Monday, July 18, 2016
One, For Team Humanity
(Credit: Written for a Blog prompt- WHAT DIVINITY MEANS TO YOU- given by my blogger friend Mahesh Lakshman.)
The man who had committed suicide so recently, had left his clothes in a neat bundle by the riverside. I stood there looking down at those neatly folded clothes and couldn't help admiring how much effort he had gone to get the creases in those clothes right, when he knew, most probably, that he never was going to wear them again, ever. He had taken his time to strip down to his bare essentials before wading down into the river, a fast flowing mountain stream, with loads of happy shrieking tourists just minutes away from the spot, bathing in the waterfalls which gave them the same pleasure with its speed and flow that had dragged this man away to his death. Joy and death near to each other, you just cant beat that combination any given day.
The clothes looked too neat to be disturbed which made me hesitate to bend down and search for the suicide note in their midst, but i soon realised that it was useless to do so. A man this neat, would probably have left his suicide note in plain view to avoid anyone disturbing his clothes after his death. I looked around and there was no note. In fact though there were riverine pebbles lying all around, there was no large stone nearby capable of holding down a suicide paper from the stiff breeze and other stray wanderers, which i realised was what he would have done if i had read him right in death.
And till now there seemed no obvious reason why the man had done what he had done. I squatted on my haunches to have a deep think about it. Why? Why? Why? Could it be the Brexit? I mean, no one had seriously expected the Brits of all people to have the gumption to leave the loony tunes club of united europe ruled by that megalomaniac merkel of germany. But the brits had dared to do that and the rest of the pusillanimous financial world had punished them for their rare courage by taking out their anger on the pound. Had this man messed up all his money on foreign exchange trades hoping to make a quick buck betting against the euro?
Or was it the fact that hillary clinton had won the democratic nomination which had driven him to this desperate step? The fact that the american economy drives the world and this time the americans had a real chance to vote for an outsider like ole’ bernie sanders to clean up the stinking augean stables but the same old vested interests had thrown their money bags behind reckless hillary to buy her the chance to do more of the same they had been doing all these years? Could that kind of sheer futility at real change have driven him to this?
Or maybe it was something closer home? What if he had been an older man? An old helpless pensioner who had worked in the government field for 30 plus years? Slaved in some low-level desk job and retired with a small pension only to be told that the modi government was now privatizing pension and throwing the peoples pension fund into the indian stock market, yes that same bottomless pit which has swallowed up all of the public money thrown into it all these years, just to please the party’s financial bankers, those crony capitalists, who had financed the modi government's electoral victory?
The fact that his meagre pension, the only incentive of a government servant for the low pay and long hours had just been thrown into the stock market might have rushed off this man to suicide earlier than the other crores of pensioners who are waiting for the bland official announcement someday which will say that the sensex had tanked and the saving of all those old people( invested in the stock market by the government) had disappeared overnight (into the pockets of those ambanis and adanis) and they would have to beg in the streets on the morrow. That must be the reason why this man had died.
No, on further reflection, it couldn't be, for this man had a bright green cardigan folded neatly. I couldn't imagine any old retiree wearing this kind of snazzy wear to his death. For the man must have known this morning, somehow i was dead sure of this, that he was dressing to die today. He wouldn't have chosen this bright garment if he had been an old depressed man. On the other hand which man would dress so brightly for his death? Why had he died? What made him do it? Just walk into the river so calmly knowing he would die?
For thats the irony of life isnt it? We never know when we are born and when we die- two events absolutely beyond our control. But this man was one the few, the very few, brave men, who not only knew when he was going to die but also choose the how. Not all of us are that lucky to choose the day and time to die. Most of use just die on the streets of our cities as we do our daily commute to work thinking all the time about meeting targets and satisfying our superiors enough to stay employed for another month with absolutely no clue that we need not worry about the long term if you happen to live in india for the odds are you wont live long enough to see the long term.
Caught up in the hassles of everyday survival , when survival every day itself is a hassle, we don't take the time to think about our deaths far less plan for it- the odd life insurance policy doesn't count here. But this man done that – he had chosen to die, he had beaten fate to the punch. Or had he? Was it his destiny? To die here? To die now? All alone in this river? Had god got his revenge afterall? A pointless death to follow a meaningless life?
