The Women’s Day

 

Being a woman was almost viral today. While all creativity was sacrificed at the altar of this new pride in that something called ‘womanhood’ the celebrations were just as superficial , the emotions as virtual as was the space which bore the rantings of a world that suddenly competed to correct the misdeeds of past. Even the most notorious and the most cynical ones joined in the glorification of womanhood for once

A medical representative, stood with a bouquet and a card along with her product monogram. Any other day I wouldn’t have liked this intrusion but in this new found spirit of sisterhood I indulged her. She was doing her job. I smiled at her.Well she was a woman too.

As she left I noticed a familiar face peering through the half closed door. I recognized him immediately. He was an interpreter to patients from Tazakistan and he stammered very badly. He had my sympathies but when pitted against a foreigner whose language I had no means of understanding and a medium who stammered so hard that it made everything impossible to comprehend, I could only brace myself for a difficult time ahead. If he was not my best friend, I was not his favorite doctor  either. He rather made no bones of it. Once when I had asked him to be a little quick, he had grumbled about me being a little impatient. I could recognize the same impatience creeping once again,

A tall bulky women followed him. She greeted me before sitting on a stool near me. I  looked at the interpreter warily as he once again broke into a stammer. Trying hard not to  look exasperated I smiled encouragingly at him. There was no point being at logger heads with the only help I had around. Lot many hurdles remained to be cleared. Moreover, there was no point having a repeat stand-off with him.

At times it zapped me that these ladies who were otherwise covered from head to tail in their trademark black hijab, chose to share with these strangers ( interpreters) their most intricate and intimate details, sometimes even in the absence of their husbands. Well,necessity remains the mother of all inventions.

From what I gathered from him, this women wanted help in conceiving.

‘No children?’ She looked a little older. Her papers mentioned that she was actually thirty eight.

‘No maa’m she has three!’

‘Actually she had five.’ This is where it got stuck. The moment you wanted a detailed history, it got really difficult as you had no inkling as to what she was saying. One had to depend upon the interpretor’s intelligence. And in this case it was so difficult to trust it.

‘Well, she had 5 children, of whom only 3 survived, all of them males. Rest died within 5 days.

‘Hmm, so she had 5 pregancies.’

The interpreter translated it to the women. She shook her head vigorously and broke into an incoherent speech once again

‘She’s saying she had six more.’

‘Six what!

Did he seriously mean 11 pregnancies. She was only 38 years old and just about 2 short of Mumtaz mahal’s record.

‘Actually she had six abortions after her deliveries.’

‘She has spent almost all her life in pregnancies and still she wants more’ I seriously appreciated some people’s zeal to procreate.

The doctor inside struggled to decide the tests she needed to undergo, when I was bombed with another piece of information

‘Ma’am, actually all the abortions are with the second husband.’

‘Second!’ I stared at the expectant smile on the woman’s face.

‘So get her present husband tested.’ It was getting simpler.

‘But, he has eight children from another wife, youngest less than a year back.’

My ambitions to test him quietly walked out of the window in face of such a daring proof.

It never was easy for a doctor.

‘Why should he want more now?’ They were not a very rich country.

“Actually he wants a daughter from her.’ He spoke indulgently at the woman.

Trust me for not understanding such obvious emotions. Shaking my head I set out to write a battery of tests to evaluate her continuous and persistent efforts at motherhood.

‘I could go far for that someone I loved, if only I knew how far….’

Men in that part of that country were allowed many wives. A harem! I scoffed. Yet I was amazed to see a surreal acceptance amongst the wives for each other.

Once a woman suffering from a bad genital infection wanted to take medicines for the other wife too. Laughing at my raised eyebrows she said,’If she doesn’t get treated, this husband of ours would again transmit infection to me. I once heard her over the telephone. She was asking him to get me treated.’

I guess it was allowed in their religion so they accepted it .’

‘My religion allows too but Indian woman not so accommodating.’ The interpretor bent forward to give his best smile. I didn’t realize I had spoken out aloud. I was neither impressed by him nor did I want to be part of any slapstick humour and looked blankly at him. Embarrassed, he fell back on his chair.

I was not really convinced about the tests I wrote , yet I didn’t want to disappoint someone who had travelled miles just for this. Throwing a grateful smile at me, which I felt I somehow didn’t deserve, I watched her leave my clinic.

Women! How boundaries changed our perceptions, behaviours and ambitions too.

I was not left with much time to brood.

A small plump dark girl had been just waiting for her turn and rushed inside, followed by another older woman who appeared to be her mother.
They were carrying a pile of papers, some yellowed ones on the verge of a massive breakdown peeping though the files. The government gives them poor quality papers, and they keep their tiffin over them and yes, we still talk about maintaining records. No point getting sarcastic over a piece of paper, smelling of pickles. But then there was so much more stored in those weathering ones!

The elderly lady sat on the stool in front of me, and younger one who appeared to be her daughter sat at the corner.

I looked at them questioningly but the lady had too much on her head to look at my questioning eyes.

‘I have to get her married.’

Ok!

‘You know how important it is for a girl to get married.’

It was debatable  but I guess from her viewpoint she appeared justified. I waited patiently, just to see where I came in her plans of marriage.

‘I guess, I do.’

And it was still not clear to me who was the patient. The one who sat near me was usually the patient but here the one who sat near me was the one troubled more.

‘So what brings you here? Not a marriage proposal for sure.’

She laughed.

‘Actually at AIIMS, they gave her a medicine and she started having regular cycles. Then one day when we went there again , they changed the drugs. Now she has no periods. Your hospital is on my panel. So please write the earlier medicines so that I can get it from the dispensary. ‘

Her problem didn’t make my diagnosis and much as I wanted I couldn’t write a prescription without one.

People sometimes like to tell their problems in their own way but we doctors have this habit of extracting information in our own ways.

