Category Archives: Personal

Mother

Mother,

Witty and wise

You gave me a perfect life.

With your X-ray eyes

You always knew what’s inside,

Worry or Joy

You were there by my side,

With arms –a-welcoming

Be it day or night.

You were patient with me

When I couldn’t tell wrong from right.

It seems only yesterday

When you were my guiding light

But now it’s my turn

To make sure you’re alright!

Dengue Diaries: Final

This is a chronicle of events that happened a year ago when I suffered from dengue. You can find the previous entries under ‘Dengue Diaries’.

Monday.

We go through the morning routine of drawing blood again and waiting for the results.

A’s report shows a count of 57,000. There‘s no drop, but no increase either. We hope it‘s the nadir and that it will start rising from now. Just in case, we have a few friends lined up for transfusion.

It’s an uneventful day for me at the hospital. I spent most of the day by myself. My blood count has shown a good increase – 100k. The doctor says that I can go home .But I have to wait for J to complete the discharge process. In the meantime, the paediatrician informs us that A’s BP and all other vital signs look good and if the evening blood test show a significant increase, then he can go home.

J has taken his laptop and some DVDs to the hospital today to relieve A from his boredom. He watches his latest favourite movie ‘Megamind’! The IV fluid is still running and he develops some itching. There are no rashes, but he, too, is given the anti-allergy medicine. Soon, his blood results are in – 84,000.  The doctor announces that A can go home now;  he has a gleeful smile on his face! By the time the discharge formalities are done and they get home, its late evening.

It’s too late to start my discharge process now, so I spend another night at the hospital and go home the next afternoon, happy that the ordeal is over.

But tough luck!

The following morning when I wake up, I get dizzy and land up in the hospital again diagnosed with very low BP and an extended 2 day stay.

Prologue:

It’s exactly a year today when I finally came back from the hospital. The only silver lining in this whole fracas was that   my younger son, though diagnosed with dengue, didn’t need to be hospitalised. He was safe at home under the loving care of his paternal grandmother.

It took me an entire month to get back to normal, nurtured by my mom who went to lengths to feed me with a variety of nutritious food- I was specially advised to eat pomegranates and papaya leaf juice to boost the platelet counts. (though I’m not sure if there’s any scientific evidence to back this.) My older son A, fortunately recovered in a week and was able to resume school quickly.

The rise in dengue cases and resulting death in the city in the last few months made me realise how fortunate we were to come through with no major after effects. Dengue is one unique disease that actually makes one more vulnerable to it . After one who has had it , contracts it another time, it can be far more dangerous.

It has been a life changing experience.  Life happens ! And whenever it throws a spanner in the works, I only pray and hope that I have the fortitude to endure whatever is thrown at me and my family!!

My other Mother

She came into my life when I was a year and a half old. With green tattoos on her forehead and forearm, nauwari (Maharashtrian nine yard sari), and cherubic moon face, she wafted in to our home, becoming an integral part of our lives for the next 20 years.

She had had a dismal life, and like most women of her times, never questioned but accepted her fate. She was married off at a very young age, as was common those days. She lost both her husband and son very early , and so considering her to be ill-fated, the in-laws threw her out.

Already bereft of a mother, now widowed and childless, she had no place to go.

Her married older sister took her in and found her a job as a nanny with a Gujrathi family. And when the family didn’t need her services anymore, she came to live with us .  She soon endeared herself to all, friends and family, with her garrulous and affectionate nature.

She was my sole companion for five years until my sister came along. She  shared a special bond with with my sister, having taken care of her from the day she was born. She attended to us just like a mother would. Feeding us, helping us get ready and praying and crying for us whenever one of us fell ill. One day, when my sister came home with a split forehead and blood pouring down her face (after being accidentally hit by a swinging cricket bat), it was hard to tell who cried more.

She soon mastered our South Indian cuisine, alien to her until then. I can still picture her sitting on the floor , turning the grinding stone with one hand and shoving rice and lentils with the other  until the two coagulated together to form a smooth batter of dosa, the quintessential South Indian delicacy. She made the best chappattis I’ve ever had and invented healthy versions of fried dishes such as dahi bread (in place of dahi vada) for us.

Picfrom http://flickrhivemind.net/Tags/cortalim/Timeline

 

She is now around 85 years old, suffering the brutalities of old-age, but still remembers every member of our extended family and enquires about each one of them by name. When we visit her in Bombay, where she now lives with her grand-nephew, she proudly calls the neighbours to come see her daughters.

Related:

Story Challenge: Letter ‘M’

Email: Bane or Boon?

