Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Masters of War

1. (from Lucky Strike by Kim Stanley Robinson)

…A thug. In peacetime, Fitch would be hanging around a pool table, giving cops trouble. He was perfect for war. …Moving past Haddock, January stopped to stare at the group of men in the navigation cabin. They joked, drank coffee. They were all a bit like Fitch: young toughs, capable and thoughtless. They were having a good time, an adventure. That was January’s dominant impression of his companions in the 509th; despite all the bitching and occasional moments of overmastering fear, they were having a good time. His mind spun forward and he saw what these young men would grow up to be like as clearly as if they stood before him in businessmen’s’ suits, prosperous and balding. They’d be tough and capable and thoughtless, and as the years passed and the great war receded in time they’d look back on it with ever-increasing nostalgia, for they would be the survivors and not the dead. Every year of the war would feel like ten in their memories, so that the war would always remain the central experience of their lives- a time when history lay palpable in their hands, when each of their daily acts affected it, when moral issues were simple, and others told them what to do- so that as more years passed and the survivors aged, bodies falling apart, lives in one rut or the other, they’d unconsciously push harder and harder to thrust the world into war again, thinking somewhere inside themselves that if they could only return to world war then they would magically again be as they were in the last one- young and free, and happy. And by that time, they’d hold positions of power, they would be capable of doing it.

So there would be more wars, January saw. He heard it in Matthew’s eyes, saw it in their excited eyes. … He saw more planes, more young crews like this one, flying to Moscow, no doubt, or wherever, fireballs in every capital, why not? And to what end? To what end? So the old men could hope to become magically young again. Nothing more sane than that.

2. (Masters of war by Bob Dylan)

Come you masters of war
You that build all the guns
You that build the death planes
You that build the big bombs
You that hide behind walls
You that hide behind desks
I just want you to know
I can see through your masks

You that never done nothin'
But build to destroy
You play with my world
Like it's your little toy
You put a gun in my hand
And you hide from my eyes
And you turn and run farther
When the fast bullets fly

Like Judas of old
You lie and deceive
A world war can be won
You want me to believe
But I see through your eyes
And I see through your brain
Like I see through the water
That runs down my drain

You fasten the triggers
For the others to fire
Then you set back and watch
When the death count gets higher
You hide in your mansion
As young people's blood
Flows out of their bodies
And is buried in the mud

You've thrown the worst fear
That can ever be hurled
Fear to bring children
Into the world
For threatening my baby
Unborn and unnamed
You ain't worth the blood
That runs in your veins

How much do I know
To talk out of turn
You might say that I'm young
You might say I'm unlearned
But there's one thing I know
Though I'm younger than you
Even Jesus would never
Forgive what you do

Let me ask you one question
Is your money that good
Will it buy you forgiveness
Do you think that it could
I think you will find
When your death takes its toll
All the money you made
Will never buy back your soul

And I hope that you die
And your death'll come soon
I will follow your casket
In the pale afternoon
And I'll watch while you're lowered
Down to your deathbed
And I'll stand o'er your grave
'Til I'm sure that you're dead.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Protest against human rights abuses

A friend sent me a mail asking as many people as possible to sign in to a particular website ( during certain time windows, to protest human rights abuses in countries with documented records of such abuses. The website in question supposedly belonged to a worldwide coalition of journalists. Their rationale for inviting visitors to click on at their site was to collect electronic signatures in a kind of virtual petition to the regimes of the offending countries.

Now, I know this is an utterly defeatist attitude, especially coming from someone who's going to build a career in public health, which by definition means working against hopeless odds.... but I have serious doubts about the efficacy of gestures like the kind of campaign these journos suggested.

Regimes who use torture as State policy, and execute their own citizens in football stadia, are unlikely to pay attention to a bunch of bleeding heart idiots clicking on internet buttons. And they sure as hell aren't going to feel any "moral pressure".

Shashi Tharoor, in one of his books, argued that Gandhian non-violence as a pressure tactic could work only against an establishment that was vulnerable to "moral" issues, and took international opinion into consideration. Hence, while by using satyagraha as a tool of resistance, Gandhi managed to drive the British Empire out of India, the same tactics wouldn't have done much for Jews in nazi Germany.

And lastly, when the West- the so-called paragon of human rights and democracy, refuses to take its citizens' feelings into consideration while making a profoundly immoral decision (Bush and Blair ignored the largest street protests in the history of mankind to go ahead and invade Iraq), does anyone actually expect banana republics to toe the line because a group of educated liberals spread out all over the world click on internet buttons from their comfortable living rooms?

I think not.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Emily Dickenson

I measure every grief I meet

I measure every grief I meet
With analytic eyes;
I wonder if it weighs like mine,
Or has an easier size.

I wonder if they bore it long,
Or did it just begin?
I could not tell the date of mine,
It feels so old a pain - to die.

I wonder if it hurts to live -
And if they have to try -
And whether - could they choose between -
It would not be - to die -

I note that Some - gone patient long-
At length - renew their smile-
An imitation of a Light
That has so little Oil-

I wonder if when the years have piled-
Some Thousands - on the harm-
That hurt them early - such a lapse
Could give them any Balm-

Or would they go on aching still
Through centuries of Nerve-
Enlightened to a larger pain-
In contrast with the Love-

The Grieved - are many-I am told
There is the various Cause-
Death - is but one- and comes but once-
And only nails the eyes-

There's Grief of Want- and grief of Cold-
A sort they call "despair"-
There's Banishment from native Eyes-
In sight of Native Air-

And though I may not guess the kind
correctly-yet to me
A piercing comfort it affords
in passing Calvary.

To note the fashions - of the Cross-
And how they're mostly worn-
Still fascinated to presume
That Some - are like my own.

- Emily Dickenson

Good Morning Midnight

Good Morning - Midnight-
I'm coming Home-
Day - got tired of Me-
How could I - of him?

Sunshine was a sweet place-
I liked to stay - But Morn
didn't want me - now -
So-Goodnight - day!

I can look - can't I-
when the East is red?
The hills - have a way - then-
That puts the heart - aboard

You are not- so fair -midnight
I chose - day
But please - take a little girl
He turned away!

- Emily Dickenson

Monday, September 25, 2006

Funeral Blues

I was talking to a friend and the movie "4 Weddings and a funeral" came up. This is the poem by WH Auden that was read out as the eulogy in the funeral scene.

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crêpe bows round the white necks of the public
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

TS Eliot
Let us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent...
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.
Do I dareDisturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.

For I have known them all already, known them all:
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume?

And I have known the eyes already, known them all--
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
And how should I presume?

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

All right. Long lay off but I'm back. I'll be starting the posts again today onwards, with the 1st one summarizing the events of the last few weeks, in which I've been pretty much offline. Adios.

Friday, March 31, 2006


The art of losing isn't hard to master;
So many things seem filled with the intent
To be lost that their loss is no disaster.
Lose something everyday. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent
the art of losing isn't hard to master.
Then practice fuerther, losing faster;
places, and names, and where it was you meant
To travel. None of these will bring disaster.
I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last,
or next-to-last of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.
I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.
-Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture I love)
I shan't have lied. It evident
the art of losing is not hard to master
though it may look like ... like disaster.

(Elizabeth Bishop)

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Dylan Thomas

(Written as his father lay dying of cancer. He, himself, went out at 35, gloriously drunk-one helluva grand exit)


Do not go gentle into the good night
Old age should burn and rave at the close of day,
Rage, rage against the dying of light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
because their words had forked no lightning they
do not go gentle into the good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright,
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage, against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sung the sun in its flight,
And learn too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into the good night.

Grave men near death, who see with blinding sight,
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless me, now, with your fierce tears, I pray,
Do not go gentle into the good night,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.


I have longed to move away
From the hissing of the serpent lie
And the old terrors' continual cry
Growing more terrible as the day
Goes over into the deep sea;
I have longed to move away
From the repitition of salutes
For there are ghosts in the air
And ghostly echoes on paper,
And the thunder of calls and notes.

