Sab Theek Ho Jayega !

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Kochi / Ernakulam, Kerala, India
A Doctor who loves to Live, Love and Laugh with the World! Absolutely crazy about Cricket ! Other Qualifications: A Tired Bathroom Singer, Retired Gully Cricketer and Satire Writer !

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Bon Voyage !

Life has always fascinated me ! What is life ? Who am I ? From where did I come and where am I going ? These are all very easy questions with very difficult or perhaps no answers. Perhaps an entire lifetime will be spent searching answers for these questions. Probably no answer will be found at the end of it all.

Seers, Philosophers and Scientists have come out with their own versions about life. Some very profound and some inane. I am neither of these special people. I am just a normal guy with probably subnormal Intelligence Quotient ! But that shouldn't stop me from having my own take on life.

So many times, I have traveled by train. Train journey of long duration teaches us a lot of things. It teaches endurance, patience, importance of etiquette in public life and value of good manners. I have made some friends and even have quarreled with some people during train travel.

Traveling alone helps in indulging in some self-searching. One person who inspired me during one such journey was Dr. Shafeeque. He introduced me so many things about the Hindu Philosophy, about Zen and about life !

So here is my take on "The Journey of Life". Life for me is a long and indefinite Train journey ! Yes, We all get on board at some station. Most of the times, we need help to board and to settle down in our seats. And we have to get down at some place. How long will the journey last and when and where we have to alight, is unknown. But we have to get down and the train will continue with the journey.

During the journey, we meet a lot of people. Some passing acquaintances, some enduring contacts and some lifetime relationships. It could be a coffee vendor or someone who might end up as partner in journey.

Some travel first class, some second class and some by general compartment. How happy we are doesn't really depend on the class of the coach, but on our approach; approach to to life ! You can be happy and singing in a General Coach and you can mourn all the way in an Air Conditioned Coach.

All of us carry a luggage. It grows with time. The luggage consists of our achievements, failures, experiences, earnings and sorrows. It also carries our attitude, ego, love, passion and all kind of feelings. The luggage may be good or bad or mostly a mixed bag.

But we should remember one thing; Luggage is Luggage and is a Weight. Howsoever precious it may be; if you carry it on your head, it will be a burden all through journey. Even if you display it on your lap, it still is a weight.

Some may be worried about failures and sorrows. Some people carry their ego or attitude and some plain hatred. But whatever we carry, it doesn't help us and often may hurt others too. Hence it is always better to push the luggage firmly under the seat and travel light.

We should treasure the earnings, happiness and achievements, but never allow them to become a weight on our head. We should also learn from our failures and shortcomings but never be burdened by the weight of negativism.

We know there is an engine driver driving the train. We never really see him, but we trust him to take us safely through the journey. This faith is our strength. There might be a disaster, accident or calamity that might end it all. But the journey still will go on. There is an unknown force that keeps the Earth, the Sun, the Moon, the Stars and the Universe in place. This for me is the idea called God, if we have to have a name for such an entity.

People may give number of definitions and names. The tendency to believe "What I know is the one and the only and the ultimate truth" is almost all pervasive. But the truth is that no one has seen the driving force and no one even remotely knows it.

So, if we leave our luggage safely under the seats and enjoy the journey with the knowledge that all this will end sometime somewhere, we have a happy journey ! I would like to be remembered after I get down. Remembered for making people laugh, feel better and enjoy the journey.

I wish all of us Bon Voyage !

Dr. Pun-dit

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Master Piece ?

Jack of all trades but Master of none !

So many times since childhood I have heard the cliched saying, “Jack of all trades but Master of none!” I have wondered about it as many times too. The first such a person I remember was a cycle repairer in my own little town of Karkala. He was very popular for his helpful nature.

He could repair quite a lot of things apart from bicycles. He sometimes caught snakes. He had his reward too in the form of a photograph printed on the front page of the local newspaper along with the reptile. He was the first one to arrive with help and moral support whenever someone died in our town. And he stayed till all the members of the bereaved family had taken some food after the funeral.

He played Chess with his friends when he had no work and even when he had work. He ran errands for the older ladies in return for a coffee. Yes, a strong filter coffee with jaggery as sweetener. The coffee was not his wages but was just a way of saying “I belong to you!” And for all his kindness, he was called “Maryaada Raman” after the mythical character.

As I grew up, I realized there are so many of these people among us. The Jacks were there all over the place. But today when I have seen a lot more of this world, I realize it is the other way around. The Jacks are not there all over the place. The truth is, there is a Jack in all of us; every one of us. Howsoever hard we try, becoming a Master isn’t an easy task.

