Saturday, August 17, 2013


Music has always been my best friend. Although I listen to all kinds of music, Bollywood songs that have soulful lyrics, old or new have always found their way into my heart and mind's radio. They play along somewhere in the back of my head all day long through everything I do. 

Driving to work and back with music playing, what I miss the most is probably the radio stations back home. They always remind me of a time in my life that embodied freedom, a sense of accomplishment and just free spirited living. I loved that phase of my life. The stations as I listen to them today, online, across the globe, always give me the same constant picture of a day in those times.

It's always a sunny bright morning that I wake up into, hot cup of coffee, feet on the window sill, morning news paper - it's smell, crispness, the ink ; the warmth of the sun across a light shawl that covers me; the scent of the earth wet from watering the plants; wift of smoke from somewhere far; the sound of bells of the milkman's cycle, the crinkle of the anklets of all the female employees of the housing complex, dressed pretty in bright colors and smell of jasmine as they walk past. As I read less of the newspaper and watch all that goes on outside that window I realize that time is running and I need to get to college. The sound of the RJ announcing the days theme, as water hits me at a refreshing pace, the songs that play and make me want to dance and just play in the water, the beats of a song I bob along with trying to figure what to wear and get dressed for the day. A light banter between songs as I sit and have hot, fresh mom made breakfast and discuss the absolutely inconsequential topic with mom. Sitting in an a/c car, watching the tree lined roads of B'lore, while Murthy negotiates traffic and worries about getting me to college on time - still listening to the station. By now, I already have a set mood for the day without my knowledge. As I get to work for the day with no more music - all the banter, the discussion, the random people calling with their opinions, my opinion on matters, the  trying to recollect songs - the details of their lyrics, singer, film and all else keeps running through my head, until I hear the station again during lunch at the canteen with friends by my side. And the days would just go by hence. There was always radio and it always felt warm. 

As I miss the warmth of home, although home in an alien land, I play my station and sit back to let the feeling set in. And it never fails me. As I listened to the station one more day, the RJ asked if her listeners have ever felt that a dream should just stay a dream. And if so- why.

I thought about it and realised, I do. A lot of dreams, I always would want them to remain dreams. Reality would adulterate the purity of the feeling I derive from them. Reality would just end the streak of possibilities of these dreams. It would give a definitive picture and feel to the moment and take away the potential to live it in different ways. The definitive feel may not be anything close to what I desired out of the moment.  In my dream, these moments are always perfect. I can live them in a hundred ways and better each experience with tweaking every detail of the dream.

Yes, I want some dreams to always remain dreams and yes I'm glad some of my dreams have remained just what they should be - dreams.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Lesson in life from a stranger

Wednesday was all about me working through flu – fever, running nose, headache, blurred vision – name it. Ms. Laurie, my patient at 12 snapped me out of my flu mode completely by letting me peek into her soul for the brief time she spent with me.
 Wheel chair bound lady whose family decided it would be less trouble for them, if she was put in a home for the elderly and the disabled. She suffers from arthritis with her left knee and ankle in constant pain in addition to a mild paralysis of the right side with slurred speech –thanks to her CVA. Ms. Laurie was wheeled into my operatory and was assisted by her care taker in moving from the wheel chair into my examination chair. The care taker then took off to get a smoke. My assistant came along took the usual set of x rays enquired her reason for visiting us and fetched me with a " just a check up".
As I entered the room and with what is now a habit and a setting in the sub conscious mind, I noted the make of the wheel chair -nothing fancy, pretty uncomfortable on the back and definitely needed someone else to move it around. My patient sat on my chair, patiently, alert, eager. Her left ankle was in a cast that suggested a recent fall that might have resulted in a hairline fracture or a sprain. It just told me, she was not ambulatory and needed assistance in activities of daily living.  
I don’t know much about her family or her life. Its probably not my business and there definitely is no need to know. Yet it made me think of all the struggles she must have gone through to bring up the very kids or siblings that have abandoned her at time of her need. As I explained to her that she would need a couple of injections and a deeply lodged piece of tooth to be removed, revealed all the painful parts of the procedure, questioned her mental readiness to go through an intense procedure of that nature – she looked up at me and said “thank you”. Her thought was that I was helping her in a situation where I don’t have to. She further explains how this treatment is more her need than mine. She told me how she would be a hero through the procedure, just coz I agreed to perform it. I was a little taken away with it. Yes, in my profession, “Thank you” is a rare word to hear. Especially at the practice I am at. But more than just that, it was the spirit of this woman that swayed me. With the amount of emotional, mental and physical pain she was going through on a daily basis for years together, with no hope of anything getting better, she retained what was unique about her –her heart brimming with humaneness; of humility, gratitude and just keeping her perspective selfless. In today’s world where everyone wears horse benders, to be able see selflessness and such faith in the power above is exemplary and inspiring. She gave me a new benchmark to live up to.
On all those frustrated days, when every patient that walks through my door ends up making me wonder why I should wake up the next morning and do this all over again, Ms Laurie taught me coz it was the right thing to do. In order to keep our sanity and peace of mind, we need to do what we believe is right, irrespective of what difference it makes. That we are enough within ourselves. What others do for us only enriches our experience but the true bliss lies in what we do for ourselves in any situation , with no thought of consequence, no thought of entitlement.
Ms. Laurie bore the discomfort of an invasive procedure that will leave her with moderate post operative pain. Her experience would entail coming in with relatively no discomfort in her mouth and returning with significant pain for the next couple of days. She did that for herself, so she would not suffer from excruciating pain at a later date. Had she thought of how she was already in so much pain and refused treatment saying she doesn't deserve to be in more pain currently and will deal with whatever comes along later -she would look back at how someone who had forethought was offering help and she refused it.
Entitlement-it’s the driving word in everybody’s life these days. It dictates reaction and action. Before the thought of what did I do different that another hasn’t; before the thought of how much have I really made a difference to somebody else’s life – it’s how dare I dint get what I deserve. Its refreshing to know that there are people around that care to acknowledge another’s contribution to their life and be oblivious to the idea of entitlement. It takes immense strength and self-belief to be that gracious of a person.
I hope I can be as gracious and until then, I hope I always recognize greatness whenever it passes by me. Greatness can sometimes be profound in just simple acts of living.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Home - Sweet Home!

