Cry, the Beloved Country

It was our 14th wedding anniversary yesterday. I wanted to write more about our love story, but with the grim reaper stalking the Valley and the spectre of more deaths, we were stunned into silence.

All these events happening far from us have a deep influence on our lives. Every time a tragedy happens, I start getting calls from folks who are lying awake worrying and wanting to vent out their own pain.
Palpitations, insomnia, peptic ulcers, sadness, fatigue become an epidemic in the urban educated middle class when on the stress of daily life, is added the news of horrific killings.

At the end of the day, I sit down to write, only to realise that I have no answers. I see my sleeping babies and my handsome chap and i wish I could pray. I listen to Prahlad Tipaniya sing Kabir, “Zara halke gaadi hanko, mere Ram gaadiwale”. (Move my cart gently, O Rama, my charioteer). It brings me the comfort of music, the peace of folk wisdom, even though the atheist in me knows that all I can do is distract myself.

Draped this huggable indigo cotton in what they said was Modal but I’m not sure. Whatever material it is, it brings me great joy, it is so soft and it’s pleats sit so very well all through the difficult day.


The God Complex

When I first witnessed a childbirth at our government hospital in Delhi, during my posting in final year MBBS, I remember I had clapped when the baby was finally out.

We had been holding our breath, and then we almost involuntarily clapped at the miracle happening before us. We were scolded indulgently, reminded that there’s work to be done, it was no time for applause.

I remember how our enthusiasm had touched those who had long become bored by this miracle of childbirth. Later we assisted in many more such miracles but I always maintained my enthusiasm. I would take great pleasure in telling the mother that I was the first who ever held this beautiful baby.
I was always stunned at how the mother lost all concern for her pain and physical condition and gave me a broad happy smile.

We saw tons of tears when female babies were born. I witnessed one woman weeping and requesting us to end her misery. It wasn’t every day, but we saw enough in our labour room posting to understand that things are nowhere near changing for the better.

Over the years I saw the God complex in many of my colleagues and seniors. They begin to believe that somehow they are a special breed of human beings who are entitled to more respect than is due to other ordinary human beings. The patients, brought up entrenched in a culture of hierarchies, waste no time in putting them up on a God pedestal.
We get paid for what we do. Some doctors choose to work harder than others. Some put up exemplary service in rural areas. But the most important thing that will improve our faith in ourselves is to realise that – the work is its own reward.

People will be of all kinds, worshippers to haters. The fact that we can work, alleviate suffering, save lives – that’s our reward. We stand on the shoulders of giants who paved the way, in scientific advancement, and for me, also the feminists who fought for my right to study and work.

Draped this taant Tangail with my new tussar Kantha blouse today

Sufi Souls

Jab dard nahin tha seene mein
Tab khakh maza tha jeene mein…

I was listening to this song just now and thinking how many times we’ve had this conversation. I call spouse and say I have a chest pain and he advises me to take an antacid. I complain of pain in left arm and he advises calcium tablets.
I’m quite competent to know that there’s nothing wrong with me really, but it’s a strange satisfaction to let him know it all, in every boring detail.

There’s a nagging cough that isn’t H1N1 but we can discuss that for 4 evenings at least. I can launch into a blow by blow account of how I drove through town all day without having had anything to eat because I’m such a martyr.

Except, I am beginning to bore myself. This last Delhi trip has been so exhilarating that other than a left foot pain and a common cold, I haven’t complained of anything much this week.

Friendship therapy works miracles for me. What a hellbound whacko bunch we are, I realised draping yet another black saree today. Black would have been our motto but Shwetasree doesn’t want monochrome. We will have to have a black flag with a yellow dot. A proper coven, with a yellow blotch.

Yesterday evening, spouse and myself,we listened to Sufi music. Just so he doesn’t get to talk elections, nor I get to discuss hypochondria.
We have a magical little Bose system that makes it seem like the artists are right here with us. We had Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan crooning for him and Prahlad Tipaniya for myself.

Celebrating Spring in my garden and love this month, Kantha on cotton. I’m a flower pot today.

The Valentine

It’s that time of the year. For rose day, I have roses in my pot, grown and nurtured by myself. For teddy day, I got myself a book. For Valentine’s day, I have a new saree. For our anniversary, the spouse comes into the picture, so we will probably be reading our books together.