I see a Jack every day, everywhere and in fact every time I look into the mirror. I am not Mastered anything in life. But I believe I can manage so many things in day to day life. Hence I qualify to be a Jack. I can fix most of the problems with my PC and internet connection. I have also repaired my father’s LED lamp, a three-fold umbrella and the number lock of my wife’s suitcase successfully. When a plumber failed to turn up to fix a tap in our home, I fixed it myself and saved rupees 350 for my wife. I have corrected most of the snags with my wife’s mobile phone.

I also have learned to fix the Treadmill Stress Testing system and Holter monitoring system at our hospital. I helped with the project work of my daughter and could see that was a decent job. I have even prepared coffee and made fresh lime soda for guests. Once I was honored to be the Chief Guest for a function at my daughter’s school. I managed to give a speech in Malayalam and even that came off okay. Actually by the age of forty, everyone has become a Jack, you like it or not.

Why do I consider myself a Jack ? Let me start from childhood. I was reasonably okay with studies, but was never the real topper in my class at any time. I played Cricket, Football, Badminton, Kabaddi, Volleyball and almost all the games that were played by the boys and girls of my age in those days. Though people told I was fairly good, I never really won anything.

I once ran a hundred meters race and came fourth out of the six that started. I tried my hand at painting and won too. A consolation prize! Every single participant won it. I participated in elocution, extempore speaking and singing and won a second prize for singing. Yes second prize !

As I moved to high school, I was more interested in Cricket and thought I could become a great all-rounder. I really believed, I could bat like Sunil Gavaskar and bowl like Shivaramakrishnan. But all my skills somehow were limited to my backyard where I could spin the ball miles and was never beaten or bowled by any ball. However during the matches; the pitch, the weather, the planetary positions, the umpires, the coconut tree just inside the long on boundary and practically every force on earth conspired against me and I came up cropper most of the times.

Then I moved to college. During PUC, I really started realizing my skills were extremely ordinary when it came to sports, games or any extra-curricular activities. So I concentrated on studies. Because, otherwise I would have ended up repairing bicycles like my father and I didn’t like that idea one bit. Thankfully I got through the entrance and ended up in Medical College Bellary.

Once in the Medical College, I was away from home and started to see the world. I learned a hell of a lot from the hostel life. During the ragging days, I learned to act and also to sing. Act sick to escape ragging. It did help to scare the daylights out of a senior who dared to rag me. I sang and won the second prize more than once, but never the first !

I learned the fact that you can’t live on past laurels. The marks I got in PUC or the rank I got in entrance were absolutely useless. I had to slog as hard as the other students to hold my forte. There were a lot of bitter lessons. But I am a zillion times better today thanks to those lessons.

I even learned to eat brinjal thanks to the hostel life. I started to appreciate my mother’s cooking only after I ate all the stuff dished out by the cooks in our mess. I have no doubt about one thing though. The Hostel Mess was very aptly called “Mess”. You couldn’t think of any other name. What a holy mess it used to be !

During the growing up period, I also grew up as a Critic, Writer and Satirist. I could see fun in the most grievous matter and sarcasm in Holy Scriptures. I could shred into pieces any piece of writing or an art. Movies were my favorite. I once commented about a movie, “This movie is absolutely useless till the interval…” When people asked, What about the post interval ? I told, “Well, it only gets worse from there !” This kind of sarcasm made me an armchair critic. Guys and girls often took my opinion on movies before they went to watch them.

I also wrote articles on our wall-journal. Once I criticized the tendency of Kannadigas to wake up on first of November every year to show their love for the language and then promptly go back to sleep for the next 364 days. This received a lot of support and an equal amount of flak. But I realized I could write. Because what is a write up if it doesn’t create some action and reaction ? One should know the fact. If what you write doesn’t evoke reactions, the writing is on the wall !

I completed my Medical Graduation and came down to Kochi, Kerala in 1995 and settled down here. I have seen life here for nearly fifteen years now. The people here are lot more politically inclined and are almost entirely polarized behind one of the two fronts.

There is an irony in Kerala politics. There are two Democratic Fronts, United and Left. But both of them have managed to pull the state “Back” in terms of overall development and infrastructure advancement. When I talk about this to the natives, they prefer to talk about secularism, Ishrat Jehan, exploitation of working class and the rights of citizens. The leftward of them also point out the Chief-minister’s daring act of demolishing buildings in Kochi, Munnar and other places.

I started to write to “Letters to the Editor” column in the Indian Express. Some of my letters were published and some were dumped into the waste basket. Even those published were heavily edited. Their job was to edit and they were doing a fine job of it. In one of the letters that was published, not one word was changed by the Editor. That was the first word, Sir! All else was his own, but the name was mine. What I thought were real issues didn’t appeal to the Editors and I understood another truth. Even as a Critic, I was just a Jack !

