “capable, responsible male” doctor to a female doctor any day. Even during clinical rotations I’ve noticed patients calling the female medical students or doctors as “sister” (think “nurse”). The thought of a female doctor still doesn’t cross their minds. I’ve felt irritation, discomfort and finally resignation at these comments.

While growing up, I never gave much thought to where a girl child stands in today’s Indian society. My sister and I were unduly pampered and loved by the whole extended family and girls predominated among the huge number of cousins. All the neighborhood kids of my age were boys and I was the pampered one amongst them too. We were spoilt rotten while growing up. But even in this protected environment, few recent incidents made me take a hard, unbiased look at my own family. The significance of being a girl in my family. There had never been any objection to any woman from our family in terms of career; except in case of my mother. My mother used to keep very frail health in her youth and suffered from a lot of ailments. So my father made her discontinue her job and stay in the comforts of home. I find it unfair that she wasn’t allowed to voice her opinion in this aspect. And I’ve seen that in the marriages in my family, the men always had the final word. There weren’t any conflicts or quarrels as such, but little decisions like the choice of holiday destination, whether to get a pet or not, what to watch on television etc.

I was born seven years after my parents’ marriage and at that time being childless for more than five years into a marriage was a troubling issue. Neighbors had the audacity to suggest to my grandmother about my father’s remarriage. And I was aghast to know later that few of my relatives even considered it as a sensible idea. But my father put his foot down and wisely the others shut up. But it made me think how inconsiderate they were towards my mother; her feelings weren’t given any thought. There had also been one specific instance of an uncle of mine feeling very disappointed at the birth of a girl child for the second time. But now the same person goes out of his way to ensure that his daughters get the best of everything. Makes me wonder about that latent feeling of discontent in him that surfaced once during the birth of his second daughter. It was very brief and didn’t occur ever again, but why did that feeling had to arise in the first place?

I wondered at times whether my father too felt so. He had always been so proud of my sister and me. There was this one instance when his boss had commented that he felt sorry for my father because he had no sons and he’s up for a lonely time once he’s retired from work, and his daughters are married. That insensitive comment that was completely unjustified and totally uncalled for angered my father so much that he lashed out at his boss. Things had turned out that bad. Our family had gone to Delhi a couple of months ago and during the train journey, the person sitting next to my father asked him whether he had any sons. When my father answered no, the man (who by the way was a top official at a bank in Kolkata) actually sighed and looked sympathetically at my father. He went on to say that he had been blessed with two sons, who were currently unemployed but thinking of starting a business venture soon. But for him it was no big deal; they are boys and they will always find out a way to survive and take care of their parents. He again re-formed his face to evoke sympathy for my father. My father replied his eldest daughter is a doctor and the next daughter is a college topper; and he’s quite proud of both his daughters. That comment was worth saying just to see the look on that man’s face.

Why do educated people still think it’s a loss when a girl child is born? Why do parents feel that they wouldn’t have anyone to fall back on once their daughters are married off? I was proud of the way my father has tackled the insensitive comments he had heard over the years just because he doesn’t have a son. I don’t know what miracle a son would have achieved that his daughters couldn’t.

All the children of my father’s colleagues and friends are in their late twenties or early thirties, well-settled in life and providing for their parents post retirement. His friends proudly boast of the security and comfort they enjoy in this late phase of life because of their sons. I’m still a student working towards a post-graduate degree; studying medicine takes awfully long and the returns aren’t good till the specializations are over. Moreover I’m the youngest among all the children of my father’s friends, owing to my parents’ late marriage and my birth seven years into their marriage. I wonder at times whether my father too has regrets deep down about not having a son. I know he loves my sister and me an amount that lacks words to describe, but I feel very disturbed at times that I’m not yet able to do the things for him that sons of his colleagues had done. I know I can do them after few years, once my studies are over. But because of a certain section of the society, there is this indirect pressure to prove that his daughter can do the same things that a son might have done.

