It was a pleasant surprise when my phone notification pinged a comment on my blog, which has been defunct for the better part of a year now. The rather infamous work life IMbalance had thrown my blogging life out of gear and my kept my face book visits limited to clearing long pending notifications!
The comment and the fact that one of my very good friends started a blog, brought back a rush of feelings and memories – of the blog meet in Mumbai, my blogger friends whom I had hardly kept in touch with and of the sheer pleasure of having someone read what I have written and think it worthwhile to comment on!
With the itch to write came the ominous feeling of dread. It has been a really long and eventful year in my life which has drastically changed the way I think and work (or so I would like to believe). Kept wondering whether my writing would have a different voice, whether I could convey things which others liked too (after all, most of the pleasure of writing comes from being read) and whether I had burnt out. It took a whole fortnight full of contemplation before I actually decided that there was only one way to find out. That is, to jump in wholeheartedly and leave the rest to my readers.
I recently came upon a study done to assess which friendships would endure the test of time. Scientists analysed eight million phone calls between two million people and found that what retains the bond of close friendships is something as simple as staying in touch every two weeks. That. Is. All.
This makes me conclude that I want to make time to stay in touch with all of those who read my blog and have been supporting me on this journey of mine where I think, I feel and I say.
Most times, high expectations lead to an anticlimactic downfall. I can safely say that a visit to Petra is not one of those. Infact, it surpasses your expectations and quite literally takes your breath away. Whenever I saw pictures of the famous treasury, I assumed that Petra started and ended there. I did not realize that it is an actual city whose ruins are quite well preserved and akin to Hampi. It showcases the glorious civilization of Nabatheans and their mastery in carving out huge monoliths out of rockfaces.
Apart from feasting my eyes on beautiful haunting canyons and gorges, huge stark stone tombs, and the multi hued desert landscapes, it was there that I realized that I was an ignoramus in the history department and a snob about twenty first century state of the art life style.
The Nabateans seem to have enjoyed the same pleasures that we do as far back the First century BCE on a much grander scale! I can only imagine the sense of awe that Johann Ludwig Burckhardt, the Swiss explorer felt, when he first laid his sights on the magnificence of Petra.
Petra was founded in the first century BCE by an Arabian tribe called the Nabateans, who made Raqmu (an older name for today’s Petra) their capital.
The entrance to Petra is through a two kilometer long trek through a canyon. Apparently the canyon was formed by a geological fault, split by tectonic forces and then later on smoothed by water. The Nabatheans made canals through these formations for the flow of water into the city. They also built a dam!
The treasury or the ‘Al Khazneh’ is undoubtedly one of the best sites of Petra. At the end of the trek, when you are getting slightly tired of seeing endless bends in the canyon, you suddenly get a glimpse of the treasury. And it is massive. There are a lot of stories about why the treasury was built. Some say that it was used by the bandits to store looted treasure, some others believe that it was a mausoleum, a few feel it depict the calendar, some more believe that the Egyptian Pharaoh used it to store his treasure and the last one goes that it was built for its wow value. The Nabateans apparently wanted to stun anyone who entered Petra with their brilliance and grandeur. They sure did succeed on that one.
There are multiple trails through which one can explore the city, and we chose one which led to the monastery. For this we walked into the city which was home to more than 20000 people. The city starts with multiple tombs. Each family had a tomb where in the dead could be preserved. Like a home for the dead family members!
Beyond these are the royal tombs, which are more intricate and carved in detail.
Then on is the royal street with buildings and palaces on both sides (most of which were ruined during the earthquakes).
Then comes the climb to the monastery. Winding stone steps with canyons as far as the eye can see. Each boulder with a character of its own, tall, bent and moulded by natural forces for more than 2000 years. They appear to be silently witnessing our ordeal of huffing and puffing through the climb!
The monastery at the top is the highest point in Petra. A café, a chill breeze and an almost replica of the treasury welcome us to the top. It almost seemed like the ostentaniousness got replaced by piousness as the Nabateans trekked upwards!
