Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Time spent at a hospital

A hospital, for regular people, is a place best avoided, second only to places like the police station, morgue and cremation ground in terms of places you would least like to visit, let alone frequent. It is grouped with such especially abhorrent places for some pretty obvious reasons. You visit a hospital either as a patient, or as a patient's minder. In the former case, you are probably going under the knife, or at least getting a whole bunch of invasive/non-invasive "tests" to figure out how much damage your body has to deal with. In the latter, your loved one is probably going under the knife or getting the aforesaid tests. There is a lot of anxiety, waiting, queuing up, monetary juggling, tears, running around and general helplessness involved in either case. But look beyond all of this, and you realize that the hospital is not just a place where doctors fix you up, rather, it is a huge community built up of people, processes and relationships. There are many categories of staff, the nursing staff, administration, catering, PA's to the main surgeons, the in-house surgeons, consultants, anesthesiologists  radiologists the list goes on. Each of these groups of people often have complicated relationships with the other groups, sometimes cooperative, downright confrontational at other times. From the perspective of an outsider, these complex relationships seem unfathomable at first, but to get anything done, one has to quickly read the situation and work within the invisible boundaries that govern them. I've managed to do this recently, and have been reasonably successful. That is to say, I managed to get through the hospital experience without any physical altercation. Yes, there were voices raised by me and against me. But reason prevailed, certain compromises on either side ensured these conflicts were quickly and comprehensively dealt with, to the satisfaction of everyone involved. Well, almost.

The first phase of hospitalization is always patient admission. Your doctor recommended hospitalization, you took the advice and got down to the hospital. Armed with reports printed on endless graph sheets, x-rays, your medical history, a picture of your favorite god(s) and accompanied by an entourage consisting of at least 3 relatives, a driver (if that's how you roll) and sometimes even the next door neighbor  you make your way to the Admissions desk, where one of your entourage, is given a form to fill, with details of your name, age, sex, marital status, next of kin, permanent address and a bunch of other details. You also put down any insurance coverage details if you had the foresight to get some such cover beforehand. If not, you tick the cash option, and pray you have enough liquidity for the expected expenses.

A small admission fee and some queuing up at the cashiers window later, you come away armed with a file. This file is basically a record of everything that you will go through during your time at the hospital. Armed with this file, your entourage makes its way to the ward allotment administration section, where some very nicely dressed young person will ask you to sit down, and choose from a brochure of available types of rooms. Shared, semi-shared, private, deluxe, super-deluxe, yes, these are the terms used to describe them. Each of these rooms can be booked by paying an initial deposit, ranging from a pittance to a small fortune, and each has a daily rent that sometimes exceeds what a very posh hotel would charge you. Of course you want to see what your money is going to get you, so pretty soon you find yourself on a walking tour of the wards, starting from the worst (read shared/semi-shared/private) to the best (deluxe, super-deluxe). Walking into the shared/semi-shared/private wards that are usually housed in the same part of the hospital on the same level, it is not uncommon to hear moaning occupants, others struggling along the corridors, dragging along IV drips-on-wheels, nurses that look a lot like jail wardens and a bunch of visitors that you would not associate with outside the hospital. Lets just say, it is a very persuasive argument to walk away from the "downtown" wards and make your way uptown where the people are nicer, roads are wider, traffic is lighter and the lawns are trimmed. So a quick ride in the elevator, and you guide takes you to this utopian ward, where the rooms are larger than your apartment, with coffee tables, lounge chairs, couches and spare beds. The televisions are flat screens, the nurses are, well, not as scary, and there is a general feeling of entering a place where you know convalescence and recovery will be encouraged. You have made up your mind, so what if it costs more than other available options, I'll take the Deluxe ward, thank you. You get a printout of a disclaimer that you sign and return to the snappily dressed person. You get a bunch of stickers with bar codes that identify your patient id, payment mode etc. You get a list of rules and regulations. You also get an Attender's pass and a Visitor's pass. You are informed about visiting hours. About the various telephone extensions in the hospital. And finally you are given directions to the Billing department, where you are expected to quite literally, show them the money.