The inevitable is here. I am going to let my home go, to nurture a new one.

As I handed over my notice to vacate at the rental office, tears welled up. I realized two things then. One, that I get attached easily and the other I get attached tenaciously. 

I've always remember moving - smaller house to a bigger house, one city to another, one country to another, from parents' protective embrace into the big bad world - each of those moves have had one thing in common - that tugging feeling at the heart with a big booming "but I don't want to go" cry in my head.

 I loved every house I've stayed in. They have each been significant in their contribution to my growth. The walls, the windows, the doors, the floors, new furniture, old furniture, the smells, the decoration, the neighbors, the friends, the help at home, the view of the sky, the pattern with which the moonlight would grace the ceiling over my bed, the sounds of the crickets, frogs and other creatures of the night. 

Every first morning in a new place had the same feel as well. As a child, I remember waking up to the smell of fresh paint and clean linen on make shift beds, heart racing with excitement about all the new corners I could get to play and leave a mess of toys, books and the like, the little space in the backyard where I could dance to my hearts content among washed clothes spread to dry and other friends from nature, the garden up front where alongside a beautiful rangoli would be my little hop-skotch box. I remember that chart was a sign I was healthy and happy. An absence of the chart next to that immaculate rangoli would mean I was down with the Flu. No, it wasn't because I was too tired to play or din't feel like it, I wasn't allowed to go outdoors, lest I would never recover.
There was always excitement to discover everything the new home had to offer.

This home among all, has been the closest to my heart. It was MY first. 10 yrs of sheer struggle, hard work, suppression of desires with a relentless fervor to yet never quit dreaming, stringent budgets, compromising for ease of access and proximity to more important priorities - all of it paid off - when I first moved into this house. A small space, just enough for me, but large enough for anyone that cared to feel it's warmth. I put thought into decorating it, chose my furniture, still with a stringent budget - but MY budget. This home is something I built and for myself. It had everything I wanted, in the way I wanted it. It was my sanctuary. 

Here I am, stepping into the next phase of life. To make a home - OUR home. Yes, I am excited. The joy of smelling fresh paint, discovering those miraculous little spaces that delight you coz you can put things you din't really have to bring along with you, but you couldn't part with them, so they are here anyway. To bring in warmth amongst all the beauty and organization(or a lack of it!) - a warmth BOTH of us can feel, relish and share with ones that care.  

But, the tugging at the heart and not wanting to let go of the one I have now, still remains. I know I'll always carry an image of a part of me plastered to every wall of this home. 

HOME - I love you. I'll miss you immensely. You will always have a special and spatial place in my heart. Take care of yourself and stay strong through all that nature throws at you. Give the love, warmth, protection, comfort, happiness and peace you have given me to whoever follows, how many ever follow. 