At least it was clear who was the patient now.

‘Can you please change places with the girl?’

She looked a little embarrassed but obliged.

‘ Madam, she can have children , na.’

‘I know its important for you.’

‘Yes mam, very much!’ She interrupted me.

‘But can I please understand what’s going on?’

‘At AIIMS , they told me it’s a Turner syndrome.’

A Turner!  With a start I looked at her. It was a condition where the person had XO chromosome rather than XY or XX. Absence of Y chromosome, made her a woman , yet the presence of just a single X made her at most ‘not a man’, genetically speaking.

I looked closely at her . She was short necked but other wise she carried all the feminine traits. They carried no papers but she told me that she was not suffering from any heart defects so characteristic of a Turner syndrome.

‘When did you realize you had a problem?’

‘Madam, she didn’t start menstruating so we had to see the doctors. At AIIMS they gave us some medicines and she was alright. Now they changed her medicine and her periods stopped. You please write down the ones she was taking earlier.

‘Do you know what being a Turner means?’

The girl lowered her eyes.

‘Madam, she has to marry.’

‘You might have to remove her ovaries. They get cancerous.’

I didn’t have the papers but I was sure she must have been told about this.

‘Madam, how will she marry then?’

‘ I am telling you about cancer and you are talking about marriage? I think it’s the only thing important to you.’ I couldn’t hold back the sarcasm..

‘It is!’ She failed to understand it

‘Why don’t you start searching right now?’

‘Yes ma’am, we have already done so. You just write her previous medicines so that she starts having periods.’ She still didn’t get it.

Probably she had closed the doors to any rational thinking and no voice of reason could reach her now.

I turned to the girl.

‘Listen, I hope you know what you are dealing with. Please bring your old papers next time so that we clearly know where we stand. I hope you have been told that one needs to remove the streak gonad ( ovary / testis) inside the abdomen else they get cancerous. That’s a huge risk.’

‘ I understand ma’am. They asked me to remove that about  4rys back but ..’ Her voice trailed off

‘ I am studying. Soon I will be in the final year of graduation.’ She was like any other chirpy girl of her age and I sincerely wished her parents didn’t  impose so much upon her.

Conventions were important but what did one do when it was ‘nature’ that became so unconventional. In a world were even altered sexual preferences were gradually getting accepted , what standing such people had, socially as well as legally?

It felt almost cruel  to explain her intersex status to her. Her mother’s ambition to get her married off was soon going to expose her to this ruthless world where such deviations from the norm where not taken kindly.

She lingered in my thoughts long after she had left and I waited to see her again anxiously.

I didn’t have to wait long and she was back in my clinic two days later with all her papers

They confirmed that she was not just a simple Turner but a little complicated one. Her karyotype revealed that  40 % of her chromosomes were XY and 60 % were XO. Fate is indeed funny and how it shaped our destiny.

If I thought it was tough explaining her genetic set up, her mother was proving me wrong. There were more pertinent matters that needed to be discussed  .

‘Ma’am, she can have children, na?’

I stared at her.

‘You just write the medicines she was taking earlier.’

If only she understood that having menses and having children didn’t go together.

Exasperated I once again turned to the daughter.

‘You need to have a ovary and a genetic set up to pass on to and make babies.. Yours is dysfunctional. Having a menses a few times was just an aberration from may be sporadic production of harmones.’

‘Ma’am , why don’t you understand.’

It was clear who was not ready to understand. Her mother was now bugging me.

‘Listen. Do you realize you are 40% a man , 60 %  half a woman, whatever that makes you. I hope you know that the society has a word for such people. Yet your secret is under the blanket. What happens when your mother gets you married. You won’t have a baby and your husband is going to take you to a doctor and then all hell will break lose. How would they feel? Your marriage gets null and void and your reputation tarnished. It’s a very cruel word that we live in.’

She could still marry and enjoy a normal physical relationship. At least God had been kind enough and  she was normal in other places. Adoption, doner eggs and IVF were other options for her. But she needed a very well understanding life partner for that. It sounded highly improbable but then life was pregnant with possibilities.

I knew I was being a little blunt and felt a trifle ashamed when I saw tears in her mother’s eyes. Strangely my words still didn’t register on her.

Her daughter needed to be on harmones all her life to substitute for the ones her dysmorphic glands were not making. But then that still didn’t take away from the danger of cancer that was lurking beneath. She looked at my worried eyes and glanced away.

I looked at her daughter. This was her life. Was she such a baggage to her parents? Or was it just a social responsibility that compelled them? Probably they were doing it just to escape alienation in a society that frowned upon parents not able to get their daughters married off.

‘I know ma’am. I will get it removed.’ The girl lowered her face.

‘How will she have kids then?’ Her mother interrupted and I ignored her.

Her daughter passed her a warning look.

‘I hope you understand your health , happiness and dignity is more important than marriage any day.’

She nodded. Her mother kept her tearful eyes averted.

I knew it wouldn’t be so easy to get rid of that potentially malignant streak gonad for that is where her mother’s dreams of her happy future lay buried.

A strange world we lived in. I couldn’t help feeling sad for her.

She left along with her mother towing behind who kept her eyes downcast. I had not heeded to her demands to write the old drugs. It was irrelevant and didn’t make any difference. What was the point of fuelling unrealistic dreams, anyway.

The irony called nature rattled.

Just two days back we had so much going in the name of  International Women’s Day. So what made a woman? A pair of X chromosomes or was it something beyond that?

My brooding eyes caught at the bouquet and a card at the corner of my table.  It read in pink ’Be the woman, you want to be’. Indeed…

.

.

Advertisements

‘Children of Past’

He hastily closed his laptop and jumped from the bed.

“Mumma , kya hua?”

That should have been my question! I had just entered the room of my fast growing up sons. One well into his teens and the other, soon to enter his adolescence.