I have longed to move away but am afraid;
Some life, yet unspent, might explode
Out of the old lie burning on the ground,
And, crackling into the air, leave me half-blind.
neither by night's ancient fear,
The parting of hat from hair,
Pursed lips at the receiver,
Shall I fall to death's feather.
By these I would not care to die,
Half convention and half lie.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Comes The Dawn


After a while, you learn the subtle difference
Between holding a hand and chaining a soul
And you learn love doesn't mean leaning
And company doesn't mean security
And kisses aren't contracts
And presents don't mean promises
And you begin to accept your defeats
With your head held high & your eyes open
With the grace of a woman- and not the grief of a child.

And you learn to build all your roads on today
Because tomorrow's ground is too uncertain for plans
And futures have a way of falling down in midflight
After a while you learn even sunshine...
Burns if you get too much.

So you plant your own garden
And you decorate your own soul
Instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers
And you learn you really can endure
That you really have worth
And you learn and learn...

With every goodbye,
You learn.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Life without numbers

Hi. I'm starting a new topic. Still putting off the REAL hard work- the "coming attractions" bits about my own experiences. Meantime, here's something to set you thinking. And it does vindicate my lifelong animosity to the math curricula I struggled with all through school. One CAN live without bloody algebra, geometry, trignometry and cal-fuckin'-culus.

Life without numbers
By STEPHEN STRAUSSFriday, August 20, 2004 - Page A3

1+1=2. Mathematics doesn't get any more basic than this, but even 1+1 would stump the brightest minds among the Piraha tribe of the Amazon.A study appearing today in the journal Science reports that the hunter-gatherers seem to be the only group of humans known to have no concept of numbering and counting. Not only that, but adult Piraha apparently can't learn to count orunderstand the concept of numbers or numerals, even when they asked anthropologists to teach them and have been given basic math lessons for months at a time.

Their lack of enumeration skills is just one of the mental and cultural traits that has led scientists who have visited the 300members of the tribe to describe the Piraha as "something from Mars."Daniel Everett, an American linguistic anthropologist, has been studying and living with Piraha for 27 years. Besides living a numberless life, he reports in a separate study prepared for publication, the Piraha are the only people known to have no distinct words for colours. They have no written language, and no collective memory going backmore than two generations. They don't sleep for more than two hours at a time during the night or day. Even when food is available, they frequently starve themselves and their children, Prof. Everett reports. They communicate almost as much by singing, whistling and humming as by normal speech. They frequently change their names, because they believe spirits regularly take them over and intrinsically change who they are. They do not believe that outsiders understand their language even after they have just carried on conversations with them.They have no creation myths, tell no fictional stories and have no art. All of their pronouns appear to be borrowed from a neighbouring language.

Their lack of numbering terms and skills is highlighted in a report by Columbia University cognitive psychologist Peter Gordon that appears today in Science. Intrigued by anecdotal reports that Prof. Everett and his wife Keren had presented about the mathlessness of Piraha life, Prof. Gordon conducted a number of experiments over a three-year period. He found that a group of male tribe members -- women and children were not involved because of certain cultural taboos -- could not perform the most elementary mathematical operations. When faced with a line of batteries and asked to duplicate the number they saw, the men could not get beyond two or three before starting to make mistakes. They had difficulty drawing straight lines to copy a number of lines they were presented with. They couldn't remember which of two boxes had more or less fish symbols on it, even when they were about to be rewarded for their knowledge. A significant part of the difficulty related to their number-impoverished vocabulary.Although they would say one word to indicate a single thing and another for two things, those words didn't necessarily mean one or two in any usual sense. "It is more like oneish and twoish," Prof. Gordon said in an interview.

Prof. Everett, who now teaches at the University of Manchester in England and who unlike Prof. Gordon is a fluent Piraha-speaker, takes issue even with the "ishness" of the Piraha numbers. "The word he [Gordon] translates as 'one' means just a relatively small amount, the word for 'two' means a relatively bigger amount," he said in an interview from Brazil. Prof. Everett points out that when the Piraha are talking and use the "oneish" word to talk about something such as fish, you can't tell whether they are describing a single fish, a small fish, or one or two fish.

Linguists and anthropologists who have seen both the Everett and Gordon studies are flabbergasted by the tribe's strangeness, particularly since the Piraha have not lived in total isolation. The tribe, which lives on a tributary river to the Amazon, has been in contact with other Brazilians for 200 years and regularly sells nuts to, and shares their women with, Brazilian traders who stop by."Why they have been resistant to adopting Western number systems is beyond me," Ray Jackendoff of Brandeis University, a past president of the Linguistic Society of America, said in an interview.

Prof. Gordon said the findings are perhaps the strongest evidence for a once largely discredited linguistic theory.More than 60 years ago, amateur linguist Benjamin Lee Whorf argued that learning a specific language determined the nature and content of how you think. That theory fell into intellectual disrepute after linguist Noam Chomsky's notions of a universal human grammar and Harvard University professor Steven Pinker's idea of a universal language instinct becamewidely accepted."The question is, is there any case where not having words for something doesn't allow you to think about it?" Prof. Gordon asked about the Piraha and the Whorfian thesis. "I think this is a case for just that." Prof. Everett argues that what the Piraha case demonstrates is a fundamental cultural principle working itself out in language and behaviour.The principle is that the Piraha see themselves as intrinsically different from, and better than, the people around them; everything they do is to prevent them from being like anyone else or being absorbed into the wider world. One of the ways they do this is by not abstracting anything: numbers, colours, or future events."This is the reason why the Piraha have survived as Piraha while tribes around them have been absorbed into Brazilian culture," Prof. Everett said.

Nevertheless, the Piraha's lives and lifestyles are so strange that other anthropologists have raised the question of whether inbreeding -- their lack of number skills apparently makes it difficult for the Piraha to identify kin -- has resulted in a tribe of intellectually handicapped people. Both Prof. Everett and Prof. Gordon say that they have seen no examples of this and that the Pirahas' fishing, hunting and even joking skills seem equal to those of people elsewhere.
Hi. I'm back. More later.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Off for a few days

I'm taking leave from work to spend a couple of days in Delhi and then a couple of days in hisar. I'll be returning on Holi evening and may or may not access the net in this time. And ya, i can see exactly how world-shattering my absence is gonna be, judging by the reponses here. Bloody turds, you lot.

But with the stated mission of spreading sweetness and light to this undeserving crowd, I'm STILL going to leave with something worthwhile, again a direct lift-off from Rob Brezsny.

"Write a letter to the person you’ll be one year from today. Tell this Future You that you’ve taken a vow to accomplish three feats by then. Say why these feats are more important to you than anything else. Describe them. Brainstorm about what you’ll do to make them happen. Draw pictures or make collages that capture your excitement about them."

Naturally I've drawn up my list already, and obviously am not going to post it out here till I get 15 comments. Jeez, Scott Adams was right about the "badgering people to read" bit about blogs. And as I leave this page and its undeserving recipients, here's the image to go with it- think Guru Dutt scorning the philistines with "yeh duniya mil bhi jaaye to kya hai..."

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Today's posting is a c&p job from Rob brezsny:

The ancient Greeks had words for love that transcend our usual notions, writes Lindsay Swope in her review of Richard Idemon's book Through the Looking Glass. Epithemia is the basic need to touch and be touched. Our closest approximation is "horniness," though epithemia is not so much a sexual feeling as a sensual one. Philia is friendship. It includes the need to admire and respect your friends as a reflection of yourself--like in high school, where you want to hang out with the cool kids because that means you're cool too. Eros isn't sexual in the way we usually think, but is more about the emotional gratification that comes from merging souls. Agape is a mature, utterly free expression of love that has no possessiveness. It means wanting the best for another person even if it doesn't advance one's self-interest.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

TR- Excerpts

(Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates)

1. "Do u know why boom-boom movies are so popular? Why young males, especially, love, simply love to see things blown apart? Its freedom...freedom from the material world. Subconsciously, people feel trapped by our culture's confining buildings and it's relentless avalanche of consumer goods. So when they watch all this shit being demolished in a totally irreverent and devil-may-care fashion, they experience the kind of release the greeks used to get from their tragedies. The ecstasy of psychic liberation...On a symbolic level, it (boom-boom cinema) annihilates their inanimate wardens and blows away the walls of their various traps."

