The God (is) Complex

On 27th of October, 2015, at the Government hospital morgue, I witnessed my first autopsy – a full-term pregnant lady, and thus by extension, her unborn baby. On 4th of February, 2016, at the Government hospital operating theatre, I witnessed my first emergency C-section – the birth of a baby, and thus by extension his new-born mum. Here at Kasturba Medical College, Mangalore, in my own way, I have seen it all.

Slight exaggeration there! This is merely the beginning. If there is one stereotype that is not false of the medico community – it is that we never stop learning. Be it proper bedside manners (rub your hands together before examining the patient, so that they are warm), or proper dressing sense (are you Really wearing jeans to the ward!) to the easiest way to score… in the popular board game “Operation” (well, there is no one right answer to that) MBBS is a nerd’s game. Think sharp, be punctual, get used to caffeine driven all-nighters. And carry a hand sanitizer, please.

So, you put on your once-a-novelty white coat (not that white anymore), and your still-a-novelty stethoscope (still quite pink), and march right into the warzone. TB on beds 6 and 7. Diabetic Neuropathy far right. Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease somewhere, auscultate him! Rub your hands, rub your hands! One look at that steth, and suddenly you’re God – all-seeing, all-powerful, the hopeful look on their faces undeterred by your gaze of utter confusion as the only procedure you can competently perform is checking for pulse. The smarter ones can Even take Blood Pressure readings! 2 hours of that, the dawning realization that you know nothing, another promise to study harder tonight, and you can finally go home for the day.

Gruelling, demanding, gut-wrenching Med School. Thou art a heartless bitch.

Another popular stereotype is that the med students are heartless bitches too.

After all, where is the room for emotion in this bizarre tangle of IV tubes and catheters? This maze of OPDs and OTs and ERs and other assorted acronyms? This cacophony of codes red, blue, yellow, black, bubblegum pink? This… you get the point. There is no room. Your hands tend to shake when you care about the person you’ll be slicing into. Your mind tends to be less than objective when diagnosing a near or dear one. We all know about the dilated pupils, elevated heart rate, changed breathing patterns of a person falling in love. But it would do well for us doctors to remember that those are merely signs of our sympathetic system kicking in – signalling our choice between Flight or Fight. Sometimes, it’s better to just take the choice away from us, and just Do.

As such, we have a given protocol for everything. When we take case histories – we ask the patient what his chief complaints are, the history of said complaints, any past history of illness, family history of illnesses, illness, illness, illness – the 1st thing that we must ask them though is their Name. Their full name. Their given name. “Your name is your identity”, the professor says matter-of-factly, because it was a matter of fact “ and addressing the patient with his name, which he’s familiar with, has responded to all his life, forms a bond, a relationship with him, one of trust, helping him open up to you. You need him to open up to you.”

You see enough cadavers being chopped up, enough autopsies filed away in dusty cabinets, enough scalpels carving into bodies as if it’s just flesh – you may forget that people are, in fact, people, and not just “Cases”. Or, well, so goes the popular stereotype. The stereotype of the sterile Operation Theatre, where the actors leave germs and feelings outside before scrubbing in, squeaky clean, to play out their part of God.

Well, I’m still human.

The day of the 1st C-section, I got to see two more. Each carried out with the unwavering precision that comes from years of practice, dedication, and a slight caffeine addiction. A nip here, a cut there, baby’s head, neck, torso and limbs pulled out in quick succession, on to the baby tray, off to nurse’s station, Look ma’am, it’s your baby, looks just like you, mother faints. Every single time. To the untrained eye, it is an assembly line, unlaboured by this woman’s labour, just cuts and bruises that can be explained away by 2nd year obstetrics textbooks. But, underneath my faded green scrubs mask, there was etched an invisible smile. Look closely, with a doctor’s keen eyes, and you might just see it.

World Peace – The 1st Letter

Dearest,

As you no doubt already know, one of my growing concerns is the world we leave behind for posterity. A world, deprived of natural resources, fraught with diseases incurable, riddled with bullet holes, waiting for the Sun to die.

That is what you already know. Now, let me tell you about my day.

I woke up at the usual time. Turned on the news, only to turn it down to a bare minimum of background music as I brewed my morning cup of tea. As the tsunamis hit Japan and the Indian coast, I brought the water to a boil. As the emaciated, sunken-eyed children of the world looked up at the cameras, barely keeping their heads upright, I took a heady whiff of my Earl Grey. As the inane insanity of Paris, Syria, Pakistan, Mumbai turned the television screen red, I noticed the golden black of the tea. Breakfast was served.