What could be a better way of starting one’s day than with a resounding clap or sometimes whisper of endorsement from one’s Inbox? Every morning, groggy from sleep, the first thing I remember is the post I put up on my blog the previous night and quickly reach for my laptop.

As soon as it turns on, ‘Google chat’ is activated. I’m then notified of the emails I’ve received including those ego-boosting ones from WordPress that tell me the number of likes and comments my blog has garnered.

My day has now officially begun!

I have ‘Google chat’ on all day long, so even as I ‘m writing this, I know immediately of any new incoming mail. Distracting? Yes! But I can’t bring myself to turn it off!

I don’t really achieve much through email. I’m a homemaker who lives close to most of my family and friends. Facebook suffices to keep in touch with those who live away.

So, I could technically do away with email. But how can I, when it has given me interesting anecdotes and material for this post.

1. Mistaken Identity

This morning, I found this message from Facebook in my Inbox.

“X posted on your timeline, “happy birthday!” ‘

So, what’s wrong in that you ask? Nothing, except that it wasn’t my Birthday!

One of the banes of having a common Indian first name is that I often get emails which are meant for someone else. Once I received an email from an acquaintance with details of his company’s business strategies. Luckily for him, neither I nor anyone close to me worked in that field!

2. Entertainment or annoyance?

I happened to meet a stand-up comedienne sometime back. Last week, she emailed me a you-tube clip of one of her performances and cced it to her entire contact list. By the end of the day, I had received video clips from several other aspiring stand-up comedians and emails from celebrity management companies!

3. Platform for Debate?

There was an interesting exchange of emails among the moms of my son’s class when we were asked to put up a skit on folktales for storytelling week in school. The following debate took place regarding the choice of folktales that were considered as ‘suitable’.

Mom 1: I have always wondered why so many folktales/fairy tales/mythology are so violent. It keeps me from sharing a lot of those stories with the kids, unfortunately.

Mom 2: I see what you mean! I grew up on a massive diet of Indian mythology/folktales and was so keen on bringing up my son on the same. But sadly he just never took to them. I wondered if it was the illustrations – which had many rash strokes, unlike the soft colours and beautiful images in the American books he saw/read.

Mom 3: …storytelling is a fascinating human practice. It is never just about the storyline, is it?….the messages and morals are contained somewhere between the lines and the dramatic imagery. What better way to introduce kids to common sense, social justice, right vs wrong, human values (truth, compassion, respectfulness…), and the staggering wealth of Indian Mythology and historical tales?

Mom 4: In the child’s development of moral radar, I would err on the side of doing a story that evokes a moral dilemma but stays away from the macabre and has much room for discussion. These tots of our have a burning desire to engage with such content.

A stimulating read, to say the least!

4. Real Significance

The one only time Email played a significant role in my life was when I moved abroad and missed my family terribly. Phone calls were prohibitively expensive and a once-a week luxury. It was when I looked forward to hear the assurance in my dad’s voice; the subtle anxiety in my mom’s or the excitement in my sister’s voice. Email couldn’t replace any of that but it gave me the instant gratification for chit-chat in my quiet and alien life and the whisper of validation that I would be just fine in a strange new land.

This post is in response to the weekly writing challenge: Mail it in!

Dengue Diaries: Hospitalisation

Its been a while since I updated the Dengue Diairies. As I have been getting queries about the rest of the story, have decided to continue with it. Those, who have missed the previous entries, can find it here:  Preface, day1 , day2 and day3

Wednesday, October 24th. Day 3 contd..

I’m at the hospital waiting for the formalities of admission. I’m a bit nervous as I’m unfamiliar with this hospital! But Dr S assures us that the hospital is well-equipped and the nursing staff well-trained. After the formalities, I ‘m taken to the emergency ward where there is a flurry of activity. Three nurses materialize suddenly. One checks the triumvirate of BP, temp and pulse.  Another jabs my left arm to insert the IV line while the third jabs my right to draw blood for the platelet count.

I start to feel like royalty!  Impressed with their alacrity, my fears about the hospital are allayed.

At the private ward, a half hour later, the blood results are in. The count has dipped to 37,000 (Normal range is 150 K to 450 K). Dr S says I need to get platelets transfused as the low counts are a risk for internal bleeding. (Platelets play an important role in the clotting of blood and very low quantities of platelets can lead to spontaneous bleeding).

We have to go the blood bank at a nearby hospital to acquire the platelets. J calls my sis for advice. In her opinion, platelet transfusion is done only if the counts are below 25,000.But Dr S is adamant about going ahead with it.