...Islamic terrorist groups were successful in attracting volunteer martyrs because the young men got to strap explosives on themselves and blast valuable public property to smithereens. Exhilerating boom-boom power! If they were required to martyr themselves by being dragged behind a bus or sticking a wet finger in a light socket, volunteers would be few and far between."

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Help for heartbreak

A friend's friend is going through a lousy phase- an affair that went awry where neither party was at fault, but they had to split permanently. She's depressed and obsessed with her loss and the endless thought-loop of what-ifs.

I can empathize, being a past master at being unceremoniously dumped. The thing about heartbreak- its an extreme pain lke no other; absolutely no one else can help you with it, no matter how often and how freely you "let it all out" and "share" with Understanding Friends. Absolutely innocuous remarks made in everyday conversation suddenly stab at you because some random phrase or word or idea was associated in your psyche with the lost partner- something you'd laughed about together or made plans of doing or whatever. Its the associations which kill you.

And here's the thing- in the very first few days, the worst aspect of it all is the utter conviction that the ONLY person perfect for you is lost forever, and you're NEVER EVER going to meet anyone who could even begin to measure up to Mr/Ms Perfect-Though-Recently-Departed. That fact alone is enough to make you absolutely inconsolable. And yeah, I could go on and on about the endless number of ways we devise to torture ourselves when we're going through that phase, but I'll just skip to the crux of what my take on the whole thing is.

Firstly, you WILL survive. Guaranteed. You will move on, even though it seems impossible right now. Time WILL heal- they're right, y'know. The bad news is: you have to deal with it and let it take its course. Rebound relationships and self-destructive behaviors and self-recriminations are all different forms of indulgences and you have to steer clear of them.

My personal barometer for quantifying the state of recovey was how long it took for the 1st thought about Ms. Ex floated in, after getting outta bed. In the early days, you stay up tossing and turning in bed thinking of them, and the first thought when you re-emerge into consciousness is that of loss. If you're especially emotionally fragile, and the gods are chortling at your expense, you may even dream about him/her; making it a all a non-stop excruciating exercise. But by and by, you do learn to set your priorities right.

Life Lesson #1: Well, technically, it oughta have been a different post, 1 dedicated solely to the things 1's learnt the hard way and anyway this particular epiphany was somewhat lower down the rankings, but wat the it is....

"The partner you attract depends on your own stage of personal evolution".


So, it begins with making a conscious choice to cut your losses and stop moping over what was not meant to be. And ya, you do have to make a deliberate choice and repeat it to yourself several dozen times everyday. The self-pity circuits would have already made deep grooves in your mind and you have to erase them in favor of your new state of being. Instead of languishing in misery, you have to choose to haul yourself out of the pit you find yourself in.

It all begins with your making a choice. And believe it or not, you can start the healing process today, here and now, no matter how unreal the prospect of your ever forgetting the person seems.

My favourite story from the Castaneda books- I must've related it about a dozen times each to my inner circle and may possibly be considered a source of rectal discomfort on the issue (if so, apologies in advance, junta)- is the 1 which I used to help me get through what was a very bleak time for me.
"Once, there was a band of warriors living on a hilltop. Whenever any one of them contravened any of the rules they'd agreed to live by, a council was called to decide his fate. The warrior had to explain his reasons for having done what he did. His comrades had to sit and listen to him; and they either disbanded because they found his reason convincing, or they lined up their weapons ready to execute him because his reason was unacceptable.

After saying goodbye to his comrades, the condemned warrior had to walk down the slope. His comrades aimed at him. If no one shot, he was free. The warrior's personal power affected his comrades. he had to walk calmly, unaffected. His steps had to be sure and firm, his eyes looking straight ahead, peacefully. He had to go down without stumbling, without turning back and above all, without running.

Thus you must wait without looking back, without expecting rewards. Your only chance is your impeccability... You must wait like the warrior's walk in the story. The only difference is in who's aiming at you. You must wait to fulfil your warrior's task without looking back & without expecting rewards; and you must aim all your personal power at fulfilling your tasks. If you don't act impeccably, if you fret and get impatient and desperate, you'll be cut down by the merciless sharpshooters of the unknown."

Enough said?

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Doctors and managers

This is basically a rant that's been building up for a long time. The precipitating event for me to vent it out now was my discovery that this raw rookie of a girl- she must be all of 22-23- is drawing twice as much pay as me. She's an MBA (I think...she's in HR anyway) and I'm an MBBS with 7 yrs. experience.

In the early days of my using the net, when I still had time to visit chatrooms, I ran into Preeti, who'd just flunked her 2nd attaempt at getting into medicine. I was preparing for UPSC exams while doing my internship, and told her she ought to thank her lucky stars she's been spared the drudgery that constitutes a life in medicine. Sure enough, she changed tracks, switched to Psychology, swept all the medals her univ had to offer, and promptly went onto the MBA track, and has recently bagged the best campus placement- even before her last semester's over. (Incidentally, this stranger I met on the web turned out to be the cousin of a friend from school- but these weird coincidences will be the stuff of a different entry). And while its taken me 7 yrs to breach the 20 k barrier, she's starting out at thrice my pay.

Obviously, I have nothing against Preeti herself. I'm sort of proud of her and even have a hint of vicarious thrill in her achievement. My issue is with the status of doctors vs managers.

After passing out from college, I was clueless about what I wanted to do, but I was pretty certain that clinical practice wan't for me. More to please my dad than anything else, seeing as how his face lit up when I casually mentioned the civil services as a possible career option, I decided I'd take the UPSC exam and see how it goes. If nothing else, it gave me the means to pick up the basics of 2 subjects I'd wanted to learn more about- I chose Psychology and Anthropology as my electives. While I did the mandatory rotations in the General Hospital, Hisar as an intern, I was reading stuff completely different from what my fellow interns were reading- the average intern's life consists of back-breaking labor, interspersed with studying as much as (s)he can for the upcoming PG entrance exams.

I'm told the average attempts for any MBBS to get a PG seat is 3. For 3 years, a doctor is either working at a pittance as "resident medical officer" at some private clinic or the other, and slogging his/her bum off to prepare for an examination, the syllabus for which includes biochemistry- absurd and irrelevant to an iny doctor not geared towards research- and believe me, most aren't. I have a friemd who's just flunked his 4th attempt- he's now resigned to life as a lowly MBBS, condemning him to low wages and unspoken contempt from his peers.

As for my IAS aspirations, I wasn't particularly driven to a lifetime of babu-dom; and 6 mnths before the prelim exams, my maternal uncle gifted me with a PC, thereby introducing me to cyberia. The exam preparations went for a toss, and I greedily discovered the joys of free information delivered to one's chair, even in a place like Hisar. Obviously, I flunked the UPSC exam, having quit the idea of persuing that line. But pertinently, every single doctor I spoke to while I was supposedly abandoning the medical line, was fervently in favor of my decision. All of them unanimously agreed that being a doctor is pretty pathetic- the rewards are disproportionately miniscule, relative to one's input. Well, there were detractors- my parents' social circle, consisting of other medicos in Hisar who'd built their nursing homes and were all grooming their sons to take over the mantle. Their query, like a stuck record, was repeated at every occasion for interaction- "Beta, yeh jo hospital papa ne banaaya hai, iska kya hoga?" Their mindsets precluded any other lifeplan for me- the very concept that I might not want to take up an established nursing home, and one of the oldest and most respected ones in the town at that, was beyond their mental horizons. And I have to admit that there'd be hordes of young medicos who'd give anything to trade places with me.

While still wondering what to do with the rest of my life, I tagged along with my folks to a guided package tour of Europe. Something or the other- probably the sight of Asians doing the menial jobs everywhere- subconsciously triggered a decision that I ought not to waste a degree that was hard-earned. So... I decided I'd revert to the mainstream, and duly started preparing for the PG exam which was 3 months away. Knowing the scene, there was no hope in hell of my getting through- I was competing with junta who'd been at it for 2-3 yrs. full-time- I nevertheless, gave it a shot.