Has anyone out there have ever felt the same?

Exam Phobia

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?

Exams.

Exams, who?

Exams are knocking on the door and I’m blogging!!

I had been the eternal procrastinator till recently. I kept on delaying tasks till the day it’s time that I HAVE to take action to complete the task in time. It’s not that I don’t do a good job out of the task in hand. I do. Always. But I need a push in the direction. And that comes from procrastination. I only feel that adrenaline charge only when I know that I’ve very less time on hand. Otherwise, I can’t bring myself to do the task. This happens only when it comes to studies! I’m a good student. But I lack the motivation at times. My short attention span doesn’t help either. And all the above traits spell disaster for my studies! It almost ruined me a couple of times. But now I’ve started taking action against this self- destructive trait.

Exams for me mean the ultimate fear. I always have less time, get only a little revision done, and hate memorizing, more in favor of getting the right concepts. And during the days of examinations, you won’t recognize me. I move around like a zombie. I get panic attacks. I have sleepless nights in a row, completing my revision. And after the nightmare is over, I sleep soundly for two days in a row at least. And when the results come in, I always attain reasonably good marks, in the top 10-15 students of my entire batch of 150 students. And then the regret sets in that I got good marks by studying so late, I would have done far better if only I had followed a proper study schedule like the rest of the students.

Exams bring out the worst in me. If you ask me a question during the course of a normal conversation, I would answer really well. But if you ask me the same question at a viva voce, I would blank out for a few seconds before answering. My poor stress management skills and procrastination habit cause havoc during exam time.

And so I’ve taken action against this. It’s not a miracle cure out of this bad habit but ensures that you slowly but surely get out of it. I’ve devised my own method for it after reading up on the topic. It’s working for me.

Here they are:
1. Self- analyze and think why you are procrastinating. For me it’s the short attention span and the boredom that sets in after a time. And it’s always hard for me to bring myself to study the topics I find very boring. So, that was my problem.

2. Make a firm resolution to overcome this habit and let your close ones know about it so that they can bring you back in case you slacken your pace. Think of the consequences, the *** you go through during exams because of last minute preparation. Write them down and stick on the wall next to your study table so that you can watch it frequently. It scares the *** out of me…and I go back to my books.

3. Find out the time you work best. Your most productive period. And do a major part of your studying during that time. For me it is in between 10pm to 7am. I study best during that time.

4. Work out a flexible, reasonable schedule. Allot time for unexpected delays. And stick to it. How? Read on. Instead of writing “7-10 pm- Biochemistry, 11-2 am- Physiology”; write “Biochemistry (3hrs), Physiology (3hrs)”. That way you can adjust the time all throughout the day. Waiting for the bus? Squeeze in 15 mins of Biochemistry now. You have 2 hours forty five minutes to allot to the subject in the rest of the day. Work out your own schedule.

5. Read alternatively tough subjects and easy subjects. I read the easy ones first. I know many people advise the opposite. But this is what works for me. It gives me a satisfaction of one task being completed…and moving on to the next task. Crossing off items from your study schedule…brings in the enthusiasm to work on the tough subjects.

6. Have a comfortable study area, but not so comfortable that you doze off. I had the bad habit of studying on my bed. I don’t do that any more. My study table is always organized in a way that I have all the books, references, notes at an easy reach. And keep a bright study lamp, water, alarm clock at hand…in case you want to take a power nap for fifteen minutes or so. Sprinkle some water on your face when you have to get rid of the sleepiness.

7. Take a break of 5 minutes every one hour. Not more than that. I go to my sister’s room, catch the news headlines, make myself a cup of green tea or just close my eyes and rest during those five minute breaks.

8. Don’t miss sleep and don’t skip meals. Very vital. I used to go without sleep and had little food during the whole day and just kept studying for almost 21-22 hours straight to make up for lack of early preparation. I fell ill before exams due to neglecting my health and missed my exams twice till date! And had to re-appear after a month. No more messing around with my health anymore.