A bit of a wait, some more queuing up, and a disbursement of funds later, you are now the proud lessee of a room, and you waste no time in getting settled. At this time, the ward nurse in charge of the current shift introduces herself and her team. You are shown a large whiteboard in the corridor that proudly proclaims the nurses and their shifts, the rooms occupants and even a thought for the day. The dietitian comes by, asks for your preferences, and sets up the menu for each day. If surgery is on the cards, preparatory tests commence, you provide bodily fluids and imbibe various medicines that come as brightly colored pills, flavored syrups and the much-hated intravenously delivered variety. I will not go into details like the easy-access gown, bedpans, catheters (ouch), sponge baths (which are most decidedly not enjoyable, unlike what we have been led to believe) and other items. You check out the TV programming, familiarize yourself with the channel numbers of those stations you usually tune into, make a few telephone calls to relatives/friends that could not accompany you into the hospital, and soon are left with nothing to do but stare at the ceiling, and note all the weird whirring/clicking/pinging noises that are ever-present in a hospital ward. More medicines are ingested, more hospital meals are delivered, more tests are done, and finally the HDIC, or Head-Doc-In-Charge of your case makes his rounds and walks into your, now-cozy-but-a-bit-chilly alcove. A few words of encouragement from him, some stern reminders to stay immobile as much as possible, a couple of words with the shift nurse and he's gone back to doing what HDIC's do, which is some pretty mysterious stuff I would think. You now know when the surgery is going to happen, what they are going to do to you, and how many more days post-op you will be residing in the said alcove. With a prayer on your mind, you make up your bucket list, make some calls to people you would rather not talk to, and generally gear yourself up for whatever you imagine comes next.

Post-Op, you are back in your room. Crossed the monumental breach in the time-space continuum that is surgery. Staring at the rest of your life to come. Well, staring at the ceiling to be honest, but in a much better frame of mind than before. Now is the time where you get a virtual stampede of visitors, and each bearing good wishes, temple prasadams, apples, oranges, bananas, horlicks, invitations to their houses, discussions about their experiences at hospitals until you are quite literally exhausted. Suddenly you miss staring at the ceiling. You miss those whirrs/clicks/pings that accompanied your solitude. You miss that silence, that blissful alone-ness. And then it is time to go home. To leave the hospital, get back to your life as you knew it. Clearance forms are filled, paperwork is completed, files are maintained, copies are made, money again changes hands, and you find yourself in the back of a car, heading out into the world again. You get home, only to find it just as you left it. You realize that, monumental though it may have been to you, your brief absence from your world was barely registered. It may have inconvenienced a few, scared some others, but was just a minor aberrance from the norm. Life, thankfully, does go on, and that itself, you realize  is all you ever wanted or needed.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Strange are the workings of the human mind.

There are few reasons for a man to remain civilized in a city such as ours. Incessantly rising prices, rampant corruption, unbalanced legal system, traffic, people's lack of consideration, rude neighbours, annoying kids, I could go on with this for a lot longer, but I shall not. Belligerent TV news anchors and Arun Lal. Right, enough of that. In all this, a meek and 'by-the-rules' person just cannot survive... or so we convince ourselves. I used to be a meek, and 'by-the-rules' kinda guy. A long time ago. Somehow, somewhere along the way, I changed. Whether because of circumstances, peer influence, or just my own damn evolution, I do not know, nor can I reasonably guess. I am now, no longer, what you may call a timid person. But that's not entirely true. At least not all of the time. There are times when there is no need for force, intimidation, abrasive behaviour, and at such times, I am the very image of the smiling buddha. As serene as a placid lake in the gardens of Eden. But when faced with a confrontation, the facade drops, and things start changing.

Its all very primal, almost animalistic... all the major muscles tense, the body threatening to explode into violent action. Volume levels rise, vocabulary range gives way to semi-coherent grunts and roars... Eyes glare and nostrils flare, all of this a reaction to some inane provocation or perceived slight. There appears to be some proportion between the cause and the magnitude of the reaction, although it would be nearly impossible to quantify this.

