Hospital Memories

It may seem strange, but I do recollect the hospital where I was born after a marathon struggle that my mother and the operating doctors underwent – Portland Hospital. It is said that I was still-born and there was no response and the doctor as a last try whacked me gently on my butt and I broke into a wail, announcing my presence!

My next memory is that of my maternal uncle returning one evening from work, perspiring abnormally and clutching his chest. We proceeded to admit him to a hospital where he was treated for a massive cardiac arrest.

The next memory of a hospital is a pleasant one of seeing my aunt’s son being born!

This is followed by my nephew being born in a nursing home and my sister all smiles but tired.

After this, every single memory of a hospital has been nerve-wracking and physically and emotionally full of turmoil. From losing friends, from seeing friends having a close shave with death, of having multiple close shaves with death myself and somehow escaping the Grim Reaper; these all remain as distinct memories. The devil within the brain, does not let me forget the smallest of details, each memory is full of pain.

The past few years have seen me rushing to the hospital with unfailing regularity with my mother seeking deliverance from a variety of illnesses. From fluctuating sugar-levels, cardiac issues, a broken arm, the list never seems to end. Last year was fluid build-up in the chest and lungs and almost a cardiac arrest-type of situation

This past fortnight was terrifying as we could not pinpoint what the core issue was and the reports from the labs found nothing significantly out-of-the-ordinary. Whatever she ate, she would vomit; she would not be able to stand and fall back onto the bed and complain of extreme dizziness.

Finally with some assistance from the cab-driver, managed to put Amma into the cab and proceeded to Sundaram Medical Foundation. En-route in the cab she vomited, then in the hospital’s emergency ward, she was put on nutrients, tests were run, some food advised to be given, which she again duly vomited after one bite. Tests were run and as is the usual protocol, the nurse would come out and call ‘Sharada Attender’ – A list would be given or a bill for a test and I would keep making the payments at the relevant counters. Finally, an ENT said it is the ears that have been severely infected and there is a pressure imbalance leading to the dizziness. Slippery sensation in the feet, linked to Diabetes and would need due course of correction later. Ears cleaned, medicines given and finally dinner she ate without vomiting and said food is bland! I was here thanking God that something went in to her stomach and she says – ‘Uppu illai’ /’No salt’!!!

Then doctor said let us do a CT-Scan and cross check if there’s any other issue in the ears or the head that may be affecting her and causing dizziness. Finally at around 12:30 AM the cleaning staff cleaned the floors of the sitting area outside the ECU Ward. People began to spread sheets and lay down, I managed to lie down on the steel-chairs and found a place under a fan and went into a disturbed sleep and nightmares that keep haunting me every night; of the inevitable, painful truth!

Nurse came in by 4:30 AM, some more tests and some medicines to be bought! As dawn broke, like a gigantic robot, the hospital began buzzing with life, even as in various parts of the hospitals, life was being created, in some corner life snuffing out after a battle; the hospital awoke!

After a lot of discussion between the main doctor, a lady who was about 50 years old and who for some strange reason reminded me of Indira Gandhi and the ENT specialist, I was informed that we can leave for now and return on Tuesday for OP-review. Vertigo the reason for these problems!

We returned home and after a simple lunch and some rest, she vomited again and my helplessness continued. Medicines given, dinner given, fitful sleep, the next day dawns and vomiting again! The Gods are propitiated, rituals conducted with rice and requests to spirits of the ancients to safeguard us. In the interim, Amma’s friends from the nearby temple who are equally old and tired, call upon her and add to the moodiness and gloom and leave.

So far the lunch of samba ravai kanji has been consumed in portions.., don’t know what the evening and night holds in its wake; keep my mum in your prayers.

Till we meet again…

As the River Flows By…

Well Mahesh, what is it that you want to do?

Where do you see yourself five years from now?

Are you happy with what you are doing?

Some questions that I keep getting asked every once in a while. I have been in the industry for 12 years now. An IT-job or ITES-job to be precise. I was part of a batch of campus recruits, way back in 2005. We were a bunch of 18 pushed into the fascinating world of Instructional Design. Every single one of them has gone on to build a powerful and focused CV with some brilliant achievements. One of the batch mates is at the Associate VP-level now Training & Development. Others are at a similar rung high up in the corporate hierarchy. Their salaries have breached the INR 10 lakhs an annum bracket a long time back. I am nowhere close to the fancy numbers that parents of prospective brides mention on matrimonial profiles!

Here I am sitting, typing out this blog at the end of a day’s work wondering what am I doing with my life? In 27 days from now, I will turn 35. I still don’t know what my purpose or goal in life is! At a superficial level, one is to ensure that the home loan gets paid without any issue. Roughly 15 years to go at the current rate! I know I can’t help change destiny in terms of the health of family-members, time will take its own course of action.