This had become not an infrequent occurrence. Lately I noticed many times the suspiciously changed page on his lappy. Jennifer Anniston from ‘Friends’ would smile silly at me and her scatter brained friends burst into a familiar peal of laughter, safely from the elder sibling’s laptop.

The younger one peered from the top of the bunk bed. “Minecraft mom!” he said sheepishly to my raised eyebrows.

Been there , done that! They don’t realize that the ‘parents of present’ were the  children of a distant but well remembered past.

I knew exactly where my mom hid her hindi ‘Gulshan Nanda’ novels. Despite my short stature I had found ways to sneak to the top of the almirah were it rested before being devoured by my curious mind during those without air conditioner,warm summer holidays , that tried our patience. Such was the fascination of the unexplored.

Soon me and my sister were saving the money from our daily commuting. The ‘brilliant economists of the future’ would walk our way to school and save money to smuggle those pricey ‘Mills and Boons’ right under the nose of our unsuspecting parents into and under our quilts. Oh, that arrogant tall , dark and handsome ( TDH ) hero as he laughed  sardonically at the poor heroine even as she trembled. And as he loomed threateningly over her, she cowered in the dark, and there! My hands fumbled with the torch and my heart missed a beat. Those were the days of ‘Jab Roshni Deta bajaj” under the blanket!

Our repeated errands to the shop often landed us some ‘oblique looks’  the handsome but cynical shopkeeper gave us as he handed us those books. But then all he met was defiance as the two ‘soon to be adults’, girls dared him back. He receded into a safe corner.

Overcoming road-blocks, sometimes these ‘passages to adulthood’ sneaked their way into my textbooks and undercover I would read breathless as my TDH hero silenced the heroine with a punishing kiss and his hands hovered around dangerously. I closed my textbook with a start. Red colour suffused my cheeks and I looked around guiltily. My mother was busy cooking with no inkling of what lay hidden in the folds of my heavy textbooks. Adulthood, hovered in my horizon, tempted and teased. Cautiously I opened my err, ‘textbook’ again. The fanciful classification of those kisses baffles me still. Nothing could be farther removed from reality. Their list was much longer and complex than any differential diagnosis in my medical text books. So easy to befool the ‘high on harmones’ adolescents!

However, I seriously wonder what ailed those heroines of the even then,modern west.Surely not love! No girl with a bit of that precious grey matter would tolerate such high handed guys, TDH or no TDH. I wish they could meet Alia Bhatts of today and swoon to her ‘ladki beautiful, kar gayi chul’. But then like everything else even those books have undergone a drastic makeover. The ‘modern’ and the ‘sensual’ series have women more demanding yet the essence of romance is lost. As many would agree they are no longer about that sweet little thing called love! Yet the compulsion to pick them up at book stores remains just the same. I can be now candid about how we shared our novels with our friend’s mom who also happened to be our head of department in medical college.

It was a good thing that I managed to get through my competitive exams , that too with flying colours and what I now call the moments of reprieve escaped being labelled as the culprits of my secure future.

But then my present is not so familiar with the errands of my past. my mom once caught those blue books in my shelf. I did the same, came across an elaborate passage ,saved as a screenshot in the mobile of the erring teenager that otherwise lives non-descript in my home. My mom never questioned me and I did the same. With a regretful look thrown at ‘ the fast disappearing’ childhood, I closed the door.

That’s the wisdom age gives you. I was puzzled for a long time why mom didn’t howl about it. I understand now, some three decades late. I was often witness to a strange look that passed between my parents. Today, well, I passed the same to my husband. Our children were growing up, experimenting and exploring the secrets of life.

Just as I turned I almost bumped into my mother in law. She took a long look at me and smiled knowingly, “ Don’t worry ,one day you will have a daughter-in –law too.”

The circle of life!

Wait for my next onslaught ‘The daughter-in-laws of the past’….

Chicken Soup & Chocolate Pie

“Mom , who were your boyfriends ?”

I turned surprised . Would that make me more human in his eyes ? I contemplated between being bluntly honest to outrightly dishonest. I ended up with a brutally tolerant option.

“Dad?”

“Mom!” For some reason he sounded disgusted. “That’s so boring !” Did he want to write something exciting like ‘How my mother met your father’! What exactly was he up to?

He knew ours’ was a love marriage and  often prodded me about my supposedly famous love affair.

“How did you know you were going to marry dad ?”

“Actually I did not.” I admitted candidly.

He didn’t believe that

“Alright , why didn’t Mausi marry Tauji?” He was trying to find it out the other way. Today he was bent upon unravelling the secret code that led to marriages.

Mausi in question was my elder sister and Tauji my husband’s elder brother. Just like me and my husband they were batch mates in school but for reasons best known to them and of course to the great relief to both sides of the family, cupid didn’t strike them.

“But don’t you think Mausi is lucky. She has such a beautiful house in Indore.”

“She could have a better house in Glasgow .”He mumbled to himself before adding. “But please don’t tell Mausaji this. He will be upset.”

“If you let me finish my work I might not.” I thought he would run away. But I could see he was still not finished.

“Accha Maa, How will I know I have met my future wife?”

I frowned hard. Should I be fanciful and tell him about ringing bells or the music in the air. Nopes, I needed to disperse such ridiculous thoughts in the infancy. I had to be blunt

“You can’t.”I knew you are supposed to answer the questions truthfully but the mother of a ten year old curious son can be excused once in a while

“Why?”

Because you are not in tenth!”  He knew I  had met my husband when we were both in tenth. The whole family plus the extended ones by now knew about this.

“So  Bhai knows. Is that why he’s on whatsapp all the time. He locks his phone too. Maa, you know he keeps talking to Mehak all the time. I think we should meet her. But don’t scold her the way you scold us . Her parents will not like that.” I looked at him scornfully but he stared back undeterred. Just the prospect of marriage had made him wiser and judgemental and yeah bold too.

