Thursday, December 6, 2007

the world through little eyes (Nadia's diary 4)

Birthdays and all that hype...

Well …sorry for the long gap guys..was on that whatsizname….. sabbatical thing.Trying to understand myself better..blah blah blah .
Anyway I’ve crossed quite a few milestones. I can walk now….a bit wobbly …but c’mon guys I ain’t going for those Ms World things ( not for some time at least).So like that Armstrong character ,who was dumped on the moon said….small step for mankind but a giant leap for me ….blah blah blah.
I also turned one this month…great party and stuff …all those crazy adults were enjoying on my behest.I mean think of it …I didn’t get a piece of the cake literally. ….and the presents…yuck. My parents have absolutely no taste ( not difficult to imagine ,considering the fact that they chose each other ).I got half a dozen frilly frilly dresses….not one tube top or a pair of jeans…God,they still treat me like a half baked neonate. Turning one put me in a pensive mood though… I have noticed that my skin has become a wee-bit rough…and I think I may have just noticed a frown line or two getting a bit deeper…not long before I’ll have to give serious thought to that botox stuff.

Got to see a couple of movies….but our TV got damaged when we were seeing that ‘saawariya’ thing…all colours except green and blue disappeared.Luckily when the movie got over the TV became normal.

Incidentally I fell sick a couple of weeks back.Boy!!… 3 days of loss of productivity. Must have been that ‘chickengunya’ something something that people are talking about.The worst part is the medicines ..both papa and mama enjoy taking turns to thrust those yucky syrups into my delicate oral end…… and guess what ?The pediatrician guy also advised something called a suppository which is supposed to be inserted into my other more sensitive end.Doctors suck dudes….and to think that both of my esteemed parents belong to this crazy profession.I feel betrayed even before my birth!

I’ve started being a bit of a scientist though….I love the concept of gravity.Believe me dudes, gravity really works.I’ve learned to drop an assortment of things from various heights and trust me ….NOTHING comes back!!.Throwing things down from the 1st floor window is the ultimate though.Interestingly I’ve observed that things made of glass do tend to break up quite bad.

(Nadia is my 1 year old daughter…in a hurry to become an adult!!)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Old ,Bald and not so beautiful...

The other day I read a bit about a new TV channel aimed for the youth.To my pleasant consternation the period of ‘youth’ as envisaged by the channel was between 15 and 34 years.Lucky I was slowly but steadily slipping away from youth and entering into the rather ancient sounding 30s and suddenly I have hope again!! Actually a lot of people these days seem to be more afraid of the ageing process than death itself!
So why are people really afraid of ageing ?
In my professional capacity I get to see a lot of people who could loosely be categorized ‘old’ ,asking if something can be done for those rapidly multiplying age spots or those invading army of wrinkles.When I started practice I used to have a sense of disguised disgust when I saw these ‘oldies’ fretting about the aesthetics of their physiques as though they were going to participate in a Ms / Mr World contest. I used to have a smirk hidden in my mind when I gave what was supposed to be sincere advice regarding chemical peels ,dermabrasions or Botox……..Now I tend not to be so judgemental ,simply because I can see myself a couple of decades down the line ,searching out for that elusive black hair in a sea of depressing grey.
So is attempting to look younger really bad ?Guess not ….but having unrealistic aspirations regarding the same is dangerous.Given a choice ,not many of us would mind having a few wrinkles lifted,a little tuck or a push and a nip here and there.Money and privacy would probably be important issues.I mean if you offered people a free facelift in the complete privacy of their homes ,not many may decline.In other words deep in their hearts everybody does want to look younger.
A recent conversation with one such ‘eager to look younger’ patient I came across went something like this
(Disclaimer :All resemblances to any living or dead or in between people or animals are intentionally coincidental)

“Hello doctor ,how are you” Mr S looked a jaded 30 something,What few hair remained on his head were meticulously dyed jet black.Apparently Mr S was still single and looking.Unfortunately he felt nobody (read gals) was looking at him.
“I have one big problem Sir” Lucky guy!I mean I definitely have quite a few more big problems
“This….” Mr S dramatically taps a couple of times on the side of his skull
Duh?!The psychiatry OP was the next block.Did Mr.S lose his way?

“Very little here ” He elaborates still continuing the tap dance with his right index finger

Low brain weight?Welcome to the the club mate!……would I have to refer it to neurology or psychiatry me is thinking………He looked quite intelligent though.

“See….. all coming of so easily”This time Mr S pulls out a few of his hairs and displays it on his palms

Oh…very little of that.Welcome to that club too mate!

Mr S went on to elaborate on the mental trauma and deep anguish caused by the thinning of his pate.I could empathize with him to an extent …..most guys who’ve reached the 30’s could do the same I suppose.

Anyway, after that sob story ,it was my turn.I explained to him the available options right from lotions that promote hair growth to hair fixing and transplants ,elaborating on the pros and cons of each.

“Transplant??does it really I have to find a donor?”
Now that would be something …..finding people to donate their hair for a noble cause

“No”I reassure him “ We take hair from the back of your scalp and place it into the frontal areas”

“Oh ..but then wont that too fall away after some time?” Mr S queries anxiously
“Well…”I go on to explain to him in detail concepts of ‘donor dominance’ and ‘resistance of occipital hair to androgenic alopecia”.To put it in very tiny nutshell ,the hair from the back of the scalp is relatively resistant to male pattern of baldness and the hair that are transplanted to the frontal areas tend to grow with the characteristics of the donor site i.e they tend to remain resistant to the normal balding process.

Mr S is happy
“Er Doc….why is it called androgenic alopecia”
“That’s coz the male pattern balding is mediated by male hormones specifically testosterone”
“You mean..I may be balding because I have a lot of that testo …whatever ?” Mr S is happier
“ a way yes”
“You mean …. A balding man is more of a man than a non-balding man?”Mr S is happier than happier
Uh oh . “Hmmm…well…..kind of I suppose”
“Interesting… think they know about this”he whispers conspiratorially
They??!The CIA ?
“I mean girls…do you think they know ‘bout this testicle thing?”
testosterone actually ,but there was no point telling Mr S that now.He seemed to be possessed.

“I am sure they are aware”
By now Mr S was positively guffawing

“Well doc…thanks a lot…I’ll think about the treatment options you mentioned and get back to you……then again maybe I’ll keep my shiny pate.May be the girls will dig my testicle thing”


Friday, November 2, 2007

What's in a name??

I recently chanced upon the famous hip-hop-sob story director Karan Johar staring at me through one of the ad laden pages of India Today magazine.The guy was peddling some kinda watch .The punch line of the ad made me smile though .Mr Johar apparently was stating …and I quote “It doesn’t matter what your second name is…what’s important is what you do with your first”
Cool.The problem with me is though….officially my name goes as ‘Kaliyadan Feroze’.The ‘Kaliyadan’ bit ,which is the family name on my dad’s side ,was prefixed instead of being suffixed by my Father dearest when he admitted me to school (One of the many parental conspiracies I’m yet to unravel).So now I have half a dozen scraps of calligraphed papers ,ranging from my school leaving certificate to my hallowed MD degree proclaiming yours truly to be ‘Kaliyadan Feroze’.Some of my amusingly pricking memories are of teachers in medical college fumbling with my name during roll calls.It is true though that there were some other equally serious victims of parental abuse in my class…..Bejoy Chandepillai ,Qurrathul-ain-Farhana…..names,tongue twisters all rolled into one.The worse part was nobody could proxy for me during roll calls coz unlike the more common names the teacher invariably looked up to quench their curiosity regarding this creature having a strange nomenclature.My wonderful friends found it as amusing as I found it irritating……my nicknames ranging from Kali , Kaliya…and some unmentionable variants.
But then ,every stupid name like a coin has two sides.I mean just google ‘Kaliyadan Feroze ‘ on the web…you wont find much ..but whatever you will is only me!Also I happened to marry a classmate of mine….a certain Ms Kaberi Biswas with whom I had to spend virtually every clinical posting during my medical college days,primarily because both our ‘first’ names started with the same couple of letters…Now whether THAT turned out to be good or bad is of course another question!!!!

So borrowing from Shakespeare … what is in a name?A ‘feroze’ would be just as crazy by any other name…

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Marriages are made in the registrar’s office!

The argument of whether or not there is a happy here-after for the goody – goody types will continue till Armageddon…maybe even after that.However ,as far as holy matrimony is concerned ,the ‘Made in heaven’ tag is slowly going to ease out of fashion.Apparently the Indian government is planning to make official registration of marriages compulsory.Great !!…That would have been my response a couple of years ago (some time before I got hitched to my bitter half )…but now I wonder.You see I’m one of the few people around who actually got married two times( And before you guys get crazy ideas of polygamy ,both the marriages in question were to my one and only wife ).The first one was a dour affair in the presence of 500 odd guests ,everything going according to script,both of our posteriors being taught an exercise in patience ,and believe me our fixed grins would have put all those wannabe Ms Worlds to shame.The other affair at the registrar’s office was something else!!I mean things were really exciting .We had to do the round of the registrar’s office so many times and we still weren’t really certain when / if he would allow us to marry right till the very end.