On the eve of the exam, a TV channel broke news that the paper had been leaked and the perpetrators (at least 2 of innumerable others) had been apprehended, but the exam was conducted as scheduled. Among the candidates, there was major babbling- the exam would be declared null, it'd be rescheduled, there was another chance. Yippee! When nothing of the kind happend, and results were declared- and shown to be blatantly skewed- 6 of the top 10 positions were from one college- there was another angry uproar. They made online forums, asked for donations to fund a court case, demanded an enquiry and so forth. An enquiry WAS held- the then health minister, a certain C.P. Thakur, held a closed doors meeting with the people who'd set the paper (the AIIMS faculty) and after 45 mts., announced to the press that no evidence of wrongdoing had been found. Allocation of seats would proceed as planned. The unspoken fact stared everyone in the face- sue us, see if we care!

That was it as far as I was concerned. Even though I held very little stakes, having invested just 3 months compared to people's years upon years, I was disenchanted enough to abandon the idea. Finally, I latched on to what Hari and Kitty had been prompting me to do for ages- go abroad and find my lifetime's work among the endless options offered in the West. Y'all know how the rest happened- I cleared GRE and set out to create a CV reflecting a commitment to public health, which is how I've spent the last 4 years.

Compare that to a scenario that unfolded a couple of years back- the CAT exam paper was leaked as well, and discovered to be so. The media ensured front-page coverage for a week; the exam was promptly cancelled, rescheduled, and the 2nd time around, extra efforts were in place to ensure that nothing untoward happened. Incidentally, Preeti cleared that exam both times and is now just about wrapping up her final semester, with as assured job in her pocket already, with hazaar perks thrown in.

I've "done time" treating people I have utter contempt for, on account of their ignorance, their sheer bloody-mindedness and bigotry, in extreme climates, with less than basic amenities, for ridiculously low salaries. And yeah, I'm actually quite priveleged, in that, anytime I wanted, I could chuck it all and return home to do the conventional thing and simply take over dad's established practice. I had the luxuary of CHOICE.

This ought to reveal starkly exactly where the establishment's interests lie. The notion of medicine as a noble profession is downright risible, for which both medicos and the Others are equally to blame. But by God, let anything taint the sarcosanct IIMs' sacred-cow status, and the nation's parliament starts frothing at the collective mouth.

So, what are our priorities- we can go along with anything-&-everything-and-screw-quality-control-notions when we hand over our lives to professionals supposedly qualified to heal and save lives; but boy, better not tamper with the system churning out people who're going to spend their lives selling bottled water and potato chips.

I know this sounds obnoxiously self-righteous, but hey, this is what's happening, and I find it unacceptable. But then, I'm blessed enough to have an escape route (Inshallah!).

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

G'bye February, Hello March

2 months of 2006 gone already.

I'd thrown a challenge to my employers about my position in the company a few days back, making certain demands. The verdict came in today: I'm not leaving although I as well as the fat-cats have had to meet each other halfway in a compromise.

2 trains of thought are launched by this. Remind me to rant about the position & relative importance of doctors vs managers as perceived nowadays, and I'll happily froth at the mouth for a while, citing examples from Preeti's experience and mine.

Secondly, a gentleman has been complimenting me profusely on the inspirational value of the plagiarised lyrics/rhymes {Desiderata, Time etc.} that I've been pasting in lieu of churning out my own prose. So, by popular demand of one solitary citizen, here's some more uplifting poetry. Hope it brightens up everybody's day, makes the world a better place, and all in all, bring sweetness and light to this benighted planet.

"There was a young man from Stamboul,
who soliloquized thus to his tool:
'You took all my wealth
and you ruined my health,
and now you won't pee, you old fool.' "

-Kurt Vonnegut (Slaughterhouse 5)

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Mystic Mountains

One of the major items on my to-do itinerary is exploring the Himalayas. Exploring- as in trekking, climbing and camping for extended stretches in the higher mountains. So far, have only made it to a riverside beach beyond Rishikesh where 4 of us went for river-rafting on the Ganges a couple of years back (except some places in the Sahyadris, and half a day spent in a guided tour at Jungfraujoch in the Swiss Alps- so called rooftop of Europe… tourist spots don’t count). These were only the foothills, and yet the magic was palpable. I’ve been hearing tales of power from Vikrant for more than a decade now. His brother and a bunch of their pals are regular trekkers, and Vikrant had promised me a sponsored introductory camping trip which hasn’t materialized in 15 years. And since the bastard has gone and gotten himself married last year, is unlikely to happen ever.
Mountains, forests, deserts, rivers- untamed nature- are necessary experiences for a life to be even approach anything near completion.

The following are excerpts from a book called “I Was Carlos Castaneda” by Martin Goodman. The author isn’t associated with the major commercial industry which sprang up around Castaneda’s legend, and claims he’d only ever read one of the 9 CC books in his youth and wasn’t particularly impressed. I haven’t read anything else about or by this guy. About the only credentials he had for a meeting with CC’s shade was his expedition into the Amazon where he participated in an Ayahuasca ceremony with a bona fide shaman as guide. Then, while living alone in the French Pyrenees, he’s visited by a presence who claims to be Carlos Castaneda- 5 yrs. After the latter’s recorded death from liver cancer. Excerpts-

1. “You know what paying attention does? It makes you God! It’s the power of creation; the power of giving life. Fail to notice something and its no longer there. It fades from existence. Be a man. Find the quality in what surrounds you. Hen you’ll see how reciprocal life is. Then, you’ll no longer be half-dead, for the qualities in you will come to life. Be that kind of man, then be a Writer.”

2. “Where do our myths start? The Garden of Eden, a place where 4 mighty rivers find their source, therefore obviously located up a mountain? Or after the flood where Noah leads man and beast down the slopes of Ararat? Does Judaism hail from the moment Moses receives the 10 Commandments on Mt. Sinai? Or maybe it’s when Abraham’s spared the slaughter of his son Isaac on the summit of Mt. Moriah when the lord of thatmountain promises to secure the future of Judaism through Abraham’s descendents. When the new Messiah arrives, of course he must make his appearance on Mt. Zion andhonor the prophecies that herald him. Jesus is born on the heights of Bethelham. The devil leads him to a mountain-top for the last of his trials in the desert, and on suchhomeground, Jesus had the power to resist. His disciples learn his worth after climbing with him to witness his transformation on the summit of Mt. Tabor, his face flushed with light as Moses appears to him there and God speaks out of the clouds. He’s crucified on a hilltop, on Calvary, and after his resurrection, appears to his disciples on a mountain side in Galilea.Centuries pass and the Archangel Gabriel arrives to a man sitting in a cave in the side of Mt. Hira. The man is Mohammed, and its in this mountainside that he first hears the words of the Quran. From the summit of Mt. Moriah, where Abraham was pledged to obedience, Mohammed is later whisked on a night journey to the heavens.Jews, hristians, Muslims, they struggle through the centuries, slay each other in thousands, for the right to lay claim to the heights of Jerusalem. In the name of God, Jews & Arabs, Christians & Muslims, Catholics & Protestants, regularly slaughter each other. Our planet stinks of religious massacres.

1 thing to know before giving your heart to mountains. They’re powerfully jealous of each other. Pledge loyalty to one and it expects you to be faithful. Followers of religion think they’re following the One God. They’re wrong. History says they’re wrong, the Bible tells them that they’re wrong, but they’re slaves to their partial understanding and believe what they want to believe.

Devotees of religions worship the Lord of a mountain. They’re the mountain’s cohorts and will battle the world to proclaim his domination over the earth. They’re all mountain religions. Don’t think mountains have let people go. Never think that. They’ve roused us with their prophets, stirred us with their myths, hidden themselves in our religions, the way they hide themselves in cloud. They divide the people of the world among each other and set them at each others’ throats.”

“The 1 religion without a god. You’re right. The Buddha found his enlightenment under a tree. That doesn’t mean mountains haven’t done their best to take Buddhism over. Mountains of the far East and Tibet are dotted with Buddhist shrines.…….until the new American churches based around Ayahuasca, no religion ever came out of a jungle. You can’t separate jungle religions from their trees.”

