Conversations Amygdala

Bilingual Parenthetical Chronicles
When the waves of grief wash upon me without warning
When sanity threatens to drown in a pool made of my own tears
I cling to poetry
As though to a raft
With the fierceness of a woman
About to die
With the fierceness of a woman who has seen pain and stared it down
Down and battled it some lost a few but won the war
I cling to it
With the softness of a woman tending to a mortal wound
Gingerly, oh, gingerly
Ssh, ssh, nice and easy does it, love.

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Lord, I have so much love to give that I
throb with it, eternally waiting for a recipient to bestow it upon.
each taking their fill
Deeming it too heady
Moving on with a shake of their heads
What was I thinking
What were they thinking indeed
hungrily I await the turn of each
Await the one who’d drink deep
And be sated
And I’d be home.
It is my search for a home, as much as the need to give.
They come in droves,
Dancing to different tunes,
Each taking their fill.
I wait endlessly,
Painfully, alternating
between hope and despair
Never once thinking
to
Turn the wellspring upon myself.

butterflies

The sun is shining
And the butterflies have come out to play.
They are not a metaphor for anything.
Flapping amidst the tall green grass
Suckling honey from the coatbutton plants
Make their slender stems droop till the ground
Feathery light, feathery bright
They have just come to play.
They don’t thrive to fill you with joy
(and though they may do, that’s beside the point)
Mossy green and phosphene yellow,
The sun is out and they’ve come to play.

What I wrote for the Grads Day Mag

The smell of varnish off the desks of Hunter, the desks that carried the graffiti of innumerable generations before us. Trying not to be terrified of dissection hall. Trying one’s best to not be the subject for physiology ‘practicals’. The masochism that comes from having to prick your own fingers, multiple times, with a rather terrible lancet. Teaching tamizh, learning tamizh, and developing a pidgin tamizh-hindi-english eventually. Scalding your lab neighbour in biochem practicals. Getting someone else’s urine all over, something that would happen again in internship. Killing the CAL animals for the lulz. Making singularly terrible art in the name of records. Hematoxylin & eosin pencils and perpetually forgetting to bring them. Sleep, a lot of it, amidst the gentle ac and comforting darkness of the lecture halls. Proxies, thousands of those – given, received, attempted, failed, caught. Failing en masse in the tougher tests and taking heart in the knowledge that your friends have failed too. Hurried discussions outside viva halls. 75% attendance, the eternal struggle. Psm field trips, of all the village dogs befriended and snacks eaten.
Trying to make sense of the slides and specimens, all of which invariably looked the same. Lister cafeteria. Rava cake at EMS canteen. Gobindo sweets & snacks. Crunchy. Brother’s. Karthik. Having half your blood volume replaced with Cavin’s milkshakes and tea and coffee.
Hostel nights, full of substance(s).
The realisation that the saying, ‘the seniors who ‘interacted’ with you the most will end up being your closest’ goes both ways.
Of treats – begged, cajoled, and begrudgingly given, but never short of love. Of committees that became families.
Beaches, beaches, and more beaches.
The gloriousness of third year. Dealing with power and the inevitable friction that comes along with it. Of having dreamt something for so long and actually pulling it off. Your Spandan, the pride. The realization that your baby junior spandan was the best, after all.
Long nights spent exchanging and watching the creme de la creme of shitty tv series.
A year lived in perpetual fear. Looking at postings with newfound respect. Regrets at having sleepwalked through previous years. Existential crises. Urgent redressals. Actually making an effort to learn some medicine. The Central Library becoming your new haunt; and the nearby ponlait booth, the source of much needed caffeine.
Your first CPR. First death. First screw-up. The first time a patient yelled at you. The first time a patient thanked you. Starchy white coats descending into various degrees of yellow and brown. The twin threads of utter callousness and responsibility that you saw. RHC days. The elaborate recipes. RHC nights. The half-mad dogs.
Blood samples – so many of them, that you ought to have been declared an honorary vampire.
The perpetual cribbing while we lived here. The inevitable nostalgia since we left.
Somehow, in the middle of all this, we became doctors.