After a cup of sweet mint tea, we trek back, taking with us the memories of what we saw, and wondering how we could possibly explain all that we saw to our family and do justice to its beauty.
I remembered reading a quote by Ibn Batuta which goes “Travelling- it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a story teller”. Petra does that to you!
On a hot sweltering afternoon, at the end of our trip to Gokarn, my travel weary bones and a near empty growling stomach made me google the nearest food joint. The search coughed up a few names, among which a French sounding “Chez Christophe” showed up as the closest. We put on the GPS and followed the lady obediently only to end up in a small village with a handful of houses. We had lost our way!
Feeling hopeless, but hungry, we got down and walked up to a group of people asking for the restaurant. The “Krishnappanna hotla?, gottu, ille munde hogi, sigatte!” (Oh Krishnappa’s hotel? It’s right beyond here, just keep going) of the skinny man in a lungi made us feel all the more hopeless. Where was the French guy, we wondered. Or had he sold the hotel to an Indian counterpart? Unfortunately, there seemed to be no place around which could serve a near decent meal, so we decided on taking up the man’s offer to go in search of Krishnappa.
We got off the road, and started walking in through the lanes between the thatched roof houses, separated from each other by makeshift bramble walls. On the narrow foot roads where we had to walk single file, we were occasionally mauled by hens and growling dogs who were disturbed out of their afternoon siesta.
Often in the center of the hustle and the bustle of the cities, the silence of the village in the afternoon seemed eerie at first. But then we began to take in the sights. Of the villagers working their way through their chores, contentedly, house after house.
One backyard had a lady who had set up an outdoor makeshift stove which contained a pot full of bubbling fragrant curry, while she on the other side, was cutting up fresh fish to put into the pot. There were a few cats purring on the side, waiting for any stray morsel coming their way. She stopped, surprised to see us, then waved us on, when we asked her about the hotel.
Another house had a small porch lined up with parrots of a vibrant green, which were being fed by a grandfather and his grandson. The grandfather was explaining something to the child, who was excitedly nodding his head.
A sudden spread of green burst forth, between the houses, where a lone farmer was quietly going about his work. Walking through a stretch of field which was ripe with the produce of sweet potatoes, cowpeas, beans and marigolds made for a great experience for the kids.
A blonde guy was lying peacefully on his hammock humming a small tune, in a hut with graffiti painted walls. But strangely, he did not seem out of place in the middle of a typically Indian village. He blended well with the peace it was emanating.
It was a trek to remember. The peace, the quiet and the sense of zen that prevailed, all but made us forget what we were there for. It felt as though we could go on and on. We felt the “ichigyo zammai” that afternoon. This basically means,(in Japanese) finding happiness in concentrating on the small pleasures of life, one at a time. Without distraction. Without the hurry that we might run out of time.
Our pace slowed, we breathed the air more deeply and even the kids quietly walked down the road. Just experiencing. And assimilating the awesome feeling into our beings. For once, I stopped clicking photographs like a woman on a mission, and just looked around.
At the end of the road was a beautiful beach, unspoiled and clean. And finally Krishnappa’s hotel (which was actually Christophe’s café by the way). And that, was an even more pleasurable experience.
The place is a shack which is probably frequented more at night, and hence was completely ours at that time. The floor is covered with mattresses and cushions, which serve as seating. You can sit and stare at the endless expanse of the sea and hear the rhythmic sound of the waves. A wooden swing sways for the breeze as you munch on yum French food.
We finally found the right, motorable road to reach the place. But decided to walk back the same way we came. For the pleasure of walking down the road, which taught us the happiness of just being. Sometimes, you have to lose your way to find it!
A week into her kindergarten year, I had this conversation with my daughter, all the while trying unsuccessfully to stuff a spoon full of food into her mouth!
Five year old : Amma, I have twins in my class. P and P. Both are boys.
Me: That’s great. (happy that she now knows what twins are!).
Then I wonder and ask….
Me: How do you know they are twins? Do they look similar??