I took a sip, looked out, and couldn’t help but miss you.

At this moment, you’re probably out there somewhere, developing solar powered cars. Curing cancer. Part of a UN Embassy shaking hands with world leaders, leading talks to come to an international co-operation. Rescuing a cat stuck on a tree.

And here I am, trying to do my bit in reconciling with whatever you are.

The year Gandhi died, there was no Nobel Prize for Peace awarded, for it is not an honour posthumously given, and it was deemed improper for it to be bestowed upon anyone else when the best candidate for the prize had not received it. I’d appreciated the gesture at first – thought it was appropriate. Of course he was the best man for the award, given his unyielding, undying dedication towards the cause he so believed in. But now that I’m somewhat less certain about nearly everything, I must confess it seems like a waste of an accolade, and rather putting down to any number of others who must’ve given their all for similar causes and went – and still are – unrecognised. Unknown. Forgotten.

But I do appreciate the fact they don’t do the whole “posthumous” shit. There is no glory in death. Only a cessation of living.

Going by that logic, we should probably not care what it is we leave behind for the future generations. Make the most of what we have while we are alive, and leave the descendants to fend for themselves as best as they will. Extinction is, after all, unavoidable. Denial, resistance, despair are all futile. You might as well tear up this letter this very moment. Burn all your books. Destroy every roll of film. Break that vinyl. Who is it that we’re leaving it behind for? It’s not like they’ll remember us – look at all the people we have allowed ourselves to forget.

The human race is doomed.

It is. But the World isn’t.

But, come to think of it, what Is the world? Is it but the rocks and mountains, rivers and oceans, trees and forests? No! it is the people who make up this world, and not the other way around.

World peace is the people of the world being at peace. With where they are, what they have, and who they are.

It is thus only a little exaggeration to say that world peace is but, my peace. Your peace. Our peace.

I would like to go to sleep at night thinking we’ve achieved it.

Yours…

 

30th October, 2015

One thing I mustn’t forget, is that writers are people too.

People with blood and sinew and muscles that get tired. Only difference between them and anyone else, would be the bombardment of words within their skulls, that demand release, a breath of fresh air, refuge on a piece of paper.

Knock, knock, knock within their skull, let me out, let me out…

Here’s a thought, here are the words to put them down in, but I’ve been writing for what seems like hours, and still no refuge in sight. My hand hurts, my back hurts, my eyes are watering, and it has little to do with my limbic system. I’ve scratched out the last two sentences four times, and I’m slowly losing the ability to draw a straight line. This pen I’m holding, it’s my favourite – I usually hold it like my mother’s finger, like a lover’s hair, like a friend – but right now it’s less “holding”, more “trying”.

But, where do I put down these thoughts, then?

Knock, knock, knock…

Ink blots, ink blots, coffee stains, oh wait, I’m a tea person, ink blot, never mind, I was about to scratch that out anyway. I can’t understand my own handwriting. That doesn’t seem to make any sense. Nothing seems to make any sense.

Knock, knock, knocked me down…

My head hits the journal, and I’m not quite sure how it got there. The last thing I remember before passing out is a faint smell of ink, and my first memories of holding my mother’s finger, my lover’s hair, my friend, and realizing how I’d never want to let go…

Knock, knock, knock….

Sleep, my Child…

When I become a mother, or if I let myself become a mother, I will take the clichéd route of telling my children fairy tales to help them sleep. But my bedtime stories are based on true events.

The first thing they must learn is I am my own Prince Charming, my Big Bad Wolf. My skin is shining armour, with chinks in all the right places to allow for arrows. I keep my hair short, so no one can disturb me in my tower. I don’t wait for the King’s invitation – I host my own dances. I wear trainers under my gowns – you can’t run in glass slippers. Even if you could, you wouldn’t – the delicacy of your footwear makes you want to tread lightly.

But no! I will stomp my way through the marshes, making myself heard, my presence felt. “To be seen, but not heard…”? Not this dragon.

For as long as I’m alive, I exist. For all I know, I’m immortal.

Rainbows and Unicorns

And with a jolt, I realise just how old I am. I am too old to be anyone’s First.

With the pace of life being what it is, men all over have fallen in love at least once, twice, 5 times already. With her eyes, with her hands, with her words that taste like moonlight on a starry day. The past is beautiful, it would be wrong to deny it. And I don’t deny mine.

So, I’m too old to be anyone’s first.
I will be the one with Those eyes.
The one with Those hands.
The one with the words. Some words.