Just to make random people read about your death in the mornings newspaper and use it to make a point to others of their acquaintances “see that's life, you never how know god will end it, so always stay good so you can meet him with a clean conscience?”. So excuse me, this man died to make this point? That god is omnipotent? That god can snuff your life in a minute? Just to make sure that others toe his line about being goody-two shoes all the time? What kind of god uses punishment of one as a lesson to others? To make sure that everyone else falls in line?
Oh wait, you are going to say that god did not take this mans life but he did it himself? Ok lets follow this analogy a bit further and agree that this man made his own choice in death. But lets start at the beginning did this man have a choice in when he was born, where he was and especially to who he was born? As human beings we always always praise our parents for giving us love and affection and for being the best parents ever? But are we really lucky in who our parents were? What if our life could have have been infinitely easier if we had a different set of circumstances in our births?
Being born in a different country say being born an american citizen would have been so much easier for those who so crave the f-1 visas that they would rather marry for a visa than for love? Say being born rich, filthy rich, like sid mallya for instance, would have made a difference to someone who pulls fully loaded hand carts for a living instead of screwing young girls for fun while dad swindles entire nations to afford that lifestyle? Or being born to rich parents, parents rich enough to save you from the police when your car runs over someone by bribing everyone in sight instead of being arrested by the police and locked away for six years without a trial just because you were flying a kite in the street and a police constable did not like your face?
And you still think that god played fair in your birth? What if this man had none of these advantages of birth? What if he had been born an orphan brought up without education had no steady work all his life and never went to sleep a single day with a full belly. And will you still blame him if he choose to die? And will you still say your god is fair? And its all fate? Dont talk to me of a benevolent god- for all i know, god created man on one his hangover days just to have some fun watching the poor creatures flop around trying to get by in life. Most human lives are filled with misery from birth to death and its a wonder that more such miserable creatures do not break and take their own lives.
Oh, so you are going to say that misfortune builds character? Oh really, You want to go there? What was character ever done to make the life of a man, any man easier? If you take a look around its the amoral men who are all ruling us from top to bottom. They have their way with everything because they are gods favored lot, his lucky offspring. And the most immoral of creatures, the very definition of absolute evil are the ones who parade around boldly as religious gurus and priests- those who interpret gods dictates to everyone else- to the foolish masses looking for some meaning in their meaningless daily lives. If that isn't a joke god plays on us, i don't know what else is.
So lets get back to this man, this anonymous braveheart who chose to end it all his own way instead of keeping on struggling through a meaningless life just because someone, some law full of crap, prohibits the taking of life. If a person has no right to take his own life- the only one thing he is born with and absolutely owns and if even that right is taken away by the law and the state and god then what is left as the lot of humanity? Is man born to live and die a slave? To live life to the dictates of everyone else except self? Can man never exceed his existence and aspire for something more? The right to his own life?
The more i thought about it the more i felt that this man had done nothing wrong, in fact he had merely exercised his own privilege to end his misery. However he had died, it would be no use to bring the knowledge of his death to the authorities, now that he was gone. So i turned and left the riverbank , but not before taking those folded clothes, bundling them and hurling them far down the river, to make sure that no one ever found out that the man had died or how. That was the least i could do in that mans fight against an uncaring god –one man against divinity. Chalk score one to humanity and score zero to god.
P.S. if this post makes even one of you to question your beliefs in a benign divinity i feel that my job as a writer is done. Lets leave alone all invisible entities both good and bad and stick to just humanity.
Disclaimer : Written for a Blog prompt- what divinity means to you- given by my blogger friend mahesh lakshman.
Thursday, July 7, 2016
Mis-Steps...My Boringly Long Journey In Trying To Learn New Things For The Wrong Reasons.
[Post dedicated to fellow blogger Megha who gave me this blog prompt and made me write about long suppressed memories...so dear readers, both praises and curses (the most probable when you get to the end of this post) go to her account].