Five y o: No, they don’t.
Me: Do they dress the same?
Five y o: Amma, everyone wears the school uniform! Everyone dresses the same.
Me: Oh, sorry, I forgot. Then how did you find out?
Five y o: Well, they bring same same snack in their tiffin box! So.
Trying to get the better of her, I prod: But they may be brothers, don’t you think?
Five y o: Yeah, but then they would’nt both be in the same class, would they?
As parents, we take parenting for granted. Kids get born, grow, go to school and then they are adults. Though we care for them, most of it is restricted to knowing whether they have had their meal, finished their home work and are not watching too much Doremon.
But kids seem to live in a parallel universe where every single moment is a discovery. Everything is a mystery which has to be unraveled, solved and sorted. They are keen observers. And connect the dots available in front of their curious eyes. Slowly put two and two together. And most times come up with two hundred and twenty two!
They are inquisitive and eager to learn. For us, sharpening a pencil, choosing the correct footwear for the correct leg, coloring between the lines, the symmetry of the picture they draw or strapping on the velcro of a shoe feel like the most simple thing in the world. But when I watch my kids grow, I can feel the mental effort and intense concentration it takes for them to understand and complete any new task. It takes all my effort to stop myself from helping them, and allow them to try till they succeed.
It takes situations such as the one mentioned above,to understand that the world must look different from their point of view. We hardly have time to explain the working of the world to them, and they simply have to make sense of it! Hence, probably they create their own sweet logic which is refreshingly simple, even if incorrect! Never mind the stuffy adults!
In the little time I get to interact with my little ones, I get nuggets like these which I want to store away in the recesses of my mind, so that I can tell them to my grandkids. How I wish I could get more time with them, so that I could learn the way they did. Simple, and all sorted.
Five y o: Mamma, do cars jump? Can they drive in the sky?
Me: Why? Have you ever seen them do it?
Five y o: Then, why is the traffic light pointing skyward???
What do you do when at the ripe old age of thirty seven, you suddenly develop feelings of confusion about the decisions that you have made in your life?? When you develop cravings, of wanting to do so many things, which in your twenties, you believed that there was enough time to do, but now, realize that you don’t. Have. That . Much. Time. After. All. When you realize that you had not bargained that the amount of time you spent in setting up a cozy home, bringing up kids and settling into your career would slowly, imperceptibly, chip away from the huge block of time, that you took for granted. Where you had planned for a grander scheme of things.
When I read things on facebook which say “Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, probably you should set up a life that you do not need escaping from!” and put this under the heading of “Inspirational quotes”, I want to literally throw something at them!
Nowadays,I seem to be always wanting to escape and do something else. I crave for Saturdays so I can fantasize about Sundays. I crave vacations. I crave for quiet time with my book exactly at the same time when my daughter turns on her needy voice. I crave for work when there is less, and crave for time to laze when there is too much work. Basically, I seem to be in ‘always wanting to escape from here mode’!My normality comes from thinking that this feeling of wanting to do something else and something more, all the time, is what everyone feels and hence, also comes under the heading of what normal should be.
If that sounds strange and funny, coming from a psychiatrist,so be it. I idle browsed the ever helpful google and found a name for it. Mid life crisis. Assuming that I will die at 74, its just about the right time to develop one. Thank you google, for making me a part of a big cult of people who are, to put it simply, confused. And trying to find some way out of it!
And so, I decided that when in confusion, the best way out was full scale inertia. From hopping from one task to another maniacally, I went to vegetate mode. Not completely. But just doing the basic amount of work that I need to do, and then exist. Hence, the lack of blog posts. Because I am willing myself to slowly clear the confusion that exists in my mind. So much confusions that I was even finding myself making to do lists in my dreams!
Till inspiration finds me, or me it, my grand plan to stay sane,is to wake up, work and just be. And if some important work comes in between, just do it. Or a summer coming up, just plan a vacation and be done with it. Or if there is a request for a talk, just take it. Or a blog post brimming up into my conscious, just write it. A recipe waiting to be tried, just cook it. A lovely unputdownable book, just read it. Some fun time with the kids, just have it. A new hobby, just try it. An interesting case, just discuss it….Aaagrhhh..I’m back to square one!!