Sometimes, I’ll be the rebound girl.

And I’m ok with that.  But he won’t be.

The first, as few or many know, is sacred. Veiled. Perfect in ways that defy logic and hindsight. It is constructive in ways so precious that whole chapters are written in autobiographies about the First. The timeless. The effortless. The immortal.

Anything after that is just After That.

I, with my idiosyncrasies synchronised to go off at the worst of moments, will never match up.
Once you’ve had an immortal, there is no beauty in sad poetry, far-off gazes, and off-tune music. There is no beauty in jagged ends. There is no beauty in walls.

There is time, and there is patience, and with the pace of life being what it is, I’m just too old.

Denny Crane’s Mad Cow Disease

Like everyone else, He started out with blank paper.

And then he opened his eyes.

To a world of memories, waiting to happen.

The firsts

The lasts

The in-betweens

From late-night journal entries

To poems on cocktail napkins

He wrote them all.

His words were simple, concrete, formidable;

Memorable. Or so she always thought.

She did think she could remember every word he ever wrote. Said. Or danced.

It’s hard to forget your own name.


But not for him.

Where once he wore his heart on sleeve

Now he wears his home address

He’s prone to losing his way

As his words are, on their way from his mind to his mouth

The stray papers on his night-stand no longer contain limericks

But mimick his condition in an array of confusion

This and that after breakfast, lunch and dinner, replace his favourite desserts

The doctors’ way of saying “Get Well Soon”

But he’s not sick.

Just amazed.

That would explain his wide-eyed wonder, his everyday bewilderment

At waking up in his own bed every afternoon.

His words are muddled, abstract, feeble

Hard to forget. Or she thinks.

The late-night journal entries

The poems on cocktail napkins

Mere imitations,  that she’s preserved so carefully, mock her plight

Her inability to save their author.

The firsts will be forgotten

The lasts will be mourned

But the in-between

This state of limbo

She will bear alone. All alone. All alone with him.

She’s no longer “My dear”

He now likes to address her as a Blank Stare.

And she, stares right back.

Trying to find the once present love, peace and light

But coming up without even recognition.

Without even recognition.


I started out with blank paper.

I don’t want to end with one.

The Creative Process

Of all the people qualified to write about the process of creation, the two most competent candidates seem, to me, to be God, from the much-loved children’s fiction The Bible, and Chuck Lorre, from Chuck Lorre Productions, creator of The Big Bang Theory. Since I could get neither of them on the line, it now falls on my shoulders to enlighten the masses on how to spend a lazy Sunday night of insomnia without a bottle of Xanax on stand-by.

Truth be told, half the time I don’t even know what I’m doing. Not just when it comes to my “creative” endeavours, but, well, in general. For the moment, let’s say I don’t really know much about the creative process. So, you might as well stop reading this article, like, 5 sentences ago. In no way is this article going to be educational, inspirational, practically applicable, or otherwise remotely helpful. The following lines, and the lines preceding, are nothing more than the verbal cartographical attempts of a lost explorer in the world of words, trying to map out concrete signposts for her abstract thoughts, so she has a way to go back to sanity in case she ever gets lost.

So, without further ado, here is the Creative Process;

  1. Perfectionist’s Block.

A long walk. Listening to a particular song. Talking to someone special. In the wee hours of the morning while still in bed, contemplating what’s for breakfast – when suddenly! An Idea Strikes!

It’s a brilliant idea. Paradigm-shifting. Humorous. Uplifting. Intriguing.

You should write about it! Right!

Wrong.

It’s the same reason Sheldon keeps his mint-condition in-packaging action figures in their packaging.

It’s the same reason Penny wasn’t sure if she should date Leonard or not. (ok, last TBBT reference, I promise, Chuck).

It’s the same reason why Schrödinger never opened the box! (ok, that was science!)

Once you open the box, you might not like what you find there.

See, it’s like this – the idea, as such, just the Idea, is perfect in your head. It makes sense to you. You like it. Why bother changing it, and potentially ruining it, by extracting more out of it, digging deeper into it, trying to stretch it out into More than an Idea?

This is a rookie perfectionist’s problem. Once you set out to do something, it’s got to be perfect. And that daunting task, of meeting your own expectations, is more than you can handle.

So, you sit back, relax, and just let the Idea take over your mind and turn it into its playroom.

  1. Writer’s Block:

Okay, this madness has to stop!

Here you are, on the verge of a breakthrough, and the only thing holding you back is – your self.