The month of romance. I try not to sound apologetic about this, but I do love this fellow I married, a lot. Despite his failings, despite his politics (he is a centrist and I am always radical), despite his aloofness (fake machismo), and for his kindness rooted in pragmatism, his chartbusting IQ, and his sense of humour (that I frequently have to correct).

The point is we have already sailed many storms together. We are still compatible in ways that cannot be mentioned in genteel company. Much is wronger with me than with him, but we learnt to live with that.

Ever since I started swearing freely, he has stopped doing it. That’s how balance works.
Neither of us can cook and that hampers our social life, much to our delight. We are like a binary star system, circling each other, at times trying to devour each other, and the children are at the centre. We have physics on our side and we have chemistry. I guess that’s why we are faithful to each other.

Draped this cotton silk from Tamil Nadu, in pretty colours today

My Experiments with Lies

Most life stories that I encounter in my practice are not feel-good stories. In real life, the underdog rarely wins. But those that do win, begin to harbour the delusion that every one else has been dealt the same cards by destiny and hence are equally likely to win.

Fact is, from IQ to brain serotonin levels, nothing much is open to choice. We came into this earth with half our destinies fixed in our DNA. The other half is in parents’ and governments’ hand and quite a bit is pure chance.

I once read someone’s account of the experience of crushing poverty. When you don’t know if your children will be getting the next meal. There was an accompanying study that said chronic stress alters brain chemistry.

I, being only human, will interpret things in the light of my experiences. It’s true that scientific evidence will remain fixed in my mind until presented by contradictory evidence. But personal experience will colour the facts, that will cause them to rise to the surface of my consciousness.

I have not experienced poverty, but I have experienced chronic stress in early life. It is something that alters the fundamentals of our being.
When I began to see what is wrong with me and I set about on the journey to set it right, I realised I cannot let other people into the inner world. The healing could begin only in the safety of isolation. Other people distract, they give advice and they interfere.

I had to learn to tell the truth to myself. I realised that I had held on to many lies told to me, only because they were comfortable lies. Lies corroborated by culture, religion and even politics. Once I began to shed the lies, one lie led to another, and it was mind boggling to try and restructure the entire world.

Once I had confronted the truth, I could let people in. I could tell my truth and not be bothered by judgement. I could withstand heads shaking in disbelief. It became imperative that I tell the stories of oppression because other people started reaching out and I helped set off a few on their own journeys of healing.


Love and Mortality

Much has been written about our happy flying visit to Delhi, by my beautiful friends on the saree group. True Bollywood style romance on a Delhi winter morning. We used to hang at the Mughal era tombs in Delhi 10 years ago but it lacked the pops of colour we brought to it this week.

I never realised how interesting we must be to foreigners. Draped in our six yards, we looked like a page out of history books. Just put aside the mobile phones and take the sunglass off, we are an advertisement for Incredible India!

The Delhi girls really do it like no one’s watching. There were only about 5 thousand onlookers when we went on our impromptu photoshoot, it being picnic season for schools.
There was a wedding photoshoot, going on, who we tried to copy. Except the bride was in gown and we were lacking a groom. That never hampers our enthusiasm.

The season of love it really is. Mellow sunshine filtering through ancient trees, dissipating the fog hanging low in the air. Dreamy historic structures where emperors lay down for final rest.
Love and mortality, my favourite muses, came together in a magical moment in time.

Ducking Out

A Facebook post on predictive text reminded me of how very intimately autocorrect knows me. I have never sent an incorrect text. If I write ‘ducking’, auto predict knows I’m going to write ‘Monday’ next. How creepy is that??

I have resigned myself to ducking. It helps me escape to safety when the ‘properness’ mob chases me.
A classmate of mine once said our school never taught us to swear. My family of origin certainly belonged to the ‘properness’ brigade. I might have invented swearing then? People just don’t give me enough credit, sighh.

Like I’ve declared before, I’m researching politically correct swear words/phrases. It’s not easy, I tell you. We can’t use ‘duck’ because it’s a beautiful act that, as a dear friend pointed out, we particularly enjoy. Pig and lizard are ‘speciesist’.
No misogyny, no ableism, no racism, no casteism, no transphobia, no anti semitism.

When I have collected enough such words, that are politically correct insults, I am going to patent them. So every time anyone uses a word like say ‘guck’, I earn royalty.
I just have to iron out some details.

Draped this adorable cotton saree today from Madhya Pradesh, I am so in love with blue these days, need more blues.