Usually, this is just a brief period of insanity between states of serenity. Unless it escalates from the verbal to the physical, and that would be unfortunate, for everyone involved. When eventually the adrenaline payload stops pumping into the already raging system, the machine that is the body, goes back to a calmer and relaxed state. It is truly just as if the body was recovering from a coughing fit, or a sneeze. The mind, however, is forever altered by the experience, the sudden surge of activity, the insanity. It automatically analyses the entire incident, marking the key points, the reflexes that worked favourably, and those that did not prove advantageous. All this, while the body has slumped into inaction, or subconscious reaction. The mind rages on, demanding more, screaming out at the futility of the episode, proud, ashamed and disgusted all at once.
Strange are the workings of this human's mind.

Monday, June 28, 2010

When we were Kings.

It always amuses me when older people work in anecdotes about their heydays into conversations with me, always with a contented grin on their faces, as if that particular memory in itself was enough to justify a lifetime of otherwise non-newsworthy happenings. The fact that they are able to obtain pleasure from remembering that small bit of silliness or mischief they were part of, so many years back, consistently amazes me. All of us have had these conversations, where the Elder goes off on a tangent about that first long drive into the mountains when his car broke down and he had to push it uphill while carrying his firstborn on one shoulder, all the while getting drenched in the rain and still singing 'Yeh dosti' from Sholay, or some such occurrence. Many of these memories exist in such vivid detail inside the Elder's head, that he can spend many hours reliving them while pretending to take a nap on that easy-chair. The events themselves may be largely insignificant, but when described by an enthusiastic Elder, tend to bring about a nostalgia-induced stupor that threatens to distract one from the present, however briefly.

Is this then the true benchmark for labelling ourselves as older persons? Are we then to assume that once we begin reminiscing about our glory days, they are all well and truly in the past, with no hope of any of them occurring again in our lifetime? Or am I over-simplifying a theory by ignoring its other possible interpretations. I myself have fallen prey to such day-dreams about when we were Kings, that final year in Engineering College, that 10th Standard farewell party, that first date, that first heartbreak, that first long trip, so many of these memories stand out from an otherwise banal existence that the mind craves to relive them when it is otherwise unoccupied.

Can we interpret the mind's craving to relive colorful memories as a call to arms? Is it a signal from the consciousness to drop whatever mundane routine we have setup and do something memorable? Or am I again over-simplifying it and accepting the first, untested interpretation as the answer to this puzzle. It is quite clear that I manage to out think my own theories, and discredit my own interpretations. Will I remember this 10 years from now? more importantly, will I regale my younger companions in the future with this conundrum with a wistful look towards the skies. Only time will tell. I pray they at least pretend to listen to me then, as I pretended to listen when I was in their position.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

An inevitably, unavoidably long and morose post.

Inevitable. Unavoidable. Age-appropriate. The normal progression. Any discussion between a late 20's man and his family/friends/associates inevitably and unavoidably drifts into his marriage plans, more specifically, the lack thereof, and always advocates getting married as an age-appropriate and perfectly normal progression of events in said late 20's man. Not to forget, inevitable and unavoidable. Alright, I think I used them enough already too, I just wanted to emphasize how often, repetitive and boring these discussermons become, and you would probably register this point by noting that I have created a whole new word just for it.

The fact remains, that every walking, breathing, earning man in his late 20's is perceived by our society to have an expiry date tattooed on his forehead. And a countdown timer, much like those in game show's, hovering over his head, making louder, more threatening sounds as time goes by. There is a deep rooted fear that once the timer reaches 0, or in this case, 30, this man is done for. The neighbors will talk! What will people say! How will we find him a suitable wife? And other such drivel seem to justify his family's need to get him married, or as they say here, settled in life. Free will continues to remain a theory best left discussed as objectively as possible, inapplicable to all men in their late 20's. And it isn't fair on this man. He got through college, and many of his friends got married the minute they had graduated. He had to endure their weddings, and his parents incessant grumblings about when he'd get 'settled'. Then he was recruited, and started contributing to society by paying taxes, even though TDS is hardly voluntary. And how did society repay him? Even more friends of his got married, those who bit the bullet earlier, as they graduated, even had the gall to make babies, and thrust them in his face. The parental grumbling had by now made way to their pointed barbs, some 'random' remarks about cousins getting married, distant relatives getting the pleasure of holding their grandbabies in their arms, and playing with them in the park, you get the picture.

