The many moods of monsoon.

It is finally monsoon again. After playing truant for nearly a month, it has started pouring cats and dogs. And how the landscape changed! Trees that were wilting have suddenly sprouted green. Stone paved paths suddenly have grass nudging from their edges. The skies are grey, waiting to open up at any moment. Suddenly, there are cranes aplenty pecking their way through green expanses of paddy without a care for the poor soggy scare crows, farmers working in the rain with plastic raincoats and sheets of rain making the road gleam.

The earth smells fresh and green. Forests look lush and waterfalls erupt onto roads as if to please us. Clouds float low and make travel seem dream like.

I love rain in its many forms. I love the slight drizzly kind, when the wind blows chill and you get rain in your hair, and you can walk in the rain without getting fully drenched. Long walks in such rain rejuvenate me. I also love the angry kind when the sky suddenly decides to open up and pour barrels on poor unsuspecting me, and before I realize it and can open my umbrella, it is done. I am soaking wet and still standing with the umbrella half open! It used to happen all the time in Mangalore, and used to come at the end of a hot spell which made me hot, sweaty and irritable. And there is also the insistent, consistent middle of the path rain which keeps on for hours at the same speed, neither too much nor too less. Granted, life becomes depressing then, but on the positive side, this is the best for plonking myself on the ledge of a window with a hot cup of tea, a great book and roasted corn.

If there is anything I enjoy more than rain itself, it is the opportunity of travelling during monsoons. This time, I had the pleasure of traveling along the almost virgin forests of Gerusoppa in Uttara Kannada district for the upanayanam of my nephew. I was so zapped by the natural beauty around me, that I did not want to blink for the fear of missing out something more beautiful. No words can do justice to what God, or nature or some supreme power out there decided for the world during the rains.

Hence the photographs. Enjoy the many moods of monsoon.

The elephant camp at Sakrebail, was wet and beautiful. The elephants seemed to be good spirits with the cold weather, and did not mind visitors.

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Sudden rains marooned a motor boat in the water. Looks exciting, like a wreck with treasures, waiting to be explored.

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A sudden burst of green along a paved path.

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The sight of the grey skies. The silver lining behind the clouds. donotwanttoblinkable!

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The back waters of the river Aganashini.

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Can you see the water fall on top, between the trees? A lovely view of Gerusoppa ghats.

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A walk in the clouds…

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There is small, old, slippery, mossy stairway leading to a lookout point just at the beginning of the mountain road. The top is really filthy, but the view more than makes up for it!

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Green carpet of paddy for miles and miles.

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DSC_0220A lovely temple pond with still mint green waters.

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The mom personality.

It’s a confusing life- that of a parent. As a mother, I have experienced a multitude of emotions I did not even know that I possessed in the recesses of my heart. After managing in hostel, strictly keeping off tv and books during exams, keeping jobs, getting and staying married, and keeping house, I thought I knew what responsibility was all about. But becoming a mother put a different spin on things altogether. The fact that there are living breathing humans whom you are solely responsible for, and can make decisions about, make it slightly overwhelming. Once a mother, you sort of develop an unexplainable personality change (or disorder?). Let me explain.

I love planning. Every single move of mine, every thought and its corresponding action is planned. The first thing that I do when I wake up is to make a time table for the day. And relish the feeling of ticking off stuff, once it gets done ( I know, I know, I have a personality disorder already!). This is the only routine of mine which has not changed for the past twenty odd years. Or so. Till I became a mother. And realized that the number of unticked items on my list seemed to be growing and things I got done also were haphazardly so. It took me a while to digest this and plan again. So, over the years, now I have started making a plan B and plan C timetables, in case the first one does not work out. Needless to say, my diary now looks like a station master’s at a busy train junction!

I have been through situations where I experience conflicting emotions about the same situation. Like, when my daughter suddenly throws a huge tantrum that I should not leave for work, but spend time with her, I am torn between despair, irritation and some weird sort of happiness. The despair is because the tantrum usually happens with people around, so I worry whether they will judge my parenting. Irritation because, I do love my work and like things neatly sorted – time for work, time for home and time for kids, and do not like it smudged (notice, notice… that there is no ‘time for me’ – which gets written in fine print of the parenting manual and hence you do not read till you are already a parent) And a weird sort of happiness, because there is someone who loves me so much that they do not mind making a big spectacle of it! I’ve never been loved that bad!

