Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Pursuit Of Happiness

Whenever I am on call and free for dinner, NP and I manage to have dinner together at Khaasiyat. A small joint near Vile Parle Station, decent, value for money and yet safely close to the hospital in case I have to rush back for some work. We ALWAYS eat parathas there since NP has this habit of sticking to one particular dish at any place. The parathas there are amazing. The accompanying ma ki daal and chhole are good too.

So one day, we were sitting in their overhead cramped AC section and munching our parathas. Next to us were a gujju couple and another girl.

Girl: (ultra sweet, fake scolding) Jijuuuuu...take good care of my sister OK......

Jiju: Smiles, fiddling with his smart and expensive looking phone

Sister: He takes such good care of me......And provides so well for me. And I don't want ANYTHING from him. (Pativraata tone). I am satisfied with just the flat he got us in Juhu (Just? and she's just satisfied?!). I don't want ANYYTHING else.

NP to me: I hope she wants atleast some sofas for the house. Waise after buying a flat at Juhu, I hope he has money left over for that.

Me: Shhhh

Sister (continues, oblivous I presume to me and NP and our conversation):  No diamonds, jewelery and stuff. This is enough for me, I am happy.

NP and I: (nothing was said between the two of us. We were speechless)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Seven Minutes...

Yesterday was a long tiring day and by the time I had retired, it was rather late. Today was going to be a very long day, which necessitated me to rise early in the morning. To get a few more minutes to sleep in the morning, I had my long refreshing bath late at night. In the morning, with great difficulty I finally got up. Late but still a little sooner than I would have, since I had planned a lovely treat for myself in the morning. Skipped bath, had quick tea. Dressed. Since the OT was going to run for long hours, I knew my breakfast was going to be delayed indefinitely. And hence the plan for my seven minutes of pleasure.

I stepped into the kitchen, opened the box and carefully lifted out a ripe big mango. Few seconds to enjoy the fragrance of a ripe alphonso. Washed it carefully and patted dry. With a sharp knife I cut it into large pieces. The aroma of the fruit was heady and filled the kitchen. Carefully, I leaned over the kitchen counter (breakfasts on working days are seldom had sitting at the table) and relished the mango. Slowly at first and later with a gluttonous urgency. The pulp covering the seed, and later the pieces, all were gulped down in matter of seven minutes. And those were probably the most amazing seven minutes of my day. Rest of the day was a busy and forgotten about quickly. But those seven minutes in the morning made the rest of my day lovely.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Bring In The Expert....

The fat one lay placid like a lake. Barely visible from her resting place. Lazy yet beckoning.  The thin one was more like a stream in summer, snaked her way down her place of rest. I studied both of them carefully as a few beads of perspiration streaked down my forehead. Which one? was the question on my mind.

I looked at the staff nurse who had all the armamentarium to secure venous access. The venous cannulaeof varying sizes, tapes, cotton swabs, tourniquet all neatly arranged on a tray. She was all set for a "Difficult Venous Cannulation" and had called me, the so called expert Anaesthesiologist for the procedure. She looked at me with a look that said...."Do this fast and for good, I hope I can trust you."

Tourniquet tied, fist curled I tapped the fat one first. She was barely a blotch of blue and refused to fill up. Arrogance. And thats what made me want to cannulate her even more. The thin one was barely a blob under the skin of the inner side of the wrist. Yet she screamed "Try me" . "Nah I said, you shall take a small cannula while what we need here is a large bore. Fattie wins" The Fat one was nonchalant. "Here I come" and I took a bold prick. No flash of blood. Advance the cannula. No blood.....withdraw the cannula. Blood spills to the skin. "You rascal" I said. "The staff nurse must be pitying me the expert and mocking me at the same time. Or upset I shall now give up." The thin one was popping out even more now. "C'mon. you are thin and crooked. I cannot see the rest of you after that blob where you dip deeper into the skin! Its a waste to even try you. Still I shall, now that I have a cannula in my hand and my image at stake". Bold prick no. 2. Flash of bright red. Wow! Slide the cannula. Glides in effortlessly. Stretches the thin one on its way and wow, the vein is secured! Suddenly I'm the hero, who saved a patient from dehydration and more pricking and poking. 