Then, the unthinkable happens. Our late 20's man decides that he's had just about enough of all this nonsense, and get's himself a girlfriend, to distract him, so to speak(feminazi's please pounce, I might get a date out of it). Not to be confused with all the prospective wife talk that we did earlier. Said girlfriend is now known to all in the man's family, as 'that' girl. As if her character is somehow in doubt, her origins disturbingly suspect, and her very presence in his life akin to stage 4 cancer. Of course, all of this makes our hero(see how I mould his character and make you feel for him) very, very sad. In his despair, he argues with his family, and weeps on 'that' girl's shoulder. The consequences of this arguing and subsequent weeping please his family to a very great extent. I should explain that now, you see, when late 20's man, or as we now know him, our emotional hero, weeped night after night on his girlfriend's shoulder, while she did the decent thing, and massaged his emotions, what she was really after was a very different kind of massage(now its getting weirder). And some fun in the sun, shopping, weekend trips and..., you know what I mean. So, after a while, she get's tired of washing the saline smears from her shirts(tops, is it?), and tells our hero to buzz off. In the most delicate fashion, of course. We wouldn't want people to think she was in it only for the fun, and expose her shallow outlook, deep seated insecurities and overall 'just not cricket'-ness. Hence the pleased-as-punch parents, who have since renewed their search for the 'suitable' wife, and, who are certain that their son was saved from 'that' girl's evil charms only because they fasted every Thursday, and spent every waking hour praying to a whole battalion of Gods.

What they fail to realise, is our hero, and be rest assured, he is one inspite of all that has befallen him, is now an angry, bitter, cynical man. Angry at himself more than anybody else, for his failure to control how his life has been treating him, and where his life appears to be headed. For that is all that a man in his late 20's truly desires. Not a girlfriend, not a suitable wife, not a huge house and fancy car, not anything else. Our hero lives in a world where his earning potential should be peaking, or at least pretend to be. A world, where his peers are constantly one-upping him by getting married, making babies, moving to foreign countries, sending him endless picasa albums of said foreign countries, commenting on his facebook profile about married'y things, or about babies, about the different tax saving mutual funds he should consider, about real estate opportunities that if missed, will surely be the end of the world, and everything else under the sun. Our hero, who is quite angry, but doesn't show it, who is now determined to storm silently and alone into the darkness that his future appears to be, is quite literally, a lonely man in a crowd. And his way of handling it is to further isolate himself, and keep all interactions with other people at a bare minimum. When he returns home, his only words are a 'good night' here, and a 'food was great' there. When he finds himself in an event of a social nature, he finds solace in his smartphone, a dark corner and a glass filled with whatever poison appeals to him that night. He does shake a few hands, make the rounds and make sure people remember he exists. But, after a while, he is always alone. Sometimes, he feels the need to reach out to old friends, but then remembers they are probably making more babies, or travelling to other foreign countries, and as rapidly as the thought of reaching out came to him, he shift-delete's it from his mind.

I don't know where I am going with this account of our hero's life. I don't know because, our hero hasn't told me yet. Remember, he is now intensely addicted to being alone, untouched and unbothered by the rest of his world. So much so, that he has even stopped listening to that little voice in his head, that tries occasionally, to get him to shrug away his fears and walk amongst those who have inevitably, unavoidably done so themselves. It being a very age-appropriate thing to do, and just a natural progression of events. Bah! Why do I even bother.

Disclaimer: Remember people, this is fiction, it has no reference to any living man in his late 20's, and is certainly not a self-potrait, however much your mind may try to make it appear so.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Harley Indian dream

The Hog's are here!!