My very first memories of attending dance class (classical dance)- the earliest scars on my still tender psyche, one might term them- were when I was around 7 or 8 when a dance teacher, called colloquially as a natuvanaar used to come home to teach dance to my sister and I was press-ganged into joining the class because my sister insisted on having company. My mother who was a big fan of actor kamal hassan in those day, was under the mistaken impression that an early start to my dance career would endow me with enough skills to reprise the salangai oli kamal haasan role in later life. Although unsuspectingly forced into learning the classical dance form bharatnatyam, I nevertheless stuck on with it for almost two and some years learning to not only pretend-dance to jathis and varanams but also giving rise to talk at home (to my absolute horror and nightmares) of an individual arangetram soon enough. But of course like all good things which come to an end, we moved houses away from the locality and with that all talk of my continuing my classical dance career were dropped from the family round-table discussion. After all these years the abiding memories I have of learning bharatanatyam are the sharp and painful taps on the toes by the jathi-kataiy (two sticks played on a wooden board) which the nattuvanar used to beat time to keep with the rhythm of my dance movements. The rest are lost to memory.
After a long period of staying away from dance, I finally had to return to dance school during my college undergraduate days as I wanted to escape college by attending any and every cultural programs hosted by other colleges. The easiest way to do this was to join the dance troupe, stand in the last line and just wave my hands and stamp my feet. Or so I thought. But the humiliation of being trounced again and again in successive cultural s and the deep seated feeling that I was making a foll of myself in font of crowds of screaming girls (almost all of them more good looking than the girls at my college) made me opt to learn western dance forms this time on. I went and enrolled in the neighborhood dance school signing on for hip-hop classes which were the in-thing during those years. For those not in the know this was in the middle 2000's when western dance or any dance at all had not yet taken off in everyday popularity like they did later on due to manada mayilada and all those TV dance programs with fat price purses. Those learning western dance in those days ( I specifically exclude Tamil film dance as done by Kala master and troupe which I will talk about later on) were a sort of elite bunch segregated into different schools. I joined swingers run by prasanna master and very soon I was be-bopping like there was no tomorrow. And as a sidelight we ( I include myself only marginally in this broad we as it was mostly my dance school mates) often used to get into fights with a neighboring dance school boys- the famous JB troupe- John Brittos class. If you have seen any of jackie chans old kung fu movies you will have a fair idea of the dance school rivalries and consequent street fighting between students of different schools. Worse, I had a couple of close friends who had opted to join JB but as I was a swingers boy we had no option but to meet on the battlefield to defend our dance schools reputations. Of course both prasanna master and britto master must have known what we boys were up to from time to time but they preferred to turn a blind eye to our youthful spirits. I suppose I showed a little bit of talent in hip hop for I was invited to join a professional troupe of hip hop artistes and even went on a few shows with them. But again studies called and I had to abandon hip hop to sit and study for my undergraduate degree.
After finishing college, and getting into a reasonably well paying job the dancing bug again bit me and this time I opted to learn a dance form which suited my age- Latin- salsa, meringue, bachata, cha-cha and all those smooth moves. In those days the only school which taught these dances was the academy of modern dance at cathedral road run by kokila ma'am (who to my constant surprise every time I run into her somewhere- still looks exactly the same as she did when I was a young kid learning from her)- a bit of a long commute for me right across the city. But hey when you want to learn from the best distance is just a minor irritant right? Besides the primary attraction of learning these were they weren't done in a group but as couples only moves. I thought it would be a good way to meet some single girls and start dating them in addition to dancing and I did do double duty- which experiences I will share later on but let me finish about the dance first. The thing about Latin dances are that you not only have to move gracefully and smooth (with a lot of hip thrusts) but also need to constantly make sure that you are in sync with your partners timings as otherwise both of you will end up looking clumsy and foolish and staring at different directions for the same movement. So a prime requisite for any Latin dance is a partner who moves with the same rhythm as you do. And in this I was tremendously lucky. More by luck than by design , as we were constantly switching partners and trying to find the right one to suit us, I happened to run into a girl who was pissed off by being rejected by another accomplished dancer who had judged her as not good enough to partner him. She wanted to prove a point to him and luckily our rhythms coincided and we hit it off as a pair. Pretty soon we were inseparable on the dance floor as we could both fluidly move as one without a single misstep. It was all hunky dory and going well until I made a mistake (typically) by enmeshing my personal and dance lives together my dating my dance partner. Suffice to say that it was a complete disaster and prompted my disappearing from the dance class to save myself from a irritating and persistent stalker who was immature enough not to take a no for a no. Lips sealed.