“Why should we meet her? Let them come and talk to me and dad.” That was the wrong thing to say.

“Mom , don’t be so orthodox!”

Life indeed is a full circle. How many times had I said that to my mother. What you give comes back to you. I counted to ten. No point contradicting a ten year old who had made up his mind about something.

“Now , who wants to eat chocolate cake!”

I was rewarded by an excited loud kiss on my cheeks. But if I thought I could bribe him I was badly mistaken.

“Mom , did you have a crush on somebody.” Of all the unhealthy things I might have said to my mom , I never thought of ever asking her this. I was blessed with a good dose of curiosity but it never extended to such malignant levels. If only she could hear this!

“Mummy , batao na.”

Some bitter sweet memories threatened to rise but I pushed them away.

“Of course not!” Well , not everything needs to be discussed with your progeny

“Huh, don’t you think that’s weird ,mom?”

“May be” I tried to sound unconcerned. He eyed me silently for sometime.  I knew his mind was working over time

“Well then , may be someone had that on you?”

“What?”

“Crush , wrush!” He tried to sound casual, may be to encourage me into spilling the beans

“Why do you want to know.”

“Aise hin.” His voice was tinged with a curosity. He threw his arms around me and snuggled close. The sweet scent of childhood threatened to engulf me.

Momentarily we both were lost. Me in a past of probables, he contemplating a future of probables

But the curiosity of a child had to be satisfied. Some names crossed my mind before I brushed them away. Most of my batchmates were now close family friends and we met quite frequently.Wouldn’t be a bad idea to use them?

“Oh well , I had quite a lot of them.” I boasted.

“Awesome , mom!” He came closer , He could sense a scoop. I sounded more acceptable to him and there was a ‘new found respect’ in his eyes.

“Did you also throw a lot of attitude, like the girls.” he made an awful face.

“Of course, not!”

“Ok, tell me the names.” He sounded almost proud of me.

“Well , Rajive Uncle ,  Jain Uncle , Ashu Uncle,  Kapil Uncle. They were all my boyfriends!”

“Ugh, mom ! Don’t tell me the name of our relatives.” He walked out of the room .

I knew I had let him down.

…..…..

We were never so curious. My elder son who most of the times behaved as if he was the most grown up and sensible person in the house  and  looked disdainfully at the antics of his younger sibling the other times, asked me sometimes back.

“Mom, are we living in your time or is it now mine?”

Well, I was not going to admit even to my progeny that probably my time was running out.

I resorted to being a little harsh.

“Of course , its our’s.  You are still studying. The day you start earning it will be your time.”

There, it did make him quiet but then would mine end that day? I hated answering that.

Honestly, we never had time to question our parents so much! I could sense my mother laughing but I chose to ignore that.

She was not there when my eleven year old son looked at my brand new nephew with wonder. This new birth in the family had sent him into a contemplative mood.

“Mom, do you think you still have the capacity to have babies.”

A yes or no, both would destroy me .I flushed red and tried to look away from the broad grin on my amused audience’s face. I happened to be in the close confines of a car , being driven back home by my driver, along with my kids. This  one always thought he was meant to be something bigger than a driver and I hated his guts. A few stern words in English which this driver whom I later fired could not understand stopped some more serious rapid fire questioning of my reproductive abilities.

Thankfully ‘3 idiots’ happened around the same time and I found them once delivering  an overtly pregnant doll on my bed. I was horrified but spared from explaining the nuances of child birth to my kids who felt that their knowledge was now at par with their gynaec mom.

But he was still an adolescent fumbling with the facts of life and strangely they had a knack of arising at the most inappropriate time and places.

“Mom, I understand that we have your genes , after all you are the one who has given birth to us , but dad ! How do we have his genes ?”

The absence of sex education in schools loomed large in front of me . I tried to ignore the snorts of laughter coming from the driving seat as I unsuccessfully tried to cover my embarrassment under the Mendel’s law of inheritance but he remained quizzical as ever. Did we ever put our parents in such ’embarrassing but non compromising’ situations?

Once I found him in a foul mood. He had been scolded by his dad. As I tried to draw him out he burst out crying,”Mumma, you didn’t get a good husband!”.  I appreciated his concerns but as a kid we were definitely more tactful especially when it came to stating the obvious to our parents.

Mom had a reason to be disapproving of my parenting ways. According to her  I was too impatient with kids. When my three year old son ,did not understand how to write in hindi I took him to a special educator. She was aghast.

“Even you didn’t like to write till you were five!”

“So what , I didn’t write letters ulta pulta, like a mirror image.”

“No dear, you would write the whole full sentence, ulta pulta.”

“You should have taken me to a doctor. I could have turned out to be autistic!”

“But no , you turned out to be a doctor” She grinned triumphant. “Learn to have a little patience”

Well , it was difficult to have one. Life was not easy especially with a mobile, a laptop and a now 4 G service everywhere.

…………………..

These kids ! The more mobile, computer and TV they watch , the more inquisitive they become. May be our brains had enough fodder, playing ‘The Hang Man’ in the class room, to Pithu garam in the playground. We played all those now extinct games like  Kho Kho , passing the parcel, Dog in the bone to the all-time favourite Stapu.

At most these generation Y or Z can play is “Truth and dare”. So truthful are they about this that I guess soon the next generation CBI would incorporate it into their system. May be it would replace the narco ananlysis. I remembered the conversation I had with my son the other day  about it….

He was unusually quiet that day. I hugged him but he remained as morose as ever. Even Pokemon and minecraft could not pull him out.

“Hey babes, what happened ?” I cradled him in my arms.

“Kuch nahi mom, must have fought with his girlfriend.” His ‘know it all’ elder brother added cynically

“Mom, he is always teasing me with Tanisha” He was ready to burst into tears.