TO BEING DOCTORS-TO-BE

This says it all.

Mrigank Warrier's Blog

We who were always overachievers. Who missed the dusk of our adolescence solving multiple-choice questions.

We who began our adult lives spending alternate days with corpses. Who carry bones in our bags and books that break our backs. Who spend the prime of our youth in the grime of wards. Who have already witnessed a lifetime’s share of deaths. Who learn about depression but fail to recognise it in ourselves.

We who have no definite college hours. Who don white coats even in the heat of May. Who are accustomed to the deadweight of stethoscopes around our necks. Who will pursue likely teachers for a lesson even into the night.

We who also study law, sociology, psychology, entomology, nutrition, sanitation and statistics. Who are always between exams. Who neglect the pursuit of our other passions. Who sometimes cancel our own vacations. Who covet amphetamines.

We who touch people slathered with…

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In which I recount my first time inside an Operation Theatre, the travails leading up to it, and the ultimate happiness achieved.

This is the story of how I got to see my first surgery.

10 a.m:

Uncharacteristically, and flagrantly flouting my college’s tradition, my friends and I are running towards the Surgery Department immediately after the theory classes get over. The Unit that we’ve been posted is in charge of the Operation Theatres (OT) today, and we are determined to barge in into one, whatever it takes. The chances that a bunch of second years like us, (‘barely out of med school diapers’ as a friend put it) are going to be allowed in were pretty slim, but we’d found out on the last OT day that our Unit people could be tricked into not minding.

10: 20 a.m:

Thanks to a resident who is too busy to give a damn, we gain permission.

“Scrub in and go inside”

“Where, sir?”

“Anywhere you want, but two people per OT”

Wheee!

Scrubs: Face-mask, head-cap, loose-fitting top, lo(o)ser-fitting pants – all in green, and Hawaii chappals. (The last two would come undone later, right in the middle of the surgery.)

One tantrum by my friend A later, (“I’m not wearing this stupid dress!”) we’re about to enter the hallowed corridor when our Unit’s Assistant Professor catches us. Thankfully, he only wants to awaken us to the deeper meaning of the OT Uniform. Umm, okay.

10: 35 a.m

In the Major OT corridor, unsure of which door leads to which OT. Finally the other two venture into one of the rooms, and vanish behind a door. A and I (as bunking partners, it’s natural that we’re stuck with each other) tiptoe into what looks like mid-way room. An OT nurse goes,

“Enna venum?”

“Operation theatre..?”

“Chumma comedy pannadhe! Endha OT?”

Mutely, we point in the opposite direction to where the other two went.

11:35 a.m

We’re hooked. Slightly clueless, but hooked.

We’ve been standing at the tail-end of the Operation table for the past hour, carrying out urgent conversations in hushed tones. It feels more like ten nervous minutes. In the meanwhile, we’ve found out that:

1. Our Unit’s Chief and two Senior Residents are operating. To watch the man’s hands move over the patient’s body, cutting, coagulating, ligating and probing…is like watching music.

2. The operation is a Retroperitoneal Mass Incision. (Taking out a tumour-thingy from the back part of the body cavity, roughly.)

‘Laparatomy & Proceed’, reads the chart on the wall. A sends me out to google  ‘Laparatomy’  just in case somebody decides to conduct a viva during the operation.

3. Nobody notices us, but two girls standing at the tail-end of the table are automatically assumed to be B.Sc Nursing students.

4. I don’t hate the sight of blood, shattering a long-time misconception. In fact, blood is sexy. Er.

Also, we’ve seen a real, live Colon. Underneath it, is the tumour that’s being resected. Did I say tumour? A red, throbbing, over-sized basketball is more like it. A vehemently disagrees, saying It’s Not What You Think.