Day 1:

This was the scouting trip. I bunked work to get a firsthand view of the battlefield.I reached the registrar’s office around 2:00 in the afternoon. Wasn’t much in terms of the glamour quotient …routine governmental setup. Dilapidated brick walls passionately clinging on to a decade old coating of paint with minimal success. The whole area seemed deserted. It wasn’t any kind of state holiday as far as I knew. I stuttered into the office space …a 5 X 5 feet room with 4 desks ,4 chairs ,a few dozen cobwebs ,many dozen dust coated files and one forlorn looking gentleman sitting in one corner.Couldn’t see much of this guy too ,his entire face was enshrouded in cigarette smoke.

“Excuse me Chetta” You know we mallus are really going places with manglish these days

“Huh???” I wasn’t sure if this was an acknowledgement of my presence or just another exaggerated puff of his fast disappearing bidi.

“I want to register a marriage”

“Huh???”.Much the same tone…a bit gruffier maybeThe smoke was clouding his brains too I assumed.

“Marriage …I want to marry”Now I know that came out something like salman khan talking to Bhagyasree’s daddy in ‘Maine pyar kiya’.I hoped that this joker didn’t have a marriageable daughter of any kind.

“Time….2:00 clock” Mr.Smoker continued with his smoking after this enigmatic statement.

I instinctively looked at my watch .He got that right alright….zigacly 2:00 ( as Obelix would say to Asterix during peaks of inebriation ).


“lunch break…..officer not here”At least he was speaking longer sentences.I was getting through to him!!
“When will he come?”

“4:00 clock”He was slipping back to his laconic best.

“4:00????” I mean was he having lunch or an elephant?


I left for the day ,without having the pleasure of meeting the great man himself

Day 2 :
Not much to write about coz it was only after I landed there that I knew that the office was closed for the day for repairs. I wondered whether they’d repair the guys working there too…..

Day 3 :
This time I came armed with my bitter half, just in case the registrar guy wasn’t convinced that anybody would actually marry me. We made it a point to reach ground zero much before the registrar’s sacrosanct elephant -eating break. This time ground- zero did show perceptible signs of normal human life. I’d like to stress on the word ‘normal’ coz of the Neanderthal nincompoop I met the other day .To cut a long story short, I finally managed to get a ‘darshan’ of the great man himself…the marriage registrar. Didn’t look very imposing …hardly 5 feet ,steel rimmed glasses partially obscuring shifty slit –eyes, scrawny facial features with a prominent dyed moustache,ever so slightly curved upward at the edges …..a miserable failed attempt at a handlebar variety I think .The guy was quite amicable though…..

“So you want to get married to this lady” His eye darting from my face to the ‘lady’s’
“That’s right sir”
“You are running?”
huh?Maybe I did look really fit. “No sir…I go for a walk in the morning ,once in a while,when I ‘m not lazy ,which is not often …no jogging or running”

The scrawny face screwed up in disgust “ No ..are you running away from home?”
Oh that!
“ No Sir..we have our parent’s whole hearted blessings sir”
He sarcastically looked at my nervous hands which were hiding in my pant pockets ,as though he expected me to pull documentary evidence of the aforementioned ‘blessing’ from my pockets.

“Hmmm….OK ,OK…you need three witnesses ….and of course both of you. hee hee!” I assumed that this was his attempt at humor ,so I joined in with a damp giggle.The honorable registrar went on to explain the boring complexities of the Indian Marriage Act in detail. At the end of which, me and my bitter half were exchanging tired glances wondering whether all this trouble was really was worth it.

Day 4:

(The witnesses)
Now we had more idiots joining our bandwagon, one male friend of mine,a surgeon and two female colleagues of my wife .This registered marriage thing was a first for all of us, so while me and my wife were in a slightly apprehensive mood (This being our first marriage and all ),I witnessed my dear friend enjoying the novelty of the occasion ,flirting around with the other witnesses.
After a short while I and my wife had just signed the magna carta and our esteemed witnesses were about to follow suit ,when the scrawny registrar’s scrawnier assistant sweeps into the room and whispers something ominous into his boss’s ears.
His honour ponders gravely for a moment and pronounces his judgment.

‘I am sorry, I cannot allow this marriage”
Now what??!
“Your place of residence…”His honor paused for effect, before announcing grandly “….does not come under the purview of this office”
“You may have to try the office nearest to your place of residence”
That did it .I put my brand new ‘hero’ pen, specially bought for the occasion , back into my pocket ,caught hold of my bitter half ,gave one of my most threatening ‘I’ll show you’ looks to Messieurs Scrawny and Scrawnier and got out of the registrar’s room much faster than you could say “I do”

It was when we reached the car that we realized that we had left our dear witnesses behind. Even after a few minutes there was no sign of the trio. I was starting to wonder if my good friend hadn’t decided to register a marriage or two with one of the witnesses, when out he came of the office flashing a piece of white paper and some not so white teeth. It turned out to be the receipt of our marriage registration. I was officially married!!

None of our witnesses really disclosed how in a matter of minutes my place of residence shifted under the purview of the holy registrar…however one of the witnesses in question did later comment cryptically that “ Love maybe blind…. but money can be quite an eye-opener!”

Sunday, July 29, 2007

The world through little eyes ( Nadia's diary :2)

Didn’t do much this week in terms of evolution.Still rotting in the creep crawly stage.Get a bit depressed when I see dudes my age standing up ,some crazy geeks even walking.I’m going to try harder from today….er …tomorrow ( C’mon I don’t want to be labeled a type A personality like my crazy dad,besides if the whole idea behind this walking thing is transportation ,I do manage to get around anyway. What are papa’s and mama’s shoulders for anyway ?besides both those guys are badly in need of some exercise )

I learned to talk a bit .Mama and Papa haven’t yet learned to decipher my eloquent speech though. Talk about dumb parents. They still think I am just trying to act cute with my ga-gas and goo-goos. Geez guys…as far cute goes ,do I even have to try ??hee hee.

I’ve decided that I want to be a politician some day . I may even make a great president one day.Papa says that ,female presidents are the in-thing these days .Papa says that these politician characters can get away with anything including murder.I do manage to get away with quite a few things now (including murder ,if you include some bug families I’ve massacred by rolling on them )…but I suppose that’s coz I’m little.Things will change when I’m older.Already ,I’ve started getting generous mouthfuls from mama for silly things …like not doing ‘it ‘ in the potty.I’ve tried to warn mama that she should learn to control her hot temper ,god knows she may be contributing to that global warming stuff Mr.Bush et al rant about. Mama actually believes that pottyfying is the in thing…..some kind of style statement I think. Bullshit is what I say……. The other day we went to a super market..and guess what? Every half hour mama dearest was peeking into my diaper to see if I had pooped…..this in complete public view.Boy..embarrassing would be an understatement.I mean imagine how mama or papa would have felt if I kept on peeking into their diapers to see if they’ve pooped??!

Another thing I hate is when those old aunties and uncles ,zoom into my little face and debate earnestly on the issue of who I resemble more – Mama or Papa.” Ooh she has papa’s nose” or “Aah she has Mama’s eyes.Honestly ,dudes ,they make me feel like some kind of cloned hybrid animal… that chimera something guy those greek idiots mention in their crazy stories..I mean ,gimme a break..don’t I have a bit of individuality.Besides both Mama and Papa look funny ( to put it very mildly and with a lot of effort not to sound disrespectful )

Anyway…will be back with more important issues affecting the baby community.Hasta la vista baby!

(nadia is my 9 month old daughter...just waiting to be a teen)

Learning French the ‘patient’ way!

The hospital I work in happens to have quite a few patients these days from Burundi.
Duh??Yep ..that was my enlightened response too when I first heard that name.Burundi is a quaint little country in central Africa ,an erstwhile French colony.The primary language out there is called ‘Kirundi’ with most people being fluent in French ,which is their second language.The other day I met Mr.D from Bujumbara ,the capital of Burundi ,an affable kind of guy,a gentle 6 feet giant with a rather chronic skin affliction. Now my French is about as good as his Malayalam ,both of which collectively would be only slightly better than George Bush’s IQ.So as far as understatements go, we had a teeny weeny problem . So Mr D enters my cubicle ,with something between a quarter smile and a half smile on his otherwise pleasant face.
‘Bon jour, Monsieur Doctor !’ (Why can’t these crazy Frenchies write it as ‘Bonshu missue’ if that is what they are going to enunciate anyway ?)

‘Bon jour’ Me already reaching the limits of my excellence in the French language skills department.
‘What problemo ?’ Me reinforcing my idiocy with my obvious lack of knowledge of French ( and Italian )
Mr D apparently having an higher IQ gets the broad idea
‘J'ai ceci démanger partout le corps’ he replies earnestly

I smile in reply ,hoping falsely that my newly scaled teeth will deflect attention from my ignorance of French.

‘Ne parlez-vous pas anglais ? ’Mr D starts sounding a bit disappointed in me.

C’mon man …I mean I don’t even sport a French beard and I definitely don’t fancy French fries.

I finally break the bad news to poor Mr D.
‘No speak French ..u speak English?’

Mr D shrugs his broad shoulders in with a resigned expression on his face ,and continues to explain his problem in sign language
‘J'ai ceci démanger partout le corps’ he says again ,this time using his long spindly fingers to carry out a mono-act of a man scratching away to glory.