So, with a reference letter, J goes to the blood bank. He is told that only RDPs or Random Donor Platelets are available. At that time, we didn’t know much about platelet collection or RDPs. I found out that these are platelets obtained from whole blood in routine blood donations and pooled from several donors as the quantity of platelets obtained from whole blood is very little. After consulting with Dr S, he picks up 5 pints of RDPs.

Back in the ward, the nurse sets up the first transfusion and instructs me to inform her if there’s any itching. Since the RDP is collected from whole blood, there could be some blood components which can cause an allergic reaction. The 2nd round of transfusion is started after a gap of half hour. Shortly, I feel some itching on my right arm and soon there are rashes all over my body. I ring for the nurse who stops the transfusion, injects an anti-allergy medicine and then restarts the transfusion.

It’s 11 pm when the transfusion is complete. The nurses decide to continue the transfusions in the morning. J goes back home while my mom keeps me company in the ward. I am suddenly aware of the loud firecrackers being burst outside and can smell the acrid smoke. I think about my younger son who was so keen on firecrackers this year. We didn’t even get a chance to buy any, but no one’s in the mood to celebrate Diwali anymore!

 

Blogging Awards!

Diana from dianajuvenille, a young talented writer nominated me for the above 3 awards, my first! Now, I have seen the awards go around, some accept them and some don’t. Each to his own, but I believe that one  should accept any gift or award, not because one deserves it but out of respect for the person awarding it. So, Diana, thanks very much! I feel truly honored.

One of the rules of the game is to tell 7 things about myself. So here goes:

  1. On my very first day of school in kindergarden, I was lost thanks to the school bus that dropped me off in a different part of the city . A Good Samaritan found me and reunited me with my mother!
  2. I’ve continued to have many more ‘mis-adventures’ in my life, which I think will make an interesting Bollywood potboiler!
  3. I’ve been fortunate to work in some of the best research institutes around the world – IISc , India ; Harvard Medical School, USA; and  MSZ, Germany. After 10 years, though I cherished the experience and loved the subject (Biology/Biotechnology), I realised it was not my calling. So, I quit and years later, I’m still trying to figure out  my purpose or calling .
  4. I love Italian food!
  5. I can speak 5 languages (4 Indian and English) fluently and a smattering of French and German.
  6. I’ve moved (changed residence) 9 times in the last 13 years!
  7. I rarely watch TV.

Next, I have to nominate 5 bloggers for the award. This is the difficult part. Most of the bloggers I follow/admire are veterans who have recieved every award there is! So, instead I’m going to name those who have been an inspiration to me in my blogging journey.

1. Madhu from The Urge to Wander – a huge inspiration and the reason I joined Wordpress.

2. Island Traveller,from thismansjourney whose inspiring posts I always look forward to!

3. The Wanderlust Gene, whose writing I admire!

4. Myra, from Gathering Books, who inspires me by her passion for books.

5. Francine in retirement   – who has some great photographs and perspective of life

6. Shaanthz from Healthcare updates who offers yummy healthy recipes.

7. Bottledworder, an amazing writer!

8. Frizztext, for his thought-provoking posts!

9. Ailsa from where’smybackpack , who has some great travel themes

10. Jake from SundayPost, who is amazing at Graphic artwork!

Those who haven’t recieved the awards before, please do pick it up!

Justice Denied!

Two years ago on September 13, 2010, Ishaan, son of international award winning filmmaker, Shonali Bose and NASA scientist –turned filmmaker, Bedabrata Pain, died of severe burns, caused by a defective Wahl’s Groomsman Beard and Mustache Trimmer. He was just 16, an 11th grade student at Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles, California, who excelled in Chess, Math and playing the piano. A young, bright life snuffed out brutally due to a faulty design.

I first met Ishaan, as a boy of 6, when Shonali and Bedo, friends of my husband, along with their 2 boys came to live with us for a few days on their trip to Boston 12 years ago. Of course, I do not have any memories of the child, but I can say that the worst nightmare for a parent is to outlive one’s children and even more so when they die a horrible death.

We bumped into Shonali last December in Rajasthan (we were staying at the same hotel). She had moved to Delhi with her mom to seek solace and recoup from the tragedy. Incidentally, when my husband was talking to her, she received the call from Anand Mahindra informing her that she was selected winner of the prestigious Sundance Academy Award, the only Indian to do so.

Shonali and Bedo filed a case against the Wahl Clipper Corporation for causing the death of their son. The trial started last month on August 28th. On the first day, the Company’s attorneys offered them a settlement of half a million dollars, which they refused and even tried to malign the boy’s character. Even though the fire department investigators confirmed that the only source of ignition in the bathroom where Ishaan was shaving was the shaver, in the end, the jury unanimously gave the verdict ‘not guilty’ due to lack of evidence.