“Did I mention Tanisha !” His elder brother grinned unapologetically.

“Why are you always pulling his legs? He is too young for girlfriends.” I scolded him,  for that matter even he was young for girl friends

“Come on ,mom . He is not a baby. He is in sixth. You don’t know how they are.”

Been there , done that. But then he didn’t know that.

“He is such a baby, so sissy!” He looked scornfully at his younger brother cuddled up in his mom’s arms

“I am not girlish!” That brought some reaction from the dejected child lying in my lap. ”You saw that , mom. He keeps calling me gay! Just because I put my arms around him when I am sleeping.”

“What is gay ?” I squealed in surprise. I was so careful to avoid the word whenever the kids were around.

“When boys like boys not girls. And you know they even get married to each other.” He took pride in his knowledge.

“Really ?”

“And its illegal in India , though not in the USA.” He boasted uninterrupted

“How do you know that?”

“You only tell us to read the newspapers.” He looked irritated at me.“Mom, you are getting menopausal.”

“Now  what’s menopausal ?” I was ready to hit the roof.

He had the grace to look embarrassed. “ Actually the other day you were telling mausi that your HOD is so irritating, forgets everything, keeps snapping at everyone unnecessarily. Mausi said that she must be getting menopausal.”

I fumed but could only say, “ You should never eavesdrop.”

“And you call him a baby.” His elder brother suddenly quipped in . “Babes, tell us what happened in school today.”

The two brothers were at loggerheads again. Seriously, one child made you a parent , two a referee!

With difficulty I sent the elder one back to his room. I guess it was about time I met Ponty Chaddha’s mom. I should know how the brothers behaved as kids.

The younger sibling was once again pensive,deep in thoughts.

“What happened darling?” I probed  gently, ashamed of my wayward thoughts.

He was encouraged by my display of emotion and started awkwardly. “ Actually mom , some days back we were playing truth and  dare in the school bus.My friend Harsh dared me to tell the name of the girl I had a crush on. I didn’t know what to say. They all look so much bigger than me. How can I have a crush on them?”

“Oh, my poor baby!” For a change I was happy for his small frame.

“Then Mini came and told everyone that I had a crush on Tanisha. Mom, you should have seen  Tanisha. She got up and went to sit somewhere else. She has been throwing so much attitude since then. She has even blocked me.” He was almost in tears. My heart went out to him. And that was not all.

“And now Mini is blackmailing me . She makes me  do all her tasks . If I refuse she says she will tell mam that I have  a crush on Tanisha.

Just look at the girls these days!

“Why don’t you tell her that you can do your own talking.”

“Mom, I am in sixth, not in tenth like big brother!”

Indeed. Tenth class was a major landmark in our family!

“What kind of girl is this Tanisha.”

“Oh ! She is so intelligent. She always gets full marks.” .This was totally in contrast to what he usually told me on the day of result. He always maintained that nobody got good marks in the class.

“May be this Mini has a crush on you.” I said that before I could stop myself.

“Yeah, even I think so!” He jumped in sudden excitement

“Look baby, its alright to have a crush.”

“Really mom! I thought you wouldn’t understand. It happened in your time also?”

His time or my time ? Crush or no crush ? Oh dear,we went all over again………..

The First Encounter

 

“Sadho, ye  murdon  ka  gaon…”

I hummed the Kabir bhajjan disregarding the disgust my mother was trying hard not to show. My parents were proud that we were becoming doctors. Dad would never hesitate in buying anything we asked for. But I wished sometimes he didn’t agree so easily. Seriously, we didn’t need to buy this and keep it at home. I was irritated yet I kept on putting all of them in a bucket. Why did we have two hundred and six bones? I silently cursed the anatomical fact. Suddenly I cringed; I could see a small insect burrowing its way into the dark recesses. I could clean them but insects?  Yuk!

I inwardly fumed at my sister. She was the one who had insisted we bought this. I was happy borrowing them one by one from my seniors rather than keeping the whole ‘set’ in my house. I was not ready to admit that I got scared by them. This was now the second year and in a few more months we had our first professional exams. After that we wouldn’t need them ever.

Otherwise I was passionate about anatomy. I liked reading about those small foramens from where the nerves miraculously escaped, the architecture par excellence that God had made. I absolutely loved being in the dissection hall. We called it our DH. There was always an adrenaline rush before entering the formalin laden hall. It was unadulterated fun watching the second years rag the first years here. The best years were spent in this dissection hall. The moments that laid foundation to beautiful friendships later in life were born here. From the seniors forcing the boys of our batch to pass on little chits to the pretty girls of our class, to a lonely ‘ Shamit’ staring lustily at a coy ‘Shalini’ even forgetting to say ‘present sir ‘ during the mandatory attendance, to the ridiculous exchange of garlands aka bowel loops in the anatomy hall marriages  conducted discreetly right under the nose of the ‘watchful’ teachers , it was all here. All hell would break loose once the demonstrators walked outside leaving the juniors at the mercy of the prank loving seniors.

We loved exchanging ‘hearts’ here!  Once I was teased as ‘it’ lay snuggled in the palm of my hand. I was carrying my ‘heart’ to someone special, damn it. I easily got back at those guys when they carried the ‘uterus’ reluctantly in their hands, that too properly in the anatomical position.

We had some fancy mnemonics too. The ‘Girl between the two Sardaars!’ was the slender muscle ‘Gracilis’ jutting provocatively between the ‘Sartorius’ above and  the ‘Semitendinosus’ muscle below and the  “Oh, Oh, Oh, To Touch And Feel A Girl’s Vagina, Ah Heaven !” were the twelve effervescent cranial nerves in the right sequence ! There were many more! The seeds of naughtiness were sowed clinically in the DH itself.