I crib about the lack of ‘me time’ and look back nostalgically at those times when reading a book meant sleeping only when it was done, when I could huddle under the razai on cold winter mornings to wake up only when I felt like, travel alone with a backpack on a whim and go out with friends for dinner on weekdays. But when I actually do get some time off like this now, and my kids are not around, I start missing them real bad. I get an urge to read out the nice part of my book to my son, cuddle with my daughter under the razai, crave for my son’s banter on a journey and prefer eating take away noodles from a shared bowl instead of going out. In short, I am not content this way or that!.

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It’s like I’m not myself anymore. And I do not know what I want.

But after two children, I have made peace with the fact that I will never be the same again. I’m changing with my kids and probably growing into a mom. And, that being a mom entails developing a new kind of personality. In my case, confused, frazzled at times, but absolutely loving it!

That awkward moment when…

Some things never change. Nor do some emotions. Embarassment is one such. Happiness, a sense of calm, worry, sadness and urgency, I am used to and can quite often handle with experience. But I have a problem with embarrassment. It appears suddenly, catches me unawares and makes me really uncomfortable. I am quite the text book picture of embarrassment. I blush, stammer, make weird gestures, start feeling heat creep up my face and generally wish the earth would open up and swallow me. And, no I have not been able to learn how to handle embarrassment well. It is just there, sitting like a huge elephant in the center of a room and refusing to even budge an inch.

Well, assuming that something as problematic as this would have a ready made answer on google, I looked. And was amazed. Apart from detailed articles on where the origins of the word came, there were scholarly articles on each tiny aspect of this entity. There are different researchers who have divided it into many types based on causes and reactions to different situations. There are hundreds of youtube videos. Wow, I did not know that it was such a big deal. It felt good to know that I was a part of a larger recognized problem, not a freak of nature.

Embarassment –to put it simply, has over the years caused me a lot of embarrassment. Some of the situations which occurred, have been funny in retrospect, but have given me a lot of heartburn during. With age, I should ideally be wiser and calmer, but a few situations still have an uncanny knack of inducing mortification every single time they occur.

For example,

  1. When I am in a chair car of the train, and the person opposite me stares intently and unflinchingly at me when I am trying my best to eat elegantly. And no, staring back does not make it better, nor does the person opposite avert his gaze. Try it!
  2. When I meet someone I know and suddenly, my memory decides to desert me. The name plays hide and seek in my mind, and generally refuses to oblige the ‘seek’ part. And the person doggedly keeps asking me whether I remember his/ her name in front of a million others. I hem and haw and smile stupidly, all the while making excuses. Oooh.. the memory of this is already making me uncomfortable.
  3. When I walk into a room filled with loads of people, and someone suddenly calls out my name aloud and beckons me. Everyone’s attention zeroes down on me, and I suddenly feel heat rising up my face.
  4. When I am trying to fib my way through something, and I realize that half way through, the other person is not buying it!
  5. When I make a big joke, that …goes flat.
  6. When I am watching movies with my son, which have been certified to be watched ‘universally’ by our censor board, and suddenly there is a question which is really uncomfortable to answer. Like the time we were watching PK, (which incidentally was supposed to be watched under adult supervision for the child’s comfort —but ended up making the adult squirm) and my son curiously asked me what was happening inside of the dancing cars. My husband was hugely amused and shaking with silent laughter, at my bumbling attempts to answer.
  7. And the worst, when I am anxious and develop a foot (and a huge foot at that!) in mouth syndrome. Like the time I introduced my friend’s father to a gathering as a public ‘prostitutor’, instead of public ‘prosecutor’! Needless to say I was at the receiving end of extremely cold stares from my friend for the rest of the evening, though I kept apologizing!

Over years I have accepted these incidents as an uncomfortable part of my life, which I have to live with. Like say, a wart. Ugly, occasionally painful, but definitely there.

How about all of you??

How bad is it, doc?

doctors There are many cliches associated with being doctors. The near dictum that doctors are next to Gods. That practicing medicine is a noble, respectable, ideal profession. In the nineties, most children in India, I would safely say, grew up with an idea that their life would be made if they became doctors, or engineers. It was the rare parent that would allow his child to choose a profession apart from these two.