Now I get the idea.I mean an itch is an itch no matter which part of the world you’re in.Now I display my newly scaled teeth in sincere and undisguised happiness.I have always felt that Dermatologists experience a kind of perverse pleasure in seeing an itchy homo sapien.Of course the itching specimen also does feel a kind of guilty pleasure I suppose.As some famous person once elaborated “ Better by far than all the world’s riches …to rub where it aches and to scratch where it itches !”

Anyway ,after the scratch act ,I give Mr D the standard dermatological examination ……to put it simply I give him a good look all over.( A senior professor of mine once gave me a a brief talk on the basic difference between a physician and the dermatologist.Give a physician a case, and he or she will take a history for 15 minutes ,do a detailed general examination and a thorough systemic examination ,the whole show taking the better part of the hour.At the end he/she will announce grandly that he /she has no definite diagnosis ,but that there are definitely at least half a dozen potential differential diagnoses which may or may not be proved or disproved with the help of further investigations.The dermatologist on the other hand reaches the same conclusion…….by just looking at the patient’s lesions for half a minute !)

At the end of my meticulous clinical examination ,I explain to Mr D in sign language that he’ll require a few tests ,including a biopsy.Mr D is apparently a bit apprehensive.Not surprising because I do tend to overact when I’m performing with sign language….I had the distinct impression that Mr D winced when I indicated blood tests with the gesture of a needle jabbing my hand.To Mr D it probably looked like I was going to stab him with a 6 inch bowie knife.
Anyway Mr D leaves my cubicle with my precious advice to return with the reports of the tests.
He turns at the door and says “Je vous verrai en trois jours. Au revoir doctor”

“Yes.Sure..same to you ”I fumble …..not having a clue what I was replying to .It did sound a bit like Shwarzenegger ominously saying ‘I’ll be back’

Three days later Mr D returns with an expectant smile on his face and the customary “Bon jour doctor” on his lips.

“Bon jour monsieur” I paused for the effect and then absolutely startled him with “Vos essais en laboratoire sont tous normaux. Rien à s'inquiéter. Je te donnerai quelques médecines et vous devriez être meilleur en quelques jours”
(Roughly translated :Your laboratory tests are all normal.Nothing to worry.I'll give you some medicines and you should be better in a few days)
Boy!The expression on Mr D’s face was like one of those master-card ads ,there really are some things money can’t buy!
We continued to converse in French…very much at a snails pace, but very much in French all the same.
( Mr D did notice that I was getting distracted by the computer on my desk every other minute )

To cut a long story short .Mr D responded well to his treatment and went home a happy and less itchy human being .One thing he still hasn’t recovered from is the shock of hearing me speak in French .We still communicate by e-mail once a while and he continues to query once in a while regarding the secret of my instant French.Someday I hope to tell him the truth.

(For all of you who’re also wondering …check out the google language tools right on the google home page.Just type in anything you want in English and get instant translations in over a dozen languages )

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The beggar

I saw her every day.Always in the same spot ,sitting on her haunches ,one thin wrinkled hand holding on to the loose end of her tattered sari and the other cupped around her closest friend ,her begging bowl.I doubt if she herself had any clue regarding her age.She looked about sixty…her eyes looked older.I had been seeing her sitting on the side of the railway track near the Edapally railway station with an interestingly expressionless face.Every morning she would be there at 8:30 AM…she seemed more punctual than most of the people punching in at the place I work.She would have vanished by 6:00 pm when I returned from work.One day after almost a year of seeing her daily I went up and talked to her.She seemed shocked to see someone offering her a voice instead of the customary 50 paise or 1 Rupee coin.She recovered quickly and her wizened face contorted into what I assumed was a smile.We got talking….understandably uncomfortable with the conversation at first.
“Ammachi….where do you live”I enquired as naturally as I could
Her reply was predominantly in the form of hazy gestures and even hazier mumbles vaguely indicating that she had some kind of a dwelling about half a kilometer from her begging spot.
“ Have you had any food today ?Are you hungry?”Like a magician I produced a packet of biscuits from my bag with a flourish and offered it to her.I hoped to god that I wasn’t sounding condescending at any point.She gave me a curious look for a moment ,the kind of look you reserve for your psychotic acquaintances whom you can’t walk away from.She hesitantly rested her bowl on the stone laden track and then extended her hand to me.I gave her the packet.For a brief while we just stared through each other.Soon she was rummaging into her heavily soiled cloth sack Now it was her turn to act magician and pull out a rabbit. The rabbit,this time was in the form of a couple of torn lottery tickets ,that looked like a train might have run over them The pieces were still miraculously together.With a soft almost a smile like pursing of her lips ,she offered me one of the tickets. I couldn’t figure out if she was just offering me the ticket as a gift or whether she expected me to pay for them.With my obsession for political correctness I pulled out my purse from my back pocket and picked out 20 bucks.
“No..No…this is for money”She simply refused to give me a chance to display any magnanimity.
Now I felt really bad …I mean considering that a pack of biscuits cost 10 rupees ,she wasn’t getting a very good bargain.She might have been marginally better off financially if I hadn’t intruded on her well set morning routine.I decided to make it up to her over the coming days.
We said good byes as uncomfortably and formally as fresh acquaintances could.As I strolled across the track I scrutinized the lottery ticket in my hand.I looked back to see her back to her begging in right earnest.She used to sit precariously close to the track.I though I’ll mention this point to her the next time I see her.
‘Kerala Bhagyakuri – 1st prize 10 lakhs’.As usual the ticket was embedded with a photograph of a sad looking maruti car ,which was the bonus prize for the lucky winner.The date of the draw was a week later.It had been ages since I had bought a lottery ticket.I had no illusions regarding my fortunes in such matters.At the same time I couldn’t help but think how the old lady could afford buying not one but two lottery tickets when she was never sure if she would have enough for her next meal.I intended to ask her next day…maybe advise her not to spend her meager income on such games of chance.

The next day she smiled as I approached her.Without much of a prelude I offered her a pack of biscuits.This time she took it without any hesitation and she didn’t offer me anything in return.In the brief conversation we had that day I broached the issue of wasteful expenditure.Some where in the middle of my sermon ,her face twisted back to one of those ‘Are you crazy son?’ looks and then back to her mona lisa smile.
“ I save every month for two tickets” she explained her economic policy in a slow deliberate manner ,with a gravity akin to our finance ministers during the budget sessions. “ I have been doing the same thing for the last 6 years” as though that justified doing it again.
“And I suppose you’ve made millions” I asked sarcastically …and regretted it immediately
Her face seemed suddenly covered by dark clouds.She sat pensively for a moment “No ..I do get a 10 or 20 Rupees once a while. ..maybe someday I’ll get the big prize”

“What’ll you do with 10 lakhs ?I enquired ,a bit of sarcasm still coating my words.

“10 lakhs ?Who wants 10 lakhs?I just want some money to put a tin roof over my house ….it gets very difficult during the monsoons” the lines on her face seemed to reflect the misery in her thoughts .

The lump in my throat was getting uncomfortably larger.I resolved to act good Samaritan and help her get a roof over her head.The next I forcefully accompanied her to her hut by the railway track ,half a kilometer down the track.She was visibly flustered at first when invited myself over ,her discomfort faded by the time we reached By then the discomfort was all mine.I couldn’t imagine how she could live here.The ‘house’ was basically a few distorted bamboo poles unhappily tied together with a extensively patch worked piece of blue tarpaulin acting as an excuse for a roof.It seemed a pretty exclusive locality though ,with no immediate neighbours in site.She didn’t invite me in ,primarily because there wasn’t enough room for two adult humans in there.She offered me half a semi-ripe banana as a formality ,which I gracefully declined.After hardly 5 minutes of extremely small talk I bade goodbye.I had seen what I wanted to.I estimated that the tin roof of her dreams would hardly cost a thousand bucks.I made up my mind to get her the same by the end of the week.I didn’t know how she would react to my planned act of charity .I imagined that she would be bashfully overjoyed.No matter what people say ,I think there is nothing wrong in gloating a bit over a good deed.To make matters slightly exciting ,the monsoons were slated to hit Kerala in a couple of days .Of course considering the accuracy of our met department, I assumed we were good for a couple of weeks at least.

On a Friday morning ,two days later ,I was back to work when my lazy eyes fell on a folded ‘Mathrubhumi ‘ newspaper on my secretaries desk.I sifted through the pages filled with dirty politicians and their dirtier deeds to arrive at my target the results of the draw for the ‘Kerala Bhagyakuri’ lottery.I had memorized my ticket number.As is our natural tendency my eyes searched from above to below,from the bumper of 10 lakhs to the measly 10 rupee consolation prizes.Somewhere in the middle my mind froze.I rushed to my room and picked up the tattered ticket from the side pocket of my bag and crosschecked ,my heart pounding in anticipation.There it was ..the same numbers ,exactly the same numbers …the ticket had won ten thousand bucks.In the flurry of emotions that stampeded over my mind ,there was a momentary pinch of selfishness ,which tried to coax me into holding on to the money…but I got over it ..great soul that I was.I just couldn’t wait to tell her the news.
As the clock struck six ,I rushed out with the golden ticket in my hand.I didn’t notice the darks clouds in the sky that had ominously started casting their shadows ,waiting for their pregnant bellies to rupture.By the time I reached the edge of the railway track a light drizzle had started.As I reached near her begging spot , I noticed her begging bowl sitting desolately on the edge of the track.It was strange for her to be around here at this time.My eyes panned about searching for her vainly. I ran as fast as I could and reached her hut in a little less than 5 minutes. It was raining heavily by now.I was completely out of breath by the time I pulled the tarpaulin sheets to peek into the place she called home.