Find out how no other motorcycle in the world compares to a Harley-Davidson. Visit

The Harley Davidson Motorcycle Company has finally launched a series of motorcycles in India. They intend to find and tie up with a dealer network around the country and start delivering their bikes to Indian customers sometime in 2010. Good news? You're damn right! Its about time we got some Hogs around here! Give me a fatboy over an R1 any day of the week! The coming of the V Twins is a time to rejoice, a time to reconsider your priorities, because they are all simply wrong. These motorcycles represent the very best things in life. Someone asked me why there is so much hype surrounding the Harley's. He had never seen one, but thought they were bad performers, and looked absolutely garish! He went on to speculate that when compared to the Yam's Hondas and Suzuki's, they were inferior and anyone with a Hog bought it simply for snob value!

My reaction to him was from the heart. It goes like this. A Harley is not just a bike, its an experience. Its the sound of life getting bigger, of your daughter running out at midnight, of a V Twin kicking life into shape, of the boys who you won't let your daughter date, of a midnight ride that lasts 3 days. There are those who will feel the call of the Hog, and then there are those who won't. Why should a bike be built just to be the fastest, or most effecient, or best to lean into corners, or anything else? Why can't a bike be built from the heart. Logic, economy, practicality be damned!
Comparing a Harley with a Japanese will not make any sense. They are different beasts altogether. A Yamaha R1 will get you to the finish line quick! But the Harley will get you there in style. Style forged in metal workshops by grease covered men wearing overalls with a cigarette hanging from their lips and a monkey wrench in their hands. Men who are not afraid to walk that dark lonely road at night alone. Men who live to ride, and ride to live.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Jeep Alert

The image in this post is of a Mahindra jeep. One of the old one's that shares its genetics with the great jeeps of the past. A jeep that came to be associated with either Hindi movie police or with hill station-roaming romantic heroes. What do people think when they see a jeep like this? What are the first impressions, the first reactions to a machine like this. If you ask today's yuppie, hatchback loving, ipod toting youth, they'd sneer back with a sarcastic, demeaning retort that would include adjectives like old, obsolete, rust-bucket, ugly and may even suggest a one-way trip to the junkyard. These demeaning words would be a by-product of their conditioning. They have been accustomed to farting around in their petrol hatches, which they adorn with decals, aftermarket exhausts, spoilers and whatnot. Their ideal dream car would fall somewhere between a Bugatti Veyron and a Porsche 911. Splendid as these cars may be, they are objects that one can only desire, with no hope to own or drive them. When anybody (me) even suggests that a jeep like this is a beautiful machine, one that I am saving up to buy, one that gives me goose pimples every time I spot, one that I feel looks more beautiful than a bikini-babe in the Mid-day, the immediate response is one of utter disbelief. Parents, friends, strangers all unite in the collective debasing of this worthy machine with no respect to its heritage, its practical and no-frills outlook and its completely delectable looks. I may be mad, but I know when I am right.

A jeep like this is a work of art that was created in an automobile factory by men. Its the ultimate weapon that men built against bad roads, potholes and traffic. Its a throwback to the times when men drove machines built for real men. Men that understood that power steering and air conditioning were for the weak. Hard tops, doors, lumbar support, and soft suspensions were overrated. Aerodynamics, sensors and ECU chips are for aircrafts, not cars! Men drove these jeeps with the canopy down, the wind in their hair and the rest of the world would look at them and go "there goes the Man". Compare that to the cars we see today. Most of them are silver or grey, low, sound like an electric shaver, and try their best to insulate the driver from the wind, the sun, the cold and everything else in Madam Nature's handbag. Many others are either pink, green, aquamarine and every other colour that Maybelline lipsticks can dream up. People lose sleep over things like losing their car in the mall's parking lot. Simply because there are so many similar cars around that they cannot identify their own. What does this say for an individual's identity, "I drive around in the same car the rest of the world does". Why this need for uniformity, for blending in, for being well adjusted and for being recognized as "normal". Is it really that difficult to imagine a world where you drove a car that you could instantly identify as your own? A car that you spent the whole of Sunday tinkering with, and cleaning, and polishing, then ruined the entire effort by going for a joyride in the mud the next morning? A car that does not offer the comforts of your bedroom. No reading lights for the passenger, no music system to drown out the voices in your head, no drive computer, no power windows, no roof for God's sake! I'll tell you why. Because we are all sheep. Yes. You heard it. We will do what the sheep next to us in the herd does. We will do it without giving it a moments thought, because that is what sheep do. We will eat, sleep and die, just like the sheep around us. Pathetic, really. I'd rather be that sheep who got eaten by the wolf when he ran out of farm at night chasing butterflies.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Male pattern hostility.