3. “It doesn’t matter whether you live for a day or 120 yrs. In eternity, length doesn’t matter. We’re all immortal. What’s unique is the opportunity to watch ourselves blaze and die. Do you think God is dead? Never. He’s incapable of it. Appreciation of death is unique to human life. There’s no need to pay attention in eternity. What goes around comes around. Miss it once and the opportunity will come round again. Such is limbo, such is hell.In life, no moment repeats itself. Understand that, and you see the moment’s value. Life is finite, thus each moment has eternity wrapped in it. Seeing that is enlightenment. Bringing awareness to the passage of life, that is enlightenment. Seeing the end within the beginning of everything, caring for that fragility of the life we all share, this is the way to eternal life. And eternal life isn’t a hell of repetition but a life filled with awareness & appreciation.”


Now was that a new take on religion or what! How come no one noticed this in all this time? Mt. meru, Mt. Kailash, Mt. Olympus, besides the Religions of the Book- they're central to all our myths.

Thursday, February 23, 2006


Hi people. The basic purpose for setting up this blog, viz., getting into the habit of making daily entries , was disrupted for the last 3-4 days, since I was preoccupied with happenings at office. Have just made a major gamble and am now waiting to see if they'll call my bluff. Writing this immediately after a heavy lunch and want nothing better than to collapse in bed, with company (considering my luck so far, that'll be the day! hah!) or without.

The old couple who had been making sour faces at me all month ecer since I moved into their attic-kinda room, have been miraculously become more cheerful ever since I gifted them with a cheap crockery set from my 1st salary.

Now can barely keep my eyes open. Bye and keep touching base.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Danish cartoons

Lots of media space being given to the events and issues surrounding the cartoons and their backlash.

My personal take on the whole fracas is a simple 1-liner from Tom Robbins- "The enemy is the tyranny of the dull mind".

But we can discuss the role of media and the 2 opposing POVs. I'm very much an HT person (as opposed to the trashy TOI) and I've realized that my views most closely resonate with Vir Sanhgvi's. It was delightful to learn that his b'day is a day before mine, even though I don't subscribe to my mom's fetish for zodiacs and for fellow cancerians in particular. I'll type out excerpts from his piece in last Sunday's HT, and it makes eminent sense.

Anthem at 32

Usha, as promised, here's my anthem at 32, with the 1 at 16 (O'Shaughnessy's poem) as reference point. There are 3, in fact; all from the annals of Floyd, and all equally chilling. Its an "insider" joke with my close friends that every b'day of any of us, I come up with the same lines- "...shorter of breath, 1 day / year closer to death..." rahter than the conventional trilling of the happy- bird-day song. And its an inescapable fact that with every passing day, the desolate possibility comes just that miniscule bit closer: "...plans that either come to nought...or half a page of scribbled lines..."

Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
You fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way.
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way.
Tired of lying in the sunshine
staying home to watch the rain.
You are young and life is long
and there is time to kill today.
And then one day you find
ten years have got behind you.
No one told you when to run,
you missed the starting gun.
So you run and you run to catch up with the sun but it's sinking
Racing around to come up behind you again.
The sun is the same in a relative way but you're older,
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death.
Every year is getting shorter
never seem to find the time.
Plans that either come to naught
or half a page of scribbled lines
Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way
The time is gone, the song is over,
Thought I'd something more to say.
Cheerful buggers, weren't they?
Long you live and high you fly
And smiles you'll give and tears you'll cry
And all you touch and all you see
Is all your life will ever be.
Run, rabbit run.
Dig that hole, forget the sun,
And when at last the work is done
Don't sit down it's time to dig another one.
For long you live and high you fly
But only if you ride the tide
And balanced on the biggest wave
You race towards an early grave.
some brighteyed and crazy,
some frightened and lost
a warning to anyone still in command
of their possible future to take care
in derilict sidings the poppies entwine
with cattle trucks lying in wait for the next time
do you remember me? how we used to be?
do you thing we should be closer?
she stood in the doorway the ghost of a smile
haunting her face like a cheap hotel sign
her cold eyes imploring the men in their macs
for the gold in their bags or the knives in their backs
stepping up boldly one put out his hand
he said, "i was just a child then now i'm only a man"
do you remember me? how we used to be?do you thing we should be closer?
by the cold and religious we were taken in hand
shown how to feel good and told to feel bad
tongue tied and terrified we learned how to pray
now our feelings run deep and cold as the clay
and strung out behind us the banners and flags
of our possible pasts lie in tatters and rags
do you remember me? how we used to be?do you thing we should be closer?

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Poem 2

Awww....had a bit of doubt b4 posting this 1. Its too corny to fit in with the hep cynical tone one feigns. But then, it speaks of hope and we could all use lots of that. Hence-

Max Ehrmann

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams
,it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.Strive to be happy.

Poem 1

We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams.
Wandering by lone sea-breakers
And sitting by desolate streams.
World-losers and world forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams;
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world forever it seems.
(Arthur O' Shaughnessy)
Long ago, when we still had pretensions of being counterculture crusaders against mediocrity, i.e., in college; this used to my personal anthem.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

I'd semi-sworn to myself that I would NOT write any cynical, snide things about 14th feb., even if the greeting card/stuffed-toy/entertainment bandwagon ran over me in the street, guffawing all the way to the bank.

A friend literally delegated the chore to me, saying she'd thought about maaroing caustic ones but felt my attempt wld be more effective. May have been too, coz notwithstanding the fact that I've never yet spent a single valentine gazing deeply in any1's eyes or held hands in the moonlite and so forth, I'm good at sneering. Like innumerable other such days, y'day evening I was sitting in a parked car, guzzling booze with a friend. Only, this time, he was a Smug Married, and I was , sadly, still me. When he suggested I disappear b4 his wife showed up at their pre-arranged rezendvous, I staggered away scoring a parting shot- valentine ain't for newlyweds- they're getting theirs regularly anyways. Its the poor suckers who're still got their hopes- and body appendages- high; who need to go thru the motions.

Acidaj vinberos? (that's Esperanto for sour grapes.....thanx Giri)

Possible but not probable.

Coz seriously, something's majorly gone awry when the proof of undying love is sposed to be manifested ONLY by conspicious consumption- with ceremonies and rites imported from the other end of the world-- and the mindless herds, sure enough, fall for it with nary a blink.

The number of cards a girl found in her desk on returning from morning assembly on V. Day was already a status symbol in my schooldays, viz. 16 yrs back- I wonder how utterly malicious and vicious the Ronnie lodges of all those high-end schools must be now.......and exactly how low the Big Ethels of the world must be made to feel.

Meantime, self-appointed cultural guardians must've been waiting for the big day with keen anticipation and hands itching to surreptitiously grope and fondle all the doity gals out with their boyfriends, even as they yell about degrading Indian culture.

Yeah right. Our country's population's crossed the billion mark coz we've been busy watching mickey mouse cartoons all this while.

In any case, I haven't ever done the "done" thing on 14th feb. the only significance it has for me is it being my sister's wedding anniversary. And last year, I was out at Ruby Tuesday's convincing a lady to try booze for the 1st time. And alas, didn't take advantage of her inebriation either. More the bleddy fool, me!

The same friend who was goading me to attack V-day, however, wrote that she welcomes anything that causes the general happiness content in the world to go up, even if its for a few hrs. maybe that's the correct way to look at it. Love, they say, is the father of child of illusion and the daddy of disillusion. let em enjoy the trip while the illusion lasts.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Consensual Reality Ep.1

This wonderful world

"The world shall perish not for lack of wonders, but for lack of Wonder."(JBS Haldane)

The central premise of the books of Carlos Castaneda is that there's far more to the world than meets the eye; (consensual) reality is an agreement we've all made to render this weird, wonderful world navigable. This echoes what countless myths and religions have been saying for a long, long time, of course- the Hindu concept of maya, for instance.