9. Devise your own study techniques. I hate highlighting texts. So I make tiny summary notes of a single page…all the keywords, important information on a post it note and stick it on the page. That way before exams all I’ve to do is go through those tiny notes…instead of scanning the whole page. And since I’m a visual learner; that is I memorize stuff by visualizing them in my mind, these important information in my own handwriting and in colorful post it is easy to visualize. Moreover, I depend on mnemonics and weird word association. For e.g.:
“Complications of meningitis…Subdural effusion, Ventriculitis, Visual field defect, Hydrocephalus, Brain abscess, peripheral circulatory collapse, DIC, SIADH. So, I make a mnemonic by taking the first letter of each word… ‘(VS) 2 PHD B’…And I expand it to ‘2’ Visiting Surgeons (that is VS), who had ‘PhD’s too, were lying in ‘B’ed due to meningitis. ”. Complicated, I know. But that’s the visualization that works for me. I also create mind maps with a central keyword and branch out in all directions. Say…Meningitis is the keyword in centre; and I branch out about definition, types, epidemiology, transmission, pathogenesis, organisms, stages, pathology, clinical features, diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis in one single page. That way I have a topic well mapped out for a visual learner like me, help in quick revision and builds concept because you can co-relate and link it to other topics.

10. And to get me going through the task when boredom sets in, I take small steps like scanning the whole chapter first in a few minutes, go through old questions, then I know the important things to look for in the chapter. And if I feel lazy, I force myself to go through with it for just one more page. And then when I complete it, just one more page again. That way I keep myself from procrastinating. One page at a time. I also keep a notepad handy to write down doubts, or any random thing that comes to my mind. That way I know I won’t lose the idea and I’ll have time to think about it in my leisure time. I won’t spend time thinking about it during studies then.

11. If I’ve an important chore in hand and I am not able to concentrate on my studies, I take a break to do that chore promptly, so that I can come back to my studies without any other thought in mind.

12. I give myself rewards at the end of crossing off topics from my study schedule. Something that I enjoy doing and look forward to. It used to be getting back to my favorite novel or watching a movie. But now it is blogging! 🙂 I finish off my duties soon so that I know I’ll be doing something very enjoyable at the end of it all.

13. I question a lot. Why? How? What? When? Every topic I read and I find myself opening up a lot of references and linking topics and this active learning registers far better in my mind. Not a strategy to follow just before exam. That’s the time for only revision.

14. I break my total time allotment in 4 sections. If I allow four hours to a topic…I won’t read it at a single go. I will try to complete it in 2 hours that is half the time…the less time makes it impossible for me to just while away my time. And allot half an hour revision the next day. And one hour of revision a week after. And half an hour just before exams. It works for me. Revision is the key unless you’ve a photographic memory.

15. Explain the topic to yourself; if you can, you are well prepared. Pretend you are the examiner and ask yourself questions. That has reduced my anxiety during viva. And another trick smile and give a slow, unhurried reply giving you adequate time to think during such examinations.

I started working on my study habits only recently. And I know it’s tough to get rid of a bad habit, procrastination mainly; but I’m able to stop procrastinating after following the above techniques. Hope these study techniques help you too.