Be their sanctuary, just like you have been mine. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

Morning News in Today's Times

Lately, I have come to dread the news reading routine with my morning cup of coffee. My profession to begin with is a stressful one. It's a job that tries to put hope in some hopeless situations; tries to alleviate pain with limited resources. So, my typical day at work involves a lot of critical thinking and improvisation skills to efficiently use my resources and maximize its use to give acceptable and sometimes miraculous results. It involves restoring a sense of normalcy and hope among people that feel miserable coz of their inability to help themselves and suffering all the while.

But, reading the morning news these days makes me look at the problems of my clients more dispassionately. When I have an adult screaming through a local anesthesia process, it makes me want to tell them about those kids in a war torn country that wake up to gun fire, finding their mother not moving, leaving them to fend for themselves without getting a chance to teach them the art of doing so. It makes me want to tell them, that if they think that they are going through the worst pain ever, they need to read the morning news.

The story of the innumerable rapes in my own country, the suicide bombings killing and ruining the living lives of hundreds, the fanatic rebel warriors that tear their own country apart to impose their thoughts on non- believers, the threat of attack and hence war, that a country poses by just a small act of sizing up their military against the border of their neighboring country, the revenge killings, the corruption among people in power while the ones they swore to help out are starving away- the morning news is just filled with despair.

You wake up after a good nights sleep feeling in control of your life to reading about all these victims' world and their morning. It makes you want to see that the job you are not getting, the flight you missed to reach on time for the all important meeting, the promotion you dint get, the shares lost in the market crash, your child getting the flu, the maid not coming in today with another measly excuse is actually not worth a thought. It's not worth the racing heart, the blood gushing to your brain, the anger seeping in that turns into self pity, then helplessness eventually to frustration. Yes, in your own world these are problems, these are source of negativity- but these have solutions. That job you'll find- if not today, tomorrow; that meeting might cost you a deal, but more will come by with time; that promotion will happen may be at a different company, but it will; that money you lost, you'll make it back with a little more hard work and patience; your child will get better after that 7 day period; the maid will come in tomorrow or you'll find another one.

But that victim of rape will never see sunrise the same way he/she did before his/her experience, that victim of the suicide bombing that was spared will never enter a cafe for a break from work without fear and suspicion, heck - not only a cafe but any part his waking life will never be without fear, that child that wakes up being motherless, will learn to live a life that may just end the next minute. Trying telling these people - 'always live life like there is no tomorrow'. They are probably praying that there is no tomorrow while you are saying it.

Reading all this negativity floods my positive energy enough to not have the mind set to do my job to the best of my capacity.

Asking the world to stop these atrocities seems impossible. Asking the media to not report makes it easy on the perpetrators to get by with committing these atrocities. So- that leaves the option of not reading it at all. If everyone takes that option then, why report?

So, what's the solution? Get emotionally stronger and resilient, learn to be cold and stone hearted, so you don't feel and hence stay unaffected? And if you want to change the world by stopping these instances of inhuman behavior- where do you start and how? I can't even describe these instances as animalistic behavior- I think the most selfish and fierce animal would show more compassion to its fellow living beings as long as its survival is not threatened. They by far are the best followers of the 'live and let live' policy .

Animals, would you forgive us human beings for being a part of your world and turning it into a complete hell? Please.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

To be or not to be!

When you work with a great team - a team that comprises of people that share a heart you recognize and understand, people who share the same path to the common goal with the same ideals as you do, you come across an exchange of thoughts that can inspire, be thought provoking or simply question observations!

During one of these "vacation" moments on a normal working day, we sat noticing how some people are very warm and social and others seem to come across rather cold. Is this characteristic an in built one or does experience, however insignificant affect the way people come across?

There are a bunch of people in my very own world, that when met for the first time, come across cold. They are quiet, barely smile, listen more than talk and can be the most comfortable person in a really awkward silence. It doesn't perturb them,a s to how they are perceived or how they come across as intimidating and unwelcoming. If they are lucky, the person probably was better off not being discovered, but if they are unlucky, they just shut off an extremely worthy person and a pleasant experience. Is this calm, composed, collected composure that comes across as cold a defense mechanism? Most of these people give me one reason to their method - "but I don't know the person, how can I just open up?" 

So, then, how do you have people from the opposite spectrum just open up, make conversations - meaningful, informative, stranger to acquaintance converting or just ending in the negative. Aren't people from that spectrum also in the "I-don't-Know-the-person" phase?