Exactly about a year ago, I read an e mail in my inbox which announced the reunion of batch 96 of KMC, Mangalore.
Reunions have a tendency to make me feel old and gossipy. Somewhat like sixtieth birthday celebrations or golden jubilee wedding anniversary celebrations! Where a whole bunch of people meet up to discuss their lives and those juicy tidbits about others’, regaling antics of their precocious children and humble bragging about their career milestones.
I was happy enough seeing face book posts of my batch mates and knowing what they are doing in their lives. Did I actually need to meet them ?? I was mostly too shy in college to develop deep friendships with a lot of my class mates. So, would I be really missed? This made me skeptical about attending the reunion. Maybe I would not gel with most of my old college mates, I felt. We have moved on.
Fifteen years. A lot of water under the bridge. Old memories, some good ones and some others not so much. Friendships –some tended to, some long forgotten. Lives which have moved on, treated and helped many a patients, formed new relationships, forged new bonds and trudged ahead.Hmm..
But somehow, Satwik’s emails did the trick. Over the year, slowly, silently, memories which were buried under a mountain of work and family responsibilities started creeping up on me, startling and giving me fuzzy feelings of warmth in an otherwise dreary day.
I still remember the day when I was a bespectacled gawky teenager coming out of the CET cell, a little frazzled, a little victorious and a little bit nervous. Finally, one and a half years of hard back breaking work had borne fruit and I was in! Kasturba Medical College was my destiny for the future.
It was my first time away from home, leaving behind my huge joint family, and this in itself, was unnerving. The rumors of ragging in college were scary. There was this huge cauldron of emotions boiling within me, a delicious mix of apprehension, fear, elation, the excitement of getting into medical school, and sadness about leaving behind my friends and family.
Expectedly, the memories of five years that I spent in college are irreplaceable. The formalin reeking dissection halls, the old lecture halls, muggy mornings spent in the huge, sweltering, crowded wards of Wenlock and Lady Goshen hospitals whose old ceiling fans with painfully slow moving blades seemed to mock our sweating discomfort, maggi in the canteen, getting screwed during the clinical postings and giving a treat at the end of it, the waterless bathrooms in Nandagiri hostel, late night study sessions liberally dosed with popcorn and maggi for sustenance, the phone booth, which was our life line to the family back home (this was a time before cell phones invaded us),the interclass competitions, the library at reader’s delight, and the horrible mess food (remember the yum yum cutlet, which was anything but!!) are literally etched into my subconscious.
KMC accepted me, idiosyncrasies and all. And added a few more to my person. Like talking about KMC and how great it was, all the time, to my better half, till he knew all my anecdotes by heart! The sense of belonging with my college is something which I cannot not get rid of. This was after all, my world away from home for five long years. Maybe I am partial to my college or probably this is the way people feel about their alma mater, but I, unflinchingly believe that KMC, Mangalore was the best and the most learning experience of my life. Anyway, I’m digressing.
Back to the reunion. So, after discussions back and forth with my bestie, and some gentle prodding by my husband, I finally took the plunge. I was in. And did not know what to expect. Ours was a small class of 56, and almost all of them have reached places in life. Would they have changed, I wondered? After all, responsibilities, position, stature and money is known to cause a personality change in many!
And therefore in River Roost Resort, (the venue for our reunion), I landed with trepidation and doubt, both of which got kicked in the butt within the first fifteen minutes of my landing there. The next two days were spent laughing so much that my cheeks hurt, and forgetting to call back obsessively to check on my kids, which I am guilty of doing when I am not at home!
