Thursday, August 31, 2006

The hospital IS NOT RESPONSIBLE for your valuables

As we - D, our domestic help, and I - entered the Emergency Medicine Dept. at St. John's the guard at the entrance halted us to ask the patient's name which I dutifully said adding that it was a head injury - an emergency case. Then he asked me my name which I mumbled before he relented to direct us. A few metres on at the other end of the corridor the second guard, making sure he disbursed his duties well, stopped us again to carry out the charade. And as all this transpired D was bleeding profusely - the towel wrapped around his wound soaked like a cigarette butt in public loos. Finally after we were let in into the Priority - 1 room a doctor (a lecturer in medicine) took an interested look and asked a few questions before he asked his junior - a PG student Mr. T - to diagnose him. Mr. T now enquired his quota; he hadn't paid attention the first time they were asked. He wrote down the rather lengthy report - left lateral laceration, 8 cm long, 1.5 cm deep, weapon involved: kitchen knife, address, thumb impression, etc) during which a few nubile interns gathered around him and invited him to their world with enticing smiles and he in turn blushed baby pink. And after a good 20 mins of entering the premises we were asked to get an X - ray done of the skull ( Anterior-Posterior and lateral). The X-ray room was a 100 metres walk. And after it was done the operator refused to give me the X ray saying that it'll be sent to the Priority -1 room. So I went back only to be asked by Mr. T for the X-ray. After listening to me he ordered someone to fetch it from the X ray room since they normally took a long time to send it across.

As we waited a few Sisters got together for some chit-chat. I hadn't paid them any attention until then and what I saw made me rue it. Miss I was telling Miss J about this new intern from Germany, "I've heard he's very intelligent. He has won many prizes and all." I turned to stare at a 6 ft 5 in giant. Meanwhile the X-ray report arrived and it became the cause cèlébre as every soul worth an ounce of medical literature decided to look into it. It was determined beyond the reasonable doubts of a few too many noble docs, interns,etc that there was no damage to the cranium (thats why the X ray had been done in the first place) . There was a brief 'pehle aap' fiasco between the German Mr. G and the Indian Mr. T as to who would treat the patient. By seniority Mr. T won the vote. The stage was set. Or so I had thought.

In the emergency ward of a hospital as big as St. John's at any given point of time there are 8 - 10 suture sets. But right then there wasn't a single one. All had been despatched to be sterilised (hygiene is of paramount importance of course) My patience running thin while having already waited 15 mins for the suture set I asked Mr. T as to why they couldn't/didn't send the sets in batches instead of all at once. He reassured me - "It happens man."

When the suture set arrived a trolley was rolled on wheeled legs with the necessary equipment. Mr. T put on his rubber gloves only to find: there is no razor to shave off the hair off the scalp surrounding the laceration. So another hunt began, and the razor wass hunted down after 10 odd mins but it turned out useless without a blade which was eventually got from a simpering Sister. And then the suture started. Since it was quite a long and deep incision it took time. While Mr. T was on his 3rd stitch the Sisters and attendants had vanished and a swelling beacuse of a blood clot (haematoma) had developed. I was asked, "Do you fear the sight of blood?" I said, "No" and I was invited over to assist Mr.T !!!

Now because of the fresh blood that kept collecting at the site of the wound a soft, pulpy mound had formed. When a stitch was put blood would ooze/ gush out of the puncture site because of the pressure built up by the rupture of the blood vessels in the area. Increasingly it was becoming difficult to tie it up. I helped by pouring Povidine-Iodine solution into a cup, giving gauzes to Mr. T by forceps, replenishing the saline in the saucer and asking D, the victim, to pinch himself hard to take his mind off the pain. 12 stitches were put in place after a drawn out hour. Mr. T taking the advice of a senior surgeon put on Dynaplast (a kind of elastic band) over the tomb that had formed by now. Wiping off the blood off the face and hair took another 10 mins after which a Sister who had vanished earlier handed me 3 prescriptions.