Firsts

“Crush” sounds childish. “Puppy love” sounds even more childish. “Infatuation” seems dignified and blog worthy. But this is my personal blog, I’ve every right to write whatever I want and proudly display my lack of good vocabulary too.
I was 12 when I had my first crush. Year was 1997. I grew up in a small, laidback town in India. And at that age my world consisted of school in the morning, chatting with my best friend, playing with my cousins, quarrelling with my sister, painting in the afternoons and watching old American TV series’ that were aired on Indian television in the late nineties (think “I dream of Jeannie”, “Who’s the boss”, “Different Strokes” etc), and animatedly telling the events of my day to my parents during dinner. That’s my life back then summed up in one line. I hadn’t even known what romantic love was, I knew it existed when I saw these people mouthing “I love you” in movies and the all-knowing classmates who gave us the wisdom about the going ons of the adult world. But that was about it. That was the period when the girls who had considered the boys gross, rowdy, loud and extremely sweaty, suddenly found the very boys “cool” (whatever that meant!). And the boys too were more than enthusiastic to allow girls to be a part of their games. Territorial rights gave way to a new equation between the boys and girls of my class. There were occasional shy glances, the incessant giggling if a boy approached a group of girls and the most horrifying scenario…when a guy was caught “just talking” to a girl alone without any friends of his hanging around. The teasing that followed was cruel. There were no boyfriends or girlfriends at that time. The concept hadn’t caught up with our small town in the late nineties. Just the teasing. But even that seemed horrifying to me. And I never wanted to be the victim. So I carefully avoided being in such scenarios. That wasn’t too difficult considering the fact that I had always been a huge introvert. And I was least interested in the new thing that we had discovered, “love”. I was happy and content in my own world. I didn’t even find any of my classmates particularly good looking (that was the main criteria back then; shallowness ruled). Seniors and juniors were a no-no. So I knew I was safe.

Little did I know what lies ahead! I was an above average student. Study was a chore. I wasn’t the competitive sorts, nor was there any parental pressure as long as I got an A in all the subjects. I didn’t abhor books. I loved them. But not the ones in the curriculum. But still I completed my studies dutifully, and since I was good at math and science, the teachers liked me too. I hated the arts (social sciences, history, and geography). I prayed for the months to pass quickly so that I can get into eighth grade and toss the history and geography books for good and buy my copy of advanced math.

I prayed too soon. Because that was the year I fell from my history teacher! I was head over heels in ‘looooooooooooove’ with him. That was what I thought it was back then. He was a new teacher. He got in that year, ’97. He was just like any other teacher for the first six months but a good one though. He made the classes very interesting. He made us think and told us interesting trivia and held fun quizzes and I gradually found myself getting genuinely interested in the very subjects that I had hated so much up till then. And I enjoyed attending his classes and looked forward to learning rather than studying history. I went to the library to get books on history, researched for my assignments which was unheard of in our school back then. My parents too were shocked at this sudden transition.

Then came the half yearly exams. It was the first exam where I had actually enjoyed studying a subject instead of plain memorizing. So when the question papers were handed out, I noticed that few questions were wrongly published. I was very timid back then, standing in front of the whole class to say something was a big task for me. But I did get up and pointed out the mistake to my history teacher. He was surprised at my noticing the mistakes that even he had overlooked, and corrected them promptly. That was the first time he noticed this timid girl. And he smiled at me, patted my back and told me that he hoped I do the best in the class in his subject (and yes, I later did.). I was so happy. A sincere compliment from the first teacher I appreciated. And I can’t exactly pinpoint what, but something in me changed that day. I fell for him really bad. I suddenly had an attack of coyness when he looked my way or talked to me. After the exam was done, I remember it was raining outside, and taking the rain as the excuse I stood in the corridor next to the staff room stealing occasional glances at him. I didn’t know what came over me. It was a new emotion I was experiencing. And on that very day, summer holidays began for a month. I wouldn’t get to see him for a month! I came home and that afternoon drew a sketch of him. In the blue and black check shirt that he so frequently wore.

When school re-opened, everything was the same except that I had a heightened sense of awareness whenever he was around ,and whenever he talked to me I would be too shy to even look directly at him. I told no one about it. Not even my best friend. He was my secret. My first crush was way too special and personal to share with anyone. He was always appreciative about my work complimenting me always. Once I remember he held a quiz and our team won, but he had only one bar of chocolate in his hand. Everyone started shouting that they wanted it. And I was sitting at the extreme corner and was too self-conscious to act like the others when he was around. Maybe he saw how quiet I was from the rest of the kids, and when he threw the chocolate bar in the air, it fell on my lap. I still remember that moment, this small, insignificant gesture on his part felt so good. And once he punished the whole class, and kept us in during the entire recess period, but when there were only 15 minutes to go, he called me and let me go out because he felt I was always obedient and didn’t deserve any punishment. So I walked out happily leaving a bunch scowling and angry classmates.