Getting to know my batch mates all over again was much more fun than what it was so many years ago. I felt we were more mature and knew ourselves better than we did before. There was a quiet confidence that each one of us had grown into. There were some of us who threw up unexpected surprises by reaching heights which no one had expected, some others who were consistently superb, and others who were multifaceted enough to juggle hobbies along with their profession. Even the ones with their own brand of quirks had found their comfy spot under the sun. The icing on the cake was that no one-not even one -had let go of their innate superb sense of humor and goofballness which made those two days the best ever.
The experience of getting two days sans responsibilities with my best and closest friends, laughing at inane jokes which no one else actually understood, and talking about everything under the sun and beyond it, waking up to wanting to continue talking and not bother about anything else, reminded me of my days in hostel.
I was back again into a group where I seemed to belong, where my weirdness was an accepted part, and I could let my hair down(whatever is left of it!) and be! Just transport myself to those days where hope and hard work were the things we lived by, garnished generously with parties, fun trips and mills and boon!
My opinions about reunions have changed now. If anything, they made me feel much younger and happier. I returned home with a smile plastered on my face, and stayed insanely happy for the next few days. Maybe, this happens at all reunions, and therefore they go on!
A grateful thanks to the organizers who slogged to make it happen. And a big thanks to all the rest for making those two days memorable. KMC 96, you are the best and please do stay that way!
Long live reunions !
PS: Leena, Im feeling blessed to post this on face book!!!:)) (sorry,an inside joke!).
There are certain life experiences which come to us, courtesy our professions. Some of them make good dinner table conversations, some put a smile on our face years after they occur and some make us feel a deep pain inside. As doctors, we see many incidents which have the power to move us beyond what we thought was possible. And such incidents make us richer, wiser and sometimes more cautious. I have always wanted to share a few of my experiences as a doctor first, a psychiatrist next, about how we see the good, the bad, the ugly and the hilarious as a part of our everyday life in the hospital. Hence ,the doctor diaries.
Off late, medical professionals have been viewed more with suspicion and wariness than respect and love. We often hear stories about how doctor so and so ripped off a poor patient, or performed an unnecessary surgery or followed some unethical practice.
As much as I know of most people in our profession, they seem hard working to such an extent that they have no time to even defend themselves in times of crisis. In a day and age, where most media bytes go to a person who voices the highest decibel levels, we seem to have missed the bus by a mile. A lot of us are excellent clinicians, but poor communicators. Mostly, not our fault. We were never taught that our practice, would one day, turn out to be a war zone with land mines, which we had to gingerly tread through. Do not get me wrong. It is not everyday that we go to work like scared rabbits. We enjoy what we do, and how we do it. But on occasion, fear does seep into our bones. This was one such time.
It was a sleepy Sunday afternoon broken by an earth shattering cry, that would have woken the dead. All of us in the surrounding vicinity came out on the roads to see what had happened. What we saw was not a pretty sight. There were two people who had accidentally got electrocuted, lying on the road literally fuming at the mouth. There was this huge crowd gathered around. The stench of burnt flesh was overpowering. I live just across from the hospital that I work in. By the time I made my way through the crowd, I saw that two of our hospital staff had already lifted the victims bodily,and put them into an auto rickshaw.They drove on to a tertiary care center five minutes away for ICU care. The whole episode must have taken around five to seven minutes at most. I was impressed by the immediate action taken by our orderlies and was on my way to praise them, when I was in for a rude shock.
One of the people from the crowd asked us why we had not taken care of the patient. They started accusing us of poor first aid. We appeared confused at first. They must have taken it as a sign of weakness or guilt.
The cause for our confusion, was the fact that, apart from having a time machine to do the needful, we had been as fast as we humanly could. Two of our staff had rushed to find autos on a deserted road to ferry the patients, while two others had helped them into the vehicle and gone to the hospital with them. According to us, we had done all we could and more.Apparently not.
According to the leader of the mob, we needed to check the pulse of the patient before we put him into the auto. The other claimed that we should have done first aid inside our hospital premises before shifting him to an ICU.
We tried reasoning out that time was of utmost importance. That there was no need to check the pulse when the patient looked alive and was breathing. And we shifted him to a tertiary care center only because we did not, as a facility catering to mental illness, have an ICU facility and ventilator support.