She was inside ,drenched in the rain ,holding a piece of paper in her hand and a dazed look on her face.Besides her lay a worn out sheet of the ‘Mathrubhumi’ newspaper.
She gave me a cursory glance and then went back to her zombie act.
“I…I was worried …I saw your begging bowl there..on the track”
“hmmm” A grunt and a sigh “ Yes..I forgot to take it ,I came back in a hurry”
I waited for her to continue
“The lottery ….the result…”She was almost incoherent as she gesture towards the newspaper sheet.

I didn’t know whether this was the right time to break the news.She was obviously quite upset at having another unsuccessful attempt on the Kerala state lottery.With as much of dramatism I could muster I handed over the ticket in my hand and closed her palms over it.
“ Your ticket won…ten thousand can get a new roof and maybe a new house altogether”

After another extended period of muteness ,she started sobbing ,gently at first to shift into full force in matter of seconds.I gave her a light hug and a pat on her back and got up deciding to leave her to savour her tears of joy in solitude.

I never saw her again.She wasn’t there at the railway track the next day. I went to her place in the evening and her place had vanished .No bamboo poles ,no tarpaulin.In the following days I did think of her often.I wondered what she would have done with her ten grand.Wondering why she didn’t even thank me for my generousness.

It was two weeks later that I happened to see a tiny newspaper snippet in a local newspaper about a beggar who had won two prizes in a single lottery draw.One for ten thousand rupees and one for 10 lakhs.

Friend or foe?

The bed room door was half open.He entered…his heart beating heavily.He saw the monster staring straight at him….with a morose ,remorseless look.He was here in his own house.Sajith didn’t know how to react.What do guys normally do when you’re face to face with the guy who killed your wife ?

He looked around 35 ,standing erect to his full 6 feet height ,piercing black eyes underlined by dark circles of sleeplessness…guilt?His unkempt hair and two day old stubble competing unsuccessfully with the shabbiness of his clothes.Black polo shirt ,blue jeans.His gleaming ,brand new rolex wirst watch stood out in sharp relief.Casual ,stylish ,unwashed ,uncaring.What kind of monster was this?


He thought of Nisha ,his wife.His late wife.Now rotting away beneath 50 feet of river water.He had seen her being stabbed to death by this monster.He had watched her breath sagging helplessly.

The monster was still staring at him.Was he armed?Sajith thought he could make out the faint outline of a knife in his left pant pocket.Was it the same knife that killed his wife ?He felt a queer little chill crawling through his spine.

Sajith thought of Nisha.His beautiful wife.Famous TV anchorperson.Pretty ,intelligent ,successful…the works.He felt a vague ache in the depths of his heart.
But then didn’t Nisha deserve what she got?Sajith thought of her haughty nature.She had no respect for anyone including himself.Things had soured so much after six years of marriage.Then there was her affair.He never really found out who the guy was .Was this monster her lover?or one among many of her lovers?There were times when he wanted to kill her himself ,though he never had the guts.He realized that this was partly why he did nothing to save his wife ,in spite of seeing her die in front of him.

He thought of the insurance policy he had taken out in Nisha’s name a couple of months ago.He would be rich ..a widower ,but a rich one.Maybe the police would suspect him in Nisha’s disappearance….but they would never find her body ,the monster had taken care of that.

They continued to exchange stares in silence.One thing became clear…one of them had to die.Sajith’s hand slowly inched towards the Smith and Wesson lying snuggly in his right pant pocket.The monster’s eyes didn’t budge .In one fluid stroke Sajith took his gun and pointed it at the monster.A crooked smile forming on his face.

‘Bang ,Bang….you’re dead’ Sajith ejaculated ,animatedly jerking the gun in his hand.

The reflection in his bedroom mirror returned his twisted grin.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The world through little eyes – (Nadia’s diary :1)

I turned 7 today ..not 7 years dude…...months
I’ve learnt to crawl on my knees. I’ve also learnt to lick the floor without mummy seeing. Believe me ,licking the floor beats crawling any day. Mama doesn’t seem to agree though “Dia (which is supposed to be short for Nadia which incidentally is such an old fashioned name my parents chose ....we’ll elaborate in detail regarding that injustice later)……Don’t do that” is her constant refrain.The other day I tried eating a cute little bug crawling in my cradle….and there she was again with “Dia …don’t eat that”followed by a rather crude tap on my sensitive posterior. God…..hasn’t she heard of the food chain and all that stuff ??Big animals will eat smaller ones etc etc.
I hate diapers.Diapers are simply not cool.Huggies or snuggies they’re all the same.Wonder how papa and mama would feel if I wrapped them up in a huge diaper ?I mean ok …I do have a problem with pissing around in odd places at odd times…but for heaven’s sake, have piss , will piss…..why make such a social issue out of it?.I’ve heard adults honking on about how you shouldn’t hold anything back ,feelings and stuff …,wonder why piss is different.Just thinking about these adult contradictions gets me pissed up!
I hate Cerelac too.I simply don’t understand why the idiots in the R and D wing out there don’t do something to make it more tastier and baby friendly.I am certain that this is all part of a bigger conspiracy against little babies.I mean I do love ice cream ,papa gave me a teeny weeny bit once..yummy!! ,but not again…something about ice cream not having any nutritional value blah blah simple thing I’ve made out in my lifetime’s experience is that the more the nutritional value the worse the taste.Say no to nutrition.One little piece of advise I can give you guys is learn to be firm with your parents.I tried refusing cerelac at first with polite and timely turns of my head ,but mama always managed to stuff it into my little mouth forcefully (PS :shouldn’t there be something like the Geneva convention thing for babies ?).Nowadays I’m more resolute in my refusal, I’ve learned to spit the cerelac right on mama’s mouth and my aim is getting better each day.I’ve heard mama telling papa that she too hates the taste of cerelac these days.Talk about getting a taste of one’s own medicine and all that!

I love watching TV though….the news channels are my favourite.Papa has a rather serious look on his face while watching the news,which is strange coz I find it very entertaining ,especially that Laloo Yadav character..much better than cartoon network or pogo .I like MTV too…I love that joker with a cap who could give an inferiority complex to a wolf….Himesh something something.He rocks…our wails are so much similar.At full cry we both manage to get on mama’s and papa’s nerves, he does it a bit better though.

Bye for now.Will be back with more news from the cradle.

(Nadia is my 7 month old ,going on 8 daughter )

(Special acknowledgement to Ms Manjul Bajaj for inspiration…her writing rocks! )

Thursday, June 14, 2007

A little knowledge……

One of the new breeds of patients I’ve started bumping into quite frequently these day is the ‘I’ve done research on this disease on the internet’ type.While some of these patients accede to the possibility that in spite of their meticulous web research ,the good doctor might know something more about the disease ,some others simply know that they know more.
Often this knowledge relates to latest ,often obscure medications for some diseases.I had a kid with mild psoriasis ,his father,a lawyer , was the official spokesperson ,and apparently the he was well entrenched in web acquired knowledge regarding psoriasis.

“ Doctor…we would like to try biology treatment”He starts off without much of a preamble
Duh??? I had to remain composed while getting the rusty gears in my head moving to figure out this unheard of theapy.
“ You mean like …naturotherapy” I query cautiously
His eyes bulge ever so slightly and I can almost read his thoughts “This doc looks like an idiot and speaks like an idiot – so he must be one”
“ No doc …the latest in psoriasis treatment ….they use it in the states”he explains quite condescendingly .
What they do in the ‘states’ is of course by default ,the gold standard for medical therapeutics .
I started seeing the light “You mean biologicals ?”
He too sees a little bit of light “ Yes yes ..that one….shouldn’t we go for that”

( For the uninitiated, biologicals are basically a relatively new group of therapeutic preparations ,many of them based on the concept of monoclonal antibodies .In dermatology among other indications they are used as alternative drugs in the case of severe recalcitrant psoriasis. )

“ Er” Me trying to act the busy / hyper intelligent doctor weighing the available options “Actually ,I think your child can be managed quite well without high-end options like biologicals”

I can see the skepticism dripping from the spokesperson’s face.

“Doctor ,the cost is not a problem at all” Of course it isn’t .The guy was a lawyer after all.Our buddy-brothers in the daylight robbery business.

I wonder if I inadvertently mentioned something about the cost ,which incidentally like many of the newer drugs can burn quite a few holes in your pocket.
“ No’s not just the cost …biologicals have their own unpredictable side –effects ,and like any other anti- psoriatic medication ,they do not guarantee a permanent cure.So I think we can start off with some lesser medications and keep biologicals as a back up”

Who was I kidding ? I don’t think I would have convinced even myself with that insipid sermon.