This little space on the Internet has become a place to vent out my anger, frustration, growing disillusionment with the things that I see, the people whom I meet, what I hear, what I experience. There are so many uses of “I” in the previous sentence. When does one let go of the “I”?

What is it that I intend to do with this gift of life that I have wrested with the Grim Reaper a fair number of times? I am sure there is some purpose or reason why I managed to survive despite being given up for the dead multiple times. But what is that reason? What is the purpose of this existence?

These roles that are thrust upon by birth, the name, caste, colour, creed all arriving due to genetics and birth at a particular place and time; what purpose do they serve?? No answers, only questions! In the process of self-enquiry, I have only found myself being ridiculed and branded a half-baked nutcase. Stack after stack of books are read, ideas assimilated, but the search for the one truth, the one spiritual master who can offer the gift of enlightenment continues… One wonders is it possible to find salvation and redemption without a Guru?

The answer is definitely not 42 this time around!

Look inwards….till you find the beam of light and hold onto it!

 

The Half-Truth

Before entering the circular death trap
Who was I? What was I?
I would not remember
Once I enter

After entering the circular death trap
I would not even realise
How excruciatingly close were we
Myself & the enemy
Maybe I will even be able to make myself free
From the circular death trap
But the nature of the trap
Will never change……
Shall I die? Or shall I kill?
Shall I be the victim or the assassin?
This can never be settled.

The light in which decisions are made
Does it render all things equal?
Impotence is weighed against manhood
And the pointer of the balance
Fixed on a half-truth.

— Dilip Chitre

Now view the rendition of an underrated star, who was scorned and mocked at in recent years, but is now praised after he has left us – Om Puri, reciting the poem in Ardh Satya.

The movie and this poem are quite close to my heart. There was a phase in my life, when I felt I wanted to be a police-officer and get justice for those who suffered. As one grew older, one realized that the system is far too complex and corrupt. What one needed and still needs is a vigilante or a group of vigilantes.

There is anger, frustration, the castrated feeling of helplessness that has pervaded deep within the soul and all that remains is a broken, deeply flawed individual. There are moments of darkness, panic and pain. Sleep is just an adjective that offers a drug-induced comfort for a few hours. Nightmares recur, the inevitability of life, the truth, be it half or full keeps me awake….

Happy New Year — 2017

 

Till we meet again – Cheers!

It is 7:30 PM on this Monday evening as I type this out. Last Monday, same time, the winds were howling, rain pouring in torrents, there was no power supply and we were managing with a single light running on the inverter. It has taken a full week for things to return to some semblance of normalcy. Power came back late on Wednesday. Took a day for regularisation. Many pockets of the city and the suburbs are still without power and it is a scary proposition. How powerless we are in front of the elements??

On top of all the chaos unleashed by Mother Nature and the resulting catastrophe in terms of power failure, the great demonetization joke is truly taking a toll. I see construction work that has stopped, small workshops and factories shut down. The markets are no longer full of hawkers with their produce. I have to look for a shop that accepts card or Paytm for digital payments. This in turn is being used to advantage by these supermarket chains, which have cleverly hiked prices of fresh vegetables. Every single ten and twenty rupees note is quite precious and the 50 and the 100-rupees note, well they are like diamonds now!

The purpose of this post, as usual, I don’t know, 2016 is coming to an end. My mother gave me a scare of epic proportions as she had to be rushed to the hospital for emergency treatment and the recuperation is taking its own sweet time. 2016 has been an eye-opener, I finally found out that I am a joke to a lot of people. People who smile, laugh and joke with me in my presence, mock, tease and call me names in private and spread rumours. Well to each his/her own. Life goes on!

I learnt a key lesson, trust your gut instinct, everyone will offer a 1000 opinions and nuggets of wisdom, but it is the gut instinct that will always prove true. I have seen friends blossom into successful novelists, photographers, singers and accomplished artists and I am happy for all of them!

Being betrayed by people whom I trusted with all my heart has once again proved the gospel truth — “Be your own friend!” As the clock ticks, every passing minute, I can’t help but rue the lost opportunities. If I had been selfish enough and honest enough to pursue my own dreams, life would have been different. Despite letting go, the past returns to haunt me. I have run far away from the past, trying to create a new life for myself, but karma catches up in weird ways!

At 34, I am not even a shadow of what I was. The hands tremble, the battle to sleep without nightmares is a trying task. This year again, I bid goodbye to some people. In front of my eyes, I see my mother disintegrate physically and mentally and I can’t do anything about it. I am resigned to fate, trusting that the medicines will offer relief. The intense fear that she will leave me when I am away, scares me to no end. But then that’s life isn’t it – always be ready for the unpredictable to hit you bang on the head!!

