Friday, 27 March 2020

The Quintessential Quote on Quarantine

       The indistinct voices of the young boys playing in the playground are audible.  They start playing early in the morning till the sun rises to the peak, to return after noon when the heat of the sun is more merciful.  The boys who came to play only during weekends come every day now that the schools and colleges are closed down indefinitely.  Sans classes, sans exams, it is an early summer vacation.  Suddenly among the young boyish tones a new and angry voice of a policewoman can now be heard.  She charges at the boys swinging her lathi, a couple of boys get a taste of the lathi on their shins and behinds, and taking cue from this the rest of the boys run helter-skelter scurrying in every direction like mice.


“Any plans of marriage?”, a friend pinged followed by tongue out emoji.
To which I replied “I’ll probably plan it if we survive this apocalypse!” *eye roll* and put an end to the undying question that haunts every eligible bachelor/bachelorettes.
So many such instances owing to the raging pandemic – Corona Virus.
The Prime Minister’s address to the citizens on 24th March at 8 PM declaring a nation-wide lock-down for the next 21 days does not come as a surprise.  It was expected any day as the number of infected persons around the country was rising alarmingly and exponentially.  Urgent decisions were to be made.

       The disease which started inadvertently in China has crept out of its borders and spread stealthily world-wide and before people could brace themselves, reality hits hard on the face.  Notification from my news app informs me of the rising numbers of people getting infected, of people dying, of lock-downs and quarantines.  The way the disease spreads is more mortifying than the disease itself.  While people comforted themselves with “It’s in China, it won’t affect us”, “It’s just a flu”, “It only affects the old and the weak”, and also relieving themselves with the fact that it is news of elsewhere, the reports revealed cases approaching nearer to us and before we knew it, the news which we talked of matters in China, South Korea and Italy has reached our own country, our states and towns.  The promising advantages of globalisation proved a major bane in the present situation and the containment of the disease seemed nearly impossible.  As people fly across countries they transmit the virus like pollinating the germs all over.  And sure enough travel had to be shut down across and within the countries. 

       Given that every human is a potential carrier and the spread is through air, the only solution seems to be to get the hell away from one another – social distancing, washing our hands and not touching our faces, besides there is no vaccine or medicine except to treat the symptoms until the patients recover or perish.  But our ways of life have been so accustomed to the necessary hang-outs, the compulsory must-watch movie at the multiplex, the new restaurants to be tried, the can’t-sit-at-home attitude proves difficult to give up.  People simply cannot sit at home, more so when they are forced to it.

        As I watched a news report of a policeman literally begging the general public to stay at home as they thronged the streets was distressing.  The people still do not realise what is coming.  Several messages are circulating in social media, supposedly put across by the people who had seen the worst of the situation, warning the noobs of what lay ahead and  not to repeat the mistake they had committed,  were ignored as rants.  And yet people roam free on roads recklessly compelling the police personnel to resort to violent means making them blow a punch here and swing a lathi there.  Some thoughtful policemen even went as far as making the loafing vagabonds clean the roads.  Purpose served!

      Meanwhile there are some other good fellow beings that are taking social distancing not only seriously but also are taking it to the next level through their tremendous contribution of memes for social welfare.  There was never a happier time for these brainy folks who got food for their creativity and shared hilarious memes day in and day out to our pleasure.  Whether the gravity of the situation was diluted in humour or was it a means of comfort in times of terror and panic, I cannot say for sure.

           On a personal front, I could not be happier with all the reading time I got.  It is an introvert’s dream come true situation.  I believe there could not be a better time than this to lie back and reflect.  Make the best of the time to take a step back from the outside world and take a peak within ourselves, figure out what we can do with our time when we have the luxury of spending it, discover ourselves and find the peace which has been so elusive to us.

            It is like mother nature is teaching her most notorious children a lesson.  In all this we seem to have failed to observe that she is being kind!  What is needed of us but to simply remain at home!  When the doctors, the police personnel, the vendors and workers are striving hard for our sake, is it so hard to stay at home and try not to add to their burden?  Is it not our bounded duty to make their efforts not go in vain and act responsibly? We are blessed with a roof on our heads, plenty of food and resources for our luxuries and entertainment at the tip of our fingers.  We are nowhere near hiding in cellars, fearing terrorists, capture, air raids, with lack of food and means. If people are bored and still complaining about being “stuck” at home then it is time to question ourselves as to what are we without our jobs, malls, multiplexes and restaurants. The lock-down seems to have stripped us of the world we have created around us and brought us down to the bare necessities – roti, kapda aur makaan (Food, clothing and shelter)!