“Doctor ,why isn’t there a cure for psoriasis ?In spite of all this medical advancement?” our webber shifts gears dramatically.
Uh Oh…the conversation was drifting precariously to verrry verrry uncomfortable waters.
I could have gone on for a bit of philosophy on the limitations of human endeavour
( especially my own ) , but I realized that with this guy every word of mine is going to be met head on with a paragraph.
“ I’m sure they’re working on it in the ‘states’ ” I reply with what I thought was a apt mixture of brevity and sarcasm.
The kid of course improved without biologicals ,but I’m sure that with the next recurrence ,if it occurs , the father will go hunting for another doctor willing to start ‘biology’ therapy
( or whatever is the latest in the ‘states’ ).

PS : On a personal more serious level , I feel it is always better for patients to be more educated regarding their disease.I personally like guiding patients to relevant and RELIABLE web sites related to their disease.It really helps people allay unfounded fears and misconceptions. However it is necessary to understand that the web is at best an aid to knowing their disease better.The doctor remains the best advisor.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

The clash of medical systems

In the context of the double dose of chikungunya and dengue in Kerala ,there has been an ongoing debate on the merits or demerits of homeopathy vaccinations for the same.Most practitioners of modern medicine would find it extremely difficult to believe that these homeopathic preparations have any real prophylactic benefit.For one, I am not aware of any kind of controlled studies in this field .In fact one of the major faults of the system of homeopathy is this very lack of documentation. Many of the conditions in which homeopathy apparently produces dramatic cures are conditions having natural remissions after a course of time. I mean why is that conditions which do not have a definite cure in allopathy and are not self- subsiding, have no effective homeo cure? Say for example HIV infections ?If as homeopaths say ‘we treat the patient as a whole ,based on his /her symptoms’ ,then can’t you treat HIV infections too? Or for that matter cancers?
The very theory that extreme dilutions of toxic products like arsenic can be used to cure disease sounds a bit improbable.( Things like arsenic have been used effectively for various diseases in the past at higher doses ,but this practice has been stopped because of it’s toxicity ) In fact the whole issue has been put rather simply by a US FDA statement regarding the safety of homeo medication –The United States Food & Drug Administration considers that there is no real concern over the safety of most homeopathic products "because they have little or no pharmacologically active ingredients".( )

There are good aspects of every specialty and an active, constructive interaction might help all systems of medicine ,but the basic problem is modern medicine stresses on meticulous documentation of clinical evidence, while homeopathy largely ignores this basic scientific principle.After the initial works on the Materia Medica by Hahnemann and later Kent , modern homepathy has shown very little original research .All you have to do is compare the average number of scientific papers bought out by the respective systems in recent times ( Though I admit ,the concept of healing goes far beyond documentation on paper ).Surprisingly the most elaborate study on the effectiveness of homeo medications in recent times was the famous Lancet study (Lancet ,Aug 2005 ) ,which was contested by a number of homepathic researchers.What is not commonly known is that there have been a number of other ‘evidence based medicine’ studies in relation to the efficacy of homeo medication in specific diseases in recent times ,all of which have shown results that are rather unflattering to homeopathy . ( /reviews ).Actually if homeopaths really want to end the criticism of their system , they should conduct more controlled studies to prove the validity of their treatment modalities.It would be nice if they at least tone down their claims before coming out with reproducible evidence.Will the homeopaths who are promoting these ‘vaccines’ be brave enough to be inoculated with the chikungunya virus after taking the vaccines themselves ?(There will be the valid counter argument that can modern medicine practioners risk inoculation with something like the small pox virus after taking a vaccination ?Maybe not, but the point is that virtually every single modern drug or vaccine which comes out into the market has gone through extensive animal and human trials.In spite of this there are unexpected side effects ,like the recent Valdecoxib issue.So how can you justify mass treating people with a drug which has simply not been used for a condition before? Morover most modern medicine practitioners don’t go about claiming miraculous success for even established medicines ).
Like Shakepeare wrote in Hamlet “There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy”.So maybe there are hidden ways in which homeopathy works ,which is beyond the comprehension of modern medicine.However if that be the case ,then it’s time that homeopaths thought of proceeding in a more scientific way with their system.If you think a medicine can work for a disease ,prove it first in a scientific manner ,try to find how exactly it works and then share it with the world.,instead of obstinately sticking to your claims without backing it up properly.Modern medicine is far from perfect but at least whatever is there, is out in the open.Any detail regarding any effect or side effect of a drug or disease is freely available on the net.
It is futile to argue on the relative merits of alternative systems of medicine vis-a vis modern medicine.Instead it is time that various groups put their heads together in a scienific manner ,to make the best of what each system has to offer .

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

To knot or not to knot….

Saji John Tharayil believed earnestly that was his salvation.33 years and not being married was bad, even for a guy, in god’s own country. Already he had old aunts surreptitiously querying if he needed any traditional medicines for problems pertaining to you know what. The problem however was that he didn’t like most of the girls he met live through official arrangements and the ones he did ,simply didn’t fancy him much.

This was the dire situation ,getting direr ,when his all knowing friend ,philosopher and guide,his cousin Renju ,directed him to the possibilities of internet romances , the in- thing as far as new age Indian marriages were concerned. Saji was hooked… he could skim through dozens of photos and profiles ,shortlist potential Ms.Sajis and if the girl was nice / stupid enough to reciprocate…..voila! you had another marriage made in the word wide web heaven. Saji was simply too nervous to talk romantic with a girl in the real world.The virtual world provided him with the ability to chat endlessly to half a dozen females everyday with a relatively higher comfort level.
His very Indian parents were much more conservative, like…well like very Indian parents are. They were bent upon proving that Renju was an evil influence on their ‘oh so sweet and innocent’ child. They staunchly believed in doing things the time-tested traditional mallu way.
To elaborate : Little known relative /marriage broker meets girls parents /boys parents
( “There is this good girl /boy who I know personally ,she/he has done his/her degree with first class,soooooooooo beautiful/handsome ,verrrry good family………etc. etc.”You do wonder why somebody hasn’t married such a gooooood girl /boy already!).This all too familiar conversation is followed by a exhibition of the photo of the bride to be in a stiff ,full length studio pic ,with jaded wall paper in the background.If the visuals are appealing enough ,a date is set for the girl viewing ceremony.This is when the groom-to-be and family set forth on a trip to the girls house to assess the girl and her house (importance varying in degree for different people).If the assessment goes well ,the date is fixed ,hands are shaken and the marriage broker pockets a hefty commission. Incidentally ,it is a big plus if the girl and boy also manage to like each other.It was precisely this kind of mating ritual that led Saji’s family to fall in love with Ms Sanjana Mathew Parackal ,26 years ,MBA, soooooo beautiful ,verrry good family…….the works.The only hitch was that the bride groom to be wasn’t smitten ,Saji plain refused to even take a look at the girl’s photograph. The matter would have ended there if a certain wager hadn’t been waged by Saji’s father…..

Mr.John Tharayan ,retired KSEB ( Kerala State Electricity Board ) engineer ,really had no idea what to do about his son’s newfound obsession with matrimonial websites and chat rooms.He decided to have a face to face talk with Mr Renju Jose Tharayil ,his unfortunate elder brother’s only offspring.
Renju was one of those lucky individuals who had no idea why they were put on this earth ,and had no intention of finding out either.He was the jack of all trades ,master of some of the shadier ones. His idea of life was relaxing on the backwater kissed inlands of Kottayam , on a regular diet of toddy ,tapioca and fish (precisely in that order ).It wasn’t that he had no formal education to boast of, in fact he had passed his MBA with honours . Renju was what you would describe as a unique combo of street suaveness and unadulterated laziness. He had started up a number of innovative and interesting business operations ,most of which fizzled out simply because of his laziness. The one family member Renju got along was his lil cousin Saji,who was a year younger to him.They had grown up together in the huge house that their paternal grandfather had right next to Baker junction, in the heart of Kottayam town.The house had sadly been demolished a few years back when Baker Junction gradually developed into the central hub of Kottayam town. That demolition had marked a kind of temporary separation for Renju and Saji.Life didn’t change much for Renju though ,he just continued to loaf around in a different surrounding. Both John uncle and his own appachan (father ) Mr Jose Tharayil (BSc Engg ,FIE ) had tried to get him married so that he would learn to shoulder responsibility. In the case of this particular horse it was virtually impossible to take even take him to the water, leave alone make him drink.

The conversation between John uncle and his dear nephew went something like this (expletives censored)

John Uncle : Da..why the *&^%*&* hell did you put up Saji to this nonsense ?
Renju : Nonsense ?What nonsense…at least now he can decide whether or not he really likes the girl he’s going to marry without you oldies breathing on his neck.
John Uncle : You started this mess ,now you better end it…..unfortunately you’re the only person he’ll listen to.
Renju : Nothing doing ….it’s a matter of principles ,besides ,I think it’s for his own good
John Uncle : Principles!! You and principles! You may yet get small pox ,but you can forget principles.
Renju : Well so be it …..but mark my words…the next marriage in this family will be an internet marriage
John uncle : Don’t bet on it
Renju : You know what ?maybe I will bet on it….how about an all expense paid vacation on a house boat in Kumarakom?
John uncle was by now too angry to think clearly ,but either way he took up his nephew’s challenge.He had decided that his son was indeed going to marry the aforementioned good lady Ms Sanjana ….of course he still had no idea of how he was going to go about it.