It was almost surreal watching a young ‘Rajeshwar’ dabbing talcum  powder on his face secretly before entering the DH until he was caught red handed one day by our ‘don’ Vijender. Some brave hearts even ate their tiffin here while some chicken hearted girls fainted quite easily. There were always willing seniors, ready to carry them out. There was never a dull moment in the DH.

The department boasted of some great teachers  but at times one itched to wipe off the lecherous grin from the face of the lecturer who got a high teaching us about the ‘female genital tract’. Of course, he never bothered about the boys and even while some young girls withered under his stare he always gave good marks to the pretty ones. I could not rely on my looks so it meant I had to work hard. We had plenty of handsome post graduates but somehow the girls never drooled much over the anatomy guys. May be the young doctors had yet to spread their wings but the bias with the subject had started showing so early.

One could dislike anything but not the ‘body’ that was handed over to us. Beauty had abandoned the bodies along with life yet a fountain of knowledge flowed from them. We had given names to these unclaimed bodies which even in death did the noble act of making future doctors. They lay bare, may be a testimony to a not so noble act of someone they had once loved. I never liked thinking this way. It was easier not to imagine that ‘it’ might have lived, breathed, loved and hated like me. No it was just an experimental body that I had given a name to. It taught me as I used my scalpel to explore it. Once stripped of all it had to show, we gently cleaned the bones with the scalpel, removing traces of all its attachments, till the remnants were ready to be kept in the osteology lab. We could not dare tell anyone, even our parents what we were up to in the college.

I had always suffered this morbid fear of ghosts and a skeleton was the closest proof I had of their existence. Yet here I was creating a skeleton from my own hands. The skull was the most interesting bone. With so many structures to trace out it was a delight to linger over its delicate markings. Once it had throbbed and kept the supreme power on this earth in its cage , ‘the human brain’. Now it lay quiescent as we caressed the ridges and holes where once pulsed blood and muscles. We generally studied it without the top; it was called the ‘base of skull’. The most vital attachments were here at the base. It was my favourite bone still I couldn’t help hiding it in the storeroom before I slept. I didn’t want to see it in the dark though I never admitted that in front of anyone. I knew that the smart guys in the hostel used it like an ashtray but then I was just another young girl, not a bold doctor when I slept.

My mother’s shrill cry made me jump and shook me out of my reverie. This one was really rotten. I guess it must have made it to the shop straight. The muscles were actually pointing towards their origin and insertions. Did the founders of anatomy discover them this way? The stories of the great ‘fathers of anatomy’ roamed notoriously in faraway London. Struggling under the paucity of cadavers, they were driven to desperate measures to quench their thirst for knowledge. The motive behind the series of mysterious murders made brilliant chapters in the books of anatomy. Our professor never failed to tell us how lucky we were as these priceless bodies were so easily available in our country. This was India; there was no dearth of bodies here, live or dead. Here people could live uncared and die unclaimed.

Oblivious to my train of thoughts ‘it’ simply stared at me from the bucket. I didn’t want to think how it got here. I refused to let my mind dwell much on it. My mother was still standing there, stiff and disapproving. I didn’t have the guts to say anything to her. She was watching around suspiciously. The cost of making her daughters doctors was proving just too much. We were tenants in this house. If the land lady found out what we were doing here she would throw us out! She had once seen us studying a bone. That had made her feel wretched and she swore to do a ‘Satya Narayan Puja’ once we were out of her house. I looked away from the silent accusation in my mother’s eyes. ‘Dharam Bhrash’, that’s what the land lady had cried. I didn’t know much about revoking ‘dharma’ but I failed to fathom the ‘karmas’ we were supposed to do now.

My father had mysteriously disappeared. I started to wonder if he had an attack of nerves when I saw him rushing back with a small packet in his hand. He had gone to the shopkeeper who had given him a packet of boric acid. We needed to put all the bones in a bucket and keep it closed for two days. The shopkeeper should have cleaned it himself, I thought crossly. We put them all in a bucket. I wished I could sit back and ask my dad and mom to do it. But even then I was more a doctor than they had ever been.

“ Sadho, ye murdon ka gaon …“

I completed the task and put a lid to cover my rendezvous with the dead.

Two days later ‘they’ lay amazingly clean and sterile. I stroked ‘them’ cautiously. We now needed to keep them somewhere. Temporarily we piled them up in a basket and covered it with a cloth neatly. We put them below the bed of our guest bedroom. I just took out the femur that we were studying these days. The head of the femur which was part of many ‘tantric’ melodramas stared at me innocently. If I smeared myself with some ash and pointed it dangerously I could look straight out of the ‘Temple of Doom’. I grinned. Strangely it felt like a tough plastic. Unaware of the body it had once worn could it ever evoke the spirits? Could it ever be a ‘dead man walking’? Whatever, I was finally a proud owner of two sets of bones. I would be gracious enough to allow others to borrow from me and could almost visualize myself flaunting my new found ‘bones’.

“Mamiji!” a familiar voice shrieked as my mother opened the door. I hastily hid the femur. Well they knew we were medicos but I didn’t want to shock them with the rude realities so soon. My cousin Era, who had just got married, was on her honey moon. I didn’t know why but she had decided to visit us at Gwalior en route to Delhi from Khajuraho. May be she wanted to show off her highly qualified husband. It was actually not a bad thing to have a jijajee, I discovered as he made a lot of funny faces, teased and cracked jokes. They were going to stay overnight and we needed to offer them a bedroom. My parents looked at us. Should we pull out the basket from below the bed? No it was better there. I could not have the bones knocking below my bed at night. Oblivious to our turmoil, the much ‘in love’ couple had their dinner and retired to their room early.

They looked fresh in the morning. I brought them tea and breakfast. Soon they had to leave. Had our silent occupants disturbed them in the night? I watched them uneasily. “Hope there was no noise in the night?” Jijajee laughed and looked suggestively at Era, “I didn’t hear much.” Era’s cheeks burned red and I flushed. Adulthood tempted and teased, hovered over my horizon yet eluded me. I was talking about some ‘under the bed’ friends but my newly married brother in law had ideas of his own.