12:30 p.m:

We don’t know why they are cutting everywhere except around the tumour. They’ve been ligating something that looks like Mesentry for a long time. Words like ‘Gerota Fascia’  float around, making me guilt over all the Anatomy that’s evaporated out of my head.

We seem to have gravitated to the head-end somehow, in the process of making way for the surgeons who keep popping in and out.

We’ve singled out the sound of each machine in the OT. The surgeons seem to be using electric scalpels and scissors instead of the manual ones we used in Dissection. They’re very cool, except for the occasional stench of burnt flesh that wafts our way.

I usually get hyper when I’m inside a bookstore, but this endorphin rush is unbelievable.

1:50 p.m

I’ve managed to perform several important tasks like switching the airconditioner off (the patient had hypothermia. Ooh!), calling the nurses for help, etc. The high point is when one of the anesthetists ask A to stop a drip. Neither of us know how to. Ohgoshohgosh what if we kill this patient by doing this wrong!

After some frantic messaging to our batchmates, we decide to bunk the afternoon practicals, our first Pharmacology one. One look at that lovely tumour waiting to come out is enough to make up our minds.

The operation in the other OT is over, and the residents are crowding in, completely obstructing whatever little view I had. While I’m inwardly cursing my height (or the lack of it), the anesthetists bunch decide to get some entertainment out of us…

Why is everybody suddenly worried about us missing lunch and the afternoon class?

And we patiently explain to them: No, it’s not PSM in the afternoon; No, we’re not going to get proxied; No, we’re not local dhaadhas just because we hail from this town; No, we don’t mind missing lunch; No, we’re not getting out until this tumour does; and No, I didn’t point out that leaking drip to you only because it was irritating me.

You have to try harder to chuck us out of our first surgery.

2:35 p.m

It’s been very long. I wouldn’t say we’re bored, but we seriously wish we knew some shit about what’s going on. We start placing bets as to when the tumour will come out. I say 3, and says 3:30.

3: 00 p.m

I win.

It’s OUT! My cuddly, red, cutie-pie tumour is out! A PG starts taking pics with it, we desperately wish we could too. (We later got the pic Bluetoothed, and it ended up as my mobile’s wallpaper) It’s time for us to leave, but we just can’t, yet. A drain is inserted beautifully into the patient’s abdomen, and the suturing begins.

We watch longingly, and when it’s half done, we bolt before too many questions are asked.

3: 15 p.m:

Mad clicking of pictures of each other in Scrubs inside the changing room. Way too much giggling, and ‘I wouldn’t mind college so much if…‘s.

 

p.s:  this may lack the excitement of your regular Grey’s Anatomy episode, but dude, that’s because of the paucity of hot men around.

The Madness Trilogy – Three

The final poem in the Madness Trilogy. This one might actually make sense.

 

Somedays,

you’re not crushed.

Not Crushed crushed, anyway.

Somedays you

take a long look at it,

sigh, once or twice, maybe,

watch some television,

engage in the necessary mindlessness,

brood

snuggle under a blue quilt,

sleep.

 

Hope is waiting for you in the morning

Like a fastidious Death God

With an appointment to keep.

 

But!

Congratulations.

(You’ve bought yourself a night without daydreams!)

 

 

 

The Madness Trilogy – Two

the craziest of the three poems, IMO. Read on.

 

A tumbling kind of life

that ball in my depths rolls too much.

Rolls and rolls and spews and spews and spews until

I become Sweat.

A tumbling kind of life

I am not used to.

Do not want. Do not like. Cannot stand.

Clumsy.

My nails bleed from the fall

And the ball rises, shrieking in my throat

With a laughter smelling of End.

A tumbling kind of life.

I run towards

Unbelonging.

I smell musty vapours as I open doors.

The ball is clueless. Can it fear Nothing?

And I, smiling,

into non-being,

Unwinding.