Enter the main co-conspirators in the wager ( in the anti-renju team ),namely a certain Ms Anita Mathew Parackal , software engineer and the nominated bride’s only sibling .Anita was nothing like her sister.She was one of those confused 20 and half a decade old ,new age Indian females who shifted from full time female libbism to coy ‘girl next doorism’ ,without a moment’s notice ,much faster than a Mr Jekyll could say ‘Hyde’.She had spunk though. So it was natural that when Mr Jose explained to her the plan of action ,she was all for it ,in spite of her more placid sister’s protests.
Thus began operation plan was quiet simple.Anita was to log in as a mysterious suitor interested in Saji ,entice him and then dump as to make him completely disenchanted with an internet romance.
Well man proposes and god ( and most females ) disposes.Anita did start off in right earnest.She hooked Saji the very first day in the guise of a rather exotic pseudonym - mallu_nymph25 (yuck …sounds like one of those 70’s semi –porno Malayalam flicks) .Saji of course continued to chat under the very ordinary label of Saji_T111 (Whatever that was supposed to convey).They chatted and chatted and each time Saji asked Ms Nymph for a pic she coyly refused.Of course that didn’t stop Saji from imagining a very nubile nymphish mallu girl ,rising out of the water a la Bo Derek in Dr.No.(Not in a bikini of course but in a white sari with silk borders).For Saji there was a problem though ….he realized he got pretty ‘ keyboard tied’, something akin to being tongue tied ,even in virtual reality .At times when the late night conversations started swaying towards extreme mushiness, he felt his typing fingers simply freeze and he had to sign off in a hurry with very uninspiring repartees like “Hey nymphy ,got to go….dinner’s ready” (this at half past midnight ).
So now our hero no:1 turned as he would ,to hero no:2 …a.k.a Renju and ever loyal as he was ,especially with an interesting wager on ,Renju gleefully jumped into the cesspool of this murky affair. Renju donned the mantle of ghost chatter for his cousin. As far as Ms Nymph was concerned all of a sudden her conversations with her very dull would be bro-in-law started becoming uncomfortably interesting.One thing led to another ,and Ms Anita started taking a fancy for Saji_T111.To make matters really worse Renju started feeling very strange mushy feelings for Ms Mallu Nymph.The last time he had felt that way was years ago a little grey-brown Pomeranian pup, which he had escorted home one fine on his way back from school.Unfortunately ,though he felt like doing the same with Ms Nymph ,he knew that things wouldn’t be that simple. As his heart disease turned chronic ,he finally decided to break the news to Saji. Saji mind on hearing the news,was rattled to a state somewhere between hurt and angry bewiderment.However ,being the gentleman that he was ,he decided to cede any copyrights he had over Ms.Nymph. Renju of course was overjoyed, and the very same day proposed to Ms.Nymph and suggested that they meet as soon as possible to discuss their future. According to the pre-written script ,Ms Nymph was to press the eject button at this point ,but as twists in the tale go ,Ms Nymph accepted the proposal,without consulting the director of the drama.To make matters really messy she sent her pic to her virtual lover.To make matters messier than really messy ,this pic which was saved on the desktop of Saji’s computer was later seen by Saji himself and as you would expect in a crazy story like this ,Saji simply fell in love all over with the lady in the picture.

The next day Anita spent in quiet contemplation. Finally she decided to open her heart to her sister.Her sister ,being the mature person that she was ,took things very coolly.They had a long discussion and finally made their decision….they would go together to meet Saji and explain the situation openly.
On the other side Renju too had decided that being truthful was the way to go.So on the day of the proposed rendezvous ,he had a man to jilted man talk with Saji ,and talked him into going to the Olio restaurant ,near the Thirunakkara grounds with himself ,to meet his future Bhabhi and help him explain the whole story in detail.Saji relented ,at least partly out of a desire to meet the beautiful girl he had almost fallen irreparably in love with..

3 months later:
Renju and Saji were relaxing on the open deck of a luxury houseboat ,on the Kumarakom lake.Anita was lazing on the port side of the boat ,with a heavily dog-eared ‘God of small things’ nestled in her laps.
Saji called out to his wife “Darling ,can you pass me that tender coconut juice”
Anita looked up as her twin sister Sanjana, lovingly tendered to her husband’s need.When she turned her head ,she saw her crazy ,adorable husband Renju casting a sly wink in her direction.
The foursome’s honeymoon vacation was completely sponsored by Saji’s dad…who had both won and lost as far as the bet was concerned ,but considered himself to be the greatest winner on the whole ,at the end.

© copyrighted – Feroze Kaliyadan 2007

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The ghost of suicide point

Rathish Karyatt was in a strange occupation – professional ghost chaser .To make matters worse he was not paid for his work.He started of on this rather novel pursuit after what could be loosely described as a ‘life after death’ experience.The 5 years that had passed after his freak parachute accident had dulled his memory ,but he could still remember the strange sensations ,the light at the end of the tunnel ,the eerie feeling of having a rather unpleasant aerial view of his own bloodied body, a bevy of sensory inputs of which he had read in books before and had dismissed as supernatural crap.The experience had changed him profoundly .Now he believed in spirits ( not the gulpable kind) ,in the afterlife and in the judgment day.From steady partygoer and philanderer ,he had metamorphosed into something of a saint philosopher with no time for worldly affairs.He was into spiritual pursuits …literally.His family and friends hardly got to see him.

So far ,so good ,but somehow he never managed to actually find a ghost.He had scoured all areas likely to be infested with unsatisfied spirits. Cemeteries ( of all religious hues,death after all seemed to be one great beacon for secularism ) ,suicide points ,prisons with histories of judicial executions ….you name it .So that was how ,one fine day he found himself staring down the unending depth of green grass and granite steeply sloping by the sides of the cliff at the suicide point at Lonavala. Lonavala ,for those not familiar with it, is a hill resort ,a few hours drive from Mumbai. The suicide point at Lonavala is known to have assisted quite a horde of disgruntled souls to the after life. Disillusioned lovers ,alone and in pairs, irrespective of sex ,caste and creed ,share brokers ,whose share of bad luck broke their will to live, students ,whose failure in their board exams ,drove them over board ,drug addicts and alcoholics who jumped down to reach a new high…….
The chilly night weather nipped at his bones ,he somehow felt that his long quest was finally going to bear fruits tonight. The pavement lining the edge of the cliff was empty ,except for the neatly arranged wooden benches and the irregularly strewn dried leaves. .The edge itself had been barricaded with barbed wire.It was worth thinking if a half a metre high wire fence would really dissuade a depressed human being from leaping into oblivion. The eeriness was accentuated by the dull glow of a half moon ,attempting to shine through a thick envelope of angry rain clouds.The fog was getting heavier.Rathish continued to walk along the winding pavement.Not a sound ,not one dejected ghoul in sight.As the clock in the central tower ,downtown, struck twelve ,the familiar frustration started taking root.
It was then he noticed the footsteps ..firm, regular. As if by magic a huge silhouette emerged out of the fog.
‘Bhaisaheb ,raat ke is waqt ,yahaan kya kar rahe ho?’.The voice had a rich baritone quality, Rathish could almost feel the echoes. As the giant came closer,he could make out his course facial features. Bushy eyebrows ,acne scarred face and a huge handle bar moustache that would have put Veerappan to shame.He was smiling ,more like guffawing actually,the moonlight reflecting off his huge bunny teeth.

‘Just strolling ,enjoying the chill….are you the chowkidar around here?’
‘Haan Saheb ,rotten job ,but have to keep the fire burning at home right?Where are you from?It’s very rare to see people at this time of the night.You’re not planning on jumping are you?’

Rathish smiled ‘No ,not for quite some time at least.I am from Navi Mumbai ,just came for a weekend getaway.So you still have a lot of suicides these days?’

The watchman ,contemplated for a brief moment.’No ,not much ,we had one last year ,a young lady from Jaipur.Apparently some kind of love affair that had a bad ending.In fact it was almost exactly a year ago.I still remember ….she jumped wearing her bridal brocade.When they retrieved her body ,it was difficult to tell the red of her blood from the red of her dress.Ghastly site.’

‘She was married ?’

‘Yes ,but not to the guy she loved.She and her husband had come here for their honeymoon’.He glanced briefly towards the barbed wire and then turned back to Rathish with a smile ‘A lot of sad stories have had their endings across that fence Saheb’.

There was a strange expression in his face.Was it grief ?or some kind of morbid amusement?

‘I’m going to my security post ,Saheb ,it’s beyond the curve ,about half a kilometer across.If you need something ,I’ll be there .You better be going now ,though.I’ve been year more than a decade ,but this place still gives me jitters sometimes’

‘Don’t worry ,I’ll be fine’Rathish replied

The watchman ,disappeared into the fog.Rathish moved on along the pavement.The temperature seemed to have dropped further.It was getting really late now.Rathish was about to turn back when he saw her.She was sitting on one of the wooden benches ,staring into nothingness ,it seemed.Rathish felt like a hunter approaching his prey.He felt no fear at all ,just a feeling of raw excitement..As he came closer ,he noticed her bright red dress with rich zari work.He sat down next to her.She still seemed lost ,oblivious to his existence.

