Thursday, November 11, 2010

Sometimes Clichés Are So Untrue

I remember once while writing something, I used a clichéd sentence. I followed the sentence with another adage: clichés are oft repeated truths. The latter sentence was me at my defensive best. I have done this several times while talking to people, comforting people, reassuring people, I have used my own fair share of clichés. Like, time will heal, the weight of our cross will never be heavier than us, If you love, let it go...if it’s meant to be it will come back. Lines like this. But each time I have used it or said it or tweaked it a bit, I have always believed it and meant it. All of it was true and genuine under most circumstances. But sometimes life just proves otherwise. Some clichés are untrue. Like the time I told a dear friend,“ This sorrow/loss will strengthen you dear, for something in the future.”, Just when I heard myself say it then, I knew there was something wrong, it didn’t convince me either. The sentence lacked the lustre of my otherwise steadfast faith in oft repeated truths aka clichés. But it was too late the words had already left my tongue and it floated in the air and placed itself on her ear. She looked up at me. I saw it in her eyes that I had blundered in the name of solace. She looked at me with eyes wrought with disappointment, “you are my friend, and you still don’t understand, do you?”
Zerene, my friend was a dedicated gynaecologist who was rewarded with an enviable practice and nearly perfect record of happy patients to her list. But that was no surprise to us. For she never compromised on her work or her dedication. She wore her heart on her sleeves for the ‘girls’, like she called them. She almost became their mothers. She had the uncanny ability to see them, the girls as her own. That was her professionalism. Contrary to her friend’s advice “Zerene detach yourself from the moment, be professional.”
Like every doctor who at some point in their practice reaches a state of Buddha, like I would like to call it. Her enlightenment did come as well. As a rude shock and the toughest reality check; that of losing one her ‘girls’. Just like that. Not even in the labour room, or in operation theatre. Just like that, after dinner and after quietly relishing some payasam her husband brought her. They called it embolism.
{(Amniotic fluid embolism AFE) is a rare and incompletely understood obstetric emergency in which amniotic fluid, foetal cells, hair, or other debris enters the mother's blood stream via the placental bed of the uterus and triggers an allergic reaction. This reaction then results in cardio respiratory (heart and lung) collapse and coagulopathy}
It didn’t take much time or large quantities of fluid, I am told. Everything happened in minutes and in teeny weenie measure trickling into her bloodstream, for no reason other than just like that. By the time Zerene arrived, it had been minutes that the girl’s heart had stopped beating. But Zerene quickly checked for the foetal heartbeat. The baby was alive and then and there Zerene took the baby out. The baby is well and ready to be fed. But there is no mother.
She did everything she could possibly do. Like Faizal always says. She is at her best during a crisis. Working efficiently. It usually takes few days for it to sink in. But this time Zerene just withdrew. For the next day the girl’s husband came to see her to apologise for his entire family, if in case anyone of them had unknowingly accused her of anything. Also to thank her for saving the baby in time. Zerene just remained emotionless. I knew that look. I knew it was the calm before the storm. So I quickly went to her and she collapsed to a heap. Her sense of loss was deep. She kept replaying the entire day, entire week, if somewhere she could’ve done something differently. She wondered if she should’ve tried more at resuscitating her girl. She wondered if she made right choice of going for the baby than spending more effort on the mother. She played the reel again and again and again. It was painful to watch. That was when I told her, “ Zerene, take this as something to strengthen you.” A cliché, like the several I have used before. But Zerene from the depth of the abyss, I thought she was pushing herself into. I heard her talk as if she was crying out from a deep well. Weak but firm. “This does not strengthen me Shalini. This weakens me. I am resigned now. I am resigned to the fact that as a doctor, I am just hands. He is in charge of giving and taking away. I am nothing.” And then she added, “ I exalt in my weakness.”
So that day I learned a new truth. Some things weaken you. And in being weak there is strength. So let it be.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Book That He Was

He was like a book I picked up to read. An interesting book! The kind of book of that’s not just a page turner but holds a lesson at every turn. After each chapter I would evoke the words and ravish it for its richness. The words weaved an entire world of meaning. Sometimes the words helped to patch and heal. Sometimes it admonished and shook. Sometimes it shocked and pushed. Sometimes it was just a whole lot of nonsense. Nevertheless the book made a difference to my life as I knew it. But what made him more like my favourite book was; the book was just there to enrich me.To augment the one who picked it up. The book did not expect to be filled in. The pages were already complete. I didn’t have to contribute. I was not expected to. I was not guilty of not having to give back for he was a book. A book, which only spoke to you when you picked it up to read it.

As Random As That!

Some people come into your life like a random idea. A stray thought. Or as arbitrarily as an event you witnessed on an ordinary day when you just happened to step out of the house to buy groceries.
For some reason, they get stuck in your psyche and they stay close to you. Not that you spend a lot of time with them, rather the profound influence their presence exudes. I once met one such person a long time ago when I was in college. His name was Abhilash. We met once twice or thrice maybe even more. Every time we met we spoke a lot to each other. We kind of hit it off very well. Perhaps if there was internet and email and chat those days we would’ve met more often and gotten to know each other better. We would’ve had a better grasp of those details we need to know to presume we know someone well. But I knew nothing about Abhilash. I didn’t know that he was an only child. I didn’t know he loved to go for long bike rides. But I knew Abhilash was a voracious reader. I knew Abhilash was sensitive to those around him. I knew Abhilash had the ability to seek out from a crowd that person he wouldn’t mind calling a friend. And he honoured me with that privilege.
After college I didn’t hear from him. Until one day I saw his face in the obituary. He had passed away in a road accident on the way back from Goa during one of his favourite pass times: long bike rides. The obituary was a tribute from kith and kin on his first death anniversary. Today, after so many years, I finally write about him. I haven’t mourned his passing on. But I thank God, for him. Abhilash, I know you’re happy now. And that gives me so much peace.