Little gestures meant a lot. It wasn’t like I fantasized romantically about him, he was about fourteen years elder to me! And I was only 12! It was just that I admired him so much, and even a little appreciation on his part kept me smiling for days. I acted very awkward when he was around. My unusual coyness and few silly goof-ups made him know that I was infatuated with him for sure. He never told me that he knew, I would have been mortified. But I knew that he knew. I would remember those classes, those gestures, his words in my autograph book, the one time he bumped against me while hurriedly getting down the stairs,his left arm grazing my right arm, the confused scowl that he wore, the warm smile he had, the appreciation. I know I can’t get across my point clearly and there’s nothing special or extra-ordinary in what I wrote. But it was a very special phase of my life.

I transferred to a new school, new city the next year. And the last time I saw him, it was on the last day of my seventh grade. I told him I was transferring to a new school; he said he would miss one of his favorite students. And those were the simple parting words that I would remember my whole life

My first crush; the freshness and innocence of which still lives a lingering a feeling of happiness even 12 years later. The last time I visited my home town I visited his home; but he wasn’t in town. I got his phone number. I messaged him asking whether he remembered one of his favorite students, least expecting him to do so. But he did. He remembered me, and was happy to hear from me. He was married with a kid, and a new job in journalism. It felt good hearing from him. It felt even greater that he remembered me. I excitedly told my best friend and my family about it. For the first time, I shared the secret. So many years have passed since that day in December ’97, and still how vividly I remember the details. After all, a “first crush” is always special.

P.S: I forwarded this post to my history teacher, so that he knows about this confession too. I was a rather lost kid back then, going through the mundane school life without any significant memories, and thanks to him, I not only got a renewed interest in studies that year, but also have some really sweet memories. Hope I will always remain one of his favorite students.

Early morning study break…

“Night time is really the best time to work. All the ideas are there to be yours because everyone else is asleep”. ~Catherine O’Hara

Studied at night. Watching the sunrise, sipping lemon flavoured green tea, listening to my favorite song and writing this post. I love this part of the day. From 10pm to 6am. I love the quiet and the absolute stillness that prevails…That promises infinite possibilities of doing whatever you want to do undisturbed. And to see the sunrise, feel the best wind that blows between 3-4am is an amazing feeling. The feeling of having infinite time and capacity to do anything and everything. I love the night time and dawn. I work better, can retain better what I’d studied, the mind seems clutter-free. It’s the most productive period of the whole day for me.

I love night time journeys, love listening to music at night, love to catch up on reading at night cozily snugled under a blanket, love to have midnight snacks, love three am calls from my close friends, love watching the latest DVD release at night, love the early morning light, love the chill in the air in the early morning, love to see the early morning joggers on the street (but being the laziest person on earth never felt tempted to join them), and love the feeling of accomplishment that comes after working undisturbed throughout the night.