‘Rather late for a girl to be here alone isn’t it ‘?

She jerked her face to me with a startled expression on her face.Her face was pale ,and wet.She had been crying .Her eyes were glazed ,Her long dark hair was swaying in the light wind.The moonlight produced a strange halo around her face.

‘Who…who are you?….leave me alone..please’Her voice was soft and frightened.She tried to move away from him.It seemed as though she wanted to run away ,but didn’t have the energy to do so.

‘Hey ,easy.I ‘m not going to hurt you.I…I was just taking a late night stroll…I’ll leave if you want to be alone’His sincere reassuring tone ,seemed to have its desired effect.There was a brief pregnant silence.

‘I am sorry.I really wanted to be alone for some time.You startled me ,I didn’t think I’d find anybody around here at this time’ She continued staring ahead into the mist .

‘You live nearby?’ Rathish queried cautiously.

Another brief period of silence ‘Yes ,just about half a kilometer from here ,near the security hut’
‘Like you have a home there ?’
She stared at him incredulously as though he had asked a most idiotic question.

‘The honeymoon cottages…we just came today’ she gestured with her hand towards the direction of the security hut.
‘Kind of overdressed for this time of the night aren’t you ?’

She was back to her vacant stare ‘ Today was my wedding day’

Rathish continued to interrogate her ‘Had a tiff with the hubby ,did we?’

She seemed to be getting impatient.’ You could say that …not his fault though. It’s me…I ….’The rest of the sentence melted away into the fog.
‘There was someone else?’
She seemed genuinely surprised ‘Some one else?? No…Why did you ask?’
He thought for a moment ‘You were not planning on ending your life were you?’
She smiled for the first time ‘That was the original idea…..I guess crying in solitude…in the middle of nowhere helps flush out depression to some extent’She wiped her face with the loose end of her Sari. ‘I guess ,I’d better get going….I have to sort out my life by myself ,nobody else is going to do it for me ‘

She stood up and started to walk away.She hardly took a few paces when she turned to address me ‘I’m sorry I reacted the way I did….I ‘m sure you understand’ she came back and extended her heavily henna laden hand to him.

Her hand went through his …as though his hand was made of thin air.Her dilated eyes reflected the fear she felt.She ran….her scream echoing around suicide point.Rathish couldn’t blame her though …..after all she had seen a ghost.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

A sick degree of separation

12 June 2006 ,
Beecholim ,Goa

It’s our anniversary day ,and she still won’t talk to me.It’s been exactly one year ,one whole year of brooding silence between us.I always like to brag to myself that me and my wife were a special couple.I mean how many twosomes do you know who split on the day of their wedding anniversary.Awesome ..right?
It’s even more awesome considering that we’re neighbours.We practically share a compound ,with not even a namesake wall separating our places.Four feet apart physically ,a light year apart mentally.
Our mutual friends and relatives come over once a while ,and they make it a point to visit us both.Nobody seems happy about us splitting.Most of our friend don a visage of shock mixed with palpable sadness when they come over.
It isn’t that we were always at loggerheads ,we had our fights ,but we did make up pretty soon.In fact most of our friends considered us to be very much in love ,in spite of our obvious differences.Linda was the archetypical girl next door ,the semi-geeky ,goody-goody girl ,who managed to provide an easy comfort zone to the people around her. While yours- truly was basically a three quarter misanthrope and one quarter universal cynic, who could needle the most placid of people to the verge of mad rage.Our jobs complemented our characters…..she a primary school teacher ,me a political journalist. She could find reasons to love the naughtiest of brats in her school ,while I could find reasons to pour vitriol on the most decent of politicians (Which luckily for me most people heartily supported . ‘Decent’ and ‘politician’ simply don’t seem to go well together ,like two sore thumbs sticking out from each other ).Yet surprisingly ,she was the one that wouldn’t give an inch after we split…and oh for what a silly reason too.Could you ever imagine a wife walking out of a marriage because her husband liked to use his cell phone while driving ?!OK so we had an accident ,but for heavens’ sake it wasn’t such a big deal and I tried conveying to her my resolve ,not to do it again.Sometimes I wonder if the head injury she got didn’t make her a bit loony.Well wives and knives they’re all the same ,they cut you deep when you least expect them to.Good riddance , sometime I think.

Today the friends and relatives were drizzling in ,like small scattered spatters of rain.Nothing like our first anniversary .No great celebration ,no loud greetings ,no booze ,no feast. No great presents either ….most of them brought flowers!It was almost hilarious watching them visit her house first ,spend a few minutes in idle small talk….blah blah blah and then repeat the tedious process at my place.Some were audacious enough to wish me happy anniversary! Wonder why they bother to come at all ,it isn’t like we like to be reminded of our sorrow ,not me at least.The scum!
Somehow, like last year, I hoped deep in my heart that she’ll forgive me….that she’ll come over and we’d have a candle lit dinner like old times ,with Kenny G in the background and contented sighs in the air.
The day passed ,the decaying fragrance from the flowers at my place seemed to merge with those at her house.She still didn’t turn a blind eye.Happy anniversary ,Linda ,my wife of one glorious year!

Post script:
The Goa Times
12 June ,2004
Couple killed in car accident.
-Linda and Lance D’cruz ,of Beecholim South were killed when the car in which they were traveling, crashed into a parked oil tanker, near Colva beach.Police sources later commented that the driver of the car seemed to have been talking on his cell phone while driving and probably did not notice the tanker parked after the curve. The couple were returning home after celebrating their first wedding anniversary .Both of them were laid to rest at the Beecholim St.James cemetery in adjacent graves.

Monday, April 30, 2007

blind and prejudiced

(an adaptation of Ruskin Bond's 'the eyes have it')

I met her on the train. Rather bumped into her on the train. It was easy for me considering my visual disability, but couldn’t she look where she was going? She was saying something now. Her voice tickled my ears and my senses alike. Silver anklets rustling in a gentle wind. My sense of hearing was strong, compensating for my blindness. I think I could imagine soulful poetry in the most harshest of noises ,poetry with which I attempted to fill the blackness devouring my eyes.
She was apologizing and asking me where I was going,both at the same time.
“In search of my never ending quest of misery” I thought to myself
“Andheri” I replied “You?”
“Vile Parle ” the anklet continue to rustle in my ears “I stay near Cooper’s hospital”
The sounds of the train enveloped a short silence bridging our conversation.
“So what do you do?” the anklets asked
“Other than bumping into people on the train?” .My attempt at humor evoked a gentle giggle. Sympathy?
“No seriously….u got in at VT right ?”
It was now that I noticed her perfume ,the mild lavender scent seemed to complement the gentle pleasantness of her voice.I tried to imagine how she looked. My thoughts drifted momentarily. Thoughts of another time ,a time before my hands preferred to hold tennis racquets and not walking canes. Thoughts of a crazy car crash on a wet monsoon night on the Bandra flyover. Thoughts of waking up to perpetual darkness in the ophthalmic ward of the KEM hospital.
“ Don’t talk much do you?”the anklets and the train’s chug-chug were involved in creating a pleasant symphony
I smiled ,not something I did often these days. “Oh I do talk…that’s one of the things I can still do” I was at my irritatingly self - depreciating best. Somehow my dark humor seemed not to register with her. “ I consider myself a writer ,freelance….write little poems and short stories.Enough to buy me bread and maintain a roof on my head. Still assume that I have a big epic in me waiting to be penned. Too lazy to go about it though”

“Wow ,that’s cool….and do you read a lot ?”She seemed genuinely interested and even more genuinely stupid. I mean ,how much literary material do you think was available in Braille.
“ Not much …don’t like heavy stuff” Me back to my cocky humorous self and her brains remaining as oblivious as could be.
She continued to talk to me.She seemed comfortable talking to me.
It was kind of strange though… most people by now would be attempting to disengage from the discomfort of having to talk to a handicapped person.

We talked for the better part of an hour. We talked about the climate.We talked about music .We talked about nothing in particular and we seemed to have talked about almost everything under the sky. When the train came to a halt at Vile Parle ,somehow I just wished she wouldn’t leave. She almost didn’t.
“Revathy , chalo ,Parle aa gaya”An elderly female voice called behind her playing spoilsport to my imagination. I realized that I didn’t even know her name till then.
“Well ,it was nice talking to you”she was going to say good bye “Most people I know find it uncomfortable to talk to a blind girl for more than a minute”

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

money ,money ,money

Circa 1994……I think I remember the year most because that was the year India produced a brace of ‘world class’ beauties Misses Sushmita and Aiswarya. Incidentally ,that also happened to be the year that I joined in the noble pursuit of medical education.
Hopes ,dreams ,ambitions ..a bevy of positive feelings.A spring in my steps and a song on my mouth.Life’s good ,or so I thought.Universal adulation and pats on my back..Just five odd years and I could add the coveted ‘Dr’ to my name.Life was indeed good

10 years down the lane…Sushmita ji and Aiswarya ji have gone places.(So what if neither has a real hit to their credit? ).I do have the coveted two letter prefix attached to my otherwise plain sounding name(Though ,Feroze Kaliyadan ,I admit dosen't sound all that plain).Somehow though ,the spring in my steps seems to have disappeared.I do hum songs ,but more often than not my musical interests seem to be inclining towards the melancholic melodies of the KN Saigal variety.