Seemingly, all our explanations fell on deaf ears. The crowd kept chanting that we should have checked the pulse. On one level, I knew that they were just out to create a scene. Maybe the shock of seeing a person burn was too much to take. Maybe, they had no idea what to do in case of such a situation.
But on another level, we were scared. Upset that our good intentions were being slandered unnecessarily. Scared that they may abuse us physically.Are really really worried as to why understanding such a simple explanation seemed impossible to them.
Anyway, after a while, for lack of any other logical form of argument apart from the “pulse”, the crowd dispersed. But the hurt remained. That we, (especially our hospital staff who courageously helped the victims without a thought that they may have got electrocuted themselves too) were considered villains even after selflessly doing our best.
It did not matter that half the crowd was totally drunk, and had not moved a muscle to help all through the episode.What did matter, was that a scene was created. And that we looked like the bad people.
In the pat two years, in the small city that I live in, I have seen at least four hospitals getting ransacked and damaged for some alleged negligence on the part of a doctor, which has later on been disproved. I have participated in rallies held to protect the rights of doctors. The district administration has given us a list of laws and provisions to help us protect ourselves. We now have cctv’s in our hospitals.Despite all of these, the sense of disillusionment remains.
Sort of like, when you have actually done your homework, but forgotten the book at home. The teacher does not believe you, but you want to be believed oh so badly. Standing in front of the class looking like the culprit pains you bad. The pain, that neither your teacher or your friends had the good sense to believe you.Submitting the homework book next day does not really ease your pain. The damage has been done!
And so also in this case.Life moved on. Work resumed the next day. But every time I pass by the place on the road, I feel a physical pain deep inside me. One for the victim, who was a young man with small children. Two, for my idealism, which died a more cruel death that day.
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.
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!
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.
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.
When I am trying to fib my way through something, and I realize that half way through, the other person is not buying it!
When I make a big joke, that …goes flat.
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.
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.
The beauty of the Western ghats is unparalleled. The different shades of plush green, the cold chilly wind, the clouds taking a walk with you, the mist shrouding the trees and the gushing sounds of a hidden waterfall somewhere close by. If this picture makes you yearn to take a trip right-away, hold on, this is not all! At the beginning of the ghats, there is a small quaint police station across which a lovely lake and a garden exist. Just across the garden, the aroma of hot vadas frying in hot sizzling oil, wafts towards you and pulls you along towards the ramshackle cart. Hot vadas, spicy chutney and hot milky tea – now we are talking heaven!
Since my childhood, whenever we would climb down the Agumbe ghats to enter hot sultry Mangalore, we would have a customary, compulsory stop at Padiyar mam’s vada stall. Through globalization and commercialization, the stall, which actually is rather a fancy name for a tin pushcart with plastic sheets hung across to prevent the drizzle, remained the same. Rows of cars, bikes and buses would be parked across the already small, winding road. Weary passengers who would climb down to stretch their legs would invariably be drawn towards the stall and the tasty aroma emanating from there.
The USP of the stall though, was without doubt its owner. Mr. Padiyar, who knew each and every customer by name, somehow with great clarity remember where each one’s child was studying or getting married. It somehow made you feel as if you had wandered into an indulgent uncle’s house in your neighborhood.
And the vadas. Exactly the same taste year after year, decade after decade. No expansion of the menu, no fancy improvements of the stall and no HR people. It was a sort of niche place, with only one item which was world class. Whenever we would go, he would en quire about our education, how our parents and far flung relatives were faring, and introduce us whomsoever around was interested in listening to his banter. As a teenager, this used to embarrass me greatly, but not enough to forgo the vadas! I would mutter under my breath as to why he could not just leave me alone. Every single time when we passed the ghats by bus,(which was, I am ashamed to say, was quite often, given the extent of my homesickness!), I remember, I wouldn’t go home, without the vadas sitting comfortably in my stomach.