Go ahead, I dare you. Try it. Lets get it on. Make my day. And the list goes on. Angry, defensive and neurotic they may be, but these words are heard often enough during the course of any day. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but my bones will heal, and get stronger as a result of the break. Not so with words. Once out, there's nothing you can do to get them back. No amount of regret, however sincere can erase the effect of that pointed jibe, that uncalled for slur and most certainly, there is no known retraction for the verbal attack. That, as they say, is definitely that. It stands to reason that if chap A passes verbal diarrhoea on chap B, upon which chap B takes offence and challenges chap A to back up his talk with something more, both chaps A and B have reached the point of no return. Chap A can't back down from chap B's challenge, he risks ridicule and humiliation. Chap B too, now must realise that he has forced chap A's hand, and the resulting reaction will surely be anything but conciliatory. Enough about those chaps, you may say, they're both testosterone spewing neanderthals who need therapy, and some tranquilizers, you say, and you're probably right. After all, you've been hearing Dr. Phil, Deepak Chopra, and every other new age "expert", as well as reading the latest issue of the Readers Digest and Health magazine, where anger management articles, the evils of losing your temper, the hidden killer that is rage and a bounty of similar drivel points you to your assessment of the situation chaps A & B find themselves in. I think its about time I rain on your parade. You're oh! so wrong. You have no clue how destressing it can be to walk up to your favourite punching bag(not literal, henceforth called YFPB, for short), unleash the mother of all rages on him, all the while allowing him to counter your every punch(again, not literal), spot the chink in his defense, allow the adrenaline to fuel your cruel barb and thrust deep into the inky poison that is his ego. Definitely more interesting than a tennis match, and less dangerous than say, the Moto GP. There can be one of two results to such an encounter, result A and result B(I know, whats with the A's and B's, but bear with me). Result A is when you get your rage on and manage to demolish YFPB, reducing his self esteem to lows never measured before, all the while racking up points on your own rage meter, sometimes making a high score that surprises even yourself. This is particularly useful in future encounters of the same kind, where you can boost your performance by recollecting a particularly offensive slur, or a supremely demeaning turn of phrase. Of course, result B is the less preferred of the two. So supremely positive and irreverently mocking of negativity are we(chaps A, B, and such like), that we shall not dignify result B with even a briefest of mention.

 I am very much one of the aforementioned chaps. Not A or B specifically (I'd hate to steal their thunder), but a decidedly like minded neanderthal nevertheless. I will, on occassion, gnash the teeth and roar with positive conviction. It will hurt your eardrums, and drill down to the tiniest places in your soul where you're still a little child, scared of being punished by the Headmaster for missing assembly or chewing your fingernails. I will then proceed to strip every defense that age, ego, testosterone and watching Rambo movies has afforded you, and tear you limb from limb with only the exertion of my tongue, uvula, larynx and respiratory organs. It will therefore not astound you when I reveal that my rage meter is sufficiently well endowed. And by that I obviously underplay its stupendous magnificience. All of this may seem rather self aggrandizing to you, but no doubt, you may notice the complete lack of any stress, anxiety, self-pity or similar weakness on display. Chaps A, B and the rest of us barbarians, live free of these chains that civilisation uses to enslave our meeker colleagues. We do not tolerate political correctness, and will not hesitate to go to ridiculous extremes when provoked. We are the guys you are afraid to borrow money from. The guys you won't let your daughter date. The chaps you are most reluctant to invite to your cocktail parties. We are also the guys who shall inherit the earth. That other saying was just to screw with you. Go ahead, tell me I'm wrong.