Comfort Foods

I’ve always been a fussy eater. I am a vegetarian. But I hate green, leafy veggies. I avoid them like the plague. And I occasionally eat prawns. I hate dairy products except for butter and ice cream. If I set out to list the food items I can eat without wrinkling up my nose…the list won’t even cross the hundredth mark. I don’t eat stuff that I’ve already decided would taste “yuck” just by the look or smell of it. And refuse to even taste it. But I’m forced to do so at times by my father who would drive himself up the wall seeing me play around with the food (something I must have decided to be “yuck” earlier) and counting seconds till it’d be appropriate for me to leave the dining table. He has made it his mission in life to shovel nutritious, wholesome food down my throat even if that meant running around the house with a salad plate in hand, chasing me the whole day. It has become a game for us now. If he’s stubborn…I’m no less. I don’t do this to irritate him. I’ve a very narrow range of food items I prefer, and I’m happy eating that simple fare daily. But it’s a tough for everyone at home to accept that. They too have a reason apart from worrying about the lack of nutritious food in my diet. My fussy food habits create a lot of problem when we visit someone’s home. My relatives and close friends know by now what are the basic dishes I love eating…and I get them whenever I visit their homes. It’s the new acquaintances I dread visiting. I hardly stay for meal times…often bringing up some excuse or the other to go home. I still remember the day I visited a friend of mine whose mother served four different varieties of green, leafy veggies for lunch and a thick, creamy glass of ‘lassi’ as an after dinner drink. Time stood still that day for me as I painfully gulped down the food. The food was tasty for everyone present…I know. My friend’s mother is a good cook…I even know that. But how do I explain to them my eating habits? And now that I’ve grown up that has become a major issue in my life. If I find myself in a situation where the food I prefer is not available for a considerable amount of time and I risk starving myself…I eat whatever is available then. But I can’t continue it once I get back home.

It’s not that I ever regretted my lack of interest in tasting new dishes. I am happy with my choice of few simple dishes…everyday fare in most homes. They are way too simple…almost boring. But these items have etched very fond memories in my mind. And that’s what I want to share with you today.

1.My earliest food associated memory that I still fondly recall would be “orange ice-cubes”. My mother used to fill the ice-cube tray with orange juice…and by the time I’m home after hours of playing out in the sun…I would have those “orange ice cubes” waiting for me!

2.Coffee. I’ve a nagging doubt that I’ve more caffeine running in my veins than blood. The pleasure of waking up to a hot, steaming cup of coffee beats everything. Just the smell of it…that rich aroma…is so comforting for me. It makes the job a lot easier when I stay up late to study for exams. Just writing about it makes me crave for another cup of coffee now. A caffeine addict? Not yet. But on the verge of becoming one. Need desperate control measures soon.

3.Buttered toast dipped in dal. This had been my evening snack for years as far as I can remember. With a gap of two years in the middle…when I shifted to hostel where the rule was “maggi noodles” for lunch or dinner. Mostly out of laziness after a long day at the college hospital.

4.Come rainy days and there are a few things that I look forward to…Pakoras dipped in imli chutney, roasted corn, samosas, and hot jalebis.

5.POTATOES!! Bake them, roast them, fry them, mash them…cook them any way you want…And I’ll love them. That explains the extra flab around my tummy. Aloo(potato) parathas on Sunday mornings, roti and aloo ki sabzi a couple nights a week, mashed potatoes with chopped chilies and onions eaten along with rice…have been part of my every day diet always. And aloo chops. There was this shop in my hometown where I ate the best aloo chops ever. It was triangular in shape, about 2 inches thick, no stuffing, just plain boiled potato fried in little oil and few select spices and an amazing chutney go with it. Unfortunately the shop closed down a few years earlier…And I knew I’d never taste the chops that I was so fond of ever again. My mother knows these are the select few dishes I really love eating…So she prepares them without fail since so many years. Waking up on a Sunday morning and knowing what exactly would be laid on the breakfast table…two aloo parathas, mango pickle and chole…the taste rarely varying all these years. And that’s why I find it so comforting.

6.I love tea. No milk, no sugar. And the biscuits from the local bakery. Salty ones preferably. I love orange cream biscuits too…Licking off the orange cream in between first and then eating the biscuits.

7.Prawns. Only exception to my vegetarian diet. When I was about ten years old, I used to catch prawns for dinner myself. There’s a huge pond on the backyard of my home where I spent my childhood years. On Sundays and holidays…I used to carry a wide bamboo basket with some bread crumbs in it and kneeling down on the edge of the pond would dip the basket in the water. And wait. Without making the slightest movement. And soon enough I would see tiny prawns swimming into the trap to eat the bread crumbs. And I triumphantly ran into the kitchen with the catch of the day, handed it over to my mother to cook for dinner later that night and asking her to cook them as spicier and crispier as possible.