            The earth is breathing easy, now that the teeming crowds are curtailed, the streaming traffic is down, and the concrete forests are hushed to silence while the most dangerous creature on earth is driving to hiding in his lair, chained by his own misdeeds, enclosed within the walls of his bloating ego he has built around himself and humbled by the taste of his own medicine.  There is quiet outside as time stands still, while the hum and roar of vehicles and machines is replaced with chirping of birds all over, horse runs fearless and free on the roads and dolphins returned to the coast of Mumbai!



Wednesday, 25 March 2020

From the Humble Beginning

I met Humble at the Wedding,
Of our cousins, hers and mine.
With less talk and more smiling,
We got along fine.

Numbers were exchanged,
An FB request sent,
Soon formal chats changed,
To be friends we were meant.

Another wedding, an invite to stay
At my place for the weekend,
And as the time whiled away
Our friendship deepened.

Next I packed my bundle
And set off to IISc.
I stayed on campus with Humble,
There we met, Lotus and me.

Whenever I went to meet her,
I met him there too.
It was nice to see them together,
Made for each other, those two!

With so many hardships,
Each had his and her share.
But the HumbleLotus relationship,
Did they nourish with care!

Now we are all going to see,
The HumbleLotus be united,
So with loads of love and glee
To them this poem is dedicated.

I still cannot believe it,
The time is approaching soon!
So I pray and wish for their credit
May the HumbleLotus forever Bloom!

P.S:  This poem is dedicated to my dear friends Namrata and Aravind.


Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Call of the mountains

The mountains were calling,
So I decided I would go.
There was no point in stalling
To see the magnificent montage show!

They stood out tall and proud
In spite of the echoing silence.
They made their presence loud,
My soul drifted into a cadence.

Green, blue, grey and white
Towering walls in the misty haze.
The ranges extended long and wide
As far as my eyes could gaze.

When sun shone slyly parting the clouds,
The peaks loomed in a mystic glow
I shivered from within my shrouds
Was it by the view or the chilled wind blow?

The gurgling rivers streamed in valleys
Tripping, falling, staggering over rocks
Meeting up with other aqua allies
Greetings in frothy gushing mocks!

I stood in overwhelming awe
Feeling small, tiny, and minuscule
I felt myself quietly thaw
into something insignificant, infinitesimal.

The mind freed itself of woes
And the heart did swell and expand
When I soaked in the Eden with my eyes close
Something entirely new happened.

When with mountains did I acquaint
This was something I got to know
That if the mountains should call again
I’ll have no choice but to go.


Thursday, 4 January 2018

When breath becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi: A review

My first book for the year 2018 was a wonderful opening to my reading account for this year.  I fell in love with the writer and the book as easily as drinking water and so was the impact.  It was like quenching the thirst of my parched mind.  To begin with, what attracted me the most was the author’s love for books, reading and literature, inculcated in him from a tender age.  Literature opens your mind to a gateway to various ideologies and perspectives which you could not learn enough through a lifetime worth of research and study.  It makes you think. It provokes your inquisitiveness and you begin to question everything.  Likewise, young Paul wished to probe into philosophy, meaning, identity, life and death. How does human mind work? What is the role of human brain? Where do biology, morality, literature and philosophy intersect?  With these questions the young mind of the author studied literature and medicine.

The book was in retrospection and introspection of the author’s life.  Each book one reads is an experience and this book was an overwhelming and intoxicating one.  He writes about growing up, his studies, his profession and his experiences in the field.  He explains the sanctity of a doctor-patient relationship and the role a doctor plays in the lives of his patients and their families.
“The physician’s duty is not just to stave off death or return patients to their old lives, but to take into our arms a patient and family whose lives have disintegrated and work until they can stand back up and face, and make sense of, their own existence.”
He played a crucial role in the lives of his patients as a neurosurgeon.  Most of his patients were suffering from ailments that shattered their lives and changed their entire existence.  The decision-making for these lives lay in his hands.  How could one learn to make, and live with, such judgement calls?  Mere knowledge and intelligence do not suffice in making these judgements.  It takes moral clarity and wisdom.  He quotes various instances illustrating the life lessons he learnt.  Situations which made him question himself.  And thus, his quest for meaning continued.