And finally to conclude what has been a really long post, even in my chosen profession of being a Doctor, I have remained a Jack. I never got a chance pursue Post-Graduation. So I don’t have a Masters Degree and have remained a Bachelor of Medicine. Today I am working as an Intensivist cum General Practitioner; and am a Jack of almost all trades in Medicine, but not a Master of any. So this is one real Jack for a lifetime !

So can I call this post as my Master Piece ?

No, I will settle for a Jack Piece !

Dr. Pun-dit

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

My Pet Dislikes !

People are always known to have “Pet Hates”. I "Dislike" the word “Hate”. We have enough of hatred on this planet to scald the whole earth. So I don’t want to “Hate”. But I certainly find so many things not to my liking. Some may be frivolous and some may sound silly. But I am passionate about certain things in life and will disagree with those things that disagree with my view.

One of the most disgusting things for me is smoking. For me, single most annoying habit anyone can possess is SMOKING. Especially those people who smoke in public places and are unapologetic about it. I have seen extreme levels of rudeness in some smokers. They will not stop smoking even if we request with absolute politeness. I have had to suffer a guy in an air-conditioned Cinema hall. He even challenged me to “Do what you can” when I threatened him about approaching Police! But the truth is, even the police will take sides with smokers. They will say, “Why do you want to complain when other people have no issues?” Unfortunately we have no escape from this menace in spite of Supreme Court Order to “Ban smoking in public places”.

Another thing that annoys me is the traffic awareness or rather the lack of it amongst our population. People just can’t wait for signals. I see so many pedestrians crossing the road exactly when they shouldn’t be. As if rash and rude drivers are not enough; we have careless pedestrians crossing the road exactly when they should not be. They throw the entire traffic haywire and even get killed due to their own mistake. But you can do precious little about this. In Kerala, people will retort at you saying, “Even we are citizens of India and we have equal rights. Road doesn’t belong tour father”. People are bothered about “Rights” but not about “Duties”.

One malignant habit I have noticed is in pedestrians walking with children in tow. This is more common among women than men though men are not always blameless. Everyday I see women holding the hands of little kids and walking on busy roads with the child on the side of the road rather than the footpath. Knowing well about the menacing private buses, auto rickshaws and reckless two-wheelers, this puts the little ones in immense risk. I always make it a point to stop my car and ask people to walk the child on the side of footpath. Some people may like it, but in most of the cases I see a frown and a repulsive look that says, “Mind your own business”. Advice is the only thing that is given in abundance and seldom taken!

Coming to advice, I see a lot of people love to advice. It is common for almost the entire human race to believe that “I know best”. Some people have advised me about my hairstyle. I have written about it before. Some other people advice me about how I should try to improve my practice as a GP. I am a strictly family bound person. My dislike for practice beyond certain levels borders on the verge of being labeled lazy. I don't like to practice beyond 8:30 PM and would like to spend Sunday evenings with my family. But then people will have nothing of it. One gentleman had this piece of invaluable advice for me, “Doctors should never say 'No' to patients. You should be available 24 hours. You have to sacrifice at least that much for the people. Work is worship! Have you not seen Dr. So and So who runs his clinic till 11:00 PM? You will earn enough money also. If you restrict your hours, you will never grow”. We know there are so many hospitals in Kochi with 24 Hour service, why should all Doctors sacrifice their family life? And what will happen to the family of Doctors? They have done nothing to be disturbed in the middle of the night every other night. It is almost a one-way traffic when it comes to Doctors and service. This same gentleman is extremely economical when it comes to paying the Doctor’s fee. He would come at 2:30 AM to my house and demand some medicine for “Gas”. He is least bothered about waking up an entire family at that hour. And then he will walk out without even bothering to ask about paying a fee!

Well, I think before this grows too long, I should call a halt. Too long speeches and write ups also can get on your nerves. So I don’t want to risk getting on anyone’s nerves. Would love to continue from here when time permits, so that it doesn’t hurt!

Saturday, April 4, 2009

It is Story Time !

Who doesn't love the beginning "Once upon a time..." with anticipation ? I always loved story telling sessions at school and at home.

My father though not much educated, is good at narrating stories to little kids. He has a way with them. He will twist and turn same old stories and recycle them for the day or rather the night.

My ten year old daughter goes to bed only after the mandatory story session. She is now grown up enough to predict the course of most of the stories. But she still loves them !

So for a change let me narrate a story. And let me see if I can match my father !

Once upon a time, there was a village with a lot of people. And there was a huge Mango Tree. It was so huge and so old, no one in the village knew about it's origins. But people always had stories about who planted it and who all had watered it and how it has come to become a symbol of pride for the village !

But what is a story if it doesn't have characters, twists and turns and a theme ? And then an End ? Can a Tree alone be enough ? No, we need more and hence here we go !