8.Ice creams. Love vanilla and chocolate flavors. Hate strawberry and butter-scotch flavors. During my school days, my mother used to hand me and my sister money to get one ice cream each on our way back from school. Once every week. Always on Thursdays. My sister would excitedly wake me up to remind me it’s Thursday and we would spend a good half an hour on the way to school debating which flavour of ice cream to buy that day. We weren’t allowed to have aerated colas. But we didn’t protest. For us the mango drink “Frooti” ruled! As it did for most of the kids growing up in the nineties.

9.There was this food stall run by an old man outside the primary school I attended. He used to sell a lot of snacks…paani puris, chole bhature, aloo chops etc. But it was the chole along with the spicy chutney that I was interested in. Some days I used to carry an extra tiffin box with me to school…a small round steel dabba. And bring back home the chole to eat for lunch.

10.And now onto what has been my staple diet all these years. It’s rice and masoor dal. Simple dal- chawal. I crave for nothing more. The other items to go with it vary…but not too much. It’s either stuffed capsicums, soybean curry or mashed potatoes. That’s it. I’ve ate this for lunch and dinner every single day since the past 20 years almost. Since the time I was capable of voicing my opinion about what I’d like to eat. Every single day. And I never got bored. I still look forward to it after a busy day in college or hospital, or after coming back from a trip. I associate it with “home”. I associate it with my ‘mother’, who by now has perfected the art of making these days just the way I like them.

Going through the list you must have guessed why parents panicked over the kind of foods I loved. My parents used to force me to eat spinach saying it’s good for the eyesight and I would end up with thick glasses by the time I’m 20 if I carried on with my unhealthy diet. But within a couple of years, everyone in my family started wearing glasses for poor eyesight. I still have perfect vision. That’s why I don’t fuss about my unhealthy diet. I know I don’t eat most of those healthy foods. But I was growing up well. So the nutritional requirements of my body had been met. I must be eating at least something right. If not everything! I recently turned 23…still staying with my parents because I attend college here. I know in a year from now…I’d have to leave home for further studies. And I would have leave behind my comfort foods. The sense of security I feel coming back home each day…knowing my mother would be at home…and has kept my favorite dishes ready to eat. I know once I leave home…my fussy eating habits would stand no chance in the hectic pace of life that I’d be thrown into. Maybe I’d be eating a spinach sandwich for breakfast a year from now! But as of now I savour these comfort foods…And I will always savour the memories.

Losing Self-Respect

“Self respect is the fruit of discipline; the sense of dignity grows with the ability to say no to oneself”

—Abraham J. Michael

That’s where she failed. In saying “no” to herelf. It’s not that she hadn’t tried. But the resolve faded out soon enough.

It wasn’t like this always. She valued her self-respect. And never compromised it for anyone. Her parents were proud of the way she carried herself. People were careful about saying anything wrong or offensive to her. And she never gave anyone the opportunity of treating her badly. She was happy that despite any adversities she faced she’d managed to maintain her self-respect and dignity. She was proud that she was in full control of her emotions.