He was proud to know a ‘doctor in making’ but he bragged quite a lot and that had started irking me.

“Tell me, how does it feel like being a doctor?” He asked with the authority of one who knows it all.

“Not yet jijajee, we are still in the first professional.”

“Do you really study over dead bodies and bones?” he sounded disgusted.

I didn’t like that. We held cadavers in esteem. We didn’t even cover our nose in the dissection hall. It was a mark of disrespect.

“Ugh! It must be so weird,” he continued.

Of course, we were not weird!

The soulful “Sadho, ye murdon ka gaon…” broke out. He looked irritated.

“Listen you have a nice voice. But I am happy I never had to do such things.” He said with an air of superiority.

“Scary, crazy stuff!” He shuddered in mock fear.

Nobody demeaned my studies. As it is he was bugging me and I had enough of being called ‘aadhi gharwali’.

They were getting ready to leave. They had a train to catch.

I observed him carefully as he walked to the door. I knew that time was running out but suppressed the urge to check my watch. I took a deep breath and started counting in reverse under my breath. “Ten, nine, eight, seven…”

I silently pulled out a basket from under the bed avoiding the warning glances from my mother.
“ It’s really not scary, jijajee. You slept over the whole lot. Did they disturb you at all?”

He turned. The assorted bones looked back at him brilliantly, basking in their new found glory. I watched the horrified face of the ‘Jijajee’ before he stormed out of the room. He looked so comical that I could have laughed. My mother was staring at me furiously and my cousin looked at the taut back of her husband, embarrassed and stumbled out following him. Poor woman! Marriage had destroyed her sense of humour.

I shrugged apologetically. The honeymoon was over…

 

 

 

Car Free Day…

A car free day indeed……

Not quite falling in line with what the CM envisaged for the city we decided to go to Gurgaon in our car . Much to my dismay my car turns out to be an AAP supporter ,things get heated up like in any political discussion with the angry engine puffing out smoke and clearly indicating its penchant for dharnas. We are forced to halt complying with Vento’s political wilfulness.

‘We should have listened to the CM’ I thought wistfully. ‘Well we are soon going to be car free,’ my husband silently reassured as we waited patiently in the middle of nowhere of an infrastructure deprived but otherwise swanky millennium city of Gurgaon.

Mind you, even the crossroads doesn’t cover certain discreet areas of Gurgaon for reasons best known to themselves. It practically means that you have to be sure that on certain roads in between you should never break down. Crossroads probably expects you to fly those areas before you get stuck on the lucky covered ones

Anyways after spending painfully long hours where we struggled on the google maps to find out our location, with support of some locals the crane, or lets say another set of heavy wheels with a punishment for disobeying the CM in form of an astounding fee arrives.

Soon we are a giggling couple riding inside the ‘truant’ car much to the amusement of the passer bys as we wave even as we are towed away by a confident crane. Well so much for a car free day , we get a double car ride. Snap shots taken , whatsapp celebrates an otherwise misadventure and we enjoy the rare spectacular ride.

The service centre welcomes us , a job sheet readily made . I once again rant to my husband about not buying the diesel version of Vento. At least the company has acknowledged it goofed up there and paid compensation!

Anyways the Uber comes to our rescue . I eye the driver with suspicion. But my husband scowls at me. I should stop behaving like Sanjeev Kumar of ‘Angoor’. For someone hooked on the television all the time , he seems to have forgotten the perils of a young woman travelling with these notorious taxi drivers. Or may be he doesn’t see a young woman there anymore! I scowl harder. Oblivious to my misgivings he merrily chats away with the young driver about GPRS and high tech taxi services forgetting the plight of the sick car left behind and the pinch on the purse that it is obviously going to entail. These are the times I envy males. Listening to the virtues of technology by two enthusiastic and engrossed males , silently scrolling the status of my absent friends on whatsapp and facebook, we miss the cut and end up taking the longer route. But soon much to my relief we enter the national capital once again

We arrive home . Not much time left to mull over the events of the day despite a ready and eager audience. We have a date with Mr Bond. Naam to suna hoga !My husband rushes me , not letting me enjoy my cup of tea! The show starts at 8 pm. We reach the much abandoned, Fun cinema hall at Moti nagar . May be the movie is not doing well but with three males in the family you have no choice but watch bond movies. The area outside the hall is empty . Its 7.45 pm , fifteen minutes to wait and enjoy nachos and popcorn. May be we are the first ones to arrives , I tell my husband pointedly , even as we are allowed to enter the hall by the popcorn guy.

But phew !!!! All are seated in the hall, the movie is going on. Is it some other movie ? Or the previous show still going on ? I don’t want to watch the end first! I try to put my voice down as others look at us disapprovingly. My husband talks to someone and admits ruefully,’ the show started at 7.30.’ Nothing new about that !

We make our way through rows of glaring people, thankfully not seeing them in the dark, groping through entangled legs and oily hair, finally reaching our seats. I am tempted to ask my reluctant neighbourhood about the lost precious half hour but looking at the warning eyes of the three males by my side decide to let bygones be bygones. We settle down with our tray full of goodies , munching gleefully , passing on our single tray unmindful of the groans coming from besides and behind. And very soon everything is forgotten , even the cat on four wheels, as we get caught up in the magic that is truly Bond…James Bond !!!

PS – Lessons learnt
1) Follow your CM’s instructions , even if you have not elected him.
2) Always buy a Maruti car
3) Never trust your husband when he is taking you out for a movie , check the tickets yourself.

 

An Encounter Once Again

“It is much more important to understand physiology than look into your eyes !”