The cherished desire to complete the Girivalam at Thiruvanamalai was accomplished in the middle of 2016. On the first day of the new year, I embark on a pilgrimage to Sabarimalai, my first visit to the holy hill. I will be away, aiming to find answers, seeking to find pardon for actions that cannot be corrected. I seem to sink deeper and deeper into a whirlpool of thoughts that plague me. The sense of abject failure and dejection never seems to leave me. Despite having supervised a fair number of creative writing projects, when I seek to write my own story – I am a big zero.

I am supposed to work on a 500-words essay on the modern classroom – but try as much as I can – the words are not satisfactory enough and I have deleted two pieces of writing. It has reached a stage where even the one skill that I trusted would not leave me is slowly disappearing – the ability to string words together at will! My mind fails me, I forget things with unfailing regularity. I get these blank and blind spells, everything turns hazy for a while and I have to stand or sit silent for some time till normalcy returns. All the bashes and blows to the head from another lifetime, keep haunting me in these quirky little ways.

This will perhaps be the last post for a long time to come. I need to look inwards and find purpose and meaning in my life. I can’t continue to fool myself and others with this mask that has now turned into my identity. Till we meet again, if it is destined; we shall meet again here!

May 2017 offer all that you aspire for and bless you with joy and good health!

Cheers!

M

Scribblings from time spent at the Hospital

Last Monday at this time, I rushed my mother into the Emergency Coronary Care Unit Ward of a leading hospital in the city. The doctors said that I had been not a minute too late and asked me to step outside and wait. I sat along with lots of other people who had brought in their near and dear ones for treatment.

After sometime I was called and handed over my mother’s clothes in a plastic bag. Then the duty doctor apprised me of the situation and said that fluid had filled up in her chest and coupled with high BP and sugar she was in a bit of a critical stage and they would have to run tests to check if there was any history of cardiac illness. I was then asked to go to the billing section and make an initial deposit.

In tandem, the doctors and nurses were doing their tasks. I was seated outside for over four hours and I looked at the other occupants of the waiting hall. A family of four – two elderly ladies, one man in his forties and another lady his wife in her thirties;  two men in their thirties, businessmen, constantly getting phone-calls and going outside the main door to talk about prices of metal, an old man, dignified and stoic in his silence. By a twist of the dice of the creator, we were all assembled there waiting for the doctors to heal our loved ones.

By about 9 PM the doctor called me in he said, “Don’t worry for now, we have pumped out the fluid that had filled up in the chest, we need to stabilize her, run more tests and keep her under observation.” I got a glimpse of my mother connected to a number of tubes and wires and the proverbial oxygen mask pumping in the precious elixir of life.

Called up relatives, informed a few friends and am thankful to all the friends who sent prayers, asked me to stay strong, thank you. Need to really thank Ganesh who despite his busy schedule kept checking on the status of my mother and offered his inputs. Sai who offered inputs as well and Viji – someone whom I befriended recently, a mere thanks is not sufficient for the amount of support you offered, I will remain indebted to you for your words of motivation. Veena Amma, Avis Sir, BP, Sindhu, Shilpa, Salesh, Shashi  sir, Sundari, Aravind Anna and Vinod who kept in touch, family across the country who kept asking for updates, colleagues at work who asked me not to worry; thanks everyone!

cropped-samarpanam2.jpg

Did not sleep at all that night, I kept walking through the hall, the attendant asked me to get medicines at about 11:30 PM and some disposables as well. Night progressed, the sounds of the city’s traffic went silent, the few attendants of the patients who remained were lost deep in fatigued sleep. The security guards smiled at me as I paced about the hall, the massive wooden idol of Maha Ganapathi seemed to offer strength. As the sky turned from pitch black, to a shade of orange-pink and then white and blue, the hospital buzzed back to life like a gigantic machine! Staff came in and set about their tasks and a fresh set of patients also started coming into the hospital.

I finally received an update that my mother is stable and would be moved to the general ward by evening! This update came late into the afternoon of Tuesday, I smiled inwardly, thanked all the Gods, the doctors, the driver who drove us down and sat down on the chair and closed my eyes and went into a deep sleep. This was a powerful nap – an hour of deep sleep! I woke up with a start from a nightmare wherein I was aboard a burning ship that was being swallowed in a whirlpool, I woke up with a fit, saw that I had perspired profusely. Got up went to the bathroom and washed, returned to the CCU and checked with the attendant, she said, “By 7:00 PM we will shift sir!”