So after all these years whenever I see a dance competition on TV or hear a bit of peppy music automatically my knees start wriggling by themselves but thats the extent of my let loose and dance like nobody is watching feeling. I always rein myself in, smile wryly at myself and get on with everyday life. Those days are far behind me now and I can only look back fondly on them in my dotage.
p.s. I did try out Kala master's kalanjali natya school once- to try and learn our local tamil filmi style dubbakanthu style of dancing- I lasted exactly one week there (although I had paid one months fees in advance) – before I realised that my taste in dancing didn't run into kuthu and savu molam ishtlye. I have never repeated that experiment again.
Wednesday, June 1, 2016
Zen And The Art Of Suturing Life....
I spend a lot of my time suturing, a fact of my working life which i accept gracefully. The reason i say this is, most surgeons when they reach my age or level of experience hand over the suture needle to their assistants and leave the operation theatre to attend a case elsewhere. They consider their job done as soon as the last tissue has been cut and the bleeding stopped. But as someone who does cosmetic surgeries for a living I prefer to do my own suturing- not only because I believe l that I can do a better job than a newbie assistant- better in this instance being a stronger suture with less scarring, but also because as a conscientious surgeon it is my job to stay with my patient till the patient recovers completely. And also because i love suturing- something which i have realized quite late in my life. Now the reason why i love to do surgical suturing- cause you wouldn't catch me dead trying to darn my worn socks at home, is that the act of suturing, the kind of repetitive motion it involves gives us time for food for thought and teaches a lot of lessons. If you would also like to hear what my sutures tell me, do read on:
1) The Straight Path Is Not Always The Best : For those who haven't seen a suture needle- its shaped like a semi-circle. Unlike a regular needle where you go directly across the tear, with a suture needle you go in on one side, you go deep in following the path of the needle as it leads and come out on the other side. The circular shape guides you automatically in its path from one side to the other. Just like when you fret you are going nowhere with your life but going deeper and deeper into shit and ergo, you emerge out into the glorious sunshine just where you want to be, because life has taken you in the path of least resistance to where you belong. Of course it feel like you are lost when you were halfway down and you might start panicking but trust me if there is one thing the suture needle teaches you, its that what goes down curves up and comes back out, you just have to keep pushing it in with belief. Its that blind belief in a buried needle which you cannot see passing through the deep flesh but coming out at just the right spot at just the right time which leaves you with a sense of all’s well with the world if only you have enough faith to trust in yourself.
2) Probing Bleeding Wounds Is A No-No: Whenever we suture we always, always leave a margin of healthy tissue between the cut edges- never ever we suture near the edge because, face it, its already traumatized tissue, why the heck would you wound it further by pushing a needle inside the bleeding wound margin? Similarly in life, sometimes you just have to step back a bit, bite your words and let things progress to a stage where its healthy enough to start bringing things together. Never try to join up or heal already traumatized wounds without giving sufficient time for them to stop bleeding on their own. Only healthy wounds can be sutured. Torn wounds? They will tear further if you use force, even if its from the best intentions.
3) Persistence Pays- The number of sutures matters. It isn't enough to put a single suture in and say the wounds are sufficiently close together, let it heal by itself now. No way. It doesn't work that way at all. There are umpteen number of times when even a best placed suture would unravel. There is strength in numbers – so suture and suture and suture again till you feel there is enough strength in the sutures-collectively- to hold the two separated wounds together- however much the two wounds wish to pull away and maintain a distance between them. Persistence matters when it comes to healing rifts. The first attempt might not always be successful or enough- you have to stick with it till it holds together.
4) Holding On Too Tight Vs Giving Enough Space- when you suture you have to pull the knot just right, too tight and you are going to strangulate the wounded tissue making it difficult to heal, too loose and they are going to stay apart and never have that close intimate touch required to join together, but just right and the two become one as if they were never apart. Which is a very apt description for giving space in relationships i think. Trying to hold on too tight to someone is the best way to make sure that they get repelled, a fact which is lost on too many people in relationships starting from parents, friends to spouses, everyone making the same mistake of trying to be too close without giving enough space for individuality.
5) A Time To Hold And A Time To Cut - The last and most important lesson suturing teaches you is when to let go. Some suure require to be cut off at 5 days, some at 7 days, the wisdom lying in knowing when to cut them off once they are no more relevant and to prevent further damage. A lot of times we hang into relationships merely because we are afraid to cut loose, even when we know its served its time afraid that cutting off might make it worse. Suturing teaches you to be brave and cut it off and face consequences. A mere thread is not going to hold anything indefinitely if the underlying wound has not healed properly and its better to cut it off cleanly and start afresh.