What makes life meaningful enough to go on living? 
You seek what life is in death, Now find it air that once was breath. New names unknown, old names gone: Till time end bodies, but souls none.
Reader! Then make time, while you be, But steps to your eternity.
-Baron Brooke Fulke Greville, “Caeilica 83”

Death is inevitable.  It is a known unknown.  We know every being that is born is to die one day.  We know it can happen at any moment but we know not when.  But how would you live when you know death is round the corner ready to jump at you any moment now. Would you live life the same way?  Would you feel the same about life?  How would you spend the rest of your remaining part of life.

So finally he writes about death and the days he spent looking death in the eye.  Did he fight a battle and win it? No.  He was in denial, he was angry, he strived to find ways to escape, he got depressed and he cried about it and then he accepted.  He welcomed death with open arms and in the meanwhile he lived.  He lived with death.  He was a neurosurgeon and made a difference in several lives using every ounce of his  energy, he was a loving husband and provided security to his wife and assured her needs were fulfilled, he was a father and dreamed about his daughter's future,  and he was a patient and he accepted wholeheartedly what life handed to him.  Finally he was a writer, and he shared his life with readers like me.  It was great knowing him through this book.

“We shall rise insensibly, and reach the tops of the everlasting hills, where the winds are cool and the sight is glorious.”


Monday, 30 January 2017

A letter to the beyond

Dear Ajja,

I could barely see the “PUSH” label on the door knob before me.  My thoughts had raced back to the last time I had been there.  It was with you.  Your new watch strap was loose and it was annoying you. Time was important.  It hardly passed now.  You looked at your watch every now and then to see how much had elapsed.  You were happy with your new watch.  But it did not sit firmly on your wrist and kept slipping.  So we had gone to the showroom to fix it.  You were uncertain it could be fixed.  “Do they do that?  Very good!” We had gone arm in arm.  You didn’t like using the walking stick, a sign of weakness and dependency which you hated. 
We gave your watch at the counter and the shopkeeper checked your wrist and measured the links that need to be cut off from the strap.  And to your surprise your watch was returned in no time fitting you perfectly.  You shook hands with the guy, “It fits perfectly now.  So nice of you to do it!  Thank you very much.  It was very loose.  It is perfect now. Thank you”, you said again as we walked out.  You were so excited.  You were thanking me now.  “If it weren’t for you I had to continue wearing the loose watch.  It is proper now.  I didn’t think they would fix it.  But he did it for us.  God’s grace! Thank you.  You will help me out if there is any more trouble with this? I know you will! Thank you.” You said it repeatedly all along the way back home and again at home that evening every time you beamingly looked at your newly fixed watch.

That was the state of affairs.  You were totally a child.  Everything surprised you like it was the first time you ever saw it.  Small things made you extremely happy.  “What is this? I never saw it before?”, “That was so good, I had it for the first time!”, you had said when you ate ice cream.  You looked at everything with a childish curiosity and small things fascinated you and made you joyful. 
It has been a year since you left us. How time flies! How life goes on in spite of what happens!  But the void remains. Your absence is strongly felt.  It feels so strange that you, who had been such an important part of our lives, are not among us.

My memories go back to when you took me out as a kid.  Your single finger I could grip fully with my small hand as you walked me out.  You picked us up from school every evening by Luna.  How you always wanted everyone to be together.  You would call me to come over as soon as my exams got over until the day the school reopened.  You didn’t want me to waste even a single day of my vacation being away from you.  You made us read the Vishnu sahasranaam and chant Ram naam.  Your habit of chanting ram naam never stopped. Your fingers moved subconsciously over the beads of the rosary as you chanted “Sri Ram jaya Ram jaya jaya Ram” involuntarily till your last breath.  You wanted us to do things on time even if it was the vacation.  “Finish all your work first then you can be as you like freely for the rest of the day”.  You always wanted discipline. 