Intimations of separate realities sourced from gurus / controversial yaqui sages reputedly stoned on hallucinogens /self-proclaimed avatars et al are fine as far as it goes, but what makes one REALLY sit up and take notice is when hard nosed scientists concur in this worldview. There's compelling evidence now that the school- textbook version of reality (what they like to call the “Newtonian paradigm” in more exalted circles) is outdated. Phenomena abound which are quite inexplicable by the Newtonian worldview. And by "phenomena", I don't mean alien abductions and the like....we're talking about predictable and reproducible experiments.

Fritjof Capra and his ilk had already made quantum physics and its metaphysical implications enter the domain of laymen a couple of decades ago, which fit in well with the then promising dawn of the Age of Aquarius (that particular revolution- pregnant with possibilities- turned out to be a stillbirth, but that’s a different story). The impact of publications like ‘The Tao of Physics’ or ‘The Dancing Wu-li masters’, however, didn’t percolate down into our everyday existence. Things may behave weirdly at the subatomic level, hinting at the possibility of magic and Never-Never Land and Oz and the ubiquity of a tender, loving god peeking at us ubiquitously from an electron microscope; but our daily lives were still humdrum; with bills and debts and nagging in-laws and painful office politics- all the drudgery of 20th century existence gnawing away at our souls., suffocating any hints of Wonder.

The idea of one’s own body: much-loathed, source of endless angst and self-doubts, with ramifications extending into one’s social life, mental well-being, self-esteem, and occasionally the director of one’s entire life-course (think models and film stars) – the idea of one’s body perceived as an immutable, unchangeable vehicle to be dragged through a lifetime, is pretty much as near to “real” as it gets. After all the philosophers and mystics and New Age scientists are done arguing about the ephemeral nature of our universe, that ugly blackhead on your nose still needs to be tweezed if you expect your metrosexual boyfriend to not swoon in disgust later in the evening.

Get this..... the idea of one's body as a solid chunk constant through space and time is a "phantom"....a construct of the brain. VS Ramachandran, a cognitive psychologist and neurologist, describes simple experiments which can fool one into perceiving totally impossible sensations, e.g. feeling one's nose as being suspended 3 feet in front of the rest of the body. In this brave new world, you take nothing for granted, least of all yourself!

Yup, it turns out you are constructing your reality after all. And if its ugly, better do something about it fast. No time to complain (there are NO survivors on this earth), no Distant-Supreme-Divine-Entity to curse for screwing up your fate and not constructing the cosmos as per your desired specs…’s all your show. You need to do something about it- and time is running out. They say that people who have NDEs (Near-Death-Experiences) return to life, charged with love and compassion, ‘cause they’ve felt a touch of the divine. They suddenly KNOW how precious life is. We have to go 1 step further- we urgently NEED to understand with every cell of our body, that NOW is a near-death-experience.

“…in a world where death is the hunter, there is no time for regrets or remorse. There is time only for decisions, and decisions aren’t good or bad. They’re simply decisions….
….for an impeccable warrior, every single act is his last stand, and thus the outcome matters little to him. Yet, knowing his will is impeccable, and with absolute trust in his personal power, regardless of whether it is small or tremendous, the warrior turns to his last battle on earth and laughs and laughs”.

(More- much, much more on this theme to follow, if we can get an intelligent conversation started)

Saturday, February 11, 2006


The times we live in; my stints in rural India(not arranged chronologically though); writers' block; consensual reality; synchronicity; the AFMC mythology alongwith attendant blasphemy; comfortably rude; talent-spotting; NGOs vs pvt practice vs sarkaari vs corporate healthcare systems; movies; life lessons; pet peeves; Amitabh Bachchan; Shashi Kapoor; Francis Ford Coppola; my travails with a begging bowl for ideas; religion; shamanism; counterculture; good ol' days; sci-fi; self-actualization & cognitive dissonance; pop trivia; Teilhard de Chardin; the faculty of Timbuktu U.; Goa; things to do b4 u die; Arundhati Roy; Tehelka; MK Gandhi; thoughts for the day(s); poetry.....and lots of excerpts interspersed all through.

I need feedback and I'm counting on y'all to make this a vibrant forum...and I'm steadily losing hope of that happening. Most of u sickos still haven't signed in. In any case, this'll be replacing what wld earlier have been group mails. Scott Adams was right about the bit about 'badgering ppl to read 1's blog'.... so ....Welcome or g'bye.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Old mail edited anew:

My stint in Psychiatry

While flipping through a book called “The Holographic Universe” by Michael Talbot, years ago, at Manney’s in Pune; I’d checked out the index for any mention of Carlos Castaneda and turned to the appropriate page to find what had been written. In this case, the author was talking about some psychiatrist at Harvard, who held a double doctorate (the other one in philosophy!) and quote swore by (not at) Castaneda. I only had time to read this far before my companions dragged me away. The very concept was mind-boggling: that a shrink in the bosom of conservative academia could afford to dabble (if a doctorate can be labeled dabbling) in philosophy, and more, his opinions validated a world-view which had shaken me rather profoundly- all this made for heady stuff. More than a decade later, I’m still searching for that elusive book and so far, I haven’t traced it.
I did go on to wind up in a psychiatric facility by and by, and to everyone’s surprise, it was on the acceptable side of the table. As a lowly MBBS, I was one of the 3 “Residents” who handled the ward under 8 “Consultants” (people with postgraduate qualifications in psychiatry). Logistically, they were divided into 4 two-man teams. In fact, they’d organized themselves into two broad cliques , which were at each others’ throats all the time. One guy had the grand sounding appellation of “Ward Coordinator”. Though a postgraduate, he was younger, less experienced and was basically meant to take the rap, should anything ever go awry.
The patients’ arrangement was the traditional division into general wards and private rooms; the only remarkable departure from convention being the absence of bolts/locks in the loos. This is SOP for psychi wards all over- the idea being that someone may rush in and rescue patients bent on killing themselves. Said storm- trooper cum guardian duty was the forte of 1 or more attendant assigned to each patient 24 hrs a day. They were supposed to look after the patient’s well being, prevent the less-than-balanced ones from trying to escape / slash their wrists / hang themselves / attack other people, and shadow them everywhere…you get the idea.The residents’ work consisted of 24 hr shifts on the wards alternating with 4 hr OPD (Out Patient Department) duties. We had to screen patients and their relatives for admission, establish diagnoses, escort the visiting physician etc. for mandatory medical/pre-anesthesia examinations, start treatments ordered by the consultants, handle any complaints from any quarters and when required, go out in an ambulance with staff to fetch uncontrollably violent patients who couldn’t be persuaded by their families to come to the hospital.
The 1st time I was required to do an ambulance call, I was still pretty new to the job. The standard procedure was to go to the given address accompanied by 2 attendants and a nurse packing loaded syringes with sedatives, use any old bullshit to get the patient to lower his/her guard, and before (s)he caught on, have the attendants overpower them, get the nurse to shoot ‘em up with the knockout drugs and load them into the ambulance. The family was advised to stay out of the way during the entire procedure, though they were required to sign certain forms authorizing the hospital staff to do what they saw fit regarding the patient’s treatment (including involuntary admission).
Since every such trip left us 400/- richer, these calls were coveted. On a fairly low-key day, I was summoned to the OPD from the ward with instructions to alert the staff about an ambulance call. In the OPD hall, I was hurriedly introduced to a middle-aged lady and her son as the doctor who’d be accompanying them and left to deal with their hysteria. The lady’s other son had to be fetched from an upper-class neighborhood. Apparently he’d gone berserk the previous night and had trashed all the furniture in the house, including all landline and cell phones. Currently, he was in his room and the only other person in the house was the old father. The urgency of the situation lay in the possibility of his running out (the patient, not the father) with no way to catch or trace him. The real humdinger was that the guy had chosen to ensconce himself in his room with a knife. Guess whose happy task it would be to disarm him?
I gathered both my backups- the muscle and the pharmacology, settled in the ambulance along with the mother while the sane son followed behind in the family car. I figured this was as good a time as any to ask for the background info on the patient. No sooner had I broached the topic than the mom became teary-eyed and defensive. Brilliantly insightful me; I had the epiphany that 1 way or the other; she was the villain of the piece. The average informant wouldn’t start off the answer to such queries with, “It’s not my fault”, followed by a lengthy tirade on the shortcomings of her daughter-in-law.
The boy was 27 yrs old, an officer in the merchant navy, reportedly tall and well-built (worse luck!) and had gotten hitched a fortnight back. The couple had returned happily from their honeymoon but soon as they settled down into the household routine, the no-longer-blushing bride started quarreling with the family and left for her parents’ place, bag and baggage. This precipitated the husband’s breakdown. After making n number of fruitless entreaties and phone calls to the runaway bride, he ran amok one night and trashed the entire house. Just to ensure that he wasn’t interrupted in this edifying pastime, he was brandishing a knife, which he still had on his person, at the time his mom was narrating the tale. There was some more of the self-exculpation stuff as well as her Always –Having- Known- That- The- Girl- Wasn’t- Fit to be her darling son’s wife but how much she was willing to Sacrifice For His Happiness which is why she hadn’t put her foot down…and so on.
Moms and moms-to-be; take note. Deprive your cheerful cherubs of their teddy-bears too soon and someday they’ll curl up in their beds with a meat-cleaver.
A sample of the thoughts flashing through my head during that ride-
1. I should’ve been more regular in going to the gym. Who knows when you’ll need to wrestle with a cutlass-wielding maniac?
2. Why don’t they offer a course called Bravery 101…or something, in college?
3. I really shouldn’t have addled my reflexes with all those years of relentless chemical assaults on my central nervous system.
4. I ought’ve used the opportunity of taking up unarmed combat while I had the chance. All that time spent in a fauji institution… wasted!
5. Will I get to see my loved ones again? Is it a fullstop for the scion of the Maliks this fine day?
6. I went into Psychiatry thinking it would be easy money. I mean, how hard can it be to tell fucked-up people to blame their parents for everything? Ah, the irony!
7. Ain’t I entitled to hazard pay for this kinda situation? It’s a slasher horror pic come to life and a-visitin’ me, isn’t it?
8. How do I get out of this?
As to the patient’s previous history of mental illness, he didn’t have any. So this was a one-off thing. Reached the house and found the terrified father waiting for us- still unharmed. He let us in and directed us to the locked door where the ghar ka chiraag was amusing himself. I asked for and got a thick blanket to shield the deranged man’s assault. Then, gave the family a sickly smile (it was meant to be reassuring), instructed them to get out of sight, checked my pants to ensure there hadn’t been any fear-induced accidents, rallied my staff behind me (Leading From The Front like a good leader must)…and (gasp!) knocked.
It occurs to me that if this were a TV serial, now would be a good time to insert a background clash of cymbals, freeze the scene and stop Until Next Week’s Episode. Alas, no commercial breaks here. No rescue by irritating little brats orgasming in chorus over candy or noodles, no nekkid ladies peddling radial tires for your car. I called out the guy’s name and the door opened. He ignored the proffered handshake and asked who I was. Told him I was a doctor and we’d been summoned by his family because they were worried about his not eating and sleeping well lately. Hey, I know it sounds lame but these patients aren’t supposed to be at their intellectual peak, ok? The important thing is, even while he was scoffing at such claims (“I slept 12 hrs and have just been woken up by you people”), he let us in the room. I approached him warily and said I wanted to talk to him for a while. He lay back on his bed and in an extremely peeved tone, ordered me to lose the blanket. AND to order everybody else out of the room. Oops.
That inadvertent trouser accident seemed a distinct possibility. At least the fencing instrument wasn’t out in plain view. Complied with his commands though, trying to ignore the questioning looks from the staff. Gave `em the ol’ steely eyed glare and jutted out my iron jaw. They shuffled out with dubious looks on their faces. The prospect of going out to fetch a patient and returning to the hospital with a staff fatality must’ve weighed heavy on their minds. Of course, they’d be cheated of the house-call charges as well if all they had to show for the ambulance excursion was a stabbed doctor.
Mind you, this was my 1st such call and I had vague notions about “establishing a rapport”, “winning the patient’s trust” and so forth. With several more such situations under my belt, I would later become an expert at entering the patient’s room with a bright smile, spout some nonsense about checking their BP, and having gained physical proximity, signaling the menials to overpower them, shoot ‘em up, knock ‘em out and carry them out to the ambulance. In fact, this was all the doc is required to do. Exalted professionals aren’t supposed to get their hands dirty with the nitty- gritty of talking to individuals who’re destined to be carried out kicking and screaming to a lunatic asylum for an indefinite period. At that point however, I felt I’d serve the patient’s interest better if I could at least get his side of the story 1st. He certainly seemed rational enough, not quite the rabid, weapon-bearing psychotic I’d been expecting. Sat down at the foot of his bed and started making inane conversation.
The room, like the rest of the house was a mess- he’d overturned the furniture, torn all the clothes and draperies. No rock star could’ve done a better job on a hotel suite. Bummed a cigarette off him, strolled around the room, checked out his CD collection and complimented him on his taste in music (it sucked actually- Britney Spears AND the Spice Girls, I ask you…in a grown man’s collection?!?), swapped background info- we turned out to have passed out from rival public schools in the same year, got him talking about his marriage, plans, family and so on.
Turned out that my hunch about his mom throwing a monkey wrench into the marital machinery was right after all. By his accounts, she was an interfering bitch who didn’t know when to leave well alone. She’d driven his beloved wife to such exasperated fury that she had found living under the same roof with her mom-in-law unbearable…and hence had left. Was silently patting myself on the back by then- figured that at this rate, I’d have him popping open 2 beers and wanting to swap dirty jokes soon, when the question I’d hoped to avoid came up. Which hospital was I with? Since the name of the institution had “mental health” embedded in it and since nothing gets a psycho more suspicious than the awareness that he’s dealing with a shrink (they do have ample experience of interacting with the breed), hemmed and hawed but finally spilt it out. The guy grimaced bitterly and said he wasn’t surprised since “this is the 2nd time they’re doing this to me”.
I pointed out that considering the state he and the house were in, “they” had a pretty strong case for doing whatever he thought they were doing. He clammed up about what the 1st incident had been about. When I inquired what the knife was all about, he said its presence reassured him; his hobby was collecting knives (!!!!!) of different makes and models.
At this stage, I earnestly began persuading him that the best option for him would be to accompany me to the hospital and we’d run some routine tests as an eyewash. It’d serve everyone’s interests- his folks would be reassured that he wasn’t foaming at the mouth anymore, his wife would probably return to him in his time of trial, he’d get a clean chit and it’d end with him riding into the sunset on his ship with his wife the very next day. Felt like a worm while saying all this because of course, nothing of the kind would happen. Nobody’s discharged from a psychi ward in one day, much less to a happy ending. But that’s what I was there for- to lend credibility to the unsavory process of institutionalization. All this friendly prattle had taken more than an hour and I’d fended off several interruptions from the male nurse and attendants waiting outside the door. They were getting impatient because a 5 minute routine job was getting inordinately delayed.
Told my patient to think about my suggestion- what could he possibly lose in one day; told him I’d be back shortly after getting a glass of water, let in the waiting barbarian hordes and sought out his family to inquire about the 1st time he’d been hospitalized. Asked the father because the mother had already proven herself unreliable as an informant when she denied any such previous episodes. Allegedly, the boy had tried to kill himself when he was a teenager because his mom insisted on dragging him to a cousin’s wedding at an inopportune moment- the family pet had just died, the kid was grieving and in no mood to go with his harridan mom to some family function to be cooed over by hideous relatives. When she refused to leave him alone, he grabbed a fistful of whatever pills he found in the house and stuffed them down his gullet. He was hospitalized for poisoning and then given a psychiatric evaluation.
Cut back to the present: there were the expected sounds of a scuffle from the patient’s room. When I entered, he was threatening my staff with dire consequences if they tried medicating him against his will; a threat rather ludicrous under the circumstances. A 6 and a half foot gorilla was sitting on his chest at the moment. Gently reassured him (the patient, not the gorilla) that whatever was being done needed to be done and he should co-operate. Once the drugs were in his blood, he was released and I asked for his knife. He handed it over from under his pillow where it’d been all the time. The staff expertly frisked him other concealed weapons and assisted him to the ambulance. He was already staggering and once in the vehicle, fell asleep. The family- petrified father, fuming mother and concerned brother, all came out and I asked them to come to the hospital for admission formalities.
When the patient was sleeping in his room in the hospital, I took a detailed history from his brother who struck me as the only person halfway sane in that household. By his account, the patient had always been oversensitive, the mother was overbearing and the father was a spineless, henpecked alcoholic. Sure enough, it was the friction between the 2 families, especially the mothers of the bride and groom, starting during the ceremony itself -that led to the breakdown of the marriage. The specific skirmishes themselves were incidents of stupefying inconsequentiality, testifying to nothing so much as the pettiness of the people who used them to prop up their fragile egos and messing up the alliance of 2 happy individuals.
Well, the man stayed with us for 5 days and when I visited him during rounds, reminded me of my promise of releasing him in a day. It wasn’t in my hands to dictate the duration of his stay. That is the consultant’s prerogative. In any case, the accusation was delivered without any real malice. He was doped up to his eyeballs all the time and hopefully the betrayal from a stranger didn’t add much to his burden much. His wife wasn’t allowed to visit and I don’t know if she would’ve wanted to. His brother claimed that she loved him and was amenable to reconciliation right up to the incident that served as the last straw, which made her pack her bags and return to her folks. The mother wasn’t allowed to visit either.
The day he was being discharged, his father came up to me and asked me to talk to his son. “Doctor, tell him to face up to his problems like a man.” Lofty words, coming from you, old man. The same guy who was quaking and terrified the day he summoned us to help his son took leave on this note, “I’d prefer that he die rather than spend his life in a madhouse.”
This was my cue to launch into the spiel about how the stigma against mental illness was unjustified and had gone on for far too long ; how the urban educated elite ought to know better, and also let slip that most psychiatric disorders have some genetic component. I should have told him all this and more.
But I turned and walked back into the ward through the swinging doors.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