When the shifting happened, we were given a double room, wherein one room would be shared by two patients and their respective attendants. Our co-occupant was a lady who had just had her bypass-surgery. She was being looked after by her daughter. The lady aged 65, same as my mother called me and asked me to sit by her side. She asked slowly about who I was, why my mother was admitted, why I wasn’t married, the long list of questions. Then she said, – “I have four children – three boys and one girl, this little girl is the one who nurses me. My sons are married, their wives have forced their ideas on my sons, I and this poor girl stay alone!” The poor girl was extremely embarrassed as this narration happened. The lady then told me – “Thambi, Amma va kai vitudadhinga, nalla paathukonga!”

The room had a TV set. The 8 PM Sun TV serial was played and I had the joy of narrating the proceedings to my Amma as well as the other lady in the room. Her attendant had gone to eat dinner, it was a strange friendship, I did not ask the girl’s name, nor did she ask mine, as usual, I got called Anna and I called her sister. She finished dinner and came and then sat patiently as I went up to finish my dinner.

The next day we had more visits by the doctor, dietician, nutritionist, nurses, everyone came and spoke to my mother. My mother had taken a liking to a particular nurse and at the rate words were being exchanged for one moment, I thought my mother would ask the nurse for her nakshatram, gothram and rashi!!! Jokes apart early evening on Wednesday Amma was discharged. Strict medication and diet and we need to return after 30 days for a detailed review and check-up!

The journey continues… rather than calling it a struggle, this is a test, a moment in time as orchestrated by the director above in the heavens who pulls all the strings…

Some Points:

  • Keep the medical records of your family members easily accessible.
  • However many cards you carry, the importance of ready cash in hand is paramount!
  • Befriend cab-drivers in your locality, it helps, trust me; you never know when an emergency may arrive.
  • Learn to pack, super-quick, learn to cook, when you have to nurse others and have no support, it is critical that you know how to cook.
  • Stay strong, be calm, though lots of people may spread negativity and not care two hoots about our troubles, there would be a small group of friends who really care for your good will. Remove the negative elements in your life and stick with the people who spread light and joy in your life.

Till we meet again, signing off, goodbye, good night and may God bless us all!

On the Needle’s Edge

Where is the time,
To sing, to dance, to be joyful,
And spend merry moments,
And magical moments with friends?

My life is now defined,
By a single needle’s edge,
18 units of insulin in the morning,
And 12 units of the fluid at night.

Life revolves around medication.
You are forever in a state of worry,
Rushing from task to task,
Worried about delayed trains.

Your only goal in life,
Becomes reporting to work on time,
Getting work done, and returning,
To put the injection as early as possible.

No time for social engagement,
No time for friends,
No time for merriment,
No time for myself.

Just a constant state of chaos,
Going through life,
Like the aimless stream,
That dies in the woods,
Before it reaches the sea!

The 39th Chennai Book Fair

Well this year the usual Pongal Book Fair by BAPASI did not happen at Nandanam because of the devastating December floods of 2015.

Some splinter groups set up a fair at Royapettah during Pongal – but well that was no way the real deal. The floods of 2015 caused severe damage to participating publishers – the total loss is estimated at about 25 crores, which is very tough to recover; despite insurance!

This year the fair was held at Island Grounds. The usual competitions for children in terms of painting, debates, elocution and writing went on with the usual fan-fare. The venue has a toy-train that’s quite remarkable and drew a steady crowd.

The Fair is significant as a book which I compiled and includes submissions by members of the Chennai Bloggers Club – “After the Floods” was published by Sixth Sense Publications.

Edited by KS Lakshmi, Cover and trailer by Kishor LN and a wonderful introduction by RJ Balaji.
We thank Karthikeyan PK from Sixth Sense Publications for trusting the efforts of the bloggers!

Buy the book online

http://sixthsensepublications.com/index.php/after-the-floods.html

There are lots of stalls this time around – almost 700. Lots of books, stalls from Singapore with books priced really steep 😦 organic seeds and planting, usual spiritual, cookery, self-help, fiction, comics, management, competitive exams, all the usual books. A stall on blow paint drawing techniques and one about robots and stuff for kids was quite interesting. As I had clear instructions on not to buy books I just walked like a drug-addict away from a stash of fine-cut cocaine but no chance of getting my hands to the ‘coke’!

The rains made a sudden appearance on Tuesday night and scared the living daylights with water gushing in through gaps in the pandal sheets above. It was deja-vu again as water flowed through. Thankfully the rain gods were kind enough and did not trouble too much after that.

The Fair ends tomorrow go pick your books and buy a copy of our anthology as well.

In terms of food, the spread was outstanding and real good job by the catering contractors who have brought in various vendors to the fair!