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…..it’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)