the brasstacks...

"Birth and copulation and death.

That's all when it comes down to brasstacks.....

Birth and copulation and death."

(T.S. Eliot)

Friday, February 03, 2006

the Doors

The movie will begin in five moments
The mindless voice announced
those unseated will await the
next show

We filed slowly, languidly into the hall
The auditorium was fast and silent
As we seated and were darkened
The voice continued

"The program for this evening is not new
You've seen this entertainment
Through and through
You've seen your birth, your life
and death
You might recall all the rest
Did you have a good world when you
Enough to base a movie on?"
(Jim Morrison, American poet)

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Shine on (More lyrics)

A friend closes her mails with the salutation "shine on" which is a refreshing change from the usual injunctions to take care. Since we're walking down memory lane, thought I'd elaboate on this 1 too. I don't know if the person who sparked off this train of thought listens to Floyd, but the lyrics of "Shine on, u crazy diamond" (in fact, the entire album "Wish u were here") were written by Roger Waters and Dave Gilmour as tribute to the original band member Syd Barrett, an LSD casualty apparently.

Remember when you were young,
You shone like the sun.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Now there's a look in your eyes,
Like black holes in the sky.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
You were caught on the crossfire
Of childhood and stardom,
Blown on the steel breeze.
Come on you target for faraway laughter,
Come on you stranger, you legend, you martyr, and shine!
You reached for the secret too soon,
You cried for the moon.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Threatened by shadows at night,
And exposed in the light.
Shine on you crazy diamond.

Well you wore out your welcome
With random precision,
Rode on the steel breeze.
Come on you raver, you seer of visions,
Come on you painter, you piper, you prisoner, and shine!

Nobody knows where you are,
How near or how far.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
Pile on many more layers
And I'll be joining you there.
Shine on you crazy diamond.
And we'll bask in the shadow Of yesterday's triumph,
And sail on the steel breeze.
Come on you boy child,
You winner and loser,
Come on you miner for truth and delusion, and shine!

13 yrs. after I 1st heard it, it still gives me the goosies.

Btw, wld any of u happen to know what's with Floyd and "the steel breeze"? What's the significance, what's it mean? Why is it a recurring theme in their numbers? Quizzers? Music connossieurs? I'm waiting for answers.

And yeah, since I've just alerted u all in a mail to the existence of this page, i expect each and every 1 of u to mark attendance with a comment. Shameless flattery is acceptable. Cash donations sent to me are even better.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Another quote

And speaking of yahoo IDs and fav quotes, I used to have a line from the Pink Floyd song "Wish u were here" on a now-defunct yahoo profile. It went:

"...did you exchange...a walk-on part in a war; for a lead role in a cage?"

Here's the lyrics of the entire song:


"So, so you think you can tell Heaven from Hell,
Blue skys from pain.
Can you tell a green field
From a cold steel rail?
A smile from a veil?
Do you think you can tell?

And did they get you to trade
Your heros for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees?
Hot air for a cool breeze?
Cold comfort for change?
And did you exchange
A walk on part in the war
For a lead role in a cage?

How I wish, how I wish you were here.
We're just two lost souls
Swimming in a fish bowl,
Year after year,
Running over the same old ground.
What have we found?
The same old fears.
Wish you were here. "

Brilliant as the poetry is, it still doesn't convey the impact the music does. The guitar is magic in this number. If u're 1 of those unfortunate souls who haven't heard (heard as in tripped out/blissed out on-) Floyd, drop whatever u're doing, go out and buy their albums.

Light a reefer, inhale (unlike Clinton)- and LISTEN to the music.

Jeez, what am I doing?....32 yrs. old superannuated pseudo-hippie "daaktar-saab"advising junta to do what any normal curious youth wld've done in college. Guess its for the benefit of those who missed out on the sex-drugs-rock 'n' roll for 1 reason or the other.

U listening, Junior? Go out and DO IT!

Solitary bird

About the tagline of this I said, its been put up by a friend and she's designed the layout to best reflect my personality. The "solitary bird" funda comes from my yahoo ID's fav quote, which in turn is excerpted from a translated Spanish poem by San Juan de la Cruz:

"The conditions of a solitary bird are 5.
The 1st, it flies to the highest point,
The 2nd, it does not suffer for company, even of its own kind,
The 3rd, it aims its beak to the sky,
The 4th, it has no definite color, and
The 5th- it sings very softly."

Sunday, January 29, 2006

To Blog or Not to Blog

Someone just asked me why it took me so much time to start a blog, given my (now-atrophied) penchant for looooong mails. The actual reason, of course, is that ever since I was told I write well, I’d been hoping to somehow turn that talent into cash- the idea of spinning out stuff for people to read for FREE is instinctively revolting. However, it did inspire me to fish out the perfect take on the entire phenomenon of blogs. It’s the brainchild of the creator of Dilbert. Thanks, Vrinda.

When I see news stories about people all over the world who are experiencing hardships, I worry about them, and I rack my brain wondering how I can make a difference. So I decided to start my own blog. That way I won't have time to think about other people.People who are trying to decide whether to create a blog or not go through athought process much like this:

1. The world sure needs more of ME.
2. Maybe I'll shout more often so that people nearby can experience thejoy of knowing my thoughts.
3. No, wait, shouting looks too crazy.
4. I know - I'll write down my daily thoughts and badger people to read them.
5. If only there was a description for this process that doesn'tinvolve the words egomaniac or unnecessary.
6. What? It's called a blog? I'm there!

The blogger's philosophy goes something like this:Everything that I think about is more fascinating than the crap in your head.The beauty of blogging, as compared to writing a book, is that no editor will be interfering with my random spelling and grammar, my complete disregard for the facts, and my wandering sentences that seem to go on and on and never end so that you feel like you need to take a breath and clear your head before you can even consider making it to the end of the sentence that probably didn't need to be written anyhoo.If that doesn't inspire you to read my blog, I don't know what will. You can find the Dilbert Blog at

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Warming up

The site has been designed, set up by a friend who insists that the discipline of marking entries in my own blogspot will do me good.
I'm working in an MNC and the irony is they're slave-driving us at work on republic day. Hmmm. Baaki later.