After my MBBS , I went to Mangalore quite less. Though the trips were less frequent,when we would occasionally pass by for a wedding, a meeting or a conference, we would eagerly look forward to the stall being open. Padiyar maam (mam,which meant uncle in Konkani and kannada) would always remember. It was like homecoming. What was irritating earlier, seemed like warmth later on. He would have ten conversations side by side with different customers, but still manage to remember them all! We got to know that with this tiny business, he had managed to educate his son and daughter, who were in excellent positions. When a patron questioned him as whether he would close down to go and stay with his son, he nixed it aggressively. This is what he loved, he said, and what he would do till the end!
I met him about a fortnight ago, on my way to Manipal. Little did I know that it would be the last time. A week later he was admitted to a hospital in Shimoga with fever and delirium. It was so sad to see him and realize that he was unable to recognize anyone, let alone the thousands of friends he had made over the years. In a span of one week, he deteriorated, was diagnosed to be having a rare disease, and died. It was unbelievable. Someone whom I had seen hale and hearty, and in the pink of health , suddenly disappeared.
I never imagined that I would experience a deep sense of loss about his death. After all, he was not related to me, nor was I in constant touch with him. But feel sad, I did. I could not shake off that heavy feeling through the day. Later on, I happened to see condolence messages on whatssapp and facebook, and realized that so many more must have felt the same about him.
He was an integral part of the travelling experience. Somehow the forest and the landscape feel incomplete without him, the hungry traveler bereft. The eager wait for a few minutes respite, a soul warming snack , and comforting conversation is no more going to happen. Padiyar maam, we miss you. RIP!
The question makes me quiver with a strange kind of excitement. The anticipation of a power, handed to me on a platter. Like I am the most supreme, and that I have everything under my control. I can twist, tweak, mould and reshape what I want. Oh, what fun! But yes, also an enormous responsibility.
Is it not easy, I ask myself, with one sweep of a wand, to make everything peaceful and perfect? Then life would have no twists and turns, be one straight long road, and life would be one big party. There would be no need of a God to pray to, no police for want of protection, no religion for a feeling of belonging, no nations to feel patriotic about, no movements to fight against discrimination. Sounds so desirable, but is it practical?
The world was meant to be just the way it is. The imperfections, the injustices, the tyrannies of rule and mishaps. I believe that there is a purpose behind everything. And if there is chaos in this world, it is there to teach us something. To keep people moving forward, to mutate, to fit and to survive as evolution meant us to.
One single person in this world changing things would cause a feeling of dissatisfaction to a lot of others. Like a dictatorship. Because that is how we are made. Everything is relative. For every good, there is an evil; for every misfortune, there is a miracle; for every superstition, there is a rationalization and we all know that every human thinks in two radically different ways in any given situation.
If I try to make things better for one person, then I am bound to make someone else dissatisfied. Even terrorism seems to have another point of view, or it would not have survived this long!
So is everything hopeless? Is there nothing we can change? I believe that the change is something buried deep inside of us. This would be the place to target. For humans to understand that they are always not right, that every one step each one of us take can cause myriad ripples in multiple directions and so we must be careful. And that we should learn to care. About ourselves, our fellow beings, our environment and of things beyond that we do not understand as of now.
Caring, a lot of people believe can make us weak. The biggest decisions in this world were made with our heads rather than our hearts. But look where it put us. World wars, communism, the formation of countries, religion, the caste system, gender stereotyping, traditions – all of which were in the first place decided upon rationally to bring a semblance of normalcy to this world. But did they?
Therefore, I beg to differ. I feel that caring is the one thing which makes us strong, gives us foresight and wisdom to change what we can, fight when the need be and sometimes let go of things which cannot be changed. Every social evil, and environmental catastrophe that I can think of could have been changed if we had cared, rather than made-rules!
This I believe is the change the world deserves. So yes, if I could change one thing in this world, I would choose to inculcate the feeling, the thought and the attitude of ‘caring’ into every single soul living on this earth.
Then I would say, may the fittest survive. This is my world remade.
This post is a part of a competition that I am participating in.