How it all changed before we knew it.  How you suddenly got old after you had your first attack of stroke.  Going out on your own got dangerous.  You had repeated accidents but you insisted going anyway.  How you very getting hurt repeatedly but you were still positive and optimistic that what has to happen will happen and nothing can stop it.  We were so scared for you.  We forced you to stay home.  How restless you got to be at home, being the active person that you were.  How you were forgetting things. But you never worried.  You never told us about your pains.  You bore it all with a smile.  You tried to find something to do even while at home.  It was so hard to pass the time. 
The day you fell and hurt your back, was the blow.  You couldn’t walk again.  You were forced to bed.  Days got difficult for you and us too.  It was hard to see you suffer, to see you struggle through routine works.  How it embarrassed you to depend and make someone else do your work.  You thanked profusely for every little errand done for you.  You were apologetic that others had to do your work and you explained your situation which we all understood. “I am sorry ma, I don’t mean to trouble you. I am old you see, it is beyond my control”, you explained with that desperate helpless look in your eyes.  You were unhappy, but you always smiled.  You said it is God’s grace.  You greeted every one with folded hands even when you did not recognize any one.  It was heart wrenching to see you small and lean in your bed.  I had never known you to be weak and ill.  You had always seemed this strong head of the family, invincible!  You had a childish endearing smile.  The twinkle in your eyes shined so bright that it warmed many a hearts.  You thanked the nurses and doctors every time they came to check you.  You were grateful that they took such good care of you and were trying to treat you.

We had hoped to bring you home, to pamper you, to love you more.  We knew it was coming.  We knew it was inevitable.  Did you know it too? Did you know the time had come? Nothing could prepare us when you left us.  The person whom I admired, respected and loved the most was suddenly gone.  A strange emptiness and longing tugs at my heart even today every time I think of you.  Yes, we moved on.  But I still hold on to your memories tightly lest I should lose them too.  The way you made me feel.  The happiness you gave me.  How childlike you had become!  Your positive spirit throughout your life, your principles, unwavering disciplined life set an example to live by.  Several people told of your good deeds and praised you.  They told us how you had helped so many people we knew nothing about.  Even in death you were this awe inspiring person.  “I lost my gem”, grandma said when you were gone. 

Even now when I cook I remember how you appreciated and thanked me for every meal, every cup of coffee.  How you cherished and loved food! “It is first class! Very good! Thank you.”, you always said.  You have no idea how much I loved cooking for you and how motivating you have always been.  How I wish I could do it again for you.  I miss how you called me “Gundamma” in a sing-song voice.  I wish I could hear it again.  I want you to tell me “very good”.  If only I could hear it again.  Anything!  You had first taught me the joy of letter writing as a kid.  I am writing to you again now.  Wherever you are, I wish you could see this.  I wish I could see you.  I wish I could tell you how much I miss you.  May be I never told you how much I love you!  If only I could tell you now.

Your only,

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Soliloquies by the sea

By the shore I like to stand
My feet buried in slipping sand
The frothy droplets tickle my toes
With white outlines as it goes.

By this shore I like to listen
To the waters that glow and glisten
The roaring waves tell me tales
And songs of glory in gushing gales.

By this shore I like to walk
Along the waves that chase and mock,
Linking hands with the wind
Sandy footprints trailing behind.

By this shore I like to feel
My deepest wounds repair and heal
As sounds of sea weave and swerve
Like massaging fingers through every nerve.

By this shore I feel serene
In what was and has always been
The wise old sea, in its vast expanse
I stand humbled, lost in trance.

- Nivedita

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Life goes on. . .

Struck by a raging storm,
Rattled by the fury of winds,
You panic and lose form
As it tests you and grinds,
But life goes on.

The leaves fall off,
And flowers wither away.
The times seem tough,
You lose balance and sway,
But life goes on.

Dear ones die or depart,
While some leave in wrath.
It breaks down your heart,
And you lose all your faith,
But life goes on.

You reach a dead-end,
You find no way out.
You crease, fold and bend,
You cry and you shout,
But life goes on.

But broken things can mend,
Joy, you can newly amass.
You think it's the end,
But this too shall pass,
Because, life goes on.

Things that brought sorrow,
Shall soon be things bygone
There is hope in tomorrow,
After night comes the dawn
And life simply goes on!