And then the worst happened. She fell in love. That was 5 yrs ago. She was 20 at that time. She loved, trusted and respected the person completely. And it delighted her when her feelings were reciprocated.  Gradually emotional dependence increased and her vulnerability lay exposed in front of the person. That was the worst mistake of her life. Her first regret in life. Letting the one she loved know that he had the ability to hurt her. Slowly the “occasional differences in opinion” became “full-fledged quarrels”. But she always apologized and made up if it was her fault. What was unsettling that it was her again who had to soothe his wounded ego even if it was his fault. She wasn’t looking to settle scores. She was in love, and convinced herself there shouldn’t be any ego hassles between partners. Apart from it slowly becoming a regular occurrence, another trend started. Blame game. She was always at the receiving end. If he verbally abused her, she should be the one apologizing because she provoked the outburst and brought it on herself. That was his twisted logic. Why did she give him a chance? He never ever apologized to her. She still didn’t feel something was amiss in their relationship. A slow but sure stab on her self-respect had occurred, but once again she was too much in ‘love’ to notice that. There were moments when she saw reason, when she detested this downfall; but the fear of losing him was too overshadowed everything. She had invested a lot of love in the relationship, and she was determined not to let it go unrequited. The denial to see the extent to which she’d become emotionally dependent on him brought out a whole new side of her. An ugly side that she wasn’t aware of earlier. She became a clinging, emotionally insecure person who was ready to bear anything to save the relationship, even at the cost of losing her self-respect. Every time he used to hurl abuses at her and not talk to her for some time, she started reminiscing the good memories, often glorifying the past. She used to call him up later, trying hard to hear the love in his voice, which had long ceased to exist. ‘One day he would realize how much I love him, and he would be back to his old self’, the thought she slept on every night. It was no surprise that he never did.

He broke up with her saying that his family won’t agree to their relationship.She accepted his decision, and was too naive to understand why he got into the relationship in the first place if he didn’t had the guts to stand up against his family for the girl he loves. But she still nearly begged him whether they could remain friends. He was reluctant. But eventually agreed. She used to count the minutes ticking by till she heard from him next. As obvious, she was the one who did most of the “keeping in touch” part. Life continued. And all along she nurtured the secret hope that he would one day be back with her.

She came to know later that he was with someone else by the time they had their break-up. It angered her and an ugly confrontation followed. He admitted to this ‘lapse’ but adopted the policy of offense being the best defense. He once again hurled abuses at her. She stopped all contact with him.

Her inability to say “no” to herself when it came to matters of the heart got better of her. She couldn’t bear the thought of losing him from her life completely. The very fear that made her lose her self respect in the first place. She managed to curb her desire to keep him as a part of her life and contact him, even though it took her an year and half. To let go of someone you love and accept that they no longer want to be with you can be a very difficult to cope with. But her heart healed; it just took a little longer than others.

She hated this particular aspect of her life. The whiny, clingy girl ready to go to any extent to save her “love”. When the love faded away, and sense prevailed in her life,  she couldn’t fathom why she was ready to settle for a guy that abused her trust and love, and in all certainty would repeat it. Her friends and family too were shocked at the person she’d become. They always knew her to be a very balanced, emotionally strong person. And then they saw her when she was in love. The damage was done. She’d failed them too. But she tried hard to re-build her self-esteem, she resolved never to compromise her dignity for anyone. Ever. She had seen herself during her worst and was scared of ever being in that place again.

Life was good. And then..

She has fallen in love again.. She considered the risks involved, but love had slowly begun its hypnotic effect on her.  She told him  He didn’t find her worthy of any response. She is trying her best not to repeat her earlier mistake of putting her self-respect at stake again. She tries not to ring him or text him. She’d failed again. She started doing the opposite, and called him up when she knew she shouldn’t have. She’d tried various ways to distract herself, and her failure popped up on his inbox. But she can’t get him out of her head. She is scared she would lose her self-respect again. Friends and family point that out to her too. But she still nurses that damn ‘hope’!

How does one walk away from the person one loves? She doesn’t want to let him go. Her mind knows that she must. But her heart longs to stay. The logical and the best advice would be to let go. Let time fade him away.

The indecisiveness continues.

They say “no one can make you feel inferior and hurt you without your consent”. She had given the consent to someone. And she is hurt. And she does feel inferior as a person. It just took 5yrs. And she can’t look in the mirror without feeling ashamed of the person she has become. If only she had the sense to stop herself from giving the right to hurt her that first time. She is scared now. It’s a sort of addiction. She has paid a heavy price for it. The one thing she valued the most A sense of dignity.