I came to understand that people in the first group - have a "guilty unless proven innocent" approach and the ones on the other side have a "innocent until proven guilty" approach. There is the question of trust and there is also a sense of worthiness. It is not necessary that a person who is cold feels that the person in front of them is not worthy of knowing him/her or that a warm person is trying to find an opportunity to show their worth to the other. But one's own idea of self worth does play a major part in addition to one's take on trust. 

What makes one belong to either? Am not sure. But I do know, that when you meet someone for the first time and you let yourself be the way you are, you are in  a vulnerable spot, susceptible to another accepting you or trashing you for who they perceive you to be. You may be welcoming or unwelcoming, warm or cold - neither guarantees "protection" from not being accepted. Why is acceptance so important? Why is it that when we meet someone for the first time, we want to be "liked"? Why do we gauge anyone we meet and decide if we like them or not? They are who they are, the way they are and that's who they have shaped themselves to be. Why is it hard to embrace the original format and let them see you for who you are - all in the first instance? That kind of flexibility in thought takes courage. It also takes a lot of character to sustain the flexibility despite all the bad experiences it may bring along. It's not only hard to embrace another person in their original format in entirety, it's hard to bare oneself in entirety as well.

Warm or cold - good intention is important. No matter how non-judging we all want to be, we all judge each other. It is the action you take, based on the judgement, that really counts!  

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

My profession. My learning.

When I first started learning the "art and science" of dentistry - I did not understand the head and tail of the subject. I knew all the individual pieces of knowledge very well - well enough to recite it backwards, mid-slumber. But, collectively, it did not make sense. I did not comprehend how I could use all that information and actually make a living or more importantly make a difference in a life. 

My education in the US - both in terms of the actual education and all the experience at work - opened my eyes to the collective knowledge of dentistry; to the profession's achievements; to it's ability to truly make a difference in a world where most people pay attention to their teeth only when they are in pain from it or more so when the front tooth mars their aesthetics. Over the years of learning, practicing and dealing with people who were equally unaware of the marvel of this profession, I've come to recognize that what I love best about being a dentist is  how it reflects chapters from the how-to-make-most-from-life guide book.

Day in and day out, in my practice, I watch as I make a difference in a child's life - as much with their teeth as with their growth in social interactions. We build relationships based on trust.We clean castles of germs and fight them with water bombs, shower brushes and tickle brushes and all this -  as equals - warriors that would lay down their life for the one common goal - destroy the castle of germs and put in a "band-aid". I take complete advantage of their clear mind and immense imagination and they take complete advantage of the kid inside me. In the end, we both walk out of the room smiling, patting each other's back for the great effort we put in as a team. I've had a lot of parents tell me, how much going to the dentist had changed from being nauseous in the car & racing heart- to smiles, fun and earning the Dr's hug and sticker. Yes, it took me a lot of effort to learn the technicalities of what I was doing, but, the true difference was learning ways to go past people's fears , my own fears and get a chance to use those skills.
In a world where trust is such a precious commodity and so fragile, here I am, finding it so easily in complete strangers and giving it so easily to strangers. Wouldn't it be a lot easier in this world if everybody trusts and keeps trust?

There is always the other set of people, who have been betrayed so much in a prior experience that they are unwilling to let you reach out to them. You pledge in blood to them that nothing will go wrong and they would not care to believe you. What do you do then? Do you also give up on them? With time, I've noticed myself, nurse them like a mother that caresses a scared child and soothes their racing heart only to find herself give the "talk". The one in which she reassuringly nudges the child to get back into that dark room he was scared to go and tell him how the fear would go away if he just turned the light on. If the monsters did come, she would be right there to fight along. When they listen and miraculously give the profession a second chance, I know it's a make it or break it situation. Sometimes I make it - I see them cry, in seeming relief. Other times, I don't. It makes me still thank them for giving themselves a second chance. I make them aware of how much more positively they had reacted to this episode and how far they had come from the past. I try to tell them that, if they gave themselves more and more chances, there would be a time, when everything they felt would be so insignificant, that it would not matter any more. 

The first time I heard myself saying this, I wondered where the thought came from. I realised - life always teaches everyone this. We just don't care to learn. When these patients give the profession a second chance despite their past experience, I know, I should do the same through all those times when I feel betrayed by life. With more and more chances, betrayal or not, the feeling would get insignificant and would not matter anymore. I could then start looking at the betrayals positively, take it in my stride and work at making it a part of an impending change.

Yes, Dentistry is my profession. It is my job. But it's biggest contribution to my career has been how it mirrors life's simple lessons in the way it lets me impact people.