But he kept looking at me through his hooded eyes. He was not ready to understand even as I issued the terse reprimand.

He was looking so cute that for a moment I felt like touching him. But I forced myself to look away from his adoring eyes. If only he knew what lay in stores for him ? I shuddered ! Even I could just make a wild guess. This was something I had always been wary of. I had met somebody like him in my school. Excited at all that I had discovered I could not resist the temptation of taking him home. I wanted my mother to be introduced to him and the knowledge that he offered. But she shrieked at him and I looked at her disappointed. I knew then that theirs’ was not meant to be. I silently took him away and bid him a tearful adieu at the park outside my home. My mother wrapped in her own prejudices didn’t realize what she had missed! And life goes on till you come to stand at the same crossroads once again

His eyes beckoned me back from the past. I reached out to tentatively touch him but shrank back. Did he realize that soon we would part. He was left with only a few moments. Could he feel his heart beats , Was he scared to be in my company ? I couldn’t stop anything even if I wanted to.His soul lay hostage to my dissecting eyes. And I longed to know him inside out . His every being would soon be exposed under my exploring hands.  Was I the medium to release it from this mortal life? God had a reason to bring us here.I was destined to save lives in future. This was a small sacrifice that had to be made in my quest to be a ‘know it all’ doctor. But did he accept his destiny just to make millions like me live!

I held out my hands. I could cup him lovingly in the palm of my hand. He could feel the momentary warmth before I gave him that fatal shock. He could be pithed. And then the beauty of him would be exposed. He cringed as if anticipating my touch and my insides revolted. Never! This was so cruel. A doctor , a life saver I was soon to be. I could never sacrifice him at the altar of learning. I watched him again. How could I ignore the earnest appeal in his beautiful eyes!

Tearing my eyes away from him I looked around  frantically for help. I could always rely on my friends. I was just not inclined to commit this cold murder. My professor scoffed , “ Young lady, you should see the beautiful system God has made Just peep inside. Look at the heart pulsating, pushing blood through an arch to the vessels that go all over the body.” Well there was something beating inside my ribcage too. “Familiarize yourself with the systems. And then you take out the muscle from his thigh with the nerve. I will show you the ‘Frank Starling law’. We will attach it to a paper , give it a current and then measure the action potential” He was sounding so excited as if we were working on a secret project to unravel the physiology of life.I never knew we would be taught physiology this way. This should have been mentioned in the prospectus of the premedical tests we took. I thought my text books and patients would suffice.

“Of course you can’t experiment on the human beings!” No, I didn’t . We had guinea pigs  for that. “Learn physiology , anatomy and biochemistry first. Understand the basic of life. Armed with the knowledge you gain here you will enter the operation theatre one day and perform surgery.” The professors’s excitement was catching and the words ‘operation theatre’ somehow made it all so logically right. I wanted to operate for sure. But I still didn’t want to kill. Was there no other way ? I looked wistfully at my friends. They were already done with and were working on their project If only he was brought dead I could beat all in exposing him. I shrugged helplessly.

From the corner of my eyes I saw the lab technician entering the lab. He was an elderly man and had always been sympathetic. I rushed towards him. He indulged me and I knew he wouldn’t fail me this time. He took a look at me and laughed. Wordlessly he came near and held ‘him’ in his palms. I closed my eyes. There was a loud thud and a shrill cry! It was my voice. I opened my eyes to a pithed frog lying on my tray ,in a comatose  condition . A spinal being, ‘a vegetable’  now, hopefully it wouldn’t feel any more pain. Yet it was throbbing with life under my skillful hands as my mind devoured the pulsating systems on blatant display. His muscles made a beautiful graph on the paper. His destiny! May be this was how it was meant to be.

A pair of hooded green eyes were drowned in the fizz of discovering the beautiful synchrony of life inside. Everything else was forgotten in the euphoria of new found learning. A chapter had opened and closed. I had passed the first practical test in physiology.

A journey had begun, the journey of a doctor!

The Spiritual Land

In turbulent times when the land of spirituality is endangered by fanatics of so called politically motivated religions, my understanding of ‘Dharma’ which is not religion but establishment of a code of conduct and invoking the human potential

There are many firsts about ‘Hinduism’

1) It is not about religion..it is all about spirituality which teaches tolerance and peace in troubled times

2) It teaches the way of life

3) It teaches the importance of ‘Household , the grihastha ‘.not god

4) It never advocates celibacy.

5) Almost no god is worshipped alone. No ‘yajna’ is complete without a female partner.

6) ) A mind that is self indulgent and dominating , the creator Brahma is not worshipped. A mind that is indifferent to others point of view is the destroyer ‘ Shiva’. A mind that cares for the other’s point of view is the preserver ‘ Vishnu’.
He is the one who strikes a balance between the other two forms of our mind to bring peace,

8) By its various gods it doesn’t teach about various physical forms. But through various gods they teach about various thoughts which are completed through things or the goddess

7) The Gods are the various aspects of our mind or ‘Manas’. Goddess is the various forms of ‘Prakriti’ or shakti

9) The ‘dharma’ is preached through stories which always are rich with metaphors. The protagonists always go into the jungle , which is an ‘untamed mind’. We need to fight the rakhshashas, the demon in our minds , expand our mind , before we become a true brahmin , the one who knows the brah or the world , not the one who scares people with superstition

10) There is not one single level of heaven in spirituality.There is a constant ascent. There is swarg , then kailash , and Vaikunth. Indra , is the god of heaven , yet he is insecure. We need to control our indriya or desires,our six senses then only we can transcend to the next level or the vaikuntha or the kailash where there is no fear or hunger. So the heaven and hell both live in the mind.

11 ) There is no historical or geographical context to this thought. God is a divine force that is liberated from the limits of time and place. He lives in the mind so is timeless

( Musings of an atheist yet a staunch hindu , I live a paradox )