According to a recent study by the WHO, despite medical schools mushrooming all over India, we still are short of doctors.  The state of a patient in rural India, who needs some form of emergency medicine is still abysmally bad. So,yes,we do need doctors.

But suddenly, it almost feels like doctors are everyone’s favorite punching bag. It is as if we are a group of individuals with dubious reputations, unscrupulous, unethical and those trying to make a buck out of the poor patient’s pocket.

It is therefore probably the right time to remind ourselves that medicine is, basically, just another profession. Yes, compassion is important, as well as a sense of responsibility. But then, those with an aptitude for both should not have difficulty in finding their way into this field, just as someone with good computing skills takes up computer engineering. To deglamorise, doctors study five and a half years for a degree which tells them how tackle certain ills in a scientific manner. We do not claim to be Gods, nor are we the devil reincarnate.

I do agree that there is a lot going wrong with the practice of medicine in India. But these wrongs mainly stem from a flawed, aged, system rather than the individual doctor.

Children as young as seventeen, I believe, rarely have the maturity to realize the seriousness of a profession like medicine. In the west, medical school would be an option to only those with an undergraduate degree under their belt. I personally know of kids who take up medicine because of the glamour associated with it or because of parental pressure. When you choose a profession for the wrong reasons, the outcome seems near obviously bad.

The presence of corruption in a system which deals with life itself. In conversation with one of vice chancellors of a medical school, I get to understand that the seat matrix in any medical school across India is decided by how many palms are greased rather than, how good the patient student ratio in the teaching hospital is. We see around us a number of med schools where professors exist only on office papers, and the teaching hospital needs to be filled with fake patients who are hired during MCI inspections. We PRACTICE MEDICINE. And where the practice of teaching is poor, the confidence of a doctor to handle a patient is obviously poor.

The weird attitude that once we choose to become doctors, we, as individuals, need to give up on material gains. The salaries of doctors in rural service is pathetically low for the amount of risk that they take. To quote Atul Gawande in his book, “Better” ,doctors in rural India are the most innovative and efficient. They need to work with patchy electricity, minus specialist help, have to work against unhealthy  but traditional practices to the convince the family to get the patient treated. Hence, they learn to work with enormous amount of common sense. But, the rewards materialistically or otherwise are poor. They have poor roads, horrible infrastructure, no legal aid, their children have no good schools, due to which they would have to be sent away for their education. All the while, when media glaringly shows them, that their counterparts, with half the years of education, are earning fat sums, driving the newest eye candy, spending time in malls, living in penthouses, working in centrally air conditioned offices and sending their children to international schools. Who in their right mind would choose rural service?

As doctors we ultimately deal with lives. And people. And people with a million different personalities. And these personalities, when they are under stress of illness. But nowhere in medical schools are we taught the importance of good communication, on dealing with grief, on being calm during periods of stress or emergency. It is as if we are expected to magically source this information from some place in the universe and imbibe it. The art of counseling, is not hereditary. It needs to be taught. And as my dean in med school, Prof. Dr.B.M.Hegde would quote, doctors, needed to be trained to “cure rarely, care often and comfort always”. Poor counseling skills, automatically translates to poor patient care.

Law concerning self protection, medical insurance and negligence are alien subjects when we study medicine. We only get to hear these terms when we land, slap bang in the middle of a controversy. We do make mistakes. We are human. But, mostly the health of our egos and our bank balance depend on the good health of our patients. The pleasure we get when we see a critically ill patient walk back home with a smile on his face, is probably what keeps most of my fellow doctors in the profession, despite the grueling hours and non existant social life. Hence, if we were to be taught what to do when we err, we would definitely tread with more caution, rather be caught on tv appearing like a petty criminal.

If we are a society concerned with health, then we have to understand that we have an individual responsibility towards our health. Poor lifestyle habits, not following the doctor’s advice and skipping doses, and then blaming the doctor for poor health despite taking expensive medicines is simply playing the blame game. Not acceptable.

To summarize, we need a multi pronged approach to start a change in most of these areas. Able law makers,thinkers, senior doctors and the public at large who should first understand the flawed but totteringly functional system completely. And then attempt change. Only then, we can hope for the health of the country as well as its doctors.  Till then, still happy to be a doctor and enjoying it despite the hurdles!