Shonali and Bedo haven’t given up. They may have lost the case, but in Shonali’s words, the battle has just begun. This is her posting on her Facebook site:

“Today. Sep 13, is the 2nd anniversary of my first born Ishan’s passing from this earth. As his mother – I treat this day with utmost honor, as it signals the end of his amazing journey on earth. I do not mourn his loss on this day. Instead I am filled with peace, light and strength emanating from every corner of this vast universe – an energy that my son is now part of. He lifts me and holds me in his embrace and I feel beautiful inside and fortunate to have such a bond; to have such a son.”

Shonali has now decided to take on Wahl clipper by urging people worldwide to boycott their products.

A full feature can be found here:

http://www.bangaloremirror.com/article/81/2012090820120908234712044eb730fb/Trimmer-cuts-a-life.html

Weekly Writing Challenge: Violins and Memories

Coming from a middle class family in India, especially one with several members, it is quite unlikely for one to possess a family heirloom. There aren’t any sentimental childhood possessions either as they were all donated before the move from Mumbai to Bangalore 20 years ago. Materialistic possessions are anyway so temporary- perishable; it’s the memories that are to be treasured for eternity!

With the passing years, one tends to rely more on pictures to conjure up events of the past, but there are some that do not require a tangible entity, the memories remain entrenched in one’s minds forever!

Like the time, one evening, coming back home after playing with friends (I was around 8 or 9), I found my father eagerly waiting for me at the door. He ushered me into the dining area, brimming with excitement and said, ‘I have a surprise for you’.  I followed him with puzzlement and wonder to the side table at the corner of the room.  On top of the radio that stood on the table, there was a bird sitting motionless, barely a foot away from me, staring with beady eyes!

At first, I thought it was a stuffed bird and then it cocked its head to one side as if it was sizing me up. It was a mynah (a bird of the starling family) which had somehow found its way into that secure corner of our second floor apartment. I asked my father if I could keep it as a pet, but he flatly refused saying that birds are meant to be free, flying out in the sky, not confined in homes. The mynah remained there for a few more hours, confused and scared and finally flew out of the door that my father had left open for its sake.

The memory is a testament of my father’s kindness and childlike enthusiasm for many things, trivial or otherwise, in life. There are a few of his worldly possessions that I have held on to, things that embody his effulgent qualities.

This violin is a symbol of his joie de vivre and zest for life. He bought it after retirement in his continued quest for new learning. He even carried it to the US, when he, along with my mom, came to help me with my firstborn, to practise in his spare time. But I didn’t ever get a chance to listen to him play as he fell sick the very next day and passed away a week later.  It is now lying broken in its case (damaged on its way back to India), and I hope one day to have it restored and learn to play it myself.

There’s nothing ornate or wondrous or antique about this stool. Rather, it embodies his spirituality and pious nature. He used it as a prayer seat; sat on it every single day after his morning ablutions, in a corner of the kitchen (which was also used as a prayer room) with his eyes closed in meditation. It continues to stay in a corner near the prayer room as we cannot dream of putting it to any other use.

A few of my favourite things? I doubt if I have any. But some I cherish as a legacy of a life of goodness, vivacity and devotion.

This post is in response to Daily Post’s Weekly Writing Challenge: A few of My favourite things. You can  read a tribute I wrote to my father in one of my very early posts here

Musical Passions!

Nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion.
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

It is said that no man has lived if he hasn’t had a passion. It is what keeps us going, day after day, during difficult times or dreary days.

Most of us are passionate about our families, treasuring the precious moments spent with our children, parents and even extended families. These moments gain more significance as we see the canopies of our family tree thinning with time.

There are many who are also passionate about their work or hobby such as gardening or writing. Travelling and exploring a new place is another passion most of us enjoy.

But there’s another thing that I consider as a passion, which I don’t actively participate in, but has been a constant force in my life.

Music.

I was inculcated into this wonderful world at a young age by my parents. Though my attempts to learn Indian classical singing were shaky and I later regretted not pursuing it seriously, it gave me the ear to appreciate good music, no matter what language or country it came from.

I turn to music for inspiration when I’m at my wit’s end, for refuge when I ‘m down and for strength when I’m troubled.

It is also another bond that ties our family together. I was pleasantly surprised to find that my husband and I had similar taste in music. We  listen and hum to the same tunes as we drive, cook or go about our daily chores.

And I ‘m thrilled to see my kids share this passion too! Our house is filled with several musical instruments that they are learning to play and as I see their joy after they’ve perfected a tune, I know that it will also be an important part of their lives .

Related articles:

Weekly Image of life .

http://thismansjourney.net/2012/08/22/weekly-image-of-life-passion-2/