Ah the joys of being an Anaesthesiologist! And the pleasure of cannulating a seemingly impossible vein. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Sue knew she was a brave woman. Her tummy hurt from the stitches, but she was OK as long as she didn't have to turn. She looked slowly at all the faces around her...her mother, her sister and her husband. All of them were weeping shamelessly. But she felt like she was in some sort of a trance. Like she was watching some movie. She scanned the place. No, these were not her clothes, not her bed, not even her room. Not her carefully selected upholstery, not her jug of water......but the book was hers, yes, it was her book indeed. Chicken Soup for The Expectant Mother's Soul......and the rest of the room blurred in front of her eyes. Tears finally streamed down her face as she wept for her new born who had just died. 

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

They Are Playing My Song.....

Every song has a memory.....

Every time I listen to the songs of Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na  I feel teleported to my first year PG days. Circa 2008 when the movie had just released and the songs were a rage. The songs remind me of the lovely days I spent with my friends....staying in the dinghy musty "Call Room" on our duty days (that is the day we were on night duty at the hospital), attending calls in the hospital in the dead of the night, to save a life, or bring a new one into the world and such. Eating at the call room, bitching about our new seniors. Or going to the marine drive in the dead of the night to grab an ice cream and sit by the sea. Those were the first songs I had received on my then new phone via Bluetooth and I listened to them while travelling, while working and even falling asleep...Those songs remind me of travelling at the door of the train, feeling the wind on my face and in my hair. The songs are still a rage in my personal collection and I am never tired of listening to them. 

Such is with Dil Chahta Hain, circa 2001 when I had just joined MBBS. The movie was about coming of age, of 3 boys Akash, Sameer and Siddharth. And in a strange sort of way, the same year I too went through a similar coming of age when I became, from a bound to and sheltered at home college girl a hostelite medical student out in the world almost by herself. I remember watching this movie on a large screen at our first college festival and the songs still remind me how awed I was by the movie and by the whole college crowd. and being in college, studying what you always wanted to.

Every song has a memory; every song has the ability to make or break your heart, shut down the heart, and open the eyes. But I’m afraid if you look at a thing long enough; it loses all of its meaning
— Andy Warhol.

I still do not understand the last line of this quote, and its relation to the first two lines. But I love this quote, it says what I feel deep in my heart

Thursday, April 28, 2011

He, She...and It

He is the husband, she is his wife and it is the husband's camera

He, she and it are on their way to a party somewhere in the evening. He stops on the way, picks it up and takes a shot of the Mumbai University Building. They walk a few steps and he again picks it up and takes another shot, form a different angle of the same university. She is a bit impatient to get to the party. After some 5 or 7 shots of Rajabai Tower, University taken across the Oval maidan, she has totally lost it.

She: We are getting late for the party

He: Wait I am taking some great shots. What a structure, man!

She waits for a few minutes

She: (sighs) I wish you would take half as many pictures of me.

He: (oblivious vs ignoring) Look at this classic shot! See the lighting? Amazing!

She: Wish you were half as interested in taking pictures of me!

He: (Pulls her cheeks) I will be sweetheart, when you are 200 years old.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Of course I am thankful and grateful for a wonderful life, family, husband, career etcetera . This list is for those smaller things in life for which I am really thankful

I am thankful to Gujarati women of yore who came up with this recipe to probably do away with left over rotis and equally thankful to the modern Gujarati women who sweat it out to make these khakaras for sale for mortals like us. I have survived on this snack for over 10 years now. While in the younger hostel days the adventurous variations like "Pav bhaji" and "Pani puri" flavoured made good tea time accompaniments, now I choose the routine plain or methi flavoured. Now a days often it makes up for a missed meal, to buy time till the next one.

Mobile Phones
Sometimes I wonder how we even lived so many years without this one. I still remember the rainy days during my childhood when we would wait for mom to return from work hoping she is safe, wondering where she must be, pacing by the window. Or the hostel days, rushing to the phone hoping its from home, waiting at the public telephone booth for a turn to make an STD call. Mobile phone has suddenly made it all easy...from locating the spouse on railway platform to short messages from the brother abroad saying I'm fine. And I am not talking of the fancy gadgets. A simple phone is all I want (and have) and need.