Ok cut to take ….I am not really overjoyed at the moment.Ok to put it more emphatically I THINK AM NOT HAPPY.There I said it! So now the 64 million dollar question..WHY???

Hmmm…Hmmmmmm…….Maybe I should rephrase that question in a more unselfish manner.Why are people unhappy ,even when an arial view suggests no reasons for them to be so.What is the single most important factor governing happiness in the majority of people.
- I thought a lot before putting money as the top ranking factor ahead of more noble elements like love ,relationships ,health or job satisfaction.I mean think about it’s nice to say that love and relationships count more than fluffy little bundles of currency notes ,but I sincerely feel financial security (or insecurity ) is the single most important thing in a majority of people.Maybe in part it’s because many of the other seemingly more important things are taken for granted.For example you have a loving ,caring spouse and a couple of wonderfully cute kids…you take their presence for granted.It is only when something happens to this cosy family picture that you realize their importance.However till anything of that kind occurs your main constant worry is again money..even though it may be more for your family’s sake than your selfish interestsEven when a person is sick or heartbroken,things would look much less bleaker if he or she is financially stable.Seriously how many people do you see now carrying on with a broken heart in the ‘Devdas ‘style? Just think many peple have a constant relationship problem ,romantic or otherwise?Health is again definitely a issue .Ask a person with a terminal cancer or paraplegia ,but then people with diseases significantly affecting their normal life are much less compared to people getting into depression after financial crises.Like I said most of the other issues are ‘come and go’ ‘maybe maynot be’.Money ,on the contrary is like a constant nag …even if you have too much of it (how much is too much depends on relative satisfaction levels of individuals ).To put it in a simple succinct manner ,human beings will always find something or the other to worry about ,but the single relatively constant niggling factor will always be money.

OK so now the next 64 million dollar question…what do we do about it?

Answer no: 1 is the ‘elementary .my dear Watson’ type – make more of it.Beg ,borrow ,steal.(or puting more hard work ,if you’re the old fashioned type).Now we have a slight problem here.When do we stop?How much is enough?Is there really an ‘enough’?This is where individual satisfaction levels come into play.On one hand there are the people who are seeming satisfied with the bare necessities of life (mind you ,as long as at least that is satisfied ) and on the other you have people whose definition of what is a bare necessity changes everyday with every new car model launched ,with every new exotic mobile launched.Can the latter type of personality ever make ‘enough ‘ money?I think the answer is obvious.Interestingly though since this whole bit is about happiness .it should be pointed out that these go-getters are unlikey to be designated as unhappy just because they are not satisfied with what they have.They become unhappy only when they don’t get what they hope to have.Then again isn’t that the same with any ambition?Does that make aspiring for heights a wrong thing to do?don’t think so.So if you’re happy with what you have..well and good.If you aim for more and get there... equally good.If you dream beyond your scope ,keep it in mind that failure is a possibility and make sure that you have to strength to digest it.

Considering the pearls of wisdom ,I imparted ,I guess I have more reasons to be happy than a lot of other poor souls.So for the moment I’ll stop cribbing and think of a more positive blog next time!

Sunday, April 22, 2007


Some of my agnostic friends ask me why they should be held blackmail to a concept of a ‘hereafter’ when nobody has really returned from the exalted place to confirm the story??I tell them that I can only tell why I believe in the hereafter.I ask them to imagine working under a boss they have never seen in person.This boss passes out all orders and instruction via a third person.One fine day the boss guy makes it known through the intermediary that all guys and gals who’re good this year will be given a paid 1 year vacation to the Bahama’s .No extra work ,just behave good.What do you do? There’s a good chance that the whole thing is just a hoax…but if you just have to behave good ,what do you have to lose?? It is the same with judgement day…maybe Darwin was right and the prophets wrong ,but does god really impose all that tough a life for you to reach paradise?So you really don’t have much to lose ..and a lot to gain!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Sonia Gandhi ,the Kerala police and a messed up weekend!

We all have been at some time subjected to inconveniences because of scheduled or unscheduled VIP visits and the associated police ‘bandobasts’.I would like to recount a little experience I had .

Timeline : March 2006 ,Sonia Gandhi visits Kochi
My usual working pattern is from 8:30 to 6:00 on all days except Sundays.My wife of 2 months duration has an almost similar schedule .So weekends are kind of special for us.It’s a time to unwind ..listen to some music ,take in movie or laze around with a comfy book.As usual, the last Saturday was to have been spent in the same leisurely bliss…except that Mrs.Sonia Gandhi and her cats (of all hues ,including the mandatory black ) had other plans in store for me.I got out of the hospital by 5:30,the general idea was a quick shower followed by dinner and a second show movie.My wife had already reached home and was doing the groundwork.I reach the road cutting into NH-17 near Edappally and suddenly there’s a long caterpillar stretch of motor vehicles neatly stacked bumper to bumper.Suprisingly the main road is totally empty.What gives?So I get out my car and check with one of the ubiquitous khaki clad gentlemen littering the empty road.In the totally expected ,crude style of our ever so polite police force,I am told brusquely that the road has been cleared for Soniaji’s visit. Cleared? I query curiously. Well ,of course you nut, cleared as in ,the ‘pilot’ vehicles have passed by and now we’re waiting for the queen bee. “Ok.So when do you expect the queen bee to fly by?”.”Hmmppph… idea”(why are you so bothered, anyway?)I parted with the constable on relatively harsh terms.I simply couldn’t understand the zeal with these policemen were carrying out there ‘duty’. If the same enthusiasm was extended to their everyday work I think Kochi would be a much better place than it is.Anyway , I do think that I managed to get my viewpoint across,not that it mattered to Mr.Policeman though.
Anyway I get home bruised and battered after an hour of bumper to bumper traffic and with some strength of character managed to convey to my understandably angry bitter half that the days’ program stood cancelled.”I’ll make it up tomorrow I promise” . Thank god for instant noodles and soup I managed not to go hungry that night.

Come Sunday morning ,most of the dark clouds had shifted away from my dear wife’s face.So we make our next set of grand plans…a lavish breakfast at home,then I go to the hospital to rush through my rounds and then we go to the lending library in town ,get a few good books ….and so on and so on.Things were going according to schedule when Soniaji gave us another rude jolt .The roads leading to the library were blocked .As is the norm a horde of policemen were standing guard every few meters.I tried parking my vehicle on a empty piece of landscape ,but no sooner had I stalled the engines that a rapidly moving mass in khaki scurried over asking me to move out as though the future of the nation depended on it.It is a fact that I could have reached the library by following some rather circuitous routes ,but I was so utterly disgusted by then that I headed straight home.

Now just imagine if there had been some really serious matter I had to attend to (rather than bother about my wife’s happiness,which by itself could be quite a serious matter!)...I’m sure that the same day there would have been people with pressing need who would have been depressingly delayed just because Mrs.Sonia Gandhi had a fancy to visit Kochi.Personally I am as apolitical as a person can get (I really believe that there is no difference whom you vote for in an election as all politicians in time turn out equally bad),but this one experience ensured that no matter what, I am not going to vote for Soniaji or her congress ever again in my life.Interesting a large bunch of the so called part worker who had descended in hordes to Kochi were too drunk to listen to Soniaji’s speeches.It is evident that a lot of these people had been paid some ‘pocket money’ and a bottle or two of liquor to rally around their ‘leader’.Can our politicians really get cheaper?

Actually ,I really don’t know what makes me more angry…the politicians with their rallies and ‘hartals’ on the drop of a hat ,the policemen with their crass behaviour or the general public who seemed to have forgotten to question the wrongs happening around them.Everybody seems to just accept things as they are.It’s time people really started acting as responsible social animals .We have this tendency to engage regularly in conversation degrading the official machinery of our country ..but what do we do about it?Given an option of getting things done easiliy by shelling out a bribe ,most people go for it.I have had a rather bitter personal experience of having to spend 4 months trying to get my passport ,basically because I didn’t deem it proper to grease the hands of the police constable who came in for verification.I must admit that following the interactions I have had with the famed Kerala police, I now have a natural bias against them.But it should be understood that it is the general public which has contributed to making the police the monster it is now.(For example ,it is generally an accepted fact of life that if you want your passport ,you need to give a couple of hundred bucks to the verifying official.If everybody just refused to give in to the policeman’s need to be bribed ,things would change automatically.)
Just take another example.On the bypass between Edappally and Vytilla it is common to see ‘flying squad’ vehicles lying in wait to pounce upon drivers.Interestingly in the west (Infact in most civilized societies ) the general norm is not to bother a motorist as long as there is no valid reason.Here innocent people rushing about their daily routine are hauled up and literally harassed by the ‘flying’ and the ‘saada’ squads.The problem though is that many of these harassed motorists shell out a sum of money to get the issue settled quickly.True the policemen at times behave worse than seasoned criminals ,but what do we become when we bribe them?? ‘Arise .Awake and bribe not till the goal is reached’?