The St. John's pharmacy is overworked and understaffed. It took me an hour to get the medicines. And finally after enquiring about the doses and outpatient facilities it was time for home.

12 stitches, 140 cm of non-absorbable suture wire (Ethilon), a huge quantity of blood, 4 and a 1/2 hours and an extremely frustrating experience later all I remember is this:

1) During one of the many waits I asked the German guy as to 'what if there is a serious emergency?' (I had to put it that way since a plain, simple emergency had lost it's effect). He said 'but there isn't one now.' I stressed on the 'what if' part and regretted it because he told me next, ' This is India. It happens all the time.' After enquiring I came to know he had been there for 5 weeks but he said he was sure of what he said. A German has the audacity to say this about one of the premier hospitals of Bangalore.

2)Doctors are esteemed a lot. They are veritable demi-gods. But one who is insincere can make you sick to your bone and you get to know this the hard way. We all cheat and fool around at our jobs but a doctor in the emergency dept. simply cannot afford it. It's a God-forsaken place where tempers run high and patiences run thin and to look at Sisters having crushes by the minute, interns make silly passes, or male attendants mistaking boobs for faces is a blood-boiling thing. There are genuinely sacrificing doctors and nurses no doubt and I understand how difficult life must be for them. But the ones who are not - God forbid them from you.

3)And all this had started because of what the security guard of an adjacent building had to say to D: that the hair on his chin was more than the hair in his (D's) loins.

4) The hospital is not responsible for your valuables. (This was written in the Emergency dept) If your life is a valuable then bad luck!

Friday, August 18, 2006

right to live. live to write

A pen. A paper. And you're ready to write? Alright, some food for thought.

Is it that simple? (rhetoric)

Writing at all times is a personal experience. But within that there are so many demands to be met and so many things to be kept in mind. In school it was to write some sense in 350 words. In college it was to stretch out 'one liner' answers into full pages until the examiner got so confused in your clap-trap he was convinced "iss bandey mein kuch hai". And all the time we never really had to think

Unfortunately, if you want to I mean really you still didn't get me.. i mean really, truly write then the situation gets a trifle tricky.

Pen, paper and food for thought are all mandatory ingredients but you need that something..that spark to ignite the fuse.. and then write as it sets your imagination on fire. Then repeat the process over and over again until it becomes a habit, a second skin. I'm not sure where to get that and I doubt attending creative writing classes help.

Sometimes, or maybe at most times, its easier to write pages about one incident, like in real time, than club huge chunks of time in a single paragraph. When you recount an anecdote there loom a thousand finer points. Some important, or rather relevant to the story, and some not so. Its absolutely necessary to thresh the chaff from the grain. Because if you don't the reader may look upto the wrong pointers to relate to. And in the end, its how much anyone relates to, or understands what you want to say, that makes him harbour any feeling from adoration, love to hate, disgust for your work.

Midnight's Chilren is a brilliantly written book. Its a veritable training module on how to narrate. Yet when I first tried to read it, it just left me with a collection of new words. And when I asked a few of my friends they shared my sentiments ( and I was relieved!). But guess what? It has won the 'Booker of Bookers' award. That means it has been held as the best book to have won the Booker prize in its first 25 years. Yet more people (atleast in the 20-30 group) must've read 'One Night at a Call Centre' and maybe even enjoyed.

Does it say anything about the readers or is there something wrong with being critically acclaimed?

Its the same thing as masala potboilers setting box-offices on fire and crtically hailed, landmark movies coming a cropper at the marquee. Filmmakers never blame the viewers when serious and good cinema falls flat on its face. Instead they say the audiences' taste is different or may be there was something wanting in their product. Its called biting the bullet

It can happen with anyone with creative products to sell for a living ( I mean all you engineers, doctors, MBAs dont come at me..). But when you're at it, when you're I mean really really writing... thats the last thing that comes to your mind. You don't measure yourself by any standards. And all you need is just a pen and paper. Because an imagination has run amok. A storm has been raged. You can't ever catch the wind, can you?