Continuous Supply of Electricity
One of the few pleasures of living in a Metro... no load shedding. Having lived for a short while in places where electricity has been conspicuous by its prolonged absence makes me value this resource and wastage of any form irks me.

I am glad good things in life come as paperbacks and hardcovers! And love my parents for building a small neat collection for me. And I hate myself for having lent a few of my books to people, no one returns a lent book. Only a fool lends a book. Greater fool is the one who returns it.

There is lot more I am thankful for and that will follow soon enough.......This one post deserves a part 2

Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Mourning

Being an anesthesiology resident in the Obstetrics and Gynaecology OT at Nair Hospital was no mean job. There was the routine OT list, the emergencies and the cranky surgeons and sometimes even crazy seniors to handle. But the job has to be done, right and that too with a smile, and we did it.

December 2009, while the routine OT is still on, we get a call, 'Emergency Laparotomy for an unruptured ectopic gestation in the fallopian tube' which means an emergency surgical exploration of a lady who had conceived, but unfortunately the fetus was outside the uterus in the fallopian tube. Fallopian tubes are the tubes which transport ovum or the embryo from the ovary to the uterus. I went to the waiting area to see this lady pre operatively. She looked distraught and strangely familiar. I could not place her, but she was familiar nonetheless. She was past 35 years, and had undergone a tubal recanalisation surgery few months ago. I noted down the rest of her medical history, did a quick physical examination and explained the surgery and anesthesia to her. She knew her baby could not be salvaged, being in a place where there is neither nutrition nor enough place for her baby to grow. The whole point of the surgery was to save her life, lest the tube rupture.

After taking her consent I did something I had never done before, I asked her a question that was too personal-- the reason why she had undergone a recanalisation surgery, or a surgery that involves reversal of a tubal ligation. The answer was obvious... she had undergone a tubal ligation which is, for all practical purposes, a permanent method of contraception. Then for some reason, she wanted to have a child again so late in her life. I was curious to know the reason.

"I lost my son to brain cancer" she said with a few tears in her eyes.

I was starting to figure out why I knew her.... still I persisted

"Where was your son admitted and how long ago did he die?"

"He was here, at the same hospital... He passed away last November"

"His name was Aditya?  I asked her to which she did not reply but broke down into tears instead. I did not pacify her, I broke down with her too into a discreet few tears.

I remembered Aditya very well. He was a 10 year old boy operated for a malignant brain tumour and had died in the ICU a few months after the surgery. He had died while I was posted in the ICU and was on duty. And he was probably the only patient whose death and the suffering prior to that had affected me so deeply,  probably because of his tender age. I remember having shed a few tears for him after seeing his grandmother break down once in the ICU. She was the one who mainly cared for him, with his sister and mother visiting on and off.  While I cried for him when he lived, I somehow did not mourn his death when he died in my arms, in front of my eyes. And I mourned for him the day I met his mother once again, a year after his death.

Being doctors who see death and suffering so often does make us tough but some incidents like these do break our tough outer layers and touch our hearts and make us cry. 

Disclaimer: The kid was not named Aditya. The name has been changed to protect the identity of the child and his family.

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Thursday, April 07, 2011

Finally something from me...

Out of the ICU, into the OT (for the past 2 months, and gladly so) I am......ICU is not me, I did not exactly detest it, but  nonetheless, I was not myself working in there day in and day out. OT is my home ground.

Of course, after I joined back the OT I have lost a noticeable amount of weight running around the hospital and have started noticing the number of grey hair on my head. But I am back to being many ways I cannot describe.

Other day in the  recovery room, a patient was not doing too good post operatively. exactly the things I don't like in a patient post femur neck surgery...unstable blood pressure, low saturation. I was attending diligently to each  complaint from the staff nurse in the recovery while managing my emergency cases in the OT. That was yet another day with missed meals and all the signs of a busy call. At the end of the day, after finishing all my work, the staff nurse came up to me and said very softly, "You are too good Varsha. I was comfortable here in the recovery room just because you around handling that patient and attending to each of my complaints. I am impressed, and now I am your fan!"

Suddenly, this makes all the thoughts of grey hair and the missed meals very insignificant....
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