The Madness Trilogy – One

Heh. The title sounds grandiose, doesn’t it? Under this, I’m planning to post a set of three poems that have been languishing in obscure corners of my mobile. 

Each of these was written in a different period, under a different mindset, and about a different bag of woes (well, of course); but recently, I discovered they had a common theme running through them. I’m not quite able to define what that thread is, so we’ll just call it – as we call anything that defies definition – Madness.

{The poems taste best when washed down with a healthy measure of Florence + The Machine.}

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=waiB8mWOJOA

Go mad.

Slowly. With every tangle in your unkempt hair,

keep count of the unhinged neurons.

Nihilism, nihilism!

Any oiliness just slows you down.

It’s a fun ride.

It’s a free fun ride, if

you’re not anal retentive.

You are?

Too bad.

You need more assholes.

Make ugly puns-

point them out.

Snort when you laugh Do one insane thing a week Weep with buckets Grind your nails to powder Run your tongue along the bitter ridges of your mouth.

Obsess, fuss, randomly confess.

And, Go mad.

Because everybody is trying hard

not to.

Leaves from Mussoorie

Does it get any better?

There’s myself – sitting on a swing with a canopy, surrounded by tall, reedy yet majestic trees with needle-like leaves that droop down with languor. In the clearing, a few kids play badminton, panting in the rarified air.

It’s 7:30 p.m, but bright enough to read this poetry collection the author, a former houseguest, has signed. It’s Keep Silence, But Speak Out by Charlie Langton, and reading it is an experience that only the discovery of an unheard-of treasure can bring.

Amma and Appa are deep in conversation with our hosts, who promise tantalising treats for the next few days. The table is heavy with anticipation; lovely books picked up from hosts’ personal collection, are waiting to be read. With a peace I don’t remember feeling before, I watch the evening slip by.

There are the unusual birds of this region- warbling, twittering, chirping. I watch helplessly, unable to decide which one to capture in my cam and how.

There’s the noise of cicadas, and of so many other forest-mountain insects, there’s the mountain-y essence wafting by, and the gentle creaking of the swing.

There’s also Mom’s newly-fractured Fibula, and the how-can-I-miss-it dog in the premises. Just to remind me that this is all still real, perhaps.

There’s Mussoorie.

I’m just back from a walk – I’d rather not describe it with the breathless metaphors that float into my head, and spoil it for myself later.  It suffices to say that this place was capable of eliciting a straight 10 km walk in the hills from mine lazy bum, sans complaint.

We started for The Mall Road, or the Mall, the town’s main ‘shopping-eating-strolling area’ as the tourist guide books describe it. It’s actually a picturesque 3km long stretch of mountain road, dotted with roadside shops on one side, and overlooking the valley on the other.

Our first destination? Cambridge Book Depot, where we could get directions to meet Ruskin Bond. Yes, he lives here, in Landour, a few kilometres from the main town. So do Hugh & Colleen Gantzer, Stephen Alter and Bill Aitken-  those names you lap up with gusto on newspaper travel columns. The bookstore-owner spoke of them like old friends, which was probably true; the shop seemed to be a favourite haunt of theirs.

Sadly, Ruskin Bond was not in town, and wouldn’t return until a few days after we leave. But a part of me was relieved. I grew up with Mr.Bond’s (or Ruskin, as this bookseller calls him) stories. They define my childhood. And there is a definite unease about meeting the person who seemed wizard-like in his ability to put on paper the feelings and aches I couldn’t find a name for. I didn’t want to be let down, and I didn’t want to let him down.

In the end, the bookseller offered to get my old copies autographed and courier them home. Content much, I bought two books by the other local authors, told him I’d collect it the next day, and walked on.

[Family trip to Dehradun & Mussoorie, June 2012.]

(S, I tried maintaining a journal during the trip like I promised, but the place was too beautiful to be sitting with my laptop and ruing over sentence constructs.  This is the entry from Day 1, and that’s all there is.)