I'll end with this piece from 'The God of Small Things'

"Anything's possible in Human Nature," Chacko said in his Reading Aloud voice. Talking to the darkness now, suddenly insensitive to his little fountain-haired niece. "Love. Madness. Hope. Infinite joy."

Of the four things that were Possible in Human Nature, Rahel thought that Infinite Joy sounded the saddest. Perhaps because of the way Chacko said it.

Infinite Joy. With a church sound to it. Like a sad fish with fins all over.

Thursday, August 10, 2006


For a generation, a society, to believe in a philosophy took one man, really.

Think of how difficult it is to convince a populace of a tenet, to unite them under the aegis of a single idelogy, by thinking of how unsuccessful a generation, that India which was unified before independence, has been in making its children understand what they believed in. Non-violence died long back, sometime before Gandhi did. It was as if Ahimsa had a meaning only until the fight for freedom from imperialists was on. Once that battle was won it lost it dissolved - corpus and will.

I'll be a trifle defensive and say rightaway that I'm not vouching for Ahimsa. I don't know if its right or if it can withstand the quicksand of practicality (we call it realpolitik these days). I'm too naive for that. Or maybe I'm too informed without having being there and done that. But I fail to understand how a path of action followed by so many billions could be so summarily abandoned especially when they so strongly and so obvoiusly believed in it? You can argue with the non-aligned movement and how atleast under Nehru we were a peace loving nation which we're even now. But still how could parents not teach our midnight's children what they stood for? Or did they actually stand for it?

I'll look at it from the other side. What about war? Is there anything called victory in war? With all the abstruse terms floating around - psychological victory, strategic vic, tactical vic - somewhere even the focus has shifted from the noun onto the adjective. History has taught us that men and weapons make bad bedfellows. The judgement of human beings simply cannot be trusted to save humanity from disaster. Muhammed of Ghazni attacking us 17 times or Alexander conquering most of Eurasia after bloodbaths didn't cause as much damage as a World War did. Japan has learnt its lessons well. There is more intelligence, more life, more beauty at stake now. What is meant to be a deterrent doesn't take time to become an agent of pre-emptive attack. Victory in war can at best be Pyrrhic and even that, most of the times, is overestimated. You can say Israelis have been more sinned against than sinning or the Hezbollah militia have a right to their freedom but it doesn't change a thing and that's exactly what is sad. Someday it'll become so complicated, and absurd, that our collective fate - the kind that you must've read about in sci-fi novels - has to be decided by a throw of dice. Words like Cataclysm, Apocalyse, Armageddon will be in our newpapers once and after that no word shall ever be printed.

I respect our soldiers. They put their lives on the line. For people like us who care about them mostly when they die and maybe moreso if they have saved a few civilians before dying. If this is repugnant it's as much of a truth as the view that soldiers are perpetrators of some of the worst human rights violations in high insurgency areas all over the world. The concept of a nation is an epic truth, that of safeguarding it is sounder, and even the rationalism that it's a job like the doctor's or engineer's and everyone has to contribute in their own way makes sense but . . . Why is it that today in our armed forces there is a growing shortage of personnel? Maybe our youth have found better, less riskier alternatives to earn a living. Does that make fighting for one's country a last resort, or one of the last options? Is the concept of patriotism losing relevance because you can't see the bad guys from the good ones?

Life verily exacts its revenge when something that you've stood for all along stands compromised. Soldiers make such choices and I respect them for that. You read first hand accounts of the World Wars, or watch Saving Private Ryan, The Thin Red Line and you'll get an idea. The only thing that war gives for sure is scars. It leaves countless sentinels who have fought for freedom, with guns and death, with a numbness that makes the rest of their days a living hell. The saddest thing is to come back home a hero and then lock yourself up and question whether whatever it was that you fought for was right. Was worth it.

Someone said 'everything's fair in love and war' after which people have been repeating it for ages. This thing is so old I bet no one even thinks about it before saying it. This statement in a nutshell says this: the goals of love and war are the highest ideals for which any man can strive. So all actions stand redeemed in the process of accomplishment of those ideals.