The Tree yeilded thousands of mangoes every year, week after week without fail. Even during off season it had something for the people. As we know, it was a huge Tree and hence it covered a large area with its shadow. There wasn't a single tree which could be compared to this Tree in the surrounding villages.

People traveling far and wide came to rest under the Tree for the cool shade it provided. They often ate their food under the Tree. Thousands of birds came to rest on the branches of the Tree. The melodious songs of these birds added to the wonderful atmoshphere.

People used the outer bark, small broken branches and dried and fallen leaves as fuel in their hearths. The mangoes were very juicy and sweet with a lot of nutrients. But many young people preferred the raw mangoes and threw stones at the Tree to get raw mangoes. The magnanimous Tree tried to satisfy everyone.

Well, it was by all means such a Great Tree. But nothing in this world can be cent per cent perfect. So our beloved Tree too had its share of problems. As years grew, it become harder in the bark and softer in the roots. The fruits too had become lesser and less juicier. This is law of nature !

But people couldn't understand this, rather didn't want to understand. People always like to complain, as I have discussed in my older post. So they had a list of complaints about the Tree. And these were some of the complaints.

The Tree has become too big to climb. The fruits are too higher up and are not easily reached. We need tree-climbers to fetch mangoes and they charge a lot of money. The Tree is sheltering some snakes and scorpions in the holes under the roots. The snakes are dangerous and are biting or harming people. There were rats and bandicoots who were eating food grains from the stores. The fruits have become less sweeter with too much harsh fiber content. It isn't safe to rest under the Tree anymore due to snakes and scorpions. Thus the list of complaints was really very very long.

All this while, the Tree was still doing whatever it could to yield fruits, give shelter and stand strong. But people are people and couldn't stop complaining. They were fine with buying fruits from the market. They had constructed houses now and all of them were better off than they ever were. But unfortunately they were not willing to give credit to the Tree for the yeoman service.

The Tree started realizing it was growing old and was not going to hold on forever. It looked around for other trees and structures, but was not satisfied. It decided to hold on in spite of criticism and old age. But the time and tide wait for none and on a stormy night with a huge downpour, the Tree finally gave up the fight and collapsed.

With that, a lot of surrounding structures got damaged. It ended up devastating many houses, water pipes, electricity lines and telephone connections. But the Tree was gone and people got together to cut it into pieces and use it for furniture and for many other purposes. In the immediate aftermath of the shock of the fall and during the process of rehabilitation, nobody realized the real loss. The magnitude of loss was not understood by people, but for a few.

Then came the summer. The people found out that their houses weren't cool anymore. They had become too hot and intolerable. There was no cool breeze that the Tree assisted to soothe the place. The snakes and scorpions still persisted around the place, but the amazing and assuring shadow of the Tree was gone.

The birds had left the place and the song was missing from the life. Travelers found the life miserable because they now had to visit costly hotels to eat food. Hotels demanded money and sold their own food. This was going to become expensive for people.

Thus it was after some time and with great regret that the people realized that the Tree they all were criticizing was finally gone and will never be replaced. But alas, what is the point in complaining now? If only they had cared to take care of the Tree without harming it when it was around...

Why do we fail to realize the worth of people when they are around ? This whole story is about my Uncle T. M. V. Shenoy who left us on 24 Frbruary 2009. I called him Manthu ! He was the Tree in the story. He yielded millions of fruits in his lifetime. He helped thousands like me to build a home and make a life.

I am one of those birds who sang when he was strong and solid. I am also one of those little boys who threw stones at him and got raw mangoes in return to enjoy during summer vacations. I am also the traveler who ate my food under the shadow of comfort he gave. But unfortunately there were the snakes and scorpions and the rats and bandicoots. I too complained about them. I too complained that the Tree had grown too tall and the tree-climbers were ruling the roost.

But today after the Tree is gone and the dust has settled down, I realize the heat has become intolerable. The shadow is missing. The solid presence is missing. The soothing breeze is missing. The lilting song is missing. The fruits are gone. So many people are suffering because we all failed to realize the enormous value of the Tree when it was still around. The snakes and scorpions and the rats and bandicoots are still around and are still looting the store rooms. But the Tree is gone forever !

The snakes and scorpions and rats and bandicoots will thrive wherever there is a Tree. The Tree can't do too much to thwart them, because they too are living creatures and usually don't harm the tree but use it to their advantage. If we keep complaining for all the negatives about the Tree, we will never have time to appreciate the greatness of the Tree. There will be millions of birds, snakes, scorpions and rats but it is hard to find a great Tree.

If only we could realize the value of great people when they are still around... We will not be felling trees in future ! Miss you Manthu !

Dr. Pun-dit