Looking out at all these innocent faces, unaware that right now, looking down upon them is the possessor of a paradigm-shifting, humorous, uplifting, intriguing conception that would affect them in no way, whatsoever – but, you gotta get it out of your system, nonetheless!

This sudden surge of ideas, playing round in your head, forming words, sentences, whole paragraphs and kingdoms, while you sit back and do nothing?

Nope. The people have a right to know.

So, you open the word processor.

You write down the title.

After the initial adrenaline rush, you calm your quivering fingers down enough to even brainstorm a bit, arrange your thoughts, put down some bullet points.


*crickets chirping*


So, season 6 of The Big Bang Theory ain’t gonna watch itself!

*Our whole universe was in a hot, dense state…*

  1. Free flow:

Stop it with the TBBT references! (Said no one, ever).

So, here’s something I like about Chuck Lorre Productions : Their vanity cards.

They’re basically little quips, humorous, uplifting, intriguing (but not paradigm-shifting, not always) written by Chuck himself (or so he’d like us to believe) that appear at the end of each TBBT episode. They air only for a few seconds, so you gotta pause the screen to read them. That’s probably why you never noticed them. Sneaky little guy, that Chuck.

The vanity card at the end of episode 8, of season 6 read [SPOILER ALERT!]:

“I got nothin’ “

That does it! I’m not gonna elevate myself to the likes of Chuck Lorre, no sir!

So, I open the word processor again, turn on my Workout playlist (it’s a mental exercise), and start typing.

And keep typing.

And type some more.

This is definitely my favourite part of the process. My fingers move of their own accord, I find myself using words I didn’t even know existed, I articulate thoughts which I had no idea I had. It’s like I’m some Ouija board, channelling some distraught spirit of the invisible world, writing through me its untold story. A paradigm-shifting, humorous, uplifting, intriguing story.

Now, excuse me, while I go call an exorcist.

  1. Hubris:

As the priest shakes his head at me, telling me for the 8th time that, no, I’m not poseesed, and, yes, these words are, in fact, my own, and goddamnit, not to disturb him on Sundays, God intended Sundays for rest, read The Bible!, I am awash with relief. And Pride.

So, it is Me, who has come up with these witticisms, these anecdotes, these wonderful words of insight, these crazy TBBT references! Not some crazy undead spirit, but a crazy Me!

I read through my words of wisdom, obsessively, compulsively, disorderly, feeling nothing but smugness. Kinda like Dr. Frankenstein with his monster. Before it started rampaging through the town, of course.

I’m glad I decided to pen this down. All those minutes of incessant typing really paid off. Write a vanity card on that, Chuckie boy!

All my past doubts seem ridiculous now, all a veil meant to keep me away from the truth, and the truth is – I’m awesome at writing!

  1. Aftershocks:

*a considerable amount of time later*

The truth is – I suck at writing.

I go through the first line and find 1…2…3 grammatical errors.

I’m too afraid to go on.

I can’t believe it is me who came up with these lame jokes, these silly stories, these prosaic points of view on meaningless banality, these crazy TBBT references!

I read through my words of idiocy, obsessively, compulsively, disorderly, and I feel nothing but unease. Kinda like Dr. Frankenstein, with his monster. After he started rampaging through the town, of course.

Why did I pen this down? All those minutes of incessant typing, for what!
Sorry, Mr.Lorre, sir.

All my past doubts resurface, the veil is lifted, as I finally see the truth.

  1. Acceptance:

At some point, you stop in the middle of spell-checking your work for the 8th time, and realise, you have, in fact, Created something.

Before you decided to do the right thing, and write your haphazard thoughts down in a not-so-haphazard manner, these exact words in this exact order had never existed in this world.

You thought it up, conceived of it, nurtured it, brought it up to be the fixer-upper that it is.

These words are unique. Special. Imperfect. But to be cherished.

Just like you.

That’s when you sit back, relax, scroll back up, and read it once again.

And then, hopefully, you don’t delete it, in a moment of madness.

Congratulations. You are now just the same as you were when you started.

But a paradigm has been shifted. Someone has been humoured. Uplifted. Intrigued.

All because you put some words in a particular, meaningful order, out of the chaos in your thoughts.

As stated earlier, this was merely the mapping of a personal journey. This needn’t be applicable to all or any (oh god, for your own sake I hope it doesn’t!). But, I felt writing about this helped me gain some clarity into my tumultuous thoughts, enforcing my faith in my own abilities, and giving me new hope, which will hopefully last through my future creative endeavors.
Frankly, I don’t know whether any of this actually happened. I’m writing this concluding paragraph before having written the body!
That’s creativity for ya.