But really if you ask me maybe most things are fair in love (ok can I have some more time to decide? :-)) but war? .. no comments ... you should ask the guy who first said it.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

err...bhaiya apothecary there's a fly in the ointment you're selling

The other day in the middle of a seemingly regular conversation a friend asked me if I remembered my sister, who's long been dead, often. For many years I had been indifferent to this requiem of reality, alternately banishing and stowing it away. Maybe there was unwashed pain. But of late, and that accounted for my reply in the affirmative, I've been opening long locked boxes. An occasion like Rakhee evokes special memories and makes me wonder what it would've been like..

One of my very good friend's little sister started tying me rakhees sometime back in school. And now several years hence she goes into an overdrive every year before rakhee asking me to visit her several hundred miles away and hardly ever reminding me of the gifts she so rightfully deserves. I would have had never imagined what had started solely because of how regularly I used to go to my friend's place would grow into something so redeeming. It brings a smile to the lips - one that outlives seasons until the next year.

Schooldays were witness to quite a few rakhee tales. The one that I especially like occurred in the 8th class. This girl S got to know of this guy P (a big bully in class whom the girls frowned upon) who was interested in her. It didn't help when we told her of how serious P was about her. Scared he might do something, she hatched a master plan. A day before rakhee she brought a box full of chocolates and a 'cute' rakhee to school. In the recess she cornered P literally and told him he had to be her brother. P, in a show of manly defiance, clenched his palms together ( to-get-her) in the back. She held out her token of sisterly trust before him and enticed him with her forbidden fruit (chocolates!!) while he steadfastly refused to give in to it and thus give up hopes of his amorous liaisons. This continued for a good 40 mins until the teacher had to separate the desperate sister-to-be and the brother that never was.

But credit should be given to our man P for choosing the path of righteousness because guys did use rakhee to get up, close and see they could always pass off a little mischief as brotherly concern. Whoever spoke about the means justifying the ends!

Saturday, August 05, 2006

the poorer me

The thing with the death of a loved one is that it doesn't make you sad per se. It's when you remember small things in context and you realise how much it means to you, how much you miss it, and how little you appreciated it that a poignancy gushes out through the spillways that bereaved eyes can sometimes be.

These days my grandmother keeps visiting me in an image of a hapless old lady frantically looking for her grandson on a strange, long school corridor. A curfew had been imposed in town after communal riots had broken out post Babri Masjid demolition. The teachers were brainstorming about the students' safety when she hotfooted into and out of classrooms with an urgency only duplicated in labour rooms. I saw her on the corridor and shouted, without fear of the looming pedagogic figures, 'Aai'. And then the entire class screamed out at the top of their lungs 'Aaai'. She saw me, came running over, and hugged me tight with my face buried in the soft of her belly. That was it - an old, uneducated, and stupidly doting grandmother making a mockery of a curfew to come to her grandson and a roomful of boisterous schoolkids united with him for a moment in the love for their grandmothers that they each wished were there. I had won that day.

She lost a few days ago.

My life will be all the poorer for it.

Friday, August 04, 2006

more verse less terse

sometime back when I was drunk I scrawled this (retrieved from the archives of my cellphone):

for all punch drunk in love,
what lies ahead is a treasure-trove,
the keys to which cant be bought in a mart,
but only to be found in your beloved's heart

and then when I was a little sad, and drunk still, I drawled this:

all mothers that send their sons to war,
in hope leave their doors ajar,
but even if the battle scarred return from afar,
their souls have changed beyond repair

she cant see rhyme from chime, she doesn't know mirth from mime!

Quite exuberantly I started with:

Pitter patter amidst the clatter
a little brain is in a batter
sifting through all the clutter
to pen verses that glitter

and then when she didn't quite get my line I wrote:

Hither thither into the gutter
O these poems full of butter
vanish with hardly a flutter
and there wails the rhymer's letter

and then when she still didn't get any of it I composed:

Bitter poet at the end of his tether
his ballads as cute as a pup's litter
but his princess